Coast to Coast Day 2 – Ennerdale to Rosthwaite (14 miles: Strenuous)

So Sally, Julie and I were sitting in the pub waiting for our grub and reflecting on the day.  I could not recollect eating anything at all since breakfast, just a carton of coconut water, at a slightly precarious moment in in time, and some regular water.  But I was still feeling only slightly peckish.  Eventually I remembered the flapjack piece and banana but that still wasn’t a massive amount. Likewise both the others had only done a little bit of grazing. Given the day we’d had it was surprising we weren’t famished.

Okay, we had started off with some very good breakfasts.  The Shepherds Arms was proud of its substantial array, including some lovely salmon and scrambled eggs that I tucked into.  Our host did look a bit crestfallen though when Derek asked for brown ‘trout’ instead of ‘toast’ accidentally. You could see him wondering momentarily if that was a special Sunderland delicacy (Derek originates from there and definitely not Newcastle). 


Our glorious afternoon of yesterday was a dim memory as we pulled on our waterproofs and set off around the south side of Ennerdale water which is the rougher, rockier, more challenging path.  And it was a bit challenging; there was a steady rain and the mists were low and the way was sometimes a little slippy.  Still we formed a colourful line against the grey as we trudged and scrambled, mainly single file, along the edge. We found Robin Hood’s Chair, a large jutting rock set in a rare patch of greenery.  No idea why it’s called that as it’s nowhere near Nottingham.  But then neither is Robin Hood’s Bay. 

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The rain lightened a little as we left the lake and said goodbye to Simon here as he was heading back home.  Heather, Paul’s wife had waved us off at the B&B!  We headed along the forest road for a few miles of wide, fairly easy walking.  This was the nice and gentle in betweeny bit where we managed to cover some miles at a slightly faster pace, although my pace always seemed to be slower than everybody else’s.  I would blame it on the length of my legs but Julie’s little too and she’s a dynamo.  Paul’s legs are so long that he just looks like he’s slowly ambling along when I’m practically running alongside! I had my first comfort break of the trip along this route because, as Derek pointed out, there were a lot of trees to hide behind here but it was all open land when we got to the hills so I shouldn’t try and wait. Wise words.


The wind was really starting to pick up when we came out of the forest and reached Black Sail Hut, a hostel sitting all by itself at the foot of the line of hills.  If I’d managed to hold my trousers up long enough this would have been a good place to go but never mind. We had a mini break to psyche ourselves up for the climb and so I opened my coconut water, for a fuel boost. In the Wainwright book it says to go past the hostel and head up to Loft Beck which leads nicely to Honister Pass. But either John or Paul (I’m blaming both of them) started going up from the left. It’s not a problem making a mistake and backtracking.  God knows my sense of direction is non-existent, but. To still be drinking from my carton and grabbing on to the nearest bolder so that I don’t get blown off the hill UNNECESSARILY and THEN to have to slip slide gingerly back down to the right track one handed is NOT my idea of fun.  It’s true. Colourful language was heard.

To be honest though, even the correct path up through the Pass proved to be seriously scary.  A Canadian we met, who probably knows about real weather said that she’d not experienced winds like these.  It wasn’t quite a hurricane but we did hear after that there were some injuries incurred and some people even turned back.  Our six pack all made it to the top though.  I have to say I found it quite exhilarating going up because the wind was, mainly, behind us, so it felt like I was being pushed up and as most of the ascent was a winding stepped path it looked like I was running up but only because I found it almost impossible to stop for breath.


Going over the top held no respite from the gusts and it was really hard work getting down the other side.  In fact once we were down and still had to walk a few miles to Rosthwaite, mainly on lumpy rock paths (which feel reeaally sore underfoot), my legs were dog tired and my grumpiness had started.  That seems to follow the same pattern for me as yesterday where the last part of the walk, even though it’s on the flats, seems the hardest part of the day and I’m properly wingeing.  I’m thinking now that perhaps I need to eat more on the way.


