Life, Travel, Walking

What I’ve Done (Lately)

As I lift my legs higher on a cushion after today’s long run, I realise that it has been two weeks since my last blog. Well that sounds like the beginning of a confession, so I had better get it all off my chest (fully recovered since the chaffing incident, in case you’re wondering).

Life, despite my best intentions, has been a little hectic of late, and I’ve barely had time to think, let alone sit and think about blogging. I have had the laptop open, but only to hammer out a few more words for the final essay on my OU course. It’s due in a couple of weeks and then I am done and dusted. Until next academic year that is, because I’ve decided to definitely do the second year and turn my Post Graduate Certificate into a Masters. I’m not sure whether it will translate to any writing jobs in the big wide world, but I’m enjoying the learning process, so I will carry on for a bit longer.

Also the WIFI went down for several days last week, which is, in this day and age, a bit of a catastrophe, and wasted half a day for Anne when she was passed from pillar to post on the phone, as they took an age to agree that it wasn’t just a case of switching it off and on again. We actually had to watch real time TV occasionally, which consisted of a random episode of NCIS and The One Show. The only good thing about this infringement of our human rights, was that I was able to work on my essay without getting distracted, but finally, the day came when a tall young man from Openreach with the most amazing long blond ringlets, sorted it out for us, by correctly reconnecting a cable on the outside of the house, that had been badly set up in the first place, only three weeks earlier. But at least we’re now back in the land of the living.

We also celebrated our grandson’s 3rd birthday last week. Anne made him a dinosaur and volcano cake as the boy is a walking dinosaur encyclopaedia. And earlier in the week, we took him to his happy place at Chester Zoo, where, in between watching the animals, he ran the legs off himself, and me. He had his first experience of the Bat house, and was not freaked out by the darkness at all, but was gutted that he couldn’t see the bats faces as they were too far away!

We had a glorious time away, this weekend just gone, with old work colleagues and most of the folk who walked the Coast to Coast with me back in 2015. Only John was missing from the original Six Pack. The weather, near the village of Appleton-le-Moors where we stayed, had promised to be dry but overcast. In the end, the sun came out in such a way that we could enjoy a very pleasant eight+ mile walk on Saturday including two pit stops at the beer gardens of some very fine public houses. On Sunday, Anne, Helen and I left the others doing another walk, and we ventured into the tiny but picturesque town of Staithes, on the east coast above Whitby. The previous day Helen had given Anne her first art lesson, and as we sat on a bench with our teas and coffees, there was another impromptu lesson. Watching the two of them, I got inspired and attempted to draw what I saw in words. It was just a basic description but it was nice to record the families on the sand, the two dogs gleefully gambolling in the waves as their humans threw them a ball, and the boats bobbing lazily up and down. I feel I need to do this kind of thing now more often, whereas before I would have enjoyed the day and then promptly forgotten about it.

That same Sunday morning, which also happened to be Mother’s Day for most of the rest of the world, my grandma, who last year had celebrated getting a telegram from the Queen, peacefully died, just two weeks short of her 101st birthday. I wrote a small piece about her last year, and, of course we’ll miss her, but she has led such a long and remarkable life that we won’t feel sad for her, just for ourselves. That evening though, we raised a glass to her.

So in amongst that whirlwind, I’ll bet you’re wondering how my running is going? Even if you’re not I’m going to tell you anyway. Not all that brilliantly, unsurprisingly. I’m still trying to get one long run each week, and then I’ve managed about two more quickies in the week. The length of the long run is getting harder, and I think it will take a few weeks to stop my legs getting bushed. I can’t even say it’s going to pick up again next week, as we’re currently in the middle of packing to go on holiday. Again. This time with my brother and his family, for a week on the Norfolk coast. That was the reason I got this week’s big one completed today: a slog of a twelve miler. Tough but it’s in the bank.

Life is hard, but although I’m not getting out and about in my trainers all that much, my final piece of course work is actually about my marathon running experience, so I will get my fix one way or another.

Life, Running, Walking

Marathons – never say never again…

During the walk on Sunday, I managed to first convince myself to run another marathon, and then convince myself not to.

The walk took just over 3 hours and gave me ample time for vacillating. Just over 7.5 miles (12.25 km), so it was leisurely, with a couple of stops for using the facilities, or opening a coffee flask. Our group gets together periodically, and there is often a little venture out sometime around the New Year.

