Monday 4th July Orton to Kirkby Stephen

Over a very civilised breakfast next morning, the landlord, not David, waxes lyrical about Pennine rain, something he seems to relish. Then just as we are finishing breakfast he tells us about some local art installation thing. It’s a pinfold by Andy Goldsbury, and its “just down the road” beyond where we turn off to rejoin the track. Many people might have found this a bit vague. Certainly John and Trish were not sucked in to the idea of seeing it, but of course it was just the sort of thing we would find irresistibly attractive. Even before we had repassed the crazed dog, still hurling itself against the glass, we both knew we were going to look for it. Not that we knew what we were looking for exactly. Or indeed where we should look exactly. But you sort of feel that you will know art when you see it. Unfortunately we never did see it. Even though we now know that we came quite close, it was not “just down the road”. Whether we would have recognised it had we got there is a question which will remain unanswered, as we turned round and retraced our steps to Knott Lane in order to rejoin the track. In compensation we did locate a stone circle by the side of the lane, and failed to herd up two straying sheep escaped from their field. (Very stubborn creatures, sheep.)


Back on the track, then. In retrospect, the walk from Orton to Kirkby Stephen was a most pleasant one. It begins over soft sheep-cropped grass fields enclosed by stone walls beneath Orton Scar. There are views to Howgill Fells. After a short moorland detour you come to Sunbiggin Tarn “an important bird sanctuary” rather lacking in birds today.


After the Tarn there is a short section of road where Ray spots a rare flower.


Then this very varied day continues over more moorland, then farmland, via a cow blocked gate to “One of the most important prehistoric sites in Britain”, apparently, being the Severals Village Settlement (Unexcavated!!) Whilst it looks no more than a field, you must not walk on it. It is all very pretty hereabouts, however, and we stop for lunch just by it, sitting by flower encrusted limestone pavement with a view down into Smardale Bridge. Across the valley are the ‘Giants Graves’ (Rabbit enclosures? Pillow mounds? No one seems sure.)


Down in the valley there is a bridge across the Scandal Beck, a few ‘hairy cooos’, a disused railway line (Tebay to Kikby Stephen), sunshine, and lots of little fish in the stream. Then its up and up again, alongside that very long wall, to see a view of the distant Smardale Viaduct.


The track continues up over Smardale Fell. Once over the crest we should see views of Kirkby Stephen, but we don’t. We can certainly see the Pennines, however, and they are close now. We descend, join a road, then turn back through fields and cross underneath the Settle to Carlisle Line.

After a diversion around the very muddy yard of Greenriggs Farm we enter the back lanes of Kirkby Stephen. Shortly these same lanes spit us out into the throbbing centre of the town. It is only the B6270, but it feels as though the town straddles the A1. There are lorries aplenty, cars, buses and motorbikes. Women with buggies and schoolkids on bikes throng the pavements. Noise. Confusion. We’ve been countrified for too long evidently. The up side of town life is, of course, the Tea Shop. Words cannot fully express the pleasure which can be enjoyed at this stage of the day from a cup of tea and a piece of lemon drizzle cake!


Ah, Kirkby Stephen, the northern equivalent of Totnes, capital of weird. Opposite the tea shop is Old Croft House, our B&B for the night. It is indeed an old house. A slightly rusty iron gate prefaces the solid front door. Inside, dark wooden panelling and red painted walls; a quirky suit of armour holding white gloves in the hallway.


The landlady hopes we weren’t hoping for an evening meal. Officially we were, but after yesterday our expectations have relaxed somewhat. She’s too busy to cook as she is moving out on Friday. Not going far though. Only to the other end of the village to enjoy a sort of retirement. “Couldn’t leave Kirkby!”

She ushers us upstairs, past an enormous book clad wall. “Weathers not good tomorrow.”

Our room is not so much a bedroom, more a fairy glade. Clashing green and pink walls are surmounted by a fabric covered ceiling gathered together in the centre. It gives the impression of a large tent. The walls are hung with numerous fairy pictures. The small colourful bathroom is crammed with bathing products and includes a foot spa. The bed is old fashioned and high, and it is rather dark in the room. Too dark to read anyway. I suppose that, given the unusual surroundings, it is not surprising that we have our first and only falling out of the walk here. THE BOOK has to take some of the responsibility for this, as it turns out that I am not the only one to be spooked by the description of the way over Nine Standards Rigg… the poor paths, the deep bogs.. especially the deep bogs. I am worried. Instead of keeping this to myself I have to tell Ray, and I have to go on about alternative paths, and what happens if the mist is down, and so on and so forth. I feel better after our discussion, but he does not.

Following a rest we hit the high spots of KS. Namely the Church (Cathedral of the Dales with Viking Loki Stone), the furlong signpost, and the Temperance Hall and Hotel. We even hear and then see one of the flock of large blue Macaws that roam the town by day and home at night. (Quirky? KS?? Nooo)

clip_image016 clip_image018

With the matter of tomorrow not settled between us, and the weather deteriorating, it was a bit of an unquiet night.

(Although not as much as it was for John and Trish sleeping next door who claimed that their room was haunted!)

Sunday 3rd July Shap to Orton

Wake up in The Hermitage on another bright and beautiful morning. No pressure today as we have a short ‘recovery’ day of 8 miles. The main route carries on to Kirkby Stephen, some 20 miles away, but we are going to make the less stressful detour to Orton, and stop there for the night. Outside the beautifully maintained garden is bathed in sunlit dewiness, and there is already someone up a ladder painting the windows. There is a fantastic breakfast. I think it’s the only actual FULL English I have on the entire trip, witness to yesterdays exertions, and its really good. Even the marmalade seems special. Everyone seems cheerful too. Even the painter. “Well, you av to take advantage of dry weather round ere!”

