An early start this morning; was underway by five thirty. Even at that hour the tube was comparatively busy, bleary eyed folk, cleaners, domestic staff, manual workers, all part of the essential side of keeping a big city running. Throngs of people milled around the concourse of Kings Cross, all catching early trains to a myriad of destinations. Fortunately my train, the 07 05hrs train to Leeds, was not overly busy. It was a quiet run up, a quick change at Leeds to the Settle and Carlisle train, arriving at Kirkby Stephen station just before twelve.
Wild camping is possible between KS and the Lune valley, but not easy; finding water and somewhere out of the way at the same time would be a little difficult. There is one spot I know of and even that is not the best of places. My option was for a lazy afternoon stroll over to Bents farm and the camping barn. As camping barns go, this one is quite comfy, with flush loo, an equipped kitchen and electricity on the meter; hot water bottles provided free! Did a loop around Smardale gill and the old viaduct. For June it was fairly chilly and I had my windproof smock on over my fleece.. Booked in early and settled down with a book to read. Later two guys staggered in looking for a phone. They had been doing the Coast to Coast and run into difficulties with blisters and sheer exhaustion. It was little wonder in some respects, one of the chaps admitted he was carrying around seventy pounds weight, that and his heavy duty leather boots would make most folk exhausted pretty quickly. The wanted a taxi to KS and I directed them up to the farm house; hopefully they could get themselves sorted out there?
Friday 10th. Camped OS map OL19 643003 (Approximately)
Surprisingly I had the whole camping barn to myself last night. This morning I was awake early and decided to make the most of it and was away around seven. The morning was dry and cool, almost chilly. My plan for the day was not that ambitious, but still providing a good walk. Basically I was heading down the Lune valley toward Tebay. An interesting walk too via a mixture of footpaths, bridleways and minor lanes.Coming through one farmyard, I paused to study the map. An elderly gent approached me "Where'st tha gooing?" A quick smile and I explained I was heading for a footpath the other side of the farm. "thee's ganning wrong way woman." Showing him the map I explained I knew where I was going. "Nah nah, Bowderdale is back that way." He points back to the way I had come. Gently I explain that I am actually heading the other way and was checking the map to make sure I was heading for the footpath. Realization dawns, he pushes his flat cap back and scratches his head. "Weel woman why did thee not say so?" A rather cautious dog slinks close, nervously approaches me with a cross between between a half hearted growl and a wuff. The old man growls at him, "Get thee down." I hunker down and allow the dog a sniff of my hand. Warily his tail gives a wave and he allows me to give him a stroke. The gent appears surprised. "does't thee like dogs then?" Another smile and I tell him that normally I get on fine with dogs. Heading over toward the stone steps I had spotted in the wall. The fellow calls after me. " Not many folk head that way woman; keep to bottom side of wall and thee'll be right." Coming by the next farm the path appears to lead through the main cattle yard, complete with a few cows milling around. Talking to them nicely I pass on through; the farmer sticks his head around the corner with a big grin and bids a cheery "Good morning" A very nice chappy. Further on I came to a rather well to do stables that, by the big signs, stabled Icelandic ponies. There was one slight problem, the footpath went through a paddock that was ringed by two electric fences. There was no way I was prepared to tackle those; instead I cut through an open barn that flanked one side of the field and had no fences. A stallion was grazing quiet contentedly as I passed by, no problem. The map had shown a track running up to the fells from Ellergill it was not marked as a public right of way but I decided to chance it. In fact it was quite a pleasant walk up past Low Shaw farm. Where the track petered out a footpath continued onward. The scenery took me by surprise. Off to my left was Langdale, quite a narrow valley with a fairly substantial beck flowing through. Straight ahead was Churn gill, another narrow cleft and swinging off to my right was Uldale and my intended route. Originally I had been thinking of heading up over Rispa pike but had opted for the easier option instead. Drizzly showers did nothing to dampen my enjoyment of a pleasant walk up through wonderful scenery. A more persistent shower had me thinking of an early stop. There is an abundance of places for a wild camp, especially higher up the valley. A nice comfy spot was found, tent up, water bladder filled, boots of and a brew on the go, luxury.
Saturday 11th; same map, GR 681982.
