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Another update

Well now that it’s all over and I have rested a few days, I thought I’d do another blog update.

It’s hard to describe just how I feel right now. In a way I feel a bit empty and lost and it is difficult to imagine that I have stopped for real. I think back to all the amazing places I have seen, the fantastic people I have met and I cannot help but feel sad that I won’t continue this. With a bit of distance from the walk now, I have to think at times why I stopped in the first place. But when I do, I know that I made the right decision, as much as that admittance pains me.

I had a fantastic journey and I will have some great memories to look back on. I have had plenty of time to think (probably too much at times) and I was able to get a different perspective on a lot of things.

I know (or at least I hope) that none of you will think less of me for stopping, but still I feel like I have failed. I set out to walk around the coast of Britain and got about ¼ of the way done. I gave up, and no matter how sound the reasons might have been, that’s something that will take me a while to get over.

In the last few days, once again, the support from so many of you has been amazing. I have had offers to stay with some of you, others are helping me to find a job and many many of you sent messages of encouragement. I always knew I had good friends, but what I experienced from you is truly humbling and I can’t say just how fortunate I feel to have such friends.

So what now for me? I will be going home to Austria on Wednesday and from there I will be looking for some work while hopefully being able to help my parents out a bit with their business and at home. Staying with my family in the remoter areas of Austria will hopefully give me space enough to clear my head.

There are a few things I am looking at, one of which is joining the Youth Hostel team. I really enjoyed the experience I had in the hostels on my way and it’s something I can see myself doing. Obviously I am also looking at games industry jobs again, that is where I got most of my experience after all and should be able to get a job at some point if nothing else comes up. In the long run I hope to continue my open university course to begin with and for the rest – well lets wait and see!

I most definitely will return to the UK coast at some point. There are several areas I simply have to visit and walk. Though hopefully I won’t be doing them alone. I still would love to see the north coast of Scotland around the Cape Wrath area, Skye and in particular the South-West Coastal path in Cornwall. I am thinking of doing them in shorter stints of course, a maximum of a week at a time. Perhaps someday I can finish the entire coast that way after all.


The end of the challenge

I was hoping my next blog update would be another travel report, but unfortunately it was not to be.

After 10 days at home with my parents I made my way back to Edinburgh, to the same bus stop where I stopped a week before, and set off again. It did not take too long before I started struggling again. After about 2 hours I was back where I had been when I had the breakdown. My feet were hurting, my left knee was giving me trouble and I was not enjoying the walk at all. I had anticipated a bit of a rough 2 or 3 days for my body to get used to walking again, but the problem was that I simply could not motivate myself.

I kept thinking about stopping and then I kept telling myself to shut up and not to be stupid, to push on. But the truth is, I simply can’t. My heart is not in it anymore and neither is my mind. Every step today was a struggle and I had no fun at all. And the problem is, I can’t really see myself having fun again on this walk. And as much as I want to raise money and awareness for Trees for Life, I just don’t want to do damage to myself physically or mentally while doing it.

So today I have decided to stop. This time for good. I reached North Queensferry and I crossed the Forth Road Bridge. I am glad I tried again, at least this way I know for sure, but I simply can’t see a way of going on. I bit of far more than I could chew and I found my personal limit.

I had some amazing times and I have seen some fantastic parts of the country and met great people along the way. I am sad I won’t get to see the whole of the Scottish coast. This has truly been a personal challenge and it is a hard decision for me to stop at this point, but I feel that it is the only decision.

I can only thank everyone that has been involved in this adventure for their support, their words of encouragement and their donations. I hope nobody will feel let down or think any less of me for stopping after only ¼ of the total distance.

I will be keeping the donation page active for another 2 weeks, so if you think I walked far enough to warrant a little donation, I would be grateful  – Trees for Life is an amazing organization and all the money donated will be going to a great cause.

As for me, I will be sorting myself out for a few days in a hostel and think about my next steps. I need some space right now to find out where I am at and what I need to do.  I will probably try to find a job somewhere  for the short to medium term. I will continue to volunteer for TFL if I can and when I can. I managed to think about my future and I do have some plans and ideas that I will follow up as well.

So with this, THANK YOU ALL, for following my attempt, for showing an interest and for caring. I am sorry that after 3 months it is now all over and you won’t be getting any more stories and pictures. I have the highest respect for those out there who completed this challenge, and challenges like this, the physical and mental strength required is immense. I thought I had it, but I was wrong.


Bit of a breakdown

So I am posting this update from Austria. I had a bit of a breakdown earlier this week and ended up taking a break and a flight back to my parents. I know that most of you will shake your heads at some of the things I am going to write and say I am a muppet for feeling the way I do, the messages of support I have received over the last few days tell me as much. I know that most, if not all of you support any decision I make and nobody would feel any less of me if I stopped. But in way this makes things even harder and even knowing the support I have, I can’t help how I feel about this.
I had been struggling mentally for the last few weeks and spending so much time alone, struggling with physical problems from time to time, I reached some dark spaces in head that I had never known existed and frankly I got quite scared that they did exist. I had been hoping that a weekend with friends in Edinburgh would sort me out, but it ended up having the exact opposite effect. I had such a good time seeing friends and just strolling around Edinburgh, having coffee and relaxing. But when I set off on Monday morning it was exactly that stark contrast between being on my own so much and spending time with friends that triggered a bit of a roblem for me.
I walked for about 3 or 4 miles and all I could think of was that I did not really want to leave and that I did not actually want to walk and as hard as I tried I simply could not get that thought out of my head. It just kept revolving around until I just sat down in the rain and had a bit of a meltdown.
I just sat there for about 10 minutes thinking about what to do next. I knew I could not go on in that frame of mind but at the same time, for obvious reasons, I found it very very hard to admit to that and stop walking. In the end I called my parents and their support on the phone was phenomenal. Their first reaction was that they would come over and spend time with me, but in the end the smarter move was for me to fly to Austria. It was probably one of the hardest decisions I have ever made in my life and I was at a real low point. At this point I just felt like i had let everyone down and that I was a quitter.
Flying home turned out to be the right decision though. My parents were amazing and their support and love had an immediate effect. I started to relax and was able to look at things more objectively. At the same time the flood of messages from friends that I received showed me just how amazing the people I know are.

There is no need for me to make any excuses really. Yes I had some physical problems, particularly in the last 2 weeks, but those only were minor issues. The simple truth is that I had severely underestimated the difficulty of the undertaking from a mental point of view. I was able to cope with the walking, the weight of the backpack and the camping. I simply was no longer able to keep with the loneliness and the mental strains of the challenge. Reaching Edinburgh and the 1000 mile marker just highlighted how much I still had to do and how much longer I was still going to be on my own. Rather than focus on what I had already achieved, I focused on what was ahead of me. I bit off far more than I could chew.

And to be honest, after having some days off and time to reflect on this, I still can’t see how I could manage the rest of the journey. I am scared of reaching those dark places in my head again and I am scared of what might happen when I do.
However, at the same time I have realized that I am not truly alone and that I am not only walking for myself (and of course Trees for Life), but that in a way I am also walking for all of you. Your messages and your support have shown me that. You all might not be there physically, but I know that you are thinking of me, and that you are following me, if not every day than at least from time to time. And that is something I simply cannot ignore.
I don’t want to let anyone down. I don’t want to let Trees for Life down, I don’t want to let any of you down. And I strongly feel that I need to conquer this problem and push through it also for my own benefit.
I have learned a lot in the last 10 weeks. I have explored sides of myself I never knew existed. I certainly pushed my personal limits. I have met so many fantastic people and seen some amazing sights. I have also renewed my belief in the good of people. And i think I have a bit more in me to keep going.

I do need to acknowledge though that I have fears, worries and limits I probably can’t or should not push past. I do need to take the advice of many of you that I need to look after my physical and mental health.
A compromise then. I have decided that I will continue. But I will be setting myself a realistic goal, for now. It has always been my plan to take a break in July, after reaching Ullapool/Stornoway, and so I will make this my new target.

I will return to Edinburgh, probably around thursday next week (depending on flights), go back to the exact spot I stepped on a bus and continue my walk up north, heading to Findhorn/Inverness where Trees for Life is based and then on around the northern coast of Scotland to Ullapool. I will take the ferry as planned to Stornoway where I would like to walk at the very least to the Callanish stones on the north coast of the island.
All this would add another 1000 miles or thereabouts to my total and it would also mark, roughly, the halfway point of the original plan. And at that point I will make another decision on what to do next.

It will be a slightly different challenge. It will be more of a mental challenge and I will have to confront my fears and worries. I will also no longer be as arrogant as I perhaps was before to assume I can just do this with ease, and guarantee success. I cannot make any promises. But I will do my best, on that you have my word.

Berwick to Edinburgh – 1000 mile mark reached

So this has been a relatively short week. I had thought to reach Edinburgh by Saturday, but that was due to me having planned a stop in North Berwick and Longnindry Turned out I passed North Berwick around lunchtime and so was able to push on.  I have now also passed the 1000 mile mark, so am more than 1/5 of the way around the coast! Anyway, I am glad it was a short one, because despite the sunshine it was a very hard week. High winds slowed down progress every day and sapped my strength and I developed some serious problems with my feet

It is mainly the arches of my feet that hurt quite a bit but also the ball of my feet seems to stiffen up during the day and then just throbs in the evenings. On top of that the boots I bought in Berwick on Tweed turned out to be rubbish. They were ok on the even ground, but I had too much lateral movement when on un-even ground, so after a few days I ended up with 3 blisters on my left foot. The pain unfortunately also meant I had trouble sleeping over the last week.

But there were some great aspects of the week as well of course!

I set off Tuesday morning from the Youth Hostel in Berwick and I did the walk around the walls to start the day. The walk literally goes all the way around Berwick along the old walls and defences and I got to see some of the old fortress buildings and cannons. The views are great and I can definitely recommend the walk. Once I ended up on the north end of town, I doubled back and went up north along the coastal walk. As mentioned the wind was very strong and almost full from the side, so I had to watch myself on the cliff walks and almost walked sideways at times (that’s when I noticed the lateral movement inside the boots for the first time).

In the distance along the coastline I could see a headland jutting out a bit and by looking at the map I knew that part of the coast was already in Scotland. So that lifted my spirits and around 11am I passed the border! On the footpath there are only 2 small flags on a fence post marking the crossing, but a bit further up from the coast the trainline has a bigger sign, so I went up there took some pictures and then sat down on the Scotland side of the border and had a tea break. I also put my ipod and listened to the Peatbog Faeries. I had waited to listen to them for particularly that moment, and the first track, Whacko King Hacko, seriously was perfect for the scenery and the mood I was in – nothing beats bagpipes when walking along the cliffs of the Scottish coast!

So for a while all pain was forgotten and the wind seemed less strong, as I made my way north towards Eyemouth. Somewhere along the way I lost my fleece again, so that’s the second one gone now. When I reached the last hill above Eyemouth I had lunch in a little dip, to stay sheltered from the wind.

