The foul weather was less omnipresent on the walk to Ennerdale Bridge and we experienced intermittent, rather than consistent rain. The weather seemed to have cleared in St. Bees, but we were walking away from what was now reasonable weather, toward a more indeterminate sky. The thin aqua blue strip across the photo shows the Irish Sea at St. Bee’s Head. By lunchtime we had arrived at the apex of the day, Dent Fell (1155 feet above sea level). We learned how to look for cairns, the big pile of rocks to my side, and little did I realize at this point how cairns, not diamonds, are really a girl’s best friend. Prior to reaching Dent Fell, one of the many highlights was walking on some old railway lines that had been converted into an artsy bike path alongside Scaregill Beck on the way to Moor Row. Looking backward at St. Bees Head, only twelve or so miles into our journey, it was a deep sense of accomplishment to see the Sea at our back.
There is an interesting contrast, obscured in this view, of England’s Western Coast. To the south of Robin Hood’s Bay lies a major nuclear power plant , Sellafield and to the north are a string of windmills.
It was after Dent Fell, through Nannycatch Beck where my husband first heard, what he thought, was an Adder. Now he is not afraid of snakes, but is rather sympathetic to my neuroses and fears. In the tall grass we heard a clicking sound, which I thought was probably an insect, but once he posed the question, “Adder?”, I didn’t want to find out. The clicking noise became the Beastie of our trip, hurrying us along at times when we might have dawdled. It is also at Nannycatch Beck where we met our first Coast to Coasters. Having never before participated in a long distance hike of this kind, we were naive to the fact that it is quite impossible to have folks with whom you travel over the course of your entire trip. Everyone’s itinerary and pace is slightly different, so you find yourself drifting in and out of one another’s lives over the course of your journey.
Although Sandwith, where we resumed our walk, was one of the more populated towns we passed through on our walk, it is a town with only one business: The Dog and Partridge Pub, which to our sad discovery had a For Sale Sign attached to its side entrance. To our dismay we learned of the great pub crisis across rural England. Public Houses, often times the center of community activity and life, are closing in record number. The Dog and Partridge offered a necessary respite and revitalization point for our walk and like many of the businesses encountered on the Coast to Coast rely on the trade of walkers and troubadours to sustain their business. Should you find yourself walking this way, be sure to check in and have a drink. The current proprietor does not sell food beyond peanuts and crisps, but there are a full range of beverage options and real ales, which although I am not a beer drinker, it is my understanding they are equivalent to US microbrews.
This pub was in great contrast to the real jewel we uncovered at the end of our walk in Ennerdale Bridge: The Fox and Hounds Pub and Guest House. When this neighborhood pub was in danger of closing, the good people of Ennerdale Bridge came together and bailed out the pub, reopening it as a community-run, collective business venture. Are you hearing this, Detroit and, Binghamton, and other US cities on the verge? The pub caters to the community and warmly welcomes the walkers, who have enabled the Ennerdale Bridge to regain some of the resources it has lost over the years. Just like the US, libraries in the UK are under great threat. The restoration of the pub, brought a library back to Ennerdale Bridge and it’s housed…in the pub!
We did not spend the night at Fox and Hounds, but rather at Ghyll Farm in the town of Kirkland about 15 minute drive away. This was one of the only moments on our entire trip where we relied on motor vehicle transportation. The proprietor came to meet us at Fox and Hounds and drove us to their 17th C. Farmhouse where we spent the night in what appeared to be a former stable converted into an ultra modern sustainable guest house, with conservatory glass ceilings to release sunlight and heat, a gorgeous change from fluorescent lighting. The views were all around stunning and the food was delicious! Another slam dunk for Packhorse!