I’d long had a desire to run the Coast-to-Coast route. COVID had ruled it out for two years so I decided to commit to it and go for it. Within a minute, Liam, my running pal said he would do it with me.
We had worked with PHW at the Etihad concerts in the Summer and we decided we would like to try and raise some money for them while we were running it. It was a constant driver for us over the ten days to remember those who could not consider a future due to terminal illness.
By the time we had finished the C2C, we had raised enough to fund 5 wishes. We really hope they give some people the chance to have some quality time and some wonderful experiences with their families and friends.
Many thanks to Sue and Leigh Founders of Purple Heart Wishes for getting us to the start at St. Bees.
The town itself is compact, cut through by a coastal railway line that crosses the Main Street just 20 metres from our accommodation for tonight, Stone House Farm, which is a charming place just half a mile from the start.
We had some food in the coast to coast pub, The Manor, just up the road from our B&B, wearing out run hoodies with all out wonderful sponsors on.
Our bags are collected by the Coast to Coast Packhorse company each day and tomorrow that’s 8:30am. Breakfast at 8 so got to be ready!
We woke to some mist on the coastline but that disappeared as quick as my Full English. We had a great nights sleep at the Stomehouse Farm. My room had a skylight above my pillow so I could look straight up at the stars through it.
Our bags left at 8:30am to be moved to our next stop at Ennerdale. They travelled by van while we covered the 15 miles on foot over some hilly terrain, summiting at Dent Fell.
The route to Dent Fell was very scenic with the cliff-top view from where we could see Whitehaven and to the west, the eastern coast of the Isle of Man. The villages are tiny with just one shop or so and a pub which we sadly had to bypass!
After rounding the headland, we turned inland and east, heading towards the mountains of the Lake District, looming far off in the distance. So we got up onto Dent Fell and had some of the packed lunch that the hotel had prepared for us. Itwas great and had all the stuff that runners and walkers need.
We thought the hard work was done but the descent down into Uldale was close to vertical and consequently slow but then we had some more uphill in the midday sun to negotiate until we found tarmac, wonderful, downhill tarmac that brought us gently into Ennerdale. Two minutes later, we arrived at our hotel, the Shepherds Arms where we headed straight for the bar (#athletes).
I was out cold at 9pm and woke at 6:30am so refreshed and ready to go. Enjoyed a nice Cumbrian breakfast at The Shepherds Arms at 7:30. They’re really well set up for ‘coast to coasters’ and you order your packed lunch in the evening, ready to collect the next morning. I ordered roast beef and horseradish and Liam went for ham. Didn’t think that much about it until we got up to the day’s summit and then wow, packed with beef that just melted in your mouth.
We left at 9:15am after some problems with the map app and bumped into some new friends from Tasmania who we’d seen at St. Bees the day before and who are also doing the C2C.
The route started on tarmac roads for about a mile until we reached the western end of Ennerdale Water. What followed was not conducive to running: boulders, rocks and nothing flat for about 4 miles. When we reached the eastern end, it opened out onto a grass meadow which was like running on carpet, and very welcome.
We took a left here and joined the main gravel road that is used to bring out the timber that is taken from the managed forest that flanks the valley.
For what is ‘holiday’ time, we didn’t see another person for about 2 hours. We passed the Black Sail YHA before following a narrow path to a stream then a steep ascent up steps cut into the hill. As is usual, what we thought was the top was not the top so we plodded on until the map said we were on the descent.
A rocky path led down to Honister Slate Mine where we took a 15-minute break to have a coffee and a sit down.
What remained was a 3-mile section into Rosthwaite and Borrowdale which lie between mountain ranges in the valley. Our accommodation Glaramara had evening meals available, but it was a bit posh and we just wanted carbs.
We had a Guinness and a chat with Len and Chris who were on their motorcycle, doing a loop around Keswick before heading back to Lancaster. The bike was a stunner.
Tripadvisor told us there was a place a mile away so we walked there and had some lamb stew with scones and mint sauce.
We had still not checked in but we had a pint at a nearby pub before plodding back in the evening sunshine to check into our hotel. It’s a great room with a fabulous shower which rains on you like manna from heaven.