I am foolishly excited about crossing the M6. All this nature we have seen, and I am thinking about a motorway. Something not right there surely. The walk through Shap is surprisingly long. It is a brilliant example of that ‘O’ level geography settlement phenomenon, the ‘Ribbon Development’. It is hard to imagine now what it must have been like here when the village was on the main and only western route for most of the traffic going to Scotland. Particularly quiet and empty on this Sunday morning, it must have then been thronged with lorries and fumes. It is still the highest main road in the country, and I can remember in early life hearing news report about traffic stranded in the snow at Shap.


It’s a 20 minute walk out to the bridge over the M6, through houses and then over fields. In the distance over to the right you can clearly see the Lakeland Fells, and even make out Kidsty Pike. This occasions a twinge of regret. As Wainwright says, leaving the Lakes is sad, and in some ways the best of the walk is now over. On the other hand there is a sense of achievement. We made it across the lakes with legs and feet in working order. The next section is into the unknown, as neither of us knows much about Westmorland, so that is exciting too. Onwards, then, across that motorway!!

Crossing the M6 does not disappoint. After days of foot paced travel the cars seem to be going at rocket speed. How can they go so fast?? We fail to capture it on camera anyway… no wide angled lens, it looks like any old dual carriageway.

The route continues via a quarry, and on up over some moorland still in view of the M6.It is already getting hot, or maybe its just me.A shady break is taken under some obliging trees before we emerge onto another moory treeless expanse. One thing you learn on this walk is that, as with bogs so it is with moors. There are many different types. This one is a limestone type of moor.

Just off to the right there is, allegedly, an ancient stone circle. Wainwright mentions it as a double circle. Of course Raymond, that renowned antiquites bagger, is off across the tussocks with stone detector on ‘stun’ before you can say ‘are you sure th…’. Clearly feeling the effects of yesterday my enthusiasm for this is low. Nevertheless the circle is found, admired and photographed. Afterwards the path is also refound. It’s a strange thing to me, but if you go off of the path on moors or bogs for only a short distance, it disappears completely from view. There’s something perceptual and philosophical going on there. Deep.


A short distance up the track we meet an American waiting patiently for his wife, who has also gone in search of the stones. They later become known as Bob and Priscilla, a couple from Connecticut with a liking for Real Ale and British puddings.

Soon after this Ray is taken with a field of thistles! In the context of the rest of the day this particular wildflower spotting proves to be rather insignificant. Next we see the limestone pavements as we approach Crosby Ravensworth Fell. Something I have only seen on TV or in books. Yes there really are clints and grykes, and yes they really do have little rock gardens growing down in them clip_image006

The distant horizon now reveals the Pennines, our next objective, and a sight to carry us forward if one were needed.

The legs are weary, and at one point we descend and ascend the sharp sides of a little dry valley. When we emerge onto a road we realise that in that valley must have been the cairn with the unlikely claim of being Robin Hoods Grave. Ray is put out. We have missed an antiquity (To be fair we don’t miss any others. It only happened this time because I had THE BOOK, and my navigation is pants. I’ve never got much of an idea how far along a path we are.) If I were anything of a wife I would have insisted on going back. Sad to say, I only thought about my aching legs, and wasn’t keen to go backwards. I now regret this failing deeply, and would most humbly like to apologise dear Ray. (Whilst knowing that this doesn’t in any way make up for my selfishness…)

Anyway, we didn’t get to see Robin Hood’s ‘Grave’. We walked on instead up a somewhat boring section of road until we reach a viewpoint where I receive a photography lesson.

clip_image008 clip_image010

Same path, two shots. They do look completely different.

On past a lime kiln where a group of Australians are having a photo stop. Then we turn off the main track.

From this point we descend towards Orton, alongside the MOST beautiful stream. Wildflowers are everywhere in profusion as we cross and recross the tinkling stream on small picturesque bridges. There are so many different kinds you can hardly believe what you see. It really is a kind of bucolic idyll, and makes you feel that perhaps the countryside isn’t so doomed after all whilst also making you wonder if it was mostly like this before THE CAR.


You want this little path to last and last, but when we eventually emerge into Orton it is like walking onto the film set for Middlemarch. The path comes out between beautiful gold coloured Georgian style manor houses, not even on a tarmac road. It is an uncanny feeling, taken with the lovely path. Like time travel.

It is about 1.30, so we are in time for a pub lunch, even if they close in the afternoon. The recently reopened George Hotel is easily found. Its very quiet indeed for a Sunday. There is a TV, but its fairly small and unintrusive. It is also relaying sound consistent with the programme being shown (football) unlike those wall sized TVs in many pubs these days. I demand a beef burgher – rather out of character. I am starving again. More beer please. Course, we shouldn’t have too much as we have an evening meal booked at the B&B. A sumptuous 3 course affair according to our information.

Later we proceed outside for a large ice cream from the Orton Chocolate Factory. Yum. The chocolate Factory itself is similar to the small enterprises in Swansea and Pembertons in Llanboidy, except that it has a large café area and a bigger shop than I have seen elsewhere. The chocolate novelty items on sale are awesomw in their variety. Unfortunately not likely to survive in a rucksack, so we buy a couple of bars. After that, time to spare until we can check in about 4.00, so atour of the village reveals more beautiful houses, a shop and post office, a set of stocks and a church – All Saints – with a white tower.


The proprietors of Barn House will be waiting for us with tea and cakes we are told, so when we pass a village Strawberry Tea event with union jacks flying we resist temptation in spite of the friendly shout, “Come on in. We’ve got plenty to spare!!”

There’s a school here too. What must it be like to live here? Can’t help but wonder if it is a idyllic as it seems.

