The Coast to Coast

Walked in August 2008

Day 6 – Thursday 21st August

Kirkby Stephen - Keld
14 miles

I woke earlier than I had intended, but got up and washed, brushed teeth and started packing my kit and tent. Darryl wasn’t far behind and once we had sorted ourselves out we walked back down into the town at about 9.10 and looked for somewhere to have breakfast. We found a nice cafe and went inside leaving our bags outside but choosing a table by the window so that we could keep an eye on them. The idea of someone actually being able to pick up one of our bags and run off with it is quite ridiculous, but that’s beside the point isn’t it?

We both had a fried breakfast with coffee, taking our time to enjoy the meal and wake our bodies up ready for another day on the trail. When we had finished we left and walked down the road so that Darryl could try and find a shop that sold small portable radios to replace the one he had killed outside High Gillerthwaite youth hostel. He was still irked at missing the Olympics, and was further irked to find nowhere in town seemed to sell any radios.

We stopped at the bakery where I bought more lovely tiffin and egg custard then headed down Stoneshot Lane toward the river where we crossed over Frank’s Bridge then turned right following a path up fields that soon led down to the hamlet of Hartley, a quiet little place almost tucked away out of sight.

I had been filming various places along the walk with my camcorder and had decided the night before to film the walk from Kirkby Stephen to Nine Standard’s Rigg. Looking at the film now it’s not as interesting as I imagined it would be, but it’s still quite a striking section of the walk, and the film does highlight the long climb towards the rigg as well as a lot of puffing and panting from the cameraman. It was a gorgeous morning, and the section from Kirkby Stephen to Nine Standards can be completed in an hour or so, despite the climb. It all comes down to what you’re carrying on your back.

We followed the road through Hartley then off into a small wooded area and joined the road that rose past Hartley Quarry and continued uphill, affording great views of the valley behind us including Kirkby Stephen which was getting smaller and smaller. There is quite a surprising number of danger notices by the road around the quarry, and if you were to have an accident you would never get away with saying you hadn’t been warned. We saw a huge cloud of smoke emerging from what looked like a large tunnel or funnel, quite an odd sight as we passed, especially as the area was almost dead quiet. We turned every now and again to look back at the valley behind us and the gradually diminishing Kirkby Stephen.

We soon caught sight of Nine Standards Rigg high up on the hill ahead, but it was some time before we reached it. It was another of those odd (and frustrating) optical illusions that walkers have to put up with. Just as you think you’re approaching your target, you find it’s further away than you thought, on another rise or ridge, and it feels sometimes like it is actually running away from you. But we did eventually reach the rig and stopped for a welcome break. It was pretty windy up there but there were a few other walkers about.

The Nine Standards are a series of large cairns built a long time ago to serve a purpose that no one seems to agree on. Some think they were meant to look like a Roman army encamped on the rig from a distance to deter invaders, others think they were a boundary marker whereas others think they are merely summit cairns built by people with a little too much time on their hands. They are certainly impressive and have done well to stand intact for so long. There are actually more than nine of them now as people have added to them. Who knows, perhaps they will continue to multiply.

We saw a few people grouse beating. At first we were puzzled as we hadn’t seen anything like it before. Several men, a fair distance apart would walk with sheets of plastic tied to sticks which they would wave about making a loud flapping noise meant to startle grouse into flying. There were dogs there too but no one was shooting the birds (sadly). Perhaps it was a practice run.

As we were preparing to leave a walker approached from the direction in which we’d be heading and told us he had sank up to his knees in bog earlier on. Not a great sign. Soon afterwards the clouds that had been gathering steadily around us closed in and we started to feel a light drizzle which grew more and more dense. We zipped up our jackets, pulled down our hoods and set off on the path again, soon finding ourselves surrounded by fog. Turning back to the Nine Standards I couldn’t see the walker any more but could just make out the cairns.

Proceeding on in the near whiteout, we negotiated some very wet ground and it stayed wet and treacherous for most of the day, adding at least another mile to our journey because of all the detouring we had to do around the really boggy sections. There are different routes to take at Faraday Gill depending on the time of year, and although we took the suggested route, it was still a nightmare because of the recent wet weather, and a detour to the moorland road would have been a much easier choice if we hadn’t wanted to do things properly. Oddly enough the signpost with the suggested route was the May to July red route, but we followed it anyway, which on reflection might not have been the best plan. All around the signpost were hundreds of footprints. If someone had been tracking us that morning they’d have given up here.

We followed the squelchy, undulating ground down past Lady Dike Head (another pile of stones), then turned left toward a shooting hut and down a fairly boring stretch of grouse butts until we hit the gorgeous Whitsun Dale which was dotted with abandoned farm buildings that suited the landscape well. The sun was much more in evidence now and though we did feel quite warm it was still nice to see the fields around us enlivened by the sun’s rays.

We passed Ravenseat Farm which offers refreshments, but as we had already taken a few breaks we decided to press on toward Keld as it was now fairly close. We walked around the edge of the beautiful dale, appreciating the Sun’s return, along How Edge Scars and Lamb Paddock Scar then down the side of a hill to a small bridge where we had a brief rest before walking the remaining half mile to our campsite at Park House.

We had good, flat ground to pitch our tent on. The afternoon was quite warm as we got the tents up and cooked some food. We cooked up two packets of noodles followed by tinned fish and rice. It seemed like quite a lot but we didn’t feel bloated by the end. Lee was already at the campsite, as well as several other couples or families. The woman who ran the small campsite was very friendly and helpful and said we could use the nearby barn to sit in if it rained. She also gave us a bucket of hot water to wash our plates and things in.

The toilet and shower room was heated and very welcome after a long day of walking in bogs. As I walked back to my tent I tried to avoid stepping on the chickens that wandered around the site, and the two dogs that seemed interested in the visitors. We sat at one of the picnic tables and studied the next day’s walk until it started to get cold at about 7.20 prompting us to duck into our tents for warmth. I wrote up my notes, read for a while then turned in early hoping to get an early start the next day for the journey to Reeth which we were hoping to reach by lunchtime.


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