Cumbria Way – Day 6

Keswick to Caldbeck

After breakfast it was outside and boots on ready to locate the trail that went behind the Pencil Museum

and across the footbridge over the busy A66. Up towards Latrigg passing Ormathwaite Wood the views were fantastic looking back over Keswick and Derwent Water in the distance.

As we were walking up the steep incline we met a lone walker from Chorley, Lancashire, who was doing the Cumbria Way. He was supposed to have been walking with others but they had let him down. He didn’t stop long as he was trying to make up some lost time.

The weather was overcast, but warm, as we walked on and around Latrigg and Mallen Dodd up to the car park where we saw fell runners heading on up towards Jenkin Hill, which was very steep. The path also provided more stunning views towards Thirlmere and St John’s in the Vale

before crossing Whit Beck

which was a lovely rest point and time for more picture taking. Then it was on and around Lonscale Fell – here the path is narrow so you need a head for heights and, as the next picture shows,

it’s not for the faint hearted. We walked

onto Skiddaw House,

a lonely YHA which opened at 5pm each day. As we had arrived too early for a cup of tea we walked on into the valley following the River Caldrew,

which was long and winding. On the path across the valley we met two Canadian ladies from Toronto

walking from Carlisle to Ulverston. The weather was cool but clear; the only other thing we had to watch out for was mountain bikers, lots of them. When we arrived below Coomb Height (a towering 627 metres) it was lunch time. As we hadn’t been able to buy any food because it was early Sunday morning when we had set off, we emptied our rucksacks of nutty bars, apples, Kendal Mint Cake, biscuits from the hotel, bananas, a chocolate bar and water. A most sumptuous feast was enjoyed by all! From here on it was up towards Lingy Hut,

a mountain rescue refuge,

at the top of Coomb Height. We followed Grainsgill Beck but not too closely as it was very boggy so we found an alternative path nearby. After a brief rest and an intake of oxygen it was off towards

High Pike passing Great Lingy the highest point of the walk at 658 metres . A most worthy high five achievement.

It was quite blowy on the top but the views were brilliant and we could see Scotland in the distance. We turned around only to see more fantastic views of the Lake District.

We stood a while before heading down towards low level countryside and the track to Caldbaeck.

The way looks obvious but you would be advised to check your bearings as that path actually leads you to Wood Hall Farm and Hesket Newmarket, a good 2-3 miles diversion away from Nether Row. We did a fair bit of road walking on narrow lanes and roads to Caldbeck,

arriving around six o’clock at the Briars Guest House. It was a quick shower before finding somewhere to eat in the village. The landlady recommended the Odd Fellows pub but as they stopped serving at nine o’clock it was a rush to get there in time. The place was almost deserted so we had no problems finding a table and we treated ourselves to steak and chips as a reward for the long day around Skiddaw. Also in the pub was the chap from Chorley. He was staying about a mile outside of Caldbeck and the farmer had dropped him off at the pub in his tractor. We chatted for a while until he had to go as his transport (ie the tractor) had arrived. It was 10pm and only one other person was in the bar so we decided to leave as our beds were calling.

Cumbria Way – Day 5

Rosthwaite to Keswick

This morning in the dining room we met up with an Australian couple and two Canadian gents who were walking the Coast to Coast.

The Australian lady clearly expressed her feelings of disapproval of her country’s politics (you’d have thought she was running for government). After breakfast it was out in to the early morning

frost and bright sunshine

to pick up the trail. We followed the beck

through picturesque woodland to Grange where we sat for a while

to admire the first sighting of Derwent Water

and the surrounding hills of High Seat, Castlerigg Fell and Dodd Crag.

Following our rest we continued towards Keswick. There were more people around now, something we hadn’t expected just yet as we were still some distance away. We had our first road walking experience of the day and upon meeting some cyclists we said hello to each one in the group; saying hello eight times by the three of us was quite amusing. As we neared the lake it was strange how people would try to pass without saying a word or even looking at us, but as we greeted them they had to reply.

