Day 5: Patterdale to Shap

Patterdale to Shap: 17 Miles 
Bed & Breakfast: Overview Water
Start Time: 9:10 AM
Finish Time: 8:30 PM 

The Overview Water is a very charming B& B perched on the banks of a very charming river. I had gone down to the Patterdale village store to collect some things for tomorrow’s lunch when we arrived, including a piece of the Million Dollar Shortbread Julia Bradbury recommends in the BBC Coast to Coast documentary. Gabriel was so hungry though he ate the shortbread (shared with me) and then the crisps and peanuts I had bought for our traveling lunch. This walk takes a lot of energy.

We had dinner at the B & B with the Two Ladies, The Speedys, and The Navigators and we were disappointed to find out The Speedys and The Two Ladies would not be going all the way to Shap but would go a little less far into Bampton. As we would be saying goodbye we all had a grand meal together with a little wine and lots of laughter. 

The Patterdale to Shap stage is said to be the toughest stage on the Coast to Coast. Not because it has the most miles of any stage, but because of the terrain. As our guide book says, although you leave the Lake District today, it doesn’t give up without a fight. 

New friends!
Tim met us to say good-bye!

Starting just after 9 in the morning we began the long ascent out of Patterdale. As we neared the top of the first “leg” we found our friend Tim from yesterday waiting for us. He was going to walk another path that day but thought he’d hang around till we arrived to say goodbye. Gabriel had been half joking about taking the bus this stage but Tim was a great encouragement. He told Gabriel how good he’d feel after all of this, when we arrived in Robin Hood’s Bay. How, if he took a bus for a segment “you would always know you hadn’t quite done it.”. Gabriel, who liked Tim a lot, was motivated by the encounter. We said our final goodbyes to Tim and headed up the path. 

Lunch on the mountain!

When we reached Angle Tarn we caught up with The Speedys, and The Two Ladies and journeyed with them most of the day. We went together over The Knott, whose very name exudes a hikers challenge. From the Knott, we then ascended Kidsty Pike which is the highest point on the Coast to Coast route. The views were stunning so we all decided to have lunch there. 

The locals have all talked about the above average amount of rain and I must emphasize how much time we have to spend navigating rocks and other high ground options to avoid turning our walks into total mud baths. And although we had been blessed with good weather the previous two days, today the rain gear came on, came off…came on again etc. 

What goes up, must come down and so we began our descent down toward Haweswater Reservoir. I’m sure glad we picked up new walking sticks in Grasmere as our legs and knees took quite a pounding. This though, was where Gabriel shined. He seemed to prance like a gazelle out ahead of us as we older folk carefully made our way down. Nearly everyone looked at him out and then looked to me and said, “Ah, to be 14 again.” 

Drinks on the “honor system”

Finally things leveled off and we began walking around the reservoir which, despite first impressions, does not go on for ever. It was about this time we had to make a decision to leave our new friends. We were behind schedule for getting to Shap. It was already 5 o’clock and we had at least another 5 miles to go. They knew our dilemma and suggested we might want to move on, but I confessed Gabriel and I enjoyed their company so much, it was difficult. Finally though, we felt we needed to press on so we said good bye to The Speedys and The Two Ladies who now as friends had become Peter & Sally and Jo & Nealma. And if you read this, you sure made the beginning of our adventure memorable. 

Nearing Shap..getting lost!!

Once we left the reservoir (finally) we were out of the Lake District. The topography was now more of rolling hills than mountains. We hurried through wood and pasture until we got lost going through a field. The path just up and disappeared and I realized we made a wrong turn. We pressed on using our compass to try to find our way to get back on track. We trudged through waist high (wet) brush, through water, and mud -our feet all but soaked now. We hopped a stone wall fence and headed toward a farm house thinking their driveway must be connected to some sort of road. If we could get on to a road, we could get our bearings.

As we approached the house I was nervous some farmer was going to come at us with a shot gun. I kept my Coast to Coast guide book in my hand as an alternative to a “white flag” …just a couple of dumb, lost Americans.

No one was around though and we slipped down their driveway onto a small road which dropped us right near the path we were meant to be on.

