Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Day Fourteen: Egton Bridge to Robin Hood's Bay

Date: Friday 27th July 2007
Mileage: 17 Miles
Weather: Warm and sunny - all day

It's the last lap and I'm sad and glad that we are nearly there. We left the pub at 9.00 and were soon into our stride again. At Grosmont we were lucky - the 'Sir Nigel Gresley' was in the station and all fired up and ready to go - what a splendid, steamy, shiny sight. It's a beautiful machine and its creator was born just two miles down the road from us. The train enthusiasts have recreated the heyday of steam with a ladies waiting room, piles of battered, old suitcases and advertisements from the 1950's. I was expecting to see Trevor Howard help Celia Johnson remove some soot from her eye with his handkerchief.

The climb out of Grosmont was stiff but at the top we were rewarded with our first sight since St Bees of the sea, this time the North Sea. However, we still had twelves miles to walk even though we saw a sign saying, "Whitby 7 miles" - almost tempted to walk there and catch the bus to RHB but no, we can't cheat now. The guide book caused some confusion for the next section - but soon back on track. The walk through Littlebeck Wood was pretty - Falling Foss and the Hermitage. then we were onto the open moors - extremely boggy - like walking over a sodden sponge full of very dirty, muddy, smelly water. We had to carefully pick our way through the quagmire but still went in up to the ankles. The walk through the caravan park was a strange contrast to the rest of the day - neatly manicured lawns, smart gravel paths, decking and shiny luxury caravans with net curtains. We trudged through looking sweaty, muddy and slightly dishevelled whilst I imagined behind the net curtains caravanners put the kettle on, opened a packet of custard creams and watched 'Cash in the attic' on portable televisions.

Now we were on the coast and following the cliffs down into RHB. This section was very busy - lots of people out for a stroll in the sunshine. We were in a hurry and soon overtook the crowds - I've never walked so fast as I did that last section. I think it was combination of half a Mars Bar, a swig of Lucozade and adrenalin. We walked down the steep street to the sea, dipped our feet in the water, threw our pebble, took photographs and then retired to the Bay Hotel to have a drink and sign the Coast to Coast book. The Leicester Duo arrived very shortly afterwards and we sat outside in the sunshine to await the other Coast to Coasters in our bubble to arrive. As they did we clapped and cheered - much to their embarrassment and. I think, delight. The two doctors arrived next with their dog, Murph. Then a family of four who we'd seen a couple of times towards the end of the walk, then another couple and finally the Liverpool boys still carrying all their gear. We all sat outside the pub, drank beer and talked about the walk - it was a lovely, special moment. By seven o'clock everyone was making a move for showers, accommodation and dinner. We all said our goodbyes and congratulated each other once again

So ended our epic journey across the great, awe-inspiring, rugged expanse of Northern England. Our journey from sea to sea was complete. I almost wanted to go back and do it all again - well, maybe next year.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Day Thirteen: Blakey Ridge to Egton Bridge

Date: Thursday 26th July 2007
Mileage: 13 1/2 miles
Weather: Low cloud, windy. Rain later

We were on the road by 9.45 and we covered the route today very quickly. We had lunch at the Arncliffe Arms in Glaisdale - scrummy food. We met up with the Leicester Duo and the chap was suffering with a sore, sun burnt leg which looked very painful. I suggested that he might need someone to look at it and just as I said this two other Coast to Coasters walked in who just happened to be doctors (we'd seen them the previous evening in the Lion Inn). They had a look and in their professional opinion he wouldn't need to amputate his leg.....just yet. Today we also met up with the three boys from Liverpool who are camping along the whole route AND carrying all their kit - no baggage carriers for them - heroes. And we saw a lady who's walking alone who we hadn't seen since day three and she's still marching on. Everyone seems to have concertinaed together for these last few days - we have a bubble of coast to coasters.

We left the B&B this morning in thick cloud - again. So no views for us for the first couple of hours of walking over the moors. It was very quiet and eerie. This part of the route was punctuated by strange ancient boundary stones and markers - Fat Betty, Ralph Cross - it all added up to an atmospheric journey - very Sherlock Holmes and the Hounds of the Baskervilles. We also walked along Great Fry Up Lane - a reminder of all the bacon, sausage, black pudding, etc, etc we have eaten on this trip .I don't think I ever want to eat another 'Full English'.

