Coast to Coast day 8: Keld to Marrick

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A lovely day above Swaledale with classic Yorkshire countryside – moors, dales, drystone walls and barns.

James Herriot’s Yorkshire, a pictorial book authored by the late English vet many years ago and with photos by Derry Brabbs (who subsequently went on to take the photos for many books produced with Alfred Wainwright) gives a very good overview of this area. He calls Swaledale “the most beautiful part of England”; at the risk of being a traitor to my county of birth I’m not sure I’d go quite that far, but it is undeniably attractive. Herriott also describes, in the “Youth Hostels” chapter of the book, a walk that visits Keld, where he stayed at the Keld Lodge (then a Youth Hostel) and then continues along the current c2c route past Crackpot Hall, a former shooting lodge, and the Swinner Gill Lead Mines through to Melbecks Moor, at which point he turns to Gunnerside and eventually reaches Reeth.

At Melbecks Moor we continued east across the top of the moors and suddenly found ourselves joined by many others – but runners not walkers – it being the day of the Swaledale Marathon, and when we reached Reeth it was packed with runners recuperating in the various pubs which were also filled with spectators and supporters.

Because of the marathon, Reeth’s accomodations were fully booked, so we continued on to a small village called Marrick for the evening.

(Total distance approx. 15 miles)

Link to Coast to Coast Summary

Coast to Coast day 7: Kirkby Stephen to Keld

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Entering the final part of Cumbria and walking into the Yorkshire Dales National Park provided for a more interesting day today. Nice views and lovely weather again.

The path cuts east from Kirkby Stephen to Hartley and then starts to climb slowly, first on a road that passes a large quarry and eventually along a vehicular track. As it enters moorland the track starts to climb quite steeply. We took a quick rest before tackling this last section up to Nine Standards Rigg and a farmer who was loading a couple of sheep into a trailer being towed by his quad bike asked with a smile on his face whether we’d like to hop in with the sheep for a lift to the top!

The origin of the Nine Standards (nine stone cairns) is not known. They do provide an excellent spot for an early lunch and there are very good views in all directions. From here the path traverses the open moorland until it reaches Ravenseat, where it’s a pleasant walk by the side of the beck into Keld, which is the half-way point of the walk. The path over the moors changes depending on the month to try and control erosion (of which there was significant evidence); this part was enjoyable in fine weather but would be trying in mist.

We arrived in Keld to find that our accommodations were the recently opened Keld Lodge (originally a shooter’s lodge). There was good beer on tap and a nice lounge area, where we had an enjoyable evening talking to other c2c’ers who were staying there – as far as I could tell, everyone there was doing the walk, including a handful who were escaping the midges at the campsite.

(Total distance approx. 12 miles)

Coast to Coast day 6: Shap to Kirkby Stephen

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This was not a particularly interesting day and a bit of a slog at around 21 miles – it’s basically the link between the Lakes and the Yorkshire Dales and there was a fair amount of road bashing and field walking.

We were staying right at the bottom end of Shap, so rather than walking back up the main road, we took a short cut and met the official path just as it crosses over the M6. From here the path leads by a working quarry which was blasting the morning we passed.

The way improves from this point, travelling through moorland and very quiet once you are away from the quarry and the motorway. The middle part of the walk was a fairly tedious succession of roads and field paths, but it improved towards the end of the day as the path went through Smardale with good views of the impressive Smardalegill viaduct, before again entering another series of fields for the last pull into Kirkby Stephen.

At Kirkby Stephen we had another good B&B and an excellent dinner at the local Chinese, which was a welcome change from pub grub.

(Total distance approx. 21 miles)

Link to Coast to Coast Summary

Coast to Coast day 5: Patterdale to Shap

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A long day through a lesser visited part of the lakes. The day started with yet another long, slow climb, this time south-east past Angletarn Pikes, Angle Tarn and the Knott, before turning east towards Kidsty Pike.

At this point the landscape was clearly changing to the more rounded hills of Yorkshire. From Kidsty Pike there were good views of High Street, but we didn’t hang around too long as the weather was starting to close in. After Kidsty Pike the path drops fairly steeply to the banks of Haweswater and the path beside Haweswater seemed to go on forever – we also got our first rain of the trip. This cleared in less than an hour though and eventually we reached Brimbank, a village that was originally set up for the navvies working to build Haweswater (which is a reservoir).

The village has been re-developed into modern housing, with a handful of the original houses being retained and renovated and the development was fairly attractive, with a refurbished red phone box sitting on the small village green. There won’t be any labourers living there now however; there were a couple of houses still left selling for 300,000 quid.

Leaving Brimbank we entered another attractive wooded section before navigating numerous fields to reach Shap Abbey for a quick look and then a brief road bash in to Shap. At Shap we received a warm welcome from Mrs Brunskill at Brookfield House and then had an excellent dinner (best so far) at the Greyhound pub. Don’t be fooled by the unprepossessing exterior – it was very large and comfortable inside and clearly very popular.

