The Clock is Ticking. Now We Have To Hurry: Day 6: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast

Day 6: Bampton-On-Grange To Orton: 12 Miles

We thread through the tombstones, past the stone shed, and ease our way between brown cows and a bull as big as an elephant grazing in the pasture.  We are now “OFF MAP”.   I’m guessing someone who has done the C2C is going to look at my mileage and say, “Hey wait a minute…that’s not the mileage the official guide says.

And you know what? They’re right. Because Dallas Cowboy Fan and I are living like rebels now. We’re free spirits. We’re taking shortcuts on Mr. Wainright’s route.  And I’m as nervous as a pig in a bacon factory about it.  Our B&B last night was a mile and a half off the official trail, but rather than backtrack…we’re cutting across country and intersecting with the route about 5 miles farther down the path.

Up until today, we’ve carefully been using a guidebook, GPS, and maps.  But all we have now are our compasses, the idea of the general direction, and our  half-baked Oregon Trail Spirit.

“EASTWARD-HO!!!” And we must not lose any time today. We’ve GOT to get to Orton before 5pm.

Good grief…..hurry….hurry.   There’s a chocolate factory there!!!

England is criss-crossed with so many public bridalways the locals use to walk or

Another gorgeous bridge to cross

Another gorgeous bridge to cross

horseback from farm to village. These aren’t roads. They are footpaths and back lanes across farmers’ lands. The whisper of a byway that we’re walking on doesn’t seem to be used much. It’s overgrown with weeds and thistles in many places. But to our amazement in a shorter time than we estimated, the ruined tower of  the old Shap abbey appears around a bend—and we’re back on trail.

We stop at the Co-Op in Shap and buy items for a  picnic lunch.  Often, Dallas Cowboy Fan is a curmudgeon, but there’s something about this hiking trip that has turned him into a jabberbox, and he has taken to chitter-chatting to…EVERYBODY.  “That’s a nice dog, you’ve got there.” “You think it’ll rain?” “You live here long?” I’m shifting from one foot to the other while he graciously turns down the sweet little lady who is trying to get us to “Come in and see the FREE Archaeological program at the old depot.”

I pry him out of town and in a few miles we use a platform to cross over a 6-lane highway with views of smoking industrial plants to the north.  A bit farther along, outside of a rock quarry, we have a surprise meet up with KIM, the girl we’d helped on the very first day.

She and her companion are waiting waiting for a taxi. She’d jumped down off a rock wall and rolled, injuring her knee. We are so sorry. It looks like her hike is over.

In Yorkshire, we find more signs to indicate the trail. This one is on a path behind a barn.

In Yorkshire, we find more signs to indicate the trail. This one is on a path behind a barn.

At the small walled village of Oddendale, we slip over their cattle guard and have lunch on a lawn—because it’s the only place we’ve found so far that’s not covered in sheep-crap. We continue on for mile after rolling mile. Each time we top a rise, there is STILL nothing for miles. No houses, barns or towns.  Just sheep.

We don’t even stop at the area of Robin Hood’s grave, because a) the clouds are getting  dark and the smell of rain is in the air, b) I’m too tired to go searching for it, and  c) frankly, this brush and scrubby trees don’t look like any resting spot that Robin Hood—if he really existed—would be buried.

Through an overgrown lane of weeds, we enter Orton, and the world changes. Yards are manicured and edged with colorful flowers. We have entered a Thomas Kincade painting. Two young freckle-faced boys wave from the beck where they’re catching minnows with a net.  A man is on a ladder, painting his window frames bright blue. Below him, his neighbor is mowing his perfectly landscaped postage-stamp size lawn.

We cross a footbridge to get to Kennedy’s Chocolate Factory. [Skip the chocolate milkshakes which taste like American Chocolate Sodas]. Go right for the hot chocolate which is made by melting rich chocolate and adding it  to hot milk

Someone had tacked this behind the shop. (Credits: from the Kennedy Chocolate Facebook page.)

The sign behind the shop. (Credits: from the Kennedy Chocolate Facebook page.)

(marshmallows and whipped cream 50 pence extra) Holy Mooing Cow!!! This is a treat!