The clouds gradually lifted and we walked along the banks of the River Esk which was picturesque but very muddy. We arrived in Egton Bridge at three o'clock and stayed at the Postgate Inn. Exceptional food, disappointing room and very expensive. Stedman waxed lyrical about the delights of Egton Bridge so that is why I chose to stay there. Next time I would walk the extra mile and half and stay in Grosmont...near the steam trains.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Day Twelve: Osmotherly to Blakey Ridge

Date: Wednesday 25th July 2007
Mileage: 21 miles
Weather: Rain to start then overcast and windy later

We met two interesting characters in the bus shelter at Osmotherly as we were leaving this morning. Within five minutes of leaving the B&B the rain started so we quickly nipped into the shelter to put on our waterproofs. The chaps looked liked knights of the road and we chatted about our trek and walks which they had done. Today they were catching the bus as they didn't like the look of the weather - a bus sounds tempting. I glanced at the timetable and there was a bus to Lord Stone's Cafe - 6 miles down the trail - as if!

There were a lot of ascents and descents today in fact there were five big hills to climb. The views should have been panoramic and wonderful but we couldn't see them as we walked through clouds for the most of the day. Very occasionally the clouds lifted for a couple of seconds and we glimpsed the patchwork of fields, farms and settlements laid out below us. It was like moving through a tunnel up in the clouds with just the footpath ahead of us and purple heather on each side. It was very easy walking underfoot as most of this section is paved now due to erosion (this section of the walk doubles up with the Cleveland Way). However it was very windy so we needed our jackets and hats on which made me, at least, very hot. Someone later in the day (in the pub) said he felt like a boil-in-the-bag meal he was so hot - I felt the same. Lord Stone's Cafe was a very welcome break and I enjoyed the mugs of tea and cake. Later I spotted a teeny, tiny baby shrew - so cute with his long nose. Also saw lots of grouse - not long until the glorious 12th.

Clay Bank Top was a bit of disappoint - just a bench - which was very useful for sitting on as we ate our packed lunch. This is the recommended finishing point for today's walk - but there's nothing there and no pubs or B&B's nearby so we soldiered on to Blakey Ridge and the legendary Lion Inn. Now more hills and moors but we had a view as the clouds lifted and we could see all the route we had walked today - now we could see how high up we had been. We could see the scale of our ascents and descents, the moors and the Wain Stones which we clambered over without really knowing what they looked like. One thing we did spot on this section - under a stone on one of the cairns was a piece of soggy notepaper. D had a look at it and found that it contained messages from Coast to Coasters to others doing the trek - what a band of brothers we are.

The next section of the walk was along a disused railway line through moorland. Around every bend we were hoping to see Blakey Ridge but every turn we came to we saw just more heather and sheep. At last we spotted it in the far distance - huzzah. The thought of a long cold drink added almost a spring to our step as we hastened towards the beckoning delights of the Lion Inn. We caught up with the Leicester duo and we urged each other on to cover the last mile or so.

What a great pub and such a welcome sight after twenty-one miles. As we entered the car park sheep scattered in all directions - they'd been rummaging through the bins behind the pub. This is a very isolated spot and it was quite a shock to walk into the bar and find that it was very busy. All the tables were full with people eating their pub meals and the bar staff were pulling pints like there was no tomorrow. Cheers!

Our B&B across the road from the pub (the only other building here) was very luxurious. Our bedroom was huge with an enormous window giving uninterrupted views of the landscape - just the stark moorland, sheep and the sky - marvellous.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Day Eleven: Richmond to Osmotherly

Date: Tuesday 24th July 2007
Mileage: 25 miles
Weather: Warm and sunny

What a day! Feet, ankles, knees - everything was hurting and protesting by the end of it. We arrived in Osmotherly at half past seven - it's a perfect place with lots of character, stone cottages, a couple of shops, a cafe, an eccentric B&B, good pub - The Queen Catherine Hotel. On our travels today we saw a couple from Leicester who we had been seeing on and off since Reeth and were destined to finish the walk with on Friday. We also met a lady with her two daughters and their dog who are camping.