We knew this one was going to be a challenge and before we even got to the C2C route, we had a mile walk as our accommodation was more in Seatoller than Rosthwaite. We were up at 6:30am to get packed for an early start after breakfast. Went down for 7:45 and filled our boots with full English type stuff and some croissants and jam for energy. Our early departure was somewhat delayed when Liam lost his wallet so we lost 30 minutes (I foundit).
On leaving, a bloke reversed off a field in to an expensive looking Volkswagen,popped his tyre and smashed the door of the VW in. Someone was about to have amiserable day. Not us ….
We got to the start of the route and once again, bumped into some fellow coasters who were doing the stage from Rosthwaite to Grasmere then Grasmere to Patterdale on their day four. Shame we won’t see them again as they’re such lovely people.
The start was promising, hot but relatively solid underfoot. Thi ssoon gave way to a terraced climb that just went on forever. As is the way, the top is never the top and it took a bit of gumption to get up it. Liam is greaton the ups, like a mountain goat and I prefer the down sections.
Liam was generally grumbly as he hates the downhill bits but I had to hold back a laugh when he went knee-deep into a peat bog. I was so concerned, I took a photo ….
We got to Grasmere and had a very welcome lunch at Greens. The owner was a runner too and filled up our water bladders to sustain us over the second section which was another 2000ft climb. By now, I had no idea or care where we were, I just wanted to see the end.
Near the top, we met a chap named Chris Hill who was wild camping on the north edge of Grisedale Tarn. Big shout out to Chris hope you’re OK up there tonight!
So today was a real slog but at the same time, magical. To be out in the Lake District, fit and well with the sub beating down is something I will never forget.
“It’s a doddle compared to what you’ve done today”. That’s what the land lady of the accommodation said last night. We knew there was over 3000ft of climb then a descent and some flatter bits.
Well, we’ve soon discovered that there is hardly anything decent about descents in the Lake District! We’d negotiated the traversed climb up to Kidsty Pike and had our butties up on the top. Some ultra runners joined us: they were scoping out a run that they were racing next April from St Bees to Shap. Yes,everything that had taken us 4 days to do, they had 28 hours to complete it in. Honestly, some people are superhuman!
Anyway, what goes up must come down and for the first half mile, we enjoyed a grass path until we had to clamber down, using hands on the sides to navigate a tricky rocky section that was, in a word, treacherous!
The guide book shows our route goes around the west and then northern edge of Haweswater. We were expecting at least some flat paths but again, more rock strewn surfaces. I had to take it slow as I had managed the day before to get my midsole of my left foot right onto a blade pointed piece of slate which gave me a troubled last few miles.
The later stages from Haweswater to Shap were on a variety of terrain but constantly undulating - that’s runners language for hills.
We stumbled upon Shap Abbey which marked a mile to the end of the days stage. Fortunately, this last mile was on glorious tarmac roads.
We are staying at Westmorland Hotel near the M6 so a taxi collects you from the end of the stage and drops you back there tomorrow. We are all set for an 8:15 departure. Now for some food though. Starving!!
After our most challenging day yesterday which just wore us down after the 3000ft of climb, today promised easier terrain underfoot and just under 20 miles to Kirkby Stephen.
On leaving Shap, we neared the Limestone works as we crossed over the M6. The legs took a few miles to get going but once the engine was running, the miles ticked off pretty quickly.
The areas around the limestone pavement provided lush, green turf for many miles which was like carpet after the previous stages of the Coast to Coast.
It was a bit sad (for me anyway) to turn my back on the Lake District that had provided such stunning views over the previous days but I wasn’t sad to have something less mountainous. It was anything but flat however, with undulating hills that took us through the Eden Valley. We’d left Shap at 8:45am but we didn’t see another living soul until about lunchtime.
To pass the time, we created a game: think of a footballer or manager then the next person has to start their answer with the first letter of the last name of the others. Eg. If they say Alan Shearer, I have to start mine with an ‘S’, so Steve Bruce for example. This went on for about a mile until I nailed it with Patrick Viera, thinking Liam would have to pick someone beginning with a V. He’d dropped back a bit and then I heard ‘Siri, give me some footballers who begin with V’. Bloody cheat!!
