Sunday, 23 August 2009

The Village of Dufton

The village of Dufton lies in the East Fell side region of Cumbria, just three miles from the market town of Appleby-in-Westmorland. This is where the eastern edge of the Eden valley meets the bottom of the Pennine escarpment, to the west are the high rugged Lakeland mountains and to the south the Howgill fells. But, to the north the valley opens up, and this unguarded northern side has had such a dramatic influence on the fortunes of Dufton village. High above the village are the wild moorlands of Dufton Fell. Not only is this region designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty, but from those fells spring the rivers Tyne, Tees and Wear that, along with materials extracted from the hills, provided the power to drive forward the Industrial Revolution, a period that had such a dramatic effect on the development of Britain. This is a landscape that provides spectacular views.

High Cup Gill

Two of the most magnificent places in the whole of England are found on Dufton Fell, these are High Cup Gill and the Cauldron Snout.

Cauldron Snout the border between Durham and Cumbria

Both places have inspired artists to produce outstanding work. JMW Turner, arguably Britain's finest landscape painter was moved to paint both scenes when he trekked across Dufton Fell into Westmorland in 1816

Cauldron Snout Dufton by J.M.W Turner

He stayed at the small inn at Dufton, and while there he sketched much of the landscape around the village which formed part of his History of Richmondshire collection.WH Auden a central figure of English poetry wrote about Dufton, Dufton Pike, Dufton Fell, High Cup Gill and the Cauldron Snout in his poems and letters.

Dufton Pike

He referred to Dufton as perhaps the loveliest village in all England. But, it was the fells above Dufton that had such a spectacular impact on his writing. He describes those fells as one of the sacred places of this earth.
In his poem New Year Letter, written in New York during the war Auden expresses his thoughts about the north Pennines, which highlight his fascination and obsession with the landscape around Dufton.

Whenever I begin to think.
An English area comes to mind
I see the nature of my kind
As a locality I love
Those limestone moors that stretch from Brough
This is the symbol of us all.
There where the EDEN leisures through
Its sandstone valley, is my view
Of green and civil life that dwells
Below a cliff of savage fells
From which original address
Man faulted into consciousness.
Along the line of lapse the fireof life's impersonal desire
Burst through his sedentary rock
And, as at DUFTON and at KNOCK
Thrust up between his mind and heart
Enormous cones of myth and art.
Always my boy of wish returns
To those peat-stained deserted burns
That feed the WEAR and TYNE and TEES
And, turning states to strata see
How basalt long oppressed broke out
In wild revolt at CAULDRON SNOUT.

WH Auden From way back in the mists of time it seems certain that others would have made journeys across these fells, over ancient trade routes, as they migrated to the sheltered fertile land around what is now Dufton.

High Force, and water flowing from Dufton Fell

If in your lifetime you only make one long walk, it must be the same trek taken by the artist JMW Turner in 1816 when he strolled along the well trodden Pennine path. Starting at the waterfall in Gibson's cave and passing the beautiful Low Force and spectacular High Force and then to Langdon Beck, Dufton Moss, Falcon Clints and on to the magnificent Cauldron Snout where the River Tees cascades from Cow Green into the Maize Beck. Dufton Fell is on the left bank.
Then strike out towards the wilderness of Dufton Fell, with falcons flying overhead and the beautiful gentian at your feet. But beware, it is said that these ancient fells have their secrets, and the unfortunate traveller that is caught up there in the mist when the ferocious Helm wind roars may well hear the legend of the 'Cloud stealers of Dufton' whispered in that chilling wind.

High Cup Nick

On reaching High Cup Nick you gaze down at its spectacular glacial formed valley, and look across to the beautiful mountains of the Lakeland.

Nichol's Chair

Finally, walk onwards past the vertical rock pinnacle of Nichol's Chair where often a cobbler from Dufton was reputedly seen perched high aloft mending shoes. Then past Narrowgate Beacon where in troubled times a warning fire was lit to call the villagers to arms. On to Hannah's Well and Peeping Hill, then a gentle stroll along the Billy Beck down the fell side to Dufton village.
On the descent you see the impressive Dufton Pike, where in times past the villagers would hide their cattle from the raiding Scottish moss troopers, as they plundered the borderlands. There is a rather romantic legend that Dufton Pike is the burial mound of an ancient warrior hero. Various writers have stated that the sunset over Dufton Pike has the appearance of a mountain on fire.The rocks that formed Dufton Pike are, like those on Skiddaw, the oldest rocks on earth. Finally, passing the gates to the imposing Dufton Hall, the old manor house, and reaching the village green with its intriguing water fountain standing as a monument to the part lead mining has played to this area of the north Pennines. And now perhaps, a deserved visit to the Stag inn. Sadly, the village shop, that also served as the local Post Office for so many years, has finally closed. An unfortunate sign of the times that has damaged so many of our rural communities. Am delighted to report that the shop re-opened in March 2008.

History records a famous occasion when this trek was taken in the opposite direction. In the year 875 Bishop Eardulf, Abbot Eadred and seven honoured monks were carrying the sacred remains of Saint Cuthbert as they fled from Lindisfarne, which was being pillaged by the invading Vikings. Records indicate that the holy party were resting at Dufton when the alarm was given that the Vikings were nearby. The party hurriedly left Dufton, heading over Dufton Fell they travelled across this Pennine path to Cotherstone, 'St Cuthbert's stone', in Yorkshire, and finally to Durham, where St Cuthbert was laid to rest in Durham Cathedral. The little church on Lindisfarne has a wonderful life size carving of these monks carry the open coffin of St Cuthbert, one can easily imagine them being on that misty track across Dufton Fell.

And, finally......
It is claimed that St Cuthbert's bones as well as being sacred, also had miraculous healing powers. There is a legend, and poem, that suggest that the remains in Durham Cathedral are in fact not those of St Cuthbert. That fearing St Cuthbert's precious remains would be stolen the monks hid his bones whilst on their journey to Durham. They were able to substitute the remains, and continued on their travels. So, could the remains of Saint Cuthbert still be hidden somewhere on Dufton Fell?
And, is Dufton the site of King Arthur's Camelot? Some interesting and very impressive research by Richard Dufton, a professional historian, suggests that Camelot was indeed on the old Celtic estate of Dufton.

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