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Deborah and Gwen's
Coast to Coast Diary
DAY 7 – a blocked path by a labour ward drama
Sunday 23rd July
Shap to Kirkby Stephen – 23 miles
We can not thank Margaret enough for such a wonderful stay at Brookfield. Our 23 miles today required an early start and she was more than happy to serve breakfast at 7.30. In fact nothing seemed to be too much trouble for Margaret. The dining room was elegantly appointed right down to the fresh flowers in crystal vases on each table. Margaret had made fresh fruit salad which was superb, beautifully served in a bone china dish set on a doily and then on a matching tea plate – are you getting the picture? We had ordered smoked haddock which was cooked to perfection and finished with toast and preserves all served with a pot of good tea and plenty of hot water. We didn’t actually leave until 8.40 despite our earlier breakfast; this was mainly because Margaret has a certain order in which she likes to do things. In particular, the albeit wonderful, packed lunch she provides comes individually wrapped and labelled and arranged on a large oval plate ready for each guest to pack away. In her defence the lunch was well worth the wait. Just as we were leaving I took a quick photo on the steps and asked Margaret to be in the picture – that phased her a little but not as much as the laundry incident earlier. Before breakfast she presented our freshly washed and dried clothes and was most upset that some of the items had picked up the colour from a rouge blue sock I had included by mistake. She took quite a lot of reassurance that I knew it wasn’t her fault and that I didn’t mind anyway. Despite her fussing I would recommend anyone staying in Shap to make a beeline for Brookfield, Margaret is one of those hosts who genuinely care that you have a good time.
Once on the move again we walked the first mile or so with Steve and Sean, crossing the M6 together but then pulled away as we walked up the quarry road. I think they take a while to get going on those blisters. Soon we were met by a large truck hurtling down the dirt track followed by a massive dust cloud, Mum just froze and kept her eyes and mouth closed for as long as possible. We couldn’t really complain as we weren’t quite on the public footpath yet. As soon as we were off the quarry road it became much more pleasant as the landscape became wilder and the views opened up to the Howgills. As we approached Orton we started to walk through areas of limestone pavement strangely dotted with huge granite boulders, presumably a product of a glacial age. We stopped to sample Margaret’s famous almond tarts near Robin Hoods Grave and Steve and Sean caught up with us just as we were ready to move on so we left them airing their feet. We chose to bypass Orton, saving ¾ of a mile. This proved to be a good choice as we met Henny and Albert rejoining the route after a fruitless trip into the village to find refreshments. I’m sure there are lots of other reasons for visiting Orton but we weren’t feeling particularly cultural with 13 miles to go before Kirkby Stephen.
We lunched under the shade of one of the few trees, high on Ravenstonedale Moor. The Brookfield packed lunch living up to its legendary quality. There was quite a bit of road walking today but the most traffic we ever saw was the end of a cycle race near Orton. We also encountered surprisingly few walkers. A second stop was made at Smardale Bridge where we bathed our feet and finished the lunch goodies. Delicious fruit cake, I must remember to write and thank Margaret – dare I ask for the recipe, I hope it’s not a secret.
The last few miles were over moor and pasture land, we passed some ancient settlements but by now our interest in such things was waning and we never did see any ‘Pillow Mounds’ so talked about in the guidebook.
The final drama of the day occurred at 6 p.m. as we approached the pass under the Settle to Carlisle railway. We could see a group of cattle gathered on the far side of the underpass and as we reached the metal gate between us and them we could see that a young cow had just calved. The tiny black calf was lying right behind where the gate should open. Wary of the fact that all mothers are very protective of their young we waited for the youngster to stand up and hopefully move away. 15 minutes later we were still standing there and mother and calf showed no signs of moving. We had several options – open the gate, climb over the gate or negotiate the railway line. We chose the second and very gingerly climbed over the gate at the end furthest away from the calf. We kept a careful eye on Mum but she seemed engrossed in licking her new offspring. Exiting the situation saw us clambering over a nettle filled drinking trough and tiptoeing through some rather large cowpats. Quickly we were on our way again and as pasture land gave way to country lanes we arrived in Kirkby Stephen.
Fletcher House was our destination, next door to the YHA in the main street. Gillian and Steve were waiting for us in the front garden and welcomed us into their very spacious home. After the usual post walk ablutions we dined at the Black Bull where the meal was very good but the lime and soda overpriced. We stocked up on moisturiser and lip balm from the CoOp and retired for the night.
Thought for the day:
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