May 16, 2013
Today was our first day on the Cumbria Way. After breakfast and saying farewell to John and Martin, it was nearly 10 am. But that didn’t bother us because this is a no-rushing holiday. We headed up the road to the car park where the Way starts, and where there was an interesting sculpture marking the start. It was an inverted metal cone which contained samples of the different types of rock found along the route.
The first part of the Way had us climbing quite steeply alongside the gill, beside a lovely forest which was carpeted with bluebells. Then we arrived at our first moment of confusion. The maps seemed to say that we should be going through a gate and across a grassy field. But we knew that there were several other walkers ahead of us, and the grass didn’t show any footsteps. But since all of the clues pointed that way, we opened the gate and headed through the field. Sure enough, soon we found a waymark.
For the next couple of hours we were crossing farm fields. This is a rather tedious way to walk, because every 100 meters you have to stop to climb a stile or wrench open a gate. And then you have to figure out which way to cross the field so as to arrive at the next stile or gate. But luckily we had good weather and the views were splendid. And the fields were full of little lambs and their mothers.
It seemed that we climbed and climbed, and as we did so the fields became larger and eventually gave way to open country. The walking was really lovely here, no need to watch your step. We stopped at about 2 pm for lunch, sitting beside the trail above Tottlebank in a pass filled with last year’s bracken. The views were great and with the aid of our guidebook and the Ordnance Survey map we could identify various hills. We could also look back to Morecambe Bay where we had started from.
After lunch was the best section of the day’s walk. No more pastures, just open fells. We walked through a boggy section by Beacon Tarn—no ducks to be seen here, but it was a pretty tarn—and then down into a dry valley. From here the trail led us over to the shore of Coniston Water and now our path was straightforward. We followed the shoreline for about 6 kilometers until we reached Coniston. Just before we got there we had a sprinkling of rain, the first of the day, but it didn’t really amount to anything significant.
Entering the village just before 6 pm we crossed Church Beck and found our B&B. Jean welcomed us and showed us our room, and we collected our bags which had been successfully delivered by Sherpavan. It felt very good to have a shower after the long walk. After sorting out our stuff a bit we headed out for dinner. We looked at a few places before deciding on the Black Bull Inn, standing where it had stood for the last 400 years. If it was good enough for Turner and Wordsworth it was certainly good enough for us! As usual the meals were huge, but we managed to finish them off.