Starting out

As long time fans of walking in the hills of the UK, and of holidays which are as low stress as possible, long distance paths were always going to appeal. Remembering back a few years, they always seemed a little scary too. All that walking, no unplanned breaks, no car full of stuff for when your favourite socks start to pong. We first picked up the Harvey Dales Way strip map a number of years ago and it was the first one we really contemplated doing. It looks, well, easy. It’s relatively short, relatively flat, and relatively genteel. Now and again we’d spy the map, think about it, and opt for a week camping instead.

I’m not sure how the Coast to Coast came about for us, really. It’s always held that charm of a walk from one sea to another; yes, you’re really just walking for the pleasure of it but you’re definitely going somewhere. But somehow that particular bug bit, and we ended up walking it in 2008. And we revelled in the joy of it. All the while, our little Dales Way map sat under a pile of OS maps of surprising vintage and geographical spread. Waiting. Feeling, I should think, a little upstaged. We got home from the Coast to Coast and started talking about the next one. West Highland, Cumbria, Offa’s Dyke – any path that offered step after step through the hills for days on end. The Dales Way waited quietly for its chance.

The Dales Way came back into our life with another, perhaps more notable entry. Marisca Grace, during May 2010. We weren’t going to suddenly stop liking the hills now there were three of us, but we did have a redirection of priorities. We bought a tent twice the size of our old one. We were pleased when we walked around a local country park with our rugged pushchair, or the infant Marisca in a sling. We had a wet week holidaying in a cottage in the Peak District and managed a single walk. I’m not sure we ever put on our waterproofs. It was still fun, but it was different. Then, this spring we were planning our house move up to Yorkshire, and trying to figure out how to spend a fortnight of holiday doing something other than DIY. And, out of the corner of a packing crate came a small thought: “Remember me?”. We wistfully thought about our days treading the coast to coast and came to the conclusion that babies and long distance paths are incompatible. But the weeks passed and the little voice got louder: “Why not? Marisca sleeps well and loves being outside”. “I’m eaaaasy”. “You could start from your back door”. “In fact it would be pretty impolite not to”.

In the end, we just went for it. Booked through Sherpa before we could really change our mind, breaking down into shorter days, and booking into places that would offer us an evening meal without having to go out of baby monitor range. We knew it would be different to the Coast to Coast. A very different path and a very different family, but we hoped it would be something memorable, and Marisca can tell all her friends at nursery that she walked the 90 odd miles from her back garden to the Lake District at the age of 13 months.

So here we are. This is our account of the walk. We hope you enjoy it.

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