Eyemouth seems like a lovely little town and I greatly enjoyed the walk from there towards St.Abbs, passing a gorgeous bay where I sat in the sun and out of the wind for a while and talked to a lovely lady who used to run a Youth Hostel in the area. Then it was on to St.Abbs head and some serious hills had to be navigated. At one point I veered off the path, as it joined a road and I wanted to stay close to the coast, and ended up at a sheer cliff face with no way down, so had to go back and follow the road after all. That was ok though, because as the road came around a bend I was presented with a fantastic view out towards the sea again.

After a few more really steep hills and getting really exhausted I finally found a decent, but very exposed camp spot on the cliffs a few miles north east of St.Abbs head. It took me a long time to set up the tent in the high winds and I was struggling with it. At one point it looked like I was flying a kite, as the tent was completely airborne. I did manage to get it down and the night was interesting to say the least.

Taking the tent down on Wednesday morning was also quite a challenge as the wind had not died down over night. It also looked like rain, so I got up early and packed up quickly. The morning also marked the 2nd month since I set off from Brighton. No time to celebrate though. It started to rain shortly after I set off. Light rain at first, but I decided to put on my full waterproofs straight away and that turned out to be a good call as it soon started to rain very heavily. With the wind as it was the rain came in almost horizontally and into my face, so i kept the head down as I stomped through fields and up and down some steep hills. Unfortunately I did not get to enjoy the scenery too much as I could not look up a lot. Eventually I reached a farm track and followed that to a minor road and that eventually lead to the town of Cockburnspath. I had walked for more than 3 hours straight at that point and the rain had stopped for a bit, so I bought tea at the local Post Office/Village Shop and a fresh croissant and sat on a bench to warm up.

Shortly after I sat off again, about half a mile out of town, I realized I had left my camera bag on the bench. So I walked back, very fast, and was glad to find that someone had turned the bag in at the shop. My heart beat slowly went down again….

I followed a coastal path towards Torness Nuclear Power plant and had lunch there. Kinda weird to sit less than 200 meters away from a nuke plant, but interesting in a way. Around that area I picked up the John Muir Way, which I was to follow for most of the next days.

In the high winds it was a struggle to make it to Dunbar along the open coastline, but I made it there eventually towards the mid afternoon. The sun was now out properly so it was quite nice and I really fancied an icecream. Unfortunately I could not spot a single shop along the seaside walking through the town. I got a few miles passed the town along the coast and came along a lovely campsite and decided to call it a day and spend the night there. Partially my decision was down to the fact that they sold icecream. I paid 8 pounds for the night and actually got a bottle of irn brun and a solero berry berry for free from the nice owners of the campsite – so a true win situation.

I had a lovely wind sheltered spot but again I did not get a lot of sleep because of my feet, but a shower and putting some cream on did help a bit.

On Thursday morning I actually set off a bit later than normal as I put another round of treatment on my feet and put on a pair of fresh socks as well. I still was not 100% sure if I’d make Edinburgh by Friday or Saturday, but I was not really in a rush, so not worried.

I followed the John Muir Way for most of the day, even when it went inland a bit. I was not quite sure if I could follow the coast for a section by looking at the map, and to be honest I did not mind the change of scenery either. The great path lead through some stunning woodlands as well, which meant some shelter from the wind, which was very welcome.

I got to North Berwick around lunch time and bought a healthy salad option and a Mueller rice pudding and sat in a bus shelter out of the wind to have lunch. From North Berwick I followed the sunning coastline and came across some amazing beaches. I never realized they existed when I lived in Edinburgh a few years back, which really is a shame. I spotted quite a few people out on the beaches and also a few surfers and kite surfers, enjoying the winds (at least some people do) and the relatively warm april weather!

I got to the area around Aberlady (which is an absolutely lovely village!) and pitched my tent in the dunes, with as much shelter from the wind as I could find. It was a bit chilly in the evening, in the dunes and out of the sun, without my fleece, so I went into my sleeping bag fairly early.

Once again little sleep though and I was up just after 6am and gone well before 7am on Friday. I figured I could do Edinburgh after all, as it was about a 20km walk from where I camped. That really help lift my spirits as my friend David had already let me know it was ok to stay at his place for 3 nights.

I kept following the John Muir Way, which winds it’s way around the coast all the way to Musselburgh and I came through some lovely little towns and past yet another power station. All the while I could see Edinburgh in the distance, Arthur’s Seat rising up on the horizon. The wind had gotten a bit lighter and it was really getting warm towards lunch time.

In the early hours of the afternoon I came onto Portobello Beach and was able to follow the promenade in for a while towards the port of Leith. It felt strange to walk past there after such a long time, but at the same time it felt like I had never left. When I reached Leith went up the long hill that is the Leith Walk and headed towards a Blacks shop there, getting a proper pair of new boots and a new fleece, before heading to princess street gardens and having another icecream! It was lovely sitting on the bench, looking up to the castle and enjoy the sun!

After that I went to a Costa Coffee, as I had to wait for David to be at the flat later on, and Andrew met me for a coffee and a good chat, which was great!

Finally made my way to David’s place, which actually is very close to the port of Leith (so I took a tax back down the hill!), and we had pizza and some beers together with Simon, his Landlord/Flatmate who was also happy enough with me staying for 3 nights! All in all an enjoyable evening.

On Saturday I walked in my new boots a bit, though gingerly and with lots of breaks, having coffee and ice cream to try and let my feet recover. I went to my favourite coffee shop, the Elephan House, on north bridge and spent some time there reading.

In the afternoon Doug came over from Glasgow and we spent a few great hours catching up and just chatting. It was great to see him! Later on in the evening I caught up with quite a few of my old friends from Edinburgh in one of my favourite pubs, the Malt Shovel. Andy, Andrew, Tom, Mike, David and Martin all managed to drop by for a few drinks and we stayed till closing time, after which we went for another drink to Nickel Edwards (which is now apparently called something else but who cares!). I finally got home around 2am – definitely the latest night I had in a long time! It was a brilliant night and there was lots of catching up to do, not just about my walk, but in general as I had not seen some of them for 5 years! Some great old stories came up!

This morning my feet are actually quite a bit better, so I am really optimistic. I took good care of them with foot cream and just resting them when I could. The new boots are also very good thankfully. I watched the Malaysian Grand Prix this morning (sucks that Hamilton only came 7th!) and will be doing my food shopping in a bit. Then it’s off to the cinema to watch Sucker Punch and the evening will be spent making dinner for David and Simon before doing my weekly planning and having an early night.

Will be a big day tomorrow as I’ll be crossing the Forth Road bridge and heading into Fife. I can only hope the weather will hope. I am very happy to say that I’ll have quite a bit of support along the trek for the next few weeks, with a few friends stepping up and offering me a place to stay!

1 week – 4 counties and 3 miles from Scotland

Another long update, I hope you guys don’t mind! Lots has happened in the last week and if you consider I actually passed 4 counties in that time, you should not be surprised! (that’s Yorkshire, County Durham, Tyne&Wear and Northumberland!)

Sunday off in Whitby was amazing. The weather had improved a bit from the afternoon before, so the sun was out all day and quite warm. I had slept really well after meeting up with Mark Gambles the evening before and having 2 pints! I got up early as well to watch the Australian GP and was very happy with Lewis Hamilton coming in second!

After a wicked good breakfast I went into town to have a look at the Goth event and explore Whitby a bit. I already know: I will be back! The town is absolutely gorgeous and there is a lot to see and do. From the Cook museum to following in Bram Stokers footsteps, to exploring the countryside around, the town certainly has a lot to offer.

And I also already know where I’ll be staying! It was a bit of a mission to find a place to stay in Whitby, with the Goth weekend on and all that. The youth hostel was booked out and it took me a few calls to find a place. I came across the Leeway B&B which is really centrally located on the north side of town, close to the seafront and I could not have hit it better. They had had a cancelation and so they had space for me. When I arrived I was greeted with a thick slice of fresh carrot cake and a hot cup of tea. Karen and Garry, the owners, made me feel welcome right from the start. The house is stunning and the room was spacious and it came with a bathtub!

When it came to paying on Monday morning I was in for a surprise! Karen and Garry had donated a night free of charge for my cause! As always, I was a bit lost for words but extremely grateful. I have to say leaving was very hard!

But I had to leave, so I walked off just after 9 and in the wrong direction, but on purpose. I headed back into town to meet Emma from the Whitby Gazette for a quick interview and picture and I got a cup of tea as well. After that I had just started my days walk in earnest, when I got a call from BBC Tees again, if I was available for an interview at 10:30! So I dropped my bag and set on the nearest bench and waited for them to call back. The interview went well and I managed to get all the information I cross!

Finally I could set off walking though and it was another gorgeous day along the Yorkshire coast. I went past Runswick Bay and Staithe and really enjoyed the views, not so much the hills and steps though! There were some steep ones and at Runswick bay I followed the wrong sign and actually went halfway down the same hill again before realizing my mistake and I had to trek back up!

The rest of the way was easily found though and I trekked along the cliffs until almost 6pm! I love the fact that summertime is here now, which means I have more time to play with in the evenings.

I ended the day about 2 miles short of Saltburn on the cliffs, near a little Iron Fan house, where they made iron a few centuries ago, and pitched up the tent. Chatted a bit to a jogger that had run up from Saltburn and she was very nice, offering to bring me some food or drink if I needed anything. I declined, partially because I was stocked up, but also did not really want her to climb up the hill from the town again on my behalf!

I slept really well that night. I think the best night sleep I ever had in the tent so far. It got quite cold towards the morning, thanks to clear skies, but I was still quite snug in the sleeping bag.

Tuesday dawned clear with blue skies and the sun up. I packed up quickly, had some oat bars for breakfast and set off down the hill into Saltburn. It was the last part of the high cliffs and I could see the lower coast in the distance. From Saltburn to Redcar I still walked on the cliff path, but instead of being a few hundred feet up, I was only a few dozen feet above the sea. It was also in Saltburn where I said good bye to my old friend, the Cleveland way, which I had been following for about a week. It split off here and went inland, not for me to follow!

I decided on a late breakfast when I came across a lovely beach café in Redcar and went for a full fry up, which was very tasty! The lovely staff there refilled my water as well. Shortly after I did a quick phone interview with a Middlesbrough paper – had some mad publicity lately!

From Redcar onwards the walk was a bit dour. The change from last week could not have been bigger. It was very similar to my experience walking from Gravesend into London. A lot of industry, derelict and in use, a lot of rubbish and dirt. The weather also turned and it clouded over with the occasional spot of rain. I really just find cities depressing. I followed a footpath, which was named the Teesdale Way but might as well have been called the Rubbish way. It went along side the rail lines into Middlesboro, past the football stadium and to the Transport bridge, which I used to cross the river.

From then on it got even more dreary. Past refineries, power stations and oil storage places. I don’t think this place would look any better in the sunlight. I just followed a main road as I could not see any footpaths and eventually I came into Seaton Carew. I was quite knackered at this point, having been up and walking for about 10 hours, and the campsite I had had in mind was still about 5 miles off (and actually inland, so of course), so I checked around and found a cheap place to stay and called it a day.

