Marathon Training – Oh Yes!!

So further to the last blog post, which was going to talk about Marathon training (but I got carried away talking about the recent ultramarathon that I walked), it is here instead, finally!

So yes, today I embark upon Week One (of 18) of Marathon training for the Berlin Marathon on 25th September. The details are as follows:

Training Plan:

I have chosen the Hanson Marathon Plan for this one, for no better reason than I have the book! Actually there is another reason, in that I used the Hanson Half Marathon Plan successfully to PB in the Great North Run. Oh and another one (!) – Hanson recommends a longest Long Run of just 16 miles in training. I remember last time when doing New York that the plan I used (from Runner’s World I think) went over 20 miles three times. I decided that was important for me at the time as I didn’t want the psychological barrier (or the dreaded wall) to hit me in the race itself. However, in reality the running of over 20 miles, taking over three hours, is absolutely knackering, and I’m sure added to too much tiredness and probably injury too. You live and learn I suppose. In fairness also, Melanie, with whom I did New York, did tell me that 20 miles in training was too much (she’d done four beforehand), but I refused to listen :). She actually also told me about the Hanson Plan, so I should add some acknowledgement/appreciation here, so I will!

Here is the plan written down:

It starts off nice and gently, thankfully….
….and then quickly gets very serious!

The plan uses a fairly typical mixture of Long Runs, Easy Runs, Tempo Runs and speed/strength runs. They all colour coded of course :).


The plan amasses some 717 miles of training, which I calculate probably means three pairs of trainers! I have of course been somewhat meticulously planning, and have bought said trainers already! I have a ‘rotation’ as they call it, of different shoes. I intend to use Nike Pegasus 39 (newly acquired this week, but I’ve used three different iterations of the Pegasus series and I love them – they just seem to fit me best in terms of comfort and running style (not that I have a style :D)) for my long/easy runs, punctuated by Nike Invincible for recovery/easier easy runs (!). Then I’ll use New Balance 1080 v11 for my tempo runs, and an old pair of Nike Vaporfly Next% (as used for the New York Marathon no less!) for my speed runs. Finally I have a newly acquired pair of minty coloured Nike Alphafly for Berlin. I’ve tried the latter ones out just once, and the jury is out as to whether I prefer them or the Next%, so we will see in due course. OK – so that’s FIVE pairs of trainers, I lied!

Nike Zoom X Alphafly – expensive but hopefully satisfying!!


So I might as well set out here that of course would love a PB! Now as I only have one marathon under my belt then it can only either be better or worse than before! For the record, I ran 3 hours 54 mins in New York, having been determined (no, absolutely possessed!!) to beat four hours, and so that’s the benchmark. This time I am aiming for 3 hours and 45 minutes, and that’s what every single minute of the training plan is aimed at. 3 hrs 45 mins is 8 mins and 34 seconds per mile. It’s not the fastest running pace, but it is for me the best I reckon I can do over the distance. I’ll be absolutely over the moon in fact if I can run under the Brandenburg Gate with 3hr 44mins and 59 seconds in my sights. You heard it here first, but there is a long long way to go before I can get properly thinking about that, although of course I am already!!


It had to be Berlin of course. Why? Well I have always had the approach that you might as well ‘go big, or go home’, and this for me is the biggest. Of the six World Marathon Majors, this is really the one for the runners too, being the flattest. It is where my idol Eliud Kipchoge set the current World Record too, over the very route that I will do, so if running in that man’s footsteps (ok, about two hours behind his, but even so!) doesn’t inspire you then nothing will. I think also just the big atmosphere and excitement gives you all of the adrenalin that you need to make sure that you give it your all, and get it done. And what better city to do it in!

Berlin of course has both the most amazing (and indeed poignant) history, and it is there on almost every corner for all to see. It doesn’t shy away from the past one bit, with the massive holocaust memorial in the centre, covering 200,000 square feet of ground. They even call it the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Then there is the architecture, from the Reichstag, to the remnants of The Wall, to the incredible museums, and the simply unforgettable Brandenburg Gate. The Brandenburg Gate is one of the most recognisable features in Europe, if not the world, and it symbolises power, unity, glory, peace and reunification all at the same time. When I walked under it for the first time it gave me goosebumps. To think that I will (all being well) run under it as I approach the finish line in September will be nothing short of utterly overwhelming. Berlin has so much else to see too, and when I did a city tour there it was the best I’ve ever been on. – Go, if you haven’t been, is all I’ll say.


So having rekindled my blog, I’ll update it weekly or I so like I did for New York. There’s no training partner this time, so just me myself and I. But I’m not short of motivation, desire, or the excitement of all that Berlin has to offer. Tickets/flights/hotel all booked, and it is time for the hard work to properly get underway………hopefully no cartilage injuries or lost key issues this time, but with me anything is possible! Watch this space……

Ultramarathon walks, and the time is nigh for the training to start….

So here we are in May already, and I can scarcely believe it. The year itself is going so quickly I almost cannot believe it, and of course so much is happening. We started the year still with the massive impact of Covid upon us all, and then of course the ongoing horrible and shameful assault of the Russians on the Ukrainian people hit everyone hard, and here we are with something called Monkeypox taking the headlines now. Where does it end?

