Isles of Wonder

Deep breath.  Ok, here goes.

I’m going to do a very long walk.  I am going to walk the length of Britain.  On my own.

Olympics 2012 Opening Ceremony

I absolutely love this country.  And ever since that thrilling, joyful, surprising, magical night of the Olympics Opening Ceremony in July, I’ve had that phrase ‘Isles of Wonder‘ spinning around in my head.  So I’m going to pull on my boots and see these Isles of Wonder properly, close up.

I’ll start in late February in the Scilly Isles, get the ferry over to the mainland – Cornwall – and then walk north during the spring months through England and Wales to Scotland, get to the top of Scotland, and then catch the ferry to Shetland, and finish my walk at the top of Shetland. I intend to have a wiggly route, keeping to the hills and National Trails where possible, so it’ll take me up to 4 months. I’m doing it on my own, mainly camping, but my ultra supportive and totally wonderful husband will visit me every week or so and we’ll spend the night/s under a roof, as he’s not a camper.

I read an article in the about 6 months ago, called the Five Regrets of the Dying. It’s written by a nurse, who recorded the most frequent regrets that people discussed with her. Since I read the article, I’ve been pondering over the most frequently expressed regret:

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me”.

I have spent far too long sitting at a desk, driving my car for 16 hours a week, feeling tired when I get home, and sitting down some more.  There’s a phrase, ‘the fatigue of the sedentary‘.  It’s time to feel alive again.  Time and years have a funny way of rolling by unnoticed. Right now, my legs and arms seem to work fine (touch wood), so I want to make sure that I take advantage of that. It’s not something that should be taken for granted.  And a very big challenge like this is, to me, scary but also a hugely invigorating idea.  Michaelangelo said that the greatest danger for most of us in our lives is not that we aim too high and we miss, but that we aim to low and we reach it. So….

I absolutely love walking, especially A to B hikes.  There’s something so natural about it – I think it is in our genes. Long ago, it’s what our ancestors did. I’m thrilled about planning my route, and about the fact that I’ll be outside for several months in wind and rain and hopefully a bit of sun.  Although I’m doing the walk solo, I am hoping that friends may join me for a day or two every now and again.  Also hopefully I can cadge a night on some of my friends’ sofas, when I pass near where they live.  I really like the idea of the walk being sociable. (Although at work a few people have called me Flora Gump.  Hmm :-))

In addition to satisfying my need for adventure, I’d like to take the opportunity to raise some money. Two years ago my husband Ian had a heart attack. It was completely out of the blue and a big shock to both of us. He had no muscle damage and after a year he had recovered his full fitness back again. But that he had no muscle damage was simply down to luck – we both thought he had a bad indigestion and I only just drove him to hospital in time. At the moment, when people get muscle damage, it can’t be mended – this means that people can’t lead a fully active life again. The British Heart Foundation has a major research project called Mending Broken Hearts. They hope that in 10 years time they may be able to mend damaged heart tissue. If you’d like to contribute to Mending Broken Hearts then please visit my Virgin Giving page.

I am hugely grateful to my husband, my family, and my fabulous friends in their encouragement Cairngormsand support for my decision.  And my boss and my boss’s boss have been amazing. Full of guilt and nerves, I explained what I was going to do, and they showed me such humanity. Thank you both – you have no idea what a weight lifted from my shoulders that day.

So, mid February, 2013, Isles of Wonder, blisters, feeling alive, adventure….here I come.

If you’ve any advice, please pitch in with your comments. I really would love to hear from you.

66 thoughts on “Isles of Wonder

  1. That is brilliant. I am in awe of anyone who is willing to take that leap of faith and take their life off on a different tangent and wholly believe an experience like you are about to have will never be forgotten or regretted. I hope you pass near Cheltenham, and if so there will be a bed, bath and square meal on offer! Wendy (Haigh) Ellis x

      • I’m fine – about to return to the world of work (next week – gulp!) and wondering how I will juggle it with 2 kids, but am reminding myself that others manage! I hope you’ll keep us nicely updated on your travels via this blog….

