Northbound through Britain with Daryl May
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|Top to bottom: Lambs at Shap; breakfast at the Greyhound Inn, Shap; and the Sun Inn at Newport Reigny|
|Days N25 - N33 North of England|
Start hiking here
English West Country
North of England
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Time of departure: 8.45 am
Time of arrival: 3.30 pm
Place departed: Shap, Cumbria
Place arrived: Newton Reigny, Cumbria
Cum miles: 512.8
Percent complete: 55.3
Sun Inn, Newton Reigny **
Cost for bed and breakfast: £30 ($60)
| Overview of both
What others say
|The Greyhound at
Shap did a
spectacular breakfast this morning. As well as juices, fruit
cereals, and tea or coffee, the full English breakfast included a large
sausage said to have won a world championship, a crispy black pudding
(more on this later), two poached eggs from "Vera's hens next door", a
large grilled tomato, brown toast from high-quality bread, some tasty
mushrooms, and thankfully an absence of the customary baked beans.
Maybe that's why Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed here with his Highlanders
in 1745 (see day N29)?
Departing Shap, I ran into a couple of hiking parties on the coast-to-coast walk. This is an east-west walk of one to two hundred miles, in contrast to my end-to-end south-north walk of a thousand. There are a number of such coast-to-coast walks in Britain, and they look like good routes for those with a normal amount of vacation time. I was able to let these coast-to-coast hikers know, in a teasing way, that their walk was an easy one. They chuckled that they were being well stretched.
It's an easy eleven miles to Penrith, which is the next significant town, i.e., significant accommodation center. Indeed, Penrith abounds in accommodation choices due to its railhead and motorway position, which makes it (like Kendal) a jumping-off point for Lake District visitors.
In my youth, my friend Gerald and I vacationed in the Lake District, starting here at Penrith and going on to Keswick, Windermere and Ambleside. We visited Derwent Water, Lake Windermere and Coniston, and climbed Helvellyn and Skiddaw, England's second and third highest peaks. I was 16-years old, and Gerald 18. We carried backpacks, we hiked and rode an occasional local bus, and stayed in youth hostels. We took Kodachrome photos, and showed our slides when we got home. We sent postcards to family and friends, and drank Tizer sodas for refreshment.
Thus stated, we had a typical Lake District vacation. But, wait, there's more. Though we had maps, we didn't spend much time honing our navigation skills. That's because we simply accompanied the largest group of similar-age girls when they set out from the youth hostel in the morning. If they climbed Latrigg, we climbed Latrigg. If they took a boat ride on Derwent Water, we took a boat ride on Derwent Water. After all, this was all public property . . . surely then one was free to roam at will?
In this fashion we got to meet and befriend a particular group of girls on a nature tour supervised by their teacher and chaperone, whom I'll call Miss Goodright. It turned out that the girls learned more about nature than Miss Goodright's lesson plans called for. And although they (and Gerald and I) did not learn about nature in any depth, what we did learn we shared generously. This was made easier by the rather porous doors of the youth hostels' same-sex dorm rooms.
After a couple of days, Miss Goodright noticed that her chaperone and teaching roles were being sabotaged by two red-blooded young students who mysteriously were everywhere her girls were, and at all hours. So she approached us nicely and asked us to keep away.
We said we would. And, indeed, we tried. The next day we followed a different group of girls. But we concluded that they lacked talent, and so we checked in early at the same youth hostel as Miss Goodright's girls had told us they were headed for. When Miss Goodright saw us, her face expressed every emotion that the chaperone handbook associated with disaster. Gerald and I ingenuously faked astonishment at the coincidence of her being there - or perhaps Miss Goodright was following us?
The high jinks at the youth hostel continued unabated that evening. Seduced by Gerald's charm and good looks, the girls seemed increasingly friendly. Miss Goodright must have done her nut.
Soon we had wrested about all there was from the Lake District. Our love of nature had been enhanced, and we'd improved our navigation skills in ways quite uncartographic. It had turned out to be a most pleasant and educative vacation.
There's a postscript to this story that I'll mention before moving on. Miss Goodright was a decent sort, and so was Gerald, who was on his way to university, and whose charm was matched by his public-speaking abilities. So, somehow, Gerald found himself headed to Miss Goodright's school to give a lecture on the subject of geopolitical this-or-that. It turned out that Miss Goodright had invited most of the upper school.
It also turned out that most of the upper school had heard about the nature visit to the Lake District and Miss Goodright's chaperone experience from hell. Now, behold, here was Sir Lancelot himself, standing before them fresh from his multitudinous Lake District conquests, by now much embellished and a celebrated part of school lore. Generous-hearted Miss Goodright had been unfairly nicknamed "Sourpuss" . . .
Now Gerald denies all evil intent - and I believe him. It was all the fault of the girls. What happened? In Gerald's opening remarks to the upper school audience, some of the girls detected a double entendre of, err, massive proportions. A tittering arose from the audience, which swelled to engulf the hall as girls who had detected Sir Lancelot's "real meaning" passed it from one to the other. After that, it didn't much matter what the geopolitical presentation was really about; the girls interpreted it all in the wrong way. Miss Goodright didn't invite Gerald back next year. Gerald was quite nonplussed by his audience's reaction to his erudite presentation, and was pleased that she didn't.
And now I am back in Penrith 47 years later - and Gerald is nice enough to call to ask how I'm doing. Do I tell him that I'm a wizened old codger, bald and in spectacles, that no one notices? Or do I tell him that all the girls in the Lake District lined the streets when I arrived, recognizing me as the once-16-year-old limber boy with tousled hair - and with one voice chanted "Where's Gerald?"
Carlisle, tomorrow's destination, is quite a long distance from Penrith, and by 1.30 pm, I had only walked eleven miles from Shap to Penrith. So I decided to try for accommodation some distance to the north of Penrith. Back in Kendal, the Tourist Information Centre had been very helpful, and so was the Penrith one today (Cheshire, please learn from Cumbria). They found me a pub a couple of miles beyond Penrith in the peaceful village of Newton Reigny. True, the Sun Inn had a terminal case of water hammer, the pipes juddering whenever anyone operated the plumbing. There was no central heating in my room, and the electric fan heater had lost its legs on one side and was positioned under a wood desk, a nice prescription for a fire. But the place was clean, and I’d shaved a couple of miles off tomorrow's arduous hike, as well as positioned myself to get to Carlisle totally on bike paths and lanes and not on the A6. I wouldn’t see much, if anything, of the Lake District, but if I stopped to see all the worthwhile sights along my route, I would still be in the West Country. The Lake District is certainly on my list to visit with Jennifer.
|The Lake District pictures below are scanned from slides taken in 1960 at the age of 16 or 17. The author is shown rowing, and with Gerald R who wears the yellow raingear. The lake is Derwent Water as seen from the top of Skiddaw with the town of Keswick in the foreground|
|Day N31 © 2007 and 2008 Daryl May Day N33|