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Ashley Heeley's Coast to Coast Diary


Once my wife had stopped laughing at the thought of me completing a near on 200 mile walk she implored me, quite rightly, that I had to ‘do something’ to get into a position where I would have a fighting chance of completing the walk and not keel over on some mountain top in the Lakes. She kept pointing out my responsibilities to the children etc etc and although the life assurance would come in handy, she still wanted me around for while longer anyway. Comforting I thought. She eventually persuaded me to join the ‘Energy Room’ a small gym attached to Selby College. The advantages of using that gym were:

a)     It was small so not many people around to see me sweating, red faced, and knackered after 10 minutes on the treadmill

b)     I could get quite a personal service in terms of programme etc

c)      It was cheap

d)     I could go at weekends when it was even quieter as per a)

The manager, a nice guy called Chris Dugher very patiently put me through my paces and even managed to keep a straight face, and set me off on a programme that would by June, hopefully turn me into a mean, lean, hiking machine (well sort of). Time would only allow me at the most 2 trips a week, but having a goal always helps me and with Janine’s support I managed to keep going, even over the Christmas holidays. Every 6/7 weeks Chris changed the programme and slowly I started to notice the difference, not so much in weight loss but in general fitness. The final programme where he had exercises to focus on strengthening my legs nearly killed me but they worked.

As the start day approached, we decided we needed to have a couple of weekends away to put together 2 days worth of 15 mile walks to see how we got on. Firstly, we went to Eyam in Derbyshire and got the shock of our lives as we completed the first day’s walk of about 19 miles and we were absolutely shattered. The legs ached, the body hurt and we just thought, flippin’ heck we’re not going to do this. We did a 12 mile walk the next day and although we felt a bit better it was a major wake up call. I stepped up the gym frequency and Dale started to cycle on and around the Ridgeway to build up his fitness. The next weekend away, about 3 weeks before the walk would prove an even bigger shock for different reasons. The plan was for me to travel to Dale’s and we would climb up to the Ridgeway and put some miles into our legs along that ancient route. Unfortunately, when I got there Dale was suffering from a mystery illness that basically appeared to sap any strength out of him. He had been to the doctors but they had not diagnosed anything at that time. We did set off on a walk and climbed up to the Ridgeway but it was clear after only a couple of miles that he was really struggling and it then started to rain heavily. We decided to call it a day and made our way back and spent the Sunday just finalising plans, checking maps, reading the papers etc. It was obvious that he had got something serious and the trip was in doubt.

A few days later, he rang and said he had been diagnosed with pneumonia and put on major doses of antibiotics and told to rest. It was clear that he was unlikely to do the walk but would make a final decision close to the start date. I had gone too far to cancel now, so I placed a message on the Sherpa website and received comforting messages of support plus an email from CDNWALKER who I arranged to meet at Ennerdale Bridge. CDNWALKER turned out to be Canada Bruce and we had a great few days walking, sampling beer, sharing the football culture, sharing funnies and him telling me to stop eating all these full English breakfasts (no chance). I also arranged for a friend, Elaine to join me on a stage and Janine and Kieran agreed to join me at Keld and Kieran would do the stage to Reeth with me.

It was not until the Friday before we were due to start that Dale said he would at least start the walk. The plan was he would come up Saturday am and we would drive up to St. Bees and then set off. He would then just take it very easy and see what happened. There was always the Sherpa bus if he felt he couldn’t do a stage. I’ve known Dale a long time and I knew that if he started it would take a major incident to stop him completing it as he is a stubborn so and so. Kate his wife, was also very worried so I crossed my fingers and hoped he would be OK but very pleased of course that he was joining me. The other problem was that he packed all the wrong gear (as he thought he wouldn’t be going very far), his waterproof coat wasn’t waterproof and I had to lend him my wickable tops, walking pole etc until he got to Grasmere, where he bought the walking shop out.

So that brings me to the Saturday 17th June and Dale arrived at our house late (his Mazda RX8 needed oil. These flash cars pah!) and with butties made we set forth to St. Bees to start what would turn out to be a memorable experience.

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