I’m not even going to pretend that this edition was prepared after the walk. By the time we got back to our digs at the top — yes, at the top — of the cliff, we had celebrated on the sands, had our mandatory pint in the Wainwright Bar — preceded by a couple of bottles of champagne — stayed and eaten, staggered up the fifty degree cobbled street from the Bay Hotel to the Grosvenor, had another pint and bid farewell to all our friends, we were a bit tired. Of course, for Paula, substitute Pinot Grigio for best bitter, but you get the picture.

By the time we had scrubbed our boots and re-packed everything in travel order, it was after ten and we were over it. It was a day when things were tougher than we all expected, as lingering injuries took their toll and Wainwright’s insistence on the scenic route seemed at times like a bad joke, and we’ve told enough of our own along the way without the double “s”-bend that made today 31 kms rather than the 9 it would be direct!

IMG_0798.JPG

One can sympathise, however, because it was almost like the old bastard was determined to to show us the last, tiniest jewels in his Northern treasury. The picture-book beauty of the Beggars Bridge, with its charming story, set beside that amazing railway engineering from the great Age of Steam that never ceases to amaze me; the packhorse trail through the woods beside the salmon stream, where Autumn had finally come; the great estate we walked through, and on and on.

IMG_0807.JPG

IMG_0805.JPG

IMG_0802.JPG

IMG_0799.JPG

Even though the promised sunshine didn’t appear until the afternoon, the rain held off and the cold wind taught the antipodeans why four seasons gave one an appreciation of both hot and cold, sunshine and wind, rain and snow. The heather was brown, the leaves are falling and we were leaving. It seemed time was both ripe and right.

IMG_0812.JPG

IMG_0809.JPG
We badly coordinated our departure, the three musketeers heading off for some male bonding and a lingering concern over Matthew’s shins — although they looked OK for a man of his age — while we were worried about holding them up, with my knee causing trouble and Paula’s ankle finally showing signs of strain. The others couldn’t get an early breakfast, so we set out in bits. As it turned out, this was fortuitous, and even less closely associated types like the “Nottingham” pair and the “Vermonts” (Kyra and her husband, with whom we’ve had two meals but we barely seem to know) were setting off in drabs and drabs for the last, long day.

As an aside, I should remark on the interesting differences in the relationships that we’ve seen develop on the Coast to Coast in comparison to those on the Camino. I think, in reflection, the wonderful people I met on the Camino were travelling very much for themselves, even when they were travelling together. With very few exceptions, even when people stayed together for days on the path, the relationships were very open. On the Coast to Coast, we haven’t met anyone who is travelling ostensibly alone. It is a joint project between friends (e.g., the musketeers), or a couple (e.g. Paula and me, or Terry and Karen), or even a mother and son (the inspirational Cairns). Only Neill did is specifically for a cause. But the friendliness is similar, if less deep. The Camino fostered an almost confessional seriousness and openness; the C to C, In the best British traditions, seems to be about cheery openness, fortitude and optimism.

It seems in keeping, therefore, that we remember everyone more by labels than by the first names that were indispensable on the Camino. The Nottingham pair, the Vermont Americans, the Three Musketeers, “Neill and James”, initially the “Californians” before we knew them as Celeste and Pedro, and the couple with the “lovely dog” before we got to know all three as Terry, Karen and Incey. So many stories I haven’t got room for here — Terry’s story as an RAF helicopter pilot before his airline career, Karen explaining the life of an airforce wife, Pedro’s family history and long journey to his vocation as a surgeon, the laughs when Neill and James confessed to being chartered accountants, and the Nottinghams stories of travels with the “Barmy Army”. We are probably known as the Aussie pair!

And (starting a paragraph with a conjunction, but who’s going to argue?), I’m prepared to defend an awful lot of Britishness — and specifically Englishness — to anyone who wants to criticise. We’ve met a wonderful collection of cheerful, hardworking people who do a good job well, we’ve eaten much better than rumour might have you imagine and quite healthily, our rooms have never been less than good and sometimes wonderful, we’ve never asked for help and been met with less than kindness and warmth, and all this in the midst of a natural beauty and sympathetic development that any country would be proud of. Yes, we’ve skirted all the industry and dark satanic mills, but I like these northerners, and those who’ve moved up here to make a go of it.

Did I mention the beer?

So, to return to the main narrative, we walked in the lowland beauty for a bit, and had to turn only a glance at the Sir Nigel Gresley Museum (if you know the name, you’ll understand why it’s now on the bucket list, and if not, you ever had a Hornby Train set). We met the boys and slogged up the hill to the moor, where the leaden skies and cold wind were a complete contrast to the previous day. We got to Little Beck, which has a history as an alum manufactury from the 17th Century to the 19th, but is now a picture-pretty village. The path by the beck led up though rehabilitated woods, beside the deep ravines left by the mines, to gorgeous Fosse Falls and its Victorian tea house. There we ate lunch, watched a wedding in the garden, smelled the pig roasting on the spit (obviously a Christians-only feast) and greeted the others as they rolled in.

Too much tarmac and too much moor followed, with only a brief pub stop for coffee and shandies before the last couple of miles to the coast. Through mini-Butlins we limped, all very sore and somehow all a bit tired and down. The coast path seemed to go on and on, notwithstanding rousing renditions of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” from me and the Daves.

IMG_0815.JPG

IMG_0817.JPG
The path hid our destination from view until the last minute — the Bay was a smugglers’ cove and haven of wreckers in years’ past — and even a burst of late afternoon sun and the expanse of the North Sea beside us at the base of the steep cliffs didn’t ease the pain. Mercurial Dave launched into a tirade against lying Nothern Bastards, but through the hedges we sighted the Village, and then we stood at the head of the cliff and we could see the Bay. There seemed only one thing to do: I led the congregation in a chorus of “Jerusalem”, both verses.

The it was down to the village, by painful steps, to the sands where we share congratulations, photos, hugs and threw our pebbles into the sea. Incey stole the show, as always, by attempting to retrieve his!

IMG_0820.JPG

IMG_0822.JPG

IMG_0825.JPG
Celebrations at the Bay, dinner, beer at the Grosvenor, home to our digs. Enough now… the obligatory Love Actually quote. No regrets, sore feet, perhaps never again, but thanks for memories that were worth blood, sweat and blisters.

IMG_0826.JPG