Saturday, 31 July 2010

Day 8: Keld to Reeth

A much gentler day today: 12 miles along the River Swale in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. In fact, we covered a significant part of Swaledale today (and will walk though much of the rest tomorrow), and apart from a single very light shower, we had great weather to do so.

This was the alternative version of the route, one that Wainwright recommends as a change to the hill climbs of earlier in the week - and we are all very glad we did it this way. The trees that line the river complement the lush green hillsides perfectly, and the sound of running water through the stony river really added to it. As seen in the picture, we also found a place to play in the middle of the river - or at least at the mouth of Barney Beck as it departs from the Swale.

Another landmark passed today was the 100 mile mark - we have now completed just over 108 of them, and are still largely in good health (barring the occasional dodgy ankle or blistered heel) and spirit!

On arriving in Reeth (a beautiful village - the so-called "capital of Swaledale") we played outside an ice cream parlour for about half an hour and attracted a good audience - hopefully our rendition of "O Sole Mio" attracted people to the idea of ice cream, rather than leaving them disappointed that they didn't sell Cornettos!

Apologies, by the way, for the lack of updates to our location today - I have had no phone reception since the middle of yesterday (Friday), so unless I strike lucky with wi-fi thus evening you won't be reading this until a good way through Sunday anyway!

Quote of the day: "I think that cello's going to have to sit on the loo overnight" (due to lack of room in the B&B)

Friday, 30 July 2010

Day 7: Kirkby Stephen to Keld

(Subtitle: A blog about a bog)

A slightly later start today - we played before we left the fabulous youth hostel in Kirkby Stephen, which is an old converted chapel (with much of the original architecture preserved), and set off with the clock approaching 10.00. We were joined for the day by Clare's old friend Kate and her three daughters, and this boosted us to get up to the Pennine ridge in good time.

After playing at the Nine Standards - a set of stone constructions on the ridge at about 650m up (the morale-boosting sudden view of Yorkshire nearly being tempered by James's attempt to let his cello be attacked by his case...), we walked through the boggiest part of the whole route, which despite being dry by its standards was still enough to get us rather wet in places.

The journey down to Keld was then rather more straightforward, the occasional shower meaning we couldn't rest on our laurels though. We did stop at the wonderful Ravenseat farm for a cup of tea & scones, and played to the owner - two of her children and the dog being particularly engaged by the performance. We would certainly recommend the food and drink there!

And so tonight we're staying in Keld, a tiny village in the western end of Swaledale. It's great to be back in Yorkshire, although the lack of phone reception means I have no idea when this blog post will appear! At the halfway point of the challenge, though, I am pleased to report that all is going to plan...

Quote of the day: "We were following you yesterday, and it was so inspirational to see the cellos in the valley ahead..." "You mean knowing there is someone madder than you around?"

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Day 6: Shap to Kirkby Stephen

Well, that was a different day. A long one, for sure (20 miles), but far easier terrain than previously in the walk and almost perfect walking conditions (alternating sun and cloud cover, but never getting too hot for too long and barely even the merest hint of rain - no need for waterproofs!).

We covered the 20 miles in just over 9 hours, including a stop to play some Beethoven by a wonderful railway bridge near Kirkby Stephen (pictured) - I don't know whether it added to the occasion or not that the audience was mostly cows (who, to their credit, gathered round almost as soon as we started playing!).

Tomorrow is different again - an ascent up and down the Pennines, with the promise of finding ourselves in Yorkshire by the end!

Quote of the day: "Moo!"

Shap (...ah-ah!)

We're just starting day 6, and thought it would be worth blogging about the fantastic hospitality we received in Shap. The fabulous New Ing Lodge was where we stayed, and we would heartily recommend it to any Coast-to-Coasters, and indeed anyone else visiting the village.

Clare was particularly impressed that one of the owners not only bought her an ice cream on arrival, but even carried it up two flights of stairs for her! Also worthy of a mention is the Bull's Head Inn, where we performed and had a great meal last night. Let's hope it was enough to see us through today's 20 miles...

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Day 5: Patterdale to Shap

Are we really only 5 days and 62 miles into it? We seem to have been going for ever, and the feet and joints certainly feel as if we have.

Today was certainly the toughest day of the route so far - and may yet turn out to be the toughest of the whole lot, but I don't want to tempt fate by saying that for certain now! Although there are three which are longer in terms of mileage, it was still nearly 16 miles today, and involved the biggest climb of the route - 780m up Kidsty Pike.

We played at the top (including our debut performance of "Ain't no mountain high enough"), and James decided to get arty with his cello (pictured). This was then followed by the toughest descent I've known for a long time - bone and muscles being crunched all the way.

So, we arrived in Shap safely at about 6.30, and are going to head out to perform in a local pub soon. Tomorrow brings much easier terrain, but a whole 20 miles of it... let's see whether we feel that more or less than the same distance on day 1!

Quote of the day (to Jeremy at breakfast): "Did you hear those cellists in the pub last night?"

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Day 4: Grasmere to Patterdale

Something amazing happened today: it stopped raining and the sun came out. Not for vast amounts of time, granted, but long enough for us to get our cellos out at the highest point of the day's walk, just above Grisedale Tarn - about 600m up the slopes of Helvellyn (pictured).

This was one of the highlights of a good day's walking - again not the furthest in terms of mileage (about 9 miles, meaning we've now done 46 in total), but a good climb and descent, with a novelty in arriving at our destination in dry clothes!

