Complete Q and A

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Here are ten of the most frequently asked questions that Lou and John receive from 'would-be' Coast to Coast walkers…

Number One

Q: What's the best time of year to walk the Coast to Coast?

A: May, June and September are good choices, when the days are much longer. It can be a bit crowded in July and August, and although northern England isn't exactly tropical, the days can be hotter. Avoid April and October, because of the shorter days and possible snow, especially in the Lake District.

Number Two

Q: What sort of training do I need to be in good shape when I arrive at St. Bees for the start of the trek?

A: Okay, let's be candid. If you're a regular, experienced walker, you can start planning your walk. But if your normal exercise regime doesn't extend beyond a walk from your local supermarket to the car once a week, then you've got some work to do.

The Coast to Coast is a 190-mile walk across the wonderfully varied countryside of northern England. Completing this walk will give you a great sense of achievement.

sceneryThousands of folk do this walk every year, so don't worry too much about whether you can do it. It's not like climbing Everest, and you can. But you must get in shape for this physically demanding adventure -- and training could take you at least six months.

The level of fitness required depends partly on how you're doing the walk (see next question). However, if you work a standard five-day week, you should try gradually increasing the amount of walking you do. Begin by walking several three-to-five-mile circuits.

If possible, vary the terrain so you get used to some hill climbing. It's also useful to walk on surfaces other than artificial paving. Make sure you carry a backpack on these trips, with a few pounds of weight (chocolate or boots -- it's up to you). When you've built up to walking 10 miles every Saturday, and another 10 on Sunday, your body should be ready for the real thing.

Number Three

Q: Can you give me an idea of how much money I'll need to do the walk?

A: It depends on how you want to do the walk. If you'd like everything organised, there are several companies who will do this -- for instance, the Sierra Club. With this approach, you have guides to accompany you, your accommodation is pre-booked, and baggage transfers arranged. All you have to do is put one foot in front of the other.

The cost of such pre-arranged walks varies, depending on the company and the package. The already-mentioned Sierra Club's Coast to Coast walk costs $2,345 (US), not including airfare. British-based Contours Walking Holidays offers a similar guided walk, which also includes all meals, for £965.

However, for many people, part of the fun of the Coast to Coast is planning the whole thing themselves. With a good accommodation guide such as Doreen Whitehead's (featured on this website) you can make your own bookings -- by email, phone, fax or post. There are also agents who, for a modest fee, can pre-book all your accommodation for you.

Some walkers are spontaneous types, who just book accommodation one day at a time. Much of the time this strategy is fine. However, remember there are certain stopovers on the walk where fewer rooms are available, and during the busy season these can be fully booked.

If you don't want a walking package, plan on spending about £30 a day for your B & B and food. This doesn't include getting to St. Bees, where the walk starts, nor returning from Robin Hood's Bay, where it ends.

Number Four

Q: What about camping along the route?

A: That's the third option, and in fact many people each year take along a sleeping bag and tent. You'll find campsites at regular intervals along the walk, which cost about three to four pounds a night. Toting camping equipment will be heavier on your back -- but lighter on your wallet. This approach should cost about £170, including food. And if you really yearn for a comfortable bed at some point along the route, indulge yourself and stay in a B & B.

Number Five

Q: Is it safe for a woman to do the Coast to Coast on her own?

A: If you're in a reflective mood and want to experience the peace of the countryside -- perhaps without a talkative companion -- then walking alone can be great. However, solitary long-distance walking isn't necessarily a gender issue. Most outdoor specialists don't recommend solo treks for either women or men, because if you have an accident or become ill, you could be at risk.

So if you really do prefer your own company, simply follow one standard rule en route Each day, before you set off, let someone know where you're headed and who you'll be staying with at the end of your day's walk. If you're staying in a B & B, then let your host have the information, or perhaps another walker that you've met. This way, if you don't turn up as expected, it's much more likely that you'll get help faster.

Women on their own should be safe on the walk. But if at any stage you feel uncomfortable, ask another walker or walkers if you can join them. Or at the least, make yourself known to them, so they can keep an eye out for you.

Number Six

Q: What type of clothing and equipment do I need on the Coast to Coast?

