Saturday, 28 September 2013

A Pennine Journey: Amazing day at Epiacum and opening North Pennines Walking Festival

Rory Stewart and I joined all the team to visit Epiacum today, and then walk from there to Alston, as part of the celebration of the famous book and walk that is the Pennine Journey by A W Wainwright. It was a beautiful day, with a high sun and a big sky that is so typical of the North Pennines. Epiacum is a Roman fort, sometimes known as Whitley Castle, which is found close by the A689, some 3 miles north of Alston. It has a unique design and is really worth a visit:

There are too many people to thank but chief praise must go to Elaine whose land Epiacum is upon, Alastair for his fascinating insight into the history that is all around you both on the fort and as you walk, and, in particular, Colin Bywater who drew the maps in the new book both Rory and I were given today.
It was also a great opportunity to talk at length with Ian Forbes, the chair of the Friends of the North Pennines, who has brought together so many of the people and organisations who have made the North Pennine Walking festival happen.
But there is one man who should be singled out for his commitment to Wainwright, and the Pennine journey: David Pitt is the chair of the Pennine Journey Supporters Club. It celebrates and supports the iconic journey taken by the worlds greatest walker, Alfred Wainwright. The book the Pennine Journey accompanied me on my walk of the Pennine Way last year and is a wonderful read, albeit it is affected by the backdrop of 1938, when it was written, and a cold that dogged the great man  - and some interesting weather!
But it is a testament to AW that when the great man went for this circular stroll from Settle to Hadrian's Wall and Hexham and then back down the Pennines to High Force, North Yorkshire and back to Settle he not only describes geography and nature, but he records history. Most of all it brings out his understanding of remote places and the hills that characterise the Pennines.
It is a classic walk and the supporters club have brought the walk back to life with way marking and a true celebration today of all the walk. Massive praise to everyone involved.

The route is 247 miles. Much of goes through Northumberland and is a further reason to come to region, and a real boost to the local tourist potential and economy.
David's enthusiasm for AW and the Pennine Journey is palpable and I urge you to pick up a copy of his guide to the Pennine Journey. It is a beautiful book, made with much help, and in the true AW style. I will treasure my copy, and consider it a privilege to have finally met David.
I bow to only one man as a more enthusiastic walker than me in the House of Commons and that is my friend and neighbour Rory Stewart. It was good today that we could show the north Pennines is a region with its own special identity, without reference to man made boundaries.
One iconic moment was when we shook hands across the stream that divides Northumberland and Cumbria. That was a photo!
A great day all round.