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Coast to Coast 2011

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Scarborough Ramblers

Coast to Coast 2011

As I have had so much entertainment and instruction from the many online walking journals that have appeared in recent years, I thought it only fair that I offer my own very modest contribution to the genre.

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The day approaches

This is the year that I hope finally to complete a backpacking long distance walk.

I'm almost 62, and it's more than 35 years since I last set off with my tent on my back, in that case on the Pennine Way.  The walk ended ingloriously after only five days, with my feet shredded by imperfectly broken-in boots.

On this occasion, I'm much older, but rather better prepared - I hope.  I generally walk 25-30 miles a week on day outings, usually on the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Wolds.

I'd settled some time ago on wearing my Grisport Storm leather boots when I set off on Tuesday May 10, and during the recent good weather, I put them away, to keep them at the same comfortable state of wear that I wanted.  

First concerns

With 13 days to go, I have done a test pack of my rucksack, and it weighs 30lbs.  By the time I have added a few odds and ends, a litre of water and my waterproofs, that's going to be close to 35lbs, which is exactly the weight I used to tailor for in the backpacking days of my youth.

This time however, I have a modern rucksack instead of the bag attached to an alloy ladderframe that was the only serious option in the old days, my tent weighs 2.25 kilos, my sleeping bag is 800g. How the weight has built  up, I don't know - food and spare batteries for my GPS, torch and mini-radio must be the main culprits.

The plan

This is the coast-to-coast on a budget, hence backpacking, camping wild when possible and desirable, and feeding myself for much of the time.

I leave home in Scarborough on May 10 because that was the first weekday after the schools' Easter break when I could get a cheap rail ticket to St Bees - a bargain £12.

The train will arrive there at 4.30pm.  I don't want to waste the day, festering around when I could be walking, and there will be more than four-and-a-half hours to sunset. 

I shall be using the impressive Trailblazer Stedman guide book for directions, although I shall be adding to my load by ripping out the 1:25000 OS maps from another book, to provide mapping of the areas bordering the path.  I have a 1:50,000 Lake District OS map, and have downloaded the Trailblazer waypoints to my Garmin GPS.

Clothes:  Quick-drying walking trousers with braces, which are so much more comfortable than a belt, especially when pockets are stuffed; a technical top, with another as an extra layer if needed; smooth fleece; peaked Buff; three sets of my favourite walking socks: one to wear, one to wash and one drying; a T-shirt for night time, and for extra warmth if needed in the day; waterproof, lined, long-zipped overtrousers and a packaway rain jacket.

Probable route: I plan to follow the conventional route, but going over Helm Crag, and St Sunday Crag - where I'm told the views exceed anything to be seen elsewhere on the coast-to-coast - and following the river route through Swaledale, as I explored much of the higher route a couple of years ago.

Tuesday 10th May 2011

The train pulled into St Bees at 4.30pm and I promptly marched down to the seafront to dip my boots in the surf and pick up a pebble.  The rucksack really is too heavy for a 10-stone 61-year-old, and that's something to which I will have to give attention.

I put my head down to make best use of the daylight, and as evening fell, arrived atop Dent, walking against a gusty wind and in intermittent rain.  

The Lake District hills suddenly loomed purple on the horizon, and I was so busy admiring them that I tripped over a stone and fell flat on my face, collecting a spectacular black eye that drew sympathetic remarks for the next few days.

The descent from Dent failed to live up to its dire publicity, and I set up camp beside Nannycatch Beck at about 9pm.

After boiling water to reconstitute dried potato for my dinner, my stove suddenly stopped working, and remained next to useless thereafter.

12 miles

Wednesday 11th May 2011

I was walking by 7.30am.  Somehow, I took an inadvisable route on Robin Hood's Chair at Ennerdale Water, and found myself facing a flake of rock with a vertical 6ft gully on the other side,  The gully led to a ledge with a drop of about 20ft to the lake shore beside it.

I don't like exposed positions at the best of times, and there was no way that I could safely negotiate the route with my rucksack on my back, and nor would it be feasible for me to scramble a return with it.  I removed the sack and carefully slid it over the flake, before releasing it and hoping.  It hit the ledge, then slowly toppled over and crashed down the rocks to the shore.

