Westmorland Heritage Walk 1993

Author: George Tod

This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on small photo to enlarge in situ, or click caption to enlarge into new window.
Part 2 - Ellergill to Dufton

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Day 3 - Tuesday 22nd June - Ellergill to Kirkby Stephen via Wild Boar Fell, Mallerstang and Nine Standards Rigg - 20.5 miles

Accommodation - B&B, 'Lockholme', Kirkby Stephen - 14.00

After another good night's sleep, I had breakfast at 8.30 a.m. and set off at 9.15 a.m. The weather was rather cloudy and the forecast said that some rain was possible, with brighter weather coming later. In an effort to improve the state of my feet, I folded up some towelling socks and put them under my instep to help to spread the weight a bit more. I felt a lot fitter than on the previous day, and think that I must have been fighting off a bug earlier on.

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Sand Tarn and Howgill Fells
Sand Tarn and Howgill Fells
Yoadcomb Scar from The Nab - Wild Boar Fell
Yoadcomb Scar from The Nab

There was a steady climb up to Wild Boar Fell, partly over open moorland, but the going was not bad underfoot. I reached the summit at 10.30 a.m. and there was some thick cloud and a few spots of rain, but with brighter weather coming in from the west. However, the visibility was still good except for around Cross Fell which was covered in cloud. I could still see Morecambe Bay, the Lake District and the Three Peaks. The weather was improving all the time and became very pleasant at Aisgill Summit, giving magnificent views down the Eden Valley with Wild Boar Fell to the left and Mallerstang to the right. At Aisgill there is a lovely waterfall, Hellgill Force and the route then leads up the hillside to a grassy lane which makes for a very good walking pace. It was surprising that, even though I had been walking at a much faster pace, helped by the padding in my boots, I was still only averaging just over 2 m.p.h. including stops and photographs. I reached Mallerstang at 1.50 p.m. with 10.5 miles to go, but with the biggest proportion of the climbing done.

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Hellgill Force at Aisgill Summit
Hellgill Force
Hellgill and Hellgill Crags
Hellgill and Hellgill Crags

By this time, the best part of the weather had gone - looking over towards Nine Standards Rigg, the sky was very threatening, although the Howgills were still bathed in sunshine. It started to rain at High Pike, so I put on my waterproofs and walked on through drizzle all the way to Jack Standards and then through thick mist over to Nine Standards Rigg. At Nine Standards Rigg the visibility was so poor that it was only just possible to see all nine cairns at once. It was a contrast from last year, on the coast to Coast walk, when it was a beautiful sunny day with good views all around and walkers sunbathing at the summit. There was some heavier rain as I dropped down from the summit but this eased off and the mist cleared on the way down to Kirkby Stephen.

My feet were getting very sore, made worse by the descent from Nine Standards Rigg and, after one or two short rests, I arrived in Kirkby Stephen at 7 p.m. I asked someone where South Road was and set off in that direction looking for number 48, but when I found it it did not have the right house name of 'Lockholme', and when I looked around I found that I was in High Street. I returned to the town centre and asked again, only to find that South Road is an extension of High Street and that the numbering starts again, so I eventually arrived at the B&B at 7.20 p.m. I had a bath and a cup of tea and rested my feet for a while before setting off into town to find something to eat. I passed two pubs advertising bar meals, although the two fish and chip shops were closed, as was the Chinese Take-away, so I called at the phone box to phone home first, before going for a pub meal. When I returned to the first pub, the White Lion, the food sign had gone in and I noticed that it said that bar meals were available only until 8.30 p.m. The second pub, a hotel just up the road, which was still proudly proclaiming bar meals from 6 p.m. onwards, on boards both outside and inside the pub still looked a good bet. I went in and ordered a pint, with difficulty, as there were a crowd of locals engulfing the bar centred around someone who looked like the local squire. The landlord seemed to be ignoring anyone else, so I had to shout my order across the group of them. I then asked if they were still serving bar meals which received a surly "NO" with no explanation as to why they were still being advertised all around. One of the group around the bar mumbled "You can have a mud pie if you like" in a sarcastic tone, so I took my beer away to a table and sat down - it wasn't even very good beer, so I soon departed from the inhospitable establishment.

