Day 32 Tues 31-05-2005
Once Brewed to Bellingham
Last night was a bit cold, and as usual in the tent, I didn't sleep brilliantly. Although I was up early (6:30), Paul was already up and about, and he left about half an hour before I did. We were both headed for Bellingham, and thought that I might catch him up during the day.
I walked back uphill to join Hadrian's Wall again, and spent an hour or so following it east. The sun was out, and the valleys lower down were full of cloud, it felt good to out and walking. At Rapishaw Gap I headed north to skirt Wark Forest, and sadly left the marvellous wall behind.
The route now covered bleak moorland and coniferous forest, and I kept looking ahead to catch a glimpse of Paul's huge backpack - but no luck. The Pennine way then became more "farmy" - lots of stiles and gates - and I enjoyed a chat with a Canadian / German cyclist called Doris. I reached Bellingham at 2:15. There was no point in going further due to the remote Northumberland countryside; I would end up in the middle of nowhere at nightfall. I had phoned ahead and booked a bed in the Youth Hostel, but it was just outside the town, so I sat in a pub and enjoyed a chat with a couple of locals to kill the time (most hostels don't open until 5). After the pub I stocked up in the local co-op - and bumped into Paul!
Paul was staying in a campsite, so as we said goodbye, we again arranged to look out for each other on the path tomorrow - failing that, we were both looking to stay at the Youth Hostel in Byrness.
I wandered up to the Hostel, and to my delight it was open, and empty. The building was wooden, sitting above the small town, and very warm. It was one of the nicest hostels I stayed in, very cosy indeed. I showered, and sat in the communal area writing my diary and looking ahead at my route for the next few days. While listening to my radio, I heard an excellent piece of news - the French had voted "Non" to the European constitution! Who would have thought that the French - of all nations - would drive such a huge nail into the coffin of European beaurocracy - hooray! (Sorry for the politics).
At 5:00 four Americans arrived, Keith, Diana, Gary and Joanna. Three of them were musicians in a string quartet, and Gary was a fitness coach. Keith's Dad was from Northumberland, and they were walking this section of the Pennine Way. I had spoken to the warden earlier, and her husband arrived to check us in. He was 82, and his wife was 38! He kept us entertained for ages, a real local character, giving us dire warnings about use of the showers and which bunks to use, and tales of how he met his wife. I thought it prudent not to mention that I had already showered, otherwise I might have been there all night.
Bellingham had a choice of two pubs to eat in, but only one (the Cheviot Hotel) was serving food,, so I joined my new American friends for a delicious dinner of roast lamb. I had been chatting to the sheep for weeks, I almost felt guilty tucking into one of them.
Back at the hostel a South African couple arrived telling tales of how wet Scotland had been. I was within a couple of days of getting there myself now, I was quite exited, and told myself how the Scottish weather would warm to me as I dropped off to sleep.
"Night John Boy", "Night Grandpa", "Night Mary Ellen", "Night Jim Bob" ...