Monday, 18 July 2011

Coast to Coast - Monday 18th July - Day 13 - Glaisdale to Robin Hoods Bay

Beggars Bridge, Glaisdale
Despite having been told by the bar staff the previous evening that 8am was the earliest we could have breakfast, we were less than impressed when we arrived in the bar to discover the table next to ours had already finished eating and left. As we had a long day ahead, we would have liked an early start and our mood wasn't improved by the half hour wait for our breakfast to arrive. We eventually set off from the pub at nine o'clock and although the weather was quite good at this point, we were soon squelching through mud on a path through East Arncliffe Wood as we headed out of the village. The terrain after leaving the wood and passing through Egton Bridge village was fairly tame and a total contrast to what we had been used to over the previous days. After dodging puddles on the old Egton Estate Road, we followed the road into the village of Grosmont and after stopping to top up supplies at a nearby shop, were treated to the fantastic sight of a steam engine on the North York Moors Railway pulling away from Grosmont station in huge billowing clouds of steam and the piercing sounds of the train's whistle.

Egton Estate road
Leaving the village, we climbed an impossibly steep lane up onto the moors before striking off across the main A169 road and descending to the beautifully situated village of Littlebeck. Wainwright describes the village as a 'miniature arcadia embowered in trees', which captured the scene perfectly and is a far better description than I could hope to write. Leaving the village on a woodland path, our opinion changed somewhat as we soon found ourselves floundering in ankle deep mud, slipping and sliding around in the glutinous morass. To cap it all, as we struggled on, the rain came back. We passed another walker who seemed to think he was lost, despite signposts in the area confirming the way and we left him looking confused and soon after arrived at The Hermitage, a shelter carved entirely from a huge boulder at the side of the path.
Distant View of Whitby Abbey from Sleights Moor
After a short break here, we arrived at the impressive Falling Foss waterfall and it was here, as we stood on the bridge watching the water cascading through the trees, that the heavens decided to really open and subjected us to a downpour of monsoon proportions.
Chapel in Littlebeck
One mistake we made on the trip was in not taking a waterproof map case, which until the last three days of the walk hadn't been a problem but as we passed the Falling Foss tearooms, we needed to consult the guidebook as we now came upon a Coast to Coast signpost that appeared to be guiding us along the wrong side of the river. Consulting the book in the torrential rain would have resulted in it being turned to papier mache, so we decided to follow the signpost anyway. After a short distance it became apparent that it did indeed lead us along the wrong bank so we crossed to the other bank, splashing through the shallow water to the other side. Following the path alongside the river in the torrential rain, we came to a bridge that appeared to be leading us back to the other side of the river once more, so we left the riverbank and climbed up out of the woods on a track which soon became a country road as we approached Newton House farm.
A very damp arrival in Robin Hood's Bay
The rain had by now eased and having consulted the guidebook and map to confirm our position we followed a footpath opposite the farm heading back onto Coast to Coast path. Initially, the path crossed a field full of young bulls that did the usual thing of 'stalking' us before circling around and following close behind. We shouted and clapped our hands and they soon moved back as is usually the case and we made our escape by climbing over a stile into a wood. The path through the wood was extremely overgrown and very wet after the rain and we were soon soaked. To add to the discomfort, we were now attacked by swarms of flies that settled on every piece of exposed skin. We pressed on through the foliage overhanging the path, trying to  get rid of the flies as best we could and after a very uncomfortable spell fighting with the insects and the sodden plant life, we crossed a stile and emerged onto a lane by New May Beck Farm. The relief wasn't quite total however, as there were still plenty of flies to contend with but gradually, as we entered open moorland, they began to subside.
Robin Hoods Bay
We were now back on track, as confirmed by the presence of a Coast to Coast signpost just after the farmhouse but we had made very slow progress throughout the morning. Arriving at the B1416 we crossed  onto moorland and here decided to stop and have a rest and something to eat. As we sat looking towards the distant outline of Whitby Abbey, it slowly disappeared behind an inky black curtain of torrential rain falling along the coast, and as heavy black clouds began building up behind us, we resigned ourselves to the fact that we too would soon be getting a good soaking. I consulted the guidebook, which confirmed that we still had almost eight miles to go to the end of the walk. Wainwright, when he devised the Coast to Coast walk, built in a large, looping diversion at either end to take in the coastal scenery on the east and west coasts, giving the walk a fitting start and finish along clifftops. We sat staring gloomily at the rain as it now engulfed most of the coastline we would soon be walking along and as I studied the map in the guidebook, it occurred to me that less than a mile distant from where we sat, was a path that led to the B1447, which if followed, would take us through Fylingthorpe and then onto Robin Hood's Bay, a distance of around two miles.
Alan gets his boots wet in the North Sea
We debated this option and sat looking at the uninviting prospect of eight more miles in heavy rain and decided that the opportunity to cut out around five wet miles after being soaked for a third day in a row was too good to miss and headed off in the direction of the road. After plodding alongside the grassy verge alongside the road for a few hundred metres, a car pulled up on the opposite side and the driver called out 'do you want a lift'?, and as I looked up from under my hood was surprised to see my wife Ann grinning at us from the car. She had come to collect us at the end of the walk and although it was good to see her smiling face again, we obviously turned down the offer and arranged to meet her in the bar at Robin Hood's Bay. As we continued, the rain kept falling in thundery bursts until eventually, we reached a sculpted wooden village sign at the top of the steep road down to the sea and the end of the walk. We had envisaged finishing in a burst of sunshine and splashing our boots in the waves before sitting outside the bar in warm July sunshine with a well-earned pint, but these things rarely turn out how you imagine them and of course, the tide was out too!.
Job done! 
After a hurried dip of the boots in a puddle of seawater, we headed into the bar where we met up with Ann and sat drying off and enjoying the taste of success, as well as the obligatory pint. As we headed back to the bar for a second pint, Alan, another walker we had spoken to in Marrick and had also been at the Blue Bell Inn camp site in Ingleby Cross, came in dripping wet. He had completed the coastal section but told us we had made the right decision as it had been a very unpleasant walk in torrential rain along the clifftops. The three of us toasted ourselves at the bar and signed in the 'Coast to Coaster's book. As with my previous walk, thirteen years earlier, I found the finish to be strangely anti-climactic, almost a disappointment. One minute, I was taking part in an adventure, one that I had been planning and dreaming about for some time and now it was abruptly over. We said goodbye to the other Alan and were soon driving to Whitby, where we had rooms booked for the night. After thirteen days of lugging a 13 kilo rucksack over mountains, sleeping in a tiny tent, coping with dodgy showers, trying to wash and dry clothes, being soaking wet and squelching through mud while being attacked by swarms of flies, not to mention the aching feet and leg muscles, it was over. Did I enjoy it? Most definitely! Would I do it again? Absolutely!!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Coast to Coast - Sunday 17th July - Day 12 - Gt.Broughton to Glasidale 19 miles

