Tuesday, September 25, 2018

August 8, 2018: Day One - St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge

August 7 - One Day Pre-Hike

We traveled by train from London to St. Bees.  The St. Bees train station is just up the street from the B&B where we spent our first evening.  Stone House Farm is lovely; Carole, the owner, is kind, and she cooks a delicious breakfast.

Tea and biscuits (cookies) -- a staple at every B&B

Our room at Stone House Farm

We had time to explore St. Bees a bit before dinner (which was at a neighboring inn...you must book ahead for dinner in St. Bees...see the guidebook for details).  We walked around town a while before heading to the beach for a preview of the next morning's adventure.

The beginning of the C2C is just a half mile or so from Stone House Farm.  We walked to the official start, took a photo, and then checked out the adjacent playground.

The very beginning of the C2C goes up that path and takes the walker along the cliffs.

The playground had a few things that were just right for teens.

Too much spinning

Sage picks berries on the way back to the B&B.  She has a talent for finding wild edible berries wherever we go.

This statue is just outside the train station, on the beach side (not the B&B side).  It depicts the legend of the founding of St. Bees.

We ate dinner at one of the two restaurants in St. Bees (again -- make reservations the night before...get details from the guidebook), then got to bed so we'd be fresh for the first day of our thru-hike.

August 8  - Day One.  
St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge.  14 miles with around 2100 feet* of elevation gain

*I am estimating elevation gain using the guidebook's information.  All elevation gain info in this blog is estimation only, never exact.  I therefore might sometimes be off a few hundred feet here or there.

We began our day with an overcast sky, which we always love since we are creatures of the north; we prefer to hike in 50-degree weather and no sun.  We visited the beach and followed the custom of taking a small pebble each.  These pebbles would stay with us throughout our hike and then be deposited in the North Sea on our last day.  Yes, I know -- Leave No Trace.  We follow LNT principles at home, but this would be the first of two instances on this trip where we deliberately did not follow LNT principles and chose to follow the local custom instead.  Each hiker can follow her own conscience on this.

Our pebbles chosen, we returned to the official start of our trek.

And...off we went.  The path immediately takes you up the cliffs, and you spend the first four and a half miles or so heading north with views west toward the Irish Sea.

Looking back toward St. Bees after the initial climb from the beach

Nice dirt path on the top of the cliffs

Looking back

Looking forward

Looking west

There are a few RSBP Observation Points along the path.  These points allow you to gaze down the sides of the cliffs and, if you're fortunate (we weren't), catch sight of some nesting birds (such as puffins and terns).

Onward, through the edge of fields and along dirt paths...

The trail drops down to Fleswick Bay, an isolated bit of pebble beach beneath red sandstone cliffs.

Looking back after climbing out of  Fleswick Bay

Looking down into Fleswick Bay
 Onward, toward St Bees Lighthouse and through more fields...

This was the first of countless encounters with farm animals.  Farm animals (mainly sheep, but sometimes cows and horses) are EVERYWHERE on the C2C.  You will be with and among them every single day, and they will often stand right where you need to walk.  We quickly discovered that if you look at them and ask them softly and nicely to please move, they do.  There was only one time when I thought we were going to have an issue...that was days later, near Reeth...but I'll write about that in a later post.

Hello there, Moo

A bunch of cows waiting by the gate through which we must travel

Hi there, can we come in?

There are more farther along, where we need to walk

Can you please moove so we may come through the gate?  (They did)
All through the C2C, be polite and calm with critters large and small and you shouldn't have any problems.

Continuing along, looking out at the Irish Sea and the birds now and then...

St. Bees Lighthouse...

Onward...the path eventually turns away from the Irish Sea and heads inland toward Birkham's Quarry and the town of Sandwith.

Looking back

One of the very few signposts along the C2C

Heading east now, on a small road going toward Sandwith

Another sign!

Sage finds and eats berries all the way into Sandwith

Pretty flowers along the path/road

 Once through the town of Sandwith (which I unfortunately have no photos of, but it's easy enough to traverse if you pay attention to your guidebook), you leave the country road, drop down to a tunnel underneath a railroad...

 cross a small stream, and end up here --

From here, you follow the path you see below, and this is the beginning of the fun you'll have with directions and the guidebook.  I mean this seriously and not sarcastically -- we had great fun with this trail.  I don't have photos of the next bits, but there are paths and trees and, if you do not strictly follow Stedman's directions which read, "Don't enter forest but head north-east keeping forest and fence to your right," you'll end up like one couple we met who followed an adjacent farmer's path by mistake (there are many such paths and NO SIGNS) that eventually curved the wrong direction and got them lost for a few hours on their very first walking day.  So PAY ATTENTION TO THE GUIDEBOOK.

If you've managed to follow the guidebook exactly, you'll end up at a railroad tunnel with crumbling steps on the right.  You can take the steps up and walk along the (no longer used) rail track, which now resembles a bike path.  We did this for a bit until we reached the town of Moor Row.  Once at Moor Row, it was back to country roads and easy to follow local walking paths.  One path takes you along "Wainwright Passage."

Another signpost (treasure these when you see them)

You'll briefly go through the town of Cleator before crossing a fairly busy road to the forest track that leads you up Dent, the first "hill" of your thru-hike.  The path is easy to follow up Dent.  First it's a gravel narrow path, then it's a small road, then it's an exposed and grassy trail.  The incline never gets steep (by White Mountain standards), but it's continuous so you may experience some huffing and puffing.

At the top!

Thank you, kind British lady who lives near Robin Hood's Bay, for taking this photo

Views from Dent...

We ate lunch (which Carole from Stone House Farm had prepared for a small price), traveled across the flat top of Dent and over a stile, and headed down the steep slope toward Nannycatch Gate.

This part is probably slick slick slick during and after a good rain

Once down, we walked along a stream until the path turned right and up, taking us to this large rock by a road..

From here, it was an easy walk along a path that runs adjacent to the main road leading to Ennerdale Bridge.

View from the path

Ennerdale Bridge (back center of photo)
We arrived at our home for the evening, The Shepherds Arms Hotel, at 3pm.  We had left St. Bees at 9am, so that's six hours of walking, including our twenty or thirty-minute break for lunch on Dent.   That's about 2.5 miles an hour, which felt casual and not rushed.  Our pace for this trek would continue to be between 2 and 3 miles an hour, depending on terrain and weather.

We ate dinner at the Shepards Arms (no reservation needed if you're staying there for the evening) and went to bed around 9pm.

Next post: Day Two -- Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite.

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