Wednesday, 5 October 2011

3 Days on the 95 mile Westmorland Way.

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This walk is the last one of 5 LDPs through the Lakes to finish off my 'Crossing the Lakeland Triangle'.
The 'Cross' consists of:-
The Cumbria Way - Ulverston to Carlisle. (North to South) - 75 miles.
The C2C - St Bee's to Shap. (East to West) - 62 miles.
The 'Triangle' consists of:-
The Furness Way - Arnside to Ravensglass. - 75 miles.
The Cumberland Way - Ravnsglass to Appleby. - 90 miles.
The Westmorland Way - Appleby to Arnside. -95 miles.


After arriving in Appleby last Thursday evening, by train I walked a mile or so to the caravan and camping site, only to be told they weren't open until after the Appleby Fair. They let me pitch for the night anyway. A two mile round trip back into town to get a meal and a couple of pints of Guinness, I was in my sleeping bag for 10pm.

I set off the following morning and arrived at the start below the Castle at 5.30am, it was very warm even then. It got hotter and hotter as I progressed through Great Ormside and Great Aspey.

Just before Crosby Ravensworth, I came across two American ladies who inquired if they were on the right path for Shap. I assured them they were and during our discussion, they told me they had come over especially to do this route. I was surprised as it is hardly a very popular one. They were taking 12 days to complete it.

I reached Shap overheated awash in sweat, neck and back of legs and arms burning in the sunshine. There sat outside a shop on the A6 I chatted with a cyclists who was doing LEJOG, and also suffering in the heat. I only purchased one bottle of drink to save weight as I had noticed that there was a pub on the map in Bampton Grange, and I would get a cool refreshing drink there. On arriving at BG, I walked through the Church grounds to the pub right opposite to find it closed! Oh, no I exclaimed to the lady cleaner "I was relying on it being open". Next pub en route was at Askham Bridge, but would that one be open? Yes it was, Hurray! Had a lovely pint of Orange & Lemonade with ice and cooled off in the bar.

On to Pooley Bridge (31 miles)via Barton arriving there at 5pm. I found the outdoor shop, purchased a cap (I had earlier lost one), some Bridgedale socks to replace the absolutely useless, floppy, soggy, Smartwool ones that I had set out in, and some suncream.
The Sun Inn was next only to be told they didn't start food orders until 6pm. I had no choice but to hang around drinking Guinness until then and eventually having Cumberland Sausage and Chips.
I was back on my way a little after 6.30, heading for the path alongside Ullswater heading for Patterdale.

By now the heat had really got to me and I was footsore from the countless crossing of pathless, dry rutted fields and stony paths. I at last founds a very small flat patch of grass atop a rocky knoll, just a couple of miles short of Patterdale, so with 40 miles done on day one, I pitched camp for the night.

I was away at 5.10am the next morning, woken early by the loud birdsong. As I approached Patterdale in the sunshine, a Cuckoo was calling and a Woodpecker drilling, all before 6am, but those still fast asleep at the campsite as I passed were probably oblivious to it all.

Grisedale Valley was next and all the time it was getting hotter and hotter, but thankfully I now had a cap to shelter my neck and fill up with water at every stream and place immediately back on my head in an effort to cool down.

At Grisedale Tarn I met a group of four Fell runners, one of whom was making an attempt on the Bob Graham Round, who had just gone to nip up to Fairfield before coming back down to the same spot before going on to Seat Sandal. I wished them the best and carried on.

Lower down heading for Grasmere I came across a line of other Fell runners taking part in the 'Old County Tops' Fell race. I pitied them to be honest, around 40 miles over some of the highest Lakeland Peaks including the Scafells in those conditions. A lot were suffering already with along way still to go.

In Grasmere, a pot of Tea and a big Scone, more drinks purchased and off again via Ellterwater to Troutbeck. Some steep climbs in this section. Across the top of Wndermere and Bowness, towards Underbarrow.

By this time I was not able to get enough drink down me to satisfy my thirst, even though I was getting water or sports drink and pints of Orange & Lemonade at every opportunity.
Near Underbarrow, I stopped and removed my boots at a footbridge and cooled my feet down in the stream for a good 15 minutes. Applied yet more suncream and carried on.

Needing to find somewhere to camp, I asked a farmer, who told me I couldn't camp 'anywhere around here'. I walked on another couple of miles and found a flattish piece of ground next to wall at the bottom of a woods, making it a 31 mile day, it was now 8pm.

By 5.30am the following morning I was on my way again. I had managed to phone my wife the previous day to inform her that the way my feet were feeling and how the heat had gotten to me, I may have to spend another day on the route as I was doubtful I would manage the last 24 miles in a single day.

After 7 miles I arrives in Kendal. The only place open at that time was a MacDonalds, where I had breakfast.

From there a lengthy section alongside the river Kent followed before crossing over to the Lancaster Canal. Through Sedgwick and onto Crooklands where again I stopped for more Orange & Lemonade.

The going on this day was by far easier than anything before and my legs got a new lease of life despite my dehydrated daze that I seemed to keep slipping into. Anyway leaving the canal at the village of Holme, I sensed success and although the climb up Arnside Knott was taxing I knew I was home and dry. Very, Very Dry!

Reaching journeys end in Arnside, I looked forward to several pints of Guinness and a good meal. In fact I struggled with the Guinness and only took the top off. A pint of Lager Shandy went down easier.
I caught the train just before 7pm and arrived back home for 8.30pm. A good soak in the bath and all sweaty smelly clothing in the washer. I has a brilliant nights sleep.
Its Tuesday today and Ive not stopped drinking Lucozade etc since getting back and am just beginning to feel hydrated again. Initially back at home I found I was 6.5 pounds lighter and am still 3lbs the lesser than when I set off on this walk.
The new tent (Terra Nova Laser Photon Elite did its job well, but I was disappointed with the amount of condensation, as everything, Down Bag included was damp from the the first night onwards. Great tents Terra Nova but they all seem to suffer condensation badly. My TN 35 ltr sac was too light really for the weight. I started with a sac weight of 16.5 lbs including 1lte drink. I lost 2.5 lbs en route to Shap (supply dump, in case of 5 day C2c attempt) leaving 14lbs. I seemed to gather more weight as I went along - carrying extra drink and food, extra socks, suncream etc.
It certainly took it out on me and has made me have second thoughts about trying to average 38 miles a day on a 5 day C2C. I managed daily mileage of 40, 31 and 24. It is hard to quantify just how much the hot conditions took their toll on my general being, but must have been considerable, so now I am left pondering whether to give it a go or forget it all together.