Tag Archives: walking

Coast to Coast – On Reflection

2 Jul

As you may know, I have recently completed the Wainwright Coast to Coast long distance path that runs from St Bees on the west coast to Robin Hood’s Bay on the east coast and I have been detailing my experiences over the last few weeks. This blog entry is a summary of hints and tips for anyone thinking about doing this walk, or indeed any long distance end to end walk. It is of course not an exhaustive list but rather a summary from my own experience. I hope you will find it interesting and helpful.

Amazing views

Amazing views

Overall assessment of the route
The first thing to say is that it is a fabulous walk with amazing scenery, awesome views, a generally good choice of accommodation, friendly people, and lots of interesting things to see on the way. That said, it is a tough walk – you will climb the equivalent of Mount Everest and descend as well of course. It is officially 192 miles from end to end but with perhaps a few extra miles to reach accommodation on some days, this will probably increase to 200 or so. There are some steep climbs, rocky paths, boggy parts, and not being a national trail, it is not always well way marked. Oh, and lets not forget the weather as you will pass through the wettest place in England. It is however all perfectly ‘walkable’ provided you have a level of fitness and are able to use navigation aids. More than that, it is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. No wonder it is an internationally acclaimed route.

To backpack or not to backpack
There are a number of ways to complete the route – to backpack it and carry everything, to use baggage transfer, or to do short sections only. I chose to backpack it for a number of reasons which I can sum up in just three words – purist, challenge and freedom. I enjoyed the challenge of not relying on anyone or anything else, and I enjoyed the freedom to stop wherever I wanted without having any prior set agenda, meeting difficulties as they arose. This freedom is particularly enhanced if you can wild camp but in my case, the conditions were against me this time. Only 2% of people backpack the route but for me, nothing can replace the feeling of having won through as I walked into Robin Hood’s Bay.

Using baggage transfer has obvious advantages and is comparatively inexpensive on this route. It does mean though that you need to pre-book accommodation so that they know where to deliver your bags, so taking some of the spontaneity out of the walk. On the positive side though it does mean that you can probably enjoy each day’s walking a little more since you don’t have to focus on just getting over each hill with a load up.

Having completed it once by the ‘purist’ method, I could be persuaded to use baggage transfer if I did the route again.

To backpack or not to backpack!

To backpack or not to backpack!

Time of year
I don’t think that there is a right time of year to do this walk although you need to bear in mind that it is a popular walk and becomes very busy in peak season and on bank holiday weekends. Equally, conditions in winter will not necessarily favour walking. My view is that spring or autumn is probably the best time but it is down to personal preference. If you are backpacking of course, walking in warmer weather means you will have less to carry.

Navigation
This is probably the worst way marked of the popular long distance walks. I took four navigation aids with me – a GPS with the route downloaded, strip map and compass, guide book, and an iPhone map Ap (UK Map) and I used all these. Having walked with others who used different maps etc, I would recommend A-Z Adventure Atlas which has Ordnance Survey maps rather than the strip map that I took. It fits neatly into a waterproof cover too. Care is needed with the GPS download as the route may vary slightly from the guide book, which can be confusing. I used the Stedman guide book which proved helpful and generally adequate although there may be better ones. You do need to be aware that guide books go out of date so you might need to double check if it states for example that there is a shop in a certain village – I was caught out several times during my walk.

Hit and miss way marking

Hit and miss way marking

Navigation can be particularly difficult in bad weather. Thick mist is an obvious issue but even on a clear day when it is very wet and windy, it can be really difficult to read a guide book or map without it being destroyed! There are also some notorious navigation hot spots where people regularly go wrong but I will detail these in a separate entry. The good news is that although I took an occasional slight detour, at no point during the 200 miles did I stray too drastically from the route.

Paths
Paths are a mixed bag. Some road walking, some lovely grassy paths, some very rocky areas, some cliff tops, some ‘paved’ moorland paths, some forest trails, some farm tracks, and some wild, exposed and very boggy moorlands. I will try to detail these more specifically in the next entry.

Great paths on the North York Moors

Great paths on the North York Moors

High level alternatives
There are a number of alternative high level routes that you can take and, depending on your fitness, I would recommend taking at least one of these if the weather conditions are favourable. The main ones are the High Stile/Haystacks ridge (my day 2), the Calf Crag to Helm Crag ridge (my day 3), Helvellyn and Striding Edge (my day 4), Nine Standards Rigg (my day 7), Gunnerside and Melbecks Moors (my day 8). Haystacks and Helvellyn are particularly fine routes.

West to east or east to west?
Wainwright recommended west to east so that the prevailing weather will, in theory, be on your back which makes sense. However, it does mean that you will have the most climbs and arguably the best scenery in the early days. Walking east to west will mean a slightly easier first half enabling you to get fitter and stronger before you scale the greater heights which also makes sense. Most would also probably say it will ‘save the best to last’. At the end of the day, you ‘pays your money and takes your choice’ :) !

How many days?
This is like saying how long is a piece of string as it depends entirely on your fitness level and what you want to achieve. Most people take around 2 weeks, slightly under or slightly over. Some take a rest day in the middle. I averaged 16 miles a day carrying a 20Kg pack which was about right for me. Remember, you want to enjoy it and anything good should not be rushed.

Plan well but be flexible
One of the things I like to do when preparing for a long walk is to research and plan it well, looking at guide books and reading accounts written by others who have completed the walk (one of the reasons I blog my walks afterwards is to help others who are considering doing the walk). I think preparation is essential but I also think it helps to leave some space for changes along the route – prepared but flexible is my approach and it works for me. That is of course one of the benefits of backpacking the route.

On the boggy moors

On the boggy moors

Organising the day
This is of course down to personal preference as well as meal times if you are staying at B&B’s but for me, it worked to get up and go to bed with the sun……assuming there is any sun ;) ! I was usually out on the trail between 6.00 and 7.30am and aimed to arrive at my stopping point for the night whilst there was still some sunshine (hopefully) in order to dry the tent which was invariably wet from the previous night. Starting early can also help to avoid the ‘rush’ as most walkers will leave after breakfast. In terms of distance walked, this will depend on the terrain and fitness levels. The most important thing is to enjoy the walk and leave enough time in the day to ‘stand and stare’ as there is plenty to see.

Food and drink
With food, there is a need to think ahead as there may be days when no food is available along the route you have chosen. I found it useful to always carry extra food that will travel well such as cup-a-soups, pork pies, breakfast bars, nuts etc., plus some dehydrated meals provided you have a stove. I carried water, but I also carried a light water filter just in case I ran out for any reason. Depending on where you stay, there will usually be a pub available for a main meal and often they will offer packed lunches too. As mentioned earlier, don’t rely too much on the guide book for shops and cafes on route as they may have closed down since the book was last revised.

I've heard of carrying cooking pots but this is ridiculous :)

I’ve heard of carrying cooking pots but this is ridiculous :)

Weather
I think it is fair to say that in the mountains of the north of England, weather is at best mixed so prepare for the worst. Borrowdale, and indeed the Lake District generally, is one of the wettest places in England so be prepared for rain. During my 13 day walk I encountered lots of heavy rain, sleet, below freezing temperatures, gale force winds, lots of surface water, mist, low cloud, but also beautiful sunshine. In terms of wet weather gear, I carried a waterproof jacket and trousers, gaiters, waterproof cover for the rucksack, and waterproof cover for the camera. I also needed gloves and a woolly hat even though it was May. Everything in my rucksack was stored in waterproof stuff sacks.

One thing I did try this time was to carry some waterproof socks and these proved invaluable when putting on boots that were still wet from the previous day. Oh, and I always carry a change of shoes for the evening so that I don’t have to go to the pub in wet boots. Don’t forget that wet grass can mean wet boots even if it is not raining.

Prepared for all weather!

Prepared for all weather!

People
One of the features of this walk for me was the friendliness of the people, both the local residents and fellow walkers. I lost count of the number of times locals chatted to me and pointed out the route, and I walked with people of several different nationalities. There was a real community feel about the walk and that was one of the highlights.

One of the strangest things was when I came to sign the book at the end of the walk and the name immediately above mine and completing the walk on the same day as me was a girl who lives just a couple of miles from me in Dorset. What a coincidence…….and not only that but by chance I shared a room that night at the local hostel with her father.

