Across England on the Coast to Coast walk, part 6

Over the last few weeks I’ve been recreating a walk my husband John and I did in July 2013. We hiked for 18 days across England, following the famous Coast to Coast walk from St Bees on the Irish Coast to Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea coast.

In the last post we had made it to the halfway point having traversed Cumbria and the Lake District to enter the Yorkshire Moors.

In this post I’ll take you from our last overnight stay in Keld, deep in the Pennines, to Richmond on their eastern side.

Once again I’ve loaded the post with photos. I hope you enjoy them.

From Keld to Reeth we had a choice of two routes: one high, one low. The guidebook suggests the high route for anyone interested in seeing the scars and ruins left from lead mining days. We opted for the more scenic Swaledale Valley route which takes in several little villages, one being Muker, where we took time out for a pot of tea in the local teashop.

A tiny, lovely, place with a claim to fame of being one of James Herriot’s favourite places. It’s just off the C2C path and involves walking through meadows of incredibly fragrant pasture land. Signs at the entrances ask you to stick to the paths and not trample the plants.

2--Walking through pasture

Walking through pastureland

3--A close-up of the pasture plants--they smelled wonderful

Pasture plants. The aroma is wonderful.

Once back on the road we noticed the trend towards increasingly hard to get through stiles and the ever-present abandoned stone buildings. Any takers for this duplex doer-upper?!

Our next stop, Reeth, is a quintessential Yorkshire village that featured frequently in the 1980s TV show All creatures great and small. It’s old enough to have got a mention in the Domesday book and has long been prosperous because of past lead mining and its role as the main market town for Swaledale.

Our B&B had the very grand name of Springfield House—before seeing it we thought we were in for something grand! Turned out to be a small private residence. Very nice though, with hosts who couldn’t do enough for us.

Next morning it’s on with the boots and once more on the road to head off to Richmond, a busy market town that’s the largest on the walk.

One of the things we never quite became used to was that the path often took us through farms, to the point where we’d be walking past the house and among the buildings. Always close the gates, is the motto.

8--On our way to Richmond. The path leads through yet another farm

Always close the gates behind you!

The walk is an easy one with a bit of a climb to Marrick, passing along the way the ruins of Marrick Priory, which have been absorbed into an Outdoor Education Centre.

We didn’t stop, content to take a photo from the path before continuing on and up through the woodland on what is known as the Nuns’ Steps. So-called because nuns are said to have laid the 375 steps as a walkway to the abbey.

The trail then becomes a long walk through farmland, heading towards Marske, half a mile out of which the guidebook told us to start looking for a white-painted cairn towards the top of Applegarth Scar.  Blowed if we could spot it!  After a minute of squinting I spied what I thought might be it only to find, through binoculars, that it was a reclining cow.

We ended up taking a punt, headed for the nearest hill and got lucky; it was the right hill!

Fortunately the rest of the walk into Richmond was straightforward, along paths alternately giving views of farms, the River Swale and woodland.

Until, at last, we spy Richmond from our lofty position above the town.
13--Our first view of Richmond

We have two nights booked at a B&B in the heart of the town. 17th century oak-beamed Willance House is just off the main square and it takes us only as long as a shower and change of clothes takes before we’re off and out exploring.

The town boasts the ruins of an 11th century castle built by Alan the Red. Not much remains as the stones were scavenged over the years by locals to build houses.

We could easily have stayed another day but our accommodation is pre-booked so we must be on our way.   We therefore bid farewell to Richmond.

17--Leaving Richmond



Across England on the Coast to Coast walk, part 2

Across England on the Coast to Coast walk part 2

Well … today’s the day.

The first of 18 that see us walking from the west coast of the UK to the east coast. Through Cumbria and Yorkshire. Following Alfred Wainwright’s famous Coast to Coast walk.

The start

It’s been organised for us, so all we have to carry are our backpacks. Luggage will be transported between our nightly accommodation.

We’ve got B&Bs, hotels and farm stays lined up, some in the middle of towns, some in the middle of nowhere, and we’re looking forward to them all.

Recommended backpack inclusions are emergency medical supplies, water, lunch, snacks, raincoat, and little shovel/wipes/plastic bags for if you’re caught short.

It doesn’t take long—an hour or two on the road—to realise that’s WAY too much. In subsequent days we reduce it to band-aids, water and the minimum amount of food we think we’ll need.

As for being caught short—just make sure you do your ablutions before you head off in the morning and you can ditch the shovel etc as well.

Oh, and make sure your backpack is lightweight and waterproof—because if rain doesn’t soak it your sweat will.

But all that knowledge is in the future. Today we fortify ourselves with a full English breakfast (part of the package) and sandwiches packed by the B&B host.

Then it’s off and into the great outdoors, heading for the Lakes District. That’s those mountains in the distance.

On to Dent Hill

The first day covers 14½ miles. Mid-morning sees us puffing and doggedly panting up our first slope, Dent Hill.

Nearly killed John who began to feel very poorly early and didn’t improve for hours. At one point as we were slogging it to the top I had visions of calling in Air Rescue! But being a man he said he’d manage, and he did.

That smile on my face, you may notice, is definitely forced. In fact, our kids commented on our smiles after a few days of receiving photos, asking:

‘Are you having fun yet!’

Top of Dent Hill

The Lakes District is a hike of five days through the toughest countryside on the 4 out of 5 difficulty-rated walk, so we know we’re not in for an easy time.

Dent Hill turns out to be the worst we encounter that day; the rest is along tracks and over fences, this one deer-proof.

The sheepUp and over a deer-proof fence

We make it to Ennerdale and our overnight accommodation mid-afternoon, but as our hosts aren’t home we find the nearest pub and have a beer. Boy! Does it ever taste good—though as you can see, those smiles haven’t re-surfaced yet.

Ennerdale B&BBoy, that beer tastes good!

This becomes the pattern for the next 17 days. Hitting the road early so we arrive at our next destination at a reasonable hour.

Next week: Through the Lakes District with gritted teeth.

Across England on the Coast to Coast walk

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.

Overgrown path

The walking path between Whitehaven and St Bees

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.