I expect that there are some walkers who start from ‘the cradle’ but most like me, probably start later in life, after more arduous sports.
My main sport, Golf, wasn’t very arduous, but very rewarding, until my handicap started going up, and up, and up…until the game became too frustrating and not at all enjoyable and so the clubs went up in the loft and there they have stayed!
My first long distance walk was The Cotswold Way which I did with a good friend in my early 40’s. The hundred miles took us just over 6 days which wasn’t at all bad, considering I reckoned, there was about 10000 feet of ascent. I later heard that this was actually 14000 feet and the route, now a national trail has recently been measured with a GPS and it comes out at just under 16000 feet of ascent, which makes it one of the most exacting in the country.
When I took early retirement from my business in the timber trade, I had more time, and walking became my major interest, just ahead of Tennis, Bridge, collecting Antiquarian maps and books, and last but not least ‘Pub Hunting’.
Indeed friends often ask me: ‘Which is the more important the pub or the walk? I normally reply ‘It’s a very close run thing!’
After The Cotswold Way, I completed a number of other long distance walks including my all time favourite: The Offa’s Dyke Path and and The Cambrian Way, which crosses nearly every mountain range in Wales with over 50000 feet of ascent, definitely the most demanding walk I shall probably ever do!
It was on The Coast to Coast walk that my friend Vivian Cowle pointed out that Wainwright said, at the end of the book, ‘You don’t always need to follow in my steps- get out a map or two- and sort out your own trail’
So we did! And instead of John of Groats to Lands End we walked from Cape Wrath to Cape Cornwall. This took us nearly five years in weekly stages. The walking down the western side of Scotland was really interesting and since the whole route is logged, it may yet make an interesting book!
It was after this that I joined The Long Distance Walking Association (LDWA) and although I don’t particularly enjoy their challenge walks which I find rather too competitive I have made a number of new friends and greatly enjoy the long social walks. It is almost worthwhile being a member just to receive their magazine ‘Strider’ which is published three times a year and has a wealth of information in it’s 100 plus pages.
They also publish a comprehensive handbook covering details of all the long distance paths in the country. Two of my walks, The Ross Round and The Palladian Way, are in the latest edition as well as on the LDWA website.