In early August 2022 I decided that, as a 50th birthday present to myself, I was going to walk across the whole of England, from the Cumbrian Village of Saint Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire, following the path of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast. I began a journal of the preparation and, hopefully, completion of that trip at around the same time. As it’s getting very long I decided to start posting individual entries, but all entires will still be available in the massive, original post as well.
September 28, 2023: Not the best of days. The walk itself was another mostly flat, kinda boring route through farmland and on surface roads without much to look at. At the end of the day I just made it into the North York Moors National Park and then it got pretty, but that was only the final bit.
Worse: at about the eight mile mark today I started to get a ton of pain on my upper ankle, just to the outside of it and below the outside of my shin. It’s not sharp and it’s not on the shin bone so I don’t think it’s shin splits. I didn’t twist it or bang it or step funny either. It’s just a dull but significant pain on the outside flank of my high ankle which made walking the last three miles or so quite a chore. As I’m writing this I’m at my inn and having gotten a look at it and there does not appear to be swelling. If there is any it’s slight. There’s no pain while standing still or sitting down or otherwise at rest. There is no pain when I press on it anywhere, even if I press hard. There is pain with each stride, however. The only thing I can think is that two straight days with a lot of flat road walking made it angry.
At the moment all I can do is stay off it as much as possible late this afternoon and this evening and see how it feels in the morning. If it doesn’t get any worse I am pretty sure I can power through and walk on it each day and do these last 48-49 miles or so. If it gets worse I’m going to have trouble. I don’t even want to contemplate that, though. I’m going to believe that I can finish this thing. I have to believe I’m going to finish this thing. If I have to call it off so close to the finish line I just . . . like I said, I’m not going to contemplate it unless and until I have to.
Apart from that it was a pretty easy day. The trail took me past some horse farms and I talked to the horses because, duh, you have to talk to the horses. The trail also took me (a) over active railroad tracks; and (b) across the A19, which is a four-lane divided freeway, with no bridge or underpass or anything. You just have to look right, get to the median, look left and get to the shoulder. It’s a very busy highway and I’ve heard people say that they’ve been stuck there for ten minutes before getting a chance to cross. I lucked out I guess as a break in traffic hit and I was able to get across all four lanes and the median in one go. Part of the deal with the Coast to Coast being turned into an official National Trust trail involves things like that being taken out of it because National Trust trails are supposed to, you know, not have dumbass things like freeway crossings on them. The only way that’ll happen here is if they build a footbridge over the A19. They say they want it to be a full National Trust trail by 2025. Ain’t no way they’ll have a bridge over it by then so good luck to future walkers who are led to believe that the Coast to Coast is up to National Trust standards by then.
Following the freeway crossing I entered the little village of Ingleby Arcliffe where I ate my lunch. It’s just at the base of the Cleveland Hills which marks the beginning of the North York Moors. A lot of people I’ve been walking with are staying down in Ingleby tonight, but even with the sore ankle I’m pretty happy that I’m staying 800 feet up the first hill in the Village of Otmothersly. For one thing it’s prettier. For another thing I’d rather start my very hilly, very challenging day tomorrow with one fewer climb to do.
I sat and had a cup of coffee as I was waiting for my inn to open up and the Australian couple I walked with and ate dinner with yesterday came by. They had dumped their stuff at their place in Ingleby and walked up the hill to Othmothersly because there was nothing to do down in Ingleby. We got a beer together and I asked them whether it was worth it to come up the hill knowing that they’ll just have to do it again in the morning. They said “nope” and laughed.
I realize I forgot to talk more about the Australians yesterday. Their names are Nick and Lori (or maybe Laurie). Turns out Lori is a native West Virginian, from the town of Lewisburg, which is about 50 miles east of where I’m from in Beckley. She met Nick when she was in her 20s, moved to Australia and married him and has been there for nearly 40 years now. She speaks with a hybrid West Virginian/Australian accent that is almost impossible to replicate (believe me, I’ve tried since yesterday) but it is is absolutely lovely. The two of them are great fun and I’ve come to like them a great deal. I believe we’re staying in the same place tomorrow so I’ll get to hang out with them a bit more.
Tonight I’m staying in a pub/inn called The Golden Lion. It’s a much nicer place than the other pub/inn combos I’ve stayed in so far. It has a large, hot shower that helped wash away a lot of my concerns about my ankle. It has a big comfy bed with good quality sheets. I haven’t had dinner yet but it’s known for being the best restaurant in town. I think that means something in Othmothersly, which appears to be a pretty well-heeled place with a lot of really posh houses up on the hill above town. I caught a glimpse of Porches and Jags — and a vintage touring car from the 1930s — in some open garages. I feel like people with dough from places like Leeds, York, and Middlesborough have weekend homes up here.
The only accommodation hiccup: my room is in the far back part of the place and the WiFi barely works in there. So I’m writing this down in the pub before the dinner rush comes in. Which, oh no, means that I’m having my second pint of the day as I do this. The bartender is playing a Fleet Foxes album. “Blue Ridge Mountains” just came on. The Cleveland Hills look a lot like the lower parts of those mountains and, for that matter, like the hills of southern West Virginia. It makes me feel like I’ve entered some sort of vortex linking England and home.
