Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Coast to Coast - East to West in under 5 days

Robin Hood's Bay to St.Bees

A crossing of northern England following a different and more direct line to Alfred Wainwright's suggested route



Day One: Badger Bay Hotel

After spending the night on the bench seat in the shelter it's a good and early start from Robin Hood's Bay.
The previous night the landlord of the Laurel Inn had suggested the takeaway from Whitby, the remaining half now slung over my shoulder, prawn crackers an' all, in a plastic bag. Also in the bag: a few mushy bananas and a container of cheese and Ryvita for sustenance as there were to be no watering holes other than Wheedale Beck until Ingleby Cross and the Blue Bell Inn not far off 40 miles away.

The Bay from the south - early doors
The planned line from Billira Cottage proved time consuming with waist high heather and the first of the shooting butts as shown on the map and Google were never to be found...
Despite the setback, higher ground was gradually achieved and lo! the path located near the second shooting butts and sure enough Lilla Cross soon seems to wave through the thin mist on the horizon like a patient friend.

well defined path to ...

the 'patient' Lilla Cross

No 'golf ball' - RAF Fylingdales from Little Ellerbeck

Stone Circle at Simon Howe...
...with attendent standing stones

Wheeldale Beck provides water for a brew and it's a good chance for a sock change and there's a bit of interfering toenail to be removed.

Looking back over Wheeldale Beck - former YHA mid left

Once on the Lyke Wake Walk, the route is swift and direct - and would be more so if it were not for the boggy bits, but this is July and only in a few places do I go in over the ankles - funny thing is, I have a pair of 'Sealskinz' waterproof socks in the pack...

Blue Man i'thi Moss...

...first of the boundary markers

'tis the blue man..?

Shunner Howe looms
At a flat, direct measured 19 miles the road is encountered at Rosedale Head - over the road the map shows a trod that continues the line of boundary stones that started with the wonderfully named Blue Man i'thi Moss, but I can see no trace through the heather and, anticipating a slow line, like many Lyke Wakers before me, decide on the short section of road. I miss the non RoW (right of way) left for the Rosdale Head shortcut but not to worry for soon after comes the Esk Valley Way signpost. I'm on memory map - not the variety requiring capitals but rather simply relying on memory - and become a little concerned I've fluffed it on realising at one point I'm heading just E of S. But all is well as I soon go hard right and SW to join the path I should have taken earlier. The tracks aren't awash with water as on my first attempt and over the road once again I'm making good progress in the direction of the former Blakey Ironstone railway trackbed.

Road at Rosedale Head
Lunch on the move is always good when moving fast and light and leftover Char Sui pork turns out to be like slow burn rocket fuel. I get a few strange looks from other walkers who I can imagine later enquiring after chinese takeaway at the bar of the Lion Inn. Bits of rice are easily choked on though, so I have to slow down, not to mention the prawn crackers that have now become half bite-size crackerettes.

And so at Bloworth on my planned lunch stop, and despite helping the cyclist who'd got lost, I'm away after just 35 mins. This pulls me back a bit to schedule and with new hydration mix prepared I set off for Round Hill.

As the cyclist had pulled up, I'd been doing my own cycling routine. Upside down - takes a minute - and helps circulation rid the legs of any unwanted by-products. Quickly explaining I had no maps of the area and would be of little use to him, he apologetically held forth his own, explaining he didn't know where he was. Complimenting him on the clarity of his photcopy, I showed him and pointed him in the right direction.

The ancient earthwork that circles the western edge of Urra Moor is worthy of a mention, but it's easily missed on a steep bit as you drop over the edge down to Bilsdale Hall. The path becomes a little overgrown from here on, more so after West Cote where I stop to replenish my water supply. I shout for permission to use the outside tap to no avail, so fill my bottle anyway. I doubt anyone would begrudge you a little water...

View back from Barker's Ridge, North Yorks Moors...

The climb takes it out of me and I make an error in staying on the bridle at the top. The directional sense kicks in and I realise I'm heading south on Barker's Ridge. I 'about turn' only to find myself minutes later wrong again heading north to Barker's Crags on the footpath this time. Clearly my written instructions, though perfectly lightweight at just 30 grams, are equally quite inadequate... I should have noted the low-voltage power lines going over the hill clearly defining my route down into Scugdale. It's all down to the 'mind mist' that creeps in when you lose concentration.

...and ahead to Scugdale
You can proceed by Sparrow Hall and Huthwaite Green or by the shorter Harfa track that begins at the start of the enigmatic-sounding Snotterdale. Either way meets the established route in Clain Wood.
The direct line footpath through Arnecliffe Woods confounds yet again though. This time an incoming text from a friend throws me momentarily and I find myself at a small shell of a buildng off left. There's the remains of a fire and evidence someone has stayed here. The track peters out soon after so I backtrack to continue the descent.

nearing the unintentional end of Day1 and The Blue Bell, Ingleby Cross
From the forestry track at the bottom, I do find the path to Cog Hole this time, but it's overgrown and I must've missed where it comes out and end up trying to negotiate a bramble-filled ditch.
Nevertheless, scratched and bloodied, I make the pub in better time than the last 2010 attempt only to encounter the first major setback...

Day Two: Keep Calm and Carry On!

The alarm brought me round to make some choices.
I could either:
a) get myself to Northallerton and A&E
b) get myself to Northallerton and the railway station
c) carry on (and keep calm)

There's a saying if intent on 'fast and light': 'Everything has to be right.'  Then it occurred to me in a flash of insight that in fact nothing is ever going to work out 100% cock on... there's always going to be something. And if you start to think about all the little things that could go wrong or do go wrong you wouldn't venture out at all.
I ran through the mental checklist again, the two main points being:
Any bleeding? - NO
Abdominal pain? - NO
...and then there was:
Bigger than a grape? - hmmm... better just recheck that one... NO, doesn't seem to be and much improved since last night.
I'd drunk plenty of water as instructed and tried to keep the area moist during the night...

It had all gone rather pear-shaped (more plum shaped actually!) rather quickly the night before...

On arrival at the Blue Bell Inn, I'd ordered soup with a side portion of chips as I sipped on orange juice and soda with intention of moving on within a half hour, but it wasn't to be... The soup was good and went down well but I found the chips a little dry and difficult to swallow - a sure sign of dehydration..?
Then a sudden call of nature called for a change of plan and without being guilty of giving 'too much information' I really needed some advice on a sudden yet 'delicate problem' that occurred and I needed somewhere to 'sort myself out' and pretty damn quick too...

Ashley and Andy of Somerset Hse Farm B&B saved the day though. They'd walked through the door of the Blue Bell as landlady Amy had been trying to call them. As you would expect in July there was 'no room at the inn' - hence landlady Amy trying to come up with a viable alternative.
With a couple of pillow cases secured on loan from Amy, Andy wisked me back to his place where I could have some privacy on the landline to the NHS111 helpline. Andy gave up an hour of his own time in helping me get sorted and eventually left to rejoin Ashley back at the Blue Bell.

'The nurse says I need a bath,' I said to Andy before he left.
'There's only a shower..,' replied Andy.
'That'll do.'
Though they had got the other vital piece of equipment required: a mirror.