I actually got into this walking for pleasure lark with these very people, or some of them, when they decided to embark upon the challenge of doing the Coast to Coast walk in 2015. We did about 200 miles (as we got lost a couple of times) over two weeks, from St Bees in the North West to Robin Hood’s Bay in the North East. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, when I wasn’t knackered, but it’s still something that I don’t do much of, except when someone asks ‘shall we do a walk?’. More often than not, it’s these guys.

This Sunday, we took in a chunk of West Wirral, starting at Thurstaston, along the beach towards West Kirby, and then back along the Wirral Way taking in the Dungeon (not actually a prison cell). The weather was cool but brilliantly sunny and dry; a perfect walking day.

Some of the group are runners, so I wasn’t fully boring them with my contemplations. I think Brian was the main recipient. He has done a number of marathons in the past, and, having required the assistance of a medical tent at the end of his last two, he has knocked it on the head, at least for a while. I have no idea why I suddenly felt like I wanted to try one again, given that my only previous two attempts were back in 2015 (they sandwiched the walk – it was a busy year).

Reflecting on the good second experience in Athens (November), as opposed to the bad first one in London (April), I know that I enjoyed it because I was, for me, extremely fit. I had bagged a Half Marathon that September in just under 2 hours. So with all my London training, and with all that walking under my belt, Athens felt like fun. I ended up doing them both in about five and a half hours, but I was running with a friend for the second one, and we ran at her pace.

Perhaps there is a part of me that wants to get under five hours, because I know I could have done in Athens. Perhaps the pain of training is so far away that I’ve forgotten that I hated it (not at all like childbirth – but you get my drift). At a couple points, during our perambulations, I was seriously close to going home and signing up for something this September.

But, as the walk progressed, and we climbed up a hill, and my right hip started to twinge a bit, I realised that, before I even start contemplating crazy things like that, I need to get myself to a level of fitness that hasn’t been in my body in over six years. It’s not unachievable, but I’m going to give it more than a few months.

Still, September 2023 in Berlin, around my 50th birthday, may be calling to me?

Travel

Coast to Coast Day 14 – Grosmont to Robin Hood’s Bay (15.5 miles)

This is actually the day after as, well, who has time to write when someone’s handing you a glass of champagne or three?

I’ve been brought back to the west coast again in less time than the Tony Blackburn radio show. This automobile idea may just catch on. The first lot of washing is on and I’m slouched on the sofa. Back to normal then. So, one last report.

Yes, there are pictures of us all on Facebook happily dipping our boots in the North Sea but you know, it wouldn’t be like Wainwright to give us a straightforward final day. In fact, the way’d he’d planned it, we would have started in Glaisdale, thereby adding another 4 miles to our count for the day AND stopping me from climbing into the beating heart of steam train! But really, you can’t complain too much when the final leg of your journey takes you through moorland and woodland and along the tops of the cliffs, especially when it’s all on a beautiful sunny day.

We had all put on our Claire House charity t-shirts ready for the big finale. But before that my train had come. It was sitting idly on the platform smoking away and waiting for the starting whistle to blow.  I couldn’t resist asking the engine driver if I could climb aboard to have a look and happily he said yes! It was a brilliant start to a memorable day.

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We ‘climbed’ the road out of Grosmont, as that is the only way to describe tackling the 1 in 3 gradient.

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It took us back onto the moors and from the tops there I could now properly see the sea! En route though we lost sight of it again for a while but our path through Littlebeck hamlet and the Little Beck woodland nature reserve was a happy diversion. These woods felt even more magical than yesterday’s East Arncliffe Wood by Glaisdale, and that’s definitely saying something. It felt more ancient and tranquil and I could imagine, if I sat in one place for long enough, that I’d see so many different birds and animals. There was also a tea garden at the other end which looked really lovely but we had to keep walking, as we still had a long way to go 😦

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There was a signpost in the second half of our walk that said 3.5 miles to Robin Hood’s Bay.

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But we did, of course, decline this direct path. Wainwright began the Coast to Coast trail by taking us North West along the edges walking away from St Bees. Paul pointed out that it was a nice symmetry that we’d ended up walking South East along the edges down towards the Bay. I can say, having seen them both just the once that they are comparable in beauty (one slightly negative point about this side though was the number of flies that were about today. A hell of a lot, and all of a sudden near the end! Don’t know if it’s always like this on sunny days?). Sally was saying that she’d quite like to (but not all in one go) get around all the coastal paths of the country. Quite a feat if she manages it. 