There was no safe route for me to retrieve it immediately, so I teetered off the rock and walked for about a quarter of a mile until I could slide down a scree slope to the lake, from where I picked my way over rocks, paddled and when necessary waded to my sack.  Unfortunately, my boots were now soaked inside and out.

I stopped at Black Sail to top up with water, and was delighted by a tame blue tit, which hopped in and out of the youth hostel to beg for crumbs.

The haul up Loft Back was a trial, thanks to the overladen rucksack, and I managed to go astray at the top, descending part of the way towards Dubs Quarry before coming to my senses and being punished with the uphill return.

Two cups of unimpressive tea at Honister Quarry revived me, and I arrived at Gillercombe campsite in Longthwaite at 4.30pm. It was great to get the tent up and lie down in peace.

I discovered that the stove would work long enough to boil a cup of water, then shut down, and would perform the same service after a break of several hours.

That evening, I ate in the Scafell Hotel, where I had a chicken and leek pie, and a pint of icy lime and soda really met the mark.

On my return to the tent, I dumped all of the carefully assembled dehydrated food in the dustbin - just keeping some breakfast cereal bars - and discarded anything else that could possibly be considered surplus, including my walking pole.  

Initially, I had decided to throw away the next-to-useless stove and pan, but even two minutes' service to brew a cup of Earl Grey under the tent porch was welcome - the stove could at least manage that twice a day.  I decided to keep them for the time being, but throw away the spare gas canister.

After a good night's sleep, I set off with my new, lighter weight rucksack.  No longer was it an ordeal to swing it onto my back, and my step was definitely lighter.  I enjoy the solitude and independence of camping, and the knowledge that I could set up camp when and wherever I chose.

19 miles - running total 31 miles.

Thursday 12th May 2011 

I was in full waterproofs for most of the day, as intermittent rain and strong winds even produced occasional flurries of hail.

The ascent to Lining Crag was accomplished, but I managed to sink to one knee in a peat bog on Greenup Edge.  As I was not carrying spare clothes, I became concerned that I might not pass muster for admission to a pub for a meal that evening.  However, the specks of peat dried and brushed off.

My original intention had been to approach Grasmere via Helm Crag, but the strong wind persuaded me to keep to the valley route.

In the village, I lost my Buff (tucked it into my rucksack's waistband, and later thoughtlessly unbuckled the band) and lunched on a tasteless, stale chicken sandwich from the Co-op (not so gud with fud, despite the claims in the television advertisement) before setting off up the A591 to find the path to Great Tongue.  I walked past the bridleway, and wasted 15 minutes walking uphill towards Dunmail Raise and 15 minutes back.

I found the ascent of Tongue Gill to be steeper than expected, and was pleased to reach Hause Gap and begin the descent past Grisedale Tarn.

In Patterdale, I had an undercooked gammon steak with rather blond, soggy chips at the White Lion.  

As I was still full of walking, I decided to make a start that night and camp wild at Angle Tarn.

When I crested Boredale Hause, however, the weather took a turn for the worse, and I was being buffeted by increasingly strong gusty winds and rain.  I reached Angle Tarn, however, and found a good level pitch near the north shore.

Within 20 minutes, at about 9pm, the gusts turned into a full-blown storm, with heavy rain and hail. The tent rocked alarmingly, and the edges of the flysheet and slack in the ridge cracked noisily.  After some time, one of the guys in the low, windward end pulled out the peg, the corner drooped and damp began to seep in.  I stayed put, as I thought that without my presence, the wind might well get under the groundsheet, and my problems would multiply.

The storm hardly abated all night, and I had no sleep. At about 6am, I thought the wind had slackened, so I rolled out, managed to pull out the poles and save all of the pegs, and stuffed the tent into its bag.  Everything was soaked, with the exception of my camera and little radio, which I had sealed inside two plastic bags.

There was no question of heading on towards Shap into the teeth of the wind, so I turned back for Patterdale, wet, cold and exhausted.  On several occasions, the wind caught me and blew me over, in the process smashing my GPS, and giving a painful battering to my ribs and shoulder.

