Saturday, 4 December 2010

Snow in November

On Patio
It started snowing on Ian's birthday, and has been at it ever since!  In one night it snowed 17"!!!
We haven't been able to use the car for five days now. Thank goodness htat we have a cracking local Spar shop, which has been doing a roaring trade. 
Today the temperature climbed into positive values- 1.5 deg C, and we decided to make a bid for freedom, and so did everybody else. The major roads are pretty clear and gritted, but the minor linking roads are practically impassable.  Today a tractor, fitted with a snow plough came and dug out the snow on our road, which was 3' deep in places!
We managed to get the car back up the drive, after our journey to the shops, although we did have to scrape the ice and snow away in places on the hilly access road.  Pre-Xmas "dos" have come and gone, no calls for supply work in school, as the schools are shut, so it's all a bit quiet.  Hopefully we'll be able to get family together for Xmas.

Baslow Edge
 In the meantime, we've had plenty of beautiful, wintry walks in the snow, and taken lots of lovely photos
Looking up towards the house on Eaton Drive

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Living Desert, Palm Springs

Just a few more blogs before I sign out for 2011!
Our last day in Palm Springs, and we planned to visit The Living Desert, which we called in on last visit.  It's a gem of a place, with coyotes, big horn sheep (who get a proper mountain in their enclosure), Mountain Lion, a Mexican wolf, peccaries, golden eagle, roadrunners and various other.  But  the real stars are the several fantastically laid-out landscapes, devoted to different areas and plants.  Trees and palnts from Baja California, Mojave Desert, Sonaran Desert, Chihuahua,and the Colorado Plateau.  All teeming with plants, birds and insects, with extremely helpful info about the qualities of the plant/tree and the uses the Native Amreican Indians put them to.  There was a special eco-botanical area dedicated to the Native Indians, with a number of "kish"/ dwelling places, built mainly using the Palm leaves, and a thriving garden, growing various types of beans, climbing up corn, with squashes grown for ground cover- "the three sisters" cos they're always grown together.  You can learn such a lot from this feature park, and it helps you to see the "barren, wasteland" desert in a more appreciative light.  The desert is a larder, full of plants of medicinal and nutritional value.
Back to the room, and Slipknot/ AC-DC are blaring out at 1pm,  around the pool- Americans' idea of relaxation!  I assumed "grumpy old woman" mode and pottered off to complain!  Time to go, I think.  (The couple in the room next door had got themselves all over-excited and went from hysterical giggling to a domestic at 2am! and once they'd quietened down, the couple upstairs were testing out the bed-springs for the next 10mins (at least, it was only 10mins!!!)
Looking forward to seeing the kids and "bump" tomorrow, after a mere 150mls to LA!

Baby Shower

Baby Shower Bibs
 Yep!  The only wet thing to happen since we arrived- The Baby Shower.  With all Andrew's workmates being male, this was always going to be difficult.  But Lizzy and friend, Alex/Lexy, the food was fantastic, and entertainment, imaginative.  They'd bought lots of inexpensive little baby vests, and fabric pens.  There was a competition for the best designed and drawn baby vest.  There were some incredible results.  Their friends were very supportive and generous, and Lizzy had a number of gifts and clothes to put in the nursery.

The following day, Ian and I went off to Babys R Us and bought a "stroller" from Gran, and "crib" from us, which we set up with Lizzy.  It's seems hard to believe that our little grand-daughter, all 18" of her, would be sleeping in this massive crib, which converts to a full-sized single bed.

The Stroller
Anyway, we left Lizzy resting back at the flat, went off to Santa Monica to the beach, had a brief swim in a very cold sea, lunch at Bubba Gumps, which was great, and then back into all the traffic leaving LA. So different to the last week, we were stuck in traffic, on a six lane highway- madness!

Gran's Woollen Jacket
We called in at the long-stay travel-lodge and booked our accommodation for two weeks next Feb, when the baby's due, then a hug goodbye and off to Venice Beach for a stroll and quesadilla, before dropping the car off and catching a shuttle to the airport.  We got talking over a beer, with a couple from Saskachewan, Canada, who were on their way to New Zealand.  Calgary's only a three hour flight.... mm!  Canada's not far away is it.  They told us about their lifestyle, hunting elk, moose and deer, and her husband was clearly finding it difficult, leaving Saskachewan in the height of the hunting season!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Through Four States to Palm Springs

Palm Canyon Palm Springs
A curious thing, there are four states and they're really close together in this area.  On the 400mile drive from St George, Utah, we passed through the canyons of Utah, and deserts of Arizona, through Las Vegas in Nevada to arrive six hours later in Palm Springs, California.  Now I'm not very happy with the laws in SoCal. Having been desperate for some fresh fruit, with no added sugar, salt or seasoning, Ian bought me some satsumas, which I was working my way through nicely, with at least 30 more to go.  Anyway, we were pulled up on some random agricultural check on Highway 15, and the beggars confiscated my satsumas, and left me with some poxy, tasteless golden delicious apples.  They didn't search the car for all the satsuma peel, which was mounting up on the backseat.  I think they just fancied some fruity snacks.  The irony is that the satsumas were from 2 miles down the road from Andrew at Sherman Oaks, in South California, so I'm not sure what all the fuss was about,.....and, he took my number plate.  I should have asked for his details, but didn't fancy waiting around whilst he went over our contents with a fine tooth-comb.
Anyway, not pleased!! I'd been so looking forward to the rest of those satsumas!!!
And another thing, US driving stinks!!!  You've got to get used to the fact that they overtake you on either side, insude and far-side, and it's all perfectly legal, if unnerving.  However they do have this good system in LA, of a lane on the 6 lane highway, at rush hour, or at any time, designated to car sharers.  If there's more than one of you in the car, you can use the much less congested car pool lane.  That is good.
We were to spend the next three nights in Palm Springs.