We arrived at one of the jetties for the steamer on Derwent Water and here we met up once again with the DoE tutor who had previously helped out with a photo at the top of Stake Pass. It was just after this when we saw a woodland sculpture

in which we just had to give a helping hand to add a little colour and glamour.

On we went following the trail to just outside of Keswick. We stopped for lunch at a brilliant café where the food was very welcoming and the toilets weren’t bad either. After lunch Steve examined the maps to see how much further we had to go and

after crossing the suspension bridge

it turned out to be about another mile to Keswick. It was now getting busier and there was traffic noise; we weren’t used to this.

Then it was on into the town with its market and crowds. To me this felt overwhelming as we had had quiet for days and now there were bustling crowds of people.

We made our way to our accommodation the Keswick Park Hotel

where we dumped our gear and, after booking in, Margaret and I showed Steve the sights of Keswick as he was a newcomer to the area. We went to the lakeside

to admire the scenery and see where we had just walked from

There was a good view of Cat Bells (451 metres) from across the lake.

We then headed back to town for a delicious pot of tea and scones.

Now being refreshed internally we made our way back to the hotel to be refreshed externally before finding a place for an evening meal. We took the hotelier’s advice and frequented the Dog & Gun pub which served a wonderful pint of beer and to go with this we had a very filling Cumbrian Goulash.

Cumbria Way – Day 4

Dungeon Ghyll to Rosthwaite

The sun shone and the forecast was good which was encouraging; we had breakfast and got an early start. Well 9.30 was early for us! After Steve made sure we were ”Tickety boo and ready to go,“ we were off. We joined the trail at the back of the hotel and had a short scramble, another tough start after a hearty breakfast. Whilst following the track into Mickleden Valley, with Bow Fell on one side and the Langdale Pikes the other, we met up with two couples who were on their way to Scafell and discovered they were from France and from Argentina. We bade them farewell and continued towards Mickleden Valley where we could see some activity going on. It was the S.A.R.D.A. (Search and Rescue Dog Association) trainers preparing for an exercise.

Onwards we walked to the where the track divided

up and around Black Crags and Langdale Combe to Stake Pass.

On the way up the views were fantastic

and we could also see someone pushing a mountain bike up the zig zag path. Next we met a lone walker who had wild camped on the tops for two days and was making his way back home to Norwich. At the summit of Stake Pass we posed for a photo

with the help of the cyclist, who just happened to be one of the tutors monitoring the Duke of Edinburgh group we had seen the other day. We then made the very steep descent into the beautiful Langstrath Valley

and after stopping for lunch out of the wind we were on our way, following the stony trail alongside the beck to

Stonethwaite and Rosthwaite, when the weather looked like it would improve.

We found we had arrived early

at Rosthwaite for our stop at Yew Graggs Guesthouse, so it was back to the village, which happened to be another 5 minutes walk. At the Flock-It tearooms we had a well deserved ‘little’ (a pint!) mug of tea and a slice of cake.

On the way to the B&B we met a local walking his hounds in preparation for tomorrow’s fell run following an aniseed trail.

Arriving at our accommodation a hot shower was much appreciated and following a brief rest we ventured into the village for yet more fish and chips, accompanied by refreshments to replace any lost liquids of the day. Making our way back to the B&B it was good fun trying to name the masses of stars in the night sky and as we had very little idea the names took on a humorous tone.

Cumbria Way – Day 3

Coniston to Great Langdale (Dungeon Ghyll)

Following a relaxing breakfast watching the rain, we got kitted up and were on our way to find Tarn Hows. After my slight deviation, which was soon corrected, Steve thought I should be called El Capitano, as I was the organiser/overseer of the walking holiday.

So now we have El Capitano, Stumpy and Magellan.

There was a bit of a steep climb – this coming so soon after breakfast didn’t help our digestion – and the higher we went the more we could see of Coniston Lake behind us.

Due to the persistent rain the trail was slippery, but we finally got on to tarmac road

climbing, and then arriving at Tarn Hows Wood.

Here was a chance for more photos using the rather large frames put there for that very purpose.

