As we all know, some days turn out better than others, and some days are really great. Some days are also surprising and turn up unexpected things that you don’t want to end. This day turned out to be all of those things.
Wainwright’s Coast to Coast starts in the little seaside town of St Bees, nestled on a peninsula at the westernmost tip of Cumbria and sat on the Irish Sea coast, overlooking (if you are lucky enough to get a clear day) the Isle of Man.
Starting our journey at Stonehouse Farm B&B at around 8:30, and with just 15 miles to do for our first day, we’d expected a fairly easy (and perhaps fairly nondescript one too if I’m honest, despite how excited I was about the whole thing) day.
We were blessed with fine, if slightly cool, weather to start with, at around 14 degrees. We thus collected our pebbles, dipped our feet in the sea and took our obligatory photos by The Alfred Wainwright sign. Duly set, we were on our way.
The walk (circular at first along the coast) was simply stunning. What do you want in a walk? Clifftops with great views of the sea and beach, with Isle of Man, Scotland and Northern Ireland thrown in? Check. Undulating terrain with woodland, great views, and more wildlife in terms of seabirds, cattle, sheep than you can imagine? Check. Hills and valleys, streams, ascents, descents that test your legs and lungs and fitness? Well Dent Hill gives you most of the latter, and the cliff top walk all of the former.
Following Dent Hill there were also some testy descents and then a very long and beautiful wander through a rolling valley which reminded me very much of Dovedale in the Peak District. We were now effectively entering the Lake District proper. The day had been stunning, and I spent most of it in shorts and T shirt. Mel wished that she had packed shorts or cut off walking trousers and was basically too hot in the afternoon, not something that either of us would suffer from for the next two days though!
Reaching eventually Ennerdale Bridge on the edge of the Lake District (as opposed to just Cumbria) was an equally beautiful moment. It is such a lovely village, and the first time either of us had been there.
We stopped for a drink on arrival at the very lovely Fox and Hounds, and also booked in there for dinner later. We would follow a pattern from now of always booking dinner a day before we arrived at a particular location, to make sure we got a table. This was a very significant aspect of the Covid pandemic, and with restricted availability/tables in some pubs, and sometimes only one pub in the village we were in, this represented our only way of getting fed in the evenings.
As we sat in the evening and tried to book (actually unsuccessfully as it turned out) for the following evening in Patterdale, I perused the weather forecast for the next day. It was going to a wet one with very high winds, and may well scupper my wish to see Haystacks and Innominate Tarn. But tomorrow would be another day.
For now we’d done our first 16 miles and around 2,400 feet of ascent – the Coast to Coast had started with a great and very memorable day.