The Friday at the end of half-term, barely into November. CJ and I had agreed to meet at Kirkby Stephen station, from where we caught a slightly late-running train for the next stop at Garsdale Head. The forecast hadn’t been great and, earlier, I’d left home in a fierce hail-storm. Still, I was quite surprised to arrive at Garsdale Station to find it white over.
I read somewhere that this is the highest railway line in Britain. It isn’t – the line over Rannoch Moor, for one, is higher. But like much of the Settle-Carlisle line, it is impressive.
We slithered down the road in a mess of slush and gushing melt-water and then picked-up a path cutting over the shoulder of Garsdale Low Moor.
Map the first.
T’was very damp underfoot and my feet, in trail shoes as ever, were soon sodden.
Beyond Dandrymire Viaduct a farmer cheerily directed us onto the path we wanted. “But it’s hellish boggy down there,” he warned. Something of an understatement. A bridge took us over the infant River Ure. I had intended to follow the network of paths which head up the valley, but given the condition of the ground decided that we would be better to climb to the High Way.
What a good decision. This old route is apparently a Roman Road but is particularly associated in my mind with Lady Anne Clifford who often came this way with a huge entourage, when travelling between her various properties between Skipton and Penrith in the Seventeenth Century.
Today the path offered pleasant, firm, dry walking with fantastic views of Wild Boar Fell.
When we reached Hellgill Bridge we had a decision to make: we could stick with relatively low level paths and follow The River Eden back to Kirkby Stephen, or we could head up on to Mallerstang Edges. To date the weather had been moderate – the odd short-lived hail shower – but nothing too drastic. On occasion the sun had even made fleeting appearances. So we chose the high-level option.
I’d envisaged following the gill fairly closely. In the event, we found a thin trod which followed the course of the gill but from some height above. Once we were sufficiently committed to our high route to not want to turn back if the weather turned – the weather turned. A great grey cloak of cloud funnelled up the valley behind us and soon enough we were enveloped in mist and wind-whipped rain.
Sadly, there’s a gap in my photographic record of our walk here. We did get some views of the rocky edges, including one waterfall which was spectacularly spouting skyward as it tipped over the crags, but, whilst I’ve often vowed from the comfort of our study to try taking some photos in inclement conditions, in the event I found my enthusiasm was washed away in the deluge.
Away from the edge, we stumbled upon a pile of stones, which I suspect marked Gregory Chapel, one of the tops on this route, and stopped briefly to chomp on the pork and apple pie which I’d bought, appropriately enough, in the deli in one of the former Chapels in Kirkby. I almost immediately found myself feeling bitterly cold and so we were soon on the move again.
A little down and up and down again and the high point of the walk, High Seat, was behind us before we’d barely realised. Fortunately, the descent from this point brought a little better visibility and some let-up in the weather. We cut across the moorland to the edge again at High Brae. That left us more exposed to the wind, but also below the cloud with some views across the Eden Valley. Somehow the walking felt much easier with a view and from here it was a pleasant stroll along to High Pike.
We began to descend more rapidly here and dropped to a shelf where there were tall cairns and this very neat and tidy sheepfold, looking recently repaired.
I assumed that this must be something to do with Mr. Goldsworthy and his sheepfold project but I can’t find any reference on the internet to support that theory.
Looking back to Wild Boar Fell.
Over the Eden Valley.
We’d still a fair way to go – down over Great Bell, through the village of Nateby, over the Eden and back to the railway station, but it was almost all of it downhill and the weather now seemed to have settled, although it remained fairly gloomy.
A fine leg-stretcher.