I met no one on the descent and set up tent at Side Farm, Patterdale. (I learned later that the first people to start ascending Boredale Hause that morning had turned back, most bed-and-breakasters had been transported to Shap, and others waited out the storm.)

I mopped up surplus water from the tent with a T-shirt, put my sleeping bag in a drier and catnapped in my waterproofs.  Fortunately, although showers kept falling, the temperature was mild.

Drying out completely was impossible.  I was in a lot of pain from my ribs and shoulder and in no condition to continue, so I walked wearily and painfully to the village store, where I wolfed down a superb sausage baguette, then walked to the Glenridding Hotel to check train times.  

I was too battered and exhausted to do much more that day, but I walked back to the White Lion for a hot meal, then to the campsite, where my sleeping bag was virtually dry.

24 miles - running total 55 miles.

Friday 13th May 2011 

On Thursday night, I slept at first fitfully, then dropped off into a deep sleep, awaking just after 8am, very stiff and sore, and with a blinding headache.  I took a couple of paracetamol and brewed an Earl Grey, then walked to the White Lion, which advertises breakfasts from 9am.  I had studied the menu on my previous visit, and was eagerly anticipating a civilised meal with a newspaper and a pot of tea.  However, from 8.55am to 9.10am there was no sign of life, so I crossed the road to the village store, and bought the most wonderful bacon roll, with five layers of thick back bacon piled inside.

I hobbled back to the campsite for more fitful dozing, and as there was more sunshine than showers, I managed to air the tent quite well, while my clothes were retumbled in the drier.

I caught a bus to Carlisle just after 2pm, then took the train home, arriving soon after 11pm.

Thursday 19 May 2011

Six days later, my ribs still ache, sneezing and coughing are painful, and taking deep breaths is uncomfortable. My left knee is troubling me, and twinges on downward slopes, and yesterday I resorted to an old and trusted remedy of sodium diclofenac, which seems both to reduce inflammation and relieve discomfort quite quickly. 

My new GPS arrived yesterday and my current intention is to return to Patterdale on Friday 27 May, if I am completely fit. 


Friday 27 May 2011

My knee is still twingeing, but I have the feeling that it's not a strain - just old age - so it will probably not get any worse.  My ribs still ache, but I think it's time to just get on with it.

With a few additions of basic food, and another half litre of water, I shall be walking with about 28lb on my back. 

After lunch in the White Lion at Patterdale, I set off at 2.50pm.  I decided in advance that I really didn't want to have a second night at Angle Tarn, so instead I took the switchback walk along the northern bank of Ullswater.

From Howtown, I climbed to 1,100ft to camp at the prehistoric stone circle known as The Cockpit, having covered about nine miles in the course of the afternoon. It was a little wet and breezy, but I set up the tent in the lee of one of the stones.

Between 7 and 7.30pm, the breeze had increased to a vigorous blow that was rocking the tent, and I began to wonder if my trip was fated.  I left the tent and found a spot about 30 yards away that was sheltered by an outcrop of stiff, reedy grass, so I tidied everything inside the tent, pulled out the pegs, and towed it to the new position.  Despite the ballast of my sleeping bag, clothes and cooking kit inside, the tent hovercrafted in the wind as I steered it.  In the move, I lost two pegs and a glove, leaving me with just one spare peg for the remainder of the trip.

The weather stayed wild throughout the night, but without the appalling severity of the camp by Angle Tarn, and I managed to get a reasonable amount of sleep.

Water from the adjacent stream was heavily stained with peat, and although it was probably just as wholesome as that  from previous mountain streams from which I had been drinking copiously, I couldn't bring myself to swallow it without hiding the colour by making tea or cup soup.

9 miles - running total 64 miles.

Saturday 28 May 2011

There had been much rain overnight, but when I got up at 8am, the weather was finally dry and calm.  I had to make do with noodles and a granary bar for breakfast, before setting off at 8.50am over Moor Divock for Shap and points distant.

