Sunday, 14 August 2011

Goodby to Lakeland Day 7

walked the farmers mile into Shap-seemed to take forever.
 Shap is on the A6 main road the highest road in the country and once the main arterial road through this area,long since taken over by the motorway M6 leaving Shap in its wake.
 called into its main pub to find it had let its rear garden out to campers for £10 and free cooked breakfast deal.the pub was full of singing carousing campers but for once was not in the mood,stocked up with food at the shop,dined on the English staple diet of fish n chips from the local chippy and headed back.
short days 8mile walk to Orton today crossing the motorway and on to the Limestone plateau with its prolific evidence of Prehistoric and Primitive settlements-met up with the Rhine-Maidens and walked a while with them,
 Later encountered the sweetest group of Americans ever. they were on a guided walking tour,camera's in hand full of enthusiasm and wonder,I could not help but be lifted by them,their joy was addictive,one chap was photographing all the strange flora that abounds in Limestone-he planned writing a guide on the walk based just on the flora,they kept going off on detours visiting stone circles and other remains led by their intrepid bearded guide only to join up with me further down the road always smiling happy to talk and full of questions -good people and a reminder that America is not full of tea party people.
 it was good to have a short day  and the village of Orton was beautiful an idyllic circular place with a great Country pub.I sat in its quite beer garden soaking it all up,was seen by the Americans touring the village who joined me their sunny disposition was undiminished,they were soon called to heel by the guide and off they went I miss them still.
 the camp site out of town was the best one yet,I slept well.
   day 8
 Kirkby Stephen 12 miles and my last day of walking
                                                                                          Kirkby Stephen is the second largest town on the coast to coast and at just short of the 100 mile point the half way point.the hills had done for me.
Kirkby has a train station, part of the Settle to Carlisle route the highest and most beautiful train journey in England and stopping in Leeds my home city was too good to miss,I spent my last evening drinking at a musical festival with the Rhine Maidens and a group of other young walkers carrying on till the end,but for me it felt like a completion the hardest part conquered and just gentle dales left,if it had been Spain and no easy route home I would have continued but carrying stoves and a tent and sleeping on the ground for 8 days while climbing small mountains was enough,I live to fight another day with lessons learnt
 Just booked my flight to Spain for the 20th September (£23) and the Camino Norte-well why wouldn't ya
  but will be leaving the bloody tent behind.

High Point to low point at Shap day 6

Day 6
 late getting going,feeling stiff this morning,takes a while to find my rhythm but got there in the end,just in time for the main climb of the walk to Kidsty pike the site of an old English fort and the highest point of the coast to coast
                           Half way up the climb looking back
The two figures are long legged German girls walking poles in hand taking it all in their stride not stopping to catch breath once
plus carrying all their gear including a tent I would meet up with them a lot in the next few days


  Standing on the top trying to keep my vertigo at bay sharing Lunch with the two girls from Dusseldorf reading from our guide books advising us to take our last view of Lakeland before heading steeply downhill to the reservoir at Haweswater and our days destination of Shap.
 we were joined by a middle aged man bagging Wainwrights ( climbing all the peaks in Lakeland over a certain height) stopping just to eat a sandwich he bounded off like a mountain goat with more pike's to climb,I consoled myself with the fact he probably didn't have a girlfriend.
 the climb down was hard very hard with the well walked track full of rocks all threatening to turn my ankle,each step jarring my aged knees,it seemed endless but I finally reach the bottom at Haweswater-just in time to see two young lads sliding down the steeper grassier route wearing their waterproof trousers whooping and shouting as they tobogganed down to join me and laughingly continue on their way
  the next 5 miles were spent just putting one foot in front of the other till I reached the outskirts of Shap and was drawn to a farm with a field of tents and caravans.£5 for the night and just a mile from the shops of Shap or so the farmer said.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Patterdale and Angle Tarn