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Eventually, and finally, we started passing the first houses in Robin Hood’s Bay. My feet were tired and they were telling me but as we walked down the streets I think we all started to get a little excited. I wasn’t sure where Simon and Heather were going to meet us as we passed both their cars outside the B&Bs but none of us could ring because the signal was pants.

The last street down is a very steep descent, probably on a par with our first street up this morning. As we came round the final corner some whoops and cheers erupted and there were Simon and Heather and some other people I didn’t recognise, holding up a big banner for the Six Pack!! What a welcome! I couldn’t stop grinning! As we crossed through their banner like champions through the tape Simon cracked open a bottle of champagne and started filling glasses. The ‘other people’ were John’s son and daughter and her partner.  They’d made the banner and come to surprise their dad and Simon and Heather had met them accidentally at the water front!

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It was the most amazing ending to an amazing adventure!

Travel

Coast to Coast Day 13 – Blakey Ridge to Grosmont (pron. Growmont: 13.5 miles)

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Chopping the last bit up in a different way to Wainwright.

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It was the penultimate day! And the first day that John cracked open his bottle of suncream. All of us tramping with him lathered some liberally on our arms as hey, it was a short sleeves day!

Bucolic is a word I have always had problems with, because I always forget the definition. To me it sounds like some description of an illness but it means an idyllic rural or pastoral scene and so today, or at least this afternoon when we came down from the moors, was typically bucolic. We had small villages with stone built houses and village greens and woods and streams and steam trains (although I missed the train!!!) and yet more English bluebells and we had the sunshine. It was like we’d strolled into an episode of Heartbeat and that was not so far fetched as the programme was filmed very close by.

We had a lengthy walk along the moors to begin with but being fortified by yet another cooked breakfast (for nearly all of us) and perhaps because we were now getting used to this walking lark it went by at a fairly decent pace. We weren’t quite yomping but we did surprise ourselves pleasantly each time one of us asked Julie how far we’d come.

We made our votive offerings to ‘Fat Betty’.

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This is also called the White Cross but there are myths and legends about why this stone was erected, involving nuns or farmer’s wives or both, who may have been called Elizabeth or something like that and anyway apparently it’s now a bit of a tradition for walkers to take and leave some food on this ancient stone slab. I solemnly put down my last packet of jaffa cakes as it was only right to give someone else the benefit of the main thing that has kept me going this couple of weeks. 

On one of our stops we got treated to a couple of fly-bys by a ‘Hawk’. I had no idea what it was called really, it was just a fast, loud plane to me but Paul and Derek know these kinds of things. Then as we walked down and into the first village of Glaisdale it flew higher up but kept circling every five minutes until I started feeling paranoid. Was someone carrying something in their rucksack that was sending dodgy heat signals? Eventually I tried to block out the still considerable noise and distract myself with some inviting signs for a tea shop. 

We were due to go through three villages today; Glaisdale, Egdon Bridge and Grosmont where we were staying. Sally had suggested waiting until Egdon Bridge before we stopped anywhere as that meant that we wouldn’t have far to waddle with our cake filled bellies. The signs here cannily pointed out that this was the LAST teashop UNTIL Grosmont. It was like it had read Sally’s mind! That in itself was a sign that we should stop and after all we had less than 5 miles to go. As we walked in, the Aussies were on their way out.  This was the second group (not the band of 4) that we’d met on and off and today they were stalking us in reverse. I.e. they kept getting to a place before us. They had been two guys and a woman but now it was just her and one the guys,  Doug and Sally.  Nice people and intrepid travellers by the sounds of it.

With the cakes and scones scoffed we wended our way past the Beggar’s Bridge and into the lovely woods between this and the next village. It is so called because apparently a pauper who was courting a young woman in the village decided he needed to go off and better himself before he could marry her. On his last night before heading abroad he wanted to say goodbye to his sweetheart  but the rains had come down heavily and the ford was not fordable. But he did make his riches and eventually came back and married her. Then he had a bridge built over the Esk so that no other lovers would have to go through his heartache. I love a nice happy ending 🙂

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The Gallery cafe in Grosmont is a lovely place to stay. Lovely rooms and they cook a mean evening meal. Doug and Sally were also staying here (see what I mean about stalking?). It’s above an art gallery and a cafe funnily enough and the whole place is run by a local artist and Julie even bought one of his paintings. Grosmont is tiny but it does have a train station and although I missed seeing the steam train pull in this evening there is, fingers crossed, another one coming at precisely (because trains are always on time!) 9.15 tomorrow morning.

