Site icon SPLODZ BLOGZ

UK COAST TO COAST ADVENTURE JOURNAL | Day 0

Back in October 2021 (last Autumn), friend and hiking partner Jenni (@mrsjtulip) and I hiked the UK Coast to Coast.

On the wish list since we hiked the West Highland Way in 2017, we completed Alfred Wainwright’s traditional route from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire in 14 days. We were originally due to hike this particular long distance trail in June 2020, but we all know what happened then (I walked it virtually instead, not quite the same). Thankfully by Autumn 2021 things were such that we could get out and hike.

The official start of the UK Coast to Coast hike, St Bees

In all, we hiked just over 200-miles from the Irish Sea to the North Sea, dipping our toes in at each end (of course!), and carrying the traditional pebble from one side of the country to the other.

This series of blog posts will be the story of my adventure on the trail. Blogs in a traditional sense, if you like – my experience in words and pictures. I hope to take you on the journey with me, from when I arrived up in Cumbria, to when I got on the train from Yorkshire to come home again.

Adventure Journal

I intend to publish these in a daily journal style, one post for each day. Except this one, which will cover the two days leading up to the adventure. We were hiking for two weeks, so you’ve got a bit of reading to do!

Some posts will be longer than others, I’m sure, but hopefully each will give you a bit of an insight into what it was like for me to do this walk, how my body and mind coped with the challenge, and what I enjoyed (and didn’t enjoy) out on the trail.

Every night before I went to bed I would sit and write some notes about the day. That, along with the many photos I took on the trail, is what I am using to help me write this series of blogs.

Once complete, I will follow up this UK Coast to Coast adventure journal series with a second series of posts covering specific topics such as my gear, where we camped, my favourite views, that kind of thing. If you’re just here to grab a few quick hints and tips for your own Coast to Coast hike (ooo when do you go?!), then you might want to wait for those. Although I’ll be sharing some of this as I go along too, so I would definitely recommend checking out the full story. Everyone likes a story.  

Okay, let me start at the very beginning of this adventure (it’s a very good place to start)… getting to St Bees.

UK COAST TO COAST HIKE ADVENTURE JOURNAL

Day -1 | Friday 8 October | Gloucestershire to Cumbria

In a rather fortuitous set of circumstances, friend and colleague Fiona, who recently moved to Cumbria, happened to be having a Gloucestershire working week right before my hike. And so, rather than having to spend heaps of cash on a train ticket north (train travel is so expensive), and then also having to rely on Jenni to purposefully match her journey across from Yorkshire to coincide with the time my train should roll into a station not too far from her route, I was able to catch a lift.

Fiona hiked the UK Coast to Coast a couple of years previously, and we have definitely bonded over that and her love of hiking in general. She lived just around the corner before moving north, and I used to really enjoy meeting her and her puppy Morris for a pre-work One Hour Outside during lockdown.

The deal was that Fiona would drive me and my bag north, would put me up for the night, in return for lunch and snacks… which was nowhere near enough payment, but for which I was hugely grateful.

Driving under the M6 Coast to Coast footbridge

Baggage Transfer Service

We bundled my duffel bag, day sack, and a few additional overnight essentials, into Fiona’s car. In order that we could take the higher routes where available (weather allowing), Jenni and I chose to use a baggage transfer service for our UK Coast to Coast experience.

Using Sherpa Van allowed us a bit more time and comfort out on the trail, and made our hike more fun. It also meant we could afford one or two luxuries on the trail, which was a nice bonus.

We carried our own gear when we hiked the West Highland Way, and that was certainly part of that particular challenge and adventure. There are easy to define pros to doing that, not least the freedom of having everything with you at all times, and the flexibility that, in turn, provides. But now we knew we could carry our own gear if we wanted to, we’ve proved that to ourselves already (have you read about the Brenig Way?), so this time we chose not to.

The £122 it cost to move one bag each day (all days except the first, more on that in the next blog), was absolutely worth it for the benefits it allowed.

Hiking Happy

That extra time and comfort mentioned above came in a few ways. Only having to carry day packs (albeit my larger day pack so I could carry warm layers, plenty of snacks, and my Jetboil for lunchtime tea), meant the high routes were more doable, thanks to not having the weight of camping gear on our backs. In theory, it also meant the miles would be less arduous on the knees and hips, making recovery each night quicker, and therefore helping us to hike happy every day for two weeks (200 miles is a very long way!).

It also meant we could carry a few luxury items for our overnights. I say a few – I filled my 90litre red duffel bag, which I would hand over to Sherpa Van, with all kinds of added extras I definitely wouldn’t have taken if I was carrying my own stuff. It was still under the allowed 20kg, but was certainly full. There will be a full kit list type post another time, I always find those interesting, and you can judge my packing of “little extras” then.

Pebbles on St Bees Beach

Justification

It’s weird. Even several months after my UK Coast to Coast hike, I feel I have to justify my use of a baggage transfer service, or at least explain that decision. For some reason, there’s this odd assumption that carrying all my own gear is the only way long distance hiking becomes “a real adventure”. You know, that there is “a right way” to be on the trail.  

Of course, that is ridiculous. It’s not like Sherpa Van transported me between each campsite. I still had to walk all the miles, up and down all the hills, and through all the bogs, myself. But I guess that’s part of sharing adventures on the internet for all to read; there will always be some judgement that comes with it. I’ll just link to this old post about “What is Adventure” and leave it at that.

