This year sees the 50th anniversary of the Pennine Way – Britain’s first long distance path.
As its name suggests it follows the upland spine of England from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm just over the Scottish Border – a distance of 287 miles. So in this time of New Year Resolutions why not resolve to walk the Pennine Way?
How long will it take you may ask? Well, dear reader, that really depends on how quickly you cover the ground. The great fellrunner Josh Naylor did it in three days and four hours and the current record is two days 17 hours and 20 minutes.
More realistically averaging 15 miles a day a reasonably fit walker should be able to walk the route in a little under three weeks.
And there lies the rub – unless you are retired or have some connection with education with long summer holidays, devoting that amount of time to a trail poses problems. This accounts for the popularity of other long distance footpaths. Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walk can be fitted into two weeks as is the case with the Offa’s Dyke Trail which follows the Welsh borderlands.
Still too long? Well, there is the superlative West Highland Way which links Milngarvie on the edge of Glasgow with Fort William – 92 miles of breath-taking scenery.
You could knock that one off in six days and still have time to climb Ben Nevis. And if these do not appeal to you there are an unbelievably huge number of trails to choose from.
The Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA ) which specialises in this type of walking (believe it or not) lists more than 600!
So what is the appeal in this type of walking?
Firstly it requires a different mindset.
Unless you are a member of the LDWA most people who go out on a day walk will consider 10-12 miles as a longish walk. Certainly in this column such a distance is the exception rather than the rule.
On a trail you start walking after breakfast – say 9.30am and continue to late afternoon say 4.30pm. Take out an hour for meal and drink stops, that’s six hours at two-and-a-half to 15 miles mph.
Now this is where the mindset comes in. 15 miles = day one. The next day another 15 miles. The day after that another 15 miles and so on until you finish the trail.
Stated in these terms then the idea of walking a trail can seem like a grind as tedious as work and there will be times when this might be true but for the walker there is something deeply satisfying about the deeper immersion in the landscape than is offered by a day walk.
However, another aspect emerges from this calculation. Overnight stops are not conveniently located in 15 mile lengths on any trail – anywhere.
Some days will be long days – 20+ miles and some will be short 10-12 miles depending on where the campsites or accommodation are to be found.
Working out these logistics is as much a part of the enjoyment as the walking.
This touches on the final consideration. Even with the lightweight gear now available the idea of backpacking would most certainly deter all but the most adventurous spirits.
But even if you opt for bed and breakfast accommodation carrying everything you need for the time you are away could still give you a heavy pack to carry.
This is why there are specialist baggage carrying services for all the main trails which for a fee will take your baggage on from one night stop to the next.
Indeed many companies offer the package of arranging accommodation and baggage carrying together. Over the years I have both carried my own baggage and used carriers. Believe me paying the extra money for the service is worth every penny.
If you want to be made into a fitter and happier person there are few things to beat walking.
Walk your children or grandchildren to and from school, walk to work, walk to the shops, walk in parks, walk in the countryside – there is a lot of it waiting for you to explore.
Just take that first step and if you do enough walking perhaps this time next year you might make a resolution to walk the oldest and grandest of our national trails – the Pennine Way.