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Travellers' Tales - Coast to Coast Guided Walk by Jan Clarke

Jan Clarke, from Western Australia, booked on to the Guided Coast to Coast walk in order to reconnect with her UK roots, and to feed her passion for walking. Here, she shares her experience, and her tips for looking after your most important piece of kit - your feet!

 

Guided Coast to Coast Walk - lunch overlooking the valley

 

What is your walking history?

I have enjoyed walking ever since I was a little girl growing up in Tasmania, Australia. I spent a lot of weekends in my primary school years free-ranging over the foothills of Mount Wellington and the National Parks in Tassie. As a family we hiked in to say farewell to the original Lake Pedder before it was dammed and flooded to feed the hydro-electric scheme. It was a local pilgrimage. I think dad used to like the freedom and fresh air of wide open space, and my brothers and I had lots of energy to get rid of. I guess it just got into my bones. I still work full time at 60, but in the last decade I’ve found time to hike in the Colorado and Canadian Rockies, the Italian Cinque Terre, Table Mountain in South Africa, the calderas of volcanoes in Bali and Hawaii, the summit of Cradle Mountain and Freycinet Peninsula, the Blue Mountains, Central Australia, the gorges in The Kimberley and Pilbara and parts of the Bibbulmun Track and the Cape to Cape in Western Australia. I have never walked 13 consecutive days before, though! I am more used to hiking in very hot, dry conditions than boggy, cold and rainy.

Guided Coast to Coast Walk - wheat field

 

Why did you choose to walk where you did?

This walk was for my dad. He was a “10 Pound Pom” who emigrated to Australia in the 50s. He gave me my love of hiking. I believe you have to “walk a country to know a country” and I wanted to feel my family roots and feel connected to my heritage. I love visiting National Parks and this walk had three in a row! I like a physical challenge so I chose something that would make me sweat. I figured the Coast to Coast would tick all those boxes – and it did. I gave myself the walk as my 60th birthday present and was happy to fly to the UK by myself to prove I could meet the challenge. My dad certainly came with me… in spirit, anyway.

 

Guided Coast to Coast Walk - descent to Patterdale

 

How did you prepare?

Preparation for mountains was a bit difficult where I live. I can walk forever on flat ground because there is a LOT of that in Perth and I have always enjoyed long walks. The most we have close by is a scarp, the Perth Hills, so I spent every weekend for 4-5 hours at a time hiking fast up and down stony, gravelly tracks just to make sure my leg muscles, reflexes and concentration were honed. Actually, I think it was an advantage to have practised on harsh stones because there are a lot of those on the Coast to Coast. Another advantage was being used to hiking in hot weather with hot feet. I think that saved me from getting blisters. I think some mental preparation is a good thing too. I have spent my life being stubborn. I don’t like to let things beat me!

 

Your favourite destination?

This was definitely St Sunday Crag! Everything about that day was perfect – the scenery, the weather, the vibe. It was a challenging, strenuous, heat-pounding walk but there was just something about standing on those rocks at the top that made me feel WOW! I love standing on top of any mountain, but that one was a real winner for me. That’s my mountain! 

 

Guided Coast to Coast Walk - St Sunday Crag

 

Best food and drink?

To be honest, everything was amazing and a real taste of so many things “English”. I did not expect little places to have such excellent meals. Truly. Part of my concept of “knowing a country” is also to try local foods and drink, so I did. A memorable one was bacon chop with black pudding and stilton cream sauce at the pub at Ennerdale Bridge. Absolutely delicious – and something I would NEVER have tried at home. Rachael’s fresh berries and rhubarb yoghurt at Gillercombe B&B in Rosthwaite – oh YUM! The beef and ale pie at The White Lion in Patterdale was outstanding. The Wainwright beer and rhubarb gin were winners everywhere. Oh, and the blueberry and cream ice-cream at the PO in Patterdale and the scones, jam and cream everywhere, but especially at the little café with the penny-farthing bikes in Gunnerside. Thumbs up, too, to the publican at The Station Tavern in Grosmont who made extra space for ten of us for dinner, served up a cracking meal at a cracking pace, and then gave four of us a lift home. Above and beyond the call! 

 

Guided Coast to Coast Walk - woodland path

 

Biggest surprise?

I probably shouldn’t admit to this. The thing that surprised me the most was that I managed to fully recover every morning and be ready to go again! I know that should be a given expectation when you sign up for a long hike. Seriously – by the end of every day the balls of my feet were so sore I thought I would never walk again, but every morning they were perfectly fine and raring to go again. So I think my nanna body pleasantly surprised me the most. As for the knees - so pleased I was a hockey player and swimmer and not a netballer or tennis player in my youth!

 

What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?

I think the 2 very long days towards the end of the walk were pretty challenging, mentally and physically. Every single day had its little challenges, but that’s what I wanted. I didn’t want an easy wander. I wanted to have to work at it. Having the sole of my hiking boot detach unexpectedly at the top of Kidsty Pike in a sleet storm was a little north of “interesting”. However, my husband calls me “Mrs MacGyver” because I enjoy the satisfaction of creatively solving problems. John also had duct tape and clever ideas in his emergency box of tricks, so between us we worked it out and the group never skipped a beat. Gotta love a good challenge. Keeps you young on the inside. Like All Bran for the soul.

 

Guided Coast to Coast Walk - the group

 

Do you have any other advice for travellers thinking about travelling on this trip?

My best tip sounds like the most obvious. Look after your feet! They need to be your friends. If they’re not used to walking for two weeks solid, then tape them up with Fixomull (or slap on the Compede) BEFORE you start. Any investment in being kind to your feet will pay off ten-fold. If you feel hot-spots developing then stop and patch them immediately. Don’t be shy! Poles were also really useful. There are plenty of places where the pressure they take off downhill hiking or help with stability on uneven ground is really useful. I also had magic butterscotch lollies. Pop one at the beginning of a hill and it’s amazing how a little sugar buzz powers you up a hill (unless you are one of the good souls who have sworn off the evil of sugar, of course). Take every kind of clothing in your day-pack as the weather can change in an instant. Oh - and take a spare pair of hiking boots. Your faves might give in well before you ever do! 

 

>> Find out more about Sherpa Expeditions' Coast to Coast walking and cycling holidays.

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