Most ramblers use our old paths by linking them together in a circular or linear route, taking the walker through a wide variety of scenery. And that’s what we did the other morning, from the village of Dufton high on the slopes of the North Pennines.
A grand walk through some very pretty scenery and on good paths too. I’m often critical of the state of the path network, which has paid a high price with the government’s Austerity obsession.
But not here: The paths around Dufton are in immaculate condition – all well-signposted and waymarked, bridges and stiles in good order, paths kept clear by the farmers and well restored after ploughing. I commend the farmers whose lands we crossed on this walk – a shining example to others.
Dufton – the village of the doves – stands on the edge of the Pennines and is a staging point on the Pennine Way. But our walk lay away from the high ground, through the fields and woods that tumble down towards the Eden Valley.
Hidden below the village is Dufton Gill, a dramatic gorge of St. Bees sandstone. And very lovely it looked too with the fresh green leaves at last appearing on the trees and a host of golden daffodils. The bluebells are not out yet, but we hope to return in a few weeks to see what will be a splendid display. The sandstone cliffs, geology that’s older than the neighbouring Pennines, give a wild setting to such floral beauty.
A good path runs through the Gill to Greenhow Farm, where a footpath leads to Keisley Beck. A really good farmer here – who’d provided a very wide headland path along the edge of a ploughed field. Superb.
To the sound of curlews and the sight of two overhead peewits, we followed the path to Flakebridge Wood, which looks as though it’s going to be particularly dramatic come bluebell time. Though much of the wood’s access is restricted, there are a couple of rights of way crossing it and another running along the edge. We shall try to get back there when the bluebells are out.
We wandered along the path to Esplandhill Farm. We’d come this way a few weeks ago in a snowstorm, but now we walked it in just a few drops of rain. Then past the Mill below Brampton, crossing the pretty Brampton Beck at a footbridge. There’s a ford of some considerable antiquity nearby…
A long green lane – Wood Lane – led back to Dufton Gill and the village. One of those wide, hedged lanes that history never converted into a surface road, a shorter route than the present road between Brampton and Dufton.
In these days of busy, fast traffic, it’s a joy to get away from the noise, smell and visual intrusion of the motor car. Although I often envy the road-walking trampers of past days who undertook long walks across Britain along what is now the busy road network. Some of their routes would be unpleasant these days.
Another reason we need to preserve the alternative network of public rights of way. And one of the best ways of keeping them open is to walk them regularly on country rambles.