On a personal note, since my last blog post I have retired! Not forever, I am almost certainly sure, but I have stopped working to take a break, and am currently a man of leisure. If you knew anything about my real life in the background of course then you’d know that ‘retirement’ for me thus far is the most unsedentary (is that even a word?) thing imaginable, but that’s another story. I’m also currently trying to let out my residence, a building that used to be a B&B (technically it still is….) as a holiday let, and that is consuming more time than I even have. I have also since the last post completed my first ultramarathon, of which a bit more later, and even more importantly, this weekend is my grandaughter’s first birthday, which makes me feel both old and immensely proud and happy in almost equal measure. The happiness is the overriding one, just in case you were wondering 🙂

So the ultramarathon you are wondering, what was all that about? Well after I moved to the Lakes in the summer of 2021, one of the first things I resolved was to do some trail running. And the best way for me to do basically anything at all, is to sign up to an event and then go and train big time for it, so that’s what I (apparently) did. Only trouble is, I completely forgot all about it (I kid you not). Life and stuff just got in the way, and although I joined Ambleside Athletic Club (which is basically a lot of very enthusiastic trail runners doing a lot of competitive events, the likes of which I could just about do on my hands and knees in my dreams), I haven’t done any proper trail running at all.

So fast forward about nine or ten months, and an email lands from the organisers of The Lap, a 47 mile ultramarathon around Lake Windermere, very close to where I live, with my entry details and bib number etc. When I first saw it I seriously thought it was either a joke or a mistake. I had (and in fact still have!) zero recollection of entering, despite the fact that I apparently paid a £95 entry fee! The Lap, it turns out, is one of the UK’s premium ultramarathons, has 8,500 feet of climbing, and was at one point a qualifying or points scoring race for the Ultra Tour de Mont Blanc, the world’s most prestigious ultramarathon. I looked at the requirements (the event was in 10 days time) and thought ‘not a snowball’s chance in hell can I even walk it’, but then decided in the next moment that I wanted to do it, and set about trying to do just that.

‘Doing it’ it turned out, was just as much of a logistical nightmare as the physical one which was undoubtedly about to befall me. The compulsory kit list alone (“a compulsory kit check will be carried out before and after the event, and if you are not carrying the requisite equipment you will be immediately disqualified from the event”) was huge, and contained several items which I certainly didn’t possess. But after a few trips to a great shop in Kendal (Pete Bland Sports in case you are interested!) I got all I needed i also took the opportunity to get myself some new trail shoes too – why not!

I decided ultimately to walk the event, as trying to run event part of it would have resulted in a DNF at best, and an injury more likely, so I opted to be sensible/careful, for me at least!

i decided ultimately that I would walk the event, as trying to run even part of it without having trained would have resulted in a DNF at best, and injury more likely, so i opted to be sensible/careful, for me at least!

It was a brilliant event in the end. I did walk it, although too briskly, with the occasional half jog on some of the earlier downhill sections. My lack of training meant that after about 34 or so miles, i could have happily given up. However, a lot if determination and a well placed poo break (!) put me in better spirits, and I soldiered on until the end, in a what was a very pleasing, if very tiring 14 hours and 46 minutes.

I’d thoroughly recommend the event to anyone thinking about it. Helped albeit by amazing weather (if a little too hot, but you can’t be too picky), everything was just great, from the food and drink at feed stations, to the setup of the base camp, to the friendliness of the marshalls, the great signposting (1,600 route markers apparently), and the brilliantly efficient event staff. As an example, I’d forgotten (Ok, I didn’t read the instructions properly) to take my half way bag (we were allowed to take a bag with a change of shoes and socks in for the half way point) with me to the registration the night before the event. A wonderfully helpful guy called Tommy, upon hearing of my disappointment in myself told me to bring it the following morning instead, and he personally saw to it (at 5:30 in the morning) that it got driven to the half way point for me later that day. Fantastic and over the above service or what?

High above Windermere near the summit of Latterbarrow, gasping for air!

And finally at the finish almost 15 hours later – I wasn’t as fresh as I seem to look!!

So next let’s talk about how the marathon training is going to shape up – it is only two days away now, and I am ready, I think for whatever it throws at me……….probably!

It’s back!

Greetings – after a long time away from doing this, I left one of my last blog posts before this with the following quote: “20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain

That was in January 2020 and of course an awful lot of things have happened to the world since then. An aborted trip to Nepal was the last ‘disappointment’ personally, and in line with the above quote it still smarts a bit, but I shouldn’t (and won’t) dwell on that one bit. It also got ‘replaced’ that same summer with a great adventure on the Coast to Coast walk, which I loved and would love to actually do again sometime. But apart from one (wonderful and so enjoyable) trip skiing last month, I literally haven’t travelled anywhere since then, as of course has been the case for most people.

Life is of course what you make of it from one day to the next, and so looking over your shoulder has never been my thing. What matters is what you make of the cards that you have in your hand, at any time. Sometimes they are good ones, and sometimes they aren’t.

You only have to look at the (sub)title of my blog to know my philosophy on life. And I now speak (some two years after that last mission statement) in a somewhat different place for several reasons. The most fundamental of these are that in only 32 days time I will retire from work, maybe forever (!). That final decision will ultimately be made by the passage of time and events, but for now it will take the form of a break at least. I also find myself living, very fortunately, in the place of my childhood (and indeed lifelong) dreams, the Lake District, of which more in a later blog post. Suffice to say that in terms of fulfilling ambitions it is up there with the very best of them.