We’d agreed to get to about 13 miles before we had the sandwich we got from Shap Co-Op this morning. I also had a canned double-espresso which gave me an incredible boost for the last 7.
This section was interspersed with occasional tarmac roads which took us to the next path. Liam has a liking for tarmac, so much so, he decided to worship it …
We saw some random boulders, deposited by glaciation many moons ago and we had a really good momentum by now.
Another strange sight today was herds of cows. Obviously, the mountains of the Lake District are not too good for them, but the lush grass and undulating ground is all good stuff, for the things that go moo. In Bill Bryson’s books, he tells how many people are killed each year after being trampled by cows so entering a field of cows and their calves was slightly worrying. Every one of them just stopped and looked at us. I had an exit plan, just run faster than Liam ….
I had heard that The Wainwright Way had recently been given National Heritage Trail status and there’s going to be some investment in the route. The purists out there will cry out but for me, signage isn’t great.
The hills eventually plateaued out then dropped smoothly into Kirkby Stephen on tarmac roads which are heaven at the end of a long run.
We were happy to have covered just under 20 miles in under 4 ½ hours, especially as we had over 60 miles in our legs from previous days.
We dropped in to see the Coast 2 Coast Packhorse company when we arrived to say hi. They’re a lovely bunch and asked us how we were getting on.
From there, we needed a drink so popped into the Black Bull for a cold lager. We found a dartboard with just two working darts and, as of 5pm, it’s one leg all.
Just checked into Bollam Cottage which has a bath!!! Need a soak in that. However, my bag has not arrived from last night. Liams is here, mine is missing which is a worry but they said they’re on it and will call me later. I have an Apple AirTag in it and it looks like it’s still at last nights hotel near the M6. It might be a while until it arrives though. Fingers crossed.
Looks like we’re the only people stopping here tonight too. Just got a fright as I looked up when writing this to find a brown horse staring through the window. Not something you see every day!
Not sure what to do for food yet but there seems to be plenty of choice in KirkbyStephen so will head out for an hour later.
Kirkby Stephen was OK but food options were limited. We’d met one of Liam’s customers from EweMove at the Black Bull but forgot to order food. Not much after 8pm so we had to go to the only place open, the Mango Tree Indian. All very nice and filling but we both opted for something with minimal spice, given that we had 22.6 miles to do the next day.
We stayed at Bollam Cottage and they really looked after us. My luggage eventually arriving after I’d located it with my Apple Air Tag. The breakfast was plentiful and tasty too with fresh fruit and yoghurt, porridge and a full English. We’d need it ….
Our bags were collected just after 8 but we had an issue to deal with first. On the run over from Shap, Liam had somehow caused a security error on his business phone and had to do an erase and reset. Not a major problem but he had to pay his staff as it was a Tuesday. Anyway, Barclays we’re great as it worked out and we eventually put the ASICS in action at about 10:15am.
Like most days, we had a climb to negotiate first. The one out of Kirkby Stephen was steep and winding, ending up at the Nine Standards.
There are three different routes off the summit, depending on the time of year as they’re trying to prevent damage to the landscape. We had to take the blue route but it was very boggy. I went knee deep into a bog, much to the amusement of Liam, before he did the same, much to the amusement of me.
All routes eventually ended up at Ravenseat Farm, location for the Channel 5 series, “The Yorkshire Shepherdess” where we had a coffee, served by three of the younger daughters. I managed to grab a selfie with their dad Clive, who was really nice and accommodating, just like he is on the telly.
We left Ravenseat and headed for Keld, flanked by a limestone cliff that followed the river from the farm. Keld was a tiny village but we’d planned to stop here to have our lunch. I was harassed by a friendly chicken, unaware that I was eating chicken pasta before setting off for the second leg to Reeth.
Problem was, I needed 4G or Wi-Fi to load the map. No luck so I had to manually plot the route past about 6 old Lead Mines that were now dilapidated and crumbling; an echo of their former importance.
The route followed up a steep scree that was quite hazardous. It took a good while to make a small amount of ground and after all the climbing, we still had 6.2miles to go. We’d had enough by then and passed all the hides that local gun clubs use to shoot grouse from. For about 3 miles, every hundred yards we ran startled a grouse which flapped out of the heather with their familiar song that sounds like a kids bath toy.