The moment we sit down in the chocolate tea room, the skies open and water pours outside. Let it rain. We’ve got creamy hot chocolate and rooms of chocolate confectioneries to explore.

NEXT: Day 7 & 8 Walls That Squeeze: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast

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Sleeping at the Graveyard: Day 5: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast

Dallas Cowboy Fan and I look at the text message on the phone.

Then we look at each other. We’re half-way around the world.  What does our son, expect us to do about water flooding our basement?

Dallas Cowboy Fan Texts Back: Call a Plumber.

Next text: And Turn off the water.

And Next TextAre you sure it’s a broken pipe or did you clog the toilet?

NO ANSWER. So we call. That’s when we learn a couple of other people are ALSO staying at our house.

What? Since when?

“Since you left for England…BUT GOOD NEWS!!!..it’s not a broken water pipe. Maybe there was a clog. Maybe not. But that’s not what we think the problem is.”

Hoo boy.  They are going to GOOGLE the problem. (I kid you not). Water is off. Buckets and towels are in place (my good towels, of course–not the ones in the garage for catastrophes like this). Scout says they’re working on the situation.  “CALL A PLUMBER!!” Dallas Cowboy Fan says before  hanging up.  We stare at the phone for a while. Then we look at each other.

“To heck with it.” Dallas Cowboy Fan says, turning over and pulling the covers up.  I stuff Little Pillow under by back and turn off the light. But we both know this isn’t the end of it.

Craphouse Crickets!

Day 5: Patterdale to Bampton-On-Grange-15 Miles

The next morning, it’s cloudy, but not raining. After stretching and Advil, I tell myself, forget the plumbing—psyche up for the miles ahead. If we were going the way Mr. Wainright, the

God dumped all the leftover rocks he had on England---specifically this trail. At least the hills are getting smaller

God dumped all the leftover rocks he had on England—specifically this trail. At least the hills are getting smaller

creator of the trail, had planned it, we’d be climbing 2000 feet up over the top of Kidsty Pike. Instead, we’re on the longer, flatter route next to the seemingly endless Ullswater Lake. We would have used the ferry to steam us to the end of the lake, but our B&B host insisted that we would lose too much time waiting around for the ferry which leaves at 9:45 AM

However, seven miles later, by the time we reach the boat landing at the tail of the lake, the ferry has come and gone.  We moan over the fact that we could’ve saved ourselves a lot of walking on the rocky, undulating trail and had a nice boat ride. We console ourselves saying, “Well, we can say we actually walked over England; we haven’t taken any mechanical transportation—yet.”  (I still would have preferred the ferry)

Goodbye Lake Dristrict

Goodbye Lake District. Yeah, We walked over that hill in the background.

The trail left the lake, took to the roads and soon came to rolling hills, with grass as short as golf greens. I turned and yelled at the foothills behind us, “Good-Bye Lake District.” It had been a tough, but beautiful five days. Ahead of us lies miles and miles and miles of rolling Yorkshire Dales.

And sheep poo  EVERYWHERE, along with a lot of sheep. So many woolies, that we can’t find even 1 square foot of doo-less pavement or grass to sit on and have lunch. These animals are inputting at one end and outputting at the other—at the same time.

We eat on the move, strolling down lanes between tall stone fences.  Big tractors are

Black marshmallows for cows

Black marshmallows-like silage—cow treats!

circling the fields next to us. One with a combine that sucks up fresh-cut green grass and blows it into a big cart behind.  Other tractors with carts are waiting and as soon as one is full, the next one takes its place.  The grass is chopped and compressed into 3X3 foot rolls, wrapped in black plastic  and dot the fields. It’ll be fed as silage during the winter.

On the road, we pass through the 1 house towns of Buttermere and then Butterwick, continuing on to Bampton ON GRANGE.  The Crown and Mitre doesn’t open until 4pm, but we arrive at 3. It has taken us 7 hours (stopping twice for breaks) to go 15 miles. (Yaaah, I’m getting better now that it’s flatter).

19a.York

Before us…..Miles and miles of rolling pasture. This is probably the only photo we have with very few sheep around us. Yeah, we’re headed for that far hill. (we’re always headed for the farthest hill.)