The next day I had breakfast really early and set off just after 8. I had another meeting with a photographer arranged, who was nice enough to drive down from Hartlepool and we took some pictures at the seafront. He promised to email me some copies, so when I get them I’ll post them.

North into Hartlepool was a nice enough walk along the seafront. I went past the marine in the town and saw some historic ships. Took some pictures but only from a mediocre angle and the way to the other side was shut, as part of a museum, which was a shame as I would have liked to see them up close.

Once I passed through Hartlepool, I joined the Durham Coastal path, which turned out to be rather nice actually! The cliffs were not nearly as high as in Yorkshire, but there were still a fair few steps and hills to manage. I ended up pushing quite far on Wednesday as I had another appointment with a photographer from the Sunderland Echo and he wanted to meet around 6pm in the town centre. So I took few breaks and just kept on walking. Thankfully the weather was kind, it was not too hot and the rain held off as well, so I made good progress.

I was really a bit worried about this area, as I expected there to be lots of industry and built up areas, but I was pleasantly surprised by the coast path and how rural things felt.

I managed to get into central Sunderland around 5:30, so I did about 22 miles in about 9 hours I think, close enough anyway! Met the photographer and he drove me to a park I had already passed! We took some pictures and then he drove me back. I was knackered that night and quite glad to have a room (no campsite near Sunderland I could find anyway). Soaked my feet and went to bed early to read.

Then I got a call from Helen and Keith, a lovely couple I had met 4 weeks earlier in the Youth hostel in Wells-next-the-Sea! They lived just west of Newcastle (which I was due to pass the next day) and offered to pick me up where I finished and let me stay at theirs! Newcastle was another worry of mine (yes I have a lot of worries!) but there was a campsite north of it I had pencilled in, but a night at Helen and Keith’s and the promise of home cooked food – who would say no!!

So I set off really eagerly on Thursday and made my way across the Sunderland bridge, past the football stadium (no picture of course, as an Arsenal supporter) and then along the coast northwards. The wind soon picked up and it was murder. It came from my left side, not quite head on, so it blew me off course a lot and once again I was glad for my walking poles. I slowly but steadily made my way to South Shields and had a break at the south end of town when I met Ken,

Ken was an ex Swedish paratrooper who had fallen on hard times. He seemed to have attached himself to a walking group going south, but when he saw me sitting there drinking tea he came over and we started talking. He was very nice but talked a lot, so my break got a bit longer than I wanted, so I had to say good bye and be on my way. But Ken was having none of it! He was so impressed with my undertaking that he decided to be my local guide and show me the way to the ferry point across the Tyne river. It was still a good 2 mile hike and the winds were fierce, but he kept up with me and we chatted along the way. In truth it was lovely to have the company, it made walking in the wind a bit easier. Despite Ken “self-medicating against pain” from a small vodka bottle. He guided me along the coastal path to the ferry and once I was on it we said good bye and he waited until the ferry started moving away! Lovely chap!

The ferry ride only took about 5 minutes and I was now in north shields. I had told Helen, who was working north along the coast that day, that I’d aim for Blyth, but in the end, thanks to the winds, I only managed to get to Seaton Sluice, about 3 miles short. I was knackered. Helen arrived 20 minutes after I sat down and drove me all the way to their place, where I got tea and cake!

She made fresh leek and butter bean pie with veggies and potatoes for dinner and cheesecake for dessert! I was stuffed and loving it! Despite being quite tired we sat up and chatted until about 10pm, which was really nice. I also met their daughter Hannah, who is doing a course in wildlife media – I suggested she should come along to get the practical aspect done! Wildlife more than enough on my trek!

Also worth of note: i was north of Hadrians wall, so technically i was more determined to conquer the north than the Romans were!

I slept really sound on the spare bed and got a double helping of breakfast in the morning. Helen also made me some cheese and tomato rolls and put an apple and some oat bars in my backpack! Sufficiently nourished, physically and mentally, I was sad to leave but ready to walk! Helen drove me back to the exact bench she had picked me up from and I set off north again. Thankfully with the winds a lot calmer.

Now it was also the 1st of April and I had been thinking the entire week how to best do an april fools joke! In the end I figured a facebook update along the lines of me quitting would be good! It turned out it was, but almost too good! I got a lot of messages of support and asking if everything was alright! By 10 o’clock I had to post that I was ok and that it was a joke! So it worked quite well and I got a few people hehe  – well I got to get my laughs from somewhere!

Through Blyth and 2 other towns it was a bit of a drag, as there was lots of walking along roads to get over bridges, but once past Lynemouth the going was fantastic. I met a really nice couple near Newbiggin on the promenade and they gave me great directions to a footpath along a golf course, as they walked with me for a bit. That path led me straight past the power station and on towards the river crossing. I don’t think I would have found it myself!

After Cresswell I walked along the beach for quite some time until I found a great camp spot just behind the dunes. It was quite warm, so slept without using the bivvy sack for the first time and it was nice and cosy.

I was actually reluctant to get out of the sleeping bag the next day, but the sun was coming up (after having rained a bit during the night) and I packed up and left just after 8am. I walked to Amble, where I decided on a second breakfast in a nice café, and just as I came in a strong shower came down outside! Excellent timing!

After a lovely egg and sausage roll and some tea I went along the river, past the marina and along the cycle path into Warkworth. What a lovely town and a superb castle on the hill. I also spotted a Heron on the river bank, which looked majestic. Just after crossing the river, I walked back out the other side and followed the coastal path north again. As I was getting closer to Alnmouth I met 3 other walkers, 2 of whom were training for their own charity walk in a few months. They will be doing the south downs way in Sussex for Oxfam. We talked a bit, but in Alnmouth we split up as I was following the coast and they walked along the cycle path. I met them later again having lunch a few miles north though!

I came past Craster and the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle, my second castle of the day, and I have to say the scenery was stunning, coming in along a sloped hill on the one side, the rough sea on the other, having the castle straight ahead of me.

I had to cross a little stream today as well, or walk for more than a mile to come to a bridge. So decided to take my boots and socks off, roll up my trousers and take the plunge. I forgot it was April, and despite the sun out and blazing, the water was freezing! But it was only a short crossing and I let my feet dry in the sun on the other side before setting off again!

I was very happy to have pushed this far again in one day and when I set up camp just short of Beadnell, I was starting to think I might reach Berwick on Sunday, rather than Monday. I found a decent spot in the dunes, but it was a tight squeeze and opted to eat the last of my oat bars and dried fruits, as I was too tired to cook.

I got a visit from the National Trust Warden around 8pm and she said I was not meant to camp there, but after assuring her that I was not lighting any fires and that I would only stay for a night and take all rubbish with me, she said I was fine. She even promised to bring me little bird book (which I really ought to have brought myself) in the morning, but when I said I’d be gone before 8, she said she might not get up that early!

No bivvy sack again that night and it was a mistake. Clear skies meant another cold night and I noticed it (not that I was freezing though, just used to comfort that’s all). I got up around 6:30 and had a quick breakfast and was gone around 7:30.

I had it in my head to reach Berwick that day. It was a bit of a push, 23 miles, but I figured I had about 12 hours to do it and it was possible. I went along the beach to Beadnell and then up to Seahouses and Bamburgh, where there is another gorgeous castle! The village itself is also stunning, with a lovely centre and church.

The coast path leads inland a bit, as there is a bay/marshland bit and I decided to be cheeky and try to cut across a golf course. I was quickly told off and asked to leave though! Not so friendly those chaps. That however led me to a lovely foot path through the rolling hills towards Waren Mill and I enjoyed the change of scenery.  Unfortunately the picture of that path proved to be the last of the day, as my battery had gone again.

This did mean fewer stops though and I put in a mammoth hike, walking over 2 hours straight along roads and footpaths before eventually having lunch. Partially this was down to me getting a bit lost and eventually actually ending up at the A1, which is a major road going north.  Just as I was done with lunch and set off again I got my first shower of the day. The morning had been breezy but nice, so I had no jacket on and got a bit soaked.

It stopped again before I could put anything back on. Oh well. At least I dried out in the sun. I decided to put on the rain cover for my backpack just in case though and that proved a good idea as about an hour later I had a stronger shower, including some hail, that lasted about 30 minutes. I managed to put the waterproofs on early enough as well, so thankfully I stayed dry, mostly.

The rest of the afternoon went pretty uneventful actually. It was a long and hard walk, but the scenery was gorgeous. Past Holy Island and along a stretch of the main railway, with Flying Scotsman trains going past – I watched them longingly, wanting to go to Edinburgh at their speed!

Yorkshire, with its high cliffs and flowing meadows is gorgeous, but almost in a scenic and serene way. Northumberland is no less beautiful but much more wild and rugged. Everything from cliffs, lava rocks to endless beaches with pure white sand and dunes, and almost no people. Spectacular to see and walk along this part of the coast.

It was around 5:40 or so when I came over a hill and saw Berwick below me (I could catch glimpses of it earlier) and I was really sad that I could not take pictures of it, as it looked spectacular in the late afternoon sun, with its 3 bridges and the town perched against the hill.

The last 2 miles to the hostel were very hard and my feet hurt a lot. Thankfully the hostel was at the bottom of the hill. It’s brand new and an amazing building. It also was almost empty so I had a dorm room all to myself, with en-suit bathroom!

All I could manage was a shower and the last of my food supplies before crashing on the bed.

Did not really sleep well at all as my feet hurt a lot. My boots were gone and I needed new ones badly. I got up before 7, had another shower and some tea before heading into town for breakfast. I got food at the co-op to make lunch and dinner as well as stock up for next week and then went to a local field and trek to get some boots. Choice was not great when it came to brands, and that’s why I had hoped that my old boots would last to Edinburgh, but there was a decent pair of Karimor on sale down from 150 GBP to 60 GBP and they had eVent and Vibram and they felt really comfortable, so I got them and will be wearing them all day to get them worn in a bit. Walking in them makes such a difference!

Also popped into the Market Shop on Bridge Street, which is owned by Jill and Dave, the parents of Joe, who worked with me at Codemasters and is a good friend. They offered me a bed, but I had of course already booked into the youth hostel! Though to be honest, I am glad I did not have to burden them with drying a wet tent and washing all my clothes! Will meet them later in the pub for a pint though, so a bit more chatting and socializing will be nice!

Can’t believe I am only a few miles from the Scottish border now and will be crossing it on Tuesday!

Hull to Whitby – Yorkshire is awesome!

So, sorry if this is going to be a bit of a long one, but it has been 8 days of straight walking, with no real chance to write an update sooner! There are also tons of pictures, I will post some of them here, but most will be on Facebook as always, where I don’t have to worry about storage space! So if you want to see them all, head over there later to check them out!

