Distance: 8.5 miles
This was the shortest and easiest day on the walk, according to the book. We had a choice of three routes:
Option 1: The easy valley walk
Option 2: The middle way going up St Sunday's Crag (lovely views)
Option 3: The long, high, terrifying route along Striding Edge and Helvellyn (need new pants afterwards)
If you have any done exercise of any kind that you're not used to, you will know that it's not the day after you exercise that hurts. It's the day after that. And if you happen to exercise even harder on this second day, it spills over into day 3. So by day 4 we hurt. A lot. Our feet in particular were feeling it.
We used a magic physio stick every morning and evening to massage our legs and feet, but even this diligence couldn't stop the pain we had in our feet after being on them solidly for three days.
So as we perused our options of which route to take, we were both in ready agreement that we should take the easy route, not least because we had a mega day to follow. We tucked into our full English with gusto before bidding farewell to our hostel and heading out into glorious sunshine. For about 20 minutes we walked past farms along flatish terrain but this is the Coast to Coast, which apparently means every day starts with a mega climb. This day was no exception.
We entered a beautiful valley with a bubbling stream and ferns aplenty . In the morning sunshine it was glorious. However, we were quickly stripping off as the climb continued up and up. Mr Stedman's name was being taken in vain once again as he had described it as a 'simple walk' in his book. We eventually got close to top where we admired the spectacular view behind us, cooled off in a lovely waterfall and then climbed a steep track to finally crest the hill. One of the amazing things about walking long distance is the ability to look behind you and see how far you have come.
Leaving the valley views behind us, we didn't have to wait long for the next bit of jaw dropping scenery. As we crested the hill we could see Grisedale Tarn shimmering in the sunshine ahead of us. Some of the crazy campers, as they came to be known, had wild camped there the night before. What a beautiful place to wake up in the morning. This really felt so remote and untouched, the way the world should be.
After playing hopscotch on some stepping stones we came to yet another stunning view across the valley we had to walk down. It was a long slow climb down on uneven, rocky paths.
We peered up at the high routes we could have taken and did have a moment of 'should we have....' but we needed an easy day and the climb up and ensuing down, while short, weren't easy. If I did it again, I would do the St Sunday's Crag route just for the views. I'm not sure I'll ever be brave enough for the other option. Apparently Wainwright waxed lyrical about Striding Edge being the best bit of the whole walk, but Stedman's description put me off: 'The climb is arduous and, having reached the top, you then face a nerve-tingling drop on a crumbling slope above Red Tarn, followed by a knife edge walk along Striding Edge.' Nope.
Once we reached the valley floor, the rocks gave way to a nice soft path flanked by woods. Pretty cows greeted us and the phrase green and pleasant land sprand to mind. A final field led us into Patterdale. After just 4 hours 15 minutes of walking, we were done for the day. And it was only lunchtime!
So that meant stopping at the Patterdale Hotel for a pint and salad (as you do) for lunch. Not sure quite what to do with all our free time, we walked on to Glenridding and caught the Ullswater ferry. For two and a half hours we simply sat, soaking up and sun, enjoying the views and mostly resting our feet.
And we talked. About everything. That's the thing about a long distance walk. It gives you the chance to really connect. It's impossible to make small talk for that many hours a day, so you start to talk about deep topics, the stuff most of us never have time to think about, much less discuss, in our hurried lives.
As the day was drawing to a close, we walked the final stretch to our home for the night - the White Lion Pub. The pub was a typical village pub with small rooms and big food portions, but across the road was the brilliant Patterdale Village Store, which has been put on this earth to serve walkers. It had everything you could need from blister pads to energy bars not to mention the famed Pork Rib sandwiches (which we sadly didn't try). But best of all was the noticeboard outside, which left encouraging messages from walkers who had met other walkers on route, telling them to hurry up or sending a cheery farewell. That board captured everything that is lovely about walking. Simple, honest, motivating and friendly.
We got an early night as the book said the next day was the toughest of the trip....