Category Archives: Backpacking

Seatoller to Grasmere

June 23 – We had a lovely dinner last night with a room full of retired Brits on holiday, who wanted to know our thoughts about American politics and education. They all agreed that they were against vegetarianism. Lucky for me, I could speak knowledgeably about the current seasons of The Crown and Call the Midwife, so conversation never flagged.

I hate to tell you this, but yesterday was only the second in a series of horrendous mountain adventures. I apologize in advance if I resort to more whining today.

We picked up our path at Stonethwaite, where many people were camping. Today is Saturday, so the trail will be busy.

Up we go!

Drat! Those big rocks again!

Gaining altitude. Don’t these sheep have the sweetest faces?

Lots of waterfalls today.

Getting higher!

The first summit!

I thought we were done, but there were two more summits to climb. One of them was called Lining Crag. Don’t ask me which one.

My lunchtime view. Note that one of my boots got stuck in the muddy bog.

On our way down, we met about 50 girls climbing up with full packs. They were all on a four day expedition to qualify for their “D of E”, the Duke of Edinburgh Award for all around achievement in creativity, community volunteering, physical skills and leadership. Very impressive!

Baa baa colorful sheep, have you any wool? Silver, black, brown or white, what color sweater would you like?

When we finally reached the road toward Grasmere, a mum with two toddlers immediately pulled over and asked if we needed a lift into town. Yes! I must have looked as sorry as I felt. I climbed in the back between 6 year old Robert and 4 year old Stephen in their car seats, and we had a lovely chat. Nice People of England!

Coast to Coast – Ennerdale Bridge to Seatoller

June 22 – Approached today with a little trepidation. We are looking at a 14 mile day with a whopping big climb in the middle, to Grey Knott, part of the Haystacks range, I think. There are lots of mountains, crags, fells and hills in this area of the Lake District National Park, so it’s hard to know which one you’re climbing. Luckily we have another sunny day.

Because our B&B is on the north side of town, we walked on the north shore of the Ennerdale Water, and got to see Bowness Knot, where the locals say that a young Bill Clinton proposed to a young Hillary many years ago. A pretty place.

After walking the shoreline for several pleasant miles, the Water became the Liza River, and we started to gain some elevation. We’re using two different guidebooks for this hike, and they both cautioned that today was a climb where many people get lost. We looked for the Black Sail Youth Hostel, which was far beyond the middle of nowhere, then searched for an almost invisible path that followed a stream bed. There are NO markers to guide us. We got it right on the second try!

Now, remember how yesterday’s climb was an easy up and a difficult descent? Today was an absolutely impossible climb, that took us so high that I got nauseated looking down. So steep! Pictures just do not convey, nor can I adequately describe, how high up we were. This was the path up with no discernible trail – scrabbling up rocks and more rocks!

Once we got to the notch, I was able to look forward without getting dizzy. The most horrific climb of my life. It felt like we were on the moon. When we got to the top, there was no breathtaking vista to see, only more mountains all around.

The descent was gentle by comparison, but was comprised of uneven rocks all the way. Still no trail, but our instructions said to walk from cairn to cairn. No fun for my poor ankle, which was screaming for relief by this point. Hello, Uber?

Here’s the Ennerdale Water that we walked along this morning, way down below.

More uneven rocks, all the way down.

Happy to say that we eventually made our way back to terra firma, and I’m now snuggled in at Seatoller House, with my ankle elevated and ibuprofen close by.

Tonight we have a set communal dinner with the other residents of this B&B. Should be fun!

Cleator to Ennerdale Bridge

June 21 – Happy first day of summer to you! Our morning weather check let us know we would have sunshine for our walk today, but it was currently 34 degrees F!

Our objective today is to climb Dent Fell, which has the steepest descent of the entire walk. Sounds like fun!

We left Cleator (pronounced Cleeta) after sharing a full English breakfast. Really, one meal is more than enough for the two of us! The hotel used to be a girls boarding school, as you can see by the door:

The morning is bright and sunny. Dent Fell looks like a gentle little hill in the distance.

