Across England on the Coast to Coast walk, part 7

We’re on the downhill slide, figuratively speaking, on our epic UK Coast to Coast walk. We’ve been on the road for 14 days, having traversed the Lake District of Cumbria. We’re now well and truly on the Yorkshire Moors.

My last post saw us leaving Richmond, the largest town on the route.

17--Leaving RichmondThis post takes us as far as Great Broughton where we spent the night listening to revelers celebrating a 40th birthday party.

Once out of Richmond we set off for a day of tramping through fields with scenery that’s pretty but not stop-you-on-the-spot-to-admire gorgeous. Pretty pedestrian, if you excuse the pun.

That maybe explains why we got lost, which added a couple of hours to our day! On autopilot, not paying attention. We should have followed the River Swale—we still don’t know how we lost it—and by-pass Catterick, an army town, by a very wide margin. Instead we found ourselves smack bang in its centre, scratching our bewildered heads. Fortunately a local put us back on track.

Roman Catterick signboardNext stop was Bolton-on-Swale churchyard—intended this time because we wanted to see the monument to Henry Jenkins, a local supposedly 169 when he died. Can you hear my yeah, right. The church in which he’s buried dates back to the 14th century. It’s worth a short stop to check out surviving bits from Saxon and Norman times.

From Bolton we were supposed to cut across a field occupied by a herd of steers and we had every intention of walking through them. We’d already braved herds of cows along the way, so we figured we could handle neutered bulls.

Err, no, we couldn’t.

The closer we got the more interested in us they became. It was when they started coming towards us our courage failed and we did a smart right angle turn, hopped across a stream, and fought our way through what seemed to be a never-ending patch of shoulder high stinging nettles. Were we relieved when we spied a fence with a road on the other side! Whew. Never want to repeat that!

Sorry, no photos of that experience!

I’m not going to say anything about our next B&B, Rawcar Farm, except that we didn’t want to leave the next morning. The photos say it all—those rooms are just the guest accommodation! It can accommodate two couples and as we were the only guests we had the place, and hosts Ian and Jane, to ourselves. Five stars all the way!!

Ian told us we would have been perfectly safe with the steers—which apparently have very curious natures, hence their interest in us—as long as we didn’t break into a trot. Run and it’s, as they say, all over Red Rover.

On from the farm there are miles of more flat land with the promise of the Cleveland Hills hanging like a beacon in the distance.

Cleveland Hills in the distanceBefore we reach them though, there’s the A19 to negotiate, which means dodging cars and trucks as you hare across the four lanes. That got the blood pumping!

To our relief—short lasting because we were soon puffing—we eventually started slowly upwards into the hills.

You know how sometimes it’s better not to know how far you’ve still got to go? This was one of those times. The road seemed to just keep winding and going ever upwards!

But then, hey presto, we were there. Park House B&B, with the hostess welcoming us with glasses of bubbly.

A comment I feel bound to make is that generally the B&B rooms that greeted us were all small. Park House took that to another level with just enough room to manoeuvre around a double bed.

Rooms are pretty smallCouldn’t fault how well we were looked after though. Dinner that night ended with the biggest and creamiest Eton Mess I’ve ever had the misfortune of having to work my way through. Felt thoroughly sick by the time I’d finished. But it would have been downright rude to leave any, yes?

About a mile up from Park House our walk the next day was broken by a visit to the Mount Grace Priory ruins. If approaching via our route it’s down and around a few logging trails, so it took us a while to find. But worth it.

Mt Grace Priory ruinsDid you know those monks’ cells we hear about were in actual fact more like small townhouses!  Two storied with small gardens.  These monks even had servants.  So no more feeling sorry for those poor chaps in what I thought were small, dark and damp, bare stone one-room cells with barely enough space to move around.

Mt Grace Priory monks' cellsLook at the views we had on our walk today; 12 miles of absolute as-far-as-the-eye-can-see beauty.

At the end of which, at a spot called Clay Bank Top, we rendezvoused with our complimentary ride from our next accommodation, Great Broughton’s The Wainstone’s Hotel. No-one would stay in the town if they had to walk to it; much too far off the track.

Wainstones Hotel, Great Broughton

Wainstone's HotelAnd that’s where we laid our weary bones to listen to party noises until the wee hours. Ah well, some you win, some you lose.

 

 

Across England on the Coast to Coast walk, part 4

Are you still with us? Dogging our footsteps across England along the famous Coast to Coast trail?

