Breakfast by a log fire was a good start to the day and in contrast to the roaring wind and driving rain outside. Also congenial company around the common table meant that it was an hour and a half later that I rose. I can recommend Millbeck Farm – at £30, with tea and cake on arrival, and a reasonable breakfast, it’s decent value.
It was 10:20 before I got going – partly due to the lingering breakfast, but also the weather seemed to be easing, so I gave it a chance. The weather had other ideas though and as the day progressed I became convinced it really didn’t want me to get to Rosthwaite. Barely was I off the farm premises, that I got hit in the face by a ferocious gust of wind and within 10 minutes I was also soaked through.
My plan for the day had been to follow the official CW route over Stake Pass into Borrowdale, detouring to visit a summit or two, but the violence of the weather made me recognise that just getting over the pass and into the next valley would be a challenge in itself. So it proved and I had to try to walk into a strong headwind all the way up Mickleden. At one point it almost knocked me from my feet and I considered giving up, even going as far as turning round as if to go back, before I felt that the tailwind was almost as bad as a headwind. So I resolved to continue – at least to the point the path splits. And if I could just get up to Stake Pass, all I then had to do was descend into the next valley. I could even see the pivotal point less than a mile away and 300m above.
I got to the place where the paths to Rossett Gill and Stake Pass separate and took shelter in the sheepfold there. The wind seemed to have eased by the time I got to my feet again, so up Stake Gill I went.
By the time I got to the top, the wind had veered and was now on my back. I worked my way through the drumlins as I rose to the summit of the pass. Then I reached the cairn and the weather realising that it could no longer make me turn back, tried some more rain, then as I rounded the last drumlin and looked down into Langstrath, the weather conceded defeat and showed me a patch of sunlight over Sergeant’s Crag. A patch of blue sky behind me over the head of Langdale too, as if to tempt me back.
Down into Langstrath I went and slowly trudged along this long valley. Nearing the end by Eagle Crag, the weather unconditionally surrendered and out came the sun and some warmth. This highlighted the lovely reds and yellows on the surrounding fells and out came the camera after a long rest.
I finally trudged into Rosthwaite over 6 hours since setting off, a ridiculous time for a 9 mile walk, but now I had completed what I regard as the crux of the Cumbria Way, purely because there are no easier alternatives to this part – it was over Stake Pass, or a harder high-level route or give up altogether and take the bus.
And it seems I have the barn to myself, and it has the luxury of electricity.
Highlight: (1) the first view into Langstrath, (2) knowing I was right to try to do the walk.
So now I’ve done 4 of the 8 days I planned for the path itself and about half of the distance. I think today was the day I really got the point of this walk as I got a real sense of moving somewhere new as I came over Stake Pass and down into Langstrath. I’m also fully into the walk now and completing the path is now important, whereas it was previously just a vehicle for mopping up various fells that were either difficult or not sufficiently justifiable to do as trips in their own right.
A supposedly easy day into Keswick tomorrow before the hardest day of all. And although tomorrow is expected to be windy again, ther weather is due to improve. Well that’s according to a woman I met in the pub who had mislaid 7 chinese youths (don’t ask!).
Oh yes, and a mental note to drop a line to Lonewalker to agree with him about the food in Rosthwaite’s only pub. My chicken leek and ham pie was ok, but the barman dropped half of the chips on the floor, and the pie was in a battered old enamel dish (think old style camping crockery) that looked like it had seen a lot of service. And they gave me bloody courgettes. Still tomorrow it’s Keswick which means a blowout curry and those gorgeous naans.