Hike Northbound through Britain with Daryl May
Click for Southbound hike
Crossing the Lancaster Canal, south of Carnforth (actually a photo I took next day)
DN28 Lancaster Canal
Days N25 - N33                                                                     North of England
Day N28 - Bilsborrow to Lancaster
Day N27        On gloves, mileage signs, and tea         Day N29
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Southbound Home
Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Time of departure: 8.30 am
Time of arrival: 3.00 pm
Place departed: Bilsborrow, Lancashire
Place arrived: Lancaster, Lancashire

Miles: 14.1
Cum miles: 458.1
Percent complete: 49.4

Bed sign Greave House B&B, Lancaster  ***
Cost for bed and breakfast: £35 ($70)
  Overview of both hikes


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Hikers often remark on the amount of litter they see, but I've never seen anyone mention discarded gloves. I have seen well over a hundred gloves on this hike, and very seldom in pairs.

Of course, all manner of litter has presented itself, with drink containers (cans and plastic bottles) topping the list and candy wrappers and cigarette boxes close behind. Most suggestive have been the occasional set of jeans and one pair of ladies' underpants.  But the number of gloves is the most puzzling.

The weather was downright cold this morning, and breezy too. I almost wanted to pick up those gloves and wear them.  One reason for heading north rather than south is to have the wind behind you, but it had often been in my face so far. Today, it was occasionally quite strong.

I was quite unable to get a spring in my step today. The action of pushing oneself forward with one's toes had repercussions on my calf and thigh muscles that were tender from yesterday's long hike.  Mark Moxon, probably the best chronicler of hikes like this (see day N4), entitled his book, When I Walk, I Bounce. That certainly speaks to the vitality of a good strong walking action. I was not able to summon it today. I limped rather than bounced.

Garstang gets my "best benches" award.  It's an award-winning town, cleaner than most and generously cloaked in flowers.  Benches for tired hikers were available at many street corners. I bet you they also have a decent number of litter boxes - not a universal thing in Britain.

After Garstang, I got my daily call from Jenny, who always manages to express astonished approval when I tell her where I am. This made the next few miles a little easier.  Later, a big black rain cloud just missed me to the east (scattered rain had been forecast), for which I was grateful. In Forton, an old milestone mocked me by indicating that I'd covered only "IIII¾" miles since Garstang, the Roman numerals mixing with the fraction in what seemed an inappropriate way.

This is perhaps the moment to mention the British direction signs. They are generously ample.  But, in England anyway, they seldom state the mileage to the next town, while for some reason they often give - to quarter-mile precision - the mileage to villages off the road. Why it is that the few drivers who want to know the distance to a village to left or right are given that information – while the majority wish to know the distance to the large city right on the route, and are left in ignorance?   Thus I get told that Goosnargh is “2¾” miles to the right when I’m heading through Barton, but am not told the mileage to the county seat and major city of Lancaster that’s ahead and more likely to be my destination.

In one instance, where the mileage sign was indeed to my destination, it indicated eight miles to Callington - welcome information that set my time-to-go brain cells calculating.  Then, after going a mile - in the right direction, I am certain - a sign said I was now nine miles from Callington.  Perhaps there are some sadists in the Ministry of Road Signs.

The lambs seem to have been weaned now. They're eating grass voraciously.  It's touching to see them lying next to their mothers in the meadows.  I also noticed that, if they felt scared for any reason, they ran to their mothers and thrust their faces at her udder - not for milk, but from the association of this action with comfort.  The mothers didn't always seem impressed.

Lunch today was a supermarket veggie pack of raw trimmed snap peas and baby sweetcorn, with B&B cookies and mints for dessert, washed down with Perthshire spring water.  It was quite delicious.

Eventually I reached Lancaster and was able to find a B&B right on my route.  It was only 3 pm - a normal day's hike - but it felt like I'd walked longer.

And walk longer I unfortunately did - but on this occasion it was in search of dinner. But at least then I wasn't carrying my pack.

One of the nice, and distinctive things about British accommodation is that there are often tea-making facilities in the room, and perhaps also some cookies. On occasions, I’ve enjoyed an absolutely marvelous slice of homemade fruitcake, too.  But it is the tea that I like best.  Tea sold in Britain is usually excellent, and only on the rarest occasions is it even mediocre.  A landlady may greet your arrival with her own pot of tea served in the living room, or you can brew it yourself in your bedroom, carrying a little jug of milk that she’ll hand you as you go upstairs. 

Tea seems of lesser quality in the States.  With its more recent British heritage, Canada places somewhere between the two.  In the States, as I reflected now, Lipton tea is at the bottom of my list, though it may not be the same Lipton quality that’s sold elsewhere.  As I pondered on this subject, I imagined a tea market in India, where an auction was progressing with the highest bidder choosing the tea he wanted, and the next-highest choosing his, and so on.  The Roses tea buyer bid highest and departed first with the choicest tea leaves from around the world, selected from the freshest and cleanest part of the bulk tea, and destined for tea connoisseurs in Britain and elsewhere.

Next highest bidder was the buyer for Wonder Tea: he took the quality leaves that were left after Roses had departed, and sold a plain but honest tea product, often under a store brand label, in Britain, Europe and in the Near and Far East.

Next bidder after Wonder Tea was Twining – and the tea quality was now rather poor. In my imagination, Twining was happy with some of the leaves left on the floor from the last auction, mingled with plant stalks and other vegetable matter.  Twining sold it in various undiscriminating tea markets to those who will pay a little more for a respectable-looking label, while still insisting on a modicum of tea taste.

Again in my imagination, the "tea" that was still left in the auction was now infested with floor dust, rat droppings, and mites, the mixture imparting a darkness to the water and an acrid taste of tannic acid.

And that's just the moment that Mr. Lipton arrived.

Day N27                              © 2007 and 2008 Daryl May                               Day N29