Well this week has been absolutely spectacular. I am sure some of it was down to the fact that the sun was shining and spring really rolled in. I am sure some it was also down to the fact that I am seriously getting fit now and walking for 15 to 20 miles a day is no longer an issue. But mostly it was down to the fact that Yorkshire is probably one of the best counties of this stunning country. The coastal walks are amazing, with some of the best views I have seen in my life, and the people are open, friendly and very, very helpful. Most of my Yorkshire friends have said that their home county is the best in England, and so far, I’d have to say I whole heartedly agree with them. If you have never been to Yorkshire, go there. Do it soon. Don’t book a holiday abroad, when you got some of the most stunning cliffs, beaches and some of the loveliest seaside villages in the world right at your doorstep. In particular the area between Bridlington and Whitby offers plenty of leisurely day walks with Youth Hostels and great campsites along the way, so there is not even a need to rough it like I did a few times!

Now, let’s get down to the details shall we?

I set off just after 9am on Saturday and it took quite some time to get out of Hull. I was on the western end of the town, so it took me a few hours to pass through the city, the docks and a lot of industry. Finally I made it past a massive BP chemical plant and onto the Humber coastal path. From then on it was great walking along lovely paths on the sea defences. The sun had been out all morning as well, which was great.

Just after lunch I had a call from Gemma and we had a nice long chat, just as the clouds started coming in and the temperature dropped a bit. After the phone call and some lunch I upped the tempo a bit. I was trying to reach a road near Stony Creek so I could potentially meet up with Mark, who had been to Kilnsea with his dad that day. Unfortunately I fell short though and we did not get to meet up. He promised to leave a present in the pub in Kilnsea though!

Once I reached Stony Creek I ran into 3 bird spotters. One of them asked straight away if I was walking around the coast. I thought he might have heard the radio interview, but instead it turned out I was the 9th coastal walker he met! He remembered Nat as well from last year. Was quite cool and we chatted a bit before I headed off again.

I kept walking for about another hour and was on the lookout for a suitable camping spot, and I had almost resigned to just camp directly on the path (I had not met anyone on it since Stony Creek), when I came across probably the best camp spot ever. It was just a little strip of grass heading out into the Humber from the coastal path, with some rocks at the end of it. My tent fit perfectly and it was even ground. I was happy! I set up the tent and set on the river with my book, when 2 cyclists came along. I walked up to them checking if I was on their land. They said I was fine and that it was actually all crown land and nobody would bother me. We chatted a bit and I told them what I was doing and eventually they set off. About 45 minutes later I heard the engine of a car and came out of my tent and saw a land rover coming up the farm path, just opposite of my tent. It turned out to be the same 2 people and they had brought me a care package including some hot Tomato and pasta soup, a refill for my thermos bottle and some flapjacks! I could not believe it! I was so overwhelmed by how nice they were and I did not really know what to say at the time. I really enjoyed the soup and made some tea with the hot water, which was ace.

So I set outside my tent on the river, had tea and watched the biggest moon ever rise blood red over the Humber. With the best camp spot ever. What a great day!

I was up early again on Sunday and packed up quickly. Had some tea, which was still hot! I knew I had a short walk ahead of me, as I only needed to reach a campsite in Kilnsea, about 12 miles away. I think that’s why I had a bit of a leisurely pace. It took me just over 4 hours to reach it, which was probably a bit slow. Nice walk along the Humber and I crossed the Greenwich Meridian for the 5th time I think! There was even a marker for this occasion!

I got the campsite around 11:30 and it was a lovely little place. Just pitched the tent and dropped by bag before heading to the local pub for a quick lunch and then a walk out to Spurn Head! Mark had left me 2 bottles of Yorkshire Ale at the pub – what a lovely present!

The walk to Spurn Head was easy without the bag and I covered the 9 mile round trip in about 2 ½ hours, even with a break at the very tip, the south eastern most part of Yorkshire (I think). Once I was back at the campsite I enjoyed a shower and a change of clothing. I met a nice couple who arrived after me with their campervan and we had a nice chat. Then I headed back to the pub to wait for Chris. The couple from the campsite came in as well and we talked for a while and they bought me a pint, which was very nice indeed! Chris arrived around 9pm and had a pint himself before we set off to the campsite and he pitched his tent with torchlight!

Chris and I set off along the Yorkshire coast, heading north, early on Monday morning. It was Spring! 21st of March! And the weather seemed to agree. The sun was out and it was getting warm quickly. It did not take long for me to realize why I had been told so many good things about the Yorkshire coast. The scenery is stunning. The coastline ahead can be seen for miles and is just beautiful. We walked for a fair bit on the beach initially, to get past a windfarm and a gas terminal, before heading up to the cliff path. Chris obviously was not walking at my pace yet, and we took quite a few breaks, but I did not mind with the sun out so nicely and the view so amazing.

We had a late lunch in Withernsea in a café and I was starving! Lasagne and chips for 3.70 GBP was a reasonable price I thought. We set off again around 3pm and walked for another 2 hours, ending up just north of Tunstall. Along the way we came across some chaps fishing from the cliffs, with the tide fully in, and they were not having any luck. We also came across a wicked chap camping right at the cliff edge. He was trying to get his multifuel stove going but his lighter broke, so I gave him one of my spare ones. Turns out he had been camping there for a year, after he got kicked out of his house, and nobody had ever bothered him about it. Very sound chap and he was extremely happy that I left him my lighter.

Chris and I moved on about half a kilometre and we came across a small field next to the cliff, surrounded by hedges. Perfect camp spot! We had a sip of whisky to celebrate the days walking, then the tents went up. We got some kindling from the hedges and lit the BBQ. Sausages (some of them saved for breakfast), followed by burgers, followed by steaks! A complete feast! We ate over the course of 2 hours and I pulled out the 2 beers that Mark had left me. We also sipped some whisky – it was a grand evening under a clear and starry sky! Had a great chat with Chris about lots of things. It was great having company in the evening and catching up on news from down south. We stayed up talking to about 10pm but then we both were shattered and needed sleep.

The night did not cool down too much either and I was actually quite hot in my sleeping bag with my usual precautions such as bivvy sack, ski mask and thick socks! I slept really well thanks to food and drink!

We were up before 7am on Tuesday and made some tea, ate our left over sausages and some cross buns I had bought. After packing up we set off around 8am.

The going was quite rough for a while. There was no actual footpath, so we walked right on the edges of fields next to the cliffs. The fields were mostly hard dried mud and that made the going tough, particularly for Chris, who had developed a blister the day before. This was followed by some taller grass and lots of brambles as well and it felt like a cross country hike. The views were spectacular though and the weather was amazing. It was getting really warm in the sun!

Around 11am, during a break, I checked my phone and had a message from BBC York that they wanted to do an interview over the phone! We arranged a call for 12 and so an hour later I was chatting to Steve from the BBC and doing a really cool interview, which I enjoyed a lot. Managed to squeeze in my blog address this time – I am getting better at it!

Chris was struggling though, his feet hurt a lot and he was getting de-hydrated. I had only had about 2.5 litres of water with me (which normally is more than enough for a day), Chris only had about 1 litre left and in the sun he went through it quickly. We were out of water by about 1pm, though there was a little village coming up and it was marked as having a pub, so we planned to refill the water there.

On the way there, we crossed into a military range. The sign indicated that access was prohibited when the red flag was flying (meaning the site would be active). There was no flag, so we moved in and kept to the cliffs edge. About halfway through I got a honk from a car and a guy was waving from down the beach. He shouted up that we were in a military area and I said I knew but I thought it was not active. He said we were ok, but it might be dangerous to walk there as it was a bomb disposal site, and there might be stuff lying around. So they had called in a car to pick us up and drive us to the other edge of the site. So Chris and I sat down next to the dirt track and waited for our taxi. I was tempted to decline and tell the driver I could not accept lifts, but was not sure how funny he’d find it!

Turned out the driver and the accompanying RAF bomb disposal chap were really nice though! They did not mind that we were there, just wanted to make sure we left safely. They drove us maybe 400 meters across the rest of the site and dropped us off at the edge of the military range. Turns out the RAF guy had just done a tour in Afghanistan, disarming and disposing of explosives! My hat off to this chap – not a job I’d see myself doing! Takes amazing amount of guts to do this!

From where they dropped us off it was not too far to the pub and we called in for lunch and much needed fluids! At this point Chris and I had a chat and he decided that he had to stop. His feet were in bad shape and he had developed some additional blisters. He had been hobbling badly to the pub and it was best if he would not walk on anymore. He arranged for a pickup with his dad. We said our good byes and I made the last few miles to Hornsea on my own. It was great having him along for 2 days and 2 nights. The chats, the company, seriously made a massive difference to my mental state. It was just good to have someone there. Chris made a massive journey up from London and had re-arranged holidays a d work to fit my advanced schedule. I honestly can’t say how much that meant to me and how much it helped! I seriously hope his feet recover quickly!

On the way to Hornsea I went back down to the beach for the last few miles. And this almost proved the wrong decision, as the tide was coming in and I was almost cut off at one point, having to scramble over some muddy cliff parts. At one point there was no escaping the sea and my boots got soaked. But I eventually made it to Hornsea just after5pm and found a cheap B&B for the night. I would have liked to camp again, but there was no campsite taking tents in Hornsea and I would not have made it much further out of the town that day. In the end, the comfort of a bed and a much needed shower were 2 plus points I could not ignore either.

I had my breakfast early on Wednesday and set off around 8:30. The sun came out yet again and I was on the last stretch of relatively flat coastline up towards Bridlington. It was a pretty uneventful day to be honest. I passed many, many caravan parks and walked straight through a few of them, as they go straight to the coast. Once I reached Bridlington thought I had a big grin on my face. Partially this was down to me eating my first ice cream of the year! But mostly it was because I could see the cliffs rising on the north-east side of the town and the view was truly awe inspiring!

I had lunch in Bridlington, which is a really nice town, with a lovely harbour. It was very busy on this sunny day and lots of people were eating fish and chips around the harbour wall. I was one of them! During my lunch break I checked my emails and found out that the youth hostel in Whitby was booked for the weekend. The reason: it was GOTH WEEKEND! This is typical. The one weekend I pass through Whitby had to coincide with the goth weekend! So a bit of frantic calling around to try and find some cheap accommodation and I finally booked into a decently priced B&B.

So I set off sufficiently nourished and the weekend sorted and I began the climb up to the cliffs. Straight away I knew that the next few days would be special. The scenery was amazing and the views from the high cliffs were absolutely spectacular! I walked out to Flamborough head and as I came around a wall of noise hit me. Massive amounts of birds are nesting in the cliffs on the north side of the head. I spotted Razorbills and Guillemots, but unfortunately no Puffins, which is a shame. The smell of fish was also overpowering – I guess from the stuff the birds feed on.

When I came passed Flamborough I decided to check with the campsite there to see how much they charged. 17 pounds. I think not! I went passed the town, and the campsite in fact, and a few miles on (just over the hills to make sure nobody saw me) I pitched my tent about 4 meters from the cliffs, right next to the path!

Had a wee chat with my mum on the phone and made some noodles before going to sleep early.