So after the obligatory breakfast - a welcome opportunity to stuff in some vital calories, I found myself asking directions. Andy, quite rightly, advised against walking along the A19... and so that's just what I did, not wanting to add any more than was necessary to the 20 miles to Richmond and the rest of the day beyond. These were to be relatively easy miles... if the beam end was up to it...
Technically speaking, I'd missed a bit, but we window cleaners seem to become adept at that anyway...

A liberal dose of Aloe Vera Vaseline seemed to be working and there weren't too many overgrown sections and the only real interest on this bright sunny morning lay in route technicalities. A B&B invariably means a late start and so the planned pull-in at Ellerton Farm shop was now rescheduled to a lunch stop rather than a fall through the door on first opening.
I wondered if they were trying to be posh in times past at Sydal Lodge as to the north and west are the more quickly pronounced Siddle Grange and High Siddle Farm - then realised they would probably pronounce them in a similar fashion anyway round these parts...
Other than a friendly wave to the farmer here I didn't see another soul.
In passing, I noticed too that there is nothing remotely deep about Deepdale... and interested to note that the footpath line now ran along the correct side of the hedge to the brook crossing before the railway and Wray House. After all this time the footpath line still has not been reinstated at Northfield House though and Coasters are still forced to use the farm access where the dogs always come bounding out - just fussy, bless 'em.
Having not made it thus far yesterday, it was to be a left turn at Oaktree Hill onto the busy A167, this being a slightly shorter option if not needing the B&B, bunkhouse or lawn at Lovesome Hill.
Past Danby Wiske, after the equestrian excercise paddock nearing the road at Streetlam, an old guy with a wheelbarrow wondered if I was running it all. I responded with a chuckle that I was certainly no Joss Naylor!
There's a new route line hereabouts for Coasters but I'm on the old line as it's more direct and I'm going with my very first choice for this route in what turned out to be a seven day crossing - by Plumtree Moor Plantation. Back then, to visit Kiplin Hall as the rain teemed down; today, for the newly discovered (Google for you) farm shop cafe on Sled Lane. There's plenty of verge to walk along on the busy 'B' road too.

The day is warming up fast now and the grocery shop in Brompton-on-Swale is a good place to peruse the freezer for a Calippo. And there is a bonus to coming this way in the form of Easby Abbey nestled comfortably between a two bend bosom of the matronly Swale.

Easby Abbey

Entering Richmond via the church yard

Richmond - UK town of the year in 2009, is a fine little market town and without too much ado I find all I need on this occasion with a visit to Wetherspoons and the Co-op. In the former I see the craft ciders in the cooler - Wetherspoons being one of the few chains to adopt a craft cider-stocking policy. As alcohol and ultra-pedding don't mix though, on this occasion, I refrain and retire with a pint of orange juice and soda, to which I add a sachet of my homemade hydration mix where the extra bicarb sees the pint suddenly overflowing... The recipe for homemade hydration mix calls for a full tablespoon of sugar per diluted pint which I find a little too sweet. Though I did add a glucose tablet and 1000mg of vitamin C. Mine turns out to be coffee and orange flavoured too - hmm, this will be down to using the small electric mill back home that had previously only been used for grinding coffee beans... Alas, this is one thing that didn't get tested out at home first, but it certainly seemed to be doing what it says 'on the tin' (see here: 'WebMD' (*note the recipe shown is now different to the one I used*) - keeping the body's electrolytes in balance.
The Co-op supplies everything else and I feel that a visit to the chemist is now unessecary with the view 'if you can walk 20m on it it can't be that bad...'

The sun now beats down on Westfields and I decide it's time to slap on some sunscreen... then, before Whitecliffe Wood, begin to wish I hadn't as large flies seem to find the stuff very tasty... including me beneath the thin attracting outer layer. I'm not used to these and begin to think of them as sh*t flies. Not least because they weren't very mobile and kind of clumsy but also because there seemed to be more of them around farms and livestock.

I had intended downing my Co-op bought lunch at the white-painted cairn at Applegarth but it's an  exposed spot even with brolly and I decide to postpone the meal stop until the Marske shelter a few miles farther on.

You can gauge your hydration level by how often you have to stop to pass water, and today I've been stopping every few miles which is good. Other than the takeaway yesterday I seem to be doing well largely on soup, milk and orange and soda, so in the Marske shelter something to chew on in the form of a sandwich makes a change.

It's hot on Hard Stiles, very hot. There's no breeze and the sun is reflecting off the tarmac even in late afternoon. The traffic amounts to around two cars per mile and the tractor is good in stirring up some breeze! Two guys slow down and advise against jumping... I'm non-plussed..? Maybe it's the heat... Ah, right okay, they're being witty - they are likening my umbrella to a parachute. Ha ha. I've half a mind to ask them to go back and go past at speed to gain a little draught... There's trees ahead on the descent though and the quaint little hamlet of High Fremington is easily negotiated.
In Reeth, the shop is shut again though - now at 7.30, so it's more soup at the Black Bull though the cash machine doesn't work - 'it's empty see', says the barman. Now that's one thing I forgot at Richmond...

It doesn't feel right trying to get out of Reeth - I'd nipped up a different alley than the one next to the chapel and I'm stumped other than backtrack - I nip between some old folk's bungalows only to be told I'm going the wrong way for the river. I join Dad and daughter as they are going 'that way anyway' and sure enough I recognise the bit I'd Googled... I'd gone right when I should've gone left and right.

Steppings stones across the Swale

I keep straight ahead at lane's end as it's a bit longer to the left via the footbridge. I'm making for the stepping stones where the path comes down from Gunnerside (actually Healaugh). I've written instructions to go via here and over the road bridge if the river is in spate, but it's not, and the stepping stones deliver me to the south bank of the Swale without a hitch. After the wonderfully named Scaba Wath Bridge the road climbs a little and at the bunkhouse I think it might be a good idea to try the door in passing as continuing from here would certainly mean finding my way in the dark on headtorch and a late finish at Keld.
Surprisingly, the door opens. I shout into the cool darkness. It's Thursday and not the holidays - probably not occupied by a group then... I drop the sack and trot off back down the road. The bunkhouse is managed by the farmer and the farm is back down the hill and left over the bridge - I've done my homework - there's a campsite here as well, and a small five van site it turns out. The lady of the house was about to go in the bath... but yes I can stop. It's a tenner.

Doh! I should have remembered to ask for some milk and eggs...

Day Three: Bloomin' Expensive Soup ...

The alarm goes off at four. It's been a bit warm in the down bag what with being indoors, so I'm in the silk liner with the bag loose on top. The silk liner is getting tatty as it's of the 'fine' silk variety - lighter weight, though easily damaged. I have a lie in...

Early view back down Swaledale
 Low Lane is Rabbit Lane and I don't see any evidence of myxomatosis unlike a few years back on the high route. The morning air is dry and cool and a little dispersing mist rises here and there.

