Tuesday, 29 June 2010

day 5 - faffing around's a serious business

day 5 - reeth to osmotherley - 35miles 1500ft

after another broken nights sleep i had a longer wait for breakfast. they didnt serve it until 0830! my only real criticism of lots of the places we stayed in was their breakfast times. a 0700 start and we could be away by 0800, which would have been perfect. as it was we didn't make tracks until 1000, have chatted lots at breakfast with 3 coast to coast ladies.
we also discussed route options. i was very aware of the 35m ahead, lots of it flat and runnable. it was also going to be a hot day and we'd done lots of climbing so far. valley road or hill trail to richmond? the latter, correct route, won hands down.

behind on my imaginary schedule we set off at ten.

3 miles into the day and we bumped into our breakfast friends once again towards marrick..it just went to show the slickness of their post breakfast organisation to get so far just walking and the degree of our faffing around. we exchanged a few words and sped on our way.

this part of the route was different again. very lush fields and pasture, with cool dense woodland higher up..providing a welcome bit of shade. surprisingly again, everything felt to be in good working order. if anything, i felt a little sleep deprived but that was overshadowed by the fun we were having.

it wasn't long before richmond came into view and a little way off in the distance, the cleveland hills. we stopped to look. i turned to richard and said..'see those hills right over there in the distance..that's where we're staying tonight'. the look on his face was priceless! a mere marathon in distance away. i tried to reassure him that they'd come closer to us quite quickly but im not sure how convincing i was.

richmond was the largest place we travelled through. people were slightly more curious about us than in previous places..maybe we just stuck out more with there being more 'ordinary' people and relatively fewer coast to coasters.

we found a good butty shop for a whopping ham salad sandwich with the now obligatory salad cream. i played safe with charlie giving him with a chicken one, no dressing.
we loiterd outside a shop window, selling trendy gifts, eating our tucker. i dont think the woman inside was best pleased...we weren't the image she probably wanted to portray..two sweaty blokes devouring butties, but we got lots of attention from passers-by fussing charlie.

ahead of us was a long flat slog that i was determined to enjoy despite everyone banging on about how flat and boring it was. mentally i turned that into an opportunity to run which had great appeal.
danby wiske, a further 13 miles on, was our target for an afternoon break.

arriving around 4ish, the local was open, with a smattering of men already enjoying pints of their fine local ales which looked very tempting, but with another 12 or so miles still to go, lashings of ice cold coke washed down some lovely salty snacks and a mars bar.

it felt like it was getting hotter too. whatever physical discomfort anyone may have felt spirits were still high. we had a job in hand..another 12..and as the sign said, only 60 miles to the finish..we could almost smell the salty sea air!

after around an hour of lazing around we thought it best to set off.

the next 12 miles were a bit stop start. i dont know why they just were.
doing the maths in my head we had 4 hours to tick off the mileage, book into our digs, sort charlie out, and sort ourselves out before last food orders at 9.

im not one for cutting it fine..its the pressure of 'will we? wont we?' im not good at, so when we reached the A19 and a garage i suggested we got rations in just in case.
never before have i taken such delight in buying a pot noodle and all the way from there to osmotherley, i was so excited at the prospect of tucking into it. i must have been bloody hungry.

we faffed more. calls and texts to family and friends. we could have made the pub for food but with sustenance already bought, faffing about was ok. the sky, as we dropped out of the forest down into osmotherley was spectacular, it was some kind of deliverance, and we could see the vast flat plain we'd just traversed..it gave us a great sense of achievement once again.

arriving at our b n b (no pubs in osmotherley allow dogs) the owner took a long hard look at charlie, then me, then charlie again. she was probably realising why the pubs didnt take dogs..he'd take every opportunity to immerse himself in every beck, every pool of stagnant water/mud and looked a little, shall we say, 'untidy'..but not that bad. i tried to block her view of him as much as possible. after what seemed like an eon and endless tail wagging by the boy, he got her approval and we were through and into our rooms.
ive never wolfed down a pot noodle quite like i did this one. the sauce sachet, the lot. perfect!

a quick shower and then a crawl around osmotherley's fine three ale emporiums ensued. making it through to last orders, some 5 pints later, we called time on ourselves and trundled back to our guest house.