The church and its cemetery are 20 feet away. Sandstone tombstones are as big as doors, most of them dated in the 1800s with seven or more people’s names on each one. They tilt precariously this way and that. A couple have given up their ghosts and fallen over.

I am so tired that I want to lay and sleep in the grass between gravestones, but I opt to nap on the picnic table in front of the inn. And then the chimes in the church clock tower peal a little tune. Every Hour. Every half hour.  (Even through the night.)

I was told that a “Passing Bell” is rung whenever a villager dies. Five rings for the death of a man. Four rings for a woman, three rings-a child. Then a stroke is added for each year of their age. When one of the older residents die, it takes a long time to ring the bells.

Rest in Peace in Bampton

Rest in Peace in Bampton

Texts  from home have “gone dark.” We’re hoping that no news about the plumbing is good news. Our room is large and lovely, but best of all is the big, claw-footed tub. Each of us has a soak, then dinner.

We fall asleep, close to the dead next door, and the church bells serenading the night. We never hear a thing.

Next: The Clock is Ticking. Now We’ve Got to Hurry: Day 6: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast.

 

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OH NO! The Urgent Text From Home: Day 4: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast

Day 4: Grasmere to Patterdale: 8.5 Miles

At Grasmere, we stay at an Glenthorne Inn run by Quakers. And I need to say that it was one of the few places along the trail that agreed to do laundry.  While researching this trip, I found old blogs about the C2C which indicate doing/or having laundry done was readily available. But we found that many of the B&Bs don’t offer the service.  As one hostess said,”I don’t do it anymore. I found that I was up until late night, every night, doing other people’s laundry. Well, I can sure relate to that.

Amazingly, I feel pretty good this morning. Maybe it was the stretching? Maybe the Advil?16.Stream Crossing. Grasmere  Most definitely it was the prayers,/wishes of friends and the nighttime support of the Little Pillow (which now travels daily, bound to to the outside of my suitcase like a piglet strapped to a box.)

Renewed with clean clothing, the promise of a short day, an apologetic husband, and a few sun breaks, we set off at 9:30. There are several alternative HIGH Routes, but for some reason Dallas Cowboy Fan doesn’t mention them. We stay along the pleasant river walk. When the wind and clouds roll in, we’re glad we’re in the valley.  Four people have died on the trail above us this year. (Striding Edge). The narrow path plummets steeply on either side with little room for misstep. It makes me shudder to think of hiking it in the clouds, but I know there are some folks up there today.

When we arrive at at Patterdale, (a small collection of houses and a store) most everyone we’ve met along the trail is there before us. I know this is no contest, but I feel very inadequate that I’m so slow and it takes me so long navigate such a short distance.

17.Lots of Honesty boxes

We’d find these HONESTY Boxes along the trail. Mostly for eggs and flowers. Take some and leave your money.

There’s only one pub in the village, and soon all the C2Cers are in it, snugged together in a room, eating,  telling stories and laughing. The family from Hong Kong is leaving. They only had a few days and chose to just do the first section of the trail.  Two more couples are skipping ahead to do other parts.

I look around amazed that half-way around the world, I nightly meet people in different towns and pubs. These people know my name. I know theirs. I know the problems they’re having with their: blisters, back, knees. We commiserate. We laugh. We miss them when they leave. New people join us. It is a traveling community.

18.On trail to GrasmereI would’ve thought the locals would tire of hikers, but they are overly gracious.  They join us. Tell stories. Give us hints. Drink with us. Again and again, I learn that true hospitality is about making the stranger feel at home.

We return to our B&B with the glow of fellowship (and ale).  Our host was a fell runner—which mean he RUNS up and down these mountains, usually off-trail. (He ran the entire C2C (192 miles) in  two and a half days.) He knows of an easy, flat alternative trail for tomorrow.  We won’t have to climb over Kidsty Pike in the rain.

I am buoyed with hope. Tomorrow will be easier on my back and hip.

And then the text comes in from Scout, our son, who is watching our house.

“Pipes leaking. Water pouring into basement from floor above. What do you want me to do?”

