... and 56: Coastal char­ac­ters

Take in­spi­ra­tion this month from Peter Mears, 35, from Har­ro­gate, who since April 2017 has been walk­ing ev­ery inch of Bri­tain and Ire­land’s 14,000-mile coast – house, hob and hopes on his back.

Country Walking Magazine (UK) - - Contents -

You started at main­land Bri­tain’s most northerly point, Dun­net Head; where are you right now?

I’m on the edge of a cliff halfway be­tween Land’s End and St Ives. It’s been an ab­so­lutely beau­ti­ful day and thanks to the kind­ness of strangers yes­ter­day I have an ex­tra tub of home­cooked food and a warm heart from their gen­eros­ity.

What ‘pre­vi­ous’ have you got in walk­ing?

Most hol­i­days I’ve ever taken have been a mix of wild camp­ing and walk­ing. I’ve also never driven a car so I think that’s hard­ened my feet a lit­tle!

How did you find the time and op­por­tu­nity to do this?

As a younger man I’d spent a lot of time home­less and I came up with the idea that maybe, just maybe I could use those ex­pe­ri­ences to make the world a bet­ter place. The idea of trekking the en­tire coast had been a dream since I can re­mem­ber and as a sin­gle man work­ing in re­tail there re­ally wasn’t much hold­ing me back. So I set to or­gan­is­ing and with a few ex­tra hours be­hind the till I man­aged to just about save enough. I’m aim­ing to raise £15,000 for three char­i­ties – the RSPB, the Na­tional Trust and Re­new­able World along the way.

How far do you walk a day?

When I first be­gan I was walk­ing nine or ten hours a day on av­er­age but it’s set­tled at around five or six the last few months – with oc­ca­sional big pushes, kind of mini chal­lenges I set my­self. The vari­ables are so huge, ter­rain dic­tates progress more than miles, cou­pled with weather and frame of mind. I will rest a day if my body tells me to and I’m some­where suitable but the chal­lenge never re­ally stops as half the bat­tle is sleep­ing out­doors for the en­tire du­ra­tion. I’m now a year and a month into the chal­lenge – a lit­tle un­der half way. I don’t know how many miles ex­actly, and I’m not sure I’d want to some­times!

What have been the most mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ences so far?

I’ve seen breath­tak­ing beauty, but it’s the peo­ple that have made the best mem­o­ries, like strangers go­ing out of their way to bring me a flask of tea on my 100th night an­niver­sary. I sup­pose when you’re do­ing some­thing good it stands to rea­son that you’re more likely to at­tract good and pos­i­tive peo­ple. And I can’t wait to meet an­other mad but well-in­ten­tioned in­di­vid­ual when this chal­lenge fin­ishes and pay it for­ward, as they say!

Tell us about some lows...

I can go days without out see­ing peo­ple in some of the more re­mote stretches. Cou­ple that with bad weather and dwin­dling ra­tions and you get the pic­ture! One very stormy night in Northum­bria I was drenched and try­ing to sleep in my tent but with no bat­tery left on the phone for light or the ra­dio, just star­ing into dark­ness. I de­cided to sit up and make my­self a peanut but­ter sand­wich, so I flicked my lighter and searched the porch for the

knife only to dis­cover it be­ing used by two cop­u­lat­ing snails! I com­pletely flipped and screamed at the skies that if I can’t even have a peanut but­ter sand­wich then I’m done. I laughed about it in the morn­ing though!

Do you fol­low any kind of map or just your nose?

I use a GPS to keep track of progress but I tend to only need a map when I reach a city. That’s when I get truly lost! And apart from when I have to nav­i­gate a river or in­let the sea is al­ways on my left! I gen­er­ally stay as close to it as pos­si­ble but the views from the cliff edges are of­ten too tempt­ing to re­sist, so I tend to flit be­tween them and the beaches. You can’t beat a cliff edge camp­ing spot for an in­stant cheery morn­ing though.

Favourite stretch so far?

Cul­bin Sands in Mo­ray in the High­lands – 13km of the whitest of sands and dunes backed by for­est, a low tide that re­veals an end­less plain and ethe­real danc­ing sand grains. Fol­lowed closely by the South West Coast Path in many ar­eas. But there are gems sprin­kled here, there and ev­ery­where. I’m look­ing for­ward to the west coast of Scot­land...

How much kit do you carry?

At times my pack reaches over 35kg which is never fun! But the closer the dis­tance be­tween pos­si­ble sup­plies of food and wa­ter the less the weight.

What do peo­ple mis­un­der­stand about a chal­lenge like yours?

Some peo­ple think I’m liv­ing the dream. I’m not! But I’m achiev­ing one. I’d en­cour­age any­one to bet­ter them­selves by ex­plor­ing the beauty of this world. But it will test your body and bend your mind. If I was only do­ing this for my­self I can think of a few oc­ca­sions when I would have given up but the ul­ti­mate goal of what I hope to achieve fu­els me. It’s helped me greatly hav­ing a sense of pur­pose. And oh but when it’s good… it’s amaz­ing!

Will life ever be the same again?

Liv­ing next to the sea and al­most con­tin­u­ally mov­ing is a unique ex­pe­ri­ence. Af­ter this chal­lenge is over I will sim­ply have to set­tle near the sea, close enough to hear the waves... my heart be­longs there now. Peo­ple gen­er­ally seem to have a more laid­back na­ture near the sea too, maybe it’s the beauty, maybe it’s the cleaner air or maybe it’s the con­stant re­minder of the im­per­ma­nence of things... What­ever the rea­son, I like it.

There are chal­lenges liv­ing this way, look­ing for shel­ters or places to set up the tent in win­ter was tough sea­son and the next one, fur­ther north and in harder ter­rain will be even more test­ing. But in my opin­ion the coast is aes­thet­i­cally the best place for any weather. A moun­tain when a storm comes will likely be too dan­ger­ous, but a light­ning storm on a beach? Yes please! Those melan­choly skies and ever-chang­ing colour schemes of the sea are as beau­ti­ful to me as those sun­bathing days. But it will be nice to wan­der back in­doors and shut a door again for tea af­ter a win­ter’s stroll on whichever sec­tion I choose to set­tle on af­ter the chal­lenge ends.

Is there any­thing you fan­ta­sise about as you walk mile af­ter lonely mile?

When I first be­gan I of­ten found beau­ti­ful places made me a lit­tle sad as I had no one to share them with. But then I re­alised that one day if I’m lucky I’ll be able to take some­one spe­cial to those spe­cial places... So I guess I fan­ta­sise a lot about long walks with a girl­friend on the beach! Pretty nor­mal I sup­pose!

But also food, es­pe­cially ice cream in win­ter, bizarrely. If I was back in my flat I’d hap­pily eat a tub of the stuff no mat­ter the sea­son but I couldn’t risk low­er­ing my core tem­per­a­ture out here, so it’s been an en­tire win­ter with no ice cream!

Hon­estly, the sac­ri­fices I’ve made! Fol­low Peter’s jour­ney www.bit.ly/pe­ter­schal­lenge Do­nate to Peter’s char­i­ties: www.bit.ly/pe­ter­mears

Pitched on the edge of the world on the Ber­wick­shire coast.

West­ern Cove, just west of Portreath – reached not long af­ter CW spoke to Peter.

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