A mirror at a blind turnout gave me a chance to make an art.
A lot of walking through this kind of thing today. And through grassy fields. It barely rained a drop on me and I didn’t cross any sort of water but my socks were STILL wet at the end of the day because of all the wet grass. Feels like the biggest ripoff ever. Like, fine, if I step into a bog up to my knees I’ve earned those wet socks. But just walking through fields? Total bullshit. I don’t think England has ever been dry.
This little lane gave me a brief respite from pastures and gravel access roads. But not for long.
I am just going to assume that this patch of corn is Ohio’s consulate for the United Kingdom.
The Coast to Coast is dreadfully marked. Like, you can go 40 miles without seeing signage in some places. In this final third in the east I’m seeing a lot more homemade signage, likely put up by farmers who want to keep walkers to the path rather than wandering around their pastures unnecessarily. The homemade signage is usually about as clear as mud, however. Like, look at this. Do I go right or left? The answer was right, but I only knew that because I was using an Ordnance Survey map uploaded to AllTrails.
Some of the homemade signage is at least kinda funny. Best part: when I stepped on the little cross-over step to get over the fence a motion sensor set off a loud recording of the Wicked Witch of the West’s “I’ll get you my pretty!” line. Scared the hell out of me. Then I laughed.
Right before I got here a Transpennine Express train came through at full speed. Believe me: I stopped, looked, and listened.
The A19. This was a little bit after I crossed it. It’s nuts that the trail goes over this but no one asked me about it.
Some of the only color I saw all day.
My cheese, onion and pickle sandwich the innkeeper back in Dansby Wiske made for my packed lunch. I really respect England’s sandwich game. Sure, on the top end of gourmet deli stuff America can’t be beat. But for regular sandwiches for the working man — what the innkeepers throw together for you or the ready made stuff at convenience and grocery stores — the UK has us beat. Like, even if you don’t want a cheese, onion and pickle sandwich — which you should, but I get it if you don’t — there are so many high-quality, dirt-cheap sandwiches available that you actually look forward to eating later when you buy them. I’m partial to the chicken and bacon and any number of cheese and herb variations. England is just streets ahead of the U.S in this department. It almost makes me angry. We deserve better!
The Cleveland Hills are no Pennine Mountains or Lake District Fells, but after a couple of says of flat ground it was actually kinda nice to have to climb something, even with my barking ankle.
Looking back west from the top of that hill. I covered all of that flatness over the past couple of days. In the distance, through the haze, you can just make out the Pennines. It crossed those too. My god, what a walk this has been.
Othsmotherly. Such tidy little village. I get something of a weird vibe from it — a lotta rich people are here who don’t seem particularly welcoming — but it’s pretty to look at.
I was in town before my inn allowed check-ins so I stopped into a little tea room next door to kill some time and rest my aching ankle. It was quite cozy — and the chocolate/caramel shortbread I had with my coffee was tasty — but they had no cell signal and no WiFi. I asked about WiFi and the woman running the place said “why would we have that? We pay for it and we get nuthin’ back from it!” OK then.
The Golden Lion doesn’t look like much from the outside but my room is spacious and quite comfortable and the food looks like it’s gonna be good. No complaints.
Well, the WiFi not really working in my room is a complaint. But hey, I can just walk downstairs into the pub and use it. And if I have to have an extra pint or two of Timothy Taylor Landlord, welp, sometimes you gotta take one for the team.
Into the heart of the North York Moors tomorrow. My ankle willing.
Other Coast to Coast Diary entries:
- Preparation: Coast to Coast planning, training, and general farting around
- Preparation: September 14, 2023: Hanging around Manchester
- Preparation: September 15, 2023: Another day hanging around Manchester
- Preparation: September 16, 2023: Traveling to St. Bees
- Walking Day 1: September 17, 2023: St. Bees to Ennerdale
- Walking Day 2: September 18, 2023: Ennerdale to Seatoller
- Walking Day 3: September 19, 2023: Seatoller to Grasmere
- Walking Day 4: September 20, 2023: Grasmere to Glenridding
- Walking Day 5: September 21, 2023: Glenridding to Shap
- Walking Day 6: September 22, 2023: Shap to Orton
- Walking Day 7: September 23, 2023: Orton to Kirkby Stephen
- Walking Day 8: September 24, 2023: Kirkby Stephen to Keld
- Walking Day 9: September 25, 2023: Keld to Reeth
- Walking Day 10: September 26, 2023: Reeth to Richmond
- Walking Day 11: September 27, 2023: Richmond to Danby Wiske
- Walking Day 12: September 28, 2023: Danby Wiske to Osmotherly
- Injury and The End: September 29, 2023: Back to Manchester and a visit to the NHS
- Finally: The entire Coast to Coast Diary — all 55,000 words of it — if you’re not into the whole brevity thing