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Day 9

Early morning at Ravenstonedale ( it was brass monkeys)

Early morning at Ravenstonedale ( it was brass monkeys)

 

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.

Sunrise

Sunrise

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.

The view from the road, just outside Newbiggin-on-Lune

The view from the road, just outside Newbiggin-on-Lune

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!

Looking back at the Howgills

Looking back at the Howgills

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!

Climbing Great Kinmond

Climbing Great Kinmond

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.

The view from Great Kinmond

The view from Great Kinmond

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.

One of the orchids in the pavement

One of the orchids in the pavement

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.

Looking towards Great Asby

Looking towards Great Asby

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.

Wild flowers in grass pasture

Wild flowers in grass pasture

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!

"Roman Bridge" - Great Asby

“Roman Bridge” – Great Asby

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.

A serene Skelwith Force

A serene Rutter Force

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.

The view over Appleby

The view over Appleby

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.

Appleby

Appleby

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.

The way home

The way home

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.

P1030530

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!)

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Day 8

 

Sedburgh to Ravenstonedale (12 miles)

It had been a comfortable night in the bunkhouse, if a little strange, rattling around such a large place by myself.  As usual I was up relatively early and spent a bit of time pottering around and making breakfast in the fantastic kitchen.

The forecast for the day had been superb – sun all the way apparently.  On looking outside it was obvious that something wasn’t quite right.  There was low cloud clinging doggedly to the slopes just above the bunkhouse, thick and uncompromising.  I had a decision to make – take the lower poor weather route, or cross the Howgills on the official route hoping that the cloud would burn off.

The view over Sedbergh

The view over Sedbergh

The forecast was good – I took a chance and decided on the Howgills.

It was a steep, steep climb immediately from the bunkhouse which was almost right on the path and there were some good views over Sedbergh just before I passed through a gate onto the open hillside.  The path I was following ran alongside Settlebeck Gill and I followed this steeply up the hill and into the mist.  I have to admit to extreme laziness in terms of navigation, although I had map and compass with me the GPS made things nice and easy (I say that – I still managed to wander off route!) following what otherwise would have been an awkward route up the hill.

Horses in the mist

Horses in the mist

It was a long old slog, and after what seemed like an age, I finally reached the clear bridleway which was the main path across the hills.  At this point a few shapes loomed out of the mist, a few of the horses that live on the hills.

Visibility was dreadful – it was like walking through a TV set that had been disconnected from its aerial.  I’m sure the views were great.  I’m sure that I would have stood a while and admired the sublime views from the ridge up to the Calf.  I’m sure that the ridge walk over West Fell would have been airy and spectacular – had the weather forecast been anything close to correct.

The trig on the Calf

The trig on the Calf

There’s not much else to say about the walk over the tops other than I eventually made the trig point on the Calf with no sign of the cloud lifting.  Rather than take the ridge route over West Fell (there was no point) I continued along the bridleway which dropped into Bowderdale.  This was nothing short of purgatory, a nasty stoney path that meant I could never really place my feet flat on the ground.  I was cold, wet and thoroughly hacked off with the Met Office and the fact that I had blatantly chosen the wrong option for the day.  All in all it was rather dispiriting.

It seemed like the Bowderdale path went on for ever, but eventually it started rising again to meet up with the ridge coming down from West Fell.  It was a relief to be out on open ground again, and I took a good long break where the paths met.

The low route through Bowderdale

The low route through Bowderdale

The cloud seemed to be a lot higher on this side of the hills and as I looked back at them after passing through the hamlet of Wath the forecast sun began to appear.  It was suddenly muggy and warm, forcing me to take off the waterproof jacket and fleece that I had needed to put on well before the summit of the Calf.

As I walked along the road to Newbiggin-on-Lune the sun came out with a vengeance and the cloud all but lifted from the Howgills, leaving them swathed in sunshine.

The cloud lifting from the Howgills (now I'm on the other side!)

The cloud lifting from the Howgills (now I’m on the other side!)

My accommodation for the night was the lovely campsite on the outskirts of Ravenstondale where I pitch up, then take a wander down to the local pub

Day Rating 4/10

Ok so it’s a low rating, all down to the mist on the Howgills.  It turned into a damp, cold and miserable tramp, even if the sun did come out towards the end of the day.  In terms of anticipation, this was probably one of the most anti-climactical days I have ever had.  The rating is purely down to my experience on the day.

The sun came out near the end of the day

The sun came out near the end of the day

I am however going to give it a provisional 10/10 for the overall trail rating (it’s my blog and I can do what I like) as I’m sure that in any other weather conditions it would have been one of the best days on the Dales Highway.  In fact, I had been assured by other walkers that the Howgills were not to be missed!

However, the day was just a slog and the low level route off was not a pleasant hike.  That could quite easily be down to the weather conditions as well though.  The sun did eventually make an appearance at the end of the day, and it was galling to walk along the road to Newbiggin-on-Lune and see the hills with completely clear tops.  The campsite was lovely though, with a fantastic aspect and very quiet  with only a couple of other tents on the other side of the field.

Old Limekiln near Ravenstonedale

Old Limekiln near Ravenstonedale

 

 

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