Our B&B is outside the village at the side of a little housing development, inside one of which a barking dog is hurling itself furiously against the glass by the front door. (One of the very few dogs we saw en route, and the only unfriendly one I can remember.)

Our landlady for the night is busy in the garden when we get there. No tea and cakes in evidence. It seems that Lilian and David have moved on… Disappointing! Later the second disappointment when no evening meal seems to be forthcoming. Although we later find out this is because the pub is now open, it would have been nice to know. (Mickeldore failure we later realise, when it happens again in Kirkby Stephen.) The house seems to have been purpose built for B&B, as the guest half is self contained. Our room has its own staircase up to modern arty interior decorated with posters from the Tate Gallery and tones of Shocking pink and Lime green. Lots of magazines. I find a recipe for Sloe Whisky.

Later, back in the pub, we meet up with John and Trish, and there is much talk of Golf and related matters. Not something we can really contribute much on.

Saturday 2nd July Patterdale to Shap

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. clip_image010 clip_image012

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.

Friday 1st July Grasmere to Patterdale

A “short” stage.

Once again we awake to a great morning. How can this be happening in the Lake District? The view from our B&B window is just as stunning in the morning light. Downstairs the service is attentive, and the ornate chandeliers in the breakfast room a wonderful shade of pink. Nigella’s cookbooks can be seen in the corner.

After kitting up we set off for the village. This being such a short stage, we are not in a rush. Time to take the scenic route to the start of the walk. Down to Croft House Bakery, where the shop assistant is sitting outside in the sun, before we disturb him to purchase 2 cheese savoury rolls. It is altogether different in Grasmere this morning. Quiet, early morning dew filled air, a new start, a day full of promise. Instead of going back to the main road we retrace some of our steps from yesterday, and follow the route via Thorney How Youth Hostel, ambling up narrow deserted lanes overgrown with meadow sweet. Eventually, though, we cross a bridge to the main road, and the route proper begins.


According to the book we are about to begin “a protracted climb up a bridleway”.

A short distance ahead is a division in the path at which point you can choose the steeper route with views of Grasmere, alongside Little Tongue, or the easier slabbed route up the right side of Little Tongue. My natural inclination is to take the easier route, with a few reservations. But in the event, when we get to the point of choice, the National Trust have closed the bridge over to the right, deeming it to be “unsafe”, so the choice is made for us. I console myself with the thought that Ray would want to do the steep route, and no doubt so would Wainwright!!

Just at this point we meet a man who seems to need confirmation that the left hand path is the one. After a brief chat he steams ahead of us, up what soon becomes an ever steepening grassy track. We are quite impressed with this achievement, as we labour steadily behind. There are views of Grasmere. These may be enjoyed whilst trying to avoid heart attack on the way up. At one stop we catch up the lonely walker. He tells us a sorry tale of how his wife has had to give up because of the state of her feet. She is going into Cotswold in Grasmere today to see what can be done about her boots, and is hoping to rejoin him walking later down the track… He is obviously quite upset about her. We meet them again over the course of many days. The golfers from Kent… John and Trish.

Onwards and upwards, over a crag. At the foot of a large area of boulders scattered like giant scree we catch up the U3Aers having their coffee break, and Glynn his cigarette. They tell us how they saw the National Trust sign on the ground by the bridge, and thoughtfully decided to re-erect it before crossing over to the easier path themselves. Oh how we laughed. Luckily we all saw the funny side.


All good things must come to an end, and even the 1500ft ascent into the basin of Grisedale Tarn is at last gratefully achieved.


The lovely morning has become grey. We can see the famous ‘zigzags’ up Dollywagon Pike towards Helvellyn, and the black Tarn itself, which today looks rather brooding. I have had some kind of strange desire to get here to see the Tarn, and the Brothers Parting Stone, since we came to Ullswater 2 years ago. Or perhaps even before that.

The steep path we have just come up was one of the main ways out of the Lake District by foot, in days gone by. People wanting to get to Penrith would have come this way. Wordsworth would have used it, maybe when he and Dorothy went to Ullswater on the “host of golden daffodils” occasion. Definitely, when he and Dorothy walked so far from Dove Cottage with his brother John, who was leaving to Captain the East Indiaman ‘Abergavenny’ in September 1800. John was amongst the 300 drowned when the ship sank off Portland in 1805. Dorothy and William returned to the spot, to mark their parting, in June of that year, and William wrote ‘Elegaic Verses in Memory of my Brother’. In 1882, Canon Rawnsley formalised the monument here, and had verses from the poem carved onto it.

In spite of this, it is not immediately obvious where exactly it is!! It takes Ray some time to locate it down off of the track. It is a large stone, and the carving has become faint with weathering and lichen. Even touch cannot fully decipher the verse. I can just make out .. Here did we stop… and While each… descends. In spite of this I find the whole thing so simply moving. Somehow, emblematic of all partings, in this lonely empty place.

Later, the internet provides,

Here did we stop; and here looked round

While each unto himself descends

For that last thought of parting friends

That is not to be found.

Brother and friend, if verse of mine
Have power to make thy virtues known,
Here let a monumental Stone
Stand-sacred as a Shrine.

We had the family’s early history from the visit to their house in Cockermouth, and it was certainly tinged with sadness and melancholy.


We ate our sandwiches there, by the stone, in thoughtful isolation. Ray had wanted to go on up the St Sunday Crag route, and is disappointed that I now feel too tired to go up there. So when we set off down the Grisedale Valley we are fairly silent. It is steep down a rocky path, and the sky is still overcast. After a particularly steep bit there is a new bridge courtesy of the National Trust. A lovely stream, must be Grisedale Beck. I need a paddle. Boots and socks off, the water cold and delightful. Restorative.


