Are We Even on the Trail? (or It’s Longer Than You Think): Day 1: Walking Across England, Coast to Coast

BIG OL’ DAY 1: St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge-14 Miles

The sun is out.  Our luggage is by the bar in the pub, waiting to be picked up. And we’re out the door and down the cobblestone street—only to meet the Zombie Van. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to know we won’t have to worry about zombies while hiking the U.K. because I am worried about everything else.

First we trek to the seaside to  pick up the traditional stones. I get a little one because who wants to lug a big honkin’ rock across country?  Then following another tradition; we dip our soles in the Irish Sea. Except we are so busy taking selfies, a big wave sneaks in, crashing over the tops of our boots and carrying our trekking poles out to Poseidon. We scurry after them like kids chasing balloons in a windstorm, and have to detangle the kelp wrapped and flapping around them.

We encounter our first kissing gate-devised to stupefy sheep and cows, and so-named because you can shut a person in the confines of the gate and not let them out until they give you a kiss.  After about four of these gates, Dallas Cowboy Fan is really tired of them and that’s the end of the smooches.

At about 5 miles, a young lady with dreadlocks is wandering toward us across a mushy pasture, asking if we know where we are.
“Uh….yeah,” Dallas Cowboy Fan replies. “Do you?”
“No. I’m lost,” she says with a heavy Euro accent. “I’ve been roaming these fields. I’m looking for the Coast to Coast trail.”

And that was how we picked up Kim, a 24 year-old woman from Berlin, who was turned around and accidentally headed back to the starting point.

And let me just take a minute to humble ourselves. Before we started, we thought we were very good navigators, but getting lost on the C2C trail is extremely easy to do because often there’s not a path. Or there are 4 paths and no signage. Almost everyone carries the Stedman book, which has directions like: “head for the solitary tree” or ” go  beyond the drumlins”. We carried it too. We also used maps, compasses, and the Gaia GPS App on our phones.  Sometimes it took ALL THREE FORMS of navigation to be sure of where we were. Getting off track is one of the common stories at the pub at night (when a lost soul finally finds his way in).

At mile 9, we meet the family from HongKong we’d met at the pub in St Bee’s. We’re so busy walking and talking , a woman comes out of her house, flags us down and tells us, we’ve missed the trail.

By mile 11, we’ve climbed Dent Hill and are able to look back all the way to the Irish Sea. Then the rain and wind hit. HooBoy…we’re having some fun now!! Everyone parts company and begins walking at different speeds.

There’s a magical kingdom on the other side of the Dent Hill as it drops to Nannycatch Gate (which isn’t a gate at all). Hopping across clear streams under arching trees, it’s easy to see where Tolkien got his inspiration for Rivendale, the Elven city. No picture does it justice.

Thinking we’d be at the Inn shortly, we trek on,  the hiker’s axiom is true no matter where you hike: The distance always feels longer than you think.

Hoots and hollers carry in the wind. We climb a hill to find 4 ATVs, 1 rider on a horse, 2 people on foot, and 4 dogs racing around in a rodeo sheep round-up. We left the 300 woolies bleating .  By now, Dallas Cowboy Fan is helping me heft my legs over the fence stiles because my back is hurting and tight. We trudge into Ennerdale Bridge. It has 2 inns, about 15 houses, no stores, no phone signal, and no wi-fi or TV if the wind blows.

As soon as we walk into the lovely Shepherd’s Arms Inn, the gales and rain whomp the building and start again. I flop in bed. My allergies are bad. My back is stiff and aching.

But a tiny little gift awaits me in the amoire that will change my attitude.

Next: Day 2: I Found the Stairway To Heaven

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About Barb

I escaped from a hardscrabble farm in Oklahoma. I'm not sure why people think I have an accent. I miss the sunshine, but not the fried foods.
This entry was posted in A Laugh, Change, Coast to Coast, Humor, Traveling and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Are We Even on the Trail? (or It’s Longer Than You Think): Day 1: Walking Across England, Coast to Coast

  1. dorannrule says:

    Oh, I am entranced with your story and the voyage across England! Your photos are crystal clear and beautiful and of course I admire your “true grit” in attempting an enormous adventure.


  2. I admire your ability to walk that far in a single day. Once upon a time, I had no trouble walking from dawn to dusk, but five miles is about my limit now.
    I’m loving the tale of your adventure, and am looking forward to finding out what was waiting for you in that armoire. 🙂


  3. Pingback: What Had I Done to Myself? Walking Across England-Coast to Coast | Before Morning Breaks

  4. M j rivera says:

    Go Barb! Advil will help now.


  5. momaescriva says:

    Loving the journey…especially since I don’t have to walk it.

    Date: Sun, 23 Aug 2015 11:16:28 +0000 To:


  6. Ooooh.
    More please.
    And I do wonder what is in the arrmoire. Not a zombie it seems, but what?
    And I do hope your back loosened its painful grip. Quickly.


    • Barb says:

      Well, you know how backs are, they don’t seem to care what’s going on. But with my back stiff, I walk like a zombie, so hopefully, I can avoid the zombie catcher van.


  7. Alice Lynn says:

    I’m loving all the details; especially, for some reason, the lady rushing out of her house to tell you that you’d missed the trail! 🙂 Feel for your sore back; hope the Dallas Cowboy Fan was not too tired to give you a soothing massage!


    • Barb says:

      Folks were amazingly helpful and kind. It reset my benchmark for gracious hospitality. Unfortunately DAllas Cowboy Fan was also too tired to give a massage.


  8. Rose L. says:

    WHAT!?? No photos of Nannycatch Gate! You describe it so well I want you to SHOW us not tell us, literally!!! Bravo to you two for this venture! Hmmm,…what is in the armoire? Is it the masseuse! He feel in love and had to follow you! Or did your sweetie send a sweet sexy negligee ahead? I’d want the masseuse! LOL


    • Barb says:

      I looked through my photos, Rose, for Nannycatch. Here’s the thing. When we topped the hill, our mouths fell open at the beauty of this magical-looking forest. And then we had to navigate down a hill of green velvet on a 33% grade with a big storm coming toward us. So we didn’t stop to take pictures, and I’m sooooo regretful about that.


  9. digipicsphotography says:

    I’m impressed with the mileage you have hiked! I’m trying to work up to 8 miles without my whole body turning into jelly. I have successfully reached 3.1 miles….then I turn to jelly.


  10. Elyse says:

    I’m thoroughly enjoying this.

    If you want clear indicators of which way to go, go to Switzerland. The signage is quite clear and easy to follow. Of course, there are all those damn mountains …


    • Barb says:

      I hiked in the Alps a few years ago, and found it quite civilized. Good trails. Good signage. And that’s where I learned how wise it was to hike from hostel to hostel and not carry 40 pounds on my back. And I agree with your brilliance, it would be wonderful if it weren’t for those mountains.

      Liked by 1 person

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