Looking back to Clay Bank Top at the start of the walk
Having experienced the walk along the main road from Clay Bank Top to Gt.Broughton the previous afternoon, we weren't in a hurry to repeat the experience, particularly as the return would be uphill, adding an extra 2.5 miles on top of what was already going to be a long day. We had therefore taken the opportunity to book a lift back to Clay Bank Top with the daughter of the lady who's house we were staying in. She lived in the house next door, so as soon as we finished breakfast all we had to do was walk outside for our lift. We had breakfast in the conservatory with another couple who were staying in the guest-house. The male half of this duo was a rather dour man and conversation didn't really flow as it normally does in these situations and with breakfast over, we returned to our room to retrieve our gear. Having paid our bill for the overnight stay and lift, we headed out to the car with the daughter to discover that it had just started to rain. The three of us sat in the car waiting for the couple to appear as they had taken the opportunity of a lift as well. Despite the fact that they knew we were all waiting for them, they kept us waiting a good fifteen minutes before eventually appearing at the front door and squeezed into the car without apology. Soon, we were deposited on the roadside at Clay Bank Top where we said goodbye to the old woman's very sociable daughter, who's name I have unfortunately forgotten.

I cannot remember her mothers name either but she was a charming old lady who was well into her eighties but obviously enjoyed the company of Coast to Coast walkers who I think she saw as being slightly eccentric. She may well have a point! Soon, we were on the track and climbing onto Urra Moor as the rain began to get heavier. We had a distant glimpse of Middlesborough, which I think is probably the best sort, and also the curiously shaped hill of Roseberry Topping in the distance as we began to catch walkers struggling up the hills ahead. One in particular was obviously having problems as he seemed to be labouring very badly and as we passed him, his friends came back along the path, to check on his whereabouts. The weather had by now turned nasty and we were once again faced by torrential rain but this time, as well as the strong winds, we had drifting fog to add some variety. The North York Moors are excellent walking terrain with wide tracks crossing them, some being old railway beds that once served the ironstone mines. We soon arrived at a junction of tracks known as Bloworth Crossing where we joined the route of the old Rosedale railway and 'chugged' along this level track as it wound around the heads of the valleys below. Although the railway line meant that the going was easy as now we had a wide, firm track to follow with no inclines, after a few miles it became quite tedious as we could see the rail-bed stretching ahead for long distances as it wound around the valley heads. With no variation in the ground underfoot and views almost non-existent in the rain and fog, we seemed to be walking but not getting anywhere, as there was nothing by which to gauge our progress. At times, we were slowed by the wind and rain blowing strongly into our faces, and when the mist cleared, we had brief glimpses into the green valleys far below. After almost three hours of battling the elements, we left the Rosedale Railway at a sign for the Lyke Wake Walk, which signalled that we were at the Lion Inn at Blakey.
Looking through the rain to the unusually shaped summit of Roseberry Topping
Soon, we arrived at the edge of the road with no sign of the pub anywhere. After consulting the map, we realised that we must have been virtually on top of it and as we stood looking around a gap opened up in the mist and the shadowy shape of a building emerged from the gloom a couple of hundred yards away. We entered the pub via a small lobby that was packed with wet walking gear and rucksacks and we had soon stripped ours off and headed to the warm, inviting bar in our wet clothes. This being Sunday, the bar was rapidly filling up with people arriving for Sunday lunch but we managed to find a small table and ordered a beer and warming soup with a bread roll. As we had entered the bar, we had been greeted by Otto, one of the walkers from the campsite at the Blue Bell in Ingleby Cross two nights earlier. He informed us that the rest of the group from the pub had all left early that morning but he had stayed because of the inclement weather, hoping for an improvement that was forecast for later in the afternoon. Judging by the weather we had just left outside, he was in for a long wait! We had first encountered Otto many days before on Ravenstonedale Moor en-route to Kirkby Stephen, as he lay stretched out on the grass in the sunshine resting on his rucksack and this was to be the last time we would see him as he disappeared outside and didn't return. As we sat enjoying our beer and soup, the couple we had eaten breakfast with at the guesthouse came in and we made polite conversation before they headed off to the bar. They were finishing for the day at the pub where they had a room booked so we wouldn't be seeing them again either. After finishing our beer and soup, we reluctantly decided to head off out into the elements once again before getting too cosy in the pub. Putting our wet walking gear back on was quite an unpleasant task but soon we were on our way heading along the road in the mist and rain. Leaving the road, we followed a footpath slippery with mud across the moors and as we skirted around the head of the peculiarly named Great Fryup Dale, the weather finally relented a little and we had good views along the valley. Reaching a country road, we followed it for a short distance before picking up a wide track along the summit of Glaisdale Rigg and began descending to the village of Glasidale and our overnight stop.
Alan avoiding the puddles on Glaisdale Rigg
The weather by now had become showery and we could see a 'curtain' of rain falling on pine plantations across the Glaisdale valley on our right. When I had walked this section in 1998, I had enjoyed hazy sunshine as I strolled down the airy ridge and arrived in Glaisdale after a relaxed walk on what had seemed a fairly easy day. Today was a much different affair and it seemed an age before we reached the outskirts of the village and descended to the Arncliffe Arms, where we had a room booked for the night. The room was perfectly adequate but very small and we had enormous problems deciding what to do with all of our wet gear and large rucksacks. In the end, after we had showered, we put our dripping clothes and boots in the shower where we hoped they would dry overnight. Later that evening, we went to the bar where spoke briefly to a couple who we had met a few of times at various points along the way since leaving Reeth. As we sat perusing the menu and enjoying our beer, two young Belgian lads who we had first seen many days ago in Shap came in. We had a chat with them and discovered that they were staying a mile or two away on a campsite. As they were on a tight budget they were looking for something cheap to eat and had decided on pizzas, which was about the cheapest thing on the menu. I was thankful that we had the means and opportunity to be able to dry out in a bed and breakfast and pick what we wanted from the menu. Eventually, we retired for the evening after checking with the bar that the earliest we could get breakfast was 8am. We had one day to go and hoped that we would be able to finish in Robin Hoods Bay in better conditions than we had experienced over the past two days.        

