DAY ONE – ST BEES TO ENNERDALE BRIDGE – 14 miles
Friday 8th June
Before beginning to relate the events of today, I want to tell you about my evening in St Bees. I have always known that the C2C is a popular walk, but I was taken aback by the sheer number of people in St Bees last night getting ready to start the walk. All the pubs were really busy. It was hard to find a table for dinner. Eventually, I ended up sitting with a 71 year old man from Nijmegen in Holland. His name was Mattieu (Matthew) and he had brought his car over from Holland via Hull. He is doing the C2C by parking his car at the starting point each day, and walking to the days destination and then hitchhiking or getting taxi back to the place where he left the car and staying there the night, hence when I met him at St Bees, he had already done the Day One walk and returned by taxi to St Bees. He had found it hard going, especially because the weather was bad. Matthew told me that he had walked many long distance walks across Europe since he retired. He had been an Officer in the Dutch air force and then a lawyer and retired in his 60s. He asked what I did for a living, and was very interested when I told him I was a Catholic priest, because he too was a Catholic and had been educated by the Dominicans. We had a long discussion about the Church.
People have been surprised that I am doing the C2C on my own, but one of the joys of it, is meeting people like Matthew. Would we have spoken if I was travelling in a group? Probably not. What a lovely gentleman he was. I hope our paths will cross again in the coming days. I wonder to myself, will I still be walking the fells when I am 71? I hope so.
Below – my boots. Will they look this pristine after 191 miles?.
I didn’t have a great night’s sleep, partly because of the excitement, partly because the bed was very soft, and partly because St Bees turned out to be a rather noisy place, especially when the pubs turfed out.
I had breakfast at 7am and because it was busy didn’t get on the road until about 8.30. All the other Coast to Coasters in the B&B set off about the same time as me. One American guy on his own asked if he might walk with me. We set off for the beach. His name was Pete, and he had origianlly planned to do the walk with his brother and a friend, but his brother had a minor stroke and his friend’s son had decided to get married. Pete told me he was from Connecticut, but currently living in Hawaii.
There are 2 important traditions attached to beginning the C2C. Firstly to dip the toe of your boot into the Irish Sea, and secondly to pick up a pebble from the beach and carry it all the way to journey’s end, before depositing it into the North Sea. Pete and I made our way out to the sea. The tide was out so it was a fair walk out across the sands. I nearly got a bootful of Irish Sea, as a big wave came in. That would have been an unfortunate start! Pete kindly took my photo, and I his.
We then walked back to the beach, picked up our pebbles and stopped at the famous start sign for the C2C. More photos. Sadly, in this one I have my eyes closed. Typical!
At this point Pete realised that he still had his door key from the B&B, so be had to go back. As we had only met half an hour before, I didn’t feel too bad about going on without him! Perhaps our paths will cross again later in the walk.
You might think that a Coast to Coast walk would begin by heading in the direction of the final destination, but Alfred Wainwright who conceived and pioneered this walk in the early 70s, always had a eye for the most scenic route. And so it is that the C2C begins by heading north along the magnifcent cliff tops of St Bees Head.
A long way to go!
Below – a fellow C2Cer returning from “dipping their toes”.
It was mild and calm, with a ligt breeze (in stark contrast to the gales in the south).
Below – St Bees Lighthouse
Gradually all the C2Cers got spread out along the route as everyone settled into their own pace. I passed several groups with a polite “morning”. I did stop to commiserate with one guy who was clearly carrying all his gear with him for the whole 191 miles. I think he was already regretting it.
Eventually, the lovely cliff walk came to an end and it was time to head east and inland. From just outside the hamlet of Sandwith, I got my first glimpse of Dent Fell, the major objective on today’s walk. It is the rounded fell, the lower slopes of which are covered in a conifer forest.
After passing through Sandwith, I headed toward Stanley pond, which as the guide book says, you can’t see because of the reeds – so I won’t bother with a photo. After passing under the bridge of the disused railway line, pictured below, I took the recommended alternative cyclepath route along the disused railway line – sadly now tarmacked. This brought me to Moor Row, where I had the rather surreal experience of seeing the B&B where I would be staying at the end of the day. Originally, I was supposed to be staying in Ennerdale Bridge, but the Pub where I was due to stay had been closed because of a change in ownership.
Dent Fell was now a much nearer prospect.
The climb to Dent led through thick forestry before reaching the open fell. It was then a short but steep climb to the summit, which is marked with a large pyramid shaped cairn. In better weather I would here have had my first good view the Western Lakeland fells opening up before me. As it was, … well see below.
By now the rain had come. It was persistent but light. There followed a steep descent to the beautifully named Nannycatch Beck and a pleasant walk along its lovely little valley.
A short ascent brought me onto the road that leads down to Ennerdale Bridge. Here I got my first view of Ennerdale Water, the whole length of which I will walk at the start of tomorrow’s walk. The sign helpfully pointed out the fells I would have seen were it not for the mist.
A final, rather atmospheric shot of Ennerdale, using the telephoto.
By now the rain was coming down heavy. On reaching Ennerdale Bridge I called the Landlady of the B&B, who kindly came and picked me up and drove me back to Moor Row – a touch of deja vous set in!
There is so much more I could tell you, but its getting late and I need to rest up for another big walk tomorrow. I am excited, as now I have left the coastal plain behind and the magnificent scenery of my beloved Lake District awaits me for the four days!