The Coast to Coast

Walked in August 2008


I read somewhere that anyone getting into long-distance hiking should really try a small walk first, maybe over a long weekend, just to see if this particular activity is for them. The Pennine Way was recommended for experienced walkers who already had one or two long-distance walks under their belt. Obviously I read this after walking the Pennine Way with my brother Darryl (our first long distance walk), but hey, we made it, and we really enjoyed the whole experience (perhaps a little more in hindsight) despite the pain, exhaustion and low morale we had to endure at some points.

So what next? There are a number of long distance walks in Britain that on paper look like they may give a comparable experience to the Pennine Way. The National Trails Guide by Paddy Dillon (check) lists all the official trails in the UK, gives important information about length of trail, elevation, important sights on route and what key things to expect day to day. Prior to buying this book though Darryl and I had to decide on what our big walk of 2008 would be, and I had already heard of Alfred Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk, a route he had devised himself that stretched from the West coast of Britain to the East, taking in a number of places of interest, not least the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North Yorkshire Moors.

I bought the guide book, bought a DVD of an old TV series Wainwright did with Eric Robson about the route and tried to get an idea of what to expect. I really liked the idea of visiting the Lakes, especially after watching Wainwright’s Walks with Julia Bradbury and thought this would be a great way to start a walk. The other locations along the route also sounded intriguing and I liked the idea of crossing over the Pennine Way at Keld, a lovely, quiet part of the country with stunning views.

Darryl soon became as keen as I was to tackle this trail, so we started making plans and familiarising ourselves with the route. We checked through our kit, replacing anything that was worn or had proved too heavy on the last trip with better, lighter kit and adding anything that might make this second trip easier. My intention this time was to insure my pack weight was much lighter than it was on The PW. Ultimately it did end up lighter, but only just. It was only after completing the trip that I realised one of the heaviest items I was carrying was the pack itself, which I threw away not long afterwards and replaced with a considerably lighter and more comfortable Go-Lite which cut out a lot of unnecessary straps, poles and pockets and forced me to travel lighter. I would definitely recommend buying a light pack with few pockets as not only is it light to begin with but it deters people from filling it with unnecessary items. My pack can also be rolled down from the top if there is space, which makes the pack smaller in overall size too. It can even pass as a day pack if rolled down far enough. A really good bag. After this trip I also learned the trick of packing the tent inside the pack rather than strapping to the exterior top or bottom of pack. This apparently helps with weight distribution and centre of gravity. It also helps keep the tent dry. I also started packing the tent in a dry bag rather than its own bag as you can pack it smaller and tighter to take up less room. I then put the tent poles inside a roll mat and pack the roll mat upright inside the bag with the other items packed around it. I could have done with all this on the Pennine Way and Coast to Coast, but you live and learn.

It really is good advice to anyone starting on their first long distance trip though – travel light. VERY LIGHT. Some luxury items you won’t be able to do without, and even now I’m considering switching back from the roll mat to the heavier Thermarest inflatable mattress purely for comfort, but some things can easily be left behind. Some people take more than one pair of shoes/trainers with them for various reasons but I always stick to one pair for all conditions. My leather boots will need to be replaced before the next long distance trip, but they were worth their weight in gold while in use. It’s important to remember to water-proof them before each trip with a liquid treatment as the water-repellent aspect of leather deteriorates over time and with use.



It’s hard to know what to take clothing-wise sometimes. I would say for a walk in Britain in the warmer months the minimal kit should be: two pairs of shorts, three pairs of t-shirts, four changes of underwear (inc. socks), a thermal jumper, waterproof jacket and a hat. Waterproof trousers are handy but not essential unless you are heading into very high, cold stretches where your legs could get really cold. Otherwise if it does rain while you’re wearing shorts, your legs will soon dry out and you can always towel them down when the weather brightens. I might buy a pair of waterproof trousers that unzip at the knee for the next trip, since they can double as shorts.

Food/Cooking Equipment

A gas stove and gas canisters don’t weigh a huge amount, but add to this bowls/plates, cutlery, washing up equipment etc. and it can start to make a dent. Personally I’m more than happy to stick to ready-to-eat stuff like sandwiches, pasties, cakes, biscuits, fruit etc., then maybe eat at pubs, cafes etc. as much as possible. Cooking your own meals is fun but can be more hassle than it’s worth sometimes. Given the choice I’d go for saving weight.

Luxury Items

I always have a book to read, one is normally enough for a week or two since you don’t normally get too much time alone in the tent to read before wanting to just crash out and rest. I take a notebook to write up notes of the trip, a camera, phone, maybe a music player if its small and light and maybe a few more light odds and ends.

Other Items

Washing kit is important obviously, together with a travel towel (light and dries quickly), a first aid kit (very important), emergency blanket and whistle (just in case), guidebook (to know where the hell you’re going), a stretchy washing line (bought from camping shops) that is useful for hanging wet clothes from at campsites, and that’s more or less it. I took a camcorder along on the Coast to Coast walk because I thought it would be great to film some of the experience. It worked out ok and got some good footage, but the DV camera was heavy and for the next trip I hope to get a much smaller HD camera that records onto a hard drive or onto small memory cards. As with my digital camera, this should fit in one of the belt pouches on my pack for easy retrieval, unlike my old Kodak camera that I had to keep retrieving from the main part of the pack every time I wanted to take a picture.


Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk starts off quietly enough at the beach in St Bees, then climbs up and over St Bees Head where it follows the coastal path for a few miles before branching off toward Sandwith and the Lake District beyond.


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