This year marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of Alfred Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk. His challenging 190-mile walk across Northern England has grown to be by far the most popular long distance trail in the country.
What is not generally known is the influence that the Dales Way had on Wainwright’s original creation.
Wainwright first had the idea for his Coast to Coast Walk after walking the Pennine Way, shortly after this first National Trail had been officially launched in 1965. Wainwright wrote his popular Pennine Way Companion (published in 1968), but admitted that he had not really enjoyed the trail. This set him to thinking of devising his own, “superior” walk.
He came up with the idea of a walk across England, from coast to coast. He fixed the start and end points, St Bees Head and Robin Hood’s Bay, and drew a line with a ruler from one to the other. His bee-line route crossed three National Parks: the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors.
In April 1970, a month after he married his second wife Betty, he wrote to his friend Molly Lefebure: “Incidentally, while honeymooning at York, I paid a visit to the North Yorks Moors area. Not bad, not bad. I might yet do a COAST TO COAST WALK, St. Bees Head to Robin Hood’s Bay, crossing Lakeland, using the newly-created Dales Way into Yorkshire and ending with parts of both the Lyke Wake Walk and Cleveland Way.”
Wainwright surveyed possible options for a high-level route into Yorkshire, shadowing the Dales Way, before ultimately rejecting them in favour of a more northerly route across the Westmorland Fells. The results of his research were included in his book Walks on the Howgill Fells, published in 1972. His Coast to Coast Walk was published in 1973.
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