A fell is another name for hill or high moorland.

Isn’t there a Bible verse about the cows lying down with the sheep? Maybe not.

The path up the fell was a gentle climb through dark piney woods:

Then a steeper climb following a rock wall:

Some backward views of the land below:

And then we reached the cairn on top – easy peasy, cool and breezy!

We started to descend, congratulating ourselves on a job well done.

Then we reached the tallest stile so far, and the descent got interesting.

The descent was so steep, I had to turn sideways, mince down using baby steps, and depend on my walking sticks for balance. No pix here – too scared!

After a really long time, we reached the bottom and the path leveled off. Dent Fell didn’t look so gentle from this side!

Tonight’s B&B is a farm two miles out of town, so we were advised to get a meal while we were in Ennerdale. Fish and chips and a pint really hit the spot after our walk. The beer here is named Wainwright’s, after the founder of the Coast to Coast Walk. Find your mountain!

Coast to Coast – St. Bees to Cleator

June 20 – We arrived to breakfast at 7:30, thinking we’d be the first ones up, to find the dining room packed with hikers eager to get an early start on their first day of the Coast to Coast Walk (C2C) 192 miles from the Irish Sea eastward to the North Sea.

Our first view of the Irish Sea.

Here is the map posted at the start of the walk.

The morning is cold and windy and overcast. It may be raining, or we may just be getting hit with sea spray carried by the wind, but it is definitely wet. Our first task is to climb up the cliffs overlooking the Irish Sea. It is a hard, steep climb. The wind is so strong I have to occasionally stop and crouch down, for fear of being blown out to sea!

Please note that the fence is erected for the protection of the sheep. The walkers are outside the protection. This ain’t Disneyland!

Our next objective is to reach the lighthouse at St. Bees Head. Can you see it in the distance?

I thought once we were up on the cliffs that the walk would become easier, but the first cliff ended, we had to walk all the way down, then up the next one.

This is as close as we got to the lighthouse.

After a while the sky began to clear and we could see the sun peeping out!

We walked through a red sandstone quarry. Don’t these stones look like a sofa?

We left the cliffs and walked inland into town of Sandwith (pronounced Sannuch). This was at the first house we came to!

We continue to be impressed with everyone’s courtesy toward dogs. In every town, water dishes are set out. Dogs are welcome on trains and in pubs.

Now that the sun is out and ground is mostly level, it’s a lovely walking day. Temps in the 50s. Pretty scenery.

Interesting sculptures.

Hey! Who are those good looking folks?

Ten miles down, 182 to go!

Windermere to St. Bees

June 19 – Yesterday, we walked to the train station to purchase our tickets for the two hour ride to St. Bees, where our next hike will begin. We’ve been hearing about the transportation issues here, and now we are going to experience them firsthand. The railroad workers are on strike. No trains today.

The ticket seller asked if we were aware that there would be no trains on Tuesday. We said we were, and we understood that there would be buses provided instead. Trying to dissuade us, he said it would take four changes of bus and four hours to get us to St. Bees. I asked if he had any other suggestions. “I suggest you don’t go,” was his reply. But he sold us the tickets. Here’s some wall art at the station.

When we got to the station this morning to catch our first bus, we were told by a passenger that there was a train running for the first leg of our journey, so we hopped on for a 30 minute ride.

Ditto the second leg, which took us to Carlisle up north near the Scottish border.

Here’s Carlisle Castle:

The third leg was a two hour bus ride back south to Whitehaven, and the fourth was supposed to be a twenty minute bus ride to our final destination.

But… yes, you guessed it: 22 people got off the Whitehaven bus, and only 14 could be accommodated on the local bus. Aaarrrgghhh! The ticket lady at the station separated us by destination, and said she would call taxis for the eight of us going to St. Bees. What she didn’t tell us was that the railroad would not be paying for these taxis.

Well, now we are at St. Bees, named for Saint Bega, a probably mythical Irish princess who washed up here in a little boat rather than marry the Viking her dad picked out for her.

