Wainwright, here we go...or not
I have wanted to do the Coast to Coast, walking from St Bees on the west coast of England to Robin Hood's Bay on the east coast, travelling through the Lake District and Yorkshire dales, for a couple of months. I bought the maps, and books and dehydrated food. Now this is not my first foray into multi-day hiking, so you would think I would be oraganised or at the very least know what to pack, and what is unnecessary weight. Oh but no. I decided to pack everything...what happens if scenarios running through my head. I also managed to convince 'The Man' that he too wanted to do it. He's annoyingly fit so just runs up hills and mountains so he could carry me if it all went wrong.
Anyway, we left London by train up to Carlisle, with the intention of changing there to the local train to St Bees. My hopes were high, I would complete the walk. I mean how difficult could it be? People in their 70s do it all the time (i have since read that a 7 year old girl also completed it). Of course I didn't factor in the fact that beginning a hike popping ibuprofen and drinking lemsip would leave me at a huge disadvantage, but I was determined to walk the 192 miles from Coast to Coast, following in the footsteps of Wainwright and many other walkers. What on earth was I thinking?!?!?!
The trip to Carlisle was fairly uneventful, a few hours on the train trying to figure out how to log onto the network without paying (I failed), and watching the scenery change from one filled with houses and flats into one of space and big skies. I forget that we have so much beauty in our own backyard. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the fields were bright green with animals frolicking (ok the frolic was made up, that was later) adding to an almost idyllic start. We changed trains at Carlisle, where I hunted for more painkillers and other pharmaceutical items that I would need, having only brought enough for a week...or two. During our wee stop I purchased 'The Man' and I a latte, flapjack and cherry bakewell (how sweet). [Now, let's be serious for a moment and talk coffee. A coffee, be it a latte, americano, flat white, cortado, etc, needs to actually contain coffee. A cup of brown milk is not coffee and a flat white should never be hot enough to burn any part of your mouth! Londoners you too are guilty of this, so don't be looking down at us country cousins].
We arrived into St Bees, and what a cute little one street town, though at the time it was filled with traffic as the railway gates were down. Our hotel was on the seafront, a great barn of a place, called the Seacote hotel. Clean and comfortable with a bar, what more do you need?
I am always nervous at the start of walks, and the view up to the start was fairly intimidating, due to the steep cliff that we needed to walk up. Dinner was huge, I had the gammon, 'The Man' had chicken 3 ways, all fried. Who knew they ate so much in St Bees, maybe we should have ended here. We did manage to order and drink an entire bottle of red wine, in preparation for our walk. Now that I look back the signs were there that maybe mentally I was not prepared for this, let's not even discuss the physical side.
Tuesday 4th October, and off we set at around quarter to 9am, a gently climb (that cliff wasn't that bad), my pack sitting like a brick on my hips, and the sun shining. This was a lovely introduction to the walk and the day went well, until we hit Dent! What is a Dent, you may ask? Well it is and was my first taste of hell, my first taste of walking in the Lakes. Dent is a steep hill, not that high but there are no switchbacks to take the sting out of the ascent, and what goes up must come down. Those of you who know me, know that I basically have the knees of an 80 year old. If I was older I would have had knee replacement surgery but physios are so optimistic about the merits of stretching. The down hill was worse than the up, because it was basically vertical for about a mile. Each step was like a nail being pounded into each knee. Finally the bottom, and not long until we arrived at our stop for the night. Oh, did I mention that we were camping?
We finally stopped at the Low Cock How Bunkhouse and campsite, and slept in the shed. Our host was called George, and he too had an injury. somehow he had broken his hip and sat on a knife, at the same time, so was looking after the horses and dogs on crutches. I want to be like George when I'm older. It was a wee too cold to sleep in the tent and by that time I was too tired to put the tent up. 'The Man' and I had dinner of dehydrated food and a couple cans of Stella that were in the kitchen. I even managed to watch the Great British Menu as there was wifi. Not really camping but it's the small things that make days like this bearable. Another ibuprofen before bed and an application of voltarol on my ankle and out like a prize fighter.
Up very early, around 6.30am, and then packed up before walking to Ennerdale Bridge, which was about an hour away. Not a great road as all the commuters to the big northern cities come through here, but thankfully a wee path at the side of the road of the Coast 2 Coasters. Once we arrived there we realised that there was nothing open, and that we would have to go without breakfast. Uh..no way. I knocked on the Fox and Hounds and the lovely woman there took pity on us and made us scrambled eggs and toast as well as feeding us coffee and cereal.
Onwards, we walked on the north side of the lake here as George, our host from the night before told us that it was easier and the south side was very wet and the bogs were not easy to navigate. This was great advice as we avoided all the rocks and the steep climbs, and had a fairly pleasant walk. We carried onto the Black Sail YHA. An isolated hostel, surrounded by hills and nestled in a valley. It was such a peaceful spot, and somewhere I plan to return to. I fed myself a Cliff bar, peanut flavour, and had a coffee in preparation for the climb ahead. Boy did I need it climbing up the pike. I wished that my pack was not so heavy and my knees were those of a 40 year old, but I persevered and slowly made my way up to the top. Climbing over rocks, using my sticks as aids and levering myself up the hill, and crawling. This part of the walk is known as Fleetwith. The views at the top are inspiring and even at the time it made it worth the climb up, though I have since realised I could have taken the bus up.
This is the view from the top looking down at Buttermere.
'The Man' ahead, as usual. The view is of the old tramway for the Honister mine looking down towards Seatoller. I love this picture as I think it truly captures the beauty and majesty of the Lake District.
Once we finally arrived on the road, we walked to Stonethwaite Farm, where we would camp for a second night. A few tents were already set up in the field, and our fellow campers were sitting and relaxing and watching the evening sun. We quickly set up the tent, well 'The Man' did as I was...I'm not sure what I was doing but it wasn't near the tent. Then we walked through the village and to the pub!! :-) Thank you Wainwright, finally a pub along the way. I porked, after our long day I needed the food. I thank the lamb that gave his life for the energy that I needed and would need. The beer was not too bad either. We walked bak to the campsite. The night sky is amazing when you are away from the pollution of the city. The showers were hot and the tent and my thermals kept me warm during the night.
Up early again the next morning, no breakfast. :-( I didn't pack any and I thought that dinner the night before would suffice. Our barman the night before told me that the 'pull' up to Greenup Edge was the tough part. Yet again, someone who thinks the going up is the worst part but as with all parts of the Lakes, what goes up must come down.
It took us 3 hours to walk down into Grassmere, each step down felt like nails and hammers were bearing down on my knees. At one stage I threw my pack onto the sodden bog and wished for a genie or helicopter to come for me, but this was never going to happen. Instead I do what I always do at times like this...I started to sing. I don't know what I sang but it got me down. Oh and of course I moaned. Finally, we arrived in Grassmere. It was the end of my short walk, but as with all travels I do not regret the journey as I saw another part of the world, and started something that I will one day finish. I also learnt that Wainwright didn't drink that much, and that this walk is something to be done at leisure and staying in B&Bs or hostels. We spent the next two days in town, acclimatising and exploring. There is some good beer up there too.
And of course, there is always fizz at the end of any journey.