It must be around 2 years ago now that a group of four friends and I first spoke about completing the Coast to Coast (C2C) walk across northern England. And so here we all are, eager to get going on our C2C odyssey on 26 May, 2014!
The walk starts at the small village of St Bees on the Cumbrian coast and ends at Robin Hoods Bay on the North Sea coast. It was devised in 1971/72 by noted English fell-walker, Alfred Wainwright and the details of the walk were published in his 1973 book – A Coast to Coast Walk (a revised edition is still in print!). Since then the C2C has achieved international popularity and around 10,000 people from all parts of the world now complete it each year. For example, we came across a chap from the USA down in the village this-morning. He told us that he and his 78 year-old mother are starting the walk tomorrow! We may well see them on the track. A recent survey of long-distance walkers rated the C2C as the second-best long-distance walk in the world!
But it isn’t without it’s challenges. It is just over 300 km long (varies with the precise route taken – there are several alternatives in a number of places, frequently a high altitude option (with expansive, spectacular views) and a low altitude, more intimate parallel option). As well, there are plenty of hills and mountains to climb, with the total ascent required over the walk around 7,000 m. And maybe even more important, the amount of descent is the same (assuming sea-level is the same in the Irish and North seas!).
So with these challenges in mind, we decided to complete a series of one and two-day training walks around South-east Queensland (Australia – where we all live), starting about 12 months ago. Over this period we have walked close to 200 km as a group, mostly along the excellent National Park network of walks. These walks culminated in a 45 km 2-day trek along the ‘Border Track’ from O’Reilly’s to Binna Burra and return. Here we are at Binna Burra about to set out on the return journey on the second day of our walk. And so on Saturday, 24th May, we all converged on Manchester Airport from various parts of the world (Rome, Paris, London), meeting at the Delice de France Café, Terminal 3. Here we are, all looking excited in anticipation of what is to come! The couple on the left are Doug and Tricia Smith, while the couple on the right are Laurie and Tricia Sheahan – both have been close family friends for nearly 40 years! While we have had many very enjoyable experiences together, this is the first time we have engaged in an activity as enterprising as this. But I must say that our preparatory walks together have been most enjoyable. My wife, Nola, is a great Anglophile and I’m sure would have enjoyed many things about this trip. But she is not a keen long distance walker ….. so stayed at home this time.
From Manchester, we travelled by train to Barrow-in-Furness and then up the very picturesque Cumbrian coast to St Bees.
We then spent Sunday 25th May relaxing in St Bees, readying ourselves to start our great adventure. Opposite the Fairladies Barn, our B&B accommodation in the main street of St Bees, is the little pub …. see below. Here, we have had lashings of home-cooked fare on the last two evenings, along with a pint or two. Roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding, meat pies (with plenty of meat), and blackberry, apple and rhubarb pie have variously kept us (too well) fed and ready to go. The C2C from west to east starts on the beach at St Bees and proceeds immediately up onto the high cliffs of the St Bees Headland. If you were sitting in the tea-house in the building on the left in the picture below, you would see us disappearing into the distance along this high cliff-top 0n the start of our journey. After several hours we will turn inland towards the Lake District and ultimately, the North Sea coast. We intend to travel at a leisurely pace compared with many who complete this walk. Our plan is to spend 20 days walking (averaging 15 km/day) and have three rest days along the way. We found to our surprise that the tea-house listed a slice called ‘Australian Crunch’ among its delicacies. It must be popular since it was sold out. So I can’t tell you what it was like. But the ‘Bakewell Slice’ was delicious!
My plan is to make regular posts along the way. But I can’t promise any particular frequency since it will all depend on many factors, including internet access (or lack of it) in some of the small villages. And there may be other activities that compete for my time along the way as well!