I was very nervous. Not only was I worried that my foot might suddenly decide to go into self destruct mode again, I had also been having trouble with my right hip for a few weeks. I was putting this down to starting to walk properly with my left foot (as instructed by the physio) and assuming that this was having a knock-on effect with the other side of my body. Whatever it was, it was enough to have me reaching for ibuprofen once or twice a day.
As a result of all this then, the longest day that I’d planned for my fortnight’s escape, was only just over 11 miles. Carefully does it!
Once walking though, my worries started to fade. Dry and sunny weather, and a mega short day (4 miles), and I was soon pitching for the night in someone’s wild looking back garden at Low Cock Farm.
The one minus point of the day was the discovery that my Nido (full fat dried milk) seemed to have gone off and was curdling in my tea. I would have to suffer black tea until I got to somewhere that sold Marvel.
Last night had been cold. I’m guessing down to about 2C. I had woken shivering at about 3am. Prism trousers and jacket were donned, but I still couldn’t relax properly. Some hot chocolate did the trick, but I realised I’d made a bit of a mistake and should really have brought a down layer of some sort with me. More cold nights were forecast for later in the week, so I’d have to sort something out.
The cold overnight temperature had also caused some condensation in the tent, which had wet the bottom of my sleeping bag. Luckily, the sun hit before I set off, so I managed to dry it a little.
Pleasant weather again in the morning saw me setting off for a slightly longer day. I was aiming for Ennerdale Youth Hostel, where I had a bed booked for the night. My body held up well enough and I was there by mid afternoon – just as it was thinking about starting to rain.
I managed to dry the tent fly (sopping from last night) on a picnic table, in between the showers, and air my sleeping bag properly in my room.
The hostel was lovely – clean, recently refurbished and did good food. I passed the evening pleasantly chatting to the handful of others who were there for the night.
The forecast for today was dry with sunny spells, but strong winds – getting ever stronger as the day wore on. A couple I’d been talking to the previous evening were wondering if they would actually be able to manage the top they had planned, and were sorting a ‘bailing out’ route if the wind got too much.
I had a longer day, today. About 9 1/2 miles across to Seatoller. I’d kind of split it into three sections in my head. The first few miles would take me to Black Sail, then the next bit was up the gully of Loft Beck, across past Grey Knotts and down to Honister Hause, with the final section dropping me down to Seatoller.
I called in at Black Sail for tea and chocolate biscuits – which was nice – and a pleasant chat with the warden. They were fully booked up for the night, I suspect they often are.
The wind was already quite strong as I left the hostel and started contouring round to Loft Beck, and as I continued climbing higher it became apparent that it was going to hit me full on as the path levelled off.
Making walking challenging at times, it was actually fun crossing the high point. As long as it’s not actually knocking me off my feet, I quite enjoy windy days.
I didn’t particularly like the old tramway track down to Honister Hause though – very hard and awkward on the feet.
I awarded myself double points for the windy crossing and triple points for the horrid tramway track, all these points adding up to enough to get me a huge piece of carrot cake and two mugs of tea, from the café at the slate mine.
The old road was then followed down to Seatoller, where I was charged the princely sum of £6 for a night at the campsite. The farmer was also kind enough to give me a mug of milk for my brews.
So last night was absolutely manic. Full on wind and rain. The tent is very stable and didn’t give me a moment’s worry, but the noise kept me awake most of the night. And I had the fright of my life in the early hours. Hearing a commotion in the porch, memories of Arctic Voles came flooding back and I turned the light on to discover a hedgehog trying to burrow between my stove and rucksack. I immediately had images of fleas and ticks, and gently managed to evict it out into the storm. I have to say I had no idea that they could move so quickly! And yes, I did feel guilty, it was probably just trying to shelter, but what was I supposed to do?
Waking in the morning to weather that was still absolutely mad, I decided to stay put for the day. Hopefully the next day would be an improvement. I pottered about a bit and had afternoon tea and cake in a local café.
