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
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.
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
(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.