C2C 2006: Day Four

3rd May 2006 – Patterdale to Shap – 16.5 miles

Despite my early bedtime, there was no noise from the bar below, which is always a concern when staying in a pub rather than a B&B. I was awake by 06:00, much earlier than the alarm I had set on my watch, but then I was never woken by my alarm for the whole trip. I put this down to being eager and raring to go each morning and possibly due to the fact that I was in bed and asleep for about 22:00 each night.

My legs, despite my trepidations, felt none the worse for the previous day’s exertions and my feet seemed to be holding up quite well, with no signs of any blisters, just a tingle in my right big toe and an ache in the ball of my left foot. I applied some moleskin to the right toe to see if that would help.

Breakfast was a rather poor affair, with very small portions served in the bar area, which felt a bit odd. The chef was obviously under instructions to make the beans go as far as possible, as I only had about 25 of them. I was joined by Neil and Sandy, who I never bumped into again as they were on a much slower crossing schedule than I was.

I was really looking forward to today’s walk, despite the fact that I was leaving Lakeland behind. In store was a long steady climb up to Kidsty, a glorious waterside walk along Haweswater followed by the open country and green fields into Shap. Three marvellous walks all rolled into one.

The weather looked reasonable with lots of cloud, but none of it very ominous or black looking. So I set out without waterproofs on at 08:30. The road out of Patterdale passes a number of small houses (probably worth an absolute fortune) before turning onto the fell side and up to Boredale Hause. Ahead I could see a pair of walkers who must have left Patterdale about 30 minutes before me, I kept them in sight for most of the morning, gradually gaining on them as we made our way to the summit. As much as I like to be alone on the hills, it’s also nice to have a target to aim at, especially as I’m normally so slow going up hills (although things have improved significantly since my first walk up Coniston Old Man).

Although not particularly steep at any point, the climb up to Kidsty is almost relentless, with only a couple of respites from the grind. The first of these is after Angle Tarn Pikes on the path around the tarn. This must be a glorious spot in good weather and indeed there were a couple of tents pitched on a knoll by the tarn. They were pitched despite today’s weather though, rather than because of it. The wind today was even worse than yesterday, I would never have considered this possible, and I was impressed at the fact that these tents were still in place.

Due to the howling gale, the wind-chill factor had dropped temperatures to an uncomfortably low level and I had already donned coat and woolly hat by the time I reached Angle Tarn. I had planned to stop for 10 minutes here, but the weather was so awful I pressed on, just pausing to take a couple of pictures.

At Satura Crag I took a completely wrong track, somehow managing to miss the path and it took 5 minutes or so of walking across boggy, marshy ground to pick it up once again. My GPS came into its own here, pointing me back to my pre-determined route and the firm footing of the track.

As I approached The Knott, I started to get a little concerned about the weather, the wind was fortunately not in my face, but the strength of it was immense and the wind-chill was worrying. I very briefly considered heading back to Patterdale, but the consequences of that action were too far reaching and I decided that as long as I could see the couple ahead of me I would press on. They were my lighthouse in the storm, so to speak.

I had a good view of the couple ahead now and could see that they were gaining on a solo walker in a bright yellow coat who was making very slow progress up The Knott. They stopped as they passed and then walked on for a short while together, until the solo stopped again. I lost sight of all three as they rounded The Knott and I was still 10 minutes or so from reaching that point.

The path twists and turns from The Knott onwards and I lost sight of my targets for a little while, in fact it wasn’t until the path turns left off the Straits of Riggindale up to Kidsty Pike that I saw the yellow solo walker, hunkered down by a wall reading a map – I could see now it was a girl. I waved as I passed and she waved back – obviously not in trouble – so I pressed on towards the summit.

I was only about three to five minutes behind the couple now and they were struggling against the wind, now in our faces, as much as I was, along the ridge to the cairn at the top of Kidsty. The views down into Riggindale were awesome despite the country still being mainly brown. Kidsty Pike jutted out ahead like the prow of a ship above Haweswater below, remarkably in bright sunshine.

