My walk of life: I wake up in a new place each day
Since January, 24-year-old Nat Severs has been attempting to walk continuously around the entire British coastline. 160 days into his solo adventure, he talked to walk about the freedom, loneliness and frustrations of his trip…
Yesterday started really well here at Salen on the Argyll coast. I saw a sea otter and got right up close before it skittered off. Then in the afternoon it became very misty, and the next thing I knew I had both feet in a bog. I got out again, so it could’ve been worse, but I had wet feet for the rest of the day. However, I kept going. One of the main things I’ve learned over the last 160 days’ walking is how stubborn I actually am. Another thing I’ve realised is how much I enjoy being around people. I was always quite happy in my own company, but all this time alone has made me aware that no man is an island. Unlike the British mainland, the coastline of which I’m currently on a mission to walk around.
I’ve always thought this would be an awesome thing to do, and after I left university last year and was struggling to find a job I decided now was the time to go for it. I set off from my home in Portsmouth on 10 January 2010. So far I’ve covered 3,200 miles and I’m about half way. I’d done some walking with my parents as a kid, but nothing for six years. So it was tough in the beginning. I’d finish at the end of the day after covering about 20 miles and hardly had the energy to put up my tent. It’s easier now. I’m walking up to 30 miles a day without any problems. Everything I need is in my rucksack: tent, roll mat, sleeping bag, clothes and a small stove. On a trip like this you realise how few things you actually do need. It’s amazing waking up in a different place every day. I’ve always lived by the sea and being this close to it gives me an incredible sense of freedom. I’m raising money for three charities that mean a lot to me, so that helps keep me going too.
Popular paths are easiest – they tend to be well signposted and maintained. The Welsh trails were excellent. Less well-used routes have been tricky, especially here in Scotland, which seems to be particularly lacking in good footpaths. Most of those not part of a long-distance path have disappeared, despite staying on the maps. With a heavy bag and a lot of miles to cover, it can be very frustrating to be blocked on a public right of way. I’ve lost count of the number of fences and gates I’ve scaled.
The plans for a coastal path around all England and Wales are interesting. I don’t see how a route that stays on the coast can be created with all the industrial works and MOD property on our coastline, not to mention the problem of uncooperative landowners. In my opinion, it would be better to focus on making the whole of Britain more accessible. If better links were created between villages, towns and cities then people would walk more.
Despite the lack of clear paths, being in Scotland is glorious. Crossing the border was a major high point. I really felt I’d achieved something when I got that far. There have only been four days I haven’t spent walking since I set off in January. Living outdoors has made me much more appreciative of the seasons and changes in daylight patterns. My degree is in zoology and I’ve always been passionate about nature. I feel much closer to it now. Of course there are lots of things I miss: people mainly, but little things too, such as having a kitchen to cook in and a selection of clothes. And definitely going to the pub with my friends, but I’ll appreciate all that so much more when I get back.
When I finish I’ll have to start looking for a job again. It would be difficult to be stuck behind a desk after this, so hopefully I’ll find something where I can travel and be outdoors. I’m not sure what that will be yet, but I’ve got 3,300 miles or so to think about it.
Interview by Julia Buckley
YOUR WALK OF LIFE
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