Dec 092023

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Stone barn near Great Asby sheep pasture near Great Asby 1 sheep pasture near Great Asby 2 rough pasture near Great Asby hawthorn berries in profusion 1 hawthorn berries in profusion 2 hawthorn berries in profusion 3 bridge on outskirts of Great Asby lane to Gaythorne Cottages looking towards North Pennines and High Cup stone wall striping the pastures near Great Asby looking south from the lane to Halligill 1 looking south from the lane to Halligill 2 looking south from the lane to Halligill 3 Great Asby church Stone wall and limestone pavement looking south towards Great Asby Scar Ash tree splitting the limestone on the lane to Halligill

Pied wagtails were pattering sidelong up the slate roofs of the cottages along the straggling lane through Great Asby. ‘Three Greyhounds?’ said the cheerful lady near the bus shelter. ‘Just over the packhorse bridge, can’t miss it.’

At the southern outskirts of the village we turned along a farm road that wound into open country. A flight of several dozen wintering fieldfares swooped into an ash tree, bounced and chattered amongst themselves, then fled downwind, their grey heads and dark tails showing out against a streaky blue sky.

A stone barn, sturdily buttressed, stood by the lane. Here the roadway roughened as it rose through rushy fields. Away south sombre moor tops lay under rolling cloud, and behind us in the east the rampart of the North Pennine hills climbed into a slate-grey murk. But here in this rolling countryside between the hills, sunlight lay thick and gold across pasture that was squared and striped with carefully maintained stone walls.

Beyond Halligill we left the track and plodged across rain-sodden fields, scrambling over a muddy beck and trudging down the grassy track to Gaythorne Hall. The farmer came puttering up on a quad as his ewes scampered away in communal panic. ‘Lambing from January on’, he told us.

Gaythorne Hall in its dell looked magnificent even in the steely embrace of scaffolding – a three-storey Tudor house, gabled and handsomely porched. We squeezed through an obstacle course of gates and a cattle crush to gain the farm lane that wound through sheep pastures up to the moor road back to Great Asby.

By the road lay the Bronze Age burial mound of Hollin Stump, where Victorian antiquarians unearthed three skeletons and a horse skull. What religious or magic connotation that had had was anyone’s guess. Walking on, we wondered what those remote ancestors would have made of the enormous rainbow that arced down from a black stormy sky towards the distant Pennine heights.

Nearing Great Asby we passed an exhausted ram lying prone in a field, smeared from head to tail with blue raddle. You might think that all rams lead the apolaustic life. But this one, surrounded by a hundred grazing ewes whose rumps he had ‘painted’ blue, bore a grim expression that said a ram’s lot at tupping time is not all beer and skittles.

How hard is it? 6 miles; easy/moderate; moorland roads and field paths, some boggy.

Start: Three Greyhounds PH, Great Asby, Appleby-in-Westmorland CA16 6EX (OS ref NY 681132)

Getting there: Great Asby is signed from B6260 (Appleby-Orton)

Walk (OS Explorer OL19): Right across bridge; left; at junction by post box, right on farm road (679129). In ½ mile pass barn; fork right (672128), In ⅓ mile track bends right towards Halligill (663128), but keep ahead over stile (yellow arrow/YA). In 50m, stile over wall on right (arrow). Half right towards left/south end of Halligill Wood. Cross beck and stile (659129, YA); up bank to step stile. Follow direction of arrow, slightly right; plantation soon in sight to right; just beyond it, double stile (656130, YA). Slight right across field to gates/stile (YA). Cross beck; follow cart track to Gaythorne Hall (650132), hidden in dip. In front of house, right (‘Drybeck’). In 50m, left (‘Gaythorne Cottages’) through walled paddock, then heavy gate, then wooden gate on right, to farm road (649131). Ahead; in ⅓ mile at Gaythorne Cottages, left (644123, ‘Great Asby’) on moor for 3 miles to Great Asby.

Lunch: Picnic; or Three Greyhounds, Great Asby (01768-351428, – contact for opening times).

Accommodation: George Hotel, Orton CA10 3RJ (01539-624071)

Info:; Appleby TIC (01768-351177)

 Posted by at 01:43

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