Packing for a long walk

In my first blog post, I wrote about the fictional Harold Fry and his unlikely pilgrimage. If you haven’t read the book, it’s the story of a retired man who sets off to the local postbox and ends up walking from South Devon to Berwick. He is very poorly equipped for such a trek, somehow managing to do it in a pair of blue yachting shoes and ordinary clothes. He acquires a compass and a book of wild flowers along the way but that is pretty much all.

It takes Harold 87 days to walk 627 miles from Devon to Berwick. Our walk from London to Brighton is a tenth of the distance and at Harold’s pace, would take us around 8 1/2 days. The problem is, we need to do it within the event’s cut-off time of 36 hours. No sleeping in B&Bs or sipping tea in cathedral gift shop cafes for us. So you might be pleased to know that we’re not going to attempt it in blue yachting shoes. We’re not even going to do it in decorated bras (can you hear the sigh of relief from my children as they read those words?) No, we will be fully equipped.

For a start, this is what I will be wearing:

  • Lycra leggings, long-sleeved technical top under short-sleeved technical top, with a further long sleeved top to be tied around my waist
  • Trail shoes : a hybrid between running shoes and walking boots. They’re kind of waterproof.
Harold's shoes

Harold’s shoes

Sally's shoes

Sally’s shoes







  • 2 pairs of socks for cushioning
  • Cow-patterned Rock tape, liberally applied to various muscle groups to provide support. I chose cow-pattern in the hope that if push comes to shove and I am facing more of my bovine friends, I can roll up my leggings and they might mistake me for one of them.
  • Woolly hat and faithful orange gloves from the NY marathon

Invincibility gloves

I will be carrying my little gelert rucksack:


This will be filled with 2 litres of hydration fluid which I can sip through a tube. Once the fluid pouch is full, there’s not a lot of space but hopefully the following can all be wedged in:

  • A cagoule, squeezed as tightly as possible
  • A head torch
  • Spare batteries for the torch
  • Compeed blister plasters
  • Emergency Snickers bar. (Snickers can’t be declared “gluten free” because of the risk of cross contamination from other products in the factory, but I’m willing to take my chances as it has been a lifesaver on other walks).
  • Bag of salted peanuts
  • Walk the Walk decorated bra to hang off the back of the rucksack. This will mark us out from walkers who are taking part for other charities.

Around my waist, along with the extra long-sleeved top, will be a bum-bag, filled with a range of goodies including:

  • Tissues (lots)
  • Wet wipes
  • Ibuprofen
  • Zomig (in case of migraines)
  • Mobile phone
  • Sunglasses
  • High 5 Energy gels
  • Seed/cereal bars
  • Zero tablets, which we add to water to make rehydration fluid
  • Orange flavour Jelly Belly sports beans


“But what about proper food?”, I hear you cry, “Man cannot live by Snickers and energy gels alone!” Indeed. Fortunately there will be a number of rest stops where we’ve been promised a wide range of hot meals and drinks. We will have practical and moral support from our soigneurs,  Michael and Lorraine, who will be driving along parts of the route, armed with extra supplies. We’re also hoping to meet up with my Dad for a cup of tea at the halfway mark.

Despite all this equipment and support, I am sure there are going to be some long dark moments of the soul. Moments when the towpath of desolation will take on a rose-coloured glow. Moments when I would rather sit in a field of cows than keep moving.  At those times, I will try to remember Harold’s optimism:

“He knew he was going to reach Berwick, and that all he had to do was to place one foot in front of the other. The simplicity of it was joyful. If he kept going forward, he would of course arrive.”


devon 2010 077

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