Lost in the Mountains

Post 25. Ennerdale Youth Hostel was a basic hostel with no electricity, resulting in a cold shower and gas lamps for light (but now in 2015 is refurbished and much more luxurious with electricity etc). The nearest pub was back at Ennerdale Bridge some four miles away. However, some interesting characters, also walking coast to coast, improved the evening. It struck me as a little odd that a group of Americans had embarked on this walk in shorts, with no waterproofs. It had seemed to pass them by that they were in one of the wettest places in England and snow often fell at this time of year; it is one thing to be optimistic, but another to be suicidal.

Meanwhile, three young police constables had decided to stop walking the beat, instead walking coast to coast. They were carrying tents and other paraphernalia resulting in packs that weighed sixty-pounds, which inevitably gave them horrendous blisters and resulted in them being totally exhausted. I am sure they never had this problem on Dixon of Dock GreenZ Cars, or the Bill. The intrepid constables were wishing they were back dealing with criminals. They were doing the walk for charity and being a ‘Good Samaritan’, I let them have some of my Compeed blister kits, but nearly regretted this later on in the walk. They were never seen again on the walk and were last heard of trying to send underpants, truncheons, and other weighty items back to their home town of Nottingham.

30 March 1991: Day 2 – Ennerdale Youth Hostel to Longthwaite Youth Hostel (Borrowdale) – 17 miles as opposed to the normal 9 miles

At breakfast we met Theresa a teacher, who clearly felt she was giving a lesson on walking. Aged about forty-five, she and her husband had sold their car so that they could do more long-distance walking, a somewhat extreme measure even in my book. They then told us to keep our pack weight down by having flip-flops instead of trainers for the evening. I didn’t have chance to tell them that I took trainers for the road walking sections and that flip-flops were probably better suited to a beach, which I had left some 19 miles earlier. I distinctly got the impression that I should not talk in class.

‘Have you heard the weather forecast?’ she boomed, so that everyone in the hostel heard her.

‘No Miss,’ I tamely replied.

‘I phoned the Lake District weather line this morning and it is cloud up to five hundred feet.’ She bellowed.

‘Up to five hundred feet?’ I replied somewhat surprised, savouring prospects of high-level routes with cloud in the valley below.

‘Yes, isn’t that good,’ she said. ‘We are going to do the high level route over High Stile.’ Wainwright describes this as a delectable alternative route, only available in clear weather for only very strong and experienced fell-walkers. Seeing that her husband had a knee bandage and was older than us, we fancied our chances on the high-level route.

We left the hostel at 9.00am, excited at the prospect of stunning views from the top of the High Stile ridge with inverted cloud below us. It was still misty as we left the hostel but with much huffing and puffing we reached the summit of Red Pike at 2479 feet. Trouble was, we still couldn’t see a thing. Ever optimistic and knowing that, according to Theresa’s weather report, the cloud should soon disperse, we started to walk along the ridge. The mist got thicker and thicker until we came upon a chasm, which dropped relentlessly down to the void in front of us.

‘I’m not going down there,’ I said to Archie, who by this time had gone into a silent anxious mood. All I could see below me was swirling mist. ‘Lets go back down the way we came and follow the low-level route?’

Black Sail Sept 2009 008
The low level route (taken another day when not in mist)

Archie looked through his steamed up glasses for two seconds, with water dripping off his nose, then nodded in agreement. With great relief we arrived at the bottom, at which point we met a scout leader.

‘Oh yes, I heard that weather forecast, it was cloud down to five hundred feet,’ he said.

On hearing this profound but true statement, we decided to stop for an early lunch. Hopefully, we might see Theresa and be able to throw her in the River Liza.

Instead along came Bill and his mate. They carried hip-flasks of whisky and talked about nothing else apart from the pubs already entered on Coast to Coast and the location of the next ones to come. We persuaded them that perhaps the high-level route would not be their best option, but they were only convinced when we added there were no pubs at over 2,000 feet.

Non-stag do 018
Great Gable in the distance on another day.

