Coast17 – Principles

On every account I have read of treks around the British coast, you have to have “rules”. I guess that is because the pioneer, John Merrill, had rules for his 1978 first completion. An endeavour needs some means by which it can be validated.

However, I dislike rules because they constrain; an adventure should be freeing.

Instead, I will be adopting principles because they provide a guiding ethos and scope for creative response. And who would enforce rules anyway?

Principles of Adventure

  1. Be present and mindful always
  2. Eat well, sleep well
  3. Connect with home everyday
  4. Walk long, walk slow – expand each day into the time available
  5. Meet people at every opportunity
  6. Be grateful for every ounce of friendship, support, companionship and hospitality
  7. Wild camp wherever possible
  8. Enjoy the sounds of the universe (not a device)
  9. Take a social-media and news holiday
  10. Embrace local micro-economies
  11. If any one of these fails, have fun anyway!

Principles of Travel

Coast: “the edge or margin of the land next the sea, the sea-shore“.

  1. Land Access in England and Wales
    Access in England and Wales means staying with Public Rights of Way or Access Land. I will choose the nearest right of way to the coast, preferring footpaths and beaches to tarmac roads wherever possible.
  2. Land Access in Scotland
    Access in Scotland
    is in many ways more enlightened, with rights to roam almost everywhere. However, whereas in England a Right of Way comes with a responsibility to maintain a path, open access in Scotland often means that there is no path and those that exist might not be obvious. In Scotland, therefore, I will follow the coast as close as practically possible by path or road or open country. I will decide on the ground whether rough coastal land is navigable and safe in the conditions – there is no point in my scrabbling along the high-tide line making less than a kilometre per hour, however pure that might be.
  3. Bridges
    Rivers and estuaries present barriers that need to be crossed or rounded. I will cross at the lowest bridging point or tunnel with foot access, but where there is an iconic crossing further upstream, such as London Tower Bridge, I might choose to go there.
  4. Ferries
    At some point a river or estuary stops being coastal. Arguably, that might be the upper tidal limit. However, the river flowing through my home village is tidal but definitely not on the coast; the same applies to the inner reaches of many estuaries.
    So,
    in England and Wales only, I may choose to use public ferries (provided that they have a working timetable, as opposed to being summoned as a water taxi). Ferries are part of the nation’s maritime history and in many places have disappeared when they would benefit people’s everyday lives – e.g. Hayling Ferry is just back in operation after a long period of inactivity; therefore I intend to support them to do a little bit to keep them open. Scottish sea lochs are absolutely coastal, so I will not use ferries in Scotland.
  5. Islands
    My route will take in the British mainland only. However there are some places where venturing onto an island makes sense in order to stay ‘coastal’. For example, the southern coastlines of Hayling Island and Portsea Island (Portsmouth) are much more coastal than the A27 from Emsworth to Portchester, so my planned route intends to connect them via the Hayling and Gosport ferries. I might also set foot on some bridged islands if interest takes me there.
  6. Peninsulas
    I will loop around peninsulas as far as possible but will decide how interesting it looks before walking in and backtracking out on the same road.
  7. MOD Land
    I have little choice but to avoid MOD land when firing is taking place. The only place where I would feel devastated to be denied access would be Cape Wrath – Note to Self: CHECK.
  8. National Trust / ‘Paid Access’ Land
    If a place looks really interesting, I might pay to walk through and visit; my choice.

Some Practicalities

Carolyn with the camper

Carolyn with the camper

I’ll be setting out from home and meeting the coast at Shoreham-by-Sea in West Sussex. I’ll be travelling clockwise, spending the tail-end of the winter on the south coast and the days of longest summer light in the far north of Scotland.

Curiously, I will first turn east at Shoreham, meeting the coast for the first time at the Old Fort on the eastern end of Shoreham Beach, a shingle spit defining the lower reaches of the River Adur.

I’ll be carrying ultralight camping kit and being self-sufficient for most of the time. But the intention is for Carolyn and other close family members to meet me with our camper on many weekends and longer periods further afield.

If anyone takes an interest in meeting me, or especially if you feel able to offer meal and / or a bed or a camping pitch, I would be extremely grateful and delighted to make acquaintance. Please get in touch via social media.

I reckon on 243 days, averaging 23.4 miles (37km) walking per day. No day looks longer than 47km, which I have walked with relative comfort in training. I have scheduled no rest days, because I have found in the past that I always stiffen up – even the Tour de France riders go out riding on ‘rest days’. So a ‘rest day’ for me will be a short day, maybe 10-20km.

Of course, I might have rest days enforced by weather or injury or illness, but if that happens, so be it.