Wainwright's Coast to Coast Walk
Day 2 - Ennerdale Bridge to Stonethwaite
I was up at the crack of dawn, ready for a 7.30am breakfast in preparation for a long day ahead. However, despite booking breakfast for this time, I headed downstairs to find... the door into the pub was locked. Or rather, I was locked in the accommodation part! Anyway, I soon bumped into Arnout and Nicole, and another couple, Nick and Kate, who were also staying there, and also doing the Coast to Coast (surprise surprise!). Together, we pounded on the door, and eventually it was answered by a rather flustered looking girl who had, well, overslept!
In any case, we were soon seated, and breakfast was well worth the wait. Fresh coffee and grapefruit segments, followed by the most enormous of cooked breakfasts! I couldn't eat it all, and neither could anyone else! After doing the best job that I could, I got packed up and was ready to leave by 9 - so much for the early start! I set off with Nicole and Arnout, though we had to first drop by the Shepherd's Arms to pick up our packed lunches - it turns out that it's owned by the same people as the Fox and Hounds.
We left Ennerdale Bridge by road, and a short while later we arrived at Ennerdale Water. It was a little breezy that morning, but the views ahead into the valley were mouth-watering.
The path along the Southern shore of the lake was quite rugged, but it was very enjoyable. There was a bit of a scramble around a rocky formation known as Robin Hood's Chair (a fitting name, given our ultimate destination), but other than that it didn't cause too much hardship. The only downside was that you had to be careful to keep an eye on your footing, rather than the scenery!
Eventually we arrived at the end of the lake, where another group of walkers were having a rest. Nick and Kate had caught up with us by this point, as they'd set off slightly later from Ennerdale Bridge. We stopped for a quick breather, then pushed on in light of the challenges still to come. Somehow, I think the sheep had the right idea, taking it easy!
The path then entered a forest - more of a pine plantation really, and not so very interesting to look at. Very soon afterwards though, we were faced with a choice.
We could either continue along the less interesting but straightforward path through the forest, or we could cross over the River Liza, and take the "wilder" path to the South. I was in favour of the latter, more scenic route, especially as I had no intention at that point of doing the High Stile alternative (which none of us were foolish enough to consider!). In any case, Nick and Kate decided on the forest path, and I took to the rugged path with Nicole and Arnout. And so we set off, only to be confronted by...
... a cow, smack bang in the middle of the path. What do you do under such a circumstance, I hear you wondering? Why, you tell it to mooove, of course! (ask a silly question, you get a silly answer). Anyway, after establishing we weren't really much of a threat, the cow moved out of our way and we continued.
To say that the path was wild was an understatement, but on the positive side we had some lovely views, and it was very pleasant to follow the course of the River Liza so closely. We stopped briefly along the way to apply suncream, but on noticing that it was already 11.30am, we rapidly pushed on.
Before long, we emerged from the wilderness onto a more well-trodden path - although we were somewhat annoyed to see Nick and Kate ahead of us on the other side of the river, sauntering along as if they had all the time in the world... grrrr. When we crossed back over the river, it was time for yet another decision - to take the alternative route up to Haystacks, or to continue to the Black Sail Youth Hostel, and up Loft Beck. Since it was lunchtime, we opted for the latter option - Haystacks will still be there next time I visit, after all!
I think the Black Sail must win the award for the most remote youth hostel in the country - it's basically in the middle of nowhere, though it's in a stunning position, to compensate. They keep the hostel open during the day to visitors, with access to tea and coffee on a self-service basis. And of course the shelter is much appreciated! Nick and Kate were already there, and Nicole, Arnout and myself joined them. I had a lamb and mint sandwich, which sounded both tasty and fancy when I ordered it, but had somehow become rather soggy and unappetising during the morning. As far as sustenance goes, however, it was still much appreciated.
As we were lunching, a large group of about 12 walkers came in - they were on a guided Coast to Coast tour. I'm not sure why anyone would feel the need to pay extra for that - I set off on my own and found plenty of excellent company along the way. But I guess some people prefer to have safety in numbers! Anyway, we left after about 20 minutes, to avoid being stuck with the group (it sort of takes the fun out of being in the wilderness), and set off on the steep climb up Loft Beck.
Now, compared to Loft Beck, Dent was like a cycle path in Holland. The going was pretty tough - not so much because of the total ascent, but because of how steep it was. I had to pause for breath multiple times, while Arnout and Nicole were making faster progress ahead of me. It wasn't too long before it started to level out though, and I caught up with Nicole and Arnout, and also Nick and Kate, and a Scottish father and son, whose names I have unfortunately forgotten - the son was only about 10 years old, and was doing a fantastic job (and really enjoying himself too). We soon reached the top of the beck, and the views were to die for!
We maintained our height for some time, crossing over the Honnister Pass, and beginning the descent into Borrowdale. The descent was quite steep and rocky, and it was starting to rain a little, but it was fairly steady going. I had a nice chat with Nick on the way down, who turned out to work in recruitment. We were quite glad to approach the Honnister slate mine, however, since it meant we could sit down for a bit, and get some refreshments. Having said that, it's very off-putting to see tourists driving up to the mine in coaches, when we've been out all day in the elements.
After a brief rest, we continued the descent, while the rain picked up a bit. This section was nice, and I could certainly appreciate the beauty of the valley, although we were all getting a bit tired by this point. The path soon rejoined the road though, and we arrived in Seatoller - the first of the Borrowdale villages.
We had to say goodbye to the father and son here, as they were heading for a camp site (brave soldiers!). As we pressed on to Rosthwaite, we passed through Johnny's Wood, which was very pretty, except for us being a bit damp with the rain. On one section, the path was so narrow that there was a chain attached to the rock to grab onto!
When we arrived in Rosthwaite, we went straight to (can you guess?) the pub! More specifically, the Royal Oak where Nick and Kate were staying. We'd arrived at 4.30pm, so there was plenty of time for a well-earned pint.
I was actually staying in Stonethwaite, however, so I had to press on for the final mile soon afterwards. Nicole and Arnout were staying in Keswick, for which they had to catch the bus (I can forgive them, since it was another seven miles away!). Actually, it turns out that they were originally going to be staying at Stonethwaite Farm - the same as me - except for a mistake that happened when Arnout was ringing up to book. There was a problem when dialling the number in that it was misread, and put him through to a different place - which also happened to be a hotel! So, Arnout booked the place, without thinking to confirm that it was Stonethwaite Farm as he intended. When he didn't receive any email confirmation as asked, however, he rang back - but this time actually did get through to Stonethwaite Farm, who had no record of his booking. He then rang around all the guest houses in the area, having no luck - but then on his final attempt, the same mistake happened as originally, and he got through to the hotel that he really did book at. It turned out to be in Keswick - hence that was where they were staying. It's a funny old world!
In any case, I set off to Stonethwaite along a small path alongside Stonethwaite Beck, waving goodbye to Nicole and Arnout as they waited at the bus stop in the rain. It didn't take too long before I arrived at Stonethwaite Farm.
Stonethwaite Farm is a lovely place, and they were very welcoming when I arrived - the only problem was that there was nowhere to eat in Stonethwaite, and so my only choice was to walk back into Rosthwaite... By this point I was pretty knackered though, so I decided just to get an early night, and make up for it with breakfast in the morning. I'd eaten enough throughout the day in any case! And so it was lights out for me, not suspecting what the next day had in store...