Post 262: 28 May 2018
On this day Alan and Dan of ‘bus pass age’ were due to complete Alfred Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk of 192 miles from St Bees on the Irish Sea to Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea.
I completed the same walk in 1991 at the much younger age of 39.
I then wrote and completed my own coast to coast walk, On Foot from Coast to Coast: The North of England Way, in 1993 at the age of 41 and again in 2000 to celebrate the Millennium at the age of 48.
Much had been written about coast to coast walks, but little has been said or written about what it feels like to complete a coast to coast walk.
Wainwright said the start and finish of the coast to coast are exact unlike for many walks, such as the Pennine Way, which are arbitrary.
I was able to dip my feet in the Irish Sea in 1991 at the start and the North Sea at the end. There is not more certain start and end to a walk than that.
In 1993 I was again able to dip my feet in the North Sea at the end.
And again in 2000. So what is it really like to finish a coast to coast walk?
Wainwright says at the end of his coast to coast guide in 1973 that:
“If there happens to be something in your temperament that makes you like the ladies the odds are that you will prefer the C. to C. You will not melt any but you will be reminded of them. On the Pennine Way you never give them a thought…well hardly ever. I finished the Pennine Way with relief, the Coast to Coast Walk with regret”.
I think it fair to say that in 2018 these views would probably have the feminist lobby banging at his door.
When I finished my North of England Way Coast to Coast walk and guide book in 1993 I said:
“The sight of journey’s end, Scarborough North Bay and the North Sea left me with with mixed feelings of pride, joy and satisfaction at having devised and completed a long and beautiful walk, but also regret and sadness that a close association with the natural world had to end with a return to so-called civilisation”.
On another occasion I also said:
“On completing my coast to coast walk and after taking off my 28lb pack I felt 18 again even though I was more than double that age”.
How would Dan and Alan feel?
It was with a sense of excitement that I went to meet Alan and Dan on their last day when they would have to walk between 19 and 20 miles, which would result in them exceeding over 200 miles, given the ‘extra’ high level routes they had completed, plus walking to bed and breakfasts off the route.
I was due to collect their luggage from their bed and breakfast in Glaisdale by 8.30am and join them for part of the walk. The historically ‘listed’ accommodation is well worth considering if in the Glaisdale area. An early start was essential and I left home at about 6.30am, only to encounter thick fog!At 7.34am I reached Grosmont Station. After collecting their luggage and a quick cup of coffee I parked the car at Glaisdale Station and met two beggars, Alan and Dan at Beggar’s Bridge. They were begging for my Mary Berry home-made fruit cake.
Dan, living up to his reputation, had also begged for my Simnel Cake, but if he wanted that he should have done the walk at Easter.
I swear they only managed to complete the coast to coast due to the fruit cake. On the track, between Egton and Grosmont, we nearly missed the toll charges. Dan was wishing he had pre-booked a hearse to get him to the end at Robin Hood’s Bay – a bargain at 6D and pain free. Soon afterwards it was clear that Dan was starting to struggle so we strung him up for a bit of a rest. I think it may have caused him permanent life changing damage. Arriving at Grosmont Station I let them carry on up a very steep hill promising to meet them at Robin Hood’s Bay at the end. I had to go back on a train to Glaisdale to collect my car. Well that’s my excuse.
I then went for a bacon buttie. Why do they always taste so nice at stations – is it the smoke and steam? In the meantime, I watched the North York Moors Railway trains come and go.
At 12.15pm and, after having my packed lunch (I had been up since just after 5.00am), my Northern Rail train turned up on time, only to be told by the ticket collector it had to go slow around the bends so as not to come off the track!!!
I then drove to Robin Hood’s Bay and paid my £6 car parking fee! That’s the cost of more than two Beacon Farm ice creams, one of which I also had to pay for. Sid the Yorkshireman would have been horrified. I then walked down to the end of the coast to coast walk to check it to and make sure they had got the red carpet out for Alan and Dan? It was packed being a Bank Holiday. No red carpet!
Normally, I avoid these honeypots at Bank Holidays and thought how could Alan plan to end the walk here on a Bank Holiday. He will be up before the walking Ethic’s Committee for this. Southerners have no idea on such matters! There were no flags out either. I had to now rush to meet Dan and Alan before they got there to warn them as they were expecting a fanfare. I took the scenic, pretty route through the winding snickle-ways (that’s what we call them in York) of Robin Hood’s Bay.
Emerging onto the coastal path it was thick mist with mythical coasters to coasters coming at me, trance like, as they neared the end of their journey. I had hoped to meet Alan and Derek where they joined the coast some 3 miles from Robin Hood’s Bay, but I timed it wrong by about 10 minutes. 200 miles and I get it wrong by 10 minutes! This is what it should have looked like.
In reality we couldn’t even see the sea. They were not to get the ‘Wainwright Moment’ and personal satisfaction there:
“After a halt to savour the acute personal satisfaction of arrival at the edge the North Sea follow the path to the right”
They had rejoined the Cleveland Way, which incidentally has its 50th anniversary next year and has been found to be the nations favourite National Trail according to the North York Moors website.
Our first sighting of the North Sea was a couple of miles on.
Then journey’s end came into view and Alan said it still looked a long way. I recall in 1991 thinking why did Wainwright makes me walk 3 miles along the coast? We took the scenic descending route to the sea. To finally dip boots in the North Sea.It was all over bar the shouting, photographs and the pints.
Wainwright said at the end of the road that:
“Now you can rest on your laurels in the Bay Hotel,
with a pint but (let there be no misunderstanding about this) you do so at your own expense. It is no good saying “charge it to Wainwright” as you did at the Border Hotel at Kirk Yetholm (on the Pennine Way). No, sorry, that game won’t work here. Pay for your own. I’m skint” (he probably became a millionaire after his TV series as his guide books sold millions and are still selling).
Instead the bill went to me!!! Cheers mate!
Of course I haven’t changed a bit since my celebrations in 1991, when I had to buy my own pint. Sid the Yorkshireman will be laughing his socks off at this.
(PS: if anyone recognises the 3 others in the above photograph can they let me know as I would like to know how they are getting on – we met on coast to coast but I lost contact with them shortly afterwards)
However, “it is not over until the final whistle goes” and, after a steep climb to the car park, Alan surprised me.
I was very impressed by his break-dancing after 200 miles of walking. Quite incredible. He could become an internet sensation if it is shared enough.
Alan mumbled something about stretching his muscles but I think he was showing off break-dancing. It’s always the quiet ones.
Dan reminded me of how feet can expand on coast to coast as his were very swollen next day. I blame wearing Marks and Spencer’s socks, but he swears that, with those socks and vaseline, he gets no blisters. Looks to me as though his feet are dual coloured! Hmmmmm….
How did they feel on finishing?
Like me in 1991, they had mixed feelings of jubilation, excitement, relief, fabulous memories, camaraderie with other coast to coasters, membership of an exclusive group, strangeness, pride, satisfaction…
but with aches, some pain, some discomfort, a sense of what now, I just want to sleep, where’s the beer, how do I get into the car, stiffness…………+
For me, completing coast to coast in 1991 was life changing as, despite over 6 days of heavy rain (unlike Alan and Dan’s 1 day – allowances are made for softy southerners), I then became addicted to long-distance and other walking and am now on my 56th LDW, in the precess meeting some fantastic people and friends, travelling abroad and writing.
The journey continues………………….
Miles Walked – Alan and Dan over 200
– Myself 13.6 on this day.