I’ve decided to start up my blog again now for several reasons. One, I love doing it, and over the last 10 or more years it has seen me in places and adventures that I couldn’t have even imagined or written the script for. Secondly it becomes for me both prophetic and self-fulfilling. Thirdly I’m about to (per the above!) about to have a lot more time on my hands. And fourthly (and ultimately now for me most importantly), I’m about to embark on some more adventures!

The first (not adventure but challenge) thing I have booked is the Berlin Marathon later this year. I want to say so much more about this, and so will do so in a subsequent blog post, but for now I know that I can’t wait to do it, and hope moreover that my body allows me to do so. I need to get properly fit to do that, and I know am not in the best shape I can be right now.

Why Berlin? Well, amongst other things it is such an incredible city, with the history of Brandenburg, the Prussian Empire, the Weimar Republic, The fall of World War 2, and of course the Wall and the Cold War, to name but a few. It also happens to be one of the six World Marathon majors, and is a flat course where Eliot Kipchoge set the (still current) world record. So if it is good enough for him…….. 😃.

The marathon is in September, two weeks after my favourite running event of them all, the Great North Run. I’ve paid for a place through an international travel operator, who buy and sell places on at a premium, so at least I know I’m in, if at a price. And already, even if this decision was taken only last week, I am bursting with excitement at the thought of just being on the starting line, and running through the Brandenburg Gate at the end. There are surely not many places of such combined majestic prominence and historical significance than that. I also know that the operator, Sports Tours International, who I used for my one and only marathon to date (New York in 2019) are a good company to go with.

I know from experience just how hard marathon training is. It’s simply a massive commitment in terms of time, effort, money and the impact on other things you might want to do. But I don’t want that disappointment of never having tried. My bowlines are thrown off, and safe harbors are not for me. Unfurl those sails and explore, that’s where I most surely am right now. 

More soon……… 😊

From the finish line in New York in 2019 – hopefully I get to be celebrating again in September.

Coast to Coast – the final day to Robin Hood’s Bay!

And so it had arrived! We were finally ready to do the final day of our adventure, and what an adventure it had been. Just 19 miles lay before us until we got to throw our pebbles that we had carried for 177 miles so far into the North Sea at Robin Hood’s Bay. Meantime it was time to put the waterproofs on for one final time, as the weather it seems wasn’t going to let us see the sea until we got to dip our toes in it, but that was ok.

Leaving Glaisdale and The Arncliffe Arms behind, we came first through East Arncliffe Wood, and then to the very pretty village of Egton Bridge, clearly a place where the well-heeled inhabit around these parts. We even saw Llama in someone’s very grand garden. It was then onto the slightly grittier but no less attractive Grosmont. Grosmont is a place for the steam train enthusiast and the train that we saw lingering on the platform is apparently the one known as Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter films. The village is also famed for its steep streets and climbs and is used in both the Tour de Yorkshire cycling stages and was also part of the 2014 Tour de France. The hill that comes out of town is a whopping 33% for a short while.

Grosmont’s nod to its recent cycling heritage…..
The station at Grosmont with the ‘Hogwarts Express’ at the ready.

From Grosmont the steep hill out along a roadside takes you up via Eskdaleside Cum Ugglebarnby (!) to Sleights Moor, where the mist and fret decided to descend upon us once more and deprive us of any views whatsoever for the rest of the day. A shame as apparently we would otherwise have been able to see to Whitby from here on a clear day.

More moors to navigate – we took a wrong turn on this one!

We then entered the village of Littlebeck, which was just as pretty as Egton Bridge if not more so, and then the woods of the same name, which stretched for 3 or 4 miles and are a big local tourist attraction. It was very strange in fact walking with our boots and packs on to go past day trippers in flip flops and sandals to the waterfalls and cafes there.

The Hermitage Stone in Littlebeck Woods.

Leaving the woods behind we once again made our way over our final moorland, which would take us all the way to the sea. The rains came for our final packed lunch of the trip and we found shelter in some gorse and heather albeit briefly.

You have to grab lunch and take shelter wherever you can.

It was then on via a hamlet called High Hawsker to reach a path which again met up with the Cleveland Way which we had followed a few days ago. This took us via some fairly depressing looking static caravan sites down towards the sea at last.

The End is in sight, almost!
Our very first sight of The North Sea 🙂

The sea was of course a lovely sight to behold, even if we couldn’t see much of it due to the fret. This stretch of coast is only 30 or 40 miles south of where I grew up, and so I began to feel very nostalgic at this point, and a bit poignant that our walk was nearly at an end.

The last three or so miles then match the same way the whole route started, via a coastal path along cliffs at the very edge of the sea, with Robin Hood’s Bay itself finally showing us its face through the fog.

Ronin Hood‘s Bay finally appears, just!

