Coming soon – last four stages of coast to coast.

The long wait is almost over….

Eight months after progressing as far as Richmond on the Coast to Coast walk, the mountain goat and I have finally got around to arranging the last four stages to Robin Hood’s Bay. The train tickets and accommodation are all booked, the training has commenced and I’ve found my west coast pebble from the beach at St Bees – which is destined to be deposited on the east coast at Robin Hood’s Bay, as tradition dictates.

It will come as no surprise that we have compressed the remaining distance into four stages instead of five – a night’s accommodation saved for one thing. This means that we will have three successive days of over 20 miles followed by a (relatively) easy trek of 12 miles into RHB on the last morning.

Just because the IT contractor market is on its arse doesn’t mean that I should be sat on mine…

So all being well, on the evening of Tuesday 26th of March, I’ll post the first update – Richmond to Ingleby Cross. Hopefully we’ll be in the Bluebell Inn (with an old friend of the choir) rehydrating after a long day in the field.

Coast to Coast – Keld to Richmond, Saturday 14th July

After an excellent breakfast, we hit the road just about on schedule for a tough day knocking off two stages of the Coast to Coast. I always encourage the people who are walking with me to take a good look round the accommodation before setting off as it can be something of a nuisance to have to return to the B&B.

As I waited for Ian to, admittedly, run back to Butt House for his sunglasses, I took the opportunity to adjust the laces on my new trail shoes and check the route.

It was lucky that we ended up taking a wrong turn as on Frank’s Bridge I thought to myself ‘shallow, fast running water, lots of rocks – classic Dipper territory’. Almost on command, one flew under the bridge. It ‘dipped’ nicely a few times and then flew off. There were quite a few Oystercatcher calling and flying around but no sign of the Curlew from yesterday.

The walk today  followed the River Swale for the next few hours as we headed towards Gunnerside. The river level was, as you can imagine given the heatwave we’ve had, ridiculously low – as shown in the photo at the top of this piece.

We were accompanied from time to time by small groups of kids doing the D of E. We saw their trendy teacher talking to some of them at Gunnerside and neither of us could quite withhold a smirk. Fair play to him though for giving up his weekend.

Gunnerside also held the highlight of the two days walking. As we were topping up the Factor 50 something caught my eye and I thought I could see the outline of a Little Owl in the opening of an old stone barn. I quickly dug my bino’s out and there it was, clear as day. A first for me and a bird I’ve always wanted to see.

The pace was good, basically just following the river mixed in with a fair few fields and stiles. I think they were basing the average width of people on Twiggy when they built the traditional Yorkshire Dale’s stile – they were a bugger with a rucksack.

Yorkiestile

We made Reeth for lunch after about 4 hours 20 minutes and had an excellent repast at the Buck. A pint of Timothy Taylor’s, in excellent condition, to wash it down. It was getting hotter all the time and we wanted to get a move on. After replenishing our water supplies in the village shop we were underway again.

BuckReeth

We were plodding along for the second stage of the day to Richmond. It was a scorcher and we kept referring to View Ranger regularly to see the kilometres still to walk and both applying the usual references:

10km – 2 Park runs

4 km – once round Sevvy (Sefton) Park etc.

Marrick Priory was the first target. It was right next to the scruffiest, ugliest farm you could ever imagine – a real shame.

There was a short steady climb of about 120m but it was all on slab steps so it wasn’t too tough. After that it was a steady succession of fields and stiles to Marske.

Whitecliffe Woods offered a welcome bit of shade and we kept up the pace, knowing we were now within  a couple of kilometres of the end of the day’s two stages.

Eventually, Richmond came in to sight and we were both relieved to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Richsign

It was a job to get any accommodation in Richmond but we did find a B&B with a twin available eventually. The landlady had been a joy to deal with but after the longest walking day I’ve ever had, I just wanted a decent shower… what a let down. I haven’t seen a shower that poor since Allardyce was picking the Everton team.

Anyway, Richmond is a Timothy Taylor stronghold so that was soon forgotten. Only had to make sure we were on the 08:47 bus to Darlington the next morning.