Day 5
 loosing track of days,the walk down from Grisedale tarn starts off gentle and then slopes quite steeply down into Patterdale.
Patterdale is a lovely unspoilt village in an alpine setting surrounded by the Helvellyn range and sits next to the beautiful lake of Ullswater unchanged from my teenage years.
 I had the option of taking detours up Sunday Crag on the right or even Helvellyn (3118) itself and then on to Striding Edge,imaging a triangle and a footpath along the top edge with just enough room to walk,I have walked along the tops,but that was 40 years ago,oh to have those legs again,but have to make do with the ones I have now,so the easy route it was,I had breakfasted with the 4 other campers,none of us had intruded on the other the night before,now it was like we were best of friends having shared the vigil together,and agreed to meet up for a lunchtime drink in the only pub in town.
being a retired barkeep I can both talk and listen but mainly talk(on most subjects under the sun) and met many people on the way down,mostly on their way up out for a mornings walk,if I could have carried a small bar I could have set up shop at places along the way and done a roaring trade,my arms propped up on the bar putting the world to rights.
so I was a little late for the Lunchtime drink but my breakfast companions were still there enjoying the break,it would have been a sin not to join them.

both were walking on further than me and left me in their wake as we climbed out of Patterdale,the camp site by Ullswater looked good but it was full of caravans and RV's and I fancied another night of solitude,so a by now familiar afternoon of climbing to the tranquil Angle tarn.

the pic on the left was taken laying on the floor of my tent,the best front garden ever.

early morning risers on their way
 my tent is a single cell (mistake) and condensation forms on the inside waiting for the morning sun to dry it out-so fell asleep once more to be woken up by a flock of Canadian Geese landing on the tarn,one of whom came to take a look at the strange old bird at the edge.

Leaving Borrowdale coast to coast

Day 4
 struggled to put the tent up in Stonethwaite (love the sound of that name very northern very viking) I was that tired, strong sun and week knees had done for me,staggered to the shower and hot hot water revived me, food fulfilled me,took a stroll down the road to the pub,I love walking through small villages at twilight especially to English country pubs.
 the well lit pub was full of hikers but warm enough to sit outside,a trend I was beginning to find was that most if not all of the pubs in Lakeland had staff from Poland or other east European countries working behind the bar,a smiling  lad told me all the staff  lived on the premises  the cost taken out of their wages,he was happy and it brought a certain charm to this very typical of English establishments.
 all and I mean all of the drinkers had maps unfolded on the tables heads bent over as they viewed and planned the next days walk,I walked home humming Dylan's Back Pages "using ideas as our maps,ah but I was so much older then,I'm younger than that now"
 the night was cold and not much sleep was had till the sun rose and warmed both me and the tent and I then fell asleep till 10am  and caught the bus to Keswick the tourist capital of the Lakes,even after just 3 days in the hills the place seemed so surreal,every other shop sold hiking gear,very expensive hiking gear! and it seemed everybody in town was wearing it,the place had the look of an alpine sky resort,all the gear but no idea,but they looked good and I was able to stock up with things needed and treated myself to good food lots of good food,and retreated back to my campsite sated.
Day 5
 the route recommended by the guide today was 18 miles (30km) and included climbing up Lining crag-Eagle crag-Helm crag and summit rocks and that was just  halfway to Grasmere not the intended finish in Patterdale,so the new plan was to split the recommended routs in half.

looking back at Borrowdale and my haven of Stonethwaite it's good to see how high you climb in so short a time,it helps when you look foreword and see how high you still have to climb!!

more walkers were on the road today some even going all the way to Patterdale but they left me in their wake as they stormed up Lining crag just 2 miles from the village but already I was tiring

they are difficult to see but a bunch of the hardier souls took a break at the top and shouted encouragements to me as I struggled up the path (path!!!) on the left bless em.
this was getting serious,people fall off these things
lunch was taken at the top but it was bottled oxygen that was needed

       my brunch companions were a Belgium couple similar age to me,good people who I would continue to see over the next few days,like most of the other walkers they were staying in expensive bed and breakfast places their gear transported between each place and just day packs carried during the walk.
 if I had the money I would have probably do the same
.few people camped out but those that did shared some of the best moments of the way with me so no regrets-no gain without pain right right?

