Coast to Coast Walk 2018
Author: George Tod
This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on small photo to enlarge in situ, or click caption to enlarge into new window.
|Part 3 - Patterdale to Keld|
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One of the drawbacks of many hostels is the lack of space in dormitories when they are busy, so you end with things on the floor trying not to encroach on other hostellers' space. Patterdale hostel was somewhat different in that it was purpose built and not overcrowded with bunks and it also has storage space for rucksacks beside them. The only real problem is when you are one of the later arrivals end have to have a top bunk. I don't think that the people who designed the bunks ever tried climbing to a top bunk in bare feet. It is bad with most bunks but here it was particularly so as the steps were thin round metal bars which cause agony to the feet. Also, at the top was a wooden surround that was higher than the mattress and this has to be knelt upon causing agony to the knees. Having suffered getting up and down once I decided the only way was to put my trainers on for the climbing process knowing that I would probably have to get up in the night.
The design of Patterdale hostel is also unusual in that the dormitories are downstairs almost sunken in a dip with the dining and lounge areas upstairs, which means that the dormitories stay quite cool even in hot weather making for a better night's sleep.
Enclosed open-air seating area in Patterdale Youth Hostel
Patterdale from near Youth Hostel
Looking back towards Patterdale from path to Angle Tarn
Being the weekend, there were no school parties, so everything was far more peaceful at breakfast and I was able to get off before 9.00 with a long day ahead. At first it was quite cool but as soon as I headed up the steep hillside in the full glare of the sun it was a different matter. After a short while I caught up with a Japanese lady doing the Coast to Coast walk. I met her previously in Ennerdale hostel and had not seen her again until now. Like most people doing the walk she was using the baggage transfer services so could travel light. However, I was now quite accustomed to carrying my pack, though it did slow me down a bit especially where it was steep.
Deepdale from Path to Angle Tarn
Ullswater from Path to Angle Tarn
Helvellyn from Path to Angle Tarn
The views soon started to open up with fine views over Patterdale and across to Helvellyn. A bit higher up it got less steep with an occasional breeze, so it was much more pleasant, and the views got wider with Ullswater and Brothers Water in sight. The next objective was Angle Tarn, a beautiful tarn halfway up the mountain with a backdrop of surrounding fells. This made a good place for a short rest and there were a couple of young men swimming in there with their dogs.
Brothers Water from Path to Angle Tarn
Angle Tarn with Helvellyn behind
Another steady climb led up to the old Roman road of High Street which follows a long south-north ridge from Ambleside to near Penrith. Its highest point is Racecourse Hill at 828m though the Coast to Coast route joins it about a mile further north and follows it for a little way before heading east to reach its highest point on Kidsty Pike at 780m. On my walk in 1992 I took the detour to the summit of High Street as I was keen on 'summit bagging' at the time, but there was nothing especially different about the view and, struggling with the heat, I was in no mood to take on any extra exertion this time. There were a number of mountain bikers heading along High Street which despite its altitude is a fairly easy track.
Kidsty Pike and Head of Hawes Water Reservoir from Rampsgill Head
Head of Hawes Water Reservoir from Kidsty Howes
Towards Dam of Hawes Water Reservoir from Kidsty Howes
Over the top of Kidsty Pike, there was quite a strong easterly breeze making it very pleasant and I stopped there for my lunch break overlooking Hawes Water reservoir which, considering the lack of rain was not as low as might be expected. In fact most of the Lake District looked very lush and green which seems to be because a huge amount of water is held in the rocks of the mountains, This means that the hillsides are always kept moist so that grass, ferns and wild flowers are thriving with a blaze of colour from foxgloves everywhere. Although the main climbing was over there was still ten miles of walking to Shap so I needed to press on. A fairly steep descent along the ridge leads to the edge of the reservoir where many of the submerged walls were now exposed but not low enough to expose the sunken village.