Next: Sleeping At the Graveyard: Day 5: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast

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“You Said To Turn Here!” Day 3: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast

Day 3: Stonethwaite to Grasmere: 9 Miles

The Magic Little Pillow helped, but it takes a bit more stretching today to get all the body parts moving in the same direction.

The path always starts out so lovely.

The path always starts out so lovely.

After a hearty English breakfast (that includes Black pudding–which is actually quite tasty if I forget about the pig’s blood ingredient), we are soon strolling along pleasant fields next to a burbling beck. The path ambles upward, the river becomes louder. Foam from the runoff of last night’s rain collects in tributaries.  In a short time my legs are talking to me, series of waterfalls are are crashing beside me, and each time I stop to catch my breath and look around, the rising views are becoming more spectacular.

And then we start climbing.

Stedman’s Guide Book has a droll sense of humor (without meaning to). When it says: “the gradient picks up a notch”  I am actually using my hands to climb rocks upward like a ladder, often with water trickling down over them.  Ankle-rolling chunks of stone litter the trail so I watch my every footstep.

“This next section is where some lose their way,” It should read: “Start praying to St. Christopher–the patron saint of lost travelers.”

Prior to this trip, I never understood how a trail could disappear with so many people passing over it.  It’s because we’re walking on soil particles loosely held together by water adhesion. Or in more technical terms:  THE BOG EATS THE TRAIL.

How To Cross A Bog

Prior to leaving on this trip. I searched like crazy for this survival information. I found one short article, So for future bog-crossers, here are some handy tips:

  • Lose about 100 pounds. The lighter you are, the less you will sink. There were spots I could bink-bink-bink across like Legolas the elf, while Dallas Cowboy Fan was cursing and sinking in slog-water. He soon learned not to follow my path through the bogs.
  • Grow longer legs. This is immensely helpful in landing on the random rocks someone has hefted into the goop.  Don’t always trust the rocks. Sometimes the bog eats them.  (Short-legged people ignore this—you’re going to get wet. I soon learned not to follow my tall husband’s route through the bogs.
  • Use trekking poles. I could tell the Europeans from Americans because most Euro/Brits only carried one pole-if any.  Americans carried two.  I used both of them with fervor.
    ****They work quite well for pole vaulting over smaller bogs (make sure you’re landing spot is solid.
    ****Stab the ground like your poles are sewing machine needles in front of every step.  If the poles jab a foot or more down before you touch bottom…DON”T STEP THERE.
  • Find  springy plants growing in the murk and step on those.  They seem to fan out and provide a bit of support.
  • Go around the bog. WAY around. Of course this will put you off course, but there isn’t much of one anyway.
  • Don’t expect to follow someone else.  (Most days we hiked for hours without seeing another soul.)
  • Pull out your Gaia GPS app on your phone. See how far you are off the waypoint and head for that.
  • Carry an extra pair of water-wicking socks.  A lot of people wear gaiters to keep their feet dry. I don’t. I try to scare the murk out of my way with threats. It doesn’t work, but I feel better.

 The Decision

Having crossed the cursed bogs, we stand at the top of the pass, surveying Far Easedale Valley with a lovely beck running through it far below.  Two young German men sit next to us, singing loudly and off-key as one strums a guitar like this is a Sound of Music production.

My thought is Good grief, you carried a guitar way up here?  and  Crap. It’s starting to rain. I bet your guitar is gonna get wet. I’m not thinking about the split in the path and the HIGH ROUTE ALONG THE RIDGE LINE. 

But Dallas Cowboy Fan is. “Think of the views,” he urges. “And the guidebook says the low route along the river may be boggy if it’s raining. You know how you HATE bogs.”

Well, that’s true. That last splash through muck-land was a test of my civil vocabulary, so upward we go.

Then it starts raining. It clears enough that we can see the people merrily traipsing along the river trail below us, making wonderful time as we climb up and down over 4 miles of crags.  And it doesn’t help that we haven’t brought any pack lunches because I thought this was going to be a short trip and a rest day.

And you can probably imagine the marital discussions going on each time we top out on a peak, and there is another crag in front of us.

