Friday, 29 August 2014

C2C Day 6: Orton to Kirkby Stephen

Last day on the trail.  Instead of relief, I was kind of nostalgic about my time here already.  A sign of a great trail perhaps?

We packed our bags one last time and got up extra early to get on the trail by 6:30.  We told the guesthouse not to bother with breakfast as the normal breakfast time was a late 8, and had fruit and cold cereal and loads of coffee before hitting the trail with clear heads and a bright outlook.

I love getting up early to walk!  It took several hours before we saw other people on the trail.  But alas, it is the North, and by 7am the sun was quite high in the sky already.  Still, we had a couple of hours of cool, dewy walking before the afternoon heat sapped us of our will to live.

It was amazing just how different things looked on this side of Lake District.  Firstly- not a lake to be seen!  Not a lot of swimming hole opportunities, which is too bad because we did have some extra time in our day.

 There was some very rich farmland around here.  Beautiful, well-fed animals everywhere.

 The terrain made a quick switch from farmland to wild heather as we crossed Sunbiggin Moor.

Scroll.....   ------->

Once again, we found ourselves in wild countryside and hiking up and down the gentle hills.  Thankfully, there was a little bit of high cloud cover to blot out the sun, which was just invigorating.

It was just lots of lonely lovely emptiness.

We walked through Severals Settlement, a bronze-age village that has never been excavated.

Back when they did a lot of mining in this area, there was a rail line that came right here, as evidence by the abandoned track and some long-empty cottages dot the landscape.  There are also several burial mounds- on the OS map they are called "Giants Graves", but they are more Bronze-age burial sites.  There are so many of these all over England, we haven't had a hike without one yet.


Ahead, the next bit of mountains in Yorkshire.  I wanted to keep going, really I did.  The Yorkshire Dales beckon.  I am compelled.

 An old limekiln in the middle of nowhere.
 Now, just a rare shady spot for a sheep.

Well hello!

 I met a rather friendly Shetland pony who wanted nothing more than a scratch and to get her overly-warm forelock off her face.

There was a snappy pony in the next field over showing off, and even in the afternoon heat had a couple wild gallops around the field.  

All the ladies said, "Oh?"

This is where we had to say our goodbyes to the trail.  Kirkby Stephen proper (by the way, the second "K" is silent...) is a good two miles away from the trail station.  In the interest of time and the impending connecting train in Leeds and the fact that my UTI was now getting bad enough so that I was ready to get off the trail, we decided just to head to the train station directly.  I looked all over the internet and the OS maps to see if this is possible.  There were no footpaths, but you can walk along the rather dreadful A road for about a half mile, which saves you from having to turn around and walk the 2 miles from the center of Krikby Stephen and 2 miles back to the station (where there is a footpath).  Clever, I am.  However, walking your last half mile along an autoroute is really no way to end a hike of this magnitude.  True, it was perfectly safe as there was a very wide grassy shoulder to walk on, but the zooming cars shook me out of my hiking-induced stupor.  

KS was the first rail station we came to on the trail, and the easiest "out" on this first half of the trail.  Another three days and we would have walked into Richmond, with another train station.  Unless you have the patience for bus travel, it would be hard to break this hike up in smaller bits

No matter, the train station was one of those crazy historic ones that they've turned into a B&B.  The entire Settle-Carlisle line is historic and charming, with each station perfectly preserved.  People travel here just to take the train line!  People would hop out of the train to take a picture of the station at each stop, and we passed a steam locomotive doing the ultra historic train rides for trackheads and trainspotters.

Remember:  never settle.

We got into Leeds with a little time to kill.  We still had our packs on as they wanted a ridiculous 30 quid for us to leave then in the left luggage, so we checked out the city with plans to grab a bite before the long train ride back to London.  I guess we looked too much like vagrants- we hadn't showered, but we did manage to change into our last clean shirts and slap on an extra layer of deodorant- and one fine establishment refused to serve us based on how we looked.  Oh, these snobbish northern cities.  I guess they don't get a lot of hikers in town.  

No matter, as we found a pub (always a pub!) and had our last justified over-salty carb for now.  Leeds was bustling, with lots of people out in henny parties, and they had a really interesting fashion thing going on.  I saw more stripper heels hitting the pavement than I did at the Hustler Club.  How does one even walk in those?  Despite the snub, it seemed much more bustling than Carlisle and while I wouldn't go out of my way to make another trip there, it's worth an explore.

So, that is that.  I stopped by a pharmacy and spent the train ride back to London drinking Cystex and cough syrup, with some ibuprofen thrown in for good measure.

We were battered and bruised- both of our feet looked bad, our ankles were swollen, and my dreaded "trick toenail" went and separated from the nail bed.  The first few strides after a sit down and a rest would be described as "hobbling" before I loosened up enough to hit my stride.   This final day, my shirt had flipped up under my pack and I didn't notice until I took my pack off and realized a layer of skin was missing off my lower back.  Painful, that was.

