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Pennine Way 2008

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Deborah and Gwen's Pennine Way Diary
Day 15

Day 15 - A short day and a coffee stop in Alston
Monday 26th May
Garrigill to Slaggyford          9 miles

Nice as the cooked breakfast was Iím not sure if Iíll ever want to face bacon again. We declined a packed lunch as we were to walk through the market town of Alston today. Tony from Brigantes turned up before we left this morning so we had another good-humoured chat with him in Margaret and Bobís kitchen before leaving at around 10 a.m.

The walk was in two halves today: 4 miles of riverside walking to Alston then 5 miles to Slaggyford. Despite her taxi ride yesterday, Mum was still feeling quite tired, for the first time I think a few doubts were creeping into her mind. This was the start of things to come but I wonít dwell on that just yet. We saw surprisingly few people today considering it was a Bank Holiday but it was a little busier in the market town Alston. We headed straight for the tourist office to enquire where I could purchase another memory card for my camera as I was fast running out of space. Unfortunately the town had no camera shop and even the pharmacy was closed for the holiday. Oh well, I would just have to be more selective with my choice of subject. We had coffee in the Blueberry Tearooms, served to us by the most miserable looking waitress we had ever seen Ė I guess she had other plans for the bank holiday. Mum finished her coffee whilst I ran up the street to The Moody Baker where I bought some delicious goodies for our lunch to be enjoyed later.

The official route out of Alston climbs up the side of the valley but on spotting the South Tyne Trail going in the same direction Mum thought the low level route alongside the disused railway was more to her liking. It wasnít the most scenic of paths but at least it was flat and we did get to see a steam train, ferrying tourists along the South Tyne Railway. At the end of the line, at Kirkhaugh, we rejoined the official Pennine Way path and stopped to eat our lunch beside a dry-stone wall. As we only had 2 miles to go we indulged in an after lunch nap in the sunshine Ė a most unusual activity for us but again, with hindsight, maybe we should have recognised the signs of things to come.

The last 2 miles were more scenic, including a lovely amble along the riverside just before Slaggyford. The village is tiny and Yew Tree Chapel must surely be the jewel in its crown. David and Mary have sympathetically converted the old chapel into a beautiful home set in the most romantic of gardens. We were greeted at the door by David and his dog Petra and served tea and biscuits in the magnificent living room. The full height of the chapel had been maintained and the old chapel organ pipes now frame the door into the dining room. David is an artist who specialises in stained glass, he has replaced all the chapel windows with exquisite contemporary stained glass panels, some of which are over 10 feet tall. We were interested to see Davidís photo albums that document the restoration project. The couple have obviously worked very hard and with such vision. Now complete, Yew Tree Chapel is a beautiful, warm inviting home, even the guest accommodation has been imaginatively designed.

As there is no pub in Slaggyford Mary provides meals for guests who have no transport. We enjoyed a delicious home cooked meal with wine at the large dining room table. We sat on two of the original chapel pews. I had run out of space in my diary so David kindly provided me with additional writing materials and I felt extra inspiration to write sitting at his desk in the main body of the chapel

Thought for the day:
Deb Ė I was now beginning to have some concerns about Mumís ability to complete the walk but vowed as ever to take one day at a time

Mum Ė   I would love to show the chapel to David and my son Roy, Iím sure they would appreciate all of the hard work. I might return one day but maybe by car next time!

Pictures

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Bob & Margaret at Bridge View

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Tony, our lovely Brigantes driver

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Flora along the River South Tyne

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Level walking to Alston

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Alston

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Tourists on the South Tyne Railway

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Our alternative path along the South Tyne Trail

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A shorter day and a lunchtime snooze

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Deb on the steps of Yew Tree Chapel

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Yew Tree Chapel interior

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