Here is a statue of her seeing the Virgin.

St. Bees Priory housed monks for many years, and is still an active parish. I liked that some of the stained glass windows portrayed Old Testament scenes. Here is Abraham and Isaac:

Joseph and his brothers:

The church also contains a portrait of Alfred Wainwright, who first documented the Coast to Coast Walk from the Irish Sea to the North Sea. His book from 1973 is still the guide to use.

We are staying in a really posh B&B suite that used to be a milking barn. Here is the picture of the barn hanging in our room:

I really like how old buildings are upgraded and repurposed here, rather than being torn down the way they would be in the US.

Tomorrow we start the Coast to Coast Walk!

The Dales Way – Kendal to Bowness on Windermere

June 17 – Today’s task is to get back to the place we left the trail, and complete the Dales Way by walking into Bowness (pronounced Bonus) on Windermere. Will we be able to get on the bus?

As it’s Sunday, there are even fewer buses than yesterday. (Everyone we talk to tells how the transportation services have gone downhill here since the government started requiring them to turn a profit. Austerity is not fun.) We get to the bus station early, and there are already people queued up to board. Luckily, this is a big old double-decker bus, and there is room for all.

Just joking – that is an antique bus on display. We rode in a nice modern one.

The Sunday bus takes us to Staveley, where we can reconnect with our trail. There’s absolutely nothing open on a Sunday morning in Staveley, so we just walked through the little town. Our Emma is interested that French fries are called chips here. Here’s a pic for you, Emma.

Pretty soon, we found the Dales Way marker and were back on the moor. Here’s a sign we hadn’t seen before:

That cow is definitely giving me the side eye!

The terrain is getting rockier.

We’re passed by a farmer giving his three dogs a ride on his ATV, steering with one hand and holding onto the dogs with the other.

By lunchtime we reached Bowness on Windermere.

Is this the lake? No, just a pond…

As we reached the top of the hill, the sun came out!

Our first glimpse of Lake Windermere:

We found the bench that marks the end of the Dales Way. This hike is done!

Walking down to the lake was sort of surreal. We are now officially in the Lake District, a very popular tourist destination in summer.

The lakeshore was packed with tourists, all Chinese. Not what we expected!

We celebrated by having a Chinese lunch, and we were the only non-Asians in the restaurant. We were handed an English menu, while everyone else was ordering off one written in Mandarin. We spoke to several people, all from Shanghai. By the time lunch was over, it was raining again.

The Lake District is where Beatrix Potter spent her summers, and the Lake District National Park was created by her bequest. So there is a tribute to Peter Rabbit here.

Such a pretty lake.

Isn’t this a lovely house?

Lots of places for tourists to part with their money:

After a day of rest, we will start our next adventure: the Coast to Coast!

The Dales Way – Sedbergh to Kendal

June 16 – Today is a rest day for us, and as luck would have it, rain is forecast for the whole day. When booking this hike, Jim hit a snag, as the next destination after Sedbergh was a place called Burneside, that had no available accommodation whatsoever. The best thing we could see to do was to book in Kendal, a fair sized city not too far away.

This morning at breakfast, we asked our host Carol if she could call us a taxi. After a half hour of trying, she reported back that all three taxis in town were already busy. Perhaps the bus? Great! We love buses. As it is Saturday, the bus runs on a reduced schedule. The next one comes at 10:50. Great!

We walked down to the bus stop, in front of the library, and chatted with the librarian and folks coming in for books, including an older couple who told us where all their relatives were buried from the Great War. Eventually, the bus pulled up, and folks queued up in typical British fashion. It wasn’t a full sized bus, but more of a large van, with many of the seats already taken. Two people paid and embarked, at which point the driver announced that the seats were all full, and no one else could get on.

Folks got out their mobiles, trying to call a taxi, or canceling their plans. We asked if we couldn’t stand and ride (absolutely not). The driver called and asked if another bus could be sent for the six of us who couldn’t get on, but there was no other bus available. Sigh. Another bus would come in four hours.

