The Coast to Coast

Walked in August 2008

Day 0 – Friday 15th August

Home to St. Bees
0 miles

I woke as planned at around 5.30 and rushed to get ready. I had allowed enough time to get myself sorted but it just seemed to ebb away from me. I had one last go at lightening my pack and leaving behind non-essential items, but it didn’t seem to make much of a difference. I clearly wasn’t feeling ruthless enough. I left the flat at 6.35 to walk to Osterley tube station to catch the Piccadilly Line train to Leicester Square, then a Northern Line train to Euston. I landed on the platform at around 7.45, already feeling like I’d done half a day’s worth of travelling and headed to WHSMITH to buy a drink and a magazine to read before looking for the coffee shop where I’d arranged to meet Darryl.

I was pleased to see Darryl was already there waiting, so I dropped my bag beside his and went off to buy a bacon roll and a coffee. It felt odd being at the beginning of another long distance walk. I don’t see Darryl as often as I should, even though we only live a few miles from one another, and I wondered how he felt about the prospect of another two weeks of hard work and inevitable ups and downs with only muggings as company. I returned to the table and we caught up and basically chatted until it was time to go and hunt down our train to Crewe. I was amused and not at all surprised to see that Darryl’s pack was just as heavy as mine. He too had tried to be ‘ruthless,’ but had had just as much luck as me. We hadn’t learned our lesson from the Pennine Way. Our equipment was just as heavy if not heavier than last time. Clearly we still had much to learn.

At about ten minutes to nine the Crewe train arrived. We boarded quickly and just about got our bags stashed away in the luggage rack by the doors before the passageways became gridlocked with other passengers as those with large cases struggled to push their way through to their seats. There was nowhere near enough luggage space for everybody. Nevertheless the journey was swift and uneventful and we only had a minute or two to wait at Crewe before catching our next train to Carlisle. We had to wait an hour in Carlisle for the train that would take us along the coast to St Bees, so we passed the time in the cafe where we both had coffees with a toasted ham and cheese sandwich for me and a cold sandwich for Darryl. The weather was pretty dull and wet with a similar forecast for the next few days and we both had a strange feeling of apprehension about the walk. Neither of us were sure we were up for another long distance at that moment and it could be that the weather amplified these feelings. That said we were still excited and determined to enjoy ourselves, so when the train finally arrived we hoisted our bags on and found our seats ready for the final leg of the journey to the start. I was sat behind Darryl this time, and found myself staring through the window the whole way, first at the hills, then at the sea as the train wound its way around the coast, hugging the shoreline. We entered the North Lakes, passing Penrith and a lot of scenery that was reminiscent of the Pennine Way. The train to St Bees was the smallest of the day and it became clear as we progressed that to some degree the journey had been double-booked and in some cases heated discussions arose over the ownership of some seats. Generally the journey was quiet though and before long we were passing places with interesting names like Aspatria, Flimby, Corkickle and finally St Bees, the sea to our left all the way.

Once off the train we were keen to locate the campsite and get sorted out. A local man accosted us as we followed the road to the campsite, asking if we were ‘walking.’ He interrogated us in a friendly fashion, but also in a loud voice which drew the attention of other locals and walkers, embarrassing us in the process. He assured us the Coast to Coast was a great walk even though he hadn’t been bothered to do it himself. We negotiated a level crossing then followed the winding road toward the beach where we found the caravan park, the smell of the sea already inspiring us for the walk along the coast in the morning. Darryl went into the park office and paid what we both felt was an exorbitant £9 each for our pitches. The camping field was good, as were the facilities but still, we could almost have got a night in a hostel for that much money. We could see the first part of the walk already – the climb up the hill toward St Bees’ Head and I was reminded of the film Invaders From Mars where characters would disappear over a hill and be swallowed up by sand only to return later possessed by alien beings.

We pitched the tents in a rather strong breeze then wandered down to the cafe/shop near the sea front. I had already bought a few supplies before we set out, but Darryl took the opportunity to buy some provisions for the days ahead. I carried the food back to the tents while Darryl walked back into town to find a cash point. He returned a while later saying that he had begrudged paying a charge of £2 to draw money from the machine and asked to borrow some from me instead. £2 was ridiculous. With this and the campsite it made me wonder just how much tourists were being fleeced in St Bees on a daily basis!

We walked down to the Seacote Hotel above the beach. The place was practically empty but this meant it was quiet and we decided to order dinner. Darryl had Lasagna with mashed potato while I had homemade chicken curry with chips which was very nice, washed down with a couple of pints of bitter. Not wanting to get too carried away before our first day’s walk we headed back to the tents. After a shower I read in my tent for a while and listened to my wind-up radio before crashing out early. Even before the first day on the path I was pretty tired.


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