Taking off on our first multi-day hike in a couple of years: Wainwright’s Coast to Coast, or as we dubbed it, our Coast t’ Coast adventure, already felt like a ‘win’. I should have started work but it was agreed that when I left my permanent teaching contract, we would take off on a long distance hike on the very same day I would have usually returned to school – 2nd September 2019. We completed it in a fair fourteen days, finishing at Robin Hood’s Bay on 15th September.
Collected by our old friend Arthur and driven (precariously) to Ripon, we stayed overnight to break our journey, before embarking on the long and monotonous drive back to Dorset. The comfort of home and unrivalled cuddles with Mr Claude, my fluffy black cat was not reached until around 6.30pm on 16th September.
Home felt good. Familiarity and reassurance gained from a little normality and routine. Despite this, I didn’t feel closure however. Strangely, on this occasion, I was left with the uneasy feeling that the adventure was not yet complete.
Tuesday was spent washing kit, then drying and packing things away to ensure they would survive until our next challenge. Although there were still trails of gear left around the house, knowing full well I still had to sort through these, I simply didn’t feel the walk was ‘done’.
Supply Teacher Life
Wednesday arrived and I was up at 6.25am and into the shower. Today was the first day I was available for work with the new supply teaching agency with whom I was now registered. After showering, I pottered around until 8.30am. The call never came. I can’t say I was disappointed – I was actually quite relieved if I’m honest! Just a little more time to get things done and get my head around this supply teaching malarkey. I should have been working by now and yet in my head my walk was still floating, not yet at an end.
Today is Thursday 19th September. Once again, I was up at 6.25am and into the shower. Already I am starting to feel a little twinge of a Reggie Perrin cyclical routine happening. As feared, I didn’t get a call for work – so on went the shorts and vest and I hopped onto the exercise bike. I didn’t get out yesterday and was very aware of the effect this was already having on me, both emotionally and physically.
Thirty minutes of cycling on the exercise bike, I had (in my head) cycled up hill, down dale and everything in between, helped along by reading Laura Kennington’s book, Kairos. My thoughts then turned to the need to pick up some whiteboard pens for any supply teaching, when it eventually surfaced, along with some cat food. That was of course a good enough excuse to walk the three miles to the supermarket and three miles back, via the country park and the bay, which is also a local nature reserve.
My legs had been twitching impatiently for a couple of days, as they were used to being out and using those walking muscles, day in, day out without fail. It feels odd to suddenly just stop. Eager to have a purpose in the outdoors, I left without any of my usual delay or faff.
Every drop of sunshine and fresh air that could be absorbed was lapped up by my body, walking through Upton Country Park with a little rucksack on my back. This is my happy place. Out wandering. Saying hello or smiling at people. Being in wide, open spaces. Observing activities, movement and colour. All this and yet, the Coast t’ Coast adventure still didn’t feel accomplished.
I headed back from the supermarket, the same way I had come – around the bay that glistened with reflections of boats, birds and distant buildings across the water. I nodded at passing cyclists and the occasional dog walker and slipped in through the woods, dappled with a mix of sunshine and shade due to the delicate coverlet of leaves still dancing in the branches above me, before the autumn really set in. The final stage of my walk took me across the country park, varied with its trees, lush parkland, watery havens for birds and a traditional, late Georgian grade II listed stately home; a small house by some standards perhaps but grand enough to admire each time I pass by.
All the way there and back, I had been stopping to take photos and video clips. I can understand why Mike walks on ahead when we are out together! It was time to treat myself to an ice lolly – AND a cup of tea at the kiosk. I parked myself at a picnic bench and pulled out my Coast ‘t Coast diary. I had just one more day to write up – the last day. This is often the one that gets forgotten as the flurry of going home, packing up and tidying away bustles it into insignificance.
That rustic picnic bench, amidst the trees and shrubbery, held me for an hour before I finally realised I was starting to feel cold. I had completed about fifty percent of the journal entry.
After tea later that evening, I sat down with my diary again and by 10.30pm I was satisfied I had completed the entry. In that instant, not only had I completed the diary but I felt a wave of accomplishment and finality drape itself kindly around my shoulders. The relief was palpable – I had finished my walk. I no longer felt the uneasy niggle that the walk was incomplete. My unease had all been connected to tying up loose ends and recording my concluding thoughts.
Finally, I can wallow in some self-satisfaction and pride. Yes! I did walk 192 miles+++ from one side of the country to the other. Yes, even after ‘Ski-knee’, when no-one (including me) believed I could mend this quickly. Never say never.
I DID IT!