Distance: 13 miles
This day’s hike would be a mixture of history, a few animals and lovely, gentle, rolling countryside. We did not get out of town undetected, as we were observed by a beady-eyed chicken.
One mile east of Orton as we walked down Knott Lane, we came upon a much larger stone circle than the ones we saw yesterday: Gamelands Stone Circle. Unfortunately, part of the circle is missing due to many years of farming.
As we walked on, we met up with a group of hikers that we had met just the day before. One of the joys of long-distance hiking is meeting the same people day after day on the trail or in a pub in the evening. Several hikers that I have met on some of my excursions have become very good friends.
Some very friendly ponies trotted up to greet us as we invaded their pasture.
If we had not read about this day’s walk ahead of time, we would have missed the location of possibly Britain’s most important prehistoric site: Severals Village. It is clearly apparent from the air; from the ground we could only make out a few lumps and bumps on the fell.
Crossing Smardale Bridge, we encountered another possibly prehistoric site called the Giants’ Graves. In spite of such a mysterious name, these “pillow mounds” are thought to be ancient farmers’ rabbit warrens.
We continued walking up Smardale Fell taking in the pastoral landscape.
Listening to the birds chirping is always a delight on walks. This little robin posed for us.
Walking a country lane, we were nearing the bustling community of Kirkby (pronounced Kirby) Stephen, almost a halfway mark for the Coast to Coast walker.
Kirkby Stephen has been a market town since 1352. As the village closest to the middle of the Coast to Coast Path, it contains many support outlets for hikers and walkers, including shuttles and luggage transfer outfits available for hire. My mom was riding along with one of the transfer companies, Packhorse. We stocked up on trail snacks and checked in at our lovely B&B, Fletcher House. Our kind host, Gillian, invited us to sit in the lounge as she served us tea and cake.
Refreshed and absent our constant companions (our backpacks), we explored the town. We found St. Stephen’s Parish Church, a rather grand edifice that replaced a Norman church in 1240 and has been altered several times since.
Oddly, an 8th-century stone carving of the Norse god, Loki, is located in the church. It is the only one in Britain and for years was lying out in the elements with old gravestones until discovered. It is probable that it has been here since before the Norman invasion in 1066.
We had dinner just off the market square at the King’s Arms where we again encountered and chatted with friends we had made along the way.