Sedburgh to Appleby (12 miles)
I’d had a fine meal and couple of pints at the pub the previous evening before making my rather stiff and slow way back to the tent. The skies had cleared into a quite lovely evening and I sat and read for a while with the porch of the tent open.
It was cold overnight and I awoke early with a sore back and a deep chill that, even with a shirt and a fleece on in the sleeping bag, seemed to have crept right through me. It was around 5.30 a.m. and, taking a look outside the tent I was greeted with a magnificent dawn view. The sun was hiding behind the hills in the east and a full moon was riding low in the sky to the south. In retrospect, it wasn’t just cold, it was bloody freezing. I’m truly amazed there wasn’t a frost on the ground it was that cold and for once I was glad it was a bit of a walk to the ablutions – it gave me the chance to warm up.
I slowly packed things up while getting the stove on the boil for breakfast, and more importantly, something hot to drink. I was also hoping that in the meantime the sun would spread its light onto the tent to dry it off a little, the condensation on it was incredible.
Unfortunately, the sun lingered behind the hills and the campsite was still in shadow as I struck the tent, wanting to be on my way. So it was, I eventually hefted the rucksack onto my back (groaning bitterly) and set off to retrace my steps to Newbiggin-on-Lune. It felt heavy, it was heavy and boy, I was glad this was to be the last days walking!
This part of the walk was shared with the coast-to-coast for a few miles. I reached the Great Asby road, crossed a cattle grid and began to enjoy the walking. The sun had finally appeared in full and was warming things up nicely. Although on paper this was a road walk, the road itself was unfenced with a huge grassy area that could be walked on, a boon for my rather sore feet. There were fine views here of the Howgills, their now cloudless tops leaving me muttering to myself about weather forecasts etc. The difference a day makes!
A rare waymarker post marked the point at which the Dales Highway left the road behind, leading onto a nice wide grassy path. It was easy walking with fine views, not only of the Howgills, but of the Lake District as well, its hills gently gathering clouds in the west and for a while I walked with a couple of other Dales Highway walkers who had caught up with me.
At Sunbiggin Tarn the path turned north, away from the Coast to Coast and started to rise towards the final high point, Great Kinmond, and its rather impressive outcrop of Limestone Pavement. A short road walk was followed by a lovely grassy track which meandered through rather stunted and wind blown looking hawthorn. I paused here a while, enjoying the soft grass and the superb views back towards the Howgills.
As I sat enjoying the view a couple of walkers appeared from the west and passed by me, heading up towards Great Kinmond. Noticing their C2C guidebook I asked if they were walking it, and receiving an answer in the affirmative politely suggested that they might want to go a different way! I’m guessing that they saw the other walkers ahead and, as all good sheep do, followed them.
Great Kinmond was a fantastic spot. I love the look of the Limestone Pavement, there is something inherently pretty about it, the stone almost has a luminous quality to it. Also fascinating is the plant life that lives in all the fissures, and up here there was a plethora of orchids, always nice to see. The view wasn’t bad either – wide, almost a 360 degree panorama.
So began the gentle descent into Great Asby, the hills to the north providing a wonderful backdrop. The easy walking was regularly interrupted by gates and the horrible stone pinch stiles that are such a feature of this part of the country – it would be fair to say I was knackered at this point and each one became a major obstacle. I passed through the cluttered farm at Clockeld (complete with very free range chickens) and into a lovely lane to the village. Although this was my first visit, it really shouldn’t have been. Due to a slight navigational error, I completely bypassed the village while walking the West Morland Way last year – it was supposed to pass right through the centre!
Unfortunately the pub was shut, dashing my hopes and dreams somewhat! There was, however, a nice comfy large bus shelter which had lovely wide benches in which I stopped for lunch. It also had the added advantage of getting me out the sun for a while, which for the first time on the walk had really been splitting the skies.
This was the last stretch now with a road walk to Howe Slacks where I would revisit the Westmorland Way. I was almost there when I turned to see a herd of young bulls running up the road, followed by a tractor. I stopped on the verge to let them past (there’s always one that wants to have a nosey) then carried on up the road. I reached my turning, a lane leading down to a small farm, only to find the herd corralled into a sort of hard standing area at the head of the lane. That was fine, no problem. I turned into the lane and started to walk down it. I was halfway down when I noticed they had started to follow me. Again, not really a problem, they are usually just nosey beasts. I passed through a gate in the lane, next to a field of what looked like young heifers. Lets just say I was glad to be in the lane and not in the field – they went ballistic (I’m guessing after spotting the bulls) – running -no – charging around fairly aggressively and stampeding up the fence line where I was walking. I’ve never seen cattle act like that before, and it is the first time I have been truly concerned being close to them.
Needless to say, I quickly left them behind, entering some rich pasture land which was a lot drier than my previous visit. I also harboured some hope of spotting a red squirrel (as I had on the Westmorland Way), but I had no such luck. Rutter Force was running slightly more sedately than my previous visit and was looking very photogenic in the afternoon sun.
The route stayed with Hoff Beck, parting with the Westmorland Way, a delightful river walk, although a field with cattle proved to be a rather rough and energy sapping experience. It was with some relief then, that I emerged in Hoff to find the pub open. No more than 3 or 4 km from the finish it proved to be a welcome break which was much needed. It has only recently re-opened (a few days before) after a long while closed – the landlord and his wife are both walkers too and I spent a pleasant hour or so nattering. I hope it is a success!
There were still a couple of challenges to complete, a steep climb up the river bank to avoid a collapsed boardwalk and a nice nippie sweetie just to finish me off. The brow of the hill did give a great view of Appleby though. From there it was a walk down a very muddy lane to emerge into a housing estate close to the town centre.
I entered Appleby the same way I had left on the Westmorland Way, this time though it wasn’t raining! All that was left to do was to enter the tourist information office and claim my certificate and sign the guest book!
Day Rating 10/10
Superb days walking, helped by the weather of course. Fine views throughout, and it was nice to finish with a very pleasant river walk. Great Kinmond was a great final little hill, despite its diminutive stature it was a fantastic place to survey the surrounding area. Great day and a great trail. I spent the night at the Midland Hotel, right next to the station. It meant a steep climb out the town, but also meant I only had a matter of metres to go to get to the platform and my train home the next morning.
Trail Rating 80/90 (89%) (86/90 (96%) if the weather over the Howgills had been fine!)
Superb trail, and despite a few days of pretty adverse weather it still scores highly, even with my petty 4/10 near the end! Nice and varied, with plenty of big views, but for me the highlight was really Malham to Ribblehead and the limestone landscape. Dentdale is a favourite of mine as well and I really felt that the trail just got better and better as I plodded north. It coincides with no less than 9 other trails over its length as well ((In no particular order) Dales Link, Centenery Walk, Dales Way, Pennine Journey, Pennine Way, Pennine Bridleway, Westmorland Way, Coast to Coast and Ribble Way (some of the names may not be exactly correct!), and despite this the trail seemed fairly quiet. One I would highly recommend, and definitely do again (in better weather!)