Electrical equipment
Keeping mobile phones etc charged up can be a potential issue if you are backpacking. I like to keep in touch with my family and I like to Tweet the walk as I go, plus of course I am a photographer. This means that I have at least two things that need charging regularly. I researched solar chargers which seemed the ideal solution but was unable to find one that was small, light and yet charged well…….unless you live in Florida with permanent sunshine! I resorted in the end to a battery pack that would charge an iPhone seven or eight times. Ultimately I didn’t have to use it that much because I found that pubs and cafes are more than willing to allow you to use their sockets to charge equipment. One thing I did do though is to carry a second cheap pay-as-you-go phone on a different network to my main phone in case of emergency.

Mobile signal
Be aware that a mobile signal is not always available in a lot of areas, notably in the Lake District where some of the pubs in the valleys do not seem to have any wifi either.

I hope this has been useful but if you want to ask anything specific, please do feel free to comment on the blog or email me. In my next blog entry I will try to give a very brief summary of each day, including potential difficulties.

Until next time,

Your friend, The Dorset Rambler.

Comments and feedback on this blog are welcome. If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com.

If you would like to join me on my walks, my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/adorsetrambler.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

Coast to Coast – Part 7

28 Jun Great Fryup Dale

Day 12 – Blakey Ridge to Littlebeck – 19 miles

I woke at 5.30am after a disturbed night, caused by the constant flapping of the tent in the strong gusting wind. I peered outside to see thick mist and low cloud with heavy rain – not what had been forecasted at all! However, it wasn’t unusual since the Lion Inn is one of the highest pubs in England!

In the morning mizzle!

In the morning mizzle!

I decided to get going early and was out on the trail again before 6.30am, initially following the road across Danby High Moor. Being on the road was something of a relief bearing in mind the poor visibility, although it did mean dodging the occasional car that loomed suddenly out of the mist. After a couple of miles, I passed Fat Betty, the stone in the picture below. This is in fact a medieval cross dating from the 12th century and is also known as White Cross. These wayside crosses or marker stones would have been used for hundreds of years as a guide for pilgrims crossing these wild and remote moors.

Naturally there are numerous different legends surrounding Fat Betty but the truth about its origin has been lost in the mist of time (pun intended :) ). The most plausible explanation is that it was something to do with the nearby Rosedale Abbey – the nuns there wore white habits.

There is a more modern tradition whereby walkers take a sweet or snack from the stone and leave something of theirs for the next traveller. After the wind and rain and mist, the few sweets that were on there were somewhat the worse for wear so I just picked one up and put it back as a nod to tradition :) !

Fat Betty

Fat Betty

After some time on the road, I branched off across moorland paths, passing Trough House on the way. This very remote house stands on the high moors and is used as a shooting lodge. Had the weather really closed in this would have made a good sheltering spot……..except that it was locked.

Trough House

Trough House

The 10 miles from Blakey Ridge to Glaisdale is nearly all downhill and I gradually dropped out of the low cloud although it still took some time for the rain to stop. In the valleys below I could see splashes of sunshine appearing, but not where I was! Great Fryup Dale looked particularly inviting when bathed in sunshine, although it wasn’t actually on my route. Its name by the way has nothing to do with breakfast – in fact it was probably named after Frige, an Anglo-Saxon goddess, and hop, meaning a small valley.

Great Fryup Dale

Great Fryup Dale

The walking was really more of yesterday – crossing the open moors on wide sandy/stony paths or narrow country lanes with skylarks overhead and grouse, lapwings and curlew all around. Finally as I dropped down to another stretch of road walking, the rain stopped and I got the weather that had been forecasted:) ! My abiding memory of the walk along Glaisdale Rigg on the road is being able to FaceTime my wife and young grandson – modern technology makes being away from home so much easier!

On Glaisdale Rigg

On Glaisdale Rigg

Glaisdale from Glaisdale Rigg

Glaisdale from Glaisdale Rigg

Leaving the road once more for another moorland track, I bumped into a backpacker coming the other way. In nearly two weeks, he was the only backpacker I had seen apart from myself – apparently only 2% of people backpack the C2C, the rest use baggage transfer services or just walk parts. He was a young guy originally from Northallerton but who had moved to London. He had just given up his job and was walking the C2C from East to West before looking for a new position. We compared notes for a while before bidding our farewells and I continued downwards towards Glaisdale while he continued upwards towards Blakey Ridge.

Dropping down to Glaisdale.

Dropping down to Glaisdale.

Walking into Glaisdale in bright sunshine, I was delighted to see a tea rooms that was open. It was no more than a wooden outbuilding beside a house but the welcome was very warm and the tea and cakes were very timely after 10 miles of walking. I sat out on the little raised decking area drying off in the sun and chatted to the lady owner. Below me in the garden was an outside model railway although sadly it wasn’t running that day as the lady’s husband was out.

Glaisdale.

Glaisdale.

I have to say that with views stretching across the valley, I could have happily sat on that raised balcony for the afternoon but I still had some miles to walk so I headed off again.

The route was now at a much lower level at least for a time, and I left the town and followed the River Esk through some beautiful woodlands, passing Beggar’s Bridge on the way. The story goes that a young pauper was courting the squire’s daughter and went overseas to make his fortune. He wanted to say goodbye to his lover but was beaten back by the river which was so swollen. Many years later when he returned, he married the girl and built the bridge to help others who might be in the same situation.

This was easy walking as the path had been ‘paved’, and there was some delightful sunlight filtering through the trees that were wearing that lovely fresh green foliage of spring .

East Arncliffe Woods

East Arncliffe Woods

On the way through, I passed an interesting memorial bench dedicated to Freddy and Willy who were clearly two dogs. I could imagine their villager owner walking with them through these woods.

Memorial

Memorial

I passed through Egton Bridge, another pretty little village, and then walked on along an old toll road to Grosmont with its somewhat interesting sign. It actually took me a while to work out what it said. It was in fact created from old bicycle parts to celebrate the coming of the Tour De France to Yorkshire.

Grosmont

Grosmont

Grosmont, a somewhat ‘grittier’ town than its neighbours, is known for a number of things; its priory, its iron ore mines, its iron works and furnaces, its tunnel for the horse drawn railway – said to be the earliest passenger railway tunnel in the world (in fact the settlement used to be known as ‘Tunnel’) – but perhaps it is now best known for its preserved steam railway. I had lunch and spent some time looking around the various railway paraphernalia and would have liked to have stayed longer but I needed to move on.

Grosmont Station

Grosmont Station

I did know that this mainly downhill day was going to end with a steep climb up over Sleights Moor at 700 feet but after 15 miles of walking, the climb still came as a shock to the system. There are two interesting things about this part of the walk – one is that on the climb out of Grosmont I had my first sighting of the North Sea where my walk would end, and the other is its name. This area is known as Eskdaleside Cum Ugglebarnby!

The North Sea comes into view

The North Sea comes into view

Having reached the top of the climb, I really enjoyed walking across the moors. It was now a beautiful day despite the breeze and of course the skylarks kept me company. It was so lovely that I actually sat for some time beside the empty road to drink in the sights and sounds. It is strange that an area so peaceful should be known partly for a murder committed in 1841 which was the first case where an officer from Scotland Yard was sent to the provinces to solve.

Sleights Moor

Sleights Moor

I dropped down off the moors towards Littlebeck but detoured slightly to Intake Farm as I had decided to stop there for the night. I arrived and was greeted warmly by Judith and Robert and given a cup of tea and cake in their kitchen…..and I didn’t even have to take my boots off. There couldn’t have been a better welcome and the shower was welcome too :) ! I pitched my tent on the back lawn with views across the valley to the woodlands that would be my route out tomorrow.

A tent with a view

A tent with a view

As the light faded, I lay in my tent listening to some gentle music and thinking back over what had been a great day’s walking despite the earlier rain – and thinking that there couldn’t have been a better end to the day.

Day 13 – Littlebeck to Robin Hood’s Bay – 12 miles

I woke after a really good night, with mixed emotions! This was to be my last day on the C2C and part of me was excited at the prospect of reaching my goal at Robin Hood’s Bay, while the other part of me was sad as I wanted the walk to continue. I was out on the trail again before 6.30am as I wanted to leave enough time at the end of the day to take a bus ride into Whitby, a place I had never seen before other than in pictures.

I dropped first of all down into the lovely peaceful village of Littlebeck, a once busy centre of alum mining, before entering the most beautiful stretch of woodlands imaginable. This was Littlebeck Woods and this first part of today’s walk was described accurately by Alfred Wainwright who said…….

