Coast to Coast: Day 5

SHAP TO KIRKBY STEPHEN – 20 MILES / 32 KM

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We left Shap knowing the Lake District was now behind us. The footbridge over the M6 motorway marked our departure from the first National  Park, and into our second; the Yorkshire Dales.

We watched the rolling mountains disappear behind us, and the fells and hills of Yorkshire approach. A few RAF jets soared above, and soon we found the limestone scarred landscapes this area is so famous for.

But in good old fashioned style, we couldn’t continue without making a wrong turn. Rather than following Orton Scar around to the moorlands stretching East, we continued South towards Orton village, with the Howgill Fells slowly getting bigger and bigger. Not knowing this (despite having maps and compasses) we continued. It was when we saw the M6 again we paused to check our map.

We finally found the route we wanted on Ravenstonedale Moor, soon catching up with the St Clements couple and their brightly coloured coats. We exchanged our good mornings and how we had all enjoyed the good weather yesterday, before picking our pace up and continuing onwards.

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The flat moorlands soon gave way to a lush green valley, with a path winding down to Smardale Bridge and the fells that stood between us and Kirkby Stephen. It was there we met another group of Coast to Coast walkers, affectionately known as “The Spice Girls”. You can read up on their blog here at:

We ended up walking into Kirkby Stephen with the St Clements, The Spice Girls, and eventually caught up with another couple from Germany, also on the Coast to Coast Path. I had read about walks like this one where you find camaraderie quite easily, especially with a route that is un-waymarked in places, and crosses quite tricky terrain.

Nevertheless, today was an easy day, despite our mistake at Orton. We found our B&B for the night (The Black Bull Hotel) where the other groups were staying too. Kirkby Stephen is a delightful place, with quaint little shops, flowers hanging from every building, and parrots! Yes, parrots!

We ended the night with all the groups together at the Black Bull; us, the Spice Girls, the German couple, and the St Clements. We discussed our next day walk, where else we were staying, where we were from, etc. I looked at Rob and I could see this was his dream come true. Camaraderie, friendly people, good beer, dry clothes… all was well before a 5ft tall bald Scotsman and his wife pulled up a stool and propped his foot on it.

“Crowd round, crowd round! I’m walking the Coast to Coast in reverse, and I’ve just come from Keld” he said (Keld being our next stop). “There are no pubs! There are no shops! There is nothing!”

Not to say I was doubting this guy, but I knew he was telling porkies! But we let him continue because he somehow took us by surprise with his round-up.

“You must go to the local shop, across the road, and stock up for tomorrow night, if you are going to Keld! Because there is nothing!”

The next morning, we were sure we saw him behind the counter of said shop.

Coast to Coast: Day 4

GRASMERE TO SHAP – 25 MILES / 40 KM

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We awoke to the smell of a damp drying room, with the air simmering with sweat and peat bog; as good a wake up call as any, not that we had to make up lost mileage or anything…

We headed out of Grasmere the wrong way (which started to feel like a tradition at this point). We finally found that right path beside a place called High Bloodrayne (please, no more rain!) heading to Grisedale Tarn.

The suffering of the previous day had given us a strength we had not felt before. Maybe it was the good Quaker people and their blessings, or the urgency that 25 miles in one day comes with.

We were soon gifted with light! Sunlight! And not a cloud in the sky. We skipped up to Grisedale Tarn, and hopped onto the path running down beside Grisedale Beck. In all, this was the highlight of the entire walk; the scenery, the weather, the path, the wildlife. It was a beautiful way to start the morning.

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We soon found ourselves in Patterdale, only a day late. It was approaching midday, and a fell run was in progress through the town. Runners were heading along the roads and lanes, and up the route we had so perfectly timed coming from. And here is a confession; a sign was pointing walkers through the church yard, to which Craig shamelessly was resting against (HOW DARE HE!). A lone runner passed the signposted gateway unaware the road ahead was to be known as “The Wrong Way”.

A quick bacon cob and tea later, before Craig and John engaged in a father-son argument over how to pack a rucksack correctly. Should you pack items width ways or length ways? A quick emptying of John’s rucksack by Craig soon started a torrent of abuse unseen since the rain of yesterday.

Me and Rob sped ahead, climbing yet another mountain side to reach the Boredale Hause and the winding path towards Angle Tarn and, eventually, High Street. We knew Kidsty Pike, the highest point on our walk, was next – however, a blind eye led us down High Street and back on the familiar grounds known as “The Wrong Way”.

