An interesting and enjoyable ramble visiting Birkett Hill and Long Rigg, two unheralded hills to the east of Kirkby Stephen.
|Parking:||Roadside parking in Hartley|
|Route:||Download Route [GPX]|
To the east of Kirkby Stephen, between the village of Hartley and Nine Standards Rigg are two hills, Birkett Hill and Long Rigg that caught my eye while poring over the OL19 map one evening. This was a while ago but when these same two hills made it on to the list of Fours (hills over 400m with 30m prominence) I knew I'd have to go and climb them sooner rather than later.
Due to family commitments I didn't get to set off from home until 3.30pm in the afternoon so it wasn't until nearly 5pm that I arrived in Hartley. Due to the limited time I'd have I decided to start in this attractive one street village rather than Kirkby Stephen in order to save a bit of distance.
"Climbing the grassy slopes of Little Longrigg I came across yet more mountain pansies as well as a solitary early purple orchid - the first I've come across on my walks."
Following the road south out of the village I climbed up the road a short way before turning off to the right on a permissive path that has been created by the Northern Viaduct Trust. Following the line of the former South Durham and Lancashire Union Railway the path took me across first Merrygill Viaduct and then Podgill Viaduct. The latter was particularly impressive when seen from the signposted viewing area at the northern end of the viaduct.
Shortly after crossing Podgill Viaduct I left the course of the railway on a path that crossed a couple of pastures before dropping down into the woods of Pod Gill. I hadn't gone far when I came across a sign saying the footpath had been closed due to erosion of the path following flooding. I could clearly see that there had been a landslide but there was also a trodden path which seemed to avoid it so I decided to press on.
I was glad I did because the woods in Pod Gill are quite lovely with an abundance of bluebells and wild garlic. Ewbank Scar is also a fine feature which I remembered from a walk I did up on to Nateby Common and Nine Standards Rigg back in 2008. The weather on that occasion was absolutely wretched and I began to feel a sense of deja vu when it began to rain quite heavily as I exited the woods.
It continued to rain as I made my way around the foot of the lower of the two Birkett Hills and on to the house at Ladthwaite. From the house I followed its access road up to the end of Birkett Lane. From the road end it was a short but steep climb on grass to the top of Birkett Hill. After a brief respite it began raining again almost the moment I reached the summit. Hoping that the showers would soon clear I sat down on the top for a soggy snack.
Thankfully the sun soon began to break through the clouds and I was able to enjoy some fine views over the Eden valley. Closer to hand I was thrilled by the large quantities of mountain pansies to be found on Birkett Hill's summit area.
From Birkett Hill I descended north to the col with Long Rigg, here I had to cross a barbed wire fence, the only real obstacle I encountered on the walk. Climbing the grassy slopes of Little Longrigg I came across yet more mountain pansies as well as a solitary early purple orchid - the first I've come across on my walks.
As I neared the top there were some glorious patches of sunshine as well as a quite spectacular rainbow above Moudy Mea to the north-east. The view from Long Rigg was really quite spectacular and included the eastern fellside of the North Pennines, Wild Boar Fell, the Howgill Fells and, on the far side of the Eden valley, the outline of the Blencathra and Skiddaw in the northern fells of the Lake District.
In order to return to Hartley I walked north-east to reach a gate that provided access to the Fell Lane track. Reaching the end of a country road I then took a series of paths past the houses at Cote Garth and Whingill for an easy conclusion to the walk.
I think it is fair to say that both hills, both in features and views, far surpassed my expectations. Just when the weather looked like it was going to spoil the walk it redeemed itself and the evening sunshine I enjoyed for a brief spell on Long Rigg really did help to make this walk.