“Then follows a descent to this tiny hamlet, set in a secluded and sheltered valley amid scenery of bewitching beauty; a heaven on earth in exquisite miniature. Here a path is taken amongst the trees, with sparkling stream as companion to the higher reaches of the valley.”

Despite the cloudy morning, this was a wonderful walk with birdsong to accompany me all the way.

The Hermitage

The Hermitage

I passed first of all The Hermitage, a cave like dwelling carved out of a single sandstone boulder with the date 1790 above the door plus the initials GC reputedly referring to George Chubb, a local school master. It was said to have been carved out by an out of work seaman acting on Chubb’s instructions. Above the folly are two wishing chairs and it is said that if you make a wish in one, you must sit in the other to make it come true.

A little further on, I passed the Falling Foss waterfall, a 20 meter cascade which is part of May Beck. Beside the waterfall is the Falling Foss Tea Garden which is in the grounds of what was Midge Hall, a former game keepers cottage. Left derelict for some 50 years, this has now been restored……although sadly it was closed when I passed as it was still early in the morning :( !

Falling Foss

Falling Foss

This is such a delightful glade as the beck ripples its way across boulders and cascades with woodlands on either side. This must surely be a popular place in the summer but today I had it all to myself! I really wished that the sun had come out to brighten up the photographs but it wasn’t to be.

May Beck

May Beck

May Beck

May Beck

It was with regret that I left the woodlands and climbed gradually up the hillside to reach the open moors once again. This was to be my last stretch of moorland and I crossed it just as the rain began to fall, although fortunately despite flurries during the morning, it didn’t come to anything significant. Crossing these moorlands was actually quite difficult as both Sneaton Low Moor and the Graystone Hills were extremely boggy in places and by now, I was nursing a pair of split boots, just trying to eke them out to the end of the walk before they gave up completely :) !

The Graystone Hills

The Graystone Hills

Cotton Grass and bogs!

Cotton Grass and bogs!

Once off the moors, the walking became much easier as I headed across better drained grassy paths towards the coast, and then a section of road walking through Low and High Hawsker.

Heading for Hawsker

Heading for Hawsker

Finally I dropped down through a caravan park to reach the coast at Pursglove Stye with the North Sea directly ahead of me – a gateway led nowhere. I wondered who had put it there and why! This part of the coast is known for its fossilised timber that was mined, shaped, polished and transformed into Whitby Jet.

The Gateway

The Gateway

This seemed to be a case of so near yet so far! After walking 9 miles, I wanted to take a break and have a sit down but I had decided I would only stop when I could see Robin Hood’s Bay. Every rise I climbed or headland I rounded I expected to see the bay in front of me, only to see yet another headland or hill.

On the home stretch?

On the home stretch?

Finally I saw the bay in the distance through a gap in the cliff top hedgerow. My goal was in sight and I sat and enjoyed the moment. The walk wasn’t yet over of course as there was still a mile or so to go. These last few miles along the cliff top seemed a fitting end to the walk, mirroring the miles at the start of the walk two weeks earlier along the Irish Sea.

Robin Hood's Bay comes into view

Robin Hood’s Bay comes into view

The last mile was easy and pleasant as I made my way first along the cliffs and then steeply down the road to the town itself where I immediately went to the beach to follow tradition by putting a toe in the North Sea and depositing the pebble I had carried for 200 miles. It was a great moment.

Toe Dipping

Toe Dipping

I looked across to the slipway that marks the end of the walk with an ice cream van perched precariously beside the water. I was back in civilisation!

Robin Hood's Bay

Robin Hood’s Bay

I made my way to the Bay Hotel where I ordered a pint of Wainwright Ale from the first floor bar – disappointingly the Wainwright Bar below was closed as it is only open at weekends. Later on I would sign the Coast to Coast Book which is kept on the bar but for now, I just sat outside looking out to sea reflecting on what had been a fantastic walk, an amazing two weeks, a fabulous experience, and one that already I couldn’t wait to repeat!

The end of the line

The end of the line

The End!

The End!

Thanks for stopping by and for sharing this walk with me. I hope it might inspire you to put on your walking boots and try it for yourself, you won’t be disappointed. In my next blog entry, I will summarise the walk, give some hints and tips for would be walkers, highlight some of the challenges met on the way, and hopefully provide some practical information to help with your own planning.

Until next time,

Your friend, The Dorset Rambler.

Comments and feedback on this blog are welcome. If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com.

If you would like to join me on my walks, my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/adorsetrambler.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

Coast to Coast – Part 4

5 Jun Walls, Gates and Barns

Day 6 – Shap to Kirkby Stephen – 22 miles

As I have been typing this blog from notes made at the end of each day of the walk, I find myself thinking, ‘I didn’t have very good weather did I’! I seem to be regularly talking about wind and rain and cold. Well today is no different! I woke to the sound of…….RAIN! However, as they say, the walk must go on……or should that be ‘show’ :) ! By 7.30am I was packed up, had donned every bit of waterproofing I had, put on my rucksack and was out on the trail.

I wasn’t really looking forward to the day as I was leaving the wonderful Lakeland mountains behind for a 20+ mile walk across the much flatter ground of the Westmoreland plateau. The guidebook describes it as, ‘A grassy stroll across well-drained limestone bedrock’. Wainwright puts it thus; ‘As every walker knows, a limestone footing invariably means easy travelling on velvet turf’! Hmmm, clearly neither of the writers had walked it on a day like this :) !

Shap had not been a particularly inspiring town. In fact the things that stay in my memory are the granite works and quarry, the mainline railway, and the M6 motorway, all of which had to be passed, crossed or circumnavigated in the first few miles of the day.

Shap Granite Works

Shap Granite Works

Mainline Railway

Mainline Railway

Motorway

Motorway

As I left the final obstacle and started out across the first tract of moorland, the conditions became even worse with driving rain, gale force winds and of course mud, mud, mud and mud! Route finding was not easy although this was perhaps more down to the conditions as everything got soaked whenever I took out the guidebook or map. I was grateful for a weather proof GPS. It was also very difficult to keep the camera reasonably dry.

In fact, I think on a day of good weather this would have been a very pleasant days walking as there was some lovely moorland scenery including lots of limestone pavements, and much to explore.

Limestone Pavement

Limestone Pavement

Understandably, with the conditions, I passed few other people. One, in the picture below, was riding a quad bike which had two guns laid across it. The rider was obviously out hunting but for what I do not know – initially I thought perhaps it was grouse but it wasn’t the season for that so it might have been deer or rabbits. Whatever it was, I heard no shots fired.

Out Shooting

Out Shooting

Just after passing the ‘hunter’ I passed two other walkers coming in the other direction along a farm track looking like drowned rats. I figured I must look exactly the same! They had stayed in Kirkby Stephen last night and had been given a lift for the first few miles to shorten the day. We stood for a while in the rain and compared notes before putting our heads down and heading off into the wind again.

Down the Farm Track

Down the Farm Track

There were actually quite a few things of interest along the way, such as Robin Hood’s Grave (not Robin Hood’s Grave at all :) ), stone circles, limekilns and so on but it wasn’t a day for lingering or exploring – apart perhaps for the last mentioned which provided some brief shelter from the elements :) ! It was a day to just keep walking, and yet in a strange masochistic way, it was still an enjoyable day. But then, I always enjoy walking whatever the weather.

Walls, Gates and Barns

Walls, Gates and Barns

In addition, there were a lot of dry stone walls…..and I love dry stone walls, even if they do mean lots of gates and stiles to negotiate. The field in the picture above was inhabited by lots of Shetland ponies who were most inquisitive as I walked across their patch.

Eventually, I emerged from the fields onto the moorland road below – I think the picture probably conveys well the conditions I was walking in :) ! Down to the right was Sunbiggin Tarn which Alfred Wainwright describes as, ‘Little more than a large reedy pond in the middle of a morass’! He also describes it as a popular picnic spot since the road is nearby, and I can certainly imagine that it would be very busy in warmer, dryer weather. More importantly though, it is an important bird sanctuary and wildlife refuge.

Long Lonely Road Across the Moor

Long Lonely Road Across the Moor

Skirting round the tarn being driven along by the fierce wind on my back, I continued across more of the Ravenstonedale Moor and before long things started to improve. First of all the rain eased and then stopped, and shortly afterwards the sun made an appearance……and what a difference that made as I gradually dried off. It was a pleasure to reach Smardale and to shelter from the wind by yet another dry stone wall looking down into the valley.

