Saved by Milk, Barley Sugars and a Blonde

Post 17: 11 April 1990: Day 4 – Grayrigg to Bowness-on-Windermere – 16 miles  

In the morning I tiptoed down the stairs to explain to the landlady that Gary had been somewhat poorly and wouldn’t be having breakfast. She was quite sympathetic, so I didn’t let on it was due to him drinking out of streams. I ate with relish my huge breakfast of porridge, bacon, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, hash browns, black pudding, toast and marmalade, all washed down with buckets of tea. I felt great, my energy was restored for the day ahead, and with only sixteen miles to go felt we had cracked this walk. At least I did until I saw Gary unshaven, hair uncombed; a ghostly apparition.

‘Oh dear, you look a bit rough,’ I said stating the obvious. ‘It’s drinking out of streams that made you ill.’ I turned the dagger. ‘You never listen to what I say.’

‘Oh shut up,’ Gary groaned.

You know you’ve reached the low point of a long-distance walk when you can’t even shave. Gary had reached it, I now needed to find a way of reviving him. Soon after leaving one of the best bed and breakfast establishments in the country, we arrived at a newspaper shop, but Gary was so bad he didn’t even want to buy a newspaper. He needed nourishment; you can’t walk sixteen miles on an empty stomach.

‘Milk and barley sugars should do it,’ I said cheerfully.

He managed to drink a pint of milk, but declined the barley sugars.

Having to catch a train at 4.20pm concentrated our minds and legs and we made quite good progress. After 6 miles, we entered a café in Burneside, a small town dominated by the paper mill industry. As the caffeine was pumped into a body racked by tiredness, sickness, and lack of food Gary’s spirits lifted; only 10 miles to go. The next 3 miles along the River Kent to Staveley were flat, but going over the stiles made Gary groan. As we left Staveley, the route became a bit more up and down and Gary developed the runs. Just when he was about to expire, I pulled out the barley sugars and, like injecting him with morphine, enabled him to continue.

Arrival at Hag End Farm was the signal for the mist to come down; it was at this point that navigation became a matter of life or death. If I went wrong here, Gary might not see Bowness-on-Windermere or his dear wife ever again. On reflection perhaps it might not be a bad thing if his wife didn’t see him in this state, she might blame me. To say I was still learning the art of navigation would be putting it mildly, but, to keep morale up, I pretended I knew where we were going, but in reality hadn’t a clue. On emerging from the mist onto a clear path a delightful blonde lady walking her dog appeared. Was it a beautiful mirage? I decided to check it out and asked politely if we were on the correct path for Bowness-on-Windermere.

‘Yes,’ she said looking at Gary, somewhat mystified as to why he looked like a tramp. ‘You’ve only another three miles to go.’

‘Thank you,’ I said, greatly relieved to find we are on the correct route.

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