Wainwright's Coast to Coast Walk
Day 3 - Stonethwaite to Grasmere
I awoke to a gray and rainy morning, with some dismay, peering outside my window at the rainswept valley. Luckily though, the rain appeared to be quite light, so I headed down for my 8am breakfast in the hope that the weather would clear up later. Of course, I had to expect a little rain in the Lake District, and on the bright side I only had a short 11 mile journey ahead of me - up and over into the neighbouring valley of Grasmere.
One good thing about staying at a farm is that you get a nice breakfast - freshly laid eggs, sausage and bacon... just what I needed to set me up for the day ahead. There were a few other walkers there, including an American couple (more specifically, the husband was American) who were part of the big guided group and also heading over to Grasmere. The other three walkers were going all the way to Patterdale, and I certainly didn't envy them, given the weather!
I managed to set off just before 9, rejoining the path alongside Stonethwaite Beck.
To my surprise, the weather wasn't too bad, and I quite enjoyed the freshness of a bit of light rain. I passed Dock and Brian shortly after setting off, who were having some trouble with blisters, and after stopping for a brief good morning, I continued onwards. I felt quite relieved that my feet were holding up ok - really the only issue I'd had was a bit of stiffness in the old muscles. But despite hobbling around like a cripple in the morning, I found that once I got going, I soon loosened up.
I continued along the path, heading past Eagle Crag as Stonethwaite Beck became Greenup Gill. The weather was getting continually worse, and not only the visibility dreadful up ahead, but it was hard to tell the difference between the path and the stream. The gates that I passed through seemed to have lost all meaning, and I could no longer see down into the valley from whence I came.
Eventually, I decided that I didn't want to risk navigating over the top by myself, so I waited for a couple who were a short way behind me to catch up. It transpired that they were from Leeds, and we continued up the side of Greenup Gill together, joined by a man walking his dog (crazy bugger!). The path was supposed to consist of some stone steps, but since it had now become a waterfall, we were reduced to climbing in the mud alongside it. Somehow, we managed to navigate over the top of the pass - we were supposed to follow a line of cairns, but it was impossible to see anything.
I was certainly glad to have company for this part, and I was mostly just following the other walkers, who seemed to know where they were going better than I did. In any case, we made it to the head of the right valley (into Grasmere!), and I bumped into Nick and Kate, who were having their elevenses - huddled in the rain, like true Brits! We joined company for the decent, along with two girls, Fiona and Jenny, who were carrying all their equipment, and looking quite miserable for it. If there was any time I was relieved to be using a baggage-transport service, it was then!
As we descended into the valley, the Leeds couple went on ahead, and we were joined by Mike - a sign-maker from Hull. He was also carrying all his stuff, but was quite an experienced walker, and it didn't seem to bother him. The next challenge we faced required some collaboration to overcome. The guidebook usefully pointed out that we needed to cross a number of small streams - "there are no bridges, so you must jump or wade across". Well, these "streams" were somewhat swollen, and whilst we managed to jump across some of the smaller ones, we reached a wider stream that looked too dangerous to jump across without slipping. That being said, Mike was successful - but I wasn't going to risk it, so I waded across. My boots were already soaked through, so I just went for it!
Eventually, we made it past the streams, and descended below the mist into the valley - we could see again at last! There was the option of taking a high-level route over Helm Crag, which I would have liked to have done on a clear day, but today the choice was a no-brainer!
Nick and Kate were supposed to be heading all the way to Patterdale, but given how wet and miserable they were already (not to mention having lost both a map and a walking stick in one of the rivers), they decided to head with me into Grasmere to warm up.
We said goodbye to Mike, who went off looking for somewhere warm to stay, and went to the Lamb Inn (the pub attached to the Red Lion Hotel) to dry off and get something to eat - after briefly nipping into a walking shop so that Kate could buy a new walking stick. It was only 1.30pm, but it felt like we'd been out all day! I had shepherds pie and a pint of ale, which was both well-deserved and much needed. In the end, Nick and Kate decided to get the bus to Patterdale, which was very sensible, so we said goodbye as I left them to go and check in at my guest house. Although we were parting ways here, it turned out that they were taking three days to go from Patterdale to Kirkby Stephen, whereas I was doing it in two (as were Nicole and Arnout), so we pledged to meet again at the pub (where else!) in three days time.
I soon arrived at the Glenthorne Country Guest House, where I checked in and went to my room for a warm shower and a rest.
The Glenthorne was a nice place, with a certain individual character, being a Quakers lodge. They were serving complementary afternoon tea at 4.30pm (coffee and a cake) which I decided to go down for, and found that the big guided group were also staying there. I got chatting to them, and they were a nice bunch - a few couples, and some single walkers that felt more confident doing it as part of a group. The guide, Steve, was a seasoned walker, and we talked a bit about the Coast to Coast and my schedule - which happened to coincide with the guided group for pretty much the entire way!
After tea, I headed out into Grasmere for a stroll, quite pleased to see that the weather had completely brightened up and there wasn't a cloud in sight. If only it had been like that in the morning!
After a quick look around, I went over to the Red Lion, thinking to see if any other coast-to-coasters were around... and lo and behold, I bumped into Nicole and Arnout! It was getting on for 6pm, so we sat down to have a pint and share our tales of the day's exploits. I wasn't feeling massively hungry, but I decided to have some dinner anyway - fish and chips... or at least, I wanted to have mushy peas rather than chips, but was told in no uncertain terms that they could only be ordered as an extra side dish and not as a replacement for the chips (even though they were cheaper, according to the individual prices). Anyway, it wasn't bad, and we had a nice evening.
I went back to the guest house afterwards, thinking that I ought to give my parents a call (it was about 8.45pm) - they were worried because I hadn't been in contact for a few days. Then again, it's pretty difficult when there's no mobile phone reception! Even in Grasmere, I had to use the pay phone in the lobby. After catching up, and telling them my exploits, I bumped into an American lass who was also trying to ring home. Julie and her mother, Mary, had come all the way over from Portland, Oregon, to do the walk (they were the Americans at breakfast on the first morning in St. Bees)! Unfortunately, Julie's mum had been under the impression that the North of England was flat, and the Coast to Coast would consist of strolling through pretty country villages. Of course, she received something of a shock, but was determined to do it anyway. The problem was that she was quite a slow walker, and despite Julie's encouragement, they had only just arrived into Grasmere - taking 11 hours for the day's journey! Julie was quite understandably exhausted, and after deciding to give up on looking for somewhere to eat at this hour, went off to bed. I followed suit (different beds, mind you!).