For the next 4 miles through Ennerdale forest we were told the pros and cons of every brew in the world, despite the fact that there was no pub for 8 miles. Now to be fair this was better than looking at the view through the woods, which was none existent. Britain was once covered almost entirely with woodland, but following the Industrial Revolution nearly every tree was chopped down. Big mistake. The next big mistake was in 1919 when it was decided to appoint the Forestry Commission to replace these trees with five million acres of fast-growing conifers. The problem for the Forestry Commission is that they couldn’t see the wood for the trees and therefore didn’t see what they were destroying or what they were creating. In Ennerdale; they planted conifers in regiments so close together that nearly all light and wildlife had been extinguished in what is one of England’s finest valleys. There was no oak, silver birch, ash, sycamore or other delightful broad trees. Some years later the Forestry Commission was replaced by the Forestry Enterprise, which has, to its credit, started planting mixed woods in Ennerdale and other parts of the country. Indeed Ennerdale is now a Wild Valley.

Non-stag do 016_edited-1
The Black Sail Hut Youth Hostel on another day

On arrival at the Black Sail Hut Youth Hostel, England’s remotest and best situated hostel, Bill pulled out his Wainwright guide book and read from it ‘ .. to Loft Beck, which ascend steeply by a path on the far bank.’

Non-stag do 019_edited-1
The Black Sail Hut Youth hostel on another day

We all religiously followed the instructions crossing the beck, then, as we started to climb, I decided to do a runner to get away from pub talk. Dramatically increasing my pace, Archie followed suit as he didn’t want to be left behind in the swirling mist. The path climbed and climbed, then I heard some whistles penetrating the mist.

‘Do you think someone is lost?’ I said.

‘It’s probably Bill and his mate,’ Archie said, panting for breath as we went up and up.

‘It’s funny, but I don’t recognise that gully off left. It’s not shown on the map,’ I said puzzled. We suddenly arrived at a level junction of paths and some walkers were standing talking, trying to decide on their route.

‘Where are we?’ I said, admitting we were now totally lost.

‘You’re at the Black Sail Pass.’

‘We can’t be,’ I said astonished, ‘that’s completely the wrong direction to where we should be going.’ We had in fact crossed the River Liza and not crossed Loft Beck.

Black Sail Sept 2009 047_edited-1
Taken on another day with Sid, not Archie, when there was no mist. We should have gone well to the left of Great Gable as shown but had gone to the right having crossed the wrong beck.
Black Sail Sept 2009 014_edited-1
Loft Beck, the stream we should have followed left. The faint path can just be seen.


Jonah bites the dust, rigor mortis sets in, 31,000 steps, fishing from the window, Robin Hood, the lady ghost.

Post 24: Half expecting to join a queue of walkers we climbed the first real hill of the day, Dent Hill, but the only other walker we caught up with was Jonah John, now feeling the weight of his pack. With an awesome pack pressing down on him, his knees were bending under the strain of climbing the hill. We decided that this would be his first and last hill and we never encountered him again on the walk. A theme of never seeing walkers again was developing. Dent Hill is a mild introduction to what lies ahead. Dent Hill, at 1131 feet was once a deer park and is an excellent viewpoint for the area. Even the Isle of Man can be seen on a clear day.

Descending into the lovely, secluded, Nannycatch Valley (what a wonderful name), no one was seen apart from four young ladies on horseback, who smiled at us as they passed. AW was proved right as he said in his guide, ‘This is a delightful spot for a siesta (beware pony-trekkers)’. We wondered if they were temptresses, put there to take our minds off the expedition we had just embarked on. Certainly, if they had offered us a saddle it would have been difficult to resist and we would have been disqualified from the walk.

After passing through the small village of Ennerdale Bridge, for many coast to coasters the first nights stop, we came upon Ennerdale Water. This after fifteen and a half miles of walking. That’s about 31,000 steps. No wonder Archie was starting to feel tired. We still had three and a half miles to go.

