Ravenber Way – Day 1

7th July 2019: Dufton to Garrigill – 15.5m

I knew I wasn’t fit, but today exposed that as one of the understatements of the millennium! I’m in my B&B in Garrigill now, and my feet are quite literally singing, my calves are tight and sore and my thighs feel like they’ve been beaten with rubber hoses. On the upside, today was one of the best walks I can remember in recent years; individually the scenery, the glorious paths or the weather would have made for a superb day, but today they all combined to bring one heck of a days walking.

I was in Brow Farm last night and it was OK, nothing special and not too much to moan about (you’ll probably be happy to hear). Apparently, when Wendy started doing B&B in 2002 there were already 9 other places in the village doing the same thing. Today there’s just Brow Farm and the YHA which is often block booked (as so many of them are nowadays). She said all she gets is Pennine Way walkers with the rare exception of a Pennine Journey walker, she’d never heard of the Ravenber Way.

I slept OK, waking about 5am and then dozing until my alarm at 6.30. Breakfast was at a very acceptable 7.15 – I guess she’s used to people starting out early, as many will now go straight through to Alston, 20 miles distant. I was joined at breakfast by the four guys doing the Pennine Way and we chatted while orders were delivered to tables. They were very complimentary about the Trailblazer Pennine Way guide book, so I owned up to being the author, much to their delight. None of them had heard of the Ravenber Way either.

I’ve never been so glad of an en-suite room as I was this morning. I had the shits something chronic and eventually had to resort to Imodium to get me out the door confidently and safely! I was walking by about 8.30 which was a little later than I’d hoped for, but not bad under the circumstances. I was hoping for a bit of a head start over the Four Wayers, I didn’t really want to get caught and passed on the hill. But I did in the end 😕 such is my lack of fitness!

The forecast predicted scattered cloud and possibly rain on the Pennines later in the day. The first part was right, but the second part was completely wrong. After the cloud cleared, the sun blazed pretty much all afternoon. In the morning warmth I really struggled up the hill towards Knock Old Man, especially on the steep bits and as I took a couple of breaks on handy rocks I could see the four guys reeling me in quickly. In the end I took another break, just below the currick and waited for them. I told them I didn’t want to be the fox anymore! The guy carrying the guide book asked me to sign it and I happily obliged. So, Tom, John, Ross and Richard, I hope you have a great walk and I hope the weather stays fine for you.

Starting the steep ascent up to Knock Old Man
Panorama from one of my rest stops – looking across to the Lakes
Knock Old Man – a fine stone currick on the way up to Great Dun Fell

I arrived at the bridleway, just below the radar dome on Great Dun Fell and it was with immense relief that I started downhill. The almost incessant climb of 5.88 miles had taken me just shy of 3 hours and I was ready for some downhill stuff now!

The path beside what soon becomes Trout Beck is divine. Its clear, green and springy and is accompanied by the delicate tinkling of the beck. I kept looking back over my shoulder and the radar dome never seemed to get any smaller and I was surprised for how long I could see it.

Following the bridleway beside Trout Beck
Looking back to the radar dome on Great Dun Fell
Lovely path beside Trout Beck
Waterfalls in Trout Beck, my lunch stop

My stomach was making some very unusual noises as I approached the old mine workings at Troutbeck Foot and as soon as I saw a wide flat stone beside the river I stopped. I filled my bottle with water, filtered by my Sawyer and squirted in some Robinsons Apple and Blackcurrant Squash’d and ate one of my sausage rolls and a Tunnocks Caramel Wafer, all washed down with the delicious River Juice. The hill walkers lunch of champions! 

River Juice and Tunnocks – get in!

Its great not having to stress about how much water I have left, as long as there’s a stream nearby I can have fresh water, nicely chilled and I can flavour it too if the mood takes me. The heat of the day meant I was burning through my water quickly and under normal circumstances I’d be rationing it all day.

