August Blog 2010
By Clive Lindley-Jones | August 30, 2010 6:39 pm
At the time of writing we are 70% towards our target. If you wanted to help, but had just not got
around to it yet, It is not too late to sponsor me. All you
need to do, if you would like to, is click here and you can help us complete our target of £2000 for the Trust. It is very easy, and safe, these days to sponsor on line and takes a couple of minutes. Either way, as promised, I wanted to let you know how we got on doing this wonderful long distant walk.
Sadly, having fractured two toes the week before, Kerstin had to bow out and have a healing retreat at home, without me cluttering up the place. As one of our lovely B&B land ladies said;
“If she really didn’t want to come, one fractured toe would have been quite sufficient”!
So our good friends David and Francine
travelled from Stockholm and we three headed off to St.Bees to start our little adventure.
Finally, after many months of planning, we were on our way. Little did we know quite how exciting it was going to be just getting up to the starting point. Suffice it to say when the taxi failed to arrive to take us to the station there were all sorts of keystone cop-like capers with mad dashes to the station familiar to viewers of most Richard Curtis films, and later in the day, similar mad scuttling around on Carlisle station, from our, body-on-line-delayed train, to jump on the last train to St. Bees by the skin of our teeth, and head south along the coast of Cumbria the sun setting on the sea and a view of Scotland over the water.
Still laughing, we made it to the starting line at St. Bees for supper at the Coast to Coast pub. Next morning, dipped out toes in the Irish Sea and collected a traditional pebble from the beach to carry to the North Sea, we started our journey.
We had no even left the beach at St.Bees before we had our first typical Coast to Coast encounter, with a beach side concert from a group of, equally mad,cello players.
They were starting the C2C at the same time as us and were going to carry and occasionallyplay their cello’s along the way! For several days our paths would cross. Climbing a high peak one might come across a cello resting against a rock as its owner wiped the sweat off a weary brow. Maneuvering down a difficult incline of slippery rocks, one could overtake a large white cello case moving steadily down the track attached to back of a panting extreme cellist. We greatly enjoyed one of their innumerable charity concerts one night in St. Oswald's Church, Grasmere. We understand that this was not their first extreme cello adventure, others having included Ben Nevis and all the places in London on the Monopoly board. You still think we were crazy?
The first shock for my dear friends David and Francine, who, living in Sweden, were therefore not familiar with the exact geography of the route, was that the English Lake District had more than Lakes; it also had quite sizable fells; mountains to you and me, and we seem to be walking west to east across the top of a considerable number of them for the first five days!
There are really two key issues that trip people up on such long-distant walking trips. The first is one’s basic fitness. This rarely gets tested in our normal day to day existence and so we can all stay in the illusion that we are still about as fit as we were when we were young. For some people this is the big one that hits them after a few hours of walking up a mountain and tends to be the big disincentive to carrying on.
Once that is overcome, the next challenge is if parts of ones body, or equipment, throw a spanner in the works and cause unremitting pain. I cockily romped over the rain soaked fells only to find one of my newish, lovely boots, continually rubbing into my leg causing each step a reminder of my new and worrying affliction. So it was with great joy and some happy amazement that I saw, mirage like, a NewBalance factory outlet shop in the small town of Shap, after a weeks traverse of Lakeland.
Somewhat to her surprise I gave the shop assistant a big hug as she produced the answer to my prayers; a pair of stout, waterproof, walking shoes that I gladly bought and walked out onto the street, miraculously pain free as the high edge of my boot no longer sawed away at my calf.
The Lakeland's never fail to impress with their beauty and lush green majesty. However, they only get that green, one is reminded, by a rainfall eight times that of the rest of us in Britain, so it was no great surprise that the first days of serous Lakeland traverse were also both our wettest but also our most spectacular and thrilling.
It was especially fun to be able to keep going along the eastern compass bearing, day following day, seeing the landscape gradually change and evolve, knowing it was only through ones own endeavors that this was being achieved. For me, this was one of the great aspects of walking across the whole of the country from coast to coast; one felt connected to all those anonymous millions, throughout history, who, until the railway, almost all had to walk, if they were ever to leave their own village and see beyond the valley of their birth.
As the lakes gave way to the Pennines and they in their turn to the glories of Swaledale, perhaps the most deserted of the Yorkshire Dales, we felt as if we had always been on this journey. There was also a gratitude and respect for Alfred Wainwright's efforts in creating this wonderful long walk. Always interesting, largely over high ground, eschewing most larger settlements, thanks to AW one was able to walk day after day along simple tracks, across fields, over fells, always enjoying the countryside. When one did have to cross such things as the M6 it was just a brief reminder of the uglier, far noisier side of our modern culture that we soon again lost far behind us as we blended back into rural northern England.
