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Introduction

The Coast to Coast Walk: St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay

13th -24th April 2005: 12 Days

Introduction

After a frantic last day, configuring new PC and buying last minute essentials (trousers), departure day dawned overcast and drizzly. I packed final items in my rucksack, which seemed very heavy as I lugged it into Kym’s car for the short drive to Hale Station.

The Journey

Train to Stockport on time at 06:49 and made connection to Edinburgh train at 07:29. Mixed feelings about starting: excited to be off after so long wanting to do this, but also a little daunted by what I’ve read about ‘necessary preparation’ on the internet. Still – nothing ventured…

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Connected to local train at Lancaster. Scenic journey up across Morecambe Bay and around the coast via Barrow. Very rickety but great views. Arrived St Bees on time at 11:03 and walked the mile from station to sea front.

St Bees Station

The Coast to Coast Walk
Day 1

13th April 2005 - St Bees to Ennerdale Bridge: 14.5 miles

The Journey

My pack and boots felt fine as I reached the memorial that marked the start of the ‘C2C’. Got a holidaymaker to take my photo then set off to shouts of ‘Good luck!’ up the path to the cliffs.

The start!

Out of breath almost immediately but marched on taking slight detour to touch the sea at Fleswick Bay: unusual sandstone rocks.

Fleswick Bay Rocks

Fleswick Bay Rocks

Up the cliffs again meeting a frightened American lady. Saw why later as the path fringed a sheer 300 foot drop. Lots of nesting birds and smell of guano.

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St Bees Head

After leaving cliffs a combination of reasonable countryside and dismal small towns, all with the unfortunate view of the Whitehaven chemical works.

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Finally left this (after seeing a lizard on a stile) and started up Dent Fell – an unremitting slog of severe gradient. Phoned Kym at summit cairn – great views of the Isle of Man and Galloway Mountains and down the Cumbrian coast.

Dent Fell Summit

Western Fells from Dent Fell

Met a fell runner on the top and he passed me again on the way down to suggest reverting to the old Wainwright route. It was scenic but very steep and I felt blisters on my feet and pain in my houlders from my rucsac – the pain stayed for the rest of the day. Lost time at the bottom of the valley as I couldn’t work out where I was. Eventually picked up a trail – saw three dead sheep and was glad I hadn’t re-filled my dwindling water supply from the stream they were in! Another long slog up the trail to Kinninside where I met the road for the descent down to Ennerdale Bridge. Slightly disappointing place but lovely situation. Couldn’t see any B&Bs so headed for the Shepherd’s Arms.

A single B&B was £42.00 and despite the landlord phoning around, that was all that was available, so booked in as I was very tired. The room was very basic and certainly didn’t justify the price: neither did the shower down the corridor. My clothes were wet with sweat so put them on the radiator and watched the news. Changed, went to public phone box. Kym had a few numbers in Rosthwaite, but again, couldn’t get through so ended up booking into The Royal Oak for DB&B. Landlord gave me tips for the next day. Back to the pub for a passable meal of spinach and Wensleydale pie and chips.

14th April 2005 - Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite: 14.5 miles

Day 2

Slept well but woke early. Packed then down for breakfast – surly lady owner. Paid and owner kindly lent me a compass. Set off under grey skies feeling surprisingly good considering how I’d felt last night. Arrived Ennerdale Water and took path along the southern shore. Met two septuagenarian locals who walk every day. Heard woodpecker and saw many unusual birds (reminds me: saw larks ascending yesterday). Passed two runners doing a lap of the lake. Eventually got to the end of the lake and started up the forest road past Gillerthwaite. Started drizzling.

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Ennerdale Water from path to Hay Stacks

Followed advice and left the track to take the trail up to Hay Stacks. Passed parties of youngsters descending: they said I was the first human they’d seen for 24 hours! Stopped to re-dress blister, which had grown bigger. Cut a stick, for which I was very grateful later on. Weather deteriorated as I climbed: very rocky and hard going. Met parties descending and one chap at the cairn on top. Didn’t stop, despite good views of Buttermere and Crummock Water. Haystacks ridge was difficult walking but eventually started descending and met two path repair chaps, who gave directions.

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Buttermere and Crummock Water from Hay Stacks

Underestimated the walk that remained and started feeling very weary as I passed their Landrover and ascended a new rough road to the slate quarry. Became disorientated as there was no sign of the quarry on the map. Stopped in the lee of a large standing stone of slate for a drink and tried to eat a cereal bar, but couldn’t hold it as I was so cold. Started off again, assuming that the track would return to Honister Pass and soon saw the pass a long way below. Knees started hurting badly on the steep descent. Felt like giving up when I saw a slate slab inscribed with Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’.  When I got to the bit that said ‘keep going even when every nerve and sinew is aching…’ I burst into tears and determined to press on.

Eventually reached Honister and realised that the workings I’d seen were the re-opened slate quarry (2001): hence the changed landscape! Pressed on down the road and after another long and painful descent got to Seatoller, where I took shelter in a bus stop and finished my water and coffee. Then a relatively easy 1.5 miles back to Rosthwaite along the river.

