Walk Date – 11th May 2017
Distance – 5.2 miles
Weather – dry and sunny with a south easterly breeze
Another beautiful day dawned and, having no commitments, appointments or anything else which demanded our urgent attention, we decided to put it to good use and, after yesterday’s long walk, just take a leisurely walk somewhere in the sunshine. After considering several possibilities, and largely because of the recent dry spell, we decided to walk up to Nine Standards Rigg. It is the summit of Hartley Fell and not a fell in its own right, but I’ve yet to hear anyone use any other name than Nine Standards when they say where they have been walking. There are a number of routes and after yesterday’s exertions we chose the one with the shortest distance and which required the least amount of climbing.
So, here we are on the B6270 road out of Nateby, a stretch of moorland road which looks very benign in today’s glorious weather but the snow poles along the roadside indicate how very different things can be come the winter. The white car with the boot open has two retired chaps behind it getting kitted up ready for their walk, which I assumed would have the same destination as ours. If folks have parked along here you can be almost certain they are walking over to Nine Standards or maybe just giving their dogs a run out. As we pass them we exchange cheerful ‘good mornings’ and ‘great weather’ and just a matter of feet beyond them we come to …..
….. the bridleway sign, at 510 metres elevation, indicating the Coast to Coast route, of which Nine Standards forms a part, and the way ahead. The notice indicated which routes should be taken and when but the lettering was quite small and a bit faded so it was difficult to read, the strong sunshine falling on a very reflective sheet of plastic didn’t help matters either.
You can’t really miss the path, a large swathe of well trodden green cutting through the lighter coloured and rough moorland grasses. This is the North Pennines, acres and acres of rolling moorland and big, big skies, this is remote on steroids.
We passed by this small tarn as the route began to wind across and down the moorland towards Rigg Beck, which runs below us in the dip ahead. Its breezy, but its a warm south easterly which is a lot more comfortable than the colder winds we’ve been having lately.
Alongside the track at this point were quite a number of shake holes, often called sink holes.
Another one of the cluster of shake holes. Over time surface water washes the underlying soil down into cracks and gaps in the limestone beneath creating these depressions, and its probably best not to venture into one just in case there is a bit more collapse waiting to happen and you ultimately disappear along with it. A few of them had a clearly visible hole at the bottom.
Looking along Dukerdale as we drop down to cross Rigg Beck.
Rigg Beck is bone dry, just like everywhere else we’ve been walking lately. By the looks of things the foot isn’t causing too much of a problem today.
Just as so often happens in the Lakeland fells the path along here is more or less following the route of the wall on the hillside above Dukerdale.
A look back beyond the wall for this view of the vast expanse of Tailbridge Hill.
The path begins dropping down to another small beck crossing, just about where the walker in the dark jacket is standing. Once across the beck we’ll follow the diagonal path across the hillside up to the cairn on the skyline.
Behind us is a very hazy view of the Eden Valley to the north west.
Starting on the left on the skyline are High Seat (yes, there’s one over here as well the one in Lakeland), then High Pike Hill, behind which is the long flat top of Wild Boar Fell. In the foreground is the walker, a retired chap by the look of him, who was in a shot a couple of photos back. He was from Perth, Australia and asked us if we could help him saying he wasn’t lost but he was a bit uncertain. He was sitting beside the beck looking at a some A4 black and white photocopies on which were some sketchy details of the Coast to Coast walk. He didn’t have a map so we used ours in order to show him exactly where he was. When asked if he was going up to Nine Standards the answer was no. We’re by no means experts on the Coast to Coast walk but we do know that Nine Standards forms part of it so that flummoxed us somewhat. He then said he wanted to be going west so all we could do was show him in which direction west was and also mention that the path across the beck led back to the road if that was where he wanted to be. We were even more puzzled when he mentioned something about the direction of the sun being different here from what it is in Australia and he was having trouble getting used to it. Surely it rises in the east and sets in the west there just as it does here?
