Walking the Coast to Coast
Challenging, rewarding, fun, beautiful, varied, painful, delightful are just a few inadequate descriptors of a recent long-distance walk that I completed with my husband. It was to fulfill a long held ambition of completing Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk from St Bees Head on the Irish Sea to Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea. During the course of 16 days walking (and well over the stated 192 miles) there were many ups and downs both physically and mentally – although it was mostly ups!
Walking the Coast to Coast allowed plenty of time for thinking, reflection and also there were many, many hours spent in a truly mindful and present state. During the thinking moments, it became clear how this adventure reflected not just a holiday but one’s own journey through life. My first ramble/blog reflected on the whys, the whats and hows. This second ramble/blog through my Walking the Coast to Coast experience reflects some of the challenges and delights of the walk and how it mirrors life’s journey.
“One should always have a definite objective in a walk as in life – it is so much more satisfying to reach a target by personal effort than to wander aimlessly. An objective is an ambition, and life without ambition is … well, aimless wandering” A Wainwright
The Ups and Downs
The early days of the journey I suffered from blisters, the latter days of the journey my feet simply screamed at me after just a couple of hours of walking. Some days were considerably harder than others. However, to get the best views you have to remember your why, and therefore put in a lot of effort, build your resilience and take a few risks.
Some people plod slowly up the rock-strewn hills, some find downhill excruciating on the knees and feet. Some are not so keen on dizzying heights, some like to stop and take photos in the most precarious of places. Some leap across waterfalls, some tread warily. Some run across the bogs, others (try to) take a long route around. In fact, the only time you walk ‘normally’ during the coast to coast is between your B&B and the pub! But what is normal? We are all different and have varying abilities, aspirations and fears.
Sometimes there are alternative routes with varying degrees of difficulty and reward. In your bold planning stage after a beer the night before, you might go for that high route and then discover that it really isn’t a comfortable place to be and perhaps the risk for you is now too high. It is OK to retrace your steps (having taken a few photos!) and take a less dangerous option.
Sometimes you come across obstacles in the path that really have to be avoided. For us, this came mostly in the form of enormous bulls and skittish cows. We had to figure out how to skirt the danger, even if it was a long roundabout way, and then get back on the correct path.
Parts of the Coast to Coast are not clearly marked and often the weather does not help. Even with Wainwright’s guide and several maps, it can sometimes be difficult to work out exactly which rock or post you should be heading for. Getting lost is part of the journey. As long as you realise you might be heading down the wrong route, you can take stock, reassess and re trace your steps or find an alternative way to get back on track.
Of particular note – the Yorkshire Dales National Park coming down from Nine Standards Rigg. Park authorities have laid paving slabs near the top – but any sense of security is soon lost as the slabs disappear and you are faced with a vast mass of bog upon bog with no distinct waymarks. At first just inconvenient and mucky, it soon becomes really hard work trying to avoid the worst. You can’t avoid it – the only way to get across a bog is to assess and decide what route you will follow and just go for it. Move quickly before the gloop sucks you under. Occasionally it gets the better of you and you find yourself sinking in the mire. At this point, the only thing to do is to accept the help and laughter of others (it will be their turn next), pull yourself together and crack on. It is temporary, others have achieved it, it will be over soon and the rewards of the next section through Swaledale are simply glorious! You can look back and laugh too.
We were so lucky with only one day of torrential rain when we were walking the coast to coast. It was not all sunshine though. Previous experience has told us that it really is worth stopping and doing the whole waterproof clothing faff thing when the weather changes between wet and dry, hot and cold. Being uncomfortable when you can do something about it only increases your challenge.
I found the most difficult section was the crossing from one ridge of hills to the next through the Vale of Mowbray. Flat, lots of road walking or in recently ploughed fields and not much to look at (apart from a few feisty cows which meant another long road diversion). My feet were not happy, it was rather dull and morale was not at its best. However, with some encouragement from himself, I kept the aim in mind and before too long we could see the Cleveland Hills in the distance and the promise of more excitement to come.
Breaking the day’s journey down into steps really helped. Keep thinking and moving one step at a time. The overseas walkers found it highly amusing to walk past us drinking our tea at the side of a path at around eleven o’clock and four o’clock almost every day. It worked for us! It is too easy just to put your head down and grind on – take time to stop, look around you, admire the views, celebrate successes and enjoy the ride. Don’t worry if others overtake you – it is not a race – it is your journey.
The People / Kindness of Strangers
Although the route was not overly busy, there was a sort of concertina effect as people set out on different days with different itineraries. We met amazing people of varying age from all over the world and made some good friends en route. We soon learned to bin the Brit reserve and to be open and curious. Of course we all had the same ‘definite objective‘ of Robin Hood’s Bay in mind – but each with our own reasons for undergoing the challenge and we all struggled with different aspects. Help and support for others was freely given – be it a helping hand, company or space if preferred, directions, recommendations, a phone call, a laugh or a cheer when you came in last to the pub. You can walk alone – but you don’t always have to!
As it was – the end was exhilarating, and an amazing sense of achievement. Be prepared – Hold the memories, keep in touch, write the blog, do the photobook and plan for the next adventure!
The Best Bits
What were the best bits of Walking the Coast to Coast? – All of it – and I hope my photos (just a few of hundreds) help to portray the amazingness of the trail.
- The frequent feeling of achieving self-actualization (the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs), of realising my potential, self-fulfilment, peak experiences – to be everything that one is capable of becoming.
- Being so completely in the moment and enjoying the freedom from thought or concern.
- Walking across the top of Swaledale in the mist, enjoying laughter yoga with the (invisible) grouse.
- The views.
- The people.
- The challenge.
- The reward.
- The journey.
- The achievement.
- The beginning, the end and all in between.
How does this reflect in your life journey?
- What is your ‘definite objective’?
- How will you make sure you enjoy the journey?
- How can you break it down into manageable chunks?
- Which is the best path for you to take?
- How will you work around barriers that emerge along the way?
- What support do you need?
- How will you monitor progress and celebrate success?
- What will it be like when you get there?
- What will you do next?
These are the sort of questions that we address in my life coaching while walking sessions. If you need help to work out how to achieve your objectives and work around barriers to success then contact me to arrange a chat about how coaching (with a much shorter walk!) might help.
If you just want a chat about walking the Coast to Coast then also feel free to contact me!