Waking up the next day was weird. It took me a while to get my bearings and realize I was that close to the cliff. But then the sun came out behind some clouds and the view was just gorgeous in the early light. I had some cold tea and a light breakfast and set off towards Scarborough.

Because it was quite warm from early in the morning I had strapped my fleece to the back of my pack. About 5 miles into the walk I realized it had fallen off. I walked back a few hundred meters but did not see it, and did not fancy tracking all the way back. So I will have to get a replacement this weekend in Whitby!

Once again the walk was amazing, walking along the cliffs and with the most spectacular views. I stopped often to take pictures. I reached Filey by lunchtime and that again is a gorgeous little seaside town. I went to a shop there and stocked up a little on food, as I was running low, then saw a sign at a pub advertising lasagne. Got a massive portion and a J2O for 5 quid, so I was very happy! They also filled up my water. With the sun out I definitely go through more water now. Need to carry more!

From Filey to Scarborough it was really just a short hike, but that hike involved a lot of hills and a lot of stairs. Even through Scarborough I had to get over quite some hills, including a very large one on the way to the campsite. I decided to camp at a site on Thursday as Alun Nixon was coming to meet up with me, and it would have been a bit hard for him to find me in the sticks!

As I got to the campsite, I was nearly dead. That last hill really had taken it out of me. And I must have looked it, because the chap who owns the place asked where I had walked from. So we ended up chatting a bit and when he found out I was doing a charity walk he decided to let me stay for free!

So I got to spend a night free of charge at the Jacobs Mount Campsite, which is a really lovely place with good facilities and it’s right above Scarborough, so it’s ideally placed!

I had a shower and wrote my diary and then Alun and Thomas came at 7:30 and we went into town for probably the best fish and chips I have ever had. Alun also brought my first care package along, which I had stored with him almost 2 months ago now. I got all my Scotland maps, my shorts (fingers crossed I’ll need them), some socks and a fresh set of baselayers.

Alun dropped me off around 9:30 again and I slept really well, as it was quite warm for the first time.

I got up really early, as I had a photo shoot with the Whitby Evening News at 9:30 in the harbour, which was about 3 miles away, and I did not want to be late. I got there a bit early, so I had a coffee and a slice of banana bread in a coffee shop. Did the photos on the beach and then I set off!

Around the castle I went and then along the north beach, before heading up a steep hill to re-join the Cleveland way.

I did not think the views could get any better, but they did. I was higher up than ever before (which also meant more steep climbs and sharp descents), and I could see for miles! I took quite a few breaks to take pictures, as I was not in a rush. I only had to cover about 15 miles to get to the Youth Hostel in Robin Hood’s bay. As it turned out though it was good I did not plan for a longer distance, because the hills meant my overall pace was a bit slower than usual.

I met a lot of really nice people along the way and I talked to lots of them for quite some time. It’s a great contrast to my experience of the Wash 2 weeks ago. It’s just nice to meet people and have a chat!

Later in the afternoon I came across a sheep on it’s side and in clear distress. I dropped my bag and ran back and across some fields to the nearest house. The women there called the farmer while I walked back to my bag. I sat down and had a snack and waited for the farmer to show up. When he did he lifted the sheep up and said it would be ok – it seemed to struggle a bit, but once he helped it up it seemed to be doing better. Apparently the winter up here had been quite hard and some of the sheep are still struggling to get some strength.

Around 4pm I passed Ravenscar, and once I got through it and over yet another hill I had the most spectacular view yet. Robin Hood’s bay was stretched before me, with the town perched onto the hillside on the far end. Spectacular. There is no other way to describe it.

I actually put my headphones on and listened to some Transatlantic Sessions as I made my way down the winding path from the hill towards Boggle Hole and the Youth Hostel there. I was whistling along and had a big grin on my face as I almost skipped down the path.

The Youth Hostel in Boggle Hole really is in a hole! It’s right at the mouth of a little stream that passes into the bay and is flanked on both sides by steep hills. The facility is brilliant! They got a bar going, they do evening meals and breakfasts! I opted to cook my last reserves for dinner but signed up for a full breakfast. I could see the beach and the ocean from the window in my dorm room! Loved it and can only recommend it to anyone – it’s a great base for some lovely walking in both directions and there is a lot to see in the area as well. There is even a surf school at Sandsend.

Saturday marked the 8th straight day of walking for me. It had been quite some time since my last rest day and I could feel it. Still I got up at 5:45 and headed downstairs to watch the qualifying of the Australian GP (yes I am that fanatic about it).Lewis Hamilton qualified 2nd and it looks like McLaren are on the right track! Can’t wait for the race on Sunday (and yes I will get up early again for it!)

 I had breakfast at 8am and packed up my gear shortly after. I had been using the dry room to dry out my tent, as it was still quite wet from a lot of dew from the day before, and it had dried out nicely (saves me unfolding it completely in the B&B hehe). I set off just after 9 and headed through Robin Hoods Bay village, which is just gorgeous. Well worth a visit if you ask me (it goes on my list, which is growing longer and longer) and I can’t recommend the Youth Hostel in Boggle Hole highly enough.

There was a steep hill that led through the village back onto the cliffs and the Cleveland walk, and that got me warmed up, and sweating slightly. I walked for about an hour before I reached sort of the highest point around and it was just around 10:20, so I decided to take a break and wait for the phone call from the BBC tees team for a live interview at 10:20. I had chosen my spot well as it was probably one of the few places I could get connection.

At 10:35 I got the call and was put on hold with some funky music before doing the interview. I was not really nervous anymore, as it was my 3rd BBC interview in 8 days and I had prepared, with Richard Bunting’s help, what I should talk about. The interview was going quite well and I was about to launch into my prepared part about climate change and biodiversity and how the UK is one of the countries in Europe with the least amount of woodlands when my bloody iphone decided it was time to do a re-boot. It’s been doing this on and off for about a month now, usually when I am on the phone to my parents, and it has nothing to do with battery (I was at 90% this morning). I was seriously angry and kicked a fence post – yes I hurt my toe. Of all the times it could do it, it chose the moment of a live interview. ARGH!!

Still nothing to be done about it now. I got a text message from Mike, the chap who interviewed me, saying it was ok and not to worry, so I set off towards Whitby. I let my frustration out by power walking. I had gotten quite cold anyway waiting around for so long, as the weather had turned and the warm sun had gone, so I needed a bit of exercise to warm back up.

I had expected to reach Whitby mid afternoon, but I came around another bend and over a hill and all of a sudden I could see the Abbey, which meant I was about 1 hour away. I sat down and had the rest of my smoked sausage and some cheese for lunch and called ahead to make sure the B&B was ready for me to check in, which they were.

So I headed past the ruins of the Abbey and into town and it could not be missed that it was goth weekend! I saw some weird and wonderful things on my way through the town, and it took me ages as the place was packed! Whitby seems like a gorgeous place, with lots of wee little alleys, coffee shops, little shops and tea rooms. It’ll be good to spend a day here and explore and see the sights and people.

The B&B I am at is ace, and I was lucky they had a cancelation for the single room. I was greeted by the owners, all dressed up for the goth weekend, and got a massive slice of fresh carrot cake and a large cup of tea and we had a bit of a chat before they showed me my room, which is lovely.

I went out in the early afternoon and stopped by the local co-op and Holland&Barrets, so I am all stocked up for food for the next week already and I have started doing the washing. I kind of like to get all the chores out of the way early, so I can then just sit back and relax, write the blog, do the pictures and enjoy the place I am at.

So it’s been a great week for me, both mentally and physically. The weather, the county and the people, as well as seeing Chris and Alun, have boosted my resolve and strengthened my believe in myself. After this week, for the first time really, I think I can actually do this. I know there will be hard times again and some downs, but this week has shown that overall this is all worth it, not just for Trees for Life and the exposure (and hopefully donations) they get, but also for myself and my experiences.

Here is to hoping there will be many more weeks like this!

Skegness to Hull – and live on BBC Radio

I had a lovely day off in Skegness. I did absolutely nothing! Well I washed my clothes, stocked up a bit on food and read my book. Also managed to watch the rugby and yet again Scotland lost. Really hope they don’t get the wooden spoon this year and beat Italy!

My dad called and we had a bit of a chat. He is feeling much better after his operation as well and he already got the stitches out. He reckons his scar is the same size as mine. That’s my dad – always competitive!

In the evening Gemma called as well and we had a good long chat and caught up on things. I was ready for the next week!

I set off before 9am on Monday and my target was Mablethorpe. Not too much of a stretch but I had planned this week pretty tightly, as I had to get past 2 major towns, Grimsby and Hull. I had a campsite sorted in Mablethorpe and one near Donna Nook for the next day, then the plan was to get self catering in Grimsby and another campsite in Barton before crossing the river and then passing Hull early and moving on towards Kilnsea, wild camping along the way.

Things did not turn out that way in the end, but I am getting ahead of myself.

The walk to Mablethorpe was brilliant. Despite some early mist, which lifted around lunchtime, I had a great time walking as it was all along the beach. I literally did not leave the beach once all the way from Skegness until I came into Mablethorpe. With the sun out, the walk was just gorgeous. I sat on the seawall for some lunch and met some lovely ladies walking their dogs and chatted to them for a while.

When I got to Mablethorpe and reached the campsite, it was only 4pm, but a plan was a plan. The campsite was rather basic and I almost turned around when I saw it, I have to admit. But the chap there was extremely nice. He was an old biker and he put on a great wood fire in an old oil drum for me in the evening to warm up. The site was technically still closed till easter, but when I called the day before he said I could pitch if I did not mind not having a shower. That was fine with me, I just wanted a safe place to camp. We had a great chat around the fire in the evening and in the end he charged me 2 pounds. Seriously sound chap!

Again I left early the next day and I had a really easy day ahead of me as well. My target was a campsite just south of Donna Nook. I did not fancy wild camping further north for 2 reasons: Donna Nook has a large RAF bombing range, which is patrolled, and further north of that the Lincolnshire police is still searching for body parts from a murder last week.

The walk itself was pretty unremarkable. The fog did not lift at all during the day and I lost complete track of where I was until I reached Saltfleet. I could not see more than a 50 to 100 meters and being right next to the sea meant I could not see any houses etc. further in and that makes orientation a bit hard.

I got to the campsite quite early and I would have liked to keep going, but a plan is a plan and I stuck to it. I pitched my tent and just read my book until it started getting dark. Then I enjoyed probably the hottest shower ever before heading to the pub down the road for a pint and to continue to read for a bit. I can’t wait for it to be lighter a bit longer, it will mean I can sit in my tent without torchlight a bit longer instead of sleeping at 7pm 🙂

Now there was a bit of news I got in via email on Tuesday night. Apparently BBC Radio Humberside was interested in doing a live interview with me on the Friday, in their studio in Hull. This sort of fit into my plan as I was thinking of passing through their anyway, and a quick look at the map showed I could make it from Barton, where I planned to stay the night before. But I kept thinking about alternatives and how I could best manage that. I decided to see how far I’d get by lunch time the next day and then make a call.