Another highlight was meeting a group of kids on the way down, on a YHA-run adventure course (they were camping up where we had just come from), who turned out to be wonderfully polite, interested and enthusiastic to hear us play - and despite being no older than about 13, generous in their donations too. The sort of encounter that really leaves a good feeling about the whole challenge!

So we're staying in Patterdale tonight, perhaps entertaining the locals later, and preparing ourselves for a much bigger walk tomorrow - the highest climb of the whole route and 16 miles to boot (well, to Shap actually!). Fingers crossed for some dry weather...

Quote of the day: "So, are yous lads all army then?"

Day 4: raining again

It's getting a bit tiresome, this rain! Still, we have a spring in our step this morning having enjoyed a fine concert last night - and thanks to the generous folk of Grasmere (and a fair few walkers we told about it on the way) our total has now surpassed £3000!

The only downside about Grasmere, I guess, was the evening meal at a local pub, where the food was ok if overpriced, and (some of) the staff were a bit rude and unhelpful - a complete contrast to the previous night in Rosthwaite, which had been absolutely great! Oh well, no great harm done... looking forward to another meal tonight after another big day's walking...

(Pictured: St Oswald's Church, Grasmere)

Monday, 26 July 2010

Day 3: Borrowdale to Grasmere

Well, it may have only been 8 miles or so today, but it was a tough 8 miles. A good climb in the first part of the walk was followed by a joint-destroying equivalent descent thereafter - and all in pouring rain.

In fact, for the third day running an alternative "higher" option was ruled out because of poor weather. It's a little frustrating, but it's not preventing us from getting there. It is, however, starting to cause some damage to the cellos (see picture) - hopefully it won't rain for the whole of the two weeks!

So, three days and 37 miles in, and we're seeing the first of our personnel changes. I've not said anything about our personnel yet this year, so here is a brief introduction... as many of you will know, Jeremy, Clare and James are the cellists; we're being joined throughout the walk by our friends Ashley, Rachel and Chris, to help us carry non-cello items, as well as Angela (James's mum), who is driving from place to place to help with transporting luggage and other logistical matters. Then we're being joined by some others along the way: Simon, Mary and Helen were with us for the first three days, and Clare's brother Paul joined us from today until day 9... which seems a very long way away right now!

Anyway, we're giving a concert at St Oswald's Church, Grasmere tonight (7.30) so we better go and prepare for that!

Quote of the day: "Oh, so you're those daft ha'peths with the cellos..."

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Day two complete

Well, we're now two days in, and with nearly 30 miles under the belt it's feeling well underway.

I've no idea when this will appear online, as there's no phone reception where we are tonight (Borrowdale Youth Hostel), but today has been a very different one from yesterday. Much shorter mileage, but a much bigger climb - our first significant one of the challenge.

Not as significant as we'd hoped - the Red Pike-Haystacks ridge version of the route was covered in cloud, so we walked along the valley and save the climb until later on. Instead, we played outside Black Sail youth hostel - the only one in the country not accessible by road (pictured) - and later on outside the Honister slate mine.

So, hopefully a relaxing evening ahead (involving a little playing, of course) before - gulp - another 12 days of tough walking to come...

Quote of the day: "That's a funny shaped backpack you've got there..."

Onto day 2...

20 miles down, 173 to go...

We did a little bit more on day 1 than we had originally planned, owing mainly to logistical difficulties if we hadn't. So 20 miles left us absolutely knackered last night, but we're feeling a bit fresher this morning and have started day 2 brightly!

More brightly in fact than the weather, which although dry at the time of writing has covered the "alternative" ridge route (including Haystacks) in cloud. So in the interests of safety we're taking the valley route to start with, and will leave the big climb until later...!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

We're under way!

Finally we've started the challenge proper - beginning at 9.30 this morning, by playing on the beach at St Bees, and we've since walked 14 miles to Ennerdale Bridge... a few more miles to go yet, as we're going to the Ennerdale Youth Hostel, but we're blogging now as I don't know whether we'll have any reception today or not!

High points of the day (so far) include having a cup of tea at the cottage by St Bees Head lighthouse, meeting a family from Sheffield, and getting caught speeding by a speed camera when running up hill!

Quote of the day: "What's all this about then?"!

Friday, 23 July 2010

A great start at St Bees

Well, we're finally in Cumbria, and although the walking hasn't started yet we've made a fantastic start to the challenge.

After a difficult journey up from Sheffield (delayed and crowded trains upstaged by a lineside fire near Whitehaven), we gave our first performance of the tour - a concert at St Bees Priory (pictured).

We were simply bowled over by the turnout and reception, which provided the best possible way to start the challenge. Thanks to a very generous audience, we are now comfortably more than half way to our £5,000 target before we've even walked a mile!

Massive thanks to all at St Bees for making this possible. And now we're feeling ready to start the walk - come back tomorrow evening to find out whether or not this confidence is misplaced!

Monday, 19 July 2010

Coast-to-Coast challenge coming up...

For anyone who's not aware yet, we're going to be starting the Coast-to-Coast challenge this Saturday. That's walking the 192-mile route from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood's Bay in North Yorkshire (as made famous by Alfred Wainwright), carrying cellos, playing three times a day.

More details are at our web site, where you can also track our progress on a map. Of course, though, we'll be blogging as we go so check back here regularly to see our progress!

Since our last challenge two years ago we've also started Facebooking and Tweeting, so if you're into either of these, then start following us that way!