A pint of your finest gov! England

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August 27th 2011
Published: September 5th 2011
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A pint of your finest gov (ale/beer)!

We flew overnight to UK from Toronto to London then caught four (4) connecting train services from Paddington London to St Bees over approx. 6 hours to arrive at the most beautiful village and our B&B, the Abbey Farmhouse. This is the starting point of the Coast to Coast (C2C) hike** across England from St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay.
** The Coast to Coast (C2C) walk is a walking trail running for 370km (220miles) across Northern England. It was devised by Alfred Wainwright and set out in his book A Coast to Coast Walk in 1973.
Most often walked the West coast to the East coast; the route starts at St Bees on the Irish Sea and ends at Robin Hood's Bay on the North Sea. In between are the three National Parks of the Lakes District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors.
These walks are NOT marked or signposted like the walks we have done in Corsica/France, Spain and Italy so you really need to stay on top of following the detailed guidebooks, maps especially the landmarks (e.g. pile of rocks, a fence post) and
compass navigation or else you will get lost! It seems that the various English national parks authorities do not want to clog up parks with signage. Fair enough I say.

We were pretty dazed & weary as we had had no sleep on flight so effectively had not been sleeping for over 30 hours (don’t forget we quite OLD now & really LOVE our sleep). After one of the best siestas / naps we headed out for walk into the village for dinner.
It was CRISP but pretty sunny evening (compared to sensational warm temperatures and summer weather in Toronto/Lake of Bays we had just departed from). There was one of the most beautiful sunsets we’ve seen – blood orange and pinks. Check out Dave’s photos.

We booked two nights in St Bees to enjoy the seaside village location and also get ready for big days of walking ahead.
We did a little warm up15km walk that was part of the official C2C** walk to ease into our hiking adventure. It was lovely, along the St Bees coastline overlooking the Irish Sea. We picked out our pebbles from St Bees beach to carry with us until we reach the east coast at the end of the C2C to deposit with the other walker’s pebbles that have completed the C2C before us.

Then we set out proper on the C2C trail with a 24km / 5 ½ hour walk to Ennerdale Bridge – it was a relatively straightforward hike until we reached Dent Hill then it was straight up (bit of huffing and puffing) and an extremely steep descent on the other side of the hill. Up here we saw the craziest spray painted sheep in neon green – pink – blue, it was like some graffiti artists had been through. The weather was quite good by English standards and we landed into a sleepy village and stayed at The Sheppard’s Inn. That night it poured solidly until the morning but in this part of England it is famous for some of the highest recorded rainfall levels.

Next day was a big walk to Borrowdale (27km+ 6 ½ hours) and this was a tougher but provided us with spectacular views back to the ocean. The ground was so boggy or muddy and you know it is wet when there is water running over grass. We got stuck in a rain / wind squall after climbing up steep path (climbed straight up to 650m up these pseudo narrow wet rock steps) on the top of the mountain. It was a good example of how quickly the weather can change here, it became extremely cold in matter of 2 minutes with gale force winds and sheeting rain but we survived as it cleared quite quickly (thankfully) and we then had to complete an equally steep descent via a former slate / coal mine site. Once we reached sea level again the road down to Seatolller was gorgeous with moss covered trees and slate stone walls following the streams running down the valley. These whole areas’ including the trees has been listed on the National Trust for protection. There were heaps of locals were out walking with their kids and dogs and enjoying the day. There was even a big wedding going on in a giant marquee in one of the fields so heaps of activity about for a Sunday.

Borrowdale contains little villages, Seatoller, Stonewaite, Longthwaite and Rothswaite and looks like a picture postcard of little white cottages with black slate roofs and was the part of the world that Beatrix Potter wrote her famous children’s stories about Peter Rabbit. We stayed in a little B&B run by Rachel who made us fresh pot of tea and biscuits when we arrived. In the evening we had a gorgeous meal of local slow roasted lamb and vegetables, smoked trout and avocado salad followed by homemade ice-cream and sticky toffee pudding washed down with a Spanish Rioja red wine. P.s the toffee sticky pudding option is everywhere we’ve been, a local delicacy.

We had a communal breakfast with other walkers before heading out for a shorter walk in distance (16km+) but technically tougher walk to Grasmere (home of the famous English poet, John Wordsworth). We took the high level ridge walk down the valley to be rewarded with gorgeous views of the lakes and townships below. It was tough going on the knees on the descent at the end (very reminiscent of some of the steep Cinque Terre, Italy, descents we’d done in June). This walk although read quite short in distance on paper was more technical in that you had to watch and navigate every step as we had rocks muddy and peat oily bog, slippery wet rocks and loose gravel. It’s the complete opposite of the simple country trails, which allow you to just walk along and daydream like we did in Spain on the Camino de Santiago trails.
We even had RAAF jet fighters running training flights along the mountain ridges. Locals told us that sometimes you could be above the jets when they fly below you up the valley.

We arrived in Grasmere, which was very busy with locals climbing part of the ridge walk we completed plus lots of buses bringing visitors in to visit the village shops and historical sites like the grave of John Wordsworth. There are plenty of 4 and 5 star hotels and spas for the weekend visitor and/or for a romantic getaway.

