Thursday May 11 Dufton to Garrigill

It was a slow start today. Trudy promised me breakfast at 7:45, but it was a half hour late although very good. She gave me an old plastic water bottle to supplement my water. I’ll need it for the hot weather and the hard pull over Cross Fell.

I took a shortcut over to the PW so I wouldn’t have to go back through the village. I pass a large farm, climbing uphill on a lane between trees until I emerge to overlook the Eden Valley and Dufton. Many sheep and lambs are here on the hillsides. I cross a stone clapper bridge at Great Rundale Beck, Dufton Pike looms on the right, then a large, modern footbridge over Swindale Beck.

Here starts the long, steep climb up Knock Fell following the cairns which mark the path. I pass Knock Old Man, a hugh cairn providing shelter from the wind, then up to the summit of Knock Fell, 2000 feet above Dufton. I traverse over to Great Dun Fell, passing just below the hugh radar/weather station. Cross Fell dominates the skyline ahead, but in the foreground is Little Dun Fell which I access by sweeping downhill to a marshy saddle and climbing steeply to its summit.

Cross Fell now looks like a goliath as it is the highest point on the Pennine Way and is very broad at the top. Near the top, I find a spring where I fill my water bottles with pure, sweet water. No animals are this high, so there should be no contamination. I meet several locals out for the day walking up from the north face, two men here, two ladies there. I hope they haven’t contaminated the water.

The surface of Cross Fell plateau is rocky and barren with short grass. As Hopkins says, “like stepping back into post-glacial Britain”. The summit trig point at 2930 feet is near a cross-shaped wind shelter with benches (like at Great Shunner Fell). I have lunch here, a breakfast sausage, an apple, orange and cookie. It is 1:30 pm, halfway to Garrigill. Although the day has been quite warm, it is cold up here on the summit. Luck is with me as the day is fairly clear and there is a spectacular view for miles in every direction.

It’s a steep, boggy descent down the far side of Cross Fell, crossing numerous streams until I come to a drover’s track, the “corpse road”, which eventually leads to Garrigill. I have to stop and think a minute to figure out whether to go right or left. It was right! A bank of snow lies above me, slowly melting, just under the brow of the plateau. A couple of miles down the road, I stopped at Greg’s Hut, a mountain emergency shelter with fireplace, table, chairs and Tibetan banners, unlocked for everyone’s use.

Then its nothing but miles of desolate, rocky track slowly descending, dotted with old lead mines here and there. The track seems to go on forever. Again, I think of how glad I am to have my walking poles. As I stop for water and a rest, a walker catches up, greets me, and hurries on. He is really fast!!

Soon I crest a hill, round a bend, and Garrigill is spread out before me. Another half hour and I’m there. The fast walker is on the village green opposite the George & Dragon pub finishing off a pint before continuing on to Alston. I check into the Post Office B&B. My room is nice, but on the 3rd floor. Bath and toilet are on the 2nd floor, very inconvenient as it is the only one for the B&B guests.

After my coffee, tea and shower routine, I go next door to the George & Dragon for dinner. Sadly, a notice on the menu board says DUE TO ILLNESS, NO MEALS WILL BE SERVED TONIGHT. So I order a Black Sheep with a bag of peanuts and go sit with two Dutch cyclists. They are in the same boat as me, staying at the B&B and drinking a beer with potato chips. We commiserate together. The nearest place to eat is quite a few miles away. Eventually, an employee takes pity on us and after apologizing for the lack of meals, offers us a choice of pizza or salad w/ham and cheese. The Dutch choose pizza and I choose salad, both excellent.

We exchange our stories. They are touring by bicycle. One has done this many times all over Europe. He is retired from the UN. The other owns a wood flooring company and is an avid cyclist, but this is his first time cycling out of Holland and is having a great time. Nice fellows, good company.

I go back to the B&B and ask Anne for an early breakfast at 7:45. I have to catch the bus in Alston at 10:20 (only one per day) to go to Carlisle for the train to Manchester. I prepare for tomorrow, write in my journal and read myself to sleep.

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