You’ll be relieved to learn that by this tales’ end we will have left the Lakes District and be on flatter ground.

But only after a harrowing 16 mile slog from Patterdale to Shap.

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

First there’s the short 7½ mile leg from Wordsworth’s home of Grasmere. As ever there’s scenery to die for.

Heading out of Grasmere

Heading out of Grasmere

It’s one hell of a climb out of Grasmere up to the mountain lake named Grisedale Tarn where the path diverges into several routes, two of which involve even more climbing.

This time, instead of feeling honour-bound to take the higher harder route on from the tarn, we cheerfully decide on the relatively gentle and downward slope into Patterdale, a walk of around two hours. Once there we head straight for the pub. Me for a pot of tea and John for a pint of the local beer.

Cup of tea at Patterdale hotel

Patterdale sits in a valley. A valley that RAF jets streak along practicing low level flying. We know because as we sat there contemplating the view and quiet two of them startled the bejesus out of us as they flashed past. After that bit of excitement we found our B&B for the night, an old school house decorated in the Balinese style. Have a look at our bed!

I seem to remember saying in my first post that we had two shattering days during the walk. Well, it’s a good thing we had a good night’s rest because the first is coming up! The Lakes definitely don’t want you to easily forget them!

After a lovely breakfast during which we were waited on by our hosts we were again on our way. Up and over yet another mountain, Kidsty Pike, one of the highest points on the walk. In the next photo I’m pointing in its general direction.

We know today is going to be hard because the guide book says so. It also says there are no villages, pubs, tea houses or toilets between us and Shap, our next stop 16 miles away. So, it says, be prepared for a slog of a day.

Kidsty Pike is the only mountain we have to climb and the guide book diagram shows the rest of the way is relatively level. I say relatively, because all of those little bumps in the drawing mean you’re going either up or down the entire way.

Kidsty Pike, the highest point in the original C2C walk

Kidsty Pike behind me

By the time you’ve scrambled, slipped and slithered your way down the shingly descent from Kidsty Pike to Haweswater Reservoir—which serves Manchester—you’re ready for a bit of easy travelling.

Forget that!

Haweswater Reservoir

Haweswater Reservoir

I couldn’t describe the next several hours better than the guide book so it’s over to its authors who say this is no …

… amble while spinning your dainty parasol … Soon you’re panting like a hippo on a treadmill high above the shore.

All while gritting your teeth because your toes are screaming from the downhill descent.

It’s at the further end of the reservoir we say goodbye to the Lakes District and start seeing the occasional C2C signpost. There follows several miles of fording streams, crossing stiles and negotiating bogs in lush lowlands before reaching the next landmark, the ruins of Shap Abbey.

Shap Abbey

Here you think, WooHoo, nearly there! You’re not. There’s still an hour or so to go. We recklessly eschewed the offer of a lift into town from some passing locals. No, we said, thanking them, but we feel that would be cheating. We must walk. Good grief, we thought afterwards, will we never learn!!

By the time we reached Shap, a long narrow village that pretty well lines the road, we were knackered and in need of a lie down.

Does it look like the sign is holding me up?

Does it look like the sign is holding me up? Believe me, it is!

As ever on this walk our accommodation had been pre-booked so it was just a matter of finding it. Which we did at the end of the village.

New Ing Lodge has a variety of room types as well as camping out the back. We were lucky enough to score the only room with an ensuite. At this stage of the game, lining up to use the shower and toilet would have been more than we could handle.

Next time we make it to the Pennines.

Across England on the Coast to Coast walk, part 3

We continue into the Lakes District with sometimes gritted teeth

It takes us five days to navigate our way across the Lakes District.

The weather’s at its worst for this part of our walk. There’s sunshine, sure—after all, it is summer—but the rain! There’s plenty of that too.

Rocky paths

Take, for example, our second day which took us from Ennerdale to Rosthwaite where, thank goodness, there was a lovely little hotel with a very comfortable room and good grub waiting. But first we had to cross a mountain. First we had to climb Loft Beck. I composed this about our experience scrambling up:

The second day in and the weather is foul,
we’re scaling Loft Beck and the wind it does howl,
what I would give
to be sure I will live,
is everything I’m carrying to survive.

The rain stings with little bullets of ice
that hit my exposed bits like pellets of rice,
it cascades down the rocks
soaking my socks,
I have doubts I will ever revive.