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Coast to Coast - Saturday 16th July - Day 11 - Ingleby Cross to Gt.Broughton 15 miles

Peter, Me & Alan outside the Blue Bell pub, Ingleby Cross
Despite the rain in the night, we awoke to overcast but dry weather and packed up quickly while the tents were dry. Breakfast was quite a social affair as most of the Coast to Coasters from the camping field had booked a cooked breakfast. The process of ordering and getting food on the table took a while as there was only the landlord serving but the breakfast, when we got it, was fine except for some reason, he seemed to have assumed that I didn't like hash browns, at least that's the way it seemed, as everyone bar me received one with their breakfast. After we had finished eating, Alan, myself, and a walker called Peter, who we had met at the campsite in Reeth, had our picture taken outside the pub before setting off for the Cleveland Hills. Although it was still dry, it wasn't looking promising and as we climbed through the forest towards the summit of Beacon Hill, the first drops of rain had started to fall. This was quite a disappointment for me as when I had previously walked the Coast to Coast in 1998, the worst weather I experienced on the walk was on this stretch so I had been looking forward to seeing the hills in a better light.
Camping field at the Blue Bell, Ingleby Cross
Once on the summit, we were exposed to the full force of the elements and with the wind now blowing strongly away from the shelter of the trees, the rain began to intensify and as we briefly dropped down into trees again, we stopped to don our waterproofs before we became too wet. The Cleveland Hills is a wonderful stretch of the walk, in fact Wainwright describes it as the best outside of the Lake District and I have to say the switchback ridge of hills on the edge of the North York Moors is an exhilarating walk. Soon, we were plodding through torrential, driving rain and as water began to find it's way into my waterproofs I looked forward to the Lord Stones cafe where we were stopping for lunch. This is located at a beauty spot on a minor road on Carlton Bank and is a traditional stopping point for Coast to Coasters.
The Cleveland Hills
The next section I remember mainly for the rain and the fact that I felt extremely fit and energetic as I powered over the hills towards the promise of a hot cup of tea and something to eat. The walkers from the pub the previous evening were all strung out along the ridge and Alan, Peter and myself reached the cafe first and stripped off our dripping waterproofs. Our clothes underneath were soaking wet despite the fact that most were wearing good quality clothing. We ordered hot mugs of tea and sausage baps followed by caramel slices and as we sat, more dripping, bedraggled walkers came in to the warm haven of the cafe. It's during conditions such as this that the camaraderie felt among walkers comes to the fore and we sat in a group chatting about the walk and the weather and our experiences so far along the way since starting out in St.Bees. Eventually, it was time to put our wet gear back on and head off out into the elements. This section in the guidebook ends at the road at Clay Bank Top before heading off across the North York Moors and walkers face a choice of a 2.5 mile walk into Gt.Broughton along the road or a further eight mile walk to the Lion Inn at Blakey Ridge. We had decided the previous evening to book into a guesthouse in Gt.Broughton and given the weather conditions, I was extremely glad that I wouldn't be pitching my tent this evening. The rain had not eased as we left the cafe and we plodded on across the hills, squelching through the driving rain before arriving at a choice of paths below The Wainstones. Here, we said goodbye to Peter, who was carrying on to the Lion Inn and followed a signpost for Gt.Broughton heading along a track through a pine forest. The rain seemed reluctant to ease and in fact, as we followed the track it actually became even heavier, sluicing down through the trees and flooding the ground and causing us to detour around some of the larger puddles that covered the entire track. Eventually, we reached the road and as we descended into Gt.Broughton, the rain finally eased, just as it had thirteen years earlier. We reached the village and had to phone the guesthouse for directions but were soon stripping off our wet gear in the garage of the house before being shown to our room by a lovely lady who told us that there would be a pot of tea and cakes waiting for us downstairs as soon as we had sorted ourselves out. Soon, we were sat in the conservatory looking out across the garden to the ridge of hills that we had just traversed as we relaxed enjoying the tea and cakes but I couldn't help but wonder how the other walkers from the Blue Bell were faring in the conditions. Later, we walked into the village and enjoyed dinner in a pub, grateful that we had decided to book into the guesthouse instead of camping in the very wet conditions. Hopefully, tomorrow would bring better weather.
Battling the elements on the Cleveland Hills

Friday, 15 July 2011

Coast to Coast - Friday 15th July - Day 10 - Richmond to Ingleby Cross 23 Miles

Richmond Castle from the River Swale
Today was the day that most Coast to Coasters dread, the long, largely scenery and contour free crossing of the Vale of Mowbray between the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors. Strangely, when I did the walk in 1998, I had really enjoyed this day as I had probably the best weather of the whole trip and had treated the day as a challenge walk, trying to complete it in as short a time as possible. This time however, we had the extra impediment of a large rucksack to carry so it would almost certainly take longer than I had thirteen years earlier. After an excellent breakfast at the guesthouse we set off for the centre of Richmond and stopped for supplies in the market square and with the clock on the church tower chiming 8am, headed out of town over the River Swale with good views of the castle ruins to our left.

