We woke up early and had “eggy bread” for breakfast, which is the British version of French toast, without the syrup. After breakfast, Fiona gave us a tour of the farm. The old stone barn and outbuildings were beautifully restored; everything trimmed in bright blue. We admired the chickens happily pecking and preening in the barn yard, and farther out, the sheep grazing in the pastures. Fiona and Chris were committed to sustainable agriculture, and had ambitious plans for the future.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t linger because the morning didn’t look at all bright. The path up to Cam Houses would be soggy, and the walk on the moors would be tough, especially if it rained. We set off along the gravel farm track that ran past Nethergill Farm, heading for Swarthgill Farm, which was abandoned. We passed through the empty farm yard and entered the Dales Way through a swinging gate.
Once on the moors, it felt like we were climbing up the inside of a bowl. Overhead the sky was a dome of passing clouds. The path was easy to follow, but the hillside was steep enough to make us edge our boots sideways to keep from sliding, and everywhere we stepped there were little streams and bogs, and wet rocks to slip and slide on.
As we crossed one of the stiles, we heard gun shots, and saw men and dogs swarming down the hillside.
“Is it hunting season do you think? I asked Silke. She was skeptical, but as we watched the dogs running wildly, I reminded her that Nethergill Farm had been built as a manor house for shooting parties. But what did they shoot? We climbed higher, picking our way carefully over and around the muddy, sloppy streams, and bogs. Despite the starkness of the moors, I loved the remoteness. After an hour, we came to Cam Houses, which was a cluster of outbuildings, and an old stone farm house. The backdoor of the farmhouse was opened and we stuck our heads in and “helloed.”
A woman came to the door and said, “Can I help?” We asked if there was a chance for some coffee. “I’ll make you some,” she said. We sat on a bench in the mudroom, drinking our coffee. Our hostess was making a big breakfast for the hunting party we had seen on the moors. She said there were sixteen “guns,” the men carrying the shotguns. The “beaters” scared the grouse so that they took to the air, and were shot. The men with the dogs retrieved the carcasses. She said last weekend they had killed 300 grouse. Ugh.
A few more miles of climbing up to Holme Hill, brought us to a sign marking the Pennine Way, and an old Roman Road. We watched a few sheep amble by, and decided to eat lunch beside the great cairn marker. The sun had come out and we were enjoying the view until we noticed dark clouds hanging over the hills to the north. Quickly packing our things, we started off and down came the rain. When it started to hail, we got out our rain jackets and gloves. This was the highest point of the Dales Way, and the weather was taking note. This was also a watershed – the rivers to the north would all be heading toward the North Sea.
As we crested the hill, a wide valley spread out below us, and across the valley marched the spectacular arches of the viaduct for the Settle-Carlisle Railroad, built in the 1870’s to transport coal from Lancaster, in the south, to Scotland. Off in the distance we saw a low, stone building standing close up beside the road – the Station Inn — our next stopping place. As we got nearer, the sun came out and the sky was clear and blue. A beautiful end to the day’s walk.