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Posts Tagged ‘walking the English Coast Path’

Four years ago I read in the news about this young lad, Alex Ellis-Roswell from Canterbury What an extraordinary venture; a 9,500 mile, 3-year walk around the UK coast, including N.Ireland, from Minnis Bay to Minnis Bay, raising funds for and visiting more than 200 RNLI stations along the way, and raising more than Β£65,000 for the life-saving charity. Astounding. I had not heard of anyone walking the entire UK coast, and didn’t realise it was even a thing.

At the time I was not long back from walking the Camino Portuguese from Porto to Santiago, 174 miles, and my efforts felt quite piddling in comparison. I was totally awed at his efforts.

I’ve always loved walking, and walked a lot in my early 20s when I lived in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, but from when I had my baby and acquired a car and a husband in 1980, I didn’t do much by way of walking at all. Life went by, I had a car, and although we travelled a lot around South Africa walking was just part of a day or an outing and not the focus of the outing.

In 2001 I had the absolute joy and good fortune to spend 6 months in the Rep. of Ireland with my younger sister and her hubby. While there, my love of walking was rekindled and played a part in my decision to return to the UK full time…which I duly did in April 2002, albeit to Ireland first for 4 months till September. During my time in Ireland; 2001 and 2002, we walked everywhere, weekend jaunts across country, along the east coast in mid-winter (mostly because there wasn’t anything else to do LOL) and wonderful walks in historic Glendalough National Park in County Wicklow, and my midnight returns to home after an evening in Dublin.

When I relocated to the UK in September 2002, before starting work, I did a 6 week housesit; a penthouse in Hampstead Village with a rooftop view of London, lots of walking opportunities with Hampstead Heath nearby and the historic village of Hampstead.

When we, my daughter and I, eventually settled in Richmond in 2010 I started walking the Thames Path in various directions as well as many many walks in the City of London (eventually covering 95% of all the roads, lanes and alleyways) and City of Westminster, with occasional sojourns to other areas. I even started up a business (now defunct): 3 Days in London which involved guided tours (only a few because I really did not enjoy guiding people around the city LOL).

In 2011 I had the bright idea of following Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales route from Southwark Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral and in 2014 we moved to Broadstairs, where my coastal path jaunts began. Along the many ‘ways’ during the years from when I first arrived in the UK, the Camino de Santiago seeped into my consciousness from varying angles; my Dad and a couple of siblings cycled the French route (at different times), I met a lady who had walked the French route and loved it (she gave me my 1st scallop shell), I saw the film with Martin Sheen and books on the Camino started to make themselves known. And so my ‘dream’ of walking the Camino germinated. Initially I thought I’d walk it in 2016, having decided on the Portuguese coastal route as my preferred ‘way’, and to that end I started practising by taking lengthy walks along the coast to Margate or Ramsgate and further afield to Sandwich. Finally in 2017 I felt ready and walked the Portuguese Coastal Route to Santiago in September of that year.

Since then I’ve completed a number of long distance walks and my reading matter has turned to books about people who have done amazing walks. Shortly after reading ‘The Salt Path’ by Raynor Winn, I was inspired to set myself the challenge of walking the entire English Coast Path; coincidentally whilst I was walking between Sandwich and Walmer one day last year. And so the idea was born, and now that I have a specific target, I’ve started walking sections with purpose (I will write up about those stages in due course).

During the preceding years I’ve been inspired by epic adventures embarked upon by people like Steven Fabes who cycled 6 continents and covered 80,000 km on his bike. And Ben Fogle’s many adventures with ‘New Lives in the Wild’ TV shows, Steve Backsall’s many epic adventures (not that I envy any of his adventures thank you!!), Michael Palin’s many wonderful travels around the world, Michael Portillo’s ‘Great British Railway Journeys’, and Julia Bradbury’s many amazing walking adventures in the UK.

Way back in my South African past, a boyfriend at the time gave me the book ‘Full Tilt: From Dublin to Delhi’ by Dervla Murphy, which I devoured at the time, never imagining that I would one day actually live in Dublin! I loved her story and I think it probably ignited a small flame that was later nourished to become a passion; travel.

During lockdown in 2020, for 7 weeks between March and April, I was lucky enough to be working and living in a tiny village in Somerset; Nether Stowey, where I was able to indulge my walking escapades despite lockdown because there was hardly anyone around and I seldom encountered a soul during my 2 hourly breaks from working.

