The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Thursday 18 September 2008

C2C Day 1: St Bees to SE of Crag Fell

17 September
Distance: about 16 miles
Number of dogs: lots
Number of killer dogs: 0
Number of cows: lots
Number of killer cows: 0

The fact that this August was the wettest on record and that it's hardly been dry for the last two weeks was evident not only by the sodden ground of the campsite but also the immense muddiness of the cliff top path this morning.

We slithered and slid our way along, soon covering our nice clean trousers, and jolly hard work it was in places too. My body was already in shock, after two months of very little walking and even less with a pack on. Those muscles just couldn't get to grips with what I was suddenly demanding of them.

The muddiness was left behind as we joined the road to Sandwith and after a brief conversation with a woman who had lost her dog, we pressed on to Moor Row where we were looking forward to stopping at the shop for some snackettes and maybe a bit of lunch.

Alas, the shop is no more (and had we known that we likely would have taken a route around the village, cutting out some road walking) so on we went to Cleator. That turned out to be a good move as the tiny shop there sells excellent pies. My cheese, onion and potato one bore no resemblance to a commercial cheese and onion pasty and was delicious. Mick made equally appeciative noises about his quiche.

Although only just noon I was eager to stop for lunch, but we postponed that pleasure until half way up Dent fell.

A half-hour sojourn had seemed like a good idea for lunch, as we'd barely stopped all morning, however when we got started again my body and mind were in revolt.

I've been a touch poorly these last couple of days and although I felt okay when we set off this morning by lunchtime my head was pounding. Paracetamol and aspirin were taken and I plodded my way morosely up Dent fell.

At the top three things happened apparently simultaneously: the pain-kilers worked; my body remembered what this backpacking malarky is all about and decided to stop moaning about the demands; and the absolutely magnificent views opened up before us.

Behind us was the coast and the headland around which we had earlier walked, with farmland in the middle distance. Ahead of us was the markedly different - and decidedly lumpy - terrain of the Lakeland fells.

I had a positive spring in my step by the time we started the descent, which soon becomes a killer descent.

Had it not been just 2.20 I would have been sorely tempted to make camp on one of the lovely flat spots alongside Nannycatch beck, but early as it was we continued, hoping we would find an equally nice location a couple of hours later.

As we reached the road, where the "official" route turns left towards Ennerdale Bridge, we had a decision to make: which way to go. It was a decision over which we had paused ten minutes earlier, but no conclusion had been reached. Now a decision had to be made.

We had decided before we set off that we wouldn't go into Ennerdale Bridge (I wasn't up for paying £10 to stay in a pub garden with severely limited facilities), so we had to decide where we would go.

After some pontification, we just went straight across the road and yomped across country to meet up with a path which would lead us up to the track below Grike.

We continued on until we cleared the woodland, then dumping our packs we set off in different directions to look for a suitable pitch.

I was very happy when I spotted the place where we are now situated. It's dry, reasonably flat and level and boasts the most spectacular views of Ennerdale Water and the fells beyond.

The lack of water in close proximity was a small price to pay for such a good location. Mick happily wandered off over the 300 yards to the nearest trickle of a stream and now we sit here happy for the night.

We have various thoughts as to route tomorrow. If the weather is very good and we feel fit we will quite possibly deviate significantly from the official route (and rejig our schedule) to take in some tops to the south of the valley. If it's not so good we'll go down to the valley and only deviate slightly from the usual route.

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