The Journey North

One of the upsides of using that transfer service meant that by the time I was in Fiona’s car heading north on that Friday morning, everything was organised. We’d studied the book (my copy of the Trailblazer guidebook was well thumbed), planned our route (with low and high options), earmarked and booked our stopovers as needed, and I could sit back, relax, and enjoy the journey.

Cumbria is a long way from anywhere, and it took us five hours to reach Fiona’s house in a small village not far from Cockermouth, just outside the Lake District National Park. We made good time, stopping at Tebay Services for lunch en route, possibly the country’s second most talked about motorway service station (after Gloucester Services), and chatting our way through the miles.

Pardshaw Crag, Cumbria

Pardshaw Crag

After a slice of Grasmere Gingerbread, the best in the world, no less (Fiona turned proper Cumbria the instant she moved north!), we headed out for a short walk to Pardshaw Crag. It was lovely to stretch my legs and explore somewhere I’d never have visited if I wasn’t with a local.

Pardshaw Crag, Cumbria

At just 191 metres high, and with a prominence of 63 metres, Pardshaw Crag was a baby compared to the hills I’d be climbing over the next couple of weeks. But in the early evening sunlight, it was absolutely perfect. I noted in my journal that evening that I very much hoped the whole hike would be like this… beautifully lit, easy but interesting underfoot, with views for miles.

James, Fiona’s husband, cooked us homemade pizza, and I fired hundreds of last-minute Coast to Coast related questions at the pair of them that evening. I thoroughly enjoyed being in their company. They say that it’s the people you spend time with that make adventures great, and it was so lovely to be invited into Fiona’s home the night before this one started.

Fiona, James and Morris on St Bees Beach – thanks so much for your hospitality

Day 0 | Saturday 9 October | St Bees

I had a most excellent sleep, waking naturally at a very-late-for-me 8am. I can totally see why Fiona moved here – the views from the bedroom window were stunning, even with the low cloud. Very moody, quite beautiful. After feeding me both breakfast and lunch, we headed out to Workington and Cockermouth to run a few errands, before driving over to St Bees.

St Bees Beach

British Seaside in the Rain

It was raining when we arrived at St Bees. But even with the need for waterproofs, I enjoyed a wander along the beach with Fiona, James, and their dog Morris. There is something quite wonderful about a beach in the rain, there’s so much atmosphere and peace. But I was (naturally) wishing that the weather would be nice and clear by the following morning when I’d be starting my big hike across the country.

I had a look around for a suitable pebble to carry on my hike, a tradition that UK Coast to Coast hikers seem to keep on this particular route, but I was good and resisted temptation to choose one until I was actually starting my hike. Cue silly photo…!

Choosing my pebble…

The Manor Country Inn, St Bees

With a tired-out Morris, we bundled back into the car, and Fiona dropped me off at The Manor, a country inn along the main street in St Bees. Reunited with my hiking partner and good friend Jenni, it was time to get ready to hike.

The room was pretty nice; not massive but a decent size, two single beds, a little television, and what I assumed was a newly installed ensuite bathroom with a shower. Weirdly, there was no cold water to the basin, but hey, I don’t mind washing in warm water, it might be the last time for a few days! The Manor cost us £70 total, so £35 each, which included a cooked breakfast the following morning.

We spent a bit of time catching up, organising our kit, and generally sorting ourselves out. Jenni had travelled over from Yorkshire that day, and so while I’d had the luxury of a day off with Fiona, giving me time to switch off from work and anything else that wasn’t to do with my Coast to Coast hike, she was only just starting that process.

We met with Jenni’s family – Paul and Helene – went for a drink in Oddies Bar, just up the road from our inn, before returning to The Manor for dinner. It was pub food as you might expect; I had scampi and chips, I was by the sea after all.

We did more sorting, and Jenni introduced me to Mean Girls before we dropped off to sleep (no, I’ve never watched it!).

The Manor Country Inn, St Bees

Ready to Get Hiking

It was hard to think that the following day I would start a hike that would take me a full two weeks to complete, and all the anxieties relating to that were swimming around my head.

Worries about my fitness, the possibility of getting sick, the weather, the baggage transfer service losing my bag, us getting lost, my ankle injury (the remaining left-over ache from that Adventure Bike Training tumble), falling over, and 1,001 other things that probably wouldn’t but might go wrong over the next two weeks. The brain can be a pain sometimes.

But I was also excited, and that was the main thing. So much planning and preparation had gone into this hike – even if I didn’t feel 100% ready, I knew this was going to be a great experience. We had meant to be doing it 15 months earlier, and so it really did feel like a long time coming.

I was excited to lace up my boots and traipse the whole way across the country, to sleep in my little tent night after night, to stumble across honesty boxes and eat cake in hiker-friendly cafes. Then there was the anticipation for setting up my Jetboil on the top of hills and making a midday brew, being right in the view as we walked through some amazing scenery, and to all the things associated with being a though-hiker – even if it was just for a couple of weeks. I couldn’t wait to get going.

I’ll pick up the story in the next episode in my UK Coast to Coast Hike Adventure Journal – see you soon for that.

With all my gear… outside The Manor Country Inn, St Bees
Exit mobile version