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Walking with Wainwright

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S: Walking with Wainwright

FC: Walking With Wainwright

1: Manchester...busyness, rampant construction, youth, excitement...and pubs: tucked in and about their bigger kindred in the oddest places: quiet and dim, redolent and spilling over with flowers.

2: St. Bees the train into complete serenity. Each cottage has its own name.. each chimney its own pot; hard not to love a place with this much personality.

3: The weather was glorious, the sea a salty aromatic presence, and as loath as we were to leave the flowers, and the cottages and the snickets behind, it was time to put boots to the path and find our way across this green and gentle land.

4: The Journey Begins | The Journey Begins

6: Weather changeable, packs at about 20+ pounds---don't want to forget anything. What a sparkling day...around the headland, over the first of many stiles, and smack-dab into sheep. Things are just ever so slightly different here...comfortable and homey, but with a tiny taste of the exotic. Not just the accents, but the kissing gates, the snickets, the stiles , nanny-catch gates, and the squeeze-throughs. They have made it possible to cross their fields; we have locked ours up, and everyone else out. I think I like this better. This is my kind of walk...cutting across and trespassing. The HUGE breakfast we wolfed down this morning (the English certainly know how to do breakfast) is standing us in good stead as we roll over the hills.

7: For two days, every time we crest a hill, a look-back returns the view of St. Bee's Head. It seems as we are NEVER going to escape. But one day we will make a turn, climb a fair hill (with a detour to the chocolate factory) and lose the view of the Irish Sea. At this point, we have met some fellow travelers, and the walking be- | comes even more social. A good group...easy to share the day with, off and on, and a meal in the pub at the end of it. One of the group is trying out his new GPS...but it appears to be leading him astray...he wanders away, staring at the LED, muttering to himself. We don't see him again for two days.

8: Meanwhile, up and over Dent Fell...our first mountain; Not a bad hike, but again, on reaching the top...there was St. Bees Head, almost within touching distance. All the sights between that | ubiquitous little village and our windy perch were lost to view. Missing was the Abbey, now turned into a private boarding school, and all the history lying heavy on the mossy stones. One of the almost tangible impressions of this country is that all of the stories come to life and history sits there, taking itself for granted. Graves all over the place, just sort of scattered around.

9: The Abbey is a strange mixture of the intervening centuries...partly crumbled and torn as the King tried to uproot catholicism, and partly pink and renewed as the Abbey was converted to other uses and restored, bits at a time. It's a pretty expensive proposition, holding onto history. A shame the crown couldn't make it worthwhile. My favorite: a beautiful clear artesian spring, | encircled with stones and benches for beauty and contemplation. Don't we wish we had those kinds of time management problems? Walking all day and climbing the Fell, we made it to our first lovely hotel...The Shepherd's Arms...where our luggage was waiting for us. Huzzah!! The system works. A wonderful meal later...and I'm finding that those folks who think you don't eat well in the UK must not have been to the same places we

10: we are trying. The food is wonderful, and different, and very well presented. I am, however, not trying blood pudding. Some other life. The next day, a long one, finds us still sighting St. Bee's Head, even though we tried very hard not to look. It is now noticeable that these mountain trails are a bit different from the California trails..mainly there is little trail. No one walks on them and there | are no switch-backs Makes for rough walking, but once on top--a grand feeling of accomplishment. We are beginning to meet the same people on the trails as we rest and they pass us, or they rest and we pass them. Spent some time sitting by a stream and soaking our feet with a group of Brits. Funny how the conversation always gets around to our government, and the Brits

11: and Brits. It's kind of nice not to have to struggle with the language, although at times the accents were so thick that it took several tries before I could catch the meaning. We've now been to Fairladies Barn Guest House in St. Bees, The Shepherds Arms at Ennerdale Bridge, Knottsview in Stonewaite in Borrowdale, and Moss Grove Hotel, Grasmere. And today it's up and over again to the White Lion Inn in Patterdale. The mountains are beautiful...see, here I am, calling them mountains...getting into the habit. They are just hills, but they sure feel like mountains when you get up into the high moors and the fogs...lovely places. No switch-backs...straight up and straight down..rocky, most of the time, but muddy if not. | Phil, Keith, Eileen, Bev, Denise, Tim, Candy, Alan do not have a really high opinion of us in that respect. We had the good luck to run into individuals who were polite and inquisitive, rather than vociferous and condemnatory. Have met both kinds, now, and much prefer the ones we got to know during the walk. Also crossed paths with and got to know some Americans...and that's all we saw on the trail...Americans

12: The going up is not too bad, but down is definitely dicey in spots. One of the gentlemen we passed on the trail was taking all the downhills backwards. His knees wouldn't accommodate a forward descent. They are really quite breathtaking, these clambers, and the views and feelings of accomplishment are well worth the exertion. Cairn at the top...stones to mark our passage, and then down the other side. Wouldn't life be grand if we could spend our days hiking up and over, ticking

13: off the miles as they pass under our feet, enjoying good company and good food at the end of the day, and then waking to another perfect day of trail ahead? Can't think of anything better at the moment. Met up with a couple of the other hikers and came in with them, stopping for ice cream. This ice cream thing has become a tradition...home-made and | wonderfully rewarding at the end of the day. We have a go at a bit of drizzle and fog...mist and gale force winds at the top today, with some calm when snugged away in behind the nooks and crannies. The weather all across this part of England is off again on again rain, wind, sun, fog, drizzle, and everyone just goes about whatever they were going to do, without hiding from

14: The Wet. The prams all have drop-down clear plastic to cover the front, everyone carries an umbrella at all times, and plastic rain gear was ubiquitous on the trail. I suppose the winds up on top would be a bit discomfiting, but you are only up there for an adventure...not to be comfortable, and there | is no lodging on the heights. The idea is not to go if the weather is bad. Fog can also be a problem, since the trails are not marked, the fog is frightfully thick, and there are a number of places where one could tumble off the steeper places. I like the idea they have here that you are responsible for yourself. It certainly makes you | carefully consider what you are about to do. Stopped to watch a crew of three rebuilding dry stone walls on the precipitous slopes, moving the stones by hand, and setting them, just as they always have, by hand. It's hard even to stand on those hills, much less carry stones and build a wall. Seeing it done adds another level of appreciation to the scenery.

