After a rainy few days in Scotland with very little walking we decided at the last minute to head to Grasmere for a couple of days. We’d walked through on our Coast to Kirkby Walk but had never spent any time there so thought a couple of days in Wordsworth country would be perfect (Rachel’s new found desire to walk all the Wainwright Fells also had something to do with this)
We weren’t disappointed on either day and had pretty much non-stop sunshine and there’s a real feeling of Spring in the air with the crisp and clear air that can make walking in March so special. We managed to fit in Stickle Tarn and Pavey Arc on one day and the Fairfield Horseshoe on the other so all in all a pretty good couple of days.
We wondered lonely as a cloud…that is until we reached the summit of Dove Crag when we had to chuckle hearing a mobile phone ring and a conversation started describing the isolated bliss of the lake district at the top of his voice with the occasional “CAN YOU HEAR ME? CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?”.
Rachel is definitely a marmalade aficionado so it would have been wrong not to visit the Dalemain Marmalade Awards & Festival.
There were over 1000 entries and the winner was “Seville Orange Marmalade with Beer” It was jolly tasty but not sure about the vodka flavoured one for breakfast.
Enjoyed it immensely. It’s a challenge and at times it was harder than we expected especially when the rain is lashing down on you and the wind blowing. But even then there is a great feeling of having finished your day successfully.
Mid October is quite late to do the walk and because of lack of daylight (and time) we were not able to do the whole thing in one go but at least we have something else to look forward to in Spring.
One of the advantages of this time of year though was the changing of the colours to Autumn and a highlight was hearing and seeing Stags near Haweswater. It also meant that we were able miss some of the crowds of the peak summer months – we only met 4 other coast to coast walkers and saw nobody on our walk from Shap to Kirkby Stephen.
The only thing that we would probably change would be to have a stop in Grasmere as we could have enjoyed the two days more and possibly added St Sunday Crag which we have done before but enjoyed it so much unlike the other option of Striding Edge!
All in all we had a jolly good time and looking forward to finishing it.
Shap – Kirkby Stephen
Distance: 21 miles
Time: 7 1/2 hours
Woke up ready and raring to go for our last day of walking, half of which we know quite well. Leapt out of bed as much as we could and skipped over to the window to assess the weather. Not really sure why I bothered, it was raining. Breakfast done, we got ready and Landlady brought out our boots which were unfortunately were still wet. oh well, the boy scout in me had packed spare insoles just in case.
Managed to find our way out of Shap and crossed over the M6 and can only imagine that the motorists below us must have felt a little smug in their nice warm dry cars. Pah! you can keep your motor vehicles, all we need today is Shanks’ Pony and squirrel biscuits (not made from real squirrels)
We would like to tell you more about this section but the rain was so hard that it was a case of head down and crack on.
By the time we crossed the old Roman road on the way to Robin Hood’s grave the weather had perked up a little so we had some fine views across Orton Scar to the Howgills beyond. We didn’t take the diversion via Orton but if you have time/ energy it is well worth the visit.
We saw a hare just here and we were very envious of the spring in his hop. If I had a gun I would have shot him for being so smug!!!
Rain again past Sunbiggin Tarn, Ravenstonedale Moor to Smardale, the good thing about the rain is it meant you could give up on the idea about trying to keep your boots dry and can splash about like Gene Kelly.
Smardale Gill is one of our favourite spots and the wonderful viaduct is just out of reach today but it’ll be there for us for many other visits. It can feel like a bit of a slog from the bridge to the top of Smardale Fell but at least we knew it was all downhill from there.
The sun came out and we could just pick out the Nine Standards in the distance and a little further on the view of the church tower meaning we were nearly there.
Rachel made us walk past two bulls today. Nick hates bulls but was very brave (if you consider screaming and whining like a 4 year old brave)
Spent an hour last night looking for our map and alerted several members of staff…found it behind the curtain. i think we were a little tired.
For the life of us we can’t seem to remember what the weather was like this morning….oh yes it was raining. heavily, cats and dogs and sheep and cows. Breakfast done and wrapped up in waterproofs we set off for what the books say is a hard day.
The walk out of Patterdale is fairly straightforward past Boredale Hause and a last chance to enjoy the views on a clear day. We seemed to go a little off track on the way to Angle Tarn but the aim of this walk is to get from West to East so we weren’t too upset. We’ve walked past Angle Tarn before and seen it on a beautiful sunny day with the picnicking crowds but there was something a bit special about approaching it in the mist with nobody else around, our own little piece of the Lake District. The cloud was definitely around us now and was set to be for the next couple of hours. Our intial aim on this route was to take the old roman road via High Raise and descend to Haweswater via Wether Hill and Bampton Common which would have given us a longer route on the high ground and less alongside Haweswater but seeing as the weather was not really in our favour we stuck with the “official” route and headed to Kidsty Pike.
Just South of the Knott we met two groups of walkers who seemed to be a bit lost – one group said they sort of follwed us which would have been fine if we were all heading in the same direction. It was a day for a compass and at least a rough grasp of how to use it. Having walked High Street and Kidsty Pike before we were quite sure that we were heading in the right direction but there was something that just didn’t feel familiar and there was an unspoken feeling that we were getting a bit lost depsite our protestations that we were “definitely going the right way”. It was slow going in the rain, wind and mist and when we met two walkers coming towards us we asked where they had come from – Kidsty Pike was the answer. It was just there! It was clearing up! we could see Haweswater!!!!!! Hurrah! I think that was the single biggest euphoric moment of our walk – knowing that we could navigate and weren’t going to be on the news!
When Haweswater opens up in front of you there is a feeling of “why haven’t we been here more often?” it’s a lovely view and although the walk from Kidsty Howes can take a while it’s not as bad as we seemed to remember.
