Image Credit: Pete Jeff

Guest blog by Terry Holden on his 1965 Pennine Way Adventure

15th June 2015

Back in 1965 and aged only 15, probably the last fact I considered was being one member of probably the youngest group of four schoolboy Pioneers to walk the Pennine Way in its inaugural year. We saw it as freedom from studies and an adventure.
Neither did we appreciate the full historical significance of this walk being the fulfilment of almost 30 years of effort needed to achieve the very first of what is now just one of many long distance footpaths in Britain.
Certainly we never even contemplated that 50 years later, it would lead to us being featured on national television in BBC1’s Country file.
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I first became aware of the opening of the Pennine Way whilst walking in Derbyshire on a school trip with friend Garry Cade, during the Easter holidays in 1965, and it was then that I suggested we took up the challenge.

Upon returning to school we soon recruited two enthusiastic class friends, Richard Elliot and John Anstee. The four of us were then granted permission to proceed by the Roundwood Park, Harpenden, School Headmaster at the time, Mr Arthur Foxwell, to whom we will always be most grateful for having given us the opportunity, something unlikely to be granted today.


The timescale of our walk was controlled by being unable to leave until the last day of our GCE O level examinations on 30th June and then returning before Saturday 17th July, as John was off for 10 days more trekking in Luxemburg with the Senior Scouts. This suggested we would have to walk on average approximately 20 miles a day, for 13 long 10 hour days!

Oh the stamina of Youth! 
We decided it would be sensible to walk from Kirk Yetholm to Edale as it would be a shorter journey home to undertake after the walk, as our plan was to hitch hike back to Hertfordshire.
Preparations were made, maps, details of the route and books were sent for; rucksacks, boots and sleeping bags, tent and a gas cylinder powered stove was acquired, in all making our rucksacks weigh some 35lb each.  
As it was mid-summer we decided to camp out each night and in order to reduce the weight carried we would use a two man tent and by taking an extra tent pole we could alternate sleeping arrangements each night with two under the fly sheet!
Little did we know what lay in store for us!

We were all pretty fit and active youngsters and took the challenge in our stride.
However, thinking back at our clothing and equipment, it was pretty basic. 
Eventually everything was ready.

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We travelled by coach to Newcastle, then hitch hiked to Kirk Yetholm, which in all took eight hours, including walking eight miles.

We found the most testing demand of the trek, to be on our navigational skills, at both the beginning and the end of the walk.
At the start, because of there being very few way markings through the Cheviots, therefore  most of the route was plotted by compass and map over uneven terrain.
Then on the last day, Kinder Scout was covered in thick fog and required repeated short directed walks by compass so as to remain sighted and then regrouping.
Apart from the first two days, we experienced rain at some time during most days, and later discovered Manchester recorded one inch of rain fell in 48hours on our last two days.  Then by contrast we experienced more seasonal weather of intense heat that made our walk from Gargrave to Earby quite a challenge with heavy packs.

Whilst we were prepared to cook all meals ourselves, we were opportunist in seeking whatever became available, be it Roadside Café, Fish & Chip van, or Mobile Food shop, however we always cooked our own breakfast. Also the local people showed their generosity by offering us cups of tea, confirming Simon Armitage’s experiences mentioned in his book “Walking Home”.

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A few interesting anecdotes from the log of our adventure reveal:

Day3 –Thinking we were lost in the Wark Forest, it was thanks to a chance meeting with a forester who was able to confirm we were after all on the right track to Lough Craig.
Day6 - We confirm having PASSED the highest pub in England at Tan Hill 1732ft, much to the disappointment of some!
Day7 – Our very late 10.30pm arrival in Horton, due to a map reading error gave us the challenge of setting up camp in the dark.
Day8 - Just past Pen-y-Ghent, whilst travelling over Fountain Fell our friend the rain met us again.  We had intended going past Malham to Kirton but by general agreement we decided to take to Youth Hostels for the remainder of the walk, as all our kit was saturated.
Day10 - At one point I jumped over a wall at the sight of a cow, which the others thought I mistook for a bull.  However, having been brought up on a farm in Norfolk, I decided to take no chances even if it was a charging cow!
Day12 – Today was John’s 16th Birthday and he had carefully prepared a VESTA curry for the celebration, which he then managed to burn in the pan!
Day13 - We started off from Crowdon towards Bleaklow Hill.  At first the path was easily distinguishable, winding up by a small stream across peat moorland.  The path however soon  disappeared and we found ourselves twenty feet above the rocky stream, then suddenly part of the path collapsed beneath me, but fortunately Richard managed, to pull me back just in time before I plunged further.
At mid-day we hit the Snake Pass and stopped for lunch in a scenic layby from where we could see for nearly 30yds! 
Only ten miles to go now and as the rain had stopped and with a good path to follow we were all in high spirits.  After Mill Hill however we turned towards Kinder Scout, which was covered in fog and no path! Thankfully with some excellent compass work by Garry we managed to safely endure the undulating peat, and then by finally descending down a stream we managed to circumnavigate a peat bog. 
Suddenly below us lay Grinsbrooke River, we scrambled down the rock and had less than two miles to go.  Running, singing and joking we descended into Edale and crossed the fallen log which marks the end of the way.

