Day Thirteen: Penrith to Hexham

I was rudely awoken by a cockerel. I wearily brought my arm to my eyes and fumbled for the button to illuminate my watch. It was 4.08am. It was dark, I was cold, why was the cockerel crowing when the sun was nowhere to be seen? I snuggled back down into my sleeping bag and tried to get back to sleep. I was sleeping in a gypsy caravan. Kristy and I had the bed and Hannah was on the floor. I woke up a few hours later practically on top of Kristy. I was so cold I had apparently tried to grab Kristy’s body warmth.

We were in the middle of nowhere, staying in the garden of a small two up two down farm house in Penrith. We ate eggs for breakfast and sat by a fie in the garden. They have lots of eggs. Six eggs a day as they have six chickens and a cockerel. Katus asked me if I wanted to take some eggs with me, I started laughing, thinking she was joking. This was met with a serious yet uncomfortable silence. She wasn’t joking, she was deadly serious, after all she had too many eggs and nobody wants too many eggs as my Gran used to say, ‘they block you up’.

A few chickens got over excited about the prospect of eating their produce and flew up to the table. Katus kicked one of them and it flew forward with in a winged fluster. I was quite surprised at how satisfying it seemed to kick a chicken and although I’m sure all the animal rights activists will be up in arms I’m looking forward to kicking my first chicken. After an eventful egg breakfast we rode off bare back on horses then came back to the place we started from.

We travelled round to a friend of Barny and Katus’, a lovely lady called Anna. Anna had been called upon late the night before, as suddenly Barny remembered she had a gold tractor. She agreed to take us to Melmerby in a trailer on the back of the tractor. Anna lived in a mobile home on her parents land. It was lovely, her garden was full of Christmas trees and to my delight she had a trampoline. Anna had a wonderful homely touch, she made a trailer into a ‘Laura Ashley’ picnic. We sat in the back amongst muffins, babies, tea, mothers and comfy cushions. I really enjoyed Anna’s company and found her leadership and natural motherly kindness extremely comforting.

We left our trailer picnic and headed for the roadside with another trusty sign. Before long Steve picked us up in a Subaru and took us up the Pennines towards Alston. We were 1950 ft above sea level, the countryside was vast and beautiful. As we approached Alston Steve said the population of this small place was mostly male and they have made a TV programme about this problem to try and attract more women. We arrived in Alston, Steve checked his watch and announced ‘I’ll take you girls to Hexham, I dont think you’ll get a lift here’. I was quietly happy about this as, unlike Steve I thought we probably would get picked up but, it would be another lift where I would get my knife out for protection.

As we passed Steve’s house he enquired ‘What do your parents think about this adventure?’ I told him that they were proud of us and that we had inspired Hannah’s mum to go on her own adventure. Steve didn’t normally pick up hitch hikers and I think he, like many others thought we were mad. He left us at Hexham train station and wished us luck with the onward journey.

I quite enjoy saying goodbye to people when I’m the one leaving, I find it hard the other way around. I don’t like it when people leave me, I always feel like I want to be the one going off on an adventure but it cant always be that way, one day I’ll be too old and frail, or I’ll be dead.

Ria

We were picked up my Clare, Tilly’s Mum and taken to a house, a real house, where we could have a shower! I can’t tell you how happy I was to see a proper bed, a shower, clean towels and a washing machine. We had a message from Tilly about her home and we felt like we were welcomed into the fold, doing the things she does at home, eating John’s lemon chicken speciality and standing on tiptoes to peep out of the bathroom window to see the stunning views. In between mouthfuls and gulps of wine we talked about the journey so far. It felt exciting to reflect on the happenings and the story we were creating/collecting and imagining what it might eventually become.

Talk turned to hot air balloons, the one form of transport that seems just out of our reach. Clare had bought John a hot air balloon ride for his birthday one year but a year later he still hadn’t actually done it. He finally admitted that he was terrified of heights. ‘I suppose that means you don’t want to do it then!?’ asked Clare. “Well……” Anyway I’m not sure entirely why but John agreed to finally take her up on the very expensive present she had given him. She sent him off into the air clinging to the edges in fear. As soon as he was up in the air he had an overwhelming urge to jump out, as if he might be able to fly. He spent the entire flight holding himself in, telling himself he couldn’t jump. Clare had loved the experience of flying in a hot air balloon but was herself terrified of water but had pushed herself to confront her fear and paddled down the Jardine.

I can be quite a worrier in normal life but it’s almost as if on day two when I realised I couldn’t control or plan anything the fear suddenly left me and I have done so many things I never thought I’d do, ridden a horse bareback, been on the back of a motorcycle, flown through the air on a microlight, got into cars with strangers and it’s a great feeling. I think the adventurer in me has got loose and who knows where it might take me next.

Hannah

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