Grasmere the destination for the day lays hidden in the distance round the corner on the far right.
 the path follows the beck most of the way and is very peaty and boggy like walking on a mattress. I slipped and fell twice.*******

"Grasmere is a lovely village in a setting endowed with sylvan grace and dignity,beloved of artists and poets and because of associations with Wordsworth,is known internationally and has become a place of pilgrimage" so my guide book says
but to my mind while still being a pretty village it had no soul just ye oldie tea and cake shops traffic jams and coach trips and two plush hotels,I drank a pint of cold beer brought to my table by a charming girl from Poland who carried my water bottle away and refilled it exchanged waves with fellow hikers finished for the day just waiting for their rooms to be ready so they could take their warm showers and lay on their linen sheets and sleep.
 no campsites here so time to wander lonely as a cloud and try and find one.
 word on the mean streets was what few campers there was were heading 3miles up (up!!) Grisedale pass to Grisdale tarn,it took a while to find a proper shop, food and a bottle of wine was purchased and up I headed

it took a while but made it I did,pitched the tent by the waters edge waved to the four other campers and watched the sun go down on this tranquil Cathedral stillness,
truth be known I was feeling a little down,I had made the mistake of buying a newspaper in town in search of sports results,but it was full of the horrors that had taken place in Norway the day before.
   when I was young I rarely cried but now I'm a father they flow like the wine I was drinking,but the setting helped,I'm not one for churches but these high open places never fail to fill my soul with peace
 as the sun was setting and it grew dark silhouetted figures started to appear on the horizon about 20 looking all the world like a band of marauding Indians about to invade the camp,they turned out to be a band of youngsters camping out on the far side of the tarn,their talk and laughter lulled me to sleep.
 In the morning on the walk down the other side they apologised thinking they had disturbed me,I told them no problem and to keep on enjoying life.

Monday, 8 August 2011

From Pillar to Post

So having travelled what seemed like the length of England I was ready to walk across it or at least I thought I was!! so this fool rushed in-getting off the train at St Bees I walked the half mile to St Bees Head on the Irish Sea, the starting point of the coast to coast and my bed for the night or at least the campsite.I had decided to camp along the way saving on the expense while putting up with the extra weight (the first of my many mistakes) I was soon bedded down for the night feasting on the noodles and cup a soups from the large stock of dried food in my pack.


 Having spent the last part of the journey travelling down the coast from Carlisle I had decided to take the coast detour recommended in my guide-book 5 miles north before joining the direct path just 2 miles from the start.
 a rainy restless uncomfortable sleep before packing up and setting off at first light 5am 15 miles to walk and all day to do it in piece of cake.It's traditional to first place one boot in the water on the east coast and then at the end your other boot in the see on the west coast,I had chosen to do the east coast first as this was recommended in my book so as always to have the wind behind your back-the downside being that you had to do the lake district first before the two other national parks.
The Lake district is very beautiful ( England's Switzerland) but it also includes most if not all of the highest peaks ( mountains) in England (second mistake)
the game was afoot and I was soon in my stride a little misty but great to be walking again,the view across the sea was of the Isle of man,northward was the Solway Firth and Scotland.
the walk takes you along  red sandstone precipitous cliffs veined with white the nesting places of countless seabirds all making a raucous sound as they tried to repel this human intruder,some getting quite close,in fact too close for comfort,these were not the seagulls of holiday beaches begging for food but hardy cliff dwellers

 the path was easy to follow and included a few stiles easy to pick out,one such even had what at first glance seemed to have a black bin-liner attached but turned out to be a pair of large blackbirds? who seemed in no rush to move off,in fact they treated me with indifference only taking flight at the very last minute

The path continued past a ruined coastguard station-observation hut before turning inland just before Whitehaven and I was faced with the view of the high peaks of the Lake District.
 my pictorial guide contained all I needed and I mentally ticked off the small stages Fleswick Bay Saltom Bay Birkhams Quarry into Sandwith and onto the town of Cleator having crossed the railway line and passed the Chemical works,I could see the railway line and followed the path large buildings in view in the distance. turned out to be a large public school just up from the town of ST BLOODY BEES. I had some how connected up with the other route and was now having walked 7 miles was just half a mile from my starting point,"you have walked the ox-bow" the shopkeeper told me through his smiles "you wouldn't believe how many do it" oh how he laughed as he pointed out the roadway to Cleator 4 miles up the road and up it was now under blazing hot Spanish like sun  passing through the small working class town of Moor Row a feeder town of the more industrious larger town of Whitehaven and feed I did on the best meat and potato pie I have ever eaten hot from the oven of the small bakery before finally reaching Cleater thanks to a comforting large yellow arrow painted on the road at a confusing crossroad.
More people were now walking having set of later and missing out on my circular detour
 making use of their large maps strapped round their necks they marched on and I followed up and upwards to the top of the first peak "the Hill of Dent" 1131ft high and down the very steep slope the other side,a taster of what was to come in the next few days as I moved further into Lakeland.

