Where to go for #ghostcamp no. 4? The brief I had this time was, “Not in the Peak District.” A Corpse Road seemed like a reasonable idea, so we settled on the one from Kirkland to Garrigill. Not all the way though, but part-way. To Greg’s Hut for the night.
‘Corpse roads provided a practical means for transporting corpses, often from remote communities, to cemeteries that had burial rights, such as parish churches and chapels of ease.’
Snow had fallen over the previous few days and Greg’s Hut is high – over 2,000 feet – on the slopes of Cross Fell, which is itself the highest peak in the Pennines. We went prepared for snow, ice, manic winds and Arctic wind chills.
An 8 mile walk in and tough going above the snow line with all that gear, had us all feeling a bit worn out by the time we got there. Not to mention the fact that every single one of us (not the dogs, obviously) had carried 2kg of coal up, as well as everything else. At this point it was both dark and a wind chill of around -7C, so no tents were pitched, we all wanted to sleep in the bothy.
As it happened, some kind souls had already left a good supply of coal up there, but at least we replaced what we used.
‘The paths ended up being routed through boggy and marshy patches and over other difficult terrain, to put off anyone thinking of taking a horse and cart along them in the course of their normal daily business.’
James is an expert fire lighter, so the stove was soon roaring away, raising the inside temperature to about 6C.
Shortly after arriving, there was a knock on the door, and in came Sam. Sam had ridden/pushed his mountain bike up from Garrigill in the dark and the snow! No one is ever turned away from a bothy, so we welcomed him in and created some space for his stuff.
In the end, there were 5 folk and 2 dogs on the sleeping platform, and 2 guys in the other room.
It was great, we had a good laugh. The dogs were the first to zonk out for the night, quickly followed by Gordon, Sam and Geoff, and the rest of us not long after.
Pebbles is a Champion Snorer and three of us got a serious fit of the giggles listening to her, as we eventually bedded down. The tables were soon turned mind, as one of the gigglers himself turned out to be an Epic Champion Snorer, no names mentioned, putting even Pebbles in the shade.
‘There seems to have been a particular risk, if you failed to deal with the body correctly on its way to the grave, that the deceased’s spirit would make its way back home to haunt you. Some traditions, such as always keeping the feet of the corpse facing away from his or her old home, were supposed to help keep spirits firmly in the ground where they belonged.’
All in all, I didn’t sleep too badly. Islay woke me up a few times, fidgeting about and needing re-covering in her Woof Bag, but Pebbles barely moved all night.
We were all stirring around 8ish, James gallantly getting the stove going again as soon as he got up. It had stayed on most of the night to be honest, keeping the room above freezing.
The weather outside had warmed up considerably overnight, too, with a fair bit of snow having melted.
None of us were in a rush this morning. A slackpacking start had us all setting off together around 10am, but we split into two groups when we got to the junction where the Pennine Way comes down off Cross Fell. James, Gordon and Mike went up and back to the van via Cross Fell, Little Dun Fell and Great Dun Fell. Geoff, Dale and I went back down the way we’d come up yesterday. Although our dogs are definitely becoming mostly a delight out on the lead, the excitement of snow and ice to bounce in, roll in, eat etc can make it a little challenging and tiring in severe weather, so I wasn’t keen on taking Pebbles up into the steeper, snowier, icy realms higher up right on the summits at the moment. There are some conditions where you have enough on looking after yourself, without having the equivalent of a giddy, doggy ‘toddler’ to worry about as well. Geoff was happy to keep me company for similar reasons, and Dale was kind enough to keep us both company.
‘Walking along the roads, you might still see coffin stones where the corpses were placed when their carriers needed a rest, or crosses carved in rock.’
With the thawing overnight, the snow line was now a bit higher, with plenty of slush and water running off the fellside. Another dry day, with atmospheric skies and a hint of winter in the air.
In the end, both parties arrived back at the campsite late afternoon, within half an hour of each other. A couple of hours chilling, and we were all ready to continue the hilarity into the second evening, feasting on Geoff’s delicious chilli.
An excellent #ghostcamp. Not many spooky happenings, but time well spent with good mates. And one of those trips which was quite tough going at times, making nearly everyone feel worn out at some point, but at the end of it you really feel like it was worth it.
‘Ghost stories still linger over corpse roads, with supposed sightings of phantom lights in the night.’