Image Credit: Pete Jeff

Using the Google Trekker on the Pennine Way - the Cheviots

20th July 2015

A guest blog written by Abi Mansley, Borders Upland Project Coordinator for Northumberland National Park

So, for my last day out with the Trekker, it was a fine bank holiday Monday towards the end of May.  My other half had taken an early train down to Wembley for the day, something to do with play-offs.  I had decided I would, “walk to Scotland”!  Much more fun!  

Ed and I met at the National Park offices to set off with the van and the kit.  Ed had his dog with him, a whippet called Pip.  We made a good start northwards, towards the place on the Pennine Way where the volunteers had reached recently.  On the way we phoned our ranger colleague, Mark, who was going to meet us on Cheviot summit.  Pip sat on my lap and very warm she is too - Ed explained that whippets often are as they have no body fat!  A long drive down winding lanes later, and through a forestry gate (with a key!) we arrived at Uswayford - one of the nearest places we can get to the Pennine Way with a vehicle.  

Initially we met some other surveyors - botanists - so we stopped to introduce ourselves.  Turns out we all knew each other by name but had not met before!  It is a small world indeed.  With no time to lose, we got the Trekker out of its carrying case (a bit like a band’s instrument case) and built the rucksack back up.  I volunteered to start carrying the kit straight away as my legs were raring to go!  I set off, “determined” in my blue wellies and propelling myself forwards with my stick, while Ed and Pip went ahead a bit to open gates.  

It is a bit of a climb out of Uswayford so soon I was remembering the feel of the Trekker and the pull of it across the chest strap.  We reached the Pennine Way and turned northwards - a lot of this section has been flagged over the years, but I could see some peaty erosion left and right of the path which no doubt would be much worse without the flagging.  I thought to myself how useful the trekker results will be as a sort of record of the Pennine Way - an easily accessible condition survey!   Some bits of the peat I could see were almost exposed hags and there was evidence of frost heaving the peat - technically this could be solved with some reprofiling and some heather brash scattering, but the isolation of this area would make that job difficult.  A thought for another day, although no need to stop to take photos of the hags - the kit is taking 16 photos every 2 seconds!  

After a mile or two Ed and I swapped over.  I was now in charge of Pip.  She couldn’t understand why we had to walk 100m ahead of her beloved Ed!  She constantly looked back for him, and this made staying 100m in front quite hard.  Ed was fast!  Even as the path rised up to Cheviot - wow!  

At a fingerpost, we met Mark the ranger - wearing shorts!  He had got a lift part of the way (in the other direction) and walked towards us, and had been wondering where we were.  We put his stuff in one rucksack and headed up to Cheviot summit itself.  

Reaching that point, it was “bait” time.  Sandwiches out and quickly consumed!  A small group of people were also there, doing a sponsored walk by the looks, for a hospice.  They had numbers stapled on to the back of their rucksacks so they could be ticked off at various points throughout their entire challenge walk.  After what seemed like less than 15 minutes we were back on the way again.  

Ed and I had to decided now who would go back for the van, and drive it round to Scotland - and who would stay with Mark the ranger and walk the route.  I decided to drive the van - if only because I could see how fast Mark and Ed would be - and we really really wanted to finish the Pennine Way today!  So, I carried the kit from the trig point back to the fingerpost.  At this point our paths divided - me back to the van, and the other two on into Scotland and the end point about 10 miles away.  

It was about 4 miles back to the van - took me just over an hour - and a hot day - soon I would run out of water.  Back in Uswayford I got straight on the road, back through the forestry gate - and round the National Park’s eastern boundary.  Into Scotland and Kirk Yeatholm.  Believe it or not the drive took me an hour and a half.  I was secretly hoping to meet them just before our agreed rendez-vous point, in order to carry the kit the last few hundred metres.  But, driving into Kirk Yeatholm and up the lane … who should I meet but Ed, Mark, Pip and Trekker - perfect timing - but no more trekkering to do that day!  

Sitting in the van on the way back, eating the rest of my dinner, it felt good to know that the two National Trails in the Northumberland National Park were now all surveyed.  We got Mark back to where his van was parked, and then went to a petrol station to buy some cold drinks.  And then Mark turned back up with the same idea!  Nice! 

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Google trekker in use
google trekker in use