The wind roars and blows,
I can’t stem the flow from my nose,
snot flies to every point in the land
because I daren’t spare a hand.
All I want is to safely arrive.

Loft Beck

Grim, I was, determined not to be the one who slipped and needed a helicopter rescue. No, that was ‘fortunately’ someone else later that day. We heard about it at our hotel that night. The poor woman was pretty banged up having fallen quite a way.

Before beginning this walk we’d determined that if there was a choice between the low road and the high (mountain tracks) we were going to take the high. We reasoned we may never be this way again and we wanted to see as much of the scenery as we could.

Fine in theory. But when the mist hangs low and the rain is sleeting the guide book tells you to not be stupid. Besides, what are you going to see in zero visibility? Believe it or not we put in a couple of minutes debating, and felt that somehow we were wimps for not choosing the mountain.

Thank goodness for the several YHA huts along the way. Lunchtime saw us at Black Sail where we could sit in the dry for half an hour and buy a hot tea, coffee or chocolate. A big mug of chocolate got me! The little speck that looks like a tree to the right of John’s head is the hut. And the mountains we have yet to cross are behind.

Black Sail YHA

Once over and down the other side, which was nearly as hair-raising because of loose rubble, is an old slate mine that’s still in low-key operation.

Slate mine

Honester slate mine

The paths aren’t easy underfoot. We met people wearing footwear totally inappropriate for the terrain. Thank God, we muttered more than a few times, for good walking boots. I’d invested in a pair of Berghaus—the best, my UK son-in-law informed me with an impressed nod—and they were proving to be brilliant.

Paths that are streams

Here the path, awash with rain, intersects a dry stone wall and stile

It’s easy to get lost in the Lakes. There’s often no hint of a track and because it’s national park no signposting is allowed. To overcome this, walkers over successive years have built stone cairns to mark the way. Even so we wandered off course several times. Not too far, but enough to have us standing and scratching our heads while scanning the terrain for other walkers, which would show the way we should be heading.

And believe it or not, on those high peaks, in the middle of summer, you can get bogged.

Boggy ground

John went in ankle deep at this point. Unsympathetic me laughed and hopped across really quickly and only got muddy soles. The bogs aren’t always apparent and they’re everywhere. You can find yourself sinking on what looks like a firm grassy tuft.

Experienced walkers told us we were lucky. Most years the bogs are much worse and much more widespread. but early good weather had dried out a lot.

That day was a 16½ mile slog. But don’t get me wrong. We were glad to be there and the overnight stay in the Scafell Hotel at Rosthwaite revived us.

Scafell Hotel at :Rosthwaite

The next day was an easy 8½ miles to Grasmere, Wordsworth’s home for nine years and where he’s buried.

And it doesn’t get any lovelier than this!

The day was gorgeous so we took the high level route to Helm Crag which is the last peak before Grasmere and overlooks it.

The ridge walk via Helm Crag

It’s a relief to reach the bottom as it’s not an easy descent—were any of them!—and find yourself in Lancrigg Woods taking the Poet’s Walk into the village. The guidebook describes how:

Wordsworth’s sister Dorothy would sit at this spot while her brother walked up and down composing verses.

We could see why. It’s beautiful.

Next time: We say goodbye to the Lakes District.

Across England on the Coast to Coast walk, part 2

Across England on the Coast to Coast walk part 2

Well … today’s the day.

The first of 18 that see us walking from the west coast of the UK to the east coast. Through Cumbria and Yorkshire. Following Alfred Wainwright’s famous Coast to Coast walk.

The start

It’s been organised for us, so all we have to carry are our backpacks. Luggage will be transported between our nightly accommodation.

We’ve got B&Bs, hotels and farm stays lined up, some in the middle of towns, some in the middle of nowhere, and we’re looking forward to them all.

Recommended backpack inclusions are emergency medical supplies, water, lunch, snacks, raincoat, and little shovel/wipes/plastic bags for if you’re caught short.

It doesn’t take long—an hour or two on the road—to realise that’s WAY too much. In subsequent days we reduce it to band-aids, water and the minimum amount of food we think we’ll need.

As for being caught short—just make sure you do your ablutions before you head off in the morning and you can ditch the shovel etc as well.

Oh, and make sure your backpack is lightweight and waterproof—because if rain doesn’t soak it your sweat will.

But all that knowledge is in the future. Today we fortify ourselves with a full English breakfast (part of the package) and sandwiches packed by the B&B host.

