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Lands End to Cape Wrath
ARNSIDE TO CARLISLE
Wednesday 15 June
Sitting in Arnside station waiting for the 10.10 train to Grange-Over ĖSands. Grey drizzle and cold at 9.45. I had that looking at the ground and ďI walked here!Ē moment. The tarmac station platform. ďAll the way!Ē and then the realisation: If I get on this train I wonít be able to say that. It will lose itís wondrous edge; it wonít be true.
So five minutes later I was walking north, out along the dyke on the east side of the Kent estuary.
A narrow escape I reckon. If Iíd not had to wait a while for the train Iíd have been on it. I knew I was unhappy about it; what was that daft idea?
Last night I had a dream that Iíd not had for 10 years. The going into the classroom out of control children teacherís nightmare dream. (10 years since I was last in the classroom). Iíd set out to walk, it doesnít matter where, just one foot in front of the other. Iíd somehow got caught up into the idea of getting across the sand and into the lakes that way. Lost control. Let go of it.
So it was all morning north along dykes and long straight roads in the rain following the River Kent north to the first bridging point, then west taking the central reservation as my path on the A590 dual carriageway. Clouds down along the hills all around.
Hey but rewarded; a grey wagtail busy feeding a chick on the rocks of the river Kent and later a pair of lesser spotted wood peckers. This before the weather lifting as I walked over Whitbarrow. Beautiful rich and diverse limestone woodland and out onto the open grassland. Whitbarrow Scar. Rocky edge facing west to the Old Man of Coniston emerging from the clouds. Sun and on top there a kind of Mediterranean thing going on. Dry grassland rocky and low thorny bushes.
Another eyes open discovery.
8.30. Now camped in a full on Buttercup field near Crosthwaite. A request from the farmer not to flatten it too much; long and rich and ready for Hay Making. Midges but not like on Bowland, sky looming cloudy again and a wood cock on itís evening rounds.
A large bat fluttering high when itís still quite light, what would that be?
Things that are making me happy at the moment:
Thursday 17 June
Being there days and getting there days.
Rainy morning lying in the tent. 11.35 still in my sleeping bag. Somehow taking advantage of the rain as a reason to avoid deciding what to do. Rain now on and off for 4 days, with a forecast of change soon. Perhaps wait for the change but an 11.30 forecast on Radio Cumbria saying now that itís set in for the day.
So stay in tent all day or get out and walk?
The tent and a lot of stuff would be wet by the evening. Getting into a wet tent in the evening, Aah! Pathological fear.
Iíve just had 2 BnB nights so it would have to be a Youth Hostel, plenty of those around hereÖ.
Electric mobile telephone and from my tent in a wet field and Iím booked into High Close Y.H.
So now I have a task for the day. High Close is between 10 and 15 miles, I have to pack up and step out through the rainy afternoon. Looking forward to that, plenty of time, itíll be light till 10 ish.
So a getting there day with a destination. Mainly on roads, weather not for wandering and doodling. (wanderdoodling).
Evening now at High Close now.
Out of my tent and on my way by 12.30. These 2 days, round the Kent estuary into the Lakes and today over to here, theyíve been getting there days. Across the Somerset Levels also and down from the Welsh hills into Connahís Quay. Stepping out to cover the ground.
Not anticipating great countryside or just deciding to move on through. Working days.
The rain adds to that feel, focuses the mind. I like it as long as there is some kind of dryness anticipated; a roof or a clear sky.
Trying to be where I am. To be awake and present in the walking and the country Iím moving through. Just to be there and not with my mind on the destination.
If I can do that then a getting there day can turn into a being there day. One step at a time with the trust that Iíll arrive.
And today yes, happy to be marching down roads in the rain. Fish and Chips and provisioning in Windermere, along the lake almost to Ambleside, up the Rydal Valley and in the very damp and foggy fading light taking the path above Rydal Water and Grasmere. That path was just lovely with swirling clouds right down on the hills round the glassy lakes, intervals in big echoy caves for perfect harmonica-ing. Hills of the mind hidden in clouds are much bigger and falling over on top of you than the naked shining in the sun kind.
