In May 2017 I hiked the Offa’s Dyke route from Prestatyn in north Wales to Chepstow down in the south. It was a hard old slog carrying all my kit and free camping along the way, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite the blisters and sore feet and vowed to do another walk in England one day.
So, in May 2018 I flew back to the UK and was lucky to enjoy some bright and sunny weather as I yomped the “Coast to Coast” that stretches from the west coast of the Lake District (St. Bees) to the east coast (Robin Hood’s Bay), crossing the Lakes, Yorkshire Dales and North Yorkshire Moors.
But first, an adventure, of sorts, before I even started the hike.
This is Rupert & Fanny’s Big Bike Trip blog after all, and so it would be remiss not to include gratuitous pictures of motorcycles. The 1066 London to Hastings Motorcycle Rally and 20,000 assorted motorcycles to be precise
Soon after arriving in England I got together with Nick Dobson and a group of his biking mates and we went for a blast around East Sussex lanes with thousands of other bikers. Nick rode his beautiful 1997 Honda VFR and I rode my KTM 990 SMT (yes,technically mine again).
St.Bees… a walk around the coast and then heading east up into the Lake District
The only way I can pull a wheelie
Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports — a proper adventure bike
Nick and the bikes in Hastings
I am a fully paid up member of the BLT community…. with HP saucy.
It would be rude not to
Cycling around Bexhil and Hastings
Someone paragliding the cliffs in Bexhill
Going to the beach – English style
After a few days in Bexhill I set out to ride the KTM to my brother’s house in Dorset. Unfortunately, I got no further than 40 miles until the bike broke down, twice.
I managed to bump start the 1000 cc V twin bike after lugging it several times up a hill and then limped it into a motorcycle garage in Haywood’s Heath where it took a day or so to repair the problem (The battery had been well and truly cooked on the trickle charger).
After considerable faffing about that I would prefer to forget, I returned to Haywood’s Heath on the notoriously unreliable Southern Railways and picked up the KTM and was no more than 5 miles further along the A 272 when it came to a grinding halt again. Of course, in the middle of nowhere with zero mobile phone coverage and so I had to push it for 2 miles and then get the garage to pick it up and repair the damage they caused repairing it in the first place. Grrr! Later, I would find out that Nick actually had breakdown recovery on the insurance policy. Double Grrr!
Eventually, I got going again and made it to my brother’s house where for a few days we all had a good time.
Unknown to me, the storm clouds were gathering, and the “ayatollah”, a control freak of note, was going out of her way to cause me as much misery as possible and attempt to spoil my holiday… but for now at least I was oblivious.
I had been working for the previous six months non-stop, 24/7, 10-14 hours a day on an investigation for an automotive safety equipment manufacturer and I really needed a rest.
I was thoroughly looking forward to the hike and later a motorcycling trip across Europe with Fanny, who had also been working tirelessly for many months.
I had already bought a Kawasaki 650 ER6F for Fanny and so I collected it from the dealer in Dorset and stored it in my brother’s garage. We also planned for Simon to drive us up to Abbots Bromley in Staffordshire, see our mother, visit some old haunts and pubs, and then drop me off at Stafford train station where I took several trains up to St. Bees, the start of the Coast to Coast hike.
Fanny’s new bike… Kawasaki ER6F (2015)
Its a bit ….. green
Looking back at St Bees
My first camping site — in the garden of the Fox and Hounds Pub at Ennerdale Bridge
Traveling on the slowest train in the world, I arrived in St Bees at about 5 pm, and had 16 miles of hiking ahead of me across farmlands in pleasant evening sunshine to get to my first camp at the Fox and Hounds at Ennerdale Bridge… and the first of several steak and ale pies.
I was using my new Tarptent Moment DW single man tent and a Hyke and Byke Eolus 800 goose down fill sleeping bag I ordered from the USA to keep weight to a minimum. I suffered somewhat on the Offa’s Dyke and I made a concerted effort to reduce backpack weight by 10 Kgs.
Later on when absolutely howling and pretty chilly up in the North Yorkshire Moors I used a silk bag liner for extra warmth, but for now I was comfortable.
