The plan today was to finish up at Thomas's in Lancaster for a meal of the excellent F&C from his local Chippie so we decided on a walk further north. Perhaps a tad too far north as we finished up with quite a drive up the M6 and then across to Kirkby Stephen to start our trek up Nine Standards Rigg. We had chosen our route from a Viewranger selection and so parked on the summit of the pass outside Nateby on the road that descends down into Keld and Swaledale. Although there was some good light to the west our fells were topped with a blanket of cloud. We had decided on Nine Standards Rigg high on the fellside overlooking Kirkby Stephen and the Eden Valley. It is actually the summit of Hartley Fell on the boundary of Cumbria and Yorkshire a few miles south east of Kirkby Stephen. The name comes from nine large cairns on the summit which is on the Pennine Way. Once nearly 4m tall the Nine Standards once possible marked the boundary between Westmorland and Swaledale. The origins of the cairns is shrouded in mystery although Wainwright suggests they are ancient and are marked on 18th century maps. The trig point on the summit marks the watershed divide of England, rivivers flowing either west to the Irish Sea or East to the North Sea.
Parking at the top of the pass gave us a head start with height and we had soon climbed up into the mist. The final section to the summit ridge involved yomping across tussocky, boggy ground; typical mountain marathon or Munro territory. Once on the ridge we soon found the trig point and not long afterwards the 'nine stone men' loomed up impressively out of the murk. After a quick, cold lunch we were soon on out way back down and pleased to have some views again. In the foreground were the Howgills and beyond them the northern fells of the lakes. To the north we looked towards Crossfell and Great Dunn Fell. On the way down, before reaching the car we made a diversion to the small summit of Tailbridge Hill.
We weren't due at Thomas's so called in at Tebay services for a cup of tea; there was a surprising good farm shop and butchery which amused us for a while. The fish and chips, as usual, were excellent.
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