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Journeyman's Coast to Coast Journal 2006
The Day Before
Sunday 11 June - Arrive St. Bees
As I have said earlier all the arrangements were in place for Ron to accompany Malc & I to St Bees but we had to bring forward our intended set off time from 10.30am to 8am on Sunday 11 June because Ron was in the middle of a course and had to be back in South Yorkshire as soon as possible for some study. This didn’t bother me too much and I spoke to Malc a couple of times during Saturday afternoon. He had already had two calls outs to work but he said there was no problem with the earlier set off time for him BUT that he was on 24 hour call out up to 6am on Sunday morning. Somehow I knew what was going to happen. Malc had arranged for his son to drop him off at my home address for 8am when Ron would also attend and leave his own car on my drive.
I was up early that morning. Linda had helped me pack my suitcase and rucksack the night before but we crossed checked the extensive list of gear and clothing I wanted to take: Brasher Hillmaster GTX Boots – yes, Leki walking pole – yes, small hand towel (I clip this onto my rucksack strap in hot weather to use as a facecloth), first aid kit with an extensive list of contents including Compeed, Anthisan, scissors, safety pins etc. etc. I had given Malc a similar list to ensure he didn’t overlook some essential item. Ron arrived at 7.45am and we had a drink in the kitchen waiting for Malc. 8am came and went – no Malc, 8.15am came and went – no Malc but the telephone rang and yes it was Malc. He had visited my home on at least three previous occasions and despite me giving him pin point instructions as to how to get there he got lost. Was this another errant journey – No. Unfortunately Malc had been called out during the night and didn’t get home until 6.10am. He had started to pack his gear the night before and thinking it was pointless going to bed he sat down with a drink and yes you’ve guessed it, he fell to sleep. His wife Margaret roused him and with the help of his wife and son he packed his gear in the car and set off to our house. He arrived shortly after 8.30am and we transferred his gear into the back of my car and we were ready to roll. Malc transferred enough bottled water from his son’s car to supply the drought hit parts of South Eastern England and I looked in amazement at how much he would carry on day one of the walk and what he would do with the rest – bearing in mind the baggage carriers stipulate no more than 20kgs per bag. Also I wondered what else Malc had got tucked away in his large hold all. I found out later on arrival at our accommodation. His walking pole was about 4 feet long and straight and to be honest it would not have been out of place as part of the substantial fence at the top of Loft Beck i.e. the Brandreth Fence. Linda asked Malc if he had got all his gear including first aid kit and anthisan for allergies to which Malc replied ‘I’m only allergic to one thing – small portions.’ I gave Linda a hug and kiss and started the 160 miles or so journey up to St Bees at 8.40am. Despite his lack of sleep Malc was alert and really looking forward to his 4 day stroll on the hills.
The journey was uneventful really but fairly slow in places – why is it that you always get behind the slowest tractor and trailer on the most difficult stretch of road. Yes it happened to us on the A65 near Gargrave but we were in no desperate rush – apart from Ron who wanted to get back as early as he could and at set off time we were already 40 minutes behind his preferred schedule. We had planned to have a break somewhere along the route and we decided to push on to the main west coast road near Black Coombe before stopping – about 30 miles from St Bees.. Linda had packed us more than enough sandwiches to support three pit stops and we stood at the rear of my car in an extensive lay by with the boot open having a drink and something to eat. It was at this point that Malc started talking about the kit list I had sent him and he produced a small trowel from his bag saying ‘I could understand most of the stuff on the list but what do I need this for?’ After a few seconds Ron and I just collapsed in laughter. I must admit I didn’t quite understand what Malc was doing but he tried to convince me I must have mistyped small towel
We continued our journey into St Bees and went straight to Stonehouse Farm, our pre walk accommodation. I had been in contact with Carole to advise her of our earlier than anticipated arrival and she told me that she may be out but not to worry as someone would show us to our rooms etc. This was the case as Carole was out clipping sheep and her mother booked us in, we unloaded our gear, said goodbye to Ron and he was off in my car faster than Michael Schumacher. I asked him to ensure we were informed when he arrived home safe and well. We had arrived in St Bees at Stonehouse Farm a short time before 1pm. Malc and I had discussed an option suggested by Carole that we walk the first 6 miles or so of the C2C walk that afternoon. After a short discussion we agreed it was not for us for a number of reasons. Firstly, we wanted to have a walk down to the beach at St Bees, find the official start point for the C2C walk, take a few photographs, find the statue of St Bega and have a look around the village. Secondly, we did not particularly want to set off walking after a lengthy car journey and finally we fancied a pint of beer.
