If you drive eastwards along the A66 from Penrith, you see to your left three dramatic hills standing apart from the long ridge of the Pennines – they are in order Knock Pike, Dufton Pike and Murton Pike.
Some while ago we went up Murton Pike, so we thought it was about time that we did the next in the line. We’ve walked a couple from Dufton itself and once did a circuit of its Pike, but had never been up the thing.
So the other day, in a brief few hours between rain clouds, when the sun shone on the Eden valley we set out from Dufton. A pretty village.
In fact the poet W.H.Auden thought it one of the prettiest in England. It owes much of its past prosperity to the company that worked the surrounding hills for lead. The name means The Village of the Doves – a peaceful kind of place.
Interestingly, all this part of Westmorland, including the nearby and very small town of Appleby, was once part of Scotland – that’s why the habitations of the Eden Valley don’t feature in the Domesday Book.
I suspect, if you look at old guide books, access was discouraged to the summit of Dufton Pike. These old guides often do a circuit on the surrounding rights of way, but don’t take in the top. But now most of the hill is mapped as CRoW land under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act so you can.
We set out from Dufton, taking the Pennine Way up to Coatsike Farm and up Hurning Lane, with grand views of the Pike as we climbed gently. After a couple of days of heavy rain, the track was full of pools of water and glutinous mud. The going was, to say the least, sticky.
I never mind mud. I spent my formative years bog-trotting on Dartmoor, where if you didn’t get plastered you hadn’t walked very far.
But this was, as I said, sticky.
We passed Halsteads – a ruinous sort of place – probably deserted because there’s no road leading to it – only this old track. The kind of ruin I used to doss down in during my tramping days of a while ago. Quite intact, Halsteads really – but then I’ve found from long experience, that the better preserved a ruin, the colder it is. Pity that it’s in the state it’s in, though. If it belonged to me I’d convert it into a walker’s bothy.
The track got drier as we came out on to open ground on Cosca Hill, before making a steep descent to the Great Rundale Beck. We left the Pennine Way here and took a footpath following the line of the beck.
You can’t go straight up to the top of the Pike from here, despite the CRoW hatching on the 125:000 map. We tried. But there’s a double wall and enclosed ground that the Ordnance Survey doesn’t even mark on its map. It says on the map it’s CRoW, but the landowner and the local council – who no doubt provided the Keep Out signs suggests otherwise.
If you want to get to the top of the Pike, you need to stay on the footpath, passing through a gate and then over a stile. Just past a row of new tree planting a path climbs up to the top.
I’d imagined a steep climb up the rough sides, but in fact the path zigzags, first almost back on itself to one of the aforementioned walls that the OS haven’t mapped, then on a long gradual climb to the top.
Easy going with splendid views across the Eden to the mountains of the Lake District in one direction and the long ridge of the Pennines to the other – still some snow lying on Cross Fell, the highest point on the Pennines. Looking across into the valley of Threlkeld Side, you can see the activities of the Pennine lead-miners.
It was certainly breezy on the top, but the winds scattered the clouds and kept the rain at bay, giving wild vista across to Wild Boar Fell and the distant peaks of Blencathra and Helvellyn.
The descent from Dufton Pike on its eastern side was a trifle steeper than the way we’d come up. The descending path end up at a gate leading on to a track back to Dufton, above the Pus Gil Beck.
Yet another muddy track, with standing pools of water – a bit like Hurning Lane earlier in the day.
Still a good dry walk with impressive views. A couple of hours later the clouds closed in and the rain bucketed down.
But by then we had our feet up indoors and the kettle had boiled.