Then it’s off and into the great outdoors, heading for the Lakes District. That’s those mountains in the distance.

On to Dent Hill

The first day covers 14½ miles. Mid-morning sees us puffing and doggedly panting up our first slope, Dent Hill.

Nearly killed John who began to feel very poorly early and didn’t improve for hours. At one point as we were slogging it to the top I had visions of calling in Air Rescue! But being a man he said he’d manage, and he did.

That smile on my face, you may notice, is definitely forced. In fact, our kids commented on our smiles after a few days of receiving photos, asking:

‘Are you having fun yet!’

Top of Dent Hill

The Lakes District is a hike of five days through the toughest countryside on the 4 out of 5 difficulty-rated walk, so we know we’re not in for an easy time.

Dent Hill turns out to be the worst we encounter that day; the rest is along tracks and over fences, this one deer-proof.

The sheepUp and over a deer-proof fence

We make it to Ennerdale and our overnight accommodation mid-afternoon, but as our hosts aren’t home we find the nearest pub and have a beer. Boy! Does it ever taste good—though as you can see, those smiles haven’t re-surfaced yet.

Ennerdale B&BBoy, that beer tastes good!

This becomes the pattern for the next 17 days. Hitting the road early so we arrive at our next destination at a reasonable hour.

Next week: Through the Lakes District with gritted teeth.

Across England on the Coast to Coast walk

Two years and a few months ago I was following Alfred Wainwright’s coast to coast walk across England, starting at St Bees on the Irish Sea coast and finishing at Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea coast.

I wasn’t alone. I was with my husband John. He’s my mate (in this context I mean good friend). In fact he’s my best mate. There’s very little I do without him.

I kept a daily diary on my iPad with the intention of writing some blog posts about it but the iPad was stolen before I made it back home to Australia. And back then I hadn’t come to grips with iCloud so when I lost the iPad I lost all the data on it.

I downloaded photos onto the iPad every day but–phew and thank goodness!–I didn’t delete them from my camera. So at least I have a visual record of the walk.

And at long last I’m putting pen to paper, so’s to speak, and will reconstruct the walk from the photos.

It was the summer of 2013 and the weather, except for our days in the Lakes District, was glorious. You’re never alone on this walk as it’s popular. We met plenty of UKers but also a lot of internationals. The UKers, being locals, have the advantage of being able to break the walk into two or more segments but the internationals were to a person doing it in one hit.

John and I had our itinerary organised by a company called Mac’s Adventures and they did a great job. It was one of those walks where your luggage is transported between your nightly accommodation so all you have to carry is a daily backpack–which became increasingly lighter as the days progressed! Amazing how heavy even a few items become after a few hours.

How tough is the walk? The guide book says ‘Undertaken in one go the path is a long, tough walk with some fairly steep gradients’. Most of those are in the Lakes District.

In total the walk is around 200 miles. Mac’s arranged each of our days into varying lengths the shortest being a stroll of 7-1/2 miles and the longest 23 miles (37 km to us Aussies). There were three days of 20+ miles and they were shattering.

This walk is do-able but it’s testing!

We spent two nights at St Bees, thinking it would give us a chance to have a look around the town. That took us all of a couple of hours! so we took a taxi (no train or bus service on the weekend) to Whitehaven, 8 miles away with the intention of walking back along the cliffs, which is in fact the track we’d be taking the next day on the start of ‘the walk’, only in the opposite direction.

Whitehaven’s a small port and used to be a centre for coal mining. We came across the water works building on the wharf and were immediately enthusiastic, for a moment, about buying it and doing a Kevin McLeod’s Grand Designs project.

The walk back to St Bees was a taste of what we were in for over the next 18 days. Along the cliff, perilously close to the edge at times, overgrown, we were both silently thinking, ‘Is this a good idea?’ We resolutely kept our smiles plastered on. So much so that the next morning our eagerness had us up early and down at the beach picking up pebbles and wetting our boots. Tradition demands these gestures. The pebble is to be carried to Robin Hood’s Bay where you drop it into the North Sea. And the boots are to be wet again in said sea to mark your completion of the walk.

Overgrown path

The walking path between Whitehaven and St Bees

I think I’ve waffled enough for now. In the coming weeks I’ll take you up and down mountains, through bogs and across heather-laden moors to give you a taste of what the walk shows and gives you.

Cheers and Bye for this week.

Alana