The Cumbria Way: Day One

First order of the day was to mail a package of clothes to Cambridge, which left me with the clothes I was wearing and one change. Plus I also sent off my other pair of shoes and a few bits and pieces. I can’t tell you how many hours of thought I put into every item in my bag, but after lugging it even a short way I found I could happily let quite a few things go. I imagine I am not alone in this experience.

Pub breakfast with my usual accompaniment of iPad and blogging.

Unfortunately when I got to the post office I realised that I still had my room key in my pocket, which meant walking back in the opposite direction. Less than half a kilometre, but still, I was annoyed at myself for getting off to a bad start.

However the weather was perfect and when I got to the monument that marks the beginning of The Way it was festooned in very new-looking banners. Someone has let them know I was coming, obviously;-). No brass band to send me off, which was disappointing, but one cannot have everything I suppose.

Just kidding - a walking festival started the day I arrived. Good timing though!

The very first bit out of town is a short, somewhat steep hill then there’s a walk through some lush fields, over stiles and very soon the town is out of sight. The very most unpleasant part of the day, terrain wise, was very early on. A series of cow-filled fields that smelled like the Bog of Eternal Stench, which only grew worse as the farm buildings loomed closer. I couldn’t believe the intensity of the odour as I passed between the buildings then had to navigate an actual bog for a few hundred metres, struggling to find grassy lumps to put my feet down on so I wouldn’t sink in up to the ankles.

It was all massively frustrating, primarily because I’ve never hit that sort of terrain in Australia and I also felt a bit worried about the cows in the field because another uk blogger I follow (www.coastalwalker.co.uk ) is always talking about the dangers of cows. Did you know they are the most deadly animal (bar humans I suppose) in the UK, and they kill people by knocking them down then crushing their victim’s ribs in by pressing with their heads? I’m not saying this happens on a daily basis, but knowing it happens at all when you’re standing with a few of the beasts in a spot where you can’t get up any speed… well, it didn’t leave me in the best head space.

Then I got out of the mire and walked up a hill where a bluebell Wood was just coming into flower. It was lovely so I stopped to take a photo.

Except I couldn’t find my phone. Then I thought maybe I’d put it in my shirt pocket and it had fallen out while climbing a stile and then I would have to go back through the cow field and I swear to god I nearly started crying and wondered what on earth I thought I was doing and maybe I shouldn’t even be here.

Of course I then found my phone in one of the hundred or so pockets that my backpack has. Which led me to have a good think about being resilient and why I reacted so strongly. I am not the sort of person who likes to step far from my known physical limits and I almost never take anything close to a risk. So to find that, after all my careful planning and thinking, I might have made a stupid and easily-avoided mistake, was upsetting. Still, the whole thing was a good reminder to just be thorough, don’t panic and always put precious things in the same, zip-up pocket rather than moving them around. During the day I developed a system of where to keep various items so they would be accessible and now I feel much better.

Anyhow! Apart from that blip things went very well. I met a Scottish woman while I was having a snack break and she stopped to chat for a while (you’re camping? My goodness!) it was nice to meet another solo female. Then I met a retired couple and walked with them for a couple of hours until they split off to find their accommodation.

This is the view I had pretty much all day.

I don’t really know what walker etiquette is in terms of how long you keep going with people you start chatting to… I guess people make it clear if they want to be alone. They were very friendly though and we had a good time and I didn’t feel he need to look at my map every five steps, which is what I do when I’m alone.

After that I didn’t see another soul. I decided to camp at a place called Birch Bank, about half a km from the trail. It was quite a remote spot and I’d called ahead to make sure there was room but only got their answering machine.

Not that it mattered – I was the only person there.

Having taken it very easy (I’d walked about 14km in 7 hours) , I arrived at about 4pm. I pitched out of the wind and in the sun and I had time to sit and read a bit of The Inimitable Jeeves before cooking a unique mix of two minute noodles and couscous, then donning every warm thing I owned and rolling into my sleeping bag. I think I was asleep before the sun set at 8:30.

A day well spent!

As I was walking I was wondering – what are other people’s must-have camping equipment? Do you take any luxury items? My pack feels so pared-down now that unless I ditched the jetboil and fuel I don’t think I could leave anything else out… and yet it is so heavy!

13 thoughts on “The Cumbria Way: Day One

  1. So glad your day ended better than it started! It’s great to be self-aware, and mindful of the power of resilience. But, I don’t think we can pay attention to this properly without the onset of an immediate pressure or threat. I’m sure you’ll learn much about yourself, and how to further yourself mentally, on this mostly solo part of the journey – while appreciating all that beautiful scenery, too 🙂

  2. Luxury item – a book. (A small one). Otherwise – pare down as much as possible. Oh – decent food would be my other luxury item – I can’t abide the dried food which seems to sell at extortionate prices as backpacking grub.

    • I have my kindle – I don’t think I ever even go as far as the shops without reading material. I didn’t think of dried food beyond two minute noodles and couscous. I quite like them with a tin of tuna mixed in but the tins of tuna here are twice the size of the ones at home. Mainly I have packed apples, nuts and chocolate biscuits. If you have any tips on ideal camping food I’m all ears :-).

      • Not really, sorry, in years of camping several ‘brilliant’ solutions have been proposed to me, but I’ve never been very struck by any of them. We like filled pasta with pesto, but it’s hard to get dried filled pasta these days. Aldi do it, but I can’t think where there is an Aldi on the Cumbria Way, except perhaps in Carlisle, which is a bit late.

      • Oh – a pudding – stew some dried fruit (apricots, apple rings, prunes etc etc with some instant custard. Breakfast – porridge, low weight but very filling when cooked. 🙂

  3. Off to a good start. My packs are always heavy with food. I eat voraciously when hiking and like to eat well. Nothing worse than a long day in the hills and then opening the food bag to find it full of dried tasteless stuff. I often carry bacon for breakfast, dried soups are also good for a warming snack. And I take my iPad these days as well

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one hiking with an iPad then:-). I bought some proper pasta today as I think tonight will be in Rosthwaite tonight and I have so much fuel I can do some proper cooking for a change. I also do bring a lot of chocolate biscuits because there’s no one to stop me;-)

  4. I’m interested to know what you’re doing about drying your tent? I can imagine it must be covered with dew on the outside and condensation on the inside by sunrise on a frosty English morning. If you keep putting it away wet it will go moldy – I’m sure you’ve thought of that so what’s your solution?

    • You are correct, it is damp in the morning, however I either set it up in the evening or hang it up in a drying room. All hostels and most other accommodation has a boiler room full of rails for people to hang their clothes and camping gear. It’s great!

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