Coast to Coast 2011: Day Eight

Sunday 19th June – Kirkby Stephen to Shap

Today I shall mostly be wearing black and looking depressed with “The Hardest Walk” by The Jesus & Mary Chain.

Although it wasn’t actually raining when I set out this morning, it did look black and horrible and the forecast was for scattered showers pretty much all day. It was cool enough to justify starting in the Paramo with just a baselayer beneath it, but I thought it may be a bit overkill to start in the waterproof troos again, so I stuck them in the pack and went for the Craghoppers instead.

I’d planned to meet one of the forum members today, at about 11am, just beside Sunbiggin Tarn – I like meeting people I’ve chatted to on the forum and this was the second such meet of the trip, after Doug at Lord Stones cafe. However it did sort of focus my mind, so rather than being quite relaxed about when I could leave the Black Bull, I made sure I was out early and put on a decent pace to try and be there on time. I found myself racing through the fields out of Kirkby Stephen, sweating like mad and beginning to feel my calves tightening up. I stopped and reassessed my attitude, this was daft. A meeting on the fells is only ever likely to be tentative, so no point busting a gut on the way.  If I made it on time then fine, if not I’m sure Brian wouldn’t hold it against me.

Breakfast at the Black Bull is from 08:00 to 09:00, and I’d already decided that with 20 miles to go I wanted to be walking by 08:30 at the latest. As it was I got down a few minutes early and grabbed some Corn Flakes and a slice of toast, washed down with a cup of tea and fled. The breakfast room had quickly filled with a huge party of what I think were Australians, but with my talent for upsetting people, they were probably Kiwis, I just don’t have the ear to differentiate between them. The first of their party to come down asked me to move to a different table as she was sure the long table setup for 20 people was for them; I moved politely. I was then asked to move again by the landlord, as I was now sitting a table for two, I moved to the solo lone walker table in the far corner.

The early bird Aussie lady told me they were going over Nine Standards today, but their guide was so experienced he would know how to avoid the bogs! I didn’t want to contradict her, but unless they were walking along the road, there is  no way to avoid the bogs. You can be prepared for them; gaiters, waterproof troos, spare socks maybe, but you are going to get wet, end of. She was immensely proud of their guide – he knew all the routes in the Lakes too. I wondered if his name was Dave and if he could swim like a fish (anyone under 45 is not going to get that – sorry).

I left the twittering Aussies to themselves – I silently wished the guide good luck – you couldn’t pay me enough to guide 20 old hens across the breadth of England. Well you could, provided I didn’t have to guarantee that 20 arrived at the other side. I know plenty of places en-route where you’d never find a body. In fact I’ve often wondered how many missing people you’d discover if you opened up all the really big cairns on the tops of remote hills.

With a light breakfast inside me I was walking by about 08:15, down the main street of the town – straight past the footpath sign I was looking for (but not well enough), and then on for another couple of hundred yards, before I spotted my mistake and had to backtrack – the first navigation mistake of the walk I think. I did spend 5 minutes looking to see if there was a way of turning the extra distance into a “long-cut” but there wasn’t, so I had no choice but to backtrack.

As I entered the fields outside KS I started to come across a series of canes topped with orange fluorescent ribbon – obviously some sort of route was being mapped out. These led all the way down to Smardale Bridge and beyond. The little imp in me started to whisper in my ear again – “you should move some, just one or two – go on – you know you want to”. And so he went on for ages. I must have followed these stakes for the best part of 5 miles, until I found their source. A huge car park beside the road at Brownber, filled with horse boxes, and the first set of horses setting out, past me and down the lane, following the orange canes. There must have been about a hundred  horses taking part and they were using part of the C2C route – in fact a good few miles of it – I could imagine this was going to cause a few conflicts today. Not only were 100 horses going to churn up an already very wet and muddy section on the way to Sunbiggin, but so many horses and people sharing the path would be tricky – especially in the narrow section through the heather. I was glad to be going backwards and early – and not for the first time.

It had been raining since about 09:00, a steady heavy drizzle/light shower thing but my trousers were coping reasonably well – not getting soaked, managing to shed as much as they absorbed – until about 10:30 – when the heavens opened and small creatures began to fall, alongside the stair rods – it teemed down for about 30 minutes. My trousers immediately filled with water and I had to change them, or I’d chafe myself to death over the next couple of hours.

