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by Ron Scholes
'It is to some extent exactly because of the relative wildness of the terrain and the absence of other walkers, that the Ravenber is such a superb experience. It is really a terrific walk, one of the very best ... `
Peter and Clare Brown, Edington, Wiltshire
21st June 2016
In his Personal Notes in Conclusion at the end of his A Coast to Coast Walk, AW made the suggestion that walkers should plan and execute new long-distance walks that they devised themselves, using public rights of way. Ron Scholes, Society member no. 140, has risen to this challenge and produced his own coast-to-coast walk. This book was originally published in 1997 and has been reissued to include a number of revisions. These include a path change advised by Northumberland County Council regarding the area around Beaumont Water and also the removal of accommodation details from the original edition, as many of these are now out of date. Instead, Ron has put in details of information centres to contact in this respect.
The walk starts on the west coast at Ravenglass, fourteen miles south of St Bees and finishes at Berwick-on-Tweed, 112 miles north of Robin Hood’s Bay. This makes it slightly longer than AW’s walk, 209.5 miles compared with 190. Ron has used the beginning of the names of the places at the start and finish points to come up with the name ‘Ravenber’.
Ron was fortunate enough to have met AW and Betty on a number of occasions – first, when he gave talks to raise funds for Kapellan, and secondly when he was fortunate enough to be able to give AW practical help by showing him various areas of his native Staffordshire while AW was planning his Peak District Sketchbook. It is nice that Betty Wainwright has now been able to thank Ron by contributing a foreword to the book.
Ravenglass lies at the mouth of Eskdale’s three lovely rivers, the Irt, Mite and Esk. The walk includes some of Lakeland’s finest array of high peaks surrounding Wasdale Head, traces the way used by Roman soldiers over the High Street range, crosses the pastoral Eden Valley, climbs over the high Pennines, traverses the northern moors beyond Alston and around Kielder before finally heading further into the ancient kingdom of Northumbria. Beyond the Roman Wall lies the barrier of the Cheviots, where reivers and mosstroopers once roamed. The walk ends on an idyllic note as it follows the leafy valley of the River Till and along the banks of the mighty River Tweed to reach Berwick-upon-Tweed, England’s northernmost town. At this point, the long-distance enthusiast can, if they wish, join the start of the Southern Upland Way.
The Ravenber Way is a journey that passes through two National Parks as well as a number of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and has the merit of sustaining the walker’s interest with a splendid diversity of attractive scenery – mountains, high hills, rolling moorland, extensive forests and lush river valleys.
The 209½ miles are divided into 14 stages, the longest being 19½ miles and the shortest 10½ miles. Eight of the fourteen days are between 13 and 17 miles, fairly long days but probably within the capabilities of the experienced walker. As well as the main route, a number of chapters also have an alternative route, often taking in higher ground and additional mountain summits, particularly through the Lakeland sections in the first quarter of the walk.
I have only one minor criticism of the book and that is the fact that the hand-drawn maps that cover the route are not always aligned to the north. AW himself was most particular about this alignment in his guidebooks including his Coast to Coast Walk. However, this apart, the book is well written with what appears to be an accurate route description plus plenty of additional detail about the history of the areas visited en route as well. Although it would be very difficult to eclipse AW’s original coast-to-coast route, it is certainly an excellent alternative, worth considering for a two-week walking holiday.
reviewed by John Burland - Member No. 2