Jack Rabbit
Early the following morning we set off up the road to Indian Canyon, with its largest number of Californian Fan Palms in California.  All around dry, arid desert, with creosote bushes, cacti etc, and then this amazing canyon some five miles long with shady clumps of tall Californian Palms and running water, even at this particularly dry time of year.  The Cahuilla Indian Reserve covers the whole of this area and there were several Indian Park Rangers on duty.  It's easy to understand why they considered this to be a sacred place.  It must have been such a haven of tranquillity in this cool oasis, after spending all day in the heat of the desert.
We walked along one of the numerous trails for about three hours and then headed back to the hotel. 
Back to the Strip in the evening for a Mexican meal and bed by 9.30pm.  It's dark now by about 5pm, since daylight saving came in.  Forecast for the coming week- sunny every day, with temperatures in the 80sF, and cool at night- in fact, quite chilly tonight.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Bryce to Zion National Park

Another bitterly cold start- minus 5 deg F, with wind chill, feeling more like minus 10!  Could n't wait to get back into the weird wonderland of Bryce Canyon once more , before the short drive into Zion Park.  Bitterly cold but blue sky.  We parked up with the intention of walking another of the several trails, and set off from Bryce Point but after about a hour, we decided to turn around, as the next section of the trail was again in shadow and the wind was ripping through.  We opted for the sunnier and more sheltered Queens Garden trail, which we'd already done the day before, but was so attractive and packed with amazing sights, that it could stand to be repeated.  Again more beautiful photos but this time with blue sky, rather than the snowy greyness of yesterday.
With more snow forecast here for the afternoon, we headed south and down to a warmer elevation.  Our ultimate destination, St George is at 3000', rather than over 8000'.  A short, two hire drive took us to Zion National Park, about 80 miles away.  This is a deep narrow canyon, with curiously named towering cliffs, beloved of climbers, and there were three of them toiling up a precipice.  In the base of this canyon, and this is what makes it so attractive, is the meandering Virgin River, which gushes and flows through, creating an oasis for aspens, maples and cottonwood trees.  At this time of year, the canyon is a blaze of autumnal colour, vibrant yellow aspens and deep red maples.
  In the Spring, there are waterfalls tumbling down the cliffs, and filling pools.  Even though it was so out of season, and a chilly day, it was much busier than Bryce and the Grand Canyon, and you feel it more because there's only one easily accessible trail, the Riverside Trail.  I would not want to do this at a busy time, but today it wasn't too busy.  Only drawback was the limited number of trails, the majority necessitating a hair-raising, steep climb up the cliffs, to what I'm sure must be impressive views, but after what we'd seen on our travels, I didn't feel a burning desire to do a steep climb up, followed by a worse, steep climb down.  But, in spite of that restriction, we were still very pleased to have seen Zion in all its autumnal glory.
With more bad, snowy weather forecast for the next few days, we felt we'd been lucky to visit Bryce Canyon so late in the season, and glad to be heading somewhere warmer.  So two nights at the Holiday Inn Express, St George.  After the comparative isolation of the last few days, St George seemed buzzing and vibrant.  Lonely Planet describes this area as being as dull as dich-water, but we felt that was a bit unfair.  People are polite and very friendly. 
The day after we set off for Snowy Canyon State Park, which was on the door-step, and mentioned as a little gem by LP guide.  A much lesser known, and understated park, with a fee of only $5, but it turned out to be a great place to wander and experience desert walking, with very few visitors, apart from guys in RVs parked up, overnight nearby.  Again a number of well-marked trails through varied terrain.  We went on the Hidden Pinyon Tree trail, recommended by LP, and it didn't disappoint.  The trail weaves through and over tight passage ways and boulders, opening up into views of the "snowy" white limestone mountain in the distance, petrified sand-dunes, red cliffs topped with "black varnish", and lava outcrops.  All along the trail are up to 20 markers, describing the plants and features that you come across, one of the most curious being the "creosote bush", which is older than the giant redwoods, and have many medicinal and household uses for the Native Indians.  I rubbed it beween my fingers, which then had a distinct smell of TCP!  Amazing plants- don't appear too showy and colourful, but had so many uses for those "in the know".  I love these little information sheets!  These State Parks are just wonderful, and the Americans look after them so well.

Lunch at another Cracker Barrel (which we'd googled-how sad are we!) and then, believe it or not, Ian went shopping with me.  New Balance trainers for $45 and a couple of things from Ralph Lauren outlet, at a great price.  Ate at a Red Lobster that night.  Everyone we saw drinks water or soft drinks.  The stranger sight is guys propping the bar, drinking coke!  We were the only ones having a beer, which can be really expensive, but it seems that the drink-driving laws are strictly enforced and offenders will be"prosecuted aggressively".
So "I'll have an Iced Tea, please"!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

240 miles to Bryce Canyon

Just a mention before we set off for Bryce Canyon.  Kayenta, where we spent the night, is on Navajo Land, which means that signs in shops are in their own language, and the occupants are nearly all of Navajo origin.  Apparently the Navajo Nation is the largest of all reservations, attributed to the fact that they are skilled at adapting and assimilating.  Their territory extends over 17million acres across NE Arizona, NW New Mexico, and S Utah and between a quarter nd a half are Christian - so that explains the Christian churches.  After you've spent a few days driving around their lands, you get the impression that it could only be the Navajo who could manage to live in such hostile, desert environment.  There is a striking difference between the poorer Native communities and the more comfortable, affluent American towns and villages nearby.
Another point of interest- we called in to read a display about the role that the Navajo Codetalkers played in the war with Japan in WW2.  The weird thing was that the display was adverised as being in the Burger King!  It seemed that the Navajo language is so complex that it was indecipherable and so the Americans were able to communicate, without fear of comprehension by the Japanese.  Such a commendable skill praised in such a mundane setting.  Maybe the thinking was that plenty of native people would  see this information here and feel pride in their history.
Anyway, onward!
On the way to Kanab we almost ran into a Roadrunner bird, of Tom and Jerry fame!  Beep, beep!  Unfortunately moving too fast to get a photo.  A flightless bird, it's able to run at amazing speed, its legs a blurr, managing to successfully cross a highway!  So chuffed to have seen it.
We continued gradually climbing past Red Canyon, on to a high level, narrow plain with cows and horses and a few ranches.  up and up and we finally arrived at Bryce City, altitude 8000'+.  There's hardly anything here, and what is seems to be owned by Ruby's, who established a hotel and staging post here in 1820s.  There's two Best Westerns on the site, a petrol station, gift shop, restaurant and a few houses and that's about it- the City!  Remarkably, we'd covered nearly 300mls by about 1pm, with just enough time for a sneak preview of the Canyon.  With the temperature dropping to just above freezing, we set off on the Queens Garden Trail, having paid our $25 park entry fee.
This place is so WIERD!!!
Thousands of rocky "hoodoos", caused by erosion, rising up from the canyon floor, as far as the eye can see.  Looking like something out of Gaudi's imagination, like melting wax, like toy soldiers, like a cathedral, like ....nothing on Earth.  With snow flakes starting to fall, we weaved our way along the intricate, cleverly arranged paths which drop you down among the hoodoos.  Absolutely stunning, and culminating in a glimpse of a hoodoo named after our Queen Victoria, and it's pretty accurate. 
With deteriorating weather we drove back to our stop at the Best Western Grand, opposite Ruby's.  The Lonely Planet guide is disparaging about the city and its food reputation, but we couldn't fault it.  Great hearty buffet and reasonable prices.

