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Hiking in Britain

On October 1st 2002 in Edinburgh I started a 5,500 mile walk around the coastline of the UK to raise money for the Riding for the Disabled Association. By the time that I finished the walk the mileage had crept up to over 6,200 miles, a figure that I am more than pleased about.


This walk finished on Saturday September 27th in Edinburgh. I would like to thank everyone who has supported us for helping in many ways - the list is nearly endless. Many thanks to you all. If you wish to see details of the walks that I have done since the end of the Coastwalk, then have a look at my main walks index page.


P2002A010010	Starting the walk.
P2002A230051	Myself standing on the Humber Bridge.
P2002A010010 Starting the walk.
P2002A230051 Myself standing on the Humber Bridge.

For details of the last day of the walk around the coast, see walk 567 (Walk #567: Muirhouse to Edinburgh Castle).

To see what has changed on the website since the last update, see the Progress page.

If you would like to see a few panoramic photographs, then please go to my page of panoramic photographs. These are very much experiments, but I like them...

The walk statistics:

Completed To do Percentage completed
Days 346 0 100
Mileage 6294.30000000001 0 100

As part of the coastal walk I walked up the highest mountain of each country on the mainland on the way; Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis. Here are some pictures of me at the top of each mountain.


P20034051081	Myself at the summit of Snowdon.
P20035062404	Myself at the summit of Scafell Pike.
P20034051081 Myself at the summit of Snowdon.
P20035062404 Myself at the summit of Scafell Pike.


P20037034941	Myself at the trig point.
P20037034941 Myself at the trig point.


The following was written before the walk:

The rules

I have set myself the following rules to be followed on the walk. As I have set the rules I see fit to change them, although when I do change them it alway seems to actually increase the mileage of the walk.

  • I will be walking clockwise; i.e. I will be heading down the east coast from Edinburgh, then walking the southern, western, and northern coasts before heading down the east coast back to Edinburgh.
  • I will not take any ferries or any other from of transport. All river estuaries will have to be walked around until the nearest suitable bridge is reached. This rule can be broken if safety would be compromised by walking.
  • Accommodation will be provided by a camper van, camping and select alternative accommodation. Each day's walk must pass a location on the previous day's walk (thus ensuring that the walk is continuous, but not forcing me to start each walk at exactly the same point that I finished the last one).


Why do it? What on earth possesses me to want to spend at least eleven months walking on my own around Britain. Won't I get sick of the sea? Won't I become lonely? Do I have enough money? Will I hurt myself? These are all the questions that I have been asked, and I find it hard to adequately answer them. All I know is that ever since the last operation on my ankle I have slowly been pushing myself more and more, doing increasing amounts of walking in the pursuit of goodness knows what. This walk should be the ultimate; the biggest walk that I could possibly do in the UK.

Am I mad to even contemplate it? It seems such a massive goal; walking large mileages day after day after day. Boredom may well become an important factor in this walk, particularly if I walk alone for long periods. I can only hope that I have the mental fortitude to overcome it. Physical injuries will build up and hopefully fade away again; I can only pray that my body can overcome them.

The biggest motivation will be the walk itself; the knowledge that even on the rainiest day the clouds will eventually break; the thought that even when trudging along a dreary city road an unexpected hidden bay will be forthcoming. The lows will be subsumed by the highs, and the knowledge of this is how I shall reach the end.

Mileage estimation

Working out the distance of any long-distance walk is a very arbitrary affair; estimates of the length of the Pennine Way vary from 250 miles to 275 miles, and the coastwalk will be well over twenty times that distance.

This is partly due to the fact that walks like the Pennine Way have alternative routes, and partly due to the fact that different measuring techniques such as Pedometers or map measurers work in significantly different ways. If you get the setting of a pedometer one inch wrong, then the end distance will be significantly inaccurate.

I have estimated the CoastWalk to be about 5,500 miles in length; this was calculated from measuring maps (and believe me; measuring 100+ maps is a very time-consuming affair). Since map measurers do not take into account the distance gone in ascent and descent, I would expect the value as calculated on a pedometer to be significantly greater.

According to the Ordnance Survey website, the length of the coastline of Britain is 11,072.76 miles (5,581 miles in England, 4,174 miles in Scotland and 1,317.26 miles in Wales), which is the measurement around the Mean High Water line, which extends into estuaries until the normal tidal limit is reached. As can be seen, even my long walk is going to do under half the coastline by this definition; the difference being accounted for in the fact that following the high water mark is impossible, and I will not be following estuaries as far as the normal tidal limit, only to the nearest passable bridge.

The Website

Since the beginning of 1999 I have been writing up all of my walks and putting them on my website. This takes up a large amount of time, but I would very much like to continue this on this walk. I also tend to take many photographs, so this will have to be catered for as well. This will all be very difficult, and so I am proposing a two-stage solution.

The first of these will be for occasions when I will be on my own for more than two days. In this case I will use a 35mm camera for the photographs and my Psion 5 to write up all the notes of my walks. The notes can then be uploaded to a PC later and the photos scanned in. Taking such a large number of photographs on film will be very expensive, so I will try to keep the number of days when I have to resort to using my 35mm camera to a minimum. This system has worked well on previous walks, and has saved me much time in typing up notes out of a notebook when I get back home.

For walks when I will have contact I shall use my Olympus digital camera with my 35mm camera as a wet-weather backup. I shall then use a portable PC to write my webpages. Every week or fortnight I will then get the webpages ready for uploading and upload them to the relevant server. CD copies of the data (including unused photos) will be sent home as and when it is necessary.

Another thing I do is take regular GPS readings so that maps can be made of where I have walked. This is a manual procedure, which involves me stopping every twenty minutes (roughly a mile) to read my GPS location. This is not as annoying as it sounds (at least it isn't to me), but a better approach would be nice for such a long walk. This would involve me buying a newer GPS with download and route-logging capabilities, and use this each day to log the route. This data can then be put into each day's walk. The downside of this is that GPS units are notoriously heavy on battery usage, so rechargables would have to be used.

The above is a very complex procedure, but is an adaptation of one that has worked quite well on walks of 18 days duration. As usual I would expect these plans to be flexible and change over time, but I would expect it to work fairly well if I can find the time to write up the walks (usually a couple of hours) each night.

After the walk is completed I may well use the data collected on the website as a basis for a book; whether I do this or not depends on what I plan to do after the walk. One thing is for sure; I have decided that the title of any book would be "Worst Foot Forwards", an apt title considering the operations that I have had on my left ankle.

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