“Every journey begins with a single step.” Lao Tzu.
A sign in Yorkshire dialect.
Putting one foot in front of the other is such a basic human instinct and for me is one of the most meditative things I can do. I derive such pleasure through trekking, even if I’m carrying a heavy rucksack. In the past 5 years alone I’ve completed many walks from The South Downs Way in England to the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. A list of them is included at the end. This year I completed the Coast to Coast or C2C in England and I’d like to share some details about that journey.
I had been meaning to complete this walk for several years and this year I had the opportunity to do so. I only planned it 10 days before and because I was going to do it solo I pre-booked my accommodation as I wanted to be sure that I had somewhere to stay and I could leave contact details with my parents. I also decided to carry my own stuff as I wanted to be able to say that I walked from one coast to the other unaided in any way.
I caught 3 trains to get to the start, St Bees in Cumbria and checked into a lovely B&B. The next morning after a proper English breakfast I was on my way to Ennerdale YHA 19 miles away. The first 5 miles merely go up the coast line with no progression in land at all! I saw Sellafield nuclear plant and the Isle of Man as it was a great clear day. Enjoyed the night in the youth hostel at Ennerdale with no TV, WiFi or phone reception. Bliss.
Day 2 was a wet affair through the Lake District to Borrowdale, but Day 3 brightened up. I was enjoying walking by myself, and occasionally chatting to others, sometimes walking a little while with them. On the evening of Day 3 I met two Englishmen, Rob and Mark, in Patterdale in the drying room at the hostel who were trying to dry off their very wet tents from 2 nights before. They were from Warrington and we had a quick chat. It wouldn’t be our last. I later encountered them again in the pub with a third man, Steve, and after a few beers they were talking about getting a ferry somewhere so they would have less distance to walk. I said it was up to them but they wouldn’t then be able to say they’d walked from coast to coast. The next morning at breakfast they looked a little less than fresh, but I’m happy to say they decided to walk. I arrived in Shap at the end of Day 4 but the three men didn’t arrive until hours later, seems they’d got lost! They brought with them a fourth man, Stuart and the light of my life for the rest of the walk, an adorable Labrador called Emmy.
Day 2: The Lake District in the mist
On Day 5 having set off after the 4 men and Emmy dog I caught them up and decided to walk with them. It was a super hot day and we were so pleased to come across a shed with cold drinks and food available with an honesty box. In the second half of the day we met a couple more men and walked the last 7 miles together in one big group. It was lovely and I was cruising along and feeling great. Day 6 I set off after the others as I made a trip to a chemist for contact lens solution but soon caught them up trying to find their way across the boggy moors of the Pennines. We had passed the halfway mark now and were into North Yorkshire.
Day 5: a hot 20 miles from Shap to Kirkby Stephen
The following two days were great walking through the Yorkshire Dales with Mark, Rob, Stuart and Emmy dog (Steve retired through a foot injury) and I was so pleased to have met these guys and we became a walking family. It’s amazing how quickly you can bond with people and we would while away the time playing quizzes and the miles would fly by. At the end of Day 8 I stayed in Richmond and the rest stayed further along the route in Catterick.
End of Day 7 in Reeth. Adorable Emmy dog who always made us smile no matter how tough it got. She was a little tired here.
On Day 9 I endeavoured to catch them up but firstly I had the immense pleasure of coming across two wonderful ladies from the USA. They were unsure of where they were going and as I came along the path they asked if I knew the way. I directed them and when I told them my name they said they’d already heard of me from other American walkers who I had met in a pub 2 nights before. Who knew there was such a thing as trail news? I then spent the morning walking with them. Two nicer ladies you would struggle to meet, and before they knew it we had reached their destination for the day. I however had twice as far to go to catch up with my walking family. I did 26 miles that day and I was exhausted.
Day 9: Me with Springy and Mimi, the two lovely Americans I met
Day 10 was a wet and long one of 19.5 miles to The Lion Inn, a very exposed pub and one of the highest in England. I stayed in a tent in the field next to the pub and I’m surprised it was still standing by the morning. It blew a gale and I didn’t sleep at all with the tent roof flapping into my face all night. Emmy dog managed to though, she was snoring away next to me. Day 11 was my worst day. Thankfully it was a short day, only 9 miles but I was in terrible pain with my toes continually cramping. It rained hard all day and we were cold, wet, windswept and miserable. We arrived at Glaisdale and went to the house of some friends of Stuart’s. They greeted 4 wet souls and a dog with hot drinks and food and even put all of us up for the night. The kindness and warmth of strangers throughout my trek was something I shall never forget and reconfirmed my faith in humanity. They also had two French bulldogs and Bert was beautiful. I almost put him in my rucksack to steal him away.
