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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.

 

 

Coast to Coast with Holly: Soggy Farewell to the Lake District

Update from Reeth

We have a good connection, so I’m taking the opportunity to send you the next two days of Holly’s Coast to Coast. There’ll be more to come.

Don’t forget to send the photos of where you read your Holly to the Where’s Holly contest to win cool stuff. Here’s the link

Day 4 Rosthwaite to Grassmere 8 ½ miles 11 August 2011

Bog walking was the order of the day. Today we walked the walk that we should have walked on day three, which was from Rosthwaite to Grassmere. We didn’t walk it yesterday because of the bad rains. We were afraid there would be swollen streams we’d not be able to cross. And as we finished off today, I’m very glad we made that decision. We had several streams to cross that were still quite swollen, even though we got minimal rain today. On top of that I can’t imagine walking the boggy descent we had today in the wind and rain we had yesterday. Having said that, the scenery was spectacular, as always, and the combination of streams and boggy descent made for a different kind of walking.

The first part of the day’s walk culminated in the ascent of Lining Crag via a rocky scramble that was more like scrambling up a vertical stream than a path. The second involved a long, boggy descent that was the cause of several falls during the course of the walk. Luckily no one was hurt. The descent into Far Easdale was rocky, muddy and boggy with several swollen streams to cross. By that time most of us were long past caring if our already wet feet got a little wetter, so we were a lot less careful to look for the crossing stones and just waded on through.

On a more personal note, everyone seems really tired tonight. Raymond and I retired to our room early to do a little catching up with email and hopefully go to bed early. I’m tired. Today, at least the second part, seemed to me to be the hardest we’ve walked so far. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll wake up and be ready for another long day. Joints are holding up. So far I have no blisters, though Raymond has a couple from his new boots. He’s resorted to walking in the old reliables. My worst injury to date is stubbing my pinkie toe on the wheel of the suitcase when I got up in the middle of the night to look out the window at the rain. Can’t afford too many careless injuries to my feet when there are still almost 150 miles to go.

Day 5 Patterdale to Burnbanks 13 miles 12 August 2011

Today was the hardest day by far for me. I started out tired, stayed tired, got even more tired. We should have had a lovely walk from the village of Patterdale up over Kidsty Pike, the highest point on the Coast to Coast, then down along the whole length of Hawsewater to Burnbanks on the dam at the end of the lake. Instead, early in our ascent the rain started with the mist following shortly thereafter. We did get one last respite from the mist along the side of Angle Tarn, where we had our coffee. Angle Tarn looks like it belongs in a Japanese garden with its little islands in the middle and lovely wind sculpted trees. After we enjoyed the gardenesque view, the weather began in earnest. A cold south wind battered us most of the walk in driving rain. The mist became so thick that it was impossible to see the back of the group walking on the trail from the front. We had to be extremely careful to keep everyone in view.

We lunched in the wind and rain near the top of Kidsty Pike, the highest point of the Coast to Coast, and I slurped back tea from the flask just to keep warm. It was lunch at speed, then the forced descent began down the back side to Haweswater.  Though Haweswater is a very beautiful lake, it is a little bit sad and eerie to me because I know that beneath the mirrored waters lie the ruined villages of Mardale and Measand, flooded out when the dam was built to provide water for Manchester. The stone fences that disappear into the water  along the shore are a solemn reminder of the cost.

I’ve always known this nasty little secret to be true, but never really fully realized it until today. There are two K Ds that walk whenever I hit the trail. There’s the K D who laughs and jokes and delights in the lovely detail, in the jewelled droplets of water on the grass, the K D who takes everything in and walks the story. Then there’s the K D who is the drama queen, whinging and whining and making a mountain out of every molehill. She is miserable and surly and hates everything and everybody. She comes out when I’m really tired. Usually nobody else but poor, long-suffering Raymond sees her, but there’s no denying that today was her day in spades.

Even as I thought about the dichotomy while I walked, I didn’t seem to be able to do anything about it. All I could think about was how tired I was and how my knees hurt, and how I wanted to be warm and dry. There was no convincing myself that this too would pass. Of course it did, and the evening’s celebration with friends after our last walk together was a joyful reminiscing of our five day’s adventure. It wasn’t marred by what had gone on quietly inside of me all day while I walked. While everyone wished Raymond and I the best on our continued journey, I couldn’t keep from wondering if tomorrow would be as hard.  Tomorrow, and for the next nine days, we would be out on our own.

Tomorrow we leave the Lake District and strike out on our own across Eastern Cumbria and into the Yorkshire Dales and the 133 miles ahead of us before we reach the North Sea and Robin Hood’s Bay.

More to come from the Yorkshire Dales National Park!