. I am still putting my socks back on when two young men stop at the bridge… ON BIKES! They are happy to tell us that they carried the bikes up over Swirrell Edge to the top of Helvellyn in order to cycle down. Mind boggling even if the path was good, but its full of rocks… They aren’t wearing any protective gear either. The confidence of youth.

We decide to continue on to Glenridding instead of branching off to Patterdale Village, and the lane comes out just before the first boatyard. As luck would have it there is a tea shack beside the lake, selling scones with Damson Jam. Not to be turned down. Ullswater looks as lovely as it did last time we were here. We can see the lake steamer pier in the near distance. At regular intervals large noisy farm vehicles are transporting quantities of hay or silage along the main road. They must have decided today is the harvest somewhere around here.


It’s a fair walk further on along the road to Patterdale, with the obligatory stop at Patterdale Post Office. Not that we want to buy anything. And much further on again to our farmhouse B&B, dodging the traffic where there is no pavement. By the time we turn up the farm track we are definitely ready for a break. Unfortunately the farm, Greenbank Farm, is not well signed, and what with sheep shearing, and an over enthusiastic shearers dog, we do not spot it on the first pass. Nearby neighbours do not know it – allegedly! But we turn back, and all becomes apparent eventually.

We are in the company of three cheerful chaps tonight, two of whom have gone over Striding Edge, one of whom did not enjoy it!! The farmhouse meal is good, but there is one massive disadvantage. NO BEER!!!

Thursday June 30th Stonethwaite to Grasmere

Today is going to be another of those BIG days, in that in the Lakes there seems to be a major ridge to go over every day. Today we will have to climb out of Borrowdale, cross over the pass at Greenup Edge (one of the ‘let’s get lost’ hotspots of the trip apparently), and descend into Grasmere either on an allegedly ‘easy’ route down the Easedale Valley or via the ‘harder’ ridgewalk to Helm Crag. As to ‘easy’ routes on the walk, I soon realise that one person’s definition of easy is not necessarily another’s.

Nevertheless, following a hearty breakfast we are soon off, and progressing up what begins as a gentle and pleasant path under the shadow of Eagle Crag.


Yes, we know we will have to get over that escarpment ahead, but hey, this is OK! Lovely morning. Well, a bit grey, but this is still Borrowdale!

Its not long before THE BOOK begins to make encouraging remarks such as ‘path gets steeper here’, and breathing gets harder. Must be the altitude. At which point the path becomes steeper again, but the edge of the valley top is so near now. We stagger on upwards, then GREAT, we are over the edge! There’s a small tarn, some interesting drumlins and… another great escarpment to get up and over.


You have to see the funny side I suppose. It is at this point that the rain of Borrowdale finally decides to catch us before we make it out into the next valley. Its cold rain too. Full waterproofs are uploaded before we continue over the drumlins to the base of Lining Crag, described as ‘rockface with some steps’. This does NOT look good. Its wet. The rocks are slippery. The waterproofs are awkward, and these are the steps that Frodo and Sam went up on the way to Shelob’s Lair. (The Stairs of Cirith Ungol. Just looked it up.)

Best to go straight for it and not think or look too far ahead. We start up. But then. Oo er. There is no path. I am clinging to a wet slippery rockface, rain falling, water rolling down. Where IS the path? Panic. Ray! Where is Ray? I shout, then shout again into space, because there is his rucksack disappearing into the far distance overhead. Jesus. What next? It slowly dawns on me that there must be rocksteps over to the left, and clinging to the rocks like Shelob herself, I manage to get over there. It is still very awkward, but now looks like a possibility rather than an impossible climb. Thus is Lining Crag conquered. Not a place I shall ever feel the need to return to. Ray is fine at the top. “What took you so long?” he enquires. “Chocolate! Now!” Is the uncharitable reply.

In some senses the worst is over. However, at the top of Lining Crag begins the “boggy ground” and “indistinct path” where many “lose their way” before topping Greenup Edge.

Well, we were warned.

There’s a grey and miserable sky, drizzle, a big bog with paths going here and there. Nowhere is there a likely path to take us down into the next valley. We can see the “prominent fencepost”, but not the “twin cairns” we are supposed to pass between. For the first time, Ray is a bit stumped. The compass is out. The 2 ‘parents’ from yesterday’s family outing are similarly mystified. As is Jenny who also turns up. There are some differing opinions on the general direction. We walk here and there looking for a landmark. Its all looking a bit unlikely, until a fine fellow spots someone descending a long path to a distant Col off to the right. That will do. A wet rocky descent thus begins. A woman in our little group suddenly stops and stands by the path, so we pass by. Later that day it turns out she fell there just in front of us, and broke her wrist. We didn’t see anything. Too busy watching our own feet. Just shows how easy it is to come to harm up here.

Anyway, on across another bog, and we come to the dividing of the paths. To the left, the ridge walk to Helm Crag, to the right the path down Easdale Beck to Grasmere. The weather is looking up. Ray and Jenny would like to do the ridge walk. It doesn’t look tooo bad, and I hear myself agreeing to it!? I guess I’ve already had so much excitement today that I have been numbed to fear.

Undulating along the lengthy path to Helm Crag we meet day trippers and dog walkers going in the opposite direction. Further on there are great views of Grasmere and Easdale Tarn.


We can also see the path we will be taking en route to Patterdale in the distance.

The top of Helm Crag is quite windy. Just as we turn downwards, on a steep exposed corner, 2 fighter jets roar ear splittingly beneath us. My God! We are higher than a ‘plane. Avery queer feeling. Going down is sooo painful. By the time we have got well down towards Grasmere I am in tears. “I won’t be able to walk tomorrow…” Then we meet the woman who has broken her wrist, so I shut up.


Life takes on a whole new aspect in the centre of the village, with a pint of Hawkshead and a Cumberland sausage in prospect.


