What is the Coast to Coast?
The Coast to Coast is a long distance walk across the width of England, through three national parks: The Lake District, The Yorkshire Dales and The North Yorkshire Moors. Devised in 1973 by the late Alfred ‘glutton for punishment’ Wainwright, the route is designed to be walked in 14 days, It starts in the Cumberland holiday village of St Bees and ends 192 miles East on the North Sea coastline, in the picturesque fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay. For more info on the route please visit the wiki page.
Why did I choose this walk?
Well, as most of you know when the Tibetan trip was cancelled I ended up racking my brains for some other nonsense to do. I came up with the idea of walking across the country after watching Wainwright Walks with Julia Bradbury (The cover girl for ramblers and country folk). I had the idea in my head it would be a pleasant stroll in the country, not knowing that it would nearly break me, destroy my feet and curse the name Wainwright forever.
On the 12th of August I set off for St Bees, my idea was to use twitter along the walk and raise more money for charity. As you will find out, I had to abandon that idea when I had to say goodbye to my iPhone.
Off I go on the 192 mile journey from the Irish Sea to the North Sea.
Pleasant little St. Bees was bustling with old people and tourists visiting the area on that windy afternoon. I spent most of the afternoon training and psyching myself up in the Coast to Coast pub drinking cider.
Wainwright or ‘AW as he’s known’ starts the walk off with a steep hike up on to the cliffs. At this point we are going north for a few miles before turning east until we reach the North Sea.
Let me introduce you to Alex the Supertramp 2.0. He would be my walking buddy for the next two weeks, and what great company he was. Though he couldn’t grow a very convincing beard and I think he was secretly jealous of my monster. Beards aside he was a walking G.P.S, His map reading skills were second to none and didn’t get us lost once on the trip. Hats of to him.
Our first of many fells to ascend and this was a rather long slog to the top. But nothing compared to what we had in store for us during the next few days.
We take one final view of the Irish Sea, saying goodbye to the Isle of Man which keeps drifting in and out of the sea mist. Then we set of down in to the valley of Nannycatch (Great name, it sounds naughty) which is the gateway to the Lake District.
Our first view of the Lake District and what a mighty fine view it is. But you do have to wonder who lives in a house like that? We have at least 3 hours of walking before we get to the campsite at Ennerdale Waters, and my feet are starting to feel it. “I’ve still got 13 days of this, Man up Sam, Man up”.
Ennerdale Water is the most remote and most stunning lake in the whole of the National Park, you can see why A.W picked this route.
It was cold and shrouded in low lying clouds so no swimming for us. It was a long hike through a valley of pine forests as the famous fells of Great Gable & Pillar loomed over us. At the end of the valley you pass the most remote hostel in the whole of the lakes, happily named The Black Sail Lodge. It reminds me of something out of a David Lynch film. I kept thinking I would see a midget dancing and speaking backwards, but alas I didn’t, so we carried on.
Our first real test of stamina – hiking out of Ennerdale Valley via Loft Beck. I say ‘our’ but really I mean ‘me’. Alex zoomed up the 1000 feet gully with no problems. Me on the other hand, was 5 minutes behind him, cursing the name Wainwright under my breath as I clamber to get air in to my lungs. “Bloody Wainwright”.
The panoramic views of Ennerdale Water and Buttermere made the pain worth it. From here it was a short walk to Honiston slate mine for a cup of hot chocolate and a pasty before a quick march down to the campsite at Rosthwaite. I say quick, i mean sprint as someone mentioning no names (Alex) was on the verge of sh*tting himself.
We escape Rosthwaite by heading up and over Greenup valley, this was one of my favourite parts of the whole Coast to Coast. The view was magnificent so we ended up walking along the high ridge to Helm Crag before heading down in to Grasmere to stuff our grubby little faces with more pasties & pies. Hey, it’s all fuel.
After a well deserved sleep in a real bed we met up with this character called Sol. A newspaper journo who was writing a story on his coast to coast adventure. He had a rough start when his friend bailed out on him on the second day and on the third day getting lost for 8 hours on the top of the fells around Grasmere. He kept us amused with stories & jokes and was a welcome addition to our growing coast to coast army.
Heading to the angelic village of Patterdale the morning mist closed in on the high fells, so tackling the mighty Helvellyn was out of the question. Today is the shortest day on the whole coast to coast, 8 miles up and over to the village of Patterdale. The idea was to push on for a few miles and wild camp somewhere, just to cut down the mammoth 16 miles to Shap tomorrow. Little did we know that the weather was turning for the worst and our problems were just beginning.
