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Journeyman's Coast to Coast Journal 2006
Tuesday 13 June - Ennerdale Bridge to Stonethwaite
We were both awake bright and early this morning after a decent nights sleep – I found in difficult throughout the entire walk to sleep all night partly due to the birds singing, the early morning brightness and to be honest the adrenalin and excitement of what was to come each day. That may sound immature but that’s how it was – I had planned this walk for months and wanted to enjoy every minute of it. We had a substantial full English breakfast at 8am and spent some time chatting to the hosts about life in Ennerdale Bridge. They had left the tenancy of the Shepherds Arms Hotel 9 years ago and ran the B & B since. The village shop had been closed for well over 12 months and a number of properties had been purchased as second homes. I have seen similar situations develop in the Yorkshire Dales and sadly village life had suffered – let us hope this does not happen in Ennerdale Bridge – perhaps the frequent procession of C2C walkers will ensure village life stays alive. The Cloggers is in an area of Ennerdale Bridge called Tom Butt and we tried to establish the origins of this name. Was it a famous villager? No apparently it was derived from norse but the hosts couldn’t tell us exactly what it meant.
We were off by 9am and strolled out of the village towards Ennerdale Water. As we reached the car parking area at the head of Ennerdale Water we saw two groups of 4 C2C walkers alight from vans and start off towards Eagle Crag - what’s this all about having a lift so early in the day! We saw the two American couples who had stayed at Stonehouse Farm and exchanged a brief good morning with them before walking alongside a husband and wife team doing the C2C. They were backpacking and intended staying at camp sites where possible or wild camping if necessary. We chatted as we walked along towards the waters edge – they had stayed at Ennerdale Bridge camp site and were disappointed at the standards on the site. They were equally disappointed that they could not replenish supplies as the village shop had been closed some considerable number of months but their guide books and advance information did not indicate the shop was closed. They had arrived in Ennerdale Bridge late and had great difficulty at 9pm getting a meal. All in all they were not happy with Ennerdale Bridge but I could tell we had met two seasoned campaigners who were out to enjoy their walk whatever. I met this wonderful couple, Ian and Val from Sunderland, later in the walk but as we reached the junction of paths leading to the south and north shore routes we said goodbye to them as Malc and I were taking the longer but slightly easier north shore route partly because I was looking for a geocache on the north shore.
As we walked along the western end of Ennerdale Water and looked towards Eagle Crag we saw a steady procession of walkers including the 10 people we had seen earlier. A rough count suggested 18 people were walking towards or around Eagle Crag and others were following us. We made swift progress along the north shore route taking in the views across to Pillar on the right and the expanding views of Great Gable as we neared Black Sail Hut. It was on this section that I decided to try and beat Malc at ‘theme of the day – film/TV stars’. Things started very well for us both but his superior knowledge – or was it cheating? won the day when he threw in some ‘supposed 1920’s film star’ that I had never heard of. I raised the white flag well before Low Gillerthwaite Youth Hostel and decided that it was a bad idea to take Malc on at this ‘sport’.
The group on the south shore appeared to be making slow progress around Eagle Crag and it was therefore no surprise to us that (as far as we were aware) we were the first to reach Black Sail Hut that morning. We arrived shortly after midday – I checked the GPS ‘10 miles in just over 3 hours – not bad eh Malc’. The weather had been fine, warm and dry all morning and despite the thin high cloud the forecast was good. We re-hydrated and made a decision to have our packed lunch at Black Sail Hut to wait for some of the other walkers on the C2C. Yes, I know we would then have to achieve the 1000 feet climb in half a mile up Loft Beck just after lunch. There was no one in Black Sail Youth Hostel but we topped up our water and signed the visitors book. ‘What a wonderful oasis surrounded by beauty on all sides’. This was a magical place and I am pleased we decided to sit outside on the solitary two person bench to have lunch. I could have stayed there all day and I am sure Malc felt the same way.