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Arrived 16:45 in time for wonderful tea and scones served by a really friendly girl. Then chatted to a couple from Knaersborough before a great hot bath (hell on the foot blisters). Re-dressed the blisters and put just about everything in the drying room!

Phoned home, hopefully not sounding too despondent! Grabbed diary and went in for a hearty three course dinner, which I struggled to finish. Struck up conversation with a group of 70 year old friends from Liverpool University (50 years ago!), two of whom had done the Coast to Coast! Am getting a little despondent at how many relatively elderly folk seem to have done this!

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15th April 2005 – Rosthwaite to Grasmere: 9.25 miles

Day 3
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After feeling dog tired just after dinner I found I couldn’t get to sleep when I finally turned in – probably on account of the harmonious sing-song in the room below! Finally drifted off but slept fitfully. Woke early and wondered how the knees would be: not good! Had sorted through pack last night, separating out those things without which I could not reach Robin Hood’s Bay from the ‘nice to haves’. Resolved to ditch the latter. Breakfast was fine but again, I had little appetite – actually quite sick with nerves. Said my goodbyes and made for the shop where I bought Nurofen! Thence back to the Post Office, in a lady’s back kitchen at Stonethwaite. She was helpful and I left with only about 60% of my original load.

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Stonethwaite from Stonethwaite Fell

Pack felt better but knees were bad as I hiked up Greenup Gill. Countryside and views were spectacular but I couldn’t really appreciate them. Gloved up and substituted hood for hat as I hit the wind and saw the snow on the tops. The climb seemed to go on for ever. Skirted Lining Crag and reached the top of Greenup Edge.

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Greenup Edge

Wasn’t too sure where I was but spied a chap walking the ridge, took a punt and hit the right track down towards Far Easedale. Met two shepherds bringing down sheep – presumably for lambing. The descent was tortuous but spectacular – knees aching badly with each step. It was remarkable how long the descent was.

Half way down I saw lots of bags of rocks to repair paths, which had been dropped by helicopter. Shortly after I was joined by a bedraggled looking sheep dog, who accompanied me most of the way down. Stopped a couple of times for a drink. Was blown over a couple of times in the strong wind that came down the valley. Eventually made more level ground, which was easier on the knees. Reached the Easedale Road into Grasmere and after one fruitless enquiry about accommodation I used the Tourist Information to book me into a B&B. Wandered round Grasmere and bought gingerbread and some blister pads!

Got to the B&B as the rain came down again. Had to wait for the owner to return from Kendal so was wet through when I finally got in.

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View from Ivy Dene B&B in Grasmere

Reasonable enough place but only a shower. Had that then lay on the bed and watched TV mindlessly! Washed through my, now limited, supply of clothes then set out for tea. Walked to The Traveller’s Rest where I phoned home – all well. Had a lovely dish of lamb shank but couldn’t face a pudding or more than one drink.

16th April 2005 – Grasmere to Patterdale: 8.5 miles

Day 4
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Tongue Gill

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Another fitfull night’s sleep. Legs felt a bit dodgy when I got up. Breakfasted with an interesting chap over from New Zealand. Talked all through breakfast. Then popped into Grasmere for two knee supports! Picked up pack and set off up the road to pick up the trail to Grisedale Tarn. Passed a party including small kids in wellingtons who, I found out later, were planning to hike to the tarn! Took the south side of Great Tongue – a gentle ascent for the most part. The snow and cloud on top looked daunting but I figured the path would be easy to follow so pressed on.

Reached the cascades and was slowed down by the thickening slush. It made walking on the paving stones, that were layed to counter erosion, very difficult. Reached the plateau at Grisdale Hause, where visibility was down to about 200 metres and the snow calf dep in drifts. Was comforted to find two cairns in rapid succession so stopped for a drink and to take photos.

Set off again, with visibility decreasing, but couldn’t find the path. Took bearings but eventually found myself climbing up a snow covered hillside that shouldn’t have been there!

Decided that discretion was the better part of valour and so followed my tracks back to the path, with a view to taking another compass bearing. Fortunately bumped into two very pleasant chaps who were following my footsteps! I explained that I couldn’t find the path, so we used their GPS to guide us. I had missed the path by a matter of feet! We chatted as we walked on together: one of the chaps originated from Sale (a couple of miles from my home)! All of a sudden Grisedale Tarn appeared below us out of the cloud – like some grey, mercury/lead lake under the low cloud: an awe inspiring, unworldly sight!

Lost on Grisedale Hause

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Grisedale Tarn

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Photo stops over, I said goodbye to the two chaps, both of whom were called Richard and set off down Grisedale for Patterdale. Immediately met hoards of hikers coming up the trail and passed more starting down. Few were friendly and it was a little irksome to have to queue up and say ‘excuse me’ when trying to hike in the ‘wilderness’. Met more people who were sheltering from the rain at Rusthwaite Lodge. Had previously refrained from detouring to Brother’s Parting. Was asked if this was the way to Grisedale Tarn by a couple trudging up in trainers, jeans and anoraks!

