Grayrigg – Bowness-on-Windemere (08/04/10)
So the last day finally arrived. A short bus journey back to Grayrigg followed by a quick hop down onto the trail itself. On the way out of Greyrigg we were spotted by the local sheep, some of which came hurtling over towards us at full speed. The sheep in the field next to us thought they were getting fed – the sheep in the field over the river (a lot of sheep) assumed that the ones nearest to us were getting fed and wanted some of the action. I have never heard anything like this in my life, around thirty odd sheep giving it rooty-toot in unison. What a noise (imagine the zombie noise from Shawn of the Dead x 10). It was only when we finally disappeared from sight that they gave it up as a lost cause, either that or the hill just blocked the sound!
I think the Dales Way certainly has the variety and constant changing scenery to make it a classic British Trailwalk, and this section through to Burneside was no different. It reminded me very much of the Eastern end of the Ridgeway, which we walked in the summer of 2009. Hedges had started to replace walls and the ground was much more rolling. There is an attractiveness about this as your curiosity drives you on to see what might just be over the next rise. It is interesting and engaging walking.
Just before reaching Burneside we were talking about having a break, and in fact there was a nice spot, albeit next to the A6 at the entrance to the farm. For some reason we kept walking, and what we found put a huge grin on my face. Billy’s Tea Stop. This place is an oasis in a barren wasteland of no pubs/tea rooms/shops, and what a place it is too. All done on an honesty box, with suggested “donations”, you can partake of tea, coffee, orange squash, beer, ice cream, Kendal Mint cake, flapjacks (yum!). There is even a radio and TV with videos (limited choice, Bob the Builder Live! was about the most watchable) and you can even purchase a fleece if you so desire! Last, but not least, has to be a special mention for their homemade Damson Gin. If you go there…..
the bloomin’ stuff is like Ribena. Lovely. There is a visitors book and it seems their little shed has had plenty of visitors. It looks like it being run by a couple of kids to fund their maintenance of a few farm animals. (Pig, goat, chickens etc.) Well good luck to them and I hope that it continues to be a big success, it really is the most welcoming and unexpected thing on the whole trail.
Would you believe though that someone had complained about the quality of the tea in the visitors book. Heathens!
After depositing a good amount into their honesty box, and taking some of the Damson Gin, we left with the wind really in our sails and stormed past Burneside, heading for Staveley. We were just too late into the pub at Staveley (I suppose it doesn’t really matter a great deal, but would the path not be better routed through the town here to give better access to the services?) to get nibbles, so a quick pint and off we went. Disaster had struck me by then as my Platypus Hydration system had worked loose and flooded the bottom of my sack. Fortunately I had only socks and thermals down there which I wouldn’t need any more. If it had happened the day before it could have been a huge problem.
A couple of longish climbs out of Staveley were quickly forgotten when looking back over the ground that we had covered. This really is the most wonderful area – I keep saying it – and the walk certainly can take your breath away at times. Back up onto a quite “moorish” section, obviously in quite a popular walking area (close to Windemere) given away by the tea room (sadly shut at this point) that seems to be exclusively for walkers.
The walk into Windemere again is varied and you do get the feeling that the Dales Way is beginning to wind down to its finish. Unlike most other trails I’ve done though, the end here creeps up on you and smacks you about the head if you’re not concentrating. Out of nowhere Bowness-on-Windemere appears before you, along with a quite stupendous view up the Lake itself. This has to be the best finish to any of the trails I have done, even beating the spectacular Ridgeway finish on Ivinghoe Beacon which was pretty special. This actually gives you a real satisfying feeling of completion which often I have found missing on other trails.
Day Rating 9/10
This was probably the best days walking of the Way. Ok there are one or two short sections that do detract from the overall enjoyment, but it was consistently good from start to finish. The end of it bumps the score up just by itself, not to mention that there is a good pub at the bottom of the hill welcoming you properly to Bowness-on-Windemere. Superb.
Overall Trail Rating – 47/60 (78%)
One of the best. I wont say it is a walk in the park, especially with a load on your back. The walking is generally easy, but the one aspect that slows you and is pretty energy sapping are stiles. Pinch stiles, stone stiles, ladder stiles, you name it they are all there and take some getting over. Some of the kissing gates can be fun to negotiate too, being a little too compact when wearing a large rucksack. This is just splitting hairs though.
Out of all the trails I have walked so far, this most certainly makes it into the top 3. Fantastic.