At the start of the Coast to Coast

Published 5 July 2020

The starting point of the Coast to Coast in St Bees

There’s not really much to St Bees. It’s got a railway station, a couple of pubs and few B&Bs. In 2011 it had a population of 1,801 people. There’s a beach, a mix of stone and sand, tucked away at a windswept location on the Irish Sea.

But St Bees is famous. Better known than its size would normally warrant. Thousands of people descend on the place every year. Well, perhaps not in 2020, but they did up to then, and will do so again.

They do so because one Alfred Wainwright created a walking route across the north of England, and put the start of the route in this small village.

The route starts at the sea wall at the north of the beach, but since Wainwright published his book, A Coast to Coast Walk, the local authorities built a feature to officially denote where the trail begins. I say feature, because it’s hard to know exactly what to describe the stone structure as. A monument? A short section of wall? Or a very well built thing extremely over-engineered for the purposes of putting a sign on?

Well whatever you call it, it’s a feature. There’s an interpretation panel on it, explaining the walk for those that don’t know it. The photograph above was taken in 2010, although the wall was updated and refreshed a few years later. It now has a metal bit on top with wavy bits that I guess represents the height elevation of the route. (The old sign now resides in St Bees church.)

The Wall is somewhere to take a photograph of yourself as you set off. A point to stop at and contemplate the journey you are about to begin. Although, of course, there’s something you need to do first before you set off. Wainwright encouraged everyone to head to the waterfront, and to dunk their boots in the water of the Irish Sea before they started on their way.

Once you’ve had your photograph taken, and you’ve checked how waterproof your boots are, it is time to head on. The joy of the Coast to Coast awaits.

The beach of St Bees, Cumbria, viewed from near the start of the Coast to Coast

One Coast To Another: Following Wainwright from St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay

The whole Coast to Coast adventure is available to read now in paperback, and for Kindle, iPad, iPhone, Kobo, and Google Play or other e-readers.

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