with just two more days and about 50 miles left, it was in the bag (barring any acts of god as mentioned earlier) and it felt like we were on the final lap

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

day 4 - from marshes to the moon

day 4 - kirby stephen to reeth, 23 miles 3000ft

unfortunately i was unable to repeat the previous nights epic sleep and found myself lying in bed wide awake at 0330am..it wasn't even light yet!

fast forward a few hours, another fine breakfast and we started to make our way out of town. i passed this place (below), which was quite apt. my thoughts went back home for a moment. we'd all spoken and/or texted each day and it was great to get a clockwork call from will each day from his new, and his first ever, phone at 4.15pm when he returned from school

its a sign!

i was really looking forward to todays trip across an area i was totally unfamiliar with.. another navigational test
and it was going to be a hot one too..already it was warm and rising

the route started with a long 4m slog up to nine standards rigg
to pass the time of day richard sprang the a-z of pop stars/groups challenge on me, which we completed (well almost) several times, occasionally enlisting the help of fellow coast to coasters, that we passed heading up the hill, when needed..especially on the letters v,x, and z

nine standards rigg

keld was only some 8 miles beyond nine standards and id had it in my mind to tick it off quite quickly. silly idea..i hadn't factored in the bogs that lay in the way. even though it was drier and more passable than usual, they still stuttered progress and occasionally created much hilarity trying to cross the wider ones..one slip, one little mistake, one footfall short and you were toast..or muddy marsh monster more like. luckily with the springlike prejectory of a gazelle (not) we were able to avoid any dunking of shame but it was a close call now and again.

the bogs

by the time we reached keld, the sun was high and hot, and it was time for lunch. we found the farm cafe where i started with hot soup (hot soup in that blazing heat, hot soup!) and finished with an ice lolly..i haven't had an ice lolly in years..an orange maid one in fact..brilliant it was too :). it felt like being at the pictures all over again

over lunch i glanced at the route ahead. unknowningly, we would see few others this afternoon. most people opt for the road that hugs the valley floor..its way way easier..but even with hindsight we would still do the proper route everytime..it was challenging, rewarding and totally different to another other part of the crossing

half way there!

moor above swinnergill

this section saw us walking in parts and running other bits. map reading was very tricky and my judgement was questioned, quite rightly given the previous day, more than once. but this time i got it spot on..i was kinda chuffed with that ;-)

overlooking swinnergill

men made of steel must have worked and lived here. a desolate, bleak and industrious landscape that we imagined would be unforgiving in harshness of the dark winter months. how they did it was beyond me..did they live here alone? with their wives? their children? as my parents used to say..we dont know we're born

blakethwaite smelt mills

eventually we made it to the moon-like scape of the spoil heaps..a track and look that went on a few miles and made for good running, before heading back onto the moor to descend into reeth

spoil heaps

like the bull the night before, the buck took on the appearance of a place that had seen better days. it had a new and very friendly landlady and whilst the decor would do with freshening up, the beer and food were excellent again

the buck at reeth

another platter of fish and chips washed down by a few blonde witches
we were past the halfway mark and feeling good, and charlie was on superb form

a few of these were had

tomorrow was to be our longest distance, around 35m, so the 'we're past the halfway point' party was curtailed prematurely before any serious damage was done

day 3 - we're making time (are we?)

day 3 - bampton to kirby stephen - 25miles, 3000ft

standing on the fell at 4am i could see the weather was going to be much better than yesterday. moreso than that a huge wave of optimism was engulfing me. day two, the day i had considerd the weeks hardest route, was gone and i had arrived at day 3 unscathed and with legs that felt fresh and without any stiffness. all things being equal and barring any acts of god i felt we had the week in the bag..a premature idea maybe but with long distance stuff its all in the mind and i try to only ever entertain positive images and thoughts. it did make me wonder how richard was..this was no solo crossing!

his night, minus my usual mid morning rumblings, hadn't been as good as he'd expected. he too had been a little unrestful tossing and turning as he mulled over the previous day and thinking about what was to come. maybe i was closer to the finish in my mind than he was? physically he may have felt it a little more with a bit of a niggle here and there too.

the full english breakfast, which was plentiful enough to give a load to charlie, lived up to the standard of the inn.
each morning a pill ritual at breakfast was adhered to..cod liver oil, glucosamine etc..and today i suggested we add another to it as a prophylactic..that ultra runners saviour..ibuprofen

at breakfast we chatted with a canadian couple doing the trail. they asked if we were getting a taxi back to the trail...:-/...1 mile down the lanes!