Post recovery we go on a tour around the village. It is pretty much rocking. Cars, tourists, tourist shops. A Herdy shop. Wordsworth’s grave. Standing respectfully in front of Mary Wordsworth’s grave, decorated tastefully with a carved sheep, we are rasped out of our reverie by a loud insistent American female voice.

“Is that a FERRET?? On the grave. Is it a ferret?”

There is a pause while her English male companion mentally deals with this.

“It’s a sheep,” he answers deadpan.

She is undeterred, however.

“Well it looks like a ferret. Its long and lean like a ferret.”

Just then a bus load of Japanese tourists stride into the graveyard towards us, moving as one. Its time to go. Poor old Wordsworth. “He would’nt mind. He’s dead.” Ray points out, but I can’t help feeling that he would.


Our B&B tonight, Chestnut Villa, is a long way out towards the main road. We walk past many other establishments to get there, many with vacancies too. When we do make it though, no complaints. It’s a great place. Three story house, stylishly furnished by its friendly and helpful gay owners. Our room has a bay window with a fabulous view over the fells, and, that most prized of comforts, a BATH. Nuff said.

Wednesday June 29th Ennerdale Bridge to Stonethwaite

“As with any day in the Lakes, the enjoyment of the 16 ½ mile… stage depends largely on the weather.” So says THE BOOK before going on to point out that we will be walking through the area around Sprinkling Tarn today, the place with the highest annual rainfall in England.

Luckily the sun is shining when we wake up.

The Shepherds Arms has quite a small breakfast room, and we have to wait a long time for our eggs and bacon. The U3Aers are down and eating already. There’s also a very loud South African couple holding forth briefly on this and that. Fortunately the radio is on, though it seems to be playing hits of the 60’s. “Ooo. Remember this one..” a Liverpudlian voice asks the other U3A’s. “Its ‘Fo De O Do, by Thunderclap Newman.” Everyone is very pleased with this, but I can’t help knowing its ‘Mouldy Old Dough’ by Lieutenant Pigeon. So who is sadder??? Fortunately we are all intent on the ‘off’, so don’t have to dwell on it. This is one of the great things about the Coast to Coast, i.e. total concentration on the thing in hand. You don’t have the time or need to consider anything else, and on the entire trip we do not listen to the News or watch the TV once. (Didn’t miss it either.)

On in the present, then, we slot into the moving caravan of walkers setting off from the other B & B’s all around the same time. With our first hotel packed lunch stowed in Ray’s rucksack (Mars Bars included) we are ready for the day. Even the legs have been surprised into activity. Its not long before we have caught up with Australian Jenny, from yesterday. Later, when we get to the Lake, we all take the South side, as per the route, even though we have been told there is an easier path around the North side.


The path on the South side is rough underfoot, and there is no time to take your eyes off of your feet.. unless you want to end up IN the lake. It undulates and crosses many small streams. The weather is good for walking. Cloudy with sunny spells. All is going quite well until we hit the feature known as Robin Hoods Chair, where the path becomes a definite scramble. I have to haul myself up, quickly before panic sets in and renders my feet useless, and come down just as quickly using my bottom. Didn’t like that at all.


Beyond the excitement the path continues for some distance to the end of the Lake. In front of us are a family of four. Parents and two late teens children. They seem to be doing so well together I decide that they are the family we sat next to on Tresco all those years ago. The ones who wanted baked potatoes and water as their chosen meal (“Yes Please Daddy. We ALL want water please. How yummy”). Walking does this to you. Your brain empties out, and you see patterns and make recognitions of many past things. There is a poem of Pam Ayers’ in THE BOOK pertaining to Dry Stone Walls. To quote

I am a Dry Stone Waller

All day I Dry Stone Wall

Of all appalling callings

Dry Stone Walling’s worst of all

This is just the sort of thing that goes through your brain on a loop, as you walk comfortably along looking at the part paved path. Two further verses come to me as we continue.

I am a Lakeland Paver

I pave the Lakeland paths

Out in so much rainfall

I don’t need many baths.


I am a Path Encruster

I work for the National Trust

My job’s to fill the crevices

With little rocks and dust


In spite of such entertainments we do eventually get to the end of the lake, stop for a snack, and then continue after crossing the River Liza, up an endless forest track towards the Black Sail Youth Hostel. This track is definitely endless, and in spite of the views, and the company of the U3A’s towards the end, just a bit, well… boring. No matter. I can do boring. Its better than scared on the whole.

image004 image005

FINALLY. The trees thin out, and we can see the end of the valley we will be climbing out of.

By the time we get to Black Sail we are well ready for lunch. As is everyone else, and although its quiet when we get there, it soon becomes something of a motorway service area. At least, one without any facilites or toilets. (Toilets only open after 5.00 due to small septic tank. All females are disappointed by this). As one of the first there we get the wooden bench for our lunch. Its tidy.


No one lingers long here. As no one knows what lies ahead you feel that you must press on. Anyway, its pretty obvious, even without reading about it, that we are in for a good bit of ‘up’. There are several paths leading on here and our path is surprisingly a very thin looking affair going off to the left over the drumlins.


It continues to feel like an unlikely choice until after we cross a stream, and then a paved path ascends steeply, at first up a small ridge, but then by winding its way over steeply stepped boulders, ever upwards towards the skyline.


Its every man for himself going up here. “Just like the bloody Inca Trail,” mutters one woman as we puff our way past. “Really?” I ask. “Yes. Except that was at altitude and went on for days!” I mentally cross that one off of my ‘likely to do list’. Oh well. As ever with these things, there are several moments when you think you’ve got it in the bag. The worst is over. There’s the top. Only to find that around the next turn you can see the path beyond, still cheerfully heading on up. It IS great when you do get over the crest, however. Beyond a boggy field and over a stile you are rewarded with a view over TWO lakes, or is it THREE? There is Ennerdale Water. It seems a long way off now. Whilst over to the right you can see Buttermere, being Buttermere and Crummock Water. Yep. Three it is.


