Kirkby Stephen to Keld (11.3 miles / 95.9 miles)
Rather than overpay for the food offerings from the youth hostel, breakfast consisted of a protein and carb rich, highly nutritional Ginster’s Cornish Pasty from the local Co-op, where I was also able to stock up on supplies for the day to satisfy my craving for the good honest flapjack, for Alicia to get her hit of Caribbean Crush Lucozade, which she was fast a developing a dependency for since the stop at Sunbiggin Farm, and for Linda to ensure her supply of Jelly Babies was topped up.
So she wasn’t walking as late as yesterday, Michelle decided on an early start and departed while we were still ploughing through our feasts and planning our route. There are three paths around and over the Nine Standards Rigg, each appropriate for certain times of the year and the level of rainfall expected during these periods. As if the exit polls were in doubt as to whether our vote would be to go up to the Nine Standards and subsequent potentially waist deep peat bogs, or simply enjoy a quick glimpse from afar and less boggy route towards Keld, a night of continuous rain all but put the subject to bed.
Shortly after the point our path moved away from the Rigg, we saw Michelle a around half a mile ahead of us. We weren’t completely without bogs on this route so progress to catch up was slow. At one point we looked up to see her standing on top of a hill resting, only to look away for mere seconds to see a sheep had taken her place. What with the illusion so real and the haunting nature of events from the previous day fresh in our minds, we allowed our imaginations to run away and dared to think that she was in fact a weresheep! Much giggling ensued until the sheep actually stood up to become Michelle once again and though it had become clear she was exercising and stretching her back, at that point, our laughter became very dangerous from a bladder control point of view.
Eventually we caught up and walked with her out of Cumbria and into North Yorkshire, and, having left the Yorkshire Dales National Park at Kirby Stephen, crossed back in to it on our way through to the promise of Cream Teas provided by Amanda Owen and her ever increasing family at Ravenseat Farm.
Our carefree conversations ranged from all the paraphernalia I was carrying to the special looking dog that was coveting our creamy scones until the peace was broken when Linda spotted Richard and his lads a couple of hundred metres away down the path heading towards the farm. For Alicia this set off some kind of latent competitiveness and she had had enough of them starting later and finishing their walks first. The fact that they stayed together over Kidsty Pike meant nothing: Alicia had to reach the yurt campsite ahead of them.
We set off almost immediately, our crumbs still warm, thinking we would have plenty of time: surely they would stop at this cream tea landmark. But no, they carried on over the bridge, our advantage slender. Had we left it too late? Alicia formulated a plan: slow them down with each of us used as pawns in her victory. Firstly Michelle was to drop back feigning injury, if that rouse didn’t work, Linda would develop fictitious asthma, before I would make the final sacrifice pretending to lose consciousness. Luckily, Michelle did the trick and slowed them down long enough for us (well Alicia: I don’t think Linda and I were that fussed) to achieve victory despite her taking photos metres from the end with them bearing down on us.
Our destination was Park House & Keld Bunk Barn where Alicia and Linda had a yurt for the night and where they graciously let me pitch in their yurt garden. It was a warm evening and the tent was finally given the chance to dry out after the dampness of Patterdale and, sitting at the table drinking a bottle of Black Sheep and destroying the competition at a 20 year old version of Trivial Pursuits, we saw the other Coast to Coaster go by to the bigger campsite in the village: Andy & Di along with Molly in a rucksack; Mark, Hugo and their Mother and Father whom I had first met at Ennerdale Bridge and Sam and Stephen.
The Germans also arrived at our campsite and were about to be turned away until the owner, clearly feeling for their broken look at the end of the day, asked if we knew them and whether they could also pitch in front of the yurt. Our final companions for the night were Alan and his Golden Retriever, Freyja on an east to west Coast to Coast charity walk. He had walked past the main campsite and didn’t want to go back in to the village with Freyja if he didn’t have to. She did her bit for the cause by rolling on her back and looking ridiculously cute before hiding under our table to indicate that she wasn’t going on, subsequently securing their camping permit for the night.
With dinner of steak chilli-con-carne and two more bottles of Black Sheep, the evening was finished off with a quick trip to the private waterfall before retiring to my perfectly dry tent at 9pm. This was the middle day of the walk, Keld the halfway point in terms of mileage and now all the rivers are flowing to the east and the North Sea, instead of west to the Irish Sea. The days are going quickly and it is really easy to forget that a real world exists away from the trail.