At the end March I started to wonder exactly where the one hundred miles a month I’d been walking since January would have taken me if I’d walked them for real. To find out I plotted them on WalkJogRun as if I was really walking and the route I chose was around the coast of Great Britain. Every month since I’ve plotted my miles and posted a little about where I’d got to. The following are the highlights of the year so far.
My 126.6 March miles took my total for the year to three hundred and thirty four and a half miles and I found myself in Canvey Island. It’s not really an island at all but reclaimed land in the Thames estuary with lots of little creeks separating it from the mainland of Essex. I like a good ghost story and Canvey Island has its share.
There’s the sack toting Dutchman wandering the shores, aids to be the ghost of Cornelius Vermuyden who made the marshlands habitable in the seventeenth century. Another ghostly figure is the Lady of the Lake, said to have drowned when her horse drawn carriage overturned. Eerily, recently pieces of a wooden carriage and the skeletons of two horses were found in the lake. Fishermen tell of seeing a large Viking on the mudflats, the ghost of a sailor left behind by his fleet and drowned in the rising tide.
Then there’s the famous Canvey Island Monster. In 1953 a huge unidentifiable carcass was washed up on the beach after some terrible floods. It was said to have reddish brown skin, bulging eyes and hind legs but no arms. Another, even larger, was washed up in 1954. Some say the creature looked quite like a monkfish, or an angler fish, others say there are still monsters out there in the sea. Either way I’m keeping on dry land.
I did make the hundred miles in April but it really was by the skin of my teeth, 100.88 miles in total, taking me to Goldhanger Creek on the estuary of the River Blackwater. A tiny triangle of a village surrounded by green fields, it has two pubs, the 15th century Cricketers and the Chequers along with a cafe called, oddly I think, The Salty Tea Rooms. It may be quiet and pretty but there’s a lot of mud and not many people to rescue me if I get stuck.
The wet weather in May made walking tough and it was even closer to the wire with just 100.31 miles. My final destination of the month was Bradfield, a little village on the River Stour. There is an Anglican Church dedicated to St Lawrence with a window commemorating the first pilot to land an aircraft on a moving ship. Squadron Commander Edwin Harris Dunning, born in 1892, grew up in Bradfield. In 1917 he landed his Sopwith Pup on HMS Furious in Scapa Flow, Orkney. Sadly, five days later, his second attempt did not go as well. An updraft caught the wing, the plane ended up in the water and Dunning drowned. He is buried in the church next to his mother.
Yet again, it was touch and go whether I’d make the hundred in June. I did, but only just, ending the month with 100.03 miles, talk about cutting it fine! My walk ended on the edge of fields outside Aldeburgh on the river Alde. Aldeburgh means old fort but the original Tudor town, along with the fort have been lost to the sea. There is a Napoleonic Martello Tower though and one of the best fish and chip shops in the UK. In the sixteenth century Aldeburgh had a thriving ship building industry and Sir Francis Drake’s ship Golden Hind was built there. Silt put paid to ship building though and the town is now a fishing village and popular seaside resort.
July was a tough month for many reasons, not least because my wonderful father in law passed away. By week four it really felt that this was going to be the first month I failed my hundred mile a month challenge. Despite the ups and downs I just managed to squeeze in the hundred miles. The final total was 100.47 miles to be exact, taking me to the Norfolk town of Burnham Overy, on the River Burn.
This is a town in two parts. The original village of Burnham Overy, now just a handful of houses and a village church is one part. The other is Burnham Overy Staithe, a much larger hamlet with a creek side harbour. The two sit between the village of Burnham Market, Holkham and Burnham Thorpe, the birthplace of Horatio Nelson. Confused, you bet I was. Apparently Nelson learned to row and sail at the tender age of ten at Burnham Overy Staithe. Two years later he joined the Navy! Seems a bit young to me but what do I know?
By the end of August I’d walked 112.27 miles, the best month I’d had since March when I wasn’t working. This took me through Gibraltar and Skegness to Anderby Creek. The hamlet is built on the side of a creek and the beach, which has been mentioned in the good beach guide, is something of a tourist magnet. A Cloud Bar nestles amid the golden sand dunes. This is not a pub, in fact there is no alcohol involved whatsoever as far as I can tell, it’s actually the UK’s first purpose built cloud viewing platform. Guests can sit back in special chairs and use mirrors to watch and identify clouds, there are even cloud menus to help you. I’d like to see that.
September was even better with 129.96 miles. I found myself just outside Wilsthorpe a little seaside town on the coast. There is, apparently, a boat compound, created by the council in 2009 to replace a similar facility at South Shore in Bridlington. The idea is to create an integrated transport facility for Bridlington. Sadly, because of all the caravan parks along the coast walking is restricted to the A165 too far back from the cliffs to really see the sea. Road walking is not my favourite pastime so maybe, if I did this for real, I’d walk through the caravan parks and risk getting shouted at.
So far this year I’ve walked a total of 978.38 miles. Wonder where the October miles will take me?