We left Kirkby Stephen along the Eden river, walking through the little woodland to the hamlet of Hartley — strange how the names reoccur as we walk — and then the long pull past the quarry and up onto the moor. The guidebook, optimistic as always, described the climb as “not too steep” but our legs and lungs certainly felt it. We fell in with the nice couple taking their dog on the last part of their C to C — they are in the photo from the Shap day, climbing out of Patterdale. Chatting breathlessly, they dragged us up the hill until the paths branched, the lower for winter and the upper taking you across the Pennine ridge and the Nine Standards.



We thought about toiling up the high path to see these dry stone monuments — supposedly constructed to act as decoys to worry the army of Bonnie Prince Charlie — but decided the view from a distance was enough. In any case, we were in a world that kept switching between Wuthering Heights and Gosford Park, as ruined farmhouses and barns were interspersed with very expensive cars driving up the tracks to the moor.

Yes, it’s was grouse shooting time, and the vehicles were filled with Bungalow Bills paying 800 quid each to shoot grouse, dressed in their ritual uniform of tweed jacket or shooting jacket, London cords and a nice little hat. Add dogs and shotguns and Oscar would have had a field day. The great irony lay in the fact that we saw grouse by the hundreds, including a couple wandering across the path — but always where the shooters weren’t.


It took some navigation to find our way down to the moorland road, but a pair of parasailers enjoying the freshening wind marked our way, and even though the sunny morning gave way to grey mist, we rambled along and ate our picnic on a soft spot by the path.

We were lucky that September has been quite dry, so the bogs have not been a problem. In a wet year, you can sink thigh deep, which is not an enticing prospect we you have to plod your way home. The grouse were abundant, mostly black grouse up here, so our plod down into Keld was accompanied by the sound of guns and the cautious cack-cack-cack of the males hiding from the men and dogs.

The walk off the moor and into Keld was gorgeous, with the sun favouring us for the afternoon and an early shower allowing some down time. Butt House is run by Jackie and Chris, who have only had the place since May, but if the cooking stays as good as it was tonight, then they are bound to be successful. Because Keld is such a tiny town (although once upon a time it was a headquarters for the lead mines), they hold a communal meal for their guests; so we had a gregarious evening with two couples who were day walking, and a couple of English blokes we had met earlier on the track, who both come from Nottinghamshire. One’s a teacher who had done exchange in Albury, and both were members of the Barmy Army in recent years. Great fun, high quality food (Chris does a mean roast spud) and a refreshing sleep.

Tomorrow, we walk out of the high moors and the Pennines and across the old lead mines and workings. Well, that is the plan, because there is a voice saying that the river walk would be nicer. Me, I’d like to see lead mines that were used in Roman times and were a centre of the early Industrial Revolution… sic transit gloria and all that.

It’s nice to be here and not having to deal with the moral consequences of some of the Islamophobia that Rupert and his minions are putting around and the Tories in both countries are cheerfully exploiting. So much easier to bomb an unstable sect in the Middle East that to deal with refugees, Putin and climate change. Come on, Billy Bragg, we need another angry chorus of “No power without accountability” … all you fascists are bound to lose!