Tent – https://www.tarptent.com/momentdw.html
Sleeping Bag – https://www.hykeandbyke.com/collections/down-sleeping-bags/products/eolus-800-fill-power-0-f-goose-down-sleeping-bag
The next day I was up at 5.00 am, partly because of the time difference between the UK and Hong Kong, and partly because it was already light. By 6.00 am I was packed up, looking east, and heading towards Ennerdale Water.
I planned to walk 23 miles across the hills and valleys to Grasmere… and I did… including an extra 3 miles up and down the roller coaster ridge route, as recommended by a local hiker who told me, “the view is better”.
Possibly. My feet thought otherwise.
Early morning at Ennerdale Water
Walking along the south side of the lake, that included a rather interesting rock scramble!
Follow the lake shoreline path… but at this part I have scramble up some rocks high above the lake
Quite a steep bit of rock climbing, but not for very long before the path resumed
Walking along the lake shore
Looking back across Ennerdale Water
Resting up for a while and taking stock of the scenery
Lots of crystal clear streams and rivers
I often filtered and drank the water directly from the waterfalls
And back up again
Am I to climb up there? — according to the route map, yes
Still climbing… lots of water … which is why its called the Lake District
Down the other side
A welcome sight … a rest, wash in the river, and a pot of Yorkshire tea.
That’ll be the path then
A glimpse of another lake at the end of another valley
A very embarrassed and exhausted man lugging his bicycle up a very remote and boggy mountain.
Although it was the second day, I had been hiking for less than 24 hours and had made about 37 miles when I came across a spartan and remote youth hostel called, “Blacksail”. It was being managed by two young people and I was able to buy a hot coffee and a piece of shortcake. Just before leaving I double checked on directions ahead as my friend Kieran Hale (former RHKP and keen hiker) said that at this point it was easy to walk off on the wrong trail. (Thanks for all the tips and advise, Kieran).
I took the less obvious left hand path and started a climb, not dissimilar to climbing Sunset Peak on Lantau Island where I live, possibly not as high, perhaps 600-700 meters, and much cooler, with the Hong Kong snakes and kites replaced by English sheep and buzzards.
As I was climbing I bumped into a hardy looking fellow dressed in old style hiking kit with a face that had been exposed to Cumbrian wind and rain, rather than computer monitors and fluorescent lighting. As I approached him he was laughing and cackling and pointing up the hill to a solitary figure that was making hard work of lugging a mountain bike up the steep path.
He couldn’t help himself laughing, but also expressed concern the “idiot” was going to kill himself. ‘Keep an eye on that one… he’s got lost… thinks this is a bridle path’.
I consulted my map, and in fairness it did say “bridle path” further back. I assume the bridle belongs to a mule or a donkey!
he continued,’He is in even more trouble when he gets to the top…its just bog for miles and miles…no way he can ride the bike’.
I caught up with the chap dressed in finest black lycra and lugging the sort of bicycle you would buy in a supermarket, certainly not one of those expensive downhill jobs I see in Mui Wo.
He was in a right state, huffing and puffing, and had obviously rehearsed the, ‘Don’t laugh’, when he greeted me.
I walked with him for a while until we got to the top and really felt sorry for him when it was clear that the top of the mountain was indeed deep and very soggy “bog”. Bog and nothing but peat bog for miles. Fair play to him, he struggled on, navigating streams and occasionally going knee deep into pools of black peat bog and hauling his machine out covered in mud.
I had been told by the “local” chap earlier on that the valley walk to Grasmere was very wet and that if I had time I should continue along the ridge route, which I did, and which at the end of 20 odd miles of hiking I could have done without. It was like a roller coast, up and down steep climbs, with Grasmere in the distance seemingly getting further and further away.
Anyway, I eventually reached the end of the ridge in the early evening and scrambled down the steep scree path into Grasmere, which I instantly took a dislike to. Far to touristy for me, but I needed something to eat and headed for a pub for beer and pub nosh.
Smile or a grimace… pain or joy?
You take the low road and I’ll take the high
Lamb shank and a pint of local bitter after a day of hiking…. glorious.
Aerial shot of Grasmere
After dinner, it started to drizzle and so I hiked out of Grasmere and headed for the hills where I found myself a free campsite next to a sheep hut half way up the mountain.
