This chapter of my adventure is through the familiar country of the Lake District, and includes a cloudy summit of Scafell Pike. Peak number two achieved, and I’m still wild camping in that original pair of pants…
Day 39: Wednesday 27th March 2019
I woke at 5.30am. It was 6 degrees and my sleep mat needed blowing up a bit. I stripped off and had a wash in the river, and washed my pants too (I’d slept in them last night as my leggings were still wet). After these chores I went back to bed with a coffee, and forced myself to eat the rest of my out-of-date ham and some olive bread. I lay listening to the birds and the river, and considered my options for the day.
Finally I was up and away at 7am. My tent was fairly dry, which was nice, but putting my damp, cold pants back on was NOT a nice experience. I hung the rest of the wet clothes over the top of my rucksack to dry as I walked. I walked out of my way to Backbarrow where I had a post office marked on my map. However, when I got there I realised it had been pulled down to make way for holiday homes – so no posting notes home, no shop and no food.
I headed for Penny Bridge, which turned out to be a rare, traditional Cumbrian village with a shop and a cafe. It feels great to support local people, and the lady here was lovely.
The weather today was just perfect for walking: dry, sunny and a very light breeze. My route took me along roads, fields and a lovely track over Brock Barrow to drop into Seathwaite and find the pub open. This was a huge relief, as I passed five today that were all shut. There was one I’d only missed by 20 minutes! I had to really push to get here, as I only bought food for tomorrow when I was in Penny Bridge.
I’ve really enjoyed walking in the south Lakes today. It’s been quite hilly and interesting, and the paths seem little used. My feet have felt better too, which really helps my mood! The scenery has got better and better all day, and I am now about 10 miles below Scafell Pike. I feel a lot more relaxed now I’m in the Lakes, as this is such familiar territory to me, and I can’t wait to get into the mountains proper. I can see the ideal route I want to take in my head, but this will require good weather. If the weather’s poor, though, I am not too bothered as I know a number of lower routes that are also nice.
I left the pub in Seathwaite after downing a second pint a bit too quick, as I realised it was getting dull and I like to camp without using my head torch if I can (it attracts less attention). I walked down the road a short distance to a path leading into some woods by a river, and found the perfect camp within 20 mins of leaving the pub. Even better, the bridge was shut, which should mean that the path is quiet. I was glad as my feet were now sore, and I’d walked far enough.
I had changed my planned route a number of times today due to my search for shops and pubs, or just because it looked nicer a different way. Mostly my choices worked out for the better; the only time it didn’t was when the post office was no longer there. Whilst in the pub I’d had a good chat with the bar man, who seemed inspired by my walk, especially the camping wild part. It felt good to help someone else towards an adventure like this.
Day 40: Thursday 28th March 2019
It was a quiet camp last night, just the river noise, and I was able to pack up reasonably dry. The weather was overcast with low cloud all day.
I had a short walk by the river and then a steep climb to Stonythwaite. There were two very remote cottages with some very expensive cars outside, so I guess they are now holiday homes. It was a nice enough walk over the top in the cloud, then a lovely descent to cross the river for a change. I’ve never walked up this side of the valley before, and this ended up being a good decision as I didn’t have to cross the river further up. This led to a steep climb up to the summit of Scafell Pike. I wouldn’t have climbed here if I didn’t trust by GPS as there was no path to see on the ground, and it did involve a bit of scrambling initially. This wasn’t easy with a full pack!
The bonus of this route up Scafell Pike was that there were no people. Towards the top there was a small path that was easy to follow. On arriving at the summit, I put on all my jackets as the wind was extremely cold and sat and ate a sandwich. There was a continuous stream of people arriving and leaving the summit, which made me glad it wasn’t a weekend.
I headed down from the summit on the corridor route, which was rocky and a bit exposed, but gave me great views as the weather improved. The sun came out which convinced me to change my plans again – I climbed up Windy Gap and Green Gable to stay high and enjoy the views.
I dropped to the Honister Pass and Mine which had an open cafe. I considered my options again here at 5pm: do I climb and camp, or head for the Rosthwaite pub as I haven’t got much food left? I did fancy climbing Catbells in the morning, so made the decision to climb and camp under High Spy. The man serving in the cafe had biked LEJOG and was interested in my walk. I told him that the biggest surprise for me has been the people I’ve met along the way, especially in Wales as they have a reputation for not liking the English. He replied, “you can’t say that, I’m Welsh!” I apologised and quietly left!
I made camp at about 6pm under clear blue skies, but a very cold wind. A beautiful sunset and low cloud over Scafell Pike gave it an eerie feel. It didn’t get dark until 7.30pm, which was a great help.
Day 41: Friday 29th March 2019
Morning dawned clear and frosty, with no wind and a wonderful cloud inversion. I set off at 6.30am and was on the top of High Spy fairly quickly, in perfect weather.