We trudged on past the ruins of Shap Abbey. A fence we passed by had a basket of soda with a money box. A sign said that a nice farmer wanted to provide you with a refreshing drink after that long hard stage. Just put 1 pound in the “honor system” box and help yourself. Gabriel was floored that a system like that worked… We dropped our money in the box and helped ourselves to two refreshing cold drinks.

We finally trudged into Dhap and the Brookfield House B & B where Margaret the landlady took our muddy rainwear and threw it in the wash, and set out our boots to dry. She then made tea for us in the drawing room where we were pleased to find our friends The Navigators, who had arrived about 30 minutes before us.

…tomorrow we have 21 miles to go to Kirkby Stephen.

Day 4: Grasmere to Patterdale

Grasmere to Patterdale: 9 miles
Bed & Breakfast: The Silver Lea
Start Time: 10:00 AM
Finish Time: 3:30 PM 

A second day of lower mileage made for a shorter walking day. That was good, as breakfast wasn’t served until 8:30 AM – so an early morning start was difficult.

The Silver Lea was a very nice establishment and our room had a bath tub which Gabriel took full advantage of when we first arrived. In fact, he was so exhausted that he fell asleep in the bath…not the “drifting off” sleep you may usually get in the bath mind you, but the “out cold” version that comes from hiking across a country. When I woke him (out of concern) it took him a moment to gather where he was.

We had breakfast with the Two Ladies who were also at the Silver Lea that night, and then set off for a short day (9 miles) to Patterdale. Like our previous days, hiking through the Lake District today involves climbing out of one valley and descending into another.

We climbed up and out of the valley with beautiful waterfalls again being our constant companions. Every few minutes we would stop just to look at the stunning views of Grasmere receding below us.

One thing Gabriel and I have discovered is that when hiking this much, hunger, the need for energy, comes up on you fast and sudden. We stopped for lunch at the top of the ridge where we found a large rock to serve as a table while we ate with God’s creation all around us. I had picked up some groceries in Grasmere so my lunch was a chicken wrap (trying to wind down from the heavy meals) and Gabriel had a bar-b-q sandwich.

We met two interesting men today. The first chatted with us for about ten minutes and gave us information of the surrounding area. He said he used to like to walk the Lake District with his wife but she had passed away recently. When I said my condolences he replied, ” We had 50 good years together and now I keep her here (motioning to his heart) when I walk.”. We chatted for a few more minutes before wishing each other a pleasent journey. As we departed Gabriel said, ” People sure are nice in England.”

The second man, Tim, we met at the junction where we needed to decide to take the low (easier) road along the valley floor into Patterdale or to climb Helvellyn, for a breathtaking view into our destination. Tim was an older gentleman who said as we approached, “You must be the American father – son team doing the Coast to Coast”. Apparently word that the Yanks had invaded north England had gotten around. :)

Because of wind and low visibility, Tim discouraged us from hiking Helvellyn so we joined him walking through the valley into Patterdale.

As the sun began to come out and visibility improved I half regretted not doing the climb but the other half was grateful of the wonderful conversation Gabriel and I had walking with Tim for the next two and a half hours. Tim had lost his wife 4 weeks ago and was in the area preparing to do the Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage in Spain in the fall. Because the Camino walk is something I am interested in, we had a wonderful talk about that and other topics, as we descended into Patterdale.

When we arrived Tim insisted on buying me a pint of his local favorite beer, Cumberland Ale, while getting Gabriel a lemonade. We sat outside on the lawn of the Patterdale Hotel drinking our beverages before saying our goodbyes.

That night we had dinner with The Two Ladies, The Speedys, and The Navigators. Enjoying some wine together in the dinning room of our B& B we all started saying what the high and the low point of today’s walk was. When it came to Gabriel, he said his high point was, ” meeting Tim because he was very interesting to talk to.”. It has been great as a father to see this trip becoming what I had hoped it would be.

Well, tomorrow the short days end. We have a 16 mile slog over a couple mountains to the town of Shap –  so goodnight.

Day 3: Borrowdale to Grasmere

Borrowdale to Grasmere: 10 miles

Bed & Breakfast: Yew Creggs
Start Time: 8:30 AM
Finish Time: 2:15 PM

Shorter miles today did not translate into easier.

