5/5/15

2011 Westmorland Way Walk, England

Westmorland Way Walk 2011

WESTMORLAND WAY

Day 6 ... May 2 ... 17 miles
Appleby to Shap

Breakfast at 8 am is porridge, sausage and eggs with toast and fruit. I’m cutting out some of the extraneous food. My clothes were nicely washed, no charge. I have forgiven the episode of last night. I’m off by 8:50. This will be a 17 mile day of relatively easy walking, no mountains or ridges.

I forgo the short way to the path over the footbridge - I wanted to walk through town since I didn’t have time to look around yesterday. A truly beautiful main street leads up and around the castle. I follow the River Eden most of the way to Great Ormside crossing numerous stiles with doggie doors. This is apparently an upper class path.

A giant sycamore with a church behind is a main attraction of Great Ormside. From here its mostly a road walk to Rutter Force and the old mill, now a tourist shop. A couple took my photo on the footbridge over Hoff Beck. On to Great Asby (I keep thinking the Great Gatsby), then due west on a track across sheep country and a greenway to Crosby Ravensworth. At 1 pm, I stopped for lunch at a sheep fold across from Gaythorne Hall. I’ve had superb views of the Pennines all along the way. From Crosby Ravensworth, its cross country over the moors and limestone pavement country. I find two old stone circles along the way, then a stone quarry filled with water, quite beautiful in the slanting sunlight. Limestone pavement covers the hillside. I cross the M6 on a footbridge and drop down into Shap at 4:30 pm.

New Ing Lodge is at the top end of town, a big old stone building, lodge aptly describes it. I have a large airy room with double bed, very clean, shower and toilet across the hall. Very friendly staff, almost a hostel atmosphere but with all the amenities of a B&B. I decide to eat here, vegetable lasagna and salad are excellent. Three C2C’ers are camping out back and eating dinner with me. They are struggling with packs much too large, foot problems also. They plan to turn in early. I go to the pub for a pint of Wainwright Ale and two other guys from dinner join me. They stay for a second pint and I go back to the lodge. Its a very cold wind blowing, glad I’m not in a tent.

Day 7 - May 3 Shap to Pooley Bridge

Breakfast at 7:30, cereal, scrambled eggs and sausage with toast, all very good. Saw all the guys from last night. Everyone survived. I took an apple and stopped at the co-op for a candy bar. That will be lunch. Off on the path to Keld (near Shap) at 9 am. I pass the Gogglesby Stone, an ancient standing stone most probably a glacial boulder. It stands alone in a field as farmers work around it. Keld is a small village of nice houses. A path leads across pastures to Shap Abbey and passes above it. I like the view of the Abbey tower looking down on it. The path continues through pastures high above the River Lowther. Across the river, I can see the C2C path as it makes its way to Shap Abbey. On my path, I meet several C2C couples who had stayed overnight in Bampton and are taking the alternate path to Shap.

I pass through the picturesque village of Bampton Grange, then follow the River Lowther until I reach a foot suspension bridge. Crossing the bridge, I join a lane leading to Whale, a village adjacent to the huge Lowther Estate, then follow the estate track all the way to Askham. A very attractive village, Askham has two pubs, a shop and a PO. I take lunch on a park bench, then its another lane walk and several pastures to Barton Church. A local parishioner is tending the cemetary and lets me into the church for a look see but it is too dark to see anything. The church was built on the site of a ruined St. Augustine Abbey using the original square Norman tower and nave. There is also a sundial mounted on the church wall similar to one I saw a few years ago in Eyam.

The final walk to Pooley Bridge was a little frustrating. Like many of the directions in Hannon’s Cumberland and Westmorland guidebooks, tracks, paths and other manmade features have changed so that often I have to, god forbid, rely on my wits, my compass and my instincts. This can be hit and miss but the experience does sharpen the mind.

I arrived in Pooley Bridge at 3:30 pm. The village is at the northern end of Ullswater and is a popular access point for the ferry cruise. Ullswater B&B looks quite plain next to the Sun Inn but my room is large, comfortable and updated. The village is bustling with tourists. I get an ice cream, walk around and see the famous bridge, then clean up and adjust my toe bandages. My left little toe is getting mauled.

