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Coast to Coast 2008
Day 6 – Wednesday 14 May - Fell House to Fletcher House, Kirkby Stephen.
With another long day ahead of us, approximately 20 miles, we had arranged breakfast for 7.45am. Heather provided us with an excellent breakfast and handed out our packed lunches which were once again plentiful and good value for money. The C2C footpath for the onward journey was directly opposite Fell House so it was a quick crossing of the A6 and away we went across the meadows towards the first obstacle, the footbridge over the M6 motorway. As we crossed the bridge we saw an almost continuous flow of traffic from the north with the majority of vehicles containing Glasgow Rangers football supporters who were heading to Manchester for the UEFA Cup final – we gave the odd wave and thumbs up as we crossed. Once again we looked back for a last look at Kidsty Pike as we headed past the quarries towards the hamlet of Oddendale.
We made good progress over Crosby Ravensworth Fell and actually caught up with Geoff, Jane and Jeff in this area. They had stayed with Margaret at Brookfield Guest House in Shap – a place I stayed last time but couldn’t get in this time. Brookfield would have been one of the first bookings on my list but it was not to be – I was too late in trying to book. I had asked a few of the C2C walkers we had met who were staying there to pass on my regards to Margaret – what a wonderful lady she is and what a very thoughtful lady she is as Geoff then passed me a circular margarine tub with a label attached for my attention from Guess Who? The tub contained 4 delicious looking almond tarts courtesy of Margaret.
Onward we marched and as we crossed Lyvnnet Beck I pointed out Black Dub monument to my walking companions. This was a place where King Charles 2 fed, watered and rested his army on August 1651 when marching from Scotland following his coronation in Scone. We chatted about the geographic significance of the location and came to the conclusion that it was just off the main roman road in a sheltered area with a handy supply of fresh water.
As we arrived at the depression housing ‘Robin Hoods Grave’ we caught up with Wendy and Libby from Sydney. This was a typical limestone pavement area and I explained/showed them and example of clints and grykes. These ladies seemed pretty private people and I formed the impression they weren’t particularly bothered about company so onward we marched up towards Orton Scar where we would turn left down the hill towards Broadfell Farm.
As we descended the hillside beyond Orton Scar we could see the familiar carrier bags or should I say the familiar figures of Chas and Dave passing the farm below us and we homed in on them fairly quickly as we had a good pace going by now. Whilst looking ahead I saw that Chas and Dave were being surrounded by a large number of sheep and lambs – clearly the sheep thought the geezers had feed in their carrier bags. As we approached the minor road near Scar Side I saw Chas and Dave stood waiting for us whilst pretending to look at their guide back. I say pretending because as I drew near Charlie shouted ‘is it right here?’ whilst I indicated left. I looked at their book and Charlie said ‘I haven’t got a £*$%£&* clue where we are’. I asked if they wanted to join us on the yomp over to Kirkby Stephen and they said yes. I sensed they were relieved. We continued the good pace along the lanes and over the fields to Sunbiggin Tarn where the traditional Wainwright route heads up a road for about one and half miles before cutting back sharply to the right down a road to Mazon Wath hamlet. A much better and quite legitimate route from Sunbiggin Tarn is to cut across the Open Access land to Mazon Wath. This probably saved us three quarters of mile walking on the hard uninspiring road surface.
As we reached the road at Mazon Wath we saw Dame Jude sat beside the road having a lunch break. We chatted a while before we headed off down the road and onward to find the left turn to take us around Great Ewe Fell towards Bents Farm and Smardale. We had planned to take a packed lunch break somewhere near Bents Farm so I knew it wouldn’t be too long before we saw Dame Jude again.
Along this section of road once again we made a short saving on distance on a more scenic route. The Wainwright route goes up the road from Mazon Wath to a cattle grid where a path turns left by a wall all the way to Bents Farm. We cut up the hillside on a green track towards Great Ewe Fell about 600 yards before the cattle grid. This track brought us out at the area of merged paths near Bents Hill where we decided to have our lunch. We found a sheltered spot, took our boots off and had a bite to eat. I shared the almond tarts, kindly passed on to me by Geoff from Margaret, with Chas, Dave and Malc. They tasted as good as they looked – delicious! Many thanks Margaret for your thoughtful gesture.
Just as we were getting started again Dame Jude appeared with her familiar slightly forward leaning stoop but at a cracking pace. Off we went at the same blistering pace we had achieved earlier which seemed to suit Chas and Dave and of course Dame Jude. In no time at all we had descended to the delightful Smardale Bridge and were on our way up and over Smardale Fell. I pointed the old Smardale viaduct to Jude as we started to climb up towards Smardale Fell. Mick was off in front at a blistering pace, with the rest of us in procession. The weather was hot, the pace was hot and we arrived outside our accommodation venue in Kirkby Stephen at 3pm to see Gillian and Steve, the proprietors, in the garden. They were surprised to see us saying it was a record for us to be here by this time – I’m not sure about records but we told them we were heading to the nearby Black Bull for a pint and that we would be back for 4pm.
It was at this point that a classic quote from Dave lit up the entire walk. Malc innocently asked Dave ‘Did you enjoy that walk then Dave?’ to which he replied ‘Walk – it was a £*&%$£*& 21 mile route march. There were £*&^%$*& sparks coming from his boots!’ Sorry Dave I thought you were up for it. This incident was to light up the journey on many occasions in the following up to an including our debrief drink at the Bay Hotel in Robin Hoods Bay.
Anyway time to unwind so we all went to the Black Bull i.e. Malc, Mick and myself, Chas and Dave and of course Dame Jude. Jude was staying at the former Youth Hostel nearby and she was having a day off in Kirkby Stephen to wash her clothes, sort her kit, replenish stocks. Chas and Dave were staying a good half mile from the town. Malc bought Jude a J2O orange drink whilst we all chatted about the walk so far and the route ahead. It was at this point that Malc told Jude that we had given her the honorary title of Dame Jude and she seemed quite pleased with it. We asked a local man to take a photo of the 3 of us with Jude but I ought to have checked because I later found that the photograph didn’t turn out. After a couple of beers it was 4.10pm and time for us to book in with Gillian at Fletcher House nearby. I stayed here last time and had no hesitation in staying this time. The welcome from a really hardworking and sociable Gillian was excellent as we were provided with tea and cakes after we dropped our bags in our rooms. Fletcher House is a first class B & B and I highly recommend it other walkers. The tea and cakes were very welcome and then we showered, sorted kit, phoned home etc. before heading out into the town for our evening meal.
We visited the Kings Arms first and had a couple of beers. The menu looked good but a recent change of ownership left us wondering if the meal would be Ok. We went across the road to the Black Bull where we had our evening meal and watched part of the Glasgow Rangers v Zenit St Petersburg UEFA cup final. Unfortunately for Rangers they lost 2-0 and I felt for the thousands of disappointed supporters some of whom we had seen heading excitedly down the M6 earlier that morning. Malc and I retired to Fletcher House first leaving Mick to chat with one of the locals over another beer. I was sharing a room with Mick that night and he wasn’t long after me at retiring to bed. Another cracking day on the C2C was over and with the weather forecast for our trip over the notoriously boggy Nine Standards Rigg the next day looking good, we were looking forward to some decent views from the summit.
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