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Journeyman's Coast to Coast Journal 2006
Coast to Coast Planning and Preparation
Following retirement I set myself a target of walking at least 100 miles every month over a wide variety of terrain and including where possible at least one mountain walk per month. I achieved this target every month with ease. I regard myself as reasonably fit but I knew I had to take my fitness to another level to achieve my objective of Wainwright's Coast to Coast Walk. Following our 2005 Dales Way holiday the decision was made – I am going to research and prepare for the C2C Walk in June 2006. Linda wasn’t keen to do this walk but gave me her full support for me to do it. My initial thoughts were ‘who do I know that may wish to walk with me?’ Most of my walking colleagues were still in full time work and had family commitments so I didn’t think any of them would be able to take time out to do the walk let alone prepare for it. I asked around and my thoughts proved correct. Whilst on a Yorkshire Dales Walk of 14 miles from Buckden to Grassington over the hill tops I asked Paul, another retired colleague, if he was interested and I was delighted when he said ‘yes’. I told him I would research the walk and that I needed to know whether he would join me by November 2005.
I started researching everything that I could about the C2C walk and the internet proved invaluable. I adopted ‘lurk mode’ on the Sherpa van Message Board for some months and picked up loads of tips and advice about it from people who had already got the badge and from long established long distance walkers. I am now a full member of the Message Board and regularly contribute where I feel I can assist others. I am extremely grateful to Sherpa for hosting such a message board forum and also extremely grateful to the dozens of people who have taken the time to contribute in relation to the wide variety of topics including the route and its alternatives, where to stay and where to eat, what gear to wear, what to carry, how to treat blisters. True, I am an experienced walker but never too old to learn and not so foolish as to believe I know it all.
November 2005 came around quickly and it was time for a final decision from Paul – would he join me on the walk? Sadly, the decision was ‘No’ not because Paul didn’t want to do the walk but because his son was emigrating to New Zealand in 2006 and the authorities had told him it would be sometime between April and July. Paul did not want to give a commitment to me and then have to cancel due to his son being given a date that clashed with our walking plans. What do I do? Do I wait until the last minute to book? Do I cancel my plans and do it in 2007? Do I go ahead with my plans and walk alone? Who else do I know that my wish to do the walk or part of it with me? Linda was a little anxious that I didn’t walk alone. I told her not to worry because my research showed it was highly unlikely I would be walking alone as the route would be busy with other walkers in June. Decision made – I go ahead with my plans to walk in June 2006 and give myself until the end of November to find someone else to do all or part of the walk with me or I will walk alone.
Several things had become apparent to me since retirement primarily that you lose touch with the majority of people you have worked with and therefore you forget some or all of their interests. One evening whilst researching the C2C I recalled a conversation I had with a colleague, Malc, a few years earlier. Malc told me at that time that he was thinking of doing the Coast to Coast Walk in 7 days. I thought (no disrespect Malc) ‘no way can you do the C2C in 7 days’ and I told him so. He sort of laughed it off and that was the end of it. Perhaps I could remind him of his earlier suggestion and persuade Malc to do all or some of the walk with me. I know he was extremely busy at work and had a growing family who he adored and liked to spend as much of his spare time with. How would his wife Margaret react to me trying to lure her husband away on a gentle stroll across some northern hills? Only one way to find out I contacted Malc and arranged to meet him for a beer one evening after work. It did not surprise me that he would be unable to accompany me on the entire walk but he did say that he would love to walk the first 4 or 5 days over the Lake District with me. He confirmed this commitment to me a few days later after discussing it with his wife who gave him her full support. Thanks Margaret. I told Malc I would arrange everything and that I would let him know details in due course and forward him a list of gear (this raised a laugh on our arrival at St Bees in June) that I intended to carry either in a rucksack or case to be transported by a baggage courier. Linda and I had used baggage couriers previously and enjoyed the additional luxuries of fresh clean clothing waiting for us after every days walk. I could now really start to map out the finer details of the walk including dates and then booking accommodation.
