Pennine Way memories pt. 8

Day 13: Maize Beck to Cross Fell, 16 miles

Of all the natural features along the Way, High Cup is probably the most impressive. Just looking at it on the map doesn’t do the full scale and majesty of it justice. I’ve not managed to find the geomorphological reason for the feature. One source suggests it is a U shaped glaciated valley, but I’m not so sure. Why aren’t the other valleys on this side of the Pennines shaped like this? I suspect it’s more likely to be a combination of the geology (hard surface rock layer with softer rock underneath) and the action of melt water from the Pennine ice sheet. If you look carefully it’s not a classic U shaped glaciated valley. No matter, it’s spectacular.

The weather in the morning was reasonable, mainly cloudy and a bit humid. If I was being picky, I would rather not have visited Dufton but continued along the ridge to Knock Fell. However, ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do the Pennine Way or die.

The climb up from Dufton to Knock Fell is quite long (4.5miles) and not very exciting. The views are good, but you have to keep looking over your shoulder. Knock Hush added a bit of interest. Miners had released water from a dam to wash away the top soil to reveal the minerals below, creating a large dry channel.

The reward for reaching Knock Fell was the views and the prospect of a four mile ridge walk to Cross Fell. Unfortunately the cloud base was getting lower and by the time we reached Great Dun Fell, we were in mist. Somewhere between here and Cross Fell, Robert managed to jump into a bog up to the top of his legs! I thought it was funny but he didn’t!

The weather cleared a little bit as we reached Cross Fell, but the wind was blowing hard. It felt like it was going to rain soon, so we beetled down to Greg’s hut to set ourselves up for the night. We had a leisurely dinner, glad to be out of the deteriorating weather outside.

As we were going to bed, there was a ghostly knock on the door. Robert was elected to investigate. After opening the door, he saw a young lad disappearing up the hill. Robert called after him to see whether he needed help. When the lad got inside, he explained that he had come from Garrigill and was walking to Appleby. It was clear that he hadn’t got a clue, so we made him stay the night, donating Robert’s tent as a make shift sleeping bag.

Day 14: Cross Fell to Merry Know, 17.5 miles

In my original log, I had this as the longest day in terms of mileage. However double checking my log, I spotted an error and it was only the second longest day. Overnight the weather had cleared and we awoke to a reasonably sunny, fresh morning. We gave the lad some breakfast. After showing him the way he should be going, parted company and we started the long descent to Garrigill.

The old mine road made for fast progress. To the north was the Black Burn valley, which is probably one of the most desolate and wild valleys you’ll see along the Way. It’s a shame that the Way doesn’t go that way, but there are no paths and it would be tough going.

After Garrigill, the path follows the South Tyne to Alston. We stopped at Alston to get some provisions and to have lunch. From what I remember Alston was quite pleasant but very quiet. By now, the weather had warmed up.

The walk along the South Tyne valley northwards is agreeable enough, but not very exciting. I would have preferred to have walked along the ridge to the east to Cold Fell. A couple of years later, I did just that and it was very hard work, with no paths. The reward though was total solitude and a wonderful wild landscape.

The afternoon turned out to be very hot with nary a breeze to cool our brows. My feet were sweating like crazy and a blister was developing on my left heel. Not any old blister, you understand, but a king sized one. By the time we got to Merry Know farm we had to stop. The farmer very kindly allowed us to camp in a field. When I took my left sock off, virtually all the skin on my left heel came with it. All I could do was to air it and hope that it would harden over night so I could carry on. To have been forced to retire now would have been heart breaking.

Pennine Way memories:  part 9, part 10, part 11


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