On the Coast to Coast from Cumbria to North Yorkshire: Wainwright route good points nationwide path standing


The information that the much-loved Coast to Coast path is lastly to turn into an official nationwide path – which brings further funding of £5.6m from Pure England – shouldn’t be stunning. For a while it has been one in every of England’s hottest and iconic walks. The one stunning factor is how lengthy the designation has taken.

It was in 1973 that Alfred Wainwright prolonged his vary from the Lake District by describing this 192-mile stroll, which begins on the west coast at St Bees in Cumbria and ends within the east at Robin Hood’s Bay on the Yorkshire coast. There’s a useful guide that you simply signal to point out you’ve performed it within the Bay Lodge and probably a certificates. You’ll be able to, after all, do it the opposite manner round, however as Wainwright correctly identified, by going west to east you will have the prevailing climate behind you.

He needed a stroll that gave a cross part of northern England, so that you rise as much as the Lake District from the Irish Sea, cross the Quaker panorama of the Howgills, go down one of many prettiest of the Yorkshire Dales after which have a last, triumphant crossing of the wild North York Moors. It’s a terrific route and manages to incorporate the beautiful spa city of Richmond alongside the best way, for a little bit of half-time refreshment and a break. It’s no marvel it rapidly turned a nationwide favorite.

I can declare to know the stroll in addition to anybody, as a result of I’ve taken it, quixotically, with a pack-mule, which meant my tempo was comparatively sluggish. Jethro, whereas a sturdy character, was not the quickest on the blocks, however this sluggish tempo enabled me to check the terrain in larger element.

I discovered that small market cities equivalent to Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria have been remodeled by the Coast to Coast, because it’s a pure stop-off level for the 6,000 or so walkers who take the route annually. Nowadays the city has a Coast to Coast fish and chip store, a number of out of doors strolling outlets and a bustling vacationer info centre within the previous cloisters. Loads of that is down to 1 particular person: by together with Kirkby Stephen as a key stopping level, Wainwright put it on the map.

After the information broke in regards to the new nationwide path standing, I mentioned it with Mark Peatfield, the proprietor of the Eden Open air strolling gear store in Kirkby Stephen.

Though there’s a plaque in honour of Wainwright in the principle sq., there’s no statue. Ought to this be rectified, I requested Mark.

“I used to be born in what’s now the Coast to Coast fish and chip store,” Mark mentioned. “Fish and chips was Wainwright’s favorite dish. I bear in mind him consuming it. We wouldn’t get any guests in any respect with out him. Nowadays – or not less than after the pandemic – the lodges get a bucket-load of individuals staying proper via the season.

Hugh Thomson on the path together with his pack-mule, Jethro. {Photograph}: Hugh Thomson

“I all the time check with the walkers as swallows. They begin arriving within the spring, mass in the summertime after which by autumn they’re leaving. It’s not simply due to the chilly. You want lengthy days to handle the phases. By November, the sunshine’s fading too early.”

In keeping with Mark, the Coast to Coast has modified in character since Wainwright devised the route practically 50 years in the past.

“It was once simply British individuals who walked it, the kind of people that used his guides within the Lake District after which adopted via with this. However now it’s worldwide. Greater than half the individuals who come via are from abroad, primarily People and Australians. And worldwide travellers typically need their package carried for them – who wouldn’t? – so ‘Sherpa providers’ have grown as much as drive their baggage spherical to the subsequent vacation spot. That’s been a change. Within the previous days, everybody carried it themselves in too massive a rucksack.”

Mark welcomes the brand new funding to assist “rationalise” the route, notably via tough sections like the world round 9 Requirements Rigg on Hartley Fell, close to Kirkby, which is infamous for its bogs.

“A fellow acquired sunk in there a couple of years in the past. Rescue staff needed to get him out. He was carrying a giant pack. Went all the way down to his waist. Received sucked proper in and couldn’t get again out once more. He got here into the store later and instructed me the story, or I wouldn’t have believed it. Apparently, he was caught for over an hour earlier than the rescue staff arrived. And his girlfriend took photos of him caught within the bathroom whereas they have been ready.”

Once I took Jethro alongside that part of the Coast to Coast (or, to make use of an abbreviation I dislike, the C2C), rigorously avoiding potential mule-trap bogs, I used to be stunned how little cared for it was. And, for that matter, under-signposted. I met many walkers who had acquired misplaced, notably in unhealthy climate.

Nine Standards Rigg in the Pennines.
9 Requirements Rigg within the Pennines. {Photograph}: Nicky Beeson/Alamy

Jethro and I made it safely via to Robin Hood’s Bay. They even gave Jethro his personal certificates. However a BBC tv crew as soon as bumped into bother crossing the wild part into the Yorkshire Dales; Amanda Owen, the redoubtable Yorkshire Shepherdess, needed to exit to rescue them, as she lives close by in one of many route’s most distant farms.

The brand new nationwide path standing ought to solely enhance issues. But oddly, Wainwright himself may not have been happy. He typically took the paradoxical place – like Wordsworth – that whereas he may write about wild locations just like the Lakes, he didn’t essentially need his books to draw guests. And for these strolling snobs who really feel that, nicely, the Coast to Coast is changing into too well-trodden, there’s all the time Wainwright’s far much less recognized Pennine Journey path to discover.

Hugh Thomson’s One Man and a Mule is accessible from Preface Books. To order a duplicate for £9.59 go to bookshop.theguardian.com

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