Day 1 – Rescue Day
(St Bees to somewhere near Nanny Catch Beck)
The sky was turning a inky blue, a sure sign that I had to move rapidly. Upon descending Dent Hill, I bumped into another solo walker, Anwar. We conversed about the coast to coast walk, and found commonality in that we’d both been to Morocco. “I can’t believe you are doing this alone, that’s terrific!” he said. As we were about to part ways, Anwar offered me his number and told me not to hesitate in contacting him if I got lost or ran into any trouble. It was an incredibly kind gesture. It didn’t cross my mind at all that the need for help would arise just hours later.
I strolled quickly, disregarding navigation completely as I spotted a sign saying “Nannycatch Gate – 1 mile”. I followed the rocky path straight into a far reaching field dotted with sheep, patches of long grass and a long stony wall running along the side. I walked for twenty minutes, until it occurred to me that I was completely off path. ‘It’s ok, I must be nearby…3 map squares away – 3km.
My optimism gradually turned to frustration, then to worry as darkness settled. I pull out my head-torch. I’ve walked mindlessly into a hilly field for 40 minutes and I am completely lost.
I retrace my footsteps, moving with hope towards a parked car light in the distance. Upon reaching the carpark, I realise that Anwar drove here from his home to find me. I’m embarassed and overwhelmed by his incredible goodwill.
We navigate together to Low Cock How Farm, and arrive to a farm-house locked and devoid of any activity. The house glows eerily in utter silence. We whisper: “it’s definitely here. It’s silent. It’s 10:30pm at night. I would feel awful disturbing them at this time of night. Can I just pitch up in the car park? Concrete is too hard. Can I go into the field? I don’t want to intrude without permission…
Anwar suggests that I can stay at his house for the night. My initial reaction is to turn down the offer, I promised my sister no more recklessness.
God, I’ve got nowhere to go, I thought. A whisper of cold air drifts through the air teasingly. Intuitively, I decide to go back with Anwar, drained and exhausted after a long first day.
I spend the night asleep on the sofa. I feel relieved, grateful, and reinvigorated for Day 2 for my coast to coast walk. I found it difficult to comprehend the genuine compassion and kindness Anwar showed me. He went above and beyond to help me when I was no more then a stranger to him. I felt words alone were not enough to express my gratitude. I am still utterly thankful to this day. Who knows what would have happened on my first day without Anwar’s help. With my stubborn resolve, I would’ve probably walked into the night, hiking in the cold and possibly wild-camped on private land.
Day 2 – The Terrible, Awful, Most Atrocious Day Ever
(Ennerdale Bridge to the mountain above Black Sail Hut)
With a dull throb in my shoulders to contend with, I spent the morning relaxing. I watched ‘127 Hours’ until Anwar returned from work (chemical engineer!) at lunchtime. He brought me a sandwich and dropped me off at the beginning of Leg 2 – Ennerdale Bridge. I thank him over and over and we exchange contact details. He wished me luck for the remaining hike, as I set off renewed with quiet optimism.
|Eating handfuls of wild blackberries|
|Walking along the bank of the Ennerdale Water|
|Climbing up with my rucksack along the reservoir|
I reach the end of the forest by 6:00pm, approaching a small builder’s hut. “How long will it take me to get to Mine Slade?” I ask. “You look young and healthy, just an hour for you, straight over the hill, follow the stream over”, the builder replies.
The grass is wet and boggy. What stream? I wonder. Multiple thin trails of water trickle down the hillside. I squelch through the long grass, taking each step selectively. The ground is saturated, I sink a little with each step I take.
I begin the steep ascent , navigating my way through small plants and brambles. My heart jolts: the weight of my rucksack (13kg) nearly made me topple backwards. I keep my centre of gravity low, bent knees and hands near the ground. I really struggle. God, I’m slow. The ascent is relentless. I shuffle forwards, stopping every few minutes to catch my breath.
I’m exhausted by the time I reach the top. This doesn’t look right. I climb over a wire gate. Okay, this definitely isn’t right. I pull out the map and look for landmarks: 2 tarns near the coast to coast route and a quarry. Find the quarry, I think desperately. It’s 7:30pm.
The wind howls, buffeting my movement, making my knees buckle. A mist begins to descend, obscuring my vision, I can only see 10M in front of me. My boot sinks straight into muddy, wet grassland. I am disorientated, I need to stop. Where? This whole area is unsheltered and open to the elements. It’s too wet and marshy. You can’t walk in the dark at 400m up. Stopping is safer then walking.
I find a patch of ground below a mass of rocks and pull out my tent. My shelter flutters wildly, threatening to tug away from my grip. I peg the tent down but the ground is too soft and it doesn’t anchor my tent down firmly. I immediately crawl in. It’s ok, you’re inside the tent now, it won’t blow away.
The wind beating up my tent all night…
Day 3 – Lake District Tour Day
(Black Sail Hut to Patterdale)
I woke early after a few hours of sleep and opened my tent to this view:
I zip my tent closed in fear and sit crossed-legged, nibbling on breakfast biscuits. My mouth is sandpaper dry. I’ll wait for the mist to passover. I wait ten minutes, sheltered within the green walls of my tent. Don’t be so naive, the mist could be here all day. You need water. I get up reluctantly and struggle packing my tent up in high wind. I throw my rucksack onto my back. It is no longer heavy, just a dull and thudding ache that would occur now and then.
