There are 2 places called Kirkland within about 40 miles of each other, one is to the west of the M6 and one to the east. The one I was headed for is near Penrith. Unfortunately I didn’t check where I’d programmed my sat nav to take me and although I did know I was going just east of Penrith, somehow I was so absorbed in listening to Bag of Bones written and read by Stephen King that I barely noticed that I’d passed Penrith.
Once I’d actually arrived at Kirkland number 2, I was about 2 and a bit hours later than I’d intended to be so this had to mean cutting my walk time back a bit. The original idea was for a circular walk taking in Cross Fell and back to the hamlet. I parked near the church and made my way up the fell. Straight away there is a sign mentioning that the path is part of Pennine Journey, this is a reference to Alfred Wainwright’s book of the same name. AW made his journey at the end of August/beginning of September 1939. He makes scant reference to world events and that’s understandable given his surroundings. He takes off to walk a good chunk of the Pennines as far up as Hadrian’s Wall clad in what I would say sounds like inappropriate clothing and footwear. There are accounts of the hob nails coming up through the boots. He only has one handkerchief and is suffering from a cold [this reminds me of Victoria Wood sketch where the prospective medical student is being interviewed and is asked “what do you think Othello was suffering from?” to which she brightly answers “he might have been suffering from a cold”!] Despite the time of year, the weather is awful and he gets it all. The most annoying scene in the book is when AW turns up at a farmhouse where a flood has taken place. Instead of offering to help out, all AW does is demand cups of tea from a woman who clearly has enough on her plate already. This narration did not endear me to AW but his walk probably did inspire and helped to lead to the formation of the Pennine Way in the 1960s.
My walk was just a fragment of AW’s. The route up the flank of Cross Fell is mostly along the Corpse Road. I felt really sorry for the poor people and more likely the poor horses who would have had to carry coffins up this track, the track is good in a lot of places particularly as far as the old mine workings but where it disappears it goes into deep bog. I managed to keep out of this and navigated my way through it but it wasn’t very delightful.
Although Cross Fell is high at 893 metres, it never feels as if you are climbing up a mountain, there are no steep sections, everything rises gently. It took me 2 hours and 20 minutes to reach the top. The top is a very broad plateau and on a lovely day would give views to Scotland, all the Lake District and so on. On a not very lovely day, it was just very cold (still some snow lying about) and very windy. I saw 7 people on my travels, 2 pairs of geezers, and 3 fell runners.
At the top I wolfed down the remains of my lunch and decided to return the way I had come, this was my compromise due to the reduced amount of time at my disposal. The weather was coming in and I found I didn’t really like Cross Fell very much, it had felt like a battle to get up it and so all I wanted to do was to get down.
I got back to the car in a record 1 hour and 40 mins which was nearly half the time it had taken me to get up. Partly this was because there were lots of long grassy sections which were virtually rock free and gently sloping, this enabled me to run for as long as they lasted so although I’m not a fell runner by any means and doing this with big boots and rucksack was not ideal, it was great fun and very liberating. I’ve run 3 times a week for a year and it feels like it’s really paid off and I was impressed with my stamina. I managed to avoid the bog on the way back down by sticking more rigidly to the Corpse Road. So even though it’s not quite long enough to qualify as a QMD, I would still say this was one as it was challenging, involved some navigational techniques and I learnt some things about myself.
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