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"In these fields and lanes," says author Michael Parfit of the Coast to Coast walk, "the past seemed close enough to touch, as if seen in a pool of clear water. And in a way we did touch it, because we shared its means of travel." The countryside outside Keld (above), in Yorkshire Dales National Park, is one of the most evocative lengths of the two-week trek. (Michael Freeman)

A Walk Across England

In the 1970s, British accountant Alfred Wainwright linked back roads, rights-of-way and ancient footpaths to blaze a beguiling trail across the sceptered isle

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Wainwright painstakingly wrote many words in his guidebooks about the abiding passion of his life. But as I look back with nostalgia on nearly 200 miles in his good company and in the company of England, a simple note in A Coast to Coast Walk is my favorite: "There will be other years, other visits," A.W. wrote. "The hills will wait."


Getting There

From Manchester International Airport take the train into Manchester Piccadilly Station. Catch a train to Carlisle, and there, switch to another for St. Bees (www.stbees.org.uk). INSIDE TIP: Walk with naught but the shirt on your back: Sherpa (www.sherpa-walking-holidays.co.uk; 44 2085 772717) and other services will carry your bags for you.

FOR INFORMATION: Try Doreen Whitehead's B & B guide (butthouse@btinternet.com; 44 1748 886374) and visit Coast to Coast Guides (www.coasttocoastguides.co.uk) and the Wainwright Society (www.wainwright.org.uk).

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