'Lousy Hill' doesn't look so bad and the approaching tiny hamlet of Satron suddenly catches the first of the sun's golden rays and it's very pleasant going over the newly mown hayfields to the scaffold-clad Ivelet Bridge.

approaching Haverdale House

Nearing the tiny Hamlet of Satron

Tight squeeze!

Ivelet Bridge

nearly half way

The photogarph after marks the half way point across Northern England on my intended route. The well-defined field paths with their scattered lead miner's barns deliver me to the narrow wooden footbridge at Ramps Holme. 

Ramps Holme Footbridge

 The views across the valley to Swinner Gill and Crackpot Hall are spoilt by me trying to outwit the big biting sh*t flies, and all too soon I meet the Pennine Way sign at Birk Hill and am in Keld.

Swinner Gill and High Level route across the Valley

I'd planned on a breakfast baguette at Park House, and proprietor Ian didn't disappoint. The massive pot of tea and two pints of milk saw it down and I was on my way again up Birkdale where the Sherpa Van passed twice on his out and return journey probably collecting bags from Ravenseat. I gave the driver a big wave, after all I probably wouldn't be here at all were it not for the Sherpa Van forum... and Ronald Turnbull of course, instigator of the whole five day business!

Lime Kiln - acting as big plant pot

Cotterby Scar - Wainwright's route goes along top enroute to Ravenseat

Whitsundale Beck meets the Swale

Quiet pitch at Hoggarth's

...time I got the camera ready, he's gone...

The farmer at the top of the hill is turning his hay, working with a vintage tractor, but by the time I'd got the camera ready he's gone... Older tractors are still useful tools in the Dales with small fields and narrow gateways to be negotiated and there's another pristine-looking Fergie in the barn.

I'm a little surprised to be passing walkers coming down the road, maybe early Coasters avoiding the boggy bits of Alfred's own Nine Standards route... though there's nothing to avoid at this time of year surely..?

Birkdale Cross
Soon, my own line will part company with Alf's - it's a last chance departure point - right for Kirkby Stephen or left into Open Country over Mallerstang Edge and I won't be seeing any Coaster's till Black Sail in Ennerdale now...
My written instructions tell me to note where the shooter's track lines up with White Spots Gutter. Google Street took their pictures up here in the winter - on the internet 'recce' there's snow around and the view west looks rather bleak with the tops shrouded in wintery mist, but today there's a good clear view up the gutter to the cairn and at Birkdale Cross I drop down the bank to meet the shooter's track. There is a bridge at the ford too, but it's easy to find a way over a few large stones anyway. At the next stream crossing I've to bear right and as the ground begins to rise take a compass bearing due west uphill. This is a line that could be closed during shooting season of course, but once up to the 'pile of stones' it's a straightforward crossing of the summit again due west - the bouldery top of Uldale Gill Head turning out to be exactly as depicted on the map. There are two water courses to be crossed which turn out to be very shallow at this time of year and I'm soon crossing the north/south thin line of hill bagger's track to be confronted by the view into Mallerstang with Wild Boar Fell off left to the south. I find a boulder seat and enjoy the rest of the milk from Keld to gain more naturally-occurring electrolytes.

View back down Birkdale

Mallerstang - on the descent to Castlethwaite
It's then just a matter of finding the best line down. There's a brief track of sorts shown around half way, which suggests some form of past industry, and rocky outcrops either side, so extreme care would be required in mist but I find the bit of track and here's a guy coming up - he's a stereo on and doesn't even see me.
It's pretty straightforward then down to Castlethwaite keeping to Gale Sike. The bridle is quite overgrown at the bottom but I'm soon at the road with interesting privately-owned Pendragon Castle on the other side. Unfortunately I notice the unusual sign below and don't give the camera time to store the image of the castle...

I didn't see any ...
After the tussocky open moor crossing I'm looking forward to a bit of of road and a certain unknown 'Tommy' is going to provide it...

View back to Mallerstang Edgefrom Tommy Road

A bridle is shown from the cottage on the bend and I noted on Google there's no roadside sign. I also note that the dip in the fence now has an extra bit of wood and extra barbed wire. I chuck the sack over and am over myself when an older woman's voice catches my attention. 'There's no path there and there hasn't been for over sixty years,' she shouts. I tell her it's clearly marked on the map and that she should take the matter up with her local authority. 'Well there's no way out at the top!' she protested indignantly. There was indeed a way out back onto Tommy road as it's clearly signed on Google and sure enough up the field at High Cocklake there's a good bridle gate with unfettered access through the yard. What is it with these people? Clearly a case of  'verbal obstruction' if ever there was one, but will I ever get round to taking it up with the local authority..?

Where the bridle meets Tommy Road - easier farm track 100m sooner

Tommy Road climbs Pudding Howe Hill over the Birkett Tunnel on the Settle to Carlisle line. There's a short stretch of 'A' road by the tarn of Tarn House and some minor road to Bowber Head, then another Low Lane past Claylands Farm where a farmer is shearing his sheep. I ask if it's okay to do a video and he stops for a break and a chat. He tells me the shop could be shut, but call at the pub and they'll open up for you...

Farmer shearing sheep in the Dales
Sheep shearing looks back breaking work but the guy says you get used to it: 'Like you with walking', he adds.


I arrive at the shop as the lady cashes up - I can't decide what to have for the best - there's some pasties but no sandwiches... 
I'd brought a white poly cotton top that I couldn't get dry and the woman takes it for her charity collection. 'It'll need a good wash,' I tell her. As though it's an everyday occurrence, she pops the damp shirt into a bag and I become around a pound lighter.


The path through the churchyard leads to a football pitch, where, quite suddenly I'm wishing I'd nipped to the pub... But thankfully there's another toilet stop opportunity at the King's Head right where the path comes out.
The line through Weasdale Nurseries has me cussing though. It looks a bit tricky on the map... there's been some work done round the boundary fence and I mistake this for the line of the path which becomes overgrown and fizzles out and I have to backtrack. I see two of the staff who direct me through the main gate - the side gate to the tree nursery is never locked they explain, but it's a little-used path... A few more waymarks would certainly be helpful here, little-used or not...
Eventually I emerge into a brief bit of Open Country - an overgrown boggy tussocky field of inquisitive wild-looking horses.
The sulky dog could be troublesome at Scar Sykes were it not on a chain. No animal deserves to be chained but on this occasion the chain is short and I'm making for the farm access, which is probably not a right of way as the footpath from the nursery takes a right through the farm here.

Cotton grass at Bowderdale - once used for stuffing mattresses
Down the road there's another brief bit of Open Access that delivers me to Bowderdale and Long Gill, where an uncertain line of bridle takes me to Flakebridge. Here I pick up the line of the footpath to join the road briefly at the Cotegill dairy farm.

'Follow the power lines initially' say my instructions, and I do... but where's the stile? Not in the corner of the field but just 10 yards off to my right - tch, must be getting ready for the afternoon tea at The Old School then... and look at the time! I must be having fun! After the equestrian-minded Midfield, I decide I'm going to need to up the pace once on the road and I do. After Longdale at the kink in the road a farmer waits patiently at the side of the road for the trotting old man to pass. Did I pass the gate? he asks, and yes, I reply, I left it tied across the road as I found it. He's about to herd his cattle up the road and wanted to be sure I hadn't undone the gate which will 'turn' them into his farmyard.