I decided at that point to have a rest day here. A place to hang out and relax then 2 days over the top to Keswick.
Saturday 18 June
Camped on Bell Crags 558m. Oh Gosh. 8.30, Sun going down, warm wind, hazy soft light, mountains marching back in all directions. Larks in the silence.
Pretty close to perfect (bottle of wine would be nice). Low sun lengthening the shadows of the rocks across the grass.
8 weeks. Half way through my time. But look around and see where I am!
Look down and see the earth and Iíve covered every inch, moved across it, measured it with one foot then another.
Helvellyn Big lump of rock sticking out fat tummies to my east with Thirlmere in the trough between us. Whole swirling rookery crew peeling away down to trees above the lake. Not happy to spend the night up here with me on high ground. Skiddaw standing over to the north, should be walking past him/her in 2 days.
Saturday night and up on top again (3 weeks ago I was on Hergest Ridge).
Happier to be here than in the Youth Hostel. I felt I needed a day off but when I stop I lose touch with things, feeling stuck and heavy. So as in the early days itís still hard to stop.
Looking round and there must be (must be!), other people camping up here tonight. Digging this like me. Perched on ledges drinking it all in.
First chance today to flop down naked in the sun. This is why I came. Everything that happens is an equal part of this trip but there has to be the reward of an evening like this.
High Close Y.H to Keswick, a stretch Iím sure you can do in a day .
Dow Bank, Castle How, High Raise, Greenup Edge, Ullscarf, Standing Crag, Shivery Knott, High Tove, High Seat, Castlerigg Fell.
But Iíve broken it into 2 days, discover and make the most of the Lake District. Iíve been waiting for it to happen and here it is. Up here for some being there days.
10.10 now and still more light than dark. Clear sky, big ĺ moon and no stars not even Jupiter this summerís early riser.
Special 6 on and cosy Iím going to sit and watch it get dark.
Walked up from High Close today with 2 guys Simon and Nick, room mates at the Youth Hostel. Only the second time Iíve walked with anyone else. Up through the mist and drizzle winding round crags and bogs till they went off to do a circuit of Langdale Pikes and I carried on north west. Also Shirley who joined us out of the mist, a cheery little fellowship for a couple of hours and also Shirley did give me her bottle of Avon Skin So Soft to arm me for the Scottish midge onslaught cheers.
Also handing over the navigating to Simon so the first time for me a mornings wandering leaving the map alone.
Such a great thing about this trip, coming across people who are into walking, appreciating it as I do and into what Iím doing, indulging my need to talk about it and the world of walking, share stories and techniques and give my energy (energetic ego) and romantic enthusiasm a boost.
After we parted company at midday I sat for a while to come to terms with being on my own again, then walked on slowly trying to savour each step. Walk along 100 yards then stop and look back; that 100 yards was gone. Each step a step gone, each day and soon Iíd be out of the Lakes, out of England. Trying to be awake and hold on to this time.
Again Nick he say:
ďEasy Lad it will all go very quickly, donít rush but well done!Ē
Trying to walk slowly. Hey youíre rushing, slow down and be in each step. Itís good also to cover the ground and feel that I can if I have to, not John Merrill mileage I know but still Iíd like to slow down.
Lunch in cold swirling fog and rain in the top of High Raise and taking shelter behind a semicircular stone wall clearly built by walkers just for that purpose and as I sat there the clouds began gradually to blow off and reveal the path leading away north along Greenup Edge for my afternoon delight.
Time for some making camp and cooking detail.
I arrived at Bell Crags out along this ridge at 5 ish tent up perched between rocks right on top making the decision that the weather wasnít going to change and Iíd be fine in a quite exposed spot.