If it wasn’t for a well-spoken lady and her whippets, dubbed the Lady of the Lakes, we would have added more miles onto the clock. However, her unforgettable words of wisdom led us to Kidtsy Pike, and the route down to Haweswater Reservoir (aka the sloggiest slog of all slogs).

Take note, that the path beside Haweswater Reservoir is not fun, or at least we didn’t find it. It was uneasy under foot, and matched with the feeling that it never seemed to end, soon found us in agony, hunger, thirst and fatigue.

And then, when all hope seemed lost, a sign!

A young boy by the name of Thomas Richardson (a name we now drink to) had started an honesty shop in the form of a cooler and a donations box at the end of the walk around Haweswater. Mars Bars! Cans of pop! Snickers! Now take my money!

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The walk onwards to Shap was in high spirits, yet again. John showed us his blistered feet, which due to delirium was hilarous, and onwards we soon saw Shap  Abbey, rise through the trees to mark the end of the day. I wanted to take a nice picture of the Abbey against the burning red sunset that evening, however I couldn’t be arsed.

The last I remember was putting up my tent, watching a EUROPA football match in a seedy pub, sipping on a pint of Guinness and chewing on pork scratchings.

Here’s to Thomas!

FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: Invasive Species

So, Chuck Wendig is celebrating the landing of a paperback version of his recent book “Invasive”; a story about genetically engineered ants which is still on my “to-read” list for 2017.

What has that to do with this week’s challenge? 

EVERYTHING, I TELL YOU!

Our task is to write 1,500 words inspired by an “invasive species”. It could be anything from the Japanese Knot Weed to Locusts and insects.

So why not write about the most invasive species of them all…

…Gastroenterologists!

Continue reading

Coast to Coast: Day 3

BORROWDALE TO PATTERDALE – 17.5 MILES / 28 KM

BORROWDALE TO GRASMERE – 9 MILES / 14.5 KM

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As the title suggests, our third walking day did not go to plan…

We started off with a skip in our step; the weather was overcast but we were in good spirits. Every step was one step closer to leaving the Lake District and it’s mountains… until we realised those first steps in the day were in the wrong direction!

We passed a couple in brightly coloured waterproof coats, heading in what was the right direction. A quick glance at the map, and an about turn soon corrected us, and we were soon hot on the heels of the brightly coloured hikers – dubbed the St Clement’s, after their neon yellow and orange coats.

A brief rest before we headed over the first climb of the day – over  Greenup Edge – and we acquainted ourselves with the St Clements; an Alaskan couple who were too walking the Coast to Coast, and on a similar schedule to us.

That was when the heavens opened and that good old British summertime rain fell from above; and when I say fell, I mean “hit like a bus” fell.

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Visibility reduced to a few yards ahead of us, the ground became sodden and boggy, and we were soon at the stage where a dip in the lake would have been drier than the conditions up here. The St Clements followed our poor navigation, where obvious footpaths and landmarks were no more. With the map and compass, we cut a straight line over brooks and streams (now surging thanks to the rain) to reach beginning of our descent to  Grasmere.

The St Clements then vanished from sight beyond the fog, and Craig fell crotch-deep into a peat bog (which saved the day for the rest of us). Soon, the way became clear, and we found Grasmere in poor time, poor condition and poor spirits.

The plan was to do over 17 miles to the next village called Patterdale, but we had only done almost half that. An agreement was made to shell £50 each for a hotel that night at a Quaker’s Inn.  Thank their God they had a drying room.

Coast to Coast: Day 2

Ennerdale Bridge to Borrowdale – 14.5 miles / 23 km

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The day started bright and cheerful. The river next to us hadn’t breached, and the clouds gave way to the horizon that we were to clamber towards.

We made sure our walk from Ennerdale was more accurate than our walk into, and soon found ourselves beside Ennerdale Water, the first “lake” of the Lake District. The path we followed soon turned into a scramble, over slippery then sharp rocks, rising above the water and over towards the forest that stretched down the valley.

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The forest was delightful, especially with the great weather. The clouds licked the tops of the mountains, but the sky over us was blue and sunny. We soon found our way to the Black Sail YHA where we stopped for lunch and a break; a good plan as the next stretch was all uphill as we were to climb north out the valley and descend down towards the Honister Slate Mine.

We suddenly became very lost, on a walk where lost isn’t necessarily bad (trust me; Wainwright said he doesn’t care how you get to Robin Hood’s Bay). However, we had missed the route heading north out the valley along the traditional scramble up and over, and instead continued East up the valley, hopping over rivers and streams. An elderly American chap followed for no discernible reason, and once he vanished behind us we each agreed our bad directions had already cost someone their life.

