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Coast to Coast with Holly: We Venture Beyond the Lake District

 

Warning:

I’m tired and my feet are sore and I’m writing this blog post from a pub near Clay Bank in order to get a signal. It’s done on the hoof, so to speak. I apologize for any incoherencies that may occur, and hope very much that you’ll still take away from it all that we’re having an amazing time. Here are some of my pictures of where Raymond and I read our Holly, so please remember to send in your pictures so I can see where you read yours! Here’s the link for the chance to win really cool stuff.

Day 6: 13 August Saturday Burnbanks to Orton 13 ½ miles

We are lucky to have such good friends in the Lakes. Brian and Vron Spencer were kind enough to take us to Burnbanks, the starting point of the day’s walk. Now nice holiday cottages, Burnbanks was originally a camp for the workers who built the dam on Haweswater. We’ve picked Brian and Von’s brain about the rest of the walk, looked over the rout, even raided their walking larder for sports tape and extra shoe laces, so now all that’s left is to do the deed.

On our first day of walking on our own, Vron and Bonnie, the collie, who has been the star of more than a few of my Lakeland photos, walked with us the first few miles to the ruins of Shap Abbey. There Brian picked them up and we said our final good-byes, at least for the next nine days. But, as Wainwright said about leaving Lakeland, ‘It’s not good-bye, only so long.’ He adds to that no one would blame you if you decided to stay on in the Lakes and not go any further. But our path was set.

It felt strange leaving our friends behind and striking out across unfamiliar territory on our own. We walked on through the town of Shap, barley making it pass the smell of the fish and chips shop that we’re pretty sure Wainwright frequented. But we have turkey sandwiches and wanted to press on a bit before chowing. We crossed the enormous footbridge spanning the noisy, heavily trafficked M6 Motorway. From there the path rose and fell away from the motorway into hills showing the first signs of the limestone outcroppings that awaited us on the rest of the day’s walk.

We had lunch above the quarries then walked on across areas where limestone pavements pocked and scarred by endless water erosion, nestled amid miles of mauve blooming heather. I couldn’t look hard enough. We’d heard about the heather in bloom, but no picture could have possibly done justice to our first real sight of the much-anticipated moorland. We saw a hobby in pursuit of his avian meal, and a little later on, actually saw a buzzard kill a small rabbit. We startled her off her prey before we realized what was going on. She was training her young to hunt. They all congregated in a tree at the top of a hill and waited for us to pass.

Without the regimentation of a group, we took our time to enjoy the journey, and it was good to have decent weather and a leisurely pace. We walked into Orton around 6 p m and settled in for the night at the George Hotel. At the George’s restaurant, we wolfed down homemade chicken and ham pie and two pints of Black Sheep while swapping tales and gathering information from some of the fellow walkers, who were also en route. Then we celebrated the end of our first day alone on the trail by sharing an enormous banana split. Total decadence! Holly didn’t join us for dinner, but she enjoyed the limestone pavements.

Day 7: 14 August Sunday Orton to Kirby Stevens 12 ½ miles

We woke this morning to heavy rain, which came and went off and on until around eleven, so the already saturated ground got even more saturated, and we splorshed and splurshed our way through pastures until we got out into open moorlands, where there was still plenty of mud and running water, but only strategically placed sheep poo to slow our progress.

The hazard of the day: Stiles into cow pastures. Because the cows tend to congregate around stiles and gates, they turn the soft wet pastures into a deep mud bath and a cow toilet. Argh! We went in over our boots several times in the early bits of the walk, but fortunately we filled our boots with boggy rather than cow toilet! We got to be quite acrobatic at finding ways to keep relative uck-free. There was lots of open moorland walking today, some beneath limestone outcroppings. But not nearly as much heather. The best part of the day’s walk was Smardale oabove the remains of the old railway along Scandal Beck. The old Victorian viaduct is still standing arched across the valley like a work of art. We past the ruins of a lime kiln and an old boarded up railway cottage, while viewing in the distance a strange limestone scar called Giants Graves. The abandon railway line beneath the rail bridge would be a lovely to walk some other time.

Day 8:14 August Sunday Orton to Kirby Stevens 12 ½ miles

We woke this morning to heavy rain, which came and went off and on until around eleven, so the already saturated ground got even more saturated, and we splorshed and splurshed our way through pastures until we got out into open moorlands, where there was still plenty of mud and running water, but only strategically placed sheep poo to slow our progress.

