24th June 2011 – Ennerdale Br. to St. Bees – 15.7 miles
I write this in the pub in St. Bees – so the job’s done, holiday complete, I’ve tramped from one coast of England to the other; about 200 miles and 35,000 feet of ascent in thirteen fabulous days. They may not all have seemed fabulous at the time, but they were! St. Bees, like Robin Hood’s Bay has a shop where they provide free rose-tinted glasses for all coast to coasters!
I’ve had pretty good weather on the whole – only one day of total rain and several without any at all.
I had another good night’s sleep. It seems that early on in the walk I was struggling, even when there weren’t bells and macerators to contend with, but the last few nights have been much better and I seem to have weathered little issues like noisy birds better than I would have done at the start. Maybe that’s an indication that I was more relaxed later in the walk, and more able to unconsciously switch off at night.
The Cloggers B&B is a tiny place; it reminded me of East View in Keld which I used when I crossed in 2006 – it has two twin bedrooms and a shared guest bathroom. The owners have their own bedroom and bathroom and a downstairs lounge. It’s tiny. However, it’s very friendly and you get the idea they’d do anything to make your stay easier.
When I arrived last night there was a little emergency in full flow. Mister had decided to fix a drip in the guest bathroom and it had all gone horribly wrong; he’d had to go off to Whitehaven to get parts to fix the problem – so they weren’t ready for me when I arrived at 15:30. They were very apologetic and asked me to come back in 30 minutes. When I came back it still wasn’t fixed, so I was allowed to use their bathroom while Mister tried to fix the other.
All part of staying in B&Bs I think.
Breakfast is at 08:00; no option and all guests eat at the same time. But it’s well cooked and the bacon was excellent. I left feeling quite refreshed and satisfied.
The weather forecast was for a good day, turning to showers in late afternoon, by which time I’d be done and dusted I hoped. So the overtrousers stayed in the luggage today and I started in baselayer and shirt with the Paramo in the day pack. I also went with the Salomon Missions today instead of the Inov-8s – the fact that they’ve started to fall to bits and aren’t waterproof anymore somewhat removes their purpose. So I thought I’d rather have the better sole support in the Missions. Besides I wasn’t expecting to have to need waterproof boots today.
As I stepped out of the porch of the Cloggers it started raining. I kid you not. I swore royally…. at which point it stopped. Just like that, as if someone had fixed a leak. I breathed a sigh of relief and looking west I could see the sky was mostly blue with fluffy white clouds. Looking east it was dark and menacing with huge black clouds and all the tops covered. So at least today I was walking into the good weather.
The other guests in the Cloggers were an Aussie couple (I checked) doing the first half to Kirkby Stephen – we left together and I wished them good luck with the weather and to remember to turn left up Loft Beck!
I had what looked like a pretty easy day ahead, one big(ish) climb and then a bimble along the coast path. I headed out of Ennerdale and followed the narrow path that runs beside the road, uphill towards the circle of stones at Kinniside. The path is very overgrown and the hedge brushes you on either side. The hedge was filled with tiny flies, so as I brushed past the flies would lift off and I’d end up walking in to them.
I needn’t have bothered with breakfast – I must have inhaled about 1/2 a pound of fly over that 1/2 a mile. They were so small that they got in my eyes and hair and stick to my shirt and sweaty face. As soon as I could I rejoined the road, I’d rather take my chances with the cars than with the flies.
At Kinniside I dropped down into Nannycatch and followed the river through the lovely valley. It has very steep sides and I knew I would have to be climbing out of it shortly. All too soon, or so it seemed, I reached the exit point and started the ascent up the grassy flank of Raven Crag. Talk about steep – it’s a short, sharp incline which plays havoc with the knees on the way down and tortures the lungs and calves on the way up.
I took it really slowly, no one around to snigger at me, although I had my usual fantasy while climbing a steep hill. I imagine that I’m being watched, covertly, by two men, probably retired, with very little to do but watch the folk climbing the hill opposite their retirement home. To pass the time they gamble on how often people will stop on the way up and how soon the next stop will be. “He’ll stop within 20 paces” “No, I think he’ll stop within 10″.
The fantasy comes unbidden as I climb and I try my best to ensure the man with the longer count wins. Invariably he doesn’t though 🙂
I must have stopped 10 times on the way up – it’s very steep and I kept slipping on the moist grass. I eventually reached the ladder stile that gives onto to the forest road and although the steep section was over I knew there was still a fair way to go until the summit.