Tent up and super-duper organised I go digging in to my pack, out of the bottom pocket comes the food bags, and the fuel bottles. Four separate stuff sacks and the Tupper Ware box with some kind of exact random system for making sure I can find what I want quickly maybe in the dark without too much rummaging around. Multiple bags to make sure itís all not just thrown in together and huge sack little things loose garlic cloves lucky tea spoon getting lost down at the bottom.
Out of the side pocket left (right?) comes the stove in itís little bag, the pots and pans in theirs, the wooden spoon and the chopping board.
Iíve got my Thermarest seat assemblaged and all the bags collected around me in the grass so I can settle and donít have to jump up to fetch something midway through the fry stage, though I usually forget something and Iím perched in a little out the wind hollow looking west towards the descending sun, 7.30 still a good couple of hands above the horizon but a chilly breeze. A week ago I was doing this all zipped up inside out of the rain and away from the midges in the Roeburn valley which was actually quite cosy and happy in my own little world.
Itís a particularly experience, a little bit or perhaps a lot feeling shaky and lonely out on my own, tired and unsure and just having to get on and trust the system, be the system, get absorbed into it. Not quite believing I can look after myself so do the do and just you see youíll be fine. You actually have all you need for life and limb summer evening. Tired and hungry but not hypothermia exhaustion frostbite blizzard.
On the menu tonight: (Oh my goodness)
Cheesy Chilly Chorizo and Apricot Bulgar Surprise.
The first thing always, to break the ice get the ball rolling is chop the onion not too fine, I like big chunks for a vegetable crunch. 1 onion for every dish, pick up 2 or 3 in the coop passing through and they can rattle around happy in my pack for days coming to no harm nutritionous and tangy roughage essential. John Hillaby back in 68 did eat them raw as he wandered along oh but not for me.
Chopping board in the grass and trusty Leathermanģ, then the garlic chopped up fine and ready. Part of the system ritual; get everything ready in reach set out and chopped first before the stove is lit, chorizo into easy chunks, apricots quartered, minimise I think the chance of tipping over maybe slightly precarious stove, losing meal and burning nylon camping accident.
Then the stove.
ATTACHING THE GRAGONFLY STOVE TO THE PUMP
You are about to use highly flammable liquid to cook food.
Know how to use your stove!
It was a bit of a scary jet engine roaring piece of apparatus at first but absolutely great versatile friendly and reliable friend so far although needing more concentration than camping gas types.
Stove pumped and primed and lit and off we go.
Olive oil into the ĺ litre pan and onto the heat just for a moment, get it hot before adding the chorizo.
Low heat for a few minutes sizzling away; time enough to melt the fat out of the sausage so it can join the olive oil to turn it rich paprika red.
Fish out the chorizo into the pan lid just as it begins to get a little crispy cooked. Put it aside so it gets no more coked than that. (With ordinary sausages fry them whole nice and brown and charred first, fish them out and chop them up to add later).
Lots of oil now so in with the onion and the garlic. Keep the heat low to stop it burning and sticking and I like my onion these days still crunchy so I only fry it for a few minutes, just till it starts to soften and absorb the oil. It will be boiling for a while later on so I keep the frying stage quite short.
The sun dried tomatoes crunched up into little pieces and the herbs and chilly can go in soon after the onions, give them time to soften and allow the flavour to start to flow.
Sweet smells on the evening air, Mm mm stir it about and a quick nip of Famous Grouse party time approaching.
Onion just right so time for the water unfortunately. Cold water a bit of a downer for just a moment in this cooking adventure but heat up to full blast, crumble and add the stock cube and the salt and pepper and the chorizo back in and in a couple of minutes itíll be boiling.
That is what you might call the stock, ready to receive the bulgar.
Bulgar in and back to the boil and itís gonna take maybe 10 minutes for it to come back to the boil, cook, soften and absorb the stock, so observe the dancing of the grass and the shadows in the evening sun.
