(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.
I stopped by the information board at the official start, took a deep breath
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.
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).
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 from where I saw guillemots clinging precariously to the cliffs (doesn’t seem much of a life)
and hipster razorbills unfazed by my presence.
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.
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.
All that rain had turned parts of the path to soup; soup with more helpful signage.
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.
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 and gave me a sharp jab of satisfaction at the miles I’d covered.
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, slippery 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 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 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.