Hey everyone, I hope you have had an amazing week and are looking forward to the weekend!
I find it hard to believe that it is a year ago since Rob and I set off to walk the Coast to Coast. For those of you who don’t know, it is a 192 mile walk across England that starts on the west coast at St Bees and finishes on the east coast at Robin Hood’s Bay. The walk takes you through three National Parks. The route was developed by the famous fell walker Alfred Wainwright and there is a written guide that allows you to literally walk in his footsteps.
Rob and I had decided we were going to attempt the Coast to Coast back in the Spring of 2016 (there may have been wine involved in the decision making) and being someone who hates to turn her back on a challenge, we signed up and spent the next few months preparing for it.
There are some lovely traditions associated with the walk. For example, when you set off from St Bees, it is tradition to dip your boots in the sea and to pick up a pebble from the beach. When you get to the east coast you then throw the pebble in the sea and dip your boots again. It is quite funny for the locals to see all these people in walking boots wading in to the sea and removing pebbles from the beach!
We decided to follow the route as described in Wainwright’s book which meant we aimed to complete the walk in 12 days. Most days involved on average a 15 mile walk although the longest day was 23 miles!
The first three days of the walk, we were on familiar territory in the Lake District and we were very used to all the climbing that these three days involved. The scenery was absolutely breath-taking and we settled in to a good routine.
On day 5 disaster struck! Having felt very smug for a few days about not having any blisters, I removed my walking boot to discover that I had developed a significant blister on the side of my left foot (don’t worry, I am not going to include any photos!). That evening, I could hardly put my foot on the floor and I literally limped through the town to get some dinner. It was no better the next morning and we were delayed leaving as we searched around the small market town of Kirkby Stephen to get some Compeed plasters. We soon discovered that Compeed were the bargaining chip for most Coast to Coast walkers!
I didn’t let it stop me and each day I squeezed my foot back in to my boot. We set off from Kirkby Stephen and soon we had crossed the border from Cumbria in to Yorkshire and the landscape changed. During this time, we had some beautiful weather and the luxury of a couple of shorter walking days. This allowed us to enjoy some well-earned rest!
As we had booked our own accommodation for the walk, I had decided to treat Rob and I to a night of luxury about 8 days into the walk and as we arrived at Richmond, we were looking forward to staying the night at Easby Hall. I didn’t really know what to expect, I just know it had looked luxurious. WOW. Easby Hall was an experience.
It is a stately home that is owned by Karen and John. On arrival, John greeted us and asked us where we would like to sit to enjoy our afternoon tea. We opted to sit on the patio overlooking Easby Abbey, it was stunning. Karen then brought us through a selection of homemade cakes all presented on bone china plates. It was the most amazing afternoon and gave us both a much-needed bit of luxury!
The luxury didn’t stop there. Our room was gorgeous and had the most amazing roll top bath. Never has a bath felt SO GOOD! We both had a great night’s sleep and felt refreshed and ready to face the final leg of the journey. Before we set off, we had an incredible breakfast all freshly prepared using home-grown produce from the garden. We had a final chat with Karen and John and set off on our way. We had been treated like family and it was hard to say goodbye. We can highly recommend Easby Hall if you want somewhere gorgeous to stay – EASBY HALL
On Day 10, I woke up in absolute agony. The day before, we had walked 23 miles and it had been the longest day of the walk so far. I hadn’t slept well and I was in so much pain from the blister that I was concerned it had become infected. Rob asked me if I wanted to call it a day but I just couldn’t bring myself to give up especially as we were so close to the end. So, we got my boot on and went to have breakfast. We were sat around a communal table with other walkers and they could see I was in pain. Before we left the B&B there was a knock on our door and one of the other walkers had done a search and managed to get me some more Compeed plasters. I was so genuinely touched and felt more motivated than ever to finish our journey.
Before we knew it, we were on our final day. It was such an amazing feeling to get our first glimpse of the sea as we headed towards Robin Hood’s Bay. By this point, I was limping heavily and relying on my walking poles as crutches but I was more determined than ever. As we walked the final half a mile through the town and down to the water’s edge, we were cheered on by people in passing cars which gave us a boost. The most touching moment was when we walked down to dip our boots in the sea and other walkers who had just completed (and understood the sheer joy of finishing!) literally raised their glasses to us. As Rob and I arrived at the sea, I held his hand and cried like a baby. I was overcome with emotion because that walk had just changed my life forever. Thinking about it still makes me emotional now!
So, why have I told you this story?
It is because this adventure was life changing in so many ways for me and is the reason why I decided to launch No Ordinary Woman. I discovered so much about myself during those twelve days.
