Post 48: 1 April 1992: Day 5 – Caldbeck (Whelpo) to Carlisle – 20 miles.
After a good breakfast and knowing this was our last day, spirits were high. We had completely forgotten it was April Fools Day. This was a mistake because the rain, sleet and snow were torrential. With a train to catch at 3.30pm and 20 miles to walk we left the bed and breakfast at 8.30am.
Passing through Parsons Park, a young deer ran across our path and a red squirrel shot up a tree in front of us. The path descended to the River Caldew and I noted the comments in the guide book:
‘The banks of the River Caldew are subject to erosion. This necessitates minor diversions from time to time, which cannot be anticipated on the map or within the text.’
Gary was heading nearer and nearer to the raging torrent that called itself a river. Soaking wet from the torrential rain he was in great haste. I suddenly realised that he was getting dangerously close to the river, so that if he slipped his pack would drag him to the bottom and he would never be recovered alive.
‘Stop!’ I shouted as loud as I could above the roar of the gushing water.
‘What?’ he replied.
‘We can’t carry on along this path as it goes too close to the river and we might slip in. I think its best we go back and find another route.’
Gary grunted as he was clearly unhappy with this, never liking to go back over a route he had already done. I would have preferred to go back further.
‘Okay, then let’s try climbing this bank,’ I said noting his reluctance to go back. I started to clamber up a steep muddy bank. My boots slipped and the weight of my pack suddenly made me realise that this was a mistake. Under my breathe I cursed Gary for not agreeing to go back further along the proper path. It is at times like this that real friendships are tested. I grabbed a branch to give me some leverage, then suddenly there was a snap and blinding flash.
‘You alright?’ Gary said.
I swore under my breath. ‘ What do you think?’ I said grasping my eye, which had been hit by the branch. ‘Oooh…..’ my eye was stinging, watering and couldn’t be opened. I began to think walks in the country shouldn’t be like this. After about five minutes, I managed to open the eye and was much relieved to find I could still see.
‘You’ve got a black eye,’ Gary said.
‘Great, that’ll take some explaining to my wife.’
Eventually we reached a better path and started to follow it along the valley until it dropped down to the river again.
A sign said as we reached a landslide of mud and trees that went straight into the river. Was this the Himalayas or the Lake District I thought to myself? We cautiously found our way through the mud realising that one slip and we were goners in the river.
It was with great relief that we left the mud and forested area to stop for a miserable, wet, refreshment break perched on a rock.
After that it was head down, best foot forward, as we raced through puddles, rain, streams and mud to reach the end of the walk in Carlisle at 2.30pm. 20 miles completed in six hours. A weir looked like Niagara Falls as we posed for photographs in front of it, pleased that, despite the atrocious conditions, we had managed to finish the walk. Having forgot his gaiters, Gary’s trousers were brown with mud up to the knees.
Next stop was the railway station, where we headed for the gents loo to change into some dry clothing. At this point, Gary realised he had lost his glasses and I realised all my maps were soaked through. From there we went to the snack bar for some warming soup, then it was on the Carlisle – Settle train, with connections to York.
When I got home I turned out my clothes into the linen basket, next to the dog’s basket. The dog refused to go on his basket. I know dogs have sensitive smell, but I hadn’t realised it was that sensitive!
It took only one day to recover from the hardships of the walk, then I started to look forward to the next one – my own coast to coast walk!