Fab. Truly truly fab. And how lucky are we that it is a good day and we can see this view…

The path continues, at first a little indistinctly, but the as we see over the pass we notice the medical students with their outrageously large rucksacks in the far distance. This rocky traverse is Grey Knotts, and soon we can also see the ruins of the top of a tramway which carried slate down towards the Honister Pass. Although not much remains, you can see that it was a house like structure, and is known as Drum House. The tramway cable was apparently held here.

From here the path is obvious, loose and rocky underfoot, and unrelentingly steeply down. In later days some folk referred back to this path in reverence, as a kind of measure of unpleasantness. I can’t say I noticed it much, myself. Probably because down below, somewhere, there lies the Honister Slate Mine Visitors Centre, and whatever part of my mind was not concentrating on my feet, was absorbed with the very important idea of …TEA…in cups!… and a toilet…. In such a way are many meaningful moments and fantastic views etc lost to consciousness. Hmmm..

And when we finally got there the place did indeed live up to its promise, although what else was going on there, or what the exhibition held, I could not say, being focussed solely on instant gratification. Sadly we didn’t have room for an ice cream after the large cakes.

By the time we left the Slate Mine the weather had closed in a little. Some of that predicted rain looked to be on the cards. The rest is mostly down. Down the road. Down a lovely path. Down towards Seatoller, where we catch up with the Med Students again. Those poor boys look well tired. One of them is limping a bit and in fact we don’t see them again on the entire trip. Maybe they decided to stay in the Lake District.


After the pretty little “National Trust village of Seatoller”, and a tearoom opportunity spurned (Too full, still. Damn.) we meander along the valley through Johhny Wood, and passing a part where you have to cling on to some thoughtfully placed chains welded into the rock, to stop you slipping into the river. We are nearly into Longthwaite, the first of the three interlinked Borrowdale villages, when Ray announces a ‘little detour’. Not for us the short cut to Stonethwaite, then, location of B&B number three. He has a yen to see the Borrowdale Youth Hostel, and the Scafell Hotel in Rosthwaite, where he and the Stourbridge crew spent a New Year in 1970something or other. Well. I suppose its unlikely we will be back in the short term, so why not. At least we can say we have seen Borrowdale… All of it. Onwards the oldies!! The youth Hostel is a disappointment. It looks as though its been rebuilt, and fails to ring any bells. There’s a most interesting bridge, however, with many kinds of moss. The traverse through the villages is lovely, and the Scafell Arms looks the same. Job done. Only then do we have to turn out the waterproofs as a sudden shower necessarily arrives to uphold the area’s rainfall record. Their FIRST appearance!! Stonethwaite is ashort distance further on along the river, over an old bridge, past a field of speciality sheep, some of which are Herdwicks.


The farm we are staying in tonight is a very old thickly walled affair, with customary barking dog on arrival (but never actually seen). The room is small but perfectly formed and beautifully decorated. Outside our window are a pair of bizarre chicken, which turn out to be blue silkies when I ask the landlady later. The female in particular looks like a cross between a chicken and a grey poodle.

image012 Just up the road is the Langstrath Inn, where we have booked to eat tonight. This proves to have been a genius move. It is a really olde worlde place, with a fantastic line in food. When we turn up people have to be ejected from our reserved table, it is full. We feast on Braised Herdwick Shoulder of Lamb in Red Wine Sauce. The BEST I have ever tasted by leagues. Followed by the ultimate Sticky Toffee pudding, of unsurpassed stikyness and toffeeness. Lakeland Bliss.

Tuesday June 28th St Bees to Ennerdale Bridge

Pull the curtains back. Amazing. It looks like a good day.

“ Yous are lucky.” The landlady tells us at breakfast. “We’ve had nothing but rain for weeks, but its forecast fine for the next few days. I’m hoping its settled for the next few months!!”

Ah. The first cooked breakfast. A communal table in a cheerful room. Another walker who completed day one yesterday, but had to come back to St Bees for accommodation. He has left his car here at the B&B for a week. The first day was tough he tells us, but we should be OK. Mind you he met an Australian who vastly underestimated the undertaking and had had enough after the first walk. At least he survived day one I think to myself. Next the two medical students appear. They are staying here as well. They don’t seem so nerdy this morning.

This is a part of the Coast to Coast experience, where people appear and disappear, to reappear several days later, either on the trail or in accommodation somewhere. Once you realise you are not going to see the same people all the time, or every day, this is actually quite a plus. Its sociable and friendly – even encouraging – without being claustrophobic.

Walking kit on. Suitcases carried down to the hallway. We’re off. At least as far as the Post Office Store which apparently does a great line in pies. This proves to be the case, as the man behind the counter reels off a list of about 10 varieties. Suitably pied up we progress the mile to the sea where a coach party of OAPs is either getting off or onto a coach, and people are walking dogs. Although small, this part of the village definitely has that cool early morning seaside town feel. Its going to be a hot day.

We are supposed to dip our boots in the sea, but its not easy. The tide is in and the concrete lifeboat launch area is a bit slippery. Ray scrapes his knee getting off it. We can’t have injuries before we’ve even started, so the boot dipping is done gingerly and I forget the necessary pebble. Over by the zero mile marker the two students are trying to get their results. There won’t be much mobile signal today, or in fact for the next two days. Picture by the sign and away.