Head of Hawes Water Reservoir
Towards Dam of Hawes Water Reservoir
Ruins of Shap Abbey
Although the route follows the edge of the reservoir it is not that easy as it keeps going up and down the hillside and although pleasant it seems interminable with the dam never seeming to get any closer. Towards the end of reservoir, it is hidden by trees and I was expecting to have reached the dam by the time the reservoir came back into sight. However, instead of getting nearer it looked even farther away as if somebody kept moving the dam! Eventually, I did reach the dam and started to make my way across a very different landscape with easier walking through rolling hills and along riverside paths and through fields and meadows towards the ruins of Shap. A minor road then took me into Shap itself where I was booked into New Ing Farm B&B that also had bunk rooms. On the way I met a couple of Coast to Coast walkers who were also heading into Shap and I chatted to them for a while as we walked along until I turned off to New Ing Farm. What I didn't realise until I arrived there was that they also served a very nice dinner and had a bar, so there was no need for me to go any further after my long day's walk and I had a bunk room to myself. I also met the lady walker with her dog who was camping in the grounds of the B&B. I had not seen them since Nannycatch on the second day of my walk so it was good to catch up with how she had been getting on. Her venture had all been part of someone's 60th birthday celebrations and a group had decided on a few days of C2C walking. They did manage to meet up after one of them had fallen over and had to go to A&E, so all was not lost in the end.
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At breakfast I met a chap who was doing the Coast to Coast in the other direction. He had done a lot of other walks as well, so we had a very good chat. This was probably not the best thing to do as I had a fairly long walk ahead and should have been trying to get off for an early start. I needed a few things from the shop as well so by the time I really got going it was about 9.30.
17th Century Market Hall, Shap
M6 and Cement Works near Shap
Near Hardendale Quarry, Shap
Shap's main claim to fame is a huge quarry and a cement works as well as being close to the M6 and the main train line to Scotland. These are the most noticeable things when leaving the village and getting started on the route. Once past all of these there begins an area of pleasant limestone moors with easy walking but without a great deal of note. This helped in that I needed to cover a lot of ground without too much effort. I could see a couple of walkers ahead who I took to be the couple I had met at Shap Abbey and walked into Shap with last night, but it was a long time before I caught up with them to confirm it. It was his birthday today so they were only doing a short day into Orton so they could then relax and celebrate rather than having the long walk to Kirkby Stephen that I was doing.
Limestone Pavement, Wicker Street
Large Boulder near Wicker Street
Yorkshire Dales National Park Wainwright's Coast to Coast Walk sign
There was a complete change of scenery now from high craggy mountains to gently rolling moorland with much evidence of the limestone of the Dales such as limestone pavements and outcrops. It was somewhat surprising that even this sort of area wasn't suffering much from the heat and dry weather and was generally quite green. After crossing the road near Orton Scar I stopped for a lunch break having been walking for three hours.
The route from here is confusing as originally Wainwright had the route going over Orton Scar but this turned out not to be a right of way beyond the monument on the top of the hill so he hurriedly changed the route involving a lot of road walking and adding two miles in distance. My copy of his guide shows the hurriedly redrawn route but subsequently ways were found using footpaths to avoid a lot of the road walking making things better. These were incorporated in later guides and became the accepted route. However, in 2002 the disputed route became access land, so Wainwright's original route was now legal though the guidebooks still stuck to the later route. A little further on the area around Newbiggin Tarn became a nature reserve with restricted access, so the route was diverted round the south. Consequently, it is anybody's guess as to which route is the official one (if there is such a thing as an 'official' route in an unofficial walk).
Limestone Pavements towards Orton Scar
Monument on Beacon Hill near Orton Scar
Limestone Pavements over Great Asby Scar
When I walked the route from east to west in 2006 I took a route over Orton Scar, following the very first route. I was undecided as to which route to take this time but was tempted over Orton Scar again, always preferring to take the high ground. In fact, though this is access land with legal access to anyone, it is obvious that very few people walk this way and I think that this is preferred to avoid wear and tear to the large areas of the fragile limestone pavements that abound. It does little harm if a few walkers explore the area but to direct hordes of Coast to Coast walkers this way could do a lot of damage and is best discouraged.
