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Why I walked from Coast to Coast - Part 1

Personal Stories, Trip ReportJames HipkissComment
"It’s the equivalent of the ascent and descent of Mount Everest"
Helen Pickles (L) & Nicola Farrington (R)

Helen Pickles (L) & Nicola Farrington (R)

Starting an adventure

Four weeks ago I reached my destination of Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire.  For the two weeks prior to that I’d been following the Coast to Coast walk from St Bees in Cumbria on the well-trodden path, plotted out by Arthur Wainwright in 1972 and then plodded along by countless others since.  Well-trodden and well known it may be, but it was all new to me as it was my first long distance walk.  My usual style is doing a circular walk in a day, then going home.  This 196 mile route traverses 3 National Parks – The Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors – it crosses the Pennine Way and at times hitches on to the Lyke Wake Walk and the Cleveland Way, elevation wise it’s the equivalent of the ascent and descent of Mount Everest, but surprisingly the C2C is not itself recognised as an official national trail.  Which explains the lack of C2C signposts.  In the Lake District there are only three, all placed within a few miles of each other, unhelpfully in a non-difficult-to-navigate area.

Obviously, one can pick any point on the coast and walk to the other side of the country, but the beauty of this walk is the stunning terrain covered along the way, and the miles of public footpaths and tracks that line the way, uninterrupted by private or inaccessible land.  And for a first long distance walk, it’s reassuringly tried and tested, but certainly challenging enough to be deemed a tough walk.  Wainwright put in the hours and designed the route (although nowadays it’s slightly altered from the original), all that needed to be done was to put one foot in front of the other and walk. 

" The beauty of this walk is the stunning terrain covered along the way"
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I knew Cumbria a little, having spent some weekends there and a short period of time working in a Lakes pub one summer, I knew the Dales a little as I’m from West Yorkshire so it’s all vaguely familiar and Yorkshire-y, but I knew the North York Moors more so as I spent a memorable and wonderful 9 months working at Boggle Hole Youth Hostel in Robin Hood’s Bay when I finished university in 2009.  Having been totally uninterested in the troves of self-important walkers who ended up at Boggle Hole after walking across the country, I found myself 8 years later wanting to join their ranks.  In 2009 I lived in RHB, I loved it, I didn’t need to journey there.  In 2017 I lived in London, I craved the outdoors, I enjoyed walking, so then found that I did need to journey there.  January, the start of 2017 and the familiar staring into the abyss of the year ahead was the catalyst to stop thinking about doing it and decide to actually do it.  My fixed term job contract at the British Museum was due to finish on May 19th, so I planned for a start date of May 20th.  Something to look forward to.  

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Better together

I like planning, and spent many a happy hour in early 2017 looking at suitable places to stop off along the way, working out the day’s mileage, realising there weren’t many/any cheap places to stay with availability on those dates, reassessing where we could stay, recalculating the day’s mileage, so on and so on.  The “we” in this trip is myself and my good friend Nicola, who luckily could take the time off work, and who also had the desire to walk across the country.  Having a buddy, a navigational sounding board, someone to split the weight of the toiletries with – it’s a reassuring presence and a joy to share the experience with someone.  It made the whole trip easier and less daunting.  Before we knew it, an itinerary had been sorted out, accommodation booked up, maps and guidebooks sourced and all useful info entered onto a handy spreadsheet.  Practice walks had been walked, old gear re-waterproofed, new gear begged borrowed or purchased.  

"It’s an incredible opportunity to change my lifestyle, to live and work in a fantastic place" 

In the run up to the walk, as I mentioned, I was approaching the end of my job contract.  I had applied for a job at a museum in the Scottish Highlands.  The week before I started the C2C I was offered the job in the Highlands, and perhaps due to a heightened sense of “just doing stuff”, I accepted it. But I also accepted it because it’s an incredible opportunity to change my lifestyle, to live and work in a fantastic place doing a job that I really wanted to do.  But, I have to say, having one week to tie up all loose ends, to bid farewell to the place and the people I’d worked with for 3 years, to say all those goodbyes, to also shoehorn in my birthday, and then to catch a train on Friday evening after my last day of work, it was not the ideal final preparation for the walk... 

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Words and Photos by Helen Pickles

Instagram @helenpickles  

Stay tuned for part 2 of Helen's adventure blog, coming soon!