Onward ever onward

Well hi, long time, no write. And I’ve missed you too. And yes I’ve done a bit of walking and some writing though not half so much as I might have. I’m holding back on the shoulds, for now.

Now seems a good enough time as any to resume the blog. I stopped and then didn’t know how to start again. Like contacting an old friend – a ‘have I left this too long?’ feeling. But actually I’m always pleased to hear from old friends, so fingers crossed you ll like hearing from me.

One reason I haven’t written is that my life is sooo ordinary and no-one really wants to hear about that do they? But now we are all in the same dull boat so to speak (thank you Covid19) the playing field is pretty much levelled. So here I go.

How is this whole thing affecting you? Rhetorical question. Though you can answer it if. you like. For me not much has changed. I live in a rural setting and see very few people anyway. I do my shopping online and dislike crowds. But I do miss:

  • Seeing and hugging my grandchildren. I miss their chirpy little voices and Jacob holding out his arms for a love and a carry.
  • Having swimming lessons. I began learning proper front crawl in September and was making decent progress. I felt like a fat old numpty but I enjoyed it.
  • Planning and doing ‘practice walks’ with friends: they don’t have to be new and fascinating walks , in fact I liked familiar walks better because you don’t have to consult the map so often and, in the same way you don’t step into the same river twice, every time you walk through a wood it’s different.
  • Eating out. Not that I’m a fine diner, but I enjoy being cooked for and the tenor of conversation is different even in a modest coffee shop.

And planning. I had three holidays planned for this year all in the UK, two have been cancelled. The other in the summer we just don’t know, do we? But half the fun of a holiday for me is the planning.

First world problems. And I’m grateful that so far this virus has not directly hit my family and friends and the price we are paying is relatively painless. I give thanks daily for my garden, that I have plants to tend, enough to eat and interesting tasty food. I am thankful for the internet that so much information and entertainment is available to me. For all the humour and silliness and generosity of spirit so many people are showing. And while I don’t claim to be a great or even a good writer, maybe we can distract ourselves for a while from the humdrum or sometimes tragic reality we face.  I’m loving  the silly youtube/insta posts best.

Leaving lockdown



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.

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.


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)


Lightweight padded coat

Waterproof coat

Waterproof trousers

Warm long sleeved base layer


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


Charger& wire

(Juicer for phone)

Glasses & sunglasses

(Clothes line)

( head torch)

(Space blanket)

Shoulder bag or equivalent for evening

Notebook and pen



Rucksack and waterproof cover


Safety pins



(Gaffer tape)

(Playing cards)

Face/baby wipes

(In my first aid kit




Nail scissors


Anti mozzi spray)



Face moisturiser with SPF 15/20

Sun cream SPF 30

Lypsyl SPF 30


Small bottle Shampoo which doubles as body wash/ detergent

Tooth brush &toothpaste

Lightweight cup


Water bottle

Purse with cash and cards

(Pilgrim purse to share)

(Lightweight stove


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.