Copyright Garth Publications
In 1986, at the age of 37, I set out to walk around the whole of Britain's coastline. I finished exactly 11 months later, having walked almost 5,000 miles; then I wrote a book about it. “Midges, Maps & Muesli” has been in print almost continuously ever since, and is still very popular. So how did this all come about?
Why Walk Round Britain?
I had wanted to walk round the coast of Britain for years. It was an idea I'd had since my teens, but I never had the time and money to turn it into reality. However, finding myself between jobs and not sure what to do next, I decided to go for it.
The Walk Itself
I started at Brighton, the nearest point on the coast to my home in Croydon, in March 1986, in heavy snow. I then walked clockwise, usually covering anything from 10 – 20 miles per day. I was not a superfit athlete when I started, just an ordinary leisure walker. But I paced myself, only walking as far as I felt I could, and having regular days off. Anyway, I wasn't trying to break any records, just see something of my native land and meet its people. I perceived myself as something of a wandering minstrel or a long distance ambler rather than a record breaker.
At a campsite
From time to time friends came and joined me on the trail for a few hours or a day, but this happened less and less as I got further away from home.
There was a fair amount of interest from the media, and I appeared in a number of local papers; then there was a feature on my walk in The Times just before Christmas 1986
I stayed in different places – youth hostels, B & Bs, and sometimes my tiny 'hooped bivi' tent. And more and more often, as I became known, people would write and offer to put me up when I reached their bit of coastline. Overall I enjoyed the walk; if I hadn't I would have stopped. But as you would expect, I had my share of bad weather, blisters, and exhausting days that I didn't want to repeat. And I always kept going.
Finally, at the end of January 1987, I arrived back at the Palace Pier in Brighton, this time to a huge welcome and lots of journalists and photographers.
Soon afterwards I found out that I was to appear in “The Guinness Book of Records” for “The Longest Continuous Walk by a Woman”.
Writing the Book
I started writing the book soon afterwards, and I finished it fairly quickly. “Midges, Maps & Muesli” was initially accepted by Victor Gollancz Ltd, but then they changed their minds. I found another publisher, but they went out of business. Tiring of the whole business of getting published, I left the manuscript for a while, planning to publish it myself if I could ever afford to – self- publishing books was quite expensive in the days before Print on Demand.
In 1998, after a rewrite, my book finally saw the light of day. I sold a couple of hundred almost instantly to friends plus people I'd net on the walk, who had been waiting for it. The remainder went over the next few years. I ran out of books, and shelved the project; anyway, my life had taken other pathways.
Then in 2007, at the request of friends, I had it reprinted. By this time, long distance walking had become mainstream and very popular, which was not the case in the 1980s. The book sold well, and when I could, I also brought it out as Kindle ebook...which sold even better. By now it was of almost historical interest – how did one complete an adventure like this like in the days before mobile phones, emails, and other ways of communicating easily?