Monday, 8 November 2010


Another cold and frosty morning as we set off at 7am. for Monument Valley, in Utah state.  People seem to get up very early around here, but then things are pretty quiet by 10pm.  200miles down the Navajo Trail Highway, and about 4hours later, we arrived at Kayenta, about 30miles away from Monument Valley.  After featureless, vast sand and desert, there were signs of the wonders to come- rocky, spikey outcrops springing up out of the flat plains. $5 each allowed us into this sacred site of the Navajo.  The Navajo-owned hotel The View blended into the landscape, and we could drive along a dirt track through this amazing landscape.  Vivid blue sky, red earth, and massive rocky sculptures rising dramatically out of the desert.  We drove along the very rough track to John Ford Lookout, where we turned around and enjoyed the whole thing again but from a different perspective.
We returned to the Holiday Inn, Kayenta, an unpretentious hotel in this bit if a backwater.  Admittedly it was Sunday, but the area had a distinct end-of-season feel.  As with the Grand Canyon, it was quiet here also, perfect for us, but many places do seem to shut down in October.  Kayenta is distinctly Navajo, and all the people in the shops and cafes have similar Navajo characteristics- round, moon faces.  Babies in papooses, just as you'd imagine they've been carried years ago.  The other interesting fact- great evening meal of fajitas with water- yes, water- it is illegal to sell alcohol on Navajo tribal lands, so water with your meals or non-alcoholic beer!
Although we'd booked in for 2 nights we decided to stay only one night- because we'd seen all there was to see here in one day!  and because we had a very long day of 300miles drive tomorrow to Bryce Canyon, where we decided to spend the night instead to give us the best chance of exploring the area the day after. 

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Walking into the Canyon

Forgot to mention yesterday- we called into a Cracker Barrel for breakfast- couldn't face the long wait at the Holiday Inn, with under-staffed and over-stressed service.  Great move- the breakfast was amazing.  I'm not a breakfast person, and struggle with the over-sized, over-flavoured, over-sweetened food in the USA, but these breakfasts are astounding.  With a choice of healthy right through to artery-damaging indulgence of ribs and grits!  Opted for middle-of-the-road- buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup, two perfectly-poached eggs and turkey meat patties- fantastic.  It's got a old homestead style all of its own, with rockingchairs lined up for sale, on the porch, and all timber and cosy-cabin inside.  The waiters and waitresses look like they've walked straight off the set of "the Waltons"-  America at what it does best!  I had to make sure I made a reference to it!
Anyway, as for today, off on a hike into the Canyon, but not until we scraped the ice off the car, on a freezing cold morning.  Keep forgetting we're at over 6000'.  It reaches a very pleasant 70deg F during the day, at present, dropping to below freezing at night.  In the evening you need a warm jacket, unlike in Las Vegas and LA where it's still warm enough at night to walk around in a short-sleeved top.
We drove to the Visitors Centre, which is only 15 minutes away from our base at Tusayan, ideally close to the Park. From there, we caught a green route shuttle bus to the Kaibab Trail Head.  Still chilly, we began the breath-taking descent down into the Canyon.  Breath-taking because of the views, not because of the route itself, which was a wide, easy walk, zig-zagging down at a pleasant gradient. An old mule trail and still currently used to transport visitors up and down.  After a long descent through the various strata, with fabulous views, as the sun lit up the canyon, we reached the ridge route, which would take us on to Skeleton Pt.  Stopping to gaze deep down to a glimpse of the Colorado River, you are overwhelmed with the scale of what you see.  Distances are deceiving. Continuing along the ridge, we reach Tip Off, at about 4 1/2 mils on the trail and decision point.  We'd descended about 3000'.  The advice is that you don't attempt to descend all the way to the bottom and back in a day, as it's likely to take about 13 hours, to say nothing about how strenuous that would be.  Later we would be able to glimpse the wooded campground, and other overnight accommodation down by the river, at least another 1500' down.  We could go back the way we came, or do something a bit more interesting.  We opted for the latter.  We'd got quite a bit of water left and a couple of Snickers, as we headed off on a traverse of the Tonto Trail, heading west.  The Tonto trail also goes on for miles and miles in an easterly direction.  In Spanish, "tonto" means "stupid".....Anyway, starting to a bit tired now and crossing the head of yet another ravine in the plateau.  Fortunately it wasn't too hot today, but I can imagine you have to be very careful walking in this forbidding place.  You do get a feel for the vastness of this area, when you embark upon one of the numerous trails into the canyon, rather than sticking to the Rim Trail.  Another 4-5 miles later and we'd finally reached Indian Garden, having spent two hours crossing from one trail to another!  Indian Garden is in an oasis of green and yellow trees and reeds, with babbling water, and a timely supply of fresh tap-water.  There's a campground here too, but don't think that the canyon is full of facilities, because it certainly isn't.  Water is very scarce, and even fit athletes have died from being under-prepared and over-ambitious!  A couple of years ago two women, one of whom had completed the Boston Marathon in 3hours, got into trouble in 100deg heat, having taken very little water on a long hike.  One ran on to try and get help, whilst the other waited until dusk, and the temperature dropped.  The woman who tried to get help died of heat exhaustion, whilst her friend survived.  A sobering thought, as we began the ascent back up Bright Angel Trail.  Today was cool and in fact the last two hours are in shade.  The trail weaves across buttresses, and disappears around bends, so you look up and can't see where the path leads.  All you can see is a succession of impenetrable rock cliffs, with no way up.  But there is a path which leads on through a narrow gorge, as you climb up and up.  You know you've nearly reached the top, as more and more day-trippers come towards you, with smarter clothes, having the curiosity to walk down the first 200' and then realising the scale of the task ahead of them, turn around and head for car or bus!  After just over 7hours walking, we look down at where we've been.  You look back down to Indian Garden and it doesn't really seem so far away, but when we look on the map, we see we've walked about 15miles, and it was a great route.  But hard! 

Saturday, 6 November 2010

East to Arizona

Andrew and Lizzy went back to North Hills and we set off east to Arizona, to the Grand Canyon. We set off at 7am and arrived at the Grand Canyon National Park at about 1pm. The incredibly straight road rises through impressive desert landscape, through high level scrub and pine, rising to about 6000’ at Tusayan, just outside the park, where we were staying at the Holiday Inn Express.

We left the car at Mather Point for our first glimpse of this epic spectacle. It’s overwhelming and leaves you emotional and speechless. A gaping great scar eroded in the earth, about 10mls wide and 270 miles long and one mile deep. AWESOME. Different rock layers laid bare, pink and grey.