The hazard of the day: Stiles into cow pastures. Because the cows tend to congregate around stiles and gates, they turn the soft wet pastures into a deep mud bath and a cow toilet. Argh! We went in over our boots several times in the early bits of the walk, but fortunately we filled our boots with boggy rather than cow toilet! We got to be quite acrobatic at finding ways to keep relative uck-free. There was lots of open moorland walking today, some beneath limestone outcroppings. But not nearly as much heather. The best part of the day’s walk was Smardale oabove the remains of the old railway along Scandal Beck. The old Victorian viaduct is still standing arched across the valley like a work of art. We past the ruins of a lime kiln and an old boarded up railway cottage, while viewing in the distance a strange limestone scar called Giants Graves. The abandon railway line beneath the rail bridge would be a lovely to walk some other time.

Day 8 Kirby Stephen to Keld 12 ½ miles Across the Pennines and Through the Bogs

We walked a good bit of the day in sunshine, and a dry day was essential as we crossed the Pennines at Nine Standards Rigg and descended into the peat hags and bogs into Yorkshire. I kept asking Brian and Vron in the Lake District if the boggy walks we endured on Greenup Edge compared to what we’d face on Nine Standards. They kept saying you couldn’t compare the two. How right they were! Raymond and I both agreed we’d never walked or even seen anything like the bogs we descended through today. Very fortunately for us, the weather was good and the descent was much more gentle than the descent off Greenup Edge and Far Easdale in the Lakes.

We started out the day with a fairly fast ascent up to Nine Standard Rigg, which is a series of nine stone cairns which dominating the top of this particular Pennine Ridge, and can even be seen descending into Kirby Stephen the night before. I was very excited to actually get on top of the ridge and see the impressive standards. No one knows how they got there or who built them. One legend has it that they were built to make an invading army think the standards were the vanguard of a large army.

At the top, as we looked around I was in awe to discover that looking out in the distance in every direction but back toward Kirby Stephen were huge black stretches of peat bog sprawling across the landscape. I hoped we wouldn’t be walking through that. But of course, we would be. We took photos in a sharp wind, then found a sheltered place for tea before descending into the unknown of the bogs. Just as we were about to head off into the bogs, we met a walker doing the Coast to Coast in the opposite direction and ask him how it was. He gave us a rather glazed look and said, ‘boggy.’ He wasn’t joking.

Our first encounter with a peat hag was like the earth had split open and left in its joining place a thick black ooze of mud, too deep to wade through and too wide to jump. We were standing on the lower piece of grassy marsh looking up at the upper piece wondering how the hell we were going to get across. Fortunately we are fairly good with a compass, because in the end the only way to deal with a peat hag is to go around it. That made for a very wet, very slow descent. The scary thing was that we had several people tell us how much better the boggy bits were than they normally were. Urg!

We thought we’d actually made it through the boggy bits as we began our descent down Whitsundale Beck, but what awaited us before we managed contact with terra firma was the equivalent of a giant, wet sponge that went on for several kilometres. With the ground sinking beneath each step we took, we found out the best way to deal with it was just not to stand in one place too long.

After what seemed like ages, we finally made it to the lonely post of humanity called Raven Seat, which is a farm with lots of kids, lots of dogs and totally fabulous cream teas, which we were only happy to take advantage of.

Even from Raven Seat, it was quite a muddy schlog down to the miniscule village of Keld on the Swale River.

The walk over Nine Standards Rigg had been the part of the Coast to Coast I’d dreaded the most, and it was such a relief to finally have it behind us. As we enjoyed our dinner at the Keld Lodge, Raymond and I both agreed that though we enjoyed Nine Standards, our love of bogs had not increased in any way, and that it was not only the hardest bit of the walk so far, and though it was most definitely an adventure, it was the first bit of the walk so far we’d not want to do again. We were both looking forward to rocks and solid ground the next day, when we planned to walk the high level rout to Reeth through the old mining ruins.

 

 

2 Responses to “Coast to Coast with Holly: We Venture Beyond the Lake District”

  1. I love the wonderfully evocative names all these landmark features have. Plus the limestone pavements rock! So to speak.

     
    • Justine Elyot
  2. I also love the limestone pavements. I could climb around on those all day long. And I know what you mean about names. We walked along a dale today called Great Fry-up Dale! Apparently having nothing to do with an English Breakfast, but a corruption of the Norse goddess, Freya. How cool is that?

     
    • K D Grace
© 2017 K D Grace
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