Month: May 2016

Jumping over the Bogs

From Kirkby-Stephen to Keld: Butt House B and B
8:50 AM to 2:15 PM
4:36:20 moving time, 0:49:23 stopped time
19.8 kilometres
605 metres up and 450 metres down
May 31, 2016: Karma’s 3rd birthday

Happy Birthday to Karma!

I do not know what the temperature was today. The forecast had stated 17C I think. When we stepped out of our B and B this morning, the sun was warm on our faces; so, t-shirt and capris seemed perfect. We had removed our merino sweaters from our pack as we were sure we would not need them. As a precaution we put our windbreakers into our daypack. It was a steady climb on paved road out of Kirkby Stephen for about 3.5 kilometres before we were on a dirt and rock path. At about 5.5 kilometres we decided our bare arms were never going to get warm; so we stopped and donned our jackets and pulled our hoods up. I even put on my gloves which I was glad I still had in our pack.

We may have recorded one of our fastest walks today because we were trying to be warm. I normally do not like walking on pavement but we learned about a soft alternative today. I now know that I would choose pavement over bog! We are so fortunate to have had seven dry days of hiking, not just for the individual pleasant walking days but also because the peat bogs on top of the moors were less boggy than they could have been.

We have heard it rumoured that sheep and calves are swallowed in these bogs and that one of the ways to get across the bogs is to use your partner as a plank. We did not have to resort to this. I have not done standing broad jump or pole vaulting since I was a teenager. Actually I do not think I ever did pole vaulting but I might have won a ribbon for standing broad jump once or twice. The difference between then and now is that my knees scream now upon landing. They did not used to do that! Brian’s extra long legs meant he was able to take giant steps instead of jumping. I only missed the other bank once. This resulted in bog over my one boot top and one wet knee. After that I used a double pole vaulting technique and was entirely successful in not sinking.

The nine standards are nine dry stone towers, ten to twelve feet tall, the originals of which have been standing on the Pennines for at least four hundred years. They had some repairs done two hundred years ago. They are visible from a long way off. It was too cold up there to hang around. We did not snack but kept on jumping.

We were startled when a bog runner flew by. Dressed I shorts, t-shirt and running shoes, he appeared to float over the bogs. Jet-propelled shoes, perhaps? When the second runner zoomed up we noticed he was wearing a race bib. Curiouser and curiouser. The third runner slowed to a lace where we engaged him in conversation. He had been running for twenty-five hours and had started in St Bees. He hoped to get a little sleep in Richmond…two sets hence for us! He was running the Coast to Coast and hoped to complete it in a total of three days.

We met the sixth runner when we stopped to eat our lunch and have cream tea ( that means tea with a scone and raspberry jam and whipped cream. Yeah! Our first real “Cafe” on the Coast to Coast. Actually this was at an isolated farmhouse where they had several picnic tables outside and if you rang the school bell a young child would show up to greet you. She told us her mom made the tea, not her. It was delightful especially as we were able to find one table out of the wind. The threatening rain did not happen. Double bonus!

This last runner told us he was running what was called, The Northern Traverse”. You can look that one up, Shawn, and set a new goal. All the runners we saw looked to be 35 to 45. Apparently 70 set out and they have to complete the run in at least six days. Brian and I will not be doing any such race, but these runners provided today’s entertainment. They left us smiling all day.

We arrived at Butt House and were greeted warmly by a surprised Jacqui who declared that no guest had ever arrived so early from Kirkby-Stephen. Chris was still preparing our room. This is the second night that we have had a room with three single beds. When we booked three months ago, it was their last room. Jacqui told us people are booking a year ahead. On a small place like Keld, you would have to. There are not many places to stay.

We have been visiting with Dave and Sue from the Midlands who just completed eight days of walking compared to our seven. They broke our long day into two short ones.

We will be dining family style around a big table this evening with the rest of the guests.

Rolling Up and Down

From Shap to Kirkby-Stephen: The Old Croft House
8:10 AM to 4 PM
32 kilometres
Ascended 690 metres, descended 729 metres
May 30, 2016

Last night just after dining, a bus unloaded a boisterous crowd of all ages into the Kings Arms. These jolly revellers were all from Shap but they had gone to a christening twenty-five kilometres away. They were very friendly and quick to engage us and other hikers in conversation. They were incensed that at the christening they ran out of food and worse, out of beer, for the eighty invitees.

