Feb 172024

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Dufton village green sandstone quarry face in Dufton Ghyll Wood Quarryman's 'Cockdick' graffito in Dufton Ghyll Wood Quarryman Dan McPhee's 1874 graffito in Dufton Ghyll Wood Brampton Beck Haw berries in Wood Lane split ash tree, Wood Lane houses of Brampton on their ridge Wood Lane approaching Dufton Ghyll Wood Wood Lane approaching Dufton Ghyll Wood, with Dufton Pike beyond waymark on the sandstone wall of Wood Lane golden evening light on North Pennine hills

The sky over eastern Cumbria was sliced in two: a great smoking curl of mist obscuring the tops of the North Pennine Hills standing east of Dufton, and away to the west beyond the green Vale of Eden a field of brilliant blue above the sunlit fells of the Lake District.

Down below the village Dufton Ghyll rushed in curls of bubbles between the sandstone walls of its miniature gorge. ‘Dan McPhee, 1874’ read a graffito scored in square letters into the dusky red rock, legacy of some long-forgotten quarryman. ‘Cockdick’, said another – maybe a nickname, maybe an insult.

Below the mossy quarry faces the path twisted among fallen fragments of beech and birch, then climbed to green pastures by way of stone steps hewn and placed by the quarrymen. In the yard at Greenhow Farm a collie crouched on guard on the tray of a quad bike; he never budged a muscle, only swivelling his narrowed eyes to track my progress out of his domain.

In the fields beyond, a gang of rams, muddy-coated and curly-horned, stood stolidly and stared me out. The sodden path squelched and slithered underfoot as I crossed Keisley Beck and came down into Flakebridge Wood.

From the sunless cottages at Flakebridge a rough path traced the lower edge of the wood, passing under beech boughs as yet leafless. Wild geese flew clamouring overhead, shadowy presences beyond the treetops – pinkfeet, I guessed, en route to their night roost.

The rutted farm road of Frith Lane led on to Esplandhill where a range of superb old sandstone barns stood tall. Tiny spears of bluebells were already pushing up in the hedge roots beyond, and a wren sang its chittering song in the alders along Brampton Beck where I crossed the racing water swollen with recent rainfall.

A final stretch northwards ran between wet rushy fields along Wood Lane. Moles had been driven up from underground by the flooding; their castles of finely dug earth stood tall, temporary refuge until their tunnels dried out under spring sunshine and became habitable once more. Ahead beckoned the cone of Dufton Pike, gilded by late afternoon sunshine, as my internal compass set course for the cheerful taproom of the Stag Inn on Dufton’s village green.

How hard is it? 5½ miles; easy; field paths. NB: Some fallen trees to negotiate around Dufton Ghyll.

Start: Dufton car park, Dufton, CA16 6DB (OS ref NY 690250)

Getting there: Dufton is signed from B6542 in Appleby (A66 Brough-Penrith)

Walk (OS Explorer OL19): Right along road; immediately right (‘Dufton Ghyll’); descend to cross ghyll (wooden footbridge, NOT stone bridge!). Left along bank (yellow arrow/YA). In ⅓ mile at Redbanks Bridge dogleg left/right over road (694245; ‘Keisley, Flakebridge’). On through Greenhow farmyard; follow ‘A Pennine Journey’ across fields (YAs, stiles). In 1¼ miles cross footbridge and stile opposite (706231, YA). Right up bank to wall stile beyond (705230, YA). Down to stile at corner of wood (704229); half left to ladder stile (703226). Cross stream; into Flakebridge Wood. In 150m join track (703225); in 100m, left at junction, down to Flakebridge (704220). Bear right on track, keeping to edge of wood. In 1 mile leave wood (693229, stile); follow Frith Lane to road at Esplandhill (685230). Right; in 100m left past Brampton Watermill. In 400m right over footbridge (683234); left to join Wood Lane. In 1 mile enter Dufton Ghyll Wood (688249); down to cross ghyll (footbridge); up into Dufton.

Lunch: Stag Inn, Dufton (01768-351608, thestagdufton.co.uk)

Accommodation: Crown & Cushion, Appleby CA16 6XB (01768-351595, robinsonsbrewery.com)

Info: Appleby TIC (01768-351177)

 Posted by at 01:14

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