 

Coast to Coast with Holly: Let the Walk Begin

Hindsight

I had hoped to be able to send out very polished updates from our Coast to Coast walk every day, complete with photos  links, dancing girls and fire eaters, however there were two things I hadn’t taken into consideration. First, I hadn’t counted on how hard it would be to get a good signal on some bits of the walk, but that really was secondary to the fact that I hadn’t counted on how tired I would be at the end of each day. Those are my excuses for the first real update not coming until we are a full week onto the walk. Because of the latter, I apologize in advance if the next few blog posts are a little rough around the edges. My brain is nearly as tired as my feet. I’ll do my best to make sense. Finally, I’m having trouble downloading photos onto the website. But will get them added as soon as possible.

Day 1 St Bee’s Head to Ennerdale Bridge 14 1/2 Monday 8 August 2011

We left St Bee’s Head around 9:45 this morning, after we followed the time-honoured tradition of wetting the tips of our boots in the Irish Sea and collecting a pebble from the beach to leave on the beach at the North Sea in Robin Hood’s Bay when we get there 190 miles later. Holly got a pebble too, a rather small one, since I have to carry it.

This Coast to Coast walk, which is probably now considered by most folks THE Coast to Coast walk, was created by the late great Alfred Wainwright in the 1970s. It begins at St Bee’s Head on the Irish Sea, in Cumbria and crosses the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors before arriving at Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea 190 mile later. Today we walked from St. Bee’s Head to Ennerdale Bridge, and for the next five days, we’ll be walking across the Lake District National Park. As I said, we’re walking with friends those first five days, then the next nine we’ll be on our own. I’ll do my best to provide updates whenever the signal allows.

The first two hours of our walk were along the red sandstones cliffs overlooking the Irish Sea. St Bee’s Head is actually the furthest point west in England other than Cornwall, and when we reached the Lighthouse, we were farther from the East Coast of England than when we actually started but the spectacular cliff walk made it worth the bit of back tracking.

The weather threatened several times, but by the time we headed inland around ll:30 on the other side of Birkham’s Quarries, the skies were clearing and the weather was feeling steamy. We walked through farmland and the old slate mining village of Moor Row until we got beyond the village of Cleator, where we stopped in a grassy field for lunch. Then we made our first real ascent of the day, up the fell of Dent. It’s only a thousand feet, but it’s the first thousand feet and it worked us all. We don’t get many thousand foot ascents in the Surrey Hills.

We came down off Dent very steeply into the Nannycatch Valley at Nannycatch Gate. Nannycatch Gate is the entry point into The Lake District National Park, which is the first of the three national parks we’ll walk through while doing the Coast to Coast. We ended our day 14 ½ mile into the Coast To Coast at Ennerdale Bridge, with time for a pint of Ennerdale Dark at The Shepherd’s Arms pub. By the time we got back to our accommodations, showered and had dinner, most of us, including yours truly, had about enough energy to go over tomorrow’s rout together and fall into bed.

Day 2 Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite  14 1/2 miles Tuesday August 9, 2011

Today was another 14 1/2 miler. We walk from Ennerdale Bridge along the whole length of Ennerdale Water, the only lake in the Lake District with no road around it. I don’t know why today seemed easier than yesterday. Technically it was a much tougher walk with some serious Lakeland ascents. We walked the first two hours along the gorgeous Ennerdale Water. The hillsides were just beginning to blush with the mauve bloom of the heather. Add to that ducks bobbing on the water and the occasional leap-frogging of other folks who started the C2C when we did, all happening to the soundtrack of water lapping the shore, and it was a fabulous start to the day.

At the end of Ennedale Water, we followed a logging road along the River Liza with the fells of Pillar and Steeple looming large beyond. We walked to Black Sail Youth Hostel, one of the most remote in England and had lunch there in the shadow of Great Gable and Green Gable with Scafell Pike peeking from in between the two. The hostel is an old shepherd’s bothy in the middle of nowhere on a crossroad of several major walking routs, and a totally lovely place to sit in front of and have lunch.

Once we were properly fed and watered, we started the long climb out of the Ennerdale Valley along Loft Beck. This is a place where Coast to Coasters often miss the trail and end up on Green Gable, way off course. Raymond and I were staying at Brian and Vron’s B and B several years ago when Brian was called out for Keswick Mountain Rescue on just such a case. It was easy to see why so many people go astray there, as the rout up Loft Beck is by far the least obvious until we’d crossed the beck and actually started the steep, stony ascent.

Once out of the valley, we continued our ascent to the high point of the walk along the rocky Moses Trod, affording us gorgeous views out over Buttermere and Crummock Water and all the fells surrounding. Moses Trod is an old packhorses trail used for taking slate from Honister Mine to Wasdale Head and on to the coast at Ravenglass. However, the namesake of the trail used it for another purpose – smuggling whiskey.

From Moses Trod, we began our descent along the track of a disused mining tramway toward the Honister Slate Mine. The scars of the slate mining industry were obvious on the fells in front of us and strangely fascinating in their regularity. In fact, the pyramidal Fleetwith Pike is actually hollow inside from all the mining. Brian informed us that the vast cavern beneath has been used in the past for Mountain Rescue training exercises. It’s easy to see why Wainwright was so fascinated with the industry that was the bread and butter of the Lake District for so long.