Today was what seemed like an endless trudge across the Vale of Mowbray. Interminable road walking and dreary field walking along muddy, slippy, boggy paths. At one point there was the unmistakeable smell of a pig farm and it lingered in the air for three or four miles - rank. The only bright point of the journey was passing through Danby Wiske - what an excellent name for a place. Not much there but it does have a pub, the White Swan. Ice cold drinks and a nice sit down for half an hour revived spirits - only another 12 miles to go.

Danby Wiske may have been the one highlight of the walk but crossing the A19 dual carriage way certainly woke us up and got us moving. Fast and manic driving, lorries, cars, vans, noise, fumes. D grabbed my hand, we waited for our chance and legged it to the centre. Then after a few heart stopping moments with speeding traffic behind and in front we ran to the safety of the other side of the road - sore feet and aching joints forgotten. Shortly after I saw that the Leicester couple had safely made it across. I suggested a pelican crossing should be introduced for Coast to Coasters or even a lollipop lady. D didn't think either idea would work.

Now for the last three miles of the day - uphill! We were now heading into the Cleveland Hills and entering our third National Park of the walk - the North Yorkshire Moors. Osmotherly was just around the next hill. When we reached the top of the hill we looked back and we could see all the way we had come and in the far, far distance we could just make out the Yorkshire Dales. It felt like quite an achievement. 25 miles and still standing - just.

Day Ten: Reeth to Richmond

Date: Monday 23rd July 2007
Mileage: 10 1/2 miles
Weather: Sunny and warm until 3:00pm then a downpour

We left Reeth at half past nine in glorious sunshine. Just before the Nuns' Steps near Marrick we came across a farmer bringing his sheep down from the moors. The whole family was involved plus, of course, the sheep dog. He was so good at his job - rounding up the runaways without being told and very alert. We met up with one of the American guys. He's still plodding along with his large pack.

The Nuns' Steps were 375 stone steps up the hillside from the priory (now an outdoor activity centre) to the village. Apparently it was a penance for the nuns - not a penance for me though - I trotted up them like a mountain goat - must be getting fit at last.

It was a very easy walk into Richmond and we arrived in the market square at half past one. Hungry as usual so D suggested a Gregg's lunch - what a good idea - cheese and onion pasties danish pastries and doughnuts which we ate on a bench in the square - lovely. Richmond is very busy which is quite a shock after all the peace and solitude of the past week. Cars and coaches, road signs, traffic lights, milling crowds, every type of shop you could possibly need, a castle, a fast flowing river, ice-cream van - sensory overload! Richmond is very hilly, the streets down to the river are very steep. Luckily our B&B is only half way down the hill and has a view of the river. It was a short walk uphill to our chosen restaurant. Yes, restaurant - not a pub - we went to a very nice Italian place in the main square. Dean Martin crooning in the background, red wine and pasta - perfect.

Day Nine: Muker to Reeth

Date: Sunday 22nd July 2007
Mileage: 8 miles
Weather: Sunny and warm - all day!

We thought it would be an easy day today - what's eight miles when you know you can now do twenty-one? So we dawdled down the very beautiful and peaceful Swaledale. We're convinced we saw a kingfisher flash by along the river. We disturbed a deer behind a wall and it leapt over a fence into the woods - now that's something you don't see every day. We drank homemade lemonade in a tea shop in Gunnerside. We had a good look at a little owl sat on a stone wall. We also saw lots of rabbits - alive and dead. Maybe there were rabbit wars in progress - revolution and civil war in the warrens!

After Gunnerside we climbed up on to the open moors - stunning views up and down Swaledale. There was a trail bike event in progress up there. The clue was lots of bright pink marker flags and then we spotted, and heard, motorcyclists hurtling along the track wearing multi-coloured suits, goggles and helmets.

