Day One: St Bees to Ennerdale

I stuffed myself silly at the B&B in Carlisle, pushing my already recently expanded belly to full capacity. On the train down to St Bees the weather was cloudy but not grey – luminescent rather than gloomy, bringing out the darker colours in everything rather than washing everything out. Most of the time the line ran within sight of the coast, revealing giant looming slabs of dark cliffs hugged at the bottom by dark grey sea defences like the bumper running around the front of a dark green car.

On the way to the start point at St Bees bay I got a couple of ‘good lucks’ from passing strangers, before performing the traditional rituals of picking up a pebble and dipping my feet in the sea. The last one almost resulted in me getting drenched as I got distracted by trying to work the camera I was using and didn’t notice a big wave coming until the last minute. As I struggled up the adjacent cliff I also realised that it might not have been the best idea to get the take-away coffee from the beach shop as I struggled to finish I between each huff and puff. You could probably tell from a distance that I was from London, that unable was I to live without my skinny latte.

At the beginning of the day the sea was silver and blurred with the bluish-White cloudy sky above. As the day progressed it got brighter and warmer, and the sea turned blue in response to the weather. I passed quite a lot of bird watchers focusing intently on the sea birds hovering around the cliffs. After our joyous experience with puffins on duncansby head I could understand what drove them to stand or sit there for hours with their high-powered telescopes, but without them unfortunately I could not tell today what they were umm-ing and arr-ing about.

Eventually I turned away from the cliff and inland. Almost immediately I was confronted by a row of mountains on the horizon, annoucing the entrance to the lake district. The nearer I got the more I could see that sat above them was layers and layers of tumultous looking-clouds, probably keeping the lid on the equally tumultous weather beneath them. The fact that my immediate weather was still so glorious made it even more dramatic. I’d already heard a bit about the horrendous weather expected ahead, this just confirmed it.

As I kept moving I passed several groups of people, couples young(ish) and old(ish), groups single sex and mixed. I’d already heard the route was busy – unfortunately starting on a monday rather that Saturday or Sunday hadn’t stopped me getting caught in a convoy of ramblers.

I overtook one group of middle aged women at the base of the first big hill I met, Dent Fell. It was steep and sharp; the first section was a wide gravel path through a pine plantation which was the worst kind of route in blazing sunshine-shaded from the wind but not the light and heat. I sweated my way up
Until I broke out of the trees to find and equally steep stretch of moorland ahead. This really got me as i was weaker now from my previous efforts. It started to dawn on me just how much power had gone from my body. I started feeling like I was going to vomit and/or faint as I hauled my belly and my bag up the hill, and stopping every 5 or so metres to ‘admire the view’ (which was spectacular – luscious looking green fields running up to a glistening ocean).

At the top I threw off my bag and lay prone on my back. I shut my eyes and listened to the sound of the wind whistling around me and birds chirping. It was lovely and relaxing, the sound of space spreading around me in all directions, even downwards towards the bottom of the hill, made even more pleasant by the sun caressing my face. The pain and naseau subsided, partly relieving me about my ability to tackle the walk, and partly reminding me of the reason why I was doing this

I got to my campsite pretty soon, buzzing all the way but ready for a rest and a shower. Hilly went up almost instantly despite not having touched her in almost a year. Like riding a bike somethings never leave you I suppose, similarly like my ability to then faff about with my various bags of stuff for twenty minutes without anything bar my sleeping mat and bag actually going inside the tent. Partly this was because my tent was becoming infested with large midges and I didn’t want to open my inner tent. The hedges about were humming with them, obviously attracted by the warmth and lack of wind-one benefit of the change in weather would be they would hopefully be washed away for a bit.

On the way to the local pub for dinner I passed the most amazing sight of the valley i would pass through tomorrow whih was made up of a series of large and unique mountains on either, each one’s details – crags, scree, ridges, etc – picked out by the early evening mellowing light. Behind them were the dark clouds I was sure awaited me tomorrow. I enjoyed the view while it existed, because sure as anything it would be different tomorrow once the rain and clouds descended

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