The Coast to Coast walk was devised by Wainwright and published as a pictorial guide in 1973. The walk is now ranked as one of the most popular trails in the world. Its popularity has even surpassed that of the Pennine Way, which was an obvious influence when Wainwright decided to create his own long-distance walk. This masterpiece is 192 miles long and passes through three national parks. Surprisingly, the walk is not yet an official national trail.
Over the last few years my wife and I have completed several long-distance walks. One of our favourites was the Coast to Coast walk back in 2015. On day one I tripped which resulted in a leg injury that would last the whole journey, but it didn’t deter from what was a fantastic experience.
Before the walk I swatted up on every aspect of this mammoth task. I watched the original Wainwright TV programme, produced by Richard Else, which first aired back in 1989. I also watched Julia Bradbury’s 2009 Coast to Coast walk to see how things had changed on the route in recent years. A few years later in 2013, Julia followed up the series with a book about her magnificent journey across northern England.
The weather at the beginning of our walk almost mirrored Julia’s. The second day at Ennerdale was driving rain for hours, and it was a case of getting our heads down and just keep moving. As we approached Black Sail Youth Hostel, we were finally greeted by glorious sunshine which would stay with us for the next few days.
We followed Wainwright’s guide to the letter, and It took us twelve days to reach the east coast. In some ways this didn’t seem like the Wainwright I eventually came to know. This enigmatic character would normally insist that you take your time to explore and absorb the landscape around you. Twelve days does not leave you with much time for sightseeing. A few days after recuperating from our victory, I contacted Eric Robson and thanked him for helping inspire me with his original walk with Wainwright all those years ago. We have remained friends ever since.
One of the other positive aspects that came out of the Coast to Coast walk was that it was the beginning of my relationship with Wainwright. This would result in me being an avid enthusiast and a serious collector of his work, which has continued to this day.
Out of all Wainwright’s books, the Coast to Coast walk book turned out to be one of the hardest to acquire in all its renditions between 1973 – 2017. After three years of searching, I finally acquired them all in mint condition. The collection includes the books with all revisions and physical changes from all three publishers. As a collective, they illustrate the full printing history of this wonderful walking book. The icing on the cake was having both Wainwright’s and Derry Brabbs signatures on Michael Joseph’s 1987 Coast to Coast with Wainwright coffee table book. Derry kindly signed it personally for me during a visit to his home.
Another contributor to the Wainwright books was good friend Chris Jesty. Chris is an author and cartographer who revised all of Wainwright’s pictorial guides. He made many revisions to the Coast to Coast walk book, and even made a change while Wainwright was still alive. Chris’s major involvement with the books started in 1992 when Michael Joseph took over as publisher. The Coast to Coast walk book received its first major revision by Chris in 1994. He continued with the revisions for years, even after Frances Lincoln became the new publishers back in 2003. Chris continued working on the books (including the Second Edition pictorial guides) until 2014 when the revising task was taken over by Clive Hutchby. I am lucky to own all the books Chris revised, and they are all personally signed by him.
Over the years I have collected several pieces of memorabilia related to the Coast to Coast walk, including the original negatives for the book itself. My favourite item above all, will always be my mint ‘first edition’ book from 1973. This copy was never read, it was purchased back in the day and then forgotten about. It remained boxed in someone’s loft for decades until it was recently discovered and offered to me. This book was one of the catalysts that triggered my Wainwright collecting.
It is common knowledge that Wainwright preferred seeing well used books with torn jackets. I would still like to think he would be pleased that I am playing a small part in preserving his extraordinary publishing history in wonderful condition for people to see for decades to come.