Smardale

Smardale

And what a pleasant surprise the valley was with its disused railway, nature reserve, river (Scandal Beck), old viaduct, abandoned railway cottages, and its now defunct limestone quarry. It was a fascinating place and I would love to have spent an hour or two exploring but the day was drawing on and I had some miles still to walk so I continued on my way.

Smardale and Viaduct

Smardale and Viaduct

Smardale Limestone Quarry

Smardale Limestone Quarry and Abandoned Railway Cottage

Finally I dropped down off the moor and onto farm land where I could see Kirkby Stephen below me. I had already made a decision to stay at a hostel for the night to enable me to dry everything out and I walked into the village looking forward to sleeping in a bed.

Approaching Kirkby Stephen

Approaching Kirkby Stephen

At the hostel, a disused Methodist Chapel, I was greeted by Denise who immediately asked, ‘Would you like a cup of tea?’ – after 22 miles of tough walking in wintry weather, this was the best thing she could have said :) ! Whilst I was sat enjoying my drink on the sofa, an equally wet Stuart, my walking buddy from a few days ago, walked in. It was good to catch up and we agreed to walk together again tomorrow.

I hoped the weather would improve by then!

Day 7 – Kirkby Stephen to Keld – 13 miles

I was up at 6.30am after a great night and I looked out of the window to see SUNSHINE :) ! Sigh, it wasn’t to last!

After a continental breakfast, Stuart and I left the hostel at 8am and almost before we had left the town, the rain started again. In fact we were to walk in gale force winds, driving sleet and below freezing temperatures for most of the day, often knee deep in water – it could easily have been a mid-winter day, such were the conditions. The last mentioned was not really a surprise as the guide book warns that the one thing most people remember about this day is the peat bogs that have to be negotiated!

Leaving Kirkby Stephen

Leaving Kirkby Stephen

This was to be the day we were to climb up over the Pennines and move from Cumbria into North Yorkshire and I had really hoped to pass Nine Standards Rigg, the series of cairns at the summit, on the way. As it happens, I was once again foiled by the conditions! Battling against the strongly gusting wind and stinging sleet, and with freezing hands, it just didn’t make sense to climb over the high point with poor visibility.

Rigg Beck

Rigg Beck

Dropping down to the road, we had some easier walking for a time…..at least, there was solid ground under foot :) ! I paused for a photograph – well this was something of a milestone as I was entering Yorkshire and this evening I would be at the half way point of the walk.

Spring Weather!

Spring Weather!

This area is of course the Watershed where many rivers spring so there were becks aplenty. In fact the map shows a whole spiders web of blue lines. It was also an area of disused and abandoned buildings such as the one in the pictures below. I often think it is such a waste when there are homeless people, but in these conditions, maybe no-one would want to live there.

Beck Meetings - The Pennines

Beck Meetings – The Pennines

Beck Meetings - The Pennines

Beck Meetings – The Pennines

Unfortunately, the comparatively easy walking came to an end all too soon and we had to leave the road again to strike out across the moors. It probably goes without saying that route finding across the moors was not easy and at times, well most of the time, it was difficult to tell the indistinct paths from streams. We often found ourselves just trudging across open moorlands knee deep in water trying to follow the little line on the GPS. Two heads are better than one though and we managed to avoid straying too far. I did wonder though what would happen if the mist came down!

The birds seemed to have less problems than us :) ! Lapwings were everywhere, as were grouse – strange and funny creatures aren’t they! They always make me smile as they rise up from the ground making comical noises. Clearly they were unaware of what the grouse butts were for otherwise they would have made their escape. We could hear many waders too, including the plaintive cry of the curlew.

Crossing the swollen becks was fun at times!

Wot, No Bridge!

Wot, No Bridge!

There were other less comical creatures too, like the Swaledale sheep. These are totally functional – tough like the earlier Herdwicks, and great for keeping on these high moors with the sparse vegetation.

Swaledale Sheep

Swaledale Sheep

As with yesterday, things improved as the end of the day neared. Firstly the rain stopped and the day brightened up, and then Ravenseat came into view, but best of all, at the farm there was a sign advertising cream teas :) ! After all that the weather had thrown at us, how could we resist :) !

Ravenseat

Ravenseat

It was a delight to sit in the barn out of the wind with a hot drink and a scone laden with jam and cream. Despite the weather, there were others there although not walkers.

Ravenseat is a sheep farm at the head of the Swaledale valley run by Amanda Owen, the Yorkshire Shepherdess, and her husband. Amanda, a TV presenter and author as well as farmer and cream tea provider :) has written a book about her life and how she changed from city girl to shepherd. She told us that she had recently sold the film rights to her book. In addition to all the other things that she does, she has found time to give birth to seven children with number eight due soon. She was a great host and talked non-stop while we were there, telling us all about life on the farm.

Cream Teas!

Cream Teas – Amanda Owen on the right!

It was almost with regret that we left Amanda’s company to continue on our way. What was to come though was one of the most beautiful parts of the whole walk, the Swaledale Valley with its myriad deserted barns and farmhouses. I don’t think I have ever seen so many! The old farmhouse below would make such a great place to live!

Deserted

Deserted

We made our way along the side of the valley in beautiful sunshine. What a transformation from the wild and wintry weather earlier as we crossed the Pennines.

And what an amazing valley this is too. In places it is like a deep gorge with steep sides and with a very full river flowing along the bottom. Add in the great views all around, and you have a delightful evening walk!

Swaledale

Swaledale

Gradually the path took us lower until we were walking along the valley floor beside the River Swale, brown from the peat. There were numerous waterfalls along this section – the power and noise after all the recent rain was immense.

Wain Wath Force

Wain Wath Force

Catrake Force

Rainby Force

I pitched my tent right beside the waterfall above and later that night would drop off to sleep with the sound of rushing water in my ears. What a great lullaby!

I dropped off to sleep replaying the days events and thinking about tomorrow – there were two alternatives, a high level or a low level route, and I wanted to do both! Sigh, which to choose…..?!

Coast to Coast – Part 3

2 Jun

Day 4 – Grasmere to Patterdale – 8.5 miles

I woke as expected to rain! Pouring rain! But the forecast suggested that it would improve later in the day so I took my time packing up in the hopes that conditions might improve earlier than anticipated – it was a forlorn hope! I had been intending to walk beyond Patterdale to wild camp beside Angle Tarn but once again, the conditions were far from ideal so I settled on a slightly shorter day by overnighting in the Patterdale valley.

Leaving Grasmere, I could immediately see how low the cloud was – there would be no great views today!

Leaving Grasmere in Pouring Rain

Leaving Grasmere in Pouring Rain

The route briefly follows the country lane before crossing the A road to join the track that climbs steadily up to Grisedale Tarn. Initially the wind was on my back but this changed as I climbed out of the valley towards Great Tongue, the tongue shaped hill in the centre of the picture below.

Heading towards Great Tongue

Heading towards Great Tongue

At the foot of Great Tongue, the track divides and you can choose to go East or West of the Tongue. With the very windy and wet conditions, I chose the path that runs to the East of the hill because I thought it might be more sheltered, and I climbed upwards beside Tongue Gill.

The Path Beside Tongue Gill

The Path Beside Tongue Gill

Even sandwiched between hills there was little relief from the driving rain and wind. As in previous days, the path climbed gently at first but became ever steeper as I climbed higher. After nearly 24 hours of rain, the rivers were full and even the path itself had become a stream so that I was walking in streams of water for most of the day. I stopped to look back down Tongue Gill trying as best I could to keep the rain off the lens.

Looking Back Down Tongue Gill

Looking Back Down Tongue Gill

With the unrelenting conditions, it seemed to take an age to reach the top of the climb where I expected to find Grisedale Tarn. In fact as often happens, it was a blind summit and there was more climbing to do in oder to reach the tarn.

Full Rivers and Many Waterfalls

Full Rivers and Many Waterfalls

Apart from pausing to take the odd picture, I had not stopped all the way up the 600 meter climb, so it was a relief to finally crest the real top and to look down on Grisedale Tarn.  It was interesting to think that I had intended to wild camp here last night. With the gale force wind whipping across the pass driving the stinging rain into my face, I knew that it had been the right decision to overnight in the valley instead! How I wish that a photograph could fully convey the conditions I was experiencing as I stood at the top of that pass!

At the end of the tarn, the route divides into three suggested alternatives. The main route drops straight down beside Grisedale Beck into Patterdale making the tarn the highest point of the day. However, there are two suggested higher level alternatives – one takes the zig zagging path up to the left in the picture below to reach Helvellyn via Dollywagon Pike, and the other takes the path to the right and climbs up over St Sunday Crag. My intention all along had been to take the high level route climbing over the Helvellyn summit before dropping down across the wonderful Striding Edge. What should I do?