we paid the bill, shook hands with the innkeeper, now our best mate, who had tried to insist he knew what was best for us roomwise, and headed outside to take some shots like a couple of withnail and i tourists

we want cake and fine wine

we, or should i say, faffed around for quite a while in the village. richard who hasn't seen withnail and i was probably at a loss as to why i was so giddy about a red telephone box and probably more perplexed at the never ending trail of famous lines from the film that i kept spurting out like someone with withnail and i tourettes. we cetainly weren't making time.

todays trip across to kirby should be a shorter day..less mileage, undulating terain, not big climbs. i'd also booked us all (including charlie) a sports massage at 6pm that night in kirby, in case things needed loosening up, so we did have a date to keep

it was close on 10am by the time we left bampton and headed over towards shap. what happened next can only be archived in the file of famous howlers, gaffs, own goals, call it what you will.

doing quite nicely..we were only 20 minutes into the day!..we headed over a field and came to a stile with the path continuing on the other side. i looked at the path, i looked at the map, i looked at the path, i looked at the map...then i declared with the greatest of confidence that the path ahead wasn't the one we needed. how i ever came to that conclusion is still beyond me..maybe my lack of sleep played a role but putting any possible get out of jail cards to one side it was the most simple schoolboy navigational error known to mankind!
there was no other path to take ! derr!

what followed was farcical..i was in my worst strop mood..effing and blinding..as we wondered round the massive field we were in, trying to find my imaginary path and route towards shap abbey (me leading, richard and charlie following in ever increasing dismay). we, thanks to christopher columbus here, went round and round and round. i was hearing nothing of the suggestions to take the rejected path to see where it would take us. (sorry once again to both of you, more for my strop than anything else)
eventually, actually 50 mins later!, i selected another route to shap crossing a whole series of fields diagnally, which i navigated with utter fluency ;-)

we met the canadians again in shap who were having a picnic stop..was that the time?! or were they just eating their way across england?

anyway, i took the strategic decision to switch to my footprint maps. fine aids they were to be too, with the route plotted and accompanying bitsize notes re any navigational hazards. small, concise, quick to follow and easy to hold on the run. my os maps would act as backup from hereonin (and to fast forward the rest of the trip, navving blunders were to be a thing of the past)


the route beyond shap was mostly runnable as we left the monolithic mountains of the lakes trailing in the distance. for all i love the lakes it was refreshing to be in completely different terrain..and each day that followed was totally different..that was one of the aspects that make the c2c so bloody fantastic

robin hoods grave

coming down the meadows into orton we bumped into two lads we had met a couple of times already. they were hiking with full backpacks, hoping to do it in just 5 days..they must have considered us to be a couple of utterly lightweights to be running it in seven. their faces told their story though. here we were all smiley faces, full of bounce as a result of our shorter less taxing days. they, however, looked so hacked off, knackered, and sweating like troopers. they hadn't stopped until 11pm the previous night and had been on the go since 5am this morning, not expecting to pitch down again for another 17 hours.
they were intending to land in robin hoods bay a day before us and staying there a few days. we never saw them again..i wonder if they made it or whether their courageous attempt came to an end before then?

descending into orton for lunch

a randy bull on the way in

the contrast between their attempt and our strategy was evident at our lunch break in orton. i was told that being served by a young girl called tanya on the green was VIP service never known before. i dont know what we did to deserve that but it was welcome all the same. thank you..we felt very posh in a penrith tea room sort of way.

lunch at the chocolate factory in orton

an hour or so later (you can tell we were really pushing it!) we bid our farewells and thanks

its all downhill richard

the rest of the day's route was across lots of isolated fairly bleak but no less spectacular moorland.

smardale bridge

arriving in kirby in the nick of time there was no time for a shower so we presented ourselves at the physio's place stinking like three sewer rats..they should have charged us extra danger money. we were all suitably pummelled and charlie got one too, though it did look a little brutal at times if you ask me

another bull (not a randy one this time)

a great night was spent at the bull watching the footy, downing a few pints, and tackling my first night of fish and chips (the first of four). the bull doesnt look up to much but the food was tops.
once again we chatted with people we'd met somewhere along the trail previously. this time the lads whose route had totally baffled me..i didn't ask. kirby was as far as they were going.
we, however, weren't even half way there yet.

