The Final Frontier. One More Doozy Bog To Cross: Day 15: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast

Day 15: Grosmont to Robin Hoods Bay: 15.5 Miles

Surprise! Surprise! This is the first day that my back doesn’t hurt. The sun is shining , pigeons are cooing, and…wait a minute….

More Moors.

More Moors. Walking to the horizon.

I just realize that we heard doves at dawning. Was it that way yesterday? That seems strange because through most of this hike, we’ve been awakened by sheep baaaing beside the windows. At what point in the geography did our alarm clocks change?. The ubiquitous sheep have disappeared. Even the grouse song is gone—replaced by common birds and a few gulls.

The first step outside of Grosmont treks uphill and continues upward at a heart-knocking slant.  We make good time to Little Beck, another stream, dancing through a forest. It seems Wainright has a penchant for wooded glens so muddy it requires big stones to tread through it.

As we slip and slide from stone to stone, I notice when we’d started hiking two weeks ago, the Elderflowers in the woods had been creamy-white and fragrant . Now most of the blooms have dried up and are brown. Even the blackberries which hadn’t opened their flowers when we started at the Irish Sea, now have knobby green fruits on the vines. It makes me a bit melancholy to see evidence that time has kept rolling along, but while we were wrapped in this adventure…it had seemed to us that it had stopped.

44a.To RHB

I think the trail ambles up here to look at this not-so-special tree on this moor.

It’s best not to look at a map at this point. The trail meanders far south, only to amble off to the far north again, and I’m wondering why we don’t just head  straight for the sea. At Falling Foss Waterfall, we step over several dogs in order to  sit in the tea tents. At almost every pub, there are dogs. Big and little.  They are all welcome. The well-behaved canines thump their tails a couple of times if we talk to them.  Mostly they curl up and ignore the world.

Dallas Cowboy Fan and I are tired. We’re mustering ourselves for the last push. At the Tea tents several people wish us well and luck to the end of the journey.  At this point, I suppose we look like well-worn travelers.

As we continue ambling, I’m grumping about the trail’s incessant meandering. After a bit of road walking, the trail cuts across…MORE MOORS. Hooo Boy!  Low, soggy moors. The path fans out in fifteen directions due to hikers trying to find a way across the bogs. There are duckboards floating on top of one of the swamps. There are stones for long-legged jumpers on other bogs. I’m doing my elf-hop across tufts of grass through the worst of it.

And KER-SPLASH…I go down. One leg—knee deep in swampy water. I had almost made it through. I have a few choice words for Mr. Wainright.

We range through cow paths and finally exit from the moors through a drainage ditch. A honkin’ DRAINAGE DITCH!! slippery and choked with weeds. Now, I’m really cursing the trail’s ignoble passage into the final stage.  Eventually we come out on a road called “Back Lane” and a sign that says Robin Hood’s Bay is only 2 and a half miles. Whew! Hooray!

Following the official C2C  along the Back Lane (and through a trailer park) we find signs that indicate  we’re now THREE  miles away from Robin Hood’s Bay.

Whaaaat??!!  THE TRAIL IS GETTING LONGER THE MORE WE WALK ????? I’m really using some choice vocabulary now.  At this point, I suspect Wainright was simply roaming around because he didn’t want to go home.

Go to the tippy, tippy point...and walk in.

Finally! The North Sea! Go to the tippy, tippy point of land..and walk in.

Finally, we reach the sea. Though beautiful, the cliff walk goes on until my feet are numb.  This last day has thrown everything at us, bogs, hills, mud, and  steep stone steps up and down, UP and DOWN, the cliffs.

We arrive in Robin Hood’s Bay.  We suffer culture shock.  The streets, alleyways, sidewalks, beaches, and restaurants are crammed with people. So many people—too many people—after days and days of quietness. (And maybe that was why Wainright wandered around and took his time getting here.)

WE toss the pebbles we’d picked up on the west coast  into the North Sea, and then go to the Bay Bar. Two C2Cers are already there. Four others arrive, and it is a quiet, but satisfying celebration.

By tomorrow morning, before the town and the tourists awaken, we’ll be waiting on the sidewalk for Bus 49 to take us to the train at  Scarborough and a plane to take us across the ocean to plumbing problems that “are kinda fixed.” (“I snaked the lines and put off-brand Drano down them,” Scout says. “They drain…most of the time.”) We won’t think about what lies ahead. I’m sure that as the sun comes up over Robin Hood Bay, we’ll be thinking about the other hikers across the C2C, lacing on boots and beginning their day.

