The Coast to Coast, May 2010.

The Coast to Coast Index.

Day 1 – St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge, 16 miles.
Day 2 – Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite, 16 miles.
Day 3 – Rosthwaite to Patterdale, 18 miles.
Day 4 – Patterdale to Shap, 16 miles.
Day 5 – Shap to Kirkby Stephen, 20 miles.
Day 6 – Kirkby Stephen to Keld, 13 miles.
Day 7 – Keld to Reeth, 11 miles.
Day 8 – Reeth to Richmond, 11 miles.
Day 9 – Richmond to Ingleby Cross, 23 miles.
Day 10 – Ingleby Cross to Chop Gate, 12 miles.
Day 11 – Chop Gate to Glaisdale, 19 miles.
Day 12 – Glaisdale to Robin’s Hood Bay, 19 miles.


Part 1 (West). Coast to Keld.

Fool (me) on the hill (Red Pike)

Fool (me) on the hill (Red Pike)

May the 15th was upon us – Cup Final day no less, but I am ready for fancy footwork of a different kind. Accommodation was all booked (booked before the previous Christmas actually, which was a good idea as some places were already getting full back), and the guide-book bought. I went for the Trailblazers one but with hindsight I wouldn’t recommend it. Luckily I had all the OS Explorers too – these would prove invaluable. I also had A Wainwright’s little classic, but more for bed-time reading than for navigation. For a guide-book I’d suggest Martin Wainwright’s  – no relation – and with this you could happily dispense with the A Wainwright (sacrilege!?) and the OSs.

When I got to St Bees station that afternoon I was bushy of tail and polished of boot, the sun was shining and the air was fresh. And with dozens of others obviously with the same aim as me – some with more luggage than a Victorian empire builder – I wandered off to find my bed & breakfast to ready myself for the mighty adventure that whole world seemed intent on. Top

Day 1 – St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge, 16 miles.

Actually as I got into St. Bees and was settled in the B&B by about 4 or 5 o’Clock, and as the first few miles of the path take you out along a headland in what is basically the wrong direction if you’re intent on getting to Robin Hood’s Bay, I thought I’d get the first bit done that evening. So “Day 1” should really be “Day 0.25” + “Day 0.75”, but I’m glad I did it that way. There was still plenty of light and I would save a couple of hours on “proper day one” tomorrow, and was still back in the pub with plenty of refreshment time to go.

So, first things first – the psuedo-traditional pick-a-pebble and Irish Sea wetting of the boots. At this time of day I was the only person doing this, I expect first thing in the morning fights break out on the beach over the best pebble and you can’t move for boot-dabblers.

pebblewet boots

Just my luck though that the tide was out – a good extra mile round trip and we haven’t even started yet!

DSC02578The clamber up from the shore was steep enough, and got the lungs and legs working hard enough for me to know that the walk had well & truly begun. The views were nice from up here – even Sellafield in the distance looked picturesque.
pebbleThe walk along the cliff tops heading towards Whitehaven was pleasant enough, with the dip down into Fleswick Bay making sure you’re not let off too easily. A suitably windswept sign-post tells us that we’re on the right path as we carry on towards the lighthouse and foghorn station at which we start to head east – at last the right direction! After another mile or so the shadows were starting to get long so when I got on to the road heading back into St Bees I followed it. Pub(s), tea, bed followed that.

Up and away bright and early and feeling rather pleased with myself with my head start as I head off “the wrong way” out of town we’re soon find ourselves up Wainwright’s Passage. You’d think some would clean the sign! And then over the River Keekle. After a couple of small villages and the “Needless Bridge” we’re in Cleator.

I don’t think Cleator likes us very much as it’s just in the wrong spot to actually benefit very much from the hordes of Coast to Coasters tramping through it every day – and not actually spending much there.
The local shop is seemingly fed up with us lot asking for a walker’s most reliable form of long-distance sustenance! And without wishing to sound harsh it’s not the prettiest of places, and walking along quiet urban streets right past people’s front doors booted & fleecey-suited while the Cleatorians go about their daily business feels a little odd.

