Thursday, June 12, 2008

Day Five: Patterdale to Shap

Patterdale to Shap: 25.5 km

Today was a much longer day, and there were sections that were more tiring than interesting. We hiked up and out of the valley at Patterdale directly into the wind. We saw some beautiful tarns, an old abandoned chapel, the faint tracings of a Roman road (so from approximately 300 AD), and some lovely mountain tops. We hiked over Kidsty Pike, which is the highest point on the actual route, although we went higher on our alternative paths.
Toasting platypus nozzles at the peak of Kidsty Pike
We were up and on the trail by eight, since we knew we had a ways to go today. Moreover, there really was nothing for us at the Inn or in Patterdale. We were hiking on more or less alone this morning since we were leaving Gordon and Charlene and Allan behind. (We didn't realize that we'd get to know others later on).

Up at lonely Angle Tarn, high up in the fells, we saw two small tents pegged out very carefully because of the horrible wind. We also saw Canada geese (a little far from home one might say?).
Angle Tarn
Can you see the Canadians in the picture?
We saw a number of other hikers up in the saddle of the mountains; there are a number of hikes in this area, and people were keen to go out and see them. We saw a man and his two dogs. He stopped at one point, took out his camera and took a picture of the two dogs outlined against the mountain-scape. We thought it was neat that the three, one human and two canines, could make such good hiking companions. We also saw a woman running the trail. At times this seemed quite doable but elsewhere the rocks and bog and creeks would make for tricky footwork. We were glad for our heavy boots. Finally, we saw a man mountain biking the trail. Certainly not my cup of tea, I would rather clomp along on my two stout legs rather than try to pedal furiously up the hills. But to each her own, I guess.
The faint line in the middle in the distance is the Roman road
The east wind was blowing awfully hard up on top. We had been advised to do the C2C trail from west to east because that's the way the prevailing winds move and we would consequently travel with the wind to our backs the whole way. Not so. It got so bad that although the sun was shining we put on our rain coats and our mittens. We hiked along as fast as we could in the hopes that the wind would die down in the valley on the other side (it did not).

We made our way down around the Haweswater Reservoir, a lake that used to be small but is now dammed to provide drinking water for the city of Manchester. In the process of creating the reservoir, the builders drowned a town. All that was left of little Mardale was an abandoned farm on the edge of the lake. Hiking around this massive lake was the most arduous part of our day. It just went on and on, with little shade and little variation to the landscape.
High above Hawsewater Reservoir
Once we were around, however, the two mid 50s sisters from Canada caught up to us. The whole time we saw them (they stayed at the same B&B as us the first night) they were never quite sure of their navigational skills. They tagged along behind us for a while, to the point where we felt responsible for ensuring they made it through a relatively unmarked section of field.
The sheep were always posing for us
We were leaving the Lakes district at this point, and the landscape was definitely changing. It was becoming like that of James Herriot fame, green pastures with stone barns and clean white sheep, narrow winding country roads and rolling hills.

A crumbling decaying barn
Before reaching Shap we passed by Shap Abbey, an old Roman Catholic priory. Much of the stone had been reused for surrounding buildings but the main bell tower remained, along with the foundations of the other buildings. We spent a while looking around the site, imagining how the priests must have lived their lives. We found the "toilets," the fishing hole, the pantry, the garden and a lot of other interesting functional aspects of life at the Abbey. Very interesting.
Brent checking out the pantry
Two new kinds of gates in the stone fence.Shap itself was a cute little town. Relative to many of the other places we stayed, it was quite large, with several restaurants, a library, a school and a grocery store. Our B&B was right at the furthest edge of town, so far that we were starting to wonder if we had missed it or if it even existed. By this time our feet were very tired, and hiking on pavement is the hardest: there's no cushioning in our boots designed for withstanding concrete.

When we did arrive at the B&B, we were most pleasantly surprised. The owner was a very sweet lady who, small world indeed, had been to Red Deer! She fed us tea and scones and jam, did our laundry for us, and was very friendly and kind. Our window overlooked the Lakes District and the peaks to the west in the distance, and up close we could see a dairy farm across the road. It was a lovely stop. Brookfield Guest House was most definitely another one of our top places to stay.
Just a cute little house was Brookfield Guest House
If our overnight stay wasn't good enough, we ordered a packed lunch from the lady that was by the far the best we had the whole trip. We only had 13 km to go that day, so we didn't need a ton of food, which was too bad, because she had all kinds of tasty homemade options for us. We each had a sandwich, mine of which was chicken and stuffing--home made and very good--, we also each had a piece of fruit, an almond tart and a tea biscuit with cheese. Everything was carefully wrapped in wax paper and carefully made. So we highly recommend both staying at Brookfield and ordering her packed lunch!

We went to a pub for supper that night and, not really knowing where to go, chose a pub that turned out to have virtually no one in it. We ate in the dining room all by ourselves and our food took forever to come. However, it turned out that because we were the only ones eating there, the cook had to make it from scratch (hence the long wait) and it was fresh and hot and home-cooked. We both had Cumberland sausage and mashed potatoes (more commonly known as bangers and mash). It came with a moat of brown gravy and steamed vegetables on the side--and all for only five pounds each! By far the cheapest meal we had the whole time, and still definitely tasty.
The sunset from Shap

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