Brian and Raika's 
Coast to Coast
Journal
A fund raising challenge for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People
A busy A1 brought Raika and I to a warm dry quaint little market town of Richmond with its steep, narrow, cobbled streets overlooked by the castle, in readiness for our journey to the coast to start a walk that will take us through three national parks.

An early breakfast is had to enable an early start to the Cumbria coast. The weather looks set fair as the courier nears St. Bees, a good omen for the task ahead perhaps. After many weeks of planning and anticipation, the excitement and enthusiasm is tempered only by the uncertainty of what the next two weeks might have in store .The day remained as promised, sunny and very warm. More than I can hope for during the remaining two weeks!! Splendid cliff top walk at the start before we turn in land to negotiate hill and forest, in what is a far more populated area than I had imagined, journeying through undulating countryside to our first overnight stop at a farm near Ennerdale. We were met with a warm and genuine hospitality that was to prove the hallmark of the people we met on our journey. The hospitality even appeared to extend to the dogs at the farm who accepted Raika as if she was one of them. Beautiful dogs.

The next morning, following a huge breakfast, we were bade farewell as we set off to experience some of the most beautiful scenery we were to encounter on our whole journey. As we reached the forest, the sun that had been a feature of a splendid walk beside Ennerdale Water, had forsaken us. The riverside walk in the forest served to remind me how someone back home would have loved it all. The view of Pillar Mountain over the valley as I sat eating my packed lunch, had me regretting not taking the high route option, but consolation was found in the beauty that surrounded me. Before climbing out of the valley to Honister Pass, on our way to our next over night stop in Stonethwaite, curiosity compelled me to look inside Black Sail Hut, an unmanned and lonely Youth Hostel at the bottom of Black Sail Pass. A plaque in tribute to the late Chris Brasher, founder of Brasher Boots, reads that on a night in 2002, he and some friends devoured 14 curries between them on the premises. It didn’t say how many there were in the party but I bet it needed plenty of fresh mountain air to clear that place the following morning.

An early start on the Monday morning to avoid the forecasted inclement weather proved futile, as the day was warm and fine. Part of the Cumbria Way takes us to Greenup Edge as we journey to Grasmere, the next over-night stop. Some boggy conditions were encountered in places, much to the disgust of Raika, she doesn’t do river baths. A super ridge walk over Calf Crag and Gibson Knott safely saw the completion of the days walk, with all that the Lake District has to offer. The shorter journey proved welcome relief to my ankle and it is hoped the rest will be of good effect as two days of more strenuous hill walking are to follow.

If I had been lulled into any feeling of false security with the regard to the weather then what was to follow over the next few days would soon put an end to all that. With no option of a low-level walk we faced just about all that nature could throw at us today. My rucksack was light as most of what I carried was now being worn in a vain effort to ward of the driving rain and snow that we encountered as we strove to reach Grisedale Hause. Helvellyn or St Sunday Crag, both veiled in cloud, were no option as we continued our effort to reach Glenridding. The snow ceased as we reached lower ground, but the rain continued to swell the streams and waterfalls, which in a strange way added it’s own beauty to the eerie cold and misty atmosphere of the Grisedale Valley. My only quest now is for the warmth and comfort of my B&B for the night, with the promise to visit again to enjoy the obvious beauty the area offers. A wash in Glenridding Beck for Raika and we were soon safely ensconced. Four days have passed and no one has been met doing the coast to coast walk. Am I the only one doing this, I ask. Raika is snoring, as I write these notes, probably dreaming of sheep. It never fails to amaze me how she can spot them so readily. With her strong pack hunting instinct, she seems to focus on little else.  

Unrelenting rain throughout the night has swollen the rivers, put snow on the tops and there are floods everywhere as we depart, complete with our hosts complementary biscuits for Raika, on one of the longest journeys and the highest point of the walk. Boredale Hause and High Street held little welcome for us, being greeted with gales, rain and horizontal hail, barely able to keep our feet in places. This is no place to be in these conditions and is beginning to dampen my enthusiasm for this expedition. My unfailing friend remains by my side through it all and I finally meet others with the same quest as myself.

As the weather relented, Raika thought she had abstained from chasing sheep long enough. My calls were in vain as I watched her disappear down the side of Kidsty Howes. A very worrying few minutes followed with my imagination running wild as to the possible outcome of her venture before she reappeared nonchalantly over the hill. The admonishment that followed was tempered with the relief that she had returned safe and well. The walk alongside Haweswater was pleasant enough, with Raika now firmly under control. The final stretch into Shap proved very tiring after what had been eight hours of toil coupled with the worry of Raika draining my emotions.

Sixty two miles have now been completed and sadly we leave the Lakes, in completely contrasting weather, as we journey to Orton, the next stop on our journey. The M6 was unceremoniously crossed followed by pleasant moorland walks on velvety turf with views of snow capped mountains of the Lake district behind us, the Pennines in front to the east and the Howgill hills to the south. Lunch was had near to what is allegedly Robin Hood’s grave. I have no great admiration or otherwise of Robin Hood, but I felt it fitting to pay our respects in view of our destination some 120 miles further.