A: Be prepared for every kind of weather from cold and very wet to hot and dry -- you won't get bored! We can't over-emphasise the importance of a good pair of boots, which have been thoroughly worn in.

Your boots must be comfortable both when climbing and going down steep hills. There are boggy, marshy areas in the Pennines, where Gore-Tex or equivalent boots are recommended, as well as gaiters. Boots that are too soft mean your feet will be bruised on the stony tracks of the Lake District. However, a stiff mountaineering boot will cause heel rub and blisters. Especially if you have joint problems, one or two walking poles can take some of the load off your hips and knees when you're going downhill.

sceneryA wind and waterproof jacket is also essential, with a mid-layer of Polartec 200 type fleece. A polyester-type base layer is best next to the skin, because cotton holds moisture and takes a long time to dry if it gets wet. In case of a downpour, it's good to carry overtrousers with long zips, which you can put on in a hurry over wet boots (lined overtrousers tend to stick). Don't forget a hat for the higher, colder areas -- or for keeping off the sun (along with sunscreen).

If much of your kit is being transported for you each day, you can use most backpacks. However, if you are carrying everything, especially camping equipment, ensure that your backpack fits you and is comfortable. It's useful to have a waterproof cover for your pack, to keep everything dry. Store spare clothing in plastic bags.

Keep a litre of water in your water bottle, but if it's hot increase this to two litres. If you have to fill up along the route, treat the water with iodine or chlorine -- just in case. Don't forget a first-aid kit. Even the most optimistic walker should be prepared for possible bruises, blisters or cuts.

Number Seven

Q: Once I've planned everything and packed, how do I get to the starting point of the walk using public transport?

A: Trains from London and Manchester stop at Carlisle. Change there for trains to St. Bees. After you've triumphally entered (or staggered into) Robin Hood's Bay at the finish, catch a bus to Scarborough. From there, take a train to York, where you can board many trains to London and elsewhere.

If you don't want to carry all your gear, there are several companies such as Coast to Coast Packhorse which will carry your luggage from one point to the next (assuming you are following Wainwright's classic route). The Packhorse service can also carry a limited number of walkers who are injured or ill, and unable to do the next stage of the walk.

Number Eight

Q: What kind of navigation skills will I need once I set out on the walk?

A: On this issue, our two experienced guides' opinions differ. John Deighton thinks that the route is, on the whole, well-signposted. However, Lou Wilkinson believes that on certain parts of the walk, signposting is not as good as it could be, and the walker must depend on a map and compass. In particular, he mentions the "Wainwright route" from Keld to Reeth, through the lead-mining country. However, both John and Lou agree that at least one of your walking party should be familiar with map-reading and compass work, to keep you on the route. So, when you go out on those pre-Coast to Coast training walks, take a map and compass. Keep checking your map to ensure you always know where you are, taking into account local landmarks. Practise taking compass bearings. Of course, if you're the hi-tech type, and bring along your Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, you should have nothing to fear.

Number Nine

Q: How should I carry money on the Coast to Coast Walk?

A: Although there are no wallet-stripping shopping malls en route, you'll obviously need some money. Carrying cash along the Coast to Coast is not risky, and many B & Bs do not take credit cards, although some pubs may. Along the route, you'll only find full banking facilities at Kirkby Stephen and Richmond. So it's best to carry cash to last you for the entire walk, plus credit cards.

Number Ten

Q: Any other miscellaneous useful tips?

A: Don't forget to take a camera that you're familiar with, and about five rolls of film. Even if you're normally a half-hearted photographer, you won't be able to resist capturing the glorious landscapes and picturesque villages on camera. You can buy film along the route, but remember that the shops may still be closed when you start the day's walk and then can be shut again by the time you're finished.

You will find other shopping opportunities mainly in Kirkby Stephen and Richmond. Remember this, as you may need to repair or replace equipment. In Richmond, the outdoor shop and bootmaker Altberg on Finkle Street (off the big Market Place) runs a repair service.

Reading through these points may have stimulated you to come up with a few additional questions of your own. If this is the case, then why not drop us a note and we will do their best to address the particular queries you have. Email us at info@castlehillbookshop.co.uk and thanks for participating in the site!

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