(Total distance approx. 16 miles)

Link to Coast to Coast Summary

Coast to Coast day 4: Grasmere to Patterdale

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My favourite day of the walk – one of those great days in the Lakes that makes you want to keep going back. In this case an invigorating ridge walk via Dollywagon Pike and Nethermost Pike to Helvellyn, with tremendous views in all directions, made for a most enjoyable hike.

The weather was great again – a lot of cloud but the cloud base was well above the tops. There was also plenty of sun although the wind was blowing a gale up on the ridge which made it quite cool.

The route starts just up from Grasmere, leaving the A591 not long after passing the pub at Mill Bridge to commence yet another slow and steady climb, this time via Tongue Gill to the attractive Grisedale Tarn. At this point the low-level route starts to descend and generally follows Grisedale Beck into Patterdale, but if you are feeling energetic and have some time, there are some great alternatives.

One alternative is to climb steeply to Fairfield and then descend via St Sunday Crag but as mentioned I chose to visit Helvellyn, requiring a steep but relatively short climb up to Dollywagon Pike and then a walk along the ridge where it was pretty busy as usual. I had lunch protected from the wind by a small shelter (not shown on my OL map) just down from Helvellyn – a quick check of the shelter near the summit of Helvellyn through my telephoto lens showed that it was standing room only, which tends to defeat the object when the wind’s blowing.

After attaining the summit – visiting both the cairn at the highest point (950m) and the official OS trig point to the north-east at 949m, I made a quick visit to Helvellyn Lower Man, then returned and descended via Swirral Edge. I thought about going via Striding Edge, but there was a bit of a traffic jam at the last section where you need to climb down (if you are ascending Helvellyn) from the ridge line – it’s quite steep and people were taking it slowly. I’d done it before anyway, so decided an earlier beer would be preferable.

From Swirral Edge I took the path via Red Tarn to Hole-in-the-Wall and then descended into Patterdale for a beer at the White Lion, before taking up accomodations at Oldwater view Guesthouse. We stayed in the ‘Place Fell’ room – apparently Wainwright’s favourite when he stayed there (called Ullswater View in those days). The proprietor explained that BBC were making a c2c film to follow up on their Wainwright series with Julia Bradbury and that they would be filming there in September. On the wall was a copy of a guestbook page from 1942 with Wainwright’s neat and distinctive signature at the bottom.

A nice meal at the White Lion (which was packed with people, at least a third of which were c2c’ers I recognised) capped off a fantastic day.

(Total distance approx. 8.5 miles – official route)

Link to Coast to Coast Summary

Coast to Coast day 3: Rosthwaite to Grasmere

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We split the third stage, which officially goes from Rosthwaite to Patterdale, into two as is recommended by pretty much everybody. The full stage covers over 17.5 miles through some pretty demanding terrain and doesn’t really leave much time to enjoy the alternative routes, particularly on the leg from Grasmere to Patterdale.

The walk starts easily enough on a pleasant path by the side of Stonethwaite Beck. After a couple of kilometres the path leaves the beck and starts to climb quite steeply up by the side of Greenup Gill from where there a good views of Eagle Crag, a noted crag for climbers (“A mountain crag featuring some fine, hard routes bristling with character.”) After a tiring climb the path levels out, but only briefly before again climbing past Lining Crag. From here the official path descends by the side of Far Easedale Gill, but we chose to take the alternative route via Calf Crag, Gibson Knott and Helm Crag.

I’d recommend the alternative as providing more variety and not being particularly difficult, indeed we arrived in Grasmere at about 2:30pm, leaving plenty of time for a drink in the Red Lion Inn and an ordinary meal at the Ash Cottage Hotel.

(Total distance approx. 9 miles)

Link to Coast to Coast Summary

Coast to Coast day 2: Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite

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This day didn’t start too well – we walked out out of The Shepherd’s Arms and immediately turned left – not a good idea (the actual route is left on the main road a few metres further up from the Shepherd’s Arms). After about 15 minutes we realised something was wrong, and backtracked back to Ennerdale Bridge with me feeling like a bit of a goose since I’m supposed to be an experienced walker…

The walk then recommenced along the official route that follows a road along to the banks of Ennerdale Water. At this point it was time for sunscreen and hats as the weather was excellent. The path then follows the southern side of Ennerdale Water, with a few steep sections where it leaves the banks and climbs higher, before entering a very nice wooded section and eventually reaching the end of Ennerdale Water and joining the vehicular track up to Black Sail Youth Hostel.

I decided to take the alternative route which leaves the vehicular track not long after it is joined and climbs very steeply north up to Red Pike. From here it was a magnificent ridge walk along to High Stile and High Crag, with great views in all directions, particularly down into Buttermere, across to Grasmoor on the other side of the lake, south-east towards Haystacks and south to Pillar. After High Crag there is a steep descent to Scarth Gap Pass and then unfortunately a steep ascent to make up most of the lost height before reaching Haystacks and then, shortly thereafter, the beautiful Innominate Tarn. The path then wends its way to join an old tramway that proceeds in a straight line up and then down to Honister Pass and the Slate Mine visitor centre.

After a quick break here, we continued down by the side of the Honister Pass road, before eventually leaving the road at Seatoller and continuing along a footpath into Rosthwaite.

(Total distance approx. 14.5 miles)

Link to Coast to Coast Summary