But we’re soon past the last of these unpretentious little settlements and out into the countryside proper. It’s a long steep climb up Dent Hill but the view over Crag Moor at the top is super. The rush of cool fresh air is bracing indeed. But here I encountered my first problem – blisters! Blisters already on the backs of my heels. After just a few hours! I couldn’t believe it – not ever half way in to my first day and I was beset with blisters already, this didn’t bode well for the next 180 miles! I couldn’t understand it – my boots were new and bought specially for this walk, but they were nicely broken in with lots of canal and Thameside walking. I’d recently walked 18 miles in one day in them with no problems so I reasonably thought I’d be ok on the C2C. What was going on?? Then it occurred to me – The Regent’s Canal and The Thames aren’t known for their inclines, but the C2C is and having just got to the top of Dent Hill I was wondered if my Brasher Hillmasters hadn’t quite mastered hills yet. So I attended to the young blisters (prick, squeeze, clean & plaster is my tried and tested method of blister treatment) and relaced the boots in a slightly different fashion so that the knot was an eyelet lower down, and hence allowing of more to & fro ankle movement which I figured might be more suited to all these pesky hills that I can see looming. It worked a treat – I was to have no more blisters for the rest of the way, well no more “normal” blisters anyways but we’ll come to the abnormal one later one.

Over a huge deer-proof style we head down into Nannycatch. Even steeper on the way down than the way up (a much steeper descent was yet to come, although I was blissfully unaware of this at this time), but the gentle calming babbling Nannycatch Beck at the bottom was very nice. From then on it was a pretty straightforward walk, with only the occasional friendly horse-rider for company, towards Ennerdale Bridge.

On the way we pass the Kinniside Stone circle – dating way back to the early 1920s! To be fair though it was actually just reconstructed then and apparently the stones are now how they were thousands of years ago. I thought I try to see what magical energies could be felt inside the ancient circle and if my bronze age ancestors felt a damp bum sitting here millennia ago then I certainly felt a connection to them. By the time I got down into Ennerdale Bridge my bum had dried nicely and when given the choice of a house of God or a house of public I opted for the latter. I opted both houses of the public as it happens. Then I headed back up in the hill to the lovely Low Cock How B&B, to be welcomed by a very comfy chair and a very radiant log-burner.

Mr & Mrs Bradley looked after us wonderfully, there was about half a dozen of us. And most of us not wishing to walk back down into Ennerdale Bridge dined on the farm – and some lovely home cooking it was too.
Every now & then with a such well-known and popular walk such as the coast to coast you get some – and I use these words advisedly – right idiots attempting it. Mr Bradley told us a tale of not so long he was expecting a guest who hadn’t turned up, a young foreign lady. Long after dark he got a phone call from her saying she was lost and all the info she could provide was that “she was near some trees”. Mr B set off on his quad bike and eventually found her. She’d set off from St Bees with no map, guide-book or compass and was wearing trainers (I think). Mr B put her in a taxi straight back to St Bees and told her to go back from whence she came. She owes him one. Top

Day 2 – Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite, 16 miles.

The good thing about farmhouse B&Bs is that a farmer’s wife always knows how to make good porridge – and Low Cock How was no different. Delicious and readying for a good assault on the first full day of the Lakes.

Ennerdale Water makes for an impressive view, although the water level was obviously lower than it should be. You can’t quite see in the photo but there was snow in a sheltered spot down at the far end of the valley even though it was already very warm. The walk alongside the Water was easy on the eye but quite hard on the feet – very rocky and steep-sided with a bumpy ride and a wet terminus should you slip. The clamber over Robin Hood’s Chair was very tricky, no wonder preferring forests. The mossy woodland towards the far end was very nice though. After passing through The Side, the wide flat valley bottom we cross the River Leeza – also noticably lacking in water.
Just over the Leeza the track passes though a pleasant shady forest. Here I met a chap coming back the other way. He was limping and didn’t half look angry. We stopped and chatted and it turned out that he had started off yesterday from St Bees, like I had, but already had a blistered foot so bad he couldn’t go on any further. He was wearing sandals now and showed me his blister – a huge monster of a thing, pretty much covering the whole side (or sole, can’t quite remember which now) of his foot. Very nasty indeed. He couldn’t understand it he said, much like me on Dent Hill, his boots were brand new, bought only last week! Unlike me though he’d not broken them in at all, just put them on straight out of the box and set off on a 200 mile walk. He seemed quite cross that his boots had let him down so. Clearly another one of the right idiots that Mr Bradley is so patient towards.
Another point of interest to LWDers that must be mentioned I think is that just here just inside a sheepfold as the path emerges from the forest was the only spot I had to improvise an al fresco toilet. I had thought I’d be going through such a process every day, but thankfully this was the only time. Not that it was particularly unpleasant mind you. Anyways enough of such necessities and on with the pleasantries!

At this point the path splits, the low route through the valley past the famous Black Sail youth hostel or the high route over High Stile. I like being up high, so despite Wainwright saying that this was the route for “supermen”, which I’m fairly I’m not, I opted to take the high road. The climb up is about 1400ft from the valley and was pretty hard going “It’s only about two White Nancies!” I kept telling myself. I’d sensibly remember to do the necessary map re-folding before I got to the top as it was bound to windy up there, not the best conditions to be faffing around with a big OS sheet. But when I got up I couldn’t believe it… there wasn’t a breath of wind at all. Absolute silence – you could have lit a candle quite happily. The views were astounding, worth every hot achy step of the way up.