With a few hours left before it went dark at 5.30pm, we decided to do a gentle walk from Bright Angel Lodge along the Rim walk to Hopi point. There are several clear paths, graded according to terrain, distance and height climbed, clearly described in the Visitors Centre. The views from the rim walk are astounding, and can be accessed on foot, by bike, by wheelchair, by shuttle bus, by helicopter and by the Colorado River! The best thing about these national parks is that you are not able to approach by car and all the tourist tat is left at the shops outside the park. Everything inside is unspoilt and natural. Brilliant! After about a hundred photos taken into the canyon, it was time to head back. A steak and a beer at the steakhouse across the road and then back to do the blog. It couldn’t be more different here than last night in Las Vegas. Tonight’s “strip” had a Texaco garage, a couple of food marts, a few motels, Wendys, a Mexican, a Pizza place and that was it!!! Also average daytime temp 70 deg rather than 80deg, and plunging at night to a cool 55deg. But then we are 6000’ up!! Back to bed for 8.30pm and planning to get off early for a walk into the canyon on the South Kaibab trail to Skeleton Pt. tomorrow. Great names like Brahma Point, Vishnu Point and Wotan Plateau….

Friday, 5 November 2010

Daytime Las Vegas

So glad we saw the Strip all lit up at night, but today we toured in warm, then later hot sunshine.  Awake at 6.30am and writing the blog, breakfast with Andrew and Lizzy and then off to the Strip, whilst it was still cool.  We walked along down to Paris, with its amazing replica of the Eiffel Tower, then on to New York -New York, with its Statue of Liberty, and MGM.  Inside MGM were literally thousands of slot machines, millions if you multiply by the number of facades on the Strip.  We succumbed and put in $2, that's 50cents each, winning first time a total of $16 for the "baby fund"!  The lovely BMW car, that Lizzy was hoping for, was not to be ours today!  However, the Rough Guide quotes that the average person loses $635, so we had to be satisfied with our winnings and 800% return and move on.
We walked back towards the Belagio Hotel and went into the casino to the celebrated buffet, which exceeded expectations.  Lovely antipasti, sushi, fresh shell fish, cooked meats and fish, fresh vegetables and fruit and delicious puds- all for $22 each, which we thought great value.  Nice surroundings and attentive service.  Trouble was the wine and beers were a bit steep.  but would definitely go again.  Lizzy agreed that although all the gambling part is a bit gross, there's plenty of other stuff to see, and I'd definitely come back here for a show- currently playing The Jersey Boys, about the rise to fame of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, and also would like to see Cirque du Soleil show another time.
A really hot walk back and a siesta!
Right next to our base was a BahamaBreeze, one of a small chain, and we decided to opt for this as it was easier than getting shuttle into town and roaming the streets again, It proved to be an excellent choice and much better than last night.  We opted for appetisers, rather than main meals, which were still big portions, and plenty for all, washed down with mojitos and Sam Adams beer, with Lizzy, in stirling fashion, sticking to non-achoholic cocktails!  Great night and back to bed by 8.30pm, (Laura would be proud of us!  The time she came here on Mark's stag party, she didn't sleep much at all)

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Arrival at LA and on to Viva Las Vegas!

After a short delay and a long flight of just short of eleven hours, we arrived in LA.  We remembered the short trip to North Hills really well and arrived at Andrew's without a hitch.  Inermediate car hired from Alamo, a Ford Focus.  Good service. Ian's Tom Tom worked a treat.
Andrew (or should I say, Frank Zappa's baby brother!) and Lizzy both looked well, especially Lizzy with her larger than expected tummy!  It was great to see them both, after nearly nine months apart.  Andrew had shaved his hair for Halloween, and it did give me a fright!  Fortunately, it was not going to be a permanent style, and was starting to grow back.
After just one night, we all set off for Las Vegas, in seperate hire cars.  Six hours stree-free driving and we arrived in a tardis in the middle of the desert.  It doesn't look so big on approach, but as we wandered around later that evening, it was massive on the inside.
Anyway, to the hotel first, the Holiday Inn on Flamingo and Paradise Rd.  Lovely rooms with swimming pool, unheated at this time of year, and a bit chilly, as we later found out!
A brief swim and rest in the hot, hot sunshine, with temperature of 84 deg F, and then into town.  There was an excellent shuttle, because it's a bit too far to walk,  We were dropped off at The Venetian, with its impressive foyer, and painted ceilings.  We spent some time in there, wandering around "St Marks Square", with actors singing "Nessun Dorma", gazing over the Canals, with actors singing "Just one Cornetto!" and ornate italian frescoes and statues. The whole canal complex is upstairs! Weird.
We ate at Gilleys at Treasure Island, which was basic and expensive fayre $30 each, and not that good.  Then a fairly pacy walk to find The Bellagio, past the massive Caesars Palace, the Trevi Fountain and Colliseum!  We were inside the Bellagio, when the water display was happening, but said we'd go back tomorrow, and visit that end of the Strip.  The Strip looked brilliant, all lit up at night, and there's plenty to see and do, without even having to set foot in the gambling areas, which are all a bit overfacing and give you a desire to shout out in an evangelical voice "The End is Nigh!"
We rang for the shuttle back to the hotel, and then experienced "the magic carpet" of Las Vegas.  It was too easy to go with the flow, and we ended up being transported back into the shopping area of The Venetian.  We had to make a conscious effort to work our way towards the front of the building to the pick-up spot.  Everything is designed to get you in, and you have to work it out for yourself, how you get out!  Sneaky huh!

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Coast to Coast Sept 2010 Day 13

Grosmont Steam Railway
Day 13- Sept 13 OUR LAST DAY

Glaisdale to Robin Hood’s Bay 19mls. 1640’ascent

Weather- cloudy am. Becoming wet and windy!

What a shame it’s likely to be wet today- our first, and last, wet day on the walk. I can’t believe how lucky we have been, and how different the walk could have been.

AW loved the variety of the last leg of the walk, and it certainly lived up to its description.

Our first stop- a brief look at Beggars Bridge, an old, picturesque 17th century bridge. Then a lovely walk through Arncliffe Woods, along the riverbank, and on to Grosmont and Grosmont Station. We were lucky enough to arrive just as a lovely old steam train was waiting at the platform. To the sound of its horn and the deep chugging sound as it pulled away, we began the very steep climb up, 1 in 3. Phew! On to open moor again- Sleights Moor, and a deterioration in the weather had us struggling in the wind to don overtrousers. Across the A169 Pickering road and over the moor, with views of Whitby Abbey in the mist, far off in the distance, and south to the “golf balls” of Fylingdales Early Warning System. Dropping down into the beautiful little village of Little Beck,we were on a woodland trail, later joining the falling Foss forest trail at The Hermitage, carved out of the rock in 1790, you can sit inside to shelter from the weather. On towards the Falling Foss waterfall- spectacular and the Falling Foss Tearooms- even more spectacular!!! My lunch consisted of two cakes and a great pot of tea, sheltering in the lovely tea-room gardens, under large garden umbrellas. Up over Sneaton moor, AW cruelly sends you North to the village of Hawsker, about 3miles out of your way. You appreciate why, later, when he has you doing a “lap of honour” around Ness Point, before arriving in RHB. But at the time, after such a long walk, it’s hard to think positively about such a detour! The only blot on an otherwise astonishingly beautifully scenic day, is the trail through Northcliffe caravan park, which seems to go on forever. But it doesn’t and before long you’re on the coastal path, up to your knees in mud, but exhilarated to be so close to the finish. With RHB in sight, a sense of achievement starts to creep in!

