Today was hill day. At least in my head. Now I had two very knackered boys in the morning. We had all well rested but not enough for Rich and Merlin to shake off the weariness from yesterday’s long walk. Both are not used to all this exercise.
We had another nice breakfast in our cottage with sourdough toast, avocado, bacon, egg, sausage and black pudding. Merlin refused to eat anything. In his OCD collie world he can’t possibly eat BEFORE a walk. Unthinkable. So off we drove the 15 minutes to Dufton at the foot of the North Pennines, had a coffee at the local village café and then started the walk up to High Cup Nick… one of us on an empty stomach. And that one was grumpy as well. He had refused for the first time ever to jump into the boot this morning, when he is normally very keen. He was whiffling when we so much as stood for a second and was generally sulking a bit.
Walked up on small tarmac road out of the village under a blanket of dark grey clouds which hid the tops of the surrounding hills, but I was sure they would lift enough to at least have a clear view of the glacial valley that is so unique.
The road became a stony track as we climbed higher, then winding its way through short green grass dotted with sheep droppings… and of course the source of the droppings, lots of them. Which also meant Merlin on the lead for the whole of the 13k there and back walk. Yay, even more grumpy dog. He was pretty good though. Only occasionally picking up some of the poop and every now and then trying to run after one of the white fluffies when they scarpered.
Good thing I had bought a Canicross harness recently along with a bungee lead. This worked amazingly well, as he wasn’t half ripping my arm out of its shoulder socket and I only ever needed to brace very little against his pull as the main force was spread around my bum just below the hip. Plus I had both hands free. Winner. Paid a fortune for this thing, but it’s worth every penny!
We soon skirted the Western edge of the impressive valley and it was really quite impressive, but it is one of those things where you have to stand in a very particular spot and all of a sudden you go “Wow!!!” That particular spot is maybe 20-50 metres across right at the end where the East and West side of the steep valley meet, but it’s like everything all of a sudden clicks into place. I’ve seen many photos of this in the past, but it was well worth coming here and seeing it myself.
Rich and Merlin were done at this point. Only done 6k or so, but I had just about sparked up and wanted to quickly bag Murton Fell. I was so close and it would be my first Hewitt in the Pennines. In good weather this was hard to miss. So I headed off East to find a way up two “steps” in the hillside to bag the supposed top (there are apparently three of the same height on this one). Rich was meant to head slowly back the same way, but as it turned out Merlin was having none of it without me and outright refused to move. He literally sat down and nothing Rich could do would make him move. So all he could do was wait.
He didn’t need to wait long. I found a faint path in places straight up the hillside and two steeper “steps”, the last bit was an almost flat plain across heather and some peat bog, but nothing remotely difficult. 20 minutes after setting off I stood at the top. Great views from here all across to the Lakes with Helvellyn and Blencathra clearly distinguishable amongst the many hills.
Carefully made my way back down the steeper bits and rejoined Rich and Merlin less than 40 minutes after setting off. Together we started our walk back down. The weather got better and better with gaps of blue in the grey clouds. We enjoyed the views on the way down and as we approached the car Merlin went into strike again, probably thinking we were off to another walk, bless him. Instead we had some late lunch at the same café since the village pub was closed. Then drove back home.
Lovely day out after all even if we kept it short-ish. I’m normally not a fan of there and back, but this one was well worth it. 13k for my boys, 15 for myself and Hewitt number 99 in the bag. The view from High Cup Nick is incredible. Something so unique and impressive, you have to see it for yourself.
We all had a snooze back home, then showers and a couple of drinks next door at the local pub. Proper “local” indeed, but cosy and with a lovely owner who gave us lots of ideas for walks nearby. Really loved it!
Another day in the bag. As much as I’m itching for another big day in the hills (thinking the Cross fell ridge with 4 hill tops), my boys are knackered. So we’re going with the pub owner’s recommendation and do something near Orton and maybe dip our heads into the local chocolate shop there as well. Sounds good to me. Just give me chocolate or ice cream to look forward to and I’d do almost anything!