On the left is the view from Red Pike, with Mellbreak ahead, Crummock Water and Loweswater beyond. And the Isle of Man and Galloway in the distance. On the right is Caw Fell and Haycock, and Scafell and Scafell Pike in the distance I think. The photo of the fool on the hill at the top of the page is from here too. I stopped for lunch on High Stile – the highest lunch I was to have.

Further along the ridge I was starting to get fed up with the seemingly numerous ups & downs, but worse was to come. When I got to Haystacks I wasn’t sure if I’d gone the right way or not… my Trailblazer book said some “simple scrambling” was required but all I could see was solid rocks. I couldn’t see any other way round, but other people were here too so I suppose it could have been the right way. Bad luck perhaps?

Anyways, scrambling over them wasn’t at all simple, and by the time I got Innominate Tarn which I thought might be a moving and thoughtful moment I was just very hot, rather bothered, and very tired and very wanting to be in the pub. I sat and rested a little while and took a couple of photos. But then more bad luck – I set off and after a couple of hundred yards realised I couldn’t find my phone! I must have put it down when I was taking photos with it at the tarn, so I traipsed back and looked high and low for it at the spot where I thought I was sat. Couldn’t find it anywhere! Bugger. Then I noticed a hard square lump in my shirt pocket… what it’s doing in there?! I never put my phone in my shirt pocket! Very annoying. But at least I had it. So off we go again. But they say bad luck comes in threes…

The guide-book says the route down past Blackbeck Tarn towards Honister was much simpler than the proper C2C so I opted for this one and started following a clearly marked path. But down in the valley it had completely disappeared, I couldn’t find any trace of it on the ground – and very marshy ground it was too. There were no landmarks to help my work out quite where I was, but to be honest I couldn’t really be bothered. I could see the slate workings above and just made a direct bee-line for them as from there I knew the way down Rosthwaite was simple. But this involved a very boggy march, and a very difficult scramble up a pile of slate spoil – never easy, especially with a huge JCB type thing doing its thing right above me. I didn’t dig that! As I popped up over the top the chap inside had just clocked off and gone, so I avoided having to be told “sorry mate – no daft walkers here!” not that he’d care probably. I was just glad to be back somewhere where I knew where I was. I still can’t figure out what happened between Blackbeck Tarn and Honister to this day. I’ll blame the heat – it was very very hot, and the Trailblazer guide-book – I’m so glad I my OSs with me. Surely no more bad luck for today at least…

Above we’re looking down Warnscale Bottom towards Buttermere and Crummock Water before dropping down and the right is a welcoming sign of knowing where I was in the slate the quarry! Not long for the pub now… I hope!

Walking through the slate quarry was hard on my sore feet and very dusty, hot and boring and when I got to the top of that brow I couldn’t believe how far itstill  was just to get out!!

It was a long long descent down into Rosthwaite, all along roads. My feet were killing me. And it was sweltering, and I was constantly being taunted all the way down by the cool and sparkling freshness of Hause Gill, bubbling and babbling just below the road. Cruel Hause Gill!

Once at the bottom and into Seatoller, just a mile or so short of my accommodation I saw a pub approaching. Oh joy of joys!! It was late afternoon but still very hot, and the tarmac surface down from Honister doing my feet no good at all. The voices in the beer garden and the smell of the barbecue were tantalising, but as I approached I saw a small note in the door… “Closed for private party.” Aaaaagh!! The cruelty and bad luck continues! But I was soon in the company of the quite eccentric landlady at Gillercombe (often to be seen with a parrot on her shoulder), and was soon freshened and in a more public pub. Said landlady was later to give me some very bad navigational advice… Top

Day 3 – Rosthwaite to Patterdale, 18 miles.

The previous evening the landlady armed with numerous maps, both paper and digital, had suggested that I could avoid going via Grasmere by taking a shortcut straight across the valley which would save me a good 3 or 4 miles. Which to me sounded like a good idea, and surely a local experienced walker’s advice should be sound as well. I should have asked myself why the normal route doesn’t go that way in the first place, but the temptation of a short-cut was too great.

The day was bright and clear again, and views up Borrowdale and from Lining Crag (Ivy Knott from Lining Crag on the right above) were very nice – it was long warm slog up though. The numerous waterfalls of Stonethwaite Beck below were not the most impressive they’d ever been – everywhere was very dry.
The path just seemed to keep going up and up and up… to Greenup Edge, which is probably a good 1500ft but again the views down Borrowdale were amazing (even when obscured by an idiot in the way).

