For the first time in months we drove to the start of a walk, albeit just a few miles. We are still not prepared to drive any great distance to walk, given that Cumbria has one of the worst Covid-19 outbreaks in Britain and that scientists believe it hasn’t yet peaked in our county.
We drove to Dufton, on a hot and bright day, with the intention of following the church path to the parish church, which is someway out of the village, then on to the hamlet of Knock before doing a circuit of Knock Pike – one of the three great pikes that seem to guard the Eden Valley from the long heights of the North Pennines.
And how good it would be to see this whole area created a National Park…
It’s good to walk a church path. I can remember countless footpath inquiries over the decades where someone either wanted to close or divert such rights of way. “Oh, it’s only the way people used to walk to church in old times,” the proponents would bleat to the inquiry inspector.
As if that wasn’t important – a hugely vital way of understanding a bit of our social history.
Happily, nobody has tried to close to path between Dufton and its parish church. This right of way is well used, by locals and ramblers from afar. And a lovely path as well, running through splendid countryside with great views and a rather lovely squeeze stile.
And please let’s Save Our Stiles – ignore the rambling zealots who want them swept away. They are an iconic feature of our countryside’s history. Vandalism and cultural slaughter to do away with them! I know people with disabilities have difficulties with stiles. I do sometimes. I have severe arthritis in my feet. So I don’t mind alternative gates, but let’s keep the older stiles as well. The idea that future generations of walkers might never know what a stile is – outside the writings of Shakespeare, Richard Jefferies, John Clare, Wordsworth etc. – is horrifying.
Because of the Lockdown, the old church was shut, but it was pleasant to linger in the tree-shaded churchyard. We crossed the beck and wound our way up to the land leading through Knock. A pleasant and quiet byway.
Beyond the hamlet we chatted to a cyclist who’d come up from Kendal and intended to bike the steep private road up to the golf ball radar station on Great Dun Fell, one of the highest summits of the Pennines. We admired his stamina on such a hot day.
But we followed his route for a mile before taking the path circling Knock Pike. The Pennine side of Knock Pike was quarried away in previous times, though the old quarry isn’t visible until you come round to this side.
The views are quite wonderful. Not just the Pennines, but across the Eden Valley to Wild Boar Fell, then the Lake District hills in the distance, dominated by mighty Blencathra.
On the moorland beyond the Pike we saw purple mountain pansies – the Pennines are a good habitat.
Beyond, a lovely stretch of gorse and a beck almost completely dry in this hot May weather.
There’s an enclosed path heading back down into the valley. Heavily vegetated at this lush moment, but pleasantly walkable.
We’ve done this walk before taking the circuit of Knock Pike in the other direction, but far better to do it this way, with all the views before you.