Westmorland Heritage Walk 2004

Author: George Tod

This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on the small photograph to enlarge it and vice versa.
Part 4 - Days 5 & 6 - Kirkby Stephen to Milburn

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Day 5 - Wednesday 14th July - 19.5 miles - very little ascent

Kirkby Stephen to Dufton

I had breakfast at 8.00 with the few others who were having it too; a German couple with a baby, and a couple who were walking the Coast to Coast. It was raining outside, so I made sure that everything was packed well away to keep out the wet. My blister was bleeding a little and the pad I had thought was covering it had worked its way half way up my sock, as I discovered when I took off my boot last night. I had replaced the plaster, but had little confidence in it staying where it was, so I called in an outdoor shop to buy some proper blister treatment. These are supposed to stay in place for three to four days, by which time the blister should be a long way towards healing, so I stopped on a seat nearby to put one on. By the time I got going, it was 9.30 by which time the rain had stopped.

The walk takes a roundabout route via farmland to avoid walking along the busy A685 road to Church Brough. I didn't do too badly with navigation; that is to say I only went wrong three or four times in as many miles, but didn't take too long to get back on the right track when I did so. I stopped for a break near Brough Castle after five miles. I was not walking very quickly, as my legs were still a little stiff, particularly my right one, as I had been trying to tread carefully to avoid further damage to my blistered heel. The weather was now not too bad; a little muggy at first, but this cleared with a bit of breeze, though now there were even a few bright patches in the sky, and the cloud had lifted from the fell tops.

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Brough Castle from beside A685
Brough Castle
River Eden and Northern Pennines
from near Warcop
River Eden near Warcop

The next few miles were a lot easier for navigation, with only one or two minor exceptions. There was a sound of distant gunfire, but this was not an invasion, merely military training on Warcop Fell. This part of the walk was not very interesting, with only the occasional river or church to add to the view. I had intended to make my next stop past Warcop, leaving only ten miles to go, but when I passed a pleasant little spot by the banks of the South Eden that even had a patch of sunshine thrown in for good measure, it was too good to miss. The trees also gave shelter from the fairly strong breeze that was now blowing, and I could have stopped for enjoyed a nice long rest here, but time didn't permit it if I wanted to get to Dufton in reasonable time for dinner.

On the way to Great Ormside there are places with good views of the fells, but for much of the way the view to that side is obscured. Similarly, the River Eden can only be seen in parts and is frequently out of view. The weather took a definite turn for the better with lots of sunshine, making the walking much more pleasant. On the way from Great Ormside to Appleby, the path goes through the edges of woodland with a great proliferation of wild flowers including some of the largest spotted orchids that I have ever seen - some were over two foot high, probably growing this high because they were competing with a mass of other flora. I have normally only ever seen orchids where the vegetation was sparse, so it was more surprising to see such fine specimens in this situation.

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Boroughgate, Appleby looking towards Moot Hall and St Lawrence's Church
High Cup Nick from north of Appleby
High Cup Nick
Fountain on Village Green, Dufton with Stag Inn behind

The last stretch of this part of the route drops down by the River Eden before skirting round Appleby Castle, only a glimpse of which can be seen through the gates on the way into the town. I stopped for a rest and the luxury of an ice cream when I reached the town centre. A number of pubs tempted me to have a pint, but I didn't want to take the chance of it sapping my willpower for the remaining four and a half miles into Dufton. The route to Dufton involves a certain amount of ascent, but not too much. There are also a few opportunities to get lost along the way, and I managed to go astray in a couple of places although, in general, the footpaths are quite well waymarked. As I approached Dufton, the fells loomed closer and High Cup Nick, hanging high above the valley, was bathed in a patch of sunshine for a while. As I knew I would be late arriving, I phoned the youth hostel to place an order for an evening meal, but was told that there was no choice as there were very few people in. The final half mile goes along Dufton Gill in a pleasant wooded valley before emerging onto a lane at the top end of the village.

I arrived at 6.30 in time for a shower before settling down to a very good meal of soup, toad in the hole and a fruit pie. I dined with a chap who was walking part of the Pennine Way, though he was not doing the next section.

The hostel had a good drying room, so I set about washing all my sweaty things from the past two days. I thought my luck was in when I discovered a spin drier, but soon discovered that it tripped the circuit breaker every time it was switched on. This meant I had to resort to the usual procedure of wringing everything by hand, which never does a very good job of getting the water out. It is so much better to have a spin drier or even a mangle, either of which remove far more water than any amount of hand wringing can do. However, the warden said that a big refurbishment was on its way, as an appeal, following a threat of closure, had raised quite a bit of money. Now it was the turn of Baldersdale to come under threat - what a great loss to the Pennine Way if any of these hostels were to close, though this doesn't seem to matter to the YHA these days.

My Compeed blister pad had stayed on all day, though it had developed a strange hollow in the middle. This was certainly far better than anything I had ever tried before, as the contoured gel pad bonds extremely well onto the skin surrounding the blister and provides very good cushioning to the tender area. They may be fairly expensive, but they are worth it for the discomfort that they save. This foot had been feeling pretty good all day, in fact better than my other foot that was starting to form a blister of its own.