It was very hot despite being quite high, trust me – I only ever roll my trousers up when it’s very hot! I suppose someone thought they were being funny by leaving the bottle of ‘Sambuca’ up there, but it’s just littering all the same. I inadvertently added to the littering here though as my watch somehow contrived to fall off at this very spot. I didn’t realise until much later – but I know it was here as a few later I was to meet someone who said he’d seen it by the ‘Sambuca’. Did he pick it up in case he met the owner at some point? No, of course he didn’t. It could be still there for all I know.

It was here too that I first met Mike & Alan, and Tim & Graham, seen to the left here. Pretty much every day I would set off earlier than them but at some point usually around mid-morning they would pace past me two at a time and be waiting in the pub later that afternoon. I walked on from Greenup Edge with two of them – I can’t quite remember who now – before telling them about my clever shortcut. I bid them farewell and headed off over Dead Pike, Brownrigg Moss and Steel Fell. Brownrigg Moss was the second and last bit marshy ground I was to encounter the whole way, and a couple of times went in ankle-deep. Pretty much the rest of the walk I had dusty boots rather than damp boots. The pic on the right is Thirlmere seen from Dead Pike.
The path was fairly clear, and marked on the map and when it did disappear into the marsh there were some boundary posts to follow. So far my short cut was looking very clever indeed. Although I’ve just noticed in my guidebook it says at this point “Withburn Valley – do not go NE down valley!”… I’m not sure where this valley is though, but maybe I should’ve taken heed at the time! Or at least double checked on the OS map exactly how the short would take me where it was taking me.

Suddenly I got to what seemed like the edge of the world. I the And it was quite clear that the path went straight down! It was almost vertical! I couldn’t believe it. No wonder no-one was else coming this way. It was actually the Pass of Dunmail Raise & the A591, with a nearly as bad climb back up Raise Beck on the other side. I looked for a friendlier way down by there wasn’t one, and I’d be buggered if I was going back. So down it was – but what was the parrot keeping landlady thinking!?

I think later on I worked out it was about 800ft descent in little more than 100 yards or so. It really was very steep – the bit I was on was steeper than the bit the sheep is on the above pic. I spent most of it clinging on to a wire fence trying to find ‘steps’ to get down. I followed a stream for a little while but when it turned into a waterfall I had to turn and clamber back up. I’d never been so thrilled to get to the bottom of something as I was when the valley floor leveled out. The whole descent, quick dash across the dual carriage-way and extremely exhausting, and with the hot rocky climb up to Grisedale Tarn was a very unpleasant couple of hours, and probably didn’t even cover more than a mile. The distance was certainly cut short, but I don’t think it made any difference to the time. This was the joint-most unpleasant bit of the whole walk (we’ll come to the other bit in a day or two). So my advice would be not to take this shortcut, and not to take stupid advice. But if only I’d taken my own advice and ignored the next piece of bad advice that I was to get in a couple of sandwich’s time…

Looking up Raise Beck on the left, and boy was I glad to reach Grisedale Tarn! I think that’s Dollywaggon Pike to the left of the tarn and St Sunday beyond.

Just after my tarnside lunch I bumped into Mike and Alan again who were having theirs. Here the path splits 3 ways, Helvellyn, the low way and the St Sunday high way. Like yesterday I was keen to stay high and said as much to Mike & Alan as we were discussing routes. “Oh!” said Mike “you’ll be heading up there then!” pointing up to Fairfield. Probably I thought to myself… it makes sense and St Sunday is in that direction, and headed off blissfull and ignorant up Fairfield. What a stupid stupid idea! Cheers Mike. Although I suppose I am partially to blame for listening to him and not looking at the map.
The clamber up over scree and loose stone was horrible, often requiring all four limbs! But like all big horrible steep climbs on clear days like this, the views once you’re up there almost make it worth while. Actually they make it very worthwhile, even if you’re not supposed to be here.

The views of Dollywaggon Pike on the left, and down Cawk Cove on the right from Fairfield. At 2875ft this was the highest spot on the walk. Well, the highest spot on my walk – as this was the wrong way. I think with hindsight that the figure in red is on the path I should be on – not that I knew it at the time, I just assumed that the unpleasantness of the clamber up was why there was a choice of routes.

The guide-book says that along St Sunday Crag “negligible effort” is required. The rocky outcrop on the right was not negligible at all, specially as it was pretty much a sheer drop on either side. It was now that I was wondering if I come the right way. It turns out that the right way joins the ridge at Deepdale Hause a little futher on, but I was up here now and there was only one to go – onwards! Actually I could have easily gone downwards at a few points, but this would’ve been very rapidly and wouldn’t have been through choice.

