Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Coast to Coast - Wednesday 6th July - Day 1 - St.Bees to Low Cock How Farm - 13 Miles

Leaving St.Bees
 After a good meal and a few beers in the Queens Hotel the previous night, we were treated to a full English breakfast by Carol, owner of the Albert Hotel, and sent on our way with a Mars bar and piece of fruit. We actually had around a half a mile walk to the front and the start point of the Coast to Coast to get use to the weight of the backpacks as the main part of the village is slightly inland from the seafront. Although the weather was fine there was plenty of threatening cloud and it didn't feel like July, the forecast was poor with heavy rain promised in the coming days for our crossing of The Lakes. We didn't let this dampen our spirits however and we stopped to have our photos taken at the starting signpost at the back of the beach, where we were asked to take the photo of Mike and Sue, an Australian couple just setting off at the same time as us.

St.Bees Head
After they had returned the favour, they set off for the cliffs of St. Bees Head and we headed down to the beach to wet our boots in the Irish Sea in the prescribed manner, the next time they would be dampened with seawater would be in the North Sea on the North Yorkshire coast on the opposite side of the country . We then followed the Australians onto the cliffs before taking one last look back at the caravans lining the  beach of St. Bees and heading off along the exhilarating cliff path towards the lighthouse.

'Fisherman' in garden
We soon caught Mike and Sue and all four of us passed a lone American woman setting off on the walk, we were to pass her a various points along the whole route but she rarely had much to say, preferring to keep to herself. It was soon after setting off that I felt a 'splat' on my head and rucksack and realised that a seagull had decided to relieve itself on me, which made for an unpleasant aroma for the early part of the walk. I'm not sure if being crapped on by a gull is supposed to bring good luck or not but I didn't feel very lucky at the  time. The cliffs along this section were certainly impressive and after passing the lighthouse we continued following the clifftop path for a further mile before turning inland by a quarry. Here, we passed a cottage with a boat in the garden complete with a 'fisherman' dressed in yellow oilskins! The first day of the walk is mainly concerned with getting to the Lake District and the route passes through the fairly unmemorable villages of Sandwith, Moor Row and Cleator before heading out into open country and onto the first hill of the walk, the summit of Dent. 
First view of Dent
Although the hill is only 1150ft high, the view is superb in all directions with the main point of interest being the first glimpse of the Lake District fells. We had found the climb with our backpacks weighing around 13 kilos tougher than expected and the sight of row after row of mountains ahead in the Lake District was a slightly sobering one. During the climb to Dent, we had met with three walkers, a frighteningly fit father and son duo called Phil and Charlie and a 72 year old called Brian. We later discovered that Phil, the younger half of the duo, was a marathon runner and had once completed ten marathons in ten days! His father, Charlie, although obviously older, looked extremely fit for his age and the two of them skipped along carrying backpacks in running shorts and shoes. As we watched them disappear over the summit of Dent, we plodded to the top with Brian, who was quite a comical sight in that he had a large backpack that seemed to be permanently tilted at a forty five degree angle. This was further accentuated by the fact that he had a bedroll strapped to the top, making the pack very high, and when he had his rain cover over the whole pack, he looked like a yacht listing to port from a distance. Over the coming days we picked him out from quite a distance on a couple of occasions just by his unusual silhouette. 
Descending from Dent
From the summit of Dent, we followed the very steep descending path to Nannycatch, a beautiful valley on the edge of the Lake District where we followed the river to Low Cock How farm. This was our first stop of the walk and we soon had our tents pitched in the garden of the farm. Although the facilities here were fairly basic, we had a shower and toilet as well as a rudimentary kitchen with a kettle and microwave. The main problem with the site was that it was a mile and a quarter from the nearest village, Ennerdale Bridge, so we had to walk down into the village to the pub to get a meal in the evening. This wasn't too bad but it meant that we had to walk the same distance back uphill and as overnight rain was forecast we weren't keen to add unnecessary mileage onto that already walked that day while getting wet into the bargain. As we sat eating in the Shepherds Arms, Brian came in and joined us at the table and we spent a convivial evening eating and drinking before Alan tried phoning for a taxi back to the campsite. Unfortunately, none of them were prepared to come out to our remote outpost so we reluctantly headed back uphill in the rain to our tents. Tomorrow, the mountains of The Lake District beckoned.

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