A spot of wild camping? Why not? Well to be honest we didn’t have much of a choice. The rain was beating down on us and the wind was hitting gusts of up to at least 40mph up on the fells. With my tent set up we spent the night drinking whiskey and playing cards. One of the highlights was watching Sol trying to take a piss in the empty whiskey bottle, as there was no way he was going outside. This is the last photo from my iPhone, as rain + iPhone aren’t the best of friends.
The next day we hiked over 13miles in the pouring rain to our final destination in the Lakes District, Shap.
Wet. battered. Drained, I was at the lowest point of the trip and nearly called it a day. On the high fells the wind was so strong it was turning the rain in to ice daggers, stinging my exposed skin. I’m sure the view from Kidsty Pike are breathtaking, but for us it was non-existent with visibility down to a few meters. Even when we descended to Haweswater Reservoir the rain didn’t let up and the path turned in to a gushing stream. Everything was soaked, clothes, sleeping bags, tents and even one of our coast to coast books was destroyed. I picked up the book, “F&ck you, Wainwright” I shouted, and launched the book in to a thick bush of bracken. Arriving at Shap cold, wet and extremely hacked off. I booked myself in to a B’n'B … After a quick cheeky pint of Wainwright bitter and a Cumberland sausage down at the local pub. :-)
Heading over the noisy M6 motorway towards Kirby Stephens we come across two more Coasters. A father and son team from Bristol, Fred and Andy. Fred a retired builder, Andy a music teacher. These two filthy mouthed lads would make up the final two in our coast to coast army. The day was long – 20 miles. When we finally arrived at Kirby Stephens I said b*llock to the camping and booked myself in a hotel/pub. We spent the next few hours drinking cider before it was time for me to go upstairs and nurse my blisters before heading to Yorkshire.
Off we go to Keld in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. The day was long but enjoyable, everyone was in high spirits. We had to bypass the Nine Standards Rigg because the rain had made it nearly impossible to walk on the Moors. Instead we walked along the road, before heading on to the muddy low lying moors until we hit the village of Keld later on that afternoon.
Keld is lovely. If anyone enjoys a spot of camping I would highly recommend the campsite in the village. Nestled beside a bubbling brook with the sounds of the waterfalls echoing off the valley walls, it was a perfect place to crack open the ciders and chew the fat around the fire until the early hours of the morning.
Walking up and down fells is nothing compared to the slogs along the road sections of the coast to coast. The pain on my feet after 15 miles of walking on tarmac was unbearable and every patch of grass I saw I walked on just for a bit of a cushion. The worse thing about this part of the walk was the only pub along the way had closed down, so not even a quick cider to wet the pallet.
The last national park of the Coast to Coast – The North Yorkshire Moors. The sun was beaming down on us as we left Osmotherley, we hiked up to the moors. Once reaching the top we were greeted with thick, rich purple heather which carpets the flat tops of these moors. It was another long day, about 20 miles and the last 3 miles I was fighting with my right ankle as it was starting to give under the strain.
Our camp for the night was in the beer garden of the Lion Inn at Blakey Ridge. This 16th Century Pub was a welcome sight (for my ankles) and it really is in a remote location. From the outside the Lion Inn is nothing special but once you duck through the tiny door it had such a cosy atmosphere and was a perfect way to finish such a great, but hard day of walking.
I think the face says it all, not far to go now, but A.W has one last surprise in store, by taking you the long way to Robin Hood’s Bay. Just like the start of the walk, A.W’s route takes you along the coast but this time heading south to the finish line.
No, this is not a poor mans boy band striking a pose, but a group of Coasters that have walked from the Irish Sea to the North Sea. In my head I couldn’t quite believe I was here. I had my second wind and found myself powering on, remembering very little of the coast line until we reached the first site of Robin Hood’s Bay. Fighting the hoards of tourists that line the streets of this picturesque coastal village, we make it down to the bay. Walking passed the Wainwright’s Pub with rapturous applause from the other Coasters who we had met along the way.
I still can’t believe that I’ve walked across the country, to be honest I didn’t think I was going to make it at some points along the route. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
The coast to coast is a magnificent journey. The scenery is spectacular throughout the national parks, but what makes the walk so special is the people who you meet along the way. I promise, you’ll have an adventure of a life time.