At least now the dramas were over for the day, but the walk along St Sunday Crag seemed to go on for ever, with many of those horrible false endings we’re all so familiar with. I think I counted 6 or 7, each more disappointing than the last. But eventually Ullswater came into view – below left, and we started to descend. And we descended and descended… and descended! I’m sure I was going much further down than I’d ever come up. It was painful on the legs, and sore on the feet.

Every step was hurting by the time I got into Patterdale – the steep descents are beginning to take the novelty of taking the high-routes like a hang-over from the fun of the views, although I was cheered a little by the red squirrels crossing sign (not that any crossed my path disappointingly), and was in the pub soon after – and shared my first drinks with Tim & Graham. They were in the Navy, and apparently if you’re called Graham in the Navy you’re called Tug for reasons they didn’t explain. This then caused their initials to be TW and TT, and so they called themselves the TWaTTs! Good lads, and I was to have to fun walking and drinking with them over the next week or so (it was actually more of the latter to be honest…) Top

Day 4 – Patterdale to Shap, 16 miles.

The photo below of Hartsopp Dodd was taken the previous evening I think as I walked up the path to the Greenback Farm B&B, who incidentally told me that they were either too far from Patterdale or that there was no where in Patterdale to eat and therefore I’d pre-ordered an evening meal there when in reality I’d much rather have walked back 15mins or so to the White Lion. Next time!

The start to the last day of the lake district was for a change a little cool and cloudy. The little hamlet of Deepdale Bridge was very quaint as they say, but the skies did seem to be getting less & less quaint all the time. Not as pretty to the eye I thought, but I’d quite welcome a day without sweltering heat. I’d miss the nice views stretching for miles off into the distance of course – but hadn’t quite realised that I’d actually be missing views stretching for more than a few feet!

Over Patterdale Common and across Boredale Hause the tops of the hills were disappearing into the mist, and as I continued up the long and steady climb up to Angle Tarn so was I! It was very blowy too – hence the hat-holding pose. Soon after I had to improvise a chin strap from a spare bootlace. And soon after that the waterproofs were on for the first time – not because it was raining from above but because the wind-blown mist was contriving it to rain from the side. One side of me was dripping wet, the other was bone dry. Once at the top visibility was down to just a few feet, Angle Tarn could’ve been any where!

Round about Satura Crag Alan and Mike emerged from the mist to catch up with me – as usual and we walked along together for the rest of the ridge, along with a few others we picked up in the mist. We marched on along guided by a well-flagged path and occasional cairns. By the time we got up to Kidsty Pike it had got worse and we couldn’t see a thing – including the path! We figured if we just headed due-east we’d be ok as we’d be bound to end up at Kidsty Hawes and Birks Crag somehow. After maybe 20mins or half an hour perhaps of pure compass lead walking we heard voices from out right and as we approached them over the grassy clumps we could make out some figures … who were on the path, which was quite obvious once you were on it. We’d be walking along for perhaps a mile or so only about 20 or 30 feet away from it and had no idea!

Apart from the mist the walk along the ridge wasn’t too bad. The descent down to Haweswater was most unpleasant though. Very steep, very rocky and very slippy. Our little throng of about 8 of us got very spread out going down here.
The walk along Haweswater was pretty long and pretty tedious really, not helped by the damp weather. It’s almost as if the displaced souls of Mardale didn’t want us there!
There were no red squirrels or golden eagles to be seen anywhere. I’d read that here was the most likely spot to see such fine beasts but obviously they were far too sensible to bother coming out on such a dreary day.

At the end of Haweswater is the pretty little prefab village of Burbanks, built for the reservoir builders. I stopped for my lunch here, and was passed again by Mike & Alan who’d had theirs along Haweswater somewhere. Mike was always moaning at Alan for setting such a quick pace, it quite funny – they’d be bickering like husband and wife! He kept up though, but I don’t know why he just didn’t let Alan get on with it and he’d see him later.
Passing through the Haweswater Nature Reserve we leave the Lake District which I suppose you could say is marked by Thornthwaite Force. Despite all hot ascents and painful descents it was quite a sad moment. We all knew that although there was lovely landscape to come we’d seen the best of it already. I can understand why some people like to do east-west and leave the Lakes until last, but for me having to pass – and be moderately polite to – hundreds of people constantly would annoy me muchly! So we bid farewell to the Lakes as the Yorkshire Dales come into view.