 

 

Grisedale

The descent was long but very scenic: the views backward were really quite frightening when I thought I’d been several hundred feet above where the cloudbase was. Two chaps kept gaining on me so I quickened my pace. Eventually they shouted ‘had I got a mobile phone?’ – a girl had damaged her knee and Mountain Rescue were required. I tried the phone but, as usual in the Lakes, no signal. They must have managed to raise the alarm because the rescue Landrover phoned me as I neared Patterdale. Got to the Kirkstone Pass road just above the B&B I had booked in to.

 

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Arrived and was met by a miserable Mrs Pool, who asked me to take my boots off and said the central heating would be on ‘soon’. Waited ages for hot water to come out of the shower (no bath again) then washed clothes before heading off to the White Lion for a pint and steak pie and chips. Very nice but heaving with people so I left and called home. Brief call as the boys’ tea was getting cold and Kym was going to watch Jack Dee with Ann Walters. Walked back to the B&B and studied the map to decide whether or not to attempt to walk Shap tomorrow. Read the paper I had bought in the village.

17th April 2005 – Patterdale to Shap: 16 miles

Day 5

Surprised to have a really good sleep and woke refreshed at 06:45 with the light streaming in through the curtains. Opened them to see the fells looking good and a relatively clear sky – spirits lifted! Packed and made usual flask of coffee then heard Mrs Pool so went in for breakfast. Lovely view of Patterdale church from the dining room: all in a superbly positioned house, but needs rebuilding and full of tat! Mrs Pool was more friendly than last night and the breakfast was fine – even ate the fried egg. Chatted with a couple from Orange, NSW, who had gone for a walk ‘despite the awful weather’.

Left and phoned Kym with an itinerary ‘just in case’. Steep walk out of Patterdale with good views down the valley and across to the snow capped hills I’d been in yesterday. Passed a group of youngsters coming down from camping at Angle Tarn – they said it was too bad to do Kidsty Pike yesterday. Pressed on and arrived at Angle Tarn from where there were great views all round, including Kidsty Pike, which looked a long way off and was covered in snow.

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Angle Tarn looking west

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Angle Tarn looking northwest

The trail out of Angle Tarn was long and hard going, through boggy ground. Met a chap and his dog who were on their way down from High Street. The wind then got up really strong as I looked down what seemed miles below to Brothers Water. The slush became snow and I spotted four people behind me, but then they were gone. I seemed to be on the right path but it was hard to concentrate with the strong wind and keeping my footing in the snow.

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Kidsty Pike from Twopenny Crag

Saw some tracks heading off in the right direction so followed them through the thickening snow across a grassy slope. As I crested the summit I was still a ¼ mile from Kidsty and saw, for the first time, the very steep drop off to the South. Saw four people on the summit of Kidsty so cracked on: hard going as the wind was now stopping me moving forward. I met the four, who took my photo but on chatting (hard in the wind) I found they were looking at the views they had missed due to bad weather when they had done the Coast to Coast last year. Did the last few yards to the summit cairn and there I was: fifty miles under my belt, the highest point of the walk and with the hard (and dangerous) climbs behind me.

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Kidsty Pike Summit

I had felt like the ‘Ice Man’ before he was found in the glacier: like some kind of a mystic with an unmissable goal. I was elated and after placing a stone on the cairn, I settled down on a patch of bare grass (the snow had blown off the eastern side of the Pike) and found I had a signal on the mobile. Left messages for Kym and Tom then packed up and headed on down the East Ridge. Grateful as always for ‘Old faithful’ my stick, but sad that I’d lost ‘Little sticky’ – the bit that used to stick out at the top.

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Kidsty Howes

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Haweswater from Kidsty Howes

Going down was not as easy as I’d thought it would be: rocky and faily steep. After a long while and several looks back at what I’d been up, I finally got to the bridge at the foot of the ridge and stopped for a coffee and a picture back up.

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Descent from Kidsty to Haweswater

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Two chaps appeared, having run down behind me. I set off for what I naively thought would be the short walk back to Shap. Not to be: Haweswater was five miles long, during the course of which I stopped to talk to two nice couples. The first of them was doing the Coast to Coast in stages. The second attended annual reunions with all the people they met doing the walk. They both told me that the Coast to Coast had been voted the second best walk in the world! Inspired I made for the end of the reservoir and stopped to phone. Eventually found everyone at Mum’s and had a long chat. Then set off across parkland type countryside with lovely pack bridges. Soon it started drizzling and I donned over-trousers. I was surprised at how far it was but then came across Shap Abbey and thought that was nearly it. No: another mile or so to the start of the village and then a further mile to my lodgings for the night – The Greyhound.

Booked in, looking like a hobo, then washed clothes, had a hot shower and lay on the bed watching a TV programme about Alexander Selkirk. Then down to a great meal before watching ‘100 greatest albums’. Late to sleep.

18th April 2005 – Shap to Kirby Stephen: 20 miles

Day 6

Awoke to hear rain and on checking outside, found it to be very grey and damp. Breakfast was served early: 07:30, so packed and got ready. Breakfast was great – chilled juice, fruit, crereal, fresh coffee and the biggest plate of home butchered local stuff I’d had yet. I ate what I could. A fairly quiet couple were in with me.

