We woke to a gray sky and ominously dark clouds that had settled on the hills. Dianne, our hostess at the Stone Cold Inn, made us a nice breakfast and packed us a lunch. We set off by 9:00, and followed the Dales Way path along the river to Barth Bridge. There was a wonderful fragrance in the air that I thought was camomile, or maybe Linden trees. Dentdale is a narrow valley, pastures on our left spreading up the hills, and to our right the river. Ahead loomed a dark fell, and the clouds were hovering, ready to pour down on us at any minute.
Just past Barth Bridge, we crossed over several stiles and found ourselves in a big field, spread with fresh manure. What a stink! No other way but through it. The path disappeared in the muck, and when we got to the other side, no gate, no stile, no Dales Way sign. We doubled back, our boots sinking into the soft, ripe manure. Nasty stuff. In the middle of the field, we saw that we had missed where we were supposed to have turned. Saw a gate gate leading onto a narrow road. By then our boots, and the bottom of our trousers were totally disgusting.
We stayed on the metal road for a while, starting up a pretty steep hill, always on the lookout for the Dales Way sign. Saw a sign that said “Footpath,” and seemed consistent with my hand drawn map’s instructions to “leave lane at foot of hill, and head for picnic area with view.”
The view was wonderful, looking out over the River Dee toward the Howgills to the north, half hidden in clouds. We headed down a very steep grade through the trees, and came out on the green of a golf course where several golfers were intently doing their thing. We scuttled by, hoping they wouldn’t notice.
Crossed the bridge near Abbot Holme and spotted a Dales Way sign that led off the road and into the trees. Then things really got confusing. The Dales Way sign pointed toward Sedbergh, not Briggs Flatts, and somewhere nearby the River Rawthey met the River Dee, but where? We weren’t sure anymore. We followed a river, and eventually saw a sign for the Dales Way and a foot bridge leading across what might have been the River Rawthey. Once across, we came upon the sewage works, and in the parking lot, Silke spotted a sign for the Dales Way and Brigg Flatts. Eureka!
Now we were in the woods, gloomy and foreboding. A couple approached, and said they had just come from Brigg Flatts. Following their directions, we found a tarmac road, turned right and with some stopping, and starting, and indecision, we found the Quaker Meeting House at Brigg Flatts, built in 1677. The front garden was lovely. We took off our boots in the entrance way, and went inside. The Meeting for Worship room smelled just like our Meeting House at Old Haverford, musty and old. Our Meetinghouse at Old Haverford was built in 1688, not long after Brigg Flatts. We ate lunch and watched a video about George Fox and the summer of 1652, when he preached in this area and “convinced” many souls. This was definitely Quaker country. What a coincidence.It was about 1:00 when we left Brigg Flatts and it began to rain steadily. We put on our ponchos, over our backpacks, and retraced our steps down the country road, looking for a Dales Way sign pointing toward High Oaks.
A welcome Dales Way sign, and we passed through a kissing stile, off the road and into a meadow at last. A gate opened into someone’s barnyard. Then up through the sheep pastures, along the path to Lincoln Inn’s Bridge where we crossed the River Lune, our final river of the walk. Now we were in the Howgills. Up the steep hill we went, through heavy wet grass that clung to us, soaking through everything, but cleaning off our boots somewhat. Up and down the hills we went, relying on my little map, with its hand drawn land marks. At the top of the next hill, we saw a Dales Way sign. Down through pastures and up another hill, and two farm houses appeared. One had a child’s swing in the yard. The other was white washed stone, with a barn on the left. Brameskew Farm, at last. The rain had stopped, but we were soaked through. James, our host met us at the door, told us to take off our boots, and hang up our soaking wet rain gear. Then he led us into the from parlor, where a nice fire was going. What a relief! We had survived, and our bags had arrived with our dry clothes. Thank you Sherpa Van.