Coast to Coast Walk

Walking the Coast to Coast Walk, by Terry Marsh (Cicerone, 2017)
The Coast to Coast Walk, by Martin Wainwright (Aurum, 2012)

Since it is coming up to the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Alfred Wainwright, and to the fortieth anniversary of the second of my two traverses of the route, it seemed to be a good idea to re-acquaint myself with the path via a couple of current editions of guides. In choosing from the list of options, I decided against any re-creations of Wainwright’s original book (which I still have, with all the speckles and fingermarks, and bum-shaped concavity, of 600km in my hands or in my back pocket).

Aurum Press publishes the ‘official’ guides to the National Trails, and though they have strayed off piste a bit with their London Loop and Capital Ring books (which are really Metropolitan Trails, but are treated as quasi-National), their espousal of the fiercely unofficial Coast to Coast Walk is rather like an honorary knighthood for AW’s route. Cicerone Press publishes a wide range of guide-books, and their offering is in the format of a guidebook with a separate mapbook. These, then, were my two purchases of regaining the blue remembered hills of 1979 and 1981 (and of later visits to various points along the route), to be read during lockdown in late 2020.

The first thing to be said is that both of these books make the route much easier to follow than Wainwright’s original, which was a trial without a full set of OS maps in tow … but then again, large stretches of the route are much easier to follow on the ground (forty years of walkers’ boots) and with the help of signposts (forty years of walkers going astray?). Martin Wainwright (no relation, as he makes clear early on) makes more reference to AW than does Terry Marsh, whose text has grown away from the originator (though with all the same respect). Both sets of directions are clear and unfussy, with sufficient cross-echoes to convince you that they are walking the same route, but not enough to worry you about emulation. Curiously, there is one topographical error which appears identically in each book: since it makes no route-finding difference, I shall not embarrass the authors with the detail here.

Either book, then, will be a fine companion which should take you across the land with a confident spring in your step (weather permitting, of course). The writing styles are firmly within the parameters expected of the publishers, so this may be a point which informs your choice. As an owner of more than 350 guidebooks, there’s no surprise that I would want both. The clincher for me, though, is the Cicerone format: that’s the one which would be my on-route companion. The map and book may be used separately — I’d have half-memorised the text while ingesting the map details, so the book would be in my pack most of the time, with the map in an outside pocket (and if the map got trashed by weather, a replacement may be bought separately). Using the maps in the larger-format Aurum book is a bit fiddly if you are checking field-boundaries close to the spine of the book, though it is an easier book for armchair research. Photographs in both books are of a high standard, though the Aurum trait of captioning as an overlay on the picture can be a let-down for those of us whose eyes have been exercised since the middle of last century. Prices are comparable.

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