Everyone knows that this is ‘the biggie’. Everyone knows it’s the longest day, the most ascent etc, even if its not true. This is the day you have to get through, when your knees may go, or your Achilles or whatever.
For us it’s a day to go off route. Wainwright said you should make your own Coast to Coast, and not slavishly follow the proscribed path. Well today is it. It is quite a good feeling, thinking that our decisions are our own, for a short distance at least.
Amazingly, it is again a lovely day, and all my alternative bad weather plans for buses at two o’clock to Penrith, or a boat up the lake to Pooley Bridge, are surplus to requirement. Great. Good breakfast. Pictures of the landlady’s young son completing the Patterdale Round adorn the wall. (‘An interesting and varied day of hiking and scrambling with some fantastic views. The route starts from Patterdale and takes in Helvellyn via Swirral Edge or Striding Edge, Nethermost Pike, Dollywaggon Pike, Grisedale Tarn,Fairfield, Cofa Pike, St Sunday Crag and Birks.The route is approximately 16.5Km and involves 1,450m of ascent.’) They breed them tough around here it seems. He looks to be about 12.
As we boot up we tell her of our intension not to go back to Patterdale and ascend to Kidsty Pike via Angle Tarn as per THE BOOK. We have been down that route before, and there doesn’t seem to be much purpose to going back an extra mile plus to Patterdale. We plan to walk up the valley to Hartsop, go up to Haweswater, and ascend steeply to join the main route at The Knott. She thinks that is a good plan, and reckons it might save about 3 miles for us. Then she recommends another detour. The way down from Kidsty Pike is notoriously steep. Even THE BOOK calls it “gnarly”. Why not walk up the Roman Road (High Street) back towards Pooley Bridge, over High Raise, then turn off towards Bampton Common and down to Haweswater that way? This sounds like an OK sort of a plan. Maybe.
We set off into a gloriously beautiful morning. There’s something special about the light in the valley. Everything is suffused with a glowing dewy newness. Its like the morning of life. I am definitely coming over all poetic.
The path is good. Hartsop is lovely. The path up to Haweswater is steeper than we thought, but still fine. At Hawewater, the lake is all but deserted. This is such a great way to come. Our path up to The Knott is chest splittingly steep, but not long, and we are soon joining the main highway past the Straits of Riggindale and turning left for Kidsty Pike.
“Kidsty Pike… One of the finest views in all Lakeland”, intones my Wainwright impersonating companion. It has been such a great morning, and it’s a real teehee to be turning off down High Street and avoiding Kidsty Howes.
Along High Street all is sweetness and light. We know the path, and its easy but boggy. We can see Ullswater below from the top of High Raise. Its even getting warm. I’m glad we made an early start.
So on we go. And on. And then along. But unfortunately we have not spotted the turn off to Bampton Common. We didn’t ask the landlady for much detail. as we have our map. The path seems obvious on it, opposite the path up from Fusedale….
We never did find that path. The cotton grass is long up here in its summer profusion. God knows where it was. Ray decides that we must cut across country, ie bog, in the correct sort of direction. This is incomprehensible to me.
How can you walk where there isn’t a path? Over bog??
He seems to think this is OK though. So we set off in a direction he thinks is where we should be. Luckily, after our recent dry spell the bogs hereabouts are probably as dry as they ever get. You do have to watch where you put your feet. There are sheep tracks to follow and sheep to talk to (they seem surprised to see us), and after a very long 15 minutes or so, then going down deepinto the peat to cross a stream and up the other side, we can see a couple of paths going somewhere. They bring us out onto a common quite a way above Haweswater where we should be. (Respect Ray!)
Should we contour down to the Lake or continue along the path? Ray plumps for the path, and although this was not necessarily the worst choice it does take us an eternity to come off of the common; past a farm, through several areas of waist high bracken past free animals, over a stream. All in full on sun. No shade to be seen. We also have several anxious moments when we seemed to be getting further away from where we should be, before we finally emerge onto a road at Burnbanks, the village at the end of Haweswater. The Coast to Coast sign is a few yards away.
That was quite an adventure!! And still quite a way to go.
This third part of the day takes us along a shady stream and over farmland, and by the time Shap Abbey comes into view we really are rather tired.
There’s a lovely old couple out walking their Yorkshire terrier. “Go on in the grounds,” they advise me, “and have a proper sit down!”
We still have to get to Shap though. THE BOOK tells us its only 20 minutes more. Ray is behind me, which is odd, and I realise without thinking about it, that he is exhausted. So we proceed along the road to Shap singing loudly… anything that comes to mind… anything to stop thinking about walking.
Lucky lucky. Our B&B is one of the first we encounter in the village, but priorites are Beer, Beer and Beer. Just after the B&B is The Bulls Head. Its definitely not Lakeland. The garden is a trifle shabby. But the pint of shandy we both have disappears like water poured onto sand. Better go on to our lodgings then.
The Hermitage is imposing, and the landlady welcoming. Goodness only knows how we get those brick lined suitcases up the creaky stairs. Our room is tilting wildly to one side. It is a very old house, but our room has… yes, it really does have… a bath!!!
Sometime about now Ray starts shivering and feeling bad. We realise in due course that he must have sun stroke. He has first bath,takes Paracetamol and Ibuprofen, drinks a pint or two of water, and retires to bed.
When its my turn. I am enjoying my soak when through the wall comes the unmistakable splash followed by groans of ecstasy as another Coast to Coaster slides into hot water.
This has been such a strange day. There’s been so much of it, and we have totally lost track of time. How did that all fit in to one day?? And how did we have time to go out to eat later?? It doesn’t make sense to me now at all, but I know we did. The sunstroke victim rallied, and we were about to go into the empty Shap chippy, where three eager assistants looked up, pleased at the prospect of some custom at last, when we were hailed from the Bulls Head by the U3Aers, who were just ordering their meal there. Of course we joined them.
The deserted chippy attracted no custom, until they were closing and a group of teenagers descended. For a split second it looked as though the chippy in chief would turn them away. Damn you. We’d rather throw the chips away than serve you 2 minutes after closing time. But he relented. “There can’t be much for teenagers to do here on a Saturday night,” commented somebody.
As for us, somehow we ate a large meal each, enjoyed an evening of good company, and felt OK. We must have been in some sort of timewarp.