We couldn't leave the Vane House fast enough. As I already said, they have too much on their plates and simply shouldn't be in the hospitality business.
We set off north out of town, ready to tackle about 12 miles or so. We know we'll have a couple of climbs today but don't expect it to be too bad. (This is when our strategy of not reading ahead comes into play. Had we actually read ahead and studied the maps, we'd have known that today would be pure and utter torture. Because we didn't, we are happily ignorant.)
The walk lets us wander through wooded areas with small streams that happily remind us of Arlington's bike path and Lacey Woods. Lauren and I love these parts of the walk and our imaginations run away from us and we see trolls and ents and fairies everywhere we look. I love the fact that Lauren's still young enough to enjoy this kind of thing...seeing fairies and trolls and hearing elves singing in the trees. Even when no one else does.
We begin a very steep climb and in no time at all, Lauren is far ahead of me. My calf simply won't let me keep up with her speed. She's part mountain goat it seems. She waits at the top and is fully rested by the time I arrive, huffing and puffing and cursing like a sailor. She patiently waits for me to pull myself together before she's off again, leading the way and taking a big lead. I'm impressed by her strength and stamina.
We climb mountains again (I thought this stage of the game was over) and descend only to climb another. We are looking forward to reaching the Lord Stone's Cafe, which is famous in this neck of the woods for cream teas, coffees, cakes and delicious bacon rolls. Knowing that a wonderfully delicious treat is looming ever closer, I keep going. Imagine our frustration when we arrive only to find it abandoned! It hasn't been in working order in quite a long time based on the look of the place. We stand there anyway...just looking at it as if our stares will force it back into operation. After several minutes, we give up and continue on our way, if not a little more slowly.
To light a fire under our butts, I break out into "The Bare Necessities" from the Jungle Book. In no time at all, Lauren and I are singing at the tops of our lungs about the bare necessities of life and having a grand old time. Who needs the Lord or his Stones? Not me and my bear cub!
Our enthusiasm is lessened by yet another climb. When we reach the summit, we sit down to enjoy a sandwich and crisps. A nibble of a sweet and we're off again. I'm chilled at this point because the sweat has dried and the wind is blowing like hell at the summit. My calf has grown cold and because I've been overcompensating, the other calf is now pissed off too. Lauren's knee and hip are causing her distress and we finish our meal with handfuls of Motrin.
After hours of climbing up and down, we reach the Wain Stones (a favorite place of Alfred Wainwright's). Lauren is regenerated and climbs like a billy goat. I'm sputtering "please be carefuls" and "please slow downs" but she's soon out of sight. I call to her and when I reach the top, I find her standing atop the highest stones, looking down on the walk we've accomplished. We've actually climbed four separate mountains and it's an impressive view from here but I'm still worried she's going to fall to her death and leave me there alone. She tells me to sit down and chill out while she carves her initials on a stone. I do my best at chilling, the whole time silently praying.
Eventually, we're off and Lauren's happy again. She loves climbing and scrambling over rocks. If the entire 200 miles involved scrambling over rocks, she'd do this again and again.
Another two hours finds us at an actual road. We hang a right and know that we only have another mile or so to the place we're to spend the night but it's a very long and painful mile. Everything aches and we just can't seem to get there. We finally find their driveway and then climb another mile uphill before the property actually comes into view.
When we knock on the door (per the posted instructions), a bent over woman with stringy grey hair opens it and cackles. She squints at the light and waves us inside a dark, damp entry way. She instructs us to remove our boots and gaitors and we obediently do as she says. She leads us toward a stairway and asks us our names. As I introduce us to our hostess, we learn that her name is Wendy and I notice that she has two large moles on her cheek from which long, black hairs are growing. She's wearing an old grey sweater without a bra, the sleeves and hem are dingy and her finger nails are caked with black earth. She cackles away about hosting two Americans and leads us upstairs to our quarters. She's generously given us a bedroom with two twin beds as well as an entire sitting room and private bath. She flicks on a fake fireplace that puts out meager heat and tells us that dinner will be served at 7pm.
Before she leaves us to shower and get comfortable, I ask about an ATM. I explain that although I planned out how much cash we'd need, some B&B's that would take credit cards when I booked have since gotten rid of their card machines due to the high fees and would only take cash. Our pounds are running out and while I can pay our host and hostess for tonight, I'm concerned about the next few nights. Wendy cackles that I shouldn't worry and things will sort themselves out. Easy for her to say, I think, as she hunches down the stairs.
She returns with a pot of tea for Lauren and OJ for me, plus two very large Kit Kats. We thank her and she simply cackles and leaves.
We are in the midst of discussing how she MUST be a witch. Wendy the Witch. Moles with hair. Dirty nails. Cackling. Suddenly, her husband Gerry comes upstairs to introduce himself. He is a character too! He has the stereotypical enormously bulbous red nose of a drunk. It takes up 2/3 of his face but he is genuinely sweet when he says that he understands that we are worried about money. He tells us not to worry because he's going to phone ahead to the next town to see the local pub will do a cash advance for us. He insists that we shouldn't worry.
He returns later to say that the pub will advance us at least 100 pounds and an enormous burden is lifted. I didn't know how we were going to pay for our next couple of nights. Then he drops a bomb shell. We now owe him our souls.
Just kidding! I just wanted to know if you were paying attention. Rather than taking our souls, he tells us that Wendy is going to take us into town right after breakfast the next morning so that we can go to a bank. Town is 19 miles away....we are so very grateful but we don't want to put them out or take advantage of their generosity. They don't want to hear another word and tell us that they're just doing what makes them happy.
Dinner starts with a glass of sherry and then red wine. Wendy brings soup, followed by chili con carne over yellow rice and finally rhubarb cheesecake. Lauren is exhausted and between her knee and her hip, she has no appetite. Wendy makes her white toast with butter and jam and I put her to bed early. I crawl into the bed next to her and hope that the toast and the motrin will send her off to an early sleep. I hope Wendy doesn't eat us in our sleep.
17 Day Itinerary
Our walk begins in St. Bee's on the West Coast of Great Britain at the Irish Sea. Almost 200 miles later, we will find ourselves at the North Sea in Robin Hood's Bay.
Day 1 - Moor Row, 9 miles The Jasmine House
Day 2 - Ennerdale, 8 miles Low Cock How Farm
Day 3 - Seatoller, 14 miles Seatoller Farm
Day 4 - Grasmere, 10.5 miles Town Head Farm
Day 5 - Patterdale, 7.5 miles Grisdale Lodge
Day 6 - Shap, 16 miles Brookfield House
Day 7 - Orton, 8 miles The Westons
Day 8 - Kirby Stephen, 13.5 miles The Black Bull
Day 9 - Keld, 14 miles Keld Lodge
Day 10 - Richmond, 14 miles The Old Brewery
Day 11 - Danby-Wiske, 14 miles Old School House
Day 12 - Osmotherly, 12 miles 32 South End
Day 13 - Clay Bank Top, 11 miles The Maltkiln House
Day 14 - Blakley Ridge, 8.5 miles The Sevenford House
Day 15 - Grosmont, 14 miles The Station Inn
Day 16 - Robin Hood's Bay, 16 miles The Raven House
Of course, these distances don't account for getting lost and doubling back a few times, avoiding an aggressive herd of heifers or navigating the moors.... or wandering off in search of a pint.