The ‘Ledge’. Ian Ledgerton with a little help from his friends and family completes Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walk in memory of Dad, John.

Published on: 20/07/2023

Alfred Wainwright was a renowned fell walker credited with first chronicling the northern Britain walk, from St Bee’s Head in Cumbria to Robin Hood Bay in Yorkshire, in his 1977 book, A Coast to Coast Walk.

WC2C has become globally renowned, linking three national parks from west to east and walkers from all over the world now take on the challenge, often for charity, which was described by Wainwright in his book thus,

‘Surely there cannot be a finer itinerary for a long-distance walk! … The countryside traversed is beautiful almost everywhere, yet extremely varied in character, with mountains and hills, valleys and rivers, heather moors and sea-cliffs combining in a pageant of colourful scenery.’

No wonder so many people take it on!

John Ledgerton, who was a patient with us at the hospice, was a keen fell walker who alongside his wife, Lily, passed this love of walking on to his sons Ian, Peter and Graham and grandson, Ben.

His chronic colitis and Crohn’s disease was severe enough to cause him early retirement and as well as in art and poetry he found great respite in walking. (John’s take on the considerations of people who retire, at any age, is chronicled in his book, The Poetry of Art and Retirement, which won a DADAfest creative writing award in 2008).

When John was diagnosed with oesophagal cancer he was referred to the hospice and attended our Wellbeing Centre where, Ian tells us, his dad felt like he’d been given a new lease of life. By late July 2019 however John’s disease had progressed and he joined us in our Inpatients ward.

Ian remembered,

“The whole family would visit Dad and see, first hand, the loving specialist care and support that he was so grateful for at the hospice. On 2nd August 2019, a bright summer’s day, we sat around Dad on the terrace in the hospice gardens. He was gravely ill but in no pain and so comfortable when he passed. When we all look back we agree it was the most special way, if anything could be, to say good-bye to him.”

Now, although they never quite got round to it, with one thing and another, Wainwright’s C2C was a regular topic of conversation for the keen family walkers.

It was a challenge Ian had wanted to undertake for a long time and after John’s passing it became a vocational, bucket list, target.

However there were a couple of small setbacks…

COVID was one (as it was for everyone) but once things were clear to get back to some kind of normality, and he’d set new dates, Ian then contracted, what was later diagnosed as, Zika Virus!

Oh NO!

Following a family holiday to Cuba in June 2022 Ian developed severe skin, heart and lung issues, almost definitely caused by a mosquito bite entailing a referral to the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. Part of the recuperation was distance walking, there’s not yet a complete medical cure, which became a means to and end for his general health and, possibly fortunately in the scheme of things, training for the WC2C.

Ian was doing a lot of walking, including at least one 10-miler a month, increasing this to a 10-miler each week in the three months leading up to the start of the walk.

Ian, referred to as ‘Ledge’ by his pals combined the ambition to take on the challenge with the desire to raise funds for the hospice.

And, just, what a challenge!

It seems no amount of practise can prepare anyone for the first hills, Dent and Caw Fells. A really demanding introduction to Wainwright’s C2C and Ian would not blame anyone who decided to call it a day after that.

However, accompanied for much of the way, by his son, Ben, brother, Graham, and best mate, Mike Chew, Ian had exactly the right crew to get him motivated for many daily challenges. Also great company was Ian’s daughter Hannah and their dog Oakley who joined for much of the Yorkshire stretch.

It’s the small things, like, going two miles in the wrong direction one day when the signs had disappeared, “I think it’s this way, no, it must be that way…” kind of thing; Ben having to go back, after several hours walking, because he’d left his Boston Red Sox cap at the previous stopover; Ian scrambling underneath a virtual forest of fir trees as he’d decided to try, what seemed like, a short cut that the others ignored and then forward-rolling down a steep bank onto the side of a road!

The hardship was mitigated by lots of good stuff. Games of Uno until late in the night; sausage rolls at the stops along the way; the other walkers, from all nationalities, some of whom made kind donations; the cook who stayed on at the famous Black Sail hostel past the cut-off time of 8pm (book a year in advance!)  to feed them with a delicious Spagbol and the view from Haystacks where Wainwright’s ashes are spread is just simply breathtaking..

There are too many adventures to list them all here, but if you want to do the WC2C up hill and down dale, Ian has compiled a list of hints and tips from what he learnt along the way by cracking the more than 190 miles walk (after some of those unplanned detours) over 16 days. Ian Ledgerton hints and tips

The hospice salutes you and all your companions Ian, you’ve fulfilled your dad’s dream, had fun and games along the way and raised those fantastic funds for a grateful hospice.

From Coast to Coast – you’re all hospice heroes!

Pal Mike (left) and Ian enjoy a well-earned pint