 
We had made it!  Including the Cross Fell, and beyond the Cheviots.  For thirteen days we had striven for this and now it was over.  What a feeling of pride swept through us, and how far it now seemed from the early days of planning our adventure in the school library.
Covered with peat but happy, we left for the Edale Youth Hostel knowing we had accomplished that which we set out to do.

This is our heritage!
This is the Pennine Way!

Despite the fact that our kit was saturated, we all felt that given the chance, we would like to do the trek again, preferring a month next time, enabling more stops to explore the many iconic features of the landscape and places of interest, including the pubs.

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We all feel very fortunate to have experienced this adventure at such a young age; it was no doubt character building and developed our confidence and many skills including teamwork and determination which helped later in life.
Unfortunately it is unlikely that this would be possible nowadays, because of term time restrictions and the endless permissions required.
Furthermore, risk assessments and the health and safety issues would probably also result in less fun, and freedom to be flexible.
However with advances in communication, tracking devices and Emergency Services, coupled with improvements to the footpath itself, it can still be challenging, thoroughly enjoyed, and Blogged as things happen!

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Albeit now disabled I did take part in the 2015 “Walk the Way in a Day” Jubilee Celebrations on 25th April on a level path at Malham Tarn both for sentimental reasons and just to be part of this great event.
My “Sherpa” for the day was another old “Roundwood Parker” and fellow Brass Bandsman David Banks, with whom we were staying just south of Ripon, who takes up the blog:

The weather was variable with sun as well as wind and rain keeping the temperature down, so we togged up in waterproofs to be prepared for anything.
We followed the Pennine Way to the Tarn in the dry, taking in the stunning surroundings views and took some photographs, but were quickly reminded of the variability of the weather in the Pennines, which did not disappoint as soon the wind got up and the rain started!
Terry was rather hopeful that a Brass Band would be playing nearby the tune “Pennine Way” by Maurice Johnston,  as it would have brought back more memories of those ups and downs of not only the fells, but the weather, as epitomised in this delightful piece of music. His joy however was almost made complete by us syncopating together a few bars of the tune as we headed back to the car to change our clothes. We both offer our apologies to the two groups of schoolchildren who arrived in mini buses that walked past us at the time in the rain, who probably thought we had a digestive problem!


Before we got out of the rain, a photo of the “old rambler” was in order by the Pennine Way footpath marker.
There he stood, soaking wet but still smiling with the joy of revisiting some 50years later the very spot he and his school classmates had previously passed.
It was quite obvious that the Pennine Way held a very special place in his heart and was very rewarding for him to have taken part in the event that marked the Golden Anniversary.
What an achievement - very few can claim on the 50th Anniversary Day of the opening of The Pennine Way to the public, that they revisited some point along its 250 mile route!
Well, we sat in the car after an interesting time of trying to change our soaked trousers whilst gazing at the relentless rain hitting the windscreen.
As no sensible aged ramblers like us where around to chat with, we decided to return home, have hot baths and take in what we had done that day.

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In conclusion, without doubt the original adventure engrained in me a lifelong love of wild open spaces, the environment, nature and freedom experienced in the fells, which thankfully I am blessed with still being able to enjoy today.

I would particularly like to thank Chris Sainty, Chairman of the Pennine Way Association for sharing with me his extraordinary knowledge of the PW which is now expressed wonderfully in his book: The Pennine Way – A Walker’s Guide.

Finally my thanks go to Anne Clark, Managing Director of Walk Unlimited, who put my name forward to the BBC, who then in turn rounded off my extraordinary experience of this fascinating lifetime adventure that started back on 2nd July 1965.

Terry Holden

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