The Honister Mine is once more operating, but on a very small scale. It now operates a visitor’s centre and, is in many ways, a living museum to a way of life all but gone. There are regular tours and lots of displays of this area’s fascinating slate mining past. We lingered for tea and the use of proper toilet facilities before continuing the gradual descent into the Borrowdale Valley. The Borrowdale Valley is the lovely valley in which most of the action in Lakeland Heatwave takes place, so it and the fells around it are very dear to my heart. We ended our day at the village of Rosthwaite on the Derwent River just a few miles from Keswick.

Day 3 Grassmere to Patterdale (which should have been day 4) 8 1/2 miles  Wednesday 10 August 2011

The end to fabulous weather was inevitable, and I woke in the middle of the night to the sound of driving rain and wind. As we prepared to leave for the day’s walk, Brian informed us that would be doing the walk for day four instead of day three because of heavy rain and flooding of the streams that crossed the trail. It wasn’t hard to see the wisdom of his decision once we began our ascent in the driving rain and wind. Even then we ended up having to take an alternate route because of a bridge being out. We got rained on all day long and battered by a cold north wind. Breaks were taken hurriedly, hunched over our packs with our backs to the wind. In spite of the weather, we had a great walk all in all. Raymond and I have had several walks in this particular area of the Lake District before and were familiar with the surrounding fells. But until today we’d always seen them in sunshine and lovely weather. Though I don’t relish being wet and wind-battered, I have to admit the power of even what by Lakeland standards, must have surely been a mild storm in the fells was extremely impressive, and I liked the feeling even while it frightened me more than a little bit.

Though it was a shorter day, everyone was exhausted when we got back to our accommodation. The drying room was full of wet, steaming walking clothes and boots stuffed with newspaper. Traditionally day three of a cross-country walk is considered to be the most difficult, the end of the breaking in period, as it were. And what a breaking-in period it was.

In the evening,we  went to the the Theatre By the Lake in Keswick  to see Noel Coward’s Hay Fever. The play was great, but exhaustion was definitely setting in by the second half, and I found myself struggling to stay awake on the ride back from Keswick, wondering what the next day would bring.

More to come

I’m writing this from Kirby Stephen at the end of day seven, 83 miles into the walk, and I will do my best to get another update to you within the next couple of days.

Oh, and Holly, well she’s holding up very well indeed on her Coast to Coast journey. Don’t forget to send your pictures of where you read your Holly to the Where’s Holly contest going on throughout the month of August to win fabulous prizes. Here’s the link.

 

Holly Goes Coast To Coast

Most of you know by now about the Where’s Holly contest running through the month of August. (check this link for details) I’ve asked you all to send me your photos of all the cool and interesting places you read your Holly, or even better yet, the ordinary places you read The Initiation of Ms Holly because anyone who has ever enjoyed reading a good book knows that the best thing about a good book is that it has the amazing ability to take us out of the ordinary and transport us into the extraordinary.

For writers, it’s no different. When we’re in the zone, when the Muse is with us, we are transported to extraordinary places in our imaginations, places we can’t wait to put down in words and share with other people.

My experience of writing The Initiation of Ms Holly was just such an experience, an experience that started in the dark in the Eurostar tunnel, and while I wasn’t going anywhere, my imagination was off and running, and a year later, Holly was born.

Starting the 8th of August, Raymond and I are setting out to walk the Wainwright Coast to Coast Path across England. This has been something we’ve dreamed about ever since we started walking seriously. So we’re very excited. It’s not just going to be the two of us though. That’s right. It’ll be a threesome, because Holly is going with us! I’ll be sending back reports as often as I have wi fi along with picture of just where Holly is as we walk the 190 miles across Cumbria and Yorkshire.

The first five days we’ll have lots of company, walking with a group of friends we often walk with in the Lake Disctrict, led by the amazing Brian Spencer and his equally amazing wife, Vron, who have been instrumental in my research for the Lakeland Heatwave Trilogy. But the last nine days it’ll be just Raymond and Holly and me hoofing it across England.

The First Update:


 Now that the itinerary is set for B&Bs and the Coast to Coast is really going to happen, I’ve spent evenings pouring over the maps and studying the rout, getting butterflies in my stomach at anyplace I’m not clear on. And with moors and fells and ruins of mines and bogs and villages and farms and long stretches of open space, there are lots of places to be unclear on. Fortunately the C2C is a well-travelled walking trail, so we won’t be running the risk of falling off the edge of the earth, though we might occasionally run off the edge of the map. It’s by far the longest walk we’ve ever attempted on our own.

I’m confident in our navigation skills, and we’ve both trained for it, but we have one 24-mile day that will definitely be pushing our limits. I’m nervous and I’m excited and I’m already there in my mind. I’ve dreamed about doing this for a long time.

And what does any of this have to do with writing? Well, everything actually. I have two novellas and the another novel I have to walk. I’m just hoping 190 miles will be enough. And Holly, well she’s already a world traveller, so I expect her to acquit herself very well.

Today we drive to Cumbria.

Tomorrow…WE WALK!

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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