June 7

Day 22 Kirkby Stephen to Appleby

Today was hot, hot hot.

We ate breakfast with a group of four blokes setting out on the coast to coast walk. They were intending to carry their stuff every day and not use the bag moving services which everyone else seems to be using. One bloke said that he had two litres of water in his pack, ie two extra kilos in addition to his ten kilo pack.

Today was another day in which we did not have to carry full packs ie just one lightish one between us, taking it in turns to be the donkey.

The walk can be divided into three sections. The first part followed a narrow lane from Kirkby Stephen to Soulby. On the map this looked like a good option. The lane turned out to have quite a lot of traffic passing along it, presumably taking children to school and others to work, so wasn’t really very pleasant particularly as the narrow verges were filled with nettles. We sped along the lane as quickly as we could to get out of the danger area.
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From narrow lane we entered farmland. Navigation became more tricky as some of the ways across fields were not clearly marked.
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Having moaned about the lack of footpath markers we did find an exemplary farmer. All his/her stiles and gates were a delight to behold. I wanted to go through them two or three times in order to enjoy their stile style.
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At the beginning of this account I mentioned a bloke who had decided to carry two litres of water as the day would be hot, hot, hot. About seven miles into the walk we encountered a steep upward climb. This must have been at about 11:30 ish and came after being in the open with no shade for some time. This was followed for another hour of heat and no breeze in a farm lane. I suddenly realised that the bloke with his two litres of water wasn’t so daft after all. Thank goodness for a stone bridge on which to sit and serve up half a delicious camembert each and some bacon. I must have been worn out as I left my shades on the bridge’s welcoming flank.
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The final section of the day was probably the most enjoyable, following the course of the Eden into Appleby. The path was shaded by trees, dry underfoot, full of wild garlic, with the ever widening Eden at one side.
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After all the sun, thirst, camembert and navigation peculiarities we still managed to get to Appleby quickly. Perhaps we are fitter than we think.
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June 8

Day 23 Carlisle

Today we changed location from Kirkby Stephen to Carlisle. We enjoyed a hot a stuffy bus journey from Kirkby Stephen to Carlisle as the trains can go only from Settle to Appleby, due to subsidence. This has been something of a disappointment to us as we were hoping to spend quite a little time on the railway.
Before leaving Kirkby Stephen we needed some stuff from the outdoor shop. One shop sold us some karabiners and its owner told us about the wonderful Lady Anne Clifford. If any misogynists doubt that a young forceful woman in the 16th Century could not be more than a match for a king and Oliver Cromwell then read the link below.

Lady Anne Clifford

We don’t have a lightweight day sack so have been using Janet’s lighter rucksack on non weight carrying days. I wanted to try a waist sack and found one in another outdoor shop in Kirkby Stephen. The chap behind the counter asked us what we were doing so we gave the usual vague outline and even vaguer destination. We were completely flabbergasted when he said that he was from Peterhead. His accent was very English, we would never have guessed. A nice bloke we chatted for ages.

Having been to the laundrette we sit, in our sweet smelling smalls, trying to work out the best way to get from Appleby to Carlisle on foot and in how many stages. Who knows how it will be? Will the days be long and arduous or short and easy or neither? Perhaps we need a few strawberries and some wine to give us the necessary courage to tackle this fearsome task.

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June 9

Day 24 Appleby to Langwathby

Another lovely,lightly laden day today. The weather forecast predicted sun, sun, sun with the tiniest risk of a drop of rain later.
We caught the bus from Carlisle to Appleby to start walking back to Carlisle. Before leaving I stuffed a brie, a saucisson, some water etc in my new belt pouch. The journey to Appleby was uneventful. We got off the bus at the station with feeling delighted that my pack was so extremely light. Feeling like a swig of water I took out the water bottle which came with the belt. I then realised that the bottle has a peculiar top. In one position the water stays in the bottle, in the other position the water comes out of the bottle. Janet assured the bus driver that I hadn’t lost control of myself and that the half litre of liquid left on my seat and floor was just water with nothing added by me.

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Appleby station is worth a visit having loads of vintage stuff lurking everywhere. The station bloke told us that we could cross over the footbridge to the Carlisle platform and leave from there. The A66 was the first obstacle. We assumed that there would be a footbridge or underpass so that ancient strollers could cross this busy dual carriageway with dignity.

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No luck re the bridge or underpass but we did find a break in the traffic in order to get to the central refuge. A further break offered the opportunity to make it to the other side.