Set off down the road to the paper shop where I bought an Ordnance Survey map and two apples, as I realised I wasn’t eating much fruit. Backtracked to the start of the trail and left Shap, crossing the railway (saw the train I’d caught to Lancaster en route Scotland) and then the M6. Chatted to the lady who owned the B&B between the M6 and the quarry. She told me several Coast to Coasters had passed through yesterday. The drizzle turned to rain and the wind intensified as I got onto the fells. At first it seemed easy going but the ground softened and the going got harder.

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The only time I took my camera out on the (rainy) Westmoreland Fells

There were quite a few C2C waymarks to guide me over permissive footpaths. Eventually I came to Robin Hood’s grave: a pile of stones like a cairn. I pressed on and stopped for a short rest at the Orton to Crosby Ravensworth road. The guide then got a little muddled as it tried to re-route the next few sections on permissive footpaths. I got to the B6260 and was disgusted to see the verges littered with cans and plastic bottles: even a bag full of litter in one case!

Crested the hill and took the footpath to the left rather than taking the option of breaking the day’s march in Orton. Saw interesting lime kilns and freshwater springs but resisted the temptation to fill my water bottle. As I walked past a succession of three farms the icy rain really started coming down and with the wind in my face it was very uncomfortable. Took shelter in the porch of a sheep barn and rested for about ten minutes: probably the longest rest on my journey so far! Found a piece of nylon baling twine and used it to make a handle for ‘Old Faithful’. It would have been a good idea but the stringy twine was filthy and my hand became muddy and wet. The string kept unraveling as I was too cold to tie it on properly. My hands were too cold and wet to put gloves on, beside which I was loathe to stop and open my backpack to get them out lest everything else got wet.

After Stony Head farm I struck out across Tarn Moor, a bleak depressing place in the wind and the rain. The route used to take a beeline past Sunbiggin Tarn but was now diverted a depressing mile north and then another mile to get back to where it should have been. The wind, by this time, fierce and the rain almost hail or sleet. I met an old chap walking a dog and asked if I was on the right path: ‘I haven’t a clue’ was his response. When I said ‘Oh, so we’re both lost then!’ he muttered ‘No, I know exactly where I am’ and shoo’d his dog on and away. Fortunately this was the first person I had met on this walk who hadn’t been utterly charming.

The road to the east of Sunbiggin Tarn seemed to go on for ever. I passed two isolated houses, both for sale, which would have had me ringing the estate agents in normal times. Now, I just thought what a bloody awful place to live! The path skirting Crosby Garrett Fell was truly awful: boggy, rutted with tractor tracks and generally unpleasant, without the great views promised (I kept staring firmly at the trail). I skirted the ‘Severals’ ancient settlement but couldn’t see anything. This might have been because the steepness of the descent to Scandal Beck was agonizing on the knees. The view down to Smardale Bridge, with disused railway cottages to the left, was spectacular: particularly as a large bird of prey ascended as I was taking it in. I couldn’t bring myself to get the camera out in the rain though.

Finally crossed the bridge and stopped to record the time. I was very disappointed to realise I had almost five more miles to go to Kirby Stephen. I set off up the trail to Smardale Fell. I couldn’t pick out ‘Giants Graves’ but resolved to come back here on a better day as it really does look a fine place for a more leisurely walk. The ascent up Smardale was a slog but fairly well marked. I followed footprints in the mud, so was reasonably sure I was headed the right way. Once over the top the path deteriorated to another boggy, rutted, mess. It was very slow going: probably averaging only 2.5 mph. I reached a country road and checked, with a helpful fell runner, my way forward to Kirby Stephen, which I could not yet see, despite being only 1.5 miles away.

Playful groups of new born lambs lifted my spirits a little at Greenriggs farm, but the continuing rain did its best to dampen them again. The walk in to Kirby Stephen was depressing, along the backs of the houses. Eventually I made the main street and called into the first pub I came to (B&Bs are difficult because I’ve only got one very wet and muddy pair of boots so have to go to dinner in socks). The bar lady didn’t even let on as I stood there dripping: she just served two other customers. Finally, she told me they had no vacancies and I moved on to the next pub: The Black Bull.

The people here seemed more friendly and after checking his accommodation listing, the landlord, John, offered me a single room for £20, or  £25 with ensuite (I noticed that none of his rooms were actually taken for tonight). I jumped at the ensuite, keen as I was to have a bath. I made my way up some windy stairs (aaagh!) to room 4, which had….a shower! Did the usual unpack and through everything on the radiator to dry. I then jumped in the shower to wash my  gaiters and finally myself. I had just soaped myself when the cold water went off and I was scalded. As I struggled to adjust the temperature the hot went off also and I had to remove the soap with a freezing cold towel, using what little water was left in the sink tap!

 

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Changed and went down to call home, which I did, speaking to Kym, Joe and Tom. Told John about the problem, which, it seemed, was affecting the whole of Kirby Stephen. I had a drink at the bar and a good conversation with a lovely lady from the local sandwich shop and her daughter. I was then joined by the local odd job man and the sexton of the church. A fourth chap, originally from Kirby Stephen, but just back now for a funeral, joined us. The sexton kept us amused with stories of grave digging and funerals. It was a very pleasant evening during which I ate my ‘hickory chicken’. I then went up to my room to watch the final episode of ‘Around the world in 80 treasures’. I fell asleep before the end and fortunately woke at 01:30 and removed my contact lenses. I was then kept awake for an hour or so by someone else’s TV!

