Day Seven

Orton to Kirkby Stephen (12 miles)

Kirkby Stephen is recognised as about the halfway point on the walk so we felt there was something tangible to be achieved on this day as we tried to bring ourselves ‘round from yet another terrible nights sleep. There was some sort of clock either in the house or in a building closeby which chimed every 30 minutes and cockerels in the garden which also seemed to have problems sleeping. Just for good measure a dog, tied in the back garden, yapped until the early hours.

However, that said, breakfast at Mostyn House would probably make it into my top 3 best moments on the Coast to Coast walk. We were shown to a traditional dining room and all sat ‘round one table. There was only Nige and I and the 2 couples we had befriended so it was really just a continuation from the previous evenings easy chatter. We laughed so much the landlady didn’t really know what to make of us all. It was one of those moments that none of us ‘round the table wanted to end but alas, we could only put off the inevitable for so long and after our 4th cup of tea we reluctantly grabbed our now dry wet gear and started off on this relatively easy stage.

Today the weather seemed a lot a brighter and we were to actually experience sunshine later in the afternoon. By this stage it had become clear that the unspoken etiquette of the long-distance walker seemed to be that it’s ok to catch up with people and even walk with them for a short while (maybe 5 minutes) but then excuses must be made to either push on ahead or stop for a break and drop back. This suited Nige and I fine because we hadn’t booked this trip to spend long periods of time with other walkers plus, in truth, not many would put up with our many and increasing peculiarities. The trouble on this day was that we all set off on the same path at the same time and all walked at pretty much the same pace. However, within 10 minutes we were perfectly spaced apart neither advancing nor retreating from the couple in front. This went on for quite a while until at last Merv and Sue cracked and veered off the path to a copse of trees to have lunch. This gave us the chance to forge ahead and gain some ‘breathing space’.

We stopped on a rocky outcrop for our packed lunch and were determined not to wolf it down in the usual fashion but enjoy the moment and dry weather. The walk across Tarn Moor had been a bit of a slog but now it was nice to just sit and relax and watch the sky. The cloud was starting to break up giving some lovely views of sun dappled hills in the distance which in fact, turned out to be the Pennine watershed we were to cross the following day.

After a decent break taking in the views we followed Steadman down a road and past several farms. Somewhere along the way, following a wall as instructed we must have missed a turning so we poured over the map and tried to correct our error. In the end we could see that the Satnav would guide us down to the Smardale Bridge even if not as directly as the supposed path. We ended up on a disused railway track and stopped to take lots of pictures when the very picturesque bridge came into view.

After crossing the bridge we trudged up a steep rough track by a wall to be rewarded by a view of the viaduct. Here we caught up with a mature lady walking on her own. We both expected her to be an experienced walker but she surprised us by telling that she had done lots of day walks with her husband in the past in and around the Yorkshire Dales but she always fancied something more challenging and as she wasn’t getting any younger she had decided to do the C2C this year. Her husband was the Sherpa, arranging to meet her each evening at her digs with fresh clothes. I really admired her bravery.

Before long we found ourselves in more open country with expansive views over to the Pennines and beyond. The sun was beating down and we tried to make up for the previous days grey wet weather by exposing as much skin as was decently possible, topping up on vitamin D. We took a few pictures of ourselves which turned out a bit scary and strolled into Kirkby Stephen via some back lanes which led us to the main street.

Our B & B for the night was Fletcher House, one of the first buildings we came to as we hit the main road. It was a lovely looking Georgian house, like something out of a period drama. We were given a very warm welcome and shown straight through to a sitting room which carried on the period drama theme. We plonked our weary bodies on high backed red velvet chairs and were served tea in a tea pot and numerous homemade cakes on a lazy susan. There was a pc in the corner with internet access which we were told we could use but just sitting still with a cuppa in one hand and scone in the other was quite enough for both of us. The trouble was neither of us wanted to get up and I wondered if I just gave the embroidered bell pull a little tug a butler would come and carry me and my case to the room. The bedroom was no let down and the view from the window into the garden was an added bonus.

We took our time over ablutions as it was still early but before long we were on the streets of Kirkby Stephen having a quick explore and trying to decide where to eat. We went for a swift pint in the beer garden of the Black Bull which was a bit of a let-down. We had decided to pretend that it was summer and had gone out without jackets which was a big mistake. We stood on our own at the back of the pub shivering and drinking our pints as fast as possible. As for the evenings dining choice, well, the Coast to Coast chippy was a bit too obvious plus we needed to sit down somewhere comfortable so we decided on the Indian, The Mango Tree Restaurant by the market square. Our hearts sank when the owner told us there were no tables free as it looked like a really nice place with lots of atmosphere. We recognised at least 3 set s of coast to coasters who had come up with the same idea. Maybe it was the disappointed look on our faces or the fact that we stood rooted to the spot that the owner suddenly ‘found’ a table from the back room and squeezed us in between the toilets and the kitchen. After stuffing ourselves we made a token effort to walk it off by taking the short route down to Franks Bridge, a double-arched stone footbridge crossing the river and showing the start of the next days trek.

We decided that doing unnecessary walking was probably not a good idea so we cut the stroll short and dropped into the Kings Arms to quaff a couple of pints to aid sleep and cool down the still burning tongue and stomach. Again we bumped into Sue and Merv and a young couple from the midlands who we had seen many times but for some reason not talked to. The 10 O’clock curfew soon arrived and before we knew it we were back at the lovely Fletcher House to attempt a good nights sleep knowing we had the infamous Nine Standards to tackle in the morning.

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