As I approached the very Dales-looking Rosgill Bridge I came across three lads who were camping and carrying everything with them in huge backpacks, and they weren’t looking like they were enjoying it too much. I can’t quite remember now who was looking confused at the guide-book, if it was me or them or both us. Or indeed who – if any of us – were unsure which way to go. We both had the same guide, but we noticed at this point the maps were slightly – but significantly – different. I pointed out that mine was a later edition, but this wasn’t good for them. It was for me though. We walked together for a short while and then I went my way and they went theirs – they watched me briefly the same way cattle do. I headed towards Shap Abbey, and after half an hour or so I looked back to see that they’d eventually bothered to come the same way.
Sadly it was getting on now, and I was tired – as usual for this time! The effects of the descent down Birks Crag had not worn off yet! And so into the relatively bustling metropolis of Shap, with its Co-op, chippy and wide choice (3 or 4!) of pubs. And also the charmless New Ing Lodge. But at least it was warm and dry. Top

Day 5 – Shap to Kirkby Stephen, 20 miles.

The longest day so far, but with the ups and downs of the Lakes behind us and with the rolling Dales ahead it shouldn’t be too bad, should it?
I had another nice early start – after the worst bowl of porridge I’ve ever had. I didn’t even finish it. I’m not saying I wouldn’t recommend the New Ing Lodge, but to compared to the nice friendly farmhouse or small urban semi-detached B&Bs elsewhere on the route this wasn’t really my favourite place o’ kip. And as it’s a big place, and room for a few campers too it was very busy in the morning, which resulted in a long spread out stream of us all heading off in the same direction – as I suppose must happen every day of the ‘season’. I don’t like being reminded that there were hundreds of other people doing the exactly same thing as me at the same time. Oh well, head down and head on to the first landmark of the morning.

The first landmark was a big cement works (or similar looking thing), but the 2nd landmark was slightly more attractive – the M6. A very quiet M6 too – but it was probably about 7am. They say that the M6, and later the A1 (or is the A19??) are one-third way markers. My, at times unhelpful, guide-book said that after the M6 we were to pass through “a muddy field with rabbits” – I’d never seen so little mud in any two weeks of my life, and there were no rabbits round anywhere, and then round a hill “with occasional tree left & right”. Very pally but not very useful.

And on it went with its chummy vernacular… I tutted to myself when it then mentioned “look for two isolated trees – one big, one small…”. Then I looked up and saw two isolated trees – one big, one small! I almost take it all back – these two lonely trees, in the above right pic, were another important landmark as there’s not a lot else round here to reassure you you’re not lost.

This is limestone pavement country, and I’m not overly keen on limestone pavements. For me it’s the reverse of most rural landscapery – it’s interesting to look at close quarters but flat, grey and dull from far off. And the novelty of this craggy unfriendly rock formation soon wears – limestone formations should stick to being underground! Quite why people round these parts use lumps of limestone pavement in their garden walls I don’t know – to persuade burglars to use the gate perhaps? Horses for courses – or pavements – I suppose!
And as were out of the Lakes now the C2C sign-posts could begin again, surely no chance of getting lost again! And this one could make a handy mono-pod so some self-timer posing…

So let’s do just that by the famous glacial erratic that EVERYBODY has their photo taken by. The TWaTTs showed me their pics later on of them on the other side pretending to hold it up – much better than my boring leaning idea. Take a tip if you’re reading this before you walk – push the erratic, don’t lean. Makes for a much better photo. And also don’t bother loitering inside an old lime-kiln – as you can see it doesn’t make a very good photo at all.
The scarf and fleece in the ‘on’ position is a rare thing indeed, these high windy moors of Crosby Ravensworth Fell made a nice chilly change to roasting sunshine that we’d had so far. And more of which was to come!

Having managed to miss Robin Hood’s grave, which I can’t remember was by design, having been not enthralled by his chair a little way back, or I just didn’t realise at the time – it would have involved a little detour – I felt I might fall flat as got to Fall Flatt Farm. But the friendly faces at Scarside Farm were a jolly little pick me up. Their two black labs bouncing up and down seemed to have energy levels the polar opposite of mine. At Friar Biggins farm the little lamb’s hunger levels were also the polar opposite of mine as it gingerly approached for a nibble. The unbearable cuteness of forced a little chuckle out of me and away he bounded. That soon someone would be tucking into him much more confidently than he went for my grass if too horrible a thought to bear. A tasty though tho… Anyways, we’re here to walk!

Past farms and barns and walls and fields and stiles and all that kind and trying in vain to see the stone circle at Orton Scar with no joy, we traverse more moor and eventually get to the interestingly named ancient but yet to be excavated Severals Village. Just on from here are the Giants’ Graves & Scandal Beck, in the pic above left. Hopefully these won’t be excavated soon – let sleeping giants lie I say! Shortly after here we see down the valley the lovely Smardale Gill viaduct which thankfully BR let lie too, although much against their wishes.
On the way up the hill here I met Larry and his wife (whose name I shamefully forget) also walking from one coast to the other coast – Larry was a huge fellow hence even with my lumbering gait I managed to catch him up. We exchanged pleasantries and walked along a short while, they were from Utah. He was amazed by the what he could see around him, “But Larry!” I exclaimed “you must have some pretty impressive scenery over there too.”
“Well, we do” he replied, pausing for a breath and resting on his sticks “but not like this – we don’t have these rock walls going all the way the mountains!!”. Larry was clearly – and rightly – impressed by the dry stone walling skills of yesteryear. And impressive they are, as seen below.

