Thursday, 19 July 2012

Walking the Wainwright Coast to Coast Part Two: St. Bees to Keld

Day 1: St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge
Packhorse literally dropped us off in front of some public toilets. It was pouring with rain. We made our way down to the roaring coast, picked up our chosen pebble (to be thrown into the sea at the other end) and started up the hill you can see in the background. It stopped raining as soon as we set off which I thought was a good omen. This first stretch followed the coast for a bit then turned inland. Bit of boring road and then some good views through farmers' fields. It started raining about noon and we had lunch shivering in a railway underpass. Dent at 1155 feet was our first climb, and then it was down into the very pretty Nannycatch valley. I wish I'd taken photos but it was raining very hard by then and we just wanted to press on.  This was the view at day's end - Ennerdale Water and the beginning of Lakeland. We stayed at the Shepherd's Arms at Ennerdale Bridge where I had the biggest steak and ale pie I had ever seen!

Day 2: Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite
This day definitely ranked as one of our favourites of the whole walk. It started with a lovely path along the side of Ennerdale Water.

The weather forecast had promised rain and mist and very little visibility all day but as we progressed, the skies seemed to clear up and we certainly could see the top of the hills. So when we came to the crossroads where we could choose the lower or higher path, we had to go high. After all, this is what the Lake District is all about. So we took the High Stile Alternative route which Wainwright notes is not for "ordinary mortals". This involved a steep climb up to Red Pike (2479 feet) and then we followed the ridge to High Stile (2644 feet), High Crag (2443 feet) and down to Haystacks (where Wainwright's ashes are scattered).  It was tough going, but the views were definitely worth it. On the top of Red Pike all you can see are hills in every direction - we could even see as far as Scotland.  Here's part of the magnificent views:

Then off towards Haystacks and our final stop in the village of Rosthwaite. It was a ten hour day and our legs were very sore, but we were pretty chuffed with what we had done.

Day 3: Rosthwaite to Grasmere:
This was a relatively short leg but the weather was awful. There was heavy rain, lots of mist and we had to negotiate quite a bit of sodden mud and paths that had turned into mini-rivers. We were literally climbing up and through a waterfall at one point. Still, the Borrowdale Valley was quite stunning.

As was the valley down into Grasmere.

We arrived in Grasmere mid-afternoon, with plenty of time to explore this lovely town. I went and paid homage to Wordsworth's grave, picked up some of the famous Grasmere gingerbread, stopped by the Herdy Shop and bought a mug, popped into the local bookstore, wrote some postcards, and had a nice latte in a teashop. The sun broke out in the afternoon and we ended the day looking out at this:

Day 4: Grasmere to Patterdale
Another very happy day of walking in the Lakes, as we headed towards the Grisedale Pass, encountering many happy sheep along the way.

We had a bite to eat at Grisedale Tarn and then it was up St. Sunday Crag (2756 feet)  for our first view of Ullswater. We took our time during this stage and just enjoyed the scenery, getting into Patterdale in plenty of time for a nice dinner and a pint, sitting outside amidst the hills.

Day 5: Patterdale to Shap
Oh, this was a hard and tiring day. Again the weather was bad and the wind was ferocious. It blew me over at one point as we were climbing up to Kidsty Pike (fortunately it was blowing away from the edge and I ended up in a grassy bank). Visibility was nil and I was so happy to descend from the cloud cover down to the shores of Haweswater.

The path then followed the length of the lake/reservoir which I would have enjoyed more had it not seemed to go on forever with another long stretch to Shap following.  Shap Abbey was a joyful sight at the end of another long ten hour day.

As was our accommodation, The Hermitage in Shap, built in 1691. This house had SO much character and we received such a lovely welcome. Our room also had a bathtub which made me weep with joy. A wonderful place to stay.

Day 6: Shap to Kirkby Stephen
 Another long stretch at 20 miles, but I loved this walk. We left the Lake District and walked miles over bare  and undulating moorland with the Pennines in view, a nice springy path under our feet and just when we were getting a bit tired, the lovely Smardale Valley came into view to perk us up.

Day 7: Kirkby Stephen to Keld
Today started with a climb up to the Nine Standards, cairns that are over 200 years old and quite visible from far away. They also mark the watershed between the rivers that flow towards the Irish sea which we've left behind, and those that flow towards the North Sea, our ultimate destination.  There's a great view from the top and a sense of accomplishment, seeing how far we've already walked.

Unfortunately the route from here gets extremely boggy even in the best of times, never mind after all the recent rain. So we chose to take the Winter route (boggy enough) down to the tiny village of Keld where we arrived just in time to catch the last half of the men's Wimbledon final, a nice cup of tea and biscuits to hand.

And at this stage, we'd reached the half way point, tired but really enjoying ourselves.  Next up: Yorkshire!

See Part Three here.


Rob McClure said...

I love your blog and your photos are beautiful!
Living vicariously ...
Hope your legs hold out.

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog. I'm heading there shortly, so gives me a good idea what to expect. Enjoyed the succinct stories and photos - easy to take in. All the best, Natalie

Blithe Spirit said...

Thanks Natalie - I hope you have as much fun on your walk as I did.