My soon-to-be new hiking companion was a wide-eyed, wild-haired early 20-something who, I suspected, was keen on some company. I could tell this because he said: “Hey, fancy some company?”

“No way! Can’t you see I’m not a team player? I’m a renegade, I’m James Bond, Jack Bauer, Robbie Williams,” I thought, as my mouth replied: “Er sure. Why not?”

I was walking from one side of England to the other. I hadn’t spoken to another human being for three days – and I was loving the solitude. But my disobedient cakehole had other ideas.

The 307km (if you stick to the route, ahem) Coast-to-Coast Walk is the brainchild of Alfred Wainwright, the Lake District’s spiritual father.

The island traverse starts at St Bees in Cumbria, crossing the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors before terminating at Robin Hood Bay.

Wainwright’s original route, going west-east, is neatly divided into 12 sometimes-signposted stages, culminating most days in a village or town with a B&B, hostel or campsite and, on the better days, a classically northern, cosy pub.

Rather than a trail as such, it’s more a collection of scenic hikes, linked by the odd country road or track. UK-based Country Walking magazine named it the second best walk in the world (after New Zealand’s Milford Track) in 2004.

“My friends all think I’m crazy,” my new pal said. Hoping it was a reference to the walk rather than an axe-murdering hobby, I shared my noodles, chocolate and tea with him as we camped by a large tarn, which perfectly mirrored the curvy hills at sunset, high up in the Lake District.

The next day, between Shap and Patterdale, was the most spectacular of several surprisingly spectacular days. We traversed high across the brooding hills, ridges and secret valleys, seeing the meagre remains of Roman roads, expansive lakes and wild deer disappearing into the morning mist.

It wasn’t so bad having a rambling buddy – it felt good to share the walk’s most memorable views with someone.

Plus Jim was surprisingly good company, a fine storyteller. But when he began humming the Blackadder theme tune – repeatedly – I knew we had to go our separate ways.

I was also saying goodbye to the walk’s most dramatic sector. Yet the Lake District’s rightly romanticised but demanding hills had been very much in at the steep end.

I watched England change – ironing itself out into flat farmland, then crumpling itself up again into undulating bird-filled moorland. The North York Moors were a close second best; August had painted them a sea of purple heather; seductively swishing in the breeze like the silk sheets of a temptress’s bed.

The walk was a great reminder of England’s history. From the remains of mining communities – unsettling lunar landscapes and huts to hide from occasional showers in – to massive stone circles and other ancient marking posts jutting mysteriously out of the heather.

It was a satisfying way to sample northern England’s greedy collection of excellent pubs and cafes, too.

What better way to escape a wind-whipped moor, than for a fresh cream tea in a welcoming farmhouse-turned-cafe?

That said, Brits can seem reserved and unfriendly at times – some rebuffed offers of passing chit-chat like it was second-hand chewing gum. Yet other encounters were highlights of the trip.

Jim repaid his meagre meals several times over with pints. On finishing, as my blistered feet begged for mercy, I received an unsolicited lift to a campsite. I donated my guidebook to a fresh walker starting out without one. In turn, and despite my protests, he left enough money behind the bar to get me thoroughly tipsy.

Better still, at the end of my longest and hardest day, after I had idiotically spilt boiling water in my tent and some cows had left big swipes of gluey saliva on my socks as they hung on the fence to dry (mad cows, surely?), a man from Bradford invited me to share cake, strawberries and cream with him and his daughter. It felt like I’d been visited by an angel.