(15th March 2013 – 14 ½ miles + 2 unintentional miles)
A big fear for the Coast to Coast was that it would rain; and then rain and rain for the whole two weeks. Sure enough on waking at St Bees, yawning, scratching my head and blearily pulling back the curtains, it was … absolutely … tipping … it … down. I sighed, had breakfast, 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 stone to throw into the sea at RHB (a tradition started by … erm, who knows), and found my room key still in my pocket. 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.
I’ve walked this 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 expected).
It wasn’t great weather for photos as I tried – vainly – to keep the rain off my lens.
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.
Raindrops on my lens looking down at Fleswick Bay.
There are several RSPB viewing stations along this stretch of coast and I saw guillemots clinging precariously to the cliffs (doesn’t seem much of a life)
and hipster razorbills unfazed by my presence.
After leaving the cliffs, the path finally turned east towards the dreary towns of Moor Row and Cleator.
Despite this sign in Cleator, inside on the shop counter was a large tray of freshly baked pies. A local shop? For locals only? Or perhaps just a very hungry, rather selfish shop-worker.
All that rain had turned parts of the path to soup; soup with helpful signage.
Beyond Cleator, and after about 11 miles, my back began to ache with the weight of my 30lb rucksack as I began the first long climb of the walk: Dent Hill (1131 feet).
With plenty more mud and enclosed by
dark, dank Forestry Commission plantations this was warm, slow work.
But at least, as I gained height, the views back to the sea opened up.
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).
After the summit, the rain finally stopped and I descended the far, steep slope into Nannycatch Valley – but try as I might I couldn’t. She was fleet.
The walk along Nannycatch Beck is a pleasant one as I approached the end of the first day,
following more unofficial signs,
until as a 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 Ennerdale Bridge and booked into The Shepherd’s Arms – my 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.