Wednesday, 16 June 2010

So you want to walk the coast... Further reading

So all of this information has not put you off walking the coast. Your training is going well, you have bought some maps and you are ready and raring to go. Yet the scale of what lies ahead feels overwhelming. Where can you get more information?

Firstly, I would direct people to my website at (part of my larger walking website at There are over 340 pages describing my year-long walk, along with others based on the coast. I give notes on the walk and directions, along with google maps that roughly show the route taken. Unfortunately these notes were written in the evenings whilst I was on the walk, often on a Psion 5, so the quality of the English and typing are not as good as I would like - they are more of a braindump than polished prose.

I have collected a list of other websites from people who have walked the coast on my website - unfortunately many of these links are now dead.

Quite a few books have been written about the coastwalk, from John Merrill's detailing his pioneering walk in 1976 to Spud Talbot Ponsony's heartfelt description of her walk twenty years later. Each of these is worth reading if you want information about the walk before you set off (or even on the way if you can stand the weight). However, there is something incomparably pleasant about discovering places for the first time on a walk.

I had a few strange experiences on the walk, which I will collectively call 'literary archeology'. For instance, John Merrill's book contains a photo of a large pile of old, rusting horseshoes in a yard near Wareham. When I walked past a quarter of a century later the horseshoes had been arranged into a thick wall.

Likewise, in Durham John Merril describes large conveyor belts carrying spoil from Easington Colliery to the cliff edge, dropping it down into the sea to form new land. When Spud passed by the area she described a run-down area; the collieries had been closed. By the time I passed the story was slightly different; the colleries had been landscaped and many replaced with industrial and retail parks. The built-up cliffs of spoil were quickly being eroded by the sea, leaving a weird black beach behind. Different jobs, perhaps, but jobs nonetheless. Nearby I saw one solitary pit pony in a field; a dying breed.

Perhaps the books written by coastal walkers are acting as a commentary on the changes in the use of our coastline.

Below are just some of the books available. For a fuller list, see the 'links' section of my website.

The sea on our left

Shally Hunt's excellent book about her walk around the coastline of Britain with her husband, Richard. Details well the hazards that can confront people walking together, even if they have been married for years.

Two feet, four paws

Spud Talbot-Ponsonby's story of her walk around the coastline, accompanied by her dog, Tess. A truly excellent, heartwarming read, and perhaps the best book on the walk.

Turn right at Land's End

John Merrill's book about his walk around the coast. John was the first person to do the walk, and he suffered a stress fracture in his foot on the way. A good read about an amazing achievement.

Midges, Maps and Muesli: Account of a 5, 000 Mile Walk Round the Coast of Britain

The story of Helen Krasner's solo walk around the coast. A very heartfelt and interesting read.

And the Road Below: The Blister-by-blister Account of His Record Breaking Walk Around the Coastline of the British Isles

As the title says, this book is about John Westley's long walk, which for the first time included Ireland as well. A superb achievement.

No fixed abode: a long walk to the Dome.

This book details Douglas Legg's itinerant walk around the coast to the Millenium Dome at the end of the last century. His approach to the walk was certainly different, but his account is lively and thought-provoking.

Shake well before use
Walking the coast is hard enough when you are fit. Tom Isaacs' walk, however, was made even more remarkable by the fact that he suffers from early-onset Parkinson's Disease. He walked the coast in 2002/3 (we met in Cornwall), and raised £350,000 for the Parkinsons Disease Society and allied charities. An amazing achievement.It should also be said that my superb singing also gets a mention.


Andrew McCloy's book details routes around the coastline of England and Wales and is an indispensable guide to people planning the walk. And it is small enough to fit in a rucksack during the walk.

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