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Hiking in Britain

The origins of an idea

In December 2001 I started getting an idea into my head; in the previous year I had done several coastal walks which I had greatly enjoyed. The idea was to walk around the coastline of Britain in stages over a number of years. To aid the planning of this I started measuring the relevant distances and planning when each leg of the walk could be attempted.

It became obvious after a while that this task was going to take many years to complete if performed piecemeal. In the middle of January I therefore took the decision that if I was going to do such a walk it would have to be in one attempt; doing the whole distance in one go. I also decided that I wanted such a trip to set off on January 1st, 2003, and that it would start from outside the House of Parliament in Westminster, London. This would then have given me a year to plan the walk and to sort out all of the details.

Setbacks and progress

In April/May 2002 I set off to walk from Fort William to Cape Wrath in Scotland, a three week trip of 250 miles. I had decided in advance that this walk was going to prove my fitness for the lng walk; if I failed to complete it then I would not attempt a longer walk. My pack for this trip weighed around 55 pounds at times, and I found that although this was a large weight it was manageable. Despite a frightening fall on the second day I completed the walk and reached Cape Wrath two days early by a more roundabout route than the one I had originally envisaged.

At the end of the trip I was phyisically fatigued but had sustained no major injuries; I could easilly have done a greater distance. I was, however, mentally exhausted; I had reached the objective of the trip and just wanted to get back to see my girlfriend in Cambridge.

Because of this I decided that attempting to do the walk with full pack was going to be risky; that the cumulative strain of carrying that much weight for a year could cause me to give in before I reached the end. I therefore decided that another approach should be used.

My girlfriend, Sam, was very keen on me doing this walk, and it was after I read 'Two feet, four paws', by Spud Talbot-Ponsonby that we decided to do a financially more costly but easier system. Instead of camping and carrying all my kit around with me, Sam would drive a campervan and pick me up each evening and drop me off each morning. This actually meant much more planning was need, as we needed to obtain a campervan before we set off.

Charity

I also decided that doing such a walk and not raising any money for charity would be a shame. I therefore started looking at which charity I would raise money for; it had to be a national charity (have a presence in England, Wales and Scotland) and also be a worthy cause but not well known amongst the public.

In the end I decided on raising money for the Riding for the Disabled Association. These fulfilled all of my aims above, and also had another advantage in the fact that I had raised money for the local Cambridgeshire branch before and I therefore had some contacts within the organisation.

The walk itself

On October first I set off from Edinburgh Castle as planned, despite a rather serious setback two days earlier when I twisted my left ankle, accentuating an old injury. The first day of the walk went well, and although I did not quite reach my scheduled endpoint for the day I was perfectly happy with the day. Since then things have, needless to say, moved on...

Future alterations

One of the problems with doing such a long trip is that sometimes you have to comprimise your route because of your condition or the weather on any particular day. Becuase of such factors I have not donw optimal coastal routes in some areas, particularly on the west coast of Scotland; below is a list of places I would like to go back to and try and do a better route.

  • Make a better route between Kingairloch and Lochaline in Morvern; I did a non-optimal route due to illness.
  • Walk along the north bank of Loch Nevis from Mallaig to Tarbet.
  • Follow the coast from Sourlies bothy to Inverie, and then around Knoydart to Airor and Barrisdale.
  • Walk around the coast from Sanachan to Applecross.
  • Follow the coast around Little Loch Broom and Loch Brrom past Scoraig.
  • Walk around the peninsular between Loch Laxford and Loch Inchard.
  • Walk the coast between Kinlochbervie, Sandwood Bay and Cape Wrath.
  • Follow the coast from Cape Wrath to Kearvaig and Achiemore.
  • Walk around the Isle of Man (96 miles)
  • Walk around the Isle of Wight (60 miles)
  • Walk around Skye (360 miles)

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