Plan B Day 2

So another breakfast and a mushroom this time, as well as the poached egg and bacon. Having initially not really warmed to the place, I found myself sad to leave the Swan at Grasmere.

Very kind staff and a pretty good room. And a piping hot breakfast.

Onward to Carlisle, by way of bus, then train replacement (coach speeding through country lanes) and then real train to Carlisle, which is nice enough if you like small cities on a humid Friday night.

I did go however to the cascading poppies at Carlisle castle and it’s a marvellous installation.

I also did a lightening tour of the walls and the dungeons. This was called the licking wall, where prisoners were left to rot and resorted to licking the moisture and salts from a crevice in the wall.

I didn’t just do history. Before I came to Carlisle I researched Birkenstocks online and sure enough, I found a shop here where I could actually buy some. The shop assistant was great and found me a pair of the correct size. I said “I’ll take them.” Wear them now. Then she looked at my feet, gently oozing, and said “There’s no returns on those. ”

Fine. Great. I also went to the cathedral and St Cuthbert’s church, and bought a stash of ready meal goodies from M and S. Oh yes. Let’s call it self care. So I’m ok, I’d rather be walking but I’m seeing lovely things, noticing details. Talking to decent people and watching Timothy West and Prunella Scales narrow boating on a super duper tv. And waiting for my paella to warm up. Tomorrow. Whitby.

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Plan B

What I wanted to do today is walk from Patterdale to Shap.

What I’ve done already – and it’s only 1.30pm – is have a leisurely shower and tend to me feet,which if you’re interested look marginally better, but not well enough to put back inside a sweaty boot. And I feel a bit guilty that they’re oozing onto snowy white linen, so I’ve given them their own towel. I have pictures should you want them. 😱

Then I had breakfast. I was placed in a discreet alcove from where I could observe all the other people who have family and friends to eat with. I eked out my granola and very good coffee and ordered a poached egg and bacon from the menu. The waitress snorted at this derisory breakfast but I said I couldn’t do the kippers, beans and hash browns justice. They brought my tiny meal ( according to them) on a massive and scalding hot plate and it did look a little like a sad food island but it was yummy and it stayed hot to the end and I ate it all.

It’s exciting isn’t it? Who wants to walk those peaks anyhow.

Then I joined the multitude who don’t. Walk the peaks that is. Yesterday I researched how to escape Grasmere without a car. Not easy. And I have to go via Windermere where the station is. I’ve ascertained ticket prices and broken the journey into four stages over two days. And written it all down with dates, places and prices. This is so not me, but maybe it s the new me.

Next I bought a Lakeland roamer bus ticket and talked to a friendly lady about her holiday and my predicament. She glanced at my toes and told me I hadn’t tied my laces tightly enough. I felt pretty peeved at that but bit my lip, which hurt. I’m not a novice walker and it’s horrid being judged, especially when you feel a ninny anyway. So she and I parted ways and I wish her well. The only peak she and her husband hadn’t climbed was Pillar. And they won’t now being nearly eighty. Still they have memories so she said, mostly of putting people right on map reading and how to adjust their kit I expect. Still I hope I’m walking in the Lakes when I’m eighty, and have a memory.

So onward to Windermere by open top bus and a very lovely ride it was. I sat at the front on top and saw all the sights and tried to match them to the commentary.

Got off at Windermere and waved my research findings paper at the man at the desk who looked at them quizzically. He didn’t believe I’ve found the cheapest route to Whitby and was determined to find a loophole.

But he didn’t. Ha! So now I have my tickets out of here, for tomorrow. 😉 Just when I’m getting to like the place and lounging in yoga pants, wondering what to eat next.

Heartened by my own thoroughness I walked downhill into Windermere which I remember from years ago. I was ostensibly looking for Birkenstocks but found none.

But I did find the library which had an exhibition called From Auschwitz to Ambleside about 300 Jewish children who were relocated there after the war. Four survivors had narrated the story on a short film in 2010, and its a terrific piece of film and very moving. In part a survivor told of the forced march into Czechoslovakia at the end of the war and being billeted in a bombed out factory overnight where he found a dried pea which he broke into four pieces to make it last longer. I sat on my own and wept a little. They were so grateful and so lucky.

Then I bought a banana and some fizzy water and got on the bus to Bowness, where I’ve never been and will never go again. Let’s just say I stayed on the bus and travelled back listening to the commentary a second time. I spotted more of the sights this time.

So no pics, except of my toes which you don’t need to see. But I’m relaxing into being a semi retired walker and seeing what happens next. I’m ok with that, for now, thanks for asking. One day at a time.