We had an extra night in Grasmere for some R&R so we could enjoy staying in a quintessential English village that is very popular spot with locals and international visitors (cue a few American accents with comments like ‘where are we, are we in Scotland?’).
After yummy breakfast at our B&B, we enjoyed the day wandering around village shops, which comprised of mainly outdoor/adventure gear stores, gift shops and galleries. We had delicious homemade scones with clotted cream and ginger tea for our lunch today, very English. Dinner was a yummy affair of pasta and pizza at “Potted Out” restaurant where Dave also enjoyed some local Lakes District beer called “Chester’s Strong & Ugly” On the whole, it was a very relaxing day which we savoured as it is our only rest day during the C2C until we complete the remainder of the C2C over the next 12 days including couple of big longer distance days (32km + 38km+).

It seems the English love their walking, we saw on the one of popular day walks from Grasmere to Helms Crag, lots of young ones and even a little 6-week-old baby being taken up by his Dad. The price of outdoor gear including hiking boots and especially wet weather gear is ridiculously cheap comparable to what we pay in Australia. We bought a few new items.

Wed 24 August
From Grasmere we walked to Patterdale for 4 hours. We missed out taking the steeper climb up to above 1,000m which is 3rd highest peak in Britain along Strider’s Ridge as the weather turned when we had the option to go up to high trail with pouring rain and chilly wind so we didn’t have visibility to do it. Oh well another time!!.
The village of Patterdale was gorgeous, lots of quaint cottages and pastures with contented sheep. We stayed at a farm B&B called Crookabeck, which was our own little luxury house. It was just gorgeous. They also have a retail shop with local spun wool and knitted goodies made from their sheep and goats.
It rained for the whole day until early evening so we just relaxed before the rain cleared and we could pop out for a quick pub meal in town at the Red Lion. The pub was full of walkers and locals – really buzzing.

Thurs 25 Aug – FYI we have now been five (5) months on the road and loving it.

From Patterdale we completed one of the hardest day’s walking to Shap on the C2C trail (30km+) according to the guidebook and as a reward we stayed at the Brookfield House B&B (this B&B has hit legendary status among walkers as one of the best B&B on the entire C2C). After our 7½-hour walk in sunshine most of the day, Margaret welcomed us to her B&B with a fresh pot of tea and homemade scones.
It was a challenging walking day with over 1,300m climbing but what spectacular views we had as we left the Lakes District National Park to move into the district of Cumbria. You can’t imagine that these steep mountains were used as one of the main routes that the Romans used to move their massive armies across England given the descent down some of these mighty mountains.
In Shap there are the ruins of the largest Abbey in England that was built in 1120 and later suppressed or closed by King Henry 8th in 16th century, 1584 we think.

Another thing that is amazing are the estimated 125,000 miles of dry walls that have been erected over the centuries to mark land boundaries in Northern England – they are low stone walls beautifully constructed with varying sized stones, wet leaves and left to age with moss as opposed to use of cheap fencing wire. You will see them running vertical with the highest of peaks or fells – you can’t imagine the effort to construct them largely by hand couple of centuries ago and maybe using a donkey to help transport the stones. The fact that they still stand strong is a testament to the construction techniques.

Fri 26 Aug

From Shap to Orton (shorter day with 15km walk)

It was a drizzly old day so we were very grateful we only had a very short walk today. We stayed in lovely farm B&B, Scar Side Farm, which was wonderful spot constructed from a 17th century farmhouse and converted barn.
We didn’t do much today except read as the rain really set in until early evening. We popped into town of Orton for a dinner of yummy homemade chicken pie and veggies at the George Hotel.
After dinner, we watched the BBC series called ‘Wainwright Walks, Coast to Coast with Julia Bradbury’ with some fellow walkers staying at the farm. It was really wonderful to see the spots we’ve already covered so far and what is to come for the 2nd half of the C2C.

Sat 27 Aug 2011
From Orton to Kirkby Stephen (22km)
This was a day it was confirmed that ‘walk’ is not an appropriate description of the C2C because today we saw Adidas is running a four-day endurance event on sections of the C2C, specifically they are running a true adventure race style on mountain bikes, kayaking, open water swimming, running and navigating the teams from one side of the country to another!
For us, mere mortals, it was a long day in the pouring rain for the majority of it – just walking over miles of muddy wet moors and farming lands. The only thing we really saw were a handful of farmers working with their 4x4 quad bikes and sheep dogs rounding up sheep and cows.

We arrived in Kirkby Stephen and settled into a lovely B&B, Old Croft House before we headed out for fine dining at the village’s famous Fish and Chips shop, aptly named the “Coast to Coast”. Whilst we enjoyed the novelty, reality is that we will probably not need to have again for another 10 years or so (or ever again).

We’ve loved the journey so far – lovely friendly welcomes from B&Bs, restaurants and pubs we have stopped into plus meeting some lovely folks who are walking the C2C either the whole thing or smaller chunks of it. The trails have more challenging technically for us on the walking side than we expected but we’ve absolutely loving the scenery, fresh air, beauty of wild flowers, trees, waterfalls, the farm and wild animals and of course physicality of this adventure.

We’ll be posting our Part Two update of our C2C hike shortly when we complete on 4 September 2011.

Additional photos below
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