As we approached Black Sail Hut we saw a piece of very short green grass directly in front of it – it looked the ideal picnic spot but on closer inspection there were thousands, and that is no exaggeration, of small brown winged iridescent beetles. The two man bench seemed ideal and as we sat there we saw a solo male walker approached from the Great Gable direction. As he arrived we had a chat – he was from Holland on a walking holiday across the Lake District. He had stayed in Wasdale and he had walked via the Black Sail Pass and Scarth Gap taking in the High Stile range before descending into Ennerdale Bridge. He was enjoying his holiday and spent some time in Black Sail before moving onwards and upwards. As we sat there enjoying our lunch I noticed that Malc was having difficulty fending off the squadrons of these flying beetles with his javelin like walking pole. They flew in from a southerly direction in waves of 6-10 and often landed on Malc – he was wearing shorts and I was wearing Ron Hill Tracksters – I had warned him about the possibility of ticks but had no idea that the extended families of Paul, George, John and Ringo would be attracted to him. What was strange is that they never bothered me – work that one out.
We sat there for almost an hour keeping an eye on the path from Ennerdale Bridge expecting the droves of C2C walkers, largely Americans, to appear over the horizon with the stars and stripes boldly aloft but no such luck – anyway Malc would have raised the Union Jack in the event of a dispute over territory. One solo male walker approached and we chatted for 5 minutes. He was obviously an experienced walker who had ‘taken a few years off’ but he was walking the C2C to Grasmere to test himself out ‘I’m just seeing if I can still do it’. Malc and I set off but this chap decided to have his lunch before ascending Loft Beck. Still no signs of the other C2C walkers. It was warm and slightly humid but we were ready for a steady climb to the top of Loft Beck. I set a steady but unrelenting pace all the way to the top but credit to Malc, who had not had the opportunity to prepare as much as I had, he didn’t quit and we both made the Brandreth fence within 30 minutes. I just had to take a photo of Malc ascending Loft Beck – partly to show the scale of the climb and partly to let him, and his friends and family, see what he had achieved (see photo).
We both phoned our wives from the area well above Loft beck with extensive views of the High Stile range and Buttermere valley. Malc sent a couple of photo’s back to his wife and family by telephone. We spent about 20 minutes taking photographs and admiring the scenery – it seemed a shame to have to move on in what was now ideal mountain walking weather. We proceeded past Grey Knotts and down to the slate quarry track leading to the Honister Quarry Visitor Centre. We passed a number of walkers heading towards the Ennerdale, Wasdale or Buttermere valleys. One couple were heading to Black Sail Youth Hostel where they had booked in for 3 days of what they called stress relief therapy. They had a permanent grin on their faces and were obviously looking forward to their break. We chatted for 5 minutes and I thought
‘Isn’t it great to meet so many really nice people.’
We carried on down Honister Pass towards Stonethwaite sometimes on tarmac and sometimes on track/path. I bagged the Honister Pass geocache on the way down to Seatoller which is the smallest I have ever seen – well done to the owner. We timed our arrival at Knotts View for 4pm and we had a wonderful welcome from Anne Jackson the owner. Whilst taking our boots off outside Knotts View we looked up towards the Langstrath, our pre booked venue for this evenings meal, and to the hills beyond – tomorrows walk. Today’s walk had been hard underfoot just about all day – we had walked 15.45 miles but we were both in high spirits and thoroughly enjoying the walk. We both had a bath (again separately) and carried out our daily routine of preparing gear for tomorrow, re charging batteries, changing maps and having a cup of tea – yes we were still eating Malc’ cheese thins – it was like a TARDIS inside the packet.
We were booked into the Langstrath for a meal at 7pm so we wandered the short distance up the road and booked in with the bar staff. They were all very friendly and we ordered our usual drinks and we were shown our pre booked table in the bar. It was quite busy throughout the evening and we spotted quite a few C2C walkers – the Australian girl and her friend who we had seen on Day 1, three Americans who we were to meet the following day on Lining Crag, a family group of Americans who had apparently lost their way a little during the day and who were also staying at Knotts View and a great couple of guys called Mick and Adie who we chatted with for well over an hour after our meal. The Langstrath has a great reputation for food and we were not let down – I had Beef Steak and Ale Pie with vegetables and Malc had tuna steak with baked fennel. The food was excellent and I heard many other guests making the same complimentary remarks. Mick and Adie were intending doing all the high level routes and they were in great spirits although Mick spoke of his dodgy knees coming down steep descents. They were hoping to reach Helvellyn Youth Hostel the following day and then beyond that they were based at Adie’s home in Kirkby Stephen for 4 days and getting lifts from friends and family. These guys were great northern England characters out to enjoy themselves and they were great company (although it wasn’t planned we walked part of the following day with them). We called it a day at 9.45pm and again it wasn’t long before we were asleep, especially Malc who was still recovering from his pre walk callouts.
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