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


  1. Oh man, George! I am really going to enjoy this series. The photos scream out an invitation to try the same trek. Who knows? Maybe I'll be contacting you to get some practical tips on arranging my own C2C.

  2. To Lorenzo,

    Thanks, and by all means, do this trek! It is both amazing and life-affirming. Challenging to the body, invigorating to the spirit, and intellectually interesting because of its history and literary connections (Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Ruskin were all from the Lake District). Go, go, go!

    I'm still trying to catch up on things, one being to read what my friends have written during my absence. I look forward to reading your latest postings.

  3. The photos of the landscape East of St. Bees Head, the coastal path above St. Bees Head and the path above the cliffs are show magnificent views...can't imagine anything better!


  4. Oh my - THAT was an amazing adventure. How did you ever watch your footing with such stunning views on every side?! Of course the sea views are amazing, but I adore the shot of the landscape east of St. Bees.

    Looking forward to the rest of the journey! It seems that the 'walk' was everything you anticipated and more. So happy for you.

  5. I'm glowing as green as the grass of those fields your walking thru! Wow! Molto Grazie for sharing the pics with those of us stuck in recuperation mode! Gives me more goals to dream about in between and during naps!! Thanks again, Karin

  6. To Wanda and Bonnie,

    Thanks for the nice comments, It's interesting that both of you were drawn most to the photo of the landscape east of St. Bees. Against the ruggedness of the coastline, there is something reassuring, I think, about the rising patterns of fields and pastures.

  7. To Karin,

    Wow, Karin. I'm amazed at what you've done. Good luck on your full and speedy recovery. Just start planning your own C2C; it will get your juices stirring. Thanks for the nice comments.

  8. The experts tell us that Great Britain is tipping over slowly, a few millimetres a year. The east is going down and the west going up. It must be all those stones being shifted from west to east!!!
    I am following this trip with great enthusiasm...Tramp

  9. Looking forward to the rest of this! You must have almost walked past some of the schools I work in in Richmond. (I've never walked the path myself but I'm often in the various areas it crosses).

  10. To Tramp,

    Thanks for the comment, Tramp. Very, very interesting. I didn't know that Great Britain is engaged in a major geological shift. Hopefully, my brief presence on the landscape did not disturb the balance.

  11. To Dominic,

    Thanks, Dominic. The area around Richmond is certainly beautiful. You are lucky to have easy access to such a place.

  12. I just discovered your place here via your comment at Lorenzo's. I'm glad I did. I like what you read, what you say, what you photograph, and how you live - and how you share it.

  13. To Ruth,

    Thanks for your kind and generous comments, Ruth. I checked out your blogs and signed up as a follower. I'm sure I am going to enjoy your writing and photos. Anyone who uses "Paris" in the title of one blog and "Rumi" in another is a friend of mine. Thanks again.

  14. That is very kind, George. Just FYI, synch-ro-ni-zing is my main blog. I post on RUMI DAYS daily, and Paris Deconstructed is in hiatus, though something of me is always in that city.

  15. Hello, George. Thank you for your kind comment at my site. It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm impressed that you worked in the legal profession. I'm fascinated by law, but I didn't have the guts to pursue it as a profession. And your yellow lab is so beautiful.

    As for this! I would love to do the C2C. We have a similar one here on the Appalachian trail that I've always wanted to do. Your pictures are fantastic. What a beautiful landscape. I love reading your observations and descriptions of the terrain. I look forward to reading it all.

  16. Thanks for the clarification, Ruth. I signed on as a follower of your main blog.

  17. To Julie,

    Thanks for the generous comments. I look forward to following your postings as well.

  18. Again, thank you.

    So I came back and actually read and studied this whole post, after my initial Oh isn't this a wonderful blog browse. The coastal path, the cliffs, the bay, those fields, views, etc., are so envigorating I can totally see wanting to do this trek. In fact, on our way home from a family reunion last evening I told my husband about the inspiration I'd gotten from your post and blog and asked him, Why aren't we hiking again? We have a beautiful state, and you, sir, have motivated me/us to get off our duffs and out there on foot and bicycle. Cheers to you! Now off to the next installment of C2C . . .

  19. Ruth,

    Thanks for the comments. Life is a dance, dance is movement, and the best movement is walking. Walking can be rewarding anywhere, assuming one can pay attention and remain present with life in every glorious moment. Take the C2C, however, and it will take your breath away.

  20. Interesting hike, sounds like one I might have to make one day. I came to your blog via a shoutout by Ultralighter.

  21. Go now, Sage. It will be one of the greatest experiences of your lifetime.