Leaving Richmond
The weather was fine although a little cloudy and we stopped occasionally to take photos of the castle as we headed out into woods just beyond the town. After one or two up and downs through the woods on muddy paths, the terrain settled down into largely featureless fields interspersed with the occasional village all of it unmemorable but not unpleasant and we made good progress before arriving in Bolton on Swale. The village is most notable as the resting place of Henry Jenkins who is reputed to have lived to the frankly unbelievable age of 169. There is a monument to mark his fantastically long life in the churchyard but as I had seen it on my previous visit, and partly because I find it hard to take seriously, we didn't linger and soon passed through the village.
The River Swale 
Although a lot of the road walking to the village of Danby Wiske has since been omitted by diverting the route across fields, we stuck to the road to enable us to clock up the miles as quickly as possible but by the time we reached the quaintly named village, we were ready for a drink in the White Swan. After being served by the most miserable barman it has ever been our misfortune to encounter, we sat out in the pleasant sunshine to enjoy our drink before setting off once again, partly because we didn't want to give anymore business to the grouch at the bar but mostly because there were still quite a number of miles to walk before reaching Ingleby Cross. One of the welcome features of this stretch of the walk was the refreshments left out for Coast to Coaster's at various farms we passed through.
A Welcome Sight
Often, there were cool boxes containing cold drinks, chocolate bars and flapjacks, so you could help yourself to what you wanted and make payment in an honesty box. Towards the end of the long walk, one of these was a very welcome sight as it also had a picnic table and chairs where we could rest our weary legs. After many more miles of largely forgettable countryside we reached the outskirts of Ingelby Arnecliffe from where we had to cross the extremely busy A19 road as we headed to Ingleby Cross, which we reached after nine hours of walking feeling fairly footsore. Arriving at the Blue Bell pub, we found that it was closed but there were other Coast to Coaster's camped in the camping field at the rear of the pub so we pitched our tents and showered and washed clothes before eventually heading into the bar for a meal and a few beers with a number of others doing the walk. In all there were seven Coast to Coaster's staying at the campsite for the night and we had a good night in the crowded bar before retiring to our tents. As I fell asleep I heard rain falling on the tent, which signalled the end of our good fortune with the weather.   

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Coast to Coast - Thursday 14th July - Day 9 - Reeth to Richmond 10.5 miles

Marrick Priory
After a cold night, we awoke to an equally cold morning in the caravan, which was confirmed by the fact that we could see our breath as we prepared breakfast. Packing up was a much quicker affair without having to worry about the tents and we were soon on our way to the village where we stopped at a shop to stock up on food and drink for the walk. Peter, the campsite manager had told us the previous evening that he had been discussing the recent Coast to Coast documentary starring presenter Julia Bradbury with the shop owner and the resulting positive effect on the local economy. Certainly, apart from the first day or so, obtaining supplies had been very easy with many shops stocking prepared sandwiches and snacks. The whole walk had certainly become more of an 'industry' than it had been thirteen years earlier on my last trip. Today's objective was Richmond, the largest town on the whole walk and we were booked into a guesthouse for the night. With this being one of the shortest, easiest sections of the route, we could relax and take it easy, which we did, strolling along through the now tamed, scenically gentle Swaledale on a beautiful sunny day. The difference between this countryside and the walk as it had entered the bleak, wild upland parts of the valley two days earlier was quite marked. We reached Marrick Priory in it's idyllic valley setting, enhanced by pine forests in the background before climbing Nunnery Steps through the woods to the tiny hamlet of Marrick.

View of Swaledale
This section between the hamlet and the village of Marske proved to be a wonderful walk through typically bucolic English scenery and the views from the hilltops were delightful in the warm sunshine. We stopped briefly in Marrick and had a quick conversation with a group of Coast to Coasters going east to west who seemed to be under the impression that the harder days were behind them. We didn't like to disillusion them. Heading out of the village, we approached a walker sitting on a bench resting with his boots off and stopped for a chat. We had seen Alan, (which, as we later found out, was his name) on a number of occasions and had said 'hello' a few times but we hadn't had the opportunity to talk to him before. I would guess that Alan was in his seventies and looked quite frail and walked slowly, often with his arms folded. We would overtake him fairly early on most days as he slowly strolled along and it was quite baffling that he always seemed to be in front of us as we set off each day. We later learned that, though he walked slowly, he walked for many hours at a time, so although we passed him early on in the day, he would always halt overnight a few miles further on from us.
Swaledale from Applegarth Scar
After chatting for a while, we left him sitting in the sunshine and headed for the limestone cliffs of Applegarth Scar, which we climbed without too much trouble before stopping on the path just below the clifftops to rest and enjoy the views down Swaledale. Continuing, we reached Whitcliffe Wood and enjoyed the change in scenery through the woodland before emerging on a road as the first views of Richmond with it's enormous castle keep towering over the town came into view. This section of the walk proved to be a very easy stroll along tarmac and we passed a number of people out for a walk enjoying the summer sunshine as we descended into the attractive cobbled town square.
Richmond Castle towers over the town
Being among the hustle and bustle of a town the size of Richmond after more than a week of staying in  villages seemed a little odd at first but as we were too early to check into the guesthouse, we found a pub on the square with tables outside and bought a welcome pint and, being back in the land of the mobile signal after two days without, made calls home before checking in and sorting out our gear for the following day. The guesthouse was one I had stayed in thirteen years earlier on my previous trip, and I introduced myself to the owner who was still running the establishment. On my first visit, she had just taken over the business and it had suffered from a slightly neglected atmosphere. Now, however, things couldn't have been more different as she whisked our laundry away and took orders for packed lunches for the following day. Later that evening, we returned to the town centre for a very generous meal in the pub we had drunk in earlier, which would hopefully set us up for the longest section of the route tomorrow, the twenty three mile crossing of the Vale of Mowbray to the North York Moors, the last National Park of the walk.  

