Day 15: Merry Know to Once Brewed, 17.75 miles
After a night’s rest my foot was not too bad. The skin had hardened up a bit. Fortunately the weather was quite cool and cloudy, so my heel would have a chance to improve. After a couple of miles we were briefly up on the moors before descending into more farm land around Hartley Burn.
We had lunch somewhere before Thirlwall. After crossing the railway line we struck Thirlwall castle. The highlight of this section is when you hit Hadrian’s Wall, just under a mile after Thirlwall. Even in a degraded state the wall is impressive.
For the next five miles we followed the wall until we reached the road to Once Brewed. We decided that a stay at the youth hostel would be a good idea, especially as today was the longest section of the walk.
Once you reach the wall, there is a real feeling that you are nearing the end, even though there is another sixty odd miles to go. It is also a sad farewell to the Pennines, which have been a constant companion and guide for 200 miles.
Day 16: Once Brewed to Bellingham, 16.5 miles
Today was a mainly cloudy, but dry day. The final section of the wall is the most impressive. We dumped our packs at Rapishaw Gap to climb up to Housesteads Castle. We had a rather rapid look around as we knew we had to make some distance today.
After a short moorland walk we entered Wark Forest. The trouble with forest walking is that you could be anywhere. These Forestry Commission forests are pretty dire, with their fir trees packed close together. They are so dense that you can’t see very far between the trees and the ground is covered in dead, brown pine needles, smothering out the life of anything that might try to grow there. What a contrast with the glorious Caledonian forest of the Cairngorms or the beautiful deciduous woodland of Epping Forest!
After a short respite of no forest at Sell Burn, battle is joined for another, mercifully short section of conifers. Finally shaking off the forest, the final six miles to Bellingham is over farm land, across burns with a small amount of road walking. Instead of staying in Bellingham, we pitched at Eals Farm just outside. After eating, we sauntered into town for a couple of pints of very fine ales.