Shap to Kirkby Stephen (20.5 miles / 84.6miles)
Despite being confused by the luxury of my really comfortable bed and not sleeping as well as I have been doing in my tent, I reluctantly left my nice warm B&B room and set out in to the unknown not quite knowing how my 20.5 mile route would sit with me after yesterday’s exertions. Breakfast was buzzing with stories of heroics over Kidsty Pike with those brave and stupid enough to go over the top all telling tales of how foolhardy and irresponsible it was and how they’d never do it again. Well, Nine Standards Rigg is tomorrow followed by potentially waist deep bogs – that’ll be the test of how responsible we really are.
If my rest day in Patterdale had taught me one thing it was that both the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks had expanded as of the 1st August and, after a short time out of Shap, crossing both the railway line that had taken me from Preston to Carlisle on the 30th July, and the M6 motorway, we were in the Yorkshire Dales.
We? Oh yes, I’m making friends on the trail: it was here I came across Alicia and Lynda who I met in the YHA in Rosthwaite. Apparently I completely ignored them at Grasmere when they shouted across the road at me. To be fair, at that point, they didn’t know my name so shouted ‘oi, Essex boy’ and I was in a wibbly, wobbly world of my own at the time, but today we walked together all the way to Kirkby Stephen. What with them and other Coast to Coaster groups consisting of Richard and his two sons, who caught up with us later, and occasional appearances by two German lads who had huddled under the archway with me at the New Ing Lodge yesterday, it became quite a walking club. Apart from the excellent company, the fact I no longer had sole responsibility for navigation and getting lost was a relief (of course that didn’t mean that we didn’t go off course from time to time, it’s just that we did it through committee)!
The walk was a thoroughly pleasant jaunt across undulating hills which included a plethora of limestone pavements; an abundance of stone circles, some not worth going out of your way for; a kind farmer who gave warning of, and alternative routes around, his clearly dangerous cows (including a bull or two) and a stop at the Sunbiggin Farm Refreshment stall: a summer house within which mountainous portions of cake and usual measures, but unusual flavours of Lucozade were being sold for very little money.
A little further up the trail we passed a house that would have been fitting as the beginning of a horror film had we gone up to it to investigate. We didn’t, we’re safe. I did take a picture of it though with nobody at the windows. I am at some point fully expecting a shadowy figure to appear sinisterly with time . . .
Other highlights of the trail included the grave of a fictitious thief (Robin Hood), a prehistoric village built in to the rock (Several Village), more killer cows (apparently, as I was learning from my new companions, they are all potential murderers), the fattest cat in the world and a pizza from Kirkby Stephen’s fast food shop that tasted of kebab.
The Pennines have been the backdrop to our walk all day today and tomorrow we start crossing them. The high route / low route debate has already started, but at least this time it will be a group decision. No solo heroics for me from now on.
Our stop over for the night was the frankly pretty spooky former Methodist Chapel now serving as Kirby Stephen’s youth hostel whose faded advertisements had adorned fence posts all the way back to Shap. Alicia and Linda were already booked in and it was much closer than the campsite, so it seemed like a good place to stay. To say the atmosphere wasn’t quite that of Borrowdale is an understatement, but our feast of pizza and beer and the late arrival of another acquaintance from Borrowdale, Michelle, more than made up for it.
After finishing my daily Facebook post, I made sure the hall was properly locked up as the warden had left for the night. I then had the overriding urge to rush upstairs as the paranoia of there being an axe murderer in the building started to get the better of me, a fear accentuated by the darkness on the stairs. I didn’t have the code to my room to hand, so I had to go in to the open and empty dorm next to mine, in to the shared bathroom before reaching the safety of my room. After scrabbling around for the light switch, I made sure all access points were locked down and finally settled down alone in my otherwise empty six bed dorm. Alone . . . alone: another attack of the heebee geebees meant I had to check each bed to make sure they were all empty. That aside I got a fantastic night’s sleep.