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Coast to Coast -Wednesday 13th July - Day 8 - Keld to Reeth 11.75 miles

View from Crackpot Hall
I woke early after a really uncomfortable night in the tent, which was due to a number of factors. Firstly, the ground we were pitched on, although it had looked fine when we were pitching the tents, when I got into my sleeping bag, I realised there was a slight incline from head to toe as well as from left to right. This meant that not only did I keep sliding to the bottom of the tent but I was also rolling to one side. On top of this, I was cold! My sleeping bag is a lightweight 2/3 season one and had been fine up until now but during the night I had needed to get fully dressed and put my fleece on, just to enable me to sleep.

Blakethwaite Smelt Mill
Keld is around 1100ft above sea level and despite this being July, the temperature at this fairly elevated altitude had dipped sharply overnight. This wasn't helped by the campsite being situated in the bottom of a valley alongside a river. Upon returning home after the walk, I found a report on the internet from someone who had stayed in Keld the month before us and had been woken by the cold in the night and upon investigation discovered that his tent was covered in ice. And this was in June! To cap it all, when we emerged from the tents in the morning, there were swarms of midges to contend with. This is the same or very close relative of the Scottish midge and until you have experienced them, you have no idea what they are like. Imagine a cloud of virtually invisible vampires whose only interest is helping themselves to your blood then you start to get the picture. They get in everywhere that there is exposed skin and nothing deters them. There are numerous sprays that claim to protect against them but in my experience, these are of limited use against these demons. They will get in your ears, hair, nose and any available point where there is exposed skin. Alan, whose reaction to these bites was quite severe, hid in his tent until it was time for breakfast. Eventually, after lots of arm waving trying to fend them off, we managed to pack up our gear and head for the barn where our egg and bacon breakfast baguettes were served by the ever helpful Heather. After washing them down with mugs of tea, we collected our packed lunches, paid our bill and after bidding Heather farewell, set off to Keld village from where we would head into the hills.
North Hush
The days route was a high level traverse through the remains of the Swaledale lead mining industry and we would be passing a number of old mines on the walk. As we left the village, we crossed a bridge over the River Swale and admired East Gill Force waterfall at the point where the Coast to Coast walk and the Pennine Way coincide. Passing the forlorn ruins of Crackpot Hall, a ruined farmhouse with a fabulous view down the River Swale, we climbed steeply up the East Gill from the ruins of the Swinnergill Mines, alongside a small stream tumbling down the hillside before joining a wide track across the top of the moors. The next few miles were peppered with the remains of old lead mines and many of the hillsides stripped bare by 'hushes', a man-made process used in mining whereby a dam is built at the top of a hill and water trapped behind it is released before rushing down the hillside and stripping away topsoil to reveal the minerals beneath. The remaining scene hereabouts was a strange mix of moorland views and industrial remains, as there were many old decaying mine buildings still in evidence.
Surrender Bridge
After descending to the ruins of Blakethwaite Smelt Mill, we climbed out of the valley above more mine buildings and reached an area on top of the moors was where the spoil from the mines had been deposited, blanketing the moor in a deep covering of gravel. Here, no vegetation of any sort grows and it felt a little like walking through a quarry, although the access road to the area made for easy walking. From here, we followed a valley alongside a river to the Old Gang Smelt Mill where we stopped for lunch in the sunshine before continuing onto Surrender Bridge, which featured in the television programme 'All Creatures Great and Small'. Contouring around Calver Hill, we reached Reeth, our destination for the day, which is an attractive Dales village arranged around a large village green surrounded by pubs and shops. After locating the Orchard Caravan Park, we met with the owner, Peter who turned out to be just about the most friendly, accommodating person on the whole trip. He obviously had a soft spot for Coast to Coasters as he was charging them £1 less for overnight camping, but more than this, he actually had a number of Coast to Coast caravans specially set aside to save pitching tents and all for the same price! We gratefully accepted Peter's offer of the caravan and were delighted to have the luxury of running water and electricity. Okay, the caravan had seen better days but for £5 each a night, we weren't complaining! He even phoned ahead to Richmond for us to enable us to secure a booking in a guesthouse for the following day.
Swaledale, Nr.Reeth
We went through the usual ritual of showering and washing clothes before strolling back to the village for a meal and a few beers. We headed for the Buck Hotel, which had been advertising itself along the route as the meet-up place for Coast to Coasters. It was okay but we found it a little expensive and there was no sign of any Coast to Coasters so we adjourned to the Black Bull, which we preferred. After another beer, we strolled back to the campsite and although, at around 650ft, Reeth is only around half the height above sea level of Keld, it was still quite chilly. The caravans had no bedding so it was a case of using the sleeping bag on top of a double bed and I spent a second uncomfortable night as my sleeping bag struggled to cope with the drop in temperature.  

