Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Hiking Towards Grasmere 
Eagle Crag Above Path


The third day of our coast-to-coast trek across England was a relatively short but challenging ten miles between Rosthwaite and Grasmere. Before sharing the experiences of that day, however, I invite the reader to a sonnet by Wordsworth, the Lake poet and nature mystic whose name will always be associated with the Lake District, particularly Grasmere, where he lived and wrote for a significant period of his life.  The sentiments expressed in this sonnet explain why many of us are drawn to the rugged, pristine beauty of places like the Lakeland Fells.


    The world is too much with us; late and soon,
    Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
    Little we see in Nature that is ours;
    We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
    This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
    The Winds that will be howling at all hours
    And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
    For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
    It moves us not -- Great God!  I'd rather be
    A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
    So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
    Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
    Have sight of Proteus coming from the sea;
    Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.


Coming out of the Borrowdale Valley
Rosthewaite in Distance

Ascending Through Ferns Toward Greenup Edge

Continuing the Ascent

Greenup Edge and Lining Crag in Distance
Note Outline of Path on Slope Beneath Crag

The Path up Begins to get Muddy

Beginning Descent Toward Grasmere

Small Waterfall Near Lunch Site 

Continuing Towards Grasmere

Coming into Grasmere

Houses on Stream in Grasmere


Leaving Grasmere, we took a country lane to Mill Bridge and then followed a rocky path that ascended alongside Tongue Gill to the top of Grisedale Pass (aka "Grisedale Hause").  Near the top, however, the weather changed abruptly, shrouding us with fog and limited visibility. We pressed on, nonetheless, descending past Grisedale Tarn and ultimately taking refuge for lunch on the lee side of a hill near a monument known as the Brother's Parting Stone.  The monument marks the spot where Wordsworth last saw his brother, John, who drowned in 1805 when his ship, The Earl of Albergavenny, sank at sea.

After our brief lunch stop, we continued our descent through the Grisedale Valley, welcoming the improvement in the weather that came with lower elevations.  Late in the day, we reached the shores of Ullswater, England's longest and second largest lake. We then walked on to Glenridding, where we spent the evening after a fine meal at the appropriately named Ramblers Bar. 

The First Ascent Outside of Grasmere

Continuing the Ascent Toward Grisedale Pass

Climbing to Grisedale Pass

Hikers Seeking Refuge from Weather Atop Grisedale Pass

Pressing Over Grisedale Pass Through Fog

Lunch Break Beneath Brothers Parting Stone

Descending Through Grisedale Valley

Abandoned Stone Farmhouse

Old Farm in Grisedale Valley


The Ramblers Bar in Glenridding

Next Posting:  Days 5 and 6 -- Glenridding-- Shap--Kirkby Stephen

Sunday, June 27, 2010


South Shore of Ennerdale Water

Day 2:  Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite

By the morning of the second day of our coast-to-coast trek across England, the drizzling  rain of the previous afternoon had subsided and we were looking forward to the beckoning fells of the Lake District National Park. The day called for a strenuous, 14 mile hike from Ennerdale Bridge to the hamlet of Rosthwaite, which is located in the stunningly beautiful Borrowdale Valley.  

We started the day by walking across country lanes and paths to Ennerdale Water, the most westerly lake of the Lake District.  We then followed the rocky path along the south shore of the lake to the base of Angler's Crag, where we scrambled up rocks to a higher elevation that provided lovely views of Bowness Knot and the other fells on the northern shore of the lake.  Heading eastward again, we passed through a magical patch of woodlands before reaching the end of the lake, where we took our first break of the day.

Ennerdale Water, Angler's Crag (Right), and Bowness Knot (Left)

South Shore of Ennerdale Water

Rocky Path on Ennerdale Water
    Bowness Knot to Left
 Rocky Outcrop at top of path
 is known as "Robin Hood's Chair"

C2C Hiker Camped at Robin Hood's Chair
Bowness Knot in Background

Climbing Through Rocks at Base of Angler's Crag

The Magical Ennerdale Woodlands

 Through Ennerdale Woodlands

Taking a Break at end of Ennerdale Water

Leaving Ennerdale Water, we crossed the River Liza and headed up a track through the Ennerdale Forest to the Black Sail Hut, which Wainwright described at "the loneliest and most romantic of Youth Hostels."  After a brief lunch, we faced our first big challenge of the day -- a climb up the steep and rock-laden slopes of Loft Beck.  Once on top, however, we were treated to sensational views of Haystacks, Wainwright's favorite peak (and where his ashes were scattered), as well as the Buttermere Valley, which glistened in the distance. We then moved on to a track that descended to the Honister slate mines, where there was a welcome tea room.  From that point, we descended further into the emerald green Borrowdale Valley, ending the day with a lovely walk through Johnny's Wood along the River Derwent.  Shortly thereafter, we arrived at our evening's accommodations in Rosthwaite and Stonethwaite.

