Coast to Coast – Shap to Sunbiggin Tarn

Date: 2 May 2019 Weather: 15’C, dramatic cloud
Height gain: 1,214 ft Distance: 11.0 miles
Time taken: 5 hours Wainwrights:

This is our fourth walk of the Coast to Coast and we pick up at Shap from where our 19 April 2019 walk ended after filling in an earlier tranche three days ago.  For once it’s not a public holiday and not a glorious day, either, so we expect a peaceful walk.  The driving at this stage is quite quick – just under an hour to get both cars into position.  We arrive at the car park in Shap and walk to the café which gets good reviews.  We buy the usual lunch provisions and as we walk back to the car it starts to rain and the wind feels cold.

This gives us a chance to try out our new lightweight waterproofs – something we’d been wanting to buy for years and finally found the right ones a couple of weeks ago.  Although we’re wondering whether perhaps we packed too light for the weather – we didn’t expect it to be so cold.  S dives across the road into the New Balance shop to purchase some emergency gloves – and comes out with a very fetching thick green knitted pair (which spend the day unworn).

We set off down the high street and make the left hand turn towards the motorway bridge.  It may not be stunning scenery at this stage, but I don’t object to crossing one major motorway on a long distance path:


We look behind us as we finish crossing the footbridge and notice that we can still see Kidsty Pike in the distance – the pointy mountain you can just pick out just to the right of the end of the handrail:


We walk parallel with the motorway for a short distance before heading left and around a quarry then right up a fast track and out into more open countryside.  We’re moving quite quickly (for us) on the different terrains and soon start to reach more interesting parts of the walk, including patches of limestone paving reminiscent of Malham:


The sky still looks moody and cloudy but the rain has stopped long since and we’re getting quite warm – the new waterproofs only got a 20 minute outing and spend the rest of the walk tucked into the rucksacks.

We reach what is allegedly Robin Hood’s grave and decide to stop here on comfy stones for lunch:


Not quite sure what he’d be doing here, but it’s an interesting spot to sit and enjoy the views back over the ground we’ve covered.  The food was underwhelming – don’t think we’ll be rushing back to the Shap café for pasties.  I’m sure their eat-in food must be much better (and perhaps the pasties are ok served on a plate with some chips and salad rather than eaten lukewarm from the bottom of a rucksack).

We press on after lunch and reach a road which S says we should take but a sign directs Coast to Coasters into a small wooded area.  I prefer to stay off the road so we follow the sign.  It turns out that this path runs parallel with the road but is bumpy underfoot and goes up and then down before meeting the road again a mile later.  S not happy at being diverted so we reach the road again with relief.

We get to a T junction and turn right towards Orton, soon taking a footpath off to the left which heads quite steeply downwards towards the village.

We catch up with two fifty something men at this point who look like they may also be walking the Coast to Coast.  We swap a friendly hello and let them move off again as we stop for a short water break.  We can hear them chatting loudly to each other as they go.

As we start down the footpath they are lingering by the trees, still talking loudly.  We’re a little concerned that we’ll be hearing their conversation for the next six miles, but where we turn left at the edge of Orton they carry straight on – presumably their stopping point for the day.

The going continues to be straightforward and we’re now heading in the direction of our endpoint for the day.  The Howgills come into view on our right and look spectacular against the grey and moody sky:


We start to reach signs of civilisation and have afternoon tea on the verge of a small road, with a couple of friendly horses wondering whether they can have a bite of cake:


We set off again and walk through Sunbiggin Farm.  As we’re crossing the courtyard a fully saddled horse comes running towards us out of the field ahead of us but with no rider in sight.  He heads off down the road and we keep a look out for a prone body or injured person but see nothing.  The farmers are out and about on their quad bikes and don’t seem too worried so we continue on our way.

The farm vehicles keep buzzing past us as large piles of brown stuff are driven down the track and deposited on the edge of Tarn Moor.  Finally we’re past their furthest point and back into more peaceful moorland.  We can spot Sunbiggin Tarn not far away:


It is there, in the centre of the picture, a slightly lighter spot in front of a tree.  We plod our way across the final mile to reach the car.  The heavy rain forecast to start at 2 pm has stayed away and the clouds have added to the views (even if the photos don’t quite do it justice).  A bit of a mixture in terms of walking today, but enjoyable and one of the easiest and fastest sections for us so far.

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