Appleby to Kirkby Stephen – 12 miles

Today I walked from Appleby station to Kirkby Stephen. It rained all day, snowed for a while in the middle and I was buffeted by wind for the whole route. I wasn’t at all grumpy, except when I got my hood stuck in a thorn bush and ripped it.

I arrived in Kirkby Stephen at 2pm, had a couple of pints and checked in to the B&B at 3.45.

Short report as a placeholder, I may come back to this. And so I have, here is a much fuller report….

My rest day was a huge success and I may add more of them into future long paths. The feeling of not having anything to do was great, even better than a day lounging at home. I had a massive breakfast and went back to my room, which had a floor to ceiling window which I sat in front of and watched the village go by. I propped my feet up on a stool, pulled the quilt off the bed, wrapped it round me and sat there like an old dotard. I watched a couple of films on my phone and around lunch time hobbled across to the shop. I found some plasters and bought a massive piece of chocolate chip flapjack and a smaller piece of caramel chocolate shortcake and went back to my quilt.

I rang home to speak to my wife and my grandson who, along with the rest of the family, were having an Easter Sunday lunch. It would have been great to be there with them and I felt a little lonely for a while after hanging up, but cheered myself up with the flapjack and another film.

About 6pm I went down into the pub for tea, a massive Cumberland sausage, with mash and rich onion gravy, it was very nice! It was so nice that I fell asleep in my chair (after returning to my room) listening to music and watching the village. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so relaxed!

My left foot felt progressively better as the day wore on, the plasters helped isolate the little toe and his slightly bigger neighbour, I saved my final Compeed.

Annoyingly the weather was pretty good while I sat in my room looking out, while at the same time the weather forecast for the next day (today) became worse each time I checked it.

I had an 8am breakfast this morning. After yesterday’s anaemic bacon, I asked for it to be ‘quite crispy’ this time, along with fried eggs. It was pretty good. Considering the Shepherds Inn has only just started doing B&B I have to say they’re making a pretty good fist of it. The accommodation, the service and the food were excellent (if slightly more expensive than I would have liked).

By 9am I was out the door and heading for the train station, about 5 mins from the pub. I caught the 9.20 to Appleby, which takes about 15 mins and was much easier on my feet than walking it would have been. I still need to come back and do this section, but I definitely needed the rest day in order to continue this walk.

Appleby station

At Appleby, I pulled my pack on and immediately felt my coat sleeve snag on something sharp and produce a 3 inch rip in the outer layer of my Paramo jacket. My enamel Pennine Way pin badge had snapped off, leaving just the metal pin protruding through my pack strap, which ripped my coat. That was a second rip since the walk began. The first one happened during the navigational balls up on day 1 when I’d had to clamber across a couple of barbed wire fences and I caught the front of my jacket on it.

I walked down through the town to find the river, and the 8th Eden Benchmark, which was right beside the path and the footbridge over to the other side of the Eden. It was already cold, but now the rain began (and didn’t stop all day) and when I wasn’t sheltered by trees or hedges, the wind was even more chilling as it hammered against (or through) me. There was a lovely proportion of riverside paths today, quite a lot of field paths not beside the river and very little tarmac, except for the last 2.5 miles into Kirkby Stephen.

The Primrose Stone, Eden Benchmark

The walk was enjoyable enough, despite the weather. It’s amazing how much easier it is to walk when your feet don’t feel like they’re being stabbed with knives at every step. It would have been even better of course without the rain, wind and snow, but I had a fine time. I never really stopped, there was no shelter along the route, no handy pub, not even a bus shelter to shiver in. I just put my head down and plodded on.

I came across a series of thin fields each separated by a stile. The stiles had the highest steps of any stiles I’ve come across before. I’m tall and I have long legs, and I struggled to step onto the lower step of each of these stiles. Climbing onto the second step to cross the upper bar I was getting vertigo I was so far off the ground! One of these stiles had a rather awkward thorn tree beside it and as I was clambering over the stile, my boot slipped off the lower step and I was flung backwards into the bush, my shin bashing itself painfully on the step. I tried to right myself, only to find my head stuck in the bush, my hood was firmly entangled in the thorns. I had to pull my head out of the hood and try and turn my head to see the thorns I order to extract them without ripping the hood too badly. I was a bit grumpy for a while after that incident. I’m glad I was walking solo, it was all a bit ungainly.

I arrived, cold and wet, in Kirkby Stephen at exactly 2pm, which was exactly 2 hours before my B&B would let me check-in! I sought out the Black Bull, which I knew would have a fire going, but it was busy and the seats beside the fire were taken. So I ordered a pint of Black Sheep (the first one of the trip) and waited patiently for someone to leave. I watched a young couple pay their bill and get up from beside the fire, and then I struck, quick as a frog and claimed possession. I dried out down one side and chatted with a guy who came and sat beside me.

Eventually I’d had enough of polite conversation and made my excuses, and left. I stopped at the shop on the way to the B&B and picked up some supplies for my room. I’m not going back out again, it’s too cold and I’d have to put wet gear back on again – sod that!

I’m staying in the Jolly Farmers, with Carol, who looks after you nicely. I’ve had a pot tea and a fruit scone (or scone, depending on your local dialect), a shower and half a bag of minstrels. I wasn’t going to do a report tonight, but it seemed a shame to break my run.

My left foot is feeling a little bruised again, but nothing like as bad as it did after I arrived in Langwathby. Both my big toes have started to turn black, which normally suggests boots are too small, so maybe my feet have started to gain weight, along with the rest of me!

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