Of the 26 people that we started with, 9 made it to the end.  13 dropped out. 4 persons we lost track of. We hope they make it.

And we expect all of our paths to cross again someday because that’s one of the things we’ve  learned on the amazing C2C: You never know who you’ll meet around the next bend in the trail.

We’ll be taking home more than memories. (I’m taking home the Little Magic Pillow!) We were shown many kindnesses: encouraging words from locals, extra flapjacks or candy bars  in our lunch sacks from good-hearted hosts, and I fondly think about the wizened fella who dresses in his tweeds and sits outside his cottage each morning so he can help hikers through a tricky passage, calling out, “Compt this a-way. The trail’s be passin’ behind that barn.” I experienced what hospitality means to a weary traveler. My hope is to carry that graciousness with me into my regular life.

But for tonight…we’re headed to the pub. Dallas Cowboy Fan needs to lighten his pockets of those heavy, heavy British coins.

47.The Bay Bar

 

Next: Resources/Advice: What to Take If You Go On the C2C

If you’d like to read more stories, check out the “Books” or other Blog Posts in the ribbon above.  And thank you, thank you for reading!

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Harry Potter, I’m Waiting At the Station with Father Brown’s Pear Drops: Day 14: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast

Day 14: Blakey to Grosmont: 13.75 Miles

I look outside and see rain with low clouds hanging over Carlton Moors and take another Advil. By now, our 14th English breakfast has lost all novelty.  I order porridge with bacon crushed up in it, which seems to amuse  the waitress.  She’d never had that combo before.

41a.Fat Betty

There’s actually a lot of wrapped snacks on top of it.

Suited up in our rain gear with pack covers, we again begin walking across the moors through the fog and mist.  I interrupt our striding to stop at Fat Betty.  For some reason this stumpy landmark of a cross exists without explanation. Tradition requires that you take a snack and leave a snack.

I leave one of my favorite nut-bars.  Dallas Cowboy Fan grouses, “Who wants to take anything that’s been lying out in the rain, for who knows how long?”  Finally he has the brilliant idea to leave coins. He feels pretty smug and triumphant about this because at every opportunity on this trip, he tries to pay with the “weird coinage.”  He says each time he buys something, he gets heavy money back (instead of paper bills) and it’s dragging one side of his pants down.

Off he goes, but I call him back. We HAVE to take something. Tradition demands it!  I take a few of the coins he just laid down. I don’t mind having my pants dragged off by money.   He frowns at the whole offering, finally tweezing between his fingers a tiny single piece of cello-wrapped hard candy, grumbling like an old badger that it’s probably laced with LSD.

After hours of hiking, the topography slowly changes. Trees appear along with old terraced houses built for the early ironstone miners. We know the calendar has flipped from July to August, but we’ve lost track of the days.  When we discover that it’s Sunday, we’re concerned—usually every store closes on Sunday in the country. Fortunately, one place has stayed open  (Bless you Glaisdale Tea Gardens!). We get cheese and onion toasties and huge slices of coffee cake. Through the windows, the owners point out we’re only 8 miles from our final destination. “Just over a couple of hills.” But it’s going to takes us much much longer to get there.

43.Egton Bridge to RobinHood Bay

Gotta get back to Egton Bridge

We leave and follow soggyy tracks beside the River Esk. I rip my hat from my head, flogging the hundreds of  black flies buzzing us. And in doing so, I pop the BB-size stud out of my ear. It’s a memento of another hiking trip, and Dallas Cowboy Fan thinks he can find it since he’s pretty good at finding golf balls in the rough.  I think he’s nuts, and besides, I’ve been wanting to get some new “English” earrings.  But……… I’ll be jiggered! Due to his persistence, we find that ear stud even though it’s jade green. Buoyed with our success, the sun decides to break between the clouds. We pass through the quaintest town of the whole C2C: Egton Bridge. Grand stone houses surround an uninhabited island on the river.  An old toll road leads us on to Grosmont. The toll fares are still displayed in shillings.

As we near town, the screech of a train whistle makes us look at each other. In a few minutes the chuff-chuff-chuff of the engine travels across the countryside. We pick up the pace. This we gotta see!!