In Shap, I bought a 3 litre bottle of carbonated water, replaced the peaty contents of my two half-litre bottles, and drank the rest to wash down my tuna sandwich lunch.

I had an uneventful, wet and windy  trudge to Orton, then to New House Farm, Raisbeck, where I set up camp at 4pm.

The wind was blowing strongly, but I pitched in a very calm spot between a toilet block and a shed. During a break in the rain, I tied my jacket and overtrousers to a metal gate, and the wind was so strong that they stretched out horizontally.

I dined on emergency rations of cup soup, Prince's light lunch and a chocolate bar, making a total of rather less than 1,000 calories for the day.

17 miles - running total 81 miles.

Sunday 29 May 2011

I awoke at 6am and really didn't feel like moving.  The night had been very cold, and at midnight, I put on all of my clothes before getting back into the sleeping bag.

Instant pasta and a cereal bar for breakfast didn't raise my morale very high, and I set off in steady rain, with my rucksack becoming very uncomfortable.

The route to Kirkby Stephen was undemanding, and I arrived at 1pm, bought a cheese and bacon melt, which I had to eat while sitting on a litter bin in the rain, and decided I'd had enough for the day, having covered only 10 miles.

I bought supplies in the Co-op, then walked half a mile to the Pennine View site, where I found a sheltered pitch.  Neck pain and headaches plagued me, my left shoulder was painful and my right knee was complaining.

Dinner was at least filling - a sit down meal of "fish" (they didn't specify the variety, so I assume something along the lines of river cobbler) and chips.

Not my best day, and as the lights along the site's road were left on all night, I had to use my airline blackout mask.

10 miles - running total 91 miles.

Monday 30 May 2011

Once more, getting up took an effort.  Rain in the night meant the tent again had to be packed away wet, and I felt only slightly more enthused after a breakfast of chilli noodles and cereal bar.

I set off at 8.30am and from town, made the stiff climb to the moor top.

Nine Standards Rigg was very cold and blowy.  Atop this I met a 71-year-old New Zealander called Nicholas.

The afternoon was sunnier, and I enjoyed romping through the peat hags on the descent to Shap.  My aches and pains had largely disappeared and morale was definitely on the up.

I covered 14.5 miles to Park House, Keld, with much more walking left in the tank, but this site promised an evening meal for a fiver, and a breakfast baguette for £2.50, which definitely swayed me.  

I rinsed the worst of the mud and peat from my boots and overtrousers, but I couldn't do it too thoroughly, as I didn't dare take the risk of getting the trousers wet inside.

I walked into the village for tea and cake at the village tea shop, then visited the heritage centre.

Dinner was  a superb beef curry, pitta bread and chips, made by Steve, husband of Heather, who manages the site, and a big mug of tea, served in a large adapted shed shared with nesting swifts.

14.5 miles - running total 105.5 miles.

Tuesday 31 May 2011

There was a heavy frost last night, which prompted me to put on virtually every stitch of clothes I had, including two thick pairs of socks.  Even that was insufficient, and I pushed the end of my sleeping bag into my empty rucksack for extra insulation, which helped.  At 2am, there was a thick crust of white frost on the edge of the flysheet, and the condensation drops inside the flysheet had frozen.

By 5am, the sun was shining brightly, and all evidence of the frost had disappeared.  The bed-and-breakfasters and people emerging from the centrally heated bunkhouse were incredulous when told about conditions overnight.

Nicholas, who had camped next to me, gave me a Mars bar to mark my 62nd birthday.  As I was walking along the road high above the site, I saw Nicholas talking to Heather, who suddenly shouted:  "Harry! Happy birthday!"  It resounded along the dale.

I was taking the valley route to Reeth, as Maureen and I covered the mining tracks during our visit to Richmond Walking Festival.  Walking was easy in the main, with a few stiff climbs, but I discovered that the waypoints I had downloaded to my GPS were all missing from Keld onwards.

The Swale provided a marvellously picturesque accompaniment, until the route suddenly zoomed to higher slopes of the valley.