Grisedale Tarn

Grisedale Tarn

Looking up, I could not even see either of the high level alternatives and in fact, looking back across the tarn, the cloud base was barely clear of the tarn itself. I debated which route to take as I really wanted to go higher even though it would mean another 1,000 feet of steep and tough climbing – Helvellyn is spectacular and Striding Edge is one of the best knife edged ridges around.

Looking Back Towards Grisedale Hause and Seat Sandal

Looking Back Towards Grisedale Hause and Seat Sandal

Ultimately common sense prevailed and with a somewhat heavy heart I headed across the top and took the path that dropped down beside Grisedale Beck. Aside from any risk involved in climbing up into dense cloud, there seemed little point if the amazing views were not visible!

The View Down Grisedale

The View Down Grisedale – Clearer for Just a Moment

As I started downwards, walking often in ankle deep water that was running down the path, I noticed two groups of walkers below me comparing notes – some of them, three in fact, looked familiar. It was Chris, Chris and Steve, the charity walkers from yesterday.  We spent the rest of the day walking together.

Comparing Notes

Comparing Notes

Beside Grisedale Beck

Beside Grisedale Beck

Gradually as I dropped down the valley, visibility improved and as we reached the lower part of the valley, the sun even made an appearance.  The forecast had been right……but why couldn’t it have cleared earlier :) ! It was at this point that I took a tumble! Everything was so wet and slippery and I just lost my footing on the rain sodden grass.  Fortunately all that was damaged was my pride :) !

Grisedale - Out of the Cloud

Grisedale – Out of the Cloud

I arrived at the end of the walk in bright sunshine although the tops were still very much in the clouds. It was a relief to find a walker friendly pub in Patterdale and to be able to remove my wet rucksack, waterproofs and boots and to sit in the bar and dry off :) …….with a pint of Wainwright Ale of course :) !! It was interesting chatting to the landlord whose whole family are involved with the C2C.  He told me that his 9 year old daughter and his 78 year old grandmother had both completed the walk three times. What a great achievement for both of them – and at each end of the age spectrum!

Later in the evening I returned to the same pub and had a meal with my three charity walking friends. It was a great evening……and I even managed to save some of my pizza for lunch tomorrow :) !

Patterdale and Ullswater

Patterdale and Ullswater

It had been an awful day in terms of weather and it had been a real challenge to keep everything, especially the camera, as dry as possible.  Yet, somehow, it had been a fantastic day too despite the disappointment of not being able to climb Helvellyn.

Day 5 – Patterdale to Shap – 16.2 miles

I was up early and out on the trail by 8am on a cloudy but DRY day :) ! I made my way down the road and crossed Goldrill Beck, the river that feeds Ullswater, to pick up the C2C path again. The camera, now dry, immediately came out again :) !

Crossing Goldrill Beck

Crossing Goldrill Beck

At this point, I noticed a strange sight – lambs wearing polythene coats. They reminded me of the Pac A Mac’s that used to be popular many years ago. I guess it is a reflection on how bad the weather has been this year.

Lambs with Pac A Mac's on :)

Lambs with Pac A Mac’s on :)

The climb out of Patterdale started almost immediately and was a steady uphill grind but with ever broadening views and ever brightening weather it was a lovely walk, especially after yesterday :) ! As I climbed higher, the wind became keener and it felt strange to have the path to myself as there was no sign of any other walkers.

Looking Back at Patterdale and Ullswater

Looking Back at Patterdale and Ullswater

I stopped for a while and looked down on Brothers Water, one of the smaller lakes and a local lady out walking her dogs caught up with me. She was a budding photographer and naturalist and, with common interests, we chatted as we walked together. Although she lived in the Lake District, she felt it had been tamed, describing it as a ‘huge adventure playground with well manicured paths that had become too busy’.  She much preferred what she described as ‘the true wilderness of Scotland’! I could see what she meant as it has certainly become a lot more popular thanks to Alfred Wainwright, but I didn’t necessarily agree.

Brothers Water

Brothers Water

She wanted to take photographs on the shore of Angle Tarn so I bade farewell and continued on my way, looking back at the beautiful tarn below. It brought back memories of a day, much warmer than this, when I had swum in the tarn just to cool off after a sweaty climb many years ago.

Angle Tarn

Angle Tarn

It seemed strange that apart from the dog walker I had passed no other walkers, and neither could I see any in the distance. I almost wondered if I had taken the wrong route :) ! Actually I did take a detour but it was a deliberate detour to take some photographs. Often I add miles to my walks because I wander off the trail to find different views :) !

The Gateway

The Gateway

The light was fantastic with dark clouds scudding across the sky throwing huge shadows over the landscape. It was a dream day for a photographer! With skylarks singing over head, it was a multi-sensory experience. In particular, the view down Bannerdale, one of the two valleys that make up Martindale, was quite spectacular.

Morning Light on Bannerdale

Morning Light on Bannerdale

In terms of severity, this was down in the guide book as the toughest day of the whole walk as its highest point was Kidsty Pike at a fraction short of 800 meters, and total climbing of some 4,400 feet on the day. However, perhaps because of the conditions over the previous couple of days, it seemed somehow less severe.

Riggindale from High Street

Riggindale from High Street, Kidsty Pike on the left

I reached High Street for just a short time before turning sharply to continue to climb over the top of Kidsty Pike with the now really strong wind doing its very best to knock me off my feet. It was cold and blustery but was an exhilarating walk. I stopped often just to soak up the views and of course to take more pictures.

High Street from Kidsty Pike

High Street from Kidsty Pike

With quite a few miles still to walk, I pressed on over the top and followed the path that drops steeply down towards Haweswater far below. The climb down is knee wrenching but with amazing views across the lake, it was a delight. As I reached the lower parts, the wind dropped, and the day, and I, warmed up!

Dropping Down to Haweswater

Dropping Down to Haweswater

Haweswater is a surprisingly long lake, some 4 miles from end to end. In fact, more correctly it is a reservoir as a dam was erected in 1935 that raised the level of the existing, much smaller, lake by nearly 100 feet, flooding the villages of Measand and Mardale Green in the process. Not only were people evacuated but their homes were all demolished as was the pub and church – the stone was used in the building of the dam. Eerily, like something out of a movie, all bodies were also exhumed from the graveyard and reburied at Shap. This, plus the fact that the valley was seen as one of the most picturesque, caused a public outcry.  The water from the reservoir serves the people of Manchester. Alfred Wainwright described it this way, ‘Man works with such clumsy hands! Gone for ever are the quiet wooded bays and shingly shores that nature had fashioned so sweetly in the Haweswater of old; how aggressively ugly is the tidemark of the new Haweswater!’ He did though describe it correctly as a ‘still noble valley’!

Walking Beside Haweswater

Walking Beside Haweswater

The path that runs along the shoreline undulates and has fine views across the lake. It was a pleasure to walk although it seemed to take a long time to walk the whole length and pass the dam at the lower end. Eventually however, I left Haweswater behind and I headed out into the countryside at the lower end of the valley, following the route of Haweswater Beck and the River Lowther to reach Shap Abbey, a 12 century Premonstratensian community. Although the abbey escaped the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the building was closed in 1540 and most of it, with the exception of the tower, was demolished.

Shap Abbey

Shap Abbey

Along the last few miles I passed two honesty boxes.  These are a feature of parts of the walk and are very welcome when supplies are running low. I made use of the one below, provided courtesy of a local walker-friendly farmer near the abbey. This last part of the route had been quite boggy and hard going……but it was nothing compared to what was to come!

A Welcome Honesty Box

A Welcome Honesty Box

I finally arrived at Shap, my stopping point for the night, at 7pm and having showered I spent an hour or so exploring the village.  I had loosely arranged to meet up with Matt and Ben again as they were finishing their long weekend here but sadly I missed them.

What a fantastic day this has been – the toughest so far maybe, but also the best so far, with amazing weather, awesome views and fabulous scenery. I was tired and very satisfied as I settled down for the night.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend The Dorset Rambler.

Comments and feedback on this blog are welcome. If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com.

