Walking the English Coast

Ruth Livingstone, coastal walker and Ramblers member takes us through her journey round the coast and tells us why paths are so important to her.

In 2010 I decided to walk the coast of Britain and set off from Kings Lynn, heading eastwards. I’d never done any long-distance walking before, but I was armed with an OS map, plenty of optimism, and an unrealistic faith in my own abilities.

There were no coastal footpaths along the route I wanted to take, so I just climbed over a fence and started walking along the sea wall. There were several more fences and locked gates to climb over, or crawl under, before the end of the day.

 

I learnt walking without footpaths isn’t easy, so it was a relief to discover the official Norfolk Coast Path and to follow a clear trail with signposts and stiles. Since then, I’ve become pretty good at cobbling together a walking route for myself, using existing footpaths and bridleways, as well as following some of our wonderful National Trails.

It’s hard to choose the highlights of my walk so far, but here are a few.

I’ll never forget the day I walked over Beachy Head and along the Seven Sisters. It was glorious weather and our iconic white cliffs looked fabulous.

 

And then there was the stunning South West Coast Path, and the feeling of excitement – mixed with fear – when I set off along this magnificent trail. I really felt I was entering the wild unknown, and worried about my ability to cope with the challenges that lay ahead.

 

Wales was tough and beautiful, with a well signposted path that is the envy of the world. I nearly died of hypothermia on the Llyn Peninsula, but also experienced some of the most gorgeous scenery so far.

Now I’m in in Cumbria and I’ve struggled at times, because the Cumbria Coastal Way is no longer recognised and maintained. I’ve found myself wading through marshes, climbing over barbed wire fences, and pushing my way through overgrown brambles.

This experience has really brought home to me the importance of maintaining our footpaths. Luckily reporting such obstructions is easy, using the Ramblers Pathwatch app, as long as you have a phone signal, of course.

After 3,000 miles (and nearly 7 years later), I’m still slowly working my way around the coast. This January I walked to St Bees on a beautiful winter’s afternoon, across an empty beach, surrounded by stunning scenery. It’s what coastal walking is all about.

I’ve learnt a great deal during my trek. I’ve learnt about personal endurance, about dealing with blisters, about how to read a map, and – of course - about the importance of footpaths.

 

Ruth Livingstone blogs about her walk at www.coastalwalker.co.uk and her book, Walking the English Coast: a Beginner’s Guide, is available on Amazon.

The Ramblers campaigned for funding to guarantee the future of the England coast path, which is opening in stages until 2020.