As I came to the end of my cross-Wales walk, I knew I would need something similar. So the cross-England project followed on. Same rules, same idea: mix together established trails with new but logical routes across country, and traverse a nation, a few days a year.
I started age 55, and the aim was to get to England’s far north before my state pension hit in at age 65. I was three weeks late.
Start and finish
Start was a choice of two – the traditional Land’s End (which is the most south-westerly point, pictured) or the most southerly point, the Lizard. I went for the former, because (a) everyone does (b) the SW Coast Path gives an obvious northbound kick. I don’t really regret it, but it might have been interesting to start from the Lizard because (a) nobody does (b) crossing the Cornish peninsula would have been a change from the coast.
The end was the Scottish border, on the coast, north of Berwick-on-Tweed, England’s most northerly (and north-easterly) point. Hence my cross-England walk linked up with my cross-Scotland.
Very straightforward start. From Land’s End, keep sea on left following the South West Coast Path, turn right at Tintagel. From there I crossed Bodmin Moor at its highest point, Brown Willy, and picked up the Two Castles Trail from Launceston before crossing Dartmoor at its highest point, High Willhays. After that came the Blackdown Hills, the Somerset Levels and the Mendips, followed by the Cotswold Way.
Many cross-nation walkers use the Cotswold Way; and many of these then take the Heart of England Way northwards, so as to avoid the conurbations of the West Midlands. I did not, save for the first nine miles. I knew Birmingham well from work, and in particular knew that its canal network provided a good walking route that penetrated to the heart of the city. From there, I found a path that led to the excellent Cannock Chase.
The short 2013 stage took me into the Peak District, before heading across it to and past my sister’s house in Yorkshire in 2014. The following year I crossed the Yorkshire Dales and North Pennines, then continued past Hadrian’s Wall into Northumberland – almost entirely avoiding the Pennine Way. I finally joined it just south of Bellingham, as the Cheviot stage of the Pennine Way was the one bit of it I hadn’t done. As it happens, I branched off from near the Cheviot to head direct to Wooler, not least to avoid a dog-leg into Scotland. St Cuthbert’s Way took me to the Holy Island causeway, from where I headed up the coast to Berwick and the border.
To reach Land’s End, train to Penzance (I used the sleeper, pictured) then bus. St Agnes has buses to Truro, while Tintagel can be reached from Exeter or Bodmin stations. Taunton, Bath and Stafford are major destinations and easy to reach from almost anywhere; other places, like Malham, have needed a bus too, while at my sister’s house in Yorkshire, there was the kind offer of a lift to/from the local station! Towards the end, I used Appleby on the wonderful Settle & Carlisle railway, and bus connections to Bellingham from the Tyne Valley line. The east coast main line then took me home.
Usually I stayed a night somewhere and move on, but occasionally it was possible to use a base with public transport (mostly) for travel to start/end of walks: Camelford, Stratford-upon-Avon, Uttoxeter (which saw the first appearance of my tent on the trip) and Hebden Bridge. This had the advantage of only needing a lighter sack for at least some of the days!
Maps, times and distances
Each section has an overview map, and zoomable maps to show the detailed route at up to 1:50,000 scale (other than those sections on major long-distance paths).
The total distance walked, ignoring deviations to find accommodation, was 819 miles. For a table of distances and times, go to my Cross-England table (PDF file, Acrobat Viewer required).
Here is the route so far, with north of Appleby pending.