Coast to Coast – Kirkby Stephen to Keld, Friday 13th July

Friday the 13th…. What could possibly go wrong?…. Very little as it turned out.

My walking companion joined me on the Carlisle train at Warrington BQ and after a quick walk round Carlisle we caught the sprinter to Kirkby Stephen.

The volunteer guard (works every Friday as there are lots of tourists going over the Ribblehead viaduct) warned us that about sixty kids would get on but that they would only be on for five minutes as they were going swimming. He said that sometimes they got in our coach and sometimes the other one. A Geordie gentleman offered him a fiver to make sure they got in the other coach, a sum I said I was happy to match. As it turned out they got in our coach but were very well behaved and brought the average age down slightly.

The taxi I’d ordered to take us from the station to where we’d left off in Kirkby Stephen last June was twenty minutes late. He came up with some cock and bull story about two caravans having crashed but you can’t kid a kidder.

Having bought some essential supplies we eventually found the footpath and headed over Frank’s Bridge and round Hartley Quarry and began a steady but manageable climb to the top of Nine Standards Rigg. It was drizzly and misty in parts but the temperature was much more tolerable as a result.

Map
If only there was something to take a fix from…

The nine standards are pretty spectacular. They’ve seemingly been there for ever but nobody is really sure what they were for. They are also part of the watershed one side rain falls to the North Sea and the other side it flows to the Irish Sea.

 

9 standards

This is as high as we will get now before we finally reach Robin Hood’s Bay. This section of the walk is notorious as being really boggy and they have also waymarked three different routes for different times of the year to cut down on path erosion. As it was, with the heatwave we’ve been experiencing, there was very little to worry about. To further ease the bogginess problem they have also put in a lot of new slabs and have done a cracking job of it.

Slabs

Lots of interesting bird life. Some really good views of Golden Plover and, finally, a close up look at a Curlew in Keld itself. One I couldn’t identify but from looking online I think was a tree pipit.

The rain eased off pretty quickly and all in all it was a nice steady walking day. Keld is very picturesque and both the B&B and Keld Lodge over the road (with Black Sheep on draught) are very comfortable and welcoming. The views are superb as well.

View

Big day tomorrow as we knock off two stages in one day in order to get to Richmond! Looks like about 23 miles but we’ve got an early breakfast booked and it’s not forecast to get over 20 degrees.

About

Thanks for visiting my blog on walking the long distance paths of the UK. I am a keen hill walker who has come to realise, in my fiftieth year, that I haven’t done as much of it as I would have liked to over the years.

After walking the first half of the Coast to Coast last summer with my mate, the human mountain goat, I decided to take on Glyndwr’s Way as a way of improving my general fitness before we complete the Coast to Coast later in the year. I started this blog for Glyndwr’s Way but it seemed to be well received so I’ve made it a more general blog so I can include write ups of the second half of the Coast to Coast and, next on the list, Offa’s Dyke and any subsequent adventures.

The aim is, whatever the walk, to write up the description of each day in the evening, while things are fresh in my mind. I’ll try to keep it light hearted and focus on the things that interest me, such as bird and any wildlife sightings. I’ll also look to describe how the route was holding up in the weather conditions, any access issues and, last but certainly not least, the pubs in the various towns and villages I’m stopping in.

GW Day 1 – Knighton to Felindre (postponed)

The men from the met office hadn’t been optimistic but I left it to the last minute to make a decision. However, on the Friday morning I was meant to start the walk, it was still showing as thunder and lightning for the whole afternoon. I found myself thinking, not for the first time in my life, “what would Ray Mears do?” As the first day’s route would have meant me walking across exposed moorland at the height of the expected storm, I decided to err on the side of caution. Singing in a choir for the last ten years I always thought I’d make a good conductor but I didn’t want to find out like that. Screenshot_2018-06-01-06-31-30

I have been offered a lift to Felindre on Saturday morning to start the walk at stage 2 so that’s what I will be doing! I will return later in the summer to complete this first leg…

 

GW Day 2 – Felindre to Abbeycwmhir, Saturday 2nd June

Fingerpost

Having been dropped off at just after 10:00 at Felindre, the first job was to get through the Upper House Farm farmyard without setting the dogs off. Mission failed… at least they were all in kennels.

