I am so chuffed that my next walk will bring up 100 days of walking for the BHF and for my own wanderlust. According to my spreadsheet, I will have walked nearly 1300 miles so that’s averaging a half marathon a day though I know I have walked a lot more. To have walked from London to John O Groats along the coast is a mad thought and one that still makes me smile
Obviously, it hasn’t gone to plan with stops for illness and a rethink about how to tackle NW Scotland safely but now I am back, I realise it will rarely go to plan and actually I am very good at adjusting to what the world and this walk throws at me.
Day 099 is a great example. I spent an hour the night before looking through the route, finalising the public transport back and forward and even checking a satellite map of the area to make sure the route would work. It didn’t.
An industrial estate with footpaths was one of the options to get to Irvine (blue line) but I soon found out that my maps bared no resemblance to the landscape. Dodgy looking buildings with high security fences soon gave way to barren fields and I didn’t realise that the huge fence separating me to the shoreline had in fact surrounded me. Path after path led to gates and viscous barbed wire. What was this place?
My bewilderment increased when I saw thousands of oyster shells surrounding an area that looked like an alien landing site.
I had gone too far to walk back by then so looked at a possible escape from this odd environment. I found a gap in the fence, clumped my forehead on a metal bar as I went through and surveyed my new surroundings.
I could now get to the bridge that my map said would lead me to a road. I got to the bridge after half a mile of trampling stinging nettles and the like to find it had a 4 foot barrier of pipes. Undeterred, the “heroic” me (or stupid), climbed the massive construction (remember 4 foot is high for someone scared of heights) and walked across the disused bridge across the estuary.
At the other end was a huge fence so I was presented with two options – go back or walk north up the estuary. There was no road as my map had suggested so I walked a mile up the edge of the water, mostly in seaweed.
I then was able to find a gap in the fence and with the help of two branches as walking poles, made my way up the 10 foot mound and pass through the fence. I gingerly got down the other side. I had escaped !!
I followed my map and compass and headed through dense forest, tripping and swearing every so often. After 5 minutes my map said there would be a path very soon. I found another fence. Aarrgh. I walked along the fence, my trousers soaked with dew from the high grass and all of a sudden I heard a huge cheer.
Puzzled, I thought for a fraction of a second that I was involved in a reality TV challenge or the Crystal Maze. It was in fact the golf course I was heading towards. If only these people knew there was a tired, wet, bitten and stung coastal walker a few hundred yards away.
My spirits were raised at the thought of civilisation, that is if you can call people in fancy dress hitting a ball around a field, civilised! Sorry golfers, just don’t get it. Golf is a good walk spoiled – Mark Twain.
I sped up through the brambles, thistles and strange plants hoping that I wasn’t penned in again. Eventually I saw another fence blocking me in. I shouted a swear word. Use your imagination. But as I approached the fence I saw another gap. Was there someone in front of me with a pair of plyers? This was the third fence I had to get through, I was now an expert.
My map was now saying a path was underneath me. I started moving forwards and all of a sudden, out of the growth, I noticed tarmac just beyond the next tree. Was this a mirage?
I excitedly kicked and trampled the foliage and sped up at the sight. I was now about three feet from it when my right foot fell down a hole. I stumbled onto the floor and pulled my saturated right boot out of the ground, my arms literally touching the tarmac.
The tarmac led me, one squelch at a time, under the railway line and onto the cycle path to Irvine (red on the map and maybe what I should have done)
I had survived with a bruised forehead, cuts, bites, scratches and a wet foot. I finished the day reflecting that it could have been so much worse.
Today, I woke up aching all over and a sore hip so decided not to walk.
If I am fit tomorrow, I will have walked 100 days with Day 099 being one of the most memorable!!
Kieran “adventurer (ahem)” Sandwell