The one-street former iron-smelting town is dominated by the station and intermittent comings42a.Grosmont Train and goings of steam trains. We can get up close and personal with the big ol’ magnificent monsters hissing white vapors  and belching smoke. These locomotives were part of the Hogwarts Express and were featured in the first Harry Potter movie. We’re also able to amble through a loooooong tunnel and visit the old loco sheds.

We bump into Brits John and Mary, another pair of C2Cers, in the railway shop. They

Queen Victoria made jet popular, wearing it as

Queen Victoria made jet popular, wearing it as “mourning jewelry” for her beloved Albert.

explain the uniqueness of a local stone called Whitby Jet, (wood from the Monkey Puzzle tree which has been compressed in the cliffs for a million years …really…I’m not making this stuff up.)  Well, say no more… I can get jewelry crafted by a local gal, from local jet stone, with a portion of the sale helping the local locomotive museum. Even though I found my lost earring, how can I resist the opportunity to wear British Monkey Tree fossils?

Our B&B is part of the Geall Art Gallery, beautifully adorned and right beside the depot. Once again, we wish we had more time to hang around. What’s not to love about a town that has a bookshop with overloaded shelves and a village store with jars and jars of multi-colored pence candy?  I buy 50p of pear drops. The clerk tucks it in a bitty paper packet just like they do for BBC’s Father Brown.  I sit at the station, drinking Elderflower juice (yep, that’s what the bottle says) and waiting for Harry Potter to arrive.

“Pear drop?” I offer Dallas Cowboy Fan as he strolls past like a local.

“Nope. I ate whatever that candy was that I picked up at Fat Betty,” he calls over his shoulder and keeps going. “It was good.”

It looks like he’s headed toward the Tavern.

I’m guessing he plans to unload more heavy coins.

NEXT: Day 15: The Final Frontier: One More Doozy Bog to Cross: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast.

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What Happens in the Moors—Stays in the Moors: Day 13: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast

Day 13: Osmotherly to Blakey-21 Miles

Of course, the path starts out lovely and elf-like through the woods. Immediately we40.The Cleveland Way begin climbing through country estates of moor after moor–each one getting higher, and my eyes getting bigger and bigger at the “rollercoaster gradient” (as the guidebook charmingly calls it).  I had expected a rather “flat” day of walking. By the time we’ve gone a few miles, we’ve reached nearly 3800 feet of accumulated ascent.

41.More Moors. to GrosmontEarlier, we’d stopped at Lord & Stones Tea Room for a second breakfast.  Now we stop at ClayBank Top ( a wide spot in the trail) to eat our packed lunches.  It’s one of the few places we can get a phone signal, and if we had any sense, we would call a B&B to come get us. (HINT: Stopping over at Claybank is the No. 1, item on our “If-I-had-To Do-It-Over List.” There’s only one inn within the moors (and we aren’t even close to it yet), but B&Bs from the surrounding towns will pick you up and drop you back off the next day.)  Do it…or you’ll find yourself doing strange things. . . out of tiredness.

I know I said I would stop taking shortcuts, but I lied. The first chance I had, I asked locals for secret byways across the moors. I was told, “There aren’t any.” Curses.

The trail stretches out as far as we can see in front and behind us.  There’s no one around. Mile after mile. And another mile. Then another. A little hike-crazy, I sing show tunes to pass the time.  Dallas Cowboy Fan walks faster in an attempt to get away from my Broadway Revue.  But he has begun to talk to sheep….and keep up their end of the conversation.  Sometimes he’s interrupted by grouse, harking, “Ralph, ralph, ralph,” as they fly away.  And I ralph right back at them.

31.Burger Richmond

Throughout England, I NEVER received a burger less than 6 inches tall.

Then we talk to each other. Bad jokes. tired-stupid laughter. Stories we’ve heard before.  Stories we don’t want to leave in the moors. We hone the “Where-Can-We-Hike-Next List.”   Of course, food is a topic.  But we’ve discovered from previous long hikes, there comes a stage when appetite disappears and eating is simply a function of intaking fuel.  This is the second time on this trip, we’re really not hungry, and not even discussions about the piles of potatoes, yardages of sausages, or uber-stacked hamburgers we’ve been served in England sound good. Eventually we settle into the quiet zen of walking, our legs roboting along in automatic strides, our poles thumping the beat. A light mist begins to fall. And the miles roll on.

After a long while, we round a bend between hillocks and I shout. Through the distant haze, I see the red roof of the ONLY inn on the wide, wide moors. By the time we reach it, the bottoms of our feet are numb and both of our water bags are empty.