Just south of Sunbiggin there’s a wooden bridge and gate in a wall – the only wall for miles and the perfect place to remove ones trousers and replace them with waterproofs. There was no point just putting the overtrousers over the trousers – I was going to have to go with them alone. I started the delicate process of removing boots without completely soaking my socks – using a dry bag and a couple of big stones and then removing trousers. Just as I was in the process of dropping the wet ones around my knees a group of people hove into view on the far side of the wall – I belayed the dropping process – explained what I was doing and also explained that although I would wait till they were through the gate, I couldn’t wait until they were out of sight – the ladies agree to keep eyes forward 🙂

As soon as they were through I started again and managed to get wet bags off before another group arrived. There was nothing for it – I called to them before they could reach the gate and asked them to wait for just a moment while I slipped into something dry. They good naturedly agreed and I soon allowed them through. Wet pants off and waterproof on I felt much better and was able to proceed. This did make me somewhat late for Brian though.

I arrived at Sunbiggin at about 11:10 – only a few minutes late, but there was no-one about and none within sight either, and I could see a fair distance. I checked the date and realised I’d got it wrong – Brian wasn’t expecting to meet me until tomorrow. It was still raining, so I scrapped the high level alternative and stuck to the traditional route – something of a familiar story for the last few days.

I rang Brian and explained about my cock-up – he told me he was only just at the M6 footbridge – so I figured we’d still cross paths before he reached Orton. The rain began to ease off, the sky lightened somewhat and it warmed up a little too. I’m startled at how comfortable the overtrousers are, when worn over no trousers. I’m a complete convert – if it even looks like rain tomorrow I’m going to start out in them and perhaps not even bother packing the Craghoppers. I just don’t feel the need. I can vent the troos using the zips up the side and they fit well enough in the areas that tend to chafe, so I’m sorted.

To be continued ============================

Unfortunately I went to the pub again tonight and I’m feeling a bit shattered after a long hard slog in the rain this morning, so the meeting with Brian, a chat with a gap waller and all the photos are going to have to wait until tomorrow night – the downside being I probably won’t have WiFi tomorrow and I do tonight. But I’m tired and I can feel my eyes closing.

Sorry.

OK, one closing question for you all – why would a sheep have a bag over it’s head? It wasn’t something it picked up, because there were at least two that I saw in this field….

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And a second question – assuming a sheep did not do this poo – how sad would you have to be to place one like this? It did make me laugh though…… and before you ask – no it wasn’t me.

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lonewalker

Fell-walker, trig-pointer, peak-bagger, Wainwright-er & Pennine Way author, with a passion for long paths, malt whisky, fast cars & Man City

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5 Responses

  1. lonewalker says:

    The sheep bags were odd – never seen them before – seen them on horses sometimes, but never sheep. The one in the photo doesn’t seem to be mesh and my silent approach to get a photo didn’t alert the animal, so it must be blinding.

    Tim – the poncho was OK – just not ideal for a long wet day in the wind. I would still use it as a summer option – perhaps not on the high fells, but in the Dales or lowland walks it would be fine. Its best suited to those days where it rains on and off all day – its dead easy to slip on and off.

    Dodge – “Enjoy Holiday” check!

  2. Dodge says:

    I googled “why do sheep have bags on their heads” and the closest match was the third on the list – Lone Walker’s, Walking Places!!
    Just watching Ade Edmondson in “The Dales” on ITV1. There’s not much walking going on, but there are lots of nice aerial shots of landscape, lovely.
    Good to see you’ve got to grips with the camera again. Back on track, in more ways than one!
    Keep it up.
    Don’t forget to enjoy it!

  3. Those bags are so the sheep can’t catch your eye 😉

  4. Tim says:

    Roger could well be right re sheep bags. The poo I suspect is some kind of Australian outback ritual (or Kiwi perhaps). Will check with Ramblin Ben from Canberra and get back to you. So, the poncho is a bust? Had often wondered about their practicality. Hoping for a dry day for you tomorrow.

  5. Roger says:

    I think the sheep with bags on there head are probably going to lay in wait to hold up any unsuspecting walkers, they usually wait up trees to jump out as you approach, this will account for the poo on the post if under a tree they use. There is large reward for the ring leader Baa baa Turpin! Or it could be the sheep with the bags on there heads are having trouble with flies around there head and eyes, the bags will be made from mesh.
    Roger.

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