We discovered that our waterproof clothing and backpack covers are, in fact, not. Perhaps they are waterproof if you are in the rain for only short periods of time but when you are walking for 8 hours a day in constant rain for a couple of days in a row, they are most certainly not waterproof. I first learned this ugly fact when I attempted to turn on our new camera. There was a whole pint of water sloshing around in the display. I think that's bad. I put Mr. Camera away and hoped that we'd manage to somehow get him dry and working again but I wasn't betting on it. My cell phone and GPS were all waterlogged and angry too.
We packed them in the driest places we could find and set off in a driving rain from the King's Arms on our way to Richmond. As I was beginning to accept as routine, the day's walk started with an annoyingly steep climb out of town. We were quickly overtaken by the 3 Aussie's and 1 Brit who walk so damn fast that they go by in blur. I've grown to like this group of people now. The wife is still a bit demanding but she's actually quite nice and the two husbands are regular characters. I call the Brit "Mic" as in Crocodile Dundee. He's actually the only Brit among 3 Aussies but he looks the part and he makes me laugh. I've never met someone who laughs harder at his own jokes.
I won't spend too much time describing the next bit but it was gross. We walked the sloppiest, stinkiest path I've ever seen. The stench was almost unbearable at times and I breathed through my shirt. We struggled to keep our foothold in the uphill track through muck that covered our boots and gaiters. This went on for quite a long time until we finally broke out onto tarmac. The rain was still coming down in buckets so we didn't take any pictures of the Priory we passed. We barely even glanced at it in our push to get under some cover to take a short break.
As we left the tarmac over a style into yet another pasture, I somehow managed to pull my left calf. I've torn my right one twice and am only too familiar with the sound it makes as it tears and the pain that quickly follows. My speed dropped dramatically as my range of motion was cut by probably two-thirds. Lauren and Owen stopped and waited for me to catch up. I told them what I'd done and asked them to slow down just a bit because I knew I'd have difficulty with the next climb. We huddled under a tree by the Swale, which was swelling over its banks. Lauren ate a sandwich and I downed 4 Motrin.
We were off again. Uphill. In deep mud. I unintentionally shouted out several times because of the pain in my calf. I was using my walking poles to pull myself up but the mud was making it virtually impossible to keep solid footing. We soon found ourselves in a field on a hill full of heifers AND calves AND bulls. What?? Why is this farmer putting bulls in a field that is a Public Footpath? Regardless of the reason, we have to find a way through them and to the top of this pasture. As we're planning our route, knowing that I can't go very quickly, a bull steps right onto the path and stares at us. It seemed like he was daring us to approach. We made a few starts only to have him cut off our path. We retreated and tried other directions, each time he cut us off. A nice British couple were waiting at the top of the pasture to make sure we made it safely through and using their walking sticks, pointed a route that seemed safe. From their vantage point, they had a better view of all of the players. With their help, we made it through the cattle and to the next style.
I was really hurting and slowing everyone down. We were soaked through to the bone and I was beginning to worry that Lauren was going to catch the cold of a lifetime. I told her and Owen to go ahead to Richmond and I would meet them there. There was no reason for the three of us to get even more wet and chilled. They were able to cover about 3 miles an hour while I was probably able to do about half that. Lauren didn't like it much but Owen told her that I was right. I trusted the dwarf to take care of my girl and keep her safe.
They were soon out of sight and it became quite lonely. The going was very slow. Uphill and down through ankle deep muck. The rain never let up. The last 5 miles were hell so I'll spare you the details. I made it to Richmond and found Lauren and Owen at the Old Brewery Guesthouse. Lauren was outside in the beer garden wringing out her socks, standing on cold concrete in bare feet. Duh. We stripped down as best we could while being decent and were shown to a lovely room. The bathroom had a floor to ceiling heated towel rack. I took all of Lauren's wet things and my own into a very hot shower. I scrubbed everything and wrung it out. After cranking the towel rack to max, I hung everything to dry. We shoved newspaper in our boots and put them under the rack, praying they'd be dry by morning.
As we stood there shivering in towels, dying to find a pub and a pint, we realized that our bags hadn't arrived yet! We had nothing to wear but our towels....so we waited and waited. About an hour later, Sherpa delivered our bags. We dressed in warm (not clean) clothes and set off in the rain again to find a pub. Thankfully, Richmond is full of them!
What a great village! A clock tower in the village square and the remains of the castle on the edge of town. I hobble as best I can to the closest pub but we see some more interesting sites a few streets away. The Unicorn won't let Lauren in so we charge ahead to the Castle Pub for a pint. Lauren and I like it there and they have horse racing on the tele. Lauren's drwarf is in the outdoor store next door to buy a new rain jacket because his doesn't work. He meets us awhile later with a new rain jacket that doesn't work any better. He doesn't like the Castle Pub because the owner of the outdoor store told him its a rough place and he doesn't think Lauren should be in there. I laugh at this because I know she's been to the Whistle Stop any number of times but I appreciate that he's trying to keep her safe so I finish my pint and we find a more respectable place for our little group.
We have a delicious meal and couple of pints and hobble back to our guesthouse. The rain is still coming down. I flip all of the things hanging on the towel rack and say a silent prayer to the Coast to Coast gods to please let our things be dry for morning, please don't let Lauren get sick, and lastly, please let my calf magically heal overnight.
We tuck into warm beds with thick feather ticks and listen to the rain clicking on our windows. I'm thankful that we're warm and dry with a safe, comfortable home for the night. I drift off remembering how lucky I am.
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.