I put the apricots in about half way through this, enough time to soften and spread sweet loveliness throughout but not long enough for them to break down and disappear. The delight is to come across the sudden sweet tangy chew in amongst the savoury chilly sausage nutty-ness.
The cheese goes in in small chunks to top it all off just as the bulgar is ready. I leave it sitting on the top, put the lid on and it melts into a gooey topping.
(This will work just as well with polenta though that will be more goopy and Iím going off polenta itís a bit too much like semolina and not as satisfying, less filling than bulgar. Variety though and arriving in every supplies parcel.
Fresh sausages also whenever possible, fresh chunky pork sausages or the chilly Moroccan the other day from Preston market. Fry them whole first until nice and brown cooked on the outside, fish them out and chop them up to but back in at the boiling stock stage).
So what youíve got is a big pot of savoury porridge. Rock and Roll and all is well with the world.
Yeah Iím powerful man (powerful)
Yeah Iím beautiful man (beautiful)
Yeah Iím excellent man P.B.E.
Sunday 19 June
Castlerigg camp site.
Thinking today about relinquishing (dumping) responsibility.
Thatís what Iíve done by coming out here. Work and home. All the stuff I usually have to keep looking after and thinking about, Iíve dumped it all.
All I have to look after and think about now is little me. Selfish? Self-indulgent?
So hereís to all the people who have been left to handle what Iíve abandoned.
Monday 20 June
Iím way up high tonight. Highest camp yet and second highest spot Iíve actually been to. That was on Saturday at High Seat 762m, tonight High Pike 658m. Anyway the point is I came up here this evening and Oh Gosh! I was looking north north into Scotland.
Can see the Solway Firth stretching out to I donít know where, right out west with big hills all the way. The Pennines marching up and tailing off over to the east. The Scottish Southern Uplands over there to the north east and the sea! Itís great to say hello to the sea again. Follow the west coast up, in and out, back and forth and now a whole new estuary to get acquainted with.
Behind me all the Cumbrian peaks stretching up and peering round each other to say cheerio.
Gretna not so far away down there, I could be there in 2 days!
Today was my 50th day walking. 50 days to see Scotland. (61 altogether).
Today was a hot summerís day. Cold cold up here now with a strong chilly wind 49į in the tent. Camped in the lea of a large spread out cairn 9.15 and well fed; Cheesy Chilly noodles with Salmon and Apricots. Tent zipped up and wrapped up in Special 6 and sleeping bag. If I peek out of the tent thereís a big yellow almost full moon rising out of Bow Scale Tarn, the sun sinking into Scottish hills. Iím hoping the wind will drop as we lose the sun.
So, the northern edge of the Lake District and Caldbeck Fells. A good gentle walk from Castlerigg down into Keswick for breakfast this morning and a visit to the camping shop fleshpots. Some new Superfeet (just because) and (because I know youíre interested), a new bight valve for my Camelback tube. The last one went astray on the day out from Arnside (the shame of it), sorry not to tell you.
I decided not to replace my snuggle neck hat Ė Iíve managed fine without it so keep it that way.
Picking up the Cumbrian Way out of town. Round Latrigg hill and through into the heart of Skiddaw.
That is a very groovy path that takes you north through the slice in the hill, Glenderaterra Beck. (Where does that name come from?). You go through, leaving the world behind and emerge into the lovely wide sweeping valley with Skiddaw Ho perched on itís little shoulder.
Sense of isolation and away from things in there with hardly a soul around on such a clear blue June day. Everyone headed off for the top I guess.
And after nearly 9 weeks of this summer time stroll I was for the first time naked swimming in a mountain stream. HALLELUJAH!
Sparkling water and sky and grass and Meat and Potato Pie.
Pies all the way. Pasties in Cornwall, Steak and Ale in many a public house and up here getting into the Meat and Potato. What will the Scottish land have to offer?