It rained and howled all night, but by 7.00 am it was blue, sunny, crisp and as I was packing up my tent I could see the first of the B&B hikers with their day packs starting out along the C2C route.
I caught up with a gaggle of hikers and exchanged pleasantries. Surprisingly, there were many Americans and Australians doing the hike. It seems the coast to coast is a lot more famous than the Offa’s Dyke hike. Why? No idea. I can safety say having now completed both that they are superb hikes of pretty much the same length and difficulty. I was, however, better equipped for the coast to coast and carrying about 10 kilograms less kit and that made a difference.
The majority of hikers I encountered were middle aged, completing just a few sections at a time, or were hopping from Bed & Breakfast to another, with a transport company carrying all their possessions. Like the Offa’s Dyke, some were even transported to the start of the section each day. Most were taking it very seriously indeed and had planned ahead for many months.
I was walking a lot further than most of my fellow hikers each day, mainly because I started earlier and carried on walking into the evening, whereas most hikers finished about 4 – 5.00 pm at a designated pub or bed & breakfast.
I normally stopped walking about 9.00 pm and pitched my tent on any flat dry grass, although on occasion I stopped earlier if I wanted to pitch the tent in the pub beer garden or adjacent field. I always had two pints of bitter with my evening meal, which was usually pub food, although in the remote areas I cooked up and ate whatever I had in the rucksack, usually noodles or sandwiches, fruit and nuts. I tried to avoid sweets and chocolate this time, as I find it too sweet.
The beer was the best food, surprisingly, as it not only re hydrated me, good real ale is full of vitamins and minerals and helps digestion after a long day.
Whilst drinking and eating in the pubs with the other hikers it was clear to them from my back pack that I was a solo free camper and many would ask where I had started, where I was going, where I came from, what I did for a living, my plans?
Those who know me, know these are not easy questions to answer.
A rambling answer, if I could be bothered and in the mood would include Hong Kong, South Africa, Shanghai, England, Staffordshire, Bournemouth, Royal Hong Kong Police, China, investigation, security, global adventuring, motorcycling, paragliding, etc. I think most think I am making it all up.
What was abundantly clear to me, though, was that most people I met lead really boring lives. That’s for sure.
My campsite outside Grasmere
A sunny, blue and fresh morning after a night of heavy rain and gales.
A tarn … check your “O” level geography
Sandwiches — the cornerstone of a British diet …
40 grams of snowflake flavoured lard … best hidden in a cheese and pickle sandwich
A skinny decaf soya mocha macchiato, Mr Coleman? Sorry its black coffee or black coffee.. made with pond water and ewes urine
Around midday I would normally take a 20-30 minutes break in a picturesque spot with a stream, get a brew on, eat some fruit, nuts, noodles or a village post office sandwich, enjoy all the wildlife and watch the world go by.
The joy of this hike has been the total immersion in “nature”. Birds, insects, wild animals, domestic creatures, and especially butterflies. I loved them all.
Humans? With too few exceptions a big disappointment. My only amusement with my fellow humans is to press their buttons and see how they react. This usually results in them getting extremely pissed off.
The natural beauty of the English countryside is remarkable. All too often I would stumble as I gazed around me at the scenery and wildlife. I was lucky to see fox cubs peering out of their den, lapwings arching and swooping above the moorlands, grayling swimming in a crystal clear steams, and soaring buzzards.
NH4NO3? A little bit too near Bradfordstan for my liking
A policy that would go down splendidly in Mui Wo
I pushed on through to Gelridding and Patterdale and up into the hills again. I was navigating using a dedicated strip map that did not have as much detail as an OS map, but much lighter, and if you concentrate and read it correctly, more than good enough.
The Coast to Coast is not as well sign posted as the Offa’s Dyke that has the “acorn” symbol at nearly every junction and stile. As such, I made mistakes, or perhaps wasn’t paying attention, and doing so led to my biggest diversion off the C2C route, but a diversion I would gladly do again because it led me to a beautiful valley where I pitched my tent in total isolation (except for the werewolves and goblins).
I walked down the valley, realised it trended north and not east, and had obviously drifted off the path. No problems. I pitched my tent, settled in for the night, and retraced my steps the next day.
My trusty home… Tarptent DW Moment
Drying off the night time dew in the morning sun
My normal breakfast = porridge oats, blueberries, brazil nuts and a mug of tea. Perfect.
Looking back at my campsite as I retraced my steps back to where drifted off at the top of the mountain. The water in the distance is Ullswater to the north. Not where I should be heading. East.
Hiking back up the valley
Back on track and the tarn with an island in the middle clear on my map
I was thinking that the island in the middle of the tarn would have made a great camping spot
Stunning scenery. Heading to Haweswater Reservoir and further on to Shap
Following path down towards Haweswater Reservoir
Walking 5 miles along the shore of Haweswater
Refreshing waterfall and pool to cool down in … or at least a 5 minute soak. I will spare you a picture of my feet!
Typical boggy wood
What’s in Thomas’ Honest Box?
Oh glory be… thankfully the honesty box of goodies and the 5 tonnes of ammonium nitrate were well away from Bradford or Oldham
The scenery changing as I leave the Lakes and head eastwards towards the Dales
Crossing many beautiful streams
open the gate .. close the gate
Having got myself back on track I had a long hike ahead of me across classic Lake District highlands, across valleys, rivers, streams and along the shoreline of lakes towards Shap and Kirkby Steven that marked the end of the Lake District, and the start of the second phase of the coast to coast across the Yorkshire Dales.
The weather was pretty much perfect for hiking. My feet, which always let me down on long distance hikes due to being the wrong shape for a human being, had settled into an almost tolerable level of pain. I got in the habit of taking off my boots at lunch, soaking them in the streams and lakes, and taping up the blisters, or where blisters were starting to form around the toes and heel.
I was delighted to come across “honesty boxes” full of soft drinks, beer, sweets and cakes, that were very welcome.
3 and a half days to Shap
An orchid perhaps
Crossing over the M6 motorway
Look back west towards Kirkby Steven and beyond
After a long evening hike I reached the Nine Standards. Ahead lies deep peat bog
An evening hike across the top of the moors … using the cairns (carefully arranged piles of stones) to navigate as path was missing
Lots of deep and soggy bogs to jump across (or land in).
A run down scout hut in the middle of nowhere. I had to laugh at some graffiti carved in the wood that said, ‘Wainwright is a c**t’
A bizarre farm where I bought a can of lemonade and was served by the caste of “Lord of the Flies”. Apparently, the dozen or so children who live there with their hippy parents were featured on a UK TV show called “Country File”
Can you work out the route?
Long stretches of tarmac road .. tough on the feet
Pretty waterfalls in the Dales
Bumped into a fellow “free camping” hiker in Keld. He was doing the Pennine Way
Some yurts that you can rent and stay in near Keld … a very nice location.
Lots of bridges to cross
Climbing up into the hills
Steep sides and narrow paths
Some arty agricultural sculpture… and my rucksack
Stopped for lunch in Reeth and managed to watch Chelsea beat Man U in the FA Cup
I camped in this field by the River Swale and this ewe and her lambs stayed with me all night… not worried by people. In fact, it seemed quite relaxed with me. Maybe it was hand reared.
An alien creature
Not quite half way.
Free camping next to the River Swale
Somethings never change … everything stops for the milk lorry
Yorkshire Dales villages and farm – very pretty
Bunting out for the Royal Wedding
Lots of pheasants and ground birds in the fields
No… I don’t have any milk
A gate along the C2C path…. better go through it… I am English after all
A Triumph Stag … not moving of course.
Into Richmond … more than halfway now
A Green Z1000 SX
A black Z1000 SX
Lovely little dog sitting outside a shop in Richmond
River Swale in Richmond
Leaving Richmond and heading towards Ingleby Arncliffe… 20 odd miles away
Following the river for many miles through woods and farmland
England’s wild flowers are always beautiful
Still following the river, and glad to be out of the direct sunshine as I have an afternoon/evening sunburn (set in the west) on back of my legs and arms.
Rape seed fields
Crossing bridges and walking through woods
Some welcome shade from the sun…. can’t believe I said this about England
Long flat trails through farmland and meadows
OK, but is it a friendly bull, or should I start running now?
Passing through Bolton on Swale
Day 7 – on way to Ingleby
Stop by Kiplin Hall for tea
Some lovely homes in Yorkshire … I particularly like the Morris Minor next to the Porche
Afternoon tea at Kiplin Hall… very welcome.
Danby Wiske – a stopping point for some hikers… but not for me… pushing on to Ingleby
But I do stop for a pint
A CAMERA pub too…. wonderful bitter
A normal enough stile to cross over… but it wasn’t!!! The rats were laughing and talking to me.
The Yorkshire Dales was my favourite part of the Coast to Coast hike. Why? I guess I have traveled all around the world and seen many mountainous places (Tibet, Alps, Himalayas, Pyrenees, US Rockies, Lesotho, Table Mountain, Sunset Peak, Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Kenya etc). I have also been to and hiked through the Lake District many times and so, as beautiful as they are, there was nothing really surprising.
The Yorkshire Dales, however were superb. I guess because they are so quintessentially English. Rolling green hills, secret blue bell woods, butterflies and birds, babbling crystal clear streams, and chocolate box “pretty” villages. I was also blessed with glorious weather and that made all the difference. It was very enjoyable indeed.
The North Yorkshire Moors? What can I say? Cold, blowy, damp and I wasn’t feeling that great as I developed a chest infection. Visibility was poor, but I did see an amusing red grouse chasing me and making funny noises… and I shall remember that more than anything.
However, there was a big dampener put on the whole hike when I reached Robin Hood’s Bay. I should have been celebrating, but I was presented with an unnecessary logistical headache when I should have been preparing for Croatia and Sicily and getting early medical attention for a chest infection.
I called Fanny on Facetime on my iPhone. I knew she was super busy with work projects and a bit stressed out, but wanted to let her know I had completed the hike in nine days and my plans for the next few days.
She said, in her nonplussed way (sic), ‘ There is no colour ink in the printer ….. and your brother called me and said Marie (his wife) doesn’t want you to stay at their house any more’ !!!!
Huh? No ink in the printer?
And what am I supposed to have done now?
During the few days in Dorset I had tiptoed around their house like I was on egg shells, carefully cleaning up after myself, paying for everything, and being on my very best behaviour.
‘You antagonized her, and you can’t stay anymore… I don’t want to get involved…. how come the printer ink is only black and white?’
I was seriously perplexed. Antagonized?
‘Apparently you said English women are ugly’, Fanny added
‘ I have said English women are ugly for over 35 years… ‘
This is indeed a universal truth and there can be no arguing, except for Joanna Lumley, Liz Hurley, Rachel Weiss, and Audrey Hepburn (of course). But I have never seen any of these elegant beautiful ladies in real life and maybe they are imaginary and the product of CGI. In fact, where are all the elegant well spoken English ladies… All I ever see is fat, tattooed unfeminine charmless walrus’s with ugly regional accents, passive aggressive attitudes, poor posture and atrocious grammar. The only reason I am able to shout out that “the emperor is not wearing any clothes” is that I live overseas and have little fear of being headbutted by one.
Fanny continued, ‘ I have to get the visa stuff done, I’ll talk to you later, take care, don’t cause anymore trouble’, and then she hung up.
As I was sitting having my celebratory pints of Wainwright ale in the Bay Hotel in Robin Hood’s Bay I was racking my brain to:
1) actually remember saying anything about fat ugly English women; and
2) work out the logistics for retrieving two motorcycles that are sitting in my brother’s garage in Wimborne with all my damp stuff.
All I can think is that my whining about an evening’s viewing of television entertainment consisting entirely of Coronation Street (double bill of depression); Emmerdale Farm (depressing); Eastenders (depressing) and Piers Morgan (annoying) was making me suicidal, and was quite rightly told to “**** off” and watch one of the other nine TVs in the house showing the full range of TV dross.
And then it became clear.
Marie (aka the ayatollah) absolutely hates our mother. The ayatollah and our mother have never got on and been at each others throats for decades, so much so that the ayatollah banned my brother and their children and grandchildren from seeing her.
The back story is that before the hike Simon and I drove up to see our ailing mother and whilst we were visiting the Staffordshire village where we were brought up had a superb time, regaling old stories, drinking and eating in the local pubs, and generally having a great time. No mention was made of my television or female preferences.
As usual, I paid for everything (food, drink, B&B accommodation, fuel, flowers etc).
All was fine, and the next day I was dropped off at Stafford train station and traveled up to the Lake District.
I can only assume when Simon got home he was interrogated by the ayatollah and caved in, ‘ Yes Ma’am, its true, I had a wonderful time, saw my mother, had a few beers, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, don’t hit me’
As the ayatollah has controlled Simon for decades and censors everything he says, thinks, and does she must have panicked that she momentarily lost control. She is well aware, I expect, that the whole of my family have always found her rather common, foul mouthed and unpleasant, but we all tolerate her for the sake of Simon who suffers from chronic “under the thumb” syndrome and an inability to think for himself. As I am in Hong Kong or China or Africa or somewhere in the world it doesn’t normally affect me as her vitriolic unpleasantness is usually directed at my mother and my sisters who live in the UK.
Anyway, having been evicted, with my personal possessions thrown into a damp garage, I now had to spend many hundred pounds and several days recovering all my stuff. Its been a logistical pain in the arse and so I have no intention to write about it or describe further.
Its done, but I could have done without the lecturing, self righteousness, and lying, especially being told Fanny’s bike had been stolen from the garage and the subsequent waste of my time. But all part of the ayatollah’s plan to cause as much inconvenience and annoyance as possible.
Anyway, I have learned my lesson, if you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all, and never trust a woman with thin lips.
Enough of the ayatollah …. its back up into the hills
Crossing several railways lines
Heading back to moorland again
Long trails across moorland
Reaching Ingleby Arncliffe where I camped in the beer garden of the Blue Bell Pub
The beginning of North Yorkshire Moors section and my final 2 days of hiking. I camped in the beer garden of the Blue Bell Public House … ate good food and drank very decent beer. It was however quite cold and damp during night in my tent and it starting to rain the next day
After camping in the beer garden I manage to get a hot breakfast before climbing up into North Yorkshire Moors
Ahhh! Not much to see. A white out.
Miles and miles of this….!
It is now officially “chilly” and damp. Strong winds.
Wrapped up in all I have … but quite adequate if all the zips are done up. Not much of a view though
My only companion — a moor grouse
I never saw it….
A truly terrible night in the tent in the garden of the Lion Pub (highest in UK). Although I was warm in my sleeping bag and silk liner the noise of the wind and the tent flapping and thrashing about was unbearable. I also developed a nagging cough that developed into a full blown chest infection that lingered for weeks until I found some antibiotics.
Its grin and bear it time as I settle in for the last long stretch across windy moors to Robin Hood’s Bay nearly 30 miles away.
Grouse trying to distract me from the nest
Down off the moors into the pretty town of Glaisdale and then climbing back up into the moors for the final section
I stopped here for a sandwich and a brew. Interesting toll sign on this Yorkshire building by the river
33% incline for 2 miles —-Oh Joy!
The last section of my map book … nearly the end
Robin Hood’s Bay in the distance
Following the coastal path for a few miles between Whitby and RHB
And I made it. Nine Days.
A few Wainwright ales in the pub by the sea and then make my way to Whitby where I had booked a B&B for the last night.
You know you are in Yorkshire when there are whippets in the pub.
Stand and Deliver – Whitby
A very welcome hot shower, comfy sleep and delicious poached egg and bacon breakfast at my B&B in Whitby . I now had a long train journey back to Poole to retrieve the motorcycles… one by one and ride them to Bexhill before I head to Sicily.
Train to Middlesborough-York- Kings cross, London-Waterloo London-Poole.
Train journey home with Peter Hook from Joy Division and New Order
B&B in Poole… arrived very late and then taxi at the “approved” time to retrieve the KTM .
Nick and I riding again
Second trip back to Poole to collect Fanny’s Kawasaki and ride it along the wonderful A272 back to Sussex
So, now all the motorbikes are safely in Bexhill on Sea, where they will be cared for by Nick.
Fanny is arriving in UK in June and we will ride across Europe to Croatia and visit my friend Mike Adlem in Italy and Fanny’s boss at Novartis HQ in Basel, Switzerland (new BBT chapter).
But in the meantime, I am off to ride a Vespa 125 across Sicily.
Simon, SIMON – GETCHA CHUFFING ARSE IN “ERE and SLOP AOUTTT!!