If you would like to join me on my walks, my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/adorsetrambler.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

Coast to Coast – Part 2

29 May

Day 2 – Ennerdale Bridge to Borrowdale – 18 miles

After a very cold night in the tent, I woke at 5.30am to a heavy frost! I was looking forward to the day as it was the first day in the Lake District mountains but I also wondered how I would get on carrying so much weight up over the mountain passes, today’s highest point being 600 meters – in fact, even more weight now as I had to pack away a very wet tent!

I was out on the road again before 6.30am with the sun making an appearance over the distant Red Pike/Haystacks ridge.  It was a stunning morning as I made my way along the road towards Ennerdale Water.

Sunrise and frost on the road to Ennerdale Water

Sunrise and frost on the road to Ennerdale Water

At the lake, you have choices as you can take the path to the North or South of the lake – I chose the latter and made my way along the lake shore in glorious sunshine. The path was lovely and meandered along the shoreline but it was rocky so progress was slow – a twisted ankle at this stage would be disastrous! Having said that, slow is good and I drank in the views and just the early morning atmosphere.

The South Shore of Ennerdale Water

The South Shore of Ennerdale Water

Reaching the head of the lake, I crossed the River Liza that feeds it and stopped for ‘elevenses’ beside the fast flowing stream.

River Liza

River Liza

The route from this point follows the forestry road that runs beside the river, climbing slowly up towards the head of the valley. This was easy walking as it was even underfoot and just rose gently as it wound through the trees. With birdsong and the babbling of various rivulets passed along the way, it was a delightful walk. Eventually I came out of the forest and I could see the steep rise ahead of me at the top of the valley. I could also see the Black Sail Hut and I took the opportunity to rest awhile, wishing really that it was later in the day as this would have been a fantastic place to overnight.

Black Sail Hostel

Black Sail Hostel

However, I had more walking to do so I continued on my way. Ahead of me I could see the climb that was to come as the path rose steeply beside Loft Beck to reach the summit at Grey Knott.

The Head of the Ennerdale valley

The Head of the Ennerdale valley

Now when it comes to climbing, I am a heavy goods vehicle in low gear :) ! On the way up, I was passed by two brothers, one from Coventry and one from Lancashire. We chatted for some time – well it was a good excuse for a rest :) ! We were to meet again later, several times in fact.

Looking Back Down Ennerdale

Looking Back Down Ennerdale from Loft Beck

They were travelling light and left me behind to continue slowly towards the top of the pass. For anyone thinking of doing this walk, these are hard climbs, especially when carrying a heavy pack, but I cannot emphasise enough the sheer beauty of this area and how fantastic and worthwhile this walk is despite any hardships. In fact the hardships of steep climbs, bad weather etc pale into insignificance against the pleasures of walking this trail.

On Fleetwith with Buttermere in the distance

On Fleetwith with Buttermere in the distance

After rock hopping and criss-crossing the beck up the steep slope, I emerged at the top of the climb to amazing views to the surrounding mountains and valleys, including Buttermere in the distance with Haystacks standing proud. While I was standing taking in the views, Stuart, an Australian walker, caught up with me. He had come over especially to do this walk – in fact I was to meet several other Australians as well as Americans and Canadians later.  This really is an internationally renowned walk. Stuart and I were to bump into each other a number of times and were to walk together over the coming days.

Haystacks

Haystacks

Despite the sun, it was cold on the fells as the wind continued to whip across the top.  It was time to walk on and I crossed the fell top and dropped down the other side to join the disused quarry tramway that once served the Honister mines.

The Disused Quarry Tramway at Honister

The Disused Quarry Tramway at Honister

As I walked down the track, I could see the Honister visitor centre below and I knew there was a cafe there – I hoped it would be open :) !

Down the Tramway to Honister

Down the Tramway to Honister

I stopped at the cafe for a well earned cup of tea and bumped into the two brothers again before they headed off towards Borrowdale. A short while later, Stuart joined me and we chatted over tea and cakes – very civilised when you are more used to sandwiches and water on bleak hillsides :) !

Leaving the cafe, I headed down into the lovely valley of Borrowdale, walking on or nearby the steep road that runs up and over the Honister Pass. It reminded me of very pleasant days when I would drive the narrow zig zagging roads over the mountain passes with my son, Paul. We share a mutual love of walking these mountains and driving the narrow, steep passes too, and have spent many happy weeks camping together over the years. The last few miles were all down hill to reach first of all Seatoller, and then on into the three ‘thwaites’ that make up Borrowdale – Longthwaite, Rosthwaite and Stonethwaite.

Dropping Down into Seatoller

Dropping Down into Seatoller

Stuart and I parted at the youth hostel where he was staying and I immediately bumped into the two brothers again so we walked awhile together before they reached their stopping point. I hadn’t fixed on any particular place to stay so I looked at various options (adding a few miles to the day’s tally in the process) before settling on a farm campsite, the main deciding factor being the fact that it had showers – I hadn’t been able to shower for three days! Fortunately there were enough daylight hours left for the sun to dry out the tent so later that evening I could at least settle into dry accommodation for the night :) !

Walking through Borrowdale

Walking through Borrowdale

I lay in my sleeping bag thinking back over a great day – beautiful weather, 18 miles of amazing walking, great views and some good company too. I slept well :) !

Day 3 – Borrowdale to Grasmere – 9 miles

I woke the next day to beautiful sunshine. It wasn’t to last – but at least it had been a milder night with no frost. This was to be a shorter day which would end with a wild camp at Grisedale Tarn but it wasn’t to be!

Early Morning at Borrowdale

Early Morning at Borrowdale

I left the campsite and retraced my steps through the village to reach the lovely footpath that runs between dry stone walls along the valley. As with yesterday, the path gradually climbed towards the head of the valley, getting ever steeper the further I walked. I stopped and looked back the way I’d come. Could there be a better walk?!

Looking Back Down Borrowdale

Looking Back Down Borrowdale

There was a constant accompaniment of the sound of running water with numerous waterfalls along the way. With the sheep and the birds, the sounds were a delight to the ears and made for very pleasant walking.

Waterfall Aplenty

Waterfalls Aplenty

Not wishing to rush through the day, I stopped often to take in all that was around me and three walkers caught up with me and stopped to chat. Chris and Steve were two Australians over especially to do this walk with another Chris who was from Southampton. The three were doing the Coast to Coast as a charity walk for Dravet Syndrome hoping to raise £500 (in fact they more than doubled that total). Steve had had two replacement knee joints and was also struggling with an ankle problem so kudos to him for even attempting the walk! I was to meet up with these three intrepid walkers often over the next few days.

The Climb out of Borrowdale

The Climb out of Borrowdale

The climb became ever steeper and there was an ever increasing need to stop and admire the views ;) which were many and great! Ultimately I reached the 600 meter high Greenup Edge, a somewhat boggy plateau. The telltale signs of gathering clouds and stiffening wind had been there on the way up and just as I reached the top, the rain started. It was to last the rest of the day and into tomorrow!

Boggy Ground on Greenup Edge

Boggy Ground on Greenup Edge

Crossing the boggy plateau was just a question of finding the ‘driest’ route rather than following any particular path and this wasn’t easy as the cold wind was whipping across the top and the rain was getting increasingly heavy.  The weather was closing in all around by the time I caught up again with Chris, Chris and Steve.

The Weather Closes In!

The Weather Closes In!

The Charity Walkers Togged up Against the Rain

The Charity Walkers Togged up Against the Rain

There are two choices at this point, the high level route across the ridge taking in Calf Crag, Pike of Carrs, Gibson Knott and Helm Crag or the low level route down the Easedale valley. The four of us unanimously agreed to take the high level route despite the conditions, and what a great decision it was. Somehow, the bad weather really brings out the character of these mountains and even in bad weather they are great to walk.

Easedale and Grasmere

Easedale and Grasmere

In fact, the cloud had descended so much that the higher fells were not even visible any more.  Fortunately it was still slightly higher than the fells we were walking – route finding in low cloud and rain is not easy.

Low Cloud on the Fells

Low Cloud on the Fells

We made our way along the ridge, fighting the wind and rain, stopping for lunch on the way. Eventually we came over the top of Gibson Knott and the view below came into sight. The conditions were grey and dark but the hillside in front had the most wonderful warm colours that seemed to glow through the bad visibility. It was amazing and yet again, despite the pouring rain, the camera came out!

Helm Crag from Gibson Knott

Helm Crag from Gibson Knott

It was a steep descent from Helm Crag into Grasmere where we ended the day by walking along Poet’s Walk, the woodland walk where Wordsworth composed much of his poetry, dictating it to his sister who wrote it down. I had decided to stop at Grasmere for the night because of the extremely wet and windy conditions, reckoning that high up beside a flooded Grisedale Tarn the conditions would be untenable. I bade farewell to my three friends – we would meet again in coming days.