  2. Wow. What an amazing feat; with great sentiment; generous purpose and inspirational overtones. How elegantly put here too. Fabulous stuff. Like Merv, would like to know when you’re in the wonderful Northants area and I’ll help you keep going.

  3. Wow! What an inspiring and exciting adventure – what a beautiful way to see the UK and an amazing voyage of self discovery. I’d love to join you for some walking and my door is open if you need somewhere to stay if you pass through Devon. X

    • Thanks John, and I did think about going via Dartmoor. I love that area and have walked and camped there quite a bit. But at the moment my plan is to walk up the northern coast of the SWC path – i.e. north Cornwall and Devon. And then across Exmoor, the Quantocks, the Mendips.

    • Glad you liked the post David My plans are nothing until I have carried them out. So let’s see 🙂
      Your blog is great. I loved the Long Mynd in the mist photos and the cow-phobia traumas.

      • Thanks for the nice comment about my blog, Fiona. I am trying not to let the cow phobia putting me off doing things eg I am on the TG Challenge in May (Across Scotland, west coast to east coast, backpacking). Will take lots of deep breaths!

      • Cows are my favourite animals. Almost all are very very gentle. Talk to them as you pass in a soothing voice, and don’t go too near them. They like it when you sing, too. 🙂

      • Just read that you have three weeks left at work 🙂 Will you be publishing your route? Would love to see your plan. Time flies at this point in your preparations! Enjoy!

      • Right! Thanks for that – have now re-read the missed post! 🙂 That looks an absolutely wonderful route.If I might add a suggestion for after Cape Wrath? I would steer clear of the roads. They can be quite hairy at times – lots of blind bends etc and I always think it would be a shame to end up as a nasty red smear on a boy-racer’s car bonnet. There are a few really wonderful paths that can be found slightly inland that head east.
        All the very best of luck with your wonderful walk. Feeling quite envious!
        :-).

      • Yes I was wondering about what to do after Cape Wrath. I read someone’s blog (sorry, can’t remember whose exactly), but they went off road after CW and it sounded like one long bog hop. I’d certainly prefer off road so thank you for that tip.

  4. Flora… I am so proud of you. What courage it takes to embark on this journey, but also to be raising money and for such an amazing cause. Will be joining you on many occasions on the walk I hope!! You are such an inspiration to us all.

  5. “Right now, my legs and arms seem to work fine (touch wood), so I want to make sure that I take advantage of that. It’s not something that should be taken for granted.” So true, but we forget it in the light of daily routine. Seems to be a great tour. Good luck Flora, and looking forward to your new notes from the mentioned places:)

  6. Bristol Bed right here – though of course I shall be picking you up by car not walking with you!!!!!! Crazy but so wonderful lady! X

  7. Hi Flora
    What a great adventure, I will be following from afar and only imagining the hugely rich range of people and places you’ll be encountering! Great cause too.
    Johanna

  8. Flora, this is amazing and I truly envy what will be, a truly superb experience. Well done you for being true to your self and taking it on. If you swing by the Peak District at all, I would love to come and walk with you on that leg of your journey. Cal x

  9. Wow, it is so lovely and encouraging to read all these wonderful comments.
    Arpi – I hope that when I start my walking that my blog gives you a flavour of the UK
    Katie and Callum – I should be on the Pennine Way from mid April to early May, which might be the most convenient bits for you to join on.
    Jennie – I’ll definitely take you up on that Bristol Bed!
    Johanna – I’ve found that special place of yours on the map now, and I will be passing through there for sure.
    Phil – I’m afraid I’m going to be nowhere near the fens unless I’m very lost. Likewise, Anthony, Hampshire. And Merv and Perry – I’ll have made a big compass error if I find myself in Northamptonshire – tempting as it would be to pass by Merv and Perry Towers.

    I’ll do another post with my rough route.