The walk down into Robin Hood’s Bay is steep, past a series of seaside shops and pubs and the like. It’s somewhere between quaint and tacky, and whilst on balance I don’t think I’d choose to come here for my holidays, it was a fitting end to the adventure, as traditional as it is. It was also where Wainwright finished his own adventure all those years ago, and so like the many pilgrims before us, we ended by completing the ceremonial parts: First we cast our pebbles that we had carried from the Irish Sea into the North Sea; then we had our picture taken by the sign at Wainwright’s Bar of The Bay Hotel, which very fittingly says “The End“.

The ‘throwing the pebble’ ritual is duly done for me….
….and about to be done by Mel too!
And it’s all over now – the sign says it all!

Our trip ended with a struggle for food amongst the mayhem of a very busy and touristy set of pubs, but with a beautifully appointed B&B in the form of Lee-Side. There was a bit of an unfortunate middle of the night search for a lost purse of Mel’s (which thankfully turned out not to be lost after all!), but that’s a story perhaps for another time.

The next day we went back to collect the car at Scarborough and return homeward and reminisce on all that we had seen and done. There had been so many highs and really no lows at all.

When I first coined thoughts of doing this trip I did so due to Covid and the search for a home soil adventure. I thought it would be a good and interesting path and it would be fun and a bit challenging in parts. It was all of those things in equal measure and more, and I’d unhesitatingly recommend it to anyone thinking of doing the same. If anyone reading this wants any more information or suggestions about it then do leave a comment below.

Ultimately the Coast to Coast walk provides a magnificent, close as you can get view, of one of the most beautiful parts of England. You get to see the inside parts of three of the country’s most impressive National Parks: The Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors. In fact you get to see parts of those parks that I would wager that the majority of people who even live there never get to see. The navigation is hard at times too, most of it not being signposted, and so without a good map or other navigational aid like Henry Stedman’s excellent book it would be a very difficult (and indeed longer) trail to take.

You get to see some beautiful villages and paths, and the farmland, mountains, dales and streams which accompany some of the countryside along the way provides some rare and majestic wildlife. You also see great nods to England’s past, with the lead mines and railways of the Dales and the still agricultural farmland and waterways of the most rugged parts of the Lakes. Then there are old mills, stone circles and Iron Age sites along the way too, and so much more.

For me ultimately the overriding memories are the beauty and the quietness – we spent many days (although being out for 9 or more hours at a time) seeing practically no-one whatsoever; then the surprising variety of the days themselves, as truly every day saw a different landscape and new horizons; and then also the challenge of it all – it saw us do around half a million steps in 198 miles and lots of hard slog – It was harder than I thought it would be, and indeed most nights we were glad to get into bed by 10pm very tired but also always looking forward very much to the new challenge of the new day ahead.

I’ll pay tribute and thank the travel firm Mac’s Adventures here too. Frankly without them having arranging all of the logistics and accommodation for us it would never have happened, and the quality of that accommodation was by and large first class too. I had (with hindsight perhaps somewhat dreamily) thought of doing this originally by camping along the way, and then of carrying all of our kit. Both would have been mistakes, particularly with the weather that we experienced at times. The comfort of a homely B&B is actually very satisfying, particularly when you just want to get wet boots off and get them dried for the next day.

The final tribute and nod must be to Mr Alfred Wainwright himself. He himself coined this walk In 1972, and his books and illustrations of the Lake District formed an important part of my upbringing and my love for the hills and mountains. Many people have followed this path and will of course do so again – there are many videos on You Tube and the like to whet your appetite for this walk if you wish to follow in his footsteps too. I’d in fact as a final thought do it all again if the opportunity arose, or heaven forbid another global pandemic prevented me from leaving the country again. There is of course a very big world out there, and this country has lots of other places to go too, but it truly is a fabulous representation of the best that exists in so many ways. I thus heartily recommend it to anyone who is considering it.

Coast to Coast Day 11 – Clay Bank Top to Glaisdale.

So we were nearly there! We’d done 10 days and 160 odd miles, and all that lay in front of us were two days on the moors. We were even promised (well maybe not promised exactly) our first view of the sea today, and so we could almost smell the finish line! Well not quite as it turned out, as the North York Moors had other ideas and things in store for us. In fact this day turned out to be just hard in every way, and a good example of how weather conditions even in mid August of a British summer can absolutely beat you up.

We had a day ahead of us of around 19 miles, and started it strangely in the back of someone’s car from the hotel in Great Broughton. They brought us back to the finishing point of yesterday’s walk at Clay Bank Top, and a very different day it was. It started out misty and drizzly, one of those days when you think you’ll probably end up getting a bit wet but don’t really want to don the waterproofs yet just in case. So we soldiered on for a bit and thought we’d see what it did.

Today’s vlog entry before the bad weather started.

After not very long it became clear that the weather and the visibility was just going to get worse and worse, and it stayed like that all day. We ended up with probably 40 or 50 mph winds, and lashing rain for probably 80% of the day. Such a shame, as other people’s pictures of this area have been spectacular and we would have loved to see it that way. But sometimes you just have to take the crap days with the good ones and put your head down and take them as all part of the wonderful adventure you’re on.

You get the idea…

Much of the walk until the middle of the day was on a former railway line through the moors, which at least made navigation simple.

The ex railway line that lined much of the first half our route.