“Have you just finished?” Asks a fellow we shall meet again over the next 17 days. “Do I look as if I have?” Ray responds. They’re probably about our age, but his wife is wearing a turquoise fringed beach dress and looks as if she’s on holiday in Spain. Just shows how looks can be deceptive as we meet them again at several points during the morning. They’re obviously doing “it” too, but no one wants to give too much away.

“North of the foreshore at St Bees rises the lofty bulwark of St Bees Head,four miles of towering and precipitous cliffs of red sandstone veined with white..” (AW)

A short distance up the cliff path we meet the first path divide. This is not mentioned in the book. Rather unwillingly I go with Ray’s choice. He is of course correct, and I have to make sure I go with his choice now over the next few weeks. A lesson learnt. The coast path is a bit like Devon (red sandstone cliffs), a bit like the Pembrokeshire Coast Path (up and down). Views behind over St Bees, and as we continue, to Scotland and even the Isle of Man.


clip_image014_thumb clip_image016_thumb


In a short while we descend again to Fleswick Bay (optional, but has to be done of course) so I can pick up some pebbles here.

clip_image020_thumb clip_image022_thumb

I get several small red mottled ones. The bay is beautiful. Well worth the stop, though questions about how long we are taking, and will I be able to get to Ennerdale Bridge, flutter on the edge of concentration. That can’t be right. This is a walk, and we don’t have to rush. Long as we are there before 8 o’clock. I don’t think I could walk that long anyway. Questions such as these can only be answered by doing this.

There are a few bird watching points. Ray has brought the old binos. We are supposed to see black guillemots, but only manage ordinary guillemots, razorbills and seagull chicks.


Time to get on. We pass the coastguard lookout and the lighthouse.

Its getting hot and feels as if we have been walking for hours already. Two silent men pass. They sound Spanish or Italian. The only two of many here today who don’t seem cheerful. Whitehaven comes into view and we at last turn away from the coast. Are we going East yet? Not sure. A transit type van collecting rubbish comes up the lane towards us. It is so narrow we have to climb up into the hedge to get past. On to the first village, Sandwith. Amazingly the village pub is still not open. But then it is before 11.00, so we have hardly been walking for 2 hours yet. It seems a lot longer.

After Sandwith through farmland, some of which would be boggy were it not that everywhere seems dry underfoot.


Our first sheep. Dear old sheep. So quiet and reliable. Over a little stream, under a railway tunnel on to the Sustrans bike path – a disused railway. By now it is well hot, and past what feels like stopping time. I am sweaty and tired, maybe grumpy, though of course, haven’t said so. The cycle track seems to go on and on, and it feels as if we are doing some unnecessary extra distance to Moor Row. Coming up off the track we are on the lookout for the Walker’s Pop In Café, as recommended by the bloke at breakfast. Yay. There it is.


A woman has converted her front garden into a little business offering teas, cakes and sandwiches for a pittance. Perfectly ordinary woman. I have the overwhelming feeling, however, that she is running a social service here. It is all I can do to stop myself hugging her. It feels like an oasis in a desert, replete with toilet. I write as much in the visitors book which we have to sign. As with elsewhere on the route, it is full of Australian entries. Really, that was the hard point of the day over. Actually it wasn’t of course, but I didn’t feel as desperate as that again anywhere on the trip. Some kind of mental or physical barrier had been crossed. This is what we are going to be doing, and this is how it is going to be. Fine then. OK.

Leaving Moor Row we pass through many kissing gates between tiny wheat fields. In the first one a small tough looking Australian woman reminiscent of Margaret Ryan, dark haired, wearing a beanie hat, is confused by the gates (why?? Its definitely that one.) It turns out she doesn’t have THE BOOK!!! We look upon her in wonder. She’s trying to do it on her own with Wainwright and a Harveys Map…. Something of an optimist you might feel. Apparently she turned down a chance to purchase the one walk essential, and although now regretting it, there’s not much she can do about it till maybe Grasmere. Until then she will have to rely on people WITH the book. Anyway she’s here after completing The Compostela Pilgrimage, so maybe she’s got some inbuilt sat nav of her own. (This later proves to be more than a mere speculation.)

In a short while we are in Cleator, a mining village that gets a poor press from Wainwright and other Coast to Coast literature. But today the sun is shining and Cleator looks fine. Its even got a shop, and a view of Dent Hill , our next goal. It looks semi tree clad and not too bad from the Cleator perspective. However, when we start climbing, (just after going through a farmyard without barking dogs but with a smiling farmer who predicts good weather for at least three days) it is definitely steep, and the trees which I had hoped would provide cooling shade provide only hot trapped air and muddy paths. We stagger on upwards out of the trees, stopping on the open grassy slope to “admire the view”, but really to get our breath back.


Although the views are indeed fantastic. We can see the Scottish coast reaching out into the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man, and in the other direction the hills of the Lake District, a little dark and forbidding where the sun is not shining on them. You can also see Sellafield should it interest you.

After that struggle up, it must get easier. Well as every walker knows, yes.. and no.. What goes up has to deal with knee pain on the descent, and descending takes longer unless you are able and willing to take the kamikaze approach. We have a 14 foot deer style to climb over which effortlessly activates my panic response when going over the top. Just how high can deer jump for goodness sake? Followed by “one of the steepest descents on the entire walk” allegedly.


Raven Crag – a grassy path, a slow and painful loss of the height we struggled up such a short time ago. At one point my total concentration on every footstep is deflected by what sounds like some kind of steam driven engine or bellows. Looking up, (don’t move the feet now) almost next to me is a scantily clad heavily breathing fell runner coming UP this ridiculous path. You can only stare in wonder. I give him a round of sincere applause, acknowledged by a slight rictus.

It is now going on for 4 o’clock, and time for lunch!! Where are those St Bees pies? They are absolutely delicious and disappear in seconds sat by a stream in a beautiful steep sided enclosed probably limestone valley going by the glorious name of Nannycatch Gate.


