During December 2013, I began planning My Next Big Walk. I wanted a route roughly 200 miles long and I wanted mountains – or at least fells and moors. Poring over maps, guide books and the internet, I mulled over various paths and combinations of paths throughout the UK.
But as usual (and predictably), I was drawn to the North of England and particularly Northumberland, which I had only visited once before. I considered two Northumbrian paths: the St Cuthbert’s Way (Melrose to Lindisfarne) but quickly plumped for the second path – the St Oswald’s Way.
The latter starts at Heavenfield on Hadrian’s Wall, cuts cross-country to meet the North Sea at Warkworth and then hugs the coast most of the way to Lindisfarne. And if I walked beyond Holy Island, I could finish at Berwick-upon-Tweed; practically on the Scottish border. It sounded perfect – if a little short at just over 100 miles. But if the St Oswald’s Way starts on Hadrian’s Wall why not arrive at Heavenfield on foot along the Hadrian’s Wall Path from Carlisle? And if I started the Wall Path at Carlisle, I could tack on the 70-odd mile Cumbria Way too.
And so my plans evolved and my walk took shape. I would walk for 15 consecutive days, on a 220-mile trek from Ulverston on Morecambe Bay to Carlisle along the Cumbria Way; where I would join the Hadrian’s Wall Path to Heavenfield; and link up with the St Oswald’s Way to Berwick. It sounded long, it sounded challenging and it wasn’t a very straight line. But it also sounded unique and I wondered whether anybody else had walked the same route in one attempt.
After working out how many miles I could reasonably cover each day and where to sleep each night, I pre-booked 16 night’s accommodation. In March 2014, I set off from my home in Seaford, East Sussex and arrived 7 hours later in Ulverston. On that afternoon, Cumbria was warm and sunny but I was convinced that such fine weather would fizzle out within a day or two. (Spoiler – it didn’t really).
Here is an account of my 15-day walk, sub-divided into its three parts:
The Cumbria Way
Hadrian’s Wall Path
St Oswald’s Way
I have written a condensed version of my combined walk on my other blog, ‘The Anxious Gardener.’ Here it is – ‘Walking Across England.’