Monday, 21 June 2010

day 2 - when its gone its gone

day 2 - rosthwaite to bampton 31 miles 7800ft

rain had fallen throughout the night and the area was now shrouded in cloud. with the day ahead being spent largely up high i was secretly concerned about this , given the 31 miles we had to cover. spending time wandering around claggy tops wasn't what i wanted.

we got down to breakfast ahead of the masses given the previous nights 'when its gone its gone' food availability. as assumed, we were in no danger of leaving the breakfast room stuffed to the eyeballs so the 'carry out' of leftovers for charlie was slightly modest to say the least.

once charlie had devoured his bit of toast and sausage, we were good to go. rainjackets on we headed off along stonethwaite beck then greenup gill. the legs felt remarkably good and jogging was indespered with walking up the stoney path.

i'd banged on to richard endlessly about how fantastic (and hard too) this day was going to be with its awesome scenery from high up..he wasn't dissapointed. not knowing the lakes really and also having trained largely on road for this, he appeared to be in awe of the majestic breathtaking landscape he was traversing. even myself, a frequent visitor, was giddy about the whole thing.

as we made further headway, the path steepened, with charlie leading the way in his customary style.

ascending from rosthwaite to grasmere common

warming for a while we took off our jackets and continued up to lining crag.
i was relieved to see the way ahead, up to greenup up and grasmere common, looked relatively cloud free meaning navigation would be straightforward

lining crag overlooking greenup gill

bouyed by this we pushed on and i had it in my head to take the new alternative route presented to me the night before (what is that saying about sticking to your plan?!)
once on top however, the weather, as it can so quickly do, changed. the rain came again and from nowhere we were shrouded in swirling cloud. bugger!
this would test my navigation skills no end. there was diddly squat to navigate by and my micro-navigation skills aren't the best by any means. we slowed our pace and eventually came across the faint path we were looking for..or was it?
carrying on regardless we were certainly heading in the right direction (i took a bearing, get me!). the sense of adventure heightened, though with both of us feeling the chill i didn't want to be wondering around the place endlessly.

30 or so minutes passed and with good progress we came across a youngish girl out 'navving' with her mate. i stopped to verify our position with her...the good news..we were heading the right direction..the bad news...we weren't on the ridge i thought we were on. bugger. damn. and sh+$*. it was by no means a disaster..we must have missed the right left turn by a matter of 1-2 minutes jogging but as all you more experienced and hardened mountaineers know too well, a minor error can become a major issue.
i cursed myself..i cursed everything..i cursed charlie (sorry, you had nothing to do with my mistake)..i felt like a failure and my confidence ebbed quickly away. and i had my first strop! sensing this going on, richard had the sense to put it in perspective and look on the positive. i was just worried that we had at least another 23 miles or so to go..how many more errors was i to make!? tere wasn't time for me to be faffing about the wrong way was there! we'd miss tea at the pub if we weren't careful..but hopefully not last orders!

we had actually ended up on the route i'd originally planned to take, but that wasn't the point! there's irony for you.
i eventually calmed myself down, gave my head a much needed shake and got on with the job in hand, descending round helm cragg down to mill bridge.

from here, the craic, the laughter and the banter started again,as we started another long and slow ascent towards grisedale tarn, an atmospheric spectacle worth every calorie burned and every foot climbed to get there. we once again felt on top of the world, metaphorically if not geographically.

grisedale tarn

there followed a lovely long descent through grisedale to patterdale that allowed us to open our legs and RUN. it felt good. no, it felt great! as we commenced our descent 5 lads from the hotel the night before were coming the opposite direction to climb striding edge so we had a bit of craic with them. they threw me with their route. they were doing part of the c2c but not all the way...why they were doing it in such a bizarre order and coming back on themselves baffled me..that little puzzle occupied my empty little head all the way down the valley.

by patterdale, the hunger had set in and we were in need of fuel. unfortunately the pasty strategy , ie eating pasties from coast to coast, had already lost its appeal with richard baulking at the very thought of another one passing his lips. so charlie was to become the benefactor of the mountain of pasties we had emmassed, though this was to backfire on him too..literally!