The old couple from the library watched all this transpire, and when we walked dejectedly back into the library, the husband offered to go get his car and give us a lift. Nice People of England! Philip is a lay preacher at the Methodist Church in town, and we spent the half hour ride talking about his family and his faith, singing in the choir, and the sermon he was writing for Sunday. What a nice man!

So here we are in Kendal.

A bustling town with folks out shopping on a Saturday in the rain.

They have a famous Chocolate House that’s been here since 1657.

We didn’t stay out long, but bought some food (meat pies) and went back to our nice hotel for a lazy afternoon of doing laundry and watching the World Cup games.

The Dales Way – Cowgill to Sedbergh

June 15 – Eleven miles planned for today. No rain in the forecast, but no sun either. High temp will be around 55 – fine brisk hiking weather. After yesterday’s adventure, we are looking forward to an uneventful walk. Want to see more sheep and cows? Didn’t think so. Here are my first pretty pics walking out of Cowgill.

So, just to catch up, at some point during the past few days, we left Yorkshire, and are now in Cumbria. The town signs tell us we are leaving the Dales, and entering the Lake District, although we have not yet seen a lake. Stay tuned.

On previous journeys, I’ve described how the trail is marked, to help hikers follow the right path. The marks on this trail are small and far between – a little white or yellow arrow on a fence post, sometimes reading Dales Way, and other times public path, bridle path, or footpath. Jim has a guidebook that he refers to throughout the day to keep us on track.

We haven’t gotten lost, so I guess the markers are sufficient!

Some more prettiness.

By lunchtime we had reached the little town of Dent, birthplace of Adam Sedgwick, the father of modern geology. They are very proud of him here. His father was the vicar of the local church.

More prettiness.

We see Sedbergh, our destination for this evening.

Once again, the gardens do not disappoint!

We are staying at a two bedroom B&B with a shared bath. We walked down the Main Street to a Bangladeshi Indian restaurant where the food was absolutely scrumptious. A good walk will give you a good appetite!

The Dales Way – Swarthghyll Farm to Cowgill

Our Swarthghyll Farm hosts John and Freya came over and introduced themselves after their daily chores were done. Although Freya used to work in Los Angeles, they love the life here, and wouldn’t trade it. They purchased the farm as a ruin – no roofs – and have been building it back a bit at a time. Freya had prepared us a lovely pasta casserole for supper (yay! no chips!) that we just had to pop in the oven.

June 14 – It was a treat to cook our own breakfast in our little kitchen this morning, with farm fresh eggs and lots of coffee. We watched the weather closely, as we read that a big storm was due in this area. Not sure how they define a gale, but they name them like hurricanes, so they can’t be good. This one is named Hector.

It looked very windy, with tree limbs thrashing about, but no rain, so we set off. Leaving the farm and walking out onto the moor, the wind gusted so ferociously that it almost knocked me over, and we were pelted by icy rain. My hat and glasses flew off, and I’m shouting, “Help! My glasses!”, but the wind tore the words from my lips. Finding my glasses on the ground, Jim about-faced, and we marched back to our cabin.

Jim went back to the farmhouse to ask John’s advice about whether to wait an hour or so in the hope that the severity of the wind might abate, but John counseled him to go now, as it was supposed to get worse later! We put on our pack covers and rain gear, tightened every strap, and set off again. Remember: we are in the middle of nowhere. There is no phone service and no Uber (not a thing here) or taxi we can call. We can’t stay here another day. We have a reservation in Cowgill. We have to walk.

Okay, do you remember the scene from The Wizard of Oz when Almira Gulch is pedaling her bicycle furiously through the twister? Start there. Add the music if you wish. Then add driving wind that knocks you backward at every step. Gusts of rain like needles on your face. Now trudge uphill, directly into the wind! Don’t forget to climb over every stile, holding on for dear life! The big rocks that we clambered happily over yesterday are now slick and treacherous. The dry gullies are now filled with rushing water. The only blessing is that sheep turds are sufficiently heavy that they do not become airborne, because flying sheep dung in the face would just really be the last straw!