Our room was on the third floor and at the front of the hotel; thus, above the Main Street of Shap. It is the first time since arriving in England that we could hear traffic noise, and bar noise, from our bedroom. This did not keep us from sleeping. A long day’s walk is good for sleeping.

In the first eight kilometres after Shap, the land is quite barren ( ie no trees), the fields bigger with fewer stone walls and fewer sheep. There are limestone quarries with two large cement factories outside Shap. We wondered if farmers switched to being labourers at the factories for a more secure income. We saw a lot of limestone, with fields that were covered in limestone or only had a thin layer of dirt and grass over the limestone.

The fields became more rolling and greener as we moved eastward. On every horizon we saw high hills, notably the Pennines which we will cross tomorrow. Whereas yesterday’s walk had most of the climbing in the first few hours, today’s climbing was in the last few and here we thought we would be going steadily down. Not so.

We have now left the quiet of the Lake District but we are still very much in rural England. Kirby-Stephen is the largest town we have been in since St Bees which had a population of 1800. Here there are 22 more residents. The smallest was Ennerdale Bridge at 220 with most of the rest in the 300 to 500 range. There are three fish and chip stores in town. Since we have not yet had fish and chips in England, we have now stuffed ourselves with that at the Archway Fish and Chip shops. With the exception of pubs, all of the stores closed between five and seven including the fish and chip eateries. I was able to buy some blister bandaids before the outdoor store closed. Sadly I have one blister on my big toe.

It did not feel as if we descended more than we ascended. Thirty-two kilometres after yesterday’s gruelling day was no picnic. Brian and I decided that twenty-five kilometres in one day is more than enough. Fortunately we only have one more 25 kilometre day and every thing else is less.

Kirby-Stephen has very interesting architecture. It is a very old market town. There has been a market in the square since 1353. Our B and B is the best yet. We have a large spacious bright room furnished with antiques we love. Rachel and Nick are friendly helpful hosts who provided us upon arrival with a pot of tea, elegant China cups and scones with jam and clotted tea. Bliss.

There is a Romany horse fair in Appleby. There have been horses pulling sulkies with drivers young and old trotting up and down the main street. There really is only one street through town.
In the past few days we saw one red squirrel. Red squirrels are unique to this area of England. Maybe we could ship from home a few cases of red squirrels and chipmunks to England.

We have seen some interesting birds : curlews, falcons, chaffinches, English robins, redstarts and peewits. We have heard more than we have seen. The birds move faster than sheep; so, photos are lacking.

The fields were covered in yellow buttercups today. We also passed three stone circles all of which are said to be 6000 years old. There were archaeological sites but mostly these were not easy to discern without a guide as a pile of stones is pretty common around here. We saw a numbers of abandoned stone barns and houses today. Brilynn, you would have been delighted.

We are glad that sheep and cows are not aggressive as we shared their fields continuously. To pass through each field we had to open and close a gate or climb a stile.  In this area all stiles are made of stone and known as slot stiles. It helps to have long legs to climb over these stiles as well as for climbing many of the fells. Big feet are more problematic, lots of places to get them wedged.

Again we did not pass through any village in nearly eight hours of walking. No cappuccino!

From Sheep to Cows

Patterdale to Shap: The Kings Arms
8:30 AM to 5:15 PM
27.36 km
Ascended 1057 metres, descended 968 metres
May 29, 2016

The farmhouse we stayed in last night was built in 1677, super thick walls. In December Peter said the fields in front of the farmhouse were flooded under two feet of water. The bed and breakfast business has been slow this spring, possibly because of all the rain the area has suffered with. We have been fortunate with weather thus far.

A thick fog blanketed the valley this morning. At 6:30 the sun rose above the fells and for a few minutes we could see their outline then just bright fog. By the time we had eaten our scrambled egg, bacon, roasted tomato, toast and yogourt, the fog was lifting. It was chilly when we stepped outside; so, we wore long sleeved merino shirts. That didn’t last long. After a kilometre the fog was gone and so were our long sleeves.