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Coast to Coast - Tuesday 12th July - Day 7 - Kirkby Stephen to Keld 12.75 miles

The road from Hartley
The Pennine View campsite was failing to live up to it's name as we emerged from the tents, as the hills we were destined for today were obscured by cloud. Somewhere in the mist rolling around on the summits were the huge stone cairns of Nine Standards Rigg, the mysterious markers on the Pennine watershed. After we crossed this point later today all rivers would flow east to the North Sea instead of west. The origin of these huge cairns in not known but there are many theories and they are known to have existed at least since the 18th century. 
Approaching Nine Standards Rigg
We were invited to breakfast by our friends in the nearby tent and had toast and coffee with them until it came time to say goodbye. The odd thing is that although we had socialised with this lovely couple since arriving on the campsite, for some reason we never exchanged names, so whoever you were, it was a pleasure meeting you. We set off in the direction of the town and although the weather was dry, there was  still a lot of cloud on the hills and the outlook wasn't promising. As we reached the market square in the town, we passed the quiet American woman we had seen at the start, all of those miles ago and nodded a 'hello' in her direction. Leaving the town, we crossed the quaint 'Frank's Bridge' and headed off across a field where we met an old man walking his dog. 'You've got a lovely day for it', he said optimistically. 'Looks like it might rain' I said, ever the pessimist. 'No, it will clear later', lied the old man. It didn't clear but neither did it rain much so I suppose in the battle of the amateur weather forecasters, it was a draw. We took the road through the village of Hartley and followed it steeply uphill onto the open fells. As we climbed, the weather became more threatening until, as the tarmac ended and we joined the track up onto Nine Standards, it had become cold and windy so we stopped to don our waterproof jackets. We were now crossing peat bogs, and had been advised by a walker on the campsite who had crossed them the day before that they were 'terrible' and we would definitely need to wear gaiters. As I didn't have any, this was going to prove to be a problem.
The remote Ravenseat Farm
We continued climbing with the huge cairns getting larger but every time we thought we were close they would disappear behind the brow of a hill, only to re-appear later seemingly no closer than before. This happened a few times and just when we were becoming frustrated and wondered if we would ever reach them, there they were just ahead of us, nine huge cairns standing taller than a man on the Pennine watershed. By now, the cloud had started to drift closer to the hilltops and it looked as though we were in for a soaking. We stopped by one of the cairns to eat a chocolate bar as the cloud drifted over our heads and the first few spots of rain started to fall. Expecting a deluge, we set-off again across the bogs, that weren't as bad as we had been led to believe and although we had to divert occasionally around some of the wetter sections, this proved to be the case throughout the whole route. Passing over White Mossy Hill, we continued down to a pillar of stones marked on the map and started descending, following a clear, unmade track downhill towards the B6270 road. Something felt wrong, so I stopped and checked the map and sure enough, we had been seduced by the obvious route leading downhill  when we should have veered further left on a much less obvious path. Rather than climb back up to the point where we had gone wrong, we opted for cutting across the peat over a small gully to pick up the correct path. As Alan crossed the gully, I followed, but as I stepped on the opposite side, a large chunk of the far bank collapsed and I was dragged backwards by the weight of my rucksack into the gully. I lay there for a moment completely upside down, observing my feet against the sky and called out for Alan as, pinned back by the weight of the rucksack, I was unable to get up. I lay there like a beetle on it's back wriggling around trying to right myself. After calling a couple of times, I realised Alan couldn't hear me over the wind so I tried to release the rucksack straps to enable to get up. Eventually, I managed to get free and stood up to see a rather bemused Alan looking around trying to work out where I had vanished to. 
Our tents pitched at Park House campsite, Keld
After having a laugh about my 'dying beetle act' we continued to follow the path across the moors towards Keld. The weather, although still very overcast, had not worsened since the shower we had had on the summit of Nine Standards and we were looking forward to tea at the remote Ravenseat Farm in Whitsundale.  Approaching the farm, we could see a number of D.O.E. youngsters sitting around on the picnic tables but unfortunately, there was also a sign saying that there was no tea and cakes today. It was signed with a 'sorry' and a kiss but that hardly made up for missing out on the much anticipated cuppa! We stopped for a break nearby and had something to eat and a cold drink from our supplies and strolled the short few miles into the remote outpost of Keld, a tiny hamlet in the upper reaches of Swaledale and the halfway point in the walk. When I had passed through here on my earlier trip in 1998, there was nothing much in Keld apart from the formidable Doreen Whitehead, who along with her husband Ernest, ran the Butt House bed and breakfast. Doreen was known for her no nonsense personality and ran a tight ship almost on military lines. She also offered three course meals and had a drinks licence otherwise Keld was dry and there was nowhere to get a drink or a meal. Now, Doreen has retired and Butt House and the old Youth Hostel have been taken over and are run by the same people, with Butt House still operating on similar lines and the youth hostel having been converted into Keld Lodge, a hotel and pub restaurant. The outside world has reached Keld. 
Wain Wath Falls
We were staying at Park House campsite and after ringing the doorbell on the farmhouse, were shown where to pitch our tents by Heather, who runs the site. Here too, we were told that we could get evening meals, breakfast and packed lunches so we promptly ordered all three. Once we had the tents up and had carried out the ritual of showering and washing clothes, we had an excellent dinner of home made beef stew before heading off for a few pints in Keld Lodge. Walking back to the campsite in the twilight along the deserted valley road, with only the sound of the occasional lapwing and bleating sheep, I felt like I had temporarily stepped back in time, into another age where even a mobile phone signal is still a dream!  

Monday, 11 July 2011

Coast to Coast - Monday 11th July - Day 6 - Shap to Kirkby Stephen, 20 miles

Looking back to Kidsty Pike
Today was to be our first day of walking outside of the Lake District since day one and also, at twenty miles, our longest in terms of distance. We packed up and left New Ing Lodge fairly early and headed along Shap High Street to the newsagents to purchase food and drink for the walk. We also bought sandwiches for breakfast and sat on a bench outside the shop to eat them. I find Shap a slightly melancholy place. It sits on what used to be a major halt on the route through to Carlisle and Scotland from the south until it was bypassed by the M6. Now, although I would guess the locals are glad of the peace and quiet, it has a slightly abandoned air to it, sitting as it does on either side of the now largely placid A6 road.