The lower sections of Dent Fell still look denuded, with lots of forestry felling over the past few years. But as you climb, the scene becomes classic moorland hilltop.
I met a guy at the summit, admiring the view and resting from his huge pack. He said he was rewalking the C2C after 30 years. “In fact”, he said, “I set out 30 years ago to the day”. Even the weather was the same he said, but the forest had grown up a bit and the signage was a bit better.
I left him admiring the views and continued on down the hill. I passed a few more westers, presumably they’d done the early miles the previous evening or they’d stayed at Sandwith maybe, or camped like the Birthday boy I’d met at the top.
The farm at the bottom of the descent (Black How) is a horrible smelly place and the guy had tractors all over the place, blocking access and making me divert through ankle deep slurry. I wasn’t very happy.
I soon reached Cleator though and the little shop. I bought two Feast chocolate lollies and an ice cold can of Diet Coke. I ate the lollies sitting on the wall beside the car park and then washed them down with the lovely cold Coke. I was tempted to go back and get another of each, it was warming up nicely now and the sun was out in a lovely blue sky. I resisted though and pressed on.
I decided to walk the road route through Moor Row, so I could see the C2C statue at the end of the village, but to be honest it’s not worth it. The disused railway path is miles better, despite the over-use by inconsiderate dog owners. There’s too much road walking through Moor Row and the village has nothing to offer the walker, plus it’s an ugly place – all grim terraces and furniture in the front garden.
I said exactly this to a couple of guys I met at the steps beside the disused railway path. They were deciding which way to go, so I told them. They were very pleased to meet a fellow C2Cer, even an Easter like me and we chatted for a few minutes about the path, what was ahead for them, why I was going the wrong way, and so on.
Beyond there I met loads of westers, loads of them, I chatted with any that showed an interest, but any group of more than two or three people just weren’t bothered about me. It would be a shame that a group stayed insular like that as they crossed, they would miss out on one of the great draws of the walk, the camaraderie within the bubble.
At 12:30 I reached Sandwith and was hoping that the Dog and Partridge would be open for a nice cold drink. No such luck; I tried the door and it was locked, so I sat on one of their benches outside and ate the lunch I’d brought with me.
Sandwith is a lovely little village and with the sun shining it looked very appealing. I could have sat there a lot longer, but I had a pressing appointment with the coastline.
Unfortunately my legs seemed to want to stay in Sandwith because they refused to play ball with me from that point on. It felt like someone had opened a valve and let all my Ooomph out. My feet hurt and my legs felt heavy and abused. I walked slowly out of the village and up the long lane to the cottages beside the quarry on the cliff.
Even the sight of the sea couldn’t urge my legs to new speed – I shuffled along the cliff path – I may have done 190 miles, but I hadn’t done them all today, which is what it must have looked like to a casual passer-by.
The last 3.7 miles (there was a new fingerpost telling me how far it was to St. Bees) were really hard. They felt much further and as I progressed I seemed to slow down.
I didn’t even have the energy to wind up the birdwatchers on the clifftop. They seemed to be making an unnecessary fuss about a few seagulls.
I dropped down to Fleswick Bay. My knees had no bounce left in them and each step down was hard – I tried to favour my better left knee, but even that one seemed to be about to give up the ghost. If the descent had been tough on the knees, the climb out the other side was even worse. I couldn’t believe how little energy I had left.
The cliff path went on for about 15 miles – the sign maker must have made a typo!
I eventually reached the headland above St. Bees though and it looked great. I was almost done. The path is diverted around a cliff fall, but I was soon down on the beach and releasing one of the pebbles I’d collected in Robin Hood’s Bay.
I dipped my boots and was nearly overtopped by the waves and then looked around for a likely candidate to take my photo. Luck was with me. I spotted a couple walking down to the shore, full kit; poles, packs, big boots – they must be starting out! Even though it was 15:00. I walked over and asked them if they were doing the C2C. They were – and of course they’d be happy to take my picture. When they realised I was finishing they were even more happy.
I returned the favour and then we walked up to the sandstone monument that marks the start of the walk and we took each other’s pictures again.
My B&B was a bit of bad planning – it was about a mile from the shoreline and my feet had already gone to sleep once they’d reached the sea – they though it was job done. I shuffled up the road and eventually landed at Outrigg House.
I’m now in a very busy and noisy Manor House pub, wondering if I dare leave my seat and see if it’s any quieter in the other pub.