I don’t think we were of much help but he thanked us nevertheless and we carried on up the path, the pair of us still trying to work out where he was heading, and the comment about the sun. When I looked back he hadn’t moved and was still studying the Coast to Coast photocopies. You might be able to pick him out by the beck if you zoom in. Its very difficult to help someone if they are unclear about where they want to be so I hope he got to his destination eventually. If he really was walking the Coast to Coast he needs something better than an A4 photocopy showing no other details than a black line indicating a route and the names of a few villages and hamlets, he also needed a compass. The weather won’t always be as favourable as it was today and this isn’t the easiest place to find your way around in if the cloud is down.
Climbing the last few yards before we reach the shelter, it may once have been a cairn but its been fashioned into a shelter at some time and it was a handy place to stop and remove an outer layer and have a quick drink.
On the skyline, over to the right from the shelter, is another cairn so we decided to go across there first rather than make straight for Nine Standards. We wouldn’t have bothered if the weather hadn’t been so good, or the ground had been soggy, but as it was so dry and sunny and we weren’t pushed for time we headed on over.
We reached the second cairn but we only have a very hazy view across the Eden Valley in the general direction of Lakeland. This must have been a fine cairn in the past but much of it has collapsed leaving just part of it still standing with the rest of it scattered around the base amongst the surrounding outcrops.
A look back at the cairn as we leave with Wild Boar Fell now prominent beyond High Pike Hill, and the Howgill Fells over on the right skyline.
We’re now heading for the trig column up ahead and about to cross Rollinson Haggs, which is indicated on the route map. We could have used the path, which is the lighter coloured line over on the left, but as we have had no rain for some time we decided to walk straight across and see how dry it really was.
Very dry indeed!
It would not be somewhere you would choose to cross after a spell of rain as you’d be knee deep in gloop and once you are truly in the middle of them you find yourself surrounded by some very tall hags. So tall and wide that, as we each took a different route through them, there were times when we couldn’t see each other. It was perfectly OK today but its certainly somewhere to avoid getting bogged down in, especially if you were by yourself since no-one would be able to see you very easily.
The hags were so dry that we made it across to the trig column with not a trace of sludge on our trousers or boots. In the distance we are beginning to see the Nine Standards, and, as you can see from the jacket and trousers, now that we are the top the breeze has definitely strengthened which is why the jackets went back on again.
Looking south east from the trig column in the general direction of Swaledale in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and just over three-quarters of a mile in that direction, from the trig point, is the boundary of the Park. Not that you’d be able to actually see a boundary if you went over there because there’s nothing to indicate it but I just thought I’d mention it while we were here.
From the trig column we follow the well trodden path north towards the topograph at the other end …..
….. which tells you what you’re looking at in every direction. Its a bit difficult to read and even more difficult to photograph, but I did the best I could whilst standing (wobbling) on some of the lower stones with a steadying hand gripping on to the back of my jacket.
Looking westward from the topograph …..
….. and the view to the north and the Nine Standards.
Some of the Nine Standards, an intriguing set of nine very tall and ancient stone cairns on the summit area, their purpose is unknown although there are various theories. A couple of them seem to have had some maintenance work done on them so someone is keeping an eye on them. Here’s a few more shots of them …..
This one had a handy spot to sit while the in-house photographer took a few shots of me squinting against the sun and my hair plastered sideways on by the breeze.
Well, we’ve had a good look round so we start our return journey with a look back at the Nine Standards from the descent path. We left this path shortly and took a pathless route across to the south west …..
….. back to the cairn/shelter we had reached on the way up earlier. We were in no great hurry so we had a stop here and just enjoyed the sunny afternoon out of the breeze.
A view of Tailbridge Hill and Nateby Common from the cairn/shelter.
Descending back to Rigg Beck, where we came across the Australian walker earlier on, and from up here the spread and amount of shake holes becomes much clearer to see.
Looking back towards Dukerdale as we pass by another shake hole. The breeze is gentler down here so the jackets are off again and we have a very pleasant and relaxing stroll back.
Some gates are easier to close than others, this one was a pain in the rear even though it looked recently installed.
A couple of hundred yards or so further on from the awkward gate and we are back at the road and at the end of our walk. Its been a very enjoyable outing with nothing more strenuous to deal with than a few gentle inclines and the occasional patch of tussocky grass in lovely sunny weather, all in all a really nice short walk.