30th May 2016 – 15.4 miles
Hello, Pennine Way. It’s us again! Three years, new knee, interesting medical adventures, but we’re back.
Three years ago, we abandoned the walk from Dufton to Cross Fell before reaching the ridge as it was knee-deep or more in snow. The problem now was we had to gain the ridge again to get to the Pennine Way.
We camped for a few days at Haggs Bank, near Alston. Today, we drove and parked in the tiny village of Milburn (I wish I’d photographed the school – one small building in the centre of the village square) and headed straight uphill, on a reasonably good path. Once we hit open access land, the going got a little harder, with no visible path over rough ground.
We stopped for a drink, thinking we were making good progress, then checked the GPS and realised we hadn’t gone as far as we thought. A short plod further uphill and we came to a track which we followed around the hill. We had seen some sort of pylon on the horizon and, as we got closer, I remember the map had shown ‘ski-hoist’. Apparently there are currently ski runs on the other side of the hill, but this area has seen better days …
A short way ahead of us, we could see what looked like a road, coming to meet us uphill. I knew that the map had only shown a bridleway and had decided that it looked a longer and harder walk than the one we had taken. We thought it must be a track … but it looked like tarmac. It must be a private road … but there’s a car parked at the top, and a cyclist getting his bike out to ride down! You mean … we could have driven up here, and walked the Pennine Way part without the 2-3 hour slog uphill??? Rather dispirited by this, we had lunch and made a unanimous decision not to loop back a mile to the point we had previously reached but to keep going (maybe one day we will feel guilty enough to do that!).
Having finally reached the ridge, the route was clear, although the ridge was now covered in low cloud. We initially followed a broad track, but realised we were heading away from the golf-ball radar station on Great Dun Fell, and retraced our steps a short way.
After this, we were back to the familiar stone flags across slightly boggy ground, to Little Dun Fell with the large stony bulk of Cross Fell looming ahead in the mist.A slighlty rocky route led to the flat top. We were rather glad of the line of cairns to show the way in the mist, although it is so featureless they are probably useful even on a clear day. We reached the shelter, glad to sit down out of the cold wind, having reached the highest point of the Pennines.
Heading north and downhill, we met three separate pairs of walkers, the first (and only) people we saw all day. At a T-junction, the Pennine Way headed right, towards Garrigill. We headed left on a good path and then a track, marked on the map as Pennine Journey. Heading downhill, the cloud cleared and we could see across the Eden Valley toward the Lake District fells, although the views weren’t as clear as last time, in the snow!
We followed quiet country lanes back to Milburn, passing a horse-drawn van, one of several in the area, gathering in readiness for Appleby Horse Fair later in the week.
15.5 miles, of which about 3.5 were actually the Pennine Way!