Distance: 14 miles (due to 2 1/2 miles in the wrong direction!)
I was the only guest for breakfast at the Park Lodge, so I hurried on to greet the Vermont crew at the B&B’s considerable campground to start our walk. Again, rain appeared to be imminent as we gathered and headed out of Keld. The conversation between us was lively as we walked along and distracted us from paying attention to the road signs. After a mile of this we realized that we were going the wrong direction! We retraced the mile of trail with a lesson learned: Pay attention to trail markings, especially when chatting.
After walking back through Keld, and crossing the River Swale, we began ascending the fells toward Ravenseat. The bit of sun that had briefly appeared was soon replaced by a steady drizzle.
The trail followed the Whitsundale Beck and soon lead us to the settlement of Ravenseat. We passed a tea and scones sign directing us to Ravenseat Farm. However, we recognized that our walking was the only thing keeping us warm and a stop (even for tea and scones!) would be a wet and cold experience, so we plodded on in the rain. The next year, when I walked this same trail in reverse, I did take the time to visit this farm and discovered that I had missed a wonderful rest stop. The owners, the Owens, are a delightful family and their offerings were delicious! Three entertaining books have been written by Amanda Owen, describing her experiences as a transplant from the city who became a Yorkshire shepherdess, wife and mother here at Ravenseat.
After the rains, the wildflowers in the pastures brightened our day.
We had almost decided that we would not tackle the Nine Standards in this cold, wet weather when we met two hikers who encouraged us, saying it was a great walk – as long as one was careful to avoid the boggy bits. That recommendation spurred us on to meet this challenge, which began with a long, steady uphill march.
At one point a bridge had been built to cross an especially wet area.
About half-way up the hill a large cairn provided enough shelter from the wind for a rest stop and our small lunch.
As we had been warned, the bogs were muddy, sloppy and definitely to be avoided. At one point Hannah misstepped and sank up to her knees in the goop; the rest of us were convinced that we should be more careful.
We were almost there.
And then we saw the Nine Standards, appearing just as we neared the top of the Hartley Fell. Sitting on England’s watershed divide between the Irish and North Seas, these rock piles have been useful, well-known boundary markers referenced in documentation dating back to the 12-century. The Standards are well over two meters high and there is some evidence that originally there may have been as many as thirteen standards. Their origin is a mystery, but there are several speculations. One theory is that they were built by the Romans to detract a possible invading army from the north. Another is that Roman soldiers who needed something to do with their spare time built these as a pastime.
The tremendous view from this high hill of the areas around is quite a treat with the Eden Valley far below in one direction and the Lake District mountains in another.
The descent toward Kirkby Stephen was an easy walk, passing by Birkett Hill.
Exploring the market town of Kirkby Stephen was made a little difficult because of the rain.
Cathy, my host at the antique-filled Redmayne House B&B, gave me a lovely alternative to walking around in the rain as she served tea and cake in her cozy lounge.
I walked around Kirkby Stephen and then joined the girls at the Kings Arms Pub for dinner. To my surprise, a couple English hikers I had walked with early in this hike, Kevin and Sedgwick, stepped into the pub. Once again, we enjoyed swapping trail experiences. They were familiar with the Coast to Coast Path and had hiked various sections before, which enabled them to recommend several good camping spots to my Vermont friends, who were also camping along the way.