Fuelled by pie we have cracked it. Up gently over common grazing land and down the longish road to Ennerdale Bridge, a lovely little Lakeland village where we check in to the Shepherds Arms. Boots off in the hall. Haul the suitcases upstairs. Shower and collapse into bed. It must be 5 o’clock. Quite a long day, but we made it here!

Later, whilst seeking pre dinner beer, we get into conversation with Glyn, a retired food technology expert who spent his working life establishing Waggon Wheel factories in the far flung corners of the globe. He is here with the Peterborough branch of the U3A (University of the Third Age). He is sociable in that way of people used to travelling alone, and wants to know about us. This is most unusual in our normal circles, but we are on holiday after all, we can cope. Whatever. There will be no need for an evening stroll tonight!

Monday June 27th

Set off from Llanelli with the usual chaos and anxiety of lost taxi. (They always stop at the bottom off the hill). Two phone calls and much pacing by the gate later, we eventually get to the station with a few minutes to spare. It begins to dawn on us that the suitcases are 1. Large and 2. Heavy. It takes some doing to get them on the train and into a luggage rack at the end of the carriage. After that… GREAT… Straight through to Crewe. Pleasant train. Space. Nice morning. Wales looks lovely as we speed almost silently through Cwmbran (never been there before), Abergavenny, and border towns.

Crewe is hot and we have the suitcases to cope with again. There are loads of people waiting for our train on the platform, but it will be fine won’t it. We’ve got reserved seats… Yeah right but someone’s luggage is already in them. Modern trains do not have space for normal sized suitcases. I cuddle my suitcase all the way to Carlisle. Somehow on the 2 hour journey Virgin Trains lose 25 minutes, although they don’t tell anyone, so that we miss our connection.

Carlisle station is unmistakeably northern. Why? Not sure, but its stones are dark grey. The weather has turned to rain clouds. It is busy and very long goods trains keep passing through noisily clanking in both directions. There is a separate platform area for the Settle to Carlisle trains (maybe we should have thought if coming that way), and another separate platform area for the Cumbrian Coast route that we will have to take. There is a buffet with tables on the platform, all a little uncared for. We decline the buffet scones as quite a few flies seem to have got there first. A lady is looking for someone to hold her large enthusiastic dog while she goes to get a cup of tea. Luckily she does not choose me. Enormous fast trains with 4 or 5 First Class coaches apiece slide in and out on their way between Edinburgh/Glasgow and London. Ray goes over the large footbridge/ramp to explore. There is no ticket barrier. You can just walk out into a litter strewn square with a castle. A poster advertises “The Famous” Carlisle Railway Station Ghost Tours.

Without announcement we become aware through psychic presentment that our train is there. It is one of the busy trains of the day. School children, shopping returnees, people leaving work at 5.00. We pick them all up and drop them off as the train heads first north west, and then turns south to run along the Cumbrian Coast. The little stations have excitingly northern names, Dalston, Wigton, Aspatria (what was that again?). We are really somewhere different now. We’re on holiday. We reach the coast at Maryport. Flimby, Workington, Parton, Whitehaven. Unfortunately its still quite grey and unfriendly outside. There is an enormous windfarm, and in the distance can be seen the coast of Galloway and Dumfries. My god. Scotland. We are a long way North!!

I am surprised how flat the scenery is since we are supposed to be starting the walk tomorrow on a cliff path. Whitehaven seems to be a prettier town though, and shortly after we plunge through a tunnel to emerge in a lovely little village station. St Bees. It looks promising.

Fairladies Barn, our first B&B, is a long way UP a main street, past the Post Office Stores, the Coast to Coast Bar, and a couple of pubs. The suitcase dragging is not the best, and Ray has to carry his. “Its easier to wheel it!” advises a cheerful child cyclist. Thus we are introduced to a feature of the walk… everyone speaks to you.

Later that evening, after we have checked in to the friendly but slightly ramshackle accommodation, wrestled the suitcases up the first of many awkward staircases, noted the view of St Bees head from our room, and headed out again in search of food, everyone we meet has a cheery “Good evening” or “Hello” to share with us.


St Bees. What a lovely little village. Handsome houses. Quite large. Not really rural. Set back quite a way from the sea. A group of probably girl guides are out playing rounders on the village field with Arkela or whoever it is.


A quick Hiya to the statue of St Bega (alleged Irish princess/ seafaring hermit and local good egg). A wave to the1583 Grammar School. A visit to the church… red sandstone, Norman entrance, and, again a feature of the trip…, OPEN , even though its now about 7 o’clock on a Monday night. It is well lit. Well cared for. There’s a history of the Church and the Village, all well presented. Interesting. Feels like a real community.



It is hard to fit in eating but we do our best, stopping in the Queen’s Head for a pint of Jennings Bitter and a Chicken and Leek pie. During the meal yet another trip feature presents itself. Other walkers. Across the pub restaurant two enthusiastic and slightly nerdy young men have seized on a red faced loner who it seems has finished the walk this very night, in the east to west direction. There is much talk of what has been done before by the young men. General talk about what is to come, which personally I would rather not hear, although its very difficult not to listen. Mention is made of, was that right, “Swansea”. Then I’m sure I heard “medicine”. Make a mental note to tell Ray when we get a quiet 5 minutes. However, events take over when as we pay for the meal they rush up enthusiastically to Ray. “Are you one of the Lecturers at Swansea Medical School???” It transpires that they are getting their final results tomorrow, and are doing the walk with camping gear. So far and yet so near it seems.

We have forgotten the alarm clock. Set the mobile for 7.15. (It stays at that time for the rest of the trip.) Sort out the walking gear. Repack the suitcase ready for the off.