There must  be some local rivalry as to who has the loudest farm dogs because twenty minutes later it was the canines at Rhuvid to show what they could do and they easily took the rosette.

The waymarking was, as the guidebooks suggested, excellent and there was no real way of going wrong. The paths were firm and dry all day with only one boggy bit but it was well flagged up in the books and relatively easy to negotiate. Most of the paths were grassy and easy walking which helped as it was up and down most of the day.

Dark Clouds

The dark clouds were threatening but never really looked like giving any trouble and as the morning drew on it was getting warmer and I was developing quite a thirst. I had checked the opening hours at the New Inn at Llanbadarn Fynydd and I knew I’d be ok for food if I got there before 2pm. I was on schedule for 1:15 so no worries. On a photo on their website I had noticed a Ludlow Gold pump clip on the bar and I could hear it calling me onward!

There was a lovely stretch around Castell y  Blaidd and at Fron Top I heard a curlew but couldn’t locate it. It was all road then for a while but it was easy going and relatively quick and meant I’d get to the pub a bit earlier for a spot of lunch and a well earned pint (or two) of Gold!

A nice downhill run – with the only blocked gate of the day – brought me to the pub bang on ETA.

“Pub closed due to staff illness”

Now, you won’t find a man who believes more wholeheartedly than me in the rights of people to take time off sick. It’s a fundamental human right as far as I’m concerned. But for crying out loud…

My euphoria at being out in the Welsh countryside on a beautiful day had been reduced somewhat but I pushed on, knowing that I would need to stop soon to eat my lunch. This would now be a bar of Dairy Milk.

It was a long steady climb out of Llanbadarn Fynydd after ‘lunch’ and then a short, boggy bit before climbing again to a wide, grassy path with amazing views all around.

20180602_144916

 

I still hadn’t passed (or even seen in the distance) any other walkers all day. Lots of birds though, more importantly, including numerous Red Kites, Buzzards, Stonechat and the best look I’ve had at a Redstart in years. I heard plenty of cuckoos but didn’t get a good look at any. Same with Chiffchaff. Lots of close up views of Skylark and plenty of Chaffinch as well.

The last two miles felt like five, as is usually the way. There was at least a pub in Abbeycwmhir, my destination for the night, The Happy Union. The union I had in mind was between me and a pint of real ale and as I turned down the path to the pub door at 5:15pm, having made reasonably good time and spitting feathers, I saw the sign.

Open at 20:00

It did at least open! It was very welcoming too to be fair. The Felinfoel Double Dragon was eminently drinkable and the staff and locals very friendly. Here’s hoping for the same standards in Llanidloes tomorrow!

 

 

GW Day 3 – Abbeycwmhir to Llanidloes, Sunday 3rd June

That was a hard day… Second day legs coupled with more ups and downs than a typical Everton season…

After the lunch debacle yesterday I asked Meryl, the excellent host of the Laurel Bank B&B, to prepare me a packed lunch. She charged £7.50 – I thought, that’s steep Meryl, steep.

She didn’t charge me that much really but that wouldn’t be funny / mildly amusing, as it suits you. She actually made me double egg chips and beans on Saturday night and with the packed lunch it didn’t add a tenner on the bill. Highly recommended.

After leaving Abbeycwmhir at 9:20 it was a steady climb to 450 metres whereupon 8 text messages beeped their arrival. Abbeycwmhir is blessed with the Happy Union Inn and at least one great B&B but it is considerably short changed when it comes to mobile signal.

Anyway, after a climb through rough pasture and a descent to Bwlch y Sarnau it was a boggy forest path for a mile or so, followed by road for about the same distance. Road is usually dull and hard on the feet. The benefit is that you cover distance quickly. On the GW however the views from the roads have been pretty spectacular.