Our guide book (Stedman) let us down today - only the second time but still a nuisance. We came to a point where the path appeared to have been diverted round a recently renovated property. Took the diversion and then nothing....except rabbits and hay meadows. All very picturesque but spent half an hour scrabbling about a hillside to get back on track. After that we just wanted to get to Reeth as it was, dare I say, too warm now. the thought of a long cool drink in one of the three pubs sounded inviting so we stormed along the last three or four miles and arrived in the village in the early afternoon. A tasty late lunch from the Reeth Bakery and a couple of lager shandies from the pub and we were ready to relax and take in the sights and sounds of the village which is set in a stunning location, surrounded by limestone hills. Reeth was very busy with day visitors who all seemed to be from the North East. We sat outside the Black Bull on the edge of the square, had a wander over to the post office which states over the door that, "we are more than just a post office," and it was. It was a grocery store and a stationers as well - very useful if you need a new note-book and a loaf as well as a first class stamp.

After four o'clock we toddled off to our B&B which has an African Grey parrot called Del. Del was in a bad mood as he'd not had much sleep the previous night due to the cat disturbing him........

We had dinner at The Black Bull sat in the 'pen'. The pub is famous for its home-made pies - so I had one - lovely.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Day Eight: Kirkby Stephen to Muker

Date: Saturday 21st July 2007
Mileage: 16 miles
Weather: Raining most of the day then overcast, quite cool

Today was exciting, well, having a cup of tea in Keld was full of excitement. We arrived in Keld at 3 o'clock and stopped for a cup of tea and toasted teacakes at a very conveniently situated tea room and shop right on the C2C route (we've not had many opportunties to sample tea during the day on this trip). We had just sat down when one of the Ladybarn crew who we have passed a few times on the walk came in asking to use the phone to call an ambulance. A lady (not one of their party) had broken her ankle near the river. Three members of the Ladybarn crew were doctors (lucky) and were tending to her whilst the emergency services were called. Whilst the lady was down on the path her family came into the tea shop for coffee and ice-creams...strange! If that wasn't enough, shortly after a lady came into the shop to report that two cows had escaped from a field, run through a garden and were last seen tearing up the lane through the village! The tea shop lady said, "Nothing usually happens in Keld...."

Back to the walk. It was a solid plod. First out of Kirkby Stephen across a beautiful disused railway viaduct and across farmland. Just before we left KS we saw one of the parrots, a macaw, he was on a shop roof in town and squawking away - bizarre. As the weather has been so bad - the day before we arrived in KS they had had flash flooding in the town- we decided not to walk over the moors via Nine Standards. This is a very boggy spot at the best of times so we decided that discretion is the better part of valour and took the road route - tough on the feet but better than wading through smelly peat bogs. There's no denying it was a long slog up the road. It was up hill for 8 miles or so but there was hardly any traffic and we saw lots of birds (Curlew, Snipe, Grouse, Heron, Lapwing). It rained and rained but very warm as we toiled up the road and then it went cold as we breasted the hill and the wind hit us.

We passed from Cumbria into Yorkshire today - a significant moment. All rivers now flow towards the North Sea. We entered Swaledale - limestone, kilns, Swale River, waterfalls, Swaledale Sheep, stone barns, bridges and cottages. We followed a high, narrow path along the top of the dale and after a couple of miles there was Muker in the valley below - our B&B was in the village shop and the pub was next door - perfect.

Day Seven: Shap to Kirkby Stephen

Date: Friday 20th July 2007
Mileage: 21 miles
Weather: Grey, overcast and very windy (no rain)

A long day today- the longest day so far and the furthest I've ever walked in one day- but we did it in eight hours - huzzah! The highlights were: waving to lorry drivers as we crossed the footbridge over the M6 motorway (very exciting), seeing a hare which was only three yards away from us (beautiful) and Smardale Viaduct (a lovely surprise to spot it as we toiled up Smardale Fell). We covered the ground pretty quick today and we were in Kirkby Stephen at 5 o'clock.

We trekked over boggy moorland past ancient settlements which if the guide book hadn't told us about them we would never have known they were there. The last climb of the day over Smardale Fell was almost a fell too far. We were both very tired with sore feet and both wanting it to be over. We passed through some very remote and isolated places today and enjoyed the solitude and stark beauty of it all. It is very different to the Lakes but variety and contrast is what makes this such an interesting walk to do.

Our B&B, Fletcher House, is a Georgian delight with tea and cake waiting for us when we arrived. The Black Bull served us one of the best meals of the trip - homemade cottage pie - mmmmm! We shopped in the local Co-op to get our provisions for the next day. Kirkby Stephen - what a town- it's got it all - history, shops, parrots!