Coast to Coast Day 1 – St Bees to Ennerdale (14 miles: Strenuous)

I can say now with absolute certainty that my marathon training has not helped me in the slightest as training for the Coast to Coast.  

Today was day one. Today, despite most forecasts to the contrary, turned out to be an absolutely glorious day so really there was no excuse for the sheer level of exhaustion I felt in my legs by the end.  I’m currently sitting on the bed with a pillow below my legs trying to coax the lactic acid, or whatever it is that is making my calves so sore, away from the hot zone.  I think each day is going to feel like a marathon until I’m broken in or just plain broken.

However, as I type with a pair of socks covering my vasalined feet (this is apparently a remedy for tender points to keep the blisters away), I can say, now that the pain is subsiding a little, that it was a pretty amazing first day.  Mainly for the unexpected sun and also for the sheer diversity of the walk; beaches and cliff tops, roads and boggy fields, hills and valleys.  It felt like this introduction was a precis of the whole two weeks.

We began from our lodgings and walked to the ‘official’ starting point, marked by a very helpful sign. 


This was after we had made several attempts to reach the sea. How hard can that be when you’re standing on the beach?  Quite hard as it turned out as there were small streams blocking our way, unless we wanted to get our boots wet from the outset, and we ended up walking quite a way along the beach to physically reach sea water.  I found a cuttlefish shell and Sally found a pebble and I think a few little items were ceremoniously chosen to store by other members of our ‘Six Pack’ so we could place them on the other side at Robin Hoods Bay.  Before we’d even started we’d done about a mile and a half with all this to-ing and fro-ing.

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So Alfred Wainwright starts the walk in a rather teasing manner.  For the first five miles or so he gets us moving west and then north as we skirt the edge of St Bees head.  But as the morning begins to brighten we can see ghosts of the coasts of the Isle of Man and Scotland.  In fact the further north we go, the more we can see of the ‘sticky out’ bit of Scotland; materialised into cliff faces and hill tops. The path here is undulating and pleasant and occasionally scary if you looked over the precipice.  I loved being being above the seagulls as they floated lazily on the currents of air.

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We do however, eventually make a right turn and head due east finally into the country. 

The first bits are quite level and there is some road; we go through the small towns (or large villages?) of Sandwith (pronounced Sanith) and Cleator.  I bet the residents of these places are well used to people dressed up in our sort of clobber ‘skiing’ through their streets . Well I would once have mockingly called them ski poles but I now think those sticks are amazing.  Maybe a bit redundant on the flats (although some people say they’re good even there) but for going up and more especially DOWN a steep hill as Dent, today’s main obstacle, turned out to be, they are a godsend. One minute I’m happily chatting to Derek as we begin making our descent with Sally walking just a few feet in front, the next she’s suddenly disappeared.  There is a really sharp gradient all the way to the bottom and one slip and you wouldn’t stop rolling.


Although by the end I was trudging along and thinking are we there yet, I really did enjoy it.  No honestly, my moaning in that last couple of miles may have indicated otherwise, but it was a beautiful start to our adventure.  But you know know, that 14 miles was actually 17 plus miles according to Paul’s ViewRanger mapper.  So no wonder I was whacked.



Coast to Coast – Day 0

The company that takes our luggage from place to place have asked that we treat the ‘single’ bags like hold luggage on a plane. I.e. 20 kilo weight and nothing dangling on the outside like spare shoes etc. Which means that the several extra items that I shoved into my day rucksack may have to go straight back again with Simon. Either that or I eat a lot of it in the first two days. Oh, wait, I’ve just found out that Derek’s back is quite small and light and so if we’re talking of the weight collectively I may get away with it – if I just sit on the suitcase as I zip it up.

