Lily Dyu’s Run Across England - Page 2
Devising the walk was a labor of love for Alfred Wainwright, the Borough Treasurer of the Lakeland town of Kendal for 20 years, who wrote and beautifully illustrated many guide books to his beloved Lake District. In retirement, he made many trips with his second wife Betty, to plan the new route.
Launched 40 years ago, the trail starts at St. Bees Head on the Irish Sea, and passes through three national parks in the north of England: the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North Yorkshire Moors. It finishes at Robin Hood’s Bay, on the North Sea. Using areas of open access, it crosses places of outstanding natural beauty, attracting thousands of walkers each year who, on average, take 14 days to complete it.
The fastest recorded crossing is 39 hours, 36 minutes and 52 seconds, achieved by club runner Mike Hartley in July 1991.
The Birthplace of Fell Running
These uplands gave birth to the sport of "fell running,” the word "fell" being a northern expression for hill or mountain. Shepherds and guides were skilled in covering this terrain quickly. In the 1800s, village shows began to include fell races where they would compete, racing and navigating to trackless summits of one or more hills.
Fell races are still popular, with iconic events such as the 23-mile Yorkshire Three Peaks race, but hikers on Britain's mountains are often shocked when passed by stick-thin runners wearing nothing more than shorts, vest and a small pack even in the worst weather. More recently, trail races, such as the 100-mile Ultra Tour of the Lake District, have become popular. Many of these races use well-marked trails rather than open moorland and trackless hillsides, and they climb to mountain passes, rather than the tops.
Wainwright's Coast to Coast route is not an official national trail, but it is one of the most popular long-distance hikes in the country and attracts visitors from all over the world. The route is generally not sign-posted, but with a map and compass, navigation will cause few problems to the trail runner. In the height of summer, you will be accompanied by walkers who will happily share the trail's highlights over a drink in a pub beer garden. In the midst of autumn, you may find yourself gloriously alone on the hills and moors, with only squawking red grouse and scurrying pheasants for company.