In The Footsteps Of Wainwright…
After already walking 276 miles through northern England, we thought why stop? Not wanting to disrupt our walking routine too much, we were both prepared and eager to embark on the second part of our ‘Summer 700’ challenge. So we allowed ourselves just one rest day between completing the Pennine Way and starting our next hiking adventure, Alfred Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Path.
With not much to do at the finishing point of the Pennine Way at Kirk Yetholm up in Scotland, we decided to travel straight to the Cumbrian coastal town of St Bees, the ‘C2C’ starting point, and enjoy a rest day at the seaside!
The start point of the Coast to Coast at St Bees.
A Rest Day In St Bees
When we arrived in St Bees, we were actually glad that we hadn’t planned to stay any longer as there’s not really much to do there. We pictured a thriving seaside town, bustling with holiday goers and the usual seaside souvenir shops. We thought there wouldn’t be a problem re-supplying here with items such as camping gas as there was bound to be a few ‘outdoor’ type shops with all the Coast to Coasters passing through. But in fact St Bees is quite a sleepy little place, with not much to see or do, unless you own a static caravan and want to spend your retirement by the sea. There are no outdoor gear shops, and apart from pubs and restaurants on the main street there’s only one small grocery store combined with the post office. We were in fact devastated that the town doesn’t even have a chip shop! Fish and chips by the seaside is a must!
Arriving at St Bees Train Station.
The ‘Coast to Coast’ Bar on the Main Street in St Bees.
Sunset and the only tent in the campsite – Honestly, we don’t smell that bad after walking 276 miles!
Our rewards for completing the Pennine Way!
Voila! Lincolnshire sausages for dinner.
8 fat sausages sizzling in the pan.
So after completing the never ending chore of laundry, we basically spent our rest day ‘resting’ as there wasn’t much else to do! We assumed we’d be able to pick up food and supplies along our route as our trusty Harvey strip maps showed a shop symbol at most places. (We were later to regret this!)
Had we known how difficult re-supplying is during the first 3 days on the C2C we would have got off the train in Whitehaven to stock up before arriving in St Bees. Our other idea of catching the bus to Whitehaven failed as the last weekday bus from St Bees going in that direction is at 1pm. By the time we’d finished with laundry and had the idea, it was well after 1pm and the bus was long gone!
Note to prospective C2Cers who are camping like us, make sure you are well stocked with everything before setting off as the next resupply point is literally Grasmere in the Lake District!
A walk along the sea front on our rest day.
And so our Coast to Coast adventure began…
Day 1 – St Bees to Ennerdale Bridge. (16 miles) – Saturday 19th July 2014 – ‘Soaked To The Skin’
A 7am alarm call. A new mission ahead. 192 miles, this time walking west to east across England through the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North Yorkshire Moors.
Before setting off on the trail, a tradition started by Wainwright is to soak your boot in the Irish Sea. Well as we don’t wear boots and we don’t like wet feet, our effort was more a customary dipping of the toe! But we did it! We couldn’t miss this important step out. Neither could we resist choosing a pebble from the beach to carry with us on our journey, another C2C tradition.
Performing the customary dipping of the toe in the Irish sea.
Is Irish Sea salt water good for reviving trail runners?
Wayne takes his time selecting a pebble from the beach.
Remember it’s all about the grams!
My pebble to carry on our journey to Robin Hood’s Bay.
So after a hearty breakfast of omelettes, the customary dipping of the toe complete and our Cumbrian stones tucked away safely in our pockets, there we were in St Bees all ready to set off again!
The start takes you along the cliff path. Looking back across to St Bees.
Early morning mist means we can’t see the Isle of Man today.
The big difference between this and the start of the Pennine Way – there were another 20 or so people all ready and eager to set off too!
We realised straight away that this was going to be a very different kind of walk, especially having to share the trail with that amount of people every day when we’re so used to our own company and hardly seeing a soul from one day to the next.
Wayne not impressed that we have to share the trail with lots of other C2Cers!
We soon caught up with the guided tour group of walkers in front of us, who were a mixture of nationalities and ages. They were really impressed that we were camping as they were staying in B&B’s along the route. (That’s why we had the campsite to ourselves!)
A C2C sculpture on the way to Cleator Moor.
Following in the footsteps of Wainwright.
We were actually wishing for a B&B later that day though when we couldn’t get any food supplies on route (the shop at Cleator Moor closes at 1pm on Saturdays and we just missed it) and the heavens opened and we got absolutely drenched. Not a particularly good start to our Coast to Coast. We definitely had ‘first day blues’!
Waterproofs out! A wet day for the start of our Coast to Coast walk.
The highest stile we’ve had to climb over.
