One of the most wonderful aspects of this walk is the feeling of being cared for by the innkeepers who welcome us each night. Many of them specialize in walkers, and particularly coast-to-coasters, and so they understand our needs and concerns. But just now I was deeply moved by a phone call I received from John Stone, the owner of the next inn we will be visiting, the Bampton Village Stores and B & B, in Bampton. His father has just died and he and his wife will not be home tomorrow night when we are expected to arrive. So he wanted to give me special instructions about how to get in, to learn our breakfast preferences, etc. He had called Mark Hook, the owner of the Mosscrag where we are staying tonight in Glenridding (near Patterdale). When I gave the phone back to Mark, we had a little chat about the reason for the call, and Mark told me what a nice guy John is. “And you’ll have an easy walk the next day,” Mark assured me. I said that actually I was a little concerned about tomorrow’s walk–over the highest peak we will encounter in our whole trip–but Mark promised to tell me over dinner (which we’re having here with the other guests, also c-2-c-ers) how it’s really not so bad.
This morning we had had a long talk with Martin Clark, the owner of the Banerigg in Grasmere. He too had had to be absent for much of our stay, because his son is in hospital. We learned that in fact he had had a terrible bicycling accident, and was most likely completely paralyzed. Martin’s wife was with the son in a hospital some distance away, and Martin was managing the business alone. I was deeply impressed by his ability to care for us as kindly and generously as he did while going through such a difficult time. He answered all our questions with patience and grace, serving us delicious breakfasts and directed us to what seemed to be the best restaurant in town, the “Potted Out Cafe,” where the first night we had different pasta dishes, and on the second night I had a lovely roasted whole lemon sole with sage and capers and Jimmy had tomato soup with mascarpone.
Tonight’s dinner has been a special treat as well: served to us by the owners of the Mosscragg in a little dining room looking out on the Glenridding Beck–tomato soup, salmon, steamed fresh local vegetables (new potatoes & carrots & snap peas), plus sticky tofffee pudding and fresh berries for desert. Very nice.
And the walk today was much more manageable: up and out of Grasmere, a long ascent towwards Grisedale Tarn at 1770 feet (though the pass was a bit higher). At the end of the tarn, Wainwright gives walkers a choice: going over Helvellyn on the left, St. Sunday’s Crag on the right, or the middle path, straight down into Patterdale. Guess which path I took? Jimmy, however, chose the St. Sunday’s walk, and we each succeeded in reaching our destination at more or less the same time.
My path (although steeply down at times, with the usual boggy and slippery bits), was clear and direct, and there were many other walkers out, so I wasn’t as worried about potential disasters as I had been the past few days. After a brief rain while we were at the tarn, the sun came out . . . . I took off my rain gear and zipped the bottom parts of my pants off, so that I was in shorts and a t-shirt: lovely freedom! In the morning I had bought a new set of (much sturdier) poles at the mountaineering store in Grasmere, so I felt safe and secure as I took my time walking through some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever enccountered.
We’re here at the Mosscrag with another group of walkers who are doing the c-2-c in 14 days. When I first encountered them in the fells this morning, one of the women and I talked about being slow walkers. “It’s one step at a time for me,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how long it takes. It’s just about getting there, like life.” In the end, we all arrived here at just about the same time, each having gone by different paths. And now we are sittiing in the dining room, talking about our walks and our lives.