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Spot the pair of grouse!

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A fording point

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Travel

Coast to Coast Day 12 – Clay Bank Top to Blakey Ridge (11 miles if starting at Great Broughton)

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Which way is the Bridleway?!

We went to the pub today.  It was only 11 odd miles away so just enough to work up a thirst.  

The Lion Inn sitting atop Blakey Ridge is the only habitable building for a few miles. But that doesn’t seem to stop the trade as on this Wednesday night it seemed very lively. It’s a rabbit warren of a place with rooms tucked away in this corner and that and solid stone walls that feel like they will stay up forever. Indeed parts of it have already stood for more than 400 years and can definitely be dated back to Elizabethan and perhaps even older times. It’s had bits added to it over the years. Sally and Derek are in a modern wing while Julie and I and the boys need to climb up steep narrow steps to find our beds for the night.

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So we realised, retrospectively, that perhaps we should have done yesterday and today’s walk in one go and maybe broken up the 25 miler day instead. Partly because the diversion to Great Broughton which we insisted on walking ourselves added 2 or 3 miles onto the whole route. There is no accommodation at Clay Bank Top so it can’t be done any other way. 

Reading the books regarding the Clay Bank Top sleeping problem we have noticed differences between the two editions of the Wainwright. Obviously there are changes in what’s on offer but the following lines are the 1st edition but sadly not in the 2nd.

‘The nearest communities [are] not at all tourist conscious and not unlikely to suspect, if you ask for a bed, that you are suggesting a sexual adventure, which, of course, is ridiculous (or is it?).’

On the upside of the way we’ve done it means that we’ve had two days of the moors which, frankly, are spectacular and again, all I can say is the pictures don’t do it justice.

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An aside:

During the walks, I think since the ‘Ruby’ misunderstanding, John’s taught me a few ‘new’ old words.  Words that aren’t used very much any more.  I told him at one time that I used to live in Todmorden (West Yorkshire)  for a while.  He told me that ‘Tod’ means fox and quite often boys with red hair are called Tod. Also ‘blunt’ used to mean blond.

I didn’t know that the word ‘ford’, a passable point in a river, was also a verb. So you can ‘ford’ a river at the ‘ford’ in the river!

Another word he taught me yesterday was ‘ghaut’ which is a road that goes down into the sea, which may or may not have houses on. His aunt used to live in small terrace house on Tin Ghaut in Whitby. The link below shows a picture of the road and John was able to point to the house she lived in. The link also talks about the word having viking origins. However when I did a google search on it, all I got what a reference to the hindi word ‘ghat’ which means the path or steps leading down to the river. Fascinating.

http://www.francisfrith.com/uk/whitby/whitby-tin-ghaut-1913_66292

Travel

Coast to Coast Day 11 – Ingleby Cross to Clay Bank Top (12 ish miles)

Well who would have thunk I’d be craving a hill but it really did feel good after yesterday’s interminable monotony.

Our route today, after Beacon Hill with its radio station,

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was virtually all on the Cleveland Way, a path that, by our experience, was really well managed and well signposted. The full route is 110 miles long and runs between Helmsley in Ryedale and Filey in Scarborough. It skirts around the edges of most of the North York Moors National Park in the shape of a mangled horseshoe. We had a little 10 mile nibble of the north west part today and it took us through a variety of terrain. 

The main part were the moors themselves exposed on the hills. Our path was a stone slabbed walkway which made it fairly easy for us to pass through (at least in this season) and protected the flora and fauna around us. I didn’t quite realise that it would be so colourful with a real autumnal vibrancy. My camera just could not do it true justice. 

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The view of the farm lands below

It did get really warm and sunny sometimes and we also got our friend the wind back on the tops after he’d gone off in a sulk yesterday. But we also had rain and some terrific hailstone meteor showers. I found the white balls whizzing down past me from behind mesmerising  but a few of us had peeled off too many layers from the previous sunny patch and found it all too cold and painful. It was a bit of a ‘four seasons in one day’ kind of a day and we were adding layers and taking them off again several times.

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We met the Girls again at the cairn at the summit of Live Moor. Turns out one of them lives in the next street to me! What are the odds!