After my hearty meal had had chance to settle, I headed across the road to the Stag Inn for a few pints. The chap from my dormitory was in there as well as several lots of Pennine Way walkers spread around different parts of the pub. I had a good chat and three pints of very good Black Sheep bitter before retiring to bed at 10.30.

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Day 6 - Thursday 15th July - 16 miles - 3,090 ft ascent

Dufton to Milburn via High Cup, Knock Fell, Great Dun Fell and Cross Fell

Breakfast was at 8.00 and consisted of porridge followed by a hearty fry-up with a bit of everything - much more than the usual YHA offering. The weather started off rather dull, although there was a fairly high cloud base but, by the time I had gathered all my things together and was ready for off, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful morning. I called at the village post office to send off some cards and met a couple I had been talking to in the pub last night. They were walking the Pennine Way and camping, and had just had breakfast in the post office cafe.

By this time it was 9.25 as I set off along the Pennine Way route to High Cup Nick but in the opposite direction from the normal flow of Pennine Way walkers. The ascent was steady, and I passed two groups of teenagers who were involved in some sort of outdoor pursuits activity, going up to Maize Beck, then back round to where they started from. It was very hot at first, but then the sun went in and a cool breeze sprang up as I climbed up above 1,000 ft. I reached High Cup Nick at 11.00 by which time it had clouded over with only a few patches of sunshine here and there. A geology student came along as I was admiring the view. He was spending six weeks in the area on his own and he really loved it. Whilst I was sitting there I did manage to get some hazy sunshine to enhance the beauty of this magnificent spectacle before I continued on my way.

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High Cup Nick
High Cup Nick
High Cup Nick
High Cup Nick
Great Dun Fell and Cross Fell from
Knock Fell
Knock Fell

From High Cup, my route parted company with the Pennine Way and headed over to Knock Fell. As the weather was fine and the ground was reasonably dry, I decided to take a more or less straight line across to Little Rundale Tarn rather than the rather circuitous route following Tarn Sike shown in the book. The latter was chosen to avoid the boggy sections of the direct route when the weather has been wet. However, it was very hard going over rough moorland with thick grass, bilberry and peat; very similar to parts of the Peak District but not quite so boggy. With a lot of effort, I eventually reached the edge of Great Rundale Tarn where there was a semblance of a path, but then I soon had to head over rough ground again towards the summit of Knock Fell. Fortunately, the going was not quite as difficult, but it was with great relief that I reached a path and knew that I would then have a path to follow for the rest of the way over the fells. This wasn't quite true, as the summit of Knock Fell is not actually on the Pennine Way but can be taken as a detour from Knock Old Man, so there is not much of a path there either. It was not long before I reached the Pennine Way where the path changed completely to a pedestrian motorway stone slabs. I am all in favour of putting down paving where it is needed, through boggy and eroded sections of a footpath, but there seems to be a tendency to get carried away and whole sections are paved where it is not really necessary.

The weather started to deteriorate with some steady rain as I ascended Great Dun Fell, so I had to don my waterproofs. However, it wasn't heavy rain and the visibility was still reasonable, so I still found the walk preferable to a sunny walk through lowland fields without a view. The route climbs up and down from Great Dun Fell to Little Dun Fell, then Cross Fell, but none of these climbs are either steep or long. On Cross Fell, I met a chap who was out walking for a few days, but not on any recognised walk, then I met a Dutch couple at the summit. They were doing part of the Pennine Way in the north to south direction as part of the E2 route. Last year they did a section from Portpatrick to Melrose on the Southern Upland Way, then they followed St Cuthbert's Way to Kirk Yetholm, at the top end of the Pennine Way. Now they were continuing most of the way down the Pennine Way, and I am not sure where they were going after that. On the summit, the mist obscured things for a while but as I dropped a little way down it cleared and the rain also eased off.

The route down towards Milburn was quite easy until it came to the usual problem of finding the correct route through farmland when I reached the bottom. I thought I had timed it nicely to arrive at Milburn by about 6 pm, as I knew that the evening meal was at 6.30 pm. What I had forgotten was that the place in which I was staying was quite a way out of Milburn and not marked on my map. Both High Stakes and Low Stakes were marked but not Stakes Farm, which was where I was staying, and this turned out to be beyond both of them, and over a mile out of the village, so it was a rush to get there in time for a quick shower and a change before dinner.

The meal was very good with carrot soup, lamb chops with a crusty orange topping, broad beans and potatoes out of the garden, then chocolate sponge with custard, followed by coffee. There was a pub about a mile away, but I felt more inclined to stay in and rest my feet tonight. After a lie down to rest my legs and feet, I watched TV for a while before going to bed. The blisters on my heels were still giving me some problems but the Compeed pad was still stuck to my right heel, though bits of it had decided to attach themselves to my sock instead. The blister had also spread beyond the top of the pad, but I decided to leave things as they were for the time being. My left heel also had a blister, but this was not too bad and was managing to hold its own after the initial blister burst.

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