Friday already. Despite wearing two woollies, over-trousers, hat, gloves and coat I could hardly keep myself warm as we walked in a bitterly cold north wind on what was probably the coldest day we had encountered so far. Between the snow and hail showers in the morning one was able to view the beautiful scenery of the area. One place, a little place, in the Smaredale valley called Smardale Bridge will, because of it’s beauty, forever remain in my memory. It’s coming across the unexpected like that which makes it all worth while. Once over Smardale Fell we cross beneath the Settle – Carlisle railway. Soon the pretty little town of Kirkby Stephen comes into view.  

The hospitality and generosity of the people I’ve met as I journey from place to place will be a lasting memory. The hospitality of mine hosts at Kirkby Stephen even extended to accompanying them and a friend for the evening meal. I’d had enough by the time I had reached my destination and the head cold I’d been unfortunate in picking up hadn’t helped matters so that kind gesture lifted my spirits no end. I travel twelve miles on my next journey accompanied by Hugh, my friend of the evening, as he travels to Thwaite.

Hugh proved a great companion, as I commenced my journey across the Pennines, with his knowledge of  the many explorers before us whose early efforts did much to inspire the popularity of expeditions, large or small, of today. Looking back, as we made our way onto the hills, I was also able to share  his love of the Eden valley . The forecast was not good as we set off and as we reached the top of Nine Standards Rig, there started three and a half hours of cold unrelenting driving snow, hail, rain and poor visibility. The guidebooks never seem to mention this! Raika was completely white with snow down one side as we found our way along the peaty boggy tops. A shooters hut gave welcome respite, as we were able to have our lunch, - yet more biscuits for Raika – sheltered from the elements. I am informed that the waters cease to flow to the Irish Sea from this point in the Pennines and now flow to the North Sea. No doubt that which is falling now will get there long before me.

We reach Keld, the half way point of my journey to Robin Hood’s Bay, as the weather begins to relent. We are in the heart of the Pennines, an area that holds little magic for me, if today’s trek is anything to go by. Peat bogs are not areas made for incessant traffic, on foot or otherwise. Hugh and I say our goodbyes. I am quietly glad that I had someone with me today.

Keld is a tiny village of no more than twenty houses. There are picturesque waterfalls everywhere. After spending the night with a retired farming family, with their sheep and sheepdog trophies on the sideboard, Raika and I continue our journey, crossing the Pennine Way and the River Swale as it commences it’s journey eastwards, at the start of a much more promising day. Having successfully negotiated Gunnerside Gill we steadily climb to reach the top of Melbecks Moor, where we come to more shooting country, with a proliferation of Grouse Butts and the warbling of the birds. Walking beside Mill Gill we pause to view the ruins of The Old Gang lead-smelting mill where Raika startles a person as he sat resting. There was laughter all round as he quickly realised he was in no danger and aided the chance to exchange a few words on our missions. We are in the Dales now with very pleasant views, aided by a much brighter and warmer day. As we reached the one hundred miles mark the Cleveland Hills, our goal in two days time, could clearly be seen in the distant.

Having not seen any great mass of people during the last eight days, reaching Reeth proved a huge culture shock. This pretty little village looked like a huge car park, with cars parked everywhere as people went in search of the hills on foot, with their mountain bikes and motor cycles or simply to visit the many tea rooms. Peace and serenity was restored by the morning and the attraction of Reeth could clearly be seen. Such a pity that such beauty should become a victim of it’s popularity.

 We rejoin the Swale as we journey, in the sunshine to Richmond, a most pleasant walk with very pleasing views, through pasture and woodland and passing through some interesting villages. Walking through a farm at Applegarth, the dogs alerted a lady who was anxious to have her petition signed against opening up the path to a bridleway. Something I duly did. One view of note on emerging from the edge of Whitecliffe Wood near Richmond, the whole north end of the Vale of York came into view, our objective to cross tomorrow.

It is very noticeably how much drier it is everywhere, having moved east of the Pennines. Raika didn’t need a wash or a wipe down for the first time since leaving St. Bees. 117 miles have been covered and there is a growing feeling of confidence that the remaining 73 miles will be successfully completed.

A warm sunny morning saw Raika giving chase to squirrels and rabbits, unaware of the twenty three miles we had to cover, as we set off by the Swale from Richmond. In a change from the hills, today’s walk is over relatively level terrain. Travelling will be easier, I kidded myself. The Cleveland Hills could be seen in the distant, but it wasn’t until the afternoon that I felt, they were really getting nearer. The A1 was crossed, without ceremony beside the Catterick racecourse.

