An account of walking the Pennine Way in the time of Covid 2020.
The Coast to Coast extremely varied passing from the dramatic granite pikes and becks of the Lake District to the fascinating Westmoreland limestone pavement. Perhaps the most delightful section is that of the Yorkshire Dales from Kirkby Stephen, over Nine Standards and then along the Swale from Keld to Reeth. On the western half of the route to Keld the weather was most challenging with high winds, rain and mist. The weather then improved and I had sunshine most of the rest of the way. The C2C starts with a coastal walk along the sandstone cliffs of St Bees Head and finishes satifyingly with a similar stretch of the Cleveland Way along the shale and mudstone cliffs from Hawkster to Robin Hoods Bay.
Alfred Wainright, devised the walk and first described it in his guide published in 1973. He describes the route in 12 stages; it took me 13 days. I measured it as about 187 miles long (300 km). It traverses three national parks – the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dale and the North York Moors and crosses the Westmorland plateau with its limestone pavements.
Passing through 3 National Parks
There is, however, much too much road on the Coast-to-Coast, more than on the Pennine Way, and the route feels more contrived and less logical. Although the Pennine Way crosses the Pennines from side to side but it aims to gain or keep to high ground or to follow the watershed of major rivers. The Coast to Coast does this to an extent, following the Swale for a while. But it feels like Wainwright cleverly used parts of bridleways and ancient tracks without there being much reason for the route other than to get from caost to coast and to link the three national parks.
The best bits
I’m glad I did it, however, and enjoyed much of it, apart from the tedious stretch from Richmond to Ingleby Arncliffe across the VAle of Mowbray. Looking back, I most enjoyed the Lakes, despite the rain and storms and despite or perhaps because of knowing them so well. And I enjoyed the easy day from Keld to Reeth with Scharlie and Bridget, not least because of their obvious pleasure in the landscape and flora.
My legs are not as strong as they were. Nevertheless I made it without mishap. I’d done it. Slowly, but done it well, in good style and in a decent time. And I’ve experienced a lot, know more about nature, geology, local history of the places and counties I’d walked through, and it had reaffirmed my understanding that putting one foot in front of the other and keeping going you accomplish great things.