Coast to Coast: Day 1 – St Bees to Ennerdale Bridge

(15th March 2013 – 14 ½ miles + 1 mile from St Bees + 2 unintentional miles)

My big fear for my first day on the Coast to Coast was that it would rain; and then continue raining for the next twelve days.  Sure enough, on waking at my St Bees B&B, yawning, scratching my head, throwing back the covers and blearily pulling back the curtains, it was absolutely … tipping … it … down.

I sighed, dressed, ate breakfast, looked out of the window (still raining), tied up my boots, hauled on my waterproofs, sighed, fastened the rain cover onto my rucksack and walked to the beach and the Start Of The Walk.  I dipped my boot in a salt-water pool (a tradition suggested by Wainwright – to be followed by a dipping at Robin Hood’s Bay), found a small pebble to throw into the sea at RHB (a tradition started by … who knows), put the pebble in my pocket and found my room key.  I sighed, walked the mile or so back to the B&B, returned the key, sighed, turned about and walked back to the beach.

Right.  Three miles under my belt and ready to start.

Coast to Coast Info Board

I stopped by the information board at the official start, took a deep breath

Coast to Coast Map

and studied the route.  Goodness, but what a long, long way stretched before me.  Today, my first twelfth of the route, would only get me as far as Ennerdale Bridge – barely a finger length.

St Bees Beach

St Bees Beach.  It wasn’t great weather for photos as I tried – vainly – to keep the rain off my lens.

I’ve walked this first stage of the C2C before, in similar weather, and I can’t honestly say the prospect of walking it again enthralled me.  It’s an OK day’s walk, I think, but hardly an OMG-this-is-amazing kind of day.  Still, less moaning more walking (and actually I enjoyed it more than I had expected).

C2C St Bees Head

Initially, and after a quick climb, the path follows the cliffs northwards to St Bees Head – a slippery, slidey path that slowed me right down and, on one occasion, sent me sprawling in a cloud of foul language.

Fleswick Bay

Raindrops on my lens looking down at Fleswick Bay.

Guillemots

There are several RSPB viewing stations along this stretch of coast from where I saw guillemots clinging precariously to the cliffs (doesn’t seem much of a life)

Razorbills

and hipster razorbills unfazed by my presence.

C2C Route Marker (2)

The last time I walked between St Bees and Dent, I got a little lost.  Today, I consulted my guidebook often and was grateful for the occasional signage too.

After leaving the cliffs, the path finally heads in the right direction:  eastwards towards Robin Hood’s Bay.  But in the short-term, I had the dreary towns of Moor Row and Cleator to get through.

Cleator Pie Shop

I popped into a shop in Cleator, which despite the sign outside, boasted a large tray of freshly baked pies on the counter.  I worried about their advertising acumen but didn’t like to say anything.  Being English.  If you’re in need of pie in Cleator don’t believe all that you might read.

C2C Day 1 (1)

All that rain had turned parts of the path to soup; soup with more helpful signage.

C2C Day 1 (2)

Beyond Cleator, and after about 11 miles, I began the first long climb of the walk: Dent Hill (1131 feet).  My back began to ache with the weight of my 30lb rucksack.

C2C Day 1 (3)

With plenty more mud and enclosed by

C2C Day 1 (4)

dark, dank Forestry Commission plantations this was warm, slow work.

C2C Day 1 (5)

But at least, as I gained height, the views back to the sea opened up and gave me a sharp jab of satisfaction at the miles I’d covered.

C2C Day 1 (6)

From the summit of Dent, the view forward to the Lakeland fells is a fine one.  But not today.  This was my second ascent of Dent and my second in mist with no views whatsoever.  (In December 2014 I climbed Dent for a third time … in thick mist).

C2C Day 1 (7)

After the summit, the rain finally stopped and I descended the far, steep, slippery slope into Nannycatch Valley – but try as I might I couldn’t.  She was fleet.

