Day 1 – Walk to Ennerdale Bridge
We honestly had no idea what to expect when we took off about 9:00 a.m. Saturday morning. The tradition on the Coast to Coast Walk is to dip your boot into the Irish Sea and pick up a pebble from the beach. At the end of the walk in Robin Hood’s Bay, you dip your boots in the North Sea and toss in the pebble to complete your walk. Jan and I picked up our pebbles, walked 4/10th of a mile to where the tide was out and finally got underway.
|Jan and his boots in the Irish Sea|
The first part of the walk was a long, slow uphill climb to the edge of St. Bee’s Head—a large promontory that looks over the town. We knew we were in for fourteen miles but that was it. The anticipation had kept us away the night before. Once we actually got underway, putting one foot in front of the other was simple.
|Walking along St. Bees head - the Irish Sea to the left|
A couple of miles into the walk we met a couple who quickly became incredibly fun and helpful walking mates: Joy Miller and Andrew Chisnall. We made it halfway (7 miles) with them and followed on to a small general store for cold drinks and chocolate covered raisins in the town of Cleator. After that we headed for our first real climb, Dent Fell (Cumbrian word: Fell=hill or peak). Everything went beautifully until we hit the downward slope, or more appropriately, the vertical slope. Without warning my knees (which have NEVER given me grief) gave out on me and I could feel the ligaments around the joints say—this is NUTS, we’re going on strike. And strike they did. After a very, very painful descent we finally hit flat ground. Fortunately, my knees forgave me and started working pain-free again.
|Meeting Joy and Andrew for the first time.|
|A "kissing gate" -the gate door kisses the back post & keeps cattle in.|
|A last look at the coast before turning inland to cross the country|
|We started collecting walking mates right away--I'll "introduce them as the trip goes on!|
|Wild Foxglove grows everywhere|
|Sheep are EVERYWHERE -- so fun!|
|It doesn't look steep--but this descent of Dent Fell killed my knees!|
They carried me along a stream that has what is still my favorite place name on the entire trip so far: Nannycatch Beck (Cumbrian word: Beck=stream or creek). We stayed on flat ground afterward for another five miles or so until we came to the small town of Ennerdale Bridge.
Our Inn was an old, old building dating from the 1600’s called The Shepherd’s Arms. The proprietors were super-friendly, the food was superb and the room was spacious and clean. We were tired but in surprisingly good shape. My feet, which had worried me so before the trip, were perfect. Not an ache or a pain to be found. My knees, on the other hand, were tired and sore. I ended up leaving the lovely hotel room smelling like Wintergreen Lifesavers by slathering on Ben-Gay, but we left before anyone could complain!
|The Shepherd's Arms in Ennerdale Bridge|
Day 2 – Walk to Rosthwaite
|The path along Ennerdale Water|
We got underway about 8:45 a.m. and, after a slightly more reasonable breakfast (eggs for me, porridge for Jan) we found our way to Ennerdale Water (Cumbrian Word: “Water” refers to a lake). The walk along the southern edge was gorgeous. Jan hit his first patch of steep rock climbing, which set off his vertigo. But he braved the rock slope and made it over Robin Hood’s chair, a large rock overlooking the lake.
Once around the lake we headed toward more hills and met Joy and Andrew along the way. When Jan had to face his second steep climb of the day, right next to a waterfall, Joy and I were a matched set keeping his uncertain pace as our own.
|Jan making the scramble to Robin Hood's chair|
|Crummick Water in the back, Buttermere in the front and far on the horizon--the Scottish coast|
Once at the top of our climb, Andrew proved to be an expert in the surrounding countryside and named all the peaks around us. He also pointed far out to sea and showed us both the coast of Scotland and a tip of Ireland. When we left the fells and turned toward out destination it showed up in the distance as a gorgeous little hamlet nestled in a far valley.
|Left and far behind us is Ennerdale Water!|
|The valley of Borrowdale with Rosthwaite tiny at the center|
We believed we were almost there. We were shocked two hours later to find ourselves barely on the outskirts of town. Forty-five minutes after that, Joy and Andrew led us to our B&B—Gillercombe. It was an absolutely spotless, beautiful house not far from the pub nor from the start of our walk the next day. We might have had two single beds, but we were so tired we just didn’t care.
The beds were heavenly and my knees, still stiff and sore, soaked up the Ben-Gay again. So did the soft down comforter. It may be that our names are going on a black list!
Next: Days 3 and 4, and “The Cripple and the Coward.” I’ll post as often as I can – we haven’t had Internet access in most of the places we’ve stayed so far, but we’ll come to bigger towns eventually!