Coast to Coast – Sunbiggin Tarn to Kirkby Stephen

Date: 23 June 2019 Weather: 20’C, sunny spells, muggy
Height gain: 951 ft Distance: 9.7 miles
Time taken: 4.25 hours Wainwrights:

This is our fifth walk of the Coast to Coast and we pick up where we left off a few weeks ago on 2 May 2019.  It’s a warm and muggy Sunday morning and we’ve had a leisurely breakfast.  We add an hour or so’s driving to start and end points and don’t get started on our walk until 11.30 am.

Lunch will be home made today.  We’ve been disappointed with all pasties except those from the Apple Pie shop in Ambleside so I decided to try making my own.  I found the Cornish Pasty Society’s official recipe online and had an enjoyable afternoon making them before storing them safely in the freezer.

They have already been tried on a previous walk and declared the second best pasties we’ve had – not quite up to Apple Pie standards but better than anything else we’ve bought.

Two came out of the freezer last night and were warmed in the oven while we had breakfast.  Two home made chocolate brownies also leaped out of the freezer and into our rucksacks to defrost while we walk.

When we finally arrive at the start point of the walk there’s a few camper vans parked at the tarn but we have no problems finding a space.  It’s quite windy up here and feels a little chilly so mid layers go on.

We set off down the road and soon find the left hand turn onto the moorland, initially following the Dales Highway path:


We reach a road and, distracted by a mini Glastonbury (very mini, about 10 tents) on the hill just above us with the music blaring we set off right down the road towards Newbiggin on Lune.  Quarter of a mile and 150ft down we realise our mistake and turn around to climb back up the road and along the few hundred feet we should have taken to meet our path towards Smardale Bridge.

There are paths going off in all directions at this point and, with S’s gadget frozen and saying it had no maps, we umm and ahh a bit to work out which one we should be following.  Going analogue with the trusty paper map seems to be working and we reach a gate and into more interesting looking landscape.  We can see what we think are Whernside (left) and Ingleborough (right) in the distance:


The sun starts to come out and we find some good rocks in a field with a lovely dry stone wall for lunch:


The pasties are ok again, although I feel slightly guilty eating them with a cow looking over the from the next field.  Once we’ve finished them we set off again and it’s downhill all the way until we reach the picturesque gill at Smardale Bridge and see our first people of the day – in fact two or three parties of fifty somethings enjoying their lunch overlooking the water:


One party is pouring over a copy of AW’s Coast to Coast book, but they don’t look quite weary enough to be doing the full thing and in fact we don’t see them following us after they’ve finished their lunch.

The only meaningful climb of the day is coming up – 500ft up Smardale Fell.  We spot a viaduct over the wall as we start the climb – viaducts are one of the most impressive looking man made structures I always think, although this one isn’t quite Ribblehead:


Getting up the hill isn’t too challenging and the north Pennines come into view to our left, along with a few curious sheep:


Downhill now to meet a small road, then across a field and under the railway line.  We stop for afternoon tea on a verge just before reaching Greenriggs Farm.

We set off again and find helpful signs through the farm to keep us on the right route and we soon reach the edge of Kirkby Stephen.  The walk along the road back to the car park seems to take a while, but everyone we pass gives us a smile.  I always feel a bit daft in full walking gear in the middle of a town, but the nice folks of Kirkby Stephen must be very used to seeing Coast to Coasters on their way through.

We reach my car which is partially shaded (the air-con is to be fixed the following day, at last) in the very good large and free car park.

This section has probably been my least favourite so far – nothing wrong with it and some nice parts, especially around Smardale Bridge, but it felt a bit disjointed.  I’m also glad we’ve now got to an “official” stopping off point for the start of our next section.

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