Whilst we were here a group of students on the DoE, (Duke of Edinburgh) scheme came by and Steve helped them as they wanted a group picture. Next we followed the way on the west side of the tarn whilst the students went in a different direction; we later met them on another point of the walk. Moving on and crossing the A593 road to Oxen Fell, on the safe side of a wall and alongside the road, we met another group of DoE students from the same school. After a quick chat we continued towards Colwith Force, skirting around Little Fell, at 211 metres. Walking through the farm yard it was downhill to Colwith Force, a local beauty spot,

where we saw a few people walking but not many as the rain was still falling. After the Force we met up again with the students who were struggling to open a tin of tuna for their lunch, but even with our help and expertise we all failed so they carried onto their meeting point.

The trail then led us back to the road with a steep climb up steps to the A593 and Skelwith Bridge.

As we arrived at the Bridge we again saw the students, this time with their tutors. It was obvious they were heading the same way and there was a possibility of seeing them later on. After a chat with their tutors it was time for us to have lunch in the nearby tea room, Chester’s by the River, an excellent place to stop. It was a welcome relief to get out of our wet clothing and have hot soup and several mugs of Cumberland tea.

After lunch it was gear back on and walk to Skelwith Force to take more photos.

The trail led on to Elterwater Tarn and the village

and this was good walking terrain as most of the path was tarmac. From the village it was on to the old quarry road and across the stream to Chapel Stile where the track was muddy with

lots of loose stones / boulders and puddles. The weather had changed again to no rain, just cold winds, as we continued along the beck into Great Langdale and New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel with a view of Harrison Stickle behind it.

This was our next night’s stopover and the hotel was a welcoming sight as there we could dry our wet gear in the drying room. The evening was taken up in the Stickle Barn building across from the hotel, eating a local delicacy of “Tatty Pot”, (Cumberland sausage casserole with red cabbage and a wedge of brown bread) before another early night.

Cumbria Way – Day 2

Ulverston to Coniston

After a restless night’s sleep of pending excitement, and the biggest breakfast I have ever seen, it was farewell and off to the start of the Cumbria Way. As there were no refreshment stops between Ulverston and Coniston we decided to buy sandwiches, then it was off to the Gill where a very kind passer-by took a group photograph. After the photo session Steve checked we were “O.K. Tickety boo, ready to go?”

We walked on up the beck heading for Old Hall Farm, the weather was fine with some sunshine but the clouds were looming. At the farm we passed some building work in progress, I then noticed cows walking to the farm from another direction; luckily they were going for milking. Here was our first encounter with mud, lots of it.

Well it looked like mud but perhaps it was something else!!! 
Margaret decided that since her boots were now muddy she needed a bath.

After a clean up we were off to Higher Lath Farm

and our first ascent of a hill, where we had a brilliant view of

Hoad’s Monument and Morecambe Bay, before crossing more muddy fields and meeting up with more animals. We continued via Stony Crag to St John’s Church and on to Broughton Beck. Here our navigation was distracted by some unusual ornaments on a wall.

We crossed the beck as instructed by Margaret (now nicknamed Magellan after the famous explorer, as she had completed a navigation course). After some time it became apparent we were going in the wrong direction so after checking the map we returned to the ornaments on the wall where an obvious navigational aid had gone unnoticed.

Spot the difference.

Notice the sign in the photo which Magellan had not seen.

This little diversion over, and following the CUMBRIA WAY signs, we were now on our way to Knapperthaw and Gawthwaite and the looming landscape

of the Lake District. Steve noticed that his walking pole felt different and an inspection found that he had broken the end off his pole so as Margaret had a nickname it was only right that he had one, hence Stumpy was christened. At Gawthwaite we stopped for lunch and Steve and Margaret sat on a beautiful grey stone seat built into a wall to eat their sandwiches. In the enclosure behind them was a horse which, curious to see what they were eating, stuck its head over their shoulders so they bid a hasty retreat and found another place to sit.

After lunch we saw our first walkers of the day who were only doing part of the Cumbria Way. They strode on quickly as they were being picked up later before heading back to Barnard Castle. Here at this point the views were fantastic.