But proof that after 80-some-odd miles, we were smiling even though we were miles away from any place that sold ice cream:

Alas, hiking in that heat was not easy, but I have never been happier.  84 tough miles carrying 30 pounds on my back with my best friend in some really beautiful countryside.

I might not take Bill's advice and come back and finish up.  I think I can do it in seven or eight days.


Thursday, 28 August 2014

C2C Day 5: Shap to Orton

 I was happy to have chosen a posh B&B to stay at this night.  Yeah, the hostels were wonderful and kind, but there was something about a big queen sized bed and your own private bathroom that just screamed my name this day.  The Newing Lodge in Shap was a fantastic place to laze around in the morning, with big, comfortable rooms, hot showers and a really good homemade breakfast.  Since we only had an easy 8 mile walk today, we really felt the need to take our time.

 I went out back to check out their camping field and said hello to these fine ladies:

They had a pillar in the entrance way to the inn (formerly a farmhouse) that was salvaged from Shap Abbey:

It ended up being a good place for all the coast-to-coast walkers to pile their luggage up next to for the baggage forwarding service to pick up and bring to the next inn.

After an unhurried morning, we set out through Shap in the heat to pick the trail back up on our way to Orton.  Shap is a proper town, with a grocery store and a big cement factory and a bank.  I found these giant, perfect raspberries at the marker and realized pretty quickly that they were so tart they were almost inedible.  I ate them anyway.

The trail crossed over a busy motorway, and once again we were in the countryside.

It was hard to find a place to stop and rest as the sheep were hogging all the shade.  They really didn't want to move over.

Unique about this day of walking: it was filled with limestone "pavers"- what used to be glacially swept flats of limestone now hollowed out by years of rain and weather to make fissures on the surface, making a great deal of habitat for butterflies and other small creatures.

 Mostly, the walk was beautiful heather moorland and rolling hills.  Did I mention that it was hot?  We drank almost all of our water on the hike, and we carried the same amount we did the previous day.  We had brought plenty of snacks for the trail: dried fruit, granola bars, and nuts; I would pick up little packets of salt at the pubs to put on the granola bars.  Gross as it may seem, my body was craving salt in ways I never had before and I couldn't get enough.

 Soon enough, we were approaching the village of Orton.  How fast a mere 8 miles go by!  I found a roman mile marker right outside the village:

Or it was a mile post with Roman numerals on it anyway.  I couldn't find any information about its authenticity, so it could be a victorian relic for all I know.

We could have easily combined today's 8 mile walk with tomorrow's 13.5 miler if we wanted to save ourselves a day.  It would have been a long day, but compared to the Lake District, there was no big climbs or rugged scrambling.  Just rolling hills of wild moors and farmland.  It was really nice to have an easy day.

We were both full of random aches and pains: our feet being the worst of it, as they were all kinds of sore and blistered.  The backs of my heels were rubbed raw.  Our knees were stiff, my left hip was achey, our backs and shoulders were complaining about the packs.  It was never so bad that we couldn't keep on doing what we were doing, and we would gripe about it here and there was nothing to do but keep moving forward.  Plus, I just found the whole walk so exciting and peaceful, I was determined to ignore anything short of a broken leg.

I am glad we decided to stop for the night in Orton.  We got in too early to check in to our inn, so we went to explore the chocolate factory there and the pub.  Happily, the pub had a beer garden outside, so we didn't have to stink up the place before we could get to a shower.

Orton ended up being a gem of a town.  It was small, but it seemed like the entire town existed and was thriving on the backs of so many walkers.

After we did check in to our guesthouse and got a much-needed shower, it was back to the pub (the only place to eat in town) where we bumped into a local whom wehad met out walking days before going the opposite direction, and dozens of other Coast to Coast walkers exchanging war stories while eating inhuman amounts of food.  Our opposite-way walker was named Bill, and he was quite jovial after a few pints, and he genuinely seemed to love to walk in solitude, but at the same time loved to tell tales of the trail.  When we told him that we would probably come back to do the other half of the trail in the fall, he laughed and said, "Just turn around and walk back the way you came, you've already done the best part!".  So now we have that to think about.  Thanks, Bill.  He did show us some photos on his phone that he had taken that day while walking in the Pennines, and it looked just lovely.  So you mean we shouldn't look forward to doing that?  He laughed.  Maybe a couple more days east of here is worth your while, but stay in the Lake District.   

Orton had a mysterious looking Elizabethan-era farmhouse in town, and a center common that they had sanctioned off for re-wilding, with lots of avian habitats.  

 In true hiker style, we were in bed by 9:30 while the sun was still up.  Our room was stifling still from the day's heat, but I found a big floor fan and basked in front of it, having dreams of the trail beneath my feet all night.