I have been carrying the communal daypack most of the time but today I decided Brian could have it for the first half of the day. This was also mostly ascent. My body felt much lighter even though this daypack is considerably less heavy than what I carried on the Camino.

The first nine kilometres were.relatively gradual compared to previous days, but it was definitely ascent for 8.5 kilometres to Kidsty Pike and took 3.25 hours. We did not know how we would ever complete the so called remaining 16.5 in 3.25 hours. According to the book this was to be a 25 kilometre day in 6.5 hours. I am not sure which super human hiker Henry had in mind when he wrote this. Perhaps it was a typo. Supposedly we will do 33 kilometres tomorrow in 7.5 hours. Maybe we are not allowed pit stops or lunch.

Today, as with most days, there were no cafes along the way, no cappuccinos the way we could readily find on the Camino. In fact there are not many ways we could have broken up today unless we did as the four Californians did. This is the foursome who hesitated to believe us yesterday morning. They appeared at the Kings Arms five minutes after us, looking refreshed as if they had just had a morning stroll. Actually they had walked fifteen kilometres beginning at 11 AM after a delightful steamboat ride across Ullswater. They said they were not up to all that climbing and descending we did.

We did not stay long on Kidsty Pike. We donated to a fellow collecting for Cancer Research, then began a quick descent. Atleast we practically ran the first several metres to get away from the tipula, large winged insects, similar to what we call shad flies that had just hatched out of the long grasses and were swarming us. I take exception to bugs wanting to fly into my nose and ears. At least they didn’t bite, or I don’t think they did. If I break out in hives I will have to come to a new conclusion.

The descent began in a more gradual fashion than we anticipated but it quickly met expectations as we had to step down the rough rocky trail, sometimes sitting to ease ourselves down. The path also took us in the opposite direction from where we had to travel once at the bottom. That was discouraging.

It was most gratifying to cool my feet at the base of a waterfall and eat our lunch in shade. Bev had made us cheese and chutney sandwiches on multigrain bread. That was new for both of us, very tasty and moist. Changing socks is always wonderful.

We walked the 7 kilometre length of Haweswater Reservoir. We thought this would be mostly flat. We were wrong. We began with a steep climb on a rocky path, then continued going down and up. At the far end there was to have been the model village of Burbank. We never saw it; so, no possibility of an ice cream cone. What did become new was that all of a sudden there were Coast to Coast signs, frequent enough that we could actually follow them with some confidence. We must have missed a turn though as we got off track and stumbled through a cow pasture. Cows leave a much bigger imprint than sheep.

This was a very long day, but beautiful, blue skies and maybe too much sunshine. We were so grateful for some shade from the deciduous forest along the Haweswater Reservoir. This is a mixed forest of beech, sycamore, oak, huge tamarack (known as larch here), and pine trees. We only had this shade for about an hour this afternoon. Mostly we were in open sunny fields. I kept my hat on. I even dunked it is a stream or gill.

We just finished an awesome lamb stew in mint, mushroom and onion sauce with curly fries and mixed veggies. We shared a delicious sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream. I will continue sipping my lovely Mout Cider: kiwi and lime while I try to access WIFI. Apparently it works near the pool table.

Becks, Gills and Tarns

 

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Grasmere to Patterdale – Greenbank Farm
9:10 AM – 2.48 PM
15.2 km
Saturday, May 28, 2016

We had three choices of trail today, but the choices really only started after the first 5.69 km. In those first 5.69 kilometres we climbed 528 metres in 2 hours and 2 minutes. We both rolled up our pants part way up the ascent and only wore a t-shirt from the start. I think the high for today was supposed to be 16C. Sweat was running down my face and neck before 10:30 AM. We caught up with two couples who were either Canadian or American. We did not ask which but their accents gave them away. They were studying their maps and book and were not sure which gill to follow Little Tongue or Tongue Gill. We assured them that Tongue Gill had less ascent. They hesitated to believe us especially as there appeared to be nothing low about our route as we climbed away from them. After much discussion and gesticulating, they followed but never appeared as more than specks in the distance as we clambered over fourteen becks.

A side note here on the English language. I studied Old English in my first year of University more than forty years ago. It was not a course of my choosing but a requirement while my focus was French and Russian. I do not remember learning about becks and gills, tarns and waters but maybe if I had paid more attention I might have done. I will give you what my thoughts are on this vocabulary then I will rely on my British friends or my brother, Jim, to correct me.