19th April 2005 – Kirby Stephen to Muker: 15 miles

Day 7

Woke early to find the sun, yes the sun, streaming through the window. Looked out and saw blue sky for the first time since the day I set off. Spirits lifted so I wrote my diary for yesterday. I was a little concerned at how bad my feet (blisters) and knees felt, even in bed. Got up and showevered to remove soap from last night! Went down the endless stairs and out into the market square. Couldn’t believe my eyes as I saw four large red and green parrots fly overhead. A passing postman saw me looking up and explained that they belonged to a local millionaire who let them and other birds (including two grey paraqueets sat on a nearby roof) fly free. Bought apples and flapjacks and then headed back for a large breakfast. Did final packing and left via the chemist, where I bought and applied ‘Ibugel’.

It was a pleasant walk out of Kirby Stephen through Hartley. I then started a long climb past the quarry and onto Hartley Fell. I passed a couple and then four others, all on the Coast to Coast – the first I’d met since setting off. The trail up Nine Standards Rig was very badly worn and I stopped at a notice board trying to work out which alternative seasonal route to take. Eventually gave up and took the direct route up. The trail was very peaty and wet – hard going. I was pushed by a singleton coming up behind me.

Several false summits and then I arrived at the cairns – very impressive and with great views out over the Eden Valley and The Lakes. Unfortunately it was a little hazy so couldn’t see far. The chap who’d followed me up took a photo for me.

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Nine Standards Rig summit

I chatted to the foursome I’d passed previously. They were all taking it easy and using the Sherpa service to transport their wine! I moved on to the summit cairn: dedicated to the marriage of Charles and Di!

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Nine Standards Rig cairn

I then followed the ridge and passed from Cumbria into North Yorkshire, where the east/west watershed lay. I didn’t really think too much about that as the ground had deteriorated badly and every step became hard. The peat was sodden and knee deep in places, clinging to my boots and making progress slow. I took a compass bearing and set off across atrocious ground, following the occasional post marker. It was grueling stuff and it was clear that the other groups weren’t following me. The weather was so much better than the last few days: I actually enjoyed my stop at the change of direction when the moorland crossing gave way to Whitsun Dale.

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Whitsundale

The latter was a long meandering beck and I thought it would be easy walking – wrong! Still very boggy, with streams coming in which I had to cross and very hard on the knees. The moor was clearly kept for grouse and I saw several of them plus other unusual birds. Had a stop and eventually Ravenseat Farm came into view. Descended to cross two bridges by the farm and onto yet another very muddy trail on the north side of Whitsundale Beck. Superb views down to the brown beck and of the tumbling side streams as they fell off the limestone crags. Passed two lovely old farms, both now deserted, before reaching the B6270 and crossing the River Swale. Lovely views across the river to limestone crags and primroses, with beautiful black and white birds darting about the river.

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It was a long trek down to Keld, which I reached at 15:30.  As it says in ‘The book’ (Wainwright’s  ‘A coast to coast walk’) Keld is half way!

 

To celebrate I popped into the only place in the village and bought a Solero, which I ate sitting outside after the shopkeeper declined my request to fill my water bottle from the sink behind her.

Celebration ice lolly at half way point – Keld

I poured over my guide books and maps, trying to decide what to do next. I had wanted to do more than Kirby Stephen to Keld today but Reeth was another 12 miles over the moors and lead mine valleys. I took stock of my physical condition: bottom up…

  • Left toes: all ok bar little toe – black and looks like the nail will come off

  • Right toes: ditto the above, but little toe nail not too bad

  • Legs: Right and left fine and strong – no problems

  • Knees: Hmmm. Big problems here. Both knees very swollen and painful. Symptoms not helped by knee supports. Minimal improvement from gel applied thrice daily. Very bad going downhill and over rough ground.

  • Hips: good – surprising given my strange gait.

  • Waist: good, slightly uncomfortable when carrying the weight of my pack.

  • Stomach: no problems – no food poisoning!

  • Chest: fine – seems to have lost muscle.

  • Shoulders/Back: on and off. Relief given by adjusting rucksack straps but can be painful.

  • Neck: ditto above.

  • Face: a good colour (beard getting a little too long for Kym!)

  • Head: avoided sunburn by wearing wax hat.

  • Brain: psychological boost on account of passing half way. Brain slightly addled, but then it had to be to set off on this trip!
     

On the basis of the above inventory I decided to press on. I crossed The Swale and tried to follow the guide. I crossed the Pennine Way and headed east. I then descended to The Swale and found that I’d missed the turn up to the C2C route over the tops. I took this as a sign and carried on the riverside path to Muker. I passed a courting couple, who were obviously not expecting me and then three students measuring magnetism in the mine spoil. It was a pleasant stroll to Muker bridge and then through several strongly sprung gates to Muker. This was a delightful village in a super location.

