In four day’s time I set out to walk the Coast to Coast across England. Despite being such a popular long distance route, the Coast to Coast is not a National Trail- it was devised by master fell walker and writer/ illustrator Alfred Wainwright, who first conceived the idea of a walk across England linking three National Parks- the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors.

Wainwright wrote and illustrated a detailed guide to his chosen route, although he then rather contradictorily stated that he would encourage people to create their own variation on his route. However it is the path he devised that is the one most people follow- although parts of it have changed slightly over the years to avoid private land or to use permissive paths.

The Coast to Coast is around 190 miles long (although opinions vary) and runs from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay in Yorkshire- despite crossing England the trail only passes through two counties. Most people walk it in 12 to 14 days- I am taking 12 as I am skint so it is fewer nights accommodation to pay for! The only concern is that this leaves me with three consecutive days of over 20 miles and no rest days, so it is a pretty tough schedule.

I have deliberately chosen to make some of the days in the Lakes fairly short, ie I am not walking from Borrowdale to Patterdale in one day, but am staying at Grasmere. This is for two reasons; the Lakes will be tough and it will ease me in gently, plus if the weather is favourable and I’m not completely knackered I have the option of taking some of the higher level alternatives.

Accommodation is either camping, in hostels/ camping barns or bed and breakfasts. Although camping would be cheaper, the thoughts of trying to put up a tent in the driving rain after walking for hours and faced with the prospect of trying to dry out a load of sopping wet gear ready for the next day’s onslaught doesn’t exactly appeal… call me soft…

Neither does squeezing into a bunk bed in a dorm full of other people snoring and farting so I am going really soft and staying in bed and breakfast accommodation and the occasional pub. Comfy beds, en-suite loos and full English breakfasts… mmm…

Some people choose to use one of the many baggage transfer companies who service the trail, taking luggage from one night’s accommodation to the next, leaving them to walk with just a day pack each day. Whilst this would be a good option for some folk, I wouldn’t feel like a long distance walker if I wasn’t carrying everything I need on my back- call me a purist.

Not quite though- Coast to Coast Packhorse have a secure car park at Kirkby Stephen, where you can leave your car for the duration of the walk. A daily minibus ferries Coast to Coasters daily from the car park to St Bees and from Robin Hoods Bay back to Kirkby Stephen. This option worked out better for me as a) it was much cheaper than public transport from Nottingham to St Bees and back from Robin Hoods Bay and b) my sister lives less than an hour’s drive from Kirkby Stephen so she has kindly agreed for me to stay the night before- saving paying for a night’s accommodation in St Bees.

Plus I have the added bonus of being able to access my car when I walk through Kirkby Stephen- so I can drop off dirty clothes (boy will they smell good when I open the bag back at home) and pick up fresh stuff. Plus I can leave my walking shoes there so I have the option of changing footwear if needed. I will be taking two trekking poles for the Lakes so could drop one off if I choose.

For route finding I have the popular Stedman guide, now in its 7th edition, plus the two Ordnance Survey strip maps of the Coast to Coast produced some time ago. I feel rather smug as I purchased them years ago in anticipation of doing this walk some day, and they are now out of print and apparently hard to find.

So this is the plan. I will post a kit list at some point, but am still adding things to it!

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