Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Day 5 Shap to Kirkby Stephen 20 miles

We were woken at 6:20am by the sound of heavy rain and water overflowing from the gutters and crashing down outside our window, not the nicest of wakeup calls, but a wakeup call all the same. I got up and started to prepare our things for the day, packing all the bits and bobs away and made us both a cup of tea.
We headed down for breakfast at 7:30am with our bags now ready to go upstairs. We sat chatting to Ian and Charles over breakfast, and met a lady called Wendy who was walking her second C2C on her own whilst also camping much of the way, only upgrading to the bunkhouse (also available at New Ing) due to the poor weather conditions. 
After breakfast we got our boots on (mine were still a bit wet from yesterday) and hit the road, destination Kirkby Stephen. As we walked through the village there was a bit of a C2C parade, Ian and Charles, Dave and Val, (orange and green coat) and some other familiar faces all heading for the M6 foot bridge.
The rain had stopped, however it was very wet underfoot we headed out across Hardendale Nab past the stone circle (which we didn’t stop to see on this long and weather threatened day). As we walked along our attention was continually drawn to fine views of the Lake District skyline, Kidsty Pike from yesterdays walk looking surprisingly far away, and also towards the Shap fells. Amongst the fine views, pockets of rain showers were also visible which would continue to pester us all day.
We pressed on past Orton, through sties, gates and walls meeting various farm animals along the way, including some lovely small ponies we stopped for a chat with, before stopping for lunch perched on a dry stone wall near Sunbiggin Tarn.
Looking back we’d lost sight of the other C2C walkers we’d set off with earlier that day, given the weather and the 20 miles we had to cover we had a good pace about us, although not quite as good as the Australian who always headed off first thing.
We pressed on past Orton, over Ravenstondale moor (where navigation needs to be watched closely!) before eventually arriving at Smardale Bridge and started picking up the first signs for Kirkby Stephen. Today just seemed to go on forever, whether it was the Lake District or the weather taking its toll on the legs, or perhaps the anti climax in views after leaving Lakeland, or maybe the anticipation of arriving in our first town “cash machines, shops, launderette, food and beer” we didn’t know, but it went on and on and on.
Frustration began to set in for me as the heavens opened once again, and once again the water proofs were on, and once I had them on, it stopped get the picture, on off, on off and so on.......... After a little throwing about of my rucksack, along with some colourful language aimed at the weather, we regained composure and pressed on the final few miles which seemed like 100.
We eventually arrived in Kirkby Stephen at about 17:45, suitably dishevelled, very muddy and tired. As we checked in to the Black Bull Hotel we walked in to a pretty rowdy bar area to confirm our booking, we were of course asked to remove muddy footwear which I was happy to do.
After a brief chat with two blokes who were walking C2C (who would become Tony & Peter) who had walked from Orton that day we headed up to get organised. Sarah quickly gathered the dirty clothes, including our waterproof pants which looked like they’d been dug up and headed off to the laundrette.
I had a much needed shower, which felt like the best shower I’d ever had after today’s efforts. In fact, the rooms at the Black Bull are really nice and good value for money; we even had a jar of complementary jelly babies in our room, and a TV which is not as common as one might think on the C2C route.
Once Sarah returned she got showered and changed and after quick brew we headed out to buy some lunch for tomorrow, collect our laundry and get something to eat. After sorting lunch and the laundry we headed for the Kings Head Pub over the road. We’d remembered this from our C2C a couple of years back being a really nice pub with good atmosphere for C2C walkers. However, when we walked in it was like something out of a western film . . . .empty, with the exception of a dog and one or two locals looking at us like we were aliens. The best thing about the place was the beer, Spitfire ale on draft, very nice!
After the further disappointment of discovering they now didn’t do food due to kitchen renovations we drank up and went in search of a meal, following our noses to a Chinese restaurant, which turned out to be really nice.
After our meal we retraced our steps, bumping in to the Australian, who was soaking up the Kirkby Stephen nightlife, which didn’t take long. We called back at the Kings Head for another nice but awkward pint of Spitfire, before going back to the Black Bull, where we should have stayed in fairness, as the food looked really nice and they had Wainwright Ale on draft.

We headed to bed about 9:45pm, and watched the weather on our intermittently working TV, which, guess what...said the weather was not only improving but getting warm, dry and sunny later in the week!
And another long day complete, we fell asleep dreaming of a day’s walking without waterproofs, and maybe even wearing our sunhats and sun cream, imagine that................

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