Editor's Note: The Blister Sisters (Sarah Catchpole and Erica Ellingson) are trekking across the Moors of Northern England as a fundraiser for the Lyons Regional Library building fund. You can follow their exploits in the Lyons Recorder as they make their way from sea to sea (Irish to North). If you'd like to donate to their fundraising effort for the Lyons Regional Library Building Fund visit their Gofundme page.
Day 2 - Wednesday, June 13
Our first day on the trail!
The hike out of Kirkby Stephen over the hills to the almost-town of Keld is known as one of the biggest slogs on the Coast-to-Coast trail. We tackled and conquered it- our Colorado lungs helped a lot. So did the big English breakfast (I did regret the smoked kippered herring). The top of
climb is marked by huge cairns at Nine Standards Rigg and a terrific view across the valleys and distant hills. And that's also where the wind started.
It was grey and cold, but we dodged the rain. We walked on soft, springy peat, and then on soft, sodden peat, Some other hikers told us that we were really lucky- the bogs were are dry as they'd ever seen. This meant that at times we were not actually in ankle-deep mud. I did sink a hiking pole a good foot into the bog, and was happy that it wasn't my leg doing down to the knee in cold black water. They talk about sheep disappearing into the bog, and I believe it.
We hiked through bogs and mud for most of the day and eventually descended into the top of the Swaledale Valley. There we found one of the great joys of hiking in England- scones, cream and jam and a cup of tea served at a farm right on the trail.
Our last miles were a gradual drop down a beautiful green valley. We descended into relative civilization with grey stone barns, flocks of sheep and even a road. About 12 miles from Kirby Stephen we arrived at the Keld Lodge for a hot shower and a glass of hard cider (another joy of England). We send our love (from the pub) to everyone in Lyons!
Sisters: 14 mile - Blisters: 0
Day 3 - Thursday, June 14
Remote and wild Swaledale
Sarah: The day began with rain squalls from the North and the wind battering at our backs - this lasted all morning!
Blown down trees blocked our path a couple of times as we threaded our way on a river side path from Keld to Muker, a tiny York stone village with three pubs, a 10' x 8' village shop and stone houses with roses round the door - really!
The Muker church's stain glass windows show Jesus as a shepherd, of course, and with the local breed of sheep in his flock.
Although the wind whipped our hair and tore at our backs, the day ended gloriously striding out high up above Swaledale. Tonight we are in Reeth, a 17th Century town with a five acre village green basking in evening sun. Next stop - a local pub for cider and supper!
Sisters 26 miles - Blisters 0
Day 4 - Friday, June 15
Reeth to Richmond
Erica: Today's hike took us out of Swaledale and over the hills, through little stone villages, among sheep and cows, and across high hayfields full of clover and buttercups. There were a few small incidents: stinging nettles, cow pies, freshly manured fields and treacherous stiles over the drystone walls. And getting lost. And lost again. Much of our day today was: we walk through a wide field. A tiny gate across an eight-inch gap in the wall opens to the next field and we peer ahead to spot the tiny gate on the far side. Which opens to the next field, which we hope is the right field....
Our guidebook is the excellent "Coast to Coast Path" by Henry Stedman, who provides hand-drawn maps and quirky comments for every step. When your feet are starting to hurt, it's nice to know about raspberries or martyrs' graves along the roadside, or the exact location of a bench. Even though we kept him always at hand, we still had a few extra wanders the wrong way down country lanes.
After squeezing through so many tiny gates it was nice to find one we could just walk around!
We're starting to get into the physical and mental rhythm of the walk. Our legs are getting stronger and the miles are going faster. The stories we tell ramble along with our path. I think Sarah's are getting more outlandish, filled with amorous aristocrats and rodeo queens. I try to keep pace by singing Janis Joplin and Scottish drinking songs.
Alas, today also brought us our first official blister. I won't tell you whose it is. It's not as bad as it looks - I just have an affinity for rebuilding tender feet with large amounts of white adhesive tape. Nick gave me three rolls as a going-away present, so we're ready for anything!
At the end of the day we walked into Richmond, the largest town on the entire Coast to Coast. It a very nice town, with a pretty church, an impressive castle and a busy market square. After tiny towns like Keld and Marske, it seems full of people, noise and traffic and is a little off-putting. We did, however, have a very nice dinner, which did not involve dubious attempts at vegetarian fare by pub cooks who would really prefer that you just had the sausages and chips.
Tomorrow is a partial rest day. The path leads from Richmond though some industrial neighborhoods and under the A-1 highway. We'll cut our miles back by taking a bus through that bit and walk through more countryside to our next town, Danby Whiske (don't you love the name? Neither of us know what a Whiske is). The weather report says rain, so wish us luck staying warm and dry!
Sisters: 40 miles-Blisters: 1.5
Thank you to everyone who is following us across England! Generous donations to the Lyons Library have been coming in from our community, friends and family and even people we've met along the way. You walk with us every step!
Day 5 - Saturday, June 16, 2018
Richmond to Danby Whiske
Sarah: We woke to sulking grey skies, rain and an anticipated hike across suburbs, flatlands and an enormous motorway (the A1). So, instead, we went in style on the #55 bus for 15 minutes.
Getting off in tiny Bolton-on-Swale, we found the stunning, well cared for village church - guessing 14th Century. The trail was way marked and off we went through endless fields of sheep, cows and huge expanses of wheat, barley and meadow grass dancing under still sulky, pewter skies. Today had cameo appearances of the odd farmer, two or three of groups of hikers, including three local women who’ve been hiking together for 36 years. Most of the time, including long miles on a single track lane through fields and hedgerows, the only sounds came from English birds: wrens, yellowhammers, thrushes, robins and warblers.
