A wobbly Coast to Coast path - Rambling Pete's Way 2010

Day Eight: 24th June

Weather: Rained overnight, cloudy looking like rain…..but it stayed dry and finished in sunshine

Route: Alston to Dufton - 19.2 miles with 3877ft of ascent

 

On the night of day seven dark grey clouds were gathering and I feared the worse. So I sat in the bar and supped some red wine for a change, resting my toes for the walk over the Pennines tomorrow. Alas my toes woke my brain up early again with the familiar refrain - ‘are we there yet?’ – ’shut up and go back to sleep’ said brain. Eventually the pain took over, toes, knees, groin strain all begging for attention - me being a bloke I went for the easy option. Generally the Ibubrofen takes care of things, plus a touch of paracetomol, and eventually they go numb anyway. It was very humid first thing and it had thrown it down in the night – which made the grasses and meadows in boot soaking mode. The initial route out of Alston followed the South Tyne down in the valley, more or less all the way to Garrigill. I was soon down on the riverbank ducking under low branches and walking along rock slabs, following the Pennine Way which made life a little easier. I had planned a short route up to Cross Fell to cut out some mileage, but one look at where the path was meant to be told me I would have got a soaking had I been bloody minded enough to cut up through the rough pasture. So a change of plan saw me following the PW almost all the way to Dufton – but not every step of the way.

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 just south of Alston the Pennine Way tracks the river bank

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 a pleasant start to the day through sheep pasture

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 looking like rain though

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 getting closer to the uphill bits

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 not much juice in the Tyne

I saw loads of birdlife today, a good selection of finches and waders along the river and up onto the moors, always a delight to stop and stare for a while – and that’s the beauty of walking on your own – no one else to think about. The long grasses in the meadows soon had my boots dripping wet and the bottoms of my trousers were a touch damp as well – I really thought I would be getting wet today as up ahead the cloud was low over the tops. The meadows were still looking good although dominated by buttercup, they contrasted well with some of the long reddish grasses. I walked into Garrigill – a small sleepy village nestling down in the valley beneath the big hills. There are one or two new businesses going, and the village post office was still open when I passed through. The only pub - The George and Dragon - is all boarded up, which must be a disappointment if you’ve booked accommodation. There’s plenty of building work, an art studio and a nursery there so maybe they can save the boozer – I suppose the lack of walkers doing the PW doesn’t help things. Before the end of the village I veered off to the right and up onto a track between drystone walls It was a long hard slog up to Cross Fell, but a steady climb that you can keep a good pace going.

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 I should have gone uphill on a path from here

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 now looking very wet ahead as I approach Garrigill

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 the post office along the lane is still open

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 looking back down on Garrigill

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 a steady ascent up the metalled track - the ranger passed me on here

The local Ranger came past in his 4×4 and I was mightily tempted to stick the thumb out to cadge a lift. The track is stony and hard on the feet at times, but the local birds kept my mind elsewhere. I would have missed the spectacle of a Lapwing swooping down on a Pheasant to warn it off, followed by a Curlew chasing off a Buzzard – the big jessie. Shortly afterwards I was dive bombed by a pair of Curlew trying to divert my path without success, and all of that took my mind off the ascent. Up to Black Band and the warden passed me again coming back down the hill – too late for a lift now. As I got to Pikeman Hill a look ahead to the summit showed it clothed in mist, and I thought I was finally going to get wet. So I donned waterproofs in readiness, turned a corner to see two workers camped out in a nice warm cab of a mechanical digger – pondering whether to do any work or not. Cross Fell was still looking angry but dry, and the man from the B&B phoned asking if I’d be there by six – so much for dawdling. It was still humid and I was a bit sweaty in my waterproofs, but it would be tempting fate to take it all off too soon. Up on Fallow Hill I left the PW and cut across the slopes via a land rover track – that manoeuvre saved me a mile that I had added on by not coming up the short cut – so I was equal on the day .

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 this is where I would have emerged from the fields - good decision

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Cross Fell ahead to the right 

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 a marker cairn on the south side of Cross Fell - the summit is in the background

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 looking south to the radar station on Great Dunn Fell

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 while the sun tries to break through over the lakes

Today’s almost victim of my size 9 1/2’s was a Curlew nest -4 in a clutch again, but big, green and speckled. Beyond the nest and below the summit of Cross Fell I had a good pick over some mine tailings and found plenty of purple Fluorspar – the old mines around here are world famous for some of their specimens. As I gained more height towards Cross Fell I could see back to Alston, now sitting in the sunshine. The clouds lifted from the summit and I had a good view of the giant golf ball on Great Dun Fell. All of a sudden there was a ‘hallelujah’ moment when I could see over to the Lake District, cloudy but with shafts of sunlight streaming down. I turned south to walk over, up and down to Little Dun and Great Dun Fells, passing the big communication station. The rise and fall wasn’t too bad at this stage and navigation was easy due to the well trodden path of the PW. When I got to Old Man Knock I really was feeling done in, but the sight of the Lakes glowing in the sun encouraged me on. A fine cairn pointed me downhill and it was agony for the last couple of miles, and my soggy feet had me worried in the blister department, but it turned out ok in the end. The northbound PW walkers must be happy to see the cairn after the slog up from Dufton.

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 across the divide tomorrow

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 Dufton pike down below Great Dunn Fell

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 a zoomed in shot over to the Lake District

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 the golf ball gets bigger

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 looking back to Little Dunn Fell and Cross Fell

It was ok initially coming down the slopes, but they steepened considerably as I dropped down the hillside, and I suffered a bit for my pleasure. Ahead of me the conic shaped Dufton Fell and Knock Pike stood out above the plain almost forming an entrance and exit to the Pennines – I think they are made up of some harder Permian sandstone and conglomerates, resisting erosion over the years. A bit more wandering down the lanes led me into Dufton and took me right to the door of my B&B – in time for the owner to nip off quickly for choir practice – he didn’t know me from Adam but away he went, leaving me with the dogs. My feet were so glad to see the back of my boots, but the Lake District beckons – good times and some heavy ascents coming up. Another grand day out polished off with a fine pint in the village….I’m not an alcoholic honestly….I deserve it after all I’ve done so far.

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 the golf ball gets smaller again

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 the cairn of Knock Old Man

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Dufton Pike - exit of the Pennine Way for me 

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 I couldn't see any water in Swindale Beck

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 I think these trees like each other

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 Dufton Pike

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 mind out for the clampers

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