My love of walking started at a very early age. As a young child, I would challenge myself to walk further and further from my house each time, revelling in the excitement of discovering new streets or play-parks and feel a huge sense of achievement on being able to then navigate my way back home.
As an adult these adventures continued, though on a much wider scale of course, I loved travelling to new parts of the UK and discovering unfamiliar places. However, these adventures became very tainted as they were fuelled with drink and drugs and became more about running away from myself than about immersing myself in somewhere new. Eventually, my ability to travel was taken from me by a thick, dark cloud of depression and anxiety.
Since I began my road to recovery in 2010, my passion for walking and adventure has returned with a childlike innocence and excitement. Being set free from the dark prison of anxiety, I feel like I am seeing places through the eyes of my childhood self all over again, the thrill of stepping foot in an unknown town and navigating my way around, the overwhelming joy of turning a corner and having every single one of my senses come alive in response to breath-taking sights and scenery. Even more joyful is re vising the places I travelled to during my “geographical’s”, (a term we use in our recovery fellowship to describe moving to new locations to try to solve our issues rather than facing them). Being able to revisit these places with fresh eyes and a fresh mindset, reflecting on the past and how far I’ve come, is a delight in of itself. Now, walking has become a huge part of how I stay mentally well.
However, of late I have had a lot of emotional blows, meaning that my mental health has taken a bit of a downturn. More surprising and rather alarming to me, is that my anxiety has returned. Due to this. over the last few months I have been finding it increasingly hard to motivate myself to get outside and I am constantly finding excuses to stay indoors and isolate. I need to work hard to address this now before it escalates out of control.
For this reason, I am setting myself a mission to encourage myself to get outside and to challenge the anxiety. This mission is to walk the entire coastal path of mainland UK. I am not setting a deadline for this, or a schedule, timeline or mileage goal. I am just going to walk it in sections over time until its done and document it on the way in film and in writing.
Everything I share across all my blogging and vlogging platforms, is based around the topic of recovery and self-development and this will new venture will be the same. I will walk this journey with the purpose of taking care of my mental health and to challenge the anxiety. A lot of times I will be revisiting places from the past, from times when I was very mentally unwell and when I was using drink and drugs to medicate myself. Revisiting these places will be a valuable opportunity to reflect on the past and to use it for new growth and I will share my reflections with you when I do so.
Logistics of the walk
I am still working out how I am going to tackle the completion of this walk, other than knowing I will first start with the south west coast path and that I will be completing it’s 630 miles in sections. I like to do things in order and that part of me wants to complete the sections in the “proper” clockwise direction, starting in Minehead and finishing in Poole. The other part of me feels It would be best to start on my doorstep, completing the path in sections on either side of me. Doing it this way, it would make sense to break it into two phases, first traveling anticlockwise in sections from Dawlish to Minehead and then travelling clockwise in sections from Dawlish to Pool. Maybe I am overthinking it?! I would welcome anyone’s thoughts on this and will update about my decisions in due course.
Rules of the walk
Walking should of course be a chance to be free of rules and constrains, but for the purpose of completing this challenge I need to set out my own definitions of what completing a walk of the entire UK coastline means. I have read numerous blogs of people walking the coast and from those I have come up with the following rules for my own walk:
- I will walk mindfully and in tune with nature, using the opportunity for mental, emotional and spiritual growth
- I will walk as close to the coast as possible as long as it is safe and legal to do so, using footpaths and roads when it isn’t
- I will start each section I walk at the place I finished at in my previous walk
- I will not use public transport other than for travelling to and from my start and finish points. This means I will also walk the sections that are not so scenic or where I have to walk further away from the coast if it’s not accessible
- When I meet a river or estuary I won’t cheat by going around it on public transport, I will cross it using a bridge or ferry, if neither are available I will cross at the nearest and safest public crossing point
- I will exclude islands and peninsulas as part of the challenge but I may decide to walk them if possible