Throwing pebble into North Sea

Tired and filthy, we arrived at Wainwrights Bar in the quaint little village of Robin Hood’s bay. A romantic place in itself, but even more so for Ian and I, because we spent a weekend here when we both students, over 30 years ago! Ian had met us on the coast path, in fact he’d planned to meet us coming through Hawsker, but missed us, whilst taking shelter in the pub!!!

We threw our pebbles from the West coast into the sea on the East coast, and had photos taken etc. There’s a plaque on the outside wall of the pub, saying “The End- Coast to Coast 190miles” and it’s hard to believe we’ve done it, but we have.

A couple of pints of beer in the pub. Fish and Chips from the chippy. A long drive back almost to the start to drop Col off in Lancashire!!

Robins Hood Bay - Wainwrights Bar

Four weeks ago now. Knees finally settling down, but had been swollen for several days afterwards. Two black toe-nails. Need to wean myself off beer and pie, chips and peas!

I’d definitely do it again- Would do the high level route in the Lakes, if the weather was conducive- wouldn’t recommend it if it weren’t. But planning on an alternative to the trudge around Ennerdale Water, opting for the route of the Ennerdale

Coast to Coast Sept 2010 Day 12

North Yorks Moors
 Day 12 Sept 12 Clay Bank Top – Glaisdale 19mls 984’ascent

Weather again bright and sunny, but a cold breeze

As the figures suggest, a long but reasonably flat walk ahead today. Sitting in Judy and Stuart’s comfortable kitchen, enjoying a delicious cooked breakfast, talking about dogs and horses, and anything else, just to relax in their cosy house, it was very difficult to get going today!!!

But ahead a day of reliving the moment of 30odd years ago, when I ran the next section, as part of the Clayton-le-Moors Ladies bid for coast to coast run inside 24hours, which we achieved easily, thanks to Vanessa Brindle, Wendy Dodds, Karen Taylor and the like- all superb fell-runners. I ran my section with Ian in , and would expect to take significantly longer today.

After a brief climb up from Chop Gate, where Stuart deposited us, the only climb of the day almost, we pushed on over Urra Moor. Then we steamed along the disused Rosedale Ironstone railway line, with fast walking across the North Yorkshire moors. From High Blakey moor, we could see the Lion Inn at Blakey, the only building for miles.

We stopped there for some soup, and as I went inside, it was really impressive. Although only lunch-time, there were candles on all the tables, with the rambling dining area, spread out over three rooms. Very welcoming staff, and after I’d glimpsed the massive table full of various desserts, I was wishing that, like the Bamford Builders, we were staying here for the night.

But no such luck, we were bound for Glaisdale. After a break, in which we were caught up by the Calver mother and daughter, Danish and Martin, we were off on the flat again. This happened a lot- your never on your own for long, and are constantly joined by the same groups of people at lunch and break stops.

A brief stop at “Fat Betty” stone, to make an offering of chocolate, and pick up someone else’s trail bar, round Great Fryupdale and over Glaisdale Moor and then down into Glaisdale. Well, actually, we were staying at a farm for B&B- Hart Hall dairy farm, run by a lovely couple, Elaine and Dave. They politely requested that you waited until after 7am to have a shower, as it affected the electricity supply to the milking parlour. A very busy couple, raising a dairy herd, milking twice a day, caring for calves born during the night, running a B&B, and raising a family! Colin gallantly accepted the Harry Potter-sized bedroom under the stairs, because Australian John had taken his room upstairs. He’d had a much shorter walk today and, having arrived early, had bagged one of the two rooms upstairs! He’d been a pain on the first morning, having bagged the shower for his personal en-suite, and kept us waiting to use the loo! Ah well!

Just a note about the pub in the village- don’t bother going- food was great but some younger locals need to get out more! What passed for entertainment seemed to be a woman with a freakishly long tongue, who stuck it out suggestively, at any given opportunity to shock and amuse, I suppose, whilst her mates farted and burped their way through the evening! Hmmm! A good argument for increasing the gene pool in some rural areas!!

The best part of the evening was spending it having a meal with Birgitte (Danish) and Martin, a lovely couple living in London, both in the acting profession.

Coast to Coast Sept 2010 Day 11

Lord Stones Cafe

 Day11 Sept 11 Ingleby Cross to Clay Bank Top 11mls 2545’ascent

Weather wet start then became dry and bright

I was dreading today, as my knees were still very swollen. A lot of ascent, and more worryingly, descent today, but a much more interesting day in prospect. The Cleveland Hills.

We woke to the sound of Blackpool Donkeys having their breakfast, singing songs, and taking their tents down in the rain! Sooo glad I’m not doing that!

First a climb up to Beacon Hill, laden with its famous transmitters, with forest trails, giving way to moorland. The purple heather was looking wonderful, and we passed a team of grouse-beaters at work, raising a few grouse for the shoot. Then up and down, and up and down, until we came across the terrific little Lord Stones café, hidden in the trees, which is a bit further than half-way. Time for a nice bit of soup for lunch and a cracking cuppa, and then off again

Up and down to the end of Cold Moor, finishing with the impressive Wainstones- rocky outcrops. A lot of up and down today, but better than I was expecting. Knees sore but responding to regular anti-inflammatories. Knee support making a huge difference also.

We were staying at Stuart and Judy’s B&B tonight, and we rang him beofr we dropped of Hasty Bank and lost signal. For £35, we were provided with B&B, transport from and back to Chop Gate, and transport to and from the pub at night where I enjoyed a very filling Chicken Parmo, a local delicacy. Fantastic. Nicest, most comfortable place to stay, and difficult to wrench yourself away from, after a hearty breakfast in the morning!

This was where my leg of the relay started from, when I ran it 30odd years ago, with Clayton Harriers. The Blackpool Donkeys had another long day today, because they were going all the way through to the Lion Inn at Blakey Ridge (21mls), but then they would have two shorter days- to Grosmont (65mls) and then RHB(15mls).

Lots of different ways of doing this final section. Still bumping into the same groups of people on route. Mum and daughter from Calver were staying in the same B&B and sharing lifts with us last night.

Coast to Coast Sept 2010 Day 10

Ingleby Cross and Blue Bell
 Day 10 Sept10 Richmond to Ingleby Cross 22.7mls 560’ascent

Weather wet, then cloudy and mild later.

