C2C 2006: Day One

30th April 2006 – St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge – 18 miles

Breakfast at Stonehouse Farm was great, one of the best of the whole trip, lots of choice and good quality ingredients. The packed lunches that were distributed to the 3 peakers were very impressive, more than I could eat in a week of lunches and they would have taken up half the room in my pack. It was also nice to have a good size room as this had allowed me to sort my kit with ease.

I will take this opportunity to say that I used Sherpa to move my bag from stop to stop, as they had worked well on the Herriot Way the previous year. As with that trip they were pretty much faultless every day. On all but three occasions my bag was waiting for me upon my arrival, and on those three exceptions it was there by 16.30.

As I was not staying in Robin Hood’s Bay on the last day, I had expected to have to leave my baggage in Glaisdale and return there with the car to pick it up. However, during the course of the walk I was told that Sherpa have a bag drop in RHB that will hold your bag until you arrive to collect it. This costs £6 for the bag move (as with all other stops) and an additional £2 for the lady who looks after them. Sherpa were able to arrange this on the fly. I actually rang them and booked it as I was leaving the Blue Bell in Ingleby Cross. Great service, well done Sherpa.

I set out from Stonehouse Farm at 07:37, paid a quick visit to the statue of St. Bega and then walked jauntily down to the beach to dip my boots and select a couple of small pebbles. The idea was to keep one pebble and throw the other one into the North Sea. I was also going to collect another pebble from RHB and keep the pair to remind me of the trip.

The tide was out when I arrived at the beach so I had a long walk across the sand to get to the sea, I could have used one of the many puddles and pools left by the retreating tide, but I thought that was a bit of cheat and pushed on to the Irish Sea. My GPS told me it was over a mile from the B&B to the sea shore and I still had 192 to go.

I didn’t see any other C2Cers performing the ritual, so I had to settle for taking a photo of my boots being lapped by the tiny waves of the Irish Sea.

The weather was a bit overcast and not exactly warm, but I managed to generate some internal heat during the climb up the coastal path towards the lighthouse. The sun soon came out from behind the clouds and the day started to look quite promising. It’s hard to explain the feelings I was experiencing starting the walk I had been planning and looking forward to for nearly 9 months. It was a bit like Christmas when I was a kid, that sense of “the waiting is over, here are my presents and taking time to open them so the high lasts that little bit longer”.

I made a short diversion to bag the trig point at Rottington before dropping down to Fleswick Bay. Despite the encouragement from Wainwright to spend time here and explore the beach and caves, I kept to the narrow stony path out of the Bay and on to North Head and the lighthouse. On a bad day I could imagine the coastal path being a nightmare of wind and rain a world of difference from the pleasant walk I had.

I took another detour to bag the trig point at Barrowmouth Wood this is located further along the coastal path next to the huge chemical works north of Sandwith. Unfortunately the farmer was seeding the field in which the trig point stands and as there is no right of way to the column I played it safe and just took a photo from the field boundary. A short series of paths and lanes led me to the B5345 where I bagged the Demesne trig point, which is actually a surface bolt and not visible unless you search in the grass by the road side.

Another 500 yards should have taken me to the trig point at Stanley, but again this is on private land and access from the West is over several barbed wire fences, many of them in full view of the nearby farm house. I was overburdened for the sort of fence scrambling that was required for this bag and in the end I abandoned it and continued on down to the railway crossing.

After crossing the railway, you have a choice of paths and I chose the disused railway line that snakes its way around Moor Row and into Cleator. The path is tarmac and enclosed by tall bushes and lots of litter. It’s not a particularly nice stretch of the C2C, but then again nor is Cleator which I reached via Wainwright’s Passage, at about 11:45. I decided to marshal my strength before the climb up to Dent and stopped in the Three Tuns pub for a pint of blackcurrant and lemonade (£1.80) as the pies were all sold out in the village shop. A sign outside the pub says it is under new management and welcomes walkers and muddy boots. However, the music within tells another story, unless you’re a big Rolf Harris fan!

