The Coast to Coast

Walked in August 2008

Day 3 – Monday 18th August

Rosthwaite - Patterdale
14.6 miles

We were gradually roused from our slumber by 6.45 and made sure we were downstairs and ready for breakfast at 7.30. As it happened we were the first ones in the large dining room and weren’t shy in taking advantage of this. First we helped ourselves to bread and jam and croissants, then followed the tempting smell of fried food to where the full English breakfast was on offer. I heaped bacon, eggs beans, black pudding, toast and a multitude of sausages onto my plate, as did Darryl and we even went back up for seconds. What a couple of bloaters. Added to this was coffee, orange juice and yoghurts meaning we surely had no excuse for saying we were hungry until lunchtime. It really was an excellent spread and if I ever stay there again the breakfast is something I’ll be looking forward to.

We returned to our room to grab our packs, then left the hostel, collecting our packed lunches from Reception as we left. We set off at about 8.30, walking back down the lane toward Stonethwaite, then turning left through a gate to start making our way up the side of the valley mindful of the ever present mist and light drizzle that seemed to just hang in the air. We passed a campsite on our right and were thankful that we’d avoided sleeping under canvas during the night as the place looked particularly wet and miserable. We followed the path as it led us higher and higher and became more and more rocky. The volume of rain that had fallen in recent days meant that we were constantly negotiating streams that flowed across the path, higher than they would be during periods of drier weather. Some of them were very tricky and we found ourselves hopping from one stone to another over raging water, worried that one awkward step onto a slippery rock could mean injury or at the very least a darn good soaking.

Occasionally we stopped for a breather and turned to look down across the valley toward Borrowdale and Rosthwaite. We could see a lone walker making his way up the path behind us a fair distance away, but apart from him we seemed to be alone. We continued on toward Greenup Gill, and before we knew it we were faced with a steep climb up what appeared to be a rather attractive water feature. The almost vertical rocky trail up the side of the crag was practically submerged beneath the overflowing stream and in some places it was almost like climbing a ladder. Oh the exaggeration! I should be ashamed of myself. Nevertheless it was a challenging climb with the wardrobes strapped to our backs, but soon we standing on top of Lining Crag, admiring the band of fog that circled it, partly obscuring the pretty, rounded hills below. Darryl had heard a girl at the hostel describing this day’s walk as the Lord of the Rings section. The little, green hillocks we could see certainly looked like great places for Hobbits to set up home.

We couldn’t find any hobbits so I disappeared into the mist to find a toilet... which obviously wasn’t there. While I was gone the lone walker caught us up and was chatting with Darryl when I returned from my excursion into the fog. He was doing the Coast to Coast on his own and was using a Sherpa service to have his rucksack moved on to each campsite. We found this a bit odd since he seemed a fit bloke and should have been able to carry everything he needed like we were doing. I suppose some people can’t fight the temptation to make it easy on themselves. There is definitely logic there somewhere. The walker headed off and we followed soon after, but the fog was now really thick and we had only metres of visibility in each direction. The trail disappeared and though there were several thin trails thereabouts, there was nothing solid and definitive enough to give us any confidence. We spent the next thirty minutes wandering around in pea soup hearing the occasional cry in the distance that suggested we weren’t the only ones that had no idea where we were or where we were going. Luckily I spotted what looked like a path on an opposite hillside, so we headed for that. After following the track over more boggy ground for a while we found our way to the junction of the high and low level routes, the high one leading ultimately to Helm Crag, while the low one passes through Far Easedale, down toward Grasmere alongside streams and pools. Because of the poor weather and the day’s tight schedule, we had no choice but to take the low route.

As we descended the long valley we were afforded excellent views of the landscape below and when we came across an attractive waterfall we decided to stop nearby for a break and to eat the sandwiches from our packed lunches. There were a few other walkers out, some of which passed us while we rested, nearly all of which were wearing waterproof jackets and trousers. It wasn’t a perfect day to be out walking, but it was still easy to appreciate it, Sun or no Sun.

Pressing on we eventually caught sight of buildings at the bottom of the valley and our first firm view of Grasmere. We passed Sour Milk Gill tumbling furiously into the rocks below, and negotiating a short fall of rocks we soon found ourselves on a long main road heading into the town.