It was quite cold during the night and I have started putting my sleeping bag into my bivvy sack, to add another layer of insulation. That really helps I have to say and I was quite cosy. Still I woke up around 6am and so I was gone just after 7am. Again thick fog was everywhere!

I came past Donna Nook and did not see a single seal (apparently they pup there every year in November and December – I was hoping to at least see one chilling out somewhere!). I did see the targets of the bombing range and they were quite close. Also a lot of warning signs talking about explosives etc. very interesting!

Heading north towards Grimsby I came past Tetley lock. And that’s where I ran into some police and police diving units looking for body parts. They sort of blocked my access to the coastal path, but I did not want to bother them and took an alternate bridleway instead for a few miles until I came to a little village and through that back on the path I was meant to be on.

Just before I got into Cleethorpe the path went through a massive caravan site and I kinda got lost in there! It was a lovely Caravan park though, with waterways and little ponds and lots of birds. I managed to find my way out ok, but must have looked funny criss-crossing that place. Nobody stopped me though. Finally I came out at the Cleethorpe promenade walk and followed that past the pier. The town looked pretty miserable, as did Grimsby when I came through it. I am sure the weather had something to do with it, but a lot of things just looked derelict. I did pass the Young’s factory though, so whenever you eat a Young’s fish and chips, that’s where it’s from!

It was just after lunch now and it was way too early to stop. I ate a quick fish and chips near the seafront (since Chris Hardwick told me how good it would be) and it was alright – I am not a fish and chips expert! I liked it and it filled me up properly though, so I think that’s good!

I made a call after lunch and decided to move on. I still had a few hours of walking in me and figured if I get closer to the Humber bridge then that would give me less stress to meet the BBC on time. I cut straight through Grimsby to avoid all the factories and industry along the coast. I also just wanted to get out of the city. I have to say that I felt uncomfortable. Not sure if it is the time I spend in the countryside now or passing through little villages, but I am really uncomfortable now when I get into bigger towns and cities. I get a lot of odd looks and a lot of people (in particular drunks outside pubs or young people) seem to think funny comments about my walking poles are needed. I really just want to get out as quick as I can.

So in a way I was glad to find a footpath and follow it through some fields, away from industry and city noise. I followed country lanes, bridleways and even walked on a footpath next to the railway (beside a fence of course) for a while and it was actually nice, despite the mist .I managed a fair few miles after the good lunch and got near Thornton Abbey after 5pm and found a lovely and cheap B&B. I got cake and tea as soon as I came in, which was brilliant! And the people who own it, gave me the bigger room with a massive bathtub, so that was ace too!

Well, as some might have guessed by now, the plan I made on Sunday had changed! The BBC interview, though really scary, was a massive opportunity to spread the word about my walk and Trees for Life. So pushing further on Wednesday meant that I could cross the Humber on Thursday and arrive in Hull. I had decided to spend 2 nights in Hull and take the cost, to make sure I could reach the BBC on time and not smelling like 3 day camping. Having the interview in the late morning would also have meant I would not have gotten far out of the city after all was done, so I figured I’d take off Friday and walk Saturday and Sunday instead.

So Thursday morning I set off around 8:30 and I got a yoghurt snack bar from the lovely people at the B&B to help me along the way .I headed north-east back towards the coast. Some lovely walking along more country lanes and footpaths and they also meant I bypassed a massive oil refinery along the coast. I re-joined the coastal path north east of Goxhill and started to make my way towards the Humber bridge. There was still quite a thick mist hanging over the countryside, and I could barely make out Hull on the other side of the river. In a way it was a bit weird to see where I’d be stopping in the evening, that early in the day. It was literally just about 2 miles across from me, but I’d have to do around 15 more miles to get to it!

I walked through New Holland Dock, which has a large stockpile of timber all through it. I found it quite curious that it was all from Norway. I would have thought that the UK has timber enough! The smell was lovely though, fresh cut wood. Once past the dock, it did not take long before I could see the Humber bridge looming out of the mist. It was quite breath taking. It’s a massive bridge and I was a bit apprehensive about crossing it!

It took me another hour to get there and in that time the sun burned away the mist and my sunglasses came out again! I walked up the side of the bridge, following the bike path and set off across it! It took me about 30 minutes to walk the 1.5 miles across it! Quite an experience!

And so I passed into Yorkshire! I had a good time in Lincolnshire and saw some great scenery, but I have been looking forward to Yorkshire a lot. The east coast should be providing me with some awesome walking and fantastic views!

I followed the Trans Pennine way along the river, passed Hessel and into Hull. I passed some derelict fishing authority buildings and that’s where I met a Scottish guy sitting on the seafront. I said hello and we began chatting. He thought I was irish for some reason. He was rolling a joint and offered me some, as well as a beer. I declined both of course but I sat down and we had a chat. Really nice chap and he told me about him wanting to see his kids, but his ex wife would not let him since he was out of prison. I told him about my walk and he was really interested and apologized that he could not sponsor me, as he had no money on him, but he wished me well and hopes I raise a lot of money. All in all a bit of a surreal encounter, but really nice and it was great to chat to him.

I ended up walking too far along the coastal path and ended up having to get over a lock bridge and close to town centre and then backtrack to get to the hotel I had pre-booked. I walked past the BBC building though, so at least I knew where it was now.

I reached the hotel just after 5, so another long day of walking, and found it to be very basic, but perfectly acceptable for the price. The first thing I did was get some food around the corner, after that I spread out my tent, which still was wet from the mist and I put it out in front of the big radiator to dry it out as good as possible.

I got out a fresh set of clothing to make sure I was presentable for the BBC and called it a night fairly early as I was quite knackered!

So Friday morning dawned and I was up really early and getting nervous. I went into town around 9am and checked out where the local Black store was, as I was planning to stock up on OS maps and some camping stuff there later on. I had 2 coffees at the Costa in Waterstone’s and waited for the time to pass.

Just before 11 I walked into the BBC building and soon after was brought to a waiting room and given something to drink. By now I was seriously nervous and my hands were a bit clammy. I had never been on live radio before and just did not want to mess up. The live show with Lara King could be heard in the waiting room and just before the 11am news she mentioned she’d be talking to me after the news break. Was quite weird to be warned that way.

Lara was actually in the Grimsby studio, so I did not see her face to face, but rather talked to her via microphone and headphones. She asked me how I pronounced my surname – a familiar thing really and I tried my best to tell her but still it was not quite right when she introduced me, but better than most people manage!

Once I was actually talking I felt much better and Lara was very good in interviewing me and asking questions I felt comfortable answering. I managed to talk a bit about Trees for Life and Lara mentioned them as well in the end, so hopefully their exposure was good. The only thing I am a bit angry about with myself was that I could not find a way to actually promote my website or blog! Quite annoying, but then if people are interested I hope they’ll at least look up Trees for Life, and I hope that some people I meet along the way will have heard the radio show and recognise me.

So all in all a good experience and the people at the BBC were really nice and friendly and supportive. After the show I went to buy my supplies and then treated myself to a show in the cinema.

So now it’s back to packing my things and getting ready for a big hike tomorrow. I’ll aim to get out of Hull as fast as I can and head south-east towards Kilnsea and Spurn head as far as I can. I’ll be wild camping somewhere there along the coast of the Humber. Sunday should see me reach Kilnsea itself and then it’ll be up north along the Yorkshire coast – something I have been looking forward to for quite some time now! Another piece of great news is that Chris Hardwick will be joining me Sunday night and walk with me from the Kilnsea area, hopefully all the way to Whitby! So i’ll not be on my own for a week and, best of all, he is bringing a mini BBQ set and Whisky! I have a feeling this week will be good!

Heading south then north

Well in a way I am glad this week is over and I am resting up in Skegness. There was some lovely walking in it, but overall it was a very lonely week, walking along the coastal paths around the Wash and for 2 days I had very strong winds constantly blowing in my face, which made the going really tough. I also had a bit of a slump in energy in the middle of the week, which did not help. There were some points this week were I started to doubt my decision and my motivation was quite low. Thankfully though I had lots of nice messages and also some phone calls from my family and that quite literally kept me going. So there was also a bit of emotional, and not only geographical south then north.

Monday morning dawned bright and cool. There was not a single cloud in the sky and the sun was shining brightly. Still I was a bit sad leaving the youth hostel, as I had had a fabulous time and met some brilliant people. 2 of them, Helen and Keith, had even offered me a place to stay near Newcastle if I need it!

The youth hostel in Wells next the Sea is a really lovely place and I recovered well on my day off. I just watched some TV, read the newspaper and made some proper food. Really enjoyed cooking again I have to say!

Still I had to set off and I actually got quite an early start, setting off around 8:30 in the morning. When I reached the harbour, to re-join the Norfolk Coastal path, I saw a sign that indicated it was 23 miles to Hunstanton, my next target. It was a bit disheartening I have to say, knowing exactly how far I had ahead of me, but the weather was on my side and so I set off.

The first few miles I was walking through a gorgeous pine wood right next to the sea. I chose to walk in the wood as the path was nice and soft, but solid, which is much nicer than the soft sand on the beach. With the sun out I first got rid of my fleece and not long after I packed up my jacket for the first time since I started! Walking with just the baselayer was really nice! After a while I had to make my way through some dunes and then the path went inland near Burnham. Had to do a bit on the road and then I was back on the coastal path heading out into the dunes. The path continued to meander inland, then back out to sea for quite some time, and that’s where the extra miles come from (it’s only 16 miles on the road from Wells to Hunstanton).

By the time I reached Brancaster around 1pm I was starving so I sat down on a bench and munched lots of dried fruits, an oat bar, an apple and 2 cross buns! Dried fruits have become a big part of my diet now, totally love them! Apricots, pineapple and mango are my favourite.

From Brancaster I had to follow the road a bit, as the coastal path seemed to discontinue for a while. The road was not too busy and the going was quite good. I was quite thirsty though after lunch and when I saw a sign for an orchard farm shop I decided to stop and treat myself to a small bottle of fresh apple juice! The shop was fantastic! Fresh produce and lots of local products, and probably the best apple juice ever! The place even had a restaurant in a Yurt! Unfortunately not enough time to try it out though! I got chatting with the owner, who saw my backpack and after telling him what I was up to, he said “I admire you, and I think you are mad!” before proceeding to give me some fresh local apples and a large bottle of apple juice to help me on my way! The place was called Drove Orchards  and was just west of Thornham.

Sufficiently refreshed and stocked up with goodies I took a right turn shortly after the shop and headed back to join the coastal path, which, after a few more miles, brought me to Hunstanton. I passed by the disused lighthouse and into the town, making my way to the south end and the campsite I checked to be open the day before. As I got there I found it was 18 pounds to pitch the tent for the night! Apparently I would have had access to the swimming pool and all sorts of stuff, but I thought the rate, out of season, for a small tent was just madness. I left again and headed back north into town and found myself a B&B instead. The chap there made me a good deal and for 7 pounds more I now had a roof over my head and a full English waiting for me in the morning. Some prices really are out of proportion I have to say! But in the end I was quite glad as the forecast predicted up to -5 degrees during the night.

