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Coast to Coast - September 2007




Day 5 - Thursday 13th September
Patterdale to Shap
(16 miles)

Patterdale to Shap isn't the longest day on the C2C in terms of miles covered, but for some reason it's the one I've always found the hardest when I've done the walk in the past. I woke early--about 0530, I think--disturbed by a bloke snoring in a nearby tent. After a while I nipped out to the loo, and I didn't really get back to sleep thoroughly after that because the prospect of a hard walk to come was preying at the edges of my mind. I was finally roused from my drowsy state at about 7am by the sound of a large dog running round my tent, and in my half-wakeful state I resolved to make an early start.

The morning had dawned dry again, but there was no early sign of the sun.


I brewed some water for tea, watched closely by the large dog from a neighbouring tent...

Hound of the Baskervilles

...but I managed to start packing up earlier than usual, and by 8.30am I was actually ready to leave!


I then fell into conversation about tents with a friendly woman I'd met in the washrooms, so in fact it was about 9am by the time I finally got going. Still, though, I almost managed to make an early start :)


On previous occasions I'd stayed at the Patterdale Hotel, and so had followed a slightly different route towards the point at which the walk leaves the road for the hillside. Constantly mindful of my navigational deficiencies, I followed both the map and the sketch in the brick as closely as possible, but still I found myself a short time later at a conjunction of roads that didn't seem to fit the diagram. Soon afterwards a couple of blokes joined me, and it appeared that they were lost too. I was determined not to cock things up right at the very beginning of the most difficult day, though, and so I began to retrace my steps. On doing that I found that the path and signpost I'd been looking for had been artfully concealed behind a landrover parked next to a gate. Daily Sometimes it feels as though the navigational Gods are actively conspiring against me...

I squeezed through the gate and set off towards the hillside, and it wasn't long before I came across one of those malignant little signs that I'm never quite able to casually shrug off.


I was brought up not to be frightened of cows, but experience has taught me different. Some of them can be truly nasty, and I'm never happy walking through cow-ridden fields. The sign made me nervous but if I was going to get to Shap then I had to continue. I took a careful look around and couldn't see anything, and so on I trotted. In the event, no cow revealed itself--maybe they'd all gathered in a ditch to munch their way through the gory remains of some unfortunate earlier walker--and a short time later I was able to stop and look back at Patterdale, regretting the lost tiffin at the Post Office once again.


Not long afterwards the path begins to climb, and a short way up is a division of paths that has confused me in the past. This time, though, I managed to take the higher one and in due course I arrived at Boredale Hause. That's another point at which I've been confused by a whole series of paths in the past, but I now knew that the one I needed involved turning right and crossing the stream.


From this point the path winds across the hillside towards one of the Angle Tarns. It's a pleasant, scenic walk...


...but on a foul, misty day I've found that it's possible to become hopelessly lost in the vicinity of Satura Crag: specifically, in the vicinity of the alleged gate through the wall. I know that the gate does exist, though, because I've now passed through it many a time, so if you do find yourself lost in the mist then persist. I remember a horrendous experience on the first time I attempted to do this walk which involved me scrambling half way down the side of the hill towards some sort of raging torrent, in virtually nil visibility. At this stage I have no idea how I went wrong, but--fairly obviously--I lived to tell the tale :)

Anyway... Angle Tarn is a pretty and interesting place to stop for the night...

Angle Tarn

...and it's one of the first places I ever wild camped. This time as I walked above the shore of the lake I saw a couple of well-established tents, but I needed to press on, and so all I had time for was a hasty inspection as I passed, and a brief pang of nostalgia.

Not long afterwards I arrived at The Gate.


I had it in mind that it wouldn't be much further before I reached Kidsty Pike, where I was planning to stop for some lunch. I'd forgotten about The Knott, though, which has to be climbed first.

When I found myself toiling up a hefty great hill that wasn't Kidsty Pike it crossed my mind for a horrible moment that I might have repeated a mistake made on an earlier crossing, which had involved walking straight past the turn-off to Kidsty Pike and walking right up onto High Street, and then finding myself lost because the cunning strip map that I was carrying didn't extend as far as that... I'd sat for 10 minutes or so fiddling with my GPS, cursing my stupidity in carrying only a strip map and staring in confusion at the familiar-looking Thornthwaite Beacon some little distance away across the fell, unable to place it without the necessary context. I'd finally been rescued by some passing walkers, who had told me where I was, at which stage the whole thing made perfect sense and it seemed impossible to believe that I'd been stupid enough to miss the left-hand turn. Hmmm... This time, though, I dragged The Brick out of my pack and studied it closely (okay, so I may have produced the GPS and culled a quick grid reference too...) and was very relieved to find that I hadn't yet gone wrong and that both Kidsty Pike and High Street lay ahead of me.

