The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Day 5 - Shap to Kirkby Stephen

21 Sept
Distance (intended): 19.5 miles
Distance (actual): 21 miles
Number of close encounters with bulls: 2

Contrary to my concerns, no trains woke me last night. In fact, I slept so soundly that I think I could have been lying three inches from the tracks when an express train passed and still have been undisturbed.

After the day started with some girly arm-waving involving a beetle in my sleeping bag, it was with a spring in our steps that we made our way out of Shap whilst the village was still sleeping and out over first the railway then the motorway.

The huge quarry and works were the final blot on the landscape before we were out on the open moors.

The C2Cers we met yesterday had said that they were sorry to have left the Lakeland fells behind and that they expected the rest of the journey to be rather dull, over farmland. I hope that they were pleasantly surprised by today, for there was more moor than fields (and in my opinion the fields were far less than dull anyway).

The sun was beating down on us by the time we approached Orton. Having no need to visit the village we took a path off to go directly to Kirkby Stephen and a few moments later decided that a jacket and suncream faff was called for. It was as we stood there mid-jacket removal that a single group of 29 walkers passed by on the Orton path. That could have been quite exhausting had we passed them and said "hello" to every one!

All was going well as we sauntered along in the sunshine until just after elevenses. In fact the occurences of the next couple of hours made me think that I had lost all navigation skills that I ever possessed.

At the point where I got my compass out and exclaimed "I didn't think we should be going NE" alarm bells should have rung out, but somehow we continued to walk in that direction.

It was some time later when we came to realise that something wasn't right, by which time we'd wandered a kilometre or so up the wrong path. A lovely path it was, but it wasn't going in our direction.

It only took about twenty or so minutes to put ourselves right, but it was annoying to have made our most significant navigational cock-up of the year, moreover, as it was the trigger for my feet and just about every other part of me to start hurting. All psychological, I'm sure, because the longest day of a walk is, of course, the worst day to go awry.

It was right near the end of the crossing of the next moorland section that I became exceedingly navigationally confused. For a while I was convinced that something was affecting my compass, as I was sure that it wasn't pointing the right way (and the now-cloudy sky wasn't allowing the sun to help).

Being unable to match our surroundings to the map (no doubt because of my conviction that north was somewhere other than its true position) out came the GPS to check that we hadn't wandered off again. We were exactly where we should be, yet I still didn't believe the compass.

Finally, in desperation, I set a waymark into the GPS and what do you know? The compass was absolutely right and it was me that was absolutely wrong.

It was during all this poring over the map that we rather belatedly realised that when we had earlier gone wrong there was a shorter and easier way to have put it right. No point crying over spilt milk though, and I'm pleased to say that for the rest of the day north was exactly where it should be and I seemed to regain some navigational ability.

It seems that it wasn't just me having a bad day with map and compass. Admittedly, the two lost souls whose heads appeared over a wall to ask for help, were lacking in both map and compass. They were instead relying on the sketch map out of a book, which perhaps explains why they were going in the opposite direction to where they wanted to be.

My weary bones and aching feet continued through the middle miles of the walk. In fact, they continued until the first field containing a bull, not to mention lots of noisy cows which were overly excited thanks to a farmer just having passed by on his quad bike. It's amazing how all those aches miraculously disappear and I can put quite a pace on when in a field with a bull!

I'd promised myself a five minute rest at the end of that field, but it was followed by another bull-inhabited field, so on I sped until we reached the safety of a hay meadow.

We were soon then down in Kirkby where we found the campsite to be immaculately presented and have all the amenities that one needs. As I sit and type this, all of our clothes are in the washer and I'm a little less than comfortable in my waterproof trousers.

1 comment:

  1. It was a pleasure to spend the day with you both. Thanks for your company. I found out what I could about Nine Standards Rigg and put it in my own posting for the day - here:
    (Sorry, but I don't know how to paste a link into a comment!)