Breakfast at the Jolly Farmer’s was a rowdy affair. I’d asked for 8am and wished I’d asked for 7.30 – there were 12 other people in the dining room by 8.10 and they all seemed to know each other, which did at least mean they weren’t talking to me, so I could concentrate on my bacon and eggs (very nice) and get out of there as quickly as possible.
I’d had a think last night, about what to do today. The forecast was pretty awful again, no snow this time, but rain all day and moderate winds. I’d walked all of the route, except the first 2 miles and the last 4, when I’d researched the Yoredale Way, so I would be covering a lot of old ground, with feet that didn’t feel great again. I changed my plan. I would walk the first 2 miles of the path, for which I needed notes, and then head to Kirkby Stephen station. I would catch the train to Carlisle and then walk the new route I’d plotted to Wetheral – in place of the bloody awful section along the A69. That would be about 7 miles and would take no more than 3 hours, plenty of time to catch a train back to Carlisle for my train home, which didn’t leave until 6pm.
I started out in the Paramo, it was spitting as I left the B&B and walked slowly back along the road towards town. By the time I turned off to the right, no more than a couple of hundred yards out, it was coming down properly – it didn’t stop until about 300 yards from the end. Heading south out of the town, I soon picked up a small track beside the Eden that led to Stenkrith Park. The 9th Eden Benchmark is here, just far enough off the path to be awkward to find and looking much more natural than any of the previous sculptures – they look just like rocks beside the river. A little further on, beneath the viaduct are some of the most impressive waterfalls along any of the three rivers I’ve been writing about. The Eden crashes down several dozen feet and is squeezed through a narrow gap – the recent rain added to the effect of course – it was very impressive.
I got turned around momentarily and ended up on the wrong side of the river, so had to backtrack and find the path I’d missed. There are poems carved into stones along this section – the work of Meg Peacocke, which are also slowly being reclaimed by nature. It’s a lovely section of path. I crossed a few more fields beside the river and once I reached the path which is also used by the Yoredale Way, I cut across to the station. I only had a few minutes to wait for the train to Carlisle.
Arriving into Carlisle I immediately set out to follow my new route to Wetheral. It follows the footpath on the south side of the Eden and then uses a couple of quite country lanes to reach its destination. It’s about 4 miles shorter than the original route, but still manages to spend more time beside the Eden and much less time on tarmac. I will be amending the route to use this new path. It’s all very well trying to stick to the original path of a walk that I adopt, but things have changed in 25 years. When Charlie Emett devised the walk, this section was much friendlier to walkers. There was a permissive path beside the river that cut out about 4 miles of tarmac – that route has gone now, completely overgrown and not ‘permissive’ any longer. There was also a path beside the river alongside the golf course – that’s also not allowed any more, meaning more tarmac to avoid it. Things change and all I can do is try and make the best use of the paths that are available to me.
The riverside path was excellent – a bit slippery today after all the rain, but it hugs the Eden and if you can ignore the constant hum from the M6 nearby it’s a very pleasant walk. There was a big family group of swans gliding peacefully upstream, no doubt paddling furiously beneath the water, but serene from above.
I passed a couple of anglers who barely grunted as I bid them hello. After the riverside path ran out I followed a narrow bridleway back towards civilisation, emerging at a road with a Toby Carvery and a massive 24hr Tesco – it felt quite abrasive after the tranquillity of the river.
The road section was initially pavement beside residential roads and then became a quiet country lane. I took the wrong left turn as I entered the little village of Scotby and didn’t spot my error for about half a mile. Although it would have brought me out where I wanted, it wasn’t the route I’d selected, so I had to retrace my steps and find the correct turn – I was grumpy for a while!
I arrived in Wetheral with loads of time to spare before the train – too long really. I ducked into the Crown Hotel bar and dripped all over their nice carpet, adding muddy footprints into the bargain. I got a couple of sniffy looks from one or two people and I thought I was quite restrained when I didn’t take my coat off and flick water all over them. I ordered a pint of Otter and went to sit in the corner beside a group of old boys, who all welcomed me warmly. I think I was a new topic of conversation for them – I was bombarded with questions for the next hour.
After a second pint and additional interrogation I left and hobbled the 100 yards or so to the station, to catch my second train of the day to Carlisle. My feet were sore again and sitting down for 90 minutes hadn’t really helped that situation. The train ride took about 5 minutes and I now had 2 hours to kill in Carlisle before my train home. I struggled into the town centre, had a really slow McDonalds and shuffled back to the station. The sun had come out by this time and the huge glass roof of the station made the platform quite warm so I found the best possible seat, close to my platform and relaxed. I didn’t dare take my boots off – I was quite worried I’d never get them on again, but my feet were crying out for relief – I should consider some sandals or something for walks like this in future!
My wife picked me up from the station and by 8.30pm I was showered, changed and comfy in my favourite armchair! I looked back on the walk and realised that despite the pain in my feet (quite intense now) I had thoroughly enjoyed my first long path of the year. I still need to go back and do the missing day, but all in all a great success I think!
The Eden Way guide book will be published by Pocket Routes in the next couple of months – keep an eye on progress here: Pocket Routes Eden Way