  10. Can you come via Bath Spa University please? Congratulations Flora – what an amazing decision. Clearly absolutely right for you at this time and for such a good cause. I look forward to monitoring your progress. Life is for living!

  11. Crazy – but inspirational lady! From someone whose bones have grown too used to comfort what you’re embarking upon seems madness to me……but the “feeling alive” and courage to be true to yourself completely resonate!
    Will follow your travels from my armchair – but with you in spirit every step of the way.
    Shona

  12. Hi Flora,

    Thanks for your kind words. We’ll miss you physically. But mentally? We’ll be with you every inch of the way.

    When yo say ‘if you’ve any advice, please pitch in’, are you referring to my tent?! Please do let me know your route, in detail, you never know when or where I might just pop up!

    As for ‘real’ advice, a fully loaded iPod would be my idea of fun. Tracks could include:
    * These boots are made for walking – Nancy Sinatra
    * I’m Gonna Be (I’d walk 500 Miles) – Proclaimers
    * Walking on Sunshine – Katrina and the Waves
    * I Walk Beside You – Dream Theatre
    * Walk Away – Franz Ferdinand
    * Don’t Walk Alone – Bob Evans
    * Walk of Life – Dire Straits
    * Walking on Down the Road – RHCP
    * Walked Her Way Down – Crowded House
    * Walk On – U2
    * Walk This Way – Aerosmith
    ….and probably my favourite of all….
    * Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed

    You’ve taken a really great decision Flora. Charlotte says YOLO. So experience life and capture and treasure those memories.

    R

    • Richard, you can tell Charlotte that I’m such a sadster that I had to google YOLO.
      Thank you for the playlist. I do always listen to music to lift me on the last hour of the day when I’m out walking on my own and feeling tired.
      There’s a couple of songs there that I don’t know, so I’ll download them. I’m also adding:
      Long Walk Home – Bruce Springsteen
      I Walk on Gilded Splinters – Paul Weller (very awesome, and was used in The Wire).

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  14. Good luck with your journey Flora. What a courageous thing to do and an amazing adventure to experience. If you are passing through Yorkshire / Yorkshire Dales would be delighted to walk a bit with you.

  15. Wow Flora, doffs cap with ultimate respect!
    What an inspiring journey you are about to start, really am blown away. I look forward to the blogs and tweets
    As typing this questioning again my sedentary life style, may be a start would be to join you on a stretch

    Have a great Christmas, enjoy vegging for a bit

    Ryan

  16. Wow! I’ve just caught up on your posts and found this blog. What an exciting adventure you’re embarking on. Every time I read something of yours I’m always inspired. Good luck with your walk and I’d love to be able to support you along the way.

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  18. I take my hat off to you lady
    I will miss you , you have been a real inspiration for me
    I have learnt so much from you in your too short time at ICH
    Have fun, remember the compede and you should be fine
    See you then you are around Comrie for a god hearty walk and hopefuly a chance to cook you dinner and offer you a bit of good old scottish hospitality
    much love
    Susan

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  21. Hi Flora, CONGRATULATIONS on completing such a wonderful journey. I’ve only just picked up on it all but have spent two happy hours reading through your blog, watching the video clips and marvelling at you, our lovely isle, and the fact that you just did it. I’m totally inspired and have long been hankering after doing a little A to B journey of my own (they’re the best). I love the fact that you didn’t just keep it as an idea in your head to entertain you in the sometimes dull hours of our everyday lives, but you just went ahead and did it. I’ve always fancied the southwest coast path but so far have managed a 2 day stretch. Or sailing a big sea (but so far have only crossed from Cork to Penzance)! Ah well.
    Is it too late to donate?
    Lots of love and congratulations again from your cousin Anna (& Matt, Joseph, Eliza & Oliver)xxx

    • Hello Anna. It’s really really lovely to hear from you. I totally agree – A to B journeys are the best. Of whatever size.
      Hope to see you all soon – early Aug hopefully, if you are going to J&J’s party?

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