October 2nd, 2013
by Alex Hallatt
Last week we returned from the biggest walk we have ever done – 200 miles from the Yorkshire Coast to the Cumbrian one in 18 days (we had a few rest days). It was tough, much tougher than the distance walking we had done in New Zealand. We had a real mix of weather (and our worst days were the bad weather ones, especially the gales and driving rain we had between Keld and Kirkby Stephen and up over Kidsty Pike, which is at the 800m mark, the peak on the profile below), but we were lucky because whenever we were camping, it wasn’t that wet.
I have never eaten as many biscuits and chocolate bars in my adult life as I did on the Coast to Coast. And we all still lost weight.
My favourite parts were the North York Moors, Keld and the inside of all the dog-friendly pubs.
The Lake District is scenic and all, but when you get up close and walk across it you realise that there is sheep shit in every square foot. There are a lot of sheep in the Lake District. Maybe too many.
I enjoyed the experience and I’m glad we did it and didn’t get lost, or hurt, or broken up, but I think the people who do it again and again are mad (though most of them aren’t carrying all their gear and camping half the time).
Billie was a wonder dog and really kept our spirits up when the going got tough.
Rain and gales were forecast and we elected not to walk via the boggy moor, but to take the road. It was still 10 miles and after 3.5 hours in driving rain we were soaked through and shivering. This was the only time Billie ever protested, pulling on the lead at the start, but even he just put his head down in the end and kept on going. We were glad to find the hostel open, a dry room and a welcome cup of tea in Kirkby Stephen.
The weather got worse as we got up to Kidsty Pike, the highest peak on the Coast to Coast. It got even worse, with 70 mph winds and rain and almost zero visibility on the other side, making navigation quite hairy. We encountered other Coasters coming up from Patterdale and we were able to follow them back as they turned back because of the weather.
All the Lion pubs were good. The Lion at Blakey Ridge was one of the best pubs on the track. The Golden Lion at Osmotherly had the best food and the White Lion at Patterdale was like heaven after the hell of going over Kidsty Pike.
This wasn’t a path we were taking, but we were cautious around cattle of all kinds. We tried to avoid fields with cows and calves in (even when we had to climb over walls to do it), except in the last mile when we saw a couple emerge from one with their very springy springer spaniel. Our closest call was near Shap, where we wild camped just off the path, near a walled copse. We had only seen sheep, but as it began to get dark, Billie started to growl. We looked out to see a shaggy headed steer with a massive set of horns right by the tent flap! We were surrounded by half a dozen steers and kept Billie quiet and waited until they moved away. The next morning, they were gone, but we found out in Shap that those same steers had trampled a man, who then had to be airlifted to hospital, the week before. He had had a dog that they charged and when he picked it up they kept on going….
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