Packed up quite early and strolled up to Blakethwaite bottom, I was surprised to find instead of a narrow valley the area opened out into a wide amphitheater, rather unusual. There was a path, though rather indistinct at times and easy to confuse with the myriad of sheep trods. Climbing higher more surprises where revealed. Steep sided narrow rocky clefts, boulder strewn with tumbling torrents coursing their way downwards. The Spout, Force Brow, names that spoke for themselves but the scenery was startling; quite awesome. This area demands more exploring; maybe another trip with the intention of spending a day or two in the area?This was delightful walking, a narrow path wending its way around steep fell sides, views out over the valley and plain below with the motorway and beyond that, the lake district. Gradually I was climbing higher, a break for a drink and a handful of my trail mix; a mixture of nuts, raisins, pumpkin seeds and jelly babies. Soon I was on a steeper slope that led up to Fell Head. A slow, steady plod, with a few stops to 'admire the scenery' and I made the top. A cold, blustery wind discouraged lingering for too long. What followed was a lovely ridge walk, Breaks Head, Height of Bush Howe, a steepish drop and the a long slow plod up to the trig point at The Calf. Two guys coming the other way said the forecast was for showers in the later afternoon and another night of low temperatures. Coming around by Bowderdale head, I stopped for a break and a long peruse of the map. Something I had been considering was dropping down to the saddle and then heading up to Yarlside. Probably most fit and active folk would not hesitate; however, my legs where tiring.There was also the fact that from there I would have to continue on to Randygill and Green Bell and the descend to find a camp spot. Bowderdale is a popular route through and setting up camp meant I was not so discreetly tucked away as I would have preferred; however, it was not a bad little spot. Showers of rain passing through but nothing substantial.
Sunday 12th. GR752944, (roughly)
Much time was spent mulling over the map last night trying to decide on the best option for today. Eventually I plumped for a plan B. A fairly long route but with nothing strenuous. My first goal of the day was to nip over to Cautley spout, an impressive series of waterfalls set in a deep gulley. An added bonus was that being there quite early I had the place to myself. Once more, stunning views looking out over the valley far below. A steady descent towards said valley. A bridge provided an easy crossing over the river. Already the car park next to the Cross Keys pub was getting busy with people heading out for a days walk. Enticing smells of food cooking and a sign advertising full breakfasts, ham and eggs and tea or coffee, was tempting. Somewhat reluctantly I hurried on. Somehow, trail mix and jelly babies where a poor alternative! A short climb on a footpath that led up towards a well established track, somewhat churned up by tractor traffic. My legs protested a bit on the uphill walk, so probably I had taken the easier option. Following the track around to the bridleway that led off it and headed over to Uldale House. (another Uldale?) A well defined rolling path that meant some pleasant walking. From Uldale House it was a different proposition. From Blea Gill bridge farm traffic had left a confusing network of tracks and close attention had to be paid to the map. Fortunately I got across to Whin Stone Gill bridge without too much hassle. Basically from there track or footpath were hard to define on the ground. Also, I was rather concerned with the weather, the wind had been steadily rising and thick clouds where building up fairly quickly. At times a hint of a path but often it was a case of steering by direct reckoning across Holm Moss. What was annoying was that for once the OS map was none too accurate. Features that could have been used as hand rails, for example I crossed three or four stone walls, not marked. More substantial was a large field barn, now derelict but still a distinct feature and a copse of trees; none of these where shown on the map. A constant check of the map slowed me down a bit but with the sky turning a dark blue black, it was case of having to find a place to stop and soon. A nasty bit of bog was crossed in a hurry, no finesse and a few times it led to going in quite deep in quivering bog. Basically I knew where I was and where I was heading. Finding a spot for the tent before the heavens open was proving difficult. A jumble of rocks at a spot marked as ''cave' on the map was about the only option I had. Rain was starting to fall as I cast about for somewhere to get the tent up. Eventually I settled for a tiny platform just about big enough to accommodate the tent. Ironically finding water was also difficult. The trickle I found was not that healthy looking. It meant boiling it vigorously and then straining it through a small bit of fibre material that I normally use as a wash cloth. Mucky with sediment and some algae, interesting!. It was enough for some hot food and a drink. By the time I finished brewing up, the rain and wind was really pummeling the tent and the noise was deafening. It was case of curling up in the sleeping bag and trying to doze through the storm and this is summer? There was some clean water left in the water bottle but the best treat I had was some fruit and nut chocolate that I had been hoarding. Emergency rations and subsequently a state of emergency was declared and chocolate duly devoured.
Heavy rain and wind continued through the night. A stream bed below my ledge, which the night before had been almost dry was now a foaming torrent only a couple feet from the tent. What with the drumming of rain and wind and the increasing roar of the surging water, complete with the thudding rumble of boulders being carried down the turbulent maelstrom, made for an unsettled night. Things always sound horrendous in the dark. By morning the wind and rain had eased and it was now mainly low cloud laced with moisture, enough to keep everything wet. One added bonus was that by leaving my cooking pot under the edge of the fly I had plenty of fresh water for breakfast. A strip bath in a small tent is no easy matter but I wanted to freshen up and put on a change of clothes before heading out. There was no rush to get under way, it was only a short step down to Garsdale and the train was not until one o clock. Everything packed up within the tent, a few wriggles to get in to waterproofs and out to face the day. The rain and low cloud where still swirling around. The tent was dropped and soaking wet stowed under the lid of the rucksack. There was more of a path heading down toward Grisedale. Water was streaming off the hill and I could actually see it bubbling up out of the ground. Mud was in prominence too, thick gooey stuff. The valley was flooded, water flowing over the road in several places. Was at the station not long after twelve which allowed me to get out of wet and muddy togs and in to some more respectable travel clothing.