By now, we had some momentum on the gravel paths that the 4x4’s used to get to the hides. We got to within half a mile of Reeth when we saw a ‘Path Closed’ sign! The path had been lost to water erosion at the elbow of a turn in the river, meaning we had to trace our steps back to find the diversion.
We finally trudged into Reeth at about 6:40pm. A long time to be on our feet. We checked into the Black Bull Hotel which has an elevated view over the town green, dotted with stone cottages
As I’d snored for the last four nights and Liam had had little sleep, I’d called ahead before we left to book him another room at the hotel in Reeth.
We arrived and checked-in. The shower was divine and the room comfy and clean. We had a monster plate of food each before a few games of pool. Then, something amazing happened.
The landlady came through with Guinness for me and a Fosters for Liam, accompanied with a message …
The people we had met the night before in Kirkby Stephen, customers of Liam’s, had phoned the hotel and paid for drinks for us. They had told the landlady all about our run for Purple Heart Wishes. Then something amazing happened again…
The landlady refunded the additional room as a £55 donation to the charity. We enjoyed a few games of darts and pool before crashing out.
I couldn’t sleep as I knew I had to do the blog so this is the result, finished just before 1am, sat in bed.
We'd both had a great night at The Black Bull. The staff there couldn’t do enough for us and we had a great breakfast. Of all the places we’ve stopped in the last week, this was the best. You see, it’s people that you remember when this is all done and dusted. The hotel was great and we had a farewell photo with Helen, the landlady before we left in the morning drizzle.
This was a two-stage run. We had 10.3 (and yes, those .3’s make a difference at this stage!) to Richmond which had some hillage but nothing major. The route crossed through fields and farms but the wet grass soon soaked our feet and went straight though the ASICS. I’ve learned that this is not good but thanks to some great advice from Gill Nurney, we’d learned to load our toes with Vaseline.
We were enjoying the easier terrain and had some long stretches on road. To be honest, we’d wanted this for ages but for C2C walkers, there’s not too much to inspire on the route as the Dales flatten out.
Richmond was bigger than we’d thought and the Market Square was filled with a travelling fairground. We resisted having a go on the rides and found greater enjoyment in discovering a Gregg’s. We’d not carried food as we’d Googled ‘Richmond’ the night before and knew there were options when we got there. Any weight you can discard from the backpack makes a difference. We had a ham salad sarnie each, a pastry and a coffee and took a full half hour to rest.
We got chatting to some old ladies who were very complimentary on our cross-country endeavours. More importantly, they told us where the local bogs were!
By now, the rain had stopped so we binned the jackets and headed off down past the castle and followed a meandering route that followed the river. We had 13.5miles to go and the sun came out. We’re already the colour of hazelnuts but we topped up the tan a bit more.
With about 6 miles to go, Liam was on top form and a good 2-300m ahead of me. He knew I was labouring but in a sort of unwritten rule, we’d learned over the week that we know when the other is flagging and we push ahead to keep the other going. I was goosed at this point and my blisters were developing.
We stopped for a chance photo near a water pump and get this, despite all the hazards that Mother Nature had thrown at us over the past week, I smashed my ankle on a fountain base which swelled up around my sock. Damn!
The scenery was very repetitive as it’s basically a patchwork of crop fields, sheep and cows. Thankfully, the people who make the plans in the Yorkshire Dales worked hard to provide good signage across the route. You need this as sometimes, it’s just a narrow and overgrown path, flanked with nettles. We’ve been using doc leaves on a regular basis as a natural remedy.
We arrived in Danby Wiske at 4:30pm to find our accommodation just two doors down from the White Swan pub. Wahay! Erm, no 😞 It was shut today. The accommodation is wonderful though and Christine, the landlady made us strong coffee and tea cakes on arrival. As she gave us the tour of where stuff was, we spotted a bath! I can’t explain in enough words how amazing a bath feels when your legs and feet are screaming at you to stop. Liam wallowed first while I caught up with my Janet on a video call. She’s been a rock, looking after everything at home and without her, I’d never have been able to do this. I owe her big-time.