Tomorrow would see another day in the high mountains when I hoped to be able to climb Helvellyn, a tough climb at 950 meters.  The forecast was not good however! I dropped off wondering what the next day would bring.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend The Dorset Rambler.

Comments and feedback on this blog are welcome. If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com.

If you would like to join me on my walks, my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/adorsetrambler.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

Coast to Coast – Part 1

26 May

Day 0 – St Bees to Tarn Flatt – 3 Miles

Why Day 0? Simply because the day was spent mostly travelling up from the South coast to the starting point at St Bees.  It was a long journey involving a car and three trains, plus travelling across London by tube. It always amazes me how slick the London Underground is – so many trains running at the same time, all timed to the second, a constant buzz of activity, people and trains rushing everywhere with deadlines to meet, no time to ‘stand and stare’, a complete contrast to what I was heading for!

The train from Euston to Carlisle was two thirds first class coaches – I joined a second class coach! My memories of this part of the journey were of a Scottish lady talking constantly for the three and a quarter hour trip, people talking on phones, bells and buzzes seemingly going off all around me. Joining the little coastal train at Carlisle was a culture shock – it was old and I’d swear it had square wheels as it was so bumpy after the north-bound train. It trolled its way slowly around the coast and finally pulled into St Bees station.

I should say at this point that the miles quoted in my headings were taken from the GPS and were the actual miles walked. They often exceeded the distance quoted in the guidebooks because of the need to walk off the trail to find camping spots.

St Bees
St Bees station

Leaving the station, I made my way down to the sea front and the starting point for my walk. There was an increasingly strong and chill wind blowing off the sea as I made my way down the quiet country lane until finally, after a whole day of travelling, I had my first sight of the headland that would be my first miles of walking.

St Bees Head
St Bees beach

There is a tradition with the C2C walk whereby walkers first dip their toe in the Irish Sea and also pick up a pebble to carry across to the other side of the country – far be it from me to break with that tradition :) !

St BeesSt Bees

With the light fading and the wind increasing, I left the beach and started on my way, climbing up the headland that would form the first few miles of my walk. As it was getting late, I had already decided to spend my first night at a camping barn just three miles along the coast and with gathering clouds, I wondered if I would make it before the rain came. I turned and looked back across the bay just as a lovely but last burst of sunlight flooded the beach.

St Bees
Looking back across the bay at St Bees

There wasn’t time to stand for long so I continued over South Head and onto St Bees Head, passing Fleswick Bay on the way.

St Bees Head
Fleswick Bay

The sky was really interesting as I made my way along the cliff-top, buffeted by the strong side wind.  The sun had set and there were some threatening storm clouds gathering.

From St Bees Head
Gathering storm clouds

It didn’t take long to reach the St Bees Lighthouse where I turned inland to reach my stopping point for the night, Tarn Flatt Camping Barn and I walked into the farm just as the rain began to fall!

The barn was a simple affair but perfectly adequate for my purpose.  I asked the owner if I would have the place to myself as there was no-one else there and she informed me that there were two others booked in but who hadn’t yet arrived. I wondered who they would be and how we would get on sharing the sparse accommodation but I needn’t have had any concerns. Half an hour after my arrival, Matt and Ben walked in and we got on well from the start. They were two younger guys from Yorkshire who were over for the weekend to do the Cumbrian part of the C2C and they arrived by car having driven across after work. They had made convoluted travel arrangements to move the car around over the next few days as they walked the first 65 miles of the route.

Tarn Flatt Camping Barn
Tarn Flatt Camping Barn

It wasn’t long before all three of us were tucked up fully clothed in our sleeping bags – it was to be a cold night!

Day 1 – Tarn Flatt to Ennerdale Bridge – 13 miles

I was up at 6.00 after a fitful night – it always takes a day or two to adjust to the hard ground after the softness of my bed at home! After a quick cuppa and snack, I bade farewell to Matt and Ben although we were to meet again at the end of the day as we were all staying at Ennerdale Bridge the next night. I retraced my steps back to the lighthouse and turned North to continue along the coast with fine views across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man.

The Irish Sea
Heading North

Very soon the coastline bends round and I left it behind to head inland, initially along country lanes. Almost immediately I had a foretaste of what was to come as there were ominous dark clouds over the distant Lakeland mountains, and snow on the peaks too. The local man in the picture below passed me with a cheery ‘Good Morning’ and he informed me that the weather was set to improve after the weekend – I hoped so as it was another cold and windy day!

Heavy weather coming!
Storm clouds gathering

It was something of a relief to turn inland as it meant I had the wind on my back – which is of course why West to East is the recommended way to walk this route. The next few miles were spend traversing the coastal plain through Sandwith with the ever present view of the mountains to come, including Dent Hill which at 352 meters would provide a stern test later today (on the right in the picture below).

What is to Come
Mountains to come!

Entering Moor Row, I passed the statue of Alfred Wainwright, the creator of the Coast to Coast walk.  Walking through the village did highlight that there are shortcomings in all navigation and planning aids on a walk such as this – the guidebook stated that there was a cafe here and I was relying on it to get food for the day.  However, a very friendly local informed me that the owner had had a heart attack and had to close the cafe some time ago. He also informed me however that there was a shop in the next village.

Alfred Wainwright
The statue of Alfred Wainwright at Moor Row

Having read the guidebook, I was already aware that there were some notoriously difficult parts to navigate so I was carrying a strip map and compass, a guidebook, a GPS with the route loaded, and if all else failed, I had map software on my iPhone.  I was to use all these navigation aids during the walk! Because this is not a National Trail, way marking is hit and miss and it is often only there because kind locals have painted marks on posts and fences.

C2C
Waymarking by locals!

I continued to Cleator where I found the village shop – very timely as not too far away was the steep climb up over Dent Hill.  I would need that sustenance to help me there :) ! Leaving the village, I immediately missed a turning but fortunately another local resident called out, informing me that every walker misses that turning – clearly my 20 Kg backpack gave away the fact that I was walking the C2C :) ! This does highlight something very positive about this walk though – just the friendly and helpful nature of the people you meet along the way.

I stopped for a short time at the foot of the hill to eat lunch and then started the climb upwards. After the relative flatness of the preceding miles, the climb came as a ‘shock’…….there would be many of those to come over the next two weeks!  The views from Dent Hill were amazing and I was glad the sun had lingered long enough for me to get some pictures. On a clear day it is possible to see Scotland, The Isle of Man, and even Ireland.  I drank in the views for as long as I could but the wind whipping across the top was bitter so I moved on.

From Dent Hill
The coastal plain from Dent Hill

With the sun gone, the top of Dent Hill is quite bleak and I made my way across, getting ever nearer to those distant mountains.

From Dent Hill
On Dent Hill

Reaching the other side of the hill, I came across the mega-stile in the picture below. It is built like this to enable walkers to cross the deer fencing which runs around the hill. You almost feel you need oxygen to help you get over it :) !

Mega Stile
The mega-stile on Dent Hill

The drop down the other side of the hill through Raven Crag, which is actually a grassy hill, into Nannycatch (dont you just love these names!) is extremely steep, in fact it is the steepest part of the whole trail. As I climbed down, I wondered what it would be like to climb up if you were doing the trail in reverse! The views across the valley were spectacular though and I wondered who lived in a house like the one in the picture below. Is there a more idyllic place to live?!

Nannycatch
From Raven Crag into Nannycatch

It was something of a relief to reach the valley bottom, and what a delightful valley it was too! Nannycatch Beck babbles its way through the valley and the path follows its route closely. Being sheltered by hills on both sides, the keen wind was felt no longer and I thoroughly enjoyed quietly and slowly walking along the valley floor to the lovely sound of birds and brook singing together.

Nanycatch Beck
Nannycatch Beck

Eventually the path reaches the road that winds down to Ennerdale Bridge but before leaving this idyllic valley, I couldn’t resist turning for a last time to look back down the way I had come.

The Nannycatch Valley
Looking back down Nannycatch

I feel that I should mention sheep at this point…….there are a lot of them…..all along the route :) ! When I was young, I used to dream of being a shepherd so this just added to the delight of this walk. Herdwick sheep are prevalent here because they are one of the breeds that can take the severe mountain climate and vegetation without hardship. They are also territorial so don’t stray from their own fells which makes them ideal for the Lake District even though their wool is not the best. For me, they are definitely a positive part of the amazing Lake District scenery.