By this time some rather ominous-looking clouds were doing a little foregathering ahead...


Uh-oh...

...and I hoped I wasn't going to run into grotty weather. By the time I arrived at the turn-off to Kidsty Pike (so clear to see that only an imbecile could miss it...) it was increasingly windy. I stopped for a moment and gazed across to the crags above Riggindale, where I'd seen golden eagles in the past, but then I turned back into the wind and pressed on up. Just as I was thinking of stopping to add a layer I came across Fiona and Kate doing precisely that, and so I stopped too and donned some extra clothing and then we all walked on together for a while.

The wind was exhilarating, and I enjoyed the walk to the top of Kidsty Pike. We didn't stop there in the end, and instead we began the steep drop down towards the Haweswater Reservoir. Almost immediately we came across some of the Sherpa walkers. They told us that Jan and Will had gone on ahead, and were waiting near the bottom while the others made their way down at a more leisurely pace.

As sometimes happens when dropping quickly into a valley from a high point, the weather had undergone an instantaneous transformation. The wind had entirely disappeared, and our descent was now bathed in hot sunshine. Consequently Kate and Fiona decided to stop for some lunch. I decided to wait until I'd finished the descent, as I really don't like the process of getting to the bottom of steep hills and I wanted to put it behind me before I tucked into my pasty. I therefore pressed on, and some time later I came across Will and Jan lounging about in the grass. I got out my lunch, and not long after that the rest of the Sherpa group appeared from behind. John produced the cake I'd spotted him buying at the Post Office in Patterdale and offered it round. Very yummy it was too.

Lunch consumed, and no good excuse remaining for further dalliance in the sunshine, we eventually packed up and set off along the side of the reservoir. It's an undulating path with a few early steepish bits, but nothing particularly gruelling. Nonetheless, this is another part of the C2C that (in my experience anyway) has a nasty habit of beginning to feel interminable. A look at the map suggests to me that it's actually no more than about 5k, but I knew from past experience that by the time I reached the tiny hamlet of Burnbanks at the other end I was probably going to feel like calling a taxi to carry me the last few miles into Shap.

I walked the first mile or so with the Sherpa people, and a bunch of us stopped for A Photo Opportunity at the top of one of the little undulations that occur near the start of the walk.


After that I went on alone, though, and I was soon and happily lost again in the continuing adventures of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, as delivered to me via my headphones by the magnificent reading of the late Patrick Tull. The sun was still bright and hot...


...and the prospect ahead appeared almost Mediterranean.

At a convenient bend in the path I dropped my pack and swapped my long trousers for shorts, and after that I dashed on again and made rapid and easy progress. Long before I'd expected it to, I found the dam at the end of the reservoir looming in front of me, and I realised with some surprise that I would soon be at Burnbanks. I'm now a lot more used to walking with a pack than I was on earlier occasions, and I was relieved to feel none of the exhaustion that I'd previously felt when leaving the reservoir behind me.


Bizarre as it may sound, it's true to say that I've often been a bit confused about which path to take after passing through the gate on the right in order to make my way down to the village. (It may sound odd because I'm only talking about a distance of 1 or 2 hundred metres...) The memory of that confusion was in my mind on this occasion too, but somehow I managed to find my way without any sort of problem. Since I was last there, some kind soul has created a very welcome seat right next to the phone box in Burnbanks. I can no longer remember who took my piccy, but many thanks to whoever it was.


That little triangle of grass with a phone box is very familiar to me, because on two previous occasions I really had called for a taxi from there to take me into Shap. I don't really remember anything about the first occasion other than hideous weather, being totally fed up and the overwhelming sense of relief when it turned out that there was a taxi available, but I clearly remember ringing a friend from the phone box in 2000, as I waited for the taxi to arrive. On that occasion it turned out later that my walking pals (Mark, Sue, Les & Matt) had worried that I might have come to some sort of sticky end when I didn't appear in Shap for dinner (my B&S was at the other end of the village), and after I'd confessed the following evening they proceeded to tease me on a regular basis throughout the remainder of the walk, which seems fair enough... :)

Anyway, after the photo I got up and spotted the continuation of the path sneaking off through woodland just across the road. I followed it through the trees and then along the beck for some distance, but then I experienced a frisson of alarm when I saw a very large herd of cattle grazing in a field that I had to pass through. I hugged the beck and tried to make myself as inconspicuous as possible, and fortunately the cattle either didn't see me or were more interested in what they were already doing than in the prospect of scaring investigating a walker shitless.

