…in which I slightly impress some pretty ladies, am slightly distressed by some gritty humour and slightly compress some not very nice tussocks.
Cross Fell to Cauldron Snout, 18 miles.
Sunday lunch at the Stag Inn, Dufton was seriously good. The belly pork looked fantastic but the chap in front of me got the last piece so I had the excellent roast. The warm chocolate brownie with salted caramel ice cream was phenomenal too. It was great to see a pub in such a tucked-away place bustling and well-supported, and no wonder with food and ale this good. The tearoom over the green had closed for the ‘winter’. There were at least ten of us sitting outside The Stag enjoying lunch in warm sunshine.
The whole point of the wild camping was supposed to be views, so I’d have liked to camp at High Cup but that would have made the following day much too long. Instead I’d decided to forge on to a viewpoint overlooking Cauldron Snout that I’d recce’d in June. Unfortunately by October this had been churned up by cattle to such an extent it was uncampable and by the time I’d reached this conclusion it was getting dark.
At the suggestion of a friendly gamekeeper I pitched by headtorch on the flat spot on the bank of the Tees just after the bridge and (rather alarmingly) below the dam. ‘Nobody’s been washed away yet’ grinned my informant. This was quite honestly one of the dampest places I’ve ever camped and, although level at the geographical level it was at the local level studded with numerous mini-tussocks. I wasn’t going to venture down Cauldron Snout in the dark so I lumped it, literally. In the morning I realised this had been a good decision as the flat area at the foot of the Snout was considerably colder and, improbably, even damper.
Southbound two tall, constructed (as opposed to informal) cairns lead you off Cross Fell, with informal mini-cairns between them although the latter would be invisible in snow.
At the far (southeast) end of the radar station there’s no need to head too far over to the right, although no harm in doing so as you’ll inevitably find the road. More importantly don’t go too far down to the left as this will drop you into Dun Fell Hush. You need to aim for the steps at the top of the Hush, which OS Locate told me are at 712 318.
Walking down into Dufton I followed my nose along a substantial crushed stone track which brought me into the village at the northwest end This was handy as I didn’t have to double back to the pub.
Heading along the northwest side of High Cup, I strayed too low down and had to make a steep upwards correction, which could have become problematic in poorer conditions.
I should have kept high over the shoulder before heading down to the top of the Cup.
Maize Beck now has a substantial all season bridge so you don’t have to worry about the former high water alternative. Pretty much all the way from that bridge to Cow Green the PW has now been tarred, presumably to service the shooting. This makes the going and the navigation easy, but looks terrible.
Somewhat relieved to find the Stealth tent still clinging to Cross Fell by the skin of its rocks at dawn, I struck camp quickly in the perishing breeze the King Of The Hoolies had left up there on guard duty and breakfasted happily at the adjacent summit shelter.
There was no view, disappointingly, but on the upside I had the whole place to myself.
Below Knock Old Man the sun came out and I held my tent up to dry in the breeze like a giant prayer flag. It was a perfect Sunday morning so unsurprisingly people started to appear. An upmarket couple enquired whether I was manifesting some sort of textile-oriented action sculpture. I tried to look artistic, hoping in vain for spare change. Three friendly and not uneasy on the eye fell-running ladies seemed to think that sleeping out on Cross Fell was modestly impressive. I tried to look brave, still slightly shaken by my encounter with the Hoolieking.
The Stag Inn was a haven of nourishment and company, colourful cleat-clattering cyclists, friendly locals, affluent townies, some encouragingly young section-Wayfarers, chatty staff, nice dogs, WiFi, loos, what wasn’t to like?
It was quite hard work lugging an enormous Sunday lunch up the track to High Cup. It became harder work still when I took too low a path and went astray, almost into the nether regions of the Cup itself which would have meant a heck of a climb out, not to say a hazardous one.
Again there were folk about in the sunshine although most were by this point sensibly descending. ‘I were determined to see High Cup’ wheezed a geezer from Preston, ‘before they put a mosque up there’. ‘Aha’, I said. Near the top a young man in trainers wandered, stopped, looked, wandered; he seemed dazed. ‘I never knew there were anything like it in England’ he said, to the world in general. He wandered a little further then wandered back, sat on a rock and looked up at me. ‘I never knew’ he repeated, plaintively. High Cup has that effect on people, although two days later in Lunedale walking through endless magic mushrooms it occurred to me to wonder whether it had just been the landscape altering his perception of his homeland.
I was annoyed at the unsuitability of my intended campsite and a little unsettled at the thought of sleeping below a dam restraining a gazillion gallons of angry Teeswater. Stretching my flysheet between pokey clumps of sedge I realised the mist falling upon me was actually spray from the waterfall, great clouds of it were rising into the air. The last knockings of the sunset tinted them pale grey against the austere black of Cronkley Fell. I didn’t need to eat much after my sumptuous Stag-feast. I dozed off soothed by the rush of the Tees and the roar of the waterfall, albeit slightly peeved by the fluorescent light that shines inexplicably all night from a doorway at the foot of a dam in the middle of nowhere.