Two of a Kind
Herdwick sheep

I made my way down the road into Ennerdale Bridge, my stopping point for the night, and headed for the local pub where I pitched my tent in the beer garden. Later that evening I met up with Matt and Ben again and we spent a great evening together. This is another feature of this walk – the almost ‘community’ feel to it as you meet, chat and walk with many other walkers.

Ennerdale
The road to Ennerdale Bridge

It was dark and cold as I later made my way to my tent but I didn’t know then quite how cold it was going to get! Tomorrow would see me in the Lake District mountains and I fell asleep wondering how I would cope with carrying my pack over greater heights than today!

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend The Dorset Rambler.

Comments and feedback on this blog are welcome. If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com.

If you would like to join me on my walks, my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/adorsetrambler.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

Of a once grand abbey, a once thriving village, glorious greenery, and a graveyard

23 Apr

I woke to a glorious sunny morning, eager to get out on the trail again.  I had already decided which walk I wanted to do – it started from the picture postcard village of Milton Abbas.  This is a designer village with one broad main street lined with almost identical houses thanks to Joseph Damer, Lord Milton, owner of Milton Abbey.  In 1780 he decided that the nearby market town of Middleton was spoiling his view so he appointed Sir William Chambers and Capability Brown to design a new village in Luccombe Bottom, just around the corner…….and out of sight!  The result was Milton Abbas.  The old town of Middleton was demolished and the grounds landscaped to form the parkland of his mansion.

Milton Abbas
Milton Abbas

It really is a beautiful, pristine village and it was wonderful walking down this street, passing old buildings such as the old bakery, the post office, the church and almshouses.  At the bottom of the main street, I turned north and walked through the parklands towards Milton Abbey itself, lost to the church at the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Parkland
The path from the village to the Abbey

I decided that I would look inside the Abbey – it is the only building that has public access as this magnificent mansion is now Milton Abbas School.  Walking through the door, I was surprised at how the beautiful building had deteriorated since I last visited.  There were people carrying out a survey and I chatted to one of them.  He was a glass specialist who worked at Salisbury Cathedral and he told me that the problem was water ingress caused by damaged windows, gutters and downpipes.  The building dates from the 14th century so it is not surprising that there is deterioration in the structure.  His role was to report on the condition of all the windows, stained glass and others.  I commented that his job must be really interesting and he agreed but did add a caveat that it was not quite so good in the cold and wet of winter!

There are several tombs in the abbey but none more beautiful than that of Joseph and Caroline Damer.

Joseph and Caroline Damer
The tomb of Joseph and Caroline Damer

Leaving the church, I followed the path that skirts around the grounds and was able to look back across the perfectly manicured lawns for a fine view of this magnificent abbey and mansion.  With the trees now clothed in their bright, verdant foliage, the view was quite breathtaking.

Milton Abbey

Milton Abbey
Milton Abbey viewed across the parklands

From the abbey grounds, my route took me briefly along the country lane before turning off along a track that runs through the valley bottom.  A horse rider bid me a cheery good morning as she passed and of course, being English, we commented on the weather :) !

After a mile or two, I arrived at the next village, Hilton, which sits in the eastern part of the Dorset Downs.  This village was once part of the Milton Abbey estate when it was owned by the Hambro family, and the hillsides around were forested to provide cover for pheasants as King Edward VII was regularly entertained by the Hambros.  The surrounding hills are still wooded but the trees are much more recent as the original forests were cleared during WW2.  The village itself is a delight to walk through, with it’s many thatched cottages with gardens full of spring colours.  It is a typical Dorset village.

Hilton
Hilton

I made my way to the church, standing proud on it’s hillside.  The graveyard was thick with spring flowers which seemed to compliment the old, lichen covered gravestones.  I was walking around taking pictures when a local lady walked through the gate and we fell into conversation.

She told me that she was born in the village but left when she married her farmer husband, before returning later in life.  She was sad because there were no young people in the village as they were unable to afford to pay the market price for houses that had increased way beyond the norm over the years.  I asked if the village had, like many, become a place of weekend homes and she replied that although there were some second homes, it was not as bad as some villages.  As with most villages, there were cottages called, ‘The Old Post Office’ etc that gave indications of their previous uses – in this 21st century, it is sad that the heart has gone from these communities.

The villager told me that the church minister used to live in The Rectory beside the church, a substantial three story, 10 bedroom pile, but now he lived miles away and looked after four other villages as well as Hilton.  As always, The Rectory, much changed, is now in private ownership.

All Saints, Hilton
All Saints, Hilton

I left the village with an air of sadness, sadness for a lifestyle that had gone forever, sadness that these once vibrant communities now seemed so soul-less, but cheered that there are still friendly people happy to welcome visitors like me.  And I left to the raucous sound of rooks cawing high in the trees overhead, their derisory scoffing echoing after me as I made my way up through Hilton Bottom.

Oil Seed Rape
Hilton Bottom

As I neared the top of the hill, I sat and ate lunch looking down through the lovely valley with it’s rapidly ripening oil seed rape and I pondered on my conversation with the old lady in the village below.

Hilton Bottom
A beautiful lunch time view

Eventually I pulled myself away from what is one of my favourite places and continued to the top of the hill, passing lines of hawthorn trees in full bloom.

Blossom
Hawthorn Blossom

The top of the hill is in fact almost the top of Dorset.  At 900 feet, there are only a couple of places that can outdo its height, but not its views.  From the top of this chalk hill it is possible to see for miles across the Blackmore Vale, taking in four separate counties.  It was an appropriate place to site a wayside pulpit and an equally appropriate message.

Wayside Pulpit
The Wayside Pulpit on Bulbarrow Hill

Dropping down off the hill, my route took me through a delightful valley with beautiful but contrasting sides.  The north facing side was thick with amazing spring green foliage brought to full life by the lowering afternoon sun.  With long shadows being thrown down the hillside, it was a scene to just stand and absorb as the birds seemingly gave vent to their delight overhead.

Spring Greens
Verdant spring greens

The south facing hillside was thick with bluebells gradually coming into full flower.  These are old woodlands and there are many old and rotting trunks which provide a haven to a myriad of tiny creatures.  With these valley walls on either side, I made my way down the track that runs between them and in the distance I could hear the cry of a cuckoo as if to prove to me that spring had arrived.  It seems strange to me that even the tiniest of birds is unable to realise that in the cuckoo they have an infiltrator in their midst, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the new baby is several times the size of its own!

Bluebells
Bluebells and rotting trunks

The woodland track eventually gave way to a narrow country lane for a time.  Now whilst I normally shun roads as much as possible, there are benefits to walking on tarmac and that is that you don’t need to watch your feet as you do on rough stony ground.  That means that you can really take in all that is around you which is great even if for just a short time.

However, soon I was back of stony ground as I climbed again out of the valley onto another ridge top.  This track with lovely hedgerows on either side was particularly beautiful with the now low sun streaming through the leaves, highlighting the new, spring growth.

Spring

Spring
New spring growth

The final part of my walk today took me through more, but very different, woodlands.  This is Forestry Commission land with its array of perfectly vertical specimens with evergreen foliage.  To me, these are not so enjoyable to walk as the mixed deciduous woodlands and yet there is a strange beauty.

Forestry
Through the forest

In fact, wherever you are there is beauty, even in the smallest detail such as the unfolding of a fern on the forest floor.  It is amazing how this happens each year and how these become the thick, green, ferny leaves of summer, and the orange carpet of autumn.  Each stage as beautiful as the former.

Unfurling
Unfurling

I finished my walk where it started, in the postcard-perfect village of Milton Abbas where I paid a visit to the church.  This is something I like to do throughout my walks, partly because churches are beautiful and interesting places, but mostly because God’s peace is so evident there.  It always moves me when I think about the enormous heritage of these places with the hundreds of thousands of lives that have been impacted down through the ages, especially when they were packed to the doors with worshippers.  When I think about those who are buried in the churchyard, I cannot help but think of Thomas Gray’s words, ‘Each in his narrow cell forever laid, The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep’.  One day they will sleep no more!

Graveyard
Milton Abbas churchyard

It was a fitting place to end my day, a wonderful day of walking and conversation, of interesting places and people, a day when I have felt blessed.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend The Dorset Rambler.

Comments and feedback on this blog are welcome. If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com.

If you would like to join me on my walks, my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/adorsetrambler.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

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