The walk along the lenght of Haweswater took a couple of hours and the autumnal colours and the sounds of the rutting stags made it a highlight of our walk – we even saw red stags on the ridges Whelter Crags.
Once you get to the end of Haweswater there is an immediate feeling that you’ll be in Shap in a few minutes. You won’t, it takes bloody ages. It’s mostly a pleasant enough section but we were a bit tired and the heavy rain and thuderstorm did not help our spirits. Rachel’s words of encouragement ” it’s not far from shap abbey” or “it’s just over that hill” helped us get to our accomodation albeit bedraggled, straggled, soaking. Tonight we were glad to be stopping in the pub so we didn’t have to go out for dinner or to be more accurate – our pints!
Lake District over it’s dead easy from here, according to one book tomorrow was to be like a rest day as far as walks are concerned. went to bed feeling content and confident about day to come.
Borrowdale to Patterdale
Distance: 16 miles
Time: 9 hours (9 blinking hours!!!!!!) including a wander around Grasmere.
It rained heavily during the night so we were pleasantly surprised to see that it had stopped raining by the time we had breakfast. We’d stopped in Stonethwaite and the view from the restaurant was so lovely that there was a temptation to sit all day, wait for the pub to open and stay another day but the Coast to Coast won’t walk itself so we pulled on our boots and set out with an unnerving spring our step.
The first part of this walk was alongside the pretty Greenup Gill until you reach Lining Crag and climb up the stony “steps” From Greenup Edge we decided that the weather was clear enough for us to take the higher route to Grasmere but not before tackling some rather boggy patches – we came across one other walker who sank up their thighs and Rachel went up to her knees at one point but unfortunately the camera was safely in the bag!
It was a slow walk and as we got closer to Grasmere we decided we needed to make up some time and after Gibson Knott we dropped down a quick zig zag path instead of Helm Crag and walked into Grasmere for quick look around and a snack.
It’s a fairly straigforward walk from Grasmere to Patterdale, especially if you’re not tackling Helvellyn or St Sunday Crag. Heading from Grasmere up to Little Tongue to enjoy the view of Grasmere before crossing Grisedale Pass where the wind and rain picked up again. There were some intrepid souls setting up camp by Grisedale Tarn and I was half tempted to see if we could join them but we knew the path would take us to Patterdale for a well earned pint and peanut! Mind you this is one of those paths that dragged on. and on. and on. and on.
Wainwright suggested that it is worth taking two days for this section and had time permitted we would have taken his advice as although this was a manageable walk in a day the scenery on a clear day would be worth taking more time to enjoy.
Ennerdale Bridge to Borrowdale
Distance: 18 miles (including extension to Red Pike, High Stile & Hay Stacks plus a detour to the summit of Grey Knotts)
Time: 8 hours
After a hearty breakfast (is there any other kind on the Coast to Coast) we set off for day two. The sun wasn’t quite shining when we set off but the forecast was good so we decided that if it stayed this way we would take the higher route. We met up with “the brothers” for the first part of the walk – Mike had already decided that Rachel’s walking pace was a little to speedy, in fact he described her as being like a horse charging down the home strait.
The walk along Ennerdale was spectacular with the sun creeping out behind the early morning cloud and mist enhancing the Autumnal colours of the ferns. After about two hours walking the sun was shining we left the brothers behind at High Gillerthwaite and headed for the higher ground of Red Pike, it was a tough ascent taking almost an hour with a climb of about 550 metres. There was very low cloud on the summit of Red Pike and along to High Stile and High Crag so unfortunately we couldn’t enjoy the views we were hoping for but by the time we had descended towards Scarth gap and Haystacks the cloud dissipated and our hard walk was rewarded with dramatic views of Gable Crag on Great Gable and the western panorama of Ennerdale Water and High Crag. We could understand why Wainwright was so fond of this place.
Seeing as it was such a lovely day we also decided to “pop over” to the summit of Grey Knott which was well worth it as we lost the crowds and felt as though we had the place to ourselves. Saying that, it was jolly reassuring to see the Honister Slate mine as this meant it was an easy descent along the old toll road to Stonethwaite and our accommodation for the evening.
It was such and beautiful days walking that we almost forgot how tired we were at the end of it, almost but not quite.
St Bees to Ennerdale Bridge
Distance: 14 1/2 Miles
Time: 4 hours
Weather: Cloudy for most but heavy downpour for the last hour
After an early wake up – we were too excited to have a lie in, it was like being 6 years old on Christmas day! – we set off from our accommodation to start our journey.
You leave St Bees along the coastal path until you reach the lighthouse then head inland towards Moor Row and Dent Hill with the promise of the Lake District beyond. We did meet one man on our journey who wanted to make sure we were heading in the right direction.
Man ” are you doing the coast to coast?”
Us ” Yes”
Man ” in October…you must be brave”
Hmmm not really sure we needed to hear that!!
We were quite glad to reach the summit of Dent Hill as the Lake District opened up in front of us and we finally felt as though we were about to get going and put our boots to some good use. There was also a slight nagging fear that you don’t really know how you’re going to cope with the walk, will you get blisters? did I pack the right stuff? It’s not going to snow is it, not in October? (it didn’t in case you were wondering)
On the walk down from Dent Hill we met up with Chris and Mike (The brothers) who were the only other coast to coasters we met from St Bees – Mike was an ex-marine so we thought we would be safe – and walked with them towards Ennerdale. It was an enjoyable walk along Nannycatch Beck but as the rain started to fall heavily as we reached the road we decided to part company with the brothers to walk at a quick pace to Ennerdale Bridge as we didn’t want to have soaking boots from the first day of our journey.