End — to — End, Walking Across the UK Part 5 — The Pennine Way

Eating healthily while walking had become increasingly important to me since I returned to the trail.

When I returned home in the interval I became more interested in healthier eating. I already ate a healthy diet but researching nutrition I became somewhat obsessed with the idea. I had gotten into a book on the Blue Zones about the benefits of such a diet and had been inspired to cut out all processed foods. I felt a lot better for it and the effects were fast. Within a week I felt more energetic. And I looked better. I’ll not ramble but I was happy with my new food.

I wanted to make sure that I didn’t fall back. When I first started hiking I had eaten a lot of junk food — mostly snickers bars; a lot of snickers bars (no, really a lot). I had decided that this time I would avoid all junk food.

I would eat fruit and buy salad to snack on while I walked.

I would eat nuts that were not covered in and probably cooked in sugar!

I had goals.

I kinda kept to some of them to.

The first week walking the Pennine Way, I kept to this. I did not touch a sugary bar of chocolate. I was eating dehydrated food packs and though they may not have been part of my usual diet, they were packed full of nutrients and were relatively healthy. I was also adding in turmeric and black pepper, which made them taste a lot better and added a healthy kick to the meal.

On a less cool note I was burning around 4,500 calories per day and eating maybe 3,000.

When the second week hit so did the hunger. I was starving. I would have eaten anything.

As a vegetarian I’ve always known I’m starving when meat starts to look and smell good.

It’s come to this.

I bought nuts and started to snack on them.

I also bought some energy bars with oats in them — the fact that they had oats and honey in them allowed me to ignore (at least partially) the fact that they were coated in sugar. Yum.

This helped… But alas…

By the end of the week I was back into my bad habits. I was eating anything I wanted whenever I felt like it. Now, I know I was burning it off and when I got home I had neither lost nor gained weight, though my waist was measurably thinner so none of my jeans fit me anymore but I do feel deflated. It’s seriously hard to eat well while walking and maintain a healthy diet. If you’re out for a weekend, this is easily accomplished but when your away for more than a week (or when I am away for that long) it gets harder and harder.

I find it very hard to take in that many calories in a healthy manner.

The most I ever burned of in one day was 5,130 (according to my Fitbit).

How does one get that back in salad?

Nuts would be the obvious choice but you can only eat so many.

2018 — Hiking the Pennine Way

Hiking the Pennine Way had become a major ambition of mine since I first heard about it. It is allegedly the toughest trail in England. It offered sections in more remote places than I had ever hiked. It had hills and ridge walks. It had bogs and moors.

It was the toughest part of my walk by far. No other part of my hike had me so miserable, so tired, wet and downtrodden.

It was also beautiful.

I met some wonderful people and pushed myself.

I learnt a lot.

I had to navigate.

I got lost.

The first thing I had to do before leaving was re-stocking my food supply. It was something that I ought to have done before getting to Edale. There is a shop there but it’s very basic. I managed to get enough food but it wasn’t ideal. I’m not in any way trying to put this lovely shop down but if I were going to hike it again I wouldn’t rely on it as a re-supply point. It might also be worth noting that it’s no longer a post office.

Setting off didn’t feel as momentous as I had expected. It just felt like another day. But a good day. I much prefer being on proper trails than finding my way around towns. It was easier and the walking was far more comfortable.

I found wild camping a bit tricky along the trail. Not because of the fear of being seen but because of how damp the ground was. Finding a spot that wasn’t a bog was somewhat tricky when you get off the path. On the first day I walked 17 miles and camped close to Black Moss Reservoir. I wanted to get a decent amount of miles done — I felt like I was pushing myself forward. I wrote in my journal that I wasn’t sure what was more important, walking the trail or finishing it. Those lines get somewhat blurred for me at times and I sometimes felt myself moving without any intention to be in any particular place. It’s not something I think I wanted to change; it was a simple change of mood — some days I walked slowly and saw everything. Other days I was just walking.

Perhaps it’s the difference between a pilgrimage and a walk.

Sitting quietly and meditating.

Some days we’re more present than others.

It would be rather uncharacteristic of this trail to start you off gently. Rather, you are welcomed to the trail with the second highest ascent of the entire walk. Walking out of Edale you head up to Jacobs Ladder and then head up Kinder Scout. These are things you have already chosen to do once you’re halfway through the End-to-End. There’s no going back now. At 633 metres, it’s a tough climb; more because of how steep it is rather than it being a crazy ascent.

From there. you descend via a path that quickly disappears and head towards Devil’s Dyke. You know when a path bears the Devil’s name it’s not going to be a fun stroll… Though maybe if your name is Lucifer?

This section is notorious for getting people lost but I didn’t have much trouble. There were cairns marking the way and waymarks to reassure me that I was in fact going in the correct direction.

By the end of the day I was tired but I had walked the 16 miles I wanted to do and my guidebook assured me that tomorrow would be an easier day.