My daughter introduced me to the ‘addictive’ Conqueror Challenges in April of 2020 and working towards those goals has kept me motivated.

that’s me! The Conqueror – conquering the world, walk by walk LOL

I also started looking to find more people who were walking the UK coast and somewhere along the line, via Facebook I found and started following Chris Walks the UK. At the time he was safely ensconced on a remote and unoccupied Scottish island where he stayed for much of lockdown. Following his journey both then and now, I’m totally inspired by his fortitude and strength. Having started the journey in the midst of depression 5 years ago (apparently Sunday was his 5th anniversary, so I’ve added the link to reflect that), a former Veteran of the Armed Forces, he was then and still is raising funds for SSAFA and has met the 2 loves of his life along the way; 1st Jet, a beautiful greyhound, and then Kate a beautiful young woman who popped over one day to say hello and never left. I love their daily posts and am in so much admiration for how they cope with obstacles.

Slowly, during my travels, I stumbled across other walks; the Two Saints Way, St Cuthbert’s Way and St Oswald’s Way, Great Glen Way, The West Highland Way, Hadrian’s Wall, and as I came to learn about more and more walks, I started buying the Cicerone Guide Books. Now, with a whole long list of walks I now want to do, I joined the UK Long Distance Hiking page on facebook, to get ideas and advice, occasionally discover new routes to walk (oh my lord! Like I need any more!), and while scrolling through the posts a couple of days ago I stumbled across Tracey Elizabeth Hannam, an amazing woman with an interesting story who is currently walking the UK coast. I saw one of her posts; a poem that she wrote and it resonated so strongly that I asked her if I could share it here…..and she has agreed.

Here is the link to her facebook page and the poem that caught at my soul

.. Thoughts..a poem

What am I thinking is my life shrinking I need to get out,
Where am I going am I happy knowing as I start to shout,
I’m feeling quite trapped being part of the rat race as they call it..
I’m trying to fit in but I can’t begin as I simply deplore it,
As I try to escape, suffocated in this place I know I must go,
To the sand and the sea I feel it beckoning me and now that I know,
I must be out in the wild like a inquisitive child seeing new things each day,,
Sleep on the earth in a tent, many happy days spent loving the way,
How my new life has changed simply been rearranged by thoughts in my head,
Of times I couldn’t breathe, there was a hidden need to be out here instead,
My eyes now open to see this new happy me away from the grind,
Of a regimented past life, sometimes trouble and strife but now cleared from my mind,
Medicine not in a pill but walking up a hill is healing my soul,
Prescribed by Dr. me as I began to see I needed a new goal,
And I’ll never look back to that old beaten track that stopped me from growing,
I’ll look right ahead never to dread this new me I’m knowing,
Leading the way not afraid to say to others too,
Don’t settle for less cause you are the best ..refresh and renewβ€¦πŸ’œβ€

Copyright: Tracey Hannam .. 31/7/21

Tracey Hannam – Long Distance Hiker, so inspiring

During my research into other long distance UK coastal walkers I came across this fantastic website https://www.britishwalks.org/walks/Named/CoastWalk/Links.php an amazing resource listing the many people who have already walked the coast or are currently walking.

There is something quite extraordinary about a person who decides, for such a variety of reasons, to up sticks and walk for thousands of kms/miles, sometimes for years on end. Carrying the bare minimum, yet loaded with a lot of stuff to carry, they put one foot in front of the other, enduring pain and discomfort, all the weather types you can imagine, blisters, scrapes and falls, a lack of home comforts, facing some of the hardest days anyone could imagine – and yet, they just keep on going, loving that life despite the hardships, and rejoicing in the beauty of new places.

I find it so inspiring and totally awesome.

For me it’s the sheer freedom of the path, of the unknown, of starting at one place and ending at another that leads me on….

English Coast Path

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Well that didn’t take long…I guess I can now be classed as a seasoned backpack packer! Hoorah!

Packing for hiking

I remember when I packed for the Camino in 2017, I weighed every single item, no matter how small and carefully calculated exactly what I desperately needed and thought I should have in my backpack…some of it ‘just in case’. Much of it unused. I packed, unpacked, and repacked countless times rearranging everything over and over to get the optimum balance …but now have a place for everything, and everything in its place πŸ™ŒπŸ˜πŸ˜

Fortunately I have since learned just how much I can manage without, and I’ve scaled it down drastically. Carrying the backpack in Spain and then again on the first half of the Pilgrim’s Way, gave me a fair idea of just how heavy it gets after 4 or 5 hours, never mind 8!! When I packed for the Camino, the weight came in just over 11 kgs, which in reality was more than the recommended 10% of body weight by a few kgs, and lugging Pepe across England on the Pilgrim’s Way in the heat of summer in 2018 has taught me more than I care to know.

