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Walking to the Nine Standards

November 21, 2013

The last time I walked up to the Nine Standards was in the very hot summer of ’06. On that day there were a number of Coast to Coast walkers and many were crowded around the old stone men.Nine Standards 028

On Monday last we had the Standards to ourselves. It was minus 5 degrees on the top of the hill and we saw no one until we began our descent.

We took the Coast to Coast route, first up Fell Lane and then out along the rocky track across Hartley Fell. The first bit is on a quiet country lane. When Nine Standards 020Wainwright first wrote his guide he used a path to the west, merrily trespassing. It caused a bit of a kerfuffle and he was forced to withdraw it in subsequent editions.

We climbed out of the autumn-tinged countryside and up into a frozen world of white, where every grass stalk was captured by ice. But there was wildlife; a number of black grouse and a very fat shrew.

Then up to the Standards: there is great argument as to their age and origins. Some have argued that they were put up to imitate an English army camping out on the hill, to deter invading Scots – a rather implausible theory. Others that they are boundary markers. They might be but there are a lot of them – more than nine – and of huge size.

This day there was ice and frost clinging to their stones. Being a beautiful day there was a grand view; the Howgill Fells, Wild Boar Nine Standards 022Fell, Pen-y-Ghent, Scafell, Blencathra, Cross Fell and the Pennines. An all-round vista.

But the old stone men, the Nine Standards, dominate the fell they stand on, like so many trolls turned to stone.Nine Standards 038

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 21, 2013 11:23 pm

    Keep looking at those from the train on the way beneath them! Still haven’t managed to get up there yet though. You forgot one thing in your photos – someone standing by them to give them scale…

    Your bit about Wainwright ‘merrily trespassing’ reminded me of something he said once about a farmer objecting to one of his routes. Apparently, he’d put in one of his books, a route which wasn’t following a public right of way that, at some point, you went through a certain-coloured gate. He met the farmer some time later at a talk and the farmer said to him that he’d fixed him and his routes – he’d painted his gate a different colour.

    Wish I could remember where I’d read it as it was much funnier as written by Wainwright himself.

  2. November 22, 2013 7:55 am

    Yes, I know the quote but can’t remember where I’ve seen it. I think its in the Hunter Davies biography. AW was pretty careless of Rights of Way – thank heavens!

  3. November 22, 2013 7:55 am

    Should have mentioned we walked from Kirkby Stephen.

  4. November 22, 2013 6:17 pm

    Unless it’s for a magazine article illustration,I don’t like people in the shots. I feel they detract from the grandeur of the outdoors and the mystery of antiquities.

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