Sunday, 2 December 2012

My Advent Calendar - Day 2

December 2nd

Welcome to Day 2 of my Advent Calendar. Like yesterday there’s no chocolate, although again if you wish to eat some while you read please go ahead. Here hopefully you will find something just as enjoyable and also something that will last a bit longer!
            I am reliving two special weeks from my year, which my sister and I spent marching across the greatest country on earth, and hopefully giving you an idea of the ups and downs, physical and emotional, that we went through. Enjoy!

Day 1

~ The seaside, rain, soup, I am called a woman, detour, first offer of a lift, nearly get lost, late arrival, first meeting ~

We left St Bees railway station and headed west, yes west, for about half a mile to reach the sea, the official start of the walk. There we duly dipped our toes (or at least the toes of our boots) in the water and collected a pebble each, one of many Coast to Coast traditions. About a hundred metres on we spotted a large rock on the path and guessed that some brave and foolish person attempted to take it with him (or her) but chickened out.
            Visibility was poor because of the fog that lay approximately twenty metres out to sea, so with little else to do we set off. The walk climbs straight onto the cliffs, heading north for a mile or more and once on top we could still see nothing but now we were getting blown around too. We found out in the days that followed that the wind had been much worse in the morning and were thankful that Hannah’s train had been delayed, but at that moment all we could think about was what a stupid idea this walk was. I mean, who walks for two weeks in unpredictable British weather, just for fun? However it was the first day and we were feeling hopeful and so we pressed on, turning inland and finally heading east.
           Much of that first afternoon was unmemorable, especially with everything that came later, but particularly brilliant was the moment when Hannah read from the guide book, ‘ahead is a place where many people get lost.’ We laughed at this, saying we would manage fine, but twenty minutes later we were still in the same field and conceded that the guide book might know more than us. From that moment on we grew to love our helpful third member.
           There are several different guide books on the Coast to Coast and we’d looked at a couple before settling for one written by Martin Wainwright, largely because it includes the OS maps and because of his interesting commentary. In the days to come we discovered that not everyone agreed with us. However at that point we were yet to meet anyone else actually doing the walk and we felt like true adventurers.

We felt we were doing well until the clouds brought the darkness in earlier than it should have, and we still had the formidable Dent Hill ahead, which we could see, but only just. The top lay wreathed in fog and we agreed that we should get some food before tackling it.
            Eventually we located a pub where we ordered soup, Hannah a Cider and myself a humble Lemonade. The bar lady asked twice before bringing my drink over, placing it on the table with a cheeky, ‘there you go, you woman’. Sadly I can’t remember the name of the pub or I would recommend it for it’s welcoming and friendly atmosphere, and its food.

After the soup had gone we spread our map out on the table and contemplated out options. Dent Hill we decided was not sensible with evening drawing in and the mist, so we devised a detour. Back on the road we made steady progress but obviously looked downbeat because a passing motorist stopped and offered us a lift. To duck out of a couple of miles on the first day seemed very weak so we declined the offer. Thirty minutes later we regretted the decision.
            Our detour took us on a lower route around Dent Hill, however the fog simply drifted down to meet us. We quickly lost the path, but found a stone wall and followed it, using the map and all the common sense we had.
            If you have ever walked in an unfamiliar place in the dark or fog, where you can see nothing ahead, you will know that it feels as though you have been walking forever, when in fact you’ve only gone a short way. This feeling was very much with us but we pressed on and eventually found the path and, shortly after, our first camp site. It was about 8pm and almost dark, but we’d made it. There were two other pairs camping there and we joined them for a discussion of the first day.
            John, his friend (who I have forgotten the name of) and John’s Border Collie had been there for hours having set off in the morning. John was a Coast to Coast veteran, having already completed it seven times, (the dog has done it twice before). His friend, however, was less keen and seemed to have been dragged along on the promise of a pub each evening.
            The other couple were only a little older than us, and also carrying all their gear. They, though, were much better at packing than us, and we weren’t to see them again for well over a week. John was doing the walk in thirteen days and so we never saw him at all, which is disappointing because it would have been nice to know if his friend made it to Robin Hood’s Bay.

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