Archie resting beside Ennerdale Water.
Archie beside Ennerdale Water. Rigor Mortis setting in.
Ennerdale Water and Pillar
Ennerdale Water and Pillar

In that instant, had I not walked another step, I would have thought it worth starting coast to coast just to see the glorious view. Having always driven to the Lake District, this was a something totally different, a far more memorable experience. It is beyond belief that some years ago the then South Cumberland Water Board had wanted to build a dam and flood much of Ennerdale. They even got as far as demolishing the Angler’s Hotel aside the lake, from which anglers could fish from the window. What state of mind are these bureaucrats in that they cannot see the beauty they will destroy? Ennerdale was one of the most beautiful valleys in the world and still is, despite the Forestry Commission getting their hands on it (see later).

Entering a different world, we continued past Angler’s Crag and Robin Hood’s Chair; have you noticed how Robin Hood went everywhere as places are named after him all around the country?

Suddenly I jumped out of my skin as a young lady walked towards me. I could not believe what I saw. Was it a ghost? Suddenly she spoke.

‘I thought you were doing coast to coast?’

‘I am,’ I replied. ‘What are you doing here?’

‘I have just been up Pillar and Steeple’


Pillar Range

‘Which ones are those?’ I said showing my ignorance.

‘Those two mountains there,’ she said pointing out the two largest and highest points on the horizon. I was impressed as they looked very high and very imposing.

Wordsworth described Pillar:

‘You see yon precipice; it almost looks

Like some vast building made of many crags;

And in the midst is one particular rock

That rises like a column from the vale,

Whence by our shepherds it is called the Pillar

She was in fact a colleague of Gary and I thought to myself that he might have sent her out to check that I was actually doing coast to coast and not sun-bathing on some beach. I started to get paranoid wondering if there would be other colleagues hiding behind trees and rocks checking to see if I did all 192 miles. However, time was rushing on, we still had a couple of miles to go, so I asked her to tell Gary that we were doing well, even though it was only the first day, and bade her farewell. As I looked back at her disappearing into the distance there was a superb view of the fading sunlight over Ennerdale Water and Robin Hood’s Chair – what a superb ending to a superb day’s walking.

Arrival at St Bees, meeting Jonah Walker and a dip in the Irish Sea.

The team
The C to C team

Post 23: Alighting at St Bees station, Archie and myself were relieved to see another coast to coaster ahead of us. He looked like a walking rucksack with legs. Soon to be known as John (also Jonah walker), he was about five-foot six inches, fifteen stone and carried a pack with camping gear that went from his knees to a foot above his head. As he descended some steps, his legs bowed at the knees.

‘Doing coast to coast?’ I said.

‘Yes, hopefully,’ he replied, ‘this packs heavy.’

‘Are you camping in St Bees tonight?’ I asked.

‘Yes, I’ll soon have the tent up and a brew on,’ he said panting already.

‘Well good luck, perhaps we’ll see you in the pub later on or perhaps during the walk?’ I said thinking, if he makes the pub it will be a surprise, if he does the walk it will be a miracle.

We found our bed and breakfast and, as it was a pleasant evening and we had some spare time, we decided to check out the first part of the route. Here we were about to embark on a 192-mile walk and what do we do before it? Go on a 3-mile walk. If we couldn’t find our way on the first 3 miles then we might as well pack up now and go home. Having successfully found the start of the walk on St Bees beach, we walked to the first headland, then, having worked up a hunger and thirst, decided not to overdo it, instead retiring to the pub for the evening. Our confidence was immediately sapped when we met some youngsters, aged sixteen to seventeen, who were carrying tents and intended completing the walk in one week. They were carrying no spare clothes and ate their meal in five minutes. Were we middle-aged, thirty-nine year-olds, being a bit optimistic in thinking we could walk the same distance as these youngsters? They were never seen again.

If that wasn’t bad enough, someone called Pete entered the pub adorned in immaculate, brightly coloured, expensive waterproofs and beautifully ironed cord breeches. I have always thought that these breeches look better suited to horse riding than walking but, supposedly, they ensure that mud only gets on your socks. Pete and another male and two females looked as though their clothing had never been farther than the outdoor shop and here they were about to embark on a coast to coast walk. Or maybe we had got it wrong and they were just posing?

