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

(15th March 2013 – 14 ½ miles + 2 unintentional miles)

My big fear for the Coast to Coast  was that it would rain; and then rain solidly for two whole weeks.  Sure enough on waking at my St Bees B&B, yawning, scratching my head and blearily pulling back the curtains, it … was … absolutely … tipping … it … down.  I sighed, ate 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 … 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.

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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).

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St Bees Beach

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

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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.

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Fleswick Bay

Raindrops on my lens looking down at Fleswick Bay.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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

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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).

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With plenty more mud and enclosed by

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

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But at least, as I gained height, the views back to the sea opened up.

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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).

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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.

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

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following more unofficial signs,

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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 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.

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11 thoughts on “Coast to Coast: Day 1- St Bees to Ennerdale Bridge

  1. 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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  2. 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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  3. 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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  4. 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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