The path was now a tarmac / concrete / gravel road and I was a bit gutted. I’d expected another river side path here, but no such luck. As I descended I passed the well-marked source of the River South Tyne, an artfully crafted stone monolith with a view hole that showed the actual source, a really nice touch I thought. I’ve walked to the source of several rivers in recent years and none of them have such a splendid monument celebrating them. 

The source of the River South Tyne

I started to meet people coming up the road now. I’d not seen anyone since waving farewell to the Four Wayers on Knock Fell. The first group looked fed up, two guys dragging a small girl up the incline. “Are we near the source?” the older guy asked. I told him only another 5 mins and that seemed to perk up the little girl, which was my intention. She was probably annoyed as hell when it took them closer to 15 minutes to get there! 

I met a couple of walkers next, map case around the husband’s neck and he asked where I was coming from and going to. He’d never heard of the Ravenber Way, but he’d walked from Ravenglass to Holy Island a couple of years ago and promised to look up the Ravenber as another possible coast to coast route to add to his collection.

The next trio asked me if this was the right way to the source. No map, no plan, just winging it. “How will we know it?” the lady asked me. I explained about the 10 foot stone pillar and that cheered her up.

Another couple of miles of road walking, through admittedly stunning scenery and I left the tarmac and joined the South Tyne Trail. This turned out to be a bit of a mixed blessing, but overall any path across a grassy hillside is better than a tarmac road. The STT is waymarked on stiles and the occasional post, but in between these it’s a bit hit and miss. Sometimes there’s a path, other times not, so I used the GPS quite a lot to confirm I was on the right track. The underfoot conditions were pretty poor too, lots of uneven surfaces hidden by long grass, cattle having done their worst when it was wet and now the path was a treacherous potholed nightmare in places.

However, the overall impression was positive, despite all that. I was seriously impressed at how lovely the River South Tyne is in its upper reaches, lots of deep ravines, waterfalls, and white water make for an exciting river to walk beside and the STT sticks close to it pretty much all the time.

Upper reaches of the River South Tyne
South Tyne trail runs across some mixed terrain
Series of waterfalls in River South Tyne

I diverted up to the waterfall at Ashgill Force, despite the unwelcome height gain and in full anticipation of a piss poor display of water after the recent dry spell. However, I’ve never been able to walk behind a waterfall before, so I consoled myself with that if nothing else. In the end I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a lovely spot, despite the two neds having a blazing, smoky barbecue beside the river. There wasn’t much water flowing, but enough to make the journey worthwhile. A group of kids were canyoning in the beck, having a great time and if you’re ever in the area it’s worth a visit.

Ashgill Force

The final mile or so into Garrigill was hard work. Too many high stiles to negotiate – I reckon I’ve done 500 additional feet of ascent just climbing stiles today. I plodded slowly into the village and rang the bell on what I hoped was the door of the B&B and was welcomed by Anne. I instantly liked the lady and we chatted about the walk I was doing. She’d assumed I was on the Pennine Way – she’d never heard of the Ravenber Way.

The Post Office B&B has more signs than any other place I’ve ever stayed in, and yet I still can’t bring myself to feel annoyed at Anne. She offered me an evening meal, but I explained I’d been expecting the pub to be shut and I’d brought a freeze dried meal with me. I didn’t want to have to carry it to the end, and I’m too tight to bin it, so I’ll eat it. 

One of the many signs says there’s WiFi here, but I’m buggered if I can find a spot where I can see it. So this will be posted on my return home, along with the others I think. Had more problems with WordPress last night, even when I had a decent WiFi signal, so I’m going to avoid the frustration and wait to post them all together. 

Breakfast in the morning is from 8am but that’s fine as I only have a little over 11 miles to do tomorrow, into Allenheads. I’m staying in the pub, so hopefully I’ll be able to get a proper evening meal. Given how knackered I feel, I’d be surprised if I see 9pm tonight 😴

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