I'm surprising myself with my pace now - I've done my homework - they are open till 5pm. It'll be tight, just like my bloomin' calf muscles... but I reckon I can do it. Over the bridge into Gaisgill the road turns uphill - it's not steep but I soon run out of steam...

'CLOSED' says the sign on the Old School door - there's a tantrum now all right. But I did my homework..?!
Fortunately for me the Cross Keys round the corner are open and the landlord says I can have what I like - soup and chips then and a couple of pints of orange juice and soda. He can even do me some cashback on a credit card - stick £20 on then...
It's good to be out of the sun, but I need to get this down and be on my way and I am after checking out the downstairs situation which is all getting rather sore...

Footbridge over The Lune - known locally as the 'Iron Bridge'
 I know the next bit has some tricky sections, but losing the footpath before I got there wasn't anticipated... The riverside path is overgrown and I need to backtrack a few times to find the stiles. It didn't help that landlord Tony didn't actually hand over the twenty quid cashback... I text home to get the number of the pub which is not on the receipt... I can do without the distraction and leave it to 'the support' to sort as Tony has never heard of 'Dorothy Bridge' at my next road crossing ...

The only way past Low Whinhowe is over the rubble of the collapsed gable end and after High Whinhowe I miss a right to a gate and go through the one straight ahead instead... it's an easy mistake as the farmer has left his tractor by the side of the track which I've headed for, and all of a sudden my written instructions don't add up. After taking in the surrounding hills I realise my error and teater atop a stone wall rather than backtrack to get back on line.

Bretherdale brings more of the curious big biting flies - a quick dash throws them briefly, only to encounter more in the process and I find a twig as a swatter aid.
The crossing at Bretherdale Head is pretty with a little stone clapper bridge, and the ford is quite passable.

Footbridge and ford - Bretherdale Head
'Parrocks' beyond Bretherdale Beck
I'd tried to do my homework on Bretherdale - one boggy little mother of a bridle, chewed up by god knows what - horses - damn those flies! - or cows. Even sheep didn't seem happy here - I passed a dog collar complete with lead and was sure I heard a dog barking over in the trees of Far Crag... Had someone lost a dog here? ...or was it just a barking sheep cough?
I overshoot the undefined and quite indistinct line of the right of way - a recce would have been good here and I always promised myself one...
I know where the A6 is though and blow me I can hear the traffic, but it's hard going uphill over the trackless open country...

To come out at the summit monument I have to negotiate barbed wire in two places - the first easily negotiated at a strong corner post and the second fence remains intact but my left thigh doesn't. Fortunately the skin is punctured rather than ripped open, something gave way at a vital moment. My wedding tackle remains intact, not that it's much use these days...

Shap Summit - crossing the A6
  After that the A6 summit monument loses its shine and I don't linger - I need to be in Stockdale at least before dark and I calculate I've got till around 10pm before the light becomes useless.
It's straightforward open country - follow the wall up and head half-right south west from the top of the second rise. 

Losing the light
 There's even a cairn on the way down for goodness sake. One of the attractions for this route choice is a hill named after the outlaw - namesake of the Bay. And there's time for a few dusky pictures enroute to Lord's seat on the deer stalker's track, but there's slow boggy ground to come and three crags (Red, unamed and Mere) to get behind on as quick a line as possible in an effort to keep to the high ground. 

Robin Hood - yet another connection to the infamous outlaw

View North in fading light
I've actually got map sections for this bit now and can see the fence looming. Down from Mere Crag is the good crossing point - it's as well as the light is fading fast now. In hindsight it would be better to keep just under the craggy bits and head SW above the bog shown on the map, but do I? No. No, I decide to cut across more to the south and follow Brow Gill on what the map shows as steeper but less boggy ground. This was to be a foolish error of judgement ...

Had I stayed with the higher ground I would have made swifter progress.
I can see where I was coming from in wanting to avoid the rocky outcrops, but the boggy tussocks proved equally dangerous and one unstable tussock collapsed beneath me - my left leg went suddenly down and I heard and felt an excrutiating rip as my over-extended calf muscle gave out. My first instinct was to check for a signal, which I had, still being relatively close to the A6 perhaps. Did I want to become another mountain rescue statistic? Hmm, I'm on Kendal's patch... are they used to fell runners I wondered... in running shoes... up here at dusk... Tch, ironically, I'd only recently posted a 'take care out there' post on the Sherpa Van forum...

Could I put weight on it? The pain flared at every step, but if I could slowly make my way off the hill, then at least I'd save the rescue guys a call out and at least have the option to get an ambulance if need be down at the road. It was that bad. I tried crawling over the boggy tussocks but trailing the leg proved worse... I wept with the pain at one point as other uncertain footings over the tussocks repeated the overstretch. I heard my mother's voice echo from when as a youngster I'd come off my bike after doing that stunt of swerving from side to side with arms folded just using body weight to do the steering: 'You've only got yourself to blame Michael,' she'd chimed.
I knew I had to get off that hill though and very very slowly made progress downward. I called the bunkhouse to tell her I'd be late and did she know the number of the B&B in Stockdale? She didn't think they did it anymore, she said...

Brow Gill tumbles steeply in places and I cautioned myself to keep away from the steeper edge. There was a wall further down I knew and once there I would be around half way to safety. I'd anticipated walking on headtorch the night before and had fitted the new batteries I'd bought in Richmond Co-op, so now at least I had a good beam with signal mode if need be... I'd good reason to think of the saying 'painfully slow' but as the midges began showing in the beam I knew I was nearing the trees at least. It was all well and good being down but I still needed to find the gate and track past the Outdoor Pursuits Centre at Stockdale. I'd stayed with the fence and needed to negotiate round the edge of the wood - the ground once again very boggy. I soon realised I needed to cross the beck coming from the north and worked my way gradually away from the wood. As I wondered how I'd get across I saw the gate flash in the headtorch beam. At least I knew where it was, but I still had to get over to it...
I found a piece of dead branch that made a usable crutch and was then able to steady myself over a few larger boulders. The crashing brook probably sounded worse than it actually was as it combined here with another and Brow Gill that now disappeared into the woods.
I was down but it had been a hell of a mile and my worst walking experience ever...

On the level now, as long as I didn't over-extend that muscle I could hobble along quite nicely and could mentally stand down the ambulance.

No doubt this would be a pretty little hamlet by daylight. I needed a gated track off right that would take me to the road crossing to Till's Hole and the one last climb of the day.
I find the track, but what are these fairy lights dancing over the wall? Ah, two big working horses - inquisitive too - the head torch beam reflecting in their eyes. Hope they don't start getting over friendly... The field and the walled track come together by the gate and these big fellas think it's great fun to bar my way... I wasn't up to pushing them aside for sure but they get the message and back off enough for me to squeeze through the gate.
On the farm access to Till's Hole I just kept thinking that every step takes me closer to a hot shower! I'll take Ibruprofen and rub in some of the 10% gel after I decide... all I got to do is get over this next hill - surely no more than 2 miles to go now...

