Too much wine last night. Not masses too much, just that extra glass that makes you feel a bit jaded. Or maybe it is the weather which is overcast and threatening.  The hostel provides breakfast cereal which I take advantage of. The YHA is franchising out some hostels and this is one of them. And it seems much better than the official ones have become.
      To start off I walk through the rest of Kirkby Stephen which proves to be as pretty a wee place as it is well provided with shops and chip-shops. What it doesn't have is an open gear shop.

The sign in the shop says it opens at "nineish" and I don't want to wait for anything so vague. As I turn off the main road on the road to Soulby it begins to rain. I shelter under a tree until it eases though it doesn't stop. And at this point I make a major error, because I don't take the chance to put my overtrousers on.

At first this is not a problem. I am on a moderately busy road but it is pleasant enough walking, with the lush countryside around me. It is clear that I am back in the lowlands here. The Eden valley has widened out so that, in these weather conditions I cannot even see the hills that almost surround me.

I don't want to road walk too much today but this lowland country makes for short irregular footpaths and not too many on my route are helpfully placed. There is an old railway line that I could use marked on the map but it doesn't say if it is a path these days.

The verges here are also studded with wilflowers but they have changed. Lots of harebells now and few if any orchids, plus some large lily like flowers that I don't recognise at all.

It starts to rain again and I take shelter under a tree but soon set off and get caught because the rain increases as soon as I set off. I get to the old railway and it is a footpath. But it is so overgrown and the foliage is so sodden that I decide against it. My boots are already feeling damp and my trousers are soaking.

So I carry on up the road until there is a by way I can take to get me away from traffic. This starts out fine but after a while the grass and nettles start to choke the path and I get even wetter. Still, nothing to do but persevere and persevere I do until I come to a railway bridge.

This stams me good and proper. The reason that I needed he gear shop is that yesterday I sat on my map case for a break and then got up and left it somewhere on the The Lady Anne Highway.  This meant my map got soggy when the rain came on. The one thing that they did not have in Kirkby was an open gear shop and the coop did not have any decent plastic bags to use as a substitute.  So every time I get the map out it gets wetter and wet maps are not a good idea. This one is starting to fall apart already in and I have only just set out. However I eventually work out that I must have missed the actual turn off to the by way and took a second one instead, crossing the track I wanted just before it got really overgrown.

Nothing to do but back track. Well I consider trying to scramble up to the railway but there is no way to do this without climbing barbed wire fences that I can see. So it is back to the cross roads and on along the right track this time. This leads through more wet foliage to a stream with stepping stones.

After which it is a short walk into Soulby. The rain has been coming off and on but when I get to Soulby it is definately on again so I take shelter in the porch of a little church which seems to be for sale. There is no seat but at least I am out of the rain and can ponder my map without making it more likely to disintegrate altogether.

I have been considering the options here for weeks and spent a good deal of time last night trying to make my mind up. But vacillition and indecision have won the day and I am still having trouble deciding. If it was a decent day I am sure a really lovely walk could be constructed from these footpaths and by ways. But it isn't. And my experience off road so far today has not been great. So I decide to keep it simple and follow the road until there is a nice clear by way I can take.

The road is very straight but, fortunately, fairly quiet and most of the traffic that there is is not too fast. It is a little strange because although dead straight it dips and climbs out of a succession of very steep sided little mini-valleys. At one point, when the cloud is kind, I get a glimps of a conical hill in the far distance. Dufton Pike! I think (later I conclude that it isn't Dufton Pike but another of the group of conical hills that fringe the North Pennine Escarpment) but of Cross Fell and the rest of the high escarpment there is no sign. Cloud envelopes them completely.

I find my by-way with no problems this time and it proves to be a good one. A nice wide, well surfaced track that takes me up a hill and then through some woodland before, rather surprisingly, running into the yard of a large house.

A sign proclaims that this is an activity centre and the track joins a little road by means of a ford, and I negotiate my second set of stepping stones of the day, with care because these ones are wet and slimy.

The little road takes me into Great Ormside where a footpath takes me out again. I get a bit confused after going under the railway, but no great detour this time.

I find the right path and take a greenway then a path through pastures until a deep gill taked me down, then up some woods that line the steep banks of the Eden.

The part of the walk would be delightful on a dry day. The last leg of this walk, when the whole country needed rain, would have been ideal. In wet conditions it was another matter. Red clayey mud made the steep descents and traverses treacherous. And I am feeling pretty rough. The hangover has cleared but my knees were not liking all the fighting vegetation even before this slithering around and they are not happy.

Eventually, though, some steps take me down the steep slope to the river bank and I started to enjoy the walk as much as such a lovely path deserved. It goes in and out of trees, sticking closely to the river, before I emerge by a rather ugly, modern footbridge on the edge of Appleby.

Appleby is much bigger than Kirkby Stephen and part of my rationale for not waiting until the gear shop there opened was that there was bound to be somewhere in Appleby that I could buy a map case. So I trudge, more wearily than I should have been at lunch time, up a road called a wiend and find myself on the top of a hill leading down to central Appleby.

There is an excellent local bakers and I buy myself some pies and cake. Fortunately the rain has stopped again so I find a seat overlooking the river Eden and have lunch. Then I set off in search of a gear shop. There is none. The best I can do is to get some plastic sandwich bags from a friendly lady in a pound shop. She assures me that her son has taken the same sort to Corsica where he is doing a long distance walk.

I don't doubt her but I do not suppose that he will try to use them for map cases, or that, in July you would really need a map case in Corsica. When I spent a couple of months there I don't remember it raining once.

Oh well. I am in very good time so I stop at an upstairs cafe that overlooked the bridge for a liesurly cappuccino.

Setting off again, knees still creaking and feeling far from energetic I came across a signpost that struck fear into my heart. Dufton 8 Miles it said? I looked at the map again. I was planning to go more than halfway by road. As far as I could tell it was three kilometers or so. How could it possibly 8 miles?

I trudge off damply up a fairly big but not very busy road, taking an underpass beneath the main road to Scotch Corner and Penrith. Now I can definately see Dufton Pike ahead. Still no sign of Cross Fell in the clouds though.

I see what looks like a church across the fields but there is no church marked on the map. Rather there is something called Brampton Tower, which a later google reveals is known locally as "Cuckoo Castle."

A Bit more road and a track leads me to a footpath. This in turn becomes a dry stone wall enclosed green way with good views of the Pike though no sign of Dufton itself.

But soon the track arrives at Dufton Ghyl Wood and a sign announces that this is another Woodland Trust wood. Again I have to take a muddy track down a steep incline. I cross the stream and guess which is the best way up again because Dufton Ghyl is a thickly wooded ravine that bounds the south of Dufton.

I plod up wearily. Too wearily indeed for the amount of walking I have done today, even allowing for unhelpful weather. I am in good time so it is not so much today that worries me but the fact that I have the hardest day yet coming tomorrow.

Fortunately, as soon as I get to the top of the steps I find myself between two houses. I am in Dufton and the YHA is only a few meters from the place where I emerge, dripping and half-exhausted.



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