When I eventually reached the summit, I had to settle for a picture of my walking pole propped against the cairn as the camera would not stand up on my little tripod for more than a few seconds before being blown over by the hurricane force winds. I was surprised to get a voice message notification while on the top, my first phone signal since Rosthwaite. It was the garage telling me that my new car was ready for delivery – just rewards for a great climb!

I had a slice of caramel chocolate shortcake and some Lucozade, purchased from Patterdale post office the day before and then pushed on down hill now towards Haweswater. I was expecting the wind to lessen now I was past the summit, but it strengthened and I was struggling to stay on my feet at times. The path off the hill is very steep in places and it was wet and slippery too. This, added to the wind speed, resulted in the inevitable happening and I was actually blown over. I skidded for about 10 yards down hill on my side getting completely soaked in the progress. It was a damp and bedraggled walker that reached the bottom of Kidsty into glorious sunshine and no wind. No wind at all. It was almost spooky.

My fall had slowed my descent and although I could see the couple ahead of me they had gained some ground and I lost them as they crossed the footbridge over Randale Beck. I stopped for a few minutes at the base of Kidsty, in the sunshine and packed away the cold weather gear, even managing to shed my fleece. I had a short lunch of raisins and then carried on into phase two of the day’s walk, the waterside walk along Haweswater.

It wasn’t until about midday when I realised I had lost the couple ahead of me. I met two guys coming the other way along the reservoir and we stopped and talked for 5 minutes. The older of the two was obviously the talker and he greeted me with “Are you looking for the sea?” (I found out later than he also said this to the two couples who were staying in my B&B that night). It turned out they were doing the C2C, but going east to west (and were not greatly impressed when I called it “the wrong way”). I asked them if they had passed a couple a few minutes earlier and they said I was the first person they had met. The younger of the two, obviously the walker, was eager to push on, but “talker” was having none of it. In the end I managed to wish them luck and “walker and talker” headed for Patterdale.

The path alongside Haweswater was very different from the one beside Ennerdale Water. It involved more ups and downs for one thing and I wasn’t expecting to be so far from the water, often being separated by stands of trees and sometimes up to 200 feet above the waterline. It was a thoroughly enjoyable walk though with the warming sunshine and a light breeze drying out my trousers nicely. The retrospective views of the Lakes back along the water were splendid and I knew I didn’t have much longer in their company. I was sorry to be leaving them behind, but then I had the Yorkshire Dales to look forward to and my Herriot Way walk the previous year had left me with fond memories of that National Park.

At the end of the reservoir there is a new development of houses at Burnbanks (I think) these look quite incongruous, a set of cheap looking, terraced properties set amongst the trees. The path through these trees does not seem to follow the course of the path identified on the OS map and actually results in less of a road walk than initially expected.

The main feature of the next 3 or 4 miles is the complete absence of any hills, either in the line of walk, or indeed in the line of sight. This was such an incongruous sight that I actually took a picture of it. Later when reviewing the pictures I took, I wondered why I had one of an empty field πŸ™‚

The path runs alongside Haweswater Beck for a short while and this was charming, and I’m sure will be even more so when the trees lining the beck have grown some leaves later in the summer. Stedman does not write positively about this section of the walk, but I thought it was great. It’s very much like the walking I do at home, through fields and pastures, and the sun was shining. So in this case Stedman was wrong.

Before long the top of Shap Abbey came into view and rather deceptively lulled me into thinking I was almost at the end of the days walking. The GPS said I still had over 3 miles to go to the B&B. I’m quite into old castles and will take time out to wander round these, but old ecclesiastical institutions hold little interest for me, so despite having plenty of time I skirted the abbey grounds in favour of a cold drink in the first pub I came across.

At a crossroad of lanes shortly after the abbey I met the “Ferryman” for the first time. Of course at this point he was just some old guy looking a bit lost. I said hello and asked him where he was headed, he had no pack, so I guessed he wasn’t going far. He showed me a photocopied page from Wainwright’s C2C book and said he was looking for Rosgill Bridge, where he was hoping to meet some friends who were doing the C2C. He said they were expecting to hit Shap about 18:00, I told him I was doing the C2C and although I didn’t know Rosgill Bridge I was sure that his friends would come past the abbey, so pointed him in the direction.