There was a tall stile to climb at one stage, and since it was still sunny I lingered for a while on the top...


...trying to get a good shadow picture.

Immediately after the stile I went wrong by crossing what I think must have been Rosgill Bridge towards Bampton, rather than turning sharp right up a field.


I didn't realise I'd gone wrong until I happened to turn round on the far side of the bridge, and I saw that two C2C walkers who'd been following along behind me for a while had gone the other way. I called over to them, and they confirmed that I'd taken the wrong route. Who knows where I might be now, if I'd not happened to turn back for a look at where I'd come from?! It was a narrow escape.

I retraced my steps and got back onto the correct path. Soon I passed a little sign pointing me towards another stile...


...and it wasn't very much later before Shap Abbey came into view. I'd never actually stopped to take a look before, and so I decided to go and explore. It turned out to be a quite fascinating 12th Century building, and I had great fun wandering around and trying to imaging how it must have felt to live there.





As I was looking investigating the various nooks and crannies the Sherpa group, Fiona and Kate appeared and came over. They joined in the explorations, and some time after that we all drifted on towards Shap.

One of the fields between the Abbey and Shap turned out to be inhabited by a herd of aggressive little bullocks. I'd dropped back a bit--I can no longer remember why--and by the time I arrived at the field the others had passed it. I was uncertain about entering, but--assuming that the others had walked through--I eventually psyched myself up and climbed in. I was about half way down the field when the bullocks at the far side turned and began to trot purposefully towards me. I decided that immediate escape was most certainly the better part of valour in the circumstances, and so I dropped my pack over the dry stone wall into the lane and quickly followed it. As I sat on the grass at the bottom of the wall rubbing my barked shins I heard the muffled thunder of a multitude of thwarted bullocky hooves arriving on the other side of the wall, and a few heartfelt and steamy snorts of what I interpreted as disappointment. Little b*st*rds!

Very soon after that Shap revealed itself at the end of the road, and I dropped my pack outside the Spar shop and went in to stock up on pasties and stuff. They didn't actually have any cheese & onion pasties--shock, horror! There must have been a run on them earlier in the day--and so I had to make do without. I remember buying some sort of muesli bar from the cake display, but there wasn't a great deal more to tempt a starving piglet.

During the day's walk I'd been pondering the question of where to stay. There isn't a campsite in Shap, but it's possible to camp in the garden at the back of the Bull's Head. As mentioned in an earlier rant, I hate camping in pub gardens, but beggars can't be choosers, etc etc, and I was looking forward to some sort of hot, salty, fatty and intrinsically unhealthy thing for dinner, and so a pub was a fairly intuitive choice. I therefore made my way along the road until I got to the pub and went in. 5 changed hands and then I was pointed towards the garden, where I found 3 other campers setting up: the two blokes I'd met earlier when I'd gone the wrong way at Rosgill bridge, and a new bloke who turned out to have been doing the walk in the opposite direction. The two campers were Dave and Ian, and I can no longer remember the solo walker's name.

The four of us chatted away enthusiastically as we erected our tents. The solo walker was from the same neck of the woods as me, and this was his last night. Dave and Ian, though, were continuing in the same direction as me, and they too were heading for Kirkby Stephen the following day.


Once I'd put up the tent I nipped into the pub for a pint of some restorative sort of ale, and carried it back to the garden. Dave, Ian and I sat at a table and chatted for a while over a drink, while the other walker had a brief snooze in his tent. I'd spotted a very nice looking chippy just opposite the pub, and it was my intention to have dinner there, with a book and my diary. I therefore wandered over there at 8.10pm, hungry and ready for tea, but I was crushed to find that the chippy had closed at 8pm. In those circumstances I was forced to return to the pub, but that turned out to be fine because in the dining room I found Fiona and Kate, a couple of blokes they'd been walking with, Dave and Ian and Catherine, a friendly young American woman I'd not met before. Conversation was loud and enthusiastic, and in the end I had salmon with chips and salad, followed by bread & butter pudding with cream. Mega yum!!!

I eventually retired to my tent replete and exhausted, and fell asleep while attempting to write up my brief daily diary. It's full of little squiggles where the writing came to an abrupt halt. My last conscious thought was that rain had been forecast for the morning. Uh-oh...



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