The Northumberland stretch of The Pennine Way - Part 5 - Bellingham to Padon Hill and on to Byrness


Day 12 (Sunday 27th June 2021) - After a bit of a break from the Pennine Way due to some leave and an overwhelming urge to do a border raid into Scotland after travel restrictions were lifted (and what a brilliant break it was of late snow in May and red squirrels thanks to a superb morning spent at Neil McIntyre's hide, a treat that had been at the top of my wish list for years), I headed back over to pick up where I left on Sunday as the forecast was for a dry day. I drove over to Otterburn, stopped off at Otterburn Mill for some crisps, Fentimans lemonade and a great big slab of their Rocky Road (which was amazing and had huge, whole red juicy cherries in it!), and then drove up the single track road to park up near Padon Hill. There's a tiny bit of space to park a very small car on the verge near where the Pennine Way crosses the road, leaving enough space so as not to obstruct the gate so that farm vehicles can still gain access. Having parked up I headed southwards away from Padon Hill to walk to near Bellingham, which is where I'd got up to back in early April.


I've been to Padon Hill many times as I love how peaceful it is there, with fabulous views all around. It's a location that features in the Northumberland book for it's great views, very large 'pepperpot' cairn, swathes of purple-pink heather in late summer and, if you're lucky, you may see roe deer or a small herd of free roaming ponies there. There's plenty of other wildlife there too, including grouse and skylarks, butterflies, lizards and other heath-loving creatures. And there's sheep, lots of sheep - this is Northumberland after all, where, allegedly, sheep outnumber people 3 to 1. So, this is a spot I've visited often, but I've always just walked along the stretch of the Pennine Way that leads north to the cairn, never along the stretch that leads south. This is one of the things I'm really loving about doing the Pennine Way - exploring the places in between the familiar places I know and love - in this case the bit in between the valley and waterfall at Hareshaw Linn on the outskirts of Bellingham (also in the Northumberland book!) and the cairn at Padon Hill.


The weather was ideal hiking weather, cool, cloudy but bright, with a gentle breeze, and dry, and the ground was great underfoot, soft after a little bit of rain the day before - but the boggy bits were mostly dry as, other than the day before, we'd not had much rain for a while. And the route was up and down gentle slopes too, all in all a very pleasant days walking along the Way to Bellingham and then back. By the return journey the sun had come out and it was glorious weather, perfect for working up a thirst for a pint when I got home, and some ice-cream!


Highlights of the day included:


* Meeting fellow hikers and stopping for a natter - I've not actually met many other people while hiking the Pennine Way, which can be a plus if you're inclined to be anti-social sometimes like me :-D - but it was really nice to briefly chat with these hikers, and to hear of their adventures - 1 was doing the whole Pennine Way in a continuous hike, which is impressive to a soft day walker like me, and 2 others were hiking from Lands End to John O Groats - how incredible is that, very inspiring! Friends and I are doing a Lands End to John O Groats virtual challenge, so to meet people who are doing it for real was fantastic.


* Sitting for lunch and seeing a great big yellow and black Dragonfly zip by and then land within a few feet of me - this was the middle of the day and it was hot, not a time when insects stay still for very long, but it looked stunning, so I tried to sneak up on it - incredibly luckily it stayed still long enough for me to get some snaps. On sharing these on Twitter folk kindly advised me that it was a Golden-Ringed Dragonfly - how cool is that! A picture of it is included below. From the Wildlife Trust site:


'The Golden-Ringed Dragonfly - A voracious predator that will even eat other dragonflies, the Golden-ringed dragonfly is the UK's longest species. It can be found around acidic streams in moorland and heathland habitats.'


* Tiny butterflies, hundreds of them flitting about the heather, grasses and buttercups - far too fast in the midday sunshine for me to photograph, but didn't stop me trying, and failing, many many times to creep up on them - great fun if fruitless from a photos point of view.


* Loads of flowers, more buttercups than you can shake a big stick at, some early flowering pale pink heather, bog beans (it felt very right to see bog beans on the very boggy route that is the Pennine Way!), thistles, some stray ornamental poppies and all sorts.


* The Rocky Road was pretty good like.


* And it's always nice to just be out walking in the countryside, it was a lovely day, no drama, but super chilled out and soul-food good.


Next stretch will be to go past the cairn at Padon Hill and into miles and miles of deep, dark, conifer forest (looks a bit scary!) to Byrness, and after that I start climbing up - very exciting - I'm hoping to time it so that I hike the Border Ridge around when the heather is coming into flower - can't wait!