A beck is a small stream sliding or racing down from the fells, which are big hills. Sometimes the fells are extra steep then that side would be called a crag as in yesterday’s Lining Crag or today’s St Sunday Crag, unless it is called an edge as in Striding Edge. I do not have an opinion on pikes as we did not climb to Dollywaggon Pike or Nethermost Pike today. Perhaps if we had done the Hellvellyn route today, I would know more about those moonscapes. I did walk on the Pike of Carrs yesterday. From this brief experience I might say the pike is the short flat bit when you are not going up or down. Mostly pikes are a figment of the imagination in the Lake District.

I do know that I am glad we did not descend on scree as I believe this to be a short form for ‘scream’ as I would be screaming all the way down the loose stone scree from the high pike and may not have any breath left to draw by the time I tumbled to the bottom.

I think a gill is bigger than a beck, at least it looked wider and faster but may be made from many becks. The gills may even make rivers although I think we only crossed one river, that being Liza. We crossed Liza three times and I would say she was wider and deeper than any gill but just as clear.

A tarn is a very small lake, possibly only identified as such if it it is high on a fell, whereas a water such as Ennerdale Water is a bigger lake. Even though we are in the Lake District, I have not seen any lakes, only tarns and waters.

I do not know about hows except that I have probably seen one on every other map, as in Low Cock How, Black How, Low Spying How or High Spying How.

Quite possibly I should have worn a hat more today as I think the sun may have addled my brain, even though I thought we had sufficient cloud to not need a hat. I needed to let all that excess steam escape.
All this to say that today we followed the Grisedale Valley route, presumably the easier of three possibilities. We think we made a good choice as we were more than a little fatigued from yesterday’s high route and Brian’s knees were warning that level ground was needed. We did not get level ground but our descent was perhaps more gradual than either of the other routes.

We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow: 25 kilometres, supposedly relatively easy after the first eight kilometres to Kidsty Pike at 2500 feet then a 2000 foot drop in 1 kilometre. Your prayers, positive energy and good vibrations all accepted as we hike our final day before leaving the Lake District.

Time to relax on the sheep farm where we will dine at 7 PM. Two other guests are also here. We had to walk the extra kilometre from Patterdale and need to return there in the morning to rejoin the Coast to Coast. Bev and Peter are delightful hosts. They have three thousand acres with 3000 sheep, mostly Cheviots.

Fabulous Lake District

Rosthwaite to Dale Lodge Hotel, Grasmere
15.36 km
9:09 AM to 3:27 PM
Friday, May 27, 2016

Well, you may be thinking this was a leisurely day, only 15.2 kilometres, but I assure you it was strenuous. The views were spectacular in every direction. The weather was perfect. T-shirts all the way. Up and down was the order of the day. We took the high route. This does not mean that anyone who took the low route did not have to climb. It just meant that after much ascending and descending, those who did the high route did even more if the same. Our GPS recorded 760 metres of ascent and 720 metres of descent. Much of the trail was large loose rocks. We were grateful for thick gripping soles.

We did not see any signs that read “Coast to Coast”. There were rock cairns that we were able to find because it was a clear day. The Lake District needs more signs, or more volunteers to install them.

We had long views of valleys, fells and waterfalls. The flowering hawthorns leaning over stone walls and rivers scented the air. I counted our steps up the steep rise to to Lining Crag: 960. Of course this was not the summit, but a summit. We kept climbing. There is a real sense of accomplishment in reaching a peak. This bike is not for those afraid of heights. There were several narrow footpaths where I did not look over the edge as I walked but concentrated on getting to a more comfortable viewing space.

We had a hearty breakfast with lots of options with Jim and Marie. All of us had poached eggs and various versions of cereal, creamy oatmeal, fruit, yogourt, croissants, juice, tea or coffee. No one left the table hungry. Jim and Marie left for a four hour drive to Cambridge. Meanwhile we could only cover about twelve kilometres. But we built muscle and breathed fresh air. A totally different experience.

We ordered two packed lunches from the hotel and now know that we may not have finished one such lunch. This consisted of a ham and cheese sandwich, boiled egg, whole tomato, an apple, two cookies, a chocolate bar and a piece of fruit cake.

