Coast to Coast 2011: Day Eleven
Wednesday 22nd June – Grasmere to Stonethwaite
Today I shall mostly be singing loudy and playing the air-guitar to “Walk On By” by The Stranglers.
I had a cracking nights sleep in the Chestnut Villa – had a double bed for only the second night of the trip. The B&B is very nice and well run, a business but with the personal touch.
I had another late breakfast and late start – no point getting into Stonethwaite too early as I cant check in until 15:30 and there’s always a chance the Langstrath pub may be shut – so the plan was to take it easy and aim for arrival at about 4pm.
The weather forecast was pretty awful – heavy showers all day with bright sunny spells. Which meant that when I wasn’t being pissed on I was likely to be sweating cobs through the waterproofs.
Maintaining a comfortable temperature and internal environment is crucial to a good days walking – I just don’t think June is a good month to achieve this. Too wet and too warm.
I set out through the village at about 9:15 and picked up the footpath that leads up to Silver How. I was too hot in the baselayer and Paramo top so stopped to put my shirt on instead. I stuck with the overtrousers on the bottom – they seem to be the best of both worlds. I can vent them from top of the thigh to the knees so they’re cool enough and then zip them up quickly if it starts raining.
The path to Silver How is a steep little sucker in places, plenty of greenery though and superb views down into the village and Grasmere water.
The path was lined with what I wanted to be Lupins, but are probably foxgloves or something else completely – a botanist I ain’t. Anyway, today’s tune of the day was supposed to be Walk on By by The Stranglers, but because of the Lupins it ended up being Dennis Moore, by Monty Python; (to the tune of Robin Hood); “Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore, riding through the sward. Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore and his horse Concorde – steals from the rich and gives them to the poor, Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore”. Repeat ad nauseum or until someone comes along the path.
I’m sure Dodge can provide a YouTube link for you all. Without proper WiFi I’m a bit stuck.
Anyway, the Lupins are lovely up to Silver How and then it’s out across the fells towards Stickle Tarn. I’ve walked these fells only a couple of times and on previous occasions I’ve come across the same experience. The area is very hilly, lots of lumps and bumps and its very difficult to navigate by sight. The path – if you can find it – isn’t bad, but talk about round the houses – it goes all over the bloody place. And I find it counter intuitive – it doesn’t seem to go in logical direction. You feel as though you’re walking away from your destination not towards it. However, previous walks have taught me to stick to it once you get on it – despite how much it meanders.
I was alone, I could see ahead for a while and back a lot further, so I had no problems with singing Dennis Moore out loud. Until a bloke came from my right, around a large lump, laughing. He must have heard me. He joined my track and we chatted for a minute. He was good enough not to mention the singing. There’s only one path and although he was headed for High Raise and I Pavey Ark we’d have to share the path for a good while. I made my excuses and stopped for a few minutes to let him get a head start. It would also allow me to use him as a navigation aid for the next hour or two.
The tops here abouts are very wet, lots of hidden tarns and huge areas of swampy ground. My feet were soon soaking, even through the usually excellent Inov-8s. After a while I stopped trying to avoid the wet bits and just ploughed straight through them. I mean how much worse could they get? Which of course brought another Monty Python reference to mind: “Worse? How could it be worse?”
With Mr. High Raise well ahead of me, Dennis Moore got another airing. Bloody Lupins.
I made sure not to follow my navigation aid up his hill, and instead kept an eye out for the path to take me up Easy Gulley, the “easy” way up Pavey Ark. The path did it’s usual trick of wandering about all over the place – it wanted to drop down to the tarn before turning right and climbing up to the foot of the gulley. So I struck out across the boggy grassland and made my own path. I got a good view of the path up the hill and it looked far from easy. It was steep as hell and rocky as anything. It was a much easier way up to Pavey Ark than say the route via Jacks Rake, but then that’s not saying much. I could feel the Achilles tendon in both heels clicking and complaining as I gained height. There was a couple of guys ahead for me to aim for, but I made no advance on them. The views behind were awesome, I could see a huge party of walkers climbing up to High Raise, taking it very slowly.
I made it to the top of Easy Gulley – which was shorter than I expected – and looked around for somewhere to rest for a few and eat some lunch.
I found the two guys who were ahead of me and they were also taking a break – they said it had been a hard climb.
I had some warm, frothy, Diet Coke, an apple and a flapjack I’d bought in the little shop in Patterdale, which was great – both the shop and the flapjack.
So far today I’d been dead lucky. I’d been walking sunshine pretty much all day. All around me I could see rain clouds dumping their contents onto neighbouring fells and I got some very moody shots from my privileged spot in the sun. But now it was changing, the rain started falling as I packed away my lunch stuff and I took the opportunity to swap my shirt for my Paramo. The shirt was sodden – but I packed it away in the hope that I’d be able to use it again later.