29 March 1991: Day 1 – St Bees to Ennerdale Youth Hostel – 19 miles

We left our bed and breakfast at 8.45am to embark on our much-awaited epic walk. With a sunny sky and a crisp freshness in the air our spirits were high and we tingled with excitement at what might lie ahead. For a bit of re-assurance we stood next to the statue of St Bega and joined her with a little silent prayer for good luck. In 650 St Bega , an abbess, sailed from from her native Ireland with a company of nuns in search of peace and solitude in England where they could dedicate their lives to the service of God. Their ship was wrecked but they eventually ended up at St Bees.

Arriving at the Irish Sea, we were relieved to find the tide in and were able to dip our boots in the salty water.

St Bees at the start of Wainwright's 192 mile coast to coast.
St Bees at the start of Wainwright’s 192 mile coast to coast.

It is traditional at this point to pick up a pebble and carry it all the way to the East Coast. However, I decided my rucksack was already heavy enough and a pebble could have tipped me over the edge. The sign of a good walking route is that it doesn’t follow the most direct route but instead seeks out the best route. AW’s coast to coast route does this, leading you north along the coast instead of east in the direction of the end of the walk, Robin Hood’s Bay. After four miles, the coast is left to head inland to Sandwith and Cleator. The latter has the River Eden nearby, which heralds the start of the Lake District and the boundary of the National Park. Excitement was building as to what lay ahead.

It was at Cleator, ‘the outlying pasture amongst the rocks’ and a former iron-ore mining town, that I first encountered signs that this coast to coast walk had become extremely popular. We stopped at a café, which had been provided at the back of a tiny shop. It looked as though no planning permission had been applied for or given as you simply walked through to the back of the shop where there was a covered area and a few benches. To someone who had walked 8 miles it was the equivalent of Betty’s in York. We were not the only ones stopping as, according to the visitor’s book, there were six hundred in 1988, seven hundred in 1989 and sixteen hundred in 1990. Not surprisingly, the owner had a gleaming BMW parked out the back and was proudly polishing it. Wainwright describes Cleator ‘as a springboard to beauty’.

Dawn Walks, photographers and blackdogwhitewall.com

Post 22: Apologies to the 1,000 or so Wainwright members who are eagerly awaiting the Wainwright Coast to Coast blogs (wishful thinking), but a weekend away in Alnwick with the blackdogwhitewall York based photography group has led me to discovering ‘Dawn Walks’. So C to C blogs are postponed for a week. AW likes walkers to devise their own walks and so would I am sure approve of me ‘discovering’ a new type of walking. As far as I am aware he never mentioned Dawn Walks and therefore I have decided to patent this new form of walking. No doubt hundreds of Wainwright Society members will now write to me and say they have been doing dawn walks since the dawn of time.


I did google the Dawn Walks and I was referred to bird watchers who are frequent dawn chorus walkers, but that is not the same as my Dawn Walks. There is the odd Dawn Walk mentioned in specific locations e.g. The Torridon. However, it is not mentioned as generic form of walking.

To enter the world of photographers is to talk about big-stoppers, F-stops, depth of field, graduated filters, angle of view, large-format, cleaning equipment, exposure, memory cards, polarising, flash, ISO, JPEG, RAW, perspective, meters, cropping, posterization, self-timers, Tiffs, vibration reduction, white balance. They are experts in double entendre as most of the above terms have potentially a rude meaning. However, it also means entering the world of gin and tonics, late nights and early mornings.

Photographers, like fishermen and cyclists, have an obsession with getting out of their bed before dawn to pursue their obsession.

Super King Size Bed
Super King Size Bed

Now would you get out of a bed like this on a cold November morning at 5.00am to leave your beautiful wife or handsome husband to go and take photographs? Now here I was, essentially a walker, who did just that, leaving my wife in slumber in a super warm king sized bed to go out into the cold and dark.

A cup of tea is essential to get the brain working after a previous social evening of gin and tonics and wine with a late meal. I also had cereals and some toast.