The security light comes on at Till's Hole which sets the dogs off which in turn has the farmer at the upstairs window. I'm apologetic, I've hurt my leg I tell him and am behind - making for the bunkhouse... He shuts the window with a grunt. Actually I'd no need to be apologetic - there's access twenty-four seven on the Queen's highway and this was no less so than the M6.

I'd remembered that there's a good few tracks hereabouts and at the next gate I stop to read my instructions: 'After Till's Hole keep stream to L hand and continue uphill', is all it said.
And at the next gate: 'Ignore tracks either side and continue uphill' - I ignore either side then and continue uphill where the stone track is being relaid - it all looks new... there's some traffic cones further up. I've found another branch for extra support, but even with two makeshift crutches the uphill is tricky and threatens to over-extend the troublesome leg. Why traffic cones..? Somewhere from the back of my mind comes the word 'quarries'... Blast, I've got myself onto a damn quarry road. Blast it all. I flip the compass out and sure enough it tells me I'm going more south than west. I need to get to my last known point and recheck. Going down the track is easier than coming up at least and for some reason I decide that I need to be on the other side of the wall - 'mind mist' now well and truly setting in.
Back at the gate I realise there's no other option and suddenly notice the stars are out - there's the Plough and there's the Pole Star. Damn it! I was right first time! So up I go again this time with a more determined plod. I must have read the compass at a point where the wall curved brielfy more to the left, but overall the way was generally west.
Doh, I wasn't far from the top when I'd turned around either... Sh*t happens...

The track levels out and I'm soon at the footpath sign for Kentmere and Green Quarter. I didn't check my watch but it must have been well after midnight now. It should have been plain sailing and nearly all downhill from there, but it wasn't - it was boggy and the way ahead indistinct in the dark - the headtorch greyly flattening all the detail and not picking out clues to the way ahead. I could see a few dim lights in the valley, and eventually came to a 'private' sign on a gate. There's a wall off to my right so I must have wandered too far right. I follow more boggy tussocky awkward ground left and sure enough come to another gate...
There's the odd boot mark to indicate I'm back on track and I make it to the gate of the Maggs Howe bunkhouse to find an odd pair of walking sticks. The sense of relief was indescribable and tears rolled down my cheeks at this simple act of kindness.
Mind you, once in the garden it became clear why - there's steps down to the bunkhouse... I'd tried to book the bunkhouse but it had been booked by a private party and so first things first: put the tarp up, clip up and peg out the inner midge tent... I drop one of the 2 gm pegs which may as well be part of the grass now - should have painted them yellow...
Once the basic structure is up I throw the sleeping bag inside and blow up the XLite.
Time to negotiate the steps for a shower and take a look at the leg...

It's after 2am when I finally switch off the headtorch...

Day Four: Angel at The Dungeon

So once again I'm taking stock - is it possible to hobble along up Langdale and up and over into Ennerdale? Christine at the bunkhse thinks I'd be wise to get to Kendal and catch a bus... but she doesn't know the background to this and I know I've got to live with myself ever after and this route has been three years in the planning. Huh, Alf would be ever so proud... wouldn't he just... I complain to Christine that they should dig him up and burn him... but she's heard it all before here as the bunkhouse is on the cycle route and cyclists also have the burden of a bike to contend with.

So once again I'm back on track - I'll break the last day into two and still get under five days if I have to bloody crawl it!! - with the previso that if it gets any worse I'll duck out later - see there's Ambleside.... then Elterwater... and the 'last chance saloon' of The Old Dungeon Ghyll.

I pop open some more Ibruprofen and lather the muscle in 10% gel and am good to go - oh, but could I borrow the stouter of the two sticks? 'Well..,' says Christine, 'my husband only uses it to go up the field...'

 And so I'm away again, clonking down the road into Kentmere like the pensioner I soon will be... If I can tackle Garburn Pass, I reckon I'm good to get up Rossett Gill.
After all, all I have to do is put one foot in front of the other - simples, ha ha. Then I realise my frustrated outburst earlier at the bunkhouse is nonsensical anyway - the old feller was cremated in the first place...

At Greenhead I'd noted a slightly shorter route in planning - make as though you are taking the footpath to the hall but keep ahead up the walled track... ah, but on closer inspection, like from 'here' to 'just over there', you'll only find it walled off... when will I learn? The delay proves fortuitous though as coming up behind is a guy with trekking poles, he and his ex-wife and daughter by same are on some last minute training - they are off to Sweden next week on a walking holiday. He's taking his time and waits for me and it's good to have a little company on the climb. I'm having to take it steady as I don't want a loose stone adding to my problems... I advise we wait at the gate for his ex - and she's a good-looking smiling kind and I can't help wondering why they couldn't make it work, but alas, such is life.
At the top they turn right for Buck Crag and Ill Bell as I keep left to begin the descent - Rosset Gill is easy he tells me on parting.

Garburn Pass
There's a guy sat on a rock: a good photo opportunity maybe... I tell him so. He agrees the view is spendid, but confesses, hadn't noticed and is waiting for his wife. His wife arrives - she's a nurse and gives me specific instructions on dosage, Ibruprofen followed by Paracetamol at no more than two to two and a half-hourly intervals. It could do with massaging she suggests. Her husband, still seated, complains that even he doesn't get a massage...

My instructions tell me to descend more steeply on a narrow path off right two thirds of the way along the second wood, but how do I know how long the wood is..? I'm not on Google now... In fact it's quite straightforward - it's not a RoW, but well used anyway and I pick my way carefully down to the holiday park of Limefitt House.

Descent to Limefitt

There's a shelf of tablets and cold milk at the site shop. The woman says it's going to be hot and do I have my mobile? I reply in the affirmative, but without a signal remind her that it's only useful as a camera... As I totter up the drive to the road I amuse myself with the thought of making a video diary of my last will and testament in my last gasping moments, but the battery fails after 'I hereby do bequeath...'

A hundred yards down the road the little stile in the wall up the bank at the layby takes some negotiating, and they're doing wedding photographs in the field beyond. I hobble past trying to look inconspicious.

What I thought was the Post Office in Troutbeck (actually Low Fold but a grand building surely?) turns out now to be a small shop. Another local enterprise affair - there's tea and coffee and some things biscuity. And there's a seat. So I sit out with a quick one, I deserve it - coffee's not good according to lightweight guru Ray Jardine though - I'm an addict apparently...

Lake Windermere from Robin Lane
 On Robin Lane I catch up with a group of DoE's - they're from Sheffield and only have to get to Ambleside before journeying home. I only catch up as they have to stop at pre-arranged points. I tell them the path looks a bit tricky in Skelgill Woods, but in fact when I get there, it isn't, and I arrive unscathed at Waterhead. There's ice creams and all the stuff asscociated with Lakeland honey pots but I'm okay, though a Callipo would have been good. I duck into the lakeside park opposite the Roman Fort of Galava, only to learn the main gates on my chosen route are locked...
There's a caravan rally on at the rugby club - the 'vanners' sitting out under their awnings. I should be doing more of that at my age I remind myself...

