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Day 33 Weds 01-06-2005

Bellingham to Byrness

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I'm up and walking by 7:15, after a good night's sleep. The weather is misty and wet, so I don my wet weather coat and over trousers. I walked over bleak moors towards Redesdale Forest. At 10, I saw a figure walking in front of me - half an hour later I had caught Paul up.

Paul and I chatted as we walked, he has (apart from doing lejog in 1997) completed the Pennine Way six times, and many other long distance walks. He reminds me of John Peel, especially his speech, and is a BT engineer who has taken early retirement. Even more surprising - for me - Paul features in "Pennine Walkies". He met Mark Wallington on the Pennine Way during his lejog walk, and is recorded as looking like "Little John", and advising Mark that he could eat his dog if things got desperate! I was so pleased to have met a second character from the book, and Paul knew all about Brian's burger bar on the A672.

As we headed towards Byrness there was a steep slippery climb along the edge of the forest, and apart from that the walking was relatively easy. By 1:30 we are close to Byrness, which came into existence to house forestry workers. We joined the main road, and Paul pointed out a cafe in the petrol station: "The First and Last Cafe in England."

I would have missed it if Paul hadn't told me, and we retired inside for a welcome meal and several cups of hot coffee and chocolate. We are both staying at the Youth Hostel, and when we arrive a friendly neighbour (the hostel is one of a small estate of houses) who is an ex warden lets us in.

While waiting for the warden to arrive and check us in, Paul tells me that he started his walk (from his home in Chesterfield, via the Pennine Way and the Southern Upland Way) at the "top" - in Scotland, with new boots. He was tempted by the properties of Gore-Tex, and after a couple of days his feet were - how shall I put this - knackered, and he had to return home to wait for the many blisters on his feet to heal. Not one to be beaten, he set off in his old boots as soon as he was able, deciding to start at the southern end of his route - hence our meeting on the Pennine Way. I was amazed that his leather boots, although comfortable and well used, were "holy" and he was walking in wet feet unless really lucky with the weather. They breed them tough in Chesterfield.

The lady warden was most helpful when she arrived, and we were allocated bunks - with the American group who had just arrived. Later in the evening Paul and I retired to the local pub, and agreed to an early start the next day. Our routes would separate tomorrow, Paul going to the very end of the Pennine Way at Kirk Yetholm, me diverting towards Jedburgh - in Scotland!