We needed 12 months of training, individually and in a group, to prepare ourselves for the challenging 12-day hike, averaging 25kms a day. Each month we scheduled a long day hike to prepare us for the gruelling daily distances.
Affectionately known as the C2C the UK Coast2Coast walk was a 12-day fundraiser for MS Research. I organised and planned the walk with friends and the public joining me for various sections of the walk created by Alfred Wainwright.
Wainwright’s route begins at St Bees in Cumbria, on the Irish Sea. It crosses the West Cumbria coastal plain and the Lake District and enters North Yorkshire as it crosses the Pennines. It then crosses the Yorkshire Dales, the Vale of York, and the North York Moors to reach the North Sea coast at Robin Hood’s Bay.
Who walked with me?
The original five from the Mudgee2Sydney walk signed up without hesitation. It confirmed their confidence in my leadership and organisational skills and reassured me that my earlier fundraising walk held fond memories for them. So much so they convinced their friends to join us. And the MS community with whom we had tirelessly worked over several years had eight participants, two walking with MS and others undertaking a walk possibly beyond their skill level.
With personal training encouraged for those living remotely and an extensive 12-month training program for the Sydney participants, I was confident we could face this challenging long-distance walk in September 2014. There were 20 all-the-way walkers comprising 17 Australians, 3 Britons and several part-of-the-way participants. Five Britons provided guiding help on several tricky navigational sections such as the Lake District and the peaty bog terrain just outside Kirkby Stephen.
How long did it take us?
We needed 12 months of training, individually and in a group, to prepare ourselves for the challenging 12-day hike, averaging 25kms a day. Each month we scheduled a lengthy day hike to prepare for these gruelling daily distances. On one of the C2C walk days, I threw in a 37km slog, just 5km short of a marathon. I am pleased to tell you every walker completed the distance. A little worse for wear, admittedly, but the training gave them confidence and endurance to battle through the pain barrier.
Their commitment to training was our best chance for success, and they trained hard. I wanted them to see the walk as a reward. With training, they all completed the walk and enjoyed the journey. Training began on July 6, 2013, a year in advance. We point north towards England with enthusiasm. Meanwhile, we lap up the best Australia has to offer.
They have recently cordoned off the sandstone Wedding Cake Rock, because of its fragile state and recent fatal falls, but it was a sight to behold when we walked it, located one hour’s walk south of Bundeena in the Royal National Park, Sydney. The perfect location for limbering up and stretching those muscles.
There were obstacles galore during training. The two-log Calna Creek Bridge, in Berowra National Park near Crossland’s Picnic Area in Hornsby Heights, was erected by the Army in the 1980s. In April 2013, a group of visitors exceeded the two-person weight limit and it snapped in two. A new steel bridge, costing $270,000, was installed in August 2015 to enable a dry boot crossing once again.
We enter every fun run we can, wearing our logoed t-shirts and shaking the donation bucket for all to see. A large celebrity or corporate donation may have been nice, but every coin donation adds up just as fast if you keep on plugging away at it.
Here we are on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, starting a coastal walk from Mona Vale Beach’s headland. Skies were grey and stormy. Perfect practice conditions with rain expected in Northern England.
I love this photo below taken in late March 2014, a good five months before we start the official walk. Enthusiasm is high, and it continues throughout our training walks.
Three months to go. A quick Sydney harbour coastal training walk before heading to the Glenmore Hotel in the Rocks area to record our version of I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers, accompanied by an accomplished Knox School bagpiper.
When we wake up, well you know we’re gonna be
We’re gonna be the ones who walk the whole day through
When we step out, yeah, you know we’re gonna be
We’re gonna be the ones who walk all day with you
If we get lost, well, you know we’re gonna be
We’re gonna be the ones who get lost next to you
And if we blister, hey, you know we’re gonna be
We’re gonna be the ones who blister next to you
But we will walk 300k’s
And we will walk three hundred more
Just to be the ones who raise the funds
To help them find an MS cure
When we’re walking, yes, we know we’re gonna be
We’re gonna be the one’s still walking hard for you
And when the money comes in for the walk we do
We’ll bring every MS penny home to you
When we come home (When we come home),
oh, we know we’re gonna be
We’re gonna be the ones who come back home to you
And if you fall down, well, we know we’re gonna be
We’re gonna be the ones a’reaching down to you
The Proclaimers original I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) was adapted by Colleen Kerr and performed by the Sydney contingent of Wainwright’s Coast2Coast Walkers for charity purposes only. It was a blast. See it performed on Bruce Stephen’s pro bono video promoting our walk here.
One month to go now and we are nearing our final training walks. What better place to test out our cold weather gear than in the iconic Blue Mountains? In this shot, you can see the famous Three Sisters rock formation behind us. My load looks a touch on the heavy side.
A day in the Blue Mountains is not complete without a quick ride on the Scenic Railway. According to the Guinness Book of Records, it’s the steepest railway in the world. It was originally built to be part of the Katoomba mining tramways constructed in the late 1800s. With new carriages allowing passengers to adjust their seating to a breath-taking 64-degree incline, you are in for one cliffhanger-pumping experience.
We have been on this ride since we were kids. It never fails to thrill. Just the adrenalin boost we need as the start of our real journey nears. For more information on this attraction, click this link.
If the entire gang of walkers was not available, we split off into smaller groups and arranged more walks. The training was really just an opportunity to be kids again, enjoy life and each other’s company.
Many trained individually to improve their fitness and endurance. Or sought out terrain that was similar to Britain.
July 27, 2014 and we finish our last fundraiser at the International College of Management in Manly with a quick walk along the foreshore of this iconic beach.
On August 3, we complete our final training walk for those still up to the task. We head to Bobbin Head in Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park along the Warrimoo Track, which starts from St Ives on Sydney’s Upper North Shore. Our scrambling skills are much improved. The girls are fit and ready.