Girls from Sheffield doing their 'Dukie Award'
Waterhead, Lake Windermere

The Brathay near Skelwith Force
 Round the corner the bridge delivers me to what is deemed to be the worst section of my route choice along the busy main road as far as Skelwith Bridge. Though drivers are used to locals as well as tourists using the roadside and there are good stretches of verge. At a river bridge (The Brathay) I follow a sign for Elterwater that points over the bridge and decide to go with it rather than hobble along the main road. On Bog Lane there's a young woman with two loose dogs. I take it she's a local and enquire on the route ahead. She offers to guide me as she's going that way anyway. It's largely the road route I'd dismissed back home for being a longer route as it turned out.

Skelwith Fold

She doesn't seem in the least bit concerned about having two loose dogs on these narrow back roads. Turns out Mika was to be a sheep dog but wouldn't learn and had she not adopted the little feller he would have been shot. Smaller Coo-Coo had been her father's and he'd too long a tongue for breeding. She gave instructions to them in her native Czech, but reverted to perfect English in conversation. She and her sister were working in the UK as barmaids at the Old Dungeon Ghyll, she told me, and as she wasn't back on duty till tomorrow, didn't seem in any particular rush. She was preparing to walk the Camino de Santiago in September and turned out to be quite an angel in disguise that hot afternoon as I tottered along under my brolly.

My guide with Mika and Coo-coo at the weir near Wainwright's Inn

 I decided my best plan was to miss Elterwater Co-op and stay with my guide all the way to the last outpost in Langdale. She'll fix me up with a bag of ice for my leg when we get there, she says - an offer too good to miss! ...also that I would be able to pay for some food by card. All I needed to do was hang in there and I felt much more confident about the attempted ascent of Rosset Gill planned for that evening.

At the busy Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel an ambulance pulls up. The crew have been called to a woman with advanced heat exhaustion. It's the hottest day of the year apparently.

Upper Langdale - the route to Sty Head is up the skyline notch to left
 Turns out the locals swim, either, in Stickle Tarn or upstream of the weir in Mickleden Beck. Indeed I'm passing people with wet hair...
The Cumbria Way continues up to Stake Pass and down into Langstrath to meet the established Wainwright Coast to Coast route at Stonethwaite in Borrowdale where it winds eastward up to Lining Crag and on to Greenup Edge. My route takes me left, on another old tried and trusted jagger's route up to Sty Head, where I'd decided on skirting Great Gable by Aaron Slack. Both routes rejoin near Black Sail in Ennerdale.

It's steady progress up the now flagged winding bridle. There's no chance of the more direct line as it looks like a bit of a scramble in places. Plenty of walkers are coming down and I reassure that they hadn't sold out at The Old Dungeon...

View back down Langdale
Angle Tarn arrival ...

...with swollen left leg

There are voices way off to my left and I realise with some dismay that this is the last dog leg of the route assigned to the jagger's ponies. It takes well over an hour to make the summit and as I don't fancy any further escapades in the dark I make my bed out of the breeze behind a small rocky knoll near a peat pool.

Early night: view west from the 'bedroom'

Day Five: The Monks Have It!

I'd just unrolled the Moonlite sleeping bag cover which had proved too warm and clammy in the night with the down bag - it had been a cloudy muggy night.
The alarm went off at 4am and a sudden stream of texts flowed in - I must have suddenly got a signal from Langstrathdale which I was, more or less, right at the head of. I managed to get a text off, before, just as suddenly, the signal died - from full five bars to nil...
Contemplating rising to face the next challenges, I became aware of mist coming out of Langdale and spilling over into Langstrath - a wonderful spectacle and a bonus of the bivvy bag... almost one of 'the best of nights' that multi award winning writer Ronald Turnbull describes, otherwise the breeze has dropped and I notice a few brave midges...

Dawn breaks on Tongue Head

somewhat off course - looking back, oblivious ...
I'm away just after five - deciding to breakfast farther on... no food inside me may well be why I wandered off course to find myself heading south. I'd passed a second rock shelter and a stream where I'd filled my bottle as the morning was already warm... underfoot the track had become increasingly bouldery and common sense dictated that this was not horsey-coursey bridle and surely not the route I'd planned. I did have some small map sections for this bit and turned round soon to be confronted by Sprinkling Tarn. Great Gable had not been visible earlier due to low cloud rising swiftly out of Wasdale. In between cloud cover I could clearly see the notch of Windy Gap between the Gables Great and Green. The summit col of Aaron Slack was to be the final high point of my route and where I'd imagined over the past three years of planning I'd get blown back all the way to Robin and his Bay.

Great Gable - now you see it ...

... going, going ...

... gone

I decided to get some breakfast inside me before the final assault and beg a cereal bar off a passing group - as a bonus I also get a flapjack, then lo, on unpacking the gas and bowl find my last muesli pre-pack. I find a spot out of the breeze behind a small boulder in sight of the Mountain Rescue box.

The small stove sports quite an aggressive little burner and the water soon comes to a rolling boil - my next planned stop is hopefully the honesty box at Black Sail, so this could be the stove's last use. I'd still got both tea bags and coffee and fortified I set off again in search of the feint dashed path behind the sheep fold, this will save a little descent and reclimb and there are some guys ahead right on line in bivvy bags. The one I was making for looks to be an AMK Escape Breathable Bivvy with its bright orange colour, but no, when I get there it's a RAB bag... the young lads say they've had a comfortable night and I continue in the direction of the gullied ascent. At the top, progress is oh so very slow, it becomes quite scree-like and I explain my plight to two climbers coming swiflty up behind and would they at least make sure I make it to the summit, I ask. They were soon ahead making for the day's climbing of Green Gable Crag, as I recall, but they said they would keep and eye out for me at the col.

the climbers soon get ahead on Aaron Slack

Summit cairn, Windy Gap with Haystacks, Buttermere(just) and High Crag centre

View down Ennerdale
 I made it to the cairn only to realise the descent would be equally tricky as the scree was smaller now and I slither forward at times and become adept at using the stick as a brake. A guy coming up asked if I were the injured walker. Good to know the climbers had passed on my plight... He had crepe bandages, but doubted they'd do me any good now as I'd soon be down anyway. A couple coming up gave me some more pain killers which helped my dwindling stock and told me of an artist in a bivvy bag they'd passed - she might make you a cuppa they jested.
Sure enough, beyond the scree and onto the grassy boulder-strewn slope there was indeed an artist in a bivvy bag, still abed and convinced she could see the Isle of Man... Her border terrier Tat a very fussy little chap. He'd come bounding up to meet me and I'd half expected to find a small sample of brandy attached to his collar!

 'Tat' - the camera shy artist's dog
The infant Liza, first a trickle, gradually took on enough water to create some small falls and at one inviting rock pool I stopped to wash my socks and give my feet a dip - bliss! I had cause to think of the old feller - up there on Haystacks, looking down, chuckling to himself - another sucker heeding my advice to make up his own route... Good old Alf, hey..?

The Liza begins as a trickle

until one small rock pool becomes too tempting ...