The drive to St Bees was smooth with Simon and Heather acting as Day 0 Sherpas. I’m just writing this as the final checks are made on the maps as to which way to turn when we step out of the B&B and beyond. We’ve all just eaten a hearty (starters, mains AND pudding) dinner at a local eatery. Surprisingly, for a small place, St Bees has a number to choose from and Lulu’s, once a railway ticket office now a Thai restaurant, was particularly tasty.

The forecast was correct unfortunately; rain. From this afternoon until well into tomorrow so all the waterproofs are ready. But that will mean a slightly lighter suitcase so that may be a good thing in the long run.

I’d never been to the Lake District before but apparently St Bees is technically not the Lakes. It’s a little bit to the left (or west if you want to get technical). However, tomorrow, when we get to Ennerdale, I can officially proclaim that I have set foot on the beloved ground of Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter.



Where’s Watton

I did say that I wasn’t going to do a travel blog, so a back-in-Liverpool episode about my little sojourn to Norfolk doesn’t really count does it? It has to be done now while I still have some memory of it. They don’t last very long in my head and I wish I could blame it on my age, but I think it is some hereditary thing that has been passed on by my dad, a persistent list maker whose life’s choreographies are almost totally laid out on neatly cut scraps of paper bound in a rubber band held wallet. This whole blog business is probably a little bit like that wallet. I’ll read back, many, many weeks from now and think, ‘Did I do that?’

I drove down to Norfolk, and more precisely, Watton, a small market town whose claim to fame, I was told by many people, was having several scenes from the TV series Kingdom filmed there. My old school friend Salena lives in that neck of the woods and was having her fortieth in the 19th hole of the local golf club (the entrance of which is nigh on impossible to find at night especially when someone is telling you to just go over a little hump backed bridge when there was no goddamn bridge – not even when I checked, twice, the next day). It was too late to see much of the place when I first got there, having regretted being too tight to pay the M6 toll. The sky, though, was spectacular. I think I’ve already said it on fb, but even with the hunger and being stressed by trying to find this friggin’ place, I was bowled over by just how many visible stars there were. A diamante studded cloak. It wasn’t diamonds; nobody could afford so many diamonds.
Watton by day was vastly improved by lovely sunshine. It isn’t bad looking but there is something happy making about seeing the autumn leaves tumbling slowly from the trees, letting the clear cold light glisten through the branches and bathe the charity shops with an inviting glow. Like all good modern high streets, there are many such shops here along with a dodgy art gallery or two, a Cooperative Funeral Care place and an antique shop, catering well for the average age of the residents.

I spent the morning swishing through the leaves in my, err, flip flops and meandering into the shops chatting to the locals. From the antiques man who was originally from Tottenham and sounded like a proper cockney ‘geezer’ I found that Norfolk people move too slowly – I did discover that for myself later when I was stocking up on the booze at the tucked away Tescos and waiting for the checkout man to check that the lady in front meant to get the two different types of cod fillets as one was a little more expensive madam. Keep calm and breathe. From the second-hand book seller couple who totted up my purchases with a pencil and paper I found out that Pope’s translation of The Iliad is the best one, Stephen Fry is a bit of a windbag and Charles Dickens wasn’t that far behind Jimmy Saville in his predilection for young ladies. It took a long time to get back to Salena’s by which time I was laden with shopping and had frostbite on my toes.

Her do went off very well. She had friends from Greece and Germany who were renting the same house and I saw no altercations save the potentially touch paper moment when the Greek came in and said ‘Salena why have the Germans got a bigger room?’ ‘Because they paid more darling.’ She’s not one to beat around the bush is our girl, and surprisingly the explanation was accepted and he merely pinched the iron and left. Whenever Salena and I meet up, we, or rather I, because she can handle soooo much more than me, get well and truly wasted. I was half expecting the same to happen here but apart from wearing some silly glasses and trying to teach a fifteen year how to get some rhythm I wasn’t allowed to make a complete arse of myself this time because her considerate parents, who I’d only met the night before, packed me off to bed. I think I brought out their paternal/maternal side. Either that or they wanted to be invited back to that blessed golf club again.