From Kirkby Stephen to Orton

A walk across the North of England – Day 9

After yesterday’s slog, let’s take it easy today. We leave the Dales behind us and saunter to Orton along disused railways, over (mercifully dry) moors and through lush green woods. We’re back on the Wainwright route now and meet a few coast-to-coasters who tell us we’re “doing it the wrong way”. Ok then.

I’m reminded of hiking years ago through the Spanish Pyrenees on La Senda (GR11). At one point near Roncesvalles, La Senda crosses one of the main Camino routes. Up to that point the few people I’d met on the empty mountains were cheerful, happy to chat, and engaged with their surroundings. The folks I observed on the Camino were engaged in the business of pilgrimage and the traffic on that trail had a completely different feel to the one I was taking. It was far busier, obviously, and the pilgrims had a focused, inward-looking air about them. They may have been on pilgrimage to heal themselves or a loved one, or as some other act of devotion. Those taking the trail for sport seemed to have taken on that same earnest countenance.

Like many, I’d always wanted to walk the Camino de Santiago, but this brief contact with the famous trail had left me with a lot to process. Thankfully the GR11 is generous with its time and after a few days I came to the realisation that I am very much a wanderer rather than a goal-getter. In my early years in Scotland as a proto-Munro bagger I’d often fail to tick off a summit as I’d become distracted by a stalker’s path that appeared to lead up an interesting valley, or a distant view of a waterfall. Some might say this shows a worrying lack of discipline: I say, the best view of the mountain is rarely from the top.

Sun dappled woods at Orton
Sun-dappled Woods at Orton, 2022, acrylic on cradled birch, 20 x 24 cm (8″ x 10″) visit the gallery

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