Toad or frog..?
A mountain biker at the bottom had broken his chain coming down Black Sail Pass. I'd just found a water bottle off a bike and decided it was litter to be deposited at Black Sail. Soon reunited with it's owner this one though: 'Oh, yeah, it's mine. Thanks,' he says. Sorted - not so the cap I found higher up that morning: 'Street Basketball is a Way of Life' - this one I left on the seat at Black Sail in case someone else arrived capless and bereft.

The 'London Underground' map of Lake District routes at Black Sail Youth Hostel
 And so I was down, and the kettle on... 'Is this a mirage?' I'd asked on approaching the open Youth Hostel. Looks like the honesty system works well here - a godsend to the coasters who've toiled up Ennerdale - like the Dutch guy who arrived with a pack large enough to park my car in. He took out a whole glass jar of specialist tea, complete with twigs an' all. He gave me a taste - hmm: minty and quite refreshing, but I was at a loss to know what to do with the bits of twigs in my mouth after... Another guy filled his bottle with water from the tap and left a quid even though I told him water wasn't on the price list.
looking back up Ennerdale to the Black Sail Hostel

Boyed by the whole communal spirit of Black Sail, I must've bourne sails of my own over the next three miles down the broad stony track at 'starting out pace', limp an' all, only to run out of steam by a YHA trackside board at Gillerthwaite. Here too, food - the sign said so. Tea and scones for a few quid in the box - splendid! Must be less than 20 miles to go now..? Hmm, but hang on, I will have to re-route to the established line to Ennerdale Bridge adding a further kink to my straighter line. And am I up to tackling the rocky Robin Hood's Chair? Well, I decide, if I can manage Aaron Slack and the Windy Gap descent without falling into Ennerdale I can surely manage a further small rock outcrop without falling into the Dale's same Water...

Shore path Ennerdale Water with rock outcrop Robin Hood's Chair (centre)

Robin Hood's Chair - just  hold my stick a moment would you..?

Last view of the Lakes from Flat Fell

 And so it went...  a whole twenty pound's worth of Tesco Clubcard Vouchers found on the shore path and a hurrying Japanese girl solo Coaster making her way with photcopied drawn sections roughly stapled together - then who am I to speak with my homemade trifold written instructions? She asked if she was going right for 'Gee-ar...fwait, yes?' I told her that it wasn't far and she had plenty of time, but realised she probably felt a bit threatened by some tattooed local lads with a few cans coming from the car park... this is where the locals come for their dip... er, hang on... isn't this a reservoir?

I think there's no great rush now and decide to call at the Fox and Hounds in Ennerdale Bridge as there's still a good few miles left yet - I'll certainly do better with a bit more food in the belly. There's a guy outside, another with a very large pack. He asks at the bar about watching cricket on telly. The barman shrewdly advises booking a room - he can then watch all cricket he likes. He too carries a large book for a pillow - where am I going wrong..?

I calculate there's just nine miles to go on my non-clifftop route now. I'm in a similar condition to my first Wainwright attempt that became a seven day crossing where a pulled muscle on Lining Crag had slowed me... This time though, even hobbling along I can make it before dark surely..?

There's little point in creating an alternative roadside route if you aren't going to maintain it, I'm still in shorts of the short running kind and I don't want things flying up my nethers nor do I need any more nettle stings, cuts, rashes and the like, so I'm on the road and sticking with it clonking my way steadily up to the fake stone circle. I can cut across here though... or can I? No maps for here. Heck, I should be able to do this bit blindfolded now...
Sure enough I find the Flat Fell path and hobble on to receive a tide of incoming texts beyond the rise

the Irish Sea in sight
Thing is, can I make that bloomin' Stanley Pond section before the sun snook's itself to bed with its cup of cocoa this time..?
I've pretty much memorised the shortest route through Cleator Moor and I pick my way between the houses and cut across the council office car park to find the cycleway beyond a kid's play area. A left followed by some careful decisions sees me emerge near the Wainwright Monument and it's over the road and down the track to Stanley. There's just enough light this time to find the path - in fact it's quite dry underfoot and equally straightforward.

Beyond the railway underpass at Stanley the light has faded enough to begin to wonder about using the head torch which is ready for use fastened around the sack. I can see the wood up the field ahead and know the RoW heads up into it, but rather than risk a fight with trees in the dark I keep left and follow the hedge to the next field intent on skirting the wood. Google has it this time though and there is no fence, gated or otherwise to negotiate, however the field off right to get back on line is now much steeper than anticipated. The steepness of the rough grass soon begins aggravating the injury and it seems to take an age to gain any height in short painful sideways steps. Sure enough though I can just make out the outline of a stile up ahead  - I can do this...

The map had shown an easy route past the wood... In fact the 'memory map' is a filthy lying scumbag at this hour. There's two levels to the path ahead... I know I need to be at the corner of the old monk's source of firewood - that big black shape ahead right. I stubbornly refuse to stop and put the headtorch on now! There's a post ahead which turns out to be a kind of double stile over the monk's more immediate boundary wall and I'm keeping next to the wood in the gloaming. I come to a binder-twined gate and can't for the life of me see a stile... Time to put the torch on? No. I climb the gate... surely the last? ...this bloody track can't be far away now..?

And it wasn't, and the track improved onto Abbey Lane which continued into a large car park with well over a dozen St.Bees school minibuses. One route I'd Googled is in fact accessible - a cut left down some steps and through the school grounds - it's a more scenic route past the Abbey - but I'm into the sodium lighting now anyway and opt for the right turn at the road by the old school entrance, then left down Abbey Road to keep right for Beach Road. I do notice some activity at the hotel as I make a beeline for the finish. I'm just five hours and eight minutes under the five day target, but feel very lucky to have made it at all...

The start - in this case, finish plaque St.Bees with stick

The Man himself ...
Lucky too, to get in at the hotel as the bar manager was finishing cashing up - it would have been bench seat in shelter at either end otherwise... and the room did have a bath.

Then again, with a room, I miss the chance to be woken at 2am by a cute little scavenging badger as was the case with my own makeshift accommodation at the start, but the monks have it over the outlaw in the comfort stakes.

'Plan your own marathon...' I did - and thank you Mr.Wainwright for the experience of a lifetime!


Notes - Route:


When Alfred Wainwright devised his Coast to Coast Walk, Bill Cowley had already long laid claim the Lyke Wake Walk. This choice offers a nice, if remote, direct line alternative across the North Yorkshire Moors, where the climb is generally slow and steady, not forgetting the minor inconvenience of Wheeldale Beck, though the climb out is offset somewhat as it's about the only half-decent water supply. Then, to counter the slippery mud of Wainwright's May Beck Woods, you have only to negotiate the bogs, mainly to the south of Cock Heads (Middle Head and West Gill Head) which are not so bad during the dryer summer months, though, if the mist is down you may be better prepared if you're familiar with a few lines of the Lyke Wake Dirge!
Try as I may in planning I could not avoid the old Ironstone Railway trackbed and broad track beyond to the highest point on the North Yorkshire Moors - the ancient Round Hill on Botton Head. From here though there is a more southerly alternative via Seave Green offering a more direct line with just the one climb over to Scugdale Hall, though overgrown footpaths, proved to be more challenging than anticipated...
The established route, together with the Cleveland Way, are rejoined in the woods near Huthwaite Green, before that devilish alternative through Arncliffe Wood - the pretty descent to Cog Hole which, once again, misleads into the undergrowth...

