As I was leaving the chocolate shop in Orton, I pulled my rain jacket out of my day pack. My sunglasses fell out, smacking the cobblestones and snapping in two.
I held the broken frames up, exclaiming, “Now I’ll have to buy a pair of English sunglasses.”
“No you won’t,” said a British passer-by, pointing at the gray, misty skies.
Day 7: Orton to Kirkby Stephen: 12.75 miles
The pastures continue to roll on. After a severely steep hill, we happened onto a stone railway
cottage that seems to sit in the middle of nowhere. Three Brits, out walking their dogs on the path where the rails used to be, tell me that this line used to haul iron ore across the country to the coal mines, so the ore could be smelted.
Centuries ago, this had been a crossroads of trade—as evidenced by this rock bridge built on a cobblestone road in the 1400s. Now it sits in the middle of pastureland.
Stone fences in strange geometric shapes outline the lower fields. And this would be a good time to tell you about stiles.
By law, farmers must provide at least a 9 inch passageway, so they’ve constructed clever methods to keep animals in and let humans through.
But here’s the thing. If you’re tall, you can simply slip your long ol’ legs through the slots and walk on. But if you’re short like me, your bottom and hips better only be 9 inches across or you’ll be stuck and squirming like an ox trying to step through a rubberband. It can be done, but not without a struggle or the person behind you laughing like crazy. After a while, crossing pasture to pasture, these quaint slot or “squeeze” passages get a bit annoying, and all that compressing doesn’t minimize hip size AT ALL.
It drizzles on us most of the day. That evening, touring the town, we step into St. Stephens church in Kirkby Stephen, arriving in the narthex just in time for Evensong. “Go drag them in,” says an old lady to the vicar. And that’s how we end up joining the two parishioners for the lovely, thoughtful service.
The good-humored vicar and priest also give us a blessing for safe passage and then take us on a personal, historical tour of the church. This site (since the days of the Norse) has been a place of different types of worship for 2,000 years and contains the only Loki stone in England. (There are only two Loki stones in Europe).
Day 8: Kirkby Stephen to Keld: 12 Miles
I’m smooshing the report of this section with previous one, because…well, the rain greeted us and stayed with us for the entire stretch. It was sort of miserable. Not much to look at. Not even many sheep.
We could’ve passed over the high route of 9-Standard Rigg, but it was covered in fog (even in late July), and very boggy (even in late July). So we took to the low route along the road.
Perhaps in sunny weather Keld is a blast. But today…not so much. I’m sad there is no confetti or autograph seekers. After all—this is our half-way point. We’ve strolled over 98 miles. Keld used to be at the center of the local lead-mining. The village hangs on because of tourism. There are public toilets (always welcome on the C2C and one of Her Majesty’s red telephone booths. As we eat dinner in our B&B, we notice the telephone booth stays quite busy. There’s no cell phone signal in Keld.