Welcome to my Advent Calendar. There’s no chocolate I’m afraid, although if you wish to eat some while you read please go ahead. Here hopefully you will find something just as enjoyable and also something that will last a bit longer!I am going to relive two special weeks from my year, which I spent with my sister marching across the greatest country on earth. Hopefully this will give you an idea of the ups and downs, physical and emotional that we endured. Enjoy!
My sister, Hannah, and I have always enjoyed walking, whether a gentle stroll in the woods or hiking up mountains and for a few years we’d planned to do a long walk of some kind. Finding the time though was difficult and also, which path to take. There are so many in England alone. In the end we settled for the Coast to Coast, a popular walk, although without an official footpath. We got out guide books and maps and began planning.The Coast to Coast path was first laid down by a man named Alfred Wainwright, a well known writer and walker. He chose for his start point St Bees on the west coast of England, just outside of the Lake District National Park. Then heading roughly east he plotted a route over some the of the most beautiful, and at times rugged, parts of the country. As Hannah and I walked the same route 40 years later we could not stop ourselves from noting that every town and village the route passes through is ‘a nice little place’, even Richmond, which is actually quite a big place.
The walk passes through the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Yorkshire Moors National Park before finishing at Robin Hood’s Bay some 192 miles later, if you keep to traditional path although there’s nothing against you taking detours (as long as you don’t trespass). We took in several extra miles, some deliberately and some by accident, but we kept going.
Our next decision was how long we would take. Most people do it in two weeks, although some crazy people like to see how fast they can do it. The record is still something like 39 and a half hours, which was set by a runner back in 1991. We opted for the rather more sensible 14 days. We also decided to camp as much as possible for cost reasons, and to carry all our gear. At the time I said this was the only way to do the Coast to Coast properly and that anyone under 70 and not carrying their stuff was cheating. However having carried between 10 and 15kg every day for two weeks I have now relented, you can get away with it if you’re over 65.
So we planned and at the same time began preparing for the actual walking. During the months leading up to June both of us went out separately (we live at opposite ends of the country) to practice walking 5, 10, 15 miles in a day and then do it again the next. We loaded up bags with whatever heavy items could be found, laced up our boots and headed for the hills, because we knew we had a lot of them coming up.
Now I know that there has been a lot of rain this year, but if you will cast your mind back you will remember that in the middle of June there was a gorgeous spell of sunny weather that lasted almost two weeks. We set off some time in the middle of that and so it was a little disappointing to arrive in St Bees on Saturday 16th June in the rain.Some people travel up the night before they start, but we confidently said we could take the train to St Bees in the morning and complete the first day before sunset. I left home at 6am and arrived spot on time some five hours later. Of course it does help when you can travel at 100mph. For the next two weeks we would do well to average 2mph.
Then we hit our first problem, Hannah’s train was delayed and by the time she arrived it was already 1pm (and still raining). Was this a good idea we asked each other. Well there was nothing for it now!
St Bees Head