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Day Six: Patterdale to Shap

Date: Thursday 19th July 2007
Mileage: 17 miles
Weather: Very sunny and warm until 1:30 and then it rained all afternoon and evening

We had an early start this morning and we were on the road at twenty past eight and prepared to begin the highest climb of the trip. It was straight up the hillside to Angle Tarn - a stiff climb but the legs are not complaining so much now. There were quite a few others on the trail today - D counted 20. The views got better the higher we climbed. Once we were at the summit of Kidsty Pike it was amazing - all the fells looked glorious in the sunshine. Looking east to the horizon we could see the distant blue shapes of the Northern Pennines - the next high ground we had to cross. Looking west, the fells beckoned, calling us back - High Street, in particular was tempting us to make a detour. As Wainwright said, "Kidsty the best station for taking a last long look at the serrated mountain skyline of Lakeland, the like of which will not be seen again this side of the North Sea. But there will be other years, other visits...The hills will wait." (A Coast to Coast Walk, A. Wainwright, 1973).

Reluctantly we turned our backs on the fells and headed down towards Haweswater - hoping for a glimpse of the famous golden eagle. As usual, the descent was very steep and tough on the knees. Once again I was glad I had my stick. We stopped for lunch on a hillock overlooking Haweswater and enjoyed the sunshine whilst we munched our packed lunch from the B&B. Then, as we set off to walk the four mile length of the reservoir, it started to rain and it didn't stop for the next 12 miles. After our experiences walking along the banks of Ennerdale I was ready for an equally difficult path along Haweswater. With the rain as well, it turned into an endurance test. Up, down, rocky, slippy, boggy, boring, narrow - all those kind of words describe the route. At last we reached the end and the 'bright lights' of Burn Banks. This was a settlement created by Manchester City Council to house the workers who toiled on building the reservoir so Manchester citizens could enjoy clean, plentiful supplies of water. The area has been spruced up recently and the houses rebuilt for anyone who can afford to buy them. A very quiet, strange little place in the shadow of the dam. Definitely needs a tea room......

After an brief lull the rain started again and poured down until we reached Shap Abbey. This part of the walk, alongside a river, would have been very enjoyable in the sunshine but we were too wet and tired to appreciate our surroundings. We arrived in glorious sunshine! What's this? Later the rain returned just as we had finished our delicious meal at the Greyhound Pub in Shap and were walking back to the B&B - soaked again by the time we got there.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Day Five: Grasmere to Patterdale

Date: Wednesday 18th July 2007
Mileage: 10 miles
Weather: Very brief sunshine in the morning, then rain for three hours, then gloriously sunny in the late afternoon and evening.

We had a hard climb out of Grasmere up to Grisedale Tarn. It was very warm and humid in the valley but there were marvellous views back down towards Grasmere. Just as we reached the top the clouds rolled in and the mist surrounded us (very Tom Bombadill and the Barrowdowns). We made a command decision not to climb St Sunday's Crag as it was covered in cloud and more weather seemed to be moving in. We descended to Patterdale via the low level route next to Grisedale Beck. It was a long slow job (for me) picking my way down the steep, slippery, rocky path. After 5 minutes the heavens opened and it chucked it down for a couple of hours. We had to wear our waterproof trousers! I remembered saying before the trip, "Oh we won't need those - it'll be July and it never rains on my walking holidays...." Hmmmm. We ate our lunch under a tree which was nice but a little damp. The rain stopped as we strolled into the village of Patterdale. As it was early we went to the White Lion and had tea and soup. We wandered up to Noran Bank Farm (1/2 mile from the village past a very tatty looking YHA - glad we weren't staying there) and sat in the garden waiting for the owners to arrive. We sat there surrounded by our rucksacks, discarded boots and socks, baa-ing sheep and the most fantastic view of the fells and the route we would be taking tomorrow. The B&B was a very interesting place - built in 1617 and still a working farm run by real Cumbrians. The old dad, who had died a couple of years ago, was head of the local hunt. the dining room was full of memorabilia about his life and it looks like he was a real lakeland character. We had a wood- panelled bedroom and the floors were all uneven - great. The water came from a spring behind the house - it was like nectar.