After we flew into Manchester, at the airport already, someone with a backpack came up to us and asked where we were to going to hike. We said we are walking the Coast to Coast, but first taking a day in St Bees to partially recover from jet lag. He said he had walked the Coast-to-Coast several years before and suggested we walk the start of the walk on our first day, since it actually circles back on itself, within a couple miles anyway, and, then, we should go back to St Bees for the night. Having started the walk, we would break the first long day into two parts, he would recommend it. We had actually heard already of that possibility in our reading about the walk, but discarded it, because we didn’t want to walk a day and be back in the same spot. Philosophically, it seemed not right.
Then, the B&B owner, seeing that we were staying two nights, said that we should walk the first part of the walk on our first day, shortening the second day’s walk. We thanked him, but said we didn’t really want to be in the same place after a day of walking. At dinner that evening, our waitress made the same recommendation. Joel and I decided we should maybe evaluate this option more. Was it cheating?
Well, actually, Alfred Wainwright had designed the walk to circle back on itself, because it was important to him to have the C2C walkers spend the first part of the walk on the cliffs above the Irish Sea. The west-to-east cross country walk actually begins in a north-westerly direction for several miles to achieve this. It is counterintuitive, but that’s what it does.
The walk does wind back on itself. That was not our design, but the established route of the walk. We will, at other points of the walk, need to stay in a B&B not directly on the trail, so that was not anti-theoretical for the walk to sidetrack a bit to go back to St Bees. Then, there was the prospect of two short days starting the C2C walk versus one long day. It wasn’t really cheating, we wouldn’t be interrupting the solid line of our walk across England. Maybe, it was a good idea.
We decided that it was a good idea. So good, in fact, that we soon had ourselves convinced that we had come up with the idea ourselves, and had intended it that way the whole time. And, we did it. We started the walk today. We consummated all of the start-of-the-walk rituals. On the beach at the Irish Sea, we dipped our boots in the water, then we collected our pebbles that we would carry across England and drop in the North Sea at the end. Then we went to the “Coast-to-Coast Wall” for a picture. And, then, we headed up to the top of the cliffs over the Irish Sea, and continued north west!
It was a tough start. The wind along the top of the cliffs was blowing in 50 or 60 mph gusts – non-stop, constantly! It was a struggle walking in it – for miles and miles. It was chilly. The ground was never even. Good that we were breaking this first day into 2 days!
After forever, we made the turn east. We were now walking across the country! It didn’t take that long, after that, to get lost. Actually, we made it impossible to get lost on the C2C. Joel had acquired a GPS app for his phone and downloaded the whole walk. A little arrow on the screen is always “us” and as long as that little arrow is on the trail, we were on the trail, and we were alright.
But, we had to leave the trail to walk back to St Bees. It was supposed to be easy. We pick a trail, which we were advise to take at the B&B. Something went wrong, we got our directions crossed, we dead-ended at a murky creek that was just about the 6 feet wider than we wanted to wade. We turned around and added several miles and an uphill to our “short” first day walk. A kind farmer and his daughter put us on the right track, though Joel and I recounted the instructions they gave us after they had left and had heard two different versions of their instructions. Was it the dialect of the area? After a number of uneducated guesses and some dumb luck, we stumbled back into St Bees nearly an hour later. We just had dinner. I had 2 glasses of wine to numb the pain in my feet, legs and back. I am heading to bed now. Below are two photos of the St Bees Priory Church.
The original priory was founded by St Bega. She was an Irish princess who sailed to England in a small boat to escape an arranged marriage with a Norwegian prince. She landed and and decided to found a priory. She asked a local landlord for land, on which to start her church. The landlord told her that she could have all the land covered by snow on the next day. It was midsummer. Well, of course, a large area of land was covered in snow the next day. St Bega was a saint, after all. With that, I will post two picture of the priory as it looks today – the oldest surviving parts date back to Norman times. Now, I am going to bed!