Nearly the Coast to Coast Walk.

Walkers: Sandra and Mel Wilkinson

The Inspiration: “It’s a good expedition although I say it myself: ideal for the connoisseurs of fine scenery.” A. Wainwright.

The Preparation: I had been keen to do the ‘coast—to—coast’ For years but only when Mel saw the programme on the television did he agree to do it, walking only, not running! The only problem was that we only had 8 clays holiday and you really need 12 days to do it comfortably so the decision was made to stop at Richmond.

Mel started to work out which were the best places for the overnight stops and we booked the YHA and guest houses well in advance. The longest days were to be at the beginning, averaging about 20 miles, and slowing down towards Richmond to 10-15 miles per day. We did this as we are very ‘familiar with the scenery of the Lake District but from Shap onwards we would be in new territory, so time was allowed for us to stop, explore and sunbathe. Although we thought we would be travelling light our rucsacs weighed about 15—20 pounds, we both wore ‘Walsh’ trainers, a decision never regretted and often envied! We used 1:25,000 maps and when they were finished with they were posted home in pre—stamped envelopes (Too organised to be regular cavers Ed.) Mel insisted on carrying a big umbrella (pink and blue) — a tallisman to keep the rain off and this was strapped to the back of his rucsac causing various comments from other walkers and a distinct blot on all of the photographs.

The Journey: We started and stopped at Barrow as the train broke down but finally arrived at St. Bees to dip our toes in the Irish Sea. The first four miles along the cliff top was spectacular with views of the Isle of Man and the hills of Galloway, from here you turn east and start walking towards Robin Hoods Bay.
At the first village (Sandwith) six miles into the walk we looked for a pub for a dinner time drink - Mels birthday - but both pubs were shut. This situation continued for the rest of the walk, we wondered if Wainwright was a teetotaler or just a sadist?
From the summit of Dent near Cleator, (no not a wrong compass bearing) we could see the Ennerdale ridge and the start of the Lakeland mountains I ran down (after promising not to run!) to the stream and then onward to Ennerdale Bridge and our bed and breakfast stop. At least here the pub was open and the weather forecast for the following day was good.

The first climb of the day was Great Bourne where the farmer had put up notices — “Keep to the Path”, “No Wainwright Walkers here”, he also kept a beady eye on all who came near with the aid of his nifty motorbike. So a detour along the public footpath on National Trust land is Foulton Tarn to ascend the many calmed summit is required.
On to Red Pike, High Stile and finally Haystacks where one has to be then careful not to trample on Wainwrights ashes! At Honister Pass it rained - so much for the talisman.
The third day dawned grey and misty but as experts with map and compass we ascended Greenup Edge with ease to approach Calf Crags as the sun broke through. From here its an easy walk (Jog!) to Gibsons Knot and Helm Crag (the Lion and the Lamb) descending to the Dunmail Pass road. A stiff climb follows up the side of Seat Sandle and once more into the clag. The weather was freezing but we pushed onwards towards Patterdale where again the sun burst forth to enable us to sunbathe in the late afternoon warmth. What a ‘fickle climate we have.

The journey over to Shap goes by way of Kidsy Pike and the head of Haweswater and a panoramic view of the Lakes is promised from the summit ridge - not to be! Yes you’ve guessed it, the weather was doing its best again and we couldn’t even see the other side of the valley from the youth hostel. Still, this was only a minor irritation for us as the company was good (we had made friends with two American ladies) and as an extra bonus we would come down towards Haweewater near
Riggindale where the eagles were nesting. Again the weather changed as we passed over the ridge and by the time we had traversed along the side of Haweswater we were in need of liquid refreshment (all that water and you’re not allowed to drink it!) Onward to Shap, there’s loads of pubs there!

Day five. Into new country now and its all limestone. First past Oddendale village (where?) then past Robin Hoods grave (how many of them are there?) — its only a pile of stones, to join the Orton road. A short cut here to save a lot of road walking and onto Beacon Hill where the limestone pavements are something not to be missed as they follow the contours for miles after mile. To be missed there are however if you are rich and have bought the new Coast to Coast book, as the route as been changed (no right of way here!) but little things like that didn’t stop our party; and we did rescue a sheep on the way! On re-joining the road at Sunbigqin Tarn (lunch) you have a fairly boring end to the day as you approach Kirkby Stephen.

Now comes the best bit. A lovely climb up to Nine Standards Rigg to the Pennine watershed — Yorkshire ahead! Down at great speed then slurp! into a deep (and I mean de...ep!) bog. Welcome to Yorkshire! This day was wet, and it wasn’t only the rain. We stopped the night at Keld in a smart farmhouse, very comfortable and loads of good farmhouse grub but besides that there’s nothing there.

A short day was promised next as we intended to go over to Swinnergill and look at the relics of the old lead mines. Looking at what remains it is sometimes difficult to imagine how many people worked in the mines but the engineering feats that they undertook were incredible. On the way down Whitsun Gill you can see the ‘last of the old timers’ still washing and grading his stones to produce excellent aggregate through a home made grader (furniture van actually!) Was it Jim Newtons firm I wondered! We were really on holiday from now on doing a fantastic ten miles a day along the Swale, and it really is a photographers paradise and its nice to know that the field barns are now at last protected ‘from the developers. Our walk as you can gather had somewhat ground slowly to a halt as the next section offers little in the way of easy return to base until you hit the North Sea. Still, Richmond to Robin Hoods Bay will save for another time and give us time to plan the route . . . - now let me see, first night Blue Bell Inn . . second night Lion Inn at Blakely - To be continued’?

Sandra and Mel Wilkinson.

 

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