Nannycatch Beck

The walk along Nannycatch Beck is a pleasant one as I approached the end of the first day,

C2C Route Marker

following more unofficial signs,

Ennerdale Bridge

until as late reward, the sun came out and showed me the way ahead tomorrow: through that gap in the fells to Ennerdale and Lakeland proper.

I walked into the pretty village of Ennerdale Bridge and booked into The Shepherd’s Armsmy comfortable stop for the night.  And if that evening, my room hadn’t filled with cooking fumes from the kitchen below, it would’ve been perfect.Save

13 thoughts on “Coast to Coast: Day 1 – St Bees to Ennerdale Bridge

  1. Well done on a great blog and for sharing.

    I’ve walked the C2C in summer and used a baggage carrier in 2014 and some other long distance walks since (Pennine Way, Southern Upland Way, Cape Wrath trail). But carrying 30lb pack in winter must be v different. Now planning my own winter C2C but with a lighter pack and taking my time….

    All the best

    David

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello David, both the Pennine Way and SUW are on my must do list. Cape Wrath might be too tough for me, so hat’s off to you. Did you blog about your walks? I’m sure you’ll have a fine time on the C2C in winter and wish you enough snow for beauty, if not enough to block the way. And I hope the rain holds off too,

      Best

      D

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  2. I just found your blog and enjoyed reading and looking at your fantastic photos. Thanks so much for letting us travel with you.

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  3. Wish I was younger and had more get up and go – the open road is so appealing but less so in rain and slip sliding along. Thanks for sharing your impressive views of what we are all missing – off to read the rest of the walk

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  4. I’m really glad I found this. I sued to do a lot of walking – though more ridges and mountains than distance – and I miss the wildness, and even, funnily enough, being out in all weathers. Though I think the sight of that muddy track might have sent me scurrying for a bus…

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    • Hi Janet, thanks so much for commenting on all these posts. It helps to know that someone is reading it and diminishes the sense of a lonely, sighing wind and a single tumbleweed wheeling by. I try and get a week of ridge and mountain walking in each year as well as at least one biggie walk. Keeps me a little sane, I think (though most would probably disagree). Dave

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      • You’re welcome, I really enjoyed reading them, and you take very atmospheric photos. Although tumbleweed can be rather beautiful, in the right setting. Perhaps not the Lakes though. More an Arizona desert sort of thing. I miss getting up high on remote ridge walks, though walking along the cliff paths around here gives me a dose of the wildness I appear to require for something approaching sanity. Tell the doubters you would be even worse without the dose of vertigo and solitude!!

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  5. I’m so glad you’re doing this, Dave! It’s very kind of you to carry the 40 pound backpack so that others of us can enjoy a little armchair travel from the comforts of home. You’re to be commended for not just sitting in a pub on such a dreary day. I wonder what “NO PIES” is really code for?

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    • Hi Stacy, it was a dreary day and my least favourite of the walk; a warm pub fire would’ve have been a good option. Luckily, I had food enough of my own not to be reliant on the confusing world of local Cumbrian pie supply. Dave

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  6. Love the ‘walking gardener’ blog. Great idea. I admire you doing your long distance walks. I’ve not hit 40 yet but I don’t think my knees could cope. It is a stunning part of the country. I love the bleakness and the so often broody skies but we’ve had many a holiday in the area that have been complete washouts. I’m not one for lying on a beach but some sunshine or even just dry weather would be nice. We stayed in Boot in Eskdale for a week and I’ve never seen rain like it before. Looking forward to reading about the next stages.

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    • I know that experience, WW. We stayed in Borrowdale during the heaviest rainfall ever recorded in Britain: November 2009. Bridges were washed away and we were cut off for two days. Didn’t get much walking done that year. As for your knees well, I have a weak right knee but it doesn’t seem to give me any problems. You could always use one of the luggage carriage companies to transport your stuff from one B&B to the next. I suspect that’ll be a service I’ll be using before I’m very much older. D

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