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Much of today has involved strolling along Roman Roads. My imagination runs even more out of control than usual as we pass over these ancient ways. It is a shame that both Janet and I have forgotten the little Latin that we use to have. All that we can do is mutter salve salve.

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No hills or wide vistas for us today. Instead of mountains we had fields of growing crops. For us fields of wheat and barley are just as interesting as mighty crags.

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We do like looking at fields of wheat but not walking through them. The fields can be muddy and wet but more importantly we don’t like damaging the crop when we blunder through.

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It can be a bit like wading through water crossing these fields.

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Evidence of last winter’s floods was very noticeable. Fences had obviously been pushed down by the weight of water from the River Eden along whose banks we strolled. Today the river was torpid, it gave no hint of what it must have been like in full flood.

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I mentioned at the beginning that the weather forecast was benign for today. For much of the day we have had sun, almost too much sun, to be comfortable. The exception to this was about 30 minutes of rain in which the raindrops were as big as apples. Janet put on her raincoat and rainkilt. I put on my raincoat and was soaked within about 10 minutes.

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Langwathby is pronounced Langwathby. Tomorrow we will walk from Langwathby to another place.

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June 10

Day 25 Langwathby to Armathwaite

We set off from Langwathby after visiting its post office. The people in the post office were as lovely as their village. Langwathby has a village green surrounded by a village hall, a pub, the shop and, on the outskirts, a railway station. If I wanted to move to Cumbria I would move to Langwathby.
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The weather was perfect for strollers today with a cool wind and a slightly overcast sky. The little road, on which we strolled, was virtually free of traffic. From behind we heard the swish of tyres and the chatter of many voices as a group of coast to coasters passed us, cheerily crying out greetings and other pleasantries.
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Just after being passed by the lycra clad cyclists we passed a more sedate coast to coaster parked on the side of the road. A cyclist more like myself I thought.
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Janet’s cousin Ian told us that we must see Lacey’s Caves. We had no idea what Lacey’s Caves might be but, as they were close to our trail, we decided to take Ian’s advice. The website entry suggested that the caves were not easy to find and were dangerous when found, both good reasons for giving it a go.
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We found the path to Daleraven Bridge which seemed to be, more or less, in the right direction and followed it. The bridge in the photo isn’t Daleraven bridge, it is just a bridge for cattle on our path the Daleraven Bridge. To pass on we had to duck under a line made of binder twine used to turn the cows down into the field. This is a wheeze we have used many times ourselves. Cows are a bit dim and can be easily gulled with lengths of binder twine.

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Further on down the path the council had erected a sign saying that the path was closed due to its collapse. There was no barrier to climb so we pressed on. The path followed a narrow lane lined with wild flowers and with the smell of wild garlic in the air.
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It quickly became obvious that what had once been a broad sandy stroll had fallen into the river. We could see upside down trees in the river and chunks of path missing
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As we strolled onwards our confidence grew that we were probably going to able to get through to the caves and continue onwards to our destination without too much difficulty.
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Lacey’s Caves were hewn out of the sandstone rock for Colonel Lacey of Sankeld Hall. Colonel Lacey was obviously a bit of a lad as he also tried to blow up the Long Meg stone circle. I’m not sure if the caves were a fashionable folly or a wine store. There are five interconnected chambers and I read somewhere that Colonel Lacey may have employed a hermit.
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After Colonel Lacey’s Caves we thought that we had had enough excitement for the day, but we were wrong. The council’s warning notice wasn’t just the usual council notice. The usual council notice forbidding passage due to dangerous conditions can be initiated by a pebble larger than usual being found on a beach or a twig falling off a tree onto a beetle. Today’s notice saying that the path was missing in places was true.

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The drops in the photo look fairly insignificant but my camera foreshortens things so swinging around the marker post was more exciting in practice than you might think. We could have climbed over the barbed wire fence but decided to stick to the country code and follow footpath markers.
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We bought a pice of brie a few days ago and it has been with me in my pack as we walk. Before setting out this morning we inspected this piece of brie and it looked ready. We packed some teaspoons in order to be ready to dig in when a suitable place to sit presented itself. We found a suitable place and ate the brie, all of it, it was like a delicious custdardy pudding.
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Years of morris dancing stood us in good stead as we strode confidently over the wooden path through the bog. No balancing poles for us. The circus life beckons after this demonstration of funambulism.
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The roads, on which we have walked today, have been incredibly quiet. Janet was standing in the middle of the road for ages reading the map, nothing came. It was as if cars, lorries, buses etc no longer existed.
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Tomorrow we head for Carlisle, a shortish day. This evening we have to work out how to get to Glasgow by foot. There are a number of options but which one will get the nod? Will we have to retrace our steps?