For many on the Coast to Coast, I am sure there is always a corner of their fond memories of the walk for Ravenseat farm.
After the cold wind and excitement of reaching the mysterious stones of the Nine Standards Rigg, which stand guard high on the ridge of the Pennines, they will have
struggled across the notorious boggy ground of the high moors to reach the head of Swaledale. Ravenseat is the first welcome sign of civilization they hit as they come off the barren and wet moors. This marks the watershed between west and east. Up to this point all rain must drain back down to the Irish sea, from there on C2Cers can take heart that they will be walking with the flow of the water as if falls and travels down Swaledale and eventually to the North sea.
Amanda Owenhas become a bit of a star of the Coast to Coast crowd. Famed for her great cream teas, (£2 has to be the best value, anywhere) at Ravenseat Farm, as well as her capacity to manage feeding up to fifty hungry walkers cream teas each day in the season, and, along with her husband Clive, rear six small children and, innumerable sheep and cattle on their farm, at the very top of Swaledale.
Gradually the lonely wuthering heights of the Pennine moors and the moon like desolation of the the remains of the nineteenth century led mines of upper Swaledale gave way to the disarming charm of the rest of the Dales.
The one time Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes, said of the Dales that they were the place;
"Where the millstones of the sky grinds light and shadow so purple fine."
The small dales village of Keld marks the half way mark of the walk, when one stops walking away from the west coast and starts walking towards the east coast. From Keld it was only a couple of gentler days walks, to Richmond. This was by far the biggest town on the route and a good place to rest, take a day off to explore the town, do some washing and allow those weary feet to cool down. David, Francine and I reveled in the luxury of a day off, explored the sites of this grand old Yorkshire town, particularly enjoying a little tour of the exquisitely restored Georgian theatre. We wandered the bustling streets bumping into fellow walkers. We C2Cers stand out amongst the local people by our slight hobbling gait and our bemused country bumpkin reaction to all the hustle and bustle of a market square, this one likened, by Prince Charles, to the glories of Sienna.
From Richmond the journey takes on a wholly different tenure as we temporarily leave behind the glories and trials of the high country and tackle the strangely deserted rich farming flatlands of the Vale of Mowbray, a stretch of low lying land between the end of Swaledale in the West and the North Yorkshire Moors in the East.
After the blister inducing toughness of the western hill country one might think a day or two of flat walking would come as a welcome interlude. Kind and friendly though our hosts were, at the Old School House B&B in Danby Wisk, and rich and fertile though the lands were around, most hardy Coast to Coasters find this one of the more monotonous and least exhilarating parts of the 200 mile walk. Suddenly one looses sight of other walkers, the farms seem to hum with activity and yet not a soul is to be seen. The walking is interminable, along flat country lanes. The terrifying crossing of the fearsome A19 is a welcome marking of, not only completion of two-thirds of the walk, but the start of the Cleveland Way. With this attractive and well marked path we rejoice at the resumption of the undulating and rewarding high walking that now takes one the last third along the Yorkshire Moors to our end-point at Robin Hood’s Bay, on the East coast.
As if by magic, with this lift up onto the hills again fellow walkers appear and one again feels back on familiar walkers territory. The route incorporates part of the Cleveland way through woods, along well marked paths and up onto the moors with great views down onto the checkered farming fields of the North riding of Yorkshire below.
This in turn gives way to the North Yorkshire moors and their vast heather clad open spaces once, like so many of the hills traversed all the way along, more populated by miners, railheads and industrial activity, now given over to grouse and walkers.
With the ever growing popularity of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walk, now thought by some to be one of the best long distant walk in the world, in high summer one is rarely alone on the hills for very long. For the more solitary walker in the Wainwright tradition this is sometimes a little sad. At its most busy it has taken on the form of a north country secular pilgrimage and reminded me of the Camino de Santiago.
However what one looses in lonely days on empty fells, one surely gains, both in the security on lone walking days of knowing, should one fall and break something, there will be someone along eventually, and in the shear joy of fellowship and understanding that builds amongst all who pit themselves against the challenges of long distant walking.
Very soon on such an endeavour the days fall into a familiar and comfortable pattern, ones former life on hold and half forgotten, now this new life becomes simplified. Getting up, fortifying ourselves with a mighty breakfast and then heading off, map in hand to find what joys or sorrows that days journey had in store. Then after a good days walking the joy of lying in a bath and, clean and changed out of ones sweat stained clothes, that tough decision of the day; what to choose to eat for supper.
So to bed often ridiculously early, to plan the next days walk and, in my case, to enjoy reading the life of Wainwright our original guide and inspiration. (See book of the month).