Whilst we carried on getting wetter and wetter, we figured that even attempting to eat our packs lunches in this was going to be a bit tricky. There was certainly nowhere to sit down and the rain was getting ever worse. We knew that the only place we would pass all day was a famed pub up on the top of the moors called The Lion Inn. It was famed for being having not been decorated in about the last 500 years, but also for being very hospitable. Oh and it is apparently the second highest pub in the UK I think too. Unfortunately the hospitality didn’t extend to us, as when we arrived (just before noon) it was shut. Not wanting to hang around in the doorway like desperados in the rain we thus decided to trudge on and give it a miss. Shame, and maybe one for another day.

When it says ‘All-Day’, that was maybe in pre Covid times 😦

The second half of the walk was half along a road, and then back across Danby Moor, which from what I saw it is the most desolate place on the planet. Mel quipped (true black humour if ever you heard it) that she half expected Myra Hindley to jump out on us from behind the mist swept heather. If she had, then she would have been the only person who was mad enough to be out on the moors that day apart from us!

The afternoon was punctuated briefly by a visit to ‘Fat Betty’, another C2C tradition. Fat Betty is a once white stone marker, where the tradition dictates that you must both give and leave a sweet offering for other Coast to Coasters to do the same. This being the middle of a pandemic the pickings were lets say both slim (certainly not fat at all!) and also unappealing. We did however leave a treat or two ourselves, which I assume will be there for some time to come.

Giving our offerings to Fat Betty.

I think this picture sums up how much fun was had today!

The walk through Danby Moor and Glaisdale High Moor were then just ‘head down, let’s get there as soon as we can and dry off’. The waterproofs kept us largely dry, but boots were completely wet through. Eventually we got to Glaisdale (much to Mel’s relief, and mine too I have to say) but found it was at least another mile until our B&B, which turned out to be a pub (The Arncliffe Arms), actually the only one we stayed in on the whole trip. Whilst the room was fine and the beer was pretty good, it I’m afraid left a lot to be desired when it came to Covid precautions, and we both ultimately ranked it in 13th place out of the 13 establishments we stayed in on the walk. It was a high bar though, as apart from this and The Wainstones we had stayed in the previous night, all of the rest went from great to fantastic. The staff were very friendly though it has to be said.

The Arncliffe Arms was also memorable for two other things. One it would be the last place we stayed in before we got to reach the sea at Robin Hoods Bay on the final leg, our twelfth. And secondly it had the most ferocious drying room fuelled very literally by a massive 12 foot square biomass boiler which the owner was very proud of. I was going to place my wet boots on top of it, but thought it might melt them altogether. It was also down a rickety set of dark steps with no light, and was thus almost dungeon like inside. We were glad in any case to be able to leave the next day (which unfortunately was also to be in waterproofs and woolly hats the whole day) in warm and dry clothes. Just 19 miles to go then…….

Coast to Coast Day 10 – Ingleby Arncliffe to Clay Bank Top/Great Broughton

Day 10 was a simply brilliant day in every single aspect. It started from the very charming hamlet of Ingleby Arncliffe and ended in the North York Moors at a village called Great Broughton (or so we thought, see later on!). Only a short stage of 12 or so miles, it was nonetheless full of ups and downs.

Despite the shortness of the stage, we had seen the profile and knew this would be a testing day, described as ‘Difficult’ in the Mac’s Adventures, and with over 3,000 feet of ascent. We’d also get onto the North York Moors for the first time today – we’d seen them looming towards us all of yesterday’s flat stage from Reeth to Richmond. I was really looking forward to getting up there.

Covering an area of about 550 square miles, the North York Moors is one of the largest expanses of heather moorland anywhere, certainly in the UK. I’d been over here just once before, when cycling the Coast to Coast about 4 years ago, and remembered more than anything just how lumpy it was. There are a large number of hills and dales, and we’d cross quite a few of them in the now final three days of our trek.

On our way up to the Moors we passed a house selling these – it would have been rude not to, pandemic or not – they were bloody delicious!

Setting out past the Blue Bell, the pub we’d eaten in the night before, the path turned up through Arncliffe Woods and then quite steeply up before hitting the moorland. We were lucky in that the weather was quite glorious, and en route we passed a “48 miles to Robin Hood’s Bay” sign. Reaching the first moor, Scarth Wood I think, the expanses of heather seemed to stretch on for ever, and almost on cue some wisps of mist rolled in. It was like being on the set of An American Werewolf or the like.

The other notable thing about this day was the fact that at around about Scarth Wood, three paths coincided – The Coast to Coast, The Cleveland Way, and the Lake Wake Walk. We would follow the signs for the Cleveland Way in fact for most of the next two days.

Heading through the woods out of Ingleby Arncliffe, a sign reminded us what we had done so far, and what lay ahead.

The Moors stretch out before us at last, the mist didn’t disappoint one bit!

There followed around four hills, none particularly steep or long, but all ones which got your heart racing a bit. Mid way through the day we also passed a hangliding club at the top of one of the hills, and there were about half a dozen seemingly very happy souls up riding the thermals and enjoying the fine day.

More notably though, we passed and were passed by on this day ‘Biscuit’ and his owner. Now Biscuit was a lovely dog who we had seen as early as day three on our way down to Grasmere, and her owner helped us across a raging stream. We’d seen them a fair few times along the way too, as you do with fellow C2Cers. They were on their way this day to Blakey Ridge, ahead of us. The guy was lovely, and was trying to get back home on the Friday – we hope they made it safely – Biscuit was one of our highlights of the trip and I wish I had a photo to share here for posterity.

