The Coast to Coast

Walked in August 2008

Day 5 – Wednesday 20th August

Shap – Kirkby Stephen
19.8 miles

My snoring kept Darryl awake, so he in turn kept me awake complaining about my snoring. But despite this vicious circle we still managed to get enough rest and by 6am we were up. I made us both some fried egg sandwiches and coffee in the kitchen down the hall. If there were other people staying in the lodge they were still asleep as we seemed to be the only people moving about at that time, although we did notice the Brummie guy packing his tent away as we were leaving. After our breakfast we reassembled all of our gear which looked like it had exploded all over the room and packed it away, stuffing the bags of food as best we could into the little space available, trying not to crush anything at the same time.

Hauling our aching bodies outside we left the hostel and walked back up the main road, taking a left up a side street then following a lane that led to a path which took us across a large field toward the M6 footbridge. Ahead we could see the man and his son we had met before, walking across the bridge to the other side. They would have a ten minute lead on us for most of the day. Once we’d reached and crossed the footbridge we had a better view of the Corus Limestone quarry which looked out of place in the countryside but not entirely ugly.

We followed a dusty and fairly busy quarry road then followed a path which passed by the small, eerie settlement of Oddendale. We then headed up a hill on top of which was a series of limestone formations which reminded us of the limestone pavement on top of Malham Cove on the Pennine Way. We followed the odd signpost pointing the way across heather moors toward a brook at the bottom of a steep incline. We climbed the muddy hill, working our aching legs against their useless protests and it was around this time that I realised just how tired Darryl was after missing out on sleep sue to my snoring. I had noticed that he’d been lagging behind a bit, and I was keen to power on and get the twenty miles done in good time. I started to hang back and be a bit more sociable, not least because of a distinct snoring-related guilt. I hoped we could have a break at Orton and maybe replenish our energy supplies.

Walking alongside a main road we decided to take a short cut, (we wouldn’t be missing much according to the guidebook, and Wainwright encourages diversions anyway) then after getting a bit lost we found the winding lane that led past farmhouses to Orton. Once in the nice little town we dropped our bags outside Kennedys Fine Chocolates and walked through the little shop to the cafe at the back where I had a cafe mocha with fruit cake and a few slabs of cheese (delicious), while Darryl had a cafetiere of coffee with crumpets. While we ate we glanced over at a video that was playing on a small TV showing the making of the various chocolate products sold in the shop and we could also see people working in another room through a window in the cafe. On our way out we bought some tasty chocolate treats, then left to find the post office where we bought a few drinks before heading down a long, hard (and pretty boring) country road to rejoin the route as it led up toward Ravenstonedale Moor.

We stopped at a small bridge to have some lunch and appreciate the quiet of the moor. Darryl read his newspaper (to keep up on events at the Olympics more than anything) and had a pork pie while I took out my camcorder and waved it around a bit. No walkers passed us by, in fact we wouldn’t see another living soul for some time. It reminded us of one of the great things about walking a national trail – the beautiful, enriching solitude, the total ‘getting away from it all.’

With lunch over, we continued on over some pretty uncomfortable ground for a while eventually passing Bents Farm and finding our way to the site of Severals where there is evidence of a prehistoric settlement, though we couldn’t see anything. Further along we saw a dilapidated building on the right which would have made a really nice place to live, and further on a bridge over the path which led further on to the picturesque Smardale Bridge at the bottom of the hill at Scandal Beck.

We could see a few groups of people now, some standing on the bridge, others making their way up the steep hill path opposite toward Smardale Fell, our next target. We crossed the bridge, and as we climbed the hill, overtaking a family, we could see Smardalegill viaduct in the distance, an impressive structure for somewhere relatively quiet and remote.

The scenery was now a lot more Dale-like and the Sun had decided it was going nowhere, so the latter part of the day was turning out to be a lot nicer than the morning. It can be difficult to navigate Smardale Fell since there is no obvious path, but we found the right direction and after a while stopped for a rest by some rocks with views all across the valley before us, including Kirkby Stephen which was now only a few miles away. Darryl remembered we had to phone Mum and wish her a happy birthday so he switched his phone on. While I filmed our surroundings Darryl talked with Mum on the phone. It sounded like she was concerned about us, but Darryl reassured her that there was nothing to worry about and we were doing fine.

We pressed on downhill to tackle the last stage of the journey. The scenery was very pretty, and though we were tired we didn’t really mind since it had turned out to be a great way to end the day’s walking. We had a bit of a scare in one field however when a large herd of cows got a bit feisty and started charging toward us when we turned our backs. Every time we turned away we heard a stampede and turned back to see them come to a thundering halt. I was bit concerned that they wanted to trample us so I shouted and clapped my hands until they decided to retreat. Phew.

We were looking for a campsite just outside Kirkby Stephen, but we couldn’t find it, so we ended up walking into town to find the Pennine View Campsite at the top of the road opposite a pub.

When we got there we found that the Brummie walker (Lee) had beaten us to it, which seemed odd since we’d set off before him from Shap and hadn’t seen him pass us. It was possible that he had overtaken us while we’d detoured to Orton, but he did confess to cheating and getting a lift into town with a Polish guy after he’d gone wrong a few miles out of Kirkby Stephen.

The campsite itself wasn’t bad. We had a large area of grass from which to chose a spot to pitch up and the shower facilities were very good. The problem was that there was only one washing machine available and it was in high demand since Dave as well as Darryl and I needed to get clothes washed. It was a bit awkward because in that situation we had no choice but to be ruthless and hog the washing machine and drier in order to get the clothes dry before the facilities closed at ten ‘clock. Dave was trying to do the same thing and every time we passed him we had to smile and pretend there wasn’t a battle raging. He seemed like a decent guy though so hopefully he didn’t hate us.

Once the tents were up we headed into town for a drink and something to eat. It was a fair walk down to the main part of town. There were a couple of pubs but we chose the Pennine Hotel as it looked fairly quiet inside. Too quiet as it turned out. Aside from us and the barman the only patron was an elderly man who already seemed about ten parts sorely missed. As we bought drinks and sat down to think about dinner, the old man regaled us (several times) with the story of how he met ‘Mr Elvis Presley.’ Not to say that we weren’t impressed but his memory seemed to be comparable to that of a goldfish. No one else came in while we were there and just as I was about to say something like ‘this is weird let’s get out of here,’ Darryl suggested we go and get some takeaway.

We had seen the Panda Chinese Restaurant just over the road while we were in the pub, and so that seemed like a viable target. We went in and ordered our food which took a while to come, but the smells coming from the kitchen were enough to see us through. We took the food back to the campsite and shared it out in Darryl’s tent which has a little more room to manoeuvre than mine. After we’d eaten I went and retrieved my clothes from the washing room and found they were now dry. After brushing my teeth I read my book for a while (Bill Bryson’s excellent A Walk in the Woods) then called it a night.


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