It was a busy day on the fells as this is the beginning of a long bank holiday weekend. Tents were springing up along Langstrath Beck. Many people were doing circle routes either from Rosthwaite or Grasmere or elsewhere. We spoke briefly with a young fell runner from Cambridge. She has already run the eastern section of the Coast to Coast and is now running the western section. We were in awe of her ability. She quickly left us in the dust. Actually there is no dust, just rocks, and sheep and waterfalls.

We did not count all the waterfalls we saw today. We viewed them from near and far as they cascaded from the crags. There looked to be some awesome fishing pools in clear water.

As we made the final descent from Helm Crag we were surprised that there were some serpentine descents rather than a headlong one. The book suggested that the “steep descent might well finish us off”. We must be heartier than the author thinks.

There were brilliantly coloured enormous rhododendrons and azaleas as we entered Grasmere. We had to walk an extra kilometre across the village to get to our hotel. No bathtub and a smaller room but clean and comfortable at half the price of last night. Bonus: the WIFI works, but does not like uploading photos.

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From Valley to Clouds

From Valley to Clouds
Ennerdale Bridge to Scafell Hotel, Rosthwaite
25.2 km
8:15 AM to 3:45 PM
Thursday, May 26, 2016

We donned partial rain gear when Jim dropped us off at the Shepherd’s Arms Hotel where we left Brian’s backpack for Sherpavan to deliver to the Scafell Hotel. A kilometre down the road we started removing the same gear, not because it was sunny but we had generated enough body heat. We were fortunate that we did not have rain today. Black clouds threatened most of the day.

We were warned against taking the high route as winds there were 25 mph, it was raining and the summits were encased in black clouds; so, even if we could have saved ourselves from blowing off the top, we would not have had beautiful vistas. So no high route for us.

We scrambled over the rocky terrain on the south side of Ennerdale Water and climbed up to Robin Hood’s chair. His rock chair on an outcrop at the middle edge of the lake had a great view to both ends of the water. We were accompanied by bird song, sheep and black lambs with magnificent Angler’s Crag rising on our right and green pastures then forest across the water to our left. Further along we walked through Frodo territory where the trees hung gnarly branches and all the rocks were covered in bright green moss. Streams raced down from the fells.

We crossed back to the north side of the valley and walked through a forest where giant hemlock were being logged. Much of the already logged forest had been replanted and each new tree was surrounded by a plastic tube to keep the sheep from eating it.

We sat down on a bench outside Black Sail Youth Hostel. Brian protected me from the cold windy side. Such a good man! I was envious of the hot coffee a young couple was drinking from their thermos. Always a happy occasion to change socks and have new feet. We were engulfd by high green fells, their summits hidden in clouds.we only saw five hikers today.

And then the adventure began. We could not see our trail as it proceeded further into the steep sided valley. The trail looked more like a sheep track. The sheep were probably laughing at us. They are much more fleet of foot. It is most fortunate that we had the Gaia GPS app on our phone or we would still be wandering in the wilderness.

Margaret would have loved the hundreds of steep stone steps we climbed up Loft Beck to Grey Knotts. I was less enamoured. We could not see the summit from the valley nor the valley the higher we went up. We even questioned whether or not there was a summit because even when the steps ended the trail kept rising. We had to follow loose stone cairns to find our way. Sadly we were in so much cloud that we had trouble seeing where the next cairn was. The wind was cold. I donned gloves, hood and an extra jacket. Just think that this was not the high route!

Again, happy to have GPS. The descent to Honister slate mines was easier for me than for Brian. Descents always are, but we made it. Instead of admiring the beautiful wares in their gift shop, we gravitated to a sad excuse for a coffee which satisfied us only because it was hot liquid. We pressed on. Five or so easier kilometres through very green valley lined with dry stone walls, populated by sheep and lambs led us to our destination. The hot bath was perfect.
At the hotel desk we learned that the Sherpavan driver had arrived without our bag but he returned to fetch it from Rosthwaite. We were happy that it arrived before us.

We spent the rest of our day drinking and dining with our Irish Camino friends, Marie and Jim. An absolutely delightful evening!

WIFI is terrible. I don’t know when I will publish this blog.