Unlike the ‘professional’ photographers who spend hours glued to one spot capturing the dawn, I decided that I would do a quick dawn photo shoot and then do a walk. Heavy rain was forecast for 11.00am and in order to avoid that an early start was essential. The advantage of doing a walk was that it gave me an excuse not to take my tripod, filters, four lenses, spare batteries and other equipment that photographers acquire and carry around. At least one member has a telephoto lens so long and heavy he has a specially made ‘hod carrier come tripod’ to move it about. It seems to be a ‘man thing’ with these long lenses – ‘Mine is bigger than yours’. However, the bigger the lens the bigger the price can be; and some cost as much as a decent second hand car. However, they do get stunning bird and wildlife pictures. Other members specialise in flower, landscape, abstract and even nude art photography. For more of their stunning pictures (excluding nude art photography) go to:


Now I am not into the nude art photography as it would be a distraction from walking. Indeed females can be distraction as I found out on the Penwith Way in 1998. An attractive Dutch long-distance walker tried to take advantage of me (hard to believe I know), but fortunately I missed the signals. The full story will be revealed later on in the Penwith Way secret diaries so keep reading the blogs. Readers will be able to decide whether it was a missed opportunity or a lucky escape?

Driving to Craster in my car just before 7am, the sky lit up bright red and I stopped to take pictures.


Red sky in the morning shepherd’s warning


I then parked in Craster and took some more sunrise pictures.

Craster Dawn
Craster Dawn

Dawn Walks were becoming attractive and I hadn’t even started.

Heading along to Dunstanburgh Castle the only company were sheep and birds. Past the castle Embleton Bay came into view with some rock formations, clearly volcanic, but lots of beautiful virgin sand, largely un-walked on that morning. Looking back Whin Sill rose from the beach with Dunstanburgh Castle perched on it.

Dunstanburgh Castle
Dunstanburgh Castle

The great thing about Dawn Walks is that the light and view was constantly changing. In order to get the photos I had to play with my ISOs, shutter speeds and my F-stops, but hopefully you will like the results?

Footsteps in the Sand.
Footsteps in the Sand. It has been said that if there is only one set of footsteps in the sand and you ask why God is not helping you in times of trouble he is carrying you at that point.

Arriving at Low Newton at 9.13, I was disappointed to find the Ship Inn wasn’ t open for coffee until 11. After a banana and a piece of fruit cake I headed back along the St Oswald Way, rather than along the beach.

More views opened up before me

Another view of Dunstanburgh Castle.
Another view of Dunstanburgh Castle.

The weather forecast was for rain at 11am and at 10.55am spots started to appear. I needed my waterproofs on quick. Unexpectedly, a pill box in good condition appeared and I went in for shelter. It was very claustrophobic, dark, damp and cold. 

P1060663 P1060664 P1060665 P1060667

I suddenly realised it was 11am on Remembrance Day. A very poignant moment. My mind started to visualise what it would be like to face an enemy with a fairly restricted view through the slits. Very frightening. 10 mins in this location was enough for me. Soldiers sacrificed their lives for our freedom in such awful locations. We should always remember them. Sometimes in life I have come across such coincidences or as some people would say God-incidences. You do not forget such moments. 

Another such coincidence or God-incidence was when I returned from Norway in 2009 and loaded about 1,000 photographs to my computer. One and only one of the photos on the computer screen was blank. I tried without success to open it. I thought I had better delete as it had never happened before. I then thought it might be a good photograph and so went to Edit to see if I could open it. It opened and to my great surprise it was my picture of Jesus suffering on the cross, which is prominent on the front of the great Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim. I have loaded perhaps over 6,000 photos and it had never happened before or since.

Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway.
Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway.

Norway FebMarch 2009 230_edited-1

Leaving the pill box the rain came down heavy but I was warm and dry in my waterproofs. 

I reached the main path back to Craster and met a walking family from Derbyshire. The father who was 92 had just completed a 3 mile walk, the son and daughter had completed all the Wainwrights and many Munros and are planning the Santiago de Compestello next year. Kindred spirits indeed and we had a great chat – a lovely way to finish the solo walk.