So with that in mind I unpacked EVERYTHING I had and I laid it out on the bed. I then went through the less obvious items and removed at least 1kg, but this is an extra cull after the one I did subsequent to the 2nd half of the Pilgrim’s Way in 2020. So now, I have the bare minimum (I think) and at least 5 items on the list will be on my body each day instead of in the bag. I’ve even cut down on the shampoo and conditioner because I’m going to have my hair cropped as short as I can before I leave in September, and I’m sure the AirBnb hosts and the hotels will have what I need. You know how those ‘few’ 100 gram items add up!!

Keeping in mind that not only is there an average of 8 days of rain in September in Northumberland and it will, knowing my fate, rain on at least some of the days I’m walking….(but I might be lucky…who knows), I’ve added the waterproof over trousers and gaiters. And then of course there is Hadrian’s Wall and I know for sure from the many images I have seen of other walkers that it rains quite a lot and quite heavily along the wall…

So without further ado….here is my list:

Emergency Items: Waterproof Backpack Cover with reflective chevrons. Orange emergency survival bag (plastic) with a copy of my passport folded up inside and a list of I.C.E. numbers. Silver foil emergency sheet. 1 LED emergency flashlight. A reflective safety vest. A flashing reflector light for my fanny-pack. These are items I take on every walk.

Rain gear: 1 bright yellow waterproof (I hope 🌧🌧) poncho. Waterproof breathable over-trousers. a pair of gaiters.

Cold weather clothes: ultra light Puffer jacket with hood. Pair of gloves. 1 long-sleeved jumper. 1 long-sleeved lightweight vest.

Outer gear: 2 pairs lightweight, quick-drying hiking trousers. 3 lightweight, quick-drying breathable hiking t-shirts. I should probably get myself a hat??

Underwear: 5 pairs double thick hiking socks (love these socks). 4 pairs inner wick-away socks. 2 pairs night-time underwear. 4 pairs netting pants for day wear. 2 bras. (No night-time gear – I will wear the next day’s t-shirt to sleep in).

Toiletries: SPF 50+ sunscreen (in case I remember to use it πŸ€ͺ). Aloe Vera facewash. Bamboo toothbrush. Small tube toothpaste. incognito anti-mosquito (100% natural ingredients and no poisons). Tiny bottle incognito citronella oil. Hotel acquired tubes of shampoo & conditioner. Small bottle shower gel. small comb. Emery board to keep toe nails under control. Aloe Vera Heat Lotion for tired feet pre and after walking (works a treat). Lip-Ice. Hand sanitiser. Eye mask (my eyes are light sensitive and I sleep better in the dark). Sound blockers for nighttime. Prescribed Medications.

Health: a pack of paracetamol pre and after walk pain killers (my feet appreciate the thought!) Various small items for cuts, grazes and as yet no blisters. Covid Masks, surgical gloves, small plastic waste bags, plasters, vitamins (I boost my body daily when hiking to repair any damage done), gel toe guards, braces/velcro loops for hanging wet items off the backpack to dry while walking.

2 litre Hydration pack. 1.5 litre water-bottle.

To be added prior to departure: Phone charger. Emergency charger. Guide book & passport. Small travel double adapter.

Fanny pack with my Camino shell attached. Purse with passport, drivers licence, cash in case my bank card doesn’t work, driver’s license. Small note book with route places noted, AirBnb addresses and a list of ‘things to see’. My train ticket (collected yesterday hoorah!). And of course my reading and long-distance glasses…can’t leave those behind.

My Conqueror Medal for Hadrian’s Wall. I figured that since I’ve walked it virtually and will now be walking it for real, and after seeing someone on the Conqueror community group do the same, I’m going to wear mine as I walk πŸ™‚

And that’s it! Anything I’ve forgotten? Seeing it listed, it still seems quite a lot…

Even though the reflective backpack cover is meant to be waterproof, I usually pack all my clothes into resealable plastic bags in case of a downpour since Pepe is not waterproof and rain tends to creep in anywhere it can find a gap.

I’ve removed my night t-shirt and leggings, a torch that’s quite heavy albeit small, towel and face cloth, various duplicated toiletries and relevant toiletry bag.

37 days and counting…..

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After a few weeks of intensive planning and calculating distances and studying the terrain via Google satellite maps, I am almost ready to rock and roll along the Northumbrian coast as I walk the Northumberland Coast Path from Berwick Upon Tweed to Cresswell – the official route.

Of course, because I’m just that way πŸ™„ I’ve decided to tweak the route and add on a few kms!! After all, why not? It’s only 100 kms, I’ve done way more than that on other walks, so yeah….I’ve planned my route to include the stretch from the border of Scotland at Marshall Meadows to Berwick Upon Tweed and since I’m going that way anyway, I’ll keep walking from Cresswell to Newcastle….not all on one day mind!!!

So whew, I’m now VERY familiar with the Northumbrian coast…I know just about every town on the route and the distances between – slight exaggeration of course, but it sure feels like it.

What’s not an exaggeration is how much time I’ve invested in searching for suitable places to stay that are not too far apart and not going to cost me a month’s salary for 1 night!! Exaggeration of course but some of those places do charge more than I earn in a day…

Google maps, Booking.com, Airbnb and I have all worked overtime since I decided on impulse to leave St Oswald’s Way and St Cuthbert’s Way for 2022 when I do the Two Saints Way (different saints), and instead walk the NCP as part of my quest to walk the whole of the English Coast – since I’m up that way anyway for my other big walk.

My train ticket is booked, my accommodation is now finally booked, I’ve identified bus routes for getting to and from stop/start points, and I’ve identified some of the must see sights.

There are a lot of castles and rivers and a few islands. Plus the coastline is a UNESCO heritage site (I think???) I’m sure I read somewhere that it was, but for the life of me I haven’t been able to find where I read it, so may just have to let that go, but it looks like I’ll be adding quite a few places to Project 101.

In the interim I got my official guidebook and passport πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒπŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘ and that was well exciting.

It’s been really tedious working this plan. You’d think that with the sea to my left and heading from north to south it would be a breeze to plan my days, but no!!

Accommodation has been a huge stumbling block. I figured I would aim for approximately 20kms a day or as close as possible, but because I couldn’t find affordable accommodation in some places, a few of my days are a bit of a yo-yo.

But yesterday I finally nailed it. Hoorah!!!

So 3 nights in Berwick Upon Tweed with 2 day trips: 1 to Lindisfarne and 1 to Bamburgh Castle and some walking to cover that part of the coast inbetween, then on day 4 I hit the road, so to speak.

I’ll be adding my kms to the Kruger Park Virtual Challenge since I need to complete that by the end of September.

I’ll pop up another post in a few days with more details, but for now…

…..all I have to do is keep my fingers crossed that we don’t go into another lockdown…

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Last year, 2020, inbetween lockdowns, and somewhere between Sandwich and Deal, on a practice walk for my now started Thames Path jaunt, and having just finished reading The Salt Path, by Raynor Winn, I was inspired to attempt to walk the WHOLE of the English Coast….in stages – you know how I love my stages πŸ˜‰πŸšΆβ€β™€οΈπŸšΆβ€β™€οΈ

I have already walked from Broadstairs (when we still lived there) to Sandwich, and to Margate – countless times when preparing for my Portuguese Camino in 2016/2017.

Due to my job I also get to work in a variety of locations, and occasionally it’s at the seaside…so I’ve already walked a few sections of the English Coast Path accidentally. But of course, now I’ll have to walk them again, this time with purpose, and that won’t be any hardship.

I reckon it’ll take about 10 years at my current rate, and because I’m still working and following a multitude of other routes!

Actually, I recently had the good fortune to have a booking in Nether Stowey and planned a couple of days in Paignton during which time I walked from Berryhead to Torquay via Brixham over 2 days βœ…βœ… and I also walked as far as Dover last year. (I will eventually get to write about these walks – the scenery is just stunning, and of course the east coast is awash with history – forgive the pun!).

Although I have a penchant for just going on my walks ‘on impulse’, mostly a fair amount of planning has already gone into the ‘idea’ 😁😁 and its usually impulse meets opportunity, and off I go.

I’m walking Hadrian’s Wall in September, so decided to walk the Northumberland coast path from the border with Scotland and part of the Tyne and Wear coastal path. Since I’m up that way….

To that end I’ve ordered the Northumberland Coast Path guidebook and passport (yes!!! To my delight, I discovered that there is a passport to go with it yayyyy πŸ™ƒπŸ™ƒ).

The Northumberland Coast Path

And so planning has begun. Originally (2020) I had planned on walking St Cuthbert’s Way and St Oswald’s Way, both of which are in Northumberland/Scotland, but there are 2 other Saints walks I want to do, and since I have the St Francis’s Way Conqueror Challenge still waiting in the wings, I’m going to try plan those for 2022, and put the mileage towards that challenge. πŸ˜€

I better plan a trip soon…I joined this challenge in December 2020!!

Part of the enjoyment of these walks is the planning. I love to set up the spreadsheet, decide on suitable dates, identify the distance and then start my research : transport, accommodation, weather, food stops, and of course affordability. I usually budget for Β£100 a day all told because accommodation costs are quite expensive. There’s a HUGE difference between the UK prices and Portugal/Spain. Its wayyyy cheaper to travel the Camino than plan a walk in the UK, unless you wild camp, which I have not yet had the courage to do.

First I had to identify all the main towns along the route, which is 100kms +- from Berwick Upon Tweed to Cresswell, and onto Newcastle. Identified and noted – spreadsheet updated.

Then I broke the distance down into ideally 20km walking days to see the how long and where to stay places. Towns/places noted. Some days will be longer than other!!!

Next up: transport. Hmmm. There’s a railway line but it appears to goes direct from Berwick to Newcastle πŸ€”πŸ€”πŸ€” and buses? Also a direct route, and no stops from what I can see (on closer inspection I found a few stops πŸ™„). So possibly basing myself in one place and hopping back and forth like I’m doing with the Thames Path and Saxon Shore Way! Tricky!

Next up: accommodation! I had a look on Airbnb and Booking.com. I nearly had heartfailure at the prices!! Even the YHA in Berwick Upon Tweed are charging Β£99 for 1 night! Restyled as a Hilton then?? Jeez. A more indepth search is required.

What I found during my searches is that accommodation is in short supply, and few and far between, and if available – very expensive!! Gosh, I hope the guide book is waiting for me when I get home!!

So I contemplated the possibility of ‘wild camping’ πŸ• πŸ₯΄πŸ₯΄ I’ve seen loads of people who do this on their long distance walks, but tbh I can’t even consider the idea of carrying a tent, sleeping mat and sleeping bag!! I carried a sleeping bag on my first day of the Pilgrim’s Way and the extra weight nearly destroyed my will to live.

I’ve been toying with the idea of just roughing it and sleeping with my jacket on under my emergency blanket…but I asked myself “what if it rains?” and of course there is this: Wild camping is not allowed in England, so please do not pitch your tent unless you have sought the permission of the landowner. What if I don’t have a tent? LOL

But ‘just in case’ I decided to check the weather patterns for September on the Northumbrian coast… very encouraging. Of course those 8 days, could coincide with my 6 days πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ so perish the thought!!

I hope my trip coincides with those 22 days…
Q. Weather Northumberland September?
A. On average, it is maximum 16Β° in september in Northumberland and at least around 10Β° degrees. In september there are 8 days of rainfall with a total of 8 mm and then it will be dry 22 days this month in Northumberland’.

Not sure which year this was, but I hope it rings true for 2021 too!! Loving the average temperature!!

Sitting here on Saturday morning waiting for my client to wake up and scrolling despondently through the World Wide Web πŸŒπŸ•Έ I had the bright idea to ask the community on the Long Distance Hiking page on Facebook 😁😁

Voila…I’ve had some lovely responses so far, but not much about accommodation. So, patience being a virtue, I’m keeping my fingers crossed 🀞 and hoping someone has relevant information.

If not, then I’ll have to just wait for the guidebook and hope for the best….other than that, I’ll just wing it. I have a limited amount of time to book my advance rail ticket…

So that was in the morning…. meanwhile I’ve had a few people respond with more information about accommodation and bus routes that I did not find during my searches – change the keywords and success! It seems there are indeed local bus services that ply the coast between towns (of course πŸ™„πŸ™„ silly me, I had wondered how people get around).

I then had the bright idea (yes, I do wake up occasionally) of going back to the Northumberland Coast Path site from which I ordered my guide book, and hey presto! Guess what??? They have a whole section dedicated to the different stages and surprise surprise….accommodation options. However, on closer inspection some of the accommodation listed is well beyond my price range and when there are no prices listed….don’t even bother going there!

So back to the drawing board and fingers crossed by tomorrow I’ll have my route sorted and accommodation identified and booked.

I’ll be sure to keep you posted πŸ˜‰πŸ™ƒ

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