I had already decided that I wanted to take my time on the C2C walk and enjoy it. I would get no medals for racing across the country as fast I could. I knew that I was capable of completing the walk in 12 days but why rush? My days of racing around big hills are in the past – I have nothing to prove either to myself or others. I had read dozens of Coast to Coast Journals/Diaries and many more entries on the Message board about how long to take. In my view it’s a personal thing depending on the time of year, fitness levels, age etc. I have the greatest respect for people whose ambition is to achieve a fast crossing and equally I have the greatest respect for people who want to take three weeks including rest days. I had read about the delights of staying in Orton and Danby Wiske and didn’t want to miss them, therefore this would break up two longer walking days. I had decided to split the Borrowdale to Patterdale section and I didn’t want to Miss Great Broughton or the Lion Inn at Blakey Ridge. Decision made - 16 walking days with no rest days. I could also bag a few geocaches along the route – more on this later. Malc would walk the first 4 days with me to Patterdale where it would be easy for him to catch a bus to Penrith and train to Sheffield via Manchester.
I had already identified a first choice accommodation in each of the overnight stays including St Bees and Robin Hoods Bay and I wanted to get in at as many of these as possible. I spent a few days wondering when to start booking but the pressure and excitement became too much – it was the end of November and it was time to pick up the telephone and start booking - there is no better place to start than getting in at Butt House, Keld. I spoke with Doreen Whitehead and apologised for booking early but felt better when she told me people book 12 months in advance. Bingo! I managed to book the single en suite room at Butt House for the date I wanted Monday 19 June. I spent the next couple of days making the majority of my bookings and I managed to get in at all my first choices. There was no answer at three of the places I wished to stay but I was well aware that the owners were probably taking a well earned holiday abroad after a long season. This proved to be the case but by the end of December I had booked all my accommodation and sent off deposits where required. The only first choice I failed to book was High Blakey House – I wanted to stay on Sunday night but the owners do not offer B&B at weekends so I booked The Lion Inn at Blakey Ridge. Not that I have anything against The Lion Inn but I much prefer B&B accommodation to pubs but enjoyed taking evening meals at pubs. The plans for my walk were now taking shape and I was buzzing with excitement – my dream was becoming a reality – but there were almost 6 months to go. How would I fill my time?
Sponsorship for the Macmillan Cancer Appeal. It will be apparent from my homepage that I have raised thousands of pounds in the past for charities whilst walking and to be quite honest I had not considered it for the C2C walk but Linda persuaded me to raise money for charity and following a discussion I decided that the appropriate charity would be Macmillan Cancer Relief (Macmillan Nurses). I had seen several former workmates fall victim to cancer over the past few years and also a cousin died earlier this year. All these people and of course their families had received invaluable support from Macmillan in their final weeks and days and I had no hesitation in making contact with my local Macmillan fundraising office in Rotherham registering my intentions. They kindly provided me with official sponsorship forms and a fleece, t shirt and baseball cap, all of which I intended to wear in my training and in the evenings whilst on the C2C walk. The photograph on my homepage of me at the finish point in Robin Hoods Bay shows me wearing the t shirt and baseball cap. You will note the addition on the t shirt of a printed route map of the C2C walk. Linda deserves credit for this as we scanned a copy of the route from a book, reversed it and printed out on transfer paper which she carefully ironed onto the t shirt. Another master stroke of creativity from my dear wife.
I circulated blank sponsorship forms with a flyer about my intentions containing a photograph of me at the junction of the Pennine Way and Dales way above Cam Houses, a map of the route and plea for assistance in raising funds. Without the help of all these trusted and loyal friends I could not have raised much money for Macmillan. I hope to announce by the end of this journal an estimation of how much I have been able to raise. My thanks go to Malc, Sue, Alex, Ron, Mark W, Mark F, Gary, Mick M, Mick G, Carl and Ian for their assistance in this respect.