Jim’s pack cover went airborne, and he just managed to grab it. After four miles of this torture, we reached the cairn that our guidebook said was the highest elevation of the entire hike. Of course we stopped for a picture!

In the distance, we saw a truck parked on the other side of the next stone wall. As we approached, a young man rolled down the window and asked if we would like a lift. Just like that. Calm as you please.

David is the forestry manager for this part of the Dales, and was sitting there in his truck as it’s the only place in the entire area that has a cellphone connection. He was waiting for a client and had a few minutes to spare, so he drove us down a ways, off the ridge, where the wind was less intense and we could resume our trek. Thank you David – Nice People of England!

The inclement weather continued for the rest of the day, with periods of rain, gusts of wind, followed by a moment of sunshine as the clouds blew across the sky. Now that we were off the ridge, it was a fine day as far as I was concerned. We walked along the River Dee.

We ate our sandwiches sitting on mossy wet rocks.

We passed by a huge aqueduct, built in the 1800s.

There were pretty flowers, refreshed from the rain.

A farmer’s fence proudly displayed a collection of dead rats.

We arrived at the Sportsman Inn. I like their sign.

They had a carved tree in the back garden.

Now we’ve had a bath (showers are not an option here), hung our clothes to dry, and are feeling much better about the day. We ordered Beef Madras for supper, which was just spicy enough to make my nose run, just the way I like it. Now the sun is out (did I mention that it is still light here after 10pm?).

No WiFi here, so this will have to wait before I can post it. Friend Tom, I can hear you laughing and shaking your head. Don’t we just have the best stories?

The Dales Way – Kettlewell to Swarthghyll Farm

We’re staying in Kettlewell at a little B & B above the Cottage Tea Room, where all the kids are lined up to buy an ice cream cone after school. We have a beautiful view of the hillside from our bedroom window.

Once the tea shop closes at 5pm, we have the building to ourselves. Maybe we should go downstairs and have an ice cream? Maybe some cake? Tempting, but we resist. The owner has left us little glasses of sherry and chocolates that will tide us over until supper.

We cross the street to the pub and order a Mediterranean Vegetable Wellington. Turns out, a Wellington is anything baked in a puff pastry. Very tasty, although the chips and peas are becoming standard fare.

June 13 – Today we trek 12 miles. While downing our breakfast (full English for Jim, just eggs and veggies for me), our host tells us that today’s walk is the prettiest part of the Dales. We’ve been told this every day so far, and every day it’s been true!

Now, here is something you may not know. Kettlewell was the town used as the set to make the film Calendar Girls, in which a group of old English matrons decide to pose nude in a calendar to raise money. Here is the Kettlewell Garage, where the matrons got the idea after seeing a girlie calendar on the wall.

Would you like to see more sheep? Here’s one doing morning yoga – downward facing sheep position.

Here are some cows who did not want me crossing into their territory.

Lots of buttercups today.

By mid morning, we arrived at the chapel at Hubberholme, which is famous for its mice.

We ventured in, and looked high and low, but no mice did we see. Then Jim spotted one! Do you see it?

Here’s the close-up – tiny mice carved into the front of the pews!

Well, that was our excitement for the day.

We stopped to eat our lunch in front of an old lime kiln. Evidently, you fill the kiln with limestone, set a fire, come back in three days and shovel out your lime. Voila!

After more sheep, more cows, and many more gates and stiles, we came to the cross carved into stone in honor of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

This was our landmark to turn onto the road to Swarthghyll Farm.

We walked, then walked some more. Saw pretty flowers.

Walked some more. Where was this farm?

Finally, another sign, but still no farm!

Well, eventually a farmhouse did appear, and we found our walker’s cottage, with a kitchen, bedroom, living room and bath just for us. Our invisible hosts left our supper in the fridge with instructions on how to light the oven. A different kind of adventure!