16th May 2010 – Dufton to Garrigill – 15.6 miles
“Tom Stephenson’s highway of freedom. 200 miles and more or so they say.
From Edale to Kirk Yetholm, all your troubles you’ll forget ’em.
Up on the roof of England as you walk the Pennine Way”
Mick and the Moonshiners – Pennine Way
I suppose I should have been singing this today, but the walking mind is a fickle thing and it picks sights and sounds at random to select song titles from the huge jukebox in your brain. As a result I was singing “Miss Macclesfield” by the Macc Lads for most of the day, indeed I was singing it at top volume as I descended the Old Corpse Road into Garrigill. There was no-one for miles around, so no offense was possible (Google the lyrics and you’ll see what I mean or click the link above and download the track – just don’t tell anyone eh!). As it happens, I’d been singing the Moonshiners song on Day 3, until I crossed the M62, when I switched to “I feel like the man who lives on that farm that sits in the middle of the M62″ by John Shuttleworth, for obvious reasons. Music is a great walking companion.
It was a tough day today; the largest height gain so far and the largest until the long last day into KY. The weather also decided to have a say in things and I could see the tops were covered as I pulled the curtains back on my room this morning. It also started to rain, lightly, as I sat eating breakfast. I was joined there by the couple who’d let me in last evening (Steve and Jane) – they’re walking for 7 days along the Way, starting in Malham and finishing in Alston. They set out a few minutes after I did, but we leapfrogged each other all day pretty much.
The rain had stopped by the time I set out, at about 08:30, and I walked along the footpath behind the village that the PW uses. It comes out beside a minor road and then heads off up a small track past a farm and eventually onto open country. I could see a small line of people behind me. Steve and Jane were there, as well as a party of five who S&J told me were doing the PW in a series of weekend walks over a number of years. This year they were doing from Forest-in-Teesdale to Garrigill. I’d passed this party at Cauldron Snout yesterday but hadn’t realised they were walking the Way. They looked like people out for a stroll from the car.
It inevitably started drizzling almost as soon as I reached the bottom of the first climb. I stopped to put on waterproofs for the first time in ages and as I was dancing my way into my waterproof troos I was passed by Steve and Jane. They’d obviously donned theirs a lot quicker than me as they were fully waterproofed, including brightly coloured pack covers. These were damned useful, as visibility was pretty attrocious and the packs covers helped identify them on the path ahead and helped simplify my navigation duties when I could see them.
As I climbed up the side of Knock Hush (a seriously impressive man-made gully in the side of the hill) the visibility got worse and the drizzle turned to light rain. This was the first proper shower I’d been in for 12 days. They say about 1 in a million PW walkers get to complete the path without getting rained on and I wasn’t going to be one of those lucky few.
The path was mostly easy to follow – an eroded grassy track up the fell side with rougher grass either side made for simple distinction. At the top of the hush however, a fallen PW sign and a huge snow field (yes, there’s still lots of snow patches in sheltered locations up here) made for tricky navigation and the path disappeared. I could see the pack covers of S&J ahead, they had their heads down looking at maps and compass and I pulled out the GPS as I joined them. We’d strayed from the path slightly and I left them consulting, and pushed on to the summit of Knock Fell.
They passed me in the mist, I could hear voices, as I took a short breather. The path had been steep and long, probably one of the more difficult ascents of the Way so far (except for maybe PYG which comes after 11 tough miles). There’s a huge cairn on Knock Fell called Knock Old Man and then the summit cairn loomed out of the mist as I progressed.
The gradiant eased off now and it wasn’t long before I reached the access road to the radar station on Great Dunn Fell, I was half tempted to take this to the summit instead of using the PW, but I stuck to the path – and I’m glad I did, even in the mist with no visibility beyond a few yards, Dunfell Hush is impressive.
The huge golf ball of the radar station was hidden by mist, even from the perimeter fence. I could just about make it out between swirls of wind. The grinding ascents were over now and it was mostly col to summit climbs between Great Dun, Little Dun and Cross Fell – this feels like proper Lakeland walking, much like Bow Fell I thought. Lots of strewn rocks and craggy sections. Great walking, even in shitty weather like this.
I found S&J in the shelter on Little Dun Fell and I stopped and sat with them for a while. They’re looking for another long walk to do, and we chatted about the West Highland Way. It was approaching noon now and they were eating sandwiches, but I wanted to have lunch in Greg’s Hut so I pushed on up to Cross Fell. The summit is very flat and wide and covered in cairns and a huge shelter that reflects the name of the fell. It’s much bigger than the one on Great Shunner, but nowhere near as well preserved. It’s falling to bits and would offer very poor shelter indeed. I took some photos of the trig point and pushed on towards Greg’s Hut.
I met the only other person I saw all day coming up, with his dog, we passed a few yards apart and waved greetings. The mist began to clear as I approached the hut and I was already drying out. I sat inside for a while eating my lunch and reading the visitors book. S&J came in briefly to see I was down OK and then they pushed on to Alston, 4 miles beyond Garrigill. I wrote an entry in the book and then followed the Old Corpse Road down to Garrigill. On the descent I looked back and could see the summits had cleared completely and I could see the golf ball on Great Dunn Fell and the shelter on Little Dun Fell.
The Corpse Road is hard on the feet, but after an easy 2 hours I was in Garrigill. There is nothing here. The pub is boarded up for good it seems, although there are posters on the way in to town requesting a residents meeting to discuss the future of it. The Post Office cum Shop is also boarded up, but apparently they do that each day, to discourage burglars. With it being Sunday, the shop had shut at 11:30 today.
My host and hostess were off out this evening, so they’d left me access to a microwave and I heated up a couple of Wayfarer meals that I’d carried in my luggage especially for this evening – having been adequately warned of the lack of facilities. They were almost as good as some of the pub meals I’ve eaten these last few days. There’s no signal on either O2 or Vodafone, so I’m going to use the phone box across the street to ring home and then I’m going to pass out on the bed. 21 miles tomorrow, across another “transition” landscape to Greenhead and the Wall.