When I eventually slipped beneath the bubbles, I went to another place. I popped my feet up out of the foam to see a blister party. Nothing major but they will need some attention tomorrow.
As we had not food option, the B&B lady Christine drove us the 4 miles into Northallerton where we went into The Buck, a new Wetherspoons. Cheap as chips and a few beers. As I said earlier, it’s the people that you remember.
19 miles tomorrow so another early night.
We had a wonderful stay at Inglenook Cottage. Christine runs a great B&B. We had coffee and teacakes on arrival and we were made to feel so welcome. She had a dog called Missy who was a cross between a Cairn Terrier on the mothers side and a Jack Russel and a Shiatsu on the fathers side. Christine said she was a Cairn JackShit. Missy likes to fetch your socks for you.
We’d gone into Northallerton the night before to a ‘Spoons’ where I demolished a pizza and chips but Liam didn’t order enough food. This would be telling today. We got a taxi back from Northallerton and crashed out, ready for another early start.
We woke to a wonderful breakfast prepared by Christine. We had fruit and yoghurt to start then some toast and jams before a magnificent full English for me and scrambled eggs on toast for Liam. Christine was the perfect host and she even goes open water swimming nearby!
The first leg was fine; a repeat of yesterday really through the bread basket of England. We had a mixture of roads and cutting across freshly harvested fields, the only guide being a flattened path from many walkers’ boots.
It was a tad under 9 miles to Ingleby Cross where we stopped for a coffee. Across the road loomed a big hill that would form the first part of the afternoon’s 11 mile run. I think we were a little carried away with how close we were to finishing.
After the coffee, we set off up the hill on a tarmac road that changed to gravel and then a trampled path through some woods, increasing with gradient as it went. The woodland gave shelter from the sun until we got to the top. We decided to do 4 miles including the downhill bit before we had our sandwiches.
At this point, I checked the elevation map. Of the 7 miles left to do, the last 4 looked a bit strange in that it looked like an ECG trace, up and down. The first descent had brought us right back down and we had to go up again the same amount to get over another hill, then again, and again, and again and again. By this time, the legs were not too bad and my feet felt good, thanks to the blister cushions I’d put on my heels.
At the end of the stage, we were still a long way off civilisation and the arrangement was that we call the hotel. Sure enough, right on cue, our ride arrived for the 10 min trip to the Wainstones Hotel.
My water had ran out with a mile to go so we went straight to the bar and ordered4 San Miguel. We each drained the first then sat outside to have the second.
Liam managed to get another room for just £25 so he didn’t have to listen to me snoring. I found my room had a bath. The next hour was spent underwater (well most of me as I don’t fit in a bath!)
It wasn’t a late night as I was knackered and tried to write this blog when I got back to my room. I was nodding off so put my phone down and the last ¾ of this post were written between 5:45 and 6:30am.
22miles for day 9 but that puts us just 15 miles away from Robin Hoods Bay!
We left Wainstones Hotel at 8:30, a little later than planned. They have a complimentary driver service to drop you off where they collected you the day before. The map showed a climb, followed by a shallow descent.
We had 22 miles to complete today and it was hard going. On paper, 22 miles on the flat and down seems OK but you don’t run on paper. By now, after 9 consecutive days of running, it took all I had to get to the end. The terrain was made up of gravel and metalled roads which gradually wear you down.
I’d not slept well in a stuffy room with little ventilation.
The previous day had been a rollercoaster bit this one had an early couple of hills, followed by vast expanses of open land, flanked by heather and the UK’s largest population of adders. That in itself means your eyes are on stalks.
We’d looked at the map the night before and it was an arcing run across endless moorland. Despite showing as downhill, we had plenty of up.
We arrived at Blakey Ridge in good time and went to the Lion Inn for a coffee and a cola. We’d done 9 miles so far.
The last section, 13 miles to Grosmont was a winding route that had some welcome variety in it through some wooded areas. We were both in the red (empty) zone but plodded onto the finish near a level crossing that is part of a volunteer-run railway. We pushed up the hill to the Station pub and stayed there until 8:30pm. We played GoFish with some new friends and exchanged stories about the C2C.
We’d booked breakfast for 7am on the final day. We’d stayed above a gallery in a really new B&B in Grosmont which sits in a valley and has a level crossing that divides the two sides and crossing the main road.