And when we reach Helm’s Crag,the last stony precipice, the trail plunges 1000 feet down to the valley on  STEEP, STEEP narrow stone steps that were surely built by mountain goats with a mean sense of humor. It proves

Dallas Cowboy Fan on top of Helm's Crag. The last of the ridge-line

Good news, honey! There’re only 4 more miles of crags to climb over.

exasperating—even for Dallas Cowboy Fan. I’m helping the situation by limping and whining with a falsetto voice, “Take the high road.” “It’ll be beautiful.” “We’ll never forget the high route.”

Yeah, yeah. It isn’t my finest hour. I’m hurting, ticked, and so hungry I want to eat bog grass.  It’s taken us 7 hours to do 9 miles.  Part of that is because I’m moving slowly.

At 5:30 when we reach Grasmere; we cannot find an open restaurant—they aren’t  open until 6. But Tweedies Pub is serving ale, (no pub snacks!!!) and in a short time, the trek over GreenUp Pass becomes a sorta interesting story. And after a hamburger the size of my leg and a lot more  hard cider, it becomes a hilarious story.

Next:  Oh No! The Urgent  Call From Home: Day 4: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast

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I Found the Stairway to Heaven: Day 2: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast

Lumbering side to side like a baboon because…

my back is so tight, I’m desperate for blankets and pillows to bolster my body.  But inside the Inn’s slim amoire, there is only one teeny weeny pillow. The kind a designer would sew a bright red cover around and toss on a couch to look at.

Except it was naked-white, without any coverlet, most likely left behind by someone else— AND MAGIC.

Before we left, I had asked friends for prayers, and if they weren’t into prayers,  to send good thoughts our way, please.

Part of those wishes arrive in the Perfect Little Pillow which fits in crooks, hollows, and snuggles beneath bones, keeping everything aligned as I sleep. Hallelujah! In the morn,I feel good enough put on my boots and consider walking another day. After an hour of stretching, we leave the Inn and I leave the little  magic pillow in the amoire for the next person. I’m pretty sure I can handle this next stage—a supposedly easy trek over the hilltop—after all we’ve hiked bigger mountains in the States. Little did I know….

Day 2: Ennerdale Bridge to Stonethwaite–14.5 miles

These things start out innocently, like they always do. A flat walk, long walk beside a

Photo by Houmous Monster

long, long lake. The Inn packed a big, fat lunch for us, and I am already snacking on homemade flapjack which is a buttery, carmelly, chewy granola bar, and this one is packed with pineapple, raisins, dates and nuts.

But we are going to do this long walk sanely. Stop often and stretch. So we duck into the first Youth Hostel we come to at Mile 5 for a cup of tea, and there is the young, 24-year-old Kim. We’re thrilled to see she’s made it safely this far (after being lost when we met her) and that she’s found another person to hike with, so now I won’t have to worry about her getting lost anymore.  (Since my own kid isn’t around, I adopt others to worry about).

12.Loft Beck to Ennerdale

The clouds cover the peak, of course, so weary hikers won’t give up if they see how far they REALLY have to climb beside that stream.

After a heart-pounding climb, from the lake into the mountains, we stop at another Youth Hostel for a cuppa. “Look at that lovely stream, coming out of the mountain,” I point with my trusty trekking pole. “I hope we don’t go up there.”

(As the days of the hike progressed, I learned that anytime I looked at the horizon and thought: I hope the trail doesn’t go that way.  That was ALWAYS the way the trail was going to head.)

The thin path parallels a crystal, splashing stream. And kind souls have laid stone all the way up the mountain, (perhaps 100 years ago?), so we are actually climbing on a stairway to the heavens. (There are other routes that travel even higher, but I’m just interested in keeping my heart from exploding through my chest,so we stay on what is considered the lower trail.)

The long, steep descent on the other side of the mountain is pocked with deep cavities of the slate mines. The tramway that used to haul the slate is the path, except the rails have been pulled and replaced with stones the size of grapefruits and slick from the drizzle that has started. (This is the wettest part of the U.K. Average rainfall= 185 inches per year)

The old mines (shut down in the ’80s) are now a visitors center. As soon as I make it to the curio-shop, I latch onto a hot

I just stood in front of a mining poster.