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I made for the pub where the chap behind the bar explained that his wife would do me B&B. A chap in the bar showed me the way and Joyce welcomed me and offered me a super room with a spectacular view over the veggie patch and down the Swale valley.

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The Swale valley from B&B in Muker

Had a cuppa with Joyce then went to my room to wash things, shower and get ready. Chatted with Joyce and John then went to the pub, opposite which I phoned home then Mum. The pub was very nice and I had a good meal of beef, then apple and blackberry pie.

20th April 2005 – Muker to Richmond: 19.5 miles

Day 8

Woke early and packed before breakfast at 07:30. Had a good feed: cereal with grapefruit segments, orange juice and the usual ‘full English’. Made a bacon toastie for the trip and Joyce supplemented it with crisps and a Twix and filled my flask. After much deliberation and discussing with John, I decided against trying to regain the high ground as recommended by ‘AW’ and instead headed off through the small pastures of Gunnerside.

Going was very tough: countless stiles with strong spring-loaded gates, mud of a particularly clinging type and that damned Easterly wind! Without a map or the book to guide me I had little idea how far each place was via the fields. My route was alternately riverside (boggy) and road (busy – especially a rubbish truck that followed me for about 5 miles – not very quiet!). Went through a succession of small villages and eventually reached Reeth: a pleasant little place with a large Green, spoiled only by too many parked cars. Spotted four chaps coming down from the C2C route and asked if they were doing the walk. I got a blunt and rude ‘No!’ and nothing else.

I rested and ate my bacon sandwich at Reeth then rubbed the knees (couldn’t reach the blisters) and set off for the second walk of the day. It was better to have AW’s guide to follow as there was less chance of losing my way and it pointed out interesting features. The ascent from Marrick Priory was pretty: cowslips and the first bluebells. Then it was out onto the fields above the valley for a long trek to Marske, where I had another brief rest. The Post Office, to which AW refers in his book, seemed to have closed but I guessed the direction correctly and was soon off on the last leg of today’s marathon. Up a steep bank to Whitcliffe Wood via Applegarth Scar. I took a photo looking back down Swaledale, with a white painted cairn in the foreground.

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The view back up Swaledale and.......................putting a brave face on!

Eventually rounded a bend and saw Richmond below, with the plain: the subject of tomorrow’s march, beyond. Took a photo with some shaggy sheep in the foreground and then saw my shadow for the first time in ages!

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Richmond and the Vale of Mowbray

Passed a Richmond town sign with accompanying plaque paying homage to AW. The trip down to Richmond town centre took longer than I thought. What looked like a pleasant Georgian town from a distance looked a little more tatty when I got close. The main square was imposing but I had no luck at the first pub I tried for lodgings: the rooms were closed for renovation. I visited a room in the second pub – awful, for £30 without ensuite. I couldn’t bring myself to ring the bell of the ‘Windsor Guest House’ so tried the  Castle Tavern where I was offered an ensuite room for £25. The room was amazingly shabby: ceiling falling in.

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My room in The Castle Tavern, Richmond

21st April 2005 – Richmond to Ingleby Arncliffe: 23 miles

Day 9

Slept remarkable well considering the state of the room and was glad not to have woken in the room below! I took advantage of the bath again and then set about my usual pre-walk preparations: viz – small plasters on little toes; larger plaster on my right ankle side, strip plaster on left blisters and dressing and zinc tape on large right blisters: all with generous amounts of antiseptic cream! Then Ibugel rubbed into each knee and a knee support apiece. Finally, some sun/wind protector on top as it looked nice outside (for a change!).

The landlord was friendly but plastic flowers had lost their petals at the breakfast tables. I ate well then set off down to the river, following directions from a Chinese girl. I followed the trail by The Swale: it was immediately muddy and I must have lost the trail because I ended up in the wrong place. I found myself but had wasted time and distance: not a good start!

I finally left the road and hit the muddiest part of the trip yet: a long woodland trail above the sewage works – poo! I must have taken another wrong turn because I came in to the wrong end of Colburn. This was mainly on account of that village lying just between two Ordnance Survey maps that I had! I was faced with a river crossing, which I did ‘commando style’ by way of an old iron gate suspended from a telegraph pole. I rested in Colburn and was passed by two walkers who had taken less than half the time that I had by taking the correct route! I followed them out of the village and then passed them when they went wrong!

I soon made Catterick Bridge, which I crossed and thence along the north bank of the Swale: pleasant and flat! I chatted with a dog walking old lady at Tancred Gravel works and then walked on to the lovely village of Bolton-on-Swale, where I lunched in the churchyard.

I took a photo of the 169 year old Henry Jenkins tomb and suddenly realised that we’d had a change of season so stripped off my jacket and fleece and walked on in a t-shirt: wonderful!!

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Henry Jenkins tomb, Bolton-on-Swale church

I went wrong at Ellerton Hill and ended up on the main road by Kiplin Hall. This took me down an unplanned track, which passed a house with a large standard magnolia and two light aircraft! I regained the route and began the long road march to Danby Wiske, meeting two ‘East-Westers’ on the way. I was set on having a pint of shandy at Danby Wiske to celebrate the lowest elevation point on the journey. Unfortunately, all I got was a closed pub and noisy roadworks.

