Coast to Coast Day 5 – Shap to Kirkby Stephen.

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.

Brookfield House in Shap. A treasure.

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 (only) way you (can) cross the M6 as you leave Shap!

No idea why I have a photo of the M6 from the bridge, but I do!
And leaving Shap behind you are not left with the best of views……

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.

The start of the heathery moors which would dominate eventually most of the second half of the c2C.
Strange coloured sheep they have around these parts – maybe that plant was a nuclear one? :O

Kennedy’s Chocolate Factory in Orton – delicious stuff!

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.

Bridge over Scandale Beck towards Kirkby Stephen, a lovely spot.
Smardale Viaduct towards Kirkby Stephen.

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.

This was on the wall of our B&B.

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….

Coast to Coast Day 4 – Patterdale to Shap.

We woke at the very lovely Old Water View in Patterdale to something we hadn’t seen for a few days – the sun! Patterdale is such a lovely setting, and like most places in the Lakes and elsewhere, a bit of sun certainly magnifies its beauty.

We set out just before 9 on our trip to Shap which would see us sadly leave the Lake District behind, but on the way we would reach the highest point of the whole Coast to Coast, that of Kidsty Pike. And it was a stunning day. That was a good thing as I had tied my still wet boots onto the back of my rucksack (I’d brought a spare pair with me for this very reason) and they got to air well and get dry before the day was out.

The day started with a fairly steep climb up Place Fell, and it was a majestic walk.

About to leave Patterdale with a distinct lack of rain in the air!
The view back towards Patterdale and towards Helvellyn with the southern shores of Ullswater on the right – a truly beautiful place.
Looking up towards Brotherswater from the side of Place Fell and looking towards Sheffield Pike.

The views back over to Patterdale and the Lake and Helvellyn were mesmerising. I didn’t want to leave. Just as they were looking up to Brotherswater and Sheffield Pike too. We even saw other people (!) – something that the miserable rain and wind of the last few days had been bereft of.

Angle Tarn, which is a popular wild camping spot on the C2C for those hardier souls than ourselves.

We passed Angle Tarn after about 45 minutes and then onto Kidsty Pike after two hours or so. Kidsty Pike is officially the highest point on the C2C at around 2,600 feet, and the views are wonderful in every direction. It was the first time I’d seen Haweswater too, which would be our focus for the next several hours as we were to do a steep descent towards it and then a long undulating walk along its whole length.

I did a short daily video every day, intending it for YouTube – this was today’s brief offering.
Nearing the top of Kidsty Pike…..
And made it – the view down to Haweswater ahead.
I made it too!

Haweswater is a man made reservoir, having originally been a smaller lake, and today serves about 25% of the North West of England’s water supply. Although only 4 miles long it never seems short of water due to where it is, although there is apparently a sunken village (Mardale) somewhere in its depths which every few barren years a few people get a rare glimpse of. The trek around we thought would be flat, but it turned out to be very undulating and pretty wet in parts too from yesterday’s rain. It’s a very pretty spot though.

The start of the walk around Haweswater.

As Haweswater ends the Lake District is behind us, and almost immediately the landscape changes to be much flatter and more agricultural, but still very much rolling. Shap would be about 6 or 7 miles further on, and just before we got there we reached the very lovely ruins of Shap Abbey. Shap Abbey is a 12th century monastic house on the edge of the river Lowther in the Eden Valley, and very nice it looked. On another day we’d have stopped for a proper look, but we were by now 17 miles in and ready to get finished for the day, so on we went.

Shap Abbey, or what is left of it.

Leaving the valley we headed to Shap itself. Shap definitely (and apologies to anyone from Shap who is reading this) has none of the charm that the Lakes has, and I’m being kind. It also only has three places to eat, and two of them were closed due to Covid. The third, The Crown, was ‘fine’, and actually did the job. It will win neither a Michelin star nor a 5 star rating on Tripadvisor, but it served us very well after a 19 mile walk that’s for sure. The folk who run it are super friendly and so do stop in if you are passing – the outside isn’t too inviting (and actually neither is the inside come to think of it), but we left very content and that’s all you want.

The highlight of the day turned out to be (apart from those views of Patterdale naturally!) the B&B we stayed in – Brookfield House, of which more tomorrow. Suffice to say it is ‘old school’, and run by surely the best B&B host in B&B history, Margaret. We got all of our dirty clothes washed and folded, and nothing was too much trouble for her. A veritable oasis in an otherwise unpretty little town. I’ll remember it forever, so good was Margaret’s fruit cake!

So after another 3,400 feet of ascent and 18 miles, we’d done 68 miles in four days. Tomorrow would see us do 21 more, and leave Cumbria behind and enter the fringes of the Yorkshire Dales. Bring them on, that’s what I say………:)