Despite my blog roll being shamefully behind what my feet are doing, I feel compelled to write a bit about the whats and whys of it all. Having done over 260 miles of the path, it’s time for a little reflection.
The Coast Path
Growing up about 12 miles inland from Lyme Regis I walked up and down the Jurassic Coast of Dorset and East Devon on Sundays for years. I was well aware of the famous acorn sign, knew where the path started and finished and always wanted to walk it. Then, coming home from an incredible holiday in Guatemala, I started reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed: about a woman who walked the Pacific Coast Trail, alone with no training and very little knowledge of what she was embarking on. Something woke up inside me: I wanted a story like this. The Coast Path seemed the obvious choice and I started researching how I could make it happen. I knew walking it in one go would be nigh on impossible for anyone other than those who are retired, unemployed or not tied to an academic timetable.
I came up with the plan to walk it in a year. It seemed feasible: driving off from Exeter each weekend, and walking it, in order, a bit at a time. I thought the summer and half terms would give me more walking time and I was prepared to do bits by myself.
I thought I could walk it in a year before I got the guide book. I thought I could walk it in a year before I had even stepped onto the path; before I understood the logistical issues of getting to each start and end point; before I understood that buses don’t run very often in winter; before I understood that driving 1.5+ hours, walking for 6 and then driving home was actually pretty tough going; and before I even contemplated the sheer length of the path and what it would entail. And I didn’t give a moment’s thought to the fact that people might just not be able to dedicate every weekend to this…
To take on something so awe-inspiring, and share it with others, it seemed a good idea to raise some money, or at the very least some awareness for something important to me. My plan was to raise £1/mile that I walk.
When I started walking in January, my brother was convalescing in Bristol after receiving a stem cell transplant from a donor. This gave me pause for thought as I considered the process it took to get that far. As he is now on a journey to recovery, having had a system re-boot, albeit a long journey, he is nevertheless here thanks to the incredible work of charities like Anthony Nolan.
Needing a stem cell transplant after your own stem cell transplant wasn’t successful, means you need a donor. As siblings are likely to be the best match, being one of 4 you’d imagine the chances of being matched are high. Three of us were tested: I was the closest to a match, but only at 50%. This isn’t ideal, but not impossible. However, it was decided I couldn’t be the donor due to my own health implications – an inflammatory arthritis of the spine and some other crap. Long story short – a donor was found. And this is where the Anthony Nolan charity comes in. In 1974, the world’s first donor register was set up: to find stem cell and bone marrow donors for people in need of a “system re-boot”. It costs £40 to tissue-type test and register a donor and there are 2000 people in the UK alone who need a match every year. If, like me, you can’t donate your own cells, you can donate your dosh to help others get matched. If you already give blood, you can tick a box on a form next time to you donate, to get on the register. Find out more here at Anthony Nolan or here DKMS .
The walk so far
I have now walked over 260 miles and so far, I have only walked about 2 miles myself. I hadn’t anticipated such a dedicated team of co-walkers who have accompanied me along this journey – you know who you are. I thought I would be doing many solitary miles, but the Path is an addictive and incredible journey to embark upon, and has clearly inspired many. I hoped to create a group of like-minded walkers who could join in on an ongoing walk, around the most incredible corner of the UK and in doing so try to raise awareness of what and why, on social media, in person and via my blog giving people a story to read as I walk. Come rain or shine, we have walked, camped, climbed and enjoyed every step of the thousands done so far. I think I have postponed only two walks to date due to illness or weather, but very little has stopped my progress.
I am realistic about time frames and know that the year goal may now become closer to two, although I am still keen to walk it as quickly as possible.
I hope you enjoy reading my posts, following the walk and perhaps feel inspired to consider registering to be a stem cell donor, or if like me you are unable to, you might make a cash donation.
Or perhaps you feel inspired to put on a pair of walking boots too…
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