The Yew Creggs breakfast was at 7:30 which allowed for an earlier start time. Again we paid for one pack lunch to supplement our carried rations. In fact, because the breakfasts are so big, I took one of my pieces of toast and rolled a sausage in it for an on the road snack later in the day.

The walk begins pleasant enough with a nice walk through the woods, but then began the climb up and out of the valley. The climb, though, was actually quite fun with beautiful waterfalls being a constant companion through this stretch.

Although a bit tired, Gabriel seemed to enjoy this segment. I also need to mention the people we’ve been meeting on the way…  Reading other people’s journals I realize you do tend to give people nicknames based on some quality you observe. For instance there are:
The Two Ladies. The Navigators: husband and wife team who always seem to know the right direction to go.
The Speedys: husband and wife team who zoomed by us the first day (but who we have seen frequently since)
The Apostles: Father and son team who are named Paul and Mark

Well we reached Lining Crag which offered fantastic views but Gabriel was keen to move fast – which at first I didn’t quite understand. Turned out the rich breakfast was causing him to have need of a bathroom. His dilemma was that there was a backpacking group of older teens walking near us. There is nothing like the urgency and humor of a 14 year old trying to find a crag of secluded rocks on the top of a mountain to “relieve himself” that will offer him the privacy needed with girls possibly walking nearby.

We quick timed it ahead and Gabriel finally found the natural rock formation “toilet stall” he had been looking for. Ah, relief!

We reached a nice overlook point to spend 20 minutes to have lunch and take a break. The Apostles zoomed past us and gave greeting, which motivated us to begin our decent. Both of our walking sticks had broke and going down this mountain I realized for the first time the necessity of walking sticks when you do serious hiking. Both Gabriel and my legs took a vicious beating. It was steep, rocky and where there were no rocks… watery bog.

After about an hour and a half, we flattened out again onto the valley floor for about another hour and a half’s walk into Grasmere.

Grasmere was a welcome sight. A beautiful little village where the poet William Wordsworth lived and is buried. Once we found our B & B and had a rest, we set out to see this beautiful town. We purchased new walking sticks, bought a new book for Gabriel (Sherlock Holmes ) and then to a local pub for dinner and to watch Andrew Murray lose to Federer at Wimbledon. Some sad looking folk in the pubs this day. 

I finally got my curry (Chicken Tikka) and Gabriel had pizza.

In the evening, we heard the Two Ladies outside on the street. At the same moment a heard of cows was ambling down the way. We poked our heads out the window to greet our walking friends and admire the surreal sight of this heard of cows. I called down to the ladies to ask if they had got internet in our B & B. Before they could answer the man hearding the cows repled, “Sorry mate, we still use smoke signals in Grasmere.” We had a laugh about that at breakfast in the morning.

Then back into the room for and early night watching Ghostbusters.

Day 2: Ennerdale Bridge to Borrowdale

Ennerdale Bridge to Borrowdale: 15 miles

Bed & Breakfast: The Fox & Hounds

Start Time: 9:30 AM
Finish Time: 6:30 PM

Gabriel loves the names of the places we have to arrive at every night. To journey all day through wood and over hill to reach “Borrowdale” sounds like something out of The Lord of the Rings”. Alas however, there has not been a Hobbit nor Elve to be seen…but still we hope.

The Fox and Hounds pub in Ennerdale was a great first night on the road. My guidebook had stated that the place had not come to appreciate Coast to Coast walkers, but our experience was quite the contrary. Martin, who seemed to run the establishment, was gregarious and thoughtful. He sat down with us at breakfast and gave all the walkers an overview of the day’s route and what to look out for. And although we only ordered 1 lunch to go (trying to save money) he gave us some extra items for two. Thanks Martin!

Oh I should mention dinner. I had lasagna, while Gabriel had the steak and ale pie. Both were quite good but we made a mistake with the shared side order of onion rings. I had one bite and told Gabriel to have them as they were too greasy for me. He said they were too greasy for him as well. Note to cook: when your onion rings are too greasy for a 14 year old boy, they are way too greasy. They were left largely untouched.
We set out at 9:30 AM and the start of the walk is around Ennerdale Water. We took the south route and the scenery was to die for. Gabriel and I kept stopping just to pause and “take it all in”. There was a scary part at one point climbing through some rocky area where a step to the left would mean a long way down to death or very serious injury. Fortunately it was only a few steps but as Gabriel aptly put it, ” You wouldn’t want to come through here if you’d been drinking.”


