The Coast to Coast walk isn’t necessarily about getting from one side of the country in as quick a time as possible. It’s about the journey, rather than the destination. Presumably this is why, as your first act, you head onto the beach, wet your boots and stop a while searching for a pebble to carry with you to throw in the North Sea. It also explains why, for the first couple of hours, you head North and make no real progress whatsoever. The first objective is to climb the cliffs of St Bees Head, with the Irish Sea on your left shoulder.
It is a strange sensation, midway through the first morning, when you turn right and head inland. This is the last time you will see the sea until the last day of the walk. One can’t help but linger at this point, full of anticipation for the adventure ahead. I managed to mark the occasion by dropping my lovely new water bottle, temporarily covering it in mud and permanently inflicting a dozen dents from the stone path.
I saw my first “dead thing” in the early afternoon. I smelt it first, but then saw the poor sheep who certainly has seen better days. I would estimate that I saw maybe a few dozen different dead things over the two weeks. By far the most was in the Yorkshire Dales. But nothing as substantial or as stinky as the sheep on the first day.
There are a couple of opportunities for refreshments in Sandwith and Cleator, including the famous “No Pies” shop that is pictured in all the guidebooks. When I was there, still no pies. I had my own PB&J already packed though.
The only real challenge on the first day is walking up Dent Hill, one of the outlying fells on the edge of the Lake District. It’s a great introduction for challenges to come, particularly in the wind and the rain when I clambered up it. There are supposed to be good views from the top of Dent Hill, but visibility was really poor at the top and so I couldn’t see a thing. The ascent certainly got the legs going, but the real challenge is the descent. Dent Hill has just about the steepest descent of any part of the Coast to Coast walk.
On the whole, I found the Coast to Coast walk incredibly easy to navigate. My tactic if I was ever unsure was to just sit, have a coffee and biscuit, and wait for someone else who knew where they were going to come along. I put this to the test at the bottom of Dent Hill. The rain had turned the path into a stream. This was something I’d get used to, but on this occasion I just assumed I was looking for an actual path and that walking down the stream would be wrong.
The last couple of miles into Ennerdale were a little bit of a slog, and I was very thankful to reach to pub for a beer, some crisps and looking over the map of where I’d walked on my first day on the Coast to Coast.
Forward to Day 2: Ennerdale to Borrowdale