The Sun Inn has the same Jennings beer I’ve seen everywhere so I go over to the Crown Inn and get a pint of Speckled Hen and a vegetable curry with rice. There are not many customers in the pub. After the last ferry leaves, the village becomes quiet as a mouse so I go back to the B&B and delve into my book again.

Day 8 - May 4 Pooley Bridge to Patterdale

Nice breakfast of fruit salad, croissant w/nutella, eggs and salmon, English muffin. Excellent coffee which always puts me in a good mood. Out the door at 8:45.

Easy walk to the fells and onto High Street, the Old Roman Road. I soon stumble across the “Cockpit”, an ancient stone circle large in diameter with smallish stones. I leave High Street to traverse around the lower slopes of Stone Arthur. If I hadn’t wanted to rest my feet, I would have taken the path up to the summit as I see two walkers doing. I come to a place near Swarthbeck Gill with a lot of boulders that tumbled down from the crags of Stone Arthur. I can imagine Arthur hurling them at walkers who hadn’t come up to pay their respects. On my right is the glorious view of Ullswater and the ferries to and fro.

After passing by Howtown, I cross a stone slab footbridge on Fusedale Beck then over the hill into lovely Martindale. What a treat to gaze over this isolated valley. From here to Patterdale, I stay with the Ullswater shoreline along the lower slopes of Place Fell, looking across the water to the Helvelyn range and, tomorrow’s walk, St. Sunday Crag.

I meet many day walkers out of Patterdale. One group of youngsters, with teachers, are struggling with their camping gear and soda bottles. Soon I find a hugh 3 L bottle of soda sitting beside the trail. I don’t blame the kid for leaving it. I come to the outskirts of Patterdale and turn right to walk the mile over to Glenridding where I remember a Cyber Cafe from seven years ago. Yes, its still there so I get a coffee, a shortbread and computer time. Its only 2:30 pm, so I can catch up on everything and write friends and family at my leisure.

I walk back to Patterdale and go to the Red Phone Booth next to the White Lion (you C2C’ers know the one I mean) and call Cathryn for a long satisfying talk. I pop into the White Lion for a pint - the guest ale from Tirrel Brewery is excellent. I pass time talking to several locals and two girls on the C2C. One is dropping out because of leg problems. This happens so often, usually because of lack of preparation and not realizing how strenuous the walk can be, such a shame.

At the hostel, my dorm mate is Martin from Coventry. He is retired from building Jaguars and now does a lot of walking, is going to Pooley Bridge tomorrow via Place Fell and High Street. After cleaning up, we go to the White Lion for dinner. I have a lamb shank that is good compared to a California lamb shank but mediocre for Cumbria or Yorkshire. Martin has a gammon steak. Frankly, I don’t expect great food at the White Lion but I come for the atmosphere, friendly patrons and good ale. This is the fourth time I’ve been here and I’ve never been disappointed.

Day 9 - May 5... Patterdale to Ambleside

The hostel was purpose-built, has a sod roof and large windows The common room and dining room are huge with high beam ceilings, dorm room are all on the main floor. Breakfast was not as good as at other hostels but ok. I took a banana and a plum for my lunch, left at 8:45.

Quickly up the fellside, same path as last year but taking the left fork (instead of right fork to reach Striding Edge) to climb up to Black Crag and Birks. Its very steep but eventually levels off to prepare me for the long slog up to St. Sunday summit. A fast walker carrying a daypack passes me. There is a false summit, then another climb up to the crags and the iconic ridge and summit. Tremendous views from here but clarity is obscured by an ever present haze.

I drop down to Deepdale Hause where a trail emerges from Grisdale Tarn, then Cofa Pike looms ahead with a needle-like rocky spire. My first reaction on seeing it is “do I really have to climb to the top of the spire or does the trail go around”. I soon find out, yes, all the way, steeply with lots of scrambling. Then a less serious climb up onto Fairfield. Last year when on Fairfield heading east in snowy conditions, I looked down at Cofa Pike and opted for a different route - a brilliant decision.