Borrowdale to Grasmere

Another hot day and super walking but too much for my poor toes which have taken a pounding so much so that I have had to abandon this walk. I feel very sad that something I’ve looked forward to so much has ended for me prematurely. Becky and Helen are carrying on but I’m in a hotel trying to find a way out of here. Not easy. Cars are so useful. I hope to finish it something and then I’ll have my bag carried to spare my toes. I’m a pilgrim not a martyr. Love to all.

Ennerdale to Borrowdale

Every picture tells a story which is just as well as I’m too tired to write. Dorothy our host was kind and cooked a big breakfast including an artfully carved orange. A long hot lovely walk. Utter loveliness as we walked past Ennerdale water and through the forest to Black Sail. Then a steep climb and tricky descent towards Honnister Slate Mine where we had tea and cake in the cafe. And onward to Borrowdale YHA. The ground is hard and unyielding to the feet and mine have suffered a bit. So on with the Compeed. And for me ibuprofen and rest.

We took on plenty of water and stopped for longish breaks – it was still hard. Still everyone was suffering and no one expected extreme heat.

Now we are at the youth hostel where people are friendly and sunburnt. There’s happy noises outside but I’m relishing just being still. And so to bed. Tomorrow Grasmere.

Onward to Borrowdale

After 12 hours horizontal I feel much better, more optimistic, if not exactly brimming with confidence. It can’t be overstated what rest does for you, for me.

We are staying in an over furnished, dimly lit farm house with sloping ceilings and creaking floor boards. Slightly skuzzy. Let’s just say the walking tour people aren’t boarded here. There s an entirely empty dormitory sleeping 8+. Thank the Lord because there’s only two loos and showers and it would be a squeeze. And the noise…

But we are alone here and the beds are comfy and the linen clean.

When we arrived and collapsed onto the vinyl (wipe down) armchairs our host kindly asked us what we wanted for our breakfast and we said all of it ex sausage. Now having eaten and slept I don’t fancy that at all. But there’s no going back, I’ve chosen. I’ll eat it. I doubt if there’ll be granola and berries. Muesli dust maybe.

We’ll do better today. We’ll drink more at breakfast. We’ve asked for a packed lunch. Cheese and pickle or cheese was the choice. Yesterday we were tearing apart dry malt loaf, while perched on an upturned sheep trough. Surrounded by what sheep produce. High living indeed.

Yesterday I was tired and uncertain. My legs were wobbly on the final descent, which apparently is the steepest incline of the whole thing. Phew, well that’s done. Be thankful. But it wasn’t high, or that far, or really gruelling. It was just hot and on our first day it was a shock to the system. If this weather persists I’ll consider having my bag carried. But theres no point worrying about what might happen, worry is not preparation as they say. I’ll do my best with the tools I have ( cheerfulness and ibuprofen mostly) to make this a good day. One day at a time. One foot in front of the other. Love it really.

Helen sleeps on.

Day one Coast to Coast

6.30pm and I’m in bed already. I’ve learned that just being horizontal helps me recover. Today wasn’t a difficult walk but we were wrong footed by a shop we were relying on being closed and therefore didn’t have enough water or food really. But a new walking pal gave us a whole malt loaf and three apples. God bless you Charlie.

Some stiff climbs and stiffer descents in very hot weather means we are a bit tired. We can still see the sea from our room in Ennerdale but mostly you can see hills and moors. We had a kind welcome with tea and shortbread. We had an Indian takeaway and done our washing and dried it on a sunny washing line and now despite a beautiful evening are headed to bed. Needs must.

We saw some of the ultra runners today. I won’t lie. It did not look appealing. They looked hot and tired, but then so do I. Why do we do this? Answers on a postcard please.

Day 1 St Bees to Ennerdale

This lovely lady is St Bega. She looks like she’s weeping bird poop. But there or thereabouts marks the start of the Coast to Coast. It’s nearly 200 miles of walking through the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and the Yorkshire Moors. The prospect of this walk has seen me through a deep dark dank dirty winter. And now we are here. In a seaside guest house which has seen better days but which provided a welcome. Unlike the pub up the road which didn’t. The service was ‘slack’ – our landlady’s word. And apt.

A little taster of the amenities: loos like this used to terrify me as a child. But I’m a big girl now and I can go on my own.

I know you like seeing my stuff so here it is. Travel light. It’s the only way.

A pint of Peroni and a takeout pizza for dinner last night and the promise of bacon and mushrooms this morning set us up for the day’s exertions. 15 miles and a bit of a hill. There’s a guy here running a 36mile race today. Respect. I’ll watch what he eats at breakfast and learn some.

So it’s off round this headland and into the hills. Can’t wait.

Waiting

The rucksack slouches in the hall. “Head up. Chest open. Feet evenly planted.” I encourage.

“I don’t have feet, in case you hadn’t noticed. What I do have is a nasty stain round the base. Last year’s mud. You never did sponge me down. You never did the training either. Or lost that half stone.”