I set off just before 9am on Tuesday morning and I had a comparatively leisurely walk ahead of me. After the massive hike from the day before, the 18 miles to King’s Lynn were just a little stroll. I walked along the coast for the first part of the journey and got to chat to some nice people along the seafront. Despite some frequent stops to chat, I made really good progress as my pace was quite high. I covered more than 5 miles in just over an hour. There is no real coastal path south of Hunstanton anymore, so at points I decided to head inland along dirt roads and woodland paths, rather than risk getting stuck in the marshes. So it was a bit of a mixed walk today, along the coast, through woodlands and also along some roads for a while.

The day was really quite uneventful and there are only 2 things worth mentioning. I ran out of battery on my camera, which was rather stupid of me as I just forgot to charge the thing last night. The other thing was a small detour I made to look at a castle in a place called Castle Rising, only to find the place closed still, which was a shame. But I would not have been able to take pictures anyway!

I arrived in King’s Lynn around 5pm and thankfully found a Waterstone’s store, so I stocked up on OS maps for the next 100 miles or so. Not cheap, but after my experience in the Essex and Suffolk area, I feel much more comfortable to have the charts with me, rather than set off blind. I also found a Holland and Barrets and got a new load of Trek and Protein bars! Lucky as some were on sale for half price as they will be off in 2 weeks – but I’ll have eaten them long before then!

King’s Lynn also marks the southern most point I’ll be at for quite some time now. It was weird heading south for the last 2 days, considering I have such a long way north to go, but from now on it’ll be north all the way for the next few months!

On Wednesday the weather had changed a bit. It was a cloudy and windy day as I headed out of King’s Lynn. I crossed the river and headed north along the Peter Scott walk and into the Wash Nature Reserve.

From the start I did not feel too well. I had no energy really and I was quite tired. Could not think of any particular reason really as I had eaten enough the last few days and I was not feeling sick. Just not really motivated at all for some reason.

The wind was quite strong and as I was zig sagging along the coastal walk it was partially straight in my face, so that started sapping my strength even further. I decided to put my headphones on and listen to some Tool, which did the trick and kept me going. Though I have to say I was tempted to just pitch my tent and call it a day several times.

I had lunch sitting on the bank of the coastal walk and watched a few jet planes doing an air ballet over the bombing range, which is just offshore from the wash. Was quite spectacular and kept me entertained nicely (no live bombs were dropped, so no danger!).

It also was quite a lonely day and I did not meet a single person until I got close to Sutton Bridge, which was mid afternoon. The first person I did meet offered me a lift across the bridge, as it still was a good 2 or 3 miles to the bridge and I had to cover the same distance on the other side of the river once I crossed it. I have to say I was tempted but declined and explained to the nice woman why.

My feet were hurting quite a lot today as well, which I think was down to doing a few miles along the road yesterday. In the end I decided to call it a day early and stopped around 4:30 in the afternoon. I made myself some noodles and finished the rest of my tea and took care of my feet as well. Had a call from my parents who lifted my spirits quite a bit and then went to bed early, hoping for a better day the next morning.

On Wednesday I set off fairly early again. I generally wake up really early when camping and then I am still a bit nervous about getting “caught”, so I pack up and leave as soon as I can. It was more of the same. Really strong winds along the coastal path of the Wash and the views had not changed at all from the day before. I felt a bit stronger though and had more energy, so once again I put my headphones on, this time listening to Seth Lakeman, and just got on with it.

Just after midday I followed the next river inland again to the first bridge crossing. The wind was now fully in my head and I got buffeted around a lot, every step I took felt like 2. When I finally reached the bridge I was really glad. I called at the pub there, which was a lovely little inn called The Ship, and had a J2O and an amazing sausage and stilton baguette, both together less than 6 quid! After lunch I crossed the bridge and now I was smiling. Heading back out towards the sea meant I now had the wind in my back and the going was a lot easier.

I walked for another 2 hours or so and ended up a few miles south of Boston. I found a perfect spot for my tent, right in a bend of the earth wall that is the sea defence, and that meant I was sheltered from the wind. I pitched the tent and opted for a cold dinner as I had warm lunch. I ate a protein bar, some dried fruits and had the rest of my tea before crawling into my sleeping bag.

During the night it rained once or twice for a little bit, but not heavy and the dawn was bright with the sun coming up right over the wash. It was cold, but I had a quick breakfast and packed everything up then set off along the rest of the Macmillan way towards Boston.

In Boston I popped into a Nero coffee shop and had a large cup of peppermint tea and the staff there was kind enough to refill my thermos with hot water, so I was able to make tea later.

Due to my early start I had set myself a bit of an ambitious goal. I was aiming for a campsite near Wainfleet, which meant my daily total would be around 22/23 miles. It was nice going along the coastal paths initially. The wind had died down and the sun was out at times, but then the path sort of stopped and I had to track inland, as I did not want to risk following the seawall and getting lost in the marshes. So I headed straight north along some country lanes and barely used B roads.

I reached the campsite just before darkness and set up my tent and had a much needed shower. Made some more noodles and found one of the pecan bars I had bought 2 weeks ago at the bottom of the backpack – pleasant surprise.

At this point I have to say I was really really tired and mentally a bit depressed. I guess that came out in my facebook update because my parents called and asked if everything was alright. It was good to talk to them and they both cheered me up and encouraged me. I was really glad that I had left the Wash behind me and was heading back to more varied and interesting coastline. Once I was snug in my sleeping bag and knowing I had a day off coming up and only a short hike to Skegness the next day, I started to feel better. Don’t get me wrong by the way, the Wash is an amazing part of the coast, and I saw lots of birds and other animals. I am sure the Peter Scott way and the Macmillan way are gorgeous to walk in the summer, just don’t be on your own, because there literally is nothing around you.

Saturday morning dawned with overcast skies and it got quite chilly during the night. I was not freezing in my Vango sleeping bag, but it got cold and I had to really draw the hoody of the sleeping bag around my head. Also sleeping with my hat on.

I opted to stay in the sleeping bag a bit longer. Being at a proper campsite I was not worried about being chased off, so I only got up around 7:30 and left the site shortly after 8. I only had a 12 to 14 mile hike ahead of me to Skegness so I wanted to take it easy.

I followed a river into Wainfleet and then followed a road for a little bit, before cutting right and following another river towards the Lincolnshire coast. There are not really any marked footpaths, so I just followed country lanes and farm tracks. Until I got to a blocked farm track that had a sign on it saying “No access. Active Airfied.” I was puzzled. I checked my OS map, thinking I might have gone wrong, but there was no airfield marked anywhere near where I thought I was. I also could not really see an airfield. So I decided to hop the fence and go for it. As it turned out there was an airfield. Though I would not call it that. The local farmer had a little grass landing strip next to one of his fields and he used it for ultralights. So I felt better and continued on, speeding up a bit just in case though.

Once through that I only had to cross a coastal B road and then I was back on the beach, just north of Gibraltar Point. The final few miles into Skegness were spent walking along the beach, with the sun coming out and warming things up nicely. I also enjoyed the views of 2 large wind farms just offshore of Skegness – always a welcome sight!

So thankfully the week ended quite well, with an easy days walking in the sun. All my clothes will be washed this weekend and all batteries fully recharged as well. I’ll also be taking advantage of the wireless where I am and plan the next week or 2 ahead as much as I can, finding possible camping spots or campsites where necessary. But tonight I’ll be relaxing with a pint and watching the FA cup match between Arsenal and Manchester UTD.

The first month has passed

Well where was i? Ah yes Great Yarmouth! Seems like ages ago and as time moves on I am finding it harder and harder to figure out what day it is and where I was! I am glad I am keeping a journal to remember all the things I see and come across!

It’s also hard to believe that the first month has passed! Fair enough it’s February and there are only 28 days in the month, but still, today is the 6th of march and it’s exactly a month ago that I set off from Brighton! A lot has changed in that month and I covered close to 400 miles so far! I also lost about 6kg and I certainly got a lot fitter – most of that lost weight I gained after my operation back in September and the fact that I was quite lazy over winter, so unfortunately my beer belly is still there, but I hope that’ll go sooner or later! My beard is coming on as well, though i doubt i’ll get such a magnificent beard as Rupert has!

I have to say this week has been very good. I had a feeling it would be, as I was very much looking forward to hitting the coast again and as I did, my pace increased and so did my enjoyment. It has been a great walk up the Suffolk and Norfolk coast and I made really good progress.

On Thursday I walked out of Great Yarmouth and it took quite some time to leave the city behind. It’s stretched along the coast for quite some distance. Once again the wind was blowing in my face quite strongly and it was really cold again. But another dry day, and that’s got to count for something! I have to admit I was on autopilot for most of the day. I just sort of walked and caught myself thinking through the entire plot of the movie “2012” (god knows why, because it’s a terrible movie) and I was trying to think of everything that happened. Before I knew it, it was after lunch and I had done around 12k.

I walked a lot along the beach, which was lovely, but at times the sand was quite soft, which slowed progress and took a lot of my strength. I passed quite a few seaside towns and villages, with lots of closed down arcades and tourist attractions. I am sure these towns look nice in summer, but at the moment they feel like ghost towns.

I had looked at the map and decided to try and get towards Sea Palling, and camp just before that. The area looked clear enough on the map and the area after did not, and I was determined not to repeat my mistake of walking too far and being forced to find accommodation. So as 4pm came along I started looking for likely campsites. I decided that 4pm was going to be a decent cut off time (at least for now until it’s getting dark later) to balance distance covered with sensible camping. I came across a nice stretch of dunes about 3 miles south Sea Palling and decided to pitch up. It was not ideal, as it meant I had longer to walk the next day, but I was not going to let a good camp spot go wasted.

After the tent was up I made some soup and had dinner, then read until it was proper dark and went to sleep very early. I slept quite well and was comfy inside my sleeping bag and out of the wind. Only in the wee hours of the morning did it get a bit chilly, but nothing too bad. I got up around 6:30 and was off by 7:30 after breakfast and packing my gear.

On Friday I had a bit of a mission. I had to get to West Runton, which is just west of Cromer, and because I had stopped early it meant I had to do about 23 miles, that’s about 37km! The reason I had to make it that far was because I had a bed waiting for me there! Rupert and Helen, from the Trees for Life family, had offered to put me up for a night and the thought of a warm bed and some home cooked food definitely spurred me on.

The walking itself was brilliant! The wind had died down over night and it was not really as cold anymore. Once I reached Sea Palling I bought some fresh bakery goodness, orange juice and some bananas and had breakfast on the beach. Finally I got a signal on my mobile as well and received a lovely message from my brother, cheering me on and up, just the thing I needed in the morning! From there I also just walked straight on the beach. The sand was well compacted and the tide was out, so the walking was easy and I felt like I was on a highway and my pace was outstanding! The miles just passed by really quickly!