As well as the moors we had a few lovely woodlands to trail through, some of which were carpeted with bluebells. Some of which were muddy quagmires! Sally managed to fall over in it, which would have been a good camera moment if anybody had thought in time, but she still managed to have less mud on her shoes than me.

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This particular path was slightly off the track as we were staying in Great Broughton tonight, so instead of taking up the offer of a lift from Clay Bank Top, we walked straight there. We’ve kind of decided that for the whole two weeks of this challenge our only mode of transport should be our feet, and occasionally, after comedy falls and arduous journeys, our knees. 

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Arrived at the Newlands B&B in time for afternoon tea.

Travel

Coast to Coast Day 10 – Richmond to Ingleby Cross (23 miles: long moderate)

We should have actually done a mile less today because we were staying at the top of Richmond and could cut across. So that 23 miles should have been 22.

But. Oh my goodness. 25 miles! How? Well firstly I was master navigator and the last time I took the helm was day 5 so hey, be afraid! I managed to get it wrong really early, following one path for a while when it should have been another. That added nearly a mile. And luckily that was my only mistake. Then there was the A1 roadworks detour that we had to make which added at least another mile.

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Finally our accommodation for the night was past Ingleby Cross, still on the route luckily, but up a VERY steep hill and that also added a mile, which I guess we can knock off tomorrow but really we could have all done without that final ascent today.  

Oh, and did I mention that in this leg of the journey we were required to dash across the A19, which we managed to reach at half 5, so, errr, during the rush hour!

We’d left Pottergate B&B at 8.10. The people there were very friendly in themselves but they had signs up everywhere that said ‘Do Not..’ and ’No ..’ which would have been much more kindly received if they’d added the word ‘Please’ in front. But never mind. We’d had a fantastic dinner the night before, The La Piazza 2 was the only Italian in town so we weren’t expecting much but the food and the service there is amazing. We said goodbye to Simon then and Heather this morning. They’d enjoyed the easy stints. Time again for the Six Pack to hunker down for the hard stuff.

We pushed on after my initial mistake.  On farmland and road, road and farmland.  There is a lot of flat farmland between Richmond and Ingleby Cross.  Wainwright writes:

‘To walkers whose liking is for high places and rough terrain this will seem the dullest part of the whole walk; those who believe the earth is flat will be mightily encouraged on this section.’

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We were quite happy to have a break from hills but this long trudge did indeed get tedious.  We did pass some pretty villages along the way; Colburn, Bolton on Swale, Danby Wiske.  The last has a pub called The White Swan, where a friend had come whilst doing the Coast to Coast another time. He and his son thought they’d made good time getting to this point so they stopped to have a bite and maybe a pint here. He said that last 9 miles after was absolute torture. We, therefore, steered clear of that joint. Although those last 9 miles still felt like absolute torture.

On a happy note we met the bloke who went up the High Stile alternative route on Day 2.  We’d last seen him leave his friend at that juncture to start climbing. This was in the wooded bit before we came out into the ‘breeze’. This time he was walking with a stick and a bandage on his right leg. Apparently, that particular day was not such a good day to try crazy ridge stunts. He was very lucky and I was glad to see he was okay. Yet he was carrying on to the end and still walked at a faster pace than us. So after relating his story he left us behind.

The A19, at the point we cross, is a thundering duel carriageway. And not only was it busy, we had been walking nearly 10 hours by this point so we were just a tad on the tired side. However, there is nothing like the sight of an articulated lorry bearing down on you to put a bit of fire in your legs. Using the central reservation as an island of temporary safety, we scampered finally to the other side with all limbs intact.

Poor old Ingleby Cross is very close by and a pretty village but with that rumbling all day I wouldn’t choose it as a destination normally. But tonight I could have slept happily right next to the A19. We sadly trudged through its streets and out on the other side to Park House. Beverley, the owner, who reminded me a bit of Denise in The Royle Family, was lovely and opened up a bottle of fizz as we trudged in and just handed out the flutes, which was a lovely welcome. We were all able to toast getting to the end of the longest day of the route and I was able to get my burning feet out of my shoes and socks and cool them on the slate floor. Heaven!

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Sorry, more flowers, but I’ve never seen pink bells before!

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A gate decorated in a rather macabre fashion.

I can just see Paul as a Roman centurion :-)
I can just see Paul as a Roman centurion 🙂

Travel

Coast to Coast Day 8/9 – Keld to Reeth to Richmond (22 miles ish in total: moderate)

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‘And did those feet in ancient time, walk upon England’s mountains green’.  