Heather, heather, and more glorious heather 🙂
The last hill ahead of us, with The Wainstones at the top.

Climbing through the Wainstones.

And made it!

Not long before we got to the Wainstones themselves at about mile 11, I’d looked at my Macs Adventures map and details, and there was a note on there to say ‘when approaching the Wainstones, phone your hotel who will come and collect you from Clay Bank Top car park’. I thought this a bit odd, but then realised that where the walk finished was about three miles from Great Broughton in the wrong direction, and that furthermore, Great Broughton was not on the Coast to Coast path! It also said that they’d come and bring us back the following day, so therefore it didn’t feel like cheating at all.

Our hotel, The Wainstones, looked from the website like it was a bit grand for us, but it proved I have to say quite the opposite. In fact it was the most tired place we stayed in the whole trip and not a place we’d recommend. Also the temperature in the bedroom was close to that of the surface of the sun, and sleeping was not at all easy. I was determined not to eat there in fact, and damaged to find a brilliant little pub in the village called the Jet Miners – the food (and everything about it) was outrageously good, and the best of the whole trip, so I was prompted (by myself this time!) to write a Tripadvisor review right away:

So we were now down to just two days left – time had flown, and we had walked already about 160 miles. The next day was also right through and over the moors to Glaisdale, and what a totally different (in practically every respect) it would prove to be. But every day is a massive adventure on this walk, and you just have to live every moment and totally embrace them all.

Coast to Coast Day 9 – Richmond to Ingleby Arncliffe.

Day 9 was the longest day on our trip, at a shade under 24 miles, and saw us head through the Vale of Mowbray from Richmond to Ingleby Arncliffe. It is also characterised as being the only flat day on the whole trip. And flat it pretty much was.

The day was also very notable for two other things – one the heat, and the second midges and thunderflies. The day was really hot at about 26 degrees, which when you are walking 24 miles really takes its toll. And the midges and other little biting insects in the middle of the day around the Danby Wiske area absolutely drove you (well me anyway!) completely nuts. Mel afterwards told me that it was about as freaked out as she’d ever seen me. And I think she was right, I was completely driven to distraction by them, and couldn’t even sit down to eat my lunch because of them.

We had set out from the very quirky and very old Williance House in Richmond at about 8am after a lovely cooked breakfast. I’ve been fairly good this trip (Mel has been better) at not having a fry up, but sometimes you just need one.

Leaving behind Richmond Castle, the view here from the river Swale.
Oooohh I love a good signpost me!

We passed some lovely villages en route, still following the Swale river as we had been doing for a few days now. Bolton on Swale in particular was very pretty, with a very lovely church. And overall, despite the distance, it never felt like a massive walk, the terrain helping hugely with that.

The pretty church at Bolton on Swale – the official walk goes right through the churchyard.

Around half way to Ingleby Arncliffe is a small hamlet called Danby Wiske, which has a pub and is a usual stop off point for coast to coasters. This year however, due to Covid, it is closed, and so that has meant on a 24 mile day you have no means of getting water or other provisions en route. We were asked however by someone stepping out of their house if we’d like a water refill, which was rather nice of them. We politely passed up on the offer and stopped just outside to eat our packed lunch, Mel sat down relaxed, and me dancing like a demented muppet up and down the road waving my arms in the air to try in vain to waft away biting insects.

Who the hell is Frank??
sometimes you just have to find shade where you can!

Much of the afternoon’s hike was just a hot slog, but in really beautiful surroundings. It just goes to show that things don’t need to be hilly to be beautiful!

One of the highlights of the afternoon was a well stocked fridge in a field with an honesty box!

At nearly the end of the walk however, an almost crazy thing happened. I knew that Ingleby Arncliffe was just the other side of the A19 from where we were. And for those who don’t know it, the A19 is a big, almost motorway sized behemoth of a road linking Yorkshire to Middlesbrough and the North East. It’s a road where traffic is going at 80mph all day long. We approached it at about 5pm to find, guess what? No bridge! (Or underpass or anything). We basically had to play chicken with 80mph traffic to get across to the village – great!

Having survived to write this blog, we duly arrived at the very lovely Ingleby House Farm, after a quick snifter in the local pub, The Blue Bell. It had taken us forever to actually book The Blue Bell for dinner the night before, but I won’t go into that here, it would take all night. Suffice to say its a great pub if you are ever passing this way. They also serve the local delicacy, chicken parmo, which if you aren’t from the Middlesbrough area you will neither know about or even understand. I’ll only say that there is a very good reason why it hasn’t transcended from the Middlesbrough area, and that also explains why half of mine didn’t get finished.

Chicken Parmo – ‘don’t’ would be my advice!

Tomorrow would see a moderate stage in terms of length, but lots of ups and downs as we entered for the first time the North York Moors. I’d cycled through these a few years ago and knew they’d be pretty lumpy and very interesting. It would also turn out to be the best day in terms of walking alone of the whole walk – bring on The Wainstones!…….

Coast to Coast Day 8 – Reeth to Richmond.