I spotted my first seal that day! I had never seen a seal in the wild before and I was totally thrilled! It was just floating in the surf, occasionally diving down a bit then popping it’s head up. Could not get a proper picture of it, but I felt really elated just by watching it – they are gorgeous creatures!

I left the beach near Overstrand and joined the cliff path again. I do like to alternate walking on the beach and on the cliffs, just to get different views and see different things. Walking along the coastal cliff path into Cromer was brilliant; the views were spectacular and the scenery just beautiful. I took a few more pictures, including some of the lighthouse, before heading down into town – and what a gorgeous town it is!

From Cromer I had to do about another 2 miles along the beach to get to West Runton. The first mile was great along packed sand, but the last mile of the day was along pebbles. Having walked from 7:30 in the morning, and it now was going on towards 5pm, that last bit really took everything of me out of me and I was glad when I met Rupert coming towards me on the country lane leading from the village to the beach.

Once at Rupert and Helen’s I got a hot cup of peppermint tea (Rupert had been reading my blog) and Helen was busy making fresh baked pizza! I could not believe it! I LOVE pizza! I had a lovely hot bath, soaking my feet after a long day, and after pizza and some fresh made chocolate and banana cake we played some card games, which was great! I even won the first game, though I am not sure if they let me win!

That evening really showed just how great Trees for Life really is. Apart from the amazing work that charity does in terms of conservation and creating natural habitats, it is also a fantastic way of meeting new people and making friends for life. I had never personally met Rupert or Helen before, but he is a focalizer and volunteer for TFL and when he heard about my challenge they immediately stepped up and offered their spare room. That sort of thing really just shows how amazing the people involved with Trees for Life are and that the charity is about much more then planting trees. I am glad I am able to do this walk in their name and with all your help, hopefully contribute to their continued success.

Rupert and Helen had also offered that I could spend the weekend at theirs and I have to say I was sorely tempted! But when I woke up on Saturday I felt great and looking out the window, the weather seemed good as well! So I decided to pack up and do another day of walking! I filled my thermos with lovely peppermint tea and got a big slice of the cake to take with me and after a hearty breakfast I set off towards Wells.

I left a bit later than normal, so I knew it was going to be a bit of a push to reach Wells, where I hoped to camp at a campsite that I knew to be open. Initially the going was really good. I stocked up on fresh fruit and OS maps in Sheringham and joined the Norfolk Coastal path there. I made decent progress for about 5 miles or so, but then the path turned from a lovely grassy cliff path to sand and pebbles. My nemesis had returned. It also started to rain a bit and the wind blew in additional spray from the sea. Now I was starting to regret declining the offer to spend the weekend with Rupert and Helen! The footpath went inland near Cley and I decided to stop at the local bird watch visitor centre, where I had a pot of blueberry tea and a fresh scone with butter! The centre was packed with people and I had seen lot of people with cameras and telescopes all over the coast and marshes looking for birds. The visitor centre itself was a great building as well! All eco friendly with rain water collection, a living roof and it’s own wind turbine! Great stuff!

As I left the rain had stopped and so my mood improved markedly! I had to follow the road for a bit, before re-joining the coastal path. So I walked through the town of Cley, which is absolutely lovely! There are so many nice looking towns and villages all along the Norfolk coast, and I think I’ll be visiting some of them again in the future. Gorgeous old cottages, small little shops and tea rooms – it honestly feels like time has stood still in these places. The surrounding countryside is just stunning and there are numerous paths to walk, not just the coastal paths. I think for any walker, cyclist or any other outdoor person Norfolk, as well as Suffolk, is an ideal holiday destination, even at this time of year.

The last stretch of the day towards Wells next the Sea was all along the coastal path, which was actually a bit inland, as the bit between the sea and the path was salt marshes and nature reserves. Amazing views, particularly with the sun going down, vast areas of reeds, little lakes and lots of birds.

On my OS map I had spotted that Wells had a Youth Hostel, so I changed my plans from camping to staying there for 2 nights and take Sunday off. I reached the Hostel just as the sun came down and thankfully they had space for me, as I don’t think I could have gone much further! Sharing a 4 bed room with 2 really nice guys who are here on holiday for some walking and we had a bit of a chat!

This morning I went to a local café for some breakfast and then bought some veggies and blue cheese to make myself a lovely lunch and dinner today! I have not properly cooked since I left my flat in Guildford, so I am looking forward to make Leek, Carrot and blue cheese pasta today! Other than that I will just be relaxing, reading the paper and hopefully be watching Countryfile tonight!

Next up will be Hunstanton and then King’s Lynn, then it’s up north properly again!

Now here is a call for help (of sorts!): I have been asked by quite a few people now why I  don’t have a little flag on my backpack! That could help identify me as someone on a charity walk. So if anyone can help me out with this, that would be great! I am thinking of having one of those little flags, on a little stick, that I can attach to my backpack (sort of sticks out on the top), that has the Walking for Trees logo on it and says something along the lines of “Walking the Coast of Britain for Charity”. If anyone would be able to know how to get this done, please get in touch and we can sort out details and logistics to send it somewhere!

Suffolk to Norfolk

Another county done and time for an update!

The break in Woodbridge was great. I have recovered really well, sorted out  my feet and enjoyed a nice time in the town. I took a stroll along the riverfront and took quite a few pictures (they are on facebook), then watched the Rugby and the Carling Cup. Unfortunately Arsenal lost- once again no Silverware! Well 3 competitions left this year!

I also had some lovely phone calls in the evening. Gemma called and we caught up on how things are, then my dad called and updated me on his shoulder and then Doug called as well, doing his weekly checking up on me! All 3 calls really lifted my spirits and it was great to hear what they all had been up to as well. I really just love to hear other people stories and news these days. Being in my own little world, and not catching up regularly with friends means I really enjoy every little bit of news and gossip I get.

On Monday morning I started walking just before 9am. As I walked through town I came by the little delicatessen shop that belongs to the Waterfront café, where I had been for soup on Saturday. The owner, Patrick, spotted me walking past and helped me on my way with a very tasty pasty, which I had later on for lunch!

Walking out of Woodbridge along the river was quite nice, but it was chilly and overcast. I just had to follow a road for a little while before I reached the vast woodlands east of the river. The rest of the day I enjoyed lovely walks along well kept paths through some stunning forests. The trees also kept the wind out and gave me shelter from the occasional showers when taking a break.

My target was the Youth Hostel in Blaxhall, just west of Snape and I got there a little early and had to wait for them to open at 5pm. I decided to call at the local pub for a half pint and had the great pleasure of some awesome live music and a roaring fire to warm me up (it had really started to get cold in the afternoon). I met a chap called Jeff, who loved the fact that I was Austrian and he was a big Formula 1 fan. So he knew all about Nikki Lauda. In fact he explained that in London, where he was from, Nikki Lauda is slang for powder (cocaine) and he kept saying to me “Gimme the Nikki Lauda mate!” – I was in stitches!

The youth hostel itself was very nice and it was almost empty, so I had a 6 bed room all to myself. Made myself some tea and had some food before chilling out in front of the TV. Went to bed fairly early as I wanted to get an early start and hit the coast!

In the morning I got to chat to a chap in the youth hostel kitchen. He works for a company that organizes walks for tourists and was in the area to scout some new walks. He seemed quite impressed with my undertaking and on the other hand I was quite jealous of his leisurely 6 mile walk he had planned for the day!

I left just before 9am and I was full of energy. The weather was the same as the day before, so a bit chilly and overcast, but nothing was going to dampen my spirits! I was on my way to the coast again! The walk from Blaxhall through Snape and towards Aldeburgh was lovely. Nice woodlands and some gorgeous paths meant I covered the 6 r 7 miles in around 2 hours. Once I came over the hill, near the Aldeburgh church, I could see the ocean again and I was damn close to just shouting out in joy! I quickly made my way down the hill and dropped my bag on the nearest bench and celebrated with an extra large lion bar and a cup of tea right next to the town hall, which is a magnificent building.

After a good break I set off north along the coast. One thing became clear right away: being in the open, next to the sea, meant I was now properly exposed to the elements again and the fierce cold wind hit my face strongly. My paramo jacket seriously kept me warm and dry though and I pulled up the hoody to expose as little as possible of my face. I felt like I was trekking in the arctic at times!

The great thing about walking next to the coast is that every step is in the right direction. There is no backtracking or criss-crossing along various footpaths. The sea to my right, the land to my left, there is only one direction to go. It’s awesome!

I quickly passed Sizewell and the massive power station there and headed towards Dunwich where I had another short break and had some food. The plan was to camp around that area, but it felt it was still too early to stop and I still had quite a bit of energy, so I kept going. This turned out to be a little mistake, as the campsite in Southwold turned out to be still closed and the area along the beach before then proved to be unsuitable for camping – it was either pebbles directly on the beach, or a marsh land on the other side of the ditch. Should have stopped earlier really. I ended up walking the last 2 miles in darkness and was really lucky to find a cheap place. Always lessons to be learned I guess!

Overall though a great day and after 21 miles I still felt quite good and would have been ready for a few more. The only thing that stopped me was the fact it had gotten dark already! No pains, no blisters – don’t want to jinx it, but I think my body might now be properly getting in shape for this and I am really hitting my stride!

The wind was still blowing quite fiercely the next day as I set off north along the beach. The walking was great, just being on the beach felt fantastic, but walking in the sand often meant progress was a bit slower. It’s nice and soft, so good for my feet, but I just can’t walk as fast.

I saw some cool sights along the way, tree stumps in the waves, birds and some great scenery inland. Unfortunately there was also a massive amount of rubbish in some areas, particularly underneath cliffs along towns. People really seem to think they can just dump entire bin bags down the cliff. Quite sad really.

I had lunch in Lowestoft, which is the eastern most town in Britain, and I also reached Ness point, which is the eastern most point! So one of the 4 compass directions done, 3 to go! The next will be in Scotland – so quite a way to go!

I was thinking quite a lot about my old work place today. I had gotten some text messages late last week and was thinking about my former colleagues and my friends there. I really do miss them I have to say. Not that I miss sitting in an office, in front of a computer, but I do miss the banter and fun we had. I hope they are all doing well and not working too hard!

I walked into a little town north of Lowestoft around 3pm and was planning to stay at a camp site there and call it an early day. Unfortunately, even though their website said they were open in March, it turned out they will only open this weekend! Needless to say I was a bit aggravated by that. I looked at my map and decided to press on a bit and hope to find a good wild camp spot, but as I came closer and closer to Great Yarmouth I still could not find anything suitable. In the end I walked into Yarmouth around 5pm and checked into the hostel. Quite glad to be honest as it’s freezing outside and the wind is still not letting off. I am sure I’d have been quite cosy in my sleeping bag, but I am using the chance to wash some clothes and give my feet some extra care again after 2 days of long walks!

Going to do some proper route planning tonight for the next few days and will try to make sure I don’t always end up near a town towards the end of the day. Even if that means longer breaks or stopping a bit early. It’s got to be a mix between progress and avoiding major settlements at the end of the day.

That’s it for now! I am still a bit ahead of schedule and have already passed into Norfolk now.