A page dedicated to those who have accompanied and supported us on our walks – the number in brackets after a name is the number of times each guest walker has joined us. We assumed all of our guest walkers would be human when we started out. We’ve discovered that when you go walking in the wilds of Britain, however, you never know who you are going to meet…
Jenny (39) is my aunt and a regular member of our Coastal Clan. She used to work for Marathon Oil, and was to become the first woman to visit an off-shore oil rig, before being pipped to the post by Selina Scott. Jenny likes to walk with a walking stick and also likes to walk with our two children, Ben and Cate. Unfortunately, Ben and Cate also like to walk with Jenny’s walking stick. They run off with it, leaving Jenny with neither her companions nor her stick. Jenny has, as a result, bought them each a stick of their own. She is a master of responding to short-notice “how do you fancy a walk today” calls, having been ready to mobilise within minutes. When she gets back, however, she has been known to collapse with equal efficiency. Gin and tonic generally revives her.
Mark (2) has been a friend and walking buddy for some 20 years now. He and I were part of a team who did the Three Peaks (Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon in 24 hours) and posed nearly naked for a publicity shot. Being less “toned” than I was 20 years ago, this is something I will not be repeating. If Mark tries to repeat it on one of our walks (there is presently no indication he might, but you never know) I will most certainly not be publishing any pictures. Mark was once the first man to climb Helvellyn one year but can’t really remember much about his achievement – it was too early in the morning and he was half asleep.
John and Trisha (2) are my uncle and aunt. Trisha is an expert photographer, and took the “About Us” picture for this blog, which can be found on the page of the same name. They are both genuinely enthusiastic about most things in life. On the first walk they did with us, Trisha was enthusiastic about having a cup of tea before catching a ferry. Shortly after this, John was equally enthusiastic about telling Trisha that we wouldn’t have missed the ferry were it not for that cup of tea.
Alex and Poppy (5,4) are my brother and niece. Alex, as well as being a Guest Walker, has also been a Guest Flyer when we took to the air in microlights. On top of that he single-handedly ended one of the most enjoyable and long-lasting jokes I have ever played on my wife. I had told her that all nudist beaches in the UK (of which we will have to walk through several) have rules, and that these rules stipulate that if you walk through them you must strip off. This was a source of never-ending fun in our house. Alex, however, let slip that in his experience this was complete fabrication, thus bringing my joke to an end. But hang on – WHAT experience?
Friendly Cat from Grain (1 and a bit) The Friendly Cat from Grain is a youngster and probably has a name, but if so we do not know what it is. He or she was not invited by us, but was very welcome to join us. This cat did not just follow us, but actually walked with us, for a total of just under half a mile. I had in my head that people should probably complete a mile with us before qualifying as an official “guest walker”. However, surely a cat, being several times smaller than a human, should not have to walk quite as far in order to have this accolade bestowed upon it. This cat was very much a part of our group, if only for a brief time, and we are very pleased to include it as a guest walker. Two years after first meeting the Friendly Cat we went back to Grain. To my astonishment we met again. It didn’t walk with us this time, but surely it is appropriate to upgrade the cat’s Guest Walking Status from 1 to 1 and a bit!
Achilles (1) Achilles is my uncle and aunt’s dog, and we look after him a few times a year when they go away. He is a boisterous yet obedient spaniel. He pulls our children along on his lead in his constant excitement, and then does the same to my wife and I when we take over. He is good at a lot of things, but is a true master at finding tennis balls.
Harry Potter (7) Harry Potter is a Lego figure, and a geocaching “Travelbug”. What this means is that he was put into a tupperware container in upstate New York, and then over the course of some 6 years travelled 16,000 miles to make it to Kings Cross station, carried by numerous geocachers from box to box as they tried to help him to his destination. At his owner’s request, he joined us for a stretch of coastal path before we set him on his way back to New York again.
Mike (3) This is rather a strange picture of Mike. The diver’s helmet suggests he is most at home under the sea, but actually he’s more a head in the clouds man, for he is an aircraft engineer and pilot. He works in a hanger surrounded by crashed aircraft in various states of manglement, insisting that none of the twisted carnage is any of his doing. Is this really to be believed? Suffice to say that I for one have never been flying with him…
Lisa (2) Lisa has been described by my daughter (accurately as it so happens) as “really kind”. She is a planning enforcement officer, so I am not sure everyone would agree, but if so that’s their loss. Lisa put her back out a few days before first walking with us, but strode on with the promise of a glass of rose wine at the end. She once, in Africa, ate an entire colony of red ants who had nested in a jaffa cake she was eating. Not heard of the African Jaffa Ant? It’s because they’ve been eaten to extinction.
