In an earliar post I recalled that there are a contingent of Coast to Coasters who are rather competitive about how quickly they are completing the journey. It reminded me of some of the ridiculous competition I would hear in first year graduate school in regard to seminar papers (how long is your paper? how many footnotes does it have?) as if size was all that mattered (the pun does not escape me, but rather I wish not to indulge in it). There was a little bit of that on this trip, but there was one couple in particular, twice our age, with whom we trailed on most days. They ate a late breakfast composed mostly of bacon and somehow managed to arrive at their destination by at least 2pm everyday, sometimes hours before their luggage arrived. Upon leaving Bampton Grange, we found ourselves beginning the trail at the same time and juncture, photographed above. We decided to walk together. They were quite knowledgeable on British architecture and history and gave us a brief art historical tour of Britain as we proceeded toward one of our first stops of the day, Shap Abbey. That’s when we learned their secret. They were not using the Stedman, or even the Harvey Maps, they had a regular ordinance map.
With a regular ordinance map they took risks that we wouldn’t normally take because we weren’t clear how the landscape unfolded. They were also a lot sharper geometrical thinkers. Rather than walk alongside the fence in a farmer’s field, they cut the field on a diagonal, using fewer steps, and like Moses, they parted the sea of frightened sheep to create a clear path. Following their lead, we too made it to Shap Abbey long before those who had left bright and early.
This is also where their savvy navigating seemed to fall short; they had no interest in stopping at the Abbey, because they wanted to make good time to Orton. Now I wanted to get to Orton early, too, but for the completely frivolous reason that Orton has a chocolate factory and more than anything, I wanted to get there before it closed to have a milk shake. It could be that they had already been to the Abbey or that as British citizens they felt they could go back anytime, but for us this trip wasn’t about timing it was about the absence of time. We didn’t even wear watches. What a privilege it is to be without time.
The Abbey, was a bit smaller than the other ones that I have seen (Tintern, Easby), but it is always fun to look around and imagine what life could have been like. This was a nice respite and by the time we had completed our self-guided tour, we ran into some of the other couples and friends we had been trailing and were eager to share the news of the fast-walking bacon eaters.
Today was a shorter walk for many reasons, but especially because it was our first truly flat day. We were out of the Lake District, away from the fells and headed toward our next National Park, the Yorkshire Dales. When we arrived at the limestone kilns, overlooking Orton, we knew it was only a short walk left.
The village of Orton is another one that Wainwright writes fondly about for its beauty and charm. The chocolate factory resides in an old church and we settled in for a milk shake and hot chocolate and although I love milk shakes, would recommend the hot chocolate, should you find yourself walking this way.
The George Hotel, where we spent the night, is the only place in town to have a meal. This was perhaps the most memorable meal of the trip because I had one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten. As an Italian American New Yorker, I never thought that I would eat fabulous pizza…in Northern England. The key is that all of the ingredients are fresh, locally sourced and the shallots in this region are remarkable. The room was comfortable and our night in the pub was filled with conviviality because at this point in the trip, you’ve established a pattern with the other walkers and everyone in the room is your friend. It was my fifth trip to the UK, but the first one where I truly felt at home.