Sunday 24th October.
During a pub conversation in the middle of the Tender Souls project Eleanor and I made a promise to follow in the footsteps of Alfred Wainwright and do the Coast to Coast walk from St.Bees on the Cumbrian shore to Robin Hood's Bay in North Yorkshire. It seemed a good plan to make at the time - but then a lot of flaky things are said in pubs. The deal was fixed when she bought me AW's guidebook for my birthday.
Three months on and with both of us able to take a couple of days off the adventure started this weekend. We drove up to St. Bees on Saturday afternoon in time for last orders at The Albert, where we quickly realised we were the only guests. The rooms were great especially the bathroom filled with donated soaps, gels, creams and sprays from previous walkers. It was clearly a place to leave a donation rather than pilfer the shampoo.
After a good night's sleep and a warming breakfast chat with landlady Carol, who reckoned we were the last walkers of the season, we set off up to the headland and the first few miles of the 190 needed to get to the other side. It was a beautiful morning and we were quickly up on the cliffs with the Irish sea sparkling below and the humped silhouette outline of the Isle of Man seeming close enough to touch. Flocks of seabirds, cormorants, guillemots and gulls swirled in and out of the cliffs as we cleared field after field in our approach to Whitehaven before turning inland down a country lane towards the hills. We occasionally got lost, mostly when caught up in conversation, but always seemed to sense the way back onto the path as we headed through farms, across brooks and burns, along neglected tracks and newly completed cycle paths, through unstated villages and planted forest until finally in late afternoon we climbed Dent fell - a mini challenge - and looking back to the sea, beginning to seem a way in the distance, caught our breath.
The last part of the day was glorious. We scrambled down the hill into Nannycatch, a tiny ravine, under the impressive rocks of Raven Crag with a gurgling beck running through which led us unswervingly in the failing light towards our overnight stop at The Shepherds Arms Hotel in Ennerdale. A truly wonderful day.