From Shap to Kirkby-Stephen: The Old Croft House
8:10 AM to 4 PM
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!