Coast to Coast 2006

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The Savage's Coast to Coast Diary
Day Six
Day 6 - 13th August 2006

Kirkby Stephen to Thwaite (14 miles)

End of Day 6: August 13th; 3pm Room 9, Kearton Hotel, Thwaite.

Had a good stay at Fletcher House - a large, Georgian house in Kirkby Stephen town centre - last night. We had a good sized room on the first floor (probably the best to date) and there was a nice, easy-going feel to the place. I wish I could be as complimentary about Kirkby Stephen. Given its location you feel it should be a good place to spend some time but it seems to have had a charm by-pass: noisy, smelly, not a place to dwell. Like us, you’ll probably struggle to find somewhere decent to have an evening meal – maybe I should have stuck with the packed lunches after all.

We started walking at 8.45am, straight into a good hour-and-a-half pull up onto Nine Standards Rigg. We set off on the road – through the lovely hamlet of Hartley – and then onto open moorland. At times, it was pretty steep. William, not impressed, decides to go slow in places to make a point. The back end of yesterday appears to have slipped into today. Slowly, however, his spirits lift, his pace quickens and he’s on the top a couple of minutes before me.

Rain had been threatening all the way up, we’d had a few windy showers and the sky was now looking very menacing. As we rested against one of the cairns the wind got up again; it started raining, we were engulfed in fog and the temperature dropped. The views from Nine Standards in all directions are pretty impressive. We’d had a couple of minutes of them but now it was a white-out, time to move on.

It’s a wild, remote place up there and potentially not an easy one to find your way down from. It’s very boggy and the route goes over open moorland. However, the route is so well waymarked now in order to help manage the impact of walkers; even in heavily reduced visibility we had no problems.

We were down into Keld for 12.45pm and spent an hour at the tea house before making our way down to Thwaite.

We didn’t see a soul from leaving Kirkby Stephen until we got down to Keld. The statistics tell you that England is a relatively crowded country and in many regions that is obviously the case. But in the North you still don’t have to go far to find solitude and a sense of wilderness. Even in the Lake District, where on the valley floor things can get a bit crowded, up on the top you can go the whole day encountering few others.

Wildlife has been with us throughout this walk. There have been the sea birds at the nature reserve around St Bees, the moorland grouse and the cattle and horses roaming freely on the moors and fells in many places. It’s been interesting to observe the changing breed of sheep as you move through different landscapes. We watched a pair of young wild deer hop and skip together twenty yards from us next to Ennerdale Water and we also came across a large herd of deer roaming freely on the fells above Patterdale.

We’ve also had our more quirky encounters. At one point yesterday we managed to walk between a bull on one side and a herd of cows, clearly the subject of his interest, on the other – some seventy-five yards away across the open moor. The bull’s ears pricked up and he snorted, but appeared only to have thoughts for his lady friends. A couple of gooseberries like us were not going to distract him that easily and, as our pace quickened, he charged across the moor, thankfully, in the direction of the cows.

As William will tell you, he doesn’t trust farmyard animals (why it should just be farmyard animals, I don’t know). He may have a point. Today he had to visit the public toilets in Keld; he was in there some time. As he was doing his business, a cockerel sauntered in and gave out an ear-piercing cock-a-doodle-doo, which echoed in the toilets and then out and across the village, a couple of times. Time up, sir.

It’s a straightforward day tomorrow, down the dale into Reeth. I’ve told William that we’ll start a little later and that he can have a lie-in until 8am – what better news can there be for a 14-year-old? But what I haven’t yet told him is that he’s doing the map reading all day.

PS William’s knee support has been discarded. Isn’t fashion so quick to change these days?


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