If reservoirs aren’t really your thing then day two isn’t going to be your thing either. Walking towards Standedge is mostly open moorland, which I am partial to. You also get views of seven reservoirs. I believe there are even more in the vicinity so if reservoirs do it for you then detours are the word of the day. The views were not as grand as the previous day but beautiful nonetheless. And I was on the Pennine Way so I wasn’t going to complain (not yet at least).

The next day I decided to take a bit of an alternate route and followed the Hebden Bridge loop into town. The loop detour takes you off the Pennine Way into Hebden Bridge, then back onto it. I think it adds about a mile to get into the town but I like the place and fancied a quick visit.

The next day I began walking towards Ickornshaw. When I got onto the moors I was enjoying the walking but quickly noticed a dramatic increase in people. I knew that I was close to a small village and put it down to that but even so… it was very busy. I figured out why when I got to a pretty little house as I wondered down from the moorland. I was in Brontë town.

I had known that I would come across this at some point on the Pennine Way but hadn’t thought that it would be that day. I was close to Haworth where the Brontës had grown up in the early 1800s. I had just crossed by Top Withins, a place of pilgrimage that Wuthering Heights fans walk to, since it plays such a big role in the novel.

It was beautiful and either way I was happy to be there. I was also happy when the day trip walkers began thinning out and I realised that the land around the little house was flat. It wasn’t what I would call a perfect place to camp but looking around I felt that I was unlikely to find anything else within 5 miles.

My journal entries for the night are filled with worry. A lot of people had seen me there but I felt quite peaceful at the same time. I had such a lovely view and sat in the little house to have my dinner.

Walking through Malham was a real treat. The Malham Cove was stunning and I took the time to detour to Gorale Scar — my guidebook stated that no matter how tired I may be it was not acceptable to miss this out. It was correct and I would thoroughly recommend that anyone going the Pennine Way to do the same. It also makes up for the first part of this section being a somewhat dull walk through farmland.

Walking up Fountains Fell and Pen-y-Ghent was a rather tough day and the highest point on the walk so far. It was a lovely day — the views of the limestone were some of the best I had had so far on the walk.

Pen-y-Ghent means ‘hill of the wind’ though my guidebook says that Wainwright (a guidebook writer who popularized hill walking and who created the Pennine Way trail) claimed that it was an insult to describe this as a hill and not a mountain.

Hawes was somewhat of a high point. Mostly because I ate a ton of cheese. I was talking with some other Pennine Way hikers about the town and some of them told me that this is where Wensleydale cheese comes from. So, after settling into a campsite, I set about finding some cheese. I bought a few varieties and sat around for the rest of the day, eating cheese and drinking ginger tea.

I had also made a sort of walking companion, which was good fun. I wasn’t staying in campsites so I just saw him along the trail sometimes but it was nice to have some company occasionally. It was not often enough for me to feel cramped. I like walking alone and I liked that we hadn’t make any kind of plan to walk together. It just happened that I would see him along the way from time to time.

This was something I was enjoying about the Pennine Way. The other trails I had been doing didn’t have this kind of reputation and most of the people I had met were people living in the towns I had passed or day walkers but here I was meeting quite a lot of thru-hikers. It also had a large amount of international traffic which was pleasant. I met a woman who had come from France to do the hike alone who was lovely. Though I was rather curious about how she always managed to stay so immaculate. She looked everyday as though she had just walked out of a 5 star hotel — Not crawled out of a tent. Her tent was another area of curiosity looking like the size was more fit for a small child.

The walk from Hawes to Tan Hill was supposed to have excellent views according my guidebook but that day my views were limited to fog. I think I walked about 10 miles before I decided to call it a day. I thought this would make the next day more pleasant as I would arrive at Tan Hill Inn (the UK’s highest inn) just in time for lunch, which would be ideal.

But the next day I wasn’t really feeling it and decided to walk on; something that I somewhat regret. At the time, I just felt like walking. Stopping wasn’t on my mind but in retrospect not having stopped at such a famous location along the Pennine Way seems like something of a shame.

The next bit of walking after Tan Hill is a horrible bit of walking — nearly 2 miles of bog.

The only things to mark your way are a few posts coated in white paint. The rain from the previous day had made the bogs particularly deep. It wasn’t what I would call a fun day.

After walking through this bog I felt even more annoyed that a small note at the end of this section read, “There is a road that can be used to bypass this section in bad weather.”

I wanted to throw my book into the bogs.

But I would rather need it for the next part.

I had finished half of the Pennine Way, This felt somewhat incredible to me.

62 Days of Walking

633 Miles

134 Miles of the Pennine Way.

I was halfway there.

“For [Jane Austen and the readers of Pride and Prejudice], as for Mr. Darcy, [Elizabeth Bennett’s] solitary walks express the independence that literally takes the heroine out of the social sphere of the houses and their inhabitants, into a larger, lonelier world where she is free to think: walking articulates both physical and mental freedom.” 
Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking