My Apple watch informs that Mike and I logged 9.49 miles walking today with elevation gains of 225 feet. The beauty of these miles was that each of them happened on a paved surface. So, while we cannot be called slackers, we do not object to being called sensible septuagenarians. After yesterday’s near death experience it seemed prudent, to say the least, to have a recovery day.
Beverly, out chatty and be-speckled host at Green Bank Farm, fed us the obligatory Cumbrian breakfast at the sensible hour of 8:30. She then returned all of the sodden clothing and boots from yesterday in a completely dry state. (Hallelujah!) We repacked our gear and took the 1/2 mile walk into town where we caught the 10:20 bus into the bustling market town of Penrith where we found a great little coffee house nestled in Little Dockery Street. Saturday morning in one of these towns is an event to behold – people of all ages streaming this way and that carrying bundles, pushing baby carriages or just strolling and talking. After we finished our coffees and gluten free carrot cake we made our way a few blocks over to the quaint sandstone building that is the railway station where a preternatural quiet prevailed because today is the day when railway workers are striking for better wages. But this was our good fortune because the uniformed gentlemen at the information desk had all the time in the world to make three or four calls on THEIR phone (the hospitality here has been beyond description) to locate a taxi that would take us to Shap – todays’ destination.
Our visit to Shap has been a highlight of the trip. A few of the aforementioned miles were logged walking out of town to the ruin of the Shap Abbey. It boggles the mind to stand in the middle of a building that was originally erected 500 years before the first Englishman set foot on North America and to stand in the 18 inch circle that is chiseled into the floor to mark the assigned position of a monk during a Mass that was celebrated in the 1400’s.
On our way back to the village we stopped at the Shap Bowling Club to watch a soccer match between teams from Shap and Kendal. We chatted with a young Casey Affleck look-alike who has been sidelined by a torn ACL in his left knee. He is in line to have arthroscopic surgery in 20 months!! (The National Health Service is great but apparently has limitations. We also learned on this trip that hospice care here in funded entirely by private donations but that’s a story for another day.) The rain began to fall in torrents while we watched. The game did not stop but we decided to wimp out and head back toward our guest house.
Because we were still early to check in, we took a detour into the Greyhound Hotel to book dinner and to have a late-afternoon beer (gluten free). As we were finishing up, the back door of the lobby opened and a soaking wet Hamish and Amanda from New Zealand walked in. We had a brief reunion and caught up briefly on the day’s events and promised to meet up again in the evening. And so we did. The four of us enjoyed a lovely dinner together. We will not see them again on this trip because they are chugging ahead to a further destination tomorrow to complete their coast-to-coast walk in fewer days than ours. But the fellowship that comes from sharing an experience like this one must be akin to the bonds that soldiers form in battle. If we never see Hamish or Amanda again, we shall never forget them.
Tomorrow we resume the trail making our way to the sleepy town of Orton, described in the guide book as little more than a row of houses. This marks the end of our trek through Cumbria and the Lake District but more and different adventures await in the dales and moors ahead. We are now 60 miles down with 130 to go. We’ll call that one third of the journey even if you won’t.