Poor old Shap. We didn’t see it in its best light. We left it as we arrived – under a grey, lowering sky. Like its name – taciturn; gaunt.
However, The Kings Arms put together a heartwarming breakfast before we set off in desultory drizzle. Oh….I vacillated: should I put my waterproofs on or not? We crossed the West Coast main rail line and the M6 (headlights at 9 o’clock on a June morning seemed to accentuate the gloom); our day ahead promised little in the way of human company.
Indeed, we were passed by three pairs of hikers….and that would have been all we would have seen of H. sapiens all day if we hadn’t had the temerity to leave the prescribed route. The weather remained dark and damp. The terrain was open fell and moor all the way. I can’t help but feel that the bloke who dreamed up this Coast to Coast must have been an unimaginative curmudgeon. Why have a full day (and twenty-one miles if going to Kirkby Stephen) of unremitting fell-plodding without any chance of on-route sustenance? Is the whole C2C experience driven by some barmy macho ethos? Undoubtedly one must show fortitude; but it is one of single-mindedness in the face of tedium. Towards the end of the day, I kept myself going by scouring the grass, the bog, the bracken for moribund ramblers, fallen by the wayside having died of boredom!
And what of this unlicensed straying? Well, after about seven miles, we knew that we were only a mile north of a village. Not any old village, but one that boasts a chocolate factory! Orton was reached by a dodge down a busy B-road. We arrived at lunchtime on market-day. The village was animated and friendly despite the damp. Stalls lined the main lane, and it even had a small market hall. The chocolate factory was open to those with a sweet tooth, and boasted a coffee room at the back. It did a delicious line in toasted Lancashire cheese sandwiches and gourmand ice cream as well as coffee. Visiting Orton perversely made me more indignant! Why doesn’t C2C find its way through Orton? It is beyond belief!
Our day ended at the pretty village of Newbiggin-on-Lune, 6 miles or so before Kirkby; once again about a mile or so off the main walk. We stayed at Tranna Hill, a farm boasting B&B facilities. The lady of the house was all efficiency and garrulous bonhomie. Her abode was likewise pristine. Our room was comfortable; the bath in the ensuite was voluminous, easily accommodating our swollen feet. When we had scrubbed up, we were run by our hostess to The Black Swan at Ravenstonedale, a quaint country pub about two miles from Newbiggin, where a table had been booked for us. Compared with our experience of the hostelries encountered thus far, The Black Swan seemed a little precious; I couldn’t help but note that all staff wore a pink checked shirts/blouses! But the beer was reassuringly earthy (Timothy Taylor’s Boltdriver), and the food was undeniably top notch – pitta with humus, and focaccia with olive oil/balsamic vinegar for starters; sea bream with Israeli couscous, and lamb with puy lentils as mains.
Back at Tranna Hill we watched the English football team making a pig’s ear of it in their opening Euro 2016 fixture. As I slid into bed, I reflected upon the fact that I’m easily exasperated these days. Must stop watching England on the TV. Must stop walking upon moorland when the sky drops down to devour it!
I’m not sure of the identity of any of the above. They were all by the side of a Tarmac track on Tarn Moor. Any ideas? If so, contact me!