Scarside Farm and Orton (looking west)
Sunbiggin Tarn (now out of bounds)
South from Begin Hill near Smardale Bridge
After crossing the limestone areas, I then joined the modified route bypassing Sunbiggin Tarn but was unable to get near to the tarn as there were notices everywhere showing the only permissible route was this loop around to the south. There were very few signs of habitation along this route, only a few remote farms and I saw nobody for many miles. Eventually the route gets a bit hillier and there are relics of the old railway line with an old viaduct near Smardale Bridge. There were far fewer places to pick up water among the route and many of the small streams had dried up, so Smardale Bridge was the only place I topped up with water from the river. I started off with 2.5 litres and had been managing quite well on this thanks to the wind that was quite strong at times and was saving me from overheating. The lack of a lot of climbing also helped, so I just picked up half a litre from the stream as I didn't have too far left to go.
The going got a bit slower towards the end with more ups and downs as well as a few minor navigation errors that wasted a bit of time so it was 7.50 before I reached the hostel in Kirkby Stephen. There is a fish and chip shop almost next door which was open when I arrived but by the time I went out again it had closed. Fortunately, the pub nearby was still serving food, so I had Cumberland sausage plus a few pints of a special ale brewed for the World Cup called Bulldog which in my opinion was the best thing to come out of the World Cup. In the pub I met three Americans who were starting this section of the Coast to Coast and were, like me, heading to Keld tomorrow.
In the hostel I had a whole large dormitory to myself. This used to be owned by the YHA but, like many out-of-the-way hostels it was sold off. Fortunately, it now runs as an independent hostel. It would have been a pity to lose a hostel here, though there is quite a lot of other accommodation available in this market town. It is self-catering but, being in the centre of town, it is easy to find places offering breakfast and evening meals and there are shops to stock up on supplies and things for packed lunches.
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Kirkby Stephen is a picturesque and historic market town with a large number of pubs serving the surrounding area which has many remote farms. It also had an abundance of churches and chapels, but with a decline in churchgoers, many of these have ben put to other uses, such as one chapel that became a YHA hostel and is now an independent hostel. Its beautiful interior has been lovingly restored to its former glory. There are several other historic buildings around the town making it an interesting place to stay.
Kirkby Stephen Hostel in old Chapel
Hostel in old Chapel and Black Bull Inn, Kirkby Stephen
War Memorial, Kirkby Stephen
The Cloisters, Kirkby Stephen
Frank's Bridge (Footbridge over River Eden)
South from Hartley Fell
Looking for breakfast in the morning, I had been recommended a café, but this didn't open until 9.00, so I found the butcher's shop selling bacon and sausage baps. They were huge and one of them was plenty for my breakfast. I ate it back in the hostel where there was a free cup of tea. There were quite a few hostellers there but mainly cyclists as, having started my walk mid-week, I was out of sync with the bulk of walkers. Today's walk wouldn't be too taxing, so I could take it fairly easily and recover from the long walk of yesterday. It was 9.30 when I set off out of town over Frank's Bridge, a footbridge over the River Eden, heading past Hartley Quarries up Hartley Fell on the way towards Nine Standards Rigg. This is about 2170ft high (662m) and gets its name from the nine cairns near the summit. On the way I passed a group of Americans. I had already met three of them who were just starting from here, but they had now been joined two more who had been walking right from the start. I stopped for a chat with them and then pressed on ahead as. Despite being weary from yesterday's walk, I was now well accustomed to walking with a full pack and didn't need to have many rests on the steady ascent. There was a good view back over the town and across to the North Pennines as well as the surrounding hills and eventually the distinctive row of cairns could be seen ahead. I said 'Hello' to two elderly ladies sitting on a seat overlooking the view and assumed that that they were just out walking for the day but I was to meet them two days later in Marske where I found out that they were also Coast to Coast walkers.