At Blades, I searched without success for the onward path - my guide offered very little help - so eventually, I dropped back to the valley to follow the riverside road for the last couple of miles into Healaugh. (When I checked the Cicerone guide on my return home, their suggested route went nowhere near Blades and stayed in the valley.  Having now had a detailed look at the OS map, the Stedman "valley" route seems somewhat perverse, as from Gunnerside it heads into the hills instead of following the river.)

In Reeth, I stopped at a tea shop for a pot of tea and a slice of coffee cake for my birthday, bought a gas cartridge and a newspaper, then went to the Orchard Caravan Site, where the manager, Peter gave me the use of an old touring caravan as an alternative to pitching the tent, for £5.

I had covered only 12.5 miles, and although I do like to stop reasonably early, I felt I wasn't doing enough walking.

My birthday dinner was a super home-made steak and kidney pie at the Black  Bull, followed by Nicholas's Mars Bar and tea made with a bag sent to me for my birthday by Yorkshire Tea.

On inspecting my feet, I found an unsuspected, inch-long blister under my right big toe, in the place where a patch of hard skin peeled off a few days ago.  I applied a Compeed, and decided to wear liner socks for at least a couple of days.

12.5 miles - running total 118 miles

Wednesday 1st June 2011

I slept well, was up and about at 7am, breakfasted on a tub of fruit, a cereal bar and a banana, and was walking by 8am.

In Marske, I visited the Church of St Edmund the Martyr - dedicated to the real patron saint of England.

Around the Applegarths (a path Maureen and I had also walked at the Richmond festival), I felt a toenail cutting into the adjacent toe, so I stopped and applied a £ shop plaster, which I knew would not stay on.  The scissors were useless on the offending nail.

Easy walking to Richmond followed, and I bought a plaster strip and nail scissors in Boots, and an excellent bacon and chicken sub, and cup of tea at Greggs.  I applied the plaster and satisfied the inner man in the Market Square at 11.30am.

Getting out of Richmond was fiddly, but simple progress through fields and along roads followed.

I had originally planned to stop at Catterick Bridge, but I was walking so well that I continued to the White Swan at Danby Wiske, where I camped in the field behind the pub, then dined to an unexpectedly high standard, and booked a cooked breakfast for the morning.

It had seemed that I would be alone in the field, but three men from Stockport arrived later.

24 miles - running total 142 miles

Thursday 2nd June

Another very cold night, with every possible layer crammed on, inside the sleeping bag.

Breakfast was a great disappointment, after the previous night's meal.  I believe the landlord was himself on morning duty in the kitchen.  He supplied a breakfast that consisted of scrappy collar bacon, a tasteless sausage in an artificial casing, a single, defrosted "hash brown", mushrooms and a fried egg with a solid yolk.  The toast was cold, and although after I had eaten it I was offered more, it never arrived.  I really don't understand why an otherwise excellent establishment should be silly enough to damage its reputation by petty penny-pinching.

I was walking at 8.50am, with an initial nine miles of easy going.

The Cleveland Hills had been on the horizon for a while, and I reflected that four weeks earlier, I had been leading a walk along the edge that was in view.

The day was very hot, and before crossing the A19, I stopped at Exelby Services for a cup of tea and to refill my water bottles.

The long haul up the scarp began, and the temperature also seemed to be climbing by the minute.

Lord Stones Café, my target for the day, is generally known to be open from 9am-9pm, but when I arrived at 3.45pm, I took the precaution of asking when food service ended.  To my surprise, I was told that they now stopped serving at 4.15pm and closed at 5pm.  Although I was in time, I knew that the men from Stockport also intended to call there for food, and I feared they would be too late.

I pitched my tent nearby, and had a filling meal of home-made minced beef pie, chips and peas, a pot of tea...and a free refill of the pot.

The Stockport contingent arrived, and although it was 4.45, they managed to negotiate some jacket potatoes.

As there were still two cars in the car park at 5.30, John Simpson, the café owner, asked me to lock the gates when they had gone.

I had a marvellous sheltered pitch on lush grass. Adrian and Natasha Yardley, two people I had first met at Kirkby Stephen, arrived later and camped near me.