Grasmere was busy. Tourists were everywhere including a coachful of Japanese visitors who were disembarking noisily as we arrived at a pub to have a drink. We sat at a table outside while the rain held off and after I’d finished my Coke I sorted through my pack to see what items I could post home as I’d spotted a post office across the road. I left Darryl by the pub and first went into the post office to buy a Jiffy bag, then returned and filled it with mess tins, a book, a candle lamp (never used it) and other bits and pieces I could live without. That done I returned to the post office and paid to have the package posted back to work where I’d collect it in a week or so. It wasn’t a huge amount of weight shifted, but anything was better than nothing. Once we felt refreshed we pushed on back up the road passing hiking shops, pubs, cafes and a Co-op where we stopped to buy a few items of food and drink. We also stopped at a bakery where we bought some nice sugary treats. I bought an egg custard and a piece of Tiffin. Delicious.

We then had a bit of a steep walk up the road to find the rough track that took us up Tongue Gill and back into the mist with another precarious, rocky ascent. At the top a couple of walkers passed us going the other way, their heads down like us, putting in the miles and wishing the weather would take a turn for the better. We walked down to Grisedale Tarn which was saturated with water. The ground was wet and spongy and nearly everywhere we looked streams criss-crossed our path leaving us wandering around for some time looking for a way to cross to the other side. This is where the high level route to Helvellyn begins, but again the conditions were far less than favourable, and we simply had no time. I wouldn’t fancy crossing Striding Edge in the dark. We saw a man next to a blue tent in a natural bowl close to the tarn itself. He may well have had a great time, but I really didn’t like the idea of camping surrounded by so much water. And it must have been freezing up there during the night.
The rain was back now and it followed us all the way down the rocky road to Patterdale. We passed another tent at one point and a climbing hut which, annoyingly, was padlocked shut leaving us stuck out in the cold and rain with no refuge.

We continued on seeing very little but rocks and water for some time until the path reached level ground and we could see grass, trees and farms again. At one point we met a couple of guys going the other way. They were walking the Coast to Coast path too. One had a rucksack but the other was carrying a fold-up tent, the kind that collapses into a circle and then slips inside a big circular bag. I couldn’t believe that he was just carrying it in his hand for the whole trip. It seemed like a very awkward thing to do. Darryl and I thought the two of them looked a bit dodgy, like they were escaping something or someone. I suppose if they were on the run that would be a good place to get lost. We mentioned we were heading to the campsite in Patterdale and they said they’d seen one earlier. Their intention was to camp at Grisedale Tarn. They must have been mad as it would be dark by the time they got there and pitching a tent in the middle of flowing streams in the dark and the rain would be dangerous as well as bloody messy. Nevertheless we wished them luck and moved on. When we reached the town we asked a local about the campsite and he directed us to Side Farm. When we got there we found the farmer, paid for our pitches, then followed a path down from the farm along a track to the campsite close to the banks of Ullswater.

The campsite was very busy. All the decent flat ground had been taken. We had a good walk around but we eventually had to settle for a spot near the trees where the walker from Birmingham we’d met at Lining Crag was already pitched up. There was a slope between our tents. Darryl pitched at the bottom while I pitched at the top. There was very little room to manoeuvre and the ground was quite uneven but we managed to get ourselves sorted out. Once I’d got my tent up I went down to Ullswater lake and took photos and some video of it. A man with his two sons was trying to get an outboard motor started. He said that he was disappointed with the weather and that last year it had been glorious. I went back to the tent, ate some sandwiches and the egg custard, had a shower in the pretty dirty but functional shower block and went to bed. We were both pretty tired and wanted to rest up as much as possible before the next day which would involve a fair bit of climbing. Most of the inside of my tent was wet from rain that had got in so I tried to dry it the best I could with toilet paper and my towel. After this trip I would switch to packing the tent inside my pack, not just because it helps keep it dry but also because it helps your centre of gravity. . . apparently.

I found myself sleeping at a slant which wasn’t exactly comfortable, but it could have been worse. I could at least be proud that we’d done in one day what a lot of Coast to Coast walkers do in two.


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