I had a lovely walk in the sunshine along Catbells with not a soul in sight until the very end and my descent into Keswick. A lady enjoying a walk before work stopped for a chat, which was nice – she told me how she loves living in the Lakes until Easter when the tourists take over and clog the roads up. I stopped in the George Hotel for breakfast at about 10.30am, and a much-needed food shop.
I found it strange being around people in Keswick. I couldn’t wait to get out and moving again, but I wasn’t really looking forward to the next bit (Skiddaw House and Lingy Hut) as I have walked it with my family recently. However, there was no other way round really. I was also dreading the Carlisle to Glasgow stretch, as it’s mostly road and a long way.
It was a harder climb to Great Lingy Hut than I remembered – I last walked this in October with my wife and youngest children on the Cumbria Way. I did remember to fill up with water at the last river, because I remember that there is none by the hut. I arrived just before 6pm and put the tent up to dry. You could camp here if the hut was full, or if you prefer to camp, but it is exposed and not perfectly flat. It was good to be able to spread myself out, and stand up to get dressed.
The wind had got cold as I climbed Lingy Hill and there were still patches of snow at this height. I was expecting a cold night. Dinner tonight was a Naked Noodle (they’re cheaper than Pot Noodles), olive bread, mixed olives with feta cheese, a chocolate bar and a coffee later in my sleeping bag to warm up. I was absolutely starving and realised I hadn’t eaten anything since a penguin bar at 11am. I felt a bit out of sorts this evening because I wasn’t in the tent, or in my normal routine with everything around me.
Day 42: Saturday 30th March 2019
No worries about condensation this morning, which was lovely! I was enjoying everything feeling dry, until I picked up the lid of the meths bottle and managed to tip a full saucepan of water all over myself. Not an issue I would have had in my tent, and I wouldn’t have had to get out of my sleeping bag to make a coffee, either.
I did enjoy the space, peace and quiet though. No one else turned up for the night, although someone did look in the window at about 6.30pm. I particularly enjoyed leaning up against the wall to drink my coffee, which saved my usual back ache.
It wasn’t the best night’s sleep though, possibly because I was thinking about my wife coming up to see me at Easter. Do I want this, or is it going to mess with the flow of the walk like stopping a couple of nights before Snowdon did? I obviously want to see her, but I could be finished in about three weeks or so if I don’t stop. Or would a break for a few days be a good thing? What if I don’t want to start again once I’ve stopped? My main worry is that I’ll just want to go home with them because it will be so easy to do. Coming out of Wales was hard because I knew I was as close to home as I was going to get and it would have been so easy to get on one of the many trains I saw and go home. I was seriously tempted a number of times, especially when I saw people waiting at a station.
The weather started off clear today, but quickly clouded over by the time I left at about 6.15am. I passed a runner who asked where I was going with a pack this size, expecting me to say the Cumbria Way I suppose. When I told her what I was doing, she stopped and said she had done the West Highland Way and Great Glen Way. She had found the Great Glen Way a bit dull, but you cover the ground quickly, which is exactly what I want.
I then met a young lad walking his dog, who asked the same thing. We chatted about the North and South Lakes which still have local communities, which have been lost in the Central Lakes. He said they are struggling to keep it that way, though, as more and more homes are being sold to holiday home owners.
I made it to the Bridge End pub for 12.30pm, after good paths in the woods and along the river. It felt good to re-charge and rest my feet. The route then took me through fields and the cycle path into Carlisle. This is a tidy, well-kept city and I liked the little bit I saw of it.
I stopped briefly to re-stock food then followed the path as I thought it ran parallel to the road. However, I quickly realised I was on a circuit back to the start, so I jumped the fence, crossed a field and joined the road which I followed for three LONG miles.
I was aiming for a pub for tea in case I couldn’t get anything in Gretna Green on a Sunday, but I just couldn’t make it as my feet hurt so much. I dropped off the road on to a path, and found a spot to camp near the estuary. It wasn’t until I was sat in my sleeping bag making tea that I realised I was camped right on the high water rubbish line. The tide was way out, so I figured I would get some rest before I got wet.
Last night and today I have been thinking about finishing the walk, and actually reaching John O’Groats. It has never seemed possible until now, and I couldn’t think about it. Well, it did seem possible until I worked out the mileage from here – 450 miles still to do, and Ben Nevis too. All in 23 days if I want to go home with Emma (my wife) at the end of the Easter holidays. That’s over 20 miles a day. My feet have new and interesting sores on them each day, which appear on top of the old ones. The top of my toes on my right foot are all red, and that’s now! I wonder if my feet will make it?
You can read the next chapter of my adventure, when I finally reach Scotland, here.