The weather was cooler with a hint of mist in the air, threatening rain later. The first mile and a half was proper uphill and hands pushes on thighs to get going. And it kept going …
The climb was spotted with yellow signs, announcing the Tour of Britain coming through on September 7th. Now I’m no cyclist but if they use that hill, their passing on the level crossing will be close to supersonic. (give me gin and tonic …)
The top plateaued out to moorland at Black Brow before a short but scary section northbound on the A169.
We enjoyed a long downhill section through Littlebeck and into a winding, stepped route through the woods. As we approached the end of this section, I heard a shout from behind me and turned to see Liam on his back, writhing in pain. I saw blood and ran back to him. It was his right knee. I’m OK with blood and nothing was squirting out so he’d managed to miss anything major. What remained were two jagged cuts, above and below the kneecap. The lower one was really deep and I could see the white subcutaneous fat layer beneath a flap of skin that had opened up.
We’d followed advice in our preparations and carried a first-aid kit every minute of the C2C. We needed it now. I looked closer and thought ‘There’s no way we can continue to the finish’ but Liam was having none of it; “We’ve not come 182miles to fail within the last 10”. We’d come through all sorts of terrain and something no bigger than a matchbox had caused this.
I tore open some gauze pads to pack into the cuts then bandaged them in place. Adding tape to hold it all together. I gave him some gel and a humbug for some sugar then helped him up onto his feet. We would know very quickly if we could continue.
Liam started with some small steps and found that he could manage. We still had 10miles to go. Running it would be silly so we walked for the next 3 or so miles until he tried to run again. I wasn’t keen but he said he just wanted to finish it.
We passed through Mitten Hill and Hawkser before passing through a caravan site and down to the coast. We’d not brought any food with us as there were no shops in Grosmont.
We finally limped into Robin Hood’s Bay. Brokenbut elated to have finished it!
We walked down to the water and returned our pebbles to the sea that we had collected from the beach at St Bees ten days earlier, carried in our backpacks all the way.
Liam was in agony at this point so we got a beer in the Bay Inn and signed the finishers book. We were the first of the day. I got us some chips from a local chippy and we sat on the steps at the Bay Inn. People assemble here to watch the people finish the C2C. Some asked what had happened to Liams leg and we had a chat before we set off up the hill to collect our bags. They’d been delivered to a local taxi company as we hadn’t decided to stay in the AirBnB we’d booked.
The taxi company was someone’s house at the end of 300yd walk up the hill. We asked if they could take us to Scarborough Station as we had the option of a direct train to Manchester Victoria at 3:34pm.
We got there in time and had coffee and sarnies. We took a tabled seat so Liam could put his leg up on the opposite seat (resting on my coat, we’re not scumbags 😂). The journey as about 2hrs 45mins. What had take us 10 days, most had been covered in under 3 hours on a train. One powered by diesel versus one powered by porridge and Guinness.
Arriving in Manchester was strange. People rushing past us and shouting football chants holding beer cans. We’d left this behind for a while and grown used to places where people have time for you and where life wasn’t so rushed. A break in the countryside is a real opportunity to switch off and reset.
Liam’s wife Leanne and his girls collected us from Victoria station and we headed straight to A&E at a Manchester Royal. We dropped Liam off and it would be about 11pm before he got home.
He needed 7 stitches in his knee and the resultant scar will be a permanent reminder of the Coast to Coast.
I just want to end by thanking our sponsors who between them gave £1400 to Purple Heart Wishes. With the money we raised from people who sponsored us via the GoFund me page too, we’re close to funding 5 wishes for young adults with terminal illnesses. Sue has been great, answering our calls all the way and giving her support. Same too for Izzy Kaleem who kept in touch every day.
If you would like to sponsor us now that we’ve completed it, please use the following link:
At some point, I’ll write a summary and reflection but for now, I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading our blog.
Liam has been a real pal and a battler. He never gives up. He has time for everyone and I hope he too enjoyed the break away from the hustle and bustle of the day to day.
If you’re considering doing the Coast to Coast, use the Packhorse company. They were fabulous throughout and when I first planned this, this was where I started:
Over to you for your own adventure.