The end of my first Dawn Walk.
The end of my first Dawn Walk.

Now I have since thought about Sunset Walks to get views like this taken at Alnmouth.

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Now I am a bit eccentric at times, but not so much that I would walk into a darkening night using a torch.

A walkers worst nightmare and avoiding hell on earth. Are we condemned coast to coasters? 007 to the rescue.

Post 21: Alfred Wainwright’s ‘A Coast to Coast Walk’ was published in 1973, one of my biggest regrets being that I did not become aware of it in detail until 1989, after it appeared as  a TV series. Seeing an elderly Alfred Wainwright, smoking his pipe strolling along the route, made me think if he can walk coast to coast so can I.  Little did I realise he had never walked it in one go.

Alfred Wainwright. Born 17 January 1907. Died 20 January 1991.
Alfred Wainwright. Born 17 January 1907. Died 20 January 1991.

I did not feel competent in terms of experience or equipment to be able to attempt it until 1991, the year Wainwright passed away. According to the cSunday Times, 13 April 1997, one and a half million copies of the book had been sold and 20,000 walkers per annum walk it. A café owner en route, at Carlton bank, on the North York Moors, estimated that 5,000 walkers completed coast to coast each year. Perhaps the other 15,000 do sections of the walk. Despite the walks popularity, volunteers to join me were few and far between. Gary was unable to get a two-week pass from work or his wife. However, after a little gentle persuasion Archie agreed to join me on what would be his first and almost last long-distance. There is not a more enjoyable way to learn about British history, geography, and the countryside than to embark on a walk such as this. It has been voted the second best long-distance walk in the world, the Milford Trail in New Zealand gaining top spot. Alan, who has walked the Milford Trail, has questioned whether the Milford Trail deserves the top spot.

28 March 1991

Excitement was in the air, my training was finished, my packing was all done and all that remained was the big weigh in; my pack was twenty-eight pounds. My only concern was a pain in my instep, which I had repeatedly suffered from since May 1990 whilst wearing my everyday work shoes. It was probably a reaction to increased training. The only cure seemed to be walking boots with sorbothane insoles, but I could hardly go to work in those. I eventually discovered that leather soled shoes rectified the problem.

The first mistake we made was that we didn’t use the scenic Settle – Carlisle train but, as British Rail were trying to close it, they rarely advertised it. This dramatic line through some of England’s finest scenery ought to be publicised far and wide, but British Rail preferred to try and close it. It is a gem. Only a concerted campaign by railway enthusiasts saved it from closure. Our route was to go from York to Newcastle, then Carlisle, and then to St Bees the westerly start of this classic walk. The train out of York was the latest ‘high-tech’ Yorkshire Express with push button door openers and locks and a telephone, both relatively new innovations in 1991. I nearly had an accident whilst trying to work out how the toilet door opened and how it was locked. We felt a bit odd in our outdoor gear in an air-conditioned carriage. Most of the other passengers were on their way to the cathedral of shopping at the Gateshead Metro Centre – ugh! To a lover of the outdoors it is the nearest thing to a hell on earth, too many people, too many cars, too many eating places , too many shops, and too high prices; it even has a fairground.

So successful was this type of train that they have spread all over the country. The train from Newcastle to Carlisle was a more familiar, draughty, ‘boneshaker’. Looking towards Hadrian’s Wall the countryside became remote, but welcoming to walkers.

Now which train shall we get on?

Arriving at Carlisle we had a shock; of the six carriages on the St Bees train, two were reserved for Sellafield nuclear power station workers only. Even worse, no workers appeared and I could only assume those on this stretch of the line had fled or died of radiation. Were we condemned coast to coasters? This could be a job for 007.

My other job.  The Bond Girl is in the back
My other job. The Bond Girl is in the back

A special post on major current research into the benefits of walking. Source todays Times.

Post 20: Recent research by the London School of Economics and Political Science has indicated that a brisk 30 minute walk five days a week is more effective than any other form of exercise (e.g. swimming, running, going to the gym) for keeping weight down. This applies particularly to women of all ages. Over 50 year olds experience even stronger benefits than younger counterparts. It is more natural behaviour that taps into biological mechanisms to reduce obesity.