The “Ferryman” and his friends the “Ferrymen” were to become a regular sight on my crossing. Ferryman dropped the Ferrymen off at the start of each days walk and then met them at the end, he meanwhile would peruse the local area and do short walks while waiting for them. They would be spirited off to I don’t know where at the end of each day and re-appear the next morning, hence the nicknames.

I walked into Shap, a long thin village stretched out along the A6 for about a mile. Not knowing what shops were where I stopped at the first convenience store and stocked up on water, Lucozade and flapjacks. My next stop was the Bull’s Head, the first pub in the town and a pint of Diet Coke (Oh yes, plenty of ice please!). The pub was a pokey little place with a bad smell and if it hadn’t been for the beer garden out back I would have walked down to the next one.

It was only 14:45, so I could hardly knock on the B&B just yet. I savoured the Diet Coke and crunched all the ice cubes as well. It was lovely and warm in the beer garden, but my feet were telling me not to sit too long or they wouldn’t want to get up again, so I left the pub and walked slowly down through the village to Brookfield Guest House. I didn’t realise how far it was and a mile later, as the last of the houses in the village approached I began to wonder if I had missed it. Never fear though – it is literally the last house in the village. Kidsty Pike is clearly visible from the front garden of Brookfield.

The landlady, Margaret, welcomed me in but was surprised I was there so early. When I told her I’d been in the pub for half an hour she was shocked – “That must be a record time” she said. “Tea or a shower?” she asked me, but as my Sherpa bag had not yet been delivered the decision was easy. “Tea please”. Along with tea came toasted hot cross buns with melted butter. Fantastic. I found a number of printed journals on the coffee table from people who had stayed at Brookfield, which I thought was a nice touch.

At about 16:00 two more guests arrived. It was the couple from the White Lion the night before and, it turned out, the couple I had followed all morning. Gareth and Deirdre had stopped for a lunch break just off the path at the bottom of Kidsty and that’s where I had lost them. We talked for a while and then Margaret brought through some homemade sausage rolls, which were very tasty.

About 17:00 two more guests arrived. These were new faces to me, but G&D had met them the night before in the White Lion, after I had gone to my room. Neil and Winifred, from Gretna, were on a similar schedule as far as Ingleby Cross, so we were to meet several more times. I took my leave shortly after they arrived as my bag had now been delivered and I was in dire need of a shower.

The Gretna couple had booked an evening meal with Margaret, so G&D and I went to the Greyhound, the nearest pub to the B&B and the best one in town by all accounts. I ordered a gammon steak (Β£9) which turned out to be the biggest piece of gammon I have ever seen. The pub also has a number of locally produced real ales, I tried the one called Carlisle something, which I found to be a bit lightweight and non-descript whereas the pint of Tirrel (I think) was lovely. We rather embarrassed ourselves that evening by forgetting to settle up before walking out, only to be shouted back by the lady behind the bar. After much apologising and very red-faced, we headed back to the B&B.

I found that the glorious weather from Haweswater onwards had left me with sunburn down the right hand side (south-facing side) of my face and my right arm. I will try walking backwards tomorrow to even things out.

G&D and I requested breakfast for 07:30, the choice of menu listed by Margaret was very impressive, including kippers, smoked haddock and many other “exotic” choices. I settled for the usual Full English with toast and tea and headed up for another early night.

Tonight’s Accommodation

Brookfield Guest House

Without doubt the best stop on the whole C2C for me, from the tea and homemade cakes and savouries on arrival, to the lovely clean room, great breakfast, “nothing is too much trouble” attitude and overall friendly atmosphere. My large double room was en-suite with a single bed, TV, tea and coffee, biscuits and plenty of plug sockets.

Despite being situated at the very end of Shap (it’s almost the last house) it’s still close to the route and only 2 minutes walk from the best pub in town (The Greyhound), where a great meal and superb local ales are available. I am also reliably informed that the evening meal at Brookfield is excellent.

If Margaret were to franchise Brookfield along the whole C2C route she would always be fully booked and would probably make her fortune.