On to Tebay in the morning. It’s a reasonably leisurely trip through rural England.
Lovely woods, the growing river, villages of stone houses looking as though they had grown out of the ground. Farming goes on around us, making hay while the sun also shines on our trip (mostly).
Derek joins us on day three (he’s a philosopher writing a book on medical ethics with a Kiwi surgeon) and with my brother Fred. They take the high route over the fell tops and down to Sedbergh while Karol and I follow the river through the Lune Gorge then up on to a fellside lane.
From that height, passing noble ash trees (must plant some at home!) we are saved any noise that might come from the M6 motorway, which shares the gorge.
This ancient trade passage to the north was also a favoured route for raiding parties, so we see evidence of old forts and castles dating back to Roman times. Our other companion through here is the West Coast Line (we like trains), reminding us of this most civilised mode of travel, so underused in New Zealand, but the way we always choose to get about in “Old Blighty”.
Tired legs and sore feet into Sedbergh and The Dalesman pub (anyone for “Steak in Real Beer Pie?”)
We have a change of the guard as Derek heads back to London and David joins us from St Albans. David taught Fred and me music at our school in Oxford, 45 years ago. Another climber. We’ve remained close friends.
The four of us have a hilarious time wending our way down lanes, across bridges and over meadows.
We pass both ancient and newly “layed” hazel hedges and determine to introduce the craft to our block in Little River, back in New Zealand.
We roll into Kirkby Lonsdale and there disperse, Karol and I to an Airbnb, a farmhouse with such style that the curved oak roof beam of the 1656 room had been recycled from an older building from several centuries earlier.
In my envy, I warned our host that I plan to steal it in the night. “Don’t worry,” says he. “I have another in the barn.”
Back by the river, we meet Ray and Brenda on Devil’s Bridge. Coming from the village of Caton, our next port of call, they will be our guides until we reach the sea.
With private land to avoid but numerous footpath options, some careful map-reading is needed to avoid ending up in the wrong farmyard. The land is flattening. The river widens. Lancaster approaches.
David has recovered his car and now five of us patronise the Station Inn – locally caught fish the order of the day.
From Caton, we can remain riverside, past warehouses refurbished into apartments, past museum and castle and out to estuarine marshes, the port and the sea.
It has been energetic, social and gastronomic, immersed in rural, summered England.
We have indulged in nostalgia and walked our way into new stories. We have tasted the charm and there now is no going back.
Next time? Probably the Wye Valley running the Welsh borders to the Severn Estuary. You coming?