Back Down Faraday Gill towards Kirkby Stephen
Approaching Summit of Nine Standards Rigg
Looking North along Nine Standards Rigg
I reached the cairns at quarter to twelve with the hardest part of the day's walking already done, so I could now relax for the rest of the way. It was a bit early for lunch, but I had one of the two large sausage rolls I had bought and would have the rest later. The cairns are all different in shape and size and, when I had last seen them nine ago, some were badly in need of repair. Now they were all in immaculate condition and provided an impressive sight. There were also a number of other smaller cairns here and there arounf the area and these were also built to the same high standard (excuse the pun). I sat on the ledge of one of them and eventually the Americans rolled up and came to chat. One thing they asked about was the best route ahead, but I wasn't much help to them as my old guide only showed one route whereas the latest guides show about three. However, I had seen notices on the way up saying that for erosion control purposes certain routes should be used for certain times of year - in this period it was the red route (I thought that was only for skiing). The Americans had missed the signs, but I said that they were only advisory, and nobody could do anything if they wanted to take the one that their guidebook recommended.
Northern Pennines from Nine Standards Rigg
Shooting Box towards Ravenseat
I went ahead of them and, when it came to the alternative routes, there were large fingerposts showing which route was for which months. I took the requested one as there doesn't seem to be much difference in the views, it all being a large expanse of peaty moorland without many features. The going was easy, and I ambled along until I decided to have the rest of my lunch by a cairn, followed by a spot of sunbathing. After a little while the Americans came along obviously having been persuaded to use this route by the sign. They didn't disturb me, and it was then very peaceful with only the sound of a few distant birds. I was there for about an hour and half and had a nap for a while. The temperature was perfect up there at around 2000ft with a pleasant breeze.
I had started off with 2.5 litres of water sipping as I went along, and this was proving just right, which was just as well as the few streams that hadn't dried up looked very unappetising to say the least. Peaty moorland isn't good for drinking water. Further along there are lots of grouse shooting butts to which Wainwright says in his guide 'The vicinity of Ney Gill is so littered with shooting butts that one feels like apologising in shame to the birds one sees.' The first real feature of any note is Raven Seat with a bridge over the beck and an attractive farm offering cream teas to passers-by. I didn't succumb, but I am not sure whether the Americans had done so, as I could see them just across the river and they should have been a long way ahead by now.
Bridge over Whitsundale Beck at Ravenseat Farm
Stone Barn near Ravenseat
Waterfall and Rock Pool at Keld Bunkbarn
I stopped for a short rest just past the farm and was passed by a lady walker I had not met before. I then started looking at my notes and realised that if I wanted an evening meal at Keld Bunkbarn I needed to order it by five. I thought I could phone but there was no reception, so I set off at a brisk pace to try to get there before five. I caught up with the lady walker who was just approaching the Americans who were working out which way to go, so I just said a quick 'Hello' and said I had to press on.
Arriving just before five, I found that the Bunkbarn was fitted out like five star accommodation and there were only two of us staying, myself and the lady I had passed who arrived just after me who was called Bridgette. There was free tea and coffee as well as a choice of several main course dishes and drinks at reasonable prices. Toast and cereals were free and other breakfast items could be ordered as well. These were all delivered from the house to the Bunkbarn at the appointed time. Amazing service. Not only this, but the view from the entrance to the bunkbarn overlooked a beautiful waterfall with large rock pool with a little path down for anyone wanting a swim. I didn't try this out myself, as I knew that mountain streams can be a lot colder than you may think, even on a hot day.
For our evening meal, both Bridgette and I had the shepherd's pie which was delivered in large Pyrex dishes that were big enough to feed a family. It was piping hot and delicious and I only just managed to eat it all. For the first time on the walk I watched the ten o'clock news which included scenes of screeching football fans excited at a win for England and I was glad that I was away from it all. The only thing I was waiting for was for Senegal to win, as I had picked them out of a hat for a sweepstake at work!
As well as the Bunkbarn, on the same site, are 'Swaledale Yurts' offering luxury camping with a private hot tub for those in need of a bit of pampering at this half-way stage of the walk.
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