Day 1 St Bees to Ennerdale Bridge
14.3 miles Fine and bright
Breakfast was plentiful and tasty, the forecast was good and by 9.00 am we had walked from the hotel to the beach in the company of an Australian couple. We talked to them briefly about our different itineraries (theirs included a rest day or two, ours didn't) and then obliged each other by taking photos at the start of the walk, marked by a sign above the beach.
Carole and I walked down the beach to carry out the Coast to Coast walker's tradition of dipping our boots in the sea and collecting a small pebble each to carry with us, which hopefully we would deposit on the beach at Robin Hood's Bay in 14 days time.
|Carole wonders about the wisdom of dipping her walking shoes into the sea|
Ritual bathing completed and pebbles gathered we set off. The walk begins with a short climb up St Bees Head and then follows the coastline with some pleasantly vertiginous views down the cliffs to the sea. Being June there were lots of wildflowers including thrift and foxgloves along our path.
|On St Bees Head, about to overtake The Aussies|
We soon came to recognise our fellow walkers. We had left the slower Australian couple behind and were catching up with three men, one of whom had a blue balloon printed with Happy Birthday tied to his rucksack. For ease of reference we christened them The Birthday Boys. Other walkers we chatted with as we walked around the cliff edges were a couple doing the Coast to Coast for the fifth time (The Five Timers) and a group of four men in neon pink T shirts (Gay Pride). In fact we discovered later these men were collecting for Brain Tumour Research and their eye catching T shirts advertised that fact. We made a donation and were carefully entered into their records.
This nick-naming of other walkers is a tradition of the Coast to Coast and we wondered what others might call us. "The Old Gits?" suggested Carole.
|Cattle are very used to walkers|
|St Bees Lighthouse seen from the path|
|The Birthday Boys and their balloon|
Like ourselves all these walkers had their own itineraries and rest stops and so we would lose track of some and meet others as the walk continued. At any time we estimated about 20 people were on the same daily section of trail as ourselves, these numbers being limited by the availability of accommodation. We found we would talk to people every day but usually walked alone and no-one outstayed their welcome, including, I trust, ourselves.
|We leave the coast to turn East at last|
|Weather vane at Sandwith|
After 4.5 miles we turned away from the coast and passed through Sandwith to Moor Row where we paused for a photo next to a statue of a Coast to Coast walker. Next came the village of Cleator, where, having covered 7 miles, we were disappointed to find no sign of a cafe. Soon after Cleator we reached the first real climb of the day, Dent Hill.
We stopped at at a handy boulder at the bottom of Dent Hill to have a coffee from our flasks and then began the climb. Part way up we saw a lone walker ahead carrying a large new-looking back pack and I suggested to Carole that it might contain a para-glider. As we drew level the man (Big Pack Man) threw down his large bag and said to us, "I can't do this. I've made a mistake!" His pack was just too heavy, he said, and he joked about eating all his supplies to make it lighter for tomorrow. In fact we would see a lot of BPM over the next two weeks after he left all his camping gear at Ennerdale Bridge to be collected later, and adopted a B and B trek instead.
|High stile near Dent Hill|
|Gentle descent at first|
We left him behind, still cursing his load and reached the top of Dent Hill where we found the Birthday Boys relaxing next to a cairn. We didn't stop and found the gentle descent soon became very steep indeed as it dropped over Raven Crag, and a surprise to the knees. We wondered how Big Pack Man would manage such a steep drop.
|Carole stands at top of very steep descent off Dent Hill|
The reward at the bottom of the hill is a walk along the tranquil Nannycatch Beck after which we joined the busy road which fortunately had walkers' paths constructed in the fields alongside the road. At 3.00pm we reached a cafe at Ennerdale Bridge and finally settled down to coffee and cream scones knowing our walking day was at an end.
|Big Pack Man's base for tonight|
|Walking towards Ennerdale Bridge|
Our accommodation for the night was at the Fox and Hounds, Ennerdale Bridge, which we discovered was a Community Pub. Like the cafe we visited earlier it had been saved for the the village by community action and although fairly basic was ideal for our needs.