This walk has been on and off the agenda again and again, and now it’s back on – hopefully for good this time.
I got AW’s Coast to Coast book for Christmas the year before last and intended to do the walk in 2011. But a lot’s changed since then – I’ve left my job and become freelance, I’ve taken an extended break from work and, particularly, my thoughts have evolved.
With six months off this year, I had the perfect opportunity to do the walk – hey, I even had a diary slot reserved in July – but somehow the walk never happened…..
As the time approached for me to leave my job at the end of February, my thoughts turned in earnest to the walks I would do in my time out, and somehow July seemed a long way off. Before then a lot of walking could take place. My first thought was to resurrect the idea of the Cambrian Way which I’ve wanted to do ever since I heard about it. At my level of hillwalking, this would be a 4 week walk minimum, which was a long time to be away from home. I pencilled in May for this, but not feeling confident that I had a big enough slot what with all the other things going on.
I put this out of my mind for the moment and focussed on the walking I would do when I became “free” at the start of March. The main event for March was to be the Cumbria Way which was to be a training exercise for the Cambrian Way – both to build up the fitness and to test that I was up to it. By the time I set off for the Lakes I’d pretty much worked out that the success of the CW would play a big part in the final decision to do the Cambrian Way. Also by this time I’d resigned myself to splitting the Cambrian Way into two chunks as I just couldn’t find a window of time big enough to do it in one go.
Now my CW route was not the standard one, as that didn’t seem to go high enough, and missed good opportunities to visit more actual peaks, especially as I conveniently had some odds and ends of fells that could be picked off close to the path. So I devised my own route which took in more hills, with the length and duration of the walk increasing as a result. In the end my Cumbria Way had me taking the route through the outlying fells south of Coniston, then the standard (more or less) route to Keswick, then a slight twist with 2 extra days exploring Back o’ Skiddaw, before walking out on the normal route to Carlisle.
It was tough at times, largely due to the weather, but I got a lot from this walk that ever since has coloured my thinking about long distance walks:
- I really felt the sense of achievement from doing it in one go, rather than in sections.
- I was really glad I’d chosen my own, slightly different, route.
- I think I found my upper limit in terms of how big a hill day I could fit into a long distance walk.
- I also remembered the feeling of anti-climax when I finished at Carlisle Castle where the end of the path isn’t even marked!
This had a number of implications for my plan to do the Cambrian Way. First that I became less keen to do it in two chunks, albeit only a few weeks apart. Second, that the Cambrian Way involves some big hill days that I felt might be a bit ambitious for me. And thirdly, I realised that the bit I really wanted to do was Snowdonia.
In the end I simply canned the plan to do the Cambrian Way, deferring it to another year, and went to Snowdonia for a week instead. That worked fine and I was happy with it.
But this also affected my plan for the c2c too. In a big way.
My c2c was in the balance all the while I planned to do the Cambrian Way – as the split into two parts meant using my c2c slot. But when I canned the Cambrian Way plan, the c2c went the same way. And I was fine with this.
First, I realised that the bit I was keenest on was the Lakes, so I could simply just go to the Lakes instead. Moreover, I was going to the North York Moors anyway for a family break at Easter. Secondly, I knew it would be busy in July (The only time I encountered a Cumbria Way walker was on my very last day, which suited me fine). Thirdly, the logistics of the c2c meant some days that were bigger than I wanted. Fourthly, I really wanted to chose my own route. And fifthly and finally, Robin Hood’s Bay as the end point didn’t really excite me.
So the c2c also fell by the wayside, and I spent the time on a mega Lakes trip instead. But the idea didn’t completely die as over the summer I discovered the Alternative Coast to Coast (ACC) and the Ravenber Way (RW).
Better still is the ACC. That starts on Walney Island at Barrow-in-Furness and similarly heads up the Pennines then through the southern part of the Cheviots to Holy Island. Holy Island – a much more iconic end point.
The rough idea is to start somewhere on the south/west coast of the Lake District (likely Ravenglass) and head for Northumberland, Holy Island to be precise. And there’s some special places I want to include on the way – High Cup Nick, Cross Fell and The Cheviot so far. This looks like it could mean that I do a big chunk of the Pennine Way – a path I’ve never been that bothered about – but that’s ok. So the route I end up with is going to be a blend of the ACC and RW and will, in the Lakes at least, coincide in places with the “official” c2c route. But let’s be clear, I’m choosing my own route, and if it happens to coincide with any of the published routes then fine.
But I don’t know when I’m going to do it, as my work situation is still unclear, so all I can do is plan it hypothetically so that I work out how many days it will take and do the research for where to stay during the walk.
Anyway, the planning is one of the best bits.