When – 5 May 2013
Where – Ennerdale Bridge to Borrowdale
Distance – 16.5 miles
Walking with – Annette &Eleanor
Home for the night – Longthwaite YHA
Weather – Dry, very wet then dry again
If today’s walk had a sponsor it would be the Youth Hostel Association. The first YHA of the day was Ennerdale, where an unexpected cafe stop after two hours of walking meant the bliss of a 50p brownie (so good I splashed out and bought a second one for later on – what the hell, put a whole £1 in their honesty box, why not) and a loo. Good times people, good times.
The second hostel of the day was the famous (in British youth hosteling circles anyway) Black Sail YHA, known for being the most isolated hostel in the country. I’ve wanted to stay there for years and although I didn’t get to fulfill that ambition today I did get to shelter from the heavy rain in their dining area and have my sandwich and packet of crisps in a dry place – even if I was already soaking by then.
Finally, and marking the end of my walk today, came Longthwaite YHA, where I’m staying tonight. I was here by around 3pm but after the soaking I’d got earlier on I was ready to stop. Their drying room is currently working its magic on my boots (so wet I actually poured some water out of them when I stopped) and around half the contents of my bag which, despite my so-called ‘waterproof’ cover, didn’t survive today’s rain. I’ve met half the women sharing my six bed door room and as per normal with a YHA, I am the youngest one in there. I’m nearly 38. Which does rather beg the questions: does the YHA need a rebrand? And who is going to be staying in YHAs in 30 years time? Apart from me?
YHAs aside, today’s walk was, quite literally, a day of two halves – a dry, first half and a soaking wet second half! The walk down to and around pretty Ennerdale Water was straightforward and easy, apart from a bit of a scramble over the high steps of rocky outcrop named Robin Hood’s Chair on the southern bank of the water. Then it was a virtual romp of a four mile walk along the Forestry Commission track to Black Sail YHA, although light rain for the last mile of that section rapidly changed to heavy rain, so it was a relief to pop into the (heavily subscribed this lunchtime!) sanctity of Black Sail.
Part two officially started when we left Black Sail. Peeing down rain accompanied our walk through the gorgeous valley the hostel sits in, and by the time we had got to the top of Loft Beck (a fair old climb in horizontal rain) I was navigating with around 10 metres of visibility available to aid my map reading. I couldn’t have got our group over Grey Knotts and down the other side to Honister if it hadn’t been for the cairns marking the way. I ♥cairns today. The are, officially, my new best friends. And I’ve vowed I’m going to re-learn how to read a compass – it’s bonkers that I was up there without one: if we’d got lost up there today we would have been in real trouble, and the knowledge that I’d dragged two friends up there with me didn’t sit easily.
The rain stopped as we followed the old team track down the other side into Honister, and the easy downhill between the beautiful Seatoller Fell and Little Gatesgarth Dale would have been a pleasure if I hadn’t been so utterly soaked from (quite literally) head to toe! A final stroll along the river got me to the YHA, while Annette and Eleanor carried on to their b&b. I made the effort to walk down to the pub by them for dinner and bumped into a few of the Coast to Coast friends we’ve made in the last couple of days. A social bunch us lot, but also early to bed – it’s not quite 9pm but I’m already lying in my bottom bunk and quite ready to fall asleep!