End of Day 11: Beautiful Bert
Day 12, our last day and we were all upbeat and ready to eat the final 20 miles.
Start of Day 12: Stuart, me, Rob and Mark all ready for the final 20 miles
Apart from some boggy fields where we all ended up with wet socks and boots it was a great final day heading into Robin Hood’s Bay. My parents greeted us at the end along with Stuart’s lovely wife, Caroline who had been supporting the men throughout the trek.
Me, Mark, Stuart, Rob and Emmy dog celebrating at the end in Robin Hood’s Bay. 190+ miles done in 12 days
Doing the C2C made me realise that you don’t have to travel to the ends of the earth to have a great adventure, you can meet amazing people in England. I started out by myself but made several friends and it was great to become part of a team. It also allowed me to appreciate what a beautiful country I live in.
Walks since 2012:
May 2012: UK National Three Peaks Challenge: climbing the highest mountains in each of Scotland, Wales and England; Ben Nevis, Snowdon, Scafell Pike in 24 hours
On the way down from Snowdon, the last mountain in the national 3 Peaks challenge.
June 2012: Parish Walk in the Isle of Man. The full walk is 85 miles in 24 hours. My friend David and I opted to stop halfway at 42.5 miles in a time of 11h16m. We would each have needed a personal support car to accompany us further, which neither of us had been able to arrange.
September 2012: 100km (62.5 miles) Thames Path Walk event from Putney to Henley on Thames completed in 23 hours.
Finish line of the 100km Thames Path Challenge
December 2012: Annapurna Circuit in Nepal – a walk with a group over 3 weeks which covered 145 miles (230km), some of it at high altitude reaching an elevation of 5,416m.
Sunset on New Year’s Day on Poon Hill on the Annapurna Circuit
April 2013: South Downs Way in England from Winchester to Eastbourne. 100 miles+ over 4 days solo in sub zero temperatures and strong winds.
May 2013: London to Brighton, another 100km walking event I did solo taking 22 hours. I got pretty sick after 80km and was held at the medical tent for nearly two hours whilst my blood pressure and temperature reached acceptable levels. They had plummeted due to an upset stomach and my lack of food intake! I zipped through the last 20km however. I shall never forget the sheer number of stiles on this walk, which become increasingly harder to clamber over as the miles ticked by.
Striding out towards the start of the London to Brighton 100km Challenge
July 2013: Race to the Stones, yet another 100km event starting in Chinnor near Oxford along the ancient chalk ridgeway to the Avebury stone circle. Solo in less than 20 hours.
August 2013: GR20 in Corsica. Purportedly the toughest trail in Europe crossing 180km (113 miles) through the rugged rocky terrain in the middle of the island. I did this with a group over 12 days.
Posing in Corsica
Jumping in Corsica
September 2013: 50km Thames Path Walk in 9 hours. I was due to do the full 100km and for once I listened to my body and stopped halfway. Five triathlons including a half iron man, the GR20 and two 100km walks in less than 5 months over the summer of 2013 had left me running on empty!
September 2015: walking the north rim to the south rim of The Grand Canyon over 4 days: see Deep into the great unknown post for more details on this trek.
December 2015: walking up and down volcanoes in El Salvador on a group trekking trip for 2 weeks.
Climbing through deep vegetation up a volcano in El Salvador
May 2016: 32 mile circuit round the island of Manhattan, NYC. Started solo and met a lovely lady from Ireland after a few miles and we finished together in 10 hours.
My certificate to show that I walked all the way round Manhattan
June 2017: backpacking 4 days in Yellowstone, USA where a bear came to greet us at camp one evening. Quite scary!
Emerging from the wilderness of Yellowstone National Park
July 2017: Coast to Coast in England. 190+ miles from the west to the east coast in 12 days across three national parks; The Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and the North Yorkshire Moors.
September 2017: Yorkshire 3 Peaks. 24.5 miles climbing a total of 1,600m up and down Yorkshire’s 3 highest peaks, Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-Ghent. A lovely day when the sun shone and there weren’t too many walkers out.
On the Yorkshire 3 Peaks with the last climb awaiting, Whernside behind me in the distance
I’ve done separate posts on mountain climbing which intersperses all of the walking! See Reaching Summits Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.