Category Archives: England

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!

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!

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.

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!

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?

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!

The Dales Way – Burnsall to Kettlewell

So now we’ve reached Burnsall, a very small village with no shops or amenities, dominated by the 500 year old Red Lion Hotel, where we are staying.

There is a bridge here.624CF834-4BA6-4A15-86A3-7F34CABDAB91

And a church.9A5415AE-7645-47EE-B860-A56ED59243B6

After a refreshing and much needed shower, we went down to supper in a traditional English pub. Although this is definitely not a food blog, we are trying to experience and share info about traditional English dishes while we are here. If you are already acquainted with these dishes, my apologies.

Jim ordered shepherds pie (lamb, carrots and gravy under a fluffy mashed potato crust) with cabbage on the side.

I opted for the even more traditional haddock and chips, accompanied by a serving of mushy peas. After liberally applying salt, pepper, catsup and brown sauce, we pronounced all the food delicious. Everything you’ve heard about the blandness of English cuisine is, as far as we can tell so far, true.

June 11 – We walked around the tiny village of Burnsall this morning. The buildings are uniformly rectangular and made from the same brown stone, so the residents pour their energy into their front gardens.D4397C15-D1F0-49E2-AD9A-DFEE12A99CC8.jpeg

This morning was our first opportunity to order what is called “the full English” breakfast, which consists of (clockwise) eggs any style, fried mushrooms, black pudding (a sausage that tastes sort of like liverwurst), bacon (we would call it ham), fried tomato, fried toast, sausage and baked beans.  I’ve heard this meal also called “a fry-up”.26AE085B-E7BB-4CFA-B6EF-221630A31934We now understand why defibrillators are available here on every corner!CC00F776-9B9C-4FC9-9AA2-7AE9EF9D2900June 12 – This morning we proceed nine miles to Kettlewell, which our guidebook promises will be a pretty and pleasant walk.

We started by getting our daily dose of sheep and cows.

We crossed the River Wharfe one more time, over a bouncy suspension bridge.

Here’s another tree stump filled with coins. Maybe for good luck?

We left the river, and climbed up into the hills, where there are lots of stone walls. Yes, for every wall, there was a stile to climb over.

We walked through the village of Grassington, which has a little waterfall and an interesting carving.

So, as we are walking along, all the sheep in the field we are traversing start maa-ing and baa-ing. Dozens of sheep. Maybe a hundred sheep. Jim wonders if we’ve upset them somehow. Next they all start running toward us. Oh no! Trampled to death by sheep? What a way to go! Over the horizon we hear the drone of a tractor, and here comes the farmer with the morning meal. The sheep run right past us, continuing to make an unholy racket until the tractor stops and the first handfuls of grain are thrown. Then blessed silence. Sheep!

The Yorkshire Dales Way – Ilkley to Burnsall

June 9 – This morning we walked back to Leeds Station to catch the train to Ilkley. Jim got us a discount rail pass for off-peak riders, so all our tickets are 30% off. Once again, we were reminded of the dreaded gap!

Ilkley is a lovely little town, bustling with weekend tourists on a bright Saturday.  We checked in at the Dalesway Hotel, and took a little walk about the town.  It seems to be a canine-friendly place.

We ducked in to All Saints Church, as I knew there was a special stained glass window there, dedicated to handbell ringers, in memory of Jasper Snowden, killed in WWI, and his family. Grandfather John Snowden was the vicar here, and both his son and grandson were avid change ringers and writers of handbell music.

There were also some eighth century stone pillars:

I particularly liked the embroidered kneelers at every pew. No two alike!

Quaint country buildings that look like they could be in Germany or Austria:

And lots of flowers in bloom!

As we are officially in Yorkshire, Jim opted to have Yorkshire pudding for supper. This is nothing like pudding as we know it, but is a baked bread-like shell, filled with roast beef, potatoes, peas, carrots and gravy. The pudding refers to the shell, not the contents. We didn’t think to bring a camera to supper, so here is an image from Google to give you an idea. Jim’s was much prettier, and huge. The barman was very impressed that Jim was able to finish it.

June 10 – This morning we started our Dales Way hike. It is Sunday, and our hotel offered breakfast at 9am, but we opted for coffee and oatmeal in our room and an early start. We were on the trail at 7:30, with 14 miles ahead of us.

Here is the map provided at the starting point. Do you see Ilkley all the way to the south?