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The lowest elevation on the C2C

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I took a photo of the lowest point and then crossed the main North east railway line and the A167 before yet another energy sapping muddy stretch to the York-Middlesborough railway line. I then left the Ordnance Survey map but followed the roar of the A19 for what seemed like ages. I stocked up on provisions at a BP garage then dodged traffic on the road before depositing myself, absolutely exhausted, in a comfy chair in the conservatory of my B&B for the night. With a pot of tea and cakes it was bliss! I had my own suite – very nice.

 I showered then went to the Blue Bell Inn for a mediocre meal. I came back to the B&B and bed.

22nd April 2005 – Ingleby Arncliffe to Blakey: 21.25 miles

Day 10

I slept very well but woke early. I didn’t get up straight away as my legs were still tired. Eventually I did get up, showered, packed and breakfasted: very nice. I set off again past the pub and began the long climb through Arncliffe Wood to the ridge of the Cleveland Hills. This was the first time I’d been up here and very impressed I was too! I walked with a couple of chatty ladies for a mile or so. One was an optician and the other worked for a local NHS Primary Care trust. I said farewell and followed the Cleveland way, as I would do for the next ten miles or so.

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Joining the Cleveland Way

Beautiful countryside and lovely views abounded. In Scugdale I stopped and chatted to an old lady on a bench. She talked of times gone by when, before having two double hip replacements, she used to walk and cycle all over. Each cycle ride was at least 100 miles a day: a tough old bird. She spoke of war time and eating chop and egg rations whilst walking with her father in The Lakes. She used never to see any other people on these walks. She was content but sad not to be able to walk any more. I said farewell and that I would do the next stage of the walk for her: she was truly delighted and asked that I think of her with every stile I crossed. She also said that she would time me to the phone box at Huthwaite Green, so I set off, spirits soaring, to the phonebox, where I waived back at her across the valley. Huthwaite was the last settlement before The Lion at Blakey.

There then followed a glorious section of ups and downs, which attracted many many walkers on this beautiful day.

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Live Moor on the Cleveland Way

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Holey Moor on the Cleveland Way

My progress was slowed by (a) painful knees on the downslopes and (b) stopping to chat to people. One of these was a recently retired NHS scientist from Wales who I persuaded to do the C2C in future.

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Trig point on Carlton Moor

I then walked along with two fellow ‘West to Easters’ for a couple of miles and swapped stories before leaving them at the Wain Stones.

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The Wain Stones

On I walked, up and down, always with great views across towards Middlesborough and Darlington. I eventually came to Urra Moor where the path turned away from the escarpment.

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Urra Moor looking west

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Urra Moor looking east

There were plenty of grouse and pheasant today. I photographed myself at the highest point on the Cleveland Hills and then ploughed on, eventually to reach Bloworth Crossing, a bleak place up on the moors.

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Highest point of the Cleveland Hills

The next few miles followed the cinder bed of the old Rosedale Ironstone Railway: a remarkable feat of construction. The path was fast but went on forever. I was frightened at various times by grouse taking flight out of the heather at my feet and once by a cyclist who came up behind me without a sound. I stopped a view times to admire the views and to ‘rest the wearies’! I eventually rounded a bend and saw the Lion pub. It looked quite far away and turned out to be even further than I thought as I had to follow yet another long bend in the track bed.

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Farndale Moor 

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The Lion Inn (on skyline) across High Blakey Moor

A climb up the bank and I was there. I stumbled into the bar for a pint and a nice steak and ale casserole. I phoned home and got Joe on Kym’s mobile en route the Trafford Centre. After my meal two chaps asked if I was going to ‘Sycamore House’ at Danby. It turned out they, Eric and Ken, were C2C’ers and were being picked up by Jack, who was on his way. I got a lift and a potted history of Jack’s move to here and instructions for the route tomorrow. I had a nice cup of tea and a chat about our respective trips, then a bath, phoned home and to bed.

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23rd April 2005 – Blakey to Sleights Moor: 15.25 miles

Day 11

St. George’s day! I slept well and awoke to a beautiful morning, but with a bit of a sea fret on the far side of Danby Dale.  Breakfast was well organized and good. I chatted with Ken and Eric, then we were chivvied along so as to enable Jack to drop us off en route his meeting in York. The drive to The Lion Inn showed just how bleak and remote the place was. We jumped out and started walking along the road we’d just come along.

Glaisdale Moor

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Glaisdale Moor

After a while we stopped and donned jackets, hats and gloves as it was quite cold. Ken then had a bad tumble, tripping over a hole in the road as he was reading the map. He cut his knee, grazed his face and broke his mobile phone screen.

We struggled on, passing a check in centre for the Lyke Wake Walk. There was more road walking and then we headed off across Glaisdale Moor. We came across two C2C’ers who had camped at the Red Lion and who were struggling to light their camping stove for a brew: the water wouldn’t boil as the wind was too cold. We walked around the head of Great Fryup Dale and thence to the start of Glaisdale Rigg where Ken and Eric stopped and I said cheerio, preferring to crack on as the next bit would be a ‘knee testing’ downhill stretch.