Alan and Labrador contemplate crossing the M6
We headed out of the village across fields towards the bridge over the motorway and as we paused to take photographs of the previous days route over Kidsty Pike and the Lake District, were joined by Mike and Sue and another couple with their brown labrador. They had spent the night in the Greyhound pub and were only walking the short distance to Orton today, so only had a around eight miles to walk. This meant that after today we were unlikely to see Mike and Sue again, which as we had started out with them from St.Bees, was a little sad. Heading off  once more, we crossed the M6 motorway towards Oddendale on our twenty mile march to Kirkby Stephen and left the other four on the bridge playing a game of 'spot the Stobart lorry'. As we left Oddendale for the remoter fells beyond, I recalled that thirteen years earlier it was at this point that I had been daydreaming and lost the path.

Limestone pavement
Then, I had tried to correct my error by follow a bearing to the Orton Road but was continually frustrated by dry stone walls barring my way until eventually, as I  tried to climb over one, it had promptly collapsed at my feet. I had then been followed by dozens of noisily bleating sheep that threatened to expose my presence to a farmer in a nearby field on a quad bike as I crossed the Lyvennet Beck, which I was anxious to avoid in case I was trespassing.  This time, I made sure I stayed alert, and we navigated our way to the Orton Road without incident. From the road we followed an attractive green lane to Scar Side farm where we stopped for a break. It appeared that the farm was no longer a working one but had been beautifully restored into an attractive guesthouse that also offered cafe facilities for Coast to Coasters. We took the opportunity to enjoy a pot of tea and chocolate muffins the size of a fist while relaxing at the picnic tables and chairs outside a gazebo that was presumably for use in bad weather. As we were packing up to leave, Mike and Sue arrived with the other couple and their labrador. This was the end of the days walk for them as they were staying at the farm and we were pleased to have the opportunity to say goodbye properly. We shook hands and said our goodbyes and headed off down the lane, still with around twelve miles to go to Kirkby Stephen. I was really enjoying this section of the walk through the rolling countryside with great views of the Howgill Fells away to our right.
The Howgill Fells on the horizon
On my previous trip, having shaken off the sheep and farmer on his quad bike, I had followed the Orton Road into the Village and most of the way to Sunbiggin Tarn, so had not seen this section of the walk before, which coupled with the very pleasant weather, made for excellent walking. Soon, we arrived at the road near to the tarn and headed off across Ravenstonedale Moor on a path I had used all  those years ago. As we descended to a minor road we passed a walker stretched out on the ground resting on his rucksack with his boots off and said hello as we passed. We were to bump into him again some days down the line, a few miles outside Ingleby Cross
Smardale Bridge
After a break, we headed off across fields to Smardale Bridge and I was surprised to find that the original approach route, which had been along the old Kirkby Stephen to Kendal coach road, had been altered since my last visit. Crossing the bridge, we climbed steeply onto the fells once again, with views of the disused Smardale viaduct before arriving on a housing estate on the edge of Kirkby Stephen via a series of field paths and country lanes. One of the features of the walk had been the lack of a phone signal, which had been very sporadic the whole way across so far. We passed a phonebox as we headed for the High Street in Kirkby Stephen and I tried ringing home only to find that it wasn't working.
Smardale Viaduct
We located the excellent Pennine View campsite at the far end of the High Street and set about pitching our tents as a watching couple reclined in chairs enjoying the evening sunshine outside theirs. They obviously thought we looked tired as while we put the tents up, they called out the most welcome words of the whole walk, 'would you like a beer?' We gratefully accepted and enjoyed a cool Budweiser as we finished putting up the tents before going over to chat with the very friendly couple who proceeded to offer us another beer. They asked us questions about the walk and informed us that there was a pub just across the road from the site that did evening meals. This meant that we didn't have the long walk down into the centre of Kirkby Stephen and after showering and washing clothes we met up with them again in the pub and enjoyed a pleasantly sociable evening. From the window of the pub, the stone pillars of Nine Standards Rigg, one of tomorrows objectives, were just visible as cloud gathered threateningly over the summit of the Pennines.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Coast to Coast - Sunday 10th July - Day 5 - Patterdale to Shap, 16 miles