After leaving Cleator and heading up towards Black How you come across the first moorland of the walk so far and a welcome sight it is too after the greyness of Cleator and the disused railway path. It’s also the first proper climb of the day and I soon drew my pole from my pack and marched towards the huge cairn on top of Dent.

The views from the top were not great as there was a lot of mist, although I could just about make out Sellafield to the South West and Lakeland was a splendid collection of humps and bumps ahead of me. The path down from Dent was extremely bleak, forestry activity had desolated the landscape and there were stumps and felled trees and other detritus spread across the hillside. This did make path finding very easy though and I was soon on the steep and winding forestry road heading for Nannycatch. This is an area popular with motocross riders and for most of the walk down from Dent I could hear or see a couple of motorbikes buzzing about the forest tracks and paths.

Throughout the day I had seen various signs for the C2C path, some handmade and other looking a bit more official, so probably placed by local councils. The path into Nannycatch is marked by the most awful sign I saw on the whole trip. White painted letters about 2 feet high scrawled on a rock face can only be described as graffiti, no matter how well intentioned they were. The path out of Nannycatch was marked in a similar way on a large piece of slate.

Nannycatch itself was a little place of tranquillity and peace compared to the walk down from Dent. I spent a few minutes just sitting in the quiet and although not warm, the temperature was okay and the ground not wet when I sat on it. After a few raisins and a slug from my bottle of Lucozade I made my way out of the little valley and up on to the road that leads into Ennerdale Bridge. When you leave Nannycatch you almost stumble across the Kinniside stone circle set a little way off the road and on the other side.

I had already read that this was a very recent stone circle and has no ancient origins, so I wasn’t disappointed by the fact that it’s not very interesting and pushed on along the road towards tonight’s lodgings.

I arrived at the Shepherd’s Arms at 14:54 and decided to try my luck. Although strictly speaking most B&B’s would prefer you not to turn up before 16:00 I never arrived that late at any of my accommodation and was always received warmly and with an “of course your not too early”. Having said that there were one or two occasions where I spent time in a pub killing time until I felt comfortable about knocking on a door, as arriving at 14:00 is stretching things a little. But then, time in the pub is one of the perks of setting out at 07:30.

The reception at the Shepherd’s was jammed with about 15 bags, all presumably delivered by Sherpa or Packhorse for the hotel guests. I had purchased my new cargo bag mainly because of it’s size, lightweight and flexibility, but also because it’s bright red and you couldn’t miss it in a crowd of other bags. I man-handled it and my pack up a narrow flight of stairs to my room for the night.

An en-suite shower room (or better still a good sized bath) is worth paying that little bit extra for and tonight I was paying a lot extra for it, but still enjoyed the feeling of being clean and smelling that little bit fresher.

The rest of the evening was uneventful I spent some time cleaning my boots and sorting kit for the following day, making sure all my batteries (PDA, phone and camera) were put on charge and restocking my little cache of raisins and flapjacks that I carry for lunch each day. I had a walk around the village and had a very smooth pint of Jennings Golden Host in the Fox & Hounds, the only other pub in the village. I ate at the Shepherd’s and was underwhelmed by the quality of the food (Steak & Ale pie), although the Yates Sungoddess was fine. The room I had was directly above the pub and did suffer from a bit of noise until about 23:00.

Tonight’s Accommodation:

Shepherd’s Arms Hotel

By far the most expensive place I stayed at, although it is right on the C2C route. The room I had (Room 1) was a reasonable size with a very small en-suite shower room. Also directly above the pub, so a bit noisy until 23:00. TV, tea and coffee, double bed, plenty of plug sockets.

Evening meal (Steak & Ale pie) was well below average for the trip and delivered in under 5 minutes, so possibly microwaved. Yates Sungoddess was excellent though. Breakfast was okay but only available from 07.30, which is a bit late for me.