Wainwright’s Coast to Coast – Day Two, Ennerdale Bridge to Borrowdale.

Starting from the very lovely Thorntrees B&B in Ennerdale Bridge for our walk to the Borrowdale Valley, we knew that the weather just wasn’t going to be anywhere near good. In fact, it was downright miserable (at best), all day long. We had continuous, and I mean it didn’t stop for a single second the whole day, rain, and 40-50mph winds. Oh and it was pretty cold at times too. I had two or three layers on top and bottom, plus a mountain hat. I wished I’d had my gloves on at times. Welcome to August in the Lake District.

The walk to Borrowdale was around 14 or 15 miles only – but in these conditions, and with a proposed ascent of three high peaks (Red Pike, High Stile and Haystacks), this was not going to be easy at all.

I’d looked forward to this day on the C2C probably most of all in fact. That’s because it is the one most synonymous with Wainwright himself. Haystacks was his favourite mountain and his final resting place Innominate Tarn beside it. He put in his books before he died that “should you, dear reader, find a piece of grit in your shoe when walking by, then it might be me”

Getting to Haystacks however was going to involve scaling Red Pike and High Stile, and it was sadly obvious from before we even set off that that just wasn’t going to happen. In fact just walking around Ennerdale was hard enough. This was head down, get out of here weather. We couldn’t even see across Ennerdale in fact, and it is supposed to be very pretty. Haystacks and the rest of them would have to just wait for another day.

The ‘low route’ was thus chosen, and we splashed and sploshed our way around Ennerdale Water. From there we tried to eat a packed lunch under the cover of a few trees (we couldn’t get much wetter, but it was a brave attempt to keep the worst of the deluge out of our sandwiches.

Ennerdale Water – apparently a very pretty spot when you can see it properly!

Things got interesting however (despite this being the low route, we still had to climb up to over 2,000 feet) when we passed up past Black Sail YHA (closed due to Covid), and Brandreth and Grey Knotts and over towards the Honister Pass. The paths were becoming rivers, and the route then not always obvious. Mel was a bit scared on more than one occasion as we climbed up and the wind almost knocked her off her feet. I felt guilty that she was in that predicament but there was nothing I could do other than guide her and help her get up and down safely. I don’t think we passed anyone on the path at all the whole day, which given this as a day in August in the Lakes towards one of the most popular passes, will tell you just how shocking a day it was. If you had any choice at all in what you were doing this day you would simply have not even have got out of bed!

This’ll give you a brief idea of the wind, and this was at the foot of the fell – I didn’t dare get my phone out anywhere near the top!
Trying to just cross some of the streams was a pretty hairy experience at times.

Thankfully by the time we came down past Honister Slate Mine, heads down and just tramping through bogs and puddles, the wind had eased somewhat, although the rain was still pelting down.

This would sadly be the nearest I got to Haystacks all day.

Thankfully the Glaramara Hotel in Seatoller provided a lot of welcome relief. A veritable oasis, the Glaramara is a lovely country hotel with open fires (they were on, and we sat right in front, again welcome to August in the Lake District!) and which also does a fixed three course dinner for all of its guests. We also deposited all of our wet kit in the drying room, which sadly was so full of kit and so humid that it would have taken a month to dry most things, and so we elected to turn all of the radiators on in the room instead and hang stuff on there.

Relief at last!!

Having chomped down very happily on all three courses (I think I could have eaten five) before retiring to the nice bar again, we chatted there to a DofE leader who had come in from the nearby campsite to shelter from the rain, and talked primarily about how bad the weather was going to be the next day. The debate was that we had an 18 or 19 mile day to Patterdale to get to, and the forecast was even worse than for today. He advised us that Lining Crag and Greenup Edge were the way to go, and so we settled on that. In this weather it was just a case of getting from place A to place B as efficiently and safely as possible. Views of the Lake District even were all but out of the window, which is such a shame.

Having looked at a number of options on the map for tomorrow, I knew that Greenup Edge was at least the shortest route, and didn’t look too testing in terms of contours, but the strength of the wind and rain would be the determining factor. Still, day two was over, and we were warm and well fed and watered, half way through the Lake District and already one sixth of our way to Robin Hood’s Bay. Day three though would be the most testing of the lot…..

Wainwright’s Coast to Coast – Day One.

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.

Ready for the off!
And this is the famous start sign – nearly ready for the start proper…
Toes duly dipped by me…..
…..and by Mel.
And these pebbles would come with me the whole way. One was for keepsakes, and one would be given back to the sea at Robin Hood’s Bay.

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.

Looking back to St Bees from the headland.
The coastal path went on for about four miles and was really lovely.
Our first C2C signpost, and ready to leave the sea behind us.

And the first views of the Lakeland fells come into view.

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.

Good to see Mr Wainwright’s name appearing!
On our way up Dent Hill – it is only little, but perfectly formed with beautiful views.
And you have to celebrate your first summit don’t you?

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!

One of the few signs that pointed the way.

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.

Time to relax – day one done!

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.