Sunday, 7 October 2012

Murton Pike & High Cup Nick

Murton Pike & High Cup Nick

9 Miles

Well I'll admit it. I was rather grumpy as we parked up in Dufton. As we had driven along the A66, cars had had their headlights on and the Northern Pennines were shrouded in mist. There were no hills. What was the point? A friend had told us that we would need good visibility to get the full effect.The forecast was for a good day with the sun burning off the mist, but it hadn't happened. We started up the car again and crept along the tiny minor road (with the occasional passing place)  to Murton. As we drove along, there was evidence of the mist starting to clear. In Murton, we turned left up the fell road which ended in a car park. Murton Pike was just about clear of mist by this time. After consulting the map, we decided to walk up Murton Pike and reassess the situation from there.

Murton Crag

Although there was a good track up Murton Pike, we didn't take it initially as we followed a grassy swarth. It was a steady climb. We rejoined the track just under a sunlit Murton Crag. Continuing upwards, the track ran parallel with Gasdale for a time, giving wonderful views of Mell Fell. The bowl-like fellside of Gasdale Head lay ahead. We left the track at a col and headed off in a WSW direction along a grassy footpath (not marked on an OS map) to Murton Pike. From this side, it looked like a classical conical mountain top. Footholes in the fellside acted as steps where the ground steepened. It wasn't long before we reached the white painted triangulation column.

The moon over Murton Pike
What a view! The Eden valley was laid out like a carpet before us, beautifully green. At the foot of the Pike was Murton village, with Hilton over to our left. The fairways of Appleby Golf Course could be seen clearly. To our right, was Dufton and its Pike. In the distance was the distinctive shape of Wild Boar Fell, the Howgills and Lakeland. We sat a while enjoying a coffee and the panorama in front of us. As the tops were now clear of mist, we decided to continue on to High Cup Nick having consulted our map to find a route. Visibility was excellent and it was clear where we needed to head for.

We retraced our steps down from the Pike and rejoined the track towards the high ground on the edge of Burnt Crag. The whole area was peppered with shake holes. At a fork, we left the permissive track and took a signposted grassy bridleway. It was a little squelchy underfoot. We passed small stone cairn / shelters as we headed north. The bridleway became no more than a narrow grassy footpath as it descended into Trundale Gill near a wall junction.
Trundale Gill

It was easy crossing here and we followed another narrow footpath up the other side towards the wall. The bridleway was waymarked with posts at intervals, although amongst the vegetation and piles of stones it was indistinct on the ground. We chose to follow the wall and head towards a large stone cairn like many had clearly done before us. Heading in a generally NE direction, we followed the line of bridleway markers along squelchy fellside. (Not marked on an OS map) To our left, the ground fell away and we could see the path that would be our return route. We got our first views of the steep-sided High Cup Nick. The sun accentuated the folds punctuated by streams. As a plateau of fellside widened below us, we left the bridleway and headed down beside a stream to join a clear, grassy path.

Heading down towards High Cupgill Head
Turning right, we made our way to High Cupgill Head and crossed the shallow stream via the stones. Walkers on the Pennine Way would cross this stream. To our surprise, we were alone.

Stream at High Cupgill Head
The drama of this geographical feature could not be exaggerated. A wonder of the natural world. Photographs could never do it justice. The sun was shining directly up it, making the meanders of High Cup Beck far below us seem like a silver snake.

View down High Cup Gill
It was a perfect lunchstop. Behind us lay miles of lonely moorland.
High Cup Scar
 Eventually, others wandered up the Narrow Gate path. It was time to leave.

Nichol Chair
We crossed over the stream again and rejoined the clear and squelchy, grassy footpath. (marked on OS map) It passed very close to the top of the very steep crags of High Cup Scar at times. The path started heading gently upwards, past a small, tumbledown, stone building before reaching a wall and a sturdy ladder stile.

Stile on path to Middle Tongue

As we descended Middle Tongue, Murton Pike towered impressively. Our route skirted underneath the southern elevation of Middletongue Crag. We had to cross a small stream before passing through a farm gate that marked the edge of Access land.

Murton Pike from Middle Tongue
It was just a short walk up a farm track to a farm at Harbour Flatt. After turning right through the farmyard, it was just 200m to the minor road that we had driven along earlier. Only one vehicle passed us as we walked the short distance along it into Murton. Haws and hips brightened the hedgerows and looked stunning in the afternoon sun.

Hawthorn & Murton Pike
The forecast had been right. We had enjoyed good visibility, sunshine, blue skies and minimal wind. The original plan had been a circular walk from Dufton around both sides of High Cup Nick. Thanks to the delay in the mist lifting, we were able to visit two of our many objectives. Today's walk had exceeded all our expectations. Thank you, Celia.

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