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June 11

Day 26 Stalled in Carlisle

I predicted yesterday that we would walk from Armathwaite to Carlisle today. This was the first confident prediction I have been able to make. As is always the case events makes fools of the wisest of us so the chances of events making a fool of me were weighted heavily on the side of events. Janet felt slightly seedy as we strolled yesterday but hoped to be on tip top form today. She didn’t feel tip top this morning so we decided to start out a bit later than planned should matters improve. All of this worked very well indeed as it turned out in the end.

I ate a hearty breakfast as Janet slept and visited Carlisle cathedral where I fell into conversation with the Canon. We chatted about various things of interest to us both and I learned much, both about Carlisle, its cathedral and the politics of Tudor England. Sadly, it was my turn to feel seedy as I returned to base after my ejoyable excursion so wandering about in the countryside became a washout for today.

We have been confronting a series of conundra (conundrums quonundra quanundra) this last day or two. The questions being, how can we get to Glasgow from Carlisle on foot? Where can we stay? Are the roads too busy for ancient strollers? It always amazes me how that which at first appears to be a setback finishes up being a blessing as a solution to all of these problems appeared, as if by magic, just because we were castaway in carlisle.

Janet, feeling better as I lay sleeping, read the account of a Lands End to John O’Groats person who used the Pennine Way to move towards Edinburgh then westward to the West Highland Way. Having read this account Janet wondered if there might a way for us to do something similar. The Long Distance Walkers’ Association Map suggested that the Hadrian’s Wall Way could be our saviour. All this took place as I lay supine. As a result of this relaxing reading we now intend to leave Carlisle by the Hadrian’s Wall Way and make our way to the Pennine Way.

As an afterthought. After chatting to the Canon I visited the cathedral. The ceiling in the the choir is very beautiful and well worth a visit but the high spot was a sneak preview of tomorrow’s choir performance. Not the choir but the soloist turned up, with his dad, in ordinary clothes, did some voice exercises and sang beautifully.

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June 13

Day 28 Carlisle to Newtown Farm

Try as we might we can’t find a sensible way directly north of Carlisle which will take us to Glasgow. I know that the sensible way is to buy a railway ticket and loll in the comfort of a Virgin Train West Coast express but that method is too effete for us. As a result we have thus set out eastward along the Hadrian’s Wall Path,
Thoughts of Rosemary Sutcliff’s Eagle of the Ninth popped into my head from time to time as we walked along. Much has changed since then as I am sure you will already know. I was surprised to learn that the purpose of the wall was as a means of controlling immigration, exacting custome duties and preventing smuggling rather than a defensive contruction. This suggests that Rosemary Sutcliff was a bit off the mark in her book.

The early section of the path takes the stroller through Carlisle towards the river, the cricket ground thence through a park where the rural evidence of grazing cattle is to be found everywhere by the unobservant feet of the passing stroller
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We found a worrying official notice pinned to a fence, once away from the town. The notice told us that the path was closed and unsafe after the winter floods. A diversion was in operation in order to save the stroller from his/her folly in following the original path. Remembering our last path closure notice posted by the Cumbrian authorities we carried on. Coming in the other direction was another couple of strollers who had negotiated the dangerous path with impunity. On asking them about the danger they said that to continue would be just fine.

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Once on the wall proper things became much more interesting. The stroll along the river was fine for those who needed somewhere to exercise themselves or their dogs, but it was only when we joined the wall proper and could see the various bits, the names of which Janet reminded me, that the stroll really came to life.

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We found the fabulous ‘Stall on the Wall’ a box filled with chocolate bars, crisps and soft drinks, all items neatly marked with prices and an honesty box.
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On passing the honesty box we found that the owner of this bit of land was also a lateral thinker. The field walls had become decrepit so he replaced the stones with baled tyres. At last a solution to all the tyres lying about at our place.
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The cattle are very friendly in these parts. They like to give your hands a good old licking if they get the chance.
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More snacks for the weary traveller on offer from an enterprising garden shed. Then home to Newtown Farm
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The Romans certainly liked straight lines. We have been almost geometric in our moves today. We strolled for ages in one direction then wiggled a bit then continued forward for ages again in a straight line. Tomorrow, more of the same.

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