The 3-month Fells for All Festival is all about celebrating Cumbria’s diverse landscape and promoting access for everyone - whether they have a physical impairment, a hidden disability or just need a little extra understanding or adaptation to get out and about in the landscape.

Here we hear from Heather Sewell, who has an ‘invisible’ heart condition and has been inspired to take part in a special charity walking challenge exploring Cumbria’s outdoor spaces.

She says: “As I write this, I’ve now completed more than 100 miles of a 171-mile Virtual Coast to Coast charity challenge, replicating the distance of the iconic walking route between St Bees on the Cumbrian Coast and Robin Hood’s Bay.

I’ve been putting my best foot forward on behalf of Cumbria Tourism's 50th Anniversary Charitable Fund, to support the next generation of tourism talent. Along the way, I’ve already stepped back in time with some Roman heritage, headed into the heart of the Lakes and taken a trip or three to some of my favourite coastal havens around Morecambe Bay.

For me, it’s timely that the Virtual Coast to Coast coincides with the Fells for All Festival, which is about unlocking Cumbria's outdoor spaces to anyone facing accessibility challenges.

As someone who was born with a complex heart condition, the strenuous uphill nature of hiking the 'real' Coast to Coast route wouldn't be practical for me, but the virtual version has been a great incentive to get out and about in the landscape at my own pace.

Affecting around one in 3,000 babies in the UK, Tetralogy of Fallot is a group of four specific complications affecting the structure of the heart (and lungs). I had a big heart op when I was a baby to fix a ‘hole’ in the heart. As an adult, I’ve also had a heart valve replacement and the addition of a small matchbox-sized device called an ICD to both prevent my heart beating too slowly and to protect against dangerously fast heart rhythms.

All this means my physical boundaries are a little different than the average person, but regular moderate exercise is undoubtedly a good thing and I’ve been on a mission to complete as much of the 171-mile target as I reasonably can within the six-week deadline.

My adventures started on day one when I headed to Lanercost Priory near Brampton, before exploring some short flat(ish) sections of the Hadrian's Wall National Trail around Birdoswald Roman Fort.

Other highlights have included the area around Keswick, where I meandered through the town on a mini shopping expedition, before heading towards Crow Park and the famous view at Friar’s Crag looking across the glistening Derwentwater. Walking alongside Theatre By The Lake (surely one of best positioned theatres you’re likely to find anywhere), I made a mental note to check out their calendar of upcoming productions soon. I capped it off with an evening stroll through the quiet village of Threkeld, nestled at the foot of the mighty Blencathra.


I’m also lucky to live on the doorstep of the Arnside and Silverdale National Landscape and Arnside is always one of my favourite spots to visit (nothing to do with its multiple cafes/eateries and arty hangouts, obviously). It’s home to a network of scenic walks and this time round, I set off on the beach path walking south as I admired the sands of the Kent Estuary under a big blue sky.



Also closeby is Levens Deer Park, where I headed one Sunday afternoon to follow the undulating footpaths which track alongside the River Kent. Sadly the resident herd of black fallow deer were too shy to put in an appearance on this occasion. However, I did find myself dancing giddily on the spot while telling one slightly bemused passer-by I’d spied a flash of electric blue darting across the water which absolutely MUST have been a kingfisher!

Levens Deer Park
Levens Deer Park

Of course, I couldn’t resist rounding off this particular adventure with a bite to eat at Levens Kitchen. With an award-winning reputation for seasonally inspired produce (overseen by a dynamic duo of bakers I’d enjoyed watching on Bake Off: the Professionals) it felt like a timely reward for all my efforts. 

All in all, this challenge has definitely given me an extra push to get out and make the most of Cumbria’s spectacular landscape whenever I can – and I’m already feeling the physical and mental health benefits too. Some days it’s tougher than others to keep up my energy levels, but I’m literally taking it step by step.

Only 71.3miles to go….”

Heather Sewell

Heather is one of six walkers participating in Cumbria Community Foundation's Virtual Coast to Coast challenge, on behalf of Cumbria Tourism’s 50th Anniversary Charitable Fund. The new fund will kickstart people's careers in tourism and hospitality by helping those aged 16+ to gain financial support for specialist equipment, training, study materials, travel costs and more.

Find out more and sponsor the walkers here




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