It was a warm sunny afternoon in St Bees and we were keen to have a walk as soon as possible. We wasted no time in sorting our gear in our room, room 6, which was on the upper floor with great views through a skylight of the South Head at St Bees. The room was clean, spacious and well equipped with an en-suite room containing shower cubicle, toilet and wash basin. It was more than adequate for our needs. We discussed what we intended to carry the following day and packed rucksacks accordingly. Malc made us a cup of coffee saying ‘I’ve got just the thing to have with this coffee?’ and produced an extremely large packet of cheese thins from one of the numerous pockets of his hold all. I had a couple with my coffee whilst Malc seemed to savour a few more of this delicacy than I did. Malc was having difficulty trying to fit all the half litre bottles of water he had brought into his holdall. He only wanted to carry a couple on the first days walk but I persuaded him that 4 would be more appropriate. He kindly gave me a couple of bottles to top up one of my hydration bladders but still had difficulty fitting the remainder into his hold all. It was at this point I found out what else Malc had brought in his holdall – apart from his clothing that is. He had enough boiled sweets to stock a confectioners shop. We had a bit of a laugh about it but I must admit we both consumed a couple of sweets on the way out of Stonehouse Farm down to the sea front at about 2.30pm. We had been told on arrival that several other C2C walkers were staying at Stonehouse Farm that night. Who were they? Where are they from? What schedule are they on? Will they want company whilst walking?
All sorts of things flashed through my mind as we walked the .6 of a mile down to the sea front. I had been waiting for these moments for almost a year. I had seen dozens of photographs of St Bees and read countless journals and diaries but I must admit as we approached the sea front a few hundred yards from the South Head I thought to myself ‘ Yes, I’m here at last’ and a tingle went running down my spine. I couldn’t wait to get started proper but first where is the official starting point. I had seen loads of photographs and found the section of wall that should contain the official start plaque. It was missing. Whilst this may seem to be a minor point I felt quite disappointed that this first key photographic opportunity would be lacking in detail. Malc took a few photographs of the beach and surrounding area on his telephone and then sent them back to his family. I don’t have such a modern piece of telephone equipment – just a fairly standard Nokia so Malc kindly sent a couple of pictures back to Linda who I spoke to informing her where we were and asked her to let me know when Ron arrived back. It was a Sunday afternoon and the beach area was particularly busy with people on holiday at the near caravan park and of course day trippers. Whilst Malc was sending the photographs back home not being satisfied that the official starting point had been damaged I scoured the entire sea front to ensure the official start point had not been moved. We chatted a little about the route tomorrow as we walked back up to Stonehouse Farm in St Bees centre. We went to the Queens Hotel, our intended venue for this evenings meal, to check on the times for evening meals. I had a pint of Mansfield Smooth and Malc had a pint of Kronenburg 1664 lager. We were told 6.30pm but the bar person wasn’t that convincing and we suspected it may be 7pm – and later that evening we were proved right. Linda told me that Ron had arrived back well before 5pm – I told you he set off like Michael Schumacher.
We went back to Stonehouse Farm and met Carole who was now back home. I asked if I could settle our bill this evening and she said it was OK. We chatted for a while and she confirmed that the official starting point sign had been damaged a few weeks before and not yet repaired. We washed, changed and had a coffee before setting out to the Queens Hotel shortly after 6.30pm when I settled our bill with Carole and gave an indication of what we would like for breakfast and packed lunches the following day. It was busy in the Queens Hotel and Malc & I tried to identify other potential C2C walkers. We had a few drinks with our evening meal which was excellent value for money. We both had cod (we were served with 2 pieces each) in Jennings best beer batter, chips and peas and I had my favourite dessert of bread & butter pudding. As we observed other meals being served I would certainly recommend the Queens Hotel for evening meals. We correctly identified a number of people in the Queens Hotel who we/I were to see along the C2C route over the following days – none of whom incidentally were staying at Stonehouse Farm – so who were the other guests? We arrived back at Stonehouse Farm at 930pm and Malc crashed out to sleep as soon as he hit the pillow – bearing in mind he didn’t have any sleep the previous night I think he did well. Incidentally I couldn’t resist taking a photograph of the trowel and an additional photograph of Malc holding the said item with a puzzled expression on his ‘what’s this for?’ (see above). Perhaps the trowel may come in handy somewhere on the high hills – time would tell.
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