Barbie (3) Barbie is my mother-in-law. She is a staunch supporter of Barnet Football Club. “Tackle him!” are the only two words she ever shouts at a match, even if her own side has the ball. They say that walking in the wilderness can make you discover deep inner truths about yourself. In Barbie’s case, is was not so much an inner truth, but rather an innard truth: Barbie does not like raw oysters. This picture was taken in Whitstable, less than a second after her innards made this discovery.
Campbell (5) Campbell lives in Edinburgh. As I live in London that means I see him infrequently. We meet up on business every three months. That means that whilst I see him infrequently, I also see him regularly. Whenever we do meet, whisky tends to be involved, and that means that on some occasions it is a wonder I see him at all. Campbell has been kind enough to patiently explain the concept of “right to roam” to me. This involves walking all over other people’s land without their permission, which is allowed in Scotland. When our walk finally gets to Scotland it will be on the basis of Campbell’s advice that we are arrested for trespass. I am hoping that he will feel a moral duty to bail us out and then assist us in our dash back for the English border.
Crumpy (1) Crumpy is an ex-work colleague from an ex-firm. He is more of a cyclist than a walker, to the extent that he insisted on bringing his bike with him when he joined us, and pushed it along as we walked. Whether this was in anticipation of needing to make a quick getaway I do not know. I am afraid to say that when we met up he thought we were walking east. We were not. We were walking west. Thus it was that early in the morning he shot off in the wrong direction to meet us, while we walked along wondering where he was. At around early lunchtime we all put two and two together and poor Mike had to cycle another 15-miles or so back east to meet us. This photo proves he was still smiling at the end of it.
Mum and David (5) My mum and David are both afflicted by that strange neurological disorder whereby they are absolutely convinced that people would prefer to look at their feet rather than their faces, and so dictate that all photographs of them are shot pointing down (they possess the strangest set of wedding photographs I have ever seen). Mind you, with nice shiny shoes like these who can blame them? I can assure you their shoes were not nearly so shiny by the end of the walk…
The ABC’s (2) ABC’s are Anastasia, Barney and Chrissie. Barney received a first degree in applied maths from Oxford University. He then became a professional juggler rather than a banker, thereby avoiding any direct blame for the banking crisis of 2008. He won the Five Club Juggling Endurance Event in Leeds in 1992 and also managed to juggle seven, either in 1999 or 2000 when he was also British Juggling Champion. Alas, a short time afterwards he suffered an injury at work (he fell off his unicycle – I’m not joking) and retired from full time juggling, counting clubs no more. He has been the Official Jester of Bournemouth since 1999. His wife Chrissie and daughter Anastasia try to keep him sane but frankly they are as bonkers as he is.
The BaTs (1) B of the BaTs is an insomniac work colleague, geocaching addict and quite possibly the nicest person I know. For an insomniac he is an incredibly relaxed person, and when he sends me text messages at 4am on weekday mornings about a geocache he’s just found I try to be as relaxed about it as he is. In this picture he is carrying a heavy load of collapsible ladders on the way to Grain Tower which he kindly took from me and then refused to give back when I tried to share his burden (in fact I think he still has them). T of the BaTs is B’s son and, as our son has discovered, an expert stick-sword fighter.
Friendly Horse from the New Forest (1) After meeting the Friendly Cat from Grain I wondered how many other animals might join us on our travels. It took a while, but a couple of hundred miles later we found our new friend. Clearly we were looking bored and fatigued at all the tarmac we were walking that day. This horse left its companions and trod the tarmac with us for a short while, cheering us up and causing us concern as to what we might do if it continued all the way to our car and expected to come back home with us. Thankfully, it saw it had cheered us up so, job done, it went back to its friends.
Amy (1) Resplendent in her head-to-toe combats with matching backpack, Amy is a friend of Poppy (see above) and for some unearthly reason decided to do a Duke of Edinburgh training run with us. It was our Stage 86 and her Stage 1. I’m not sure if there will be a Stage 2 for poor Amy. It was a baptism of mud, quagmire and swamp, with intermittent bog and marsh, together with some sludge and silt thrown in for good measure. It had to be one of the bleakest parts of our Coastal Path so far, and of all walks, Amy chose this one. Good for her I say. I’m not sure she would agree…
Lucy (1) Lucy is my brother Alex’s dog. She has a boundless and unlimited supply of energy and enthusiasm. This energy and enthusiasm has been known to carry even the most weary of walkers at least another 10 miles beyond their usual limit, usually because they have to chase her down to get her back on the lead.