I chug a pint as soon as we reach The Lion.  We’ve jumped ahead of most of the other C2Cers. Only 6 other people made the long haul today.  After dinner, we slip into our Swing-A-Cat room (my term for “It’s so small, you can’t swing a cat without hitting the walls).

It doesn’t matter. By now we’re used to rearranging rooms, sticking tea trays in drawers and chairs in amoires.  It has a tub to soak in. The heat and the drying racks are on.

Rain is tapping against the window—and after 21 miles, we’ve finally made it inside.

NEXT: Harry Potter, I’ll Meet You At the Station with Father Brown’s Pear Drops: Day 14: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast

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Another ShortCut; Another Mistake in Marital Bliss: Day 12: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast

Day 12: Danby Wisk to Osmotherly-9 miles

Okay. I’ve become a rebel. A malcontent. I LIKE using the public right-of-ways across private land and shouting (with fist raised), “Power to the People!!” I have now learned that wherever we go,  there’s a back way the locals use to get there.

I study our maps, wondering why Wainright has us traveling so far north today, just to have us turnabout and wander the same distance back south again. I’m starting to question Mr. Wainright’s thinking. I don’t see any eighth wonder of the world we might miss, so I  seek out locals with hidden knowledge and sidle up to them asking, “Hey, um…do you know a shortcut to Osmotherly?”

And they do!  Take the road. Goes directly there. No circling around. Yes, walking on pavement is really hard on the feet and back, but this shortcut has wide, grassy right of ways to hike on. It’ll cut 3-4 miles out of the day.

Hot Dog!!

Dallas Cowboy Fan isn’t so thrilled, but he lost his vote on the 3rd day when he elected that we traverse the “HIgh Road,” the ever-lasting ridgeline climb along Helm’s Crag.

So, looking forward to a day without sheep or mudslick trails, we take off.  My feet are pacing to the beat as I hum the Wizard of Oz’s “Follow the yellow brick road.” We make wonderful time along the sidewalk that partners with the road.

Then the sidewalk ends.

Before us are knee-high weeds and thistles. Walking on the asphalt is out of the question. Traffic is buzzing past like it’s a Mad Max movie. If I didn’t have a hat with one of those neck strings, it would blow off with each passing lorry. Dallas Cowboy Fan stomps through the nettled puckerbrush, his hand clamped to his head to keep his Dallas Cowboy ball cap on.

At one point, we climb under trees and crawl under a fence so we can walk at the edge of a wheat field, away from traffic . I get a handful of stickers for the effort—AND the wheat field soon ends. Dallas Cowboy Fan is walking in front of me, parting the grasses and stepping over road debris.  I’m pretty sure I can see steam coming out of his ears.

After two and a half hours of tramping through knee-high weeds, we come to the A19. Now, if we had taken the original Wainright trail, north of here, we would’ve had to run across this motorway, dodging 6 lanes of traffic.  But this shortcut leads us through a nifty underpass, onto a lonely road. Road noise falls away, and we’re suddenly standing next to a sign, announcing we’ve reached the moors.

Within 30 minutes we’re sitting at the oak tables in the delightful Golden Lion in Osmotherly, having a pint. And who should we find there? KIM. Kim, the 24-year-old Berliner, who we’d first met 12 days  and 143 miles ago,  who’d banged up her knee a few days ago, whose journey should’ve ended. And yet, she’s still moving forward.

And that’s one of the joys of the C2C. No matter the trail. The difficulties. The Not-So-Smart shortcuts.  There’s an inexplicable delight in the surprise meeting of our other sojourners.

Osmotherly is an enchanted village for a hiker. The wide windows of our room in the Golden Lion look down on the town center where John Wesley preached at that market table (next to the tractor going down the street). Tidy, terraced cottages whisper of the flax workers who used to labor at the mill. There’s even the Boot & Coffee Shop (in addition to 3 pubs). And to add comfort and homey-ness , each table at the Golden Lion is graced with a lit taper (even at breakfast).

37.lightened

Ding dong ding. Every 15 minutes all through the night.

As we drift off to sleep in the best, firmest bed that I’ve encountered so far on the trip (with Little Pillow snugged under my back), Dallas Cowboy fan says, “Okay. I admit that it was nice to get in early and have some exploration and rest time, BUT NOW….NO more shortcuts, okay?”

“Yeah, okay.”

Just then the church bells begin their slow toll in minor keys,  and THAT should’ve foretold me:  I’D AGREED TOO SOON.

