Distance: 15.5 miles
The book had warned us that day 5 was a bit of a beast. 15.5 miles and over 1300 metres of climbing, including the C2C summit – Kidsty Pike. Luckily, our feet felt better. Perhaps they were toughening up at last. We hadn’t got much sleep as the pub was right on the road and every time a truck went past, it sounded as though it was going to plough through the wall and into the room. Luckily we avoided that fate and tucked into a full English (again) in preparation for a big day of walking.
Glorious sunshine greeted us as we headed off by 8.15am, ready to seize the day. We immediately hit our first climb, as was rapidly becoming the C2C norm. Up and up we went, ‘huffing and puffing’ as predicted by the book. At last we got to Boredale Hause, a flat bit where the book tells you that you’re likely to get lost. We actually had to pull out a map and compass for this bit to ensure we were heading in the right direction. (Just a side note on signage - in the Lake District, there are very few C2C signs. Those that are there are typically handmade by well-meaning people. That's because Wainwright's C2C is not an official national trail so doesn't get funding for signs. Later in the walk, in the Dales and Yorkshire Moors, there are more signs.)
Fairly confident in our route we headed off and then noticed a man walking just as purposefully in the opposite direction. Not wanting to be like the Australians from day 3, we called out and asked if he was doing the C2C. He was. We politely pointed out that he may be going the wrong way. He agreed and decided to follow us. Possibly not a wise choice given our track record but we didn’t tell him that.
We could not have chosen a more gorgeous day. As we walked along a hillcrest, we could see our shadows far below us. It’s little moments like these that put a smile on your face and make you want to sing ‘What a wonderful world.’ We met another walker, perched on a rock, having a snack. He told us that we had stunning views awaiting us and that a herd of red deer were just over the ridge. That’s the thing about walkers, they’re friendly. They’re happy to stop for a chat.
We walked on and came to Angle Tarn, another jaw droppingly beautiful setting for wild camping, which indeed several people were doing. They also told us that deer were nearby. So we walked on quietly, keeping a keen look out. Finally we were rewarded – a herd of deer dotted along the side of a hill in frankly majestic scenery. Sadly they were too far off for a decent picture.
After watching them for a while, we had to bid them farewell as we still had a very long way to go. We started our second ascent. It was long and hot. Finally, it plateaued, but we weren’t done with the hills yet. We still had to ascend Kidsty Pike, the highest point on the C2C. Reaching the top at last we surveyed the amazing scenery, behind us overlooking Scaffel, Helvellyn and St Sunday’s Crag and ahead of us, the glistening Haweswater.
And then it was time to say farewell to the Lake District and head down. The only thing more exhausting that going up, is going down. By the time we reached a bubbling stream at the bottom, our knees were speaking to us in curse words. But we took our boots off, cooled our feet off in the stream and had a lovely chat to the US bloke called Ken who we’d prevented from going astray early in the morning, and the crazy campers who had spent another night wild camping next to a tarn.
Fed and watered we hoisted ourselves back up and tackled the long, hot two-hour, fern-lined walk along the banks of Haweswater Reservoir. It has plenty of ups and downs, including one described as ‘annoyingly steep’ by the book, and indeed it was.
At last we arrived at the pretty village of Burnbank. We walked through shady woods, enjoying the cool, when we came across one of the little delights you find on long distance walks - an honesty box. A sign told us that the box was managed by a 13 year old boy. Opening the box we found cold soft drinks and chocolate bars. What a treat after a long hot walk! And how fabulous that we live in a world where you can leave a fully stocked box and the accompanying money and it doesn’t get nicked!
We continued through the woods, passing a sign for Hobbit Walk alongside a pretty stream. Then on through field after field of buttercups and wild flowers before at last, catching a glimpse of Shap Abbey. At this point we were tired, but we had a problem. Cows. Lots of them with calves and they didn’t look the friendly variety. So we skirted their field, adding on an extra 20 minutes (we both vowed to eat beef that evening as payback). We arrived at Shap Abbey and had just a very brief look around because frankly by this point our feet were telling us they’d had enough.
Late afternoon we finally emerged at our hostel for the night, New Ing Lodge, a very nice independent hostel, complete with the useful services that make walkers' lives easier - like boot drying and laundry. Beef wasn’t an option so we headed out to the local chippy that had a bring your own beer policy, which we did, before heading back and collapsing in our beds. We had a 20 miler to face the next day.