17 miles - running total 159 miles

Friday 3rd June 2011

As intended, I took the miners' track around Cringle Moor, rather than going over the top. I had always thought instinctively that people choosing the track were sacrificing the view for the easy option.  However, when I tried it myself for the first time four weeks earlier, I discovered that it was actually a more interesting and varied route, with the same excellent views.

I met Adrian and Natasha, who had set off before me but who had gone astray, and we all went over Cold Moor and the Wainstones (I'm still not convinced I have ever found the correct route past the stones, as on this occasion, I was hauling myself uphill by grabbing fistfuls of bilberry).

The sight of Roseberry Topping, then of Bilsdale mast, drew me on, and I had the scent of home.

The long drag up to Urra Moor was a great trial in the punishing heat.  As usual, I was carrying only a litre of water to minimise my load, with half a litre close at hand and half a litre buried in the rucksack for emergencies.

I gave a wave to Tripsdale as I passed the high point of the North York Moors, Round Hill, and with Adrian and Natasha nowhere in sight, I joined the Rosedale railway track near Bloworth Crossing.

This is more  than five miles of mind-numbing trudging, staring at the virtually level cinder track forever winding away to the horizon.  Yes, it's good to look down Farndale for a minute or two, yes, it passes 30 seconds to reflect on how boggy Westerdale can be...and that's it.  You just have to get your head down and see how quickly you can hammer out the miles.

I had a small break as I suddenly felt the tell-tale of a blister under my left big toe, so I stopped an applied a Compeed.  That was it.  Excitement over.

The Lion Inn suddenly appeared, but still took an age to reach.  Knowing that I would be on rations for dinner, I ordered a Stilton burger for lunch, and was not disappointed with the size of the meal.  The burger was well over an inch thick and very satisfying.

By 1.45pm, I was on my way, arriving at Hollins Farm, a mile short of Glaisdale, at 4.30.

For some unfathomable reason (well, unfathomable to me) the lady farmeress seemed to take an instant dislike to me, although as ever, I presented the most polite and pleasant face available to me.

She took my £3.50, pointed at a field, said:  "There are some campers there already" and walked away.

I picked a spot, pitched my tent, and had just spread out the content of my rucksack when she suddenly appeared, and started shouting at me from 20 yards away:  "You were told to camp THERE, not THERE.  Get that thing shifted NOW." Off she walked.

Someone from a family camping group, who was equally as puzzled as I, walked after her and we both explained that we were not clear where she wanted me to pitch.  She pointed to a spot between two other small tents and shouted:  "There's plenty of room THERE."

Dinner was cup soup, a Prince's light lunch (excellent Moroccan-style salmon this time) and a chocolate bar.

22 miles - running total 181 miles 

Saturday 4 June 2011

I had felt that with the continuing heat wave, and the 700ft climb from Grosmont to Sleights Moor, Robin Hood's Bay might be out of reach, but I decided to see how I felt as the day progressed, with the provisional plan of getting close to the finish - possibly Hawsker - so that I could reach the bay early on Sunday.

I drank a litre of water, then carrying my customary litre, set off for Glaisdale, where to my annoyance, I went round in a couple of circles and wasted 20 minutes before heading in the right direction.  The familiar walk through the woods to Egton Bridge followed, then the old toll road to Grosmont.  As planned, I drank half a litre of water, and went to the public toilets to refill the bottle, only to discover that the basins were too shallow to allow the bottle to fit under the tap.

At the Co-op, I bought a couple of sausage rolls for instant consumption, a half litre bottle of chilled water, and some fruit.  I chuntered to the assistant about the taps in the loos, and she very kindly filled my bottle.

On the haul up to Sleights Moor, I encountered Adrian and Natasha for the last time - they had spent the night in Glaisdale churchyard.

As my guidebook remarked, Graystone Hills, which must be crossed to reach Hawsker, has too many paths and too few way posts. Having found a well-worn path heading northeast, I stuck to it, and was rewarded by passing a few C-to-C posts, until my compass told me that I had been walking northwest for a couple of minutes.  I returned to a point at which a thin path headed northeast, and this joined a more significant path, and I then came across two Dutch ladies who had become disorientated trying to follow the route away from Hawsker.