20180603_145551.jpg

The heat was taking its toll but I had put sun cream on a couple of times and was wearing my trusty Tilley hat all day so it just added to the fatigue rather than being dangerous in any way.

Wildlife highlight of the day was catching sight of a stoat skittering up one of the (many) roads ahead of me, his black tipped tail giving him away.

On the bird front it was much the same as yesterday. Heard lots of cuckoos but couldn’t pick any out and heard a really clear curlew calling, but again, couldn’t spot it.

The last couple of hours were hard work, rather than being as enjoyable as the walking had been. Lots of ups and downs at the end of a decent walk (never the best time) and yet more road.

On the final few kilometres into Llanidloes there were a few interesting sights. The Newchapel baptist church has had an interesting history:

20180603_160724.jpg

I had earlier put my packed lunch off for about an hour, hoping to come across a nice spot to eat it before finally settling for a boring bit of ground I could drop my rucksack on. I thought to myself – why are there no dedicated benches on the trail? You can barely move for them in the Shropshire Hills – ok, slight exaggeration. Then, about 1km outside of Llanidloes, I found this, dedicated to Aneurin and Marina. Even though I was metaphorically at the elbow, I couldn’t not sit down for five minutes, given A&Ms friends and relatives had done the decent thing.

20180603_164206.jpg
I had three pubs on my list for Llanidloes. The Angel, The Mount and The Crown and Anchor. Only 15 miles tomorrow so I was thinking I’d allow myself 4 pints. After walking in the Crown and Anchor I immediately felt at home and immediately used up 3 pints of my quota…

20180603_193629.jpg

I wonder if there’s a local church we could sing at? For about 20 minutes…

GW Day 4 – Llanidloes to Y Star, Dylife, Monday 4th June

A dam fine day…

Dam

The Clywedog dam and reservoir were the main attraction today.

After locating Llanidloes’ co-op and buying two cheese ploughman’s sandwiches and, furthermore, taking advantage of the meal deal to add on some Walker’s Cheese and Onion crisps (now THAT’s a ‘Happy Union’), I departed with a spring in my step!

If day two legs are tired and heavy, by day three they seem to have accepted the situation and agreed that they might as well go along with it.

It was a pleasant climb through woodland to St Idloe’s golf club to start the day and I had toyed with the idea of getting a quick nine holes in but pushed on as it was a long stage ahead.

For the next hour or so it was a procession of field, stile, field, stile but the going was good and the sheep, the thousands of them that line the route, like Union Jack bedecked royalists at another wedding, kept themselves pretty much to themselves.

The sheep are one of the main features of the walk. The other is the exceptionally good waymarking. Every time you think ‘they could do with a waymarker here’, one appears  over the horizon.

20180604_102716.jpg

A wood warbler was the only highlight of the morning from a birding sense. In the afternoon a willow tit showed well as the expression goes. There was a more interesting bird but I’ll come to that shortly.

After a couple of hours of negotiating farmer’s fields the Clywedog dam was pretty impressive – see photo at the top. There was also the ruins of the Bryntail lead mines which made for a nice spot to stop for lunch.

Items may appear larger...

Above is a picture I could always see myself taking. I think it reflects well on me. Moving on…

After leaving the dam there was a slog uphill and then some great vistas of the reservoir. Basically, for about the next two hours, you just kept getting fantastic views over it.

20180604_133524

After negotiating more sheep fields, the Hafren forest makes a pleasant change, with easy walking on forest track for half an hour or so. I hadn’t realised that they have ospreys nesting there. With my compact binoculars I was just able to make out the female sitting on the nest. Sorry willow tit and wood warbler, you’ve been trumped!

The planners of the walk had a nasty surprise in store with a really sharp climb of about 200 metres a mile or so from the end of the stage. Tonight’s accommodation was calling though so after one extra push you crest a hill to see Y Star

20180604_165440

I like the Star Inn. No pretensions – just getting the basics right and keeping people happy.

