Day 1 St Bees to Ennerdale Bridge

“Tennis and Bird Watchers”!

As with yesterday’s tale, I’ll tell the story of today’s odd title later! Above, if you can see them (they’re bigger if you click on them), are the map and profile of today’s walk from St Bees to Ennerdale Bridge. Both are taken from the actual GPS track that I took from my Garmin GPS 60CSx at the end of the day. Here, from one “nard” to all you others, are the stats for today’s walk and the downloadable Mapsource route.

Left St Bees: 09:45 Arrived Ennerdale Bridge: 17:40
Distance (kms): 25.60 Distance (mls): 16
Moving Time: 6:28 Minimum Altitude (m): 6.9
Stopped Time: 1:35 Maximum Altitude (m): 353.9
Moving Average (kph): 4.0 Total Ascent (m): 744.5
Overall Average (kph): 3.2 Total Descent (m): 657.1

Day 1 GPX file: c2c01 (right mouse click and “Save link as…”) – includes the route I should have taken as well as the actual route! They’re not actually much different.

Off We Go

After a wonderful breakfast at Stonehouse Farm (for me, at least- The Boss’s poached eggs were rather like mortar shells!) we eventually got ourselves organised, took the obligatory starting photo and The Boss, G&J and I set off on the start of the Coast to Coast Walk rather later than anticipated at 9:45 am. This was it. As Chairman Mao said “The Long March started with a single step” or was it “A single spark can start a prairie fire”? Whatever, we were on our way, firstly from our 8/10 B&B, about a mile to the seafront. Look as we might we couldn’t see a sign which said “Here Starteth Ye Olde Coast to Coast Walk” so we contented ourselves with dipping our toes in the briny and each picking up a stone from the beach for me to take in my rucksack to Robin Hood’s Bay. Notice that it was me who carried all four stones the almost 200 miles to Robin Hood’s Bay!

It had been raining overnight and it looked as if there was going to be more so we were fully kitted for a torrential downpour somewhere north of the Arctic Circle. Needless to say, it didn’t rain during the day, was quite warm and we ended up carrying all our waterproofs, etc. Experienced walkers us? Of course we are! I had an ankle guard on my left ankle which I’d twisted a couple of weeks ago and worried that either it might get too painful for me to complete the walk or, being weakened, would get twisted again. Did my ankle last the whole way? You’ll have to read the full story to find out!

We climbed up to the cliff tops and along the well marked path, guided by my faithful GPS; and what a wonderful device that turned out to be during the next twelve days. The route towards the lighthouse is very pretty and dramatic in places, with sheer drops and expanses of cliff plunging vertically into the sea plus fine views over St Bees and the rather menacing looking Sellafield site.

The C2C is known as the “motorway” of long distance walks and we met quite a few other walkers on the St Bees cliff tops. There was a group of five guys from Essex (or maybe Sussex) which Goughie christened “The Cockney Sparrows” as they are ornithologists who also like to do long distance walks. They were camping all the way to Robin Hood’s Bay and carrying everything with them. Along the cliff tops there are several RSPB view points from which those who have an inclination to do so can watch the seabirds. My own view is that once you’ve seen one seagull, you’ve seen them all! Now, I do like birds – chickens, turkeys, grouse, pheasant, quail, especially. But try as I might I just can’t understand the fascination of standing still and gawping at them through binoculars with whispered asides such as “isn’t that a lesser spotted throstle warbler”! It’s the same with tennis. For the life of me I just don’t understand the point of watching two people bashing a ball from one side of a fishing net to the other with arcane cries of “40 love”, “deuce”, “advantage Miss Worthington”, etc. So, just to make the point clear I don’t like bird watching and I don’t like tennis – hence today’s title! As they went off to yet another bird watching point I carried on and had a good look around the rather beautiful St Bees Head Lighthouse – much more useful than a load of squawking seagulls!

Eventually the path left the cliffs and headed east through Sandwith and Moor Row. Just before the latter there was, beside the road, a “work of art” depicting a figure strolling along the C2C. It was very nice of whoever put it there to have done so but the figure was certainly wearing some very odd walking boots, most definitely not Brasher GTXs, and had the most peculiar expression on his face.

Some time after, we stopped and ate the packed lunches which we’d got from the B&B and very nice they were too. Whilst we were sitting there several other C2Cers went past and we were to see some of them later. We continued to Cleator where The Boss left us after completing 10.25 miles. She was knackered and very pleased to be able to pick up the car and continue to Ennerdale Bridge on four wheels instead of two feet.

Until Cleator, with the exception of the initial climb to St Bees Head cliffs, the walk had been quite flat. But after passing through the village the “real fun” began with a long, long steady climb through woods, rather squelchy under foot, and then open ground as we ascended to the top of Dent Fell with spectacular views all around, including the beautiful Sellafield Nuclear Site. However, what goes up also has to go down and the descent was a very steep scramble down the other side to Ulldale which was considerably flatter. After that the walk was fairly straightforward, with lovely views over the first of the Lakeland Fells, to the Shepherds Arms Hotel at Ennerdale Bridge where we arrived at 5:40 pm.

After a pint of the deliciously dark and bitter Jennings Bitter I unloaded the car and dragged our huge pile of luggage up two flights of stairs again to our very spacious and “well appointed” room. Then Goughie and I had to drive back in my car to pick his up at St Bees before returning to the Shepherds Arms for my evening routine of cleaning and Nikwaxing boots (something I did every evening of the walk without fail – I mean, how can people set off in the morning with dirty walking boots?), downloading the day’s GPS route and uploading the next day’s, downloading the photos, having a shower and changing into “proper” clothes for dinner!

The walk isn’t just about putting one foot in front of the other, enjoying the marvellous scenery, achieving a personal target, eating good food and seeing lovely places. It’s about the people you meet on the way too. Eight years ago I met the unforgettable Harry and Elaine “The King and Queen of Yorkshire” on the Pennine Way and in 2002 I walked a lot of the Offa’s Dyke Path with another Harry and Steph (“The Not A Couple”). Today we met the aforementioned “Cockney Sparrows” who I were to see on and off for the next couple of days, “The Dons” – two couples who appeared to be academics from the south of England, “The Pensioners” – he had to be back home after reaching Richmond so that he could do a 10 km running race on his 65th birthday, “The Honeymooners” who were camping all the way and “The Old Codgers” who had a bad experience last year and were “trying again”. With the exception of the wonderful “Cockney Sparrows I wasn’t to meet any of the others again. But I did meet some even more interesting folk en-route and you’ll have to wade through all of my daily commentaries to find out who they were.

So, tired but happy, we collapsed into bed at 10:00 pm. The Boss went straight to sleep whilst I did my daily jottings and then hit the zzzzzzs too!

AccommodationBeverages & Comestibles
The Shepherd's Arms Hotel
Ennerdale Bridge
Cumbria CA23 3AR
01946 861249
Lamb Chops
Baked Potato
(okay ~7/10)

Jennings Wainwright Bitter (again)
(2 pints - rather warm, but good)

Some Day 1 Photos