Walking the 192 miles from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay in Yorkshire, I thought the focus, drive and energy needed to get to the destination might overshadow the smaller details and pleasures of the journey. So my two top tips for the group were: firstly, look after your feet (of course) and secondly, be in the moment and notice the nature around you. For each of the 15 days walking, I noted just one moment of wonder. However, it was not always what I expected, and the biggest rewards of the journey turned out to be different again.
Day 1 to Ennerdale Bridge. The red sandstone cliffs of St Bees head, but most especially noticing that the red stone was everywhere: in the buildings, the sculpture of St Beda, the quarry that’s just worked 2 months each year so as not to disturb the wildlife.
Day 2 to Seatoller. The view up to those famous fells from Black Sail Youth Hostel in Ennerdale: Pillar and Great Gable, where it all started for me 40 years ago, I felt very grateful indeed.. Utterly remote. That night the team bonded over the puzzle of Norse and Cumbric words.
Day 3 to Grasmere Skipping along the everlasting ridge, Calf Crag, Gibson Knott, Helm Crag, the Lion and the Lamb, I hit my stride, summit after summit, view after view. This was a sensation of internal joy.
Day 4 to Patterdale. Creeping up into the thick mist around Grisedale tarn, but first stoppping by this delightful waterfall for a morning break. This was the day we worked together like a well oiled machine to get everyone safely over the lively streams.
Day 5 to Haweswater. Angle Tarn is the archetypical perfect tarn: remote, islands, nestling amoung great fells. This was the day Jan realised she loved the hills after all (however much she tried to hide it) and made her infamous bid for freedom. Honey wine. Hanging on tight in the blasting wind at the top of Kirsty Pike, we reached our exhilarating high point.
Day 6 to Orton. Running down the open fields to Orton from the limestone hills through the wide open countrydside. Red squirrels in the woods by the hotel.
Day 7 to Kirkby Stephen. Finding the extraordinary erratic boulders and thinking about their travels in the ice. The beauty of a wild meadow with grasses rippling in the wind. (Okay, that’s two moments for today).
After our day off, day 8 to Keld What were those mysterious Nine Standards? Pretend soldiers? Directional markers? Over enthusiastic cairn builders? The bog was just boggy enough to be beautiful and adventurous, without being a problem. Most of the time!
Day 9 to Reeth The day of the lead mines, smelt house ruins and random bits of old machinery, set in this fantastic landscape, watching nature gradually reclaim what is hers. Great to have the nature watchers in the team: curlew, lapwing, plover, snipe, a lot of grouse and a whole lot more were spotted.
Day 10 to Richmond The Duck race, all captured on video. I wont forget Crackpot in a hurry!
Day 11 to Danby Wiske. The breadbasket of England. Walking through the fields took on a whole new interest with Paul to entertain us with fascinating information about the crops: oats, wheat and barley came alive for us. Then sometimes we found other ways to keep ourselves entertained:
Day 12 to Huthwaite Green Fisrt signs of the the old jet mines, I had never thought about this lovely black stone before, how and when it was formed and mined, and why it became so popular.
Day 13 to Blakey Ridge. The rollercoaster of the North York Moors, Wainwright wrote “you’ll love the Wain Stones” and I did: jagged, scrambly bunch of shapely rocks, jutting out on the edge of the moors.
Day 14 to Grosmont
Day 15 to Robin Hood’s Bay Relaxing on the hillside looking down on the sea, with a great sense of achievement. Just another 6km to go along the coast.
Fifteen memories of wonder to treasure. More than that though: linked by the fragile human bonds made on a short yet intense journey, change happens, Passions for walking are rediscovered or renewed, some achieving more that they thought they would, this is the surprise factor, you never can tell how people will take to the adventure. Some sorrowful partings too, at the end of the first week, and half way through the second, only to find out that Jan, Mira an Caroline have already booked to finish the walk together next year. A memorable, exhausting and wonderful journey, thank you.
A few bridges, a few more moments…