Today was a day for milestones. Not only would we be leaving the Lake District but also reaching the highest point of the whole trek on the summit of Kidsty Pike, at 2,560ft above sea level. First, after breaking camp, we were faced with a walk back into the village for provisions before we started the walk proper, which added an extra half mile to the days total. 
Alan takes Mike & Sue's photo in Patterdale
We arrived at the village store as the owners were just opening up and watched as they wheeled out rack after rack of merchandise onto the pavement outside of the shop. Unlike some places we had passed through, the owners of this well stocked shop certainly knew which side their bread was buttered as it proved an Aladdin's cave of every requirement a walker could ask for. Besides freshly made sandwiches with numerous different fillings, there were hot bacon and sausage baps, chocolate and cereal bars, all sorts of bottled drinks as well as various items of walking gear. We purchased sandwiches, chocolate bars and drinks for the walk and hot bacon baps for breakfast and sat outside on a bench to eat them as Mike & Sue turned up, fresh from breakfast at the White Lion, where they had spent the night.
Angle Tarn
Soon, we set off and crossed the bridge over the river and picked up the path towards Boredale Hause. The climb to Kidsty Pike is moderately steep but fairly long and soon we were stretched out along the mountain path with numerous other walkers, some doing the Coast to Coast and others just out for a Sunday walk in the fells. The weather was again fine and we had excellent views of the mountains as we passed through Boredale Hause, soon reaching the prettily situated Angle Tarn. This is a popular wild camping spot but there was only one tent in evidence as we skirted around the shore and headed off in the direction of High Street, so called because an old Roman road runs along it's summit.  
Kidsty Pike
The two previous shorter days had certainly helped rest the leg muscles, which had recovered from the first couple of days of carrying the large backpack and I felt in good form with plenty of strength in my legs as we left the High Street path and turned left heading for the angled peak of Kidsty Pike. A few minutes later, we were on the top looking down into Riggindale and up to the surrounding fells. The scene here is one that never fails to impress me and we stopped with Mike & Sue to take in the views and lamented that soon, we would be leaving behind the superb mountain scenery of The Lake District for an altogether gentler terrain.
Haweswater Reservoir
Below, at the end of Riggindale, stood Haweswater Reservoir, our next objective, a path alongside it's shore our route out of the National Park and on to the village of Shap, where we would be spending the night. The reservoir used to be a natural lake until it was dammed to create the reservoir and in the process, flooded the village of Mardale. In times of drought, the village makes a ghostly re-appearance when the water level drops low enough and remnants of walls and buildings can still be seen. Leaving the summit, we descended carefully down the tricky Kidsty Howes rock outcrops before reaching the lakeside path. A lot of Coast to Coasters describe the path as 'boring' but I found it excellent going and we covered the 3.5 miles in good time arriving at the dam at the far end before dropping into the hamlet of Burnbanks where we stopped for a break. As we had approached the lake from Kidsty Pike, we passed a group of girl guides being led up to Kidsty Pike via the route we had just descended and  have to say that I didn't envy them. I have never seen such a dispirited bunch of youngsters as they struggled past us up the very steep slopes behind their leader, almost buried beneath huge rucksacks carrying all sorts of cooking and camping paraphernalia. If ever there was a foolproof method of ensuring that these young girls never set foot in the countryside again, then loading them up like packhorses was surely it.
Thornthwaite Force
As we left The Lakes, the countryside changed immediately and we found ourselves in woodland following streams before passing the impressive Thornthwaite Force waterfall. We now walked through gentler country of fields and pastures and finding our way through these became trickier than on the mountains with  gates and stiles to negotiate. After crossing a packhorse bridge we reached the ruins of Shap Abbey and soon found ourselves in Shap High St. opposite our intended stop for the night. After pitching our tents at New Ing Lodge, we headed into the village and had a meal and a few beers before heading off back to our tents. Tomorrow, we had a long day ahead, a twenty mile hike to Kirkby Stephen. 

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Coast to Coast - Saturday 9th July - Day 4 - Grasmere to Patterdale, 8.5 miles

View to the Grisedale pass
After a full cooked breakfast at the guesthouse, we stocked up on food at a nearby shop and hopped on the bus back to Grasmere. Mysteriously, the fare had gone up by thirty pence overnight but this was soon explained as the bus dropped us a further quarter of a mile into the village from where we had caught it the day before. Grasmere seemed much more pleasant early in the morning without the hordes of tourists and after we had sorted out our rucksacks we were soon headed out on a quiet country lane towards the A591 where we were to pick up a path climbing alongside Tongue Gill and on up towards Grisedale Tarn.

Alan practices crossing rivers
The weather was looking very promising and as it began to warm up, Alan had to stop to remove the 'legs' from his zip-off trousers. Besides overheating, from which he suffered regularly, Alan was also unfortunate in that he was suffering badly from insect bites, particularly midges. While I seemed to be of no interest to the tiny black vampires, Alan was constantly followed by a cloud of insects that hovered just above his head. Each day, a new crop of bites would appear and I couldn't help but sympathise as he sat in the pub each evening scratching away at each new eruption on his skin. It seemed odd that I wasn't bothered by them and we came to the conclusion that it was body heat that attracted them.
Waterfalls on Tongue Gill
As we climbed out onto the open fellside, we could see large groups of walkers taking the high route above Tongue Gill while the lower route appeared walker free. This was soon explained by a sign at the river warning that the bridge leading to the start of the lower route was unsafe. A large hole in the middle of it had been covered with a board and I tested it using one of my trekking poles before crossing carefully, followed closely by Alan, once I had reached the safety of the other bank. There now followed a wonderful, steady climb in beautiful surroundings towards the Grisedale Pass and we made good progress, arriving eventually at the impressive cascades below the summit of the pass.
Looking back down Tongue Gill
Soon, our route joined with the higher route, and after a short distance, we stood on the pass looking down onto the calm waters of Grisedale Tarn. This spot held a particular significance to me as when I had been here thirteen years earlier, I had experienced the worst weather of the whole trip when a blizzard had blown up just as I reached the tarn. The wind then had been so strong that I had been unable to proceed and I was forced to shelter behind rocks near the end of the tarn while I waited for the storm to abate. Now, the scene couldn't have been more different and we stopped for a break and enjoyed the sunshine as we ate and watched two female fell runners descending the almost vertical flanks of Fairfield. As they reached the tarn, they casually said 'hello' before continuing their conversation as they began the steep climb up the path to Dollywagon Pike with us staring after them in awe.
St.Sunday Crag from Grisedale Tarn
From the pass,we descended into the Grisedale valley and enjoyed an easy and uneventful stroll in wonderful scenery to the village of Patterdale, our overnight halt. We located the Side Farm campsite and booked in at the cafe where we indulged in tea and cake before walking the extra quarter of a mile to the site to pitch our tents. Apart from the inconvenience of the distance from the village, this was a wonderful site situated on the banks of Ullswater with stunning views across the lake to Glenridding and the surrounding fells.
View from the Campsite
After pitching the tents, we showered, washed clothes out and relaxed enjoying the afternoon sun before returning to the village for a meal and a few pints in the White Lion pub with Mike and Sue, the Australians  we had set out with four days earlier. The walk back to the campsite seemed much shorter after a few drinks but we knew that tomorrow, the easier, shorter days would be coming to an abrupt halt as we headed for Shap and out of the Lake District via the highest point of the whole walk.