The Cumbria Way- Day 7: A lesson learned….the last Wild Day

Skiddaw House hostel to Hesketh Newmarket

So much for the sun! Damn forecast. We wake to low hill mist and high humidity, the midges aren’t too bad, but enough to make us pack up quick and head for the hostel. The hostel breakfast was amazing and we lingered chatting and drinking tea while veils of rain swept in from the slopes of Skiddaw. By mid-morning we couldn’t delay any longer and set out down-valley, aiming for Great Lingy Hill, High Pike and then Caldbeck. This would be our last day of walking, we never intended to do the last section between Caldbeck and Carlisle, partly due to time and partly because it traverses the lowlands (with cows, gates, stiles, crops, roads) … which we get enough of at home!

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Ready to set off from Skiddaw house, the break in the weather soon closed.

The combination of frequent rain but warmer air made for interrupted walking as we stopped to put on or take off rain gear. Three miles in and Barry was a bit grumpy while I was trying to look on the bright side. The weather was starting to get a bit annoying; it was the last week of June after all. Approaching the trail fork up to Lingy Hill the rain came on heavier than ever, and we sat and huddled under our jackets.  Cocooned under gore-tex and a bit miserable we ate the remnants of our snacks, a last chocolate brazil, almonds, dried apple, and waited it out for 45min.

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Heading down-valley from Skiddaw House, the rain at our backs would soon catch us up.

As the rain cleared we looked up towards Lingy Hill, the trail wound between old mine workings, and then disappeared into the fine rain/mist.  The wind was strong and blowing rain horizontally across the upper slopes. I didn’t like the prospect but was compelled to go on, to complete what we set out to do by the ‘official route’. Against Barry’s preference we started up the track but I knew it was the wrong thing to do. I ended up fighting with myself, not wanting to ‘give up’ too easily. But then, a moment of clarity, why make things so hard?  Nobody is judging, nobody cares, it’s just my choice, and I can choose to be at peace with it. ‘Let’s go down’ I said, and so we did, without regret, and walked out down a beautiful valley of scree and juniper towards clearing skies.

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Saying goodbye to the mountains. And now the sun comes out!

Such a simple thing, but so hard to do. Being able to say no, to step back and see beyond the narrow confines of what we want to a broader view of what is important. I am glad I did not drag Barry up and over that hill, what would have been the point of finishing our walk on the Cumbria way on a cold, rain swept fell?  The decision not to walk over the fells that day was important; it was a victory over the self. The drive to do something must be balanced by the ability to be flexible, and will be essential on our GR11 trek this summer for our safety and enjoyment.

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Barry making good time across the common as the mountains fell away behind us.

The last afternoon of our Cumbria Way hike was spent walking across rocky commons, by sparkling streams in the sunlight. It was a long day of walking and we grew tired in the end, but thanks to a farmer we spent our final night camped in a beautiful wildflower meadow above Hesketh Newmarket.  A gorgeous evening of deep sunlight with long shadows across the meadows, we had a meal in the pub and toasted our walk, before wandering back through the wildflowers at the end of the last wild day.

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Our last camp among the flowers

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Tent pitched we headed down to the pub across the meadows, the warmest evening of the trip

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Looking out of the tent across a wilderness of grasses.

Our total route length: 60 miles (give or take a couple).

Thinking of doing the Cumbria Way?  A summary of our thoughts to follow shortly…..

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