I follow a compass bearing for thirty minutes until I reach the quarry.
|ENDLESS CONTOUR LINES!|
Oh god, I really, really don’t want to do this today. The walk was near the Helvellyn (950M) range, an area of the Lake District I walked extensively with Nathan in April. I knew the area was relentlessly steep, wild and mountainous. I made my decision when I reached Seatoller a few hours later: I decided to bus it and tour the area for the sake of my morale.
I purchased a Stagecoach ‘explorer’ bus ticket for £10.40 and I spent the day touring Keswick, Penrith then Patterdale.
|Yay, hot food!|
I brought water purification tablets from Boots (£7.00). I never wanted to be thirsty ever again, it was an awful, desperate feeling that I didn’t want a repeat of. I reached my old haunt, Patterdale Youth Hostel, in the late afternoon. Never have I appreciated a bed and a roof over my head so much. I spent the evening cooking up noodles for dinner and washing my clothes. My head spun with exhaustion, I had very little sleep the night before. It was 8:30pm: hair washed, clothes washed and fed. My head touched the pillow and I was out like a light.
|Fresh, clean clothes! (washed in a
sink with shower gel, but it
did the job!)
Day 4 – Finally on Track Day
(Patterdale to Shap)
|View from around 500M.|
|View from Kidsty Pike (780M)|
|Walking towards paradise…?|
|Drinking water source – Hawes Water|
|“The North West’s drinking water is some of the best in the world…”|
|WATER AND CHOCOLATE!|
I smile happily. Water! Mars Bars! I take both and leave £3.00, what a blessing after losing my water bottle just a few hours ago. I’m close to my final destination and I pull out my map:
|The red ‘X’ marks where I crossed the river wrongly|
I lift my foot carefully and the moving water dislodges my flip-flop. Shit! I watch the water carry away my shoe and I stumble onto the bank. I needed that. I can’t wear my boots all day and they were so good for campsite showers. That’s x1 water bottle and x1 flip-flop lost in a day.
I climb up from the bank and emerge on a clearing of land. Sheep are grazing and I’m surrounded by a tall, stone wall. I’m boxed in without anywhere to go on private land. I feel utterly dejected and I have no choice but to cross back. I trudge back towards the country road in frustration. I don’t know where to go! I followed the map! It’s early evening and I am lingering, unsure of my next move.
Day 5 – Plain Sailing Day
(Shap to Olton)
I pack my tent up simultaneously with two others , Hannah and Adam, who were also camping and doing the c2c. They were supporting large rucksacks. Yay, it’s not just me holding all my gear! The majority of c2c walkers use baggage transportation services such as ‘Sherpa-van’ and ‘Pack-horse’ in order to transport luggage from one accommodation to the next for the length of the walk. It was refreshing to finally encounter other backpackers.
We leave together for Olton, walking and talking. The bonds build quickly and time flies, Adam is a excellent navigator. Where I stand, ponder and try to establish the correct route, Adam is able to glance at the map, his surroundings and decide upon the right direction expertly.
I take in my surroundings. I would’ve never been able to navigate this. It was an expanse of endless fields. Sometimes there were tell-tale signs of walkers passing by such as flattened grass or muddy bootprints. Or there was the occasional c2c sign. The coast to coast is a very popular walk, but for this leg it was like trying to follow a faint bread-crumb trail in vast and extensive fields.
|Fields with no significant landmarks for navigation…|
Day 6 – Restock Day
(Olton to Kirby Stephen)
|Day 6: 82 miles in!|
Day 7 – Knee Deep in Mud Day
(Kirkby Stephen to Keld)
|9 Standards Rigg|
Fun Facts/Week 1 Round-up
- The first half of the Coast to Coast walk complete! (over 90 miles: 28th August >> 4th September).
- I budgeted on £15.00 a day and I stuck to this completely for my first walking week. I’d spent a total of £100.30 including camping fees and pub meals.
- Accommodation cost for the week: £40.25
- I’d met more Canadians/Americans then I have British people doing the walk (only 2 Brits!)
- Nights at: 1 good samaritan’s sofa, 1 400m wild mountain camp, 1 Youth hostel, 2 campsites, 1 hotel garden and 1 caravan park.
- It took around 4 days for me to get used to walking with the weight of my pack (13 – 15kg).
- I’ve been quite lucky with the weather, I hadn’t been rained on yet other then the odd, 5 minute of light scattering rain.
- Got lost 5 – 10 times, but what better way to learn to map read then be out there on the field doing it :).
- Flip-flops and a red water bottle lost.
- Learning curves: A rucksack makes you walk a lot slower. I now carry 2L of water with me instead of 1L. Eat little amounts regularly to keep your energy levels up. Walking with wet socks is the worse, most grimey feeling ever. You can only get good at map-reading with lots of practise.
- Anwar, if you read this, Thank-You. You’re my hero and your actions on Day 1 helped to restore my faith in humanity.
- My train fare from London Euston to St Bees was £29.35. Book way in advance to get cheap prices.
- On Day 2, I got lost near Black Sail Hut. This area is notorious for serious navigational errors. Please see the notes at: http://www.wainwright.org.uk/coasttocoast.html to avoid making the mistakes that I made.
- To read part 2 of my coast to coast walk, go to: http://days-of-adventure.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/my-coast-to-coast-walk-week-2.html