On top of Fairfield, I rested at the stone wind shelter with two walkers doing the full Horseshoe round. One of them will be my dorm mate at Ambleside hostel tonight. He took a photo of us at the shelter. I’m still waiting for it via email. There is a biting, cold wind, blustery and strong. Weather is misty and hazy so landscape photos are poor, little distinction of features. Going around the south side of Fairfield Horseshoe involved more up and down than expected even some scrambling. Poor views compared to north side. This was not the route of Westmorland Way, arrived in Ambleside a day earlier.

I’m in Ambleside by 3:15 pm, recognize familiar sights, the Golden Rule pub, the Queens Hotel, Gregg’s Bakery where I get a coffee and muffin. At Boots, I stock up on Compeed - I have used my last one. An hour later I am at the hostel, a beautiful huge old stone building by Lake Windermere and the boat dock. Others have denounced it as being too large but it is very nice and comfortable inside, wonderful common rooms, and an ale bar. Richard, my Fairfield friend, is resting his back, will take a day off and then walk the length of High Street. No one else is in our six bunk dorm. At dinner, I had a chicken caesar salad and a Magnum ice cream bar for dessert. A very relaxing evening with a pint of ale from Hesket Newmarket. Our dorm window has a nice view overlooking the lake and dock. I see a bit of rain out there. I’ll sleep good tonight as this was a tough day.

TRANSITION TO DALES HIGH WAY

Day 10 - May 6... Ambleside to Shap

Another excellent hostel breakfast. I take an apple and roll up cold meat and cheese slices for my lunch. I call my B&B in Shap to let Margaret I'm on schedule and to expect me about 5 pm. Weather is still rainy so I put the Duck’s Back on my pack, put up my hood and off I go through the woods to Troutbeck via Skelghyll.

My route will take me up to High Street, over to Nan Bield Pass, down to Mardale Head and over the Old Corpse Road through Swindale to Shap. Meanwhile, it seems a long trod through the village. When I reach the Mortal Man Inn I take a lane behind it to reach my path to Troutbeck Park and the fells. After Ing Bridge, Trout Beck turns northwest and I follow a smaller beck northeast until it splays out in the rise onto High Street.

The rain is still falling, above me is nothing but dense clouds. On Park Fell, I meet a man and son coming off High Street bagging peaks. I’m climbing into the heavy mist and on High Street I can hardly see, the wind is quite strong. I pass iron posts noted on the map, then I think I find where the path goes southeast toward Mardale Ill Bell and Nan Bield Pass but I’m not sure. Mist is too heavy to see any landmarks. My compass is proving its worth. I stumble on four fellows having lunch on the leeward side of a stone wall. I sit with them and eat my apple. They think I should be going a different direction but, as we leave, another walker comes by, going my way to the pass. We walk together and, yes, I was headed on the right path in the right direction. Dave has been here before and recognizes features along the path as we drop lower out of the heavy mist.

Dave and I part at Nan Bield Pass, he goes south and I drop down to Small Water and Mardale Head. What a difference in the weather! The skies start to clear as predicted on TV for the afternoon, the sun lights up the water and mountainsides, waterfalls are glorious. Reaching Haweswater, I go a short distance up the road and turn onto a path along a gully leading onto the Old Corpse Road. This leads over the moor, then drops sharply down into Swindale where a lane carries me to the beck crossing. Then its over the hills to Keld and a short walk across the pasture into Shap. I didn’t arrive in Shap until after 6 pm, my B&B at 6:30. Its been a long hard 19 mile day full of challenges and adventures.

I’m staying at Brookfield B&B, ready for a pot of tea and Margaret’s incredible scones. She doesn’t disappoint. She was worried about my arriving so late and quizzed me about my route and how I liked it. I said the Swindale route was fine except for a lack of any waymarks, so a good map was a necessity.

For some reason, I’m not very hungary, so at the Greyhound I only have a bowl of soup and a pint of Black Sheep Bitters. Then a shower and my usual writing and reading. Margaret insists on doing some washing for me, says a little fairy will sprinkle some dust overnight and I’ll find clean clothes at my door in the morning. What a sweet lady!

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