Unplanned Adventures

I am so chuffed that my next walk will bring up 100 days of walking for the BHF and for my own wanderlust. According to my spreadsheet, I will have walked nearly 1300 miles so that’s averaging a half marathon a day though I know I have walked a lot more. To have walked from London to John O Groats along the coast is a mad thought and one that still makes me smile

Obviously, it hasn’t gone to plan with stops for illness and a rethink about how to tackle NW Scotland safely but now I am back, I realise it will rarely go to plan and actually I am very good at adjusting to what the world and this walk throws at me.

Day 099 is a great example. I spent an hour the night before looking through the route, finalising the public transport back and forward and even checking a satellite map of the area to make sure the route would work. It didn’t.

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An industrial estate with footpaths was one of the options to get to Irvine (blue line) but I soon found out that my maps bared no resemblance to the landscape. Dodgy looking buildings with high security fences soon gave way to barren fields and I didn’t realise that the huge fence separating me to the shoreline had in fact surrounded me. Path after path led to gates and viscous barbed wire. What was this place?

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My bewilderment increased when I saw thousands of oyster shells surrounding an area that looked like an alien landing site.

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I had gone too far to walk back by then so looked at a possible escape from this odd environment. I found a gap in the fence, clumped my forehead on a metal bar as I went through and surveyed my new surroundings.

I could now get to the bridge that my map said would lead me to a road. I got to the bridge after half a mile of trampling stinging nettles and the like to find it had a 4 foot barrier of pipes. Undeterred, the “heroic” me (or stupid), climbed the massive construction (remember 4 foot is high for someone scared of heights) and walked across the disused bridge across the estuary.

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At the other end was a huge fence so I was presented with two options – go back or walk north up the estuary. There was no road as my map had suggested so I walked a mile up the edge of the water, mostly in seaweed.

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I then was able to find a gap in the fence and with the help of two branches as walking poles, made my way up the 10 foot mound and pass through the fence. I gingerly got down the other side. I had escaped !!

I followed my map and compass and headed through dense forest, tripping and swearing every so often. After 5 minutes my map said there would be a path very soon. I found another fence. Aarrgh. I walked along the fence, my trousers soaked with dew from the high grass and all of a sudden I heard a huge cheer.

Puzzled, I thought for a fraction of a second that I was involved in a reality TV challenge or the Crystal Maze. It was in fact the golf course I was heading towards. If only these people knew there was a tired, wet, bitten and stung coastal walker a few hundred yards away.

My spirits were raised at the thought of civilisation, that is if you can call people in fancy dress hitting a ball around a field, civilised! Sorry golfers, just don’t get it. Golf is a good walk spoiled – Mark Twain.

I sped up through the brambles, thistles and strange plants hoping that I wasn’t penned in again. Eventually I saw another fence blocking me in. I shouted a swear word. Use your imagination. But as I approached the fence I saw another gap. Was there someone in front of me with a pair of plyers? This was the third fence I had to get through, I was now an expert.

My map was now saying a path was underneath me. I started moving forwards and all of a sudden, out of the growth, I noticed tarmac just beyond the next tree. Was this a mirage?

I excitedly kicked and trampled the foliage and sped up at the sight. I was now about three feet from it when my right foot fell down a hole. I stumbled onto the floor and pulled my saturated right boot out of the ground, my arms literally touching the tarmac.

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The tarmac led me, one squelch at a time, under the railway line and onto the cycle path to Irvine (red on the map and maybe what I should have done)

I had survived with a bruised forehead, cuts, bites, scratches and a wet foot. I finished the day reflecting that it could have been so much worse.

Today, I woke up aching all over and a sore hip so decided not to walk.
If I am fit tomorrow, I will have walked 100 days with Day 099 being one of the most memorable!!

Kieran “adventurer (ahem)” Sandwell

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