 the evenings end was ment to be the tourist village of Ennerdale Bridge but seeing a sign for camping at a farm 1 mile short I called it a day and fell into my tent.
Day 2
a good nights sleep,my camp site shared by 9 others all eating delivered piza and beer baught from the farmers fridge,why walk a mile down the hill to Ennerdale Bridge and then back up the hill he said. left the farm and turning right started to walk followed by 8 young lads who had done yesterdays walk in half the time I had but their feet were all bad and blisterd,after a mile of uphill road walking realised we were wrong, the lads turned round, but clever me not wanting to set off cross country following a bridel path that would cut the corner off and bring me to Ennerdale water the next tick on the route.
 the guide I carried "A COAST TO WALK" by A Wainwright only suggests a route leaving up to you to stay on route or chose your own.
 he also wrote "one should always have a definite objective in a walk as in life an objective is an ambition and life without ambition is .....well.just aimless wandering"

well I guess I'm the aimless wandering type.
the thing with this walk is there is no signposts no nice yellow arrows-just footpaths clearly defined on the Ordnance Survey maps,only I didn't have one (5 needed for the whole walk) and was just relying on my guide,I was starting to feel I was unprepared for this walk and I was right.
 the hill was marked in my guide just cross it and Ennerdale water should be there,and it was but the nice bridle path came to an abrupt end leaving me high above the valley of Ennerdale with no path down

my path was by the waters edge and continued up the dale and over the peaks in the distance.
it maybe does not look too bad,but it took me 1 hour to reach the waters edge footpath, stumbling over rocks hidden by dense bracken growth,no bones were broken just ego's.
 as I lay at the bottom taking a breather a passing mother and daughter said they had watched my decent while taking lunch and had quite enjoyed my antics,I nearly threw them in the lake!!
 it was becoming very clear to me that this was no walk for old fools so with new determination I walked on
so popular are Wainwrights walks, that the grass and earth is eroded leaving rocks beneath quite often loose rocks,not the best surface to walk on

as I climbed higher it became clear I would have to wild camp, something that is frowned upon and is illegal in England,there is a hostel just over the ridge below Pillar the peak (mountain) on the left.
 Black Sail hostel is the most isolated in Lakeland very popular and booked out weeks if not months in advance, so not for the unprepared walker like me
my route takes me up loft beck a steep climb to the left (not the nice gap between the two).

as I passed Black Sail hostel I met up with a bunch of Australians based there, on their way down off Pillar and taking a dip in the stream,I'd smelt the dinner cooking as I passed the Hostel oh to be organised.

Ennerdale was formed by a glacier as it tore itself away from Great Gable (mountain) and shuffled its way to the sea.
 the head of the dale was to be my bedroom for the night,amongst the "drumlins" large anthill like mounds formed by the glacier.
 thankfully I could no longer smell the cooking dinner and dined on pasta and cups of coffee and biscuits.
 no shops no pub no water (apart from the beck)

Kipling wrote that triumph and disaster were both the same.
 this photograph was taken while I lay in my tent reflecting on the day.
 it also got very cold doh!!

Day 3
 the climb in the morning took me a while and a hard climb it was,up rocks at the side of a fast running beck,stopping a lot to catch my breath and take these two pics.
 to look back down Ennerdale and further to the sea made it all worthwhile and reminded me why I was doing this thing.
 taking a path that came down from Great Gable I continued down above the Buttermere valley and Honister pass to the small village of Seatoller 5 miles 4 of which was on loose rock,not very pleasant but great views and if I had spare batteries I could have taken more pics!!!.the nearer I got to the Honister pass, the more People I met climbing up all clean and smelling of aftershave,out for this Sunday walk in the hills I wished them all well,especially when they told me the ruined slate mill that my guidebook talks of was now a working tourist place complete with cafe  toilets and car park..
having gorged on Cornish pasties and coke used the facilities filled up with fresh water I continued down into Seatoller made full use of its only pub and strolled alongside a beautiful little river into Rosthwaite a pretty village in Borrowdale the most tourist of dales in the Lake District,no campsites here so on to Stonethwaite and found one with showers and a small pub just down the road,I was feeling very weary,tired from the walk on this very hot day and lack of sleep decided to stay the night and then take a rest day,catch a bus to Keswick (the big town) eat like a normal person and stock up with supplies.Lessons had been learnt the hard way time to take stock.