The other morning we walked out from Dufton to climb to the top of Dufton Pike, one of the three great pikes which stand sentinel between the long wilderness of the Pennines and the Eden Valley. Dufton is the second highest of the Pikes, being topped by the mightier Murton Pike and trailed by the lower but lovely Knock Pike.
If the Lake District didn’t exist, thousands of walkers would be found on these wild edges – but as it happens, despite the Pennine Way running nearby, the hills are usually quiet.
Dufton village, described by the poet Auden as the loveliest in England, was quiet as we set out up a very muddy Hurning Lane, part of the Pennine Way, to Cosca Hill and the Great Rundale Beck. On the way we passed the ruined Halsteads Farm, a place that was and is no more. What stories its walls could tell?
We left the Pennine Way at the beck and took the footpath around the North-East corner of Dufton Pike. The map implies you can just walk to the summit of the Pike from here. You can’t! There are walls that are not marked on the Ordnance Survey map, but should be. You need to follow the footpath through the wall gates until you come to the Pike’s bare hillside before turning upwards.
A path runs up the inside of the wall, then when a grassy Col is reached, you turn upwards South-East up the ridge. There are a couple of false summits before you get there, but when you do the views are magnificent.
Across the Eden Valley to the Howgills and Shap Fells, over to the great heights of the Lake District, and with the brooding ridge of the Pennines eastwards.
It was breezy on the summit, but very clear. Below us were the tracks of the lead-miners who worked in this lonely land. Tracks that are worth exploring.
We cut down to the bridleway above the Pus Gill and followed this good track back to Dufton. Along the way, a rock marked with prehistoric cup marks has been worked into a wall. See if you can spot it?
These grand but lonely hills are well worth exploring on foot.