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.

Advertisements