Two years and a few months ago I was following Alfred Wainwright’s coast to coast walk across England, starting at St Bees on the Irish Sea coast and finishing at Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea coast.
I wasn’t alone. I was with my husband John. He’s my mate (in this context I mean good friend). In fact he’s my best mate. There’s very little I do without him.
I kept a daily diary on my iPad with the intention of writing some blog posts about it but the iPad was stolen before I made it back home to Australia. And back then I hadn’t come to grips with iCloud so when I lost the iPad I lost all the data on it.
I downloaded photos onto the iPad every day but–phew and thank goodness!–I didn’t delete them from my camera. So at least I have a visual record of the walk.
And at long last I’m putting pen to paper, so’s to speak, and will reconstruct the walk from the photos.
It was the summer of 2013 and the weather, except for our days in the Lakes District, was glorious. You’re never alone on this walk as it’s popular. We met plenty of UKers but also a lot of internationals. The UKers, being locals, have the advantage of being able to break the walk into two or more segments but the internationals were to a person doing it in one hit.
John and I had our itinerary organised by a company called Mac’s Adventures and they did a great job. It was one of those walks where your luggage is transported between your nightly accommodation so all you have to carry is a daily backpack–which became increasingly lighter as the days progressed! Amazing how heavy even a few items become after a few hours.
How tough is the walk? The guide book says ‘Undertaken in one go the path is a long, tough walk with some fairly steep gradients’. Most of those are in the Lakes District.
In total the walk is around 200 miles. Mac’s arranged each of our days into varying lengths the shortest being a stroll of 7-1/2 miles and the longest 23 miles (37 km to us Aussies). There were three days of 20+ miles and they were shattering.
This walk is do-able but it’s testing!
We spent two nights at St Bees, thinking it would give us a chance to have a look around the town. That took us all of a couple of hours! so we took a taxi (no train or bus service on the weekend) to Whitehaven, 8 miles away with the intention of walking back along the cliffs, which is in fact the track we’d be taking the next day on the start of ‘the walk’, only in the opposite direction.
Whitehaven’s a small port and used to be a centre for coal mining. We came across the water works building on the wharf and were immediately enthusiastic, for a moment, about buying it and doing a Kevin McLeod’s Grand Designs project.
The walk back to St Bees was a taste of what we were in for over the next 18 days. Along the cliff, perilously close to the edge at times, overgrown, we were both silently thinking, ‘Is this a good idea?’ We resolutely kept our smiles plastered on. So much so that the next morning our eagerness had us up early and down at the beach picking up pebbles and wetting our boots. Tradition demands these gestures. The pebble is to be carried to Robin Hood’s Bay where you drop it into the North Sea. And the boots are to be wet again in said sea to mark your completion of the walk.
I think I’ve waffled enough for now. In the coming weeks I’ll take you up and down mountains, through bogs and across heather-laden moors to give you a taste of what the walk shows and gives you.
Cheers and Bye for this week.