Finally, I just took a bearing north and followed anything going in the right direction, until I saw a likely exit route.  In fact, I had located the end of Hawsker Intake Road, about 200 yards east of the recognised route leading past Rigg Farm.

In High Hawsker, I sat on a bench and devoured the wonderfully juicy orange I bought from Grosmont Co-op, then headed for the cliffs and the final few miles along the seafront to Robin Hood's Bay.

After days of relative solitude, the mind poses some strange questions.  With quite a strong breeze blowing from the shore (the sunshine had been suppressed by a slight fret for the past hour or two) I wondered whether I would have completed the C-to-C if I were blown off the cliff, and my remains removed before the tide reached me.  I never did resolve that one.

I trudged down the hill to the beach, and at 3.15pm, dipped my boots in the North Sea, and deposited my St Bees pebble.

21 miles - total 202 miles. Aggregating the two half days on arrival, I spent 11 days walking.


It was a great experience, and I would willingly do it all over again.  

All but a few coast-to-Coasters stay in bed and breakfast establishments, and their luggage is carried by firms such as Sherpa and Packhorse. The contrast between those arrangements and solo, unsupported backpacking is extreme, and while (when I was labouring up steep hills) I occasionally envied people who were carrying only day packs containing waterproofs and packed lunches, I wouldn't really have swapped places with them.

I enjoyed being completely free to set my own schedule, and to change my mind at any time. In foul weather, I knew that if I wished, I could just find a suitable spot and have my tent pitched in four minutes.  However, I think that the absence of a fixed daily target (and the fact that there was no one at hand to discuss issues) meant that the occasional dither and change in motivation tended to be more pronounced than might otherwise have been the case 

Initially, my rucksack was far too heavy, but in the final days of the walk, I barely noticed it most of the time, although I was noticeably slowed when going uphill.  

Food and water were frequent concerns.  In the Lake District, I was drinking copiously from mountain streams, but in arable land, watercourses are badly contaminated with agricultural chemicals, so I was reliant on taps from pubs, cafés and public toilets, and bottled water.  Because of the prolonged dry spell, I saw no running water in the Cleveland Hills until I reached the Rosedale railway.

On the extremely hot and sunny days in the final few days of the walk, I was drinking 5-7 litres of water a day, with very little output from my kidneys.  Unfortunately, a litre of water weighs a kilo, so there is a practical limit to the amount that can be carried. I tended to sink at least a litre immediately before setting off, keep half a litre to hand, and bury another half litre in my rucksack as an emergency standby, then take every possible opportunity to top up.

To keep weight down, I carried just one standby evening meal - generally a Prince's fish-based "light lunch".  Together with a cup soup and a chocolate bar, this kept me going, especially if I managed to buy something bulky and filling at midday.  However, there were days when my calorific intake was far below requirements.

Although I had a basic gas stove with me, I used it only for heating water, as I did not want to be troubled with the mess and fuss of washing up.  This did, however, mean that I could make instant pasta and noodle dishes in my mug for breakfast, and with a high energy bar or two, this generally satisfied me until lunchtime.

With the exception of the first stove, the only item of kit that failed was my rucksack, which although bought six months earlier, was having its first meaningful outing.  One of the water bottle nets shredded, and the internal divider between the main compartment and the bottom section tore badly.  Mountain Warehouse didn't quibble - they gave me an instant refund.

My two-season sleeping bag was completely inadequate on three nights - but then, a two-season bag isn't supposed to cope with frost.

The one real luxury was my little radio, on which I managed to listen to The Archers every night.  I know from past experience that it is possible to hear Radio 4 on long wave in northern Europe and even in Norway, but I discovered to my horror that on many of the days that I was walking, the long wave broadcast was devoted to live cricket.  On a few days, I was able to receive a clearish signal on FM only by experimenting with gripping the aerial and the body of the radio in different spots.

I took far fewer photographs than I intended because in the first half of the walk, the weather was so poor, and I was afraid of my camera being ruined by rain, and in the last three days, I was covering ground that I knew quite well, and I wasn't really inspired to rephotograph it.

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Harry Whitehouse