Black Country Stompers, yet more Guinness and Shap

POST 30: 2 April 1991: Day 5 – Patterdale Youth Hostel to Shap – 19 miles (normal route is 16 miles)

Relief! My infected blister was a little better. As I walked through reception at 8.00am, I bumped into Theresa who said,

‘You don’t look very happy.’

‘Oh, I’m not awake yet.’

Not a man for swearing, I didn’t like to say her stupid and incorrect advice about the weather had meant me walking extra miles, resulting in sore feet. ‘Are you going to Shap today?’ I enquired.

‘No, we’re stopping half-way.’

‘Oh, perhaps we’ll see you later on during the walk.’ I said hoping that I wouldn’t or, if I did, a suitable revenge could be plotted such as turning a signpost around so that she headed off into a wilderness, never to be seen again. This is probably the reason that, from time to time, signs get turned round – a sure way of getting rid of walkers you don’t get on with. As it happened, I didn’t see her on the walk again.

We left Patterdale at 9.15am in torrential rain. It would have been tempting to stay in Patterdale, which Wainwright points out in his guide, is one of the options. Passing through fields, streams had become gushing rivers and Ullswater was probably twice its normal size. It was at this point that we decided to follow the low-level, longer route along Ullswater, rather than the recommended route over Kidsty Pike. Despite the rain, we made good progress, then, near Howtown, stopped in the doorway of a barn to have a hot drink. It was at this point we encountered the Black Country Stompers, a long distance walking group from the Midlands. They surrounded us, pulled out their lunch packs then, as we were grossly outnumbered, we decided we would have to relinquish our bit of shelter and move on. Such are the hierarchies of the trail. However, right was on our side, so that the rain eased off considerably. We continued over Askham Fell to Butterwick, where, feeling somewhat tired we stopped on a bench, near the road, for lunch.

How about this for an alfresco lunch spot
How about this for an alfresco lunch spot
Post lunch relaxation
Post lunch relaxation

‘What would you do if a bus to Shap passed by now?’ I asked.

Archie thought hard and long, ‘Oh, we couldn’t get on a bus ’

‘No but what if two blondes in a sports car stopped and offered us a lift to Shap? Now that would be a different matter.’

Clearly five days on the trail were starting to have an effect and we were experiencing delusions and day dreams. Could we last the solitude and mental torture for another nine days?

Fortunately, we soon arrived at Bampton Grange, where there was an inn and an opportunity to bring us back to the real world. Soon after the Black Country Stompers arrived, then Clint and Wendy. There were enough of us to have a party but no one had the energy. With a roaring fire we were able to dry our clothes and the pub looked liked Sketchleys on a busy day. The warmth of the log fire was cosy and comforting, plus there was Guinness to replenish lost nutrients. I could easily have stayed there instead of heading out into the elements. It was not to be; the call of Shap was beckoning and what would I say to all my sponsors who had offered to donate money to the wildlife rescue centre in Scotland if I failed to finish the walk? There is something about walking to Shap that leads one to a negative frame of mind. I think it goes back to my childhood when Shap was always the first place in the country to be cut off by snow and in a child’s eye it was the last place on earth. Here I was walking towards it, conjuring up all sorts of images of bleakness and barrenness. On arrival, in torrential rain and mist, I was not disappointed as we trudged down the windswept main street; we could have been at the North Pole. However, we did find one shop open and managed to re-stock with barley sugars, Yorkie bars and fruit pastilles; my sugar levels were at an all time low.

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