(16th March 2013 – 17 ½ miles)
As you may have guessed, day one of the C2C isn’t one I rate highly. In the weeks prior to the walk, it was day two that I had looked forward to; day two on which, for me, the walk would start in earnest.
Even though it was raining (again) when I awoke, I was raring to go. Why wouldn’t I be? Ahead of me lay several days of crossing the Lake District – my favourite part of England. After breakfast, I once again pulled on my waterproofs, hoisted my rucksack and took the first few steps on my day’s walk to Borrowdale.
From Ennerdale Bridge to Ennerdale Water is a couple of miles of quiet leafy, road walking; so quiet that I didn’t see a soul. Well except for my second ever red squirrel – though it was too nippy for a photo.
The path hugs the southern shore of the lake and as I traipsed along, quietly humming as the fells drew closer, it stopped raining. Huzzah! And it didn’t rain again for the rest of the walk! Huzzah! (Days later, in Yorkshire, I met a chap who had ‘done’ the walk in August 2012. He and his companions walked for almost two weeks in constant rain. Non-stop rain. Day after day – doesn’t bear thinking about).
In the coming days, though the sun rarely shone, I was constantly grateful that there was no more rain.
This is a great section of path with only one difficulty: a clamber over wet rocks at Anglers Crag; made trickier still by the weight on my back.
At the head of the lake, the path cuts across the valley floor to join a track running through forestry plantations, past the youth hostel at High Gillerthwaite. There was still no-one about. I heard the distant buzz of a chainsaw but on the whole stretch from Ennerdale to Honister, I saw only a distant cyclist . I love that – having the path and fells all to myself.
After an hour and a half’s amble through conifers,
I cleared the trees and entered the stark emptiness of upper Ennerdale. There is an excellent mountain ridge walk alternative to the valley floor; one that takes in the peaks of Red Pike, High Stile and Haystacks. I had always intended to take that upper route but only if the cloud had been high and the visibility clear. Sadly, on this occasion, it was neither and prudence grabbed me by the ear-lobe and tugged me along the valley toward the remotest youth hostel in England – Black Sail.
The topography here is text-book glacial with huge erratics discarded by the ice that gouged out this landscape.
Black Sail (an old shepherd’s bothy) was still closed for the winter. I hadn’t known that and expected to meet a gaggle of fellow Coast to Coasters. (On the journey I met only one other person walking the C2C. We became friends and walked together on several days. Neither of us saw or heard of any other distance walkers during our 200 mile jaunt).
You make your own entertainment when walking alone.
Beyond Black Sail, the path (surprisingly for one so heavily used) is indistinct in places as it passes a drumlin swarm – also a glacial relic.
The second stiff climb of the route is up the east side of Loft Beck and yep, that climb is as long and tiring as it looks.
At the top, I was in low cloud and falling snow (not for the last time). Navigation wasn’t easy here and though there were footprints, many of them led off to the summits of Great Gable or Haystacks or goodness only knows where. Over a cliff? I used my compass.
The cairns marking the path were difficult to make out from a distance and I wasn’t convinced I was following the correct path.
It was only as I began the descent to Honister, that clearing cloud and a glimpse of sun
reassured me that I was on track.
The old slate workings at Honister aren’t the prettiest spot in the Lakes and I had no wish to hang around – despite the teashop.
I fairly skipped down into Borrowdale passing plenty of day-trippers in cars and on foot or cycle.
I do like a Herdwick. They are a welcome confirmation that I have arrived in Cumbria. And we can thank them for much of the ‘look’ of the Lake District. They graze on heather and grass and help stop the reversion of the fellside to scrub. There are some 50 000 Herdwick sheep in Cumbria and they have a remarkable territorial trait. Traditionally tended hill sheep learn their own territory (their heaf or heft) and ewes pass this knowledge to their lambs for generation after generation. These ‘heafed‘ flocks, won’t leave their own range and roam over into a neighbouring valley for example – a valley that might be a long detour by road for a farmer to go and collect them.
Want to help preserve Herdwicks? Eat one – or at least part of one. (In a pub or restaurant that is – not on the fells).
I was tired by the time I reached the valley floor. My guide-book gave the distance to Borrowdale (Rosthwaite) as 16 ½ miles but I had another mile to go to my B&B at Stonethwaite. Even so, the scent of a pint and packet of cheese and onion led me by the nose to the Riverside Bar, Rosthwaite. It was Saturday afternoon and the pub was heaving (which was a little startling after hours of wandering lonely as a cloud).
Like the day before, the best of the weather came as I approached my bed. I hoped that tomorrow would be sunny too. But then, I always do.
Stonethwaite is tiny: a few cottages, a farm and a truly excellent inn, The Langstrath. (Book ahead if you plan to eat).
And my room for the night at the charming Knotts View B&B, was pretty much next door to the pub. If I hadn’t planned it so, I wouldn’t have believed my luck.