I went back down to the White Lion, knowing at least that it was more friendly and had good beer, having been in there the previous year on my coast to coast walk. I enquired about food on the off chance that they might have something and had a much more obliging response. They had finished hot meals and his wife had gone to have a bath, but he did have a few pork pies at the bar, so I settled down to a much better pint of beer and a couple of pork pies. The White Lion is normally quite popular with Coast to Coast walkers, but there were none in that night. Most people set off on the walk at the weekend, and reach Kirkby Stephen by the following weekend, so midweek there tend to be very few passing through.

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Day 4 - Wednesday 23rd June - Kirkby Stephen to Dufton - 19.5 miles

Accommodation - YHA, Dufton 13 - B&B plus dinner

I had breakfast at 8 a.m. and found the first person so far who has heard of the Westmorland Heritage Walk. The landlady had actually got a photocopied sheet about it from the Tourist Board and had even been persuaded to pay 10 to advertise in an accommodation guide which was being put together. She was rather keen to know if the walk was going to take off in popularity but I had to sadly inform her that the lack of interest or knowledge about it so far didn't make it likely.

I set off at 9 a.m. to buy a few things from town before setting off on the low level walk to Dufton. The route was not the easiest to follow at first, with some of the paths overgrown with nettles and others through soaking wet long grass (there had been a heavy downpour early in the morning). The routes across farmland were often poorly marked needing very careful attention to the map.

After only a mile or two my feet were killing me, so the only thing I could think to do was to fold up another pair of walking socks and put one in the base of each boot. It was difficult squeezing my boots back on and my feet were rather cramped up, but at least it did ease the pain in the soles of my feet.

The first part of the walk did not provide many interesting views, although there were a few pleasant walks by the banks of streams. The weather was also rather dull and overcast but started to improve around Brough, where the route and the scenery also took a turn for the better, with a good view of Brough Castle and views across to Warcop Fell and beyond. I stopped for lunch at 1.15 p.m., just before Warcop, at a pleasant spot above the river Eden looking across to Warcop Fell and set off again after 20 minutes as there was still quite a way to go.

The afternoon's walk was a considerable improvement on the morning's, going through some very pleasant woodland by the river near Great Ormside, and alongside the river into Appleby. Appleby is a delightful little town with a picturesque main street looking down to the Church at the bottom, with ornate sundials on high columns at the top and the bottom of the street.

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The Market Town of Appleby
Dufton with Dufton Pike and Great Dun Fell
Dufton & Dufton Pike

After all the problems with my feet, I decided that a good pair of insoles were called for, so I had a look around Appleby for some. The only ones I could find were 3.99, but they were very thick ones and just the thing I was looking for, so I decided that the relief I would get would be worth it, even if they were overpriced. Certainly the folded up socks in my boots had spread out the pressure on the balls of my feet and the heels even though the extra bulk had caused a bit of discomfort.

I resumed the walk without putting in the insoles as I thought that they might have to be cut to size, which would be better done when I reached the hostel. The Cross Fell range became steadily more prominent with the 'golf ball' radar station on Great Dun Fell clearly visible, as well as High Cup Nick. The final half mile into Dufton passed through lovely woodland beside Dufton Gill and emerged into the centre of the village not far from the Youth Hostel. By this time the weather had become bright and sunny to give a very pleasant end to the day.

The Youth Hostel is a very good one, nicely fitted out with a tidily kept garden at the back and with a friendly warden. It is also very central, being right opposite the village pub. It was nice to be in a hostel instead of B&B, as there was a much better atmosphere, with several other walkers who were mainly doing the Pennine Way. Three of them were Dutchmen who, having tired of the Dutch mountains (maximum altitude 50 metres), were trying out the English ones. Another chap, on his own, was doing the final leg of a four-year traverse of the Pennine Way, having done three other sections in previous years.

