Coast to Coast: raising the standard

Posted by Estee Farrar on 27/01/2017
Cairns along the Coast to Coast walk. Photo: North Pennines AONB
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Alfred Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walk covers a distance of 190 miles from St. Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire. One of the most popular long-distance walks in the country, parts of this spectacular route are now heavily affected by erosion - but the BMC and its charity are helping.

Packed with stunning scenery including the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and three National Parks, it's no surprise then that the Coast to Coast walk is a firm favourite with the whole of the UK.

The popular problem

When Wainwright devised the route, he never imagined that, 43 years later, thousands of walkers would be completing the journey every year. This high amount of foot traffic along certain parts of the route is exacerbating the peat erosion and damaging the structure of the peat.

To combat the erosion, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) has set up alternate routes to be taken during the winter months in an attempt to re-direct walkers away from fragile sections. Despite their efforts, the area near Nine Standards Rigg continues to deteriorate and has lost a lot of its vegetation. Without anything to hold it in place, the peat is slowly being washed away into nearby streams and has become very soft and boggy. This weakening of the landscape leaves walkers with no clear route to follow, which has lead to a number of wanderers finding themselves lost and some even becoming stuck in the bog. 

Adrian Cottrell, team leader from Kirkby Stephen Mountain Rescue said: “An unfortunate chap got stuck, literally stuck up to his waist in the bog – like being in quick sand, it was really quite surprising.”

Flagging up a solution

The North Pennines AONB Partnership, in collaboration with the Friends of the North Pennines, aims to lay stone flags along a section of the route which crosses the border from Cumbria into North Yorkshire. The flags will ‘float’ on top of the damaged peat and will not only protect the peat, but give people a stable surface to walk on and encourage them to stick to a dedicated route. 

To help support this work the BMC Access and Conservation Trust (ACT) chipped in £5,000 in spring last year, along with another recent donation of £500 to fund new fingerposts to mark the route and a camera to take timelapse picures of the work in progress.

But the most significant boost for the project's future came when The North Pennines AONB Partnership, working alongside the YDNPA, ran its own Crowdfunding campaign to raise £15,000 in support of the project in spring last year. This campaign was  also supported by the BMC, along with the Wainwright Society, television presenter Julia Bradbury, the YDNPA, Kirby Stephen Mountain Rescue Team and Kirkby Stephen and District Walkers Are Welcome.

The Nine Standards Rigg project was part of a bumper crop of path improvement works the BMC and ACT supported last year, which also saw our Mend Our Mountains campaign fund eight projects totalling more than £100,000 in iconic upland landscapes across England and Wales (click here for an update on how these projects are progressing.)

Julia Bradbury, who famously walked the route as part of her popular BBC One series, said: “This type of fundraising tends to bring together like-minded people and fellow travellers who will support this particularly wonderful walk in any way they can and are lovers of our great British countryside.”

This section of the Coast to Coast is not a Public Right of Way but accessed as a permissive route and under the Open Access legislation. To ensure future maintenance of the route, Cumbria County Council has agreed to dedicate the route as an official Right of Way once the improvement works have been completed.

Work on Nine Standards Rigg is now well underway. Watch this space for updates as it progresses over the winter. 


The Access and Conservation Trust

The BMC's charity  the BMC Access & Conservation Trust  promotes sustainable access to cliffs, mountains and open countryside by facilitating education and conservation projects across the United Kingdom and Ireland.

By educating climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers to enjoy outdoor recreation while minimising their impact on the landscape, conserving the UK’s upland resources, and campaigning for improved access rights, ACT enables future generations to continue to enjoy outdoor activities and the physical, mental and social benefits they bring to individual lives and society in general.

READ: More about the recent work of ACT

WATCH: What is Mend Our Mountains on BMC TV

How to donate:

  1. Donate online via PayPal

  2. Donate when you renew your BMC membership

  3. Donate by text message


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1) Anonymous User
04/02/2017
Poor old Wainwright! As I recall, he was explicit when he devised this route that he did NOT want lots of people to follow him. He was merely showing how, with a map and some imagination, anyone can devise a magnificent long distance route in Britain using public rights of way. And he wanted us all to go out and do likewise. Erosion by feet wasn't such an issue in 1970: his point was a deeper one, that we should devise our own route, and follow our own star. If it spreads the load on the landscape, so much the better!
2) Anonymous User
17/02/2017
A serious issue that is only going to get worse on this Trail, the Yorkshire 3 Peaks and further afield. People are sadly like sheep, don't seem able to fathom out how to create and enjoy their own adventure, and feel more inclined to "tick" of their achievement as the mountains of the UK become merely racetracks for people to hone their fitness. As for people using map and compass to find their own way? Seriously, no chance judging by the number of GPS units in use in the hills now, proper navigation (a bit like unique expedition planning) is a dying art. We can raise funds and "Men our Mountans" but it needs a more sophisticated solution and need to involve the hundreds of charities thatbate advertising the hills as the adventure playground for people to raise their funds ... what are their contributions to the repair effort? Ah yes ... they are charities and the cash raised is theirs which lets another "charitable effort" by the BMC and its members repair the damage exacerbated by their fundraising efforts.

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