At Bolton on Swale there is a monument to a man who reputedly lived for 169 years in the sixteenth century. It was also here that we bade farewell to the river, gathering more water and getting broader, that had accompanied us mostly all the way from Keld as it journeyed south to join the Ouse. On reaching the Cleveland Hills a look back to the Pennines showed what a vast distance we had covered and served as a reminder as to just how well those little pads on a dog’s foot serve them. On reaching the B&B at Osmotherly, over twenty miles had been walked without seeing a major town and only one sizeable village. We were now in the North York Moors National Park.

With fifty miles of walking the coast to coast left, some measure of achievement begins to be realised and the remaining three days are looked at with ever growing confidence. Our path took us onto the Cleveland Way today. Two and a half hours of rain at the start, before overtrousers could be dispensed with, making for more comfortable walking. A slight detour was made today, having missed a direction sign whilst walking with my head down warding off the rain. Little time was lost and I was soon able to enjoy the beauty of the walk over Live Moor and Carlton Moor with views across the Cleveland Plain to Teeside and the Vale of Mowbray from the tops. Twelve miles of ups and downs today must have meant that there was as much climbing on this section of the walk as any we had done before.

 My notes for the penultimate days walking read; If you like walking in the rain, then today would have been your day. As we left the B&B at Great Broughton, mine host had wryly proclaimed that the weatherglass was going back, and as we reached the days starting point at Clay Bank Top the rain began to fall. I began to question if there is someone up there who has it in for me. I also question the wisdom of walking west to east when most of the inclement weather has come from an easterly direction. We leave the Cleveland Way as we press on over Farndale moor and Glaisdale moor with visibility down to forty yards in most places, afraid to take my eyes off the map, almost. I cannot write about the views because there weren’t any apart from a brief glimpse down Farndale. Consolation was had in that the paths were wide with good walking throughout this section of the walk. A pleasant hours walk beside the River Esk, as the rain ceased, saw us arrive at our destination in Grosmont for a warm bath and rest in readiness for the final pull into Robin Hood’s Bay tomorrow.

I meet up with two Danes and a Norwegian, on a walking holiday in the Moors, staying at the B&B. A very pleasant evening was had having dinner in the Railway public house, by the North York Moors railway, furthering Anglo Scandinavian relations.

The beauty of the area was missed as; yes you’ve guessed it! Fog and rain from the start to the finish of our final day’s walk. Easing only as we descended into the valley of Littlebeck, with the pretty village of the same name and the picturesque waterfall, Falling Foss. Two boots full of water as we try to negotiate a very boggy section on Sneaton Low Moor, is the high point of the day. At least it washed my overtrousers and saw Raika much cleaner than she was and caused much amusement to a lady passer by as I sat wringing my socks out, whilst sitting having lunch in the rain.

The fog thinned as we started our descent of the cliffs as we approach Robin Hood’s Bay, after two days that had played hell with my emotions and on a day that suddenly brought on tiredness, the measure of like I cannot recall. We had made it.

My eyes filled and I knew not whether my tears were of joy or relief, or sadness, that in spite of the elements of nature, a wonderful experience had come to an end. Two days of almost incessant rain and fog have not marred the many pleasures of the past two weeks.

I had missed some of the beauty the walk had to offer in the last few days, but at least Raika hadn’t suffered sunstroke like one poor dog, of two summers ago, I was told about.

Each day had produced its own tale, from the lady with her petition to Chris Brashers last night at Black Sail Hut and a story of a little dog, unlike those on my first stop, that had suffered terribly in the hands of it’s owner at the time of the foot and mouth epidemic.

In two weeks Raika and I have walked over 190 miles through all types of weather, through, round, under and over all types of fences, on every type of terrain. I’ve stayed in rooms of all sizes, slept in beds of all sizes, some high, some low, some hard, some soft, but one thing has remained constant, that of the hospitality and friendship of the people we’ve met and will be one of the lasting memories of the trip. Raika has been a great ambassador and admired by everyone and apart from one misdemeanour – due entirely to my lack of awareness at the time - has been a perfect companion.

I cannot write this without posthumously giving my thanks to two people; Chris Brasher for designing such a perfect boot. Not once did I suffer any soreness or blisters to my feet and Arthur Wainwright, without whom, the inspiration and pleasures of the past two weeks would not have been possible.

I am eternally grateful for the modern wet weather gear I had with me. In some often atrocious conditions I never once felt insecure or threatened in any way by the elements. With this security, I was able to pursue my task with vigour and assurance, helping me to enjoy what was one of the most memorable and rewarding experiences of my life. Something I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to anyone with a modicum of fitness, sense of direction and purpose, to take on.

Grateful thanks to all who gave their time in helping to raise funds and to all who contributed so generously to Hearing Dogs.                 
             
                        Brian.                                                                                         
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                                                                          Raika                                       

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Hearing Dogs is a registered charity which trains dogs to alert their deaf owners to sounds we take for grantedproviding     greater independence, confidence and security. Most are selected from rescue centres or donated as unwanted  pets             .
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