Luckily we found a white stone shelter to hide out in for a while just before Ennerdale Bridge. We then made a run for the Fox & Hounds pub when at last there was a minor break in the cloud. But it was not quite the warm welcome that we’d expected. The lady at the pub barred our entrance as she was hastily mopping up from the previous 20 C2Cers that had passed through and soaked the place. When we enquired about the village shop her answer was that it had been ‘closed for years’. (But the map still has a shop symbol!) Things were just not going our way today.
The Fox & Hounds to the rescue.
Camping next door to the pub.
Fortunately for £5 a tent the pub lets you camp around the side of it. So we pitched right there and had a pub meal for dinner. There are no facilities such as a shower and you can only use the pub toilets during opening times – but the saving grace, there is wi-fi and it works! We also had the best lasagne, chips, salad and garlic bread ever! (After so many packets of instant noodles, home cooked food had us drooling!)
Enjoying a giant plate of home-cooked food!
The day might not have quite turned out as we planned. I was already cursing Wainwright for the lack of shops on his route, but the Fox & Hounds pub certainly came to our rescue!
Day 2 – Ennerdale Bridge to Hay Stacks Wild Camp via the High Route. (10 miles) – Sunday 20th July 2014 – ‘Was Wainwright Right?’
Running low on supplies meant we had to make do with a cuppa-soup for breakfast. (Our budget didn’t stretch to a full English in the pub as well as last night’s dinner). And we’d already paid an extortionate £12 for 2 packed lunches for today from the pub kitchen (consisting of a sandwich, chocolate bar, packet of crisps and small bottle of water) which we’d almost eaten the entire contents of by 11am! (There’s never a ‘Poundland’ when you need one! Failing that, a burger waggon would have been good). It was one of those days where I could have eaten my own arm! Almost.
Reflections on Ennerdale Water.
A misty morning in the Lake District National Park.
Beautiful clear water but too cold for a swim!
Following the trail around the Southern Bank.
Once we had got around the Southern Bank of Ennerdale Water we opted to take the high route, made increasingly harder when running low on energy snacks. In fact, we were running low on everything including gas. (We were now halfway through our emergency canister).
More optimistic about the weather as the cloud clears.
Opting to take the ‘High Route’.
With low cloud, we were a bit dubious about the view we would see from the top of Red Pike but we hiked up there regardless, navigating our way through a sea of ferns before reaching a better trail of grass and rocks. But the trail was a lot better then when we hiked it previously from the Buttermere side which is more of a scree slope.
Taking a breather part-way up…
As we get higher the cloud comes in again!
View from the top of Red Pike.
Looking on to Crummock Water.
Buttermere in the background.
At 755 metres, we had some good views of Buttermere despite the cloud coming and going. Next came High Stile at 806m, followed by High Crag at 744m. There wasn’t too much loss in elevation as we were walking along the ridge line.
Looking over Bleaberry Tarn.
The clouds clear for beautiful views ahead.
Leaving Red Pike heading towards High Stile.
Between High Stile and High Crag.
Buttermere Lake from above.
Grey Crag below High Stile.
A Herdwick sheep native to the Lake District.
The hardest part of the day before reaching Hay Stacks at 598m (Wainwright’s favourite spot) was having to come all the way down before going all the way back up again due to Scarth Gap Pass.
Descending High Crag with the Seat and Hay Stacks behind.
Near the bottom of Gamlin End.
The Gamlin End of High Crag.
The view from Scarth Gap.
After coming all the way down to Scarth Gap Pass, we start heading up again to Hay Stacks.
Some light scrambling up Hay Stacks.
Ready to follow Wayne!
Nearing the top of Hay Stacks.
A volcanic looking High Crag from the top of Hay Stacks.
Looking for a wild camp spot near Innominate Tarn…
It made for a tiring day, but one where we not only bagged 4 peaks, but enjoyed some amazing views over the Lake District.
Finally we reached Innominate Tarn, just past Hay Stacks, where we found a spot to wild camp. There was already 1 other wild camper who’d bagged a sheltered spot close to the lake, but we opted for a higher position which we hoped was well away from the midges!
We topped up water by filtering it from a tarn.
Over the other side of Hay Stacks looking for a place to wild camp.
Passing Innominate Tarn as it was quite boggy.
We found a great place to wild camp higher up.
A lovely spot for the night!
We used up all the food we had left for dinner, which amounted to cuppa-soup, instant noodles and Smash potato mixed with instant gravy! (All made by adding boiled water). Not our best menu but it sufficed!
Now we were really out of supplies and desperately hoped we’d get some tomorrow by hot-footing it to Grasmere where there’s both a ‘Co-op’ for food and a ‘Cotswold Outdoor’ for gas! (We’re not promoting specific brands – other shops are available if you’re lucky! Or have a car to get there!)
So far we’ve hiked 26 miles. Supposedly, the Lake District section is the hardest along the entire Coast to Coast route. Find out how we got on with Day 3 in our next installment coming soon!