15: Hidden gates, hidden lakes, miles of heather, stone kilns, stone barns, stone walls...and green. | These are the memories that will travel back with me, letting me make the trip again and again.

16: map

18: Finishing off the first half of the map (from the White Lion to the Fell House in Shap, and then on to Kirkby Stephen and the Jolly Farmer's Guest House, we left KS early on a | day that promised to be full of a number of weather changes. It was cool in the lowlands, and really cold and gusty as we climbed, but the faint outlines of Nine Standards beckoned us up the hill. A slow steady climb brought us to the amazing sight of nine huge cairns...debatable who built them and what for, only certain that they are very old. There was a crew hard | at work, rebuilding the structures, in a secret sort of way. Since these are antiquities, I'm not sure they want it noised abroad that they were restacking history. Although each stone had been numbered and marked as it was taken from the pile of rubble around its cairn, rather like the pyramids in Yucatan, so that each was returned to it's original | resting place. And they are going to look a heck of a lot more interesting, intact.

19: The wind blew something ferocious on the heights, and the bogs were an example of just what the English mean when the say "peat hags". Bev lost a shoe, and I went in up to the ankles a couple of times. This is peat, and when it dries out, it is used for all sorts of useful things, but when it's been raining for a while, it's hard to drum up enthusiasm for the raw material. It is wildly beautiful up here...heather, and sheep, and a world full of sky. And now it's all downhill to Keld, or to Twaite, where we are staying the night. The walking is glorious, but the coming to | shelter is ever so nice at the end of the day. This was a 15 mile day...average, and we arrive just at the right time to have a little rest, write in journals and get ready for dinner. I do love these walkabouts. Tomorrow we have a chance to walk by Crackpot Hall on the way to Reeth. The whole trip would have been worth it just to hear the names pinned to the landscapes. It looks from the map that there is one more rugged range to get over, and then a long...long...flat valley to cross before enmeshing ourselves in the coastal hills.

20: Farmland, churches, B&Bs; it doesn't matter where you roam, the sheep are there before you. The curly-horned ones are our favorites. After this trip, | landscapes are going to have an empty feeling without these puffy white denizens.

21: A bridge for people...keeping the sheep safely on one side or the other. Ingenious... and another bridge: one without the expense of handrails and planking. Takes a little getting used to, but a treat to see the water, and the stones, without restructuring the view. | Our way winds through rocky outcrops, concentrating the sun and giving us the exquisite pleasure of walking in warmth. A brilliant bit of trail.

22: Twenty-five miles today...the longest yet...That's a very satisfying know that you have that much road behind you, and that it was your legs that carried you over it. | We continue to come across new and interesting ways to cross the walls and fences, and we are getting much better at reading the directions and finding the path on the first try. Ruins pop up at every now and then, just as a reminder that this land has been full of someones ancestors for a very long time. | Deserted and tumble down churches remind you that they didn't always get along with each other, and religion was one of the fighting points. The stones are still there, telling their stories: arranged in circles on the empty hills, raised and shaped to house worshipers in the dales, lined up, vaulting rushing streams, piled in cairns all | over the hills, walling in barns, homes, and the most modern of buildings in the big cities. We've had a chance

23: today to walk through woodsy glens, pick a bouquet of flowers, spend time walking around in an old, old hilltop fort and castle. It's strange to see so many ruins here unattended and untouristed. These would be completely | overrun at matter how far off the beaten trail. There would be a beaten trail, and souvenir shops, and restaurants, and little patios everywhere, with machines you could put a quarter in (or is it a dollar, now?) to see the view.

25: Walking and reading a map is not all that easy...but came away from the trip with nary a scratch or skid marks on my knees. One does become proficient with practice. The trip is fast drawing to a more end of days ice cream with Edward, (he of the GPS) Nigel and Sue in front of the ice-cream store. Again, home-made...again fabulous. | Some of our hiker friends have gone on home, only hiking part of the trail, but it's nice to have some of them to finish with. The last day...rolling along over all sorts of terrain, catching sight of the ocean in glittering glimpses as we crest a hill, or wander around a corner. The end is in sight and it's exciting, but also sort of sad. Would love to just continue on.

26: On this, the very last leg...met a girl walking along the cliff path to the next town (8 miles from Robin Hood Bay), striding along with a will. Turns out her husband had a craving for a certain type of licorice, and she was off to get him some. I do like these people!

27: Winding our way down to the sea...just to make sure we really did it all the way. There were actually people out there swimming...among the rocks and surf and freezing cold water. Last meal in a pub for a while, and good bye's, then up to our cozy room for a well-earned sleep. Bustling Manchester by bus--what a change from the last two weeks of slow, quiet, paced peace. I'm going | to miss this place But, as always, as the plane lifts off, home fills my thoughts and the warm memories become just that...memories.

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  • Title: Walking with Wainwright
  • Walking trip across England
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  • Published: over 8 years ago