After a gruelling climb we eventually found ourselves at the top, with a magnificent view to the valley below, and to the elderly American gentleman a mile ahead of us towards Honister Pass. A sigh of relief, and also because the rest of the day was downhill.

We headed down to Borrowdale, set up camp beside yet another river, and headed to the Langstrath Country Inn where we dined on a tender bacon chop and black pudding that melted like butter. And as darkness fell, so did the rain.

 

 

FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: Choose Your Own Adventure via Twitter


This weeks challenge from Chuck Wendig
took a while for me to grasp. The task was simple; check Chuck’s tweets on Twitter (during a thread of Choose Your Own Adventure style posts featuring Fire-Owls, Magic Bands, Wizard Vans and Otter Gods), and… just… well… continue the story from wherever you want.

I didn’t like this challenge because it was several degrees of insanity that my mind struggled to comprehend. I spent a couple of minutes wandering through the mess of a publicly-voted fantasy fiction that utterly boggled me.

That was until I took a liking of the following tweet from Chuck, and the re-tweet by somebody else: Continue reading

Coast to Coast: Day 1

St Bees to Ennerdale Bridge – 14 miles / 22.5 km

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To many, the Coast to Coast Path is a challenging walk. You’ll find a route of 190 (or more) miles, stretching from the Irish Sea in the West, to the North Sea in the East. Starting in Cumbria, and ending in Yorkshire. Three National Parks. Varied terrain. Largely un-waymarked. In short, it’s a handsome challenge, and it was one we were to complete in 12 days.

I was walking with my seasoned hiker father (Rob), my outdoors aficionado friend (Craig), and his marathon running father (John) . We met at St Bees where to route heads West before heading East, over fields and along tracks towards to Lake District and within sight of the hills and mountains to come.

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It’s an easy enough day walk, but nothing worth shouting about. It’s good to have a simple slog as a first day to get the gears rolling, but the first notable climb (if that) sits at a measly 350 metres above sea level (called Dent Hill). The cold fog that came in created the illusion it was much more than that, hence the rather heroic picture above, taken by two sly sirens who surely wait for budding Coast-to-Coast-ers at the top of that hill every day, leading them astray like they did us.

Rather than take the steep descent by Nannycatch Beck, we headed West for the second time that day. We joined a road that we marched along in fury at whoever was holding the maps, and whoever did the most talking to the sirens. That, and whoever had summoned the rain; not standard pitter-patter rain, but the misty light rain that gets into everything.

Rather embarrassingly, we finally arrived at Ennerdale, to find our campsite behind the church next to a semi-surging river lapping at the dry stone wall between it and us. We threw our tents up, found shelter at a pub, and ended the night inside our damp tents, hoping our luck got better and our spirits less damp.

FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: X versus Y, REDUX

A new week, a new challenge.

The flash fiction challenge set by Chuck Wendig this week involved “this” versus “that” in what would be a “Freddy vs Jason”, or “Alien vs Predator”, or “Flesh Eating Ants vs Donald Trump” style battle of the elements.

You can see the full list of creative options here on the Wendig blog (as well as other stories using this prompt). Of the twenty vs twenty choices to pick from, I opted for some delightful options:

X (13). Librarians

vs

Y (9). Cannibals Continue reading

FLASH FICTION: SUBGENRE SMASH-AND-GRAB

Well, hello there…

It has been a while since my last Flash Fiction submission, so why not celebrate reaching halfway through May 2017 by doing another Chuck Wendig challenge.

This week’s topic: a super dooper “sub-genre smash and grab”-athon. The rules are simple: have a random number generator or other preferred selector of numbers choose two genres as listed on Chuck’s recent flash fiction prompt.

Through means of good old fashioned tea leaf reading and staring at the sun through a telescope, I was designated the following two areas:  Continue reading

Flash Fiction: Ten Titles Challenge

Last week on the TerribleMinds.com Blog, Church Wendig asked the community to leave a three word prompt behind which would later become one of ten randomly chosen prompts for the week after (i.e. this week).

Of the ten prompts, which can be seen here, the challenge was to choose one, and with it use it as inspiration towards a 1000 word piece of fiction.

I could have happily chosen any, however the one that caught my attention was “Discount Skin Ticket”, which to me had many meanings. The one that caught me the most was another term for a cheap strip tease (as in, the discounted ticket to which one could witness some naked skin).

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I bring you “Discount Skin Ticket”:

 

Continue reading