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.

No comments:

Post a Comment