With the smell of the North Sea in my nostrils, I feel a long way from central London, where my journey began amid the tangier aroma of delivery driver diesel. My plan was to go in search of the old road between London and Edinburgh: the one that had served the mail coaches, witnessed marching soldiers and highway robbery, and had an ancient and evocative name: the Great North Road.
Over the last 300-odd miles I’d been pretty faithful to the old road – or at least as faithful as you can be while avoiding dual carriageways and speeding drivers. The key is to find stretches where the new has been built next to the old, rather than on top of it: an orphaned mile or so at Tempsford in Bedfordshire, Stilton in Cambridgeshire or Cromwell in Nottinghamshire. On these forgotten high streets I find it remarkably easy to visualise a time when the mail coach was the king of the road – the horses’ hooves clattering and the guard blowing his horn.
On June 25th, 2021, at 12 noon, the exuberant 74-year old Rosie Swale Pope restarted her 8,500km run from Brighton, England to Kathmandu, Nepal.
In July 2018, Rosie started her 8,500km run that would have taken her through 18 countries. But for pandemic, she was ordered to stop her run in Turkey.
Rosie has remained determined to reach Nepal, but instead of continuing on from Turkey, she has restarted from the UK and is taking a different route in an effort to reach Katmandu and raising funds for the “charity PHASE Worldwide who work with remote Nepalese communities.”
Rosie previously ran around the world from 2003 to 2008.
As a government civil servant, James Gingell was burnt out from working on Brexit and Covid. Trekking the length of Britain, from Land’s End to John o’Groats, was the change he needed.
Walking Land’s End to John o’Groats wasn’t the original plan. All I wanted was freedom. I had worked as a civil servant for three years, first in central government as the country grappled with Brexit, then, after the pandemic hit, on the Covid response. Through the tumult, my colleagues were pleasant and supportive, and the material circumstances of my life did not change. When I took a burnout questionnaire, though, I ticked every box: tiredness, torpor, tetchiness. I’m normally a silly person. But I wasn’t smiling much. I’m normally a creative person. But nothing was happening in my brain. I felt bleached.
All I wanted was to be free, of emails and objectives and obligations which could only disappoint, of defined, quantifiable purpose. I wanted to luxuriate in pure freedom, to walk in a wild, blank void. If our culture of metrics and targets and progress were more receptive to the idea of pointlessness as a point, I might instead have quoted another naturalist, Henry David Thoreau. He wrote that creative thoughts are like birds, coming to us only if they have branches to settle. “If the grove in our minds is laid waste – sold to feed unnecessary fires of ambition – they no longer build or breed with us.” I needed to do nothing but walk and wallow in swamp and marrow for the trees to heal, for the birds to come back. The walk was more to do with that.
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How do you choose your next adventure when there are so many options available?
Wizarding up ideas for adventures is one of my favourite things to do. I find it enjoyable, exciting, but also easy. If I was a specialist I would need to search for something higher, harder and faster within my niche every time I wanted a new challenge. But because I am a generalist, I make the next adventure more challenging by making it differently challenging to previous projects. It is an important part of keeping adventure fresh for me.
I am surprised how often people tell me that they really want to do an adventure but don’t know what to do. Hopefully this walk-through of the way I come up with ideas might get your own adventure cogs whirring…
- Cycling round the world
- The Marathon des Sables
- The South Pole
- The Arctic Ocean
- Rowing the Atlantic
It has taken four winters so far, but wild beauty, nature and the kindness of strangers en route make this slow journey more than worthwhile.
I hope to return to the trails soon: I have 2,000-odd miles still to go around Scotland, on the most isolated and challenging terrain. When the storms broke my tent by snapping its poles, as happened during Storm Fionn in January 2018, I was pretty annoyed. Not annoyed enough for it to get in the way of sleep, though. Sure that nothing too important had blown across the field, I stubbornly wrapped my crumpled tent around me and drifted off. It would take a week to get my tent repaired and in the meantime a few friends of friends reached out and offered me a tent to borrow, a couch to sleep on and a chance to stay in a community-owned bright blue converted bus that was parked in the chalk hills of the South Down national park. Before the day was out, I was sitting round a campfire chatting to new friends, something I would have missed had my tent been in one piece.
Laura Owen Sanderson is a cold water swimmer in the U.K. After a life changing medical event she decided to reroute her life and to ‘live with purpose’ and founded We Swim Wild, to help “protect wild waters through adventure, education, campaigning, and scientific research.”
Laura Owen Sanderson »
I wasn’t afraid to die. I was more afraid, or angry if you’d like, that I hadn’t lived, that I hadn’t made the most of every opportunity. So I was waiting for a day that might never come — when you retire or when you’re thin enough or when the kids have grown up — and there was a sudden realisation that that day might never come.
via Vimeo »
Hydrotherapy is a story of adaptation, strength & rewilding set in the raw and beautiful landscapes of Snowdonia National park. Laura has not only overcome a life changing illness through wild swimming, but has also found a greater connection to the natural world. This has ignited her mission to make a stand for the natural environment, and protect wild waters and wild spaces across the UK.
Explore the mountains and glacial landforms of massive Snowdonia National Park in the northwest of Wales with this 1 hour 20 minute video in 4K by Chris Homer.