In September 2014 I took some time off work to walk the 192 mile coast to coast. The long distance walk was the brain child of Alfred Wainwright in 1973 and crossed northern England and three National Parks. Starting in the west it crosses the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North Yorkshire Moors.
Starting at St Bees in Cumbria and finishing at Robin Hoods Bay in Yorkshire I decided I wanted to back pack the route and wild camp along the way. Refuelling with food and supplies isn’t hard on this trail, you pass through plenty of villages and towns all geared up for coasters.
The weather was gorgeous for the first few days, I couldn’t have asked for better. I followed tradition and dipped my foot in the Irish Sea and picked a pebble from the beach.
From the small seaside town of St Bees, where there is a “C to C” monument by the lifeboat station, the route follows the cliffs of St Bees Head north for a few miles before turning inland to pass through the villages of Sandwith, Moor Row and Cleator in the West Cumberland Plain. It then climbs its first hill (Dent), and follows its first valley (Nannycatch) before reaching Ennerdale Bridge.
I pitched my tent in the beer garden and must admit enjoyed a nice pint at the end of day one. Foot care is important on long trails, so it was good to get into a routine of drying my feet and socks, and I took a small container of talc to keep them dry. (See my page on gear for this trip)
The path goes up the valley of Ennerdale along the edge of Ennerdale Water and past the Black Sail Hut youth hostel. It climbs alongside Loft Beck to the fells north of Great Gable, passes the disused slate workings and mountain tramway of Honister, and descends to Rosthwaite in Borrowdale.
To leave Borrowdale, the route passes Stonethwaite and follows the stream up to Greenup Edge, before travelling along the Helm Crag ridge and down to Grasmere village. Most will stop here in a guest house and enjoy the village hospitality, I filled up on essentials from the local shops and had to look round an outdoor shop or two. My aim was to get to angle tarn for a nights wild camp.
From Grasmere the route ascends to the pass of Grisedale Hause from where Wainwright offers a choice of three routes: via either of the mountains of Helvellyn or St Sunday Crag, or an easier descent along Patterdale valley, the three options reuniting at Patterdale village. Fuel up or sign the board outside the post office but you get a sense your leaving the familiar landscape of Lakeland and Yorkshire lies a day away.
From Patterdale, a stiff climb leads to Angle Tarn and Kidsty Pike — at 2,560 feet (780 metres) the highest point on the walk. There is then a steep drop to Haweswater from where the route follows the north shore of the lake before leaving the Lake District and visiting Shap Abbey and the village of Shap itself.
From Shap the route crosses the limestone pavement of the Westmorland limestone plateau to the village of Orton, and on to Kirkby Stephen.
The route climbs to the main west/east watershed of England (which forms the Yorkshire border) on the ridge of Nine Standards Rigg, from where moorland trails and upland streams lead down into Swaledale.
To help mitigate the effects of erosion, there are alternative routes at different times of the year. At almost exactly its halfway point, the Coast to Coast crosses the Pennine Way at Keld. This marks the half way point and there is a nice campsite with jacuzzi, and yes I soaked my self in it with a view of swaledale.
After Keld, there is a choice of two routes, high (open and breezy), or low (riverside, with teashops and pubs), both of which lead to Reeth.
In lower Swaledale, the route passes Marrick Priory, through wooded hillside to the market town of Richmond. In Richmond I had planned to have a day off and wash any clothes but the weather had been great on the whole and my kit was dry. I had been to Richmond several times before, but recommend visiting the castle. I moved down to the river and made camp and sat with a brew and watched a kingfisher catch his own evening meal.
After Richmond, the route runs close to the River Wiske (but is more direct) across the flat farming land of the Vale of Mowbray (the northern extension of the Vale of York) to the village of Danby Wiske, and on to Ingleby Cross.
The route then climbs up to the western edge of the North York Moors to join the Cleveland Way and Lyke Wake Walk and is coincident with these routes over the major summits of the Cleveland Hills (known as the ‘Cleveland Frontline’) as it rises and falls to Clay Bank Top.
The route continues with the Cleveland Way & Lyke Wake Walk, crossing Urra Moor to Bloworth Crossing, where the Cleveland Way turns north and the Coast to Coast continues east on the trackbed of the dismantled Rosedale Railway (still coincident with the Lyke Wake Walk) to Blakey Ridge and the Lion Inn.
Next, the route continues around the head of Rosedale before parting ways with the Lyke Wake Walk at the Millenium Stone to skirt Great Fryup Dale before descending Glaisdale Rigg to the village of Glaisdale. From there, a woodland path leads to Egton Bridge where the route follows an old toll road to Grosmont.
After a climb out of Grosmont, the route crosses Sleights Moor before dropping into Littleneck Wood (with a hermitage carved out of a single boulder, and the Falling Foss waterfall). From there the route passes through Low and High Hawsker to the cliff tops of the east coast, where it rejoins the Cleveland Way. The path then follows the coast southwards to the village of Robin Hood’s Bay. Remember the pebble I picked up at the start I threw it into the North Sea then straight in the pub for a pint of “Wainwrights” well you have too.
The coast to coast was a great adventure, I met people from all over the world, young and old and all shared stories along the way of their experiences so far.