I just stood in front of a mining poster. And yes, it’s July, raining, and cold.

chocolate, a brownie, and a banana. I’m eyeballing the buses that pull up to collect the white-haired seniors on a day-trip.  I’m pretty sure I can overpower at least one old gal and get on the bus in her place.

A taxi pulls away with the mother of the hiking family from Hong Kong. She has wheedled her way into the cab, her mouth going a million words a second and the driver still shaking his head. Her daughter and husband hike down the road after her.

Dallas Cowboy Fan insists we stick to the official trail. I longingly look at the hikers  below us who have taken to the road.  It will cut out a half-mile, especially the section in which we slip and slide past the roiling Stonethwaite Beck (river) on moss -slick rocks by clinging to a wire attached to boulders.  Hoo-boy. We’re having fun now!

When we finally stumble into a settlement, Dallas Cowboy Fan  asks a man getting into his car, “Is this Stone-wait?”

“Thuuh-Wait,” says the man, his tongue poised on his front teeth blowing thuuh sounds. “Thuuuh-Wait.” He pronounces it a couple more times. “It means clearing, so this is a clearing of the stones. Stonethwaite.”

“Are we there yet?”

“Yes,” he says more gently, “you’ve made it.”

The Langstrath Inn has wi-fi in a 3-foot square spot. We wait in line to stand in the spot and get our email. There’s no phone signal. Our luggage is sitting in the bar, waiting for us. But SURPRISE SURPRISE, the Little Pillow is bouncing along the outside of my suitcase tied on like a limp balloon. Someone at the Shepherd’s Arms has sent it along. (Thank you, everyone, including the Head of the Universe).

And tomorrow will be a short day.

Or so I thought. It will also be one of those “husband” days that Dallas Cowboy Fan will NEVER live down for the rest of the trip (and probably even longer).

NEXT: Day 3: “Remember? You Said To Go This Way.” : Stonethwaite to Grasmere

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Are We Even on the Trail? (or It’s Longer Than You Think): Day 1: Walking Across England, Coast to Coast

BIG OL’ DAY 1: St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge-14 Miles

The sun is out.  Our luggage is by the bar in the pub, waiting to be picked up. And we’re out the door and down the cobblestone street—only to meet the Zombie Van. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to know we won’t have to worry about zombies while hiking the U.K. because I am worried about everything else.

First we trek to the seaside to  pick up the traditional stones. I get a little one because who wants to lug a big honkin’ rock across country?  Then following another tradition; we dip our soles in the Irish Sea. Except we are so busy taking selfies, a big wave sneaks in, crashing over the tops of our boots and carrying our trekking poles out to Poseidon. We scurry after them like kids chasing balloons in a windstorm, and have to detangle the kelp wrapped and flapping around them.

We encounter our first kissing gate-devised to stupefy sheep and cows, and so-named because you can shut a person in the confines of the gate and not let them out until they give you a kiss.  After about four of these gates, Dallas Cowboy Fan is really tired of them and that’s the end of the smooches.

At about 5 miles, a young lady with dreadlocks is wandering toward us across a mushy pasture, asking if we know where we are.
“Uh….yeah,” Dallas Cowboy Fan replies. “Do you?”
“No. I’m lost,” she says with a heavy Euro accent. “I’ve been roaming these fields. I’m looking for the Coast to Coast trail.”

And that was how we picked up Kim, a 24 year-old woman from Berlin, who was turned around and accidentally headed back to the starting point.

And let me just take a minute to humble ourselves. Before we started, we thought we were very good navigators, but getting lost on the C2C trail is extremely easy to do because often there’s not a path. Or there are 4 paths and no signage. Almost everyone carries the Stedman book, which has directions like: “head for the solitary tree” or ” go  beyond the drumlins”. We carried it too. We also used maps, compasses, and the Gaia GPS App on our phones.  Sometimes it took ALL THREE FORMS of navigation to be sure of where we were. Getting off track is one of the common stories at the pub at night (when a lost soul finally finds his way in).

At mile 9, we meet the family from HongKong we’d met at the pub in St Bee’s. We’re so busy walking and talking , a woman comes out of her house, flags us down and tells us, we’ve missed the trail.

By mile 11, we’ve climbed Dent Hill and are able to look back all the way to the Irish Sea. Then the rain and wind hit. HooBoy…we’re having some fun now!! Everyone parts company and begins walking at different speeds.

