Friday, 5 October 2012

Blowing the Cobwebs Away

Blowing the Cobwebs Away

For one reason or another, it's been a little while since our last walk. The weather has certainly conspired against us. We had sat and watched raindrops chasing down the windowpanes and a river whooshing down the road, but finally the rain had stopped and the sun was shining. Time to get the boots on.

We started off along our favourite Eden Valley Viaduct walk. The rain of the previous days had washed the top surface of the cinder type pathway away in places, but that came as no surprise given the amount of water that had fallen from leaden skies. It was lovely walking along with the sun filtering through the trees. In no time at all we had crossed the two viaducts and joined the minor road which climbed round Hartley Quarry. Here, the road steepened and we quickly gained height. Kirkby Stephen looked lovely, nestling down below. The Northern Pennines and the Howgills were sunning themselves. The view is never disappointing. Onwards and upwards. We passed the farm with the llamas in the field and very soon reached the wooden chair on access land. After a quick slurp of water whilst enjoying the ever widening panorama, we were off again.

Our tick-off features were soon reached...
  • the tiny stretch of duckboarding
  • the wide green swarth
  • the high banked section
  • the broken barn in the wall
  • the finger post
  • the sheepfold
  • the stone chair
  • Faraday Gill
Needless to say, it came as no surprise to find the route wet, but we did wonder how sloppy it would get further up near to the summit. We came to the little wooden plank bridge. Judicially placed stones enabled us to step onto the bridge. As you can see, there was quite a bit of water lying on the path the other side of it too.
Not far to go. Not too bad. 
Passed the first set of redundant, wooden 'risers', and then a thinner, second set (equally redundant). The worst section of the path by far is that part just short of the summit. It was a veritable quagmire. Black, oozy peat. It was a case of crossing it the best way that you could.

The cairns on top of Nine Standards Rigg stood alone. Normally, there are several people atop enjoying the views or taking a rest before continuing on their way either back into the Upper Eden Valley, or onwards to Swaledale. It was wonderful to have the summit all to ourselves. We selected a cairn with a horizontal 'shelf' seat around it and ate our lunch on the sheltered side. Visibility was very good and we could make out white industrial buildings way over to the east on the other side of the Pennines. From the direction of the firing ranges near Warcop, the crump and boom of firing could be heard. Other than that, it was just the sound of the breeze.

Fluffy clouds framed the view of the Upper Eden Valley. Over to the north on the fellside of Nine Standards, a farm vehicle deposited a group with dogs. Were they assessing the ground for grouse? Were they checking on sheep? We wouldn't find out. It started to grow colder and we donned our outer shell before making our way to the viewfinder. The sky had clouded over and making its way across the Howgills and Orton fells was raincloud. It was coming our way. It's always tempting to think that you're 'Only just going up there', so you don't need to pack so much in the rucksack. Fortunately, we've always packed for any weather, and today was no different.

Our descent to the wooden chair and the tarmac road was reasonably quick. We passed just two lone walkers, one with a dog, who were heading upwards. Somewhere below us, was the whine of a chainsaw. These three beauties posed for us. Would they be rounded up later to be pampered, shown and sold at one of the big sales nearby? By now it was starting to rain.

We're becoming accustomed to the sudden and generous lashings of rain that give Upper Eden a verdant appearance. Often shortlived, but sometimes prolonged rain seems to fall in so many guises. We need a whole new vocabulary to describe the nuances of rain. This was wetting. We made rapid progress along the minor road that served probably a couple of farms. The llamas chewed their grass and looked superior. White smoke still billowed from the quarry. The rooftops of Kirkby Stephen glistened. Abundant, scarlet berries bejewelled the trees.

We turned onto the viaduct walk. Overhanging trees dripped, but sheltered us from the worst of the rain which was starting to abate. 

Refreshed and renewed, it seems there's always something new on this increasingly familiar walk.

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