Distance: 20.5 miles
We woke to the sound of rain on the roof, ordinarily one of my favourite sounds, but not when you are faced with a 20-mile walk in it. Getting out of bed, every bit of us ached. In fact there wasn’t too much about the day ahead that was getting us excited. The book described it as ‘something of a recovery day’, mainly because it was flat. And it turned out that it was flat. But it wasn’t a recovery.
After a hearty breakfast of porridge, we donned our full wet weather gear and headed out. But by the time we’d crossed our first slightly uphill field, we were roasting and stripped off, resigning ourselves to simply being wet.
We crossed the M6 with its roar of traffic, view of ugly factories as the backdrop. What a contrast to the peace and natural serenity of the morning before.
We plodded on, trading places regularly with the Aussies, who by now we were speaking to although there still seemed to be an underlying edge of competition between our two groups.
Apparently there were some archeological ruins somewhere as well as Robin Hood’s Grave. We missed them. Or if they were there, they were unremarkable. On we plodded. Stone walls. The occasional crumbling farm house. Sheep. Sheep poo. More stone walls. Fields. Heather. Another field. Another field. We kept looking for somewhere to stop for lunch, but each field as was as wet and uninspiring as the next.
We eventually slumped down next to a stone wall, found a spot sort of free of sheep poo, and tucked into our squashed egg mayo sandwiches that the hostel had made us. They were delicious and despite our unglamorous surroundings and the fact that we were wet through, it was one of my favourite lunches on the walk. The sheer idiocy of our endeavour made us laugh a lot.
After a sock change, we soldiered on. The afternoon was no different to the morning. More wet fields. And more. And more. Just miles and miles of stone walls marching stalwartly across swathes of green. We did see an abandoned railway line, a viaduct and Victorian bridge but that was about it.
As we neared Kirkby Stephen, we passed a man in his eighties carrying a full pack. We walked with him a while. He was doing the coast to coast as his own pace. He said he didn’t mind the miles, it was the stiles that he had to climb over that did him in. But he had no schedule. He simply walked as far as he wanted to, then camped for the night. What a brilliant chap.
At last, looking very much like drowned rats, we arrived at our hostel, a converted church the front of which was decorated with many abandoned boots now serving as flower pots. To be fair, our boots felt as though they were growing things too. We were greeted by a jovial Denise who showed us the drying room, which was steaming with piles of wet kit and gave us a hot cup of tea. Revived, we managed a quick visit to the laundromat to wash our kit. Hooray! Fresh socks.
After a pint in the Black Bull pub, we headed to the Mango Tree for a curry. Apparently it is the place to go as most of our fellow walkers were there, so a jovial evening followed. The only two walkers missing from our posse were Tracey and Dave, the crazy campers, who were determined to do the walk on a budget and were feasting on tinned mackerels and smash. Rather them than me.
We fell into bed aching all over and wondering how we were going to manage another day.