Rather than follow the “baggers” path that runs from Pavey Ark to Harrison Stickle and then to Pike o’Stickle – the one that falls and climbs and wanders around the edge of the Langdales – I made my own path again, cutting across the open moor and heading for the rough track that runs across Martcrag Moor. I didn’t need the Wainwrights and I didn’t need the height gain.
The moor and the path are wet at the best of times and today wasn’t one of those times. It was horrible and boggy and there seems to have been only a halfhearted attempt to place stones to help walkers.
I came to the huge cairn that marked the top of Stake Pass and followed the path down into the valley.
Even though the path is pretty crap in places the valley is beautiful. The views open up significantly once you crest the top of the really steep section of path – you can see right down into Borrowdale. I saw a couple of figures far off down the path ahead, two targets to aim for, if my feet would hold out. The Inov-8s don’t protect your feet, not from the stony path that soon develops as you descend further.
I met a guy repairing a section of path, he sounded Aussie (but was probably Kiwi) and be was doing a great job. The bit he’d already done was excellent. Severe switchbacks making the descent almost easy, but the piece he was working on was a muddy nightmare. He showed me the best way down past the mud, and I regretted nor asking him how he got to work each morning. It was an hour or two from Stonethwaite and I can’t imagine he walks up and sown every day. He wouldn’t be very productive. There was a small garden shed lashed to the nearby hillside and I guess that’s where he shelters when things get bad, but it seemed a little too small to sleep in.
I loved this section of the walk, it was brilliant. Langstrath as a valley is sublime and the path gets better and better as you descend. It’s still rocky and stony, but it’s clear and easy to follow. You dint have to spend all the time watching your feet.
I finally caught my two targets on the approach to Smithymire Island, two old dears out for the day. I wasn’t especially proud of my achievement in running them down, but a targets a target!
By taking my time down Langstrath I arrived in Stonethwaite at about 3pm, so I went to the Langstrath pub to get a drink and to book a table for the evening. It was a good job I did too, they were packed later and were turning diners away.
At 3:30 I knocked on the door of the B&B, just a few yards down from the pub. I had another double bed, but the first shared bathroom of the walk. It was a lovely place though, they seem to have updated the place a bit since I was last here; with Tex on a boys weekend 2 or 3 years previously.
There is no WiFi though and it was also the first room without a TV, which didn’t bother me particularly. However it seems that fewer rooms have no TV now than in years past. I remember doing the C2C in 2006 and several had no TV. The only issue would be the weather forecast on the morning, but as they’d been wrong all week, would it really matter? I thought not.
I returned to the pub and started writing the blog, in the hope that I may be able to post it. There was no signal in the valley, not on any network, but the pub did seem to have WiFi. I was provided the password in exchange for a small contribution to the upkeep of the local school. It was rubbish though. I barely had any signal and the connection kept dropping and asking me to input the overly complex password. I gave up after a while. Sorry readers, you ain’t gonna get this until at least Thursday evening.
I overheard a guy asking at the bar for a table for the evening to eat. The lady said she had nothing now until after 8pm. He said he was staying at the Farm and couldn’t she do anything earlier. The simple answer was no. I offered him a seat at my table for eating at 6pm if that was any good. He gratefully accepted and went off to get changed.
He came back about 5:45 and we sat and chatted. He was very inquisitive, but in a nice way. Interested, not just nosey. His name was Bill and he was a semi-retired TV Executive Producer. He’d worked for ITV and C4 and others. I confessed to not knowing his name, but I will look out for it in future.
He also explained that he just written a book that was about to be released. The Ghost Runner, by Bill Jones. Sounds fascinating – about an amateur athlete who had to compete in disguise and undercover after being banned for accepting money as a boxer many years earlier. Its on Amazon, so give it a go.
Bill and I had a great chat, he was well travelled and told me about some of his experiences at Everest basecamp and other journeys. He couldn’t understand why I kept coming back to walk the same path when there are so many others out there to be walked. I tried to explain how the C2C can infect a person, but I don’t think I did a very good job.
He made a good point though, and although I will never say never, I think it will be a long time before I come back to this path. I’d love to walk it with my grandson, Harry, in a few years, when he’s old enough.
I’m feeling knackered at the moment, mostly my feet, which feel punished. They’ve been wet for five or six days running now and the little protection offered by the Inov-8s hasn’t helped the situation. This has been partly responsible for making me change my route tomorrow. Irrespective of what the weather is doing, I’m not doing the big route I planned. Its too long and too high for the way I feel at the moment, so I’m going to walk the traditional route and try and take it easy. I don’t have all the maps for that, but I have the GPS and I’m pretty sure I could do the route without either in any case.
I left Bill at about 8pm, rang home and had the added bonus of chatting to Harry. He was very impressed I was walking up and down mountains.
I had another early night, after watching the latest Resident Evil film on the laptop. That little luxury has been brilliant. Entertainment in the evening and the perfect blogging platform when I do have a WiFi connection.