A Walker’s Journal by Anthony Linick
I look back on our time on the Coast-to-Coast Path with great fondness – for it was the very first of the overnight expeditions I was able to plan for my walking partners and, of course, because the path took us through such a marvelous countryside. We also had plenty of unplanned incidents – which may explain why our efforts feature so prominently in my A Walker’s Alphabet: Adventures on the long-distance footpaths of Great Britain, a book available either from its publisher at authorhouse.co.uk or authorhouse.com or from amazon.co.uk, amazon.com or any of the other online booksellers. This book, I am sure, would be very useful preparation for anyone undertaking a venture like the Coast-to-Coast Path for the first time.
The walk was an unusual one for us, also, since – after our initial expedition in 1984 – we let fifteen years go by before finishing the route in 1999 and 2000. I chose to subdivide the route into these three sections because public transportation was readily available to get us into position for the Lakeland portion of the route (St. Bees-Shap) and whisk us away at the end, and it could be called on to get us started on the trans-Pennine central section (Shap-Catterick Bridge) and the eastern third of the route (Catterick Bridge-Robin Hood’s Bay) as well. There are many other variations in covering the 190-mile route (usually taken west-to-east) from the Irish Sea to the North Sea.
The Coast-to-Coast Path was the brainchild of one man, the great Alfred Wainwright, who first conceived of a plan for crossing England on foot and then discovered existing rights of way that would allow for steady progress – cementing the whole venture in the imagination of generations of walkers through the publication of his A Coast to Coast Walk in 1973. The route remained an unofficial one for many years (when we began our own version of this quest in 1984 it was not waymarked) but its great popularity has lead a status so well-recognized that the Britain’s mapmaker, the Ordnance Survey, publishes special editions to its two halves, the western (Outdoor Leisure sheet 33) and the eastern (Outdoor Leisure sheet 34). Wainwright’s book has undergone a number of modifications and there are rival publications worth consulting as well – as you will see when you type in “Coast-to-Coast Path” and “guidebooks” in your search engine.
In 1984 I made all of my own accommodation reservations and, of course, we lugged our own heavy backpacks up and down every Lakeland height. By the time we undertook our 1999 adventure I was utilizing specialist carriers who ferried our bags forward for us. I was still doing my own accommodation searches, however, on this and the final trip in 2000. If I were to undertake the Coast-to-Coast Path today I would let one of the professional outfits who specialize in such matters (easily uncovered on the Internet) do both of these tasks for me. Incidentally, if you do still want to do your own booking a good place to start would be www.coasttocoastguides.co.uk/accommodation.
Even Wainwright was a bit concerned that, after the strenuous but rewarding Lake District introduction, the rest of the route might seem to be a bit of an anticlimax – maybe this is why we put off our own completion of the path for so long. In the event we discovered that there were delights and challenges throughout the length of this path – we were charmed even by the Vale of York, which Wainwright clearly saw as a boring interlude between the Pennines and the North York Moors. I hope my own account of our adventures may inspire your own and help in your planning. You can always let me know how you got on by leaving a note on the Contact Page.
It took us twenty-one days to complete the Coast-to-Coast Path, a figure that includes a number of short days at the beginning and the end of each expedition and a few variations caused by weather or exhaustion.
Day 1: St. Bees to Sandwith – 6 miles
Day 2: St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge – 11.5 mile
Day 3: Ennerdale Bridge to Seatoller – 13 miles
Day 4: Seatoller to Grasmere – 11.5 miles
Day 5: Grasmere to Patterdale – 9 miles
Day 6: Pooley Bridge to Bampton Grange – 7 miles
Day 7: Bampton Grange to Shap – 6 miles
Day 8: Patterdale to Bampton Grange – 6 miles
Day 9: Shap to Orton – 8.5 miles
Day 10: Orton to Kirkby Stephen – 13 miles
Day 11: Kirby Stephen to Frith Lodge – 14 miles
Day 12: Frith Lodge to Reeth – 12 miles
Day 13: Reeth to Richmond – 11 miles
Day 14: Richmond to Catterick Bridge – 5.5 miles
Day 15: Catterick Bridge to Danby Wiske – 8.5 miles
Day 16: Danby Wiske to Osmotherly – 11.5 miles
Day 17: Osmotherly to Clay Bank Top – 12 miles
Day 18: Clay Bank Top to Blakey – 9 miles
Day 19: Blakey to Egton Bridge – 11.5 miles
Day 20: Egton Bridge to High Hawsker – 13 miles
Day 21: High Hawsker to Robin Hood’s Bay – 4.5 miles