On discovering later on in the afternoon that the next day’s forecast was nearly as bad, I changed plans completely and decided to pay the shops in Keswick a visit.
This morning then, saw me on a bus to Keswick. I was really impressed to find that I could buy one ticket that I could use all over Lakeland for the day, for only £11.
I’d been in contact with Peter Dixon earlier, who’d informed me that George Fisher had a bit of a sale on, so I headed there as soon as as I arrived in town. Although not actually in the sale, I found myself a lovely Rab down vest. This made me much happier about the cold nights that were due later in the week.
I also took the opportunity to have fish and chips for lunch and buy enough food to get me through the next four days. (Adding just under 4kg to my rucksack in the process…) I was mega disappointed to find that Booths didn’t sell instant custard though.
Another bus then took me to Grasmere, where I was due to meet up with Peter the next day.
I managed to book myself in at Grasmere Youth Hostel for the night – very run down and tatty in comparison with Ennerdale, but still good food.
Peter had spent the previous night camping up on Fairfield and walked down to meet up with me at around 10am.
Today’s weather was absolutely glorious. Sunny, blue skies and verging on too hot.
Peter was very kindly happy enough to go at my snail’s pace, walking up the Tongue Gill path and across to Grisedale Tarn. Here, we met up with Dale Bird and pitched up for the night.
Although generally happy enough walking on my own, it was great to meet up with a couple of good friends for the night.
A clear sky and a cold wind saw me making use of my new down vest, and we had a good laugh once it had gone dark, playing with Peter’s ‘Night Sky’ app on his phone and pretending to identify various stars and constellations. With his superior photography knowledge and equipment, Peter also took some amazing night photos.
It was Peter’s son’s birthday today, so he had to be up and off quite early, to make sure he was home in time for a family meal out.
Dale and I took a more relaxed approach to the morning, setting off down to Patterdale about an hour later.
Another gorgeous day, and another day made more pleasant with a good friend to chat to on the way.
We made our way through Patterdale, into Glenridding and booked in at the site there for the night.
A very pleasant village of course, to pass the rest of the day. We had lunch at Fellbites, a good look in the outdoor shop, afternoon tea and cake at the Glenridding Hotel café, then evening meal back at Fellbites. All good yummy stuff!
I had a sudden realization later on too, that it was now several days since I’d felt the need to take any ibuprofen. Excellent.
A rather nice feature of the Glenridding campsite is their breakfast wagon. Dale and I arranged to meet up there at 9am but, awake earlier, I discovered she was already open at 7am. Just the right time for my first brew of the day. I refrained from eating though till the appointed time, then happily downed a fried egg sandwich, toast and a couple more cups of tea. An excellent start to the day!
Dale and I went our separate ways this morning, with him off to make a start on the Dales Highway (!) and me continuing on my journey. Rain was once again forecast, so I turned northwards and followed the path up the east coast of Ullswater and onto a site a couple of miles short of Pooley Bridge.
It was all a touch tedious in the rain to be honest, but I was mega pleased to round a corner at one point to find an unexpected café. There’s nothing like tea and cake to perk you up.
So last night was another really cold one, only this time I was better prepared and toasty warm. Still ended up with a load of condensation and a damp sleeping bag though.
My planned route today was to go to Shap, via Askham Fell and its ancient cairns and stone circles. I love stuff like that and could have happily spent several hours wandering amongst the area’s history.
It was my longest day of the fortnight at 11 1/2 miles. On reaching the village of Bampton I had my fingers crossed for a café. There was one, but I was a bit let down to find it closed. Thankfully, on turning the corner to Bampton Bridge, someone had placed an honesty box outside their house, stocked up with cans and chocolate. All money raised was for Hedgehog Rescue, which felt like karma coming to get me, so I gladly bought several Kit Kats and a can of Fanta. These were all eagerly scoffed in the next field.
Mind you, the last 3 miles through fields drove me mad. Fields with stupid, high stone stiles. Stiles that were too narrow to get through with a big pack on, so I kept having to remove it, balance it on the top of the wall, climb over, then retrieve it. I might have sworn a few times.