The most uninteresting, featureless, miserable part of the walk, but you do chalk up a good chunk of mileage, through the Vale of Mowbray. Arable/horrible land!!

Danby Whiske pub half-way, and lunch available. 8mls of boring road walking to follow. Most exciting bit was legging it across the busy A19 dual carriageway!

Relieved to arrive at the Blue Bell Inn, Ingleby Cross, where I’d booked B&B. Good place. Great food and good pub atmosphere, where we met all the usual suspects, Bamford Builders and Blackpool Donkeys, and Calver mum and daughter. Great atmosphere, chatting together. For me, one of the most important elements of the walk is socialising afterwards over a great pint! No sign of Danish and Beano, who, it transpired, had got very lost!

Not much else to say for today!!!

Apart from the fact that I’ve never had haute-cuisine pie, chips and peas before, served in beautifully presented little portions!

Coast to Coast Sept 2010 Day 9

Get Pints In....Richmond
Day 9 Sept 9 Reeth to Richmond 10mls 1100’ ascent

Weather Cold but sunny and windy

We walked along the river Swale towards Marrick Priory. Now an adventure centre, it was established in the 12th century, as a Benedictine Convent. Up through the wood over the 375 steps, known as the Nun’s Steps, and on to the village of Marske. Down to Clapgate Beck and the “Applegarth Riviera”, with magnificent views down to the river Swale all the way to Richmond, and its castle. A lovely easy day today. A day for ambling and enjoying. Not as dramatic as previous days, but pastoral and gentle.

Richmond is a bustling market- town, with all the facilities tired, sore bodies might require. So we opted for a new pair of socks, and a couple of pints! We were met by Ian at the pub. Hand-made, delicious cakes were on sale at the indoor market, so I bought a few for tonight’s pudding, as we wouldn’t be able to return to town this evening, the site being a least another 2mls away.

It wasn’t easy to find a site, but we opted for the nearest at Brompton-on-Swale. Ian and Colin headed straight back, but I opted for a little detour to Easby Abbey (ruins), and St Agatha’s Church. I’m glad I did, as the church, which dated back to the 10th century was full of marvellous medieval wall-paintings, dating back to 1205, depicting the story of Adam and Eve.. Then a lovely walk on through pastureland to the campsite.

Easby Abbey

This is not quite the route described by AW, which stays south of the river, whereas we’d had to go north slightly to find the site.

Coast to Coast Sept 2010 Day 8

Campsite Keld
Day 8 Sept 8 Keld to Reeth 11mls and 1790’ascent, depending upon which route you take

Weather Misty, damp and autumnal

Both routes start the same. We began today by watching sheep being rounded up by quads and ten sheepdogs, working in pairs, and driven over the narrowest of bridges. Just below Crackpot Hall, the route divides and you decide whether you want to follow the river Swale, or take the higher level route through the abandoned lead mines. We opted for the higher route with stunning views over the river valley. In the end, we made a mistake, and found a third route, through farms and villages. As it was, I’m not sure it was such a bad mistake, as the route through the mines sounded like a bit of an ordeal, being rough underfoot, and AW does recommend you find your own way! But the point is, that in many places the route is unmarked and indistinct.

Our route took us a lovely pastoral way, through Gunnerside and Heerlaugh, very quiet, isolated hamlets, all the time following the river Swals but from a higher level.

Crackpot Hall

We met Ian at Orchard Park caravan and camping site, in Reeth, set in an orchard, but quite difficult to find. Reeth seemed like a lovely place, with a village green and a couple of pubs. Ian and Colin went for a pint at the Black Bull. Danish Pastry and Beano recommended this as a place to stay, with the best pub food so far.

I stayed at the van, with frozen peas plonked on my knees again!

Coast to Coast Sept 2010 Day 7

Nine Standards Rigg
 Sept 7 Day 7 Kirkby Stephen to Keld 13mls 1690’ascent

Weather bright and breezy

Woke to a much better morning than expecting. After calling at the Chemists for knee supports and anti-inflammatories for very swollen knees, we were raring to go.

Kirkby Stephen is a lovely little market town, well off the beaten track, and a bit like stepping back in time, in a nice way.

Prospect of a very boggy terrain ahead.

It was an exhilarating walk up to the Nine Standards Rigg, very unusual stone cairns, approx 12’ tall, standing in a row on the brow of the hill overlooking the Eden Valley. They are visible for miles around. The next section of the walk follows a number of different routes, depending upon the time of year. From August to November you take the blue route, which takes you over boggy terrain and down into the delightful Whitsundale Beck. Although our feet were soaked it wasn’t as bad as we were expecting, as we dropped down to Ravenseat, and Amanda’s tea-rooms, as seen on TV. Sitting outside at a picnic table, laden with cream tea, home-made strawberry jam and delicious home-made scones, in the afternoon sunshine, in this beautiful stretch of countryside that I’d never seen before….I thought I was in heaven. Birgitta and Martin, alias Danish Pastry and Beano, clearly thought the same, as they were grinning from ear to ear. Worth the effort.

Ravenseats Cream Tea
We continued on following the Swale down towards Keld, past a series of waterfalls. Passed a really nice campsite, Park House, where the Blackpool Donkeys were staying, on the left approaching Keld. Then passed Butts House B&B and then onto our campsite, Park Lodge. A bit basic, but superbly situated with views down the valley to Swaledale. Called in at the Keld Lodge Hotel for a pint. Nice place but expensive.

What a wonderful place Swaledale is! The Lakes are magnificent, but Swaledale is magical also! Keld- a tiny little hamlet in an unspoilt area, which I know I’ll visit again soon.

Coast to Coast Sept 2010 Day 6

Crossing the M6 at Shap
Day 6 Sept 6 Shap to Kirkby Stephen 19.8mls 1755’ascent

Weather Cloudy and breezy

Another long day but much less climbing than we’re used to and much easier under-foot. Consequently a bit faster!

Today’s route began straight opposite the pub, over the M6 and skirted the Hardendale quarry. A far cry from the beauty of the lakes, but still a wild and lonely place. Looking back we could see High Street and the distinct promontory of Kidsty Pike. Already beginning to miss the Lakes, but looking forward to the scenery to come. Looking ahead and to our right we could clearly see the Howgills, getting closer and closer as we approached the village of Orton, where we stocked up on sandwiches and drinks for lunch. On past Sunbiggin Tarn, which sounds more scenic than it is, and on to Smardale. Descending to Smardale Bridge, and looking across the valley to the hillside ahead, you can make out two large earth mounds, 15m by 3m, known as the Giant’s Beds, of unknown origin, although they are certainly not what their name suggests! Wainwright remarks that this section of the walk contains a number of sites of prehistoric and primitive settlements, if you know what you’re looking for!

