6th July 2019: Home to Dufton
I heard the rain on the window before I got out of bed this morning. Bloody typical, it’s not rained for 2 weeks around us and the day I’m setting out for a long walk it decides to bloody rain! I had 150 miles of public transport and about 5 miles of walking to do today so it had a chance to turn itself around.
My wife dropped me at the local station at 8.50 and I caught the train to Crewe where I sat and people watched for 45 minutes before the Carlisle train arrived, bang on time. The carriage was packed and I’d not managed to secure a cheap enough First Class ticket so I was slumming it with the great unwashed masses in Standard. I did at least mange to book a Priority Seat which has more leg room than the usual seats, so at least my knees weren’t banging against the seat in front all journey.
I used an audiobook to tune out the hubbub of two different drunken groups of men heading for Glasgow and trying to see who could outdo the other in the shouting at the tops of their voices stakes. It was a long two hours with me and the bloke next to me silently fighting over the middle arm rest. You don’t get any of this in First Class!
I had a 90 minute stopover in Carlisle, and as it was lunch time I decided to wander into town and grab a McDonald’s to see me through to tea time. The town centre was packed and I’d obviously travelled far enough north to avoid the rain and clouds as it was absolutely glorious now. This was unexpected and a bit of a mixed blessing…. there was a lot of unnecessary flesh on show!
McDonald’s was what I imagine the fourth or fifth circle of Hell will look like when I get there. It was heaving! But I was committed now and determined to get a large banana milkshake if I did nothing else. I ordered at an automated kiosk thingy and was pleasantly surprised by how quickly my order was processed. I eventually found a seat amongst the screaming hordes upstairs and spent my time trying to count the number of divorced dads treating their kids on their custody weekends.
I soon escaped back into the sun and meandered back to the station, where I found a semi comfortable seat under the great glass roof and watched a different set of people pass by. Carlisle station is a surprisingly nice place to sit and wait. I remember spending an enjoyable hour or so last year after finishing the Eden Way in the same seat.
My third and final train of the day left on time and I almost had the whole carriage to myself. It was a pleasant journey looking down onto the River Eden below, spotting several places I remember from last years walk. 40 minutes later and I alighted at a bright, sunny and warm Appleby station.
I’d picked a route from the station to Dufton using local rights of way and part of the Pennine Journey which although it is shown on the OS map is not waymarked in any way on the ground. I found and used a shortcut over the A66 and once across I was almost immediately confronted by a locked gate across a quiet lane. The lane is part of the Pennine Journey and joins two footpaths, so no way should it be blocking pedestrian access. The top bar of the gate was wrapped in barbed wire and a huge padlock secured a stout chain to a wooden post. This annoyed me intensely – I can perhaps understand locking the gate to prevent vehicle access, but why stop walkers climbing it? I didn’t want to have to find an alternative route and it looked too dangerous to try and risk climbing over it. I then noticed that the chain was only secured to the gate post by a metal U pin. I thought “bollocks to this” and hauled the gate open – as I’d hoped the pin popped out without any problem. Huge padlock, stout chain, poxy pin!
I turned into the wonderfully named Stank Lane, a narrow overgrown track – even on the OS map this had looked like being a bit of a nettle fest and although it wasn’t quite that bad, my shins were buzzing nicely at the end of it and that was through my trousers, no shorts for me!
I emerged into a series of mown fields and then into a long wide pasture beside a wood. Buzzards swooped and screamed above me, fighting for domination, or mating or just having fun, I don’t know, but it was a lovely sight and sound. The weather was warm now and I had a cracking sweat on, so I deployed the buff as a sweat band and pulled my Tilley over the top, so at least it wasn’t running into my eyes anymore.
The five miles were lovely, a few too many rickety stiles maybe but still very enjoyable. I arrived into Dufton at 3.50pm and rang the bell of Brow Farm B&B. Last time I stayed here (in 2010 on the Pennine Way) I’d had to wait ages for the owners to come home and I hadn’t been best pleased. This time however the door was answered promptly and the landlady showed me to my room. She suggested I get to the pub early if I wanted to eat there as it gets busy on a Saturday. I recalled this too from my last visit.
I showered and changed and headed out straight away. The pub was heaving. A wedding party was in situ on the green outside and the bar was pretty busy. When I finally got served, I asked about a meal and wasn’t particularly inspired by the “you can hang around from 6pm and we may be able to fit you in at some point”. I took my drink outside and sat in the sun. I decided a Plan B was needed. There’s no pub tomorrow night in Garrigill so I’m carrying a dehydrated meal for that, but two nights without a decent meal wasn’t in my plan.
I saw that the little café across the green was still open. It was 4.40 now and they closed at 5pm according to their sign. Their menu offered an All Day Breakfast and I asked if they were prepared to live up the name. I half expected a negative response, it was close to closing time and it takes a while to prepare. I explained my situation, needing a meal and not getting much joy in the pub. The two ladies who run the place were ace. I had the ADB and tea and toast as well.
After I’d finished and they’d managed to kick me out I went back over to the pub and had another drink, wrote up some of this post and relaxed. I rang home as I walked back to the B&B and I’m finishing this in the guest lounge. There are a group of four guys doing the Pennine Way here now, and I’ve just had a quick chat with one of them. He’s struggling a bit by the sound of it and he’s not best pleased at the news I’ve just given him about probably not getting served food in the pub!