I’m not quite sure for which part of our green and pleasant land ‘Jerusalem’ was written for but the amazing scenery this weekend often evoked thoughts of the poem.  We had two near idyllic walking days; I say ‘near’ because there was a bit of a biting wind coursing through for a lot of it.  But at least, for the most part, it was behind us and it may well have been responsible for pushing the few grey clouds over our heads and keeping us dry, so it was all good.

The only thing that wasn’t good was that Chris and Ali, our friends from the Wirral had a motor malfunction just 15 minutes from meeting us at Keld to come and walk with us for the day. So we didn’t get to see them at all.

Simon, Julie’s husband, and Heather, Paul’s wife, had come down on the Friday evening and had planned to walk both Saturday and Sunday with us.  Given that the last time they’d come with us was on Day 1 they were probably wondering whether we’d made all the hardships in between up!

Saturday

The last two or three miles were a bit  tiring for me and I think Derek had a sore foot, John had a pulled muscle and Sally had a tight achilles to contend with.  But up until then we’d had a pretty lovely day. We had chosen the low route which follows, in part, the river Swale. This is only briefly touched on by Wainwright but the Henry Stedman – Coast to Coast Path book, which we’d been using a lot, has comprehensive maps and descriptions.  

The ‘low route’ isn’t a fully apt description as there were a few up hills along the way, the steepest of which was right after we’d stopped for tea and scones in Gunnerside. Scones with jam, and cream. Well we were walking right past and it seemed to be calling us in! But it was nice to pretend for just a while that we were all out for a gentle stroll for the day.

I had a great time taking pictures of wild flowers (all at the bottom).  I don’t know the name of most of them apart from the English bluebells and Derek told me the white ones with the long leaves were wild garlic. If you can enlighten me on the others, that would be great!

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Simon and Julie ready to rock!

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Applegarth Scar

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Just, you know, the usual rustic barn and rolling hills shot

Sunday

No tea stops today but a nice early arrival into Richmond.  Again, we followed the Swale occasionally but by no means all the way. However our climbs up the hills seemed gentler.  The views were stunning again. What more is there to say? Oh yes, the mileage was shorter.

We saw the Aussies again too. The band of 4 whom we’d first met at St Bees and 2 out of 3 of the other group who we’d seen on the road here and there. It’s been quite a social affair has this walk sometimes.  We’ve met various groups and individuals following the trail.  A few were doing the first half only, some were doing the whole thing with rest days here and there. And others, like us, were chipping away every day.  

There have been a few regulars. Collectively as described above, the Aussies, who are older than us and generally very friendly. Although the band of 4 did look smug after we came in late on Day 5, but we felt much better when they staggered into Kirkby Stephen the next day and past our B&B window whilst Julie and I were having cake and tea! Then there was the Israeli with the big backpack.  Now he was hardcore.  How he managed to haul his whole luggage up Loft Beck in those winds I know not! The younger lot are the Yompers, two boys (in their 20s?) who seem to walk very fast and often look like they’re in a huff with each other. Maybe they were a couple. And the Girls (2 young women, again somewhere between the 20 and 30 mark) who’d met two older men during dinner one of the evenings and had then spent several days trying to shake them off! If you’re looking for a holiday to get away from the complexities of life, then this is not it!

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Travel

Coast to Coast Day 7 – Kirkby Stephen to Keld (12.75 miles: Strenuous)

Today was a good day!

Yes we had another hill to mount, yes it was another windy day, especially on the tops, and yes we had bogs and plenty of them and yes a few of us were crawling out of them on our knees. But we were only doing 12 odd miles and the sun was shining and after the hard slog of the last couple of days we could afford to take it a bit more gently.

At breakfast we were still feeling sluggish and some of us were thinking we’d like to do the low green route (there are 3 routes – red, blue and green that you can do depending on the weather and the time of year) and some of us favoured the red. We decided to decide at the splitting point. 

We found a great Coast to Coast signpost near the start that showed us our origin and destination and how far we’d come.  Our actual mileage to date is a bit higher owing to the circuitous route down from the Lakes. But it was pleasing to see that we were close to half way point.  

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Progress to the diverging point had been pretty good. It was a bit steep and ‘phewy’ in a few places, especially with full bellies, but the ground was good and generally dry.  Therefore we all opted for the red route that would take us up to the top of Hartley Fell and over the first obstacle of the Pennines.

