A Coast to Coast odyssey – where it all started

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. IMG_4615a 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! IMG_0159 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. IMG_0245 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.  IMG_0231We 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!

17 thoughts on “A Coast to Coast odyssey – where it all started”

  1. When we planned this trip I didn’t think about the elements so much as concentrating on the beautiful scenery. So today we start out amid rain with the possibility of lightning – we are about to learn that nature always prevails!

  2. Tricia, I’ve deleted your email from the name field.

    To let folks know, my brother Len talked to me about starting a blog in order to live-blog his Coast to Coast walk. I invited him to do it here. I trust everyone will find it of interest.

    Len is a retired academic in the field of agricultural science. He has a keen interest in conservation issues, climate change and politics. Like me he probably qualifies as a latte sipping socialist in the leafy suburbs within the family! You never know, he may stay to blog on other issues.

  3. Congratulations Len and your fellow walkers. Millionaires would envy you if only they knew what you were up to – the poor devils. Many of us here in Australia have recently seen the TV program on Sir Tony Robinson’s walk through north-east Roman Britain.

    I used to enjoy bushwalking in North Queensland prior to going into the Army way back in ancient history – and, really, I did enjoy being paid to do it in Australia and elsewhere though the choice of routes was somewhat limited (and operational duties were more “interesting” than good fun). Some of my much fitter fellow old codgers are still doing long-distance charity walks.

    Please keep us all up to date with what you are doing, what and who you find along the way, with your misadventures too. Best wishes and a safe journey to all of you. But watch out – they tell me England is full of Poms. 🙂

    Tricia: I don’t believe it – surely not rain in Cumbria? :-).

  4. Thanks Graham for that. We successfully completed our first stage earlier today and I can say that it is an absolute pleasure to be here doing this walk with a group of very special friends.
    I’ll try to get another post up about our exploits today as soon as I can. But we are going into Cleator for dinner and an ale shortly!

  5. Congratulations Len on your first blog post! I noted that you wrote it before dinner and an acompanying sample or two of the local ale. If you’d waited until after dinner to write it, I suspect that the combined effects of fatigue and ale might have conspired to prevent the blog from being written! It’s our good fortune that it was!

    I really enjoyed reading it, and felt quite envious of your experiences, although I know my legs wouldn’t last the distance between St Bees and Robin Hood’s Bay. I can visualise the scenery in that glorious part of England, and imagine what an uplifting experience it will be for you all. Stay healthy and enjoy the journey.
    Best wishes to you all – I’m thinking of you.

  6. Nola, your comment was held up in moderation, as was Tricia’s and Len’s, because you are first time commenters. Subsequent comments should be OK.

    Friends of the travellers, this is going to happen. I’m the only one clearing the mod bin at present, so please be patient.

    Len’s was held up because he was on a different computer and obviously not logged on at the time.

  7. No worries Brian – news of the wanderers will still get through a lot faster than it would have in pre-internet days. 🙂

  8. Brian, it’s not a problem that my comment was held up. I’m not familiar with the processes of moderating blog posts, but I’d hate to think that you’re feeling pressured to work on the blog. Relax and enjoy the journey!

  9. Nola, it’s no bother. It’s just a matter of refreshing a screen when I go near the computer, which is always on when I’m home. Not true, I do turn it off overnight.

    Anyway, your second comment was held up also, maybe because you used upper an lower case on your name this time. The beast can be temperamental!

  10. It looks like great fun.

    “England is full of Poms”

    I suppose that’s England’s biggest problem!

  11. I am having the time of my life, I had seen the documentaries and read the Coast to Coast books but nothing prepares you for the beauty and grandeur of our walk so far. The most amazing thing is that despite some anxiety about my ability to do this, I can’t wait to put on my boots each morning to start the next days adventure.b

  12. I am having the time of my life. I had read the Coast to Coast books and seen the documentary but nothing compares to being here and experiencing the grandeur and beauty of the mountains. The most surprising thing for me is looking up at the mountains and then being able to climb to the top!

  13. Tricia, looks as though you repeated your comment because the first was held up in moderation. As a first commenter that is what happens. I left both there as they were slightly different.

    Subsequent comments posted by you should go through automatically unless you change something in your name, email or IP address.

  14. Len & Fellow Walkers,
    Just read your blog post for the first time– Sounds like a wonderful adventure for you all, and hope the English “spring” this year is finer than the one last year when we visited Wiltshire. Nola gave us the blog site today after we all had lunch together at warm (23 degrees ) Aronia St in Kenmore. Go easy on the Bakewell tarts as they might slow you down!

    Brian & Merilyn

  15. Thanks Brian & Merilyn, This-morning I had kippers for breakfast instead of the full English version. Hopefully, will have another post up tomorrow. But desperately need to go to bed tonight – it’s been a hard last 2 days!

  16. Another sobering thing I have learned – the wonderful scenery is best seen from the tops of peaks and mountain tops – and to get there takes remarkable effort!! However it is wonderful to surprise yourself daily.

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