|The Pennine Way|
Greg's Hut on the slopes of Cross Fell
Today I met one of Dufton's famous features - the Helm Wind. This strong blast is caused when an easterly airflow drops downhill to meet the warmer air in the Eden Valley. There is an associated helmet of cloud that hangs over Cross Fell to give the wind its name. Luckily I didn't get the full effect of the wind until I was up on Knock Fell.
|Bow Hall||B&B||017683 51835|
|Dufton||YH||0870 770 5800|
|Dufton Hall Farm||B&B||017683 51573|
|Sycamore House||B&B||017683 51296|
Another nice day as I walked down from Bow Hall and through the village to where the Pennine Way branched off the road to Knock along a narrow track. The track becomes the ancient sunken way of Hurning Lane after Coatsike Farm. The low branches of the ash and thorn trees make it much easier to walk along a parallel path in the fields for much of the way. Past the deserted Halsteads farm, the path winds around Cosca Hill - a bump on the side of the more impressive Dufton Pike. The clapper bridge over Great Rundale Beck is cute - the 3 or 4 slabs across it are well indented by centuries of travellers feet and hooves. Knock Pike is now obvious to the left with Brownber Hill towering to the right.
The track now begins to climb a little as it follows a wall onto the lower slopes of High Scald Fell. When the track bends eastwards, the Pennine Way leaves it northwards to drop down and cross Swindale Beck. For a few hundred metres the unclear path (there are cairns) climbs sharply along the side of a small gorge containing the beck. After the initial steep section the path takes a steadily climbing path up to Knock Old Man (a currick or stone pile originally intended as a shepherds lookout). On the way you cross over Knock Hush - an old gash formed in the hillside by miners releasing water from dams to expose mineral deposits.
From Knock Old Man the first close-up view of Great Dun Fell (with its ping-pong ball radar station - first glimpsed back in Dufton) and Cross Fell (still a fair distance away) is revealed. Knock Fell is left behind as the Pennine Way goes over the fell's summit and takes a straight NW route to the access road for the radar station. Immediately the Pennine Way leaves the road to head uphill and over Dunfell Hush (I took the path crossing at the top left of the hush). There is no real path uphill from here but unfortunately the radar station provides a highly visible landmark. This is where the Helm Wind really came into its own - at some times I had to tack in and out of the wind to make progress without being blown off my feet!
The well-shaped prow of Little Dun Fell beckons beyond Great Dun Fell and the Pennine Way takes a direct route to it across a marshy saddle. A quick drop down to the next saddle and I was standing at the headwaters of the Tees (to the east - flowing to the North Sea) and the Eden (to the west - flowing to the Irish Sea). Cross Fell is ascended as the path climbs straight up its slopes on boggy ground. The top is not mossy, rather it is stony with a cover of short grass. By the OS pillar there is a cross-shaped rock shelter which provided a welcome respite from the wind for me. The views are great but the broad flat top means that you have to walk to the edges to enjoy them. However the views are unlikely to be clear - 'Fiend's Fell' (the old name for Cross Fell) has been described as "generally ten months buried in snow and eleven in clouds" in The Gentleman's Magazine of 1747.
Me sheltering from the Helm Wind on Cross Fell
Take your time here - as the highest point on the Pennine Way (893 metres) it deserves a bit of a stay. If the weather is foul though, pass straight on to the shelter of Greg's Hut. Note that Wainwright's short-cut going to the right from Cross Fell is not recommended since it skirts the unfenced edges of several disused mine pits. The restored cottage of Greg's Hut is reached after the Pennine Way drops down north from Cross Fell and turns right to follow an old Pennine crossing. There is a spring (Crossfell Well) on the way down. This is an good track reputed to be a "Corpse Road" which transported coffins between Garrigill and Kirkland villages. It was certainly used for packhorses from the many lead mines spread around the moor. The track is hard and rocky so expect your feet to get a little sore (or sorer!). As you travel along there are even old mine workings beside the track - interesting to look at, dangerous to enter. You have entered the vast drainage system of the Tyne River which will not be left until the Cheviot hills.
Make sure you turn right coming down from Cross Fell. The Byrness Hotel is a natural gathering place for Pennine Way travellers boosting their courage for the last couple of days walking. You can share many a story of your Pennine Way (mis)adventures. A couple of lads shared this with us: They were doing the Pennine Way as fast as possible - at least 20 miles a day with their parents acting as support crew (so they could use light packs). Their speed lead to a couple of navigation errors. One of these was turning to the left from Cross Fell. They ended up in Kirkland before realising their mistake! They had to take a 40 mile taxi ride to get around to Garrigill from where they completed their days walk to Alston.
One of the few people I met during this day's walk was a bloke I came across after Cash Burn. We had a bit of a chat. Apparently there are some good waterfalls down the burn - perhaps worth the detour if you have the time. I also had some interest in the area since my father had done some caving around here. I also met some runners coming the other way - some people actually run the Pennine Way in relays, finishing in days rather than weeks.
Soon I was at the walled lane which dropped down to Garrigill (the other route through the fields is rarely taken and so is overgrown). The George and Dragon Inn provided comfortable accommodation for the night.
Garrigill has B&B at Ivy House who also have a camping barn. The proprietors also run the Pennine Llama Treks and you can probably arrange with them to have your packs carried for the next day on these friendly and inquisitive animals.