The Track to the Black Sail Youth Hostel (middle distance), 
with the Steep Climb up Loft Beck Waiting in the Background

Black Sail Hut

Taking a Break Before the Ascent of Loft Beck

Beginning the Ascent of Loft Beck

Continuing to the top of Loft Beck

View from top of Loft Beck
Haystacks to Left
Buttermere Valley in the Distance

Heading Toward Borrowdale Valley,
Seen in the Distance

Borrowdale Valley

Johnny's Wood

Johnny's Wood and the River Derwent

Walking into Rosthwaite

Next Posting:  Day 3 -- Rosthwaite--Grasmere--Glenridding

Thursday, June 24, 2010


My Group of Hikers in the Fells of the Lake District
For more than three decades, passionate walkers and hikers from various parts of the world have been drawn to the coast to coast path across England that was mapped and described by the renowned English fell-walker, Alfred Wainwright, in his classic 1973 book, A Coast to Coast Walk.  Known as "Wainwright's Coast to Coast Walk" or the "C2C," the path is an awe-inspiring route that traverses some of England's most beautiful landscapes, including those of the Lake District National Park, the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and the North York Moors National Park.  

While the British are inclined to use the term "walk" rather broadly, my American friends and readers should not be left with the impression that the C2C is a leisurely, recreational stroll.  It is a long-distance hike that often involves steep climbing, equally steep descents, and the crossing of varied and challenging terrain, including boggy areas in the moors.  As Henry Stedman has said in his excellent book, Coast to Coast Path, "let us be clear: the Coast to Coast is a lengthy and in many places tough trek."  

According to Wainwright, the official distance of the C2C is 192 miles; more recent surveys, however, have found that the actual distance is closer to 220 miles.  The path begins in St. Bees, a small village on the Irish Sea, and eventually traverses the Lakeland Fells, the Yorkshire Dales, and the North York moors, before ending in the quaint fishing village of Robin Hoods Bay, which is on the North Sea.

On the evening of Saturday, June 5, 2010, the day after my arrival in St. Bees, I had the privilege of meeting the eleven other people -- four from Australia and seven from the U.K. -- who would be undertaking the C2C with me.  On the following morning, we ascended St. Bees Head, hiked northward on a magnificent coastal path for several miles, and then turned westward in the direction of our ultimate destination on England's eastern coast, Robin Hood's Bay.  Thirteen days later, following one of the greatest experiences of my lifetime, we arrived at our destination, all of us full of joy and many of us somewhat overwhelmed that we had finally  accomplished what we had been planning for months.  As we stood at the edge of the North Sea sharing a bottle of champagne that had been graciously provided by the husband of one of our group, I could not help but think of Yeats' famous line: "Think where man's glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends."

Robin Hoods Bay -- The Destination of Wainwright's C2C

Over the coming weeks, I will be editing my photos of the C2C and creating an album or slideshow that will be posted on my blog for those who wish to follow the entire journey visually.  During the meantime, I will be making postings every few days or so about various segments of the journey.  Today, I begin with the first day -- St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge.  


The first day began the traditional dipping of a toe into the Irish Sea and the collection of a pebble to carry across England to the North Sea.  Prudent to a fault, my chosen pebble was extremely small.

We then ascended St. Bees Head and headed northwards along a beautiful coastal path, flanked by the Irish Sea to the west and verdant pastures full of sheep to the east.  After  proceeding around Fleswick Bay and up the coastal cliffs a few more miles, we turned eastward and hiked through through the villages of Sandwith and Moor Row before arriving at Cleator, where we stopped for lunch at a pleasant spot next to the River Ehen.  We then set out to face the steep ascent and descent of our first real challenge, Dent Fell, which was made all the more challenging because of a steady, drizzling rain that had begun during our lunch break.  After descending Dent, we then made our way up the narrow valley of Nannycatch Beck and proceeded to Ennerdale Bridge for a welcomed evening's rest at the Sheperds Arms Hotel.

The Starting Point of the C2C in St. Bees

First Steps up Coastal Path (Other Hikers)

Looking Back on St. Bees from St. Bees Head

Landscape East of St. Bees Head

The Coastal Path Above St. Bees Head

Young Lamb Under Gorse

Headed Toward Fleswick Bay

Descending to Hairpin Turn Around Fleswick Bay

Another Hiker Ascending from Fleswick Bay 
(Note the profusion of wildflowers)

Other Hikers on Path Above Fleswick Bay

Looking Back on Fleswick Bay

Leaving Fleswick Bay

With Fellow Hiker on Cliff Tops

Continuing up Coastal Path

On Coastal Path Above Cliffs

Heading Toward Ennerdale Bridge After Dent Fell

Sheperds Arms Hotel, Ennerdale Bridge

Noticeably absent from the first day's photos are any images of Dent Fell.  The challenges of that ascent and descent, coupled by the wet ground and drizzling rain, required me to leave the camera in my backpack.  No photo is required, however, to retain the memory of that first introduction to the Lakeland Fells that were before me.

Next Posting:  Day 2 -- Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite