Coast to Coast and back again: nearly 400 miles in 29 days (days 1 – 7)
By Cindy West
The team at St.Bees on the LOROS Coast to Coast and back again 2016
“You must be mad” are words I heard many times before my journey started and also from folks we met on our way. There were times when I thought I was, as I laboured up hills, slid down slopes, scrambled over rocks, traversed bogs and waded through streams. There were many more times when I knew I wasn’t as I gazed on wonderful scenery, devoid of other humanity and populated only by hardy sheep, cattle and beautiful wildlife. My journey across England, through 3 national parks, the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors following Wainwrights coast to coast route from St Bees on the west coast, to Robin Hoods Bay on the east, and back, was one of the most challenging and enjoyable I have made. The autumn weather provided everything apart from snow. We had fog, hail, rain, gale force winds and magnificent sunshine as we walked an average of seven hours a day, sometimes achieving a staggering twenty miles and sometimes a mere nine dependent on the terrain.
St Bees start of Wainwrights Coast to Coast walk 183 miles
The “we” were two teams of walkers committed to raising funds for LOROS, our local hospice, six of whom planned to, and did, complete the two way crossing. The walk was planned and supported by Adrian Walker of the LOROS fund raising team who prebooked our youth hostel or bed and breakfast accommodation and the minibus. This enabled us to walk with the freedom of just a daypack, and allowed us to start at our finishing point from the previous day and get us to, and from, our overnight accommodation. Our days generally began with a 6 am wake up alarm, foot preparation, bag packing and bus loading before breakfast. After breakfast we motored to our start point or started walking from our accommodation and were walking generally by 8.45am, any aches and tiredness from the previous day having been forgotten. It’s amazing how a clean pair of socks and dry boots can raise your spirits and prepare you for another days walk. I think I did get fitter as the days rolled by and by the end I could walk more easily over any terrain, although I still had to watch where I put my feet on many occasions.
Choosing the right stone to carry to Robins Hood Bay
Our walk leader and pace setter, Tony McCleavy is a veteran coast to coaster having mastered the crossing seven times for LOROS and no longer needs a map. He helped many a lost group that we met on our way who struggled with the vagaries of their map, topographical uncertainty, and the occasional lack of signposting. We are indebted to him for his wonderful skills in getting us safely to our destination each day and for carrying the coffee and cake we so enjoyed, often in the middle of nowhere either in the damp and mizzle or beautiful sunshine and always surrounded by spectacular views.
I wish now that I had kept a detailed journal of my walk as some of my companions did because I find it difficult to pinpoint where some of the wonderful pictures I have were taken. This brief account can therefore only be based on what I remember and the old brain cells are just that…old and rather forgetful. It is only a snapshot of the twenty nine glorious days I walked with wonderful companions through England’s beautiful landscape.
The West to East crossing:
15 days with more sunshine than rain and the wind, on the whole, but with one very notable exception, at our backs.
Through the Lakes: Day 1 to 7
Our journey began at St Bees in lovely sunshine where we dipped our feet in the Irish Sea and collected a stone that would be carried across the country and thrown jubilantly into the North Sea fourteen days later. Up we went along the coastal path to start our actual eastward crossing from Sandwith to finish our day at Moor Row.
Our first serious climb came the next day when we summitted Dent Hill to be rewarded by panoramic views of this part of Cumbria and the Isle of Man that seemed so close. Having glimpsed Ennerdale water I looked forward to a leisurely stroll along its lakeside. Oh how wrong I was. Rock scrambling, stream hopping and tree root avoidance were the main features here. It was, however, one of my favourite parts of the walk.
Day 5 was a nine and a half mile stint from Grasmere to Patterdale in the pouring rain. Some challenging climbs took us up past Grisdale Tarn much of which was shrouded in mist. Our decent into Patterdale however gave us one of the most beautiful sights of the trip. A wonderful rainbow that seemed to bridge Ullswater, a sight that made walking in the rain all worth while…. If there had been no rain there would not have been this magnificent rainbow.
Rainbow over Patterdale
The highest point on our walk was Kidsty Pike 2580ft a tough six mile uphill trek from Patterdale. This proved to be my most disappointing day. The rain was relentless and, more significantly, the wind was gale force. We trudged up passed Angle Tarn, heads down, poles digging into the hillside trying to keep us upright as we battled the wind that threatened to sweep us off the fellside. Almost at “the Knot”, having passed several walkers who had turned back, our leaders took the decision that our safety was more important than getting to the top. We had lost several backpack rain covers to the wind and didn’t want to lose any of us. Sadly we turned back to retrace our steps to Patterdale, a wise but disappointing decision, as we later found out that a walker from another party had fallen and broken his leg. Back at our starting point we took our minibus, to Mardale Head and continued our walk along the shores of Haweswater to Shap. We certainly completed the right number of miles that day but not all of them in the right direction.
A better day climbing
A twenty mile stint on day 7 from Shap to Kirkby Stephen saw us leaving behind the lovely hills of the Lake District National Park and across the M6 footbridge.
Some of our team had never walked 20 miles before so our day ended with a toast to celebrate our “twenty mile virgins” achievement.
More to follow
Go to next Coast to Coast report Coast to Coast days 8-12