Mark Franks report on Wainwright's Coast to Coast Walk
June 16, 2015
I recently came back from two week hiking holiday across Northern England. The route passes through three contrasting national parks: the Lake District National Park, the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and the North York Moors.
I did the trip with a small local group called “Coasters”, which is based within the larger local mental charity “Response”. The group engages with those experiencing the negative effects of mental health conditions through sport and physical activities.
I first got involved with Coasters when I first diagnosed with anxiety and depression at the beginning last year. I found taking part in sporting activities with Coasters was the most effective thing I did to combat my mental health conditions. Unlike other the more traditional approaches to my mental health conditions that I tried such as cognitive behavioral therapy, counseling, and antidepressants. Instead of focusing on my problems and what I could not do, Coasters focused on what I could do by participating in real and meaningful activities like everybody else in the community. When I first attended a Coasters badminton session, I never thought I would go on to do things like be able to climb to the top of the main highest climbing wall at Oxford Brookes University (like I did multiple times for Coasters annual fundraiser) or even undertake the Coast to Coast Walk
30/5/15 – 9 of us in total traveled, 8 walkers and Colin in the support in the mini-bus; who shadowed us if we encountered any problems, as well as doing other tasks such as laundry and picking up supplies. We stayed at Fairladies Barn B&B a 17th Century sandstone barn which has nicely furnished en-suit rooms. I watched the first half hour of the FA cup before undertaking the first part of the walk, which was to walk to the Irish Sea from our B&B. Me being me, took part in the first Wainwright's tradition of sticking a boot in the Irish Sea but did not manage to pick-up a stone to take to Robin Hood Bay as I was “too busy” running up South Head Cliff top towards St. Bees Head. We had a meal in the pub opposite our B&B called the Oddfellows Arms, where I had a Pizza and Beer.
31/5/15 – St Bees to Ennerdale. First proper day of walking (24k/14 miles), bit of a culture shock having to be up at 6:00 at the latest in order to sort kit, get ready, pack bag, load mini-bus, have a shower and have breakfast to be ready to leave at 8:30. We walked along disused railway to Ennerdale Bridge on the way we saw St Bees rimming stone. We walked up our first fell, Dent which is about twice as high as Shotover Hill, where we had lunch on remains of ancient Cairn that had been re-sculptured to include two shallow wind shelters. Interesting views of St Bees Headland, Sellafield and the Isle of Man in the distance from Dent. Ennerdale water is one of the least touristy Lakes in the Lake District and the full circuit of the lake is a bit of a cult walking route in itself but obviously on c2c one only does half which is still really enjoyable. There is a bit of scrambling along the way but the lake is one of my favourite places. The hostal was the most remotest place I have ever stayed, it is powered by hydro-electric power and every time one plugged in a electrical appliance to a powerpoint the lights would flicker. I went on a mile and half run after dinner when hail stone started lashing down on me; so I had to sneak back into the hostal without letting a sheeps who wanted to shelter in the hostal.
1/6/15 –Ennerdale to Borrowdale. Only about 15k/8 miles today, while harder walking than yesterday but it was a much earlier finish so felt about the same. Carried a fairly steady 5k on through Ennerdale valley on a track beside the hidden River River Liza, through the wooded evergreen ex-glacial valley, on towards a former shepherd’s bothy called Blacksail Hostal. We stopped for a short break at the hostal to recover before climbing Loft Beck, which is almost certainly the most remote hostal in the country but is probably the most scenic. On the wall of Blacksail is a plaque of Honister green slate in memory of Chris Brasher, explaining how he spent one of his last holidays at Blacksail Hostal before he died. Loft Beck at 1000ft climb over ½ mile is the steepest mile of Coast to Coast walk. When climbing Loft Beck I learnt a valuable lesson in the being prepared for major turns in the weather; half way up Loft Beck the skies opened and I found myself with too little layers. As I was getting cold I decided to ran up as fast as I could in order to layer up. At the top I used my poncho to layer up, and laid down to take shelter under my poncho while eating some supplies to help warm up. When the rain relented a bit and the others did not come, I walked around the top to keep warm. Lucky the vision was good otherwise I would have got worried. I could see a clear path but decided to stay as I would be found quicker. I sat next to a big bolder waiting for the group to find me while the group worried. Thankfully, I was shortly found by the our group's navigator, who told me to not to go out of sight of the “front walker” of the group with the walky talky. While walking back to the rest of the group, me and our group navigator encountered a German couple, who wanted to walk off cliff face off the mountain, as their GPS told them they were on the wrong route. But, lucky with some less than kind words we probably saved their lives by convincing of the correct way. Once back together we carried on through Honnister Pass down the steep rockey decent into Honister Hause a former quarry workers' house, where we took shelter from the conditions and Colin bought us all cup of tea. Next door is Honnister Slate Mine the last working one in England. We carried on to Barrowdale Hostal past our final real obstacle of the day, the path which was so narrow that there was a chain attached to the rock inorder to grab onto to stop one falling into the River Derwent, where Colin was waiting to pick us up to drive to Ambleside.