Date - 31st March 2009 Distance - 11.5 miles
Map - OL19 Start point - Road end above Hartley (NY 799075)


Summits Achieved

Name Height (ft) Height (m) Grid Ref
Nine Standards Rigg 2173 662 NY 8254 0611
Brownber Head 1959 600 NY 8441 0678
Tailbridge Hill on Nateby Common 1795 547 NY 8030 0538



Uncle Bob had brought his caravan over to Hawes for a few days. Yesterday, Dad and Uncle Brian had met him and Aunt Ann in Settle before going on to Elaine’s at Feizor for an excellent lunch. A nice time they all had too.

What pleased us though, was that when Dad got home he told us he had arranged to walk with Uncle Bob today. He said that finally we were to climb the hill called Nine Standards Rigg. It is so called because of the nine large cairns near its highest point.

It promised to be a long day so we went to bed early to make sure we were properly rested and ready for the off in the morning.


The Walk

Up the M6 we went and then along the road that had once been a railway line before climbing up and over to the nice town of Kirkby Stephen. On a narrow road we then passed through the hamlet of Hartley and followed it for a while until it petered out at a track. We arrived first and looked around while we waited for Uncle Bob. It was a misty morning and we were destined to be under the clouds for about two thirds of the walk, but eventually it did all lift and we had blue sky and sun.

We snuggled in the rucksack and off we went along the clear track. In a short distance a gate was reached and just beyond was this impressive seat with the legend "Rest a while". So they did!

The seat is actually dedicated to the memory of a Brian Saunders 1947 – 1999.

Following the track in the left of the picture, we were soon enveloped in the low cloud. The track climbed gently to reach a clearly signed junction.

As you can see we were actually now on part of the long distance Coast to Coast Walk. This starts at St Bees Head in Cumbria and ends at Robin Hoods Bay in Yorkshire.

This was our route, the path ascending via Faraday Gill. As we climbed up a number of cairns marked the route. Here Uncle Bob checks the map by one of them.

A very boggy area was reached by a stream that thankfully had a bridge to allow progress. This one comes too with its own resident grouse.

The path wound on climbing steadily but not steeply and suddenly the cairns came into view looming out of the mist. Two small cairns either side of the path form a gateway.

It was so disappointing that it was misty as we were not able to fully appreciate them, nor was Dad able to get a decent picture. We now had to walk out to another fell and then return here, so we could only hope that the cloud might have lifted. Dad did take our picture sitting on what is probably the largest of the nine.

As you can see this is in remarkable condition, due to the fact that it and four others were rebuilt in 2005. Dad has recently read a book about the cairns, by Stephen Walker, in which he attempts to establish how long they have been there. They are mentioned in documents dating back a few centuries, but it is not known exactly when they were first erected. Some of these documents are the result of what were called "perambulations". This was when the agents of landowners’ would ride around the boundaries of the estates meeting with adjoining landowners’ agents. This ensured that all knew the extent of their respective lands. Some of the boundaries crossed "watersheds", that determined where the water would flow into streams and eventually to form rivers. In the ancient documents the phrase "As Heaven Water Deals" was used instead of watershed. We think this is quite a wonderful description.

That said, we'd better get back to the adventure. The cairns are not actually at the summit, so we took the path south to reach this. First we passed the viewpoint erected by the Kirkby Stephen Fell Search Team. Just a shame we could not see the features in all directions described on it. Then in short order we were at the summit marked by a trig point. Picture time!

It was to Brownber Head now. Access to this "top" is a long way in any direction but this was about the best way to approach. The route is totally trackless and it was made more difficult by the mist as we could not see it. It was just as well that Dad and Uncle Bob had their new GPS devices to point the way. Setting off we headed for a particular feature on the ground ahead. From here in the same direction we thought, but Uncle Bob said we must swing left. Just shows how disorienting it can be. A number of peat hags had to be crossed, but Dad and Uncle Bob are experts at this, such are the number they have had to surmount in the past. A sheepfold that was marked on the map was reached, so we were about halfway. By now we could see the land rising ahead to the summit and a steady trudge soon brought us there. It is flat and featureless but using the GPS we were able to home in on the spot height marked on the map.

"Well" we said, "not a top we will want to return too".

This however was not to be the case, as we have a strange story to relate. As well as the flag you should note that behind us is Dad’s stick well planted into the ground. Before setting off a snack was had and Dad phoned Uncle Brian to see if he was OK. Then we jumped in to the rucksack starting to retrace our route. After about 200 yards Dad suddenly realised he had forgotten his stick. We think that sometimes he would forget his head if it were not attached to his neck! He agreed with Uncle Bob to meet at the sheepfold, and headed back to the summit. The mist had closed in again and Dad actually walked past, but the GPS guided him to the exact spot. We knew we were there because just in front of us, out of the picture was a tiny pool of water. To everyone’s surprise though there was no stick. Dad cast about a bit, but to no avail. There were no other people around; in fact we were to see no other walkers at all today. What a mystery and we dearly wished that our Hug detective Padlock Homes was with us to solve it, but he was busy with Ruskin on another case.

Well Dad is pragmatic, and decided not to waste any more time, so walked off to meet Uncle Bob. It would not be a great deal of money to replace it, and in these tough times he would be helping the economy. Uncle Bob could not believe the disappearance of it either, and despite Dad’s protestations insisted on returning to the summit (so you see we went three times!) The end result however was still the same, and so the "Legend of the Phantom Stick Stealer of Brownber Head" was born.

The only upside, was that it gave time for the weather to improve and the mist to clear. This enabled us to see the Nine Standards in all their glory. A magnificent sight.

Now there was just one more summit to reach today. There was a long descent off Nine Standards Rigg passing by the remains of a building above Rollinson Gill.

Then down to the gill, across close to the head of Dukerdale and rounding a wall before climbing to the large cairn on Tailbridge Hill. This marks the summit of Nateby Common. We have appeared enough today, so here is Dad striking a good pose by the cairn. The day had improved significantly and magnificent views were enjoyed from here.

Photo Bob Woolley (Uncle Bob)

At the end of 2006 Uncle Bob and Dad decided to set a goal of climbing to all the summits in the Yorkshire Dales. Dad found on the Internet a list of 75, and today this summit was the last of these to be achieved. We felt right proud! Of course other tops have been found and a full list together with our progress can be found on the summits pages of our website.

There was a steep descent off the fell to a wall on the right that was followed to a gate. Through this a path was followed first up and then down to a house called Ladthwaite. Before dropping down there was a fine view.

A further half a mile or so along the access road brought us to the cars. We had been out a little under 8 hours. It had been an interesting and not a little mysterious walk. It was 17.00 and Uncle Bob needed to head straight back to Hawes, so there was no tea stop today! Dad followed Uncle Bob to Kirkby Stephen and then headed to the M6 and home. Thanks again Dad for another great day.


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