There’s a magical kingdom on the other side of the Dent Hill as it drops to Nannycatch Gate (which isn’t a gate at all). Hopping across clear streams under arching trees, it’s easy to see where Tolkien got his inspiration for Rivendale, the Elven city. No picture does it justice.

Thinking we’d be at the Inn shortly, we trek on,  the hiker’s axiom is true no matter where you hike: The distance always feels longer than you think.

Hoots and hollers carry in the wind. We climb a hill to find 4 ATVs, 1 rider on a horse, 2 people on foot, and 4 dogs racing around in a rodeo sheep round-up. We left the 300 woolies bleating .  By now, Dallas Cowboy Fan is helping me heft my legs over the fence stiles because my back is hurting and tight. We trudge into Ennerdale Bridge. It has 2 inns, about 15 houses, no stores, no phone signal, and no wi-fi or TV if the wind blows.

As soon as we walk into the lovely Shepherd’s Arms Inn, the gales and rain whomp the building and start again. I flop in bed. My allergies are bad. My back is stiff and aching.

But a tiny little gift awaits me in the amoire that will change my attitude.

Next: Day 2: I Found the Stairway To Heaven

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What Had I Done to Myself? Walking Across England-Coast to Coast

There’s no reason to Panic

I keep telling myself. Over and over.

It all started about a thousand years ago when I was 28. I was going to walk over the spine of England (North to South on the Pennine Way).

I never got around to it.  So now, being a thousand years older, I thought I’d better get started on the hike.  Except, now … the more I looked at the trek, I was sure it would kill me. So I settled on crossing England in a skinnier direction: from west to east on the Coast 2 Coast Trail.

Developed by A. Wainright in 1973, this 192 mile jaunt crosses through 3 National Parks in the U.K.:  the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, and the North York Moors. I pre-hired a company (Packhorse) to carry our luggage from one inn to the next, thinking that in 15 days my husband, Dallas Cowboy Fan, and I could saunter leisurely across the countryside. I bought airline tickets.

And then the reality set in!!! What had I done?

For the next several posts, I’ll tell you about Walking Across Englaind—in case

  • you’re thinking of doing it yourself
  • you need a good laugh.

Pre-Hike: You Can’t Get There From Here

The journey starts in the out-of-reach, bitty-bitty burg of St. Bees on the Irish Sea. One of the hardest places to get to in England. And then we discovered we couldn’t get there on a Sunday. No bus. No train. So we changed our airline and train tickets, honored all traditions  surrounding travel and hiking, and arrived early to hang around an extra day at the amazing Manor House Inn with its 3-foot thick walls and Hobgoblin Ale.

In my pre-hike jitters, I had trained until I was able to walk 12 miles a day. At that point I had to quit because I’d developed tendinitis in my hip and pulled my back out of whack. But everything was setup and paid for. So I boarded the planes and trains, with bags of Advil, and heat paks, heading for this wee-village. (No kidding, the sign on our train door said: Last one leaving the coach. Close the door.)

The Manor House at St. Bees is a great home for adventurers. In the pub, we were surrounded by groups from Australia, a family from Hong Kong, and Brits starting on the walk. I looked around, amazed that half-way around the world, here we were with new friends, talking excitedly about beer, world dominion, and  the adventure of the next couple of weeks.

Me and Dallas Cowboy Fan with Alan in the middle, the King of Hospitality

Alan will make sure, you have whatever you need to start a successful journey

I didn’t say much because I secretly and sadly figured I’d be seeing most of the landscape from a bus window because of my back and hip.  When I shared my fears with the owner of the inn, he  arranged for a therapist to  give me a massage.

And that was the beginning of a lesson I’d keep learning in the next few days about hospitality.

Did it help?

We’ll see in the upcoming blogs.  And if you’re ever in St. Bees, England, stop by the Manor House. Dogs, drinkers, and anyone starting an adventure—big or little—will be set on their path with renewed hope.

NEXT: DAY 1: Are We Even on the Trail? or (It’s Longer Than You Think)

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Posted in A Laugh, Change, Coast to Coast, Humor, Traveling | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments