Wednesday, 8 August 2012

A Coast to Coast Walk–my thoughts

“…The coast to coast walk is enjoyable for its beauty, for the dramatic variations of landscape and for its many interesting relics, some rooted in prehistory….  I finished the Penine Way* with relief, the Coast to Coast with regret.”
Alfred Wainwright
{almost sad to have finished, for it to be over and contemplating
it all whilst dipping my toes in the North Sea}

Alfred Wainwright is the brains behind a Coast to Coast walk.  A famous fell walker in England, author and illustrator of many a walking guide, his book “A Coast to Coast Walk; a Pictorial Guide” was first published in 1973.  In this seminal guide, he sets about showing just one of many ways you may walk from one coast of England to another using existing paths (including public footpaths, bridleways, roads, rights of way and permissive paths).

~It’s been a few weeks since I finished the coast to coast and I’ve been trying to get my thoughts together on this and form some sort of coherent post. I’m struggling to tie things together so this post may be a bit long winded.  The take away of this longwinded post is that it was fantastic. An enjoyable holiday at the time and a self appreciation boost to take away from it. I loved this walk. Love it ~

The above quote from Wainwright, in closing his guide, sums it up completely.  I finished the coast to coast with regret.  Weary, sore and a little injured.  I was sad it was over.  The walk had been somehow perfect and I wanted more.

Long distance walking is a simple way of life.  Yes, it can be hard work at times and downright painful at others but it is freeing.  It’s you, your boots and the path and you juts keep walking.  Spending thirteen days gave me time think about lots of things, both big and small.  But for every profound thought I had or big decision I made, I had hours of not thinking about anything.  About seeing shapes in the clouds, countries in the rocks and just taking in the beauty of the surrounds. A type of relaxation I don’t get in the city.

Long distance walking is both social and solitary.  For great stretches you walk alone with your thoughts yet along a well travelled path, you meet so many.  From a quick hello to those heading in the other direction to long fun recaops with the familiar faces in the pub who are following the same intinery.  Many of those I met are avid walkers with many stories to share (think Everest, the Camino, St Cuthberts Way, GR5, GR20, Tour de Mont Blanc, AP, PCT, Kili, Kokoda and many more).  I hadn't factored in this social side and it was a really pleasant surprise. 

And our bodies. Our bodies are amazing.  Mine, as overweight as it is, carried me across this country on foot.  I don’t take good care of it but this walk has left me appreciating it a lot more.  There are more photos of me on this walk than there are of me the rest of this year.   Not because I’m suddenly gorgeous, skinny and sans belly/chub.  No, but because I climbed a mountain.  And I damn well want a photo of me atop that mountain.  And then the next day, when I climbed another pike? Well I wanted a photo atop that pike.  And when I scaled a waterfall?  Same again.  Got to have a pic of me scaling that damn waterfall.  At some point during the walk, I began to focus not on what my body looks like but what my body can do. This I think, is my biggest take away.

I didn’t think six months ago that I would ever do this walk.  Now I can’t imagine having not done it.

*The Penine Way is another long distance walk in England.  One that I have no interest in.

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