Here are some pics from day 12 of my Pennine Way journey.

Day 13 (Thursday 29th July 2021) - After photographing a friends' wedding at Hexham Abbey on Friday 23rd July I took a week's leave to process the wedding photos and have a bit of a break. With all the wedding photos finished and delivered on Wednesday 28th I decided to have a day off to do nothing much at all and get back over to the Pennine Way to walk the next section from Padon Hill to Byrness.


I'd walked the short stretch to the 'Pepperpot' cairn at Padon Hill (Padon Hill is one of the locations in the Northumberland photography guidebook!) many times as it's a fabulous spot with expansive views across the Otterburn Moors. It's especially lovely up there in August when the landscape is awash with the pink and purple of the heather in flower. I'd not walked any of the stretch beyond that, though, so this was completely new territory for me. It looked pretty easy going but not particularly exciting as the map showed I'd mostly be walking through Forestry Commission pine forest plantations. A good leg stretch was all I really wanted though, just to chill and walk in the rain for a bit to cool off as it had been a very hot couple of days - the forecast for the day looked happily wet! So off I pootled over to Otterburn. I'd not packed my purse so I couldn't pop into Otterburn Mill to get some cake - I had bacon butties and fruit packed, though, so could give cake a miss this time - but I did feel a little deflated as I figured this walk wouldn't be terribly exciting and cake at the turning point would've been a motivating treat.


I think it's fair to say I wasn't really in the right fettle on this day as I barely took any pictures. I did love the walk though - sometimes it's nice to just walk and enjoy being out. There were butterflies and lots of dragonflies zipping about, hundreds of wild flowers and a couple of roe deer on the edges of the forest too. It stayed sunny all day after all with just the occasional tiny bit of drizzle - it was actually a bit too hot for me, so on the way back I couldn't resist taking off my trousers, socks and boots and going for a dip in a deep pool in one of the streams that the path passed over - that was soooo refreshing, and I soon dried off when I started walking again. And there were lots and lots and lots of pine trees and miles of gravelled road. The going was very easy and before I knew it I was approaching the last mile or so to my turning point for the day, where the Pennine Way reaches the A68 near-ish to Byrness.


Towards the end, the forest was on my left and there was a long hedgerow on my right. Imagine my delight when I realised that the hedgerow was thick with wild raspberry bushes with an abundant crop of bright pink, juicy, ripe, luscious raspberries - better than cake! I stood and munched a couple of handfuls of wild raspberries, as happy as Winnie The Pooh eating straight from a jar of honey!


As I was stood their munching, a couple of women walked up towards me along the path - I pointed out the wild raspberries and they joined me and we all stood munching raspberries and having a natter. They were visiting and staying nearby and said they'd just been to see a beautiful waterfall. I asked 'What waterfall?' and they said 'Hindhope Linn' and that it was just down the way and I really must go to see it and they showed me their photos. I had no idea that it was there and my spirit lifted even more, having already been lifted by the raspberries - there was treasure on this otherwise a-little-unremarkable stretch of the Pennine Way after all! After chatting a bit more I headed off to find Hindhope Linn - which was well signposted and just lovely - so lovely that I couldn't resist making a little video. I'd not taken my tripod so didn't get any photos of the waterfall but I resolved to head back another day for some 'proper pics', which I did on the 7th August - this time I was munching bilberries / blaeberries along the way, which reminded me of lovely walks with Mum and my folks' dog Benji (I shall have to dig out a photo of Benji - he was a very special dog who loved everyone and who everyone loved, he did PATS - Pets As Therapy - volunteering with Dad), who used to LOVE blaeberries! After enjoying seeing Hindhope Linn I turned around and walked all the way back along the Pennine Way to where I'd parked my car near Padon Hill. Not many photos but a really good leg stretch and an unexpectedly lovely day. Here are some of my photos from the day, the little video made at Hindhope Linn, and my big camera photos from when I returned to the waterfall a week or so later.

Benji, the loveliest, softest, friendliest dog there ever was, from the day we scattered Nan's ashes off the West coast of Scotland - and now I think I need to go for a walk and have a little cry, and to munch some bilberries again and think of all the good walks Mum, Benji and I had, and of the good times I had doing crosswords, listening to jazz, drinking sherry or champagne and eating salmon and 'ferocious rockets' (ferrero rocher) for Christmases with my Nan. Holy smokes, we get sentimental as we get older don't we - lovely memories though :-).