Here are some of the key lessons I learned:
Break the big goal into small goals – The only way we could complete the Coast to Coast was to take it day by day and literally mile by mile. Each day we would set ourselves mini targets such as agreeing to stop for a break after 3 miles or having lunch when we reached a certain point. When I decided I wanted to establish No Ordinary Woman, I nearly didn’t because the whole thing seemed so overwhelming. However, when you break it down and take it step by step, it is amazing how much progress you can make in a short time.
Routine is your friend – When you are trying to achieve something new, establishing habits and rituals will help you get there. Each day when we arrived at our accommodation, Rob and I both had our own jobs to do to get us ready for the next day. This was so helpful as we developed a great routine and we each knew what was required of us. It really helped us prepare physically and mentally.
Repetition leads to success – Although Rob and I had completed some training walks before we set off, we had not prepared for getting up day after day and walking 15+ miles. The first few days were tough and Rob and I both had a day early on where we felt tired and emotional. However, as the days progressed we noticed that we were developing strength and resilience and our fitness increased dramatically. When you are learning something new, it takes time to get comfortable. If you keep repeating the same habits and practices, you will become stronger and soon it will become second nature.
You don’t have to do it all – You have a couple of options when doing the Coast to Coast about accommodation. You can camp or you can stay in Bed and Breakfast accommodation. Anyone who knows me will already know that camping was never an option! I am not ashamed to admit I like my comforts!! There are companies that offer a shuttle service for your luggage so Rob and I decided that we would pay for this service rather than having to carry all our luggage with us each day. What a blessing that was!
The truth is, we don’t have to do everything ourselves and there are people out there who can help us. Too often we think that we have to be superhuman and do it all when actually there is probably someone out there who can do it better and you are then free to do the stuff where you add the most value. Have a think about your busy life and reflect on whether there is anything that you could outsource to someone else. For example, Rob and I are not gardeners, we don’t know a plant from a weed. I have an amazing lady called Holly who loves gardening who sorts our garden for us. I gladly pay her to do something she loves so that I can free up my time. It’s a win, win.
Build a network of supporters around you – This was one of the things I loved most about the walk. It was an incredibly special way for Rob and I to spend time together however, you tend to meet people along the route that you came across day after day. Rob and I were lucky to meet up with a group of teachers who were walking the route in the same timescale as us. Although we didn’t walk together (they were younger and fitter than us!), we really enjoyed seeing them in the evening and sharing stories about how we had found the day. We enjoyed their company and their support.
There is a hotel situated right at the end of the walk that has a bar called The Wainwright and everyone basically dips their boots in the sea and then head to the bar for a well-deserved pint. We were so pleased to hobble in to that bar and see the teachers waiting for us to share the achievement with us. It was a lovely moment.
Who are the people in your life that you know will support you? Share your dreams and goals with them and then let them encourage you along the way. If you need more support, find other people with similar hobbies, dreams or passions and connect with them. You can find huge amounts of support through online groups.
Silence is golden – When you do something like the Coast to Coast, you have plenty of time to think as you are walking. We all lead busy lives and we don’t often find the time to just calm our minds and think and reflect on how we are really feeling. It was during the Coast to Coast that I realised I just wasn’t living up to my potential and that I could be doing more and contributing in a better way. That is when I first decided that I needed to change my life, to focus on what I wanted and to take action to achieve it. Over the next few months, the idea of No Ordinary Woman developed and one year on it has launched. If I had not allowed myself that time to think and reflect I would probably still be doing what I was doing and feeling frustrated.
You don’t have to walk the Coast to Coast to find the time and space to think. You can choose to take 20 minutes out of your day and just sit peacefully in the garden. It’s about consciously choosing to take some time for you and to connect with how you are thinking and feeling. Meditation is another great way to calm your mind and there are lots of free meditations or apps available to help with this.
You are always stronger than you think – I was in a severe amount of pain trying to cope with a significant foot injury and a huge blister. There were days when I didn’t know if I would be able to get my foot in to my walking boot but I was determined not to give up. It is amazing how much inner strength we all have when we are focused on a goal and we are determined to achieve it. When you think you can’t carry on, you can always take one more step.
You can achieve anything! – This really is true. I see examples of people achieving incredible things that you wouldn’t think possible every single day. Our only limitations are the ones we place on ourselves. If you have a dream, GO FOR IT. What have you got to lose?
Anyway, it is that time of year again and Rob and I are about to enjoy our summer break. This year we have opted to just lie on a beach and relax. Whilst it will be lovely and will allow us to recharge our batteries, part of me will miss the adventure that we had last year.
Go pursue your dreams,
Until next time