Nobody seems to know much about the Nine Standards. These are nine prominent dry stone cairns (we’re not talking about those mini pyramids; these are tall structures, taller than Paul so that’s pretty tall!).  They fall very close to the dividing line between Cumbria and Yorkshire. Old maps and documents fairly certainly prove that they’ve been about for at least 500 years and maybe even 800 years but their original purpose is unknown. Some of them have had to be rebuilt because they get the full force of the weather but they do stand out quite dramatically and on a good day there are spectacular views all around.  The Standards are only on the Blue and Red routes and very often the mists are down and the weather makes it too dangerous to come here so we were very lucky.

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Further on from the stones, we were starting to get into the boggy bits to get over the tops and down the other side. You’d think, with the amount of practise we have had that we’d be better at staying dry but there were still a few mishaps.

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Oops John! Would you like a tissue?

We accidentally followed the wrong path down to the road, earlier than we should have done, but it was a happy accident as it meant a little less squelching which I believe everybody was rather happy about. And it also meant that we got to see some sheep being herded up the road to a new field by a farmer and his amazingly expert Collie dogs.

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Coming into Keld we were due to stay at a place called ‘Butt House’.  Of course, being of a puerile mind it always made me chuckle when mentioned but I have to say that this B&B has beat the other ones we’ve stayed at hands down. A proper boot room when you come in to get all your outside gear off, baths in several of the rooms, lovely food, and absolutely lovely hosts in Jackie and Chris. And we were finally in Yorkshire.

Travel

Coast to Coast Day 6 – Shap to Kirkby (pron Kurbee) Stephen (20 miles: long moderate)

A surprisingly empty M6.
A surprisingly empty M6.

Shap apparently became a better place to live once the M6 opened in 1970, as the once clogged A6 running through, stopped being a major artery for traffic going to and from Scotland.  On our trek today we crossed both the A and the M. One, with a few strides across from the King’s Arms and the other by way of a kindly built footbridge. From last night’s memory it was a tiny village and didn’t seem to exist much beyond the main road but for now there was no time to explore as we had yet another long day.

Paul giving us some moral boosting laughs as Ninja Map Reader before we began
Paul giving us some moral boosting laughs as Ninja Map Reader before we began.

I know it says ‘Moderate’ in the title but for whom is 20 miles a moderate walk? Perhaps there were no mountains in our way but them moors ain’t exactly pancake flat and we had not, unfortunately, got rid of the bogs despite the limestone plateau that we were supposedly now walking on. However, at least we knew where we were and where we were going and, more importantly, how to get there. No more intentional off piste-ing for this group.

It was a dry day but really quite cold with the wind.  Bizarrely, there had been a hell of a lot of wind in the Lakes but this was the first time it had felt really chilly to me; I had to finally get out the fingered gloves.  There was a lot of moorland that we passed through and a lot of archeology too but I wouldn’t have been able to spot it by myself.  I can imagine that on a rainy day you can get lost here and the instructions to ‘hug the walls’ that Paul was giving out would definitely be required.  The path along was very visible for us though, and anyway there was sometimes barbed wire surrounding those dry stones so we couldn’t get very up close and personal with them if we’d tried. Plus when there were no walls, the Coast to Coast became, in Derek’s words, the ‘Post to Post’ as we were given a handy trail of wooden markings to guide us through.

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It appears that Robin Hood stopped his galavanting around the country here as apparently his grave is along this route.  Paul did call out when we were near it but as none of us, apart from maybe Paul, had the energy to take more steps than required, we trooped past with a few grunts of acknowledgement. In fact the terrain today was at times quite stunning and varied from rolling hills and streams to the moorland brush.

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I was aware of it but by about mile 10 onwards I only wanted to get to Kirkby Stephen and it was a happy sight when it came.  20 miles done in just under 9 hours this time including lots of stops.  The soles of my feet were burning and my back was seizing up.  

However, within an hour or so of putting my feet up I was recovered enough to look at the list of local eating places that Fletcher House had kindly provided.  Derek had talked about Kirkby Stephen having a good curry house and everybody fancied it.  He called it Ruby so I tried finding it in the list. But there was only one called the Mango Tree. Maybe it had changed hands. I said this to Derek and he looked at me strangely.  So I’ve now learned a new Cockney rhyming slang term. Well not that new because it appears Ms Ruby Murray was a famous singer in the 1940s and 50s.