But I’d managed to book myself into the lovely New Ing b&b at Shap (where they also did my washing) and this cheered me up enormously. I’d decided to spend two nights there, both giving me a day’s rest and chance to stock up with food again for the next 3 days. This was also the first day that my foot was ever so slightly achy in the evening, so a rest seemed appropriate.
Rest day then.
I bought and sorted all the food for the next three days, dried the tent fly (which was drenched from condensation from the previous cold night), aired my sleeping bag, sorted places to camp for the next two nights and ate fish and chips in the Shap Chippy.
With today’s weather forecast being for dry, settled weather, it was no surprise then to find it raining when it was time to set off. Full waterproofs on from the word go.
Crossing the M6 within a couple of miles of Shap, seemed to truly signify leaving the Lakes area. Not the nicest bridge I’ve ever walked across either, the roar of the traffic underneath seemed to make it particularly unpleasant, and I felt quite uneasy on it. I counted my steps from one side to the other, to help me focus. 62.
The countryside changed to limestone and moorland, and the rain stopped – for a while.
I love bleak moorland. Cathy/Heathcliff kind of stuff.
Orton eventually came into sight, complete with a chocolate factory and café. Just what I needed!
A couple of miles further on through the drizzle, and my campsite for the night came into view.
Well, it threw it down all night and I once again set off in full waterproofs. And after yesterday’s drizzle, everything felt slightly damp still when I got dressed this morning. It can be very difficult trying to dry stuff properly in a tent.
I only had a short route today – about 5 1/2 miles – and to be honest, it was enough. The rain got heavier and heavier, I got damper and chillier, and I got a bit fed up.
I had arranged to camp outside a bunkhouse for the night, but by the time I got there I’d changed my mind. I’d stay in it instead and hopefully get stuff dry overnight.
Calling at the farmhouse, I paid my £11 for the night and was told that no one else was booked in, and I would need some £1 coins for the electricity meter. Electricity meter?!
To say I was sorely disappointed in the bunkhouse was an understatement. It was filthy and smelly, the bedrooms had a number of dozy wasps wandering around the bunks and it was cold. The only source of heat was an electric oil-filled radiator, which was woefully inadequate of course, and did practically nothing to dry my wet gear out. I ended up putting £5 into the meter too, to try and keep heat on through the night.
The overnight forecast was continuing crappy rain and wind, as was the weather for the next day, so with the tiny bit of signal I occasionally had, I managed to contact Geoff. Instead of me going to Kirkby Stephen the next morning, we arranged for him to meet me in Newbiggin on Lune, a much shorter walk.
I was infinitely happier with that plan, but of course still had to get through the night. I decided to sleep downstairs. My tent inner was laid on the filthy, stinky carpet, then my Xtherm and sleeping bag on top of that. I stayed awake as late as possible, watching the whole of series 2 of ‘This Country’ on I-player, and kept the light on all night when I finally gave in to sleep. Hopefully the light would stop mice running around me in the dark….
I got more sleep than I expected. Quite simply, I’d probably just been too tired not to.
The plan now was for me to wait for a text from Geoff, when he arrived in Newbiggin. I would then set off and walk the mile and a half down the hill. This would mean I didn’t have to just stand around in the rain, waiting for him.
Not having any signal in the bunkhouse, I had to go outside every 10 minutes to see if a text came in.
It eventually did of course, and I was soon ensconced in a cozy warm van with Geoff and the doggies.
It had been a great fortnight. Ups and downs with the weather had felt a touch unfair at times after the glorious summer we’ve just had, but the foot had been pretty much fine. It’s still not totally right, but it’s not now stopping me doing anything either, and I didn’t actually end up giving it a lot of thought over the fortnight.
I thoroughly enjoyed having an open-ended arrangement on the trip. Stopping when I wanted, altering routes when I felt like it, going totally at my own pace. And of course, a highlight of the trip was meeting up with a couple of good friends along the way, Peter and Dale.