Day 8 saw us leave the very lovely Reeth and head to Richmond. Reeth had been lovely, it is such a perfect setting and it definitely needs another visit when there is time to explore and do it justice. It just captivated me from the moment of arrival and had something very magical about it.

Certainly one thing we’ve noticed on this trip is that (particularly doing it in 12 days) there just isn’t time for anything other than getting from place A to place B, eating and sleeping! By the time you have also of course packed and re-packed and tended to topping up water, supplies, arranged packed lunches and the like too. As an example of how margins are tight, when we were in Grasmere on the way through to Patterdale there wasn’t time for me to stop at Sarah Nelson’s Gingerbread Shop, and that is nothing short of sacrilege!

Setting out from Reeth – low cloud hanging in the hills and a cooler morning for us.

Reeth was part of the hugely successful Yorkshire stages of the 2014 Tour de France, the riders passing through the town itself.

This day was however a shorter day (and in fact the shortest distance wise of the whole trip at just 10 miles) and so we afforded ourselves a slightly later breakfast at 8am and a later start. You still however have to get up and pack all of your bags by then ready to be collected by the Sherpa Van service, and so there’s still a lot of early morning faffing going on!

Setting out from Reeth we continued to follow the River Swale as we had done for the last few days, and headed along the river on a lovely (if slightly cool still) morning. There were no real hills for us to climb today, just undulating ups and downs each side of the Swale valley.

Today’s vlog attempt – the one from yesterday failed to load 😦 I should edit these things really but I don’t know how!!

We passed a couple of lovely villages en route, one called Marrick, where there was a little old priory, and as total of 375 (no I didn’t count them!) steps to the village above through some lovely woods.

The steps up through the woods to Marrick – apparently put down by nuns a long time ago.

Then we also passed through Marske, where it looked like everyone had cut their lawns and hedges with nail scissors, this despite the remoteness and what must be bleakness of the place out of season. These villages have no amenities, like a shop for instance, but are just idyllic. And if I lived there I don’t think I’d ever want to leave.

Passing through Marske – a lovely place.

And finally the edge of Richmond coms into view.

Finally we reached the town of Richmond, a large and lovely place of around 8,000 people, with a big castle, and quite a few almost ‘high street’ shops. It felt weird, as we’d walked for a week without seeing anyone at all, quite literally on some days, and then getting into Richmond it felt like walking into New York City!

Also arriving early we thought we’d best stop for a drink before getting to the B&B, but discovered that Richmond isn’t blessed with great pubs, which was a shame. We also tried in vain to try to get a restaurant. Thinking the day before that it was a big place and that we wouldn’t struggle, but we did big time, although eventually found a very good Indian, called Amontola if I remember correctly.

I never drink lager normally but you just wouldn’t have touched the bitter in this pub believe me!

We stayed at a little place called Willance House – a 17th century building which was very quaint (in a good way!). We opted before retiring for the earliest breakfast slot we could get, as the following day was going to be the longest day of the trip, a 24 mile slog to Ingleby Cross, which would take us through the Vale of Mowbray to the edge of the North York Moors. I couldn’t wait :).

Coast to Coast Day 7 – Keld to Reeth

Day 7 of the C2C saw us begin the second half of the overall walk, quite literally, as we had just reached the half way point (mile 96) last night. After also some excellent beef stew and sponge pudding last night we were set up for another full on day, even if this one would be the shortest so far in terms of distance covered. In fact it would be just 12 miles that took us to Reeth, also in the Swaledale valley.

Leaving behind Keld Lodge and heading down into Keld itself…..
…..which is basically a hamlet, but a very lovely one at that.
The start of the Swale River, which we would follow for the next three days (and indeed had done yesterday too).
Looking down at the Swale from the start of our high route.

Swaledale is one of the smaller, and I think the most northerly of the main dales (valleys). It runs east to west and is punctuated by much limestone and of course many many sheep. It is the first time either of us have been here and it is an absolute delight. The end of the day in fact was to reveal for me what I think is the highlight of the trip so far in the shape of Reeth.

The journey to Reeth can be taken by either a high route or a low route. The low route passes many pretty Swaledale villages like Muker, but we were told at the Lodge that it would be very busy with tourists, so we avoided it and took the high route. This route takes in two climbs up to around 2,000 feet, but is generally it has to be said not very scenic in the main, although it has many redeeming features.

The walk across the top of the Dales at around 2,000 feet up is a bit featureless….

……but then dips into very attractive ruins of old lead mining plants.

The area round here was in bygone times the capital of the lead-mining world, and used to apparently produce over half of the world’s lead. We saw much evidence of old lead mines along the route, including smelting chimneys and some old machinery from the mines. The two climbs weren’t difficult, but took their toll on tired legs, and we had a fair old headwind at times too. The weather was also a bit cool at times – while the rest of the country is apparently basking in a heatwave at around 35 degrees, we had around 16 or 17 degrees, and my fleece stayed on for most of the day.

Starting on the descent now towards Reeth.

Another lead smelting relic.

Nearly in Reeth now, a lovely day and a really great walk for any day out.

We got into Reeth early at around 3pm. Reeth Apparently hails itself as the capital of Swaledale, and was formerly the mainstay of the lead mining industry. You wouldn’t know that today though – it is a very pretty natural amphitheatre with a large green in the middle and surrounded by the local hills. Apparently the old TV show All Creatures Great and Small was filed here. We both loved it. It has the feel of being very welcoming, and it very much is exactly that.