The weather was foggy and a bit chilly in the morning. Today’s route follows the River Wharfe all day. It didn’t take long for us to run into some sheep.

We crossed one farmer’s field after another, pausing at each boundary to open and close a gate or climb over a stile. A stile is a simple ladder that allows people over, but confounds the sheep. By the twelfth stile, they confounded me too – my first leg went over easily, but convincing my back leg to join it became harder each time!

Unlike the US, where property is private and “trespassers will be shot”, England and most other countries have what is called the right to roam. Don’t litter, don’t disturb the livestock, and please close the gate behind you. What a wonderful philosophy!

We walked past some cottages that had originally been a mill built in 1787. Wouldn’t you love to live in Cobweb Cottage?

In an hour, we came upon a Friends Meeting House built in 1689. Inside, there were transparent silhouettes to remind us to honor the soldiers who died in the Great War.

By mid morning we reached Bolton Abbey, with the ruins of a priory attached to a working church. A sign said people have been worshipping here for 850 years.

My mom instructed me to take pictures of castles. As Windsor and Buckingham are not on our itinerary, here is a building in the Abbey and a bridge that look sort of like castles!

Bolton Abbey is part of a large park that we walked through for the rest of the day. Lots of families enjoying the River Wharfe, either fishing or wading. Here’s a place where you can opt to cross by jumping on stepping stones or going over a bridge. Which do you think we chose?

There’s a fallen tree into which hundreds of coins have been hammered. Couldn’t tell you why.

As we left the walk to get some lunch, we were surprised to find we had been walking through the Valley of Desolation. We thought it quite cheerful.

We encountered a full complement of fauna as we tromped through the fields on what turned out to be a warm and sunny afternoon, with the River Wharfe always at our side.A wonderful first day!

Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the Midday Sun

Will you still need me,

Will you still feed me,

When I’m 64? – Paul McCartney

June 6, 2018 – Where better to celebrate my 64th birthday than the home of the Fab Four? Today we embarked on a trip to England for a two month hike through the English countryside and national parks. We hope to hike through the Cotswolds (marked on the map below in green), the Yorkshire Dales (pronounced Dells and marked in blue) and go cross-country on a Coast to Coast Walk (marked in yellow). We hope to encounter some midday sun.

June 7 – We arrived at Heathrow after a no-drama all night flight, to stand in an hours-long queue at Customs that moved agonizingly slowly. We theorized that this was the Brits’ way of training newcomers to queue compliantly, like civilized folk. Just a theory.

We eventually retrieved our packs and made our way via the London Underground (mind the gap!) to King’s Cross Station, where there actually is a Platform 9 3/4 for Harry Potter fans, and several Hogwarts shops. Photographers were doing a brisk business snapping would-be wizards running their trolley through the brick wall.

The station also sported a huge tyrannosaurus just erected to advertise the latest Jurassic Park movie.

We boarded our train for a two hour ride north to Leeds, where we will spend a jet-lag recuperation day prior to commencing our Dales Way hike. In our sleep-deprived state, we stopped frequently to ask for directions and for help with ticket machines and such. At every turn, the folks here have been smiling and helpful – Nice People of England!

June 8 – After 12 hours of sleep (interrupted periodically by young men singing lustily about their favorite teams in the pubs below until the wee hours) we felt much perkier this morning. We looked out our hotel window to get an idea of the weather by what folks were wearing, and saw some in tee shirts and some in heavy jackets with scarves and collars turned up. We opted for jackets. We walked around Leeds, where the weather is chilly and overcast, scoped out some future food options, found a cash machine, and dropped a box of maps and supplies for our future hike off at the post office. We’ll pick it up farther north next week.

It turns out you must also mind the gap at the post office. They have lots of gaps here.

Leeds is a working class city with lots of shops and restaurants, that boasts absolutely no tourist attractions. The Who recorded an album here (Live at Leeds) back in the day. There are some nice brick buildings, and double-decker buses.

Unfortunately, there are homeless people sleeping on the sidewalks here. I don’t take pictures of homeless people.

A new use has been found for the old red telephone boxes!

We had a perfect Kerala Indian lunch at Tharavadu, with three different curries and delicious thin naan. Spicy enough to make my nose run, but not so spicy that I broke out in a sweat. Yum! There are many Indian restaurants here, and they advertise which part of India the dishes are from. Kerala is southern cuisine.

There are statues here, which seem to attract pigeons just like in other parts of the world.

There is wall art here!

A relaxing day. Tomorrow we travel north to Ilkley!