With a view down the valley to Smardale viaduct, we began the last climb of the day up Smardale fell, where we met up with Ian, who had spent the previous night back at Grasmere (while we were at Shap). He walked with us over the fell and into the village of Kirkby Stephen. As the campsite was some distance outside the village, we opted for a pint and some fish and chips, (though not in the chippy frequented by AW, as that one was closed), before the long walk on to the campsite. Pennine View campsite- Good site and good facilities, but the weather turned very nasty during the night with strong winds and rain. Poor Colin was stuck in the tent!

Alternatives- The Black Bull pub where we had a pint and met Steve from Leeds, who was finishing half-way today and returning for the second half at a later date. Also B&B at Redmayne House, recommended by the “Blackpool Donkeys”, on Silver St, £28 per night and large bath! Could do with a bath now, rather than showers!

Absolutely shattered tonight and quite low. Extremely sore knees. Went to bed with frozen peas on my knees!

Coast to Coast Sept 2010 Day 5

Kidsty Pike

Day 5 Patterdale to Shap 16miles 3265’ ascent

Weather sunny and breezy

Prospect of a tough, long day, with a continuous climb for 5miles up to Kidsty Pike, passing the delightful Angle Tarn, with views down to Brotherswater So lucky. Again, a beautiful, sunny start. Felt a bit sad to say goodbye to the crags and the mountains, but pleased to have easier walking ahead. Up and over The Knott, and at the Straits of Riggindale, there was a sharp left turn, which we missed and started climbing up High Street. We’d not gone far before we realised something wasn’t right. We should be able to see Kidsty and we couldn’t. We were joined by Martin and Birgitta, who we were to get to know better over the coming days and nicknamed them Danish Pastry and Beano, on account of Birgitta being Danish and martin wearing a stripy hat. Martin found it interesting that the four of us had a different take on where we were. The fact that all four of us weren’t sure where we were was certainly interesting! On turning around, we realised that a steady stream of wanderers were all continuing in the opposite direction and the Pike could be seen very clearly in the distance!

Photo call on the top of the pike and then a steep descent down to Haweswater reservoir and a long walk around the edge to Burn Banks.

Goodbye to the Lakes and then next 5 miles takes you over lovely pastoral land, following becks and streams, and ending up at Shap Abbey. I never knew this place existed and what a little jewel at the end of a hard day. Destroyed by Henry VIII, it dates back to the 12th century.

We walked along the A6, the highest main road in the country, through Shap and on to the Kings Arms. The departure tomorrow is right opposite the pub. The pub was great, with welcoming staff, great, inexpensive food and lovely en-suite room. After a couple of pints and beef and ale suet pie, chips and peas, off to bed early, full, clean and sore feet and knees! Up and off early tomorrow- 6.15 for 7 am breakfast and another long day.
Angle Tarn

Coast to Coast Sept 2010 Day 4

Looking back into Grasmere
Day 4 Grasmere to Patterdale 8.5miles 1635’ ascent

Weather gloriously sunny

Later start because there’s no need to rush another lovely day. Off at 9am. Lovely climb up Tongue Gill to Grisedale Pass and Grisedale Tarn. Two alternatives here. The main path takes you past Ruthwaite Lodge shelter and follows Grisedale Beck into Patterdale. Or you could climb Helvellyn, which means descending the precipitous Striding Edge, or you could climb St Sunday Crag, two ridge walk alternatives into Patterdale. We took the view that we’d earned our stripes on the second day, and that both these ridge walks would be lovely day walks in their own right. But in view of the fact that we still had 9 more days walking to complete, and that tomorrow’s walk took us over Kidsty Pike and was 16miles, we decided to play safe and take it easy today, and stuck to the route following Grisedale Beck. We were collected in Patterdale by Ian, who had found a site some distance away at Matterdale. It’s a bit remote here and few sites.With lovely views over Ullswater, with the Steamboat sailing across the water, we drove to our site at Troutbect in Matterdale, between Penrith and Keswick. New boots felt brilliant but feet really sore. Sore knees too- slept with frozen peas on them during the night!

Heavy pack tomorrow, as we overnight at a pub in Shap. After two short easier days, two longer days in prospect- 16 and 20miles and what would have been the highest point of the route, Kidsty Pike, had we not done the higher alternative on Day2.

Coast to Coast Sept 2010 Day 3

Rushup Edge
Day 3 Rosthwaite to Grasmere 7miles 2000’ ascent

Weather warm and sunny

An easier day today. I’d practised this section before, from Rosthwaite to Patterdale in one go, and it proved a hard 15 miles. I’d already made the decision to break it up at Grasmere, if we could find an overnight camp. It seemed a shame to rush trough the Lakes, and I don’t think I’ve ever spent much time in Grasmere. So two easier days in store. Probably as well, because yesterday’s enthusiasm in the high hills had taken its toll on knees and feet! Couldn’t face my boots today, and opted for trainers.

Beautiful walk up alongside Stonethwaite Beck and Greenup Gill, with delightful views back to Borrowdale. You can’t help feeling quite sad that you’ll not be seeing these sights again. This is a one way journey, and you’re leaving Borrowdale behind. But not for long. Ian and I both like coming up here for a couple of nights, in the van, to do some walking. Round Eagle Crag and a little scramble up Lining Crag, over Greenup Edge and down to Easedale. With hindsight, and a better pair of boots, I wish we’d gone over Gibson Knott and Helm Crag (the Lion and the Lamb0 and would definitely do that next time. It looks like a more pleasant route than the direct scramble down Far Easedale.

We landed in Grasmere nice and early, and this was like Shangri-la for three reasons. Firstly I managed to get my feet measured and bought a new pair of Meindl, light-weight walking shoes in the sale for a bargain price of £45. Not being waterproof, they would have been risky, but lucky for me this was to be the driest 13days walking ever. Interesting that I had been wearing a pair of boots at least one whole size too small, so no wonder I was single-handedly supporting the blister plaster industry! Secondly, Ian managed to find a club site in a playing field in the centre of Grasmere. The Caravan Club were having a rally, which they do a couple of times a year, and we were so lucky to be able to stay. Ian returned later. They’re having another rally at Easter, so we’ll be back for that. Thirdly, a hotel/bar five minutes walk away were holding a beer festival, with 30odd guest beers! Wow- one guess where we ended up that afternoon and evening. BBQ outside by the van, in the evening sunshine. Later that night, standing in a beer test with a live, blue grass band playing and the prospect of more good weather to come. It doesn’t get much better than this! We’ve only been to the Lakes a few times this year and nearly every time has been great weather, but I never expected it to be this good.

Coast to Coast Sept 2010 Day 2

Blackbeck Tarn Haystacks
Day 2 Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite via the high-level alternative route 18.5miles

Weather- warm and sunny

We’re amazingly lucky to wake up to another bright day. We’d decided to do the alternative high level route if at all possible, because it takes you via Haystacks and Innominate Tarn, where Wainwright’s ashes were scattered.