Wee stopped in for a beer at the Kings Arms Hotel, where we had also booked for dinner. A good place and very much recommended, even if the sticky toffee pudding was a bit weird and covered in wayyyyyyy too much custard, but there’s a first world problem if ever there was one!

The green at Reeth…..
…….and the very lovely Ivy Cottage at one end of it.

Our accommodation, Ivy Cottage, also serves as a tea room. The hosts were (as everyone has been on this trip) extremely welcoming, and the room had a view of the green and the surroundings and a lovely little window seat where you could have sat for hours. It was a fantastic spot, and I would love to revisit. The breakfast and indeed everything about it was perfect. In fact we both agreed afterwards when ranking (as you do) all 13 B&Bs that we stayed in on this trip, that this was number one. That’ll be a 5 star Tripadvisor rating from me then 🙂

So 108 or so miles done now, and tomorrow would see us again head along the Swale Valley to Richmond, the largest town on the C2C, for another fairly short day. The weather was again set fair, and we looked forward to all that Richmond would bring.

Coast to Coast Day 6 – Kirkby Stephen to Keld.

Day six of the C2C for us was Kirkby Stephen to Keld in the Yorkshire Dales. Although a short day (at around 13 miles) in terms of mileage, the day starts with a five mile upward slog to over 2,000 feet to the top of Nine Standards Rigg.

Nine Standards Rigg is the summit of Hartley Fell, at 2,172 feet. It is almost on the border of Cumbria and Yorkshire, and sits at a very significant point in The Pennines from where all water landing to the east runs to the North Sea, and all to the west to the Irish Sea. The Nine Standards themselves are a set of large cairns of various shapes which sit in a row right on top of the fell. They can be seen for miles, and we could even see them from our room in Kirkby Stephen.

Setting off from the town go Kirkby Stephen, the local church in the background.

We had a stunning day for it, the best so far, and it was hot even as we left the town. Kirkby Stephen is a lovely village and I decided I’d love to return one day. We had a lovely Indian meal the previous evening and would have liked to have spent more time wandering around.

About to cross the river and set off for Nine Standards Rigg – a beautiful day.

It was a hot climb from the off, but bearable, and actually really enjoyable. We saw very few people, and one family of what the lady in the B&B described as ‘the flip flop brigade’. They were playing very loud music, something I can’t stand when out on the fells, and so we walked past and away as quickly as we could. Call me a snob if you want!

My vlog entry for the day 🙂

One of the other things that characterises Nine Standards Rigg (apart from the stones themselves) is the peat bogs. They are pretty big and pretty serious, and also pretty seriously eroded. Being such a popular walk, the path gets so eroded on the way up that it has been split into three different routes depending upon the time of year and the conditions. The red is apparently the most revered, and the green the easiest and safest in poor conditions, but we were directed to the blue by the signs and so stuck with that. I’m very much a conformist when it comes to National Parks and their regulations.

Approaching the top of Hartley Fell, with the Nine Standards clearly visible.
On the very top of the Pennines!

The trig point from which all water flows west or east in England.

The views from the top were great, and we soon made our way to the quite memorable trig point pictured below.

The views and waypoints on a clear day (which we had) were all marked out in detail here.

The route from here had partly been covered in flagstones which briefly lulled us into a false sense of security as I’d read in Henry Steadman’s fabulous book on the C2C about how bad the bogs would be. But then they ended, abruptly. We then spent the next almost three hours tracking and backtracking, squelching and jumping over bogs, some twenty yards or more across. If you’d just walked in a straight line along the path you’d have ended up either up to your waist or without your boots in the mire in places. It was almost comical. Having both of us suffered blisters from wet feet in the Lakes we were keen to try to avoid the same fate, and so did our best to stay as dry as we could. We sort of managed this, but it was tricky.

the flagstone section before the bogs took over!

We took the blue route, but I think most of them are pretty similar in length and difficulty – it is all about managing the erosion.

The peat bogs stretch on for what seems like forever – at least we could see where we were going!

Thankfully the path eventually emerged to run higher along the river along more farm like tracks, and whilst still wet and squelchy, were manageable. Eventually after what was approaching 7 hours, a crazy amount of time for a 13 mile walk, we reached the tiny hamlet of Keld. Keld has about 4 houses, two campsites, and a lodge/hotel, where we stayed, the Keld Lodge. The Lodge used to be a youth hostel, and still feels a bit like that, but the hospitality (and I have to say the food) that we had was second to none. It also had a great drying room, very useful when you’ve just tracked for hours through wet peat bogs. Oh they also served the best pint of Black Sheep bitter I’ve ever had.

The main thing to note about Keld though, is the fact that it lies exactly at the half way point of the C2C walk. It is 96 miles in each direction to the sea, and the commemorative photo above will be something for the long term scrapbook that’s for sure.

So here we were, 6 days down, and exactly half way. 92 miles to the North Sea, and tomorrow would take us through lead mining country, see Cow ‘Usses’, and go through the very beautiful Swaledale to the even more beautiful Reeth. The Coast to Coast was delivering everything we thought it would and more :).