I bid farewell to Mr & Mrs Larry, and the rest of the day’s walk was long and not particularly exciting, involving a quite a few long straight roads.

But eventually with a stinging feet that I think came around this time every day I got to Kirkby Stephen, not an unattractive little town. I was amused by what looked to my vivid imagination a ramshackle caravan shop.

I was travelling very light, and carrying everything with me. I had one change of clothes, one for day and one for night – which could be interchanged if need be. By now my clothes needed a wash, and so did I of course, so why not kill several grubby birds with one cleansing stone. The above pic is titled “Doing the laundry coast to coast style, with tea.” Top

Day 6 – Kirkby Stephen to Keld, 13 miles.

Annoyingly despite a very long walk the previous day I didn’t really sleep very well. Not sure why – maybe I was worried about my laundry drying. Which I would have been right to do – as it wasn’t dry by near-morning. At least I could get up very early and check on the it, and then drape shirts & socks over light fittings to try to dry them out. But then was there no chance of me sleeping owing to me cursing these new confounded low-energy light bulbs!! Might be good for the polar bears but no good for drying my socks!

So after yesterday’s longest day, today was the shortest day so far. This has to be a doddle right!? Although there had been a fair bit of chat along the way about the terrible bogs up on Nine Standards Rigg – we’d heard tales of calves being swallowed whole and you’d be guaranteed of going in at least over the ankle/knee/thigh depending whom you were talking to. Exciting – and all in a day’s walking.

First things first, and let’s take a picture of Kirkby Stephen’s famous sign posts, with measurements in furlongs – even if there’s no furlongs to give. Please sir, I want some more – of these. Then on through the very pretty Hartley where Frank’s Bridge takes us over the Eden. It was already getting warm and the morning was still young. I sure even a fish was trying to avoid the glare by loitering in a shadow by the bridge… do fish do this?!

The climb up Birket Hill to Hartley Fell and long and steady. At first it’s on metalled roads and past a quarry but soon opens out into open land. And lovely it is, although it all looks very big and a long way to the top. Predictably Mike & Alan and then Tim & Graham sped past me up the hill and as the Nine Standards first came clearly into view they were already there.

And what a magnificient sight they are! The Nine Standards that is, not us lot!

I was exhausted at the top, it was very warm and there wasn’t much of a breeze up there. We had a few refreshments and a chat, and took the opportunity for some more posing with the Standards, and then we all set off in our own time. Naturally I set off last. No rush is there… certainly not in this heat there isn’t!

As I left the Standards behind and headed across towards White Mossy Hill although it may not look it in the photos above, it was sweltering. I’m not sure what the temperature was, but I’d wager in the 80s easily. I hadn’t seen or heard a telly or radio on since a glimpse of the Cup Final while wandering round Carlisle town centre nearly a week ago, so it could have been a heat-wave going on, or it could just be me being a pansy. Anyways, I felt very hot!

After carefully consulting my calendar so I could select the correct route (to minimise erosion, the need for which is obvious) I marched on. The promised Somme-like bogs were nowhere. Everywhere was as dry as a bone, I was at both disappointed at the lack of the excitement but there again pleased that this made the walking that bit easier. Mind you, I would have loved some rain just now to muddy things up a bit – and cool me off. To be honest I wasn’t feeling too great up here, and had to belt out some marching songs in order to keep me going. A marching song is whatever song you know the most words to at that particular time. I was pleased to pass a “well constructed pillar, made from millstones” to confirm that I was at least getting somewhere, and the guidebook told me I was heading towards a black hut. I saw on the brow of a distant hill a small square block-type thing with two figures walking by it. That must the hut in question with Mike & Alan / Tim & Graham with (I hadn’t seen anyone else anywhere around all day) so made a beeline for it, not taking much notice of anything really, just trying to take my mind off feeling rather dizzy. I didn’t need any maps right now – I just needed to get to my next target.

