Distance: 13 miles
As we did a little postcard shopping and last minute sightseeing in Kirkby Stephen before leaving, we discovered a blast from the past when looking up at an old road route sign. Notice that the distance was listed in mileage and in furlongs.
To return to our path we crossed the River Eden on Frank’s Bridge, which is a 17th-century pedestrian bridge referred to as a “corpse lane” bridge. Contemporary with the bubonic plague, it was used to carry coffins into town for burial at St. Stephen’s Church. The bridge is thought to be named after Francis Birbeck who had his brewery at one end of the bridge.
With the town behind us, we continued toward the fascinating Nine Standards, a 4 mile uphill path.
The Nine Standards (nine 10′ high stone cairns) are quite impressive and can be seen from a great distance. Their origin is a mystery, with some thinking the standards might have marked the boundary between Westmorland and Swaledale and others suggesting that they discouraged an army advancing on a Roman camp.
Once at the top of Harley Fell (aka Nine Standards Rigg), the 360 degree view is awesome.
We thought this was a perfect spot for a group photo!
Not only is this an ancient site, it is on the east/west watershed divide: to the west, rivers and streams flow to the Irish Sea, to the east, they flow to the North Sea. Another interesting note is that we were just yards from leaving Cumbria and entering Yorkshire Dales National Park.
We were fortunate to walk across Hartley Fell in dry weather, since it is notorious for very boggy terrain where hikers had been known to sink up to their hips in mud!
We descended into a lovely, green valley crossing over streams and passing by grouse butts (blinds for bird hunting). A sign offering tea and scones at Ravenseat Farm attracted us as if it were a magnet.
At this farm we met Amanda Owen, a delightful, entertaining (and very pregnant) woman. She and two of her children, 1 1/2-year-old Edith and 3 1/2-year-old Miles, met us to take our orders. Not only were the scones and tea top-notch, but as we enjoyed our refreshment Amanda joined us to share anecdotes from her life as a shepherdess, mother, and wife. After much laughter we left, encouraging her to write a book. Later, trail gossip notified us that Amanda delivered her 5th child two days later. (Update: I have since learned that she now has 9 children and has authored 3 books about her life on the farm!)
Nearing the hamlet of Keld, our path took us near Wainwath Force, which we passed on our way into the village.
Tiny Keld mainly consists of a few B&Bs, a hotel, a camping area and some homes.
We stayed at the very comfortable Butt House (think “bird blind”) B&B where they prepared a delicious dinner for us.