The best toilets in the country? Lycra clad cyclists and how not to dry your clothes.

Post 32. The route goes over pleasant limestone country to Oddendale, where we were caught in a hail-storm. I tried to find my compass, but, after having put my hands in the thirty-three pockets adorning my body, to no avail, panic started to set in. Walking without a compass in heavy rain or mist basically means you are blind. We spent about half-an-hour searching amongst the grass of Seal How Common in the faint hope that, if I had dropped it, we might find it again. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack. We were just about to give up when I looked in my map case to find it hidden under a map; phew relief. We passed the ancient cairn of Robin Hood’s Grave, that man again! Just to confuse you, it is not really Robin Hood’s grave.

We eventually arrived at the village of Orton, where I decided to go to the toilet. This was an experience never to be forgotten as, on entering, there were carpets laid out in front of the urinals, flowers on the window-sills and heating. It was enough to put a gentleman off his aim. I can imagine some coast to coasters spending the night here in comfort. To cap it all there is a collection box to help fund all the luxuries. Why is it that men’s toilets (I can’t comment on ladies toilets) in Cities are disgusting places where you spend the absolute minimum of time, don’t dare breathe for the fumes, always find the hand-washer and drier faulty, and can’t find any toilet paper? Yet in the country, toilets are clean, fresh, have toilet paper, and are well looked after. I think you can always tell how civilised a place is by the standard of its toilets; Orton takes pride of place. (Diary update – you now have to pay for toilets in Cities and there are far too few, a disgrace and discrimination against the elderly, people with illnesses and the disabled).

After passing Sunbiggin Tarn, we began crossing Ravenstone Moor, at which point I took a funny turn. I am not one for funny turns, but I definitely felt as though I was about to pass out. I said to Archie that we had better stop for refreshments. Thinking I was suffering from six days of exposure to the elements, I huddled behind my rucksack to keep out of the wind. I managed to find some crumpled biscuits, which seem to revive me a little. It was a worrying moment and I’ve never felt like it on a walk since. We carried on, but as I still felt weak and might have another funny turn we joined and followed the main A685 at Newbiggin. This was probably the correct decision as we soon ventured on a café and, after tea (with three spoonfuls of sugar) and scones, my sugar levels were restored and there were no problems for the rest of the day. It had been a long day and we were relieved when we arrived at Kirkby Stephen.

The youth hostel surprised us as it had pews and stained glass. I immediately went to leave the building as I thought we had entered a church by mistake. However, someone came to us without a dog-collar and introduced himself as the warden of the hostel. Then a lycra clad, attractive looking, cyclist called Sue came through the entrance door, at which point I decided it wasn’t a church; the warden explained that it was a former Methodist chapel. Whilst walkers often arrive at hostels in loose clothing, as though they have come straight from the jumble sale, cyclists often arrive in skin-tight lycra with steam rising from taught muscles; it can be most off-putting. Sue had travelled up from London and was cycling around the north of England. She joined us at the pub, where the Black Country Stompers, Clint and Wendy, and another guy from London, Dave, were also obtaining liquid refreshment. There was quite a camaraderie developing amongst us and Coast to Coast was developing into a social whirl, rather than a walk. At times, normally first thing in the morning, you felt it would be better to keep to the socialising rather than the walking. Clint was an interesting character having been a climber and skier. Like me, he doesn’t sleep very well on long-distance walks, his doctor advising him to take sleeping tablets. Given that he also drank and smoked quite heavily, a ‘hangover’ from his climbing days, it was a miracle he was fit enough to do the walk. His claim to fame and fitness was that he had climbed ‘The Old Man of Hoy’, although he didn’t say whether it was twenty or twenty-five years earlier.

When I got back to the hostel I had a look in the drying room to see how the washing I had done earlier was drying. Oops, I had put it high on some drying racks and it had dripped all over the Black Country Stompers clothes that were drying; I was the most unpopular person in the hostel.

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