Looking back at Ennerdale

We arrived at the Black Sail Youth hostel at 2:00 PM…a little later than I had planned. The Black Sail is the most remote youth hostel in England and is essentially a shack in the middle of nowhere. It is deserted during the day but offers tea and cake in the kitchen where you place money in a jar on the honor system. We stopped here for about half an hour to eat some snacks, sit on the outside bench, and admire the stunning views of surrounding mountains. Gabriel even got to play a little guitar as one was just inside the lodge.


Black Sail
Rest at the top of Honnister

Rested, we now prepared for the long climb up Loft Beck to Honnister Pass. We paused a couple times to catch a breather and throw rocks down at targets we picked out. I was far better than my son and apologized to him for failing to play baseball with him more often.

The views at the top of Loft Beck are stunning and you feel a real sense of accomplishment when you reach the top. From there you follow a series of cairns past an old quarry mine and then backdown the other side into Borrowdale Valley. It was at this point we caught up with a number of other walkers were had become acquainted with and we all ended up arriving at the Yew Creggs B & B at the same time -which kept our gracious lady on her toes.

Oh, forgot to mention the weather today was perfect. Tomorrow should be a shorter day of 9 miles to Grasmere where, hopefully, we can get some laundry done.

Day 1: St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge

St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge: 14 Miles 
Bed & Breakfast: Stone House Farm
Start time: 10:00 AM
Finish Time: 4:50 PM

Woke up at 4:00 AM not so much from excitement as jet lag. Decided to go through my pack and make sure I had everything we needed. Finally 8 AM arrived and we met our friends Mark & Christine down for breakfast. As I was eating breakfast I realized how surreal my situation was. For years I had been reading other people’s Coast to Coast adventures and many of them started at this B&B…. now here I was.

Carol, the owner, was very kind and helpful. Nice room, good food…I can certainly recommend a stay there.

After getting a few last minute items at “the shops”, which is British for a shop, we took our last motorized transport for the next two weeks down to the sea.

Tradition dictates that we dip our boot into the Irish sea to commence our walk. Our problem was the tide was WAY out. I wanted to dip into a small pond remaining near us and avoid a 3 minute walk out to the sea but Christine was having none of that. She said that was one of the reasons she and Mark came; to send us off properly…so off we went to the sea. With our toes officially baptized, and some prayer together for safety we said goodbye to our dear friends.

The rain began to come down at a good rate so our rain gear came on and remained on the whole day.

The walk commences with a 300 ft. hike up to a cliff. We walked along the coast for about 2 hours before turning East and heading inland.

You can see the two of us as dots at about center right.  Thanks Mark for a great pic!

Two things stick out today…rain & mud. If you do the C2C, make sure you have waterproof everything especially boots. Also, maps and compass. The C2C is only marginally signposted. We went the wrong way a couple times culminating in our completely missing Dent Hill. A local Salmon fisherman helped us get pointed in the right direction to Ennerdale Bridge. He seemed confused on why we would want to go over a hill you didn’t have to go over when it was easier to go around.

I suppose for the same reason someone uses their holiday to walk across a country…because it is there.

The fisherman said with a brisk walk we could reach Ennerdale in 45 minutes…it took us an hour.

We reached The Fox & Hounds pub at 4:50 in the afternoon and collapsed on the beds for 30 minutes before heading downstairs for dinner, and in my case, a pint of the local brew as a humble reward for Day 1 completed.

St. Bees: Day 0

Our friends Mark and Christine drove us from their place near the Wales border all the way up to the Coast to Coast starting point in St. Bees.  Of course it would’t be a trip through merry old England without a side trip of some form.
Our side trip came in the form of a stop to visit The Beatles Story museum in Liverpool.  Gabriel is a HUGE Beatles fan but I had been telling him for weeks that we would not be able to stop in Liverpool on the way up as we were under a time crunch.  Mark and Christine though thought it was doable but we decided to surprise him until the last minute.  As we approached Liverpool he looked at me and I said, ” Mark, is there anything you want to tell Gabriel?”