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Ken and Eric on Glaisdale Moor

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Glaisdale Moor looking west

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Glaisdale Moor  looking east

I eventually came down to Glaisdale and by-passed the town down to the station. I passed a number of sponsored walkers coming the other way. I took the time to check out the ‘Beggar’s Bridge’ over the Esk, which was very attractive. I asked two old fellows to take my photo. They obliged and explained the story of the bridge: that a chap built it so he could visit his sweetheart across the river but, by the time he’d finished it, she had married someone else!

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Beggar's Bridge, Glaisdale

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They also told me to look out for the salmon holding ponds on the next stage of the walk. This next stage was a pleasant walk through the woods beside the River Esk. I phoned Mum and learned of her planned holiday to The Rockies and then Kym and the boys, who had reached the west of York on their way to meet me tonight.

I came out of the woods and followed the lane down to Egton Bridge where I found the accommodation that Kym had booked at the Postgate Inn. I dropped everything I didn’t need at the inn then walked on with a much lighter pack!

I stopped to pluck a tail feather from a dead pheasant then noticed Ken and Eric walking down the road behind me. I waited for them then we marched together to Grosmont where we walked over the level crossing where the steam trains were. There then followed the biggest, steepest hill of the walk (probably not, but it seemed so) up and out of Grosmont and on to Sleights Moor.

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The hill out of Grosmont

Towards the top we stopped when Whitby and the North Sea came into view – yeah!

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First view of the East Coast

Photos taken, I called Kym and arranged a rendezvous at the Sleights Moor car park. Before we knew it we were there and I spied Kym’s car, then Kym and the boys walking down the road to meet me. Hugs and kisses and brief introductions to Ken and Eric then they moved on and I climbed in the car for the trip back to Egton Bridge. We unloaded then sat outside in the sun enjoying a welcome pint of Black Sheep.

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I showered and changed then went for a drive back down to Danby Dale and the Lion Pub. Back at the pub we watched ‘Dr Who’ then went down for a drink and a long wait before our meal. It was well worth the wait. Then to bed in two singles and two bunks. Slept well.

24th April 2005 – Sleights Moor to Robin Hood’s Bay: 13 miles

Day 12

It took some time getting everybody going. We made it down to breakfast at 08:30 but didn’t actually leave the pub until after 09:30. The drive up the hill out of Grosmont made me glad that I’d done that bit of the walk yesterday: almost 2 miles of a 1 in 3 slope! Kym dropped Tom and me off in the car park and then drove the car to Robin Hood’s Bay, planning to catch a taxi back to meet us.

Tom and I set off, cutting the corner to the main Whitby – Scarborough road then crossing it to pick up a new footpath that didn’t seem to figure in the guide or on the OS map. We descended rough tracks to the delightful little hamlet of Littlebeck. Beautiful stone houses set in the valley bottom around a ford through the river.

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Tom at Littlebeck Ford

We then picked up the forest trail that follows the beck to Falling Foss. There were interesting remnants of the alum mining industry and beautiful scenery.

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Little Beck Wood

We stopped off at ‘The Hermitage’ which is a shelter hollowed out of solid rock – amazing.

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The Hermitage, Little Beck

We then pressed on to rendezvous with Kym and Joe at Falling Foss. We watched youngsters sliding down ropes across the Foss. Once we had regrouped we struck off for May Beck car park: all dog dirt and litter, then took the road up out. We missed the trail so cut back across boggy fields then made our way up to the top of the valley where we reached open heather moor. Stupidly, I didn’t take a bearing so set off in the wrong direction across the featureless landscape. When we saw the main road it became apparent that we were heading the wrong way, so we changed direction across even more energy sapping bog and heather. Eventually we came to where we should have been, crossed the minor road and set off across a second piece of uninspiring moorland.

We were glad to get to the end of that and to have a brief rest. We then descended to Hawsker and up to High Hawsker, which we left making a beeline for the coast. Wepassed through a caravan site on which we had previously stayed and walked down to meet the coastal path: the Cleveland Way once again.

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The coast is reached!

This was a very scenic but tantalizingly long way to get to Robin Hood’s Bay. I felt very weary as we walked up and down successive headlands.

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Cleveland Way north of Robin Hood's Bay

When we finally saw Robin Hood’s Bay it was a lot further away than I’d expected.

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First sight of Robin Hood's Bay

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Nearly there

When we finally saw Robin Hood’s Bay it was a lot further away than I’d expected.

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The final descent

Then there it was: the ramp down to the sea which, it being high tide, was right up to the wall below the pub. I set about the last 20 yards only to have my way blocked at the last minute by a silver BMW that was trying to turn round in the narrow street. How ironic: you leave all that behind for eleven days and then it’s thrown in your face just as you’re about to rejoin the rat race!

 

I edged around the car and strode to the sea, where I wet my boots and scooped some water up with my hand as I had done eleven days ago on the West Coast. Emotion overcame me for an instant as I reflected on how much more difficult the walk had been than I had imagined.

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Reaching the sea!

Photos taken, I picked up a pebble and we returned for a celebratory drink in ‘Wainwright’s Bar’ followed by fish and chips sitting by the sea wall.

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The Ship, Robin Hood's Bay

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Welcome home!

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