NEXT: What Happens in the Moors—Stays in the Moors Day 13: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast

 

 

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I Don’t Think We’re In England Anymore: Day 11: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast

Blame it on the nice bed and hot tub. Blame it on my Little Special Pillow which helps ease my back. But Dallas Cowboy Fan and I look at each other this morning and say. “I don’t really feel like walking today.”  And then I tie the Little Pillow onto my suitcase like it’s a fat, reluctant hostage. Dallas Cowboy Fan puts on his boots, and we head for the trail, lest we think too long about going back to bed.

We do a bit of shopping around town. Richmond, unlike other villages we’ve passed through is open for business EARLY. Picking up some meat pies for lunch from Taylors Noted Pie Shop, we then buoy ourselves at Frenchgate Fudge & Chocolate Makers by loading up on thick hot chocolates and a good supply of chocolate-rum truffles to get us through the day.

Day 11: Richmond to Danby Wiske: 14 Miles

The heavens open and water pours like it’s coming out of  fire hoses. Straight down. No

Yep, his head is stuck in the fence and he can't figure out how to back out. No. He isn't still stuck there.

Yep, his head is stuck in the fence and he could’t figure out how to back out. No. He isn’t still stuck there.

slant. Hoo Boy. Happy July 30th. We don’t faff around. We are getting very good at whipping out our rain gear and suiting up. Even the sheep are clustered under the trees today—which, Dallas Cowboy Fan says, “Is the smartest thing I’ve seen any sheep do, so far.” He doesn’t consider them too bright.

We round a corner and are surprised to find Leslie, a British C2Cer. She is standing  still and straight like a little gnome under an oak tree because she has no rain jacket or brolly (umbrella–which some Euros hike with)She plans to wait a wee bit for the storm to pass.

We continue through barley and rapeseed fields. After 7 miles, we stop in Bolton-On-Swale at the lovely St. Mary’s church.  We’d hoped it would be open and it is, offering refreshments. We sit in the breaking sunshine among gravestones, sipping hot tea and trying to dry out. A gentle lady comes through the cemetery. She and another parishioner consider it their service to take turns, coming to the church each afternoon to make sure there are snacks and libations.   5 weary hikers (including Leslie and us) pass through to sip hot drinks and chat, soaking up the kindness. Again and again, I’m touched by the hospitality shown to strangers. We leave a donation and put a pin in the world map to mark our home. We are the first to mark Oregon.

In a few more miles, it doesn’t seem like we’re in the United Kingdom anymore, I learn once again, I must correct my images of what England looks like. We are passing through broad fields of wheat—like in Oklahoma or eastern Oregon.

It seems that across the whole of England, only several farmers don’t like hikers crossing their land. The guidebook tells hikers to TURN Right at the Blue Garage Doors in Streetlam.

I’m telling you to turn left and take the road the rest of the way to Danby Wisk.  You and your boots will miss a slip’n’slide experience through a horselot several inches deep in gooey muck, a boggy creek bottom with weeds up to your crotch, and carefully treading next to a wheat field in which a farmer has erected an electrified line a couple of feet high and just a few inches beside the trail to keep footfalls on the outer 6 inches of the field. I’m sure it’s tiring to have people passing through your land, and I’m not sure why the “official route,” does so, but I suggest taking to the road, and thoroughly enjoying the folks who love having you near their village.

And Danby Wisk is a great area. Jean at the Ashford House gives us a cuppa when we arrive and encourages lively discussions around her kitchen table.  She even joins us at the White Swan for a pint.  We’ve discovered the best places that we’ve stayed are because the owners sit down and visit with us…as though we were family. (An amazing gift of time in their busy schedules).

NEXT:  Another Shortcut. Another  Mistake for Marital Bliss: Day 12: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast

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Party!! In the Middle of A Sheep Farm: Day 9 & 10: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast

Day 9: Keld to Reeth: 11 Miles

We are now in a routine. Each evening we walk into a village, thirsty for a pint of something. We eat, do our chores: filling water bags, replenishing our packs with snacks, looking over the next day’s route, and rinsing  FAST-DRY underwear. We text for updates on the plumbing and get nebulous replies like: “Still working on it.” I slather my feet with Vaseline and snug them into socks, then make notes in my journal, falling asleep with pen in hand. Dallas Cowboy Fan tries to find sports on TV, falling asleep with the remote control in hand. The next day we walk and do it again.

But this morning….while we are waiting for our porridge, beans, and smoked bacon, a young lady slips into the chair next to mine. KIM!!

Kim of Berlin, dredlocks, and swollen knee fame.  She’d stumped in late in the evening. Through the rain. Wet as a fish. And here she was ready to go again.  Tyler Burgess in one of her walking tip guides has said that during the C2C, almost everyone has some part of their body hurting.  I think of that often whenever my back aches. But here is a gal doing a stiff-legged stump along the trail. I’m inspired.

We begin the day on a lovely low route next to the chocolate brown waters of the Rosegill. 28a.Beck from ReethDifferent locals tell us different causes:

  • a) Iron in the soil
  • b) The water is filtered through peat
  • c) The roiling water is carrying sediment because the stream has risen 2 meters since the day before due to all the rain.

We also cross many rabbit warrens with their holes punctuating the ground. And we often step over dead and rotting rabbit carcasses on the trail. (We are later told that the rabbits are such a problem, farmers shoot them, and I see why because we once passed a rabbit metropolis with at least 50 hares grazing and digging up a playground.)

Dallas Cowboy Fan enjoying a Bounty candy bar in Healaugh

Dallas Cowboy Fan enjoying a Bounty candy bar (which is just like a Mounds bar) in Healaugh

We have begun stopping at village benches, having a snack, and watching the world go by. Actually, while here in Healaugh, nothing goes by. Not a car, bicycle, or human, and we wonder if the world has ended and we’re so far in the dales, we don’t know anything has happened.

We stay at the Buck Hotel in Reeth. It has a grand pub, and I’m surprised to be served one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had.

Day 10: Reeth to Richmond: 11 Miles.

Whoo-Hoo. This day starts out sunny.  We blink like bats at the light. Within a few miles of starting out, many of the C2Cers have clotted together. Fourteen of us traipsing across a pasture.  This is the first time we’ve ran into more than 2 other people (except in pubs).  We thread our way through a corral  of cows lying around, and I take off on another shortcut. I laugh at how nervous and insistent I used to be about staying exactly on the path. Well…actually my wanderlust  turns out not to be a smart shortcut. We’re soon tracking in cattle muck 4 inches deep, but armed with compasses and a GPS we make it to a local bridleway by cutting across fields. I’d bent off-trail because I’d read about a tea room in the middle of these pasture lands. A refuge among the sheep, and I’m looking for it.

And sure enough, we find Elaine’s kitchen. Her glass conservatory has a group of32.Elaine's farm house.To Danby Wiske neighbors packed into one table.  Dallas Cowboy Fan and I step into her kitchen. Thousands of ribbons for sheep awards hang from the rafters. A frypan of something  on the stovetop smells delectable. We ask for hot chocolates, toasties,  and homemade apple pie.  Soon 3 other C2Cers find their way to her little tearoom.

I look around, amazed that I am in the middle of England, eating at a sheep farm, like it’s a family reunion with old friends.

Moving on another 3-4 miles, we stop at Marske, an estate town with proper, tidy lawns. Taking our well-suited place on the town bench, we have lunch and I discover that I LOVE the pack lunch of tuna and sweetcorn on malted brown bread that last night’s B&B has made for me.

In 6 more country miles, we arrive at Richmond, the biggest city on the trail. We do a quick tour of the castle ruins, but hurry back to Arandale Inn. Our eyes pop out of our head when we see our room.

We’re soon floating around a hot tub (and I soaked in the claw-footed tub, too) before we head out to a French restaurant.

And Scout’s Text didn’t even phase us: Still working on plumbing problem.  Now a gutter is plugged, water running off roof  and down side of house.

NEXT: I Don’t Think We’re In England Anymore: Day 11: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast.

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Butt-Squeezing Walls: Day 7 & 8: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast

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

Boarded-Up railway depot

Boarded-Up railway depot. The tracks once ran down the valley.

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 ha24.1400 yr old bridge.Kirby Stephend 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.

23a.Rock walls in YorkshireIt 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

25a.Low Road to Keld

Yes, I’m leaning heavily on my poles, but I figured the road beat wading through bogs. Yep. We’re headed for the far horizon.

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.

7.The whole town of Keld

The whole town of Keld

Perhaps in sunny weather Keld is a blast. 26a.Keld phone boothBut 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.

NEXT: Toasties, Tea, in the Middle of Sheep: Day 9 & 10: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast

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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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