“True. But I’m still going to walk. And you are coming with me. Like before. And you boots,

you’re coming too. ”

“But you bought the Merrels and the Salomans. They’re smarter and lighter and more waterproof. ”

“But I trust you. Dug you out from behind the wellies, hoovered out the spiders. You’re dubbined and polished. Ready.”

“As I’ll ever be.”

“Yes, we are all ready as we’ll ever be.”

(Shamelessly filched from Anthony Wilson and his peerless ‘book’).

Time to do nothing – except walk 200 miles.

I’ve just listened to a rather good Thought for the Day. They can be banal or tedious but this was spot on.

Today is St Bede’s Day and he, it seems,was very interested in time. He didn’t have our current obsession with squeezing as much into our day as possible. He didn’t see time as a commodity to be spent, saved or wasted but as a series of moments, held and marked out in the day, season and calendar in which God was present to be worshipped and known.

Not everyone has that focus of course. But conversation about modern life and mental health is often about anxiety, distraction, FOMO, (fear of missing out), and a generalised sense of inadequacy. We have so much available to us at our fingertips and yet are less happy and satisfied than previous generations. I went to see Bill Bailey recently and he said, that in the West we are more likely to die of obesity than starvation, and of suicide than at the hands of a terrorist. So “Death is coming, but on our terms.” I digress.

Anyhow this morning’s speaker was encouraging us this weekend to put down our phones, unplug the the earphones and spend time just being with our family and friends. Nothing to argue with there.

But I still find it hard. I am in the middle of packing for the Next Big Walk which starts tomorrow, and I’m massively distracted by texts and emails and general nonsense.

However the very good thing as I’ve said before about walking is the simplicity of it: one foot in front of the other. And I carry only just enough stuff for that time away. And you know it’s getting less and less.

Here’s Helen’s list. It’s impressive and comprehensive and actually quite simple. This is what we bring.

2T shirts ( not cotton)

Fleece

Lightweight padded coat

Waterproof coat

Waterproof trousers

Warm long sleeved base layer

Buff

2 bras

3 knickers

Vest/t shirt for evening

Zip off trousers

Trekking skirt or second pair of shorts

Warm hat

Leggings for evening

2 thin socks

2 thick socks

Walking boots

Lightweight trainers for the evening

Phone

Charger& wire

(Juicer for phone)

Glasses & sunglasses

(Clothes line)

( head torch)

(Space blanket)

Shoulder bag or equivalent for evening

Notebook and pen

Guidebook/map

Stamps

Rucksack and waterproof cover

Earplugs

Safety pins

Tweezers

Penknife

(Gaffer tape)

(Playing cards)

Face/baby wipes

(In my first aid kit

Plasters

Painkillers

Antihistamines

Nail scissors

Compeed)

Anti mozzi spray)

Comb

Deodorant

Face moisturiser with SPF 15/20

Sun cream SPF 30

Lypsyl SPF 30

Razor

Small bottle Shampoo which doubles as body wash/ detergent

Tooth brush &toothpaste

Lightweight cup

Spork

Water bottle

Purse with cash and cards

(Pilgrim purse to share)

(Lightweight stove

Teabags)

This year I’m bringing flip flops as I yearning to get my toes out in the evening last year. And spare laces and ends for my poles. And for some reason I carry cable ties. Ready to construct a stretcher – of course.

And yes we carry it all. But we are not averse to a willing Sherpa should the need arise.

Yes my clothes all fit in those zippy bags. And I’ll be wearing some tomorrow. Phew. I’ll try and post again later. Just priming the blogging pump so to speak.

So… Windy Gyle to Kirk Yetholm 14 miles 

We made it! But my phone didn’t. With seven miles to go I realised I had lost it between the last mountain refuge hut and The Schil, the last big climb on the PW.  Not a long distance but too far to really go back and the heather and moss too deep to search, so these photos are Helen’s. Thank you dear friend. 

 Think you get now that this walk is hard: it’s tougher than I imagined, wetter and hotter and steeper both up and down those wild hills. But so beautiful and. So much fun. Even when your accommodation is cramped like this

Four post menopausal women in bunk beds. It’s an experience- you have to laugh or you’d cry. Last night  I woke up at home and wondered where I was and poked my ears for my ear plugs. 

We did it. I had a little weep over my lost phone and photos- no wifi to upload to the cloud- and then I thought, but I’m here and doing it and that’s the important thing – that little lens didn’t come between me and the experience of The End. 

It was hot – we sat in Scotland in the sun and drank our free half pint with new kind friends and groaned over the funny awful awesomeness of the Pennine Way. 

I laughed a lot. I whined and grumbled some. I was often silly. But I am so blessed to have these friends to walk with. And I’m grateful I can still do it. Thank you Becky, Sue and Helen for your love and friendship. It means the world to me. 

And look here I am upright and smiling. 

I love this picture.