(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 rain and rain for the next eleven 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), picked up a small pebble to throw into the sea at RHB (a tradition started by … who knows, doesn’t matter) and dropped the pebble into an empty pocket. It clunked against metal. Curious. I fished about and found the cause of the clunk. 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, long way stretched before me. Today, the 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 that 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.
The rain continued to fall as I traipsed along the coast, splattering my lens whenever I stopped to take a photo.
There are several RSPB viewing stations on the cliffs. From one, I looked down on a guillemot colony clinging precariously to the rockface. Doesn’t seem much of a life.
I’d not seen guillemot before nor hipster razorbills, both unfazed by my presence.
The last time I walked this stretch of path between St Bees and Dent, I got a little lost. Today, forewarned, I consulted my guidebook often and was grateful for the occasional unofficial signage too.
After leaving the cliffs, the path turns abruptly to the right and heads off, at last, in the proper direction: eastwards towards Robin Hood’s Bay. But as cheering as that might have been, I still 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 another helpful sign.
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 and at starting a long distance footpath.
With plenty more mud
and enclosed by dark, dank Forestry Commission plantations this was warm, slow work.
But at last, I emerged from the close conifers onto the open flank of Dent. The rain had stopped and I even had views: back to the Irish Sea and the miles I’d already covered.
From the summit of Dent, the view forward to the Lakeland fells is a fine one. But not today. As I approached the summit, I walked into low cloud and lost those shortlived views. This was my second ascent of Dent and my second in mist with no views whatsoever. (And then, in December 2014, I climbed Dent for a third time … in thick mist).
After the summit, I came back down below the cloud layer to descend the far, steep and slippery slope into Nannycatch Valley – but try as I might I couldn’t. She was fleet.
The walk alongside Nannycatch Beck is pretty and easy. As it was only about 3.30pm, I slowed down as I approached the end of my first day,
following more unofficial signs.
With Day 1 almost complete, and 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, well it would’ve been perfect.
13 thoughts on “Coast to Coast: Day 1 – St Bees to Ennerdale Bridge”
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
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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,
I just found your blog and enjoyed reading and looking at your fantastic photos. Thanks so much for letting us travel with you.
Glad you like it and thanks for commenting. Dave
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
Hi Laura, it was an inauspicious start to the walk but turned out to be pretty much the only rain I had, so I didn’t mind too much. D
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…
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
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!!
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?
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
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.
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