Walking reduces the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes more effectively than running. Calorie burning is optimised when walking because it is constant, uninterrupted activity – unlike tennis or squash. It is necessary to walk so you are out of breathe and slightly red in the face. One of advantages may simply be that people are more likely to stick with walking. Having been walking seriously for 25 years I would have to concur with this research. I soon  get bored at the gym or swimming but walking in the outdoors is never boring as per my diaries indicate! In a 12 mile walk we do 25,000 steps. It is recommended that in order to lose weight 16,000-18,000 (over 7 miles) steps should be done but if otherwise sedentary 24,000 steps (that is 10 miles). For most of the early part of the 25 years I walked everyday and it kept the weight off. In later years I have mixed walking with swimming and gym and I am not as slim as I was say in 1990! The photos will show that as the diaries proceed.

My Mary Berry home-made fruit cake- guaranteed to keep you going on a walk.
My Mary Berry home-made fruit cake- guaranteed to keep you going on a walk.

So the proof is in pudding as they say – or the cake or the ice-cream!

Family outings, climbing England’s highest mountain and attempting to become a man!

27 May 1990: Family outings

Post 19: My confidence in walking was boosted by completing the Dales Way and I decided there was nothing like a family walk to enhance family unity; my son was aged nine and my daughter eight. On holiday in Wales, it seemed a good idea for the whole family to walk on the tourist route to the top of Snowdon at 3559 feet. This did not seem to be beyond us and there was always a train to catch at the top should it get too tiring. We parked the car in a lay-by near the lake, Llyn Peris, in the Llanberris Pass. In sweltering heat we ascended about 300 feet, at which point my wife and daughter decided fell walking was not for them; instead they had a picnic. However, my son was determined to bag his first summit and shot to the top of Snowdon, without hesitation or deviation. The ascent certainly left a great impression on him as he has hardly been over 2,000 feet since; maybe it was the appalling café at the summit which put him off. Perhaps this nine-year-old would have been inspired if Snowdon had not been like a littered fairground with hoards of tourists and empty Coca-Cola cartoons everywhere. Clearly family fell-walking was not likely to develop in this family.

The railway line we followed
Alastair near the summit.
Alastair, my son, on the summit of Snowdon. 

My advice would be to avoid something as serious as Snowdon for your first family ascent. Attempt something like Cat Bells, near Keswick, in the Lake District; at half the height, it is more manageable.

21 October 1990: Success

Finally, completed the Scafell Pike traverse, England’s highest mountain with Alan and Archie. If you do not succeed on the first occasion go back and try again later.

20 January 1991

Alfred Wainwright passes away at the age of 84, having been born on 17 January 1907 in Blackburn. The most influential of all writers about the outdoors, he has inspired numerous individuals to take up walking and has spawned a multitude of authors about the outdoors, including myself. There is very little to be said about walking that AW has not commented on in one of his sixty-one books. His Pictorial Guides continue to be unique works of art and collectors items. There will never be another Alfred Wainwright. There is now a Wainwright Society with several hundred members and devotees.

21 January 1991

My 39th birthday, having been born in Burntwood, Staffordshire in 1952, the year Wainwright started his first Pictorial Guide, Book one: The Eastern Fells. Publication took place in May 1955.

March/April 1991: Alfred Wainwright’s A Coast to Coast Walk

Wainwright said of his Coast to Coast Walk that you start as a boy and finish as a man.

Who can argue with the genius of walking guides and fell-walking? Having completed the Dales Way as a novice, I was about to acquire my manhood. Most of my friends and colleagues thought I was mad leaving my wife and family for two weeks at the age of thirty-nine to walk one hundred and ninety two miles. In order to justify this escape from the routines of everyday life, I decided to link it to charity and raise money for the Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue Trust in Scotland. People do all sorts of crazy things in the name of charity, from bungee jumping to walking 1,000 miles through Spain on the Santiago de Compostela pilgrim’s way.

Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk