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Zoe's Place Kids Hospice

ZOE’S PLACE offers palliative, specialist respite, and end of life care for infants from birth to five years old. It receives very little funding and therefore relies on fundraising and donations (more)

Long Walk Home

Coast-To-Coast For Zoe's Place

(Sept 2017)

To mark my turning 50, I decided to attempt the C2C all the way home to Saltburn and camp it all the way. To do it for charity was a no brainer. I chose Zoes Place because being local, I was able to visit and see the work they do. Such a vital place should be fully funded by Govt but of course it isn't. So here's to raising some funds by putting one foot in front of the other...for 190 miles!

Special Thanks to SNUGPAK of West Yorkshire for sponsoring me with one of their super-long IONOSPHERE tents to video-review from a tall person’s point of view (See above  / 90,000+ views to date!) I have used their excellent super-light Softie sleeping bags for years. The SOFTIE 3 on this trip.

My good friends Jane and Michael drove me to St. Bees on the Cumbrian coast. It was great to see the Irish Sea at last. I pitched my tent at a farm right in the village and had a wander around.  It was quaint in a rugged Scottish kind of way and very friendly. It was a real village with working class people not just twee holiday lets. In one of the pubs there was a folk session in full flow. I met a couple of Vin Garbutt fans who were in my Vin Garbutt film!

DAY 1: ST. BEES TO ENNERDALE BRIDGE

I fuelled up on beans on toast at the Beach cafe, we dipped our paws in the Irish Sea and started the long walk home…not quite Sir Ranulph but 190 mile is 190 mile. We climbed St. Bees head and cut inland through a couple of old mining villages. At the Wainwright statue, I met the Vin Garbutt fans from the pub. As promised, they kindly gave me a coat for Meg which belonged to their late collie. The first stiff climb of the hike, Dent Fell, followed soon after. It was climbing this that I met Barbara and Dana, two ladies from Sacramento California doing the C2C and B&Bs. Barbara had slipped and was rolling down the hill towards me. I broke her roll and she thanked me for saving her life. They were good craic. We crossed the Lake District boundary not long after. Meg happened to clear all the sheep out of Nannycatch Beck valley and was having a ball. After a tough 16 miles and murderous sciatica, I was glad to get to Ennerdale Bridge. I camped by a river in the beer garden of a pub. Online donations were still coming in. £3,800 was now in the pot and four grand was the new target…

DAY 2: ENNERDALE BRIDGE TO ROSTHWAITE

The morning started with a glorious walk along the rocky edge of Ennerdale Water rising thru Ennerdale Forest to the famously remote Black Sail Hut youth hostel (Est. 1933). A beast of a climb followed up and over to Honister. I saw the Sacramento Two way down below and going the wrong way. I shouted and waved my arms about to no avail. I feared for them as the weather turned foul. Torrential rain and cold wind hit us. We were totally exposed. Meg’s new coat came in handy. We eventually descended into Borrowdale and reached Rosthwaite. We got the tent up in a soggy field and were both wet and miserable…

DAY 3: ROSTHWAITE TO GRASMERE (almost!)

It rained non-stop all night and all morning. The tent was truly put to the test but didn’t leak a drop. At midday, the rain relented and we finally emerged. The climb up to Greenup Edge past Helm Crag was cruel! How do people do this for fun I asked myself. I had been ruthless getting the pack weight down to 16kg but it soon adds up with food and water and I was feeling it. At the summit, the sky was black, there was hailstones and a clap of thunder – a bit scary as my head was the highest point! The footpaths became streams and the streams became rivers. I had to wade across a wide gushing torrent. Meg whimpered and then just launched herself into it and swam across. It was high drama! By the time distant Grasmere appeared through the murk, the light began to fade. I got the tent up on the fellside, warmed up some grub and got zipped in for the night. It was the toughest day yet by far. I was aching all over but the sciatica was cured thank god.

DAY 4: HALF A DAY OFF

An easy stroll down into Grasmere amid glorious sunshine made a welcome start. Today more people gave me donations as I walked. Starting conversations with complete strangers and getting them to give me money was easy. I should have had a placard on my backpack. We checked into the Youth Hostel – a fine old Victorian mansion house. The drying room was a godsend. I pitched up on the lawn. I left Meg in the tent and got a hot meal in the hostel. I came back and she hadn’t moved. She is special. At 8 years old, I wondered how she would fare but she was in her element.  For agility, stamina and intelligence, no breed comes close.  

DAY 5: GRASMERE TO PATTERDALE

This was the 3rd of the 4 big climbs – up to Grisedale Tarn and over to Patterdale. I met a guy on the top from Guisborough called Eric Derwin. He was a founder member of Cleveland Mountaineering Club back in the 1950s. He regaled me with tales of climbing the Old Man of Hoy at 75! An epic achievement. He was now 80 and sauntered down the rocky paths like a man a third his age. He invited me to the Cleveland Club’s hut in Patterdale. I met a great bunch staying there from Scunthorpe and they cooked us pasta n veg ragu. Afterwards, group leader John put on a slideshow from a trip to the Himalayas. It was truly fascinating stuff. I love the spont of adventure and the characters you meet. I camped in the garden outside. It was a cracking day, the best by far!

DAY 6: LAST DAY IN THE LAKES

The final day in the Lakes was the hardest. The climb up to Kidsty Pike, the highest point on the C2C at 2,559ft/800m, was brutal. We sat on the rocky peak for ages before the steep descent to Haweswater. We walked along the length of that and eventually emerged to flat farmland just before dark. We camped in a grassy field. No permission. The Ionosphere is so low profile and blends in great. It felt great to get beyond the lakes!

DAY 7: NIGHT IN A BARN

We re-stocked on supplies at Shap and crossed the M6 footbridge into new territory. We made good progress across rolling hills and farmland. It was great to see Kidsty Pike fading into the distance. The power of putting one foot in front of the other should never be underestimated. I was getting fitter by the day. I could do 10 miles before all the aches started but thankfully no blisters on my feet at all. Meg was doing great. All pads A1. The weather was fab until tea-time when it lashed near Orton. A farmer let me stay in a lone barn near the trail. I slept on a high mattress of haybales covered with the flysheet of my tent (or was it a parachute and I was behind enemy lines circa 1944?!) I drifted off to the sound of a screeching owl and rain clattering the tin roof…

DAY 8: ORTON TO KIRKBY STEPHEN

A week since I started already… We had a great night in the barn until a dawn chorus of squawking Jackdaws flew in to check out the squatters! We got moving, the weather was great and walking a doddle after The Lakes. The great thing about this is that you can enjoy craic with people doing the trail from all over the world and you can lose everyone easily and bask in the solitude. I walked with a posse from Minnesota for an hour or two before drifting off into my own little world. The peace was temporarily shattered by a bunch of toffs in tweed blasting beautiful birds out of the sky. F*****g moronic. We got to Kirkby Stephen mid-afternoon and found a laundrette. Rejoice! I grabbed veggie fajitas at The Kings Arms across the road then checked into a campsite and had a shower. Proper posh tonight !

DAY 9: KIRKBY STEPHEN TO KELD

It was an unseasonably cold night, I could see my breath in the tent. I put all my layers on all night and I was still cold. I shouldn’t have skipped warming up some food before bed. I woke up to a gorgeous morning though – blue sky all the way up to The Nine Standards – a line of ancient cairns whose origins are apparently a mystery. An 8-mile trudge through thick bog took us from Cumbria into Yorkshire. It was hard going but the Whitsundale Beck valley in remotest Swaledale was a delight. We got to Keld and checked into a little campsite that did evening meals in a barn. Veg chilli, rice and pittas went down a treat. There was an American camped next to me. He was a seasoned yomper who had done the Appalachian Trail up the Eastern US. I once spent a day on it when I worked at a summer camp in New Jersey in the 90s. He had done the entire 2,400 miles of it! After dinner, I walked down the pub for a jar. There was a plaque on the pub stating it was the C2C half-way point. The craic inside was great, all C2Cers. Meg worked the room bringing in more donations!

DAY 10: KELD TO REETH

I woke up early for once. The Appalachian was already gone. I got going and crossed foggy moor tops before a number of tough valleys through old lead mining country. I checked into a campsite at Reeth and met up in the Black Bull with my old mate Don Gamble from the Boro. He now works in conservation in the Dales and has never looked back. A good catch up and 3 pints was had. I will feel it tomorrow I’m sure…

DAY 11: REETH TO RICHMOND

Only 10 miles today but my left foot cramped up after I landed funny off a stile. Easily done. I had to hobble half the day. I met a bloke from Guisboro going the opposite way. He had Century and Vin dvds! I also had to contend with a herd of very agitated cows with calves. They were coming at us full on. We had to clamber over the wall into the next field. At Richmond, we stocked up on supplies and pushed on into early evening. I met some Aussies from Adelaide sat outside a B&B. They were great craic and gave me a £50 donation. Awesome! We walked a few miles alongside the river and camped in a field. It was fantastic to see Black Hambleton and Bilsdale transmitter coming into view 20 odd miles ahead…

DAY 12: RICHMOND TO INGLEBY CROSS

For once I got an early start, across the Vale of Mowbray and totally flat all the way. People say this is the most boring day but it made a change from the endless up and down. Since we had left the Lakes, it had been all new territory on foot and I had loved every minute of it. We crossed the A1 and checked out the famous obelisk grave of Henry Jenkins at Bolton-on-Swale. He was born in 1501 and died in 1670…yep 169 years old apparently! I continued across the flat expanse and arrived at The White Swan in Danby Wiske and got some grub. This is the only place for food on this 23 mile stretch. I was about to push on and find a camping spot, when The Sacramento Two, Barbara and Dana, rolled in! They had survived getting lost in the lakes and with a cheeky bus ride along the way, they had made it this far. Epic nonetheless! They weren’t booked into the pub but a B&B in Ingleby Cross another 8 miles further on. It would have been a push to make it there before night fall so I thought I better walk with them. It started raining as the light faded but we had a hoot trudging miles in the mud with head torches on. At 9.30pm, we ran the gauntlet of crossing the A19 in the dark. There should be a footbridge here. It is a miracle no one has ever been killed. No doubt it will take a death for one to be built. At Ingleby Cross, we discovered 2 cars driving round the village looking for 2 lost ladies from California! For escorting their guests, I was offered bed and breakfast on the house! I accepted breakfast but pitched my tent in the garden – camping all the way like I said!

DAY 13: INGLEBY CROSS TO MAMS

After my hearty free breako, I set Dana and Barbara on their way to Clay Bank. They were troopers. I headed to Mams in nearby Swainby for some home cooking, telly and a good scrub. It was great to see Mam. I camped on the front lawn but Meg deserted me for a night on the sofa!

DAY 14: R 'n' R

A day of rest and recuperation at Mams with left foot strapped up with an ice pack of rhubarb (She was out of peas and corn). I hobbled about the house and was a bit worried I might have to take a few days off til it recovers…

DAY 15: MAMS TO THE WAINSTONES

Hail the healing power of rhubarb! I woke up and the foot was good to go! I bade farewell to Mam and headed for The Wainstones. I camped looking into Bilsdale with the stones behind me. Two days left to do with £4,261 now in the pot…will I get to £4,500 before time runs out?!!

DAY 16: WAINSTONES TO ROSEBERRY

Glorious weather today. At Urra Moor, I met three folks from Melbourne who I last saw a week ago at The Nine Standards. I left them and Wainwright’s official route to Robin Hood’s Bay to head North along The Cleveland Way. This C2C was going to have a bespoke Teesside ending. From Kildale, I climbed up to Captain Cooks Monument and on towards Roseberry for my last night under canvas…

DAY 17: ROSEBERRY TO SALTBURN

The last leg on home turf began with a quick ascent of Roseberry. The Zoe’s Place Bear met me at the car park below with a bag of flapjacks and dog treats! Today was a stroll in the park after the last 2 weeks. I headed up to Eston Nab as a salute to Zoe’s Place down below. I then went by the SS Castle to Wilton Lane and on through Errington Woods to Saltburn. We dipped our feet in the sea, chucked in the pebble that I had carried from St. Bees and our 190-mile odyssey was at an end! I had tripped, slipped and fell flat on my backside a few times but had done it. A philosophical pint in the Ship followed…with well over £4,500 in the pot and donations still coming in!

Thanks to Zetland FM, BBC Radio Tees and Coastal View for the front page!

Final Total inc. Gift-Aid

= £6,571.16

Thank you all 🙂

Not Too late to donate! Zoe’s Place on Just Giving