No real ale on hand pull. Why would you? You wouldn’t sell it quick enough. Some very nice bottles though. Cwrw from Edward Evans and Glamorgan Pale Ale were very good.

Food was decent too – a kerala sweet potato and cauliflower curry with really good home made chips.

GW Day 5 – Dylife to Machynlleth, Tuesday 5th June

After a decent breakfast, with proper strength coffee for a change, a ten minute yomp got me back to the GW and an easy walking moorland path. The weather was very different though. There was a clinging mist making it feel quite chilly and I’d put a fleece on for the first time on the walk!

Fort

About ten minutes further on, you arrive at the remains of the Roman military garrison of Penycrocbren. You can just make out the walls in the picture but the mist ruined it, sorry. Anyway, it’s the fort that counts..

Still up on the moors you skirt the banks of Glaslyn and then reach the highest point on the entire 135 mile trail at  just over 500 metres.

There had been no moorland birds of note – why weren’t there curlews here? But on the descent down to Nantyfyda the mist lifted properly for the first time and I got a really good look at a beautiful stonechat. He just wouldn’t sit still long enough to have his picture taken.

About two minutes later one of the dozens of cuckoos I’d been hearing finally put in an appearance and decided to go for a fly round just in front of me.

I’d been dawdling quite a bit – mostly trying to get a decent picture of the stonechat – and was trying to get a bit of time back when I heard a bird singing that I didn’t recognize. After a couple of minutes I spotted him and was fairly sure it was a willow warbler. A quick listen to the UK birds sounds app confirmed my suspicions and I was fairly confident that, today, one of the ‘willows’ would hold on for ‘bird of the day’!

Mach2

The June sun was now ‘busting out all over’ (one for the musicals fans there) and I felt slightly relieved, as, at breakfast, I had told the ladies on the next table that the mist would ‘all burn off in an hour’ – a favourite line from my Snow Chalet days when recalcitrant guests were thinking about staying in and thereby getting in my way!

Lunch

I parked up for lunch with the view above but the Y Star packed lunch lacked punch. Even with a bag of Walkers thrown in the mix. It was getting hotter still so I factor 30ed up and trudged on for what would be a long, hard, undulating afternoon.

When you cross a farmyard, as mentioned on day 2, you’re always a bit wary of the farm dog running at you. Well this afternoon my adversary was a 4 year old boy and what an able foe he turned out to be…

Boy: You need to go that way mister (pointing)

Me: Thanks mate

Boy: What have you got those sticks for?

Me: Because my knees hurt

Boy: Why do your knees hurt?

Me: Because I’m getting old

Boy: If you’re getting old you might die

Me: I hope I’ve got a few good years in me yet

Boy (now accompanying me on my walk) : Why aren’t you using them now

Me: I only use them going up hill

Boy: This is uphill

Me: Look, will you sod off!

I didn’t actually say that last bit. His Mum and Dad appeared round the corner  to check he was OK but he had cheered me up no end. So articulate for one so young. He must have thought he was having a battle of wits with an unarmed man.

For the next two hours it was up and down, up and down and dead hot but the RAF had decided to lay on some entertainment. I’d heard fighter jets earlier but as I was walking on a footpath alongside a valley two flew almost directly over my head. Then just above Machynlleth, a Hercules flew right up the Dyfy Valley in front of me.

My favourite flying thing of the day however happened just after this. I heard a bird call I didn’t recognize ‘Tsee’ ‘Tsee’. Even though I didn’t want to play any more, I couldn’t resist trying to see if I could spot it.

I saw him at the top of a nearby tree and I thought, can I be arsed getting my binos out? The bird in question usually flies off just as I’m raising them to my eye. But I did and he didn’t and it was a bird I’d always wanted to see and never had done before. His being covered in spots was one clue to his identity but the confirmation was the massive fly he had in his mouth! My first spotted flycatcher! I was made up!

Sorry willow warbler but you were beaten by a better bird!

Mach town

A few minutes later Machynlleth was spread out before me and I couldn’t wait to get down there, check in and have a shower.

 

 

Today’s blog has been brought to you in association with Bepanthen…

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