I've just completed the PCW from North to South. It was really my first major tour under my own steam (did a supported C2C with a group a couple of years ago).I wish I'd read your blog before I went! I completely agree about the section south of Wooler, which was an absolute nightmare, and I would advise anyone to completely avoid it. I was on a hybrid with 40mm tyres, but there was no way I could cycle on that boulder-strewn track, and the fords were hard work too - that bit doesn't qualify as a touring cycle route in my opinion.
However, forewarned by this experience I did a diversion through Wark rather than do the Keilder forest track from Whygate, which I'd heard was bad. I also skipped the 'old road' between Whaley Bridge and Buxton just in case. The A-road was actually really quiet because England were playing Sweden at the time. Lovely hill climb too.
Camped each night except the last, which I spent at Hartington Youth Hostel because I couldn't find a campsite close to Buxton which had any spaces. I'll write up a ride report/blog and post it here if anyone is interesed. I was kind of lucky with the weather in one sense because I didn't have to deal with wet kit, and it was easy to wash clothes and dry them on the back of the panniers whilst riding. This helped with personal hygeine I feel. Having said that, it was murderously hot which made it hard work at times.
Highlights of the route:
(a) Climbing from Alston to Hartside and feeling elated; shame the cafe has gone (b) Climbing/pushing up the hill from Dent to Ingleton, which was the most stunning bit of scenery for me; (c) Hadfield Food Bar needs a special mention - I went in for a cup of tea and a sausage butty, and had a lovely chat with the very friendly people who work there and a much-needed rest. We talked a lot about the moorland fires, which have been absolutely devastating in that area. When I mentioned that my sunglasses had jolted loose somewhere up on the Woodhead pass (that crazy rocky section), the lady who ran the cafe was all for giving me her sunglasses as a replacement, although she couldn't find them, but then in lieu of that, she gave me a huge bakewell tart and wouldn't take any payment for it. I have to admit that this made me quite tearful, as I was feeling pretty drained by day 5. It turned out to be the perfect fuel for a long day from Holmfirth to Hartington.
(a) I did the route alone, and I think it would have been a lot more fun to share, though I am okay in my own company; Occasionally on the rough and remote bits, like that bit south of Wooler, I wondered how long it would be until someone found me if I took a bad tumble! (b) In efforts to keep the bags light, I didn't take a camera, so all I have as a record is a few poor pics on my phone, which I didn't take a lot of because I wanted to save charge so I could phone my family each night; (c) The station cafe in Sowerby Bridge deserves another special mention. In 300-odd miles I never had a problem getting water bottles filled, during what has been one of the hottest weeks on record. In Northumberland I was even offered water without asking by a lady sitting outside her house, and again near Wark by a man I'd asked for directions as to the best way back towards Hadrian's wall (and he put ice in it). But the chap at Sowerby bridge said 'we don't give it away'. At first I thought he was joking, but then realised he wasn't, and as I was so knackered and dehydrated I paid him for a bottle. He then said 'now do you want your bottle filling up?' ...'because now you're a customer, do you see?'. I took his arrogant offer, told him that in 200 miles I hadn't met anyone so mean and then left him to keep running his little empire. I could say more, but I would probably break the posting rules for this forum. But if you're in the vicinity, please avoid Mr Sour of Sowerby. By the way - what a hell of a hill out of there up to Barkisland! Everyone who lives there must have legs like tree-trunks! And at the top of that hill was a pub called The Hobbit, who filled up my bottles quite happily and added ice, which was nice.
Song of the trip was 'Whiskey in the Jar'. Apologies if you heard my tuneless warbling somewhere in the Yorkshire dales!