Young and old, fat and thin, fearsomely fit and heroically unfit, from all around the world the Coast to Coast walk attracts a wonderful diversity of passionate aficionados, crawling tentatively out of a softer, sedentary seclusion, to test themselves, for a couple of weeks, in the verdant hills of Cumbria and Yorkshire.
We met many wonderful people along the way, but, for shear uncomplaining, openness, friendliness and ten year old chutzpah, Caitlin takes my prize.
We met her and her kind and friendly parents Thomas and Berni, of High Pittington, near Durham and their indefatigable dog Paddy, at several stages along the way and you can hear her story on her blog. It rather takes the shine off ones fantasies of incredible feats of endurance when ten year olds or 80 year olds make the trip with neither grip nor grouse. Instead they set a good standard with the simple joy and awe that walking in such noble country inspires. As for the dogs, well they seem to adore it and still manage to walk five times as far as we mere haltingly, hobbling, humans.
Sometimes it is good to have an osteopath on the team, however even he can’t stop those feet from giving out under the strain of endless pounding!
The final days take us across open windswept moors and down into the sheltered valleys around Glaisdale, Egton Bridge and Grosmont where the old steam trains of the North Yorkshire railway can be enjoyed
Cause for some considerable celebration as we dip our toes into the North Sea and cast our from St. Bees into the waters and retire to Wainwrights bar to celebrate!
After all that, Clive still bangs on about the merits of physical activity...again! Give it a rest Clive.
You didn’t thing you would escape after I have just walked 200 miles did you? It is reassuring to hear of yet another extensive piece of research highlighting the benefits to us all of moving our buts from a new study here
by researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), Cambridge University and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. They have found that even light or moderate intensity physical activity, such as walking or cycling, can substantially reduced the risk of early death.
This meta analysis of almost one million people and their exercise habits and mortality showed that being physically active reduces the risk of all-cause mortality. The largest benefit was found from moving from no activity to low levels of activity, but even at high levels of activity benefits accrue from additional activity. So even though I returned from my walk and discovered perhaps the stress of falling off a stone style plus the stress of all that daily walking may have precipitated my present less than happy state of a sleep deprived shingles sufferer, nevertheless it behoves us all to find ways of counteracting the blight of stasis that our modern life inflicts on us. If you have been following these monthly Health-E Coaching missives at all you have probably got that message by now. Of course the difficult thing is to engineer some movement into your day. Just as we all know smoking is bad for you, we all know that exercise is good for you and yet only 8% of men and 3% of women do any. Clearly knowing is not enough.
So for some help on how to make exercise work for you check out Paul Chek’s useful suggestions.
Book of the Month
Wainwright: The Biography [Paperback]
by Hunter Davies
Before we give up on summer time, there is just time to relax into a good biography. Here is something just plain interesting and absorbing, even if you have no interest in the Lake District, walking or AW, as he became known to his fans. This month what better than this skillfully and lovingly written biography of the fell walker, writer, illustrator, and creator of the Coast to Coast path, Alfred Wainwright?
With over thirty books under his belt plus his Cumbrian roots, Hunter Davies is a perfect choice to have taken on the challenge of writing the life of this unusual, retiring and quietly passionate man. Davies takes us through Wainwrights early life in working class Blackburn, still a major Lancashire mill town in 1907 when young Alfred was born. His father was an alcoholic and his mother a devout, hard working, long suffering woman who took in washing to survive while her husband drank away their money. A classic sad story that perhaps drove Alfred to aspire to better things.
Shy and introverted Alfred eventually found himself in the borough treasury office and steadily worked his way through the accountancy exams. Around this time, in something of a mirror image of the Buddha’s story who was kept away from old age sickness and death which then had all the greater affect when they were revealed to the young prince, Wainwright had grown up seeing little but the tough streets of a Lancashire mill town until, as a young man, he organized a short trip the Lakes and was instantly, permanently, smitten, as a man allowed, for the first time, into the promised land.
However it was his disastrously unhappy first marriage that became the driver for his singleminded focus on writing his unique hand drawn and handwritten Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells that have been an inspiration to walkers for over forty years and from such very small beginnings have gone on, along with all his other books, not least his Coast to Coast to sell by the millions.
Wainwright soon moved to Kendall to be near his beloved Lakeland and became the borough Treasurer and there with his first spouse Ruth and their son Peter, they lived for decades locked into a cruelly, dead marriage; he ignoring her and focusing all his spare time to his writing project, exploring the Fells each weekend and writing and drawing about them each evening. Living a separate parallel life to Ruth his wife. Only finding happiness with his second spouse Betty later in life.
Davies has carved out a fascinating and touching account of this often difficult, but quietly passionate man and his life. To read it while enjoying his Coast to Coast journey was ideal, but the book stands on its own as a study of a unique life of a generation now gone, full of sadness, yearning and poignancy but lit also with the shy warmth of the idiosyncratic AW.