Historic shelter restored to celebrate iconic trail’s anniversary

1st September 2014

WALKERS tackling the highest point in the North Pennines will be able to take refuge from one of the country’s wildest winds thanks to the resurrection of its peak’s cross-shaped shelter. 

The dry-stone shelter at the top of Cross Fell, near Dufton in Cumbria, has been falling into disrepair for decades but thanks to a working partnership between the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership, the Pennine Way National Trail Partnership, Natural England and Cumbria County Council, the iconic structure is now fit to protect St Augustine who was said to have blessed the inhospitable hill to protect it from evil spirits.

Over a period of four weeks, local craftsman Laurie Lambeth, owner of Lambeth Stonework www.lambeth-stonework.com , in Nenthead, led the restoration. Accompanying Laurie throughout were two trainees from the AONB’s Heritage Skills programme, Rob Brumfitt and Chris Goodier.

The completed structure now stands proud on top of the 2,930ft plateau, which has been built to provide sanctuary on all sides from the wind, snow and the vicious Helm wind; the only wind in the UK to have a name.

Despite not being a great safeguard against the fierce north-easterly gust in recent years, thousands of walkers use the shelter when walking the Pennine Way. And it was the iconic route’s 50th anniversary next year, which inspired the project.

Simon Wilson, Project Development Officer, from the AONB, who managed the scheme, said: “It’s the Pennine Way’s 50th anniversary next year and the shelter has been here as long as the route, if not longer. We are not aware of any records to say how long it’s been up but let’s just say it hasn’t been fulfilling its duty for quite a few years.”

The restoration of the shelter, which was funded by a grant from Natural England, was the brainchild of Steve Westwood, manager of the Pennine Way Natural Trail.

Steve, who walks the route which runs from Edale in the Peak District and ends at Kirk Yetholm, just inside the Scottish Border, at least once a year, said: “There will be lots going on next year for the anniversary and because of the special occasion we’re expecting higher than normal numbers of walkers.

And, as all of us who know Cross Fell accept it can be the victim of less than favourable weather conditions, we thought it might be nice to have some comfort for visitors both new and old.”

As part of the celebrations to mark the Pennine Way’s milestone, the BBC has filmed a three-part special to be aired next year.

Explorer Paul Rose is presenting the programme and, as part of his journey, the Vice President of the Royal Geographic Society visited Laurie, Rob and Chris at the outset of the rebuild.

Laurie said: “The Cross Shelter has been a very interesting, challenging and rewarding project to be a part of. The shelter has always been an important local landmark, and so was a privilege to have the opportunity of restoring it back to its former glory. We undertake all kinds of stonework although the location, views and significance of this build have made it a memorable one".

“The project has definitely attracted more media attention than we are used too, although meeting Paul along with the rest of the TV crew has been a great experience. Paul was very friendly and keen to get stuck in, he seemed to really enjoy learning some basic drystone walling skills, and with a little help he laid a number of stones that remain in the shelter now”

“It’s nice to think how many hundreds of walkers will benefit from the new shelter. Time and effort was put in to making the shelter aesthetically pleasing, although it’s main use is most definitely a practical one. For walkers who get caught out in the fast changing and unforgiving weather conditions, it could even be a life saver."

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 Laurie Lambeth