Mark replied, ” Thought we’d pop into Liverpool and see The Beatles museum”. Yep, Gabriel was a happy.
After a tour of the lives of the Fab Four we were then off to ST. Bees.  The rain hit just as we arrived in pulled into our B&B, The Stone Farm house.  Dinner was at the Queens hotel up the road and we mostly settled on Fish and Chips except for Gabriel who got the Toad in the Hole.  Jennings Bitter on tap and then we topped the evening off with a stroll down to the sea where we would begin the walk the following morning.

Prep Days: London

China Eastern Airlines flight to London was not near as bad as the reviews had led us to believe.  Ok, yes, the food was not good, even by economy class airline standards, but we had been told there would be limited English movies available.  Not so. There were plenty. And the wine?  I was going to give it a miss as I assumed it would be some local Great Wall wine I could hardly stomach.  Instead, the provided a nice Jacob’s Creek  red to which I will say I had …more than one glass.  Thats my story and I’m sticking to it. Overall, very worth the price paid.

London:  We had all of a day and a half in London and we planned to make the most of it.  First stop, Gabriel being a Beatles fan was Abbey Road.  We got a pic of Gabriel making a walk across the iconic crossway made famous by the Fab 4 on their Abbey Road album.  From there we headed over to Westminster to see the Abbey, Big Ben, Houses of Parliment, and Downing St before joining a London Walk tour through Victorian England.  Amazingly our tor guide named Richard was the same tour guide we had 15 years ago when we had done another Londn Walk back in the 1990’s.

Well, I was amazed, I think the years made him immune to such coincidences.  Oh well!

Later in the evening we went to Covent Garden and met up with an old Hong Kong friend.  While in the area I saw the Les Miserables was playing in a couple hours time.  Only 2 things were working against us:

1) I hadn’t budgeted for another bank breaking West End performance (We had tickets for Jersey Boys but that had been figured in a couple months back)

2) They were sold out!

But the guy at the ticket booth said when they sold out, they offered 10 “standing room” tickets for £10.  £10 to see Les Miz in London?…Sold!!

The next day we had anothe London Walk this one being a Beatles tour. Gabriel got to see where the guys had lived in London, where they filmed A Hard Day’s Night, where they got married (at least the first times) etc.

We then quickly rushed to Victoria bus station for a 3 hour ride to the Welsh border to spend a couple days with dear old friends from Hong Kong.  We then got to spend a day in Bath with them having a Bar-B-Q with still more friends from our early days in the former colony.  Time has been good to everyone thankfully.

As I write this our we are preparing to leave now for a 5 hour drive north to St. Bees…and the start of our Coast to Coast Walk!


Prep Day: We’re off!

In 12 hours Gabriel and I will begin a journey 16 years in the making. We our pacFather & Sonking our suitcases and backpacks and assuring ourselves that what ever we forget we’ll be able to purchase in England. Hiking boots? Check.  Walking sticks? Check.  Blister creme?  Double check check!!  Soon we’ll be off to Hong Kong International Airport.  From there a quick trip to Shanghai and then a LONG flight to London, England.

My boot of choice!

Gabriel is depressed as we are flying China Eastern Airlines (very affordable tickets) and he read a couple reviews saying the food is bad and the in flight entertainment is non-existent. So now part of our “packing” involves loading our iPad and iTouch with as many movies and TV shows as possible.  I’ll give a final review of China Eastern in a couple days…mmm  we’ll see.

Our 14 day schedule!

So what are we doing you ask?

About 1996 I was reading the travel section of the local Hong Kong paper.  The story  was on a famous hike in the north of England called the Wainwright Coast to Coast walk.  Its a 200 mile hoof across the country starting from the village of St. Bees on the Irish Sea and ending in Robin Hood’s Bay on the coast of the North Sea.

As I read the article I was fascinated by the thought, and the challenge, of walking across the whole of the country.  I turned to Tammy and almost said prophetically, “When we have a son I’m going to take him on this walk when he turns 13.”  Well, two years later we had that son, and 14 years later we are fulfilling that dream I have kept ever since then.  We postponed actually doing it last year when he was 13 as we were all pleasantly surprised by the birth of the late addition to the Hackman family: Ethan George

So now, after 16 years, we are ready to begin our grand adventure…I hope you’ll enjoy coming along with us!