The weeks and months seemed to fly by. Although it was winter I continued walking and actually increased my monthly total to a minimum of 125 miles per month increasing every month up to and including May. I started using the multi gym in my garage for all round body strength and started introducing light jogging in the middle of some of my walks i.e. I would run about quarter of mile every mile walked. In January I came out of ‘lurk mode’ and registered as a new member on the Sherpa Message Board. I asked a few questions and contributed where I could and as usual there was a lot of sound advice coming from seasoned campaigners. I was able to pencil in where to eat in the evenings and decided on pub meals at all but four venues i.e. Brookfield at Shap, Butt House at Keld, Ashfield House at Danby Wiske and Intake Farm at Littlebeck. I was confident that with the help of members of the forum I had put together a fantastic schedule and I really could not wait to get started - but first I had to test and upgrade some of my gear, make a decision as to which baggage carriers to use and of course continue training. I also had to try and prize Malc away from his very busy work and family commitments – this was not going to be easy. Linda & I managed 2 x 4 day holidays in the Yorkshire Dales and also a 9 day holiday in Evanston, Chicago to visit our eldest son who is working there.
I already had quite a lot of decent walking gear but I could not resist some of the spring sales and actually replaced quite a bit of my existing kit e.g. I replaced my Lowe Alpine base layer with a North Face zip necked short sleeved base layer which was brilliant throughout the walk. I took 4 base layers but after a few days stuck to the North face – washing it out every night of course. I also bought additional items to make my walk even better such as a Platypus Hoser Hydration System, Berghaus Freeflow III 35+8 rucksack, Falke and Brasher trekking socks, Garmin GPS 60 and Memory Map Premier Edition of Northern England. I already had all the guidebooks (including Henry Stedman) and maps (including the much sought after OS maps 33 and 34) but I couldn’t resist a suggestion from regular forum contributor Trekker and obtained a copy of Wainwright's Coast to Coast Walk with photographs by Derry Brabbs. I liked an idea suggested by other members of the forum, Kev & Liz, to scan then laminate, in A5 size, the various sections of the walk. I was pleased with the results and added selective laminated sections from Stedman’s book to compliment the maps. I started using my Garmin GPS to do a spot of geohiking/geocaching and started downloading routes/waypoints from Memory Map onto my Garmin and using it in the field so to speak.
I lost count of the number of times I checked, cross checked, treble checked all the arrangements for the walk – years of operational planning ensured that everything was in place including a great favour by a good friend Ron who would accompany Malc & I to St Bees in my car and he would then drive my car back home. Ron you’re a star mate. The final piece of the jigsaw was my decision to use C2C Packhorse for our baggage transfer. It was a personal choice based on a number of factors primarily they offered me the best deal. I could have quite easily have used Sherpa or Brigantes who both have a great reputation but Packhorse it was. The start date was fast approaching and it was time for a final push in my training. In the weeks leading up to the commencement of the C2C walk I was a regular visitor to the high hills of the Yorkshire Dales combining a spot of geocaching with 15 mile walks including the prominent summits of Ingleborough, Pen Y Ghent and Great Whernside (twice). I managed to get Malc to join me on one of the Great Whernside walks and he thoroughly enjoyed it. Malc is a great guy and a real comedian as you will see from an extract of an email he sent former work colleagues, as a means of updating them, later in this journal. I walked 156 miles in May - most of it over similar higher level terrain as that found on the C2C walk. As ‘D’ day approached I became more wary of injuring myself in training and on a number of occasions came close e.g. nearly blown off the top of Ingleborough in a 60 mph wind.
mountain walk I did was Pen Y Ghent on Monday 5 June, one week before I
was due to start the C2C. I ascended Pen Y Ghent like an express train
and punched the air in delight at the top with a clenched fist ’yes’. I
knew I was ready. At the end of the 15 mile walk I was mentally and
physically fit and strong - I knew I was ready for the big one so I
celebrated in the Crown Inn at Horton in
Ribblesdale with a pint of John Smiths Smooth bitter before
returning home. I did a bit of local walking that week just to keep the
legs and body moving. I had a relaxing week but the weekend, in
particular Sunday 11 June, couldn’t come quick enough.
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