UPDATE: Having had an opportunity to recce this section in April 2015, it should be noted there is a fingerpost at the point where I was distracted by the incoming text. It was most likely out of my line of sight as I checked the phone... Normally you wouldn't miss this. The line drops a few feet to the right and continues ahead left downhill.
The Cog Hole path can be divided into three parts: top, middle and bottom, separated by the same forestry track as it sweeps around the wood. 
While the middle section can be found and in April quite traceable on the ground, it could be another matter in the summer when the wild garlic(?) and undergrowth comes into it's own. Though not a RoW, it could prove more fruitful to bear right on meeting the main forestry track and just stick with it for the little extra added especially if the Blue Bell are due to stop serving food and you want to be sure to avoid that bramble-filled ditch! Food or not, the last thing your tired legs need is a retracing of steps especially back uphill...
The bottom section is probably best avoided, as it drops to some fairly boggy ground before climbing to rejoin the same forestry track you've just crossed.

I looked at many options, as I'm sure the master himself did... though try as you may, you will find there is no better option than Alf's. Not the case after Danby Wiske. Before Whitwell Woods the shorter alternative is by Plumtree Plantation - for me the excuse to use some 'B' road (good verge) was a 'calorie call' at Ellerton Farm Shop - a well-placed gem. More 'B' road through Brompton-on-Swale can make an alternative - there's the bunkhouse option here and a shop - but the road is busier this side of the A1 and caution is advised. An advantage is that you are on the right side of the Swale to pass Easby Abbey, now a stone's throw from Richmond.
By my calculation nothing is gained by missing Richmond - a useful stop, which became necessary on my own line.
Once committed to Richmond then, you are governed now by the river and Westfields/Whitecliffe Woods, though there is an alternative if you use the 'A' road out of Richmond and bridle/footpath along the bottom of Whitecliffe Wood. I didn't - they both come to 2.7m, but the 'A' road option would save 30m of climb...
Staying on Hard Stiles wasn't as bad as I thought it would be - misses lovely Ellers, of course, but also the ups and downs... and it's that bit more direct via High Fremington - though there's not much in it - depends on how 'fast and light' you want to get to Reeth...
The Healaugh stepping stones aren't shown on the map either, but a tad more direct than the new footbridge. The stepping stones are very clear on Google - a useful tool. The map has it wrong with the bunkhouse too... possibly a 'copyright trap'.

The lower route seems to be a 'free for all' - my choice was to keep south of the river via Low Lane and Dubbing Garth Lane, then a short stretch of the 'B' road to Satron. From Ivelet Bridge cross back over to the shorter route on the west bank at Ramps Holme footbridge. In planning I did briefly consider the option of cutting up Open Country to the Pennine Way - shorter but most definitely not worth the extra climb, especially through deep bracken.
The planned route from Keld - keep to the road up Birkdale and cut across Open Country over Mallerstang Edge via Uldale Gill Head worked well, though could well be a different matter in a wet summer or different season. This was to be the biggest alteration to the Wainwright line and once you leave the road here you're committing yourself to a completely different line and won't see a Coaster again till Ennerdale... in fact you're unlikely to see any other walkers until you get to Kentmere and the Garburn Pass.
There's an Open Country option from Tommy Road to Bowber Head (campsite here) via Wharton Fell but it looks like it could be slow on the map and I dismissed the idea, staying with the road, though my line does involve a short stretch of the A683.
From the village of Ravenstonedale with its handy little pub-run shop, the only problem area was finding the line of the path through the tree nursery at Weasdale*, though the slightly shorter line is actually along the minor road via Newbiggin and Kelleth.
Finding a way over the Lune was always going to be a necessity and so Tebay was something of a head scratcher for a while as the 'Iron Bridge' referred to, though shown on the map, is not specifically marked as footbridge, and it took a little 'local knowledge' in the form of a few phone calls to establish this. In fact the best line seemed to be over the stepping stones at Castle Howe**(see notes), but these were displaced during a bad flood and (as far as I am aware) not been replaced and there are indications of a deep channel of water making fording unwise. The nearby bridge over Birk Beck is not a right of way, though offers a slightly shorter line if facilities are not required at Tebay.
While all the stiles are in place the line is not as easy as the map predicts for these little-used paths - though this is nothing like as challenging as finding your way out up Bretherdale***(see notes) - I overshot completely, missing the bridle exit to the A6 as noted.

Accessing Robin Hood was quite straightforward though a little boggy in places. Wall up, pass cairn on Crookdale descent crossing, again follow wall up which takes you to this minor summit. From here follow the quad bike track - which does find some pretty nasty boggy ground after Lord's Seat, but Red Crag is pretty obvious to get to the back of. Better in good daylight though, as would be the descent to The Outdoor Pursuit Centre ...
Again I doubt there would be any navigation problems after Till's Hole. The traffic cones that threw me are explained easily as the map shows green road - being repaired on my visit. The confusion being all mine.

Days 4 & 5
From Kentmere it's pretty straightforward over Garburn Pass (gets surprisingly busy here, though it was a Saturday) Limefitt Park can be missed, though the shop may come in handy as did the little shop in Troutbeck/Low Fold. Ambleside is an option either way - my choice by Robin Lane, Skelwith, Waterhead or by Wansfell Pike - the latter allowing for an alternative to the busy section of main road, skirting south of Loughrigg Fell to Tarn Foot and on to Elterwater.
I was happy just to plod along of course, but did avoid most of the 'A' road by Skelwith Fold.
It's just a matter then of getting up and out of Langdale, and this route choice does give the opportunity to include a higher point than Kidsty Pike in Scafell (off route) or less so, Great Gable (less off route) Injured, I found Aaron Slack quite enough climb, especially after wandering a little off route that morning.

After the small scree it's a pleasant descent into Ennerdale - more so for knowing you've got the nut in the crack now. It's a bit shorter (about a mile as I recall) via Red beck, but if hungry you can stay with the established route. Fast and light, you'll want to make the shortest line after Flat Fell, which for me was through Cleator to pick up the cycle track - only because I'd originally planned on a visit to the chippy at Wath Brow though!

It's a four day schedule really, just depends how the legs and feet hold out for that last forty mile day...

Additional notes:
In communication with Cumbria County Council RoW Office, who were most helpful:

* Weasdale Nurseries - the RoW office say they will have a look at the possibility of a few extra signs here.

** There are no displaced stepping stone across the Lune. The large stones seen on Google are in fact a 'V groin' constructed to control flow and protect the nearby foundations of the M6 and the nearby RoW crosses the river by a ford on a diagonal line a little farther upstream. There are plans to erect a footbridge here, but funds are currently very limited.

*** CCC RoW Office say they will look at the possibility of extra signage in Bretherdale.

With regard to the Tommy Road bridle - CCC say they have an 'ongoing situation' there.