Dinner was soup, turkey hotpot and jam sponge and just on dinner time a large group of Pennine Way walkers came in, still in their walking clothes. They were walking with the backup service of a bus which ferried them to the nearest Youth Hostel which could accommodate them from wherever they had got to each day. In this case they had come from a little way past Baldersdale. Some of the party were quite old, with one of their members being 75 and apparently one of the fittest.

Later on in the evening I went across to the Stag Inn and met some of the others in there. Unfortunately, I did not get a good night's sleep as the three Dutchmen were up in turns, at about half-hour intervals through the night, going to the toilet.

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Day 5 - Thursday 24th June - Dufton to Dufton via High Cup and Cross Fell - 19.5 miles

Accommodation - YHA, Dufton, 13.00 B&B plus dinner

I had breakfast at 8 p.m. and started out at 8.45 a.m. on a lovely sunny morning, but with some haze. I had made the day's walk into a round trip as the route, after going over the fells, comes to within three and a half miles of Dufton again, before heading for Penrith. By returning to Dufton, I could carry just a light day pack, which made the walking much easier, and compensated for the extra distance I had to walk, all of which was all along relatively flat low level paths and roads.

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High Cup Nick
High Cup Nick
Little Dun Fell and Great Dun Fell from Cross Fell
Little Dun & Great Dun Fells from Cross Fell

The insoles fitted perfectly in my boots but, as expected, my feet were very cramped, which made them quite uncomfortable, but this was still preferable to the nauseating pain which I was getting without them. The weather started to cloud over on the walk up to High Cup, although there was still a bit of sunshine when I got there to give an impressive view. The walk up to Great Rundale Tarn and onto Knock Fell follows a very scant and, in parts, non-existent footpath, at first by a stream, but later across open moor with peat hags and groughs. This made the going a little slow, but it was not too difficult nor too boggy. The cloud grew steadily thicker and lower, at times covering the tops of the fells and giving a few spots of rain, but then cleared up considerable to allow a moderate view of the surrounding landscape.

On the top of Cross Fell, by the summit wind shelter, I got mugged by a sheep looking for food - I think it must have remembered me from two years ago when the same thing happened. It is quite funny to see sheep behaving in this way - first of all they look on rather cautiously from a distance, then gradually move in closer and closer whilst still treading their ground very carefully but then, as they move in very close they get bolder and more determined and start nosing at sandwich boxes and anything else that may be edible. At this point it is very difficult to get rid of them and the only thing to do is to pack everything up and move away.

The new insoles started to bed in and my feet had a little more freedom of movement. I only saw a few walkers, mainly because of timing; most of the Pennine Way walkers would have been clear of the fells by the time I got there via High Cup, and the ones coming to High Cup would arrive later in the day. The views were not nearly so good as two years ago when I was doing the Pennine Way, but at least I was not engulfed in mist. On the descent from Cross Fell the weather improved, and the sun was shining over the distant Lake District fells.

I got back to the hostel at 6.05 p.m. with the usual aching feet. Having three long days in succession was not a very good idea, but I did not realise that I would have so much trouble with my feet when I was planning the walk. The trouble was that, even though the insoles were helping quite a bit, my feet were very sore from earlier on and really needed more rest. The trouble with doing walks of around 20 miles is that there is very little time for long rests if you want to do the walk between breakfast and dinner and want to get back in time for a shower and to phone home before dinner.

Dinner was soup, spaghetti bolognese and rice pudding. There were not as many Pennine Way walkers as on the previous day. One poor chap in the party who were bussed in yesterday, slipped in the shower and hurt his foot and didn't think he would be able to walk again for a few days. He was staying on at Dufton until the others get there again for real and, even then, he was not sure whether he would be fit to walk for a few days after that. He also had to clear out of the hostel between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day and, as he could only hobble around, was rather limited as to how he could pass his time away. He could just about make it across the green to the pub, where he could drown his sorrows and while away a few hours. The only other Pennine Way walkers were a German woman of about 60 from Hamburg who was walking on her own but who had met up with an English woman artist of about 30 who was also on her own. They decided to team up together for the rest of the way. The rest of the hostellers were mainly cyclists with the exception of one couple who had been spending a few days walking in the area. I met them later in the evening in the pub along with the chap with the injured foot.

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