But disaster!! As I got closer to it I realised this wasn’t the hut at all, which explained also why I was now heading up hill when the hut in question wasn’t on top of a hill at all. I looked round and could see the real black hut clear as heat-hazy-day perhaps 400yds away. What a fool! And that was 400yds as the crow flies, and this crow would have to fly through some very thick long grass, but I went for it. God knows what I’d been aiming at – a grouse butt perhaps? And who were the people I’d seen – what kind of idiot is walking near the coast to coast if they’re not on the coast to coast!? Tut – some people!
When I got to the hut – the above right photo – which by the time you see it is now obvious, I completely flaked out with the heat. I crawled round behind it to try to get some shade, poured water over me, took my boots off and laid down to try to cool off. I felt like I was in Ice Cold in Alex, and getting to this hut had saved my life!! Very melodramatic but I was feeling pretty rough.

After a few minutes I was feeling much better and despite studying my map I couldn’t work how’d I been so stupid to aim for the wrong hut. I’d even crossed the path the real hut was on and wondered what it was! I’ll blame the heat. I didn’t really want lie around too long in case I fell asleep or seized up or something, so I pulled myself back together and soldiered on happy in the knowledge that it was all downhill from here and probably only 5 miles to go.. No problem now surely??

As I walked on after a little while I started feeling awful again, more in mind than in muscle. It was still very hot and I still feeling it. Thank goodness it was all downhill and fairly easy-going.

But when I came to the wooden bridge above, I remember feeling very wobbly going over it. I’m not sure if it was tired legs or me being a bit confused… but I definitely didn’t feel right. I knew I had to have another rest. Mind you, I managed to take a photo so I guess I wasn’t that bad!
A short way after that bridge I got to Ravenseat Farm, which normally sells refreshments and they have some picnic tables set up outside. I took my rucksack off, soaked my hat in peaty-brown water of the Whitesundale Beck, lay it over my face and fell back on one of the benches just past the stone bridge above. I was probably there for 20 or 25 minutes, the longest stop I took on the walk – I don’t think even food stops took that long as I prefer to do little and often when walking. I heard some other people come along and settle at one of the other tables. I couldn’t even muster the energy to lean up and say hello. I heard them saying the farm’s refreshments were closed today because off a funeral. And I think they were talking about the memorial to someone they knew who died walking the C2C a few years ago and is not far from here. Or that might have been someone else who came along after… I can’t really remember now.
Anyways, after a good long rest with a wet hat on my face I felt a hell of a lot better, much to my relief as earlier I was seriously worried if I was going to make it or not! I set up off again, still hot but not so bothered now.

I managed to have a lark around in some abandoned old Land Rovers, so I must be feeling ok now. I think this little bit of silliness helped perk me up a bit too. Again the rolled up trousers and un-buttoned shirt show how hot it was – there was no-one around to show off any medallions too! – these photos what with their clouds don’t really do it justice. Unless it was just me having a funny turn… I should really try to find out what the weather was doing in the north of England, 21st May 2010.

A little bit further on and I almost had a spring in my step now. I passed a farm and wondered what the tall thing door atop a some stairs was for… answers on a postcard to the usual address.
Before long I was down by the Swale and almost home for the night. But as you can see the poor Swale needed a drink nearly as much as I did!

Wainwrath Force was proving the old addage that waterfalls look better when they have water in them. Maybe it would get some sooner than we’d expect!

The last few hundred yards along the road seemed to drag on forever and Tim & Graham were already at the Keld Lodge with their usual ciders – one pink, one yellow – so naturally I joined them for similar but barley-based refreshments. By the time I got there I was feeling ok again, so my tales of near death from heat-stroke on the tops didn’t convince anyone. And after a couple of pints I was quite literally as right as rain, as all of a sudden and seemingly out of nowhere came a torrential downpour. It was still warm of course so we stayed outside under the brollies, with water streaming off everything all around us.

Now came the funny bit… by now we at least knew quite a few of each other and the ones who got into town / pub first would give a hearty greeting to the others as they turned up, knowing exactly where everyone else had been. But today there was only one destination really, and as everyone else started turning up here some of them decided it wasn’t worth putting waterproofs on, as they were packed away or that the rain would pass any moment. Some folk had foolishly thought there was no chance of rain and packed their waterproofs in the big bags for the Sherpa van people to carry for them. (Amazingly, I talked to a couple who had a fresh change of clothes for every night they were here!) It raised my spirits to see others getting drenched in the rain that I’d be wishing for earlier. The more bedraggled they were the heartier the greeting from us dry on the outside and a couple of pints wetter on the inside!

Then three black open top sports cars roared past, AC Cobras I think. We cheered and raised a glass as they went, and they sportingly raised a soaking wet horn-honk back! A wholly-pleasant end to a half-pleasant and half-very-unpleasant day. As the Keld Lodge was pretty much the only place in Keld there was a good atmosphere here that night, and we all had a nice drink. Top

The fun continues… with part two.



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