Thankfully despite the dorm room being fully booked I was able to gain much needed sleep, no one snored which is always a bonus in these places, having to run and walk around 12 miles today meant that I could have a lazier start to the day. It felt odd getting up at 7:30am and taking breakfast with the others and sitting down to eat I felt as if I was cheating in some way, I’ve become so accustomed to getting up before dawn and setting off early that anything else seems a little alien to me.
Breakfast was a generous and hearty affair of full English and some fruit and tea, people pottered around the dining area and some busied themselves with packing, after I had eaten I began to assemble my gear, it was nice to not have to pack away the tent and having seen the rain and wind last night for the price of £10 it was worth the comfort indoors. I was soon leaving and said my goodbyes and good luck to people I had met last night before wandering the quiet lanes and taking the 1st left onto Doctor Bridge, so named after a local surgeon had the bridge widened so he could fit his carriage down it, the path from here settled onto a very nice and flat surface alongside the river Esk, the rain mite of been a pain but it certainly made up for it with the magnificent rivers and waterfalls I had seen over the last day.
I had a rough route plan for today, but depending on what I found along the route there was plenty of scope to change this if needed, I passed little path cut offs along the way as a helicopter flew overhead a few times, I came to a wider section of the river and stopped for a moment to take in this crystal clear rough water as it chopped its way along the stony banks and under a rather nice wooden bridge, I decided to take the path and follow this to the waterfall of Stanley Force, but before that I noted a sign that stated the bridge further up was out but the ford was passable, now we all know what this really mean don’t we.
There is something rather special about the Eskdale valley, it shouts old and ancient, the trees here all seem to be native species with moss covering many of the tree trunks lending to an older feel about it. The paths wind their way along the woodland floors giving gently as your feet trod the ground, I come upon the section of no bridge and indeed there was no bridge, recently damaged it had been removed for safety and left a 20ft or so section of ford to cross. Tentatively I probed the ground with a stick and decided that it was only ankle deep, the seal skins were definitely paying for themselves on this run, I waded across the water and for a change the water felt warm on my feet and I was soon following the path up towards my goal.
I could just catch glimpses of people in front of me but as there was so much to see I stopped often taking pictures of the local fungi of which there were many different forms and species and was even treated to a very rare site of a Red Squirrel, my first ever one. All the while the river raged to my left, the sound at times as a little deafening but still it was a pleasant experience to wander besides these amazing waterways, the paths clung to the side of the hill and became narrow as you explore further, the air becomes moister with plant life more dominant. Wandering this path evokes a feeling of a lost world, resplendent with greens and the starting colours of autumn, I almost expected a dinosaur to appear around the next corner and felt myself becoming a Victorian explorer as I trod the path of the lost world, bridges are crossed until suddenly you appear at the waterfall in its entire spectacle.
A chap took up position on a ledge to capture some shots so I opted to trek on, over the sign which warns the traveller that the path here is a little sketchy in nature with steep climbs and slippy steps, the sign just adds to the adventure and I’m soon rounding a corner to a fantastic view, the sound of a roaring waterfall fills the air providing a dramatic sound track to the view in front, I have no option here but to spend a few minutes taking in the view and sounds, it defiantly fills you with wonder and joy.
With a big smile on my face, I follow the path up and over the lower parts of Green How, stopping to hold the gate for a national trust Landover whilst simultaneously trying to stop the sheep from escaping, I wander down towards Low Wood, my effort is gentle today and mindful of my surroundings, this isn’t a place to rush, it’s a place to explore and absorb the feel, the valley has been in some form of habitation for around 4000 years and it’s no wonder that Alfred Wainwright loved the place, you descend from the wild and glorious mountains that surround it on all sides into a wonderful and fairly untouched valley with the area just bursting with history. Since I set off I had been feeling a little ropey, energy seemed to be non-existent and I put it down to impending man flu from the previous days of being wet and cold playing its part.
I followed the path heading towards Eskdale Green the draw of a cuppa was needed, I arrived into the village and found a local shop was the only source of food stuffs, I drank and ate something sweet and I felt better a short time afterwards, I weighed up my options of route choice and given the road here was very busy I opted for the original plan of Muncaster Fell, as I closed in on the foot of the fell, the weather rolled in and I was forced to don my waterproofs yet again and steel myself against the expected damp. I was soon ascending the rocky paths towards the top of the fell, all the while lashed by the rain and wind, the further I ventured the worse it became and sometimes you get the distinct feeling these hills do not want you there, it seemed to take a large amount of time to ascend here and at times brings forth feelings of isolation despite it’s relatively small size you feel alone here and coupled with the winds and rain adds to that slightly oppressive feeling.
I pass a marker on the fells, Ross’s camp which despite looking like a megalithic tombs appears to have been built as a picnic table by a shooting party, I couldn’t find it and my enthusiasm for wandering off path was very limited today, cows sheltered under the light canopy of a tree and we pass by, a shared look of ‘crap weather aint it’ and I tramp onwards. I head for the trig point which seems distant to me, I struggle to make out its familiar shape on the high point in the sideways rains and mist, a fellow walker passes by and briefly exchange hello as we wander on our seperate ways, weather too bad to stop for a nice chat today, along with the wet from above, the ground is saturated and resembles nothing more than various small streams, rivers and ponds across the tops.
I’m soon topping Hooker Crag and for a brief moment I am treated to a break in the rain and wind and granted a 260 degree view of the lake and all its fantastic and rugged beauty, behind me lies the many fells and mountains and in front the beauty of the coastal areas and my final destination, slightly through the trees I glimpse Muncaster Castle, then just like that the wind returns and I withdraw to the slightly more protected side of the crag, here I take a moment to weigh up my options. Ravenglass is my end point but the boundary finishes here out to sea and I’m not sure even my waterproofs would cope with that level of wet, I opt instead the take the route towards Drigg where a handy bridge provides the boundary point. Within a few steps the wind disappears as it becomes diffused by the woodland area, I was soon approaching the main road and quickly off and into the confines of another superb woodland area eventually coming out at Muncaster Bridge Mill, I was forced to walk the short distance to my next footpath along the rather busy A595, lorries and cars cared not for the walker here and I wonder how cyclist got on with this road, to say I shared a few cross words with some of the more idiotic people.
I hopped into my next path, the sign declaring a bridleway but resembled a rather naff long grassed path, with many years of little use it was hard going, it brings me out by Bell Hill Farm and the wander became easier, firstly with a brief road section and then a short trek across a field, cow and sheep watched me as I passed by and I was soon at my end, a little wonderful old bridge, it was a handy marker for the end. It was a few miles back along the road, crossing a railway before ending up on the coastal route near to Drigg Dunes, I was glad that I didn’t have to walk across another ford and a small bridge attached to the rail line provided a handy crossing, the estuary looked fantastic with low light levels providing a wonderful hue to the air, Raveglass was a welcome sight and a local pub provided a most hearty ploughman’s , despite my current smelly homeless look they were more than welcoming, I passed the time awaiting when I could book into my digs, a nice BnB for my last night.
Phew what an adventure this was, the weather testing every aspect of the journey and the challenging climbs, I made good time and was happy with my progress across the miles, history and scenery live side by side here and it is a place that I look forward to returning to next year with the family. For now I have to say goodbye to this landscape and its people, more challenging terrain awaits me next month.