We found our village for the night a bit early- so a wonderful chance to spend an hour in the 11th century church yard. Inside a stunning yet simple church with Norman windows and font, to my great delight we discovered an altar, altar rail, and vestry door made by The Mouseman of Kilburn, North Yorkshire in the early 20th century. On each and every piece of furniture, he carved his trademark of a unique two to three inch mouse. He is world famous, but probably not quite in Lyons yet!
The village pub offered enough space and draft beers/ciders to please all. Turns out everyone in the place had been playing tag across fields & moors and up and over the Pennines for the last four days. 12 pairs of boots were airing outside - they’d got caught in a drenching downpour we had avoided only thanks to the 15 minute bus ride as we began this morning.
Sisters: 47 miles - Blisters: 1.5 (but healing)
Thank you, Kirt from Utah, for your donation to the Lyons Library! Great to have dinner with your at the White Swan tonight! Sunday, June 17, 2018
Day 6 – Sunday, June 17
Danby Whiske to Osmotherly
Erica: Today was a good day's walk, 11 miles, mostly through fields and along country lanes. We've worked our way across the Mowbray valley that divides the Yorkshire Dales and North Yorkshire Moors. The Coast-to-Coast was first laid out by iconic rambler Alfred Wainwright in the 1970s. He walked all over northern England and was an energetic advocate for trails and keeping the rights-of-way open for hikers. English law protects the rights of walkers to traverse ancient routes, even if they go through private land and sometimes even right through farmyards. Wainwright's beautiful hand-illustrated books and maps made these paths accessible and beloved. But he turned his nose up at this flat valley and Coast-to-Coasters are often advised to grind through it in a single 23-mile day. Sensibly, we broke it up into two.
Wainwright tried to keep the path in the countryside as much as possible. For us, this meant pushing through waist-deep pasture grass, climbing over stiles into thorn and thistle patches and gagging at the smell of pig farms. But these were all better than following busy roads where the cars inexplicably passed us on the wrong side of the road. We did have to run across the A19 highway, but that was the biggest reminder of the modern world that we faced today.
We've now passed the 50-mile mark: half way! We're deep in walking mode now. At some point in a long-distance hike, your mind and body start to believe that this is what you're actually destined to do: get up each day and walk. Even the weird names of the villages are less weird (but still: Osmotherly?) We've learned the habits that sustain us. For Sarah, the familiar comforts of multiple cups of tea per day and chocolate. For Erica: exotic treats like McVitties Digestive Biscuits and licorice allsorts. But we're appreciative of "trail angels" like the folks at Wray House, who leave an assortment of food, drink, bandaids and Tylenol for hikers.
At the end of the day we entered the forests of the Cleveland hills. We've seen them for two days, pale blue on the horizon and becoming more solid every mile. Tomorrow we start to climb.
Sisters: 58 miles - Blisters: 5 (all on the same foot)
Day 7 - Monday, June 18
to Clay Bank Top
Sarah: Up and up then plunging down, then more up and down over and over and over. We have a drinking song for this for today now!
“The higher we climb
the more cider we drink
The more cider we drink
the better we feel
We'd better get over
the aches and the pains
'Cause we'll get up tomorrow
and do it again!”
There were great things today - we saw the sun.......... all day!!! We also glimpsed our ultimate destination, the North Sea, misty and way off in the distance from our highest points. Best of all - we are finally up on the North York Moors where I have spent many wonderful times hiking in the past with my late husband. The Secret Garden book was set here and it a magical place of dipping and diving birds, calf high, springy heather with tiny bell-like purple flowers covering and clinging to the hillsides despite the fierce winds so fierce we were nearly blown over.
This morning, the Coast to Coast joined a National long distance path called the Cleavelean Way where we moved steadily eastward on Yorkstone slabs about 3' x 18" somehow inlaid onto the roller coaster-like moors making the path easy to follow even if the mists swirl and sweep over the entire hillside.
I found today physically draining - my phone app said we climbed the equivalent of 17 floors - 1,700 feet and covered 11.5 miles. But we did it! And my goodness, the hot bath I've just had did wonders.
“At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done—then it is done” - Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
Sisters: 69 miles - Blisters: 5
Day 8 - Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Clay Bank Top to the Lion Inn at Blakey Moor
Erica: Today was an easy day across flat moorland. We took it slow, with a picnic and lots of time to admire the views from the windy, lonely purple moors down to impossibly green farm valleys.
I'm brought back to the bookshelves of the library I grew up in: the flower- and lark-filled moors above gloomy Misselthwaite Manor and its Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett); Bonnie and Sylvia fleeing the Wolves of Willoughby Chase with only their wits and a fowling-piece to save them (Jane Aiken); and the Proud-but-Prejudiced Elizabeth at dour-but-hunky Darcy's Pemberley Estate (Jane Austen).
The first half of the Coast-to-Coast trail climbs through the Lake District, home of plucky Peter Rabbit (Beatrix Potter) and the sailing adventures of the Swallows and Amazons (Arthur Ransome). Barbecued Billygoats! I think I may be doing this hike in large part from a pent-up literary yearning.
But today the moors were far from gloomy or gothic. We had some sunny weather and gentle walking over the rolling hills. Grouse, golden plovers and curlews, rabbits and, of course, lots of sheep. Blisters and sore knees had a chance to rest. At at the end of the day, The Lion Inn, perched alone on a windy ridge, offers unexpectedly fluffy pillows, hot baths and the prospect of a half-pint (or pint) and a good dinner to come.
Every mile raises funds for the Lyons Library! My childhood library brought me here. If you'd like to learn more and perhaps help another generation discover the world, please visit: https://www.gofundme.com/blister-sisters-hike-100
Sisters: 78.5 miles - Blisters: at least no new ones today!
Look for the final installment in next week's edition.