In 1972, Alfred Wainwright, who had had little enjoyment out of walking and mapping the Pennine Way, published a book about a long distance walk he had devised himself, taking advantage of public rights of way to walk and map a route from the west coast of England to the east, crossing three National Parlks en route.
Known simply as A Coast to Coast Walk, linking St Bees Head on the Irish Sea with Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea, the route became an immediate favourite and has remained immensely popular ever since, supporting the economies of all the places en route. Which was not what Wainwright wanted, since he never asked for people to walk his routes, and indeed part of his intention in producing such a personal and unofficial routes was not encourage people to follow his example, not his footsteps, and devise their own long distance walks, using their imagination, not his.
Some people have done so, but none have been remotely as popular, nor been walked so many, as Wainwright’s route.
Which makes it particularly pleasant, if contrary to the Blessed’s every instinct, to read that in its fiftieth year the Coast to Coast Walk is to be adopted as a National Footpath, with similar status to the Pennine Way. He’d never have seen it that way, but what a fitting tribute to the man who saw what was possible so long ago.