1.5miles to Ennerdale Bridge, and then a 5mile tricky trudge around the south shore of Ennerdale Water. Next time I’d probably walk along the forest road on the north shore, because it was a difficult bit and you couldn’t enjoy the views because you had to watch every footfall. But there were spectacular views up to High Stile and Pillar, and you get a real feeling of remoteness here, that you don’t get in some parts of the Lakes.

Leaving the lakeside, we began the steep climb up to Red Pike. Towards the top, I realised that my camera must have slipped off the strap at the bottom of the hill. I wasn’t going to go back down for it, and lucky for me, the guy from Leeds who we met last night had picked it up and was following us up the hill. Phew!!

Up and down to High Crag, and a steep descent off to Haystacks and a little pause at Innominate Tarn. Wouldn’t want to do this in poor visibility. The top of Haystacks and the route off seemed very confusing and indistinct. Wainwright’s resting place is awesome, especially on such a clear, sunny day, with the surrounding mountains reflected in the dark water of the tarn.

The trouble with navigation is distances and working out how fast you’re moving. Carrying about 15pounds in weight, the answer is not very fast, about 2mph, including food, drink and navigation stops. We were consistently not a far on route as we thought we were. There are absolutely, and quite rightly no waymarkers in this section. We got very lost in Honister quarry, failing to find the Brandreth fence, Drum House and the old tramway and playing safe by trudging all the way down the road from the quarry. A miserable end to a wonderful day on the hills.

We finally arrived at our re-union with Ian, at the campsite at Chapel House farm, Borrowdale, at 1930, after walking for 10.5 hours. Absolutely spent. Ian was getting worried about us!

Very, very, very sore and blistered feet. Sore, inflamed knees. Asked Ian to get two packets of frozen peas for them!!

Coast to Coast Sept 2010 Day 1

Ready for off - St Bees Head
As a member of Clayton Harriers running club, I once took part in a relay event from the west coast of England to the east. Specifically, my involvement was a 20mile stretch across the North York Moors, finishing in Glaisdale. With Ian as my partner, we took the pebble “baton” from the previous runner, and completed the section in the fastest 20miles I’ve ever run-- . I always said I’d return one day to do the whole route, as a walk, and thirty odd years later, I finally got around to doing it! So here’s the record of that walk.

Ian offered to support and bring the campervan to cut down costs. He didn’t want to do the walk, because after the delights of the Lakes section, the rest of it would be “tedious”. Our mate, Colin, was up to the challenge. Wainwright would have approved. T’owd fella disapproved of groups of walkers, but conceded that if you must take a friend, it ought to be a “silent” one- Colin met this requirement perfectly. As he was to remark on numerous occasions later, I could talk for the both of us!!

Sept 1/ Day 1/Almost the end of the school summer break (so hopefully things would be a lot quieter)

St Bees Head to Ennerdale Bridge- 14.5 miles`2315’ ascent

Weather- bright and sunny- good start

After spending the night at Colin’s, in Lancashire, we set off just after 7am for Whitehaven and St Bees on the west coast of Cumbria. What an out-of-the-way place! You get to the Lakes and then a longer way over to the coast to what feels like a dead-end. Finally arrived at the start for about 10am. Quiet, quaint and unspoilt, a stretch too far for most people to travel to a beach. Pretty village, with St Bees Head promontory towering over the long, grey beach.

Quick cuppa and then off we go, with a very important detour to collect a pebble from the beach, to be thrown into the sea at Robin Hoods Bay 13 days later. The walk hugs the coast, and, similar to the stretch near RHB, it sends you about 3miles in the opposite direction! You don’t mind though. It’s a lovely day, and not a stretch to be rushed. With clear views of the Isle of Man, about 30miles away, and the later views north to the Solway Firth, it is a wonderful start. The sky is blue and it’s exciting to know that we’ll be covering some of the quietest and more remote parts of three busy national parks- the Lakes, the Yorkshire dales and the North York moors.

We pass through the quiet little towns of Sandwith and Cleator, ex-mining towns. On this stretch the C2C is well-marked, but we manage a bit of a wrong turn, but after a bit of a detour, start to ascend Dent, a welcome change from the flat,urban land previously. A steep descent and scramble into Nannycatch Gate, as pretty as its name suggests, a lovely little ravine and stream. We followed the beck for what seemed like ages, but was in fact only a couple of miles. After almost 7hours of walking we arrived at the B&B, Low Cock How Farm, Kinniside, our first stop. Large place with bunkhouse. Very friendly welcome, and a cuppa made for us the minute we arrived. Hearty evening meal, pre-booked, and packed lunch for tomorrow. Only down-side- loo downstairs! No mobile phone signal. Decided to walk to the pub in Ennerdale Bridge, but took a wrong turn at the end of the drive, and after 3miles, gave up and returned thirsty. In view of the loo arrangement, maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing. Hope our map-reading improves!!

At the evening meal, we got a foretaste of the variety of nationalities who undertake this walk. There was a couple from Atlanta, a guy from Melboune, who did n’t seem to be in good health, and spent ages in the bathroom, where he’d made himself right at home with his wash-bag etc .More of that later!! We were told that Bill Bryson was 2 days ahead of us, walking for a cancer charity.

Lovely couple who ran the B&B. They told us about Cleator “Little Ireland”, an iron-mining town. This is quite a poor area, not touristy, totally dependent upon the nuclear power station at Sellafield, which currently employs about 7000 people. Crucial for the town’s economy.

Only Day 1 and thank god for Compeed blister plasters!!!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Murren - Schilthorn


We woke to a beautiful, clear blue sky, and so set off, sandwiches made and packed for a great day out in the mountains. A different walk to yesterday, not as much distance, but a good climb up Schilthorn, about the equivalent to climbing Ben Nevis, when starting at the lovely little village of Murren. The journey from Grutschalp to Murren is breath-taking, with clear, close views of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. I think it’s one of the best views around.

We chose the longer route via the Rotstockhutte, which takes you over delightful pastures, meadows, climbing higher and higher, pausing to turn around and admire the views of the mountains, and the meadow flowers, the Blumental. Stunning!

Then up and up, past the Hutte, where people can opt to stay for refreshments, and even overnight, if they want to experience the still of the mountain evening.

Up and up, and you cold clearly make out the Piz Gloria on the top of Scilthorn, with its James Bond connection. Then a scramble over scree. The last hour is an exciting climb using via ferrata and stairways up the mountain-side. Hard, but much easier going up than down. No blisters, and no strain on the knees. Really enjoyed it, and reached the top in just over four hours. Down by cable-cars and train to Lauterbrunnen, to a very hot afternoon, and a beer. Germany play Spain tonight, so a trip to the camp bar and restaurant might be called for!