the people at patterdale post office couldn't have been more helpful or welcoming..mind you it helps when you have a pooch as friendly and adorable as charlie. moreso, they couldn't have made a better sandwich if they'd tried. a humongous ham salad one...the best ever. and one for charlie too (minus the salad action).
we were also given an invaluable tip to watch out carefully for our path turn ahead of high street..many miss it apparently and carry on into oblivion without realising.

the totally fantastic patterdale post office

the climb up high was a nice respite from running and the views with new mountains and lakes continued to be awe-inspiring

patterdale and ullswater

once up top, we set off running once more making our way past angle tarn and then , with the postmasters note of caution constantly ringing in my head, we took the right path almost doubling back on ourselves up to kidsty pike. it was clear to see why many people might miss it totally

angle tarn

i'd read that kidsty pike was our highest point on the trip. i love running up high on the tops, its the best, but the one thing i cant do is get too close to the edge. that does give me the bloody fear. richard found this a constant amusing theme standing as he would right by the edge taking shots and laughing at my fear. charlie too wasn't bothered by it all and in some stupid niavety nearly went past the point of what might have been no return

kidsty pike

there followed a nice descent, though steep at times, towards haweswater. after pausing to feed the lad (charlie not richard), i was pottering down the fell when suddenly a pungent smell hits my nostrils like a bat out of hell. i guessed it! his nibs had found a nice parcel of fox/badger pooh and caked himself in it. he absolutely stunk!
starting to feel tired, my attentions turned to how to smarten the boy up and rid him of the stench so our hostelry would be ok for him to frequent the place without causing billious eruptions from the rest of the guests

feeding time

once lower down the trail undulates but never takes you right to the lake shore. luckily, a few miles on we came to a deepish beck into which we could entice him in with a number of sticks and stones.

suitably blathered and cleansed we continued on towards the comfort of our inn.


we were glad to see the inn sign and the outside whitewashed walls
the place inside was my type of pub..big stone flagged flooring, wooden tables and benches, a great feel to the place..i couldn't wait to get started at the bar!
but first we had to checkin and herein, lay the next bit of farce. we'd booked two rooms originally to share between four of us including charlie. but of course there was only three of us..me, richard and charlie. the girl seeing to us (a bit of a jobsworth who quite clearly didn't want the hassle of cleaning two rooms if she could get away with one) was adamant that 'it would be better for you [us] if we all shared one room'
'why would that be better for us?' i enquired
'it just would'
'no, look. it would be better for us to be in seperate rooms as booked' i retorted
umming and arring she went and sought the opinion of one of her colleagues. he was on her side!
to cut what seemed like a long debarcle short, we were tired, dirty, smelly (not just charlie) and in need of a shower, some beer and some food. i was in no mood to have the pre-booked arrangements that would suit us best dicked about with. i gave it one more final go politely (verbally) with a degree of sterness (facially). if that failed then the gloves would have to come off. luckily it didn't and after some 10-15 minutes of totally unecessary negociation we were through enemy lines, me and charlie getting the luck of the draw..i had a lovely big double with crisp duvet and pillows..a bit of a contrast to the previous night's offering

a pair of pints and a pair of quadruple wiskies please!

all the farce aside, the mardale inn was brill. we had a good laugh with the bar staff, the beer was good, the food was excellent (though why i ever let richard sway my decision to have potted shrimps followed by the biggest venison burger known to man i do not know) and the ambience perfect. i recommend it to anyone. just dont let them tell you whats best for you..you know what is!

i probably bagged four hours, maybe 5!, in my comfy bed before waking with great alertness to get my stuff ready for the days adventure ahead (i must get checked out for OCD).
at least richard would have been pleased not to have been disturbed for a third night in a row with my middle of the night rumblings through all my gear and tripping over stuff in the dark ('why dont you put the light on' he'd say,'i didn't want to wake you' i'd say in all innocence having just done an unknown impression of a herd of elephants stumbling around the place)
charlie too was pleased i was up. he needed to desperately go to the toilet (a recurring theme from hereonin) following my lavish supply of pasties, sandwiches and flapjack..all the right things to keep him going that unfortunately can cause unwanted uncontrollable commotions as i was about to witness at 4am standing on the side of the fell in a t shirt and boxers behind the inn