Coast to Coast Day 5 – Bampton to Orton

Published 1 September 2010

Homemade footpath sign

"A man with a flat cap. That’s made it into a proper pub now!"

There’s nothing worse when you’re walking than waking up to yet another miserable day of rain. And that’s what I woke up to. At 3am.

In contrast by the time we left around 9:30 the rain had stopped and it was looking like a reasonable day as we strolled out of Bampton.

Bampton’s not actually on the Coast to Coast – it’s about a mile north-east of it and taking a look at the map we worked out we could cut off a corner. If we headed down the road, south-east, we’d meet up and just miss about a mile or so of the “official” route.

Given we’d be mostly missing walking over farmland and Wainwright himself was quite in favour of making your own route (hence why he called it “A Coast to Coast Walk” rather than “The…”, although it is a slight contradiction with the incredibly detailed, prescribed routes detailed in his books), we didn’t feel too bad about it. And as we strolled down the road ready to meet Wainwright at the village of Rosgill, there was a spring in our steps. It was warm, it was dry and we had a pretty easy day in front of us.

The nice little bridge at Rosgill

We’d left the difficulties (and bad weather) of the Lake District with its high fells and rocky paths, and now most of our days would be sensible 11-12 mile trips without too much up and down.

Walking over dry and pretty looking farmland we arrived at Shap Abbey, the ruined remains of a medieval abbey with its striking 15th century tower which, given the bad state of the rest of the place, has remained almost intact since old Henry VIII had his tizzy with Rome and went after the monasteries with a vengeance.

Shap Abbey and sheep being hearded

Leaving the atmospheric Abbey behind us, we left something else behind us too – the Lake District. At long last we left the National Park, and given how badly the weather had treated us during our visit, frankly I was glad to see the back of the place as we walked on to the village of Shap proper.

For most people Shap is the end of a hard days slog from Patterdale and the beginning of a 20 mile trek to Kirkby Stephen. In contrast when we arrived around half eleven, the place was pretty clear of walkers. We stopped off at a local newsagents, bought sandwiches and had an early lunch sat on a bench on the A6, reasoning we should eat whilst we could and whilst it was dry! Doing so almost inevitably meant the rain would stay clear of us for a few more hours, and we could have had lunch in far nicer surroundings…

Wainwright considered that the Coast to Coast was split into three parts by the M6 motorway at Shap and by crossing the A1 near Richmond. With my public transport agenda I preferred the idea of using the nearby West Coast Mainline as my third-way point, and in celebration a train load of groceries passed us by bound for Tesco, hauled by a train branded as “Stobart Rail”. On the motorway shortly afterwards an Eddie Stobart branded lorry proclaimed it was “delivering sustainable distribution” and we both looked at each other and wondered what on earth that meant when linked to lorries thundering up the M6.

Horses

Passing into a field on the other side of the motorway we were joined by a procession of horses who were either inspired by us to walk the same way, or just happened to be passing in our direction.

They had a good sized field, shared with some sheep, but seemed keen to cross our path at speed at a time that just happened to coincide with our arrival.

Half expecting a stampede to form, we edged closer and closer to the stile, just before which the horses broke off their pursuit, suddenly content to graze at some grass under a tree. It was no doubt an act they put on for all the walkers.

Leaving behind views of Shap’s quarry, cement works and the noise of the M6 we headed on to the moorland of Crosby Ravensworth Fell, although its heather lined ground was never too far from more grassy pastures.

Wicker Street Limestone Pavement

From a superb limestone pavement just off the Roman road of Wicker Street, we were presented with fine views of the North Pennines and worked out a gap on the horizon was High Cup Nick near Dufton, a mighty and deep U-shaped valley sat gently in the moorland; a fantastic place we’d visited a few years before on the Pennine Way.

The views were so fine, we sat down and enjoyed them before the buzz of our mobiles distracted us. Having been in mobile free areas for several days, suddenly a batch of messages and missed calls came in mainly relating to Catherine’s brother and his wife who had also happened to be in the Lakes whilst we were there and had wondered if we’d be able to meet up. Naturally they took our radio silence as a no.

Robin Hood's Grave

After a nice sit down and some chocolate, we headed on once more passing by a large mound of stones known as Robin Hood’s Grave – the second time Sherwood’s famous son had supposedly made appearance on our walk, although why he’d be buried up here is frankly anyone’s guess, and to most modern eyes the place would just look like what it actually was: a large, oversized cairn.

It had been relatively dull but dry most of the day but now the heavens opened as we met a minor road a few miles from our destination of Orton and we quickly donned waterproofs and headed off the moorland and over the farm fields that would take us there.

Please call in!

A sign invited us to visit Scarside Farm for refreshments and whilst tempting, it was on the alternative route that bypassed the village and our room at the George Hotel was waiting for us. After quickly admiring the limestone tower of the local church and detouring into the village shop to stock up on bin-bags (for lining our rucksacks) we arrived at the pub to see the depressing sight of the doors bolted, the lights out and the doorbell missing.

Blu-tacked to the door was a note telling us to ring a phone number to be let in however once more mobile reception had departed us and just as I was about to dash across the road to the phone box opposite, two walkers appeared out of the blue and nabbed it.

Orton's red phone box

Given payphones across the country are under threat due to lack of use, it seemed incredible to be in an old fashioned pay phone queue. It was a long wait. The phone call went on. And on. And on. So long that one of them wrote "Help me" on the steamed up glass. Yes well, I thought. What about me? It was agonising to be so close to our room and yet to be so far. We were stood on the pub doorstep for nearly twenty five minutes before I managed to get into the box where I promptly discovered the confounded thing wasn’t taking coins leading to more faff of trying to enter debit card details on a malfunctioning number pad.

It seemed rather excessive to pay £1.20 just to get inside, but eventually we were shown to our room which was furnished with a four poster bed, a wobbly floor that made you feel drunk every time you walked across it, and radiators that were on full blast even though it was a mild July day. Such heat was glorious given it meant we could finally dry our boots out, and we set about filling the room with laundry and wet leather.

Four poster bed at the George Hotel

Feeling more refreshed (although wondering why a room with a four poster bed didn’t come with any shampoo) we adjourned to the rather chilly bar for a few hours before making our way back upstairs and letting the floor do what the beer and wine hadn’t. We stumbled on to the king sized mattress and sank into a rather warm sleep, safe in the knowledge that, if nothing else, our clothes would be very, very dry the next day.

One Coast To Another: Following Wainwright from St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay

The whole Coast to Coast adventure is available to read now in paperback, and for Kindle, iOS, Kobo, and Google Play or other e-readers.

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