Day 5 was our longest day yet, a 21 mile stretch from Shap to Kirkby Stephen.
Although not huge in terms of altitude gains, we’d had three really tough days before this, culminating in yesterday’s 18 mile, 3,500 feet day over Kidsty Pike to Shap. Mel got really tired at the end of yesterday and when you have a longer day ahead you just want to make sure that it goes to plan. Managing time therefore became a concern for me, and I didn’t want us to end up trudging into Kirkby Stephen really late, and after all the rain we’d had I had no idea how the ground conditions would affect us today, even if it was a much flatter day than before.
Today we also left the forever memorable Brookfield B&B behind too. Run by a lady named Margaret, very much in the old-fashioned style, it was a veritable home from home. Despite the fact that we were probably in the B&B for only about an hour in waking terms, Margaret couldn’t do enough for us, including all of our dirty laundry. She also completely dried out Mel’s very wet boots which looked almost beyond rescue post Lake District soakings. We actually hypothesised that she was up all night with a hairdryer on them, and hopefully that isn’t true.
I must finally mention Margaret’s packed lunch. We’d had a packed lunch every day from wherever we stayed, as simply there isn’t anywhere en route to buy anything at all. The lunch we got from Margaret, as well as doorstep sandwiches and crisps, contained an apple, a banana, a bottle of lucozade, some buttered tea loaf, cheese, an almond tart, and a chunky piece of the best fruit cake I have ever had the privilege to eat. In fact it might be the best example of anything I’ve eaten ever. Margaret gets a mention in the C2C books as being a bit of a star, but that undersells her. I’ll remember her, and the visit there until I die, it’s as simple as that.
The walk from Shap climbs straight out of the long town over fields to a footbridge over the M6 Motorway. From here on, you definitely know you’ve left the Lake District well behind, even if you haven’t quite left Cumbria yet. The landscape changes dramatically to be much more rolling and overall gentle, and even if the the ups and downs don’t stop, they come at you less severely and less frequently too.
The walk to Kirkby Stephen is effectively split into two, with a neat and well positioned stop at Orton after about 8 miles. Some people make Orton a stop for the night too. It is a pretty little village, and it earns a stop for most people (including us) because of Kennedy’s chocolate factory and shop. Although tiny, the place has some very famous and very delicious chocolate, and we duly obliged with some of their delicacies. I wished we could have picked up more, but I made a mental note to check if I can get some more online at a later date.
From Orton the walk continues over heather and part forested moorland and it is a really lovely walk. It was nice too to have another sunny (mainly, although it did start to rain lightly part way through the afternoon, reminding us that we were still in Cumbria) day after the horrors of the Lakes.
Approaching Kirkby you come down a fairly steep hill and through an old railway tunnel until you finally hit the town. Our B&B, Lockholme, presented us with a somewhat over-protective host who demanded that Mel took off not just her boots but also her trousers before he would let her in the house! He did give her a towel to wrap around herself so she could get upstairs with a modicum of dignity intact, but that is surely well over the top. Sure there was a bit of dried mud on the bottom of them, but why run a B&B for mainly Coast to Coasters if you can’t cope with a bit of grime on people’s clothes?
Oh and another thing – they refused to give us a room key for our bedroom when we went out in the evening, saying that ‘people run off with them’. I do understand the concern of course, but why even have them then? They were lovely in other ways and very friendly it has to be said, and there were some lovely touches like giving me some jelly babies the next morning for the climb to Nine Standards Rigg. But live and let live I say, especially when it is your livelihood.
I’ll say one more thing, and then I’ll shut up…….it really bugs me when people plead for Tripadvisor reviews, and especially when they say “please say nice things about us as we know where you live”, even if it is in jest. I actually write quite a few Tripadvisor reviews, and the jury is more than out as to whether I’ll actually do so here, but maybe a ‘constructive’ critique is in order.
Finishing off then, we had a really lovely curry in town that evening. I actually walked down there in my bare feet as I had two whopping blisters from my wet boots two days ago, and my flip flops really aren’t good for walking long distance in (it was about a mile and a half return), The Indian restaurant, The Mango Tree, was great, and deserves, and didn’t ask for, so will get, a Tripadvisor review. Give them a shout if you’re in Kirkby Stephen, which is a lovely little town with what looks like some nice pubs too.
So 21 miles done, and 89 in total now for 5 days. The following day would see us go over the Pennines to Nine Standards Rigg and into the Yorkshire Dales, hit many a bog, and see the start of the very beautiful River Swale. It would be a great and very memorable day, as indeed every day of this trip was….