We headed off towards Beacon Tarn, climbing steeply and, as the guide book warned, it was boggy, big time; we had to find ways round the mud. At one point Steve (6’ 2” tall with a big stride to match) stepped across a gap but when Margaret (5’ 6” with a smaller stride) tried to follow him, she did not quite make it and got rather wet.

After her recovery, and a final look at Morecambe Bay looking across Beacon tarn,

we walked on towards Stable Harvey Moss and Coniston Lake. On the way we were caught up by the walkers from Barnard Castle who were nearing their finishing point. After a photo shoot

we said our goodbyes and were informed by them it was an easy walk now along the lakeside. Easy?? You must be joking; we had to contend with tree roots, mud and narrow paths on steep inclines, plus becks to cross. Eventually the terrain did improve

but then the rain started about a mile or two from where we were staying. After settling into our accommodation, Lakeland House, a quick clean up and change of clothes it was time for dinner at the nearby Crown Pub, where we enjoyed very tasty fish and chips and a pint or two before settling in for a good night’s sleep ready for the following day.

Cumbria Way – Day 1

Carlisle to Ulverston

After introducing ourselves to the landlady of the hotel Number Thirty-One where we were to stay on our last day, we left the car in a secure place and headed off to the railway station to catch the train from Carlisle to Lancaster then on to Ulverston.

We arrived early at Lancaster and spoke to a porter to see if we could catch the earlier train otherwise we would have to wait around (our tickets were pre- booked). Thanks to British Rail we were in Ulverston earlier than arranged.

We were walking towards our hotel Virginia House, which was only five minutes from the station, when suddenly, from out of the blue, a passerby asked me how I was enjoying the rucksack as he was carrying the same. After commenting on the air-flow system in the back he strode off into the distance and I turned to see Steve and Margaret following with big smiles on their faces.
At the hotel we off loaded our bags and upon asking the owner’s advice of where to eat, The Farmers was recommended. We took a stroll around the town, seeing the famous Laurel and Hardy museum and the Gill where we would start our walk the next day.

After an aperitif of Cumbria Way ale, which had room for improvement in our opinion, we headed for The Foresters, which Margaret confidently told us was where the hotel owner had suggested. We eventually found The Farmers

pub, NOT The Foresters, (Margaret was in charge of navigation which caused some concerns for Steve and myself ) and after dinner, served by a waiter from Bordeaux, it was back to the hotel for an early night as it had been a long day and we didn’t know what tomorrow would bring.

Cumbria Way

Preparation / Planning

My preparation consisted of going to the gym compared to Steve who walked most weekends and also went to the gym. Together we did a local walk alongside the river from Bewdley to Hampton Loade and back, a distance of approximately twenty-seven miles, and another time we walked over Long Mynd. Margaret, on the other hand, is a hardy walker with experience of Everest base camp, the West Highland Way, Glyndwr Way and many more.

I used Mac Adventures again as I was so pleased with their organisation, with a good guide book, map and baggage transfers which left us free to concentrate on the days walks.

The Route

Day 1 Stourbridge to Carlisle then train to Ulverston 278 miles
Day 2 Ulverston to Coniston 15 miles
Day 3 Coniston to Great Langdale (Dungeon Ghyll) 12 miles
Day 4 Great Langdale to Rosthwaite 10 miles
Day 5 Rosthwaite to Keswick 6 miles
Day 6 Keswick to Caldbeck 15 miles
Day 7 Caldbeck to Carlisle 14 miles

The Adventure Begins:

Years ago the BBC ran programmes on walks in Britain, which included the Cumbria Way. With my affinity for the Lake District, I wanted to do the walk.

Eighteen years ago I tried it. I went back-packing for the first time, only to make big mistakes, with a sixty-five litres pack on my back. I had developed blisters by the time I got to Dungeon Ghyll and had to give up.

Now eighteen years on, wiser, older and with two very good friends, Steve and Margaret,

(that’s me on the right) I decided to try again. Our journey began on September 18th leaving home in Stourbridge for a long drive to Carlisle to drop off the car ready for our return trip home.