So Iíve walked through the Lake District. Hereís the route if you want it.
Hereís the route if you want it dear
All the otherís are third class tickets by me
Baby is that clear.
I would recommend it to anyone making there way north, apart from the roady bits though they served their purpose at the time.
Arnside north round the Kent estuary, over Whitbarrow and a night at Lamb Howe. Roads into Windermere and round to High Close. 2 nights in the Youth Hostel, out up to High Rise, north and a night at Bell Craggs. High Seat and down to a night in Castlerigg. Keswick and through to Skiddaw Ho, along the river Caldew, up Great Lingy Hill and onto High Pike. Yahoo.
Feeling as though I saw all side of these hills, they slowly opened up as the weather changed so good; wet and fog into dry warm sunny. Alarmingly windy up here now though; 10.17 and it doesnít look like the evening calm is going to arrive. Perhaps it doesnít at 658m.
Tuesday 21 June
Carlisle if you can believe it. Hot in a BnB attic room with a Velux and noisy flock walls. Still light at 10.25. Mid summer.
Pizza Express again. As in Preston last city and last bridging point.
A great days walking. 19 miles down off the top and into the city. Windy windy all night with tent flapping like madness this morning. Wrapped in the clouds and quite scary but getting me up and going by 8.30. Down from the top of High Pike with a bearing of 0˚ due north straight onto the Cumbrian way. Picking up the Caldew valley at Hesket Newmarket.
The story of a river.
Following the Caldew all day from energetic and youthful cutting sharp into the hills. Through busy shifting sweeps across open flood planes, river beeches and cliffs on into sluggish maturity all in the space of 10 hours.
And I was swimming in it also up by Skiddaw Ho but yesterday.
(Explore that. All the rivers and estuaries and maybe mountains and moors lakes and Lochs that I have got to know, had relations with.)
Very satisfying to follow it down like that, spend the day with it.
Lush woodland, a red squirrel, can that be? Do they live along there?
Multiple Vetches and herds of common spotted orchids, more I think than Iíve ever seen before in one place, counted more than 100 full on blooms in the area of an average family saloon.
Little used path, very overgrown, difficult to walk through especially when youíre trying to listen to Test Match Special on head phones, disorientating. (Maybe try it with one ear in, going to have find a way with the whole Ashes summer ahead).
At lunch I was entertained by a brood of young Sand Martins. Gaggle-orooney chasing around and zipping in and out of their nest in the little river cliff behind me. Also a buzz being bothered by a crow and a sparrow hawk.
Arriving into town along the east bank, evening time and suddenly the water was full of different wildlife. Young guns of Carlisle somersaulting off the weir; hilarious and delighted to be photographed.
A good day, feeling strong and bouncing along. Satisfying to know I can still cover some miles but a half day tomorrow I think. Also having fun today with a little snatch of a tune, a memory of Harry Dean Stanton in Kellyís Heroes a hoedown harmonica kind of thing and please stop kicking my daug around.
Wednesday 22 June
Sitting in the sun, hot on the grass beneath Carlisle Castle. 1.30, thinking about the Lake District. Aware that I was quite daunted by the prospect as I approached, first big hills, bad weather and somehow not excited. Pleased to have got through and hey! In some style.
Up over some high ground with changing weather, feeling strong, getting hold of them hills and making the most. I had a view back to the hills just now as I crossed a bridge in town. High Pike, I was up there yesterday, I came over them there hills! Conquering hero.
Not making me humble this experience, Inflating in fact sense of self.
Up on High Pike, Hergest Ridge, Cow Castle, strutting like a boxer in the ring, doing that Maori war dance or American Indian being an Eagle victory round in a circle arms out dance and sing. My Mountains!
Art and science.Making good decisions, doing it right, looking after myself, why itís good when itís good, pacing and pushing, stop and relax and be, move on and keep it coming, feel the wave and jump on.
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