Steep ascents and descents. Far-reaching views. Glistening sea, edged with crashing waves that bewitchingly reflected the skies of peachy pink, orange and blue. Picture-perfect coastline of epic, five-star quality ruggedness and imagined tales of pirates and vagabonds all rolled into one.
The 7.3 miles for number 100 was chosen well. “You did good Grasshopper”, I thought to myself as we returned to the car, parked in West Lulworth. I had even managed to incorporate one of my 100ScaryDays by walking out onto seaward point of Bats Head, the towering, narrow headland that juts out into the sea just west of Durdle Door. Under no circumstances would I have attempted that previously… what a good way to mark the 100th MappyDay.
We almost didn’t make it either, when you think that we drove to West Lulworth from Poole, a distance of fifteen miles, only to discover that my walking boots had been left back at the house! We drove back home and back again to commence the walk, hoping that we would still make it to the end, in daylight.
A delayed announcement
Day 100 was an absolute cracker and to think that I thought it would never arrive! It seemed so far away when we stepped out on 100MappyDays number 1, which happened to be the final day of our winter wild camp along the Mendip Way on January 1st 2018. I deliberately delayed the announcement that the final walk had been well and truly tucked under my hip belt back on 29th December 2019. I wanted to avoid this celebratory blog being lost under a cyber pile of posts wishing each other a ‘Happy New Year’, deliberating over our levels of change in physical appearance in the Decade Challenge photos and a mountain of ‘Reflection’ blogs, mine included.
Yet having delayed this announcement, it now feels like a lifetime ago. My days since have been packed full with visiting family, walking, sorting, minimising, writing, teaching and keeping a finger on the 100ScaryDays pulse. Remembering the events of fourteen days ago and in fact for the past two years for this (probably) peri-menopausal brain of mine, is a potential feat of impossibility. Thank goodness then for the shed load of photos sat on my smartphone, poised patiently to trigger my memory. There’s no doubt a whole other blog post in that somewhere, regarding the need to be more present and less involved with concerns of the ‘image’, in order to assist my memory, but as photography has always played a huge part in my adventures, I think that would be a hard call for me to make just now.
#100MappyDays – walking one hundred different walks using a map or app. Some might consider this challenge too stretched; too long-winded. Considering it was supposed to be 100 walks in a 365-day period in the first instance, others might see it as too hard to achieve. That, after all equates to approximately two different walks a week for a whole year. Under normal circumstances, I am sure I could have achieved this, just. It would have been tricky but then what is a challenge if not something to make us work for our goal. If it was easy, then there is no challenge and in my book, not a lot of point.
After a successful run of participating in the 100 Happy Days Challenge, I decided I wanted something along similar lines to keep me looking forward. I needed a focus to work towards as it was becoming increasingly apparent that due to the failing health and frailty of both my parents, I would not be able to undertake another epic walk of weeks in duration, for the foreseeable future at least. I set myself some criteria before I started.
- No two walks were to be the same
- Some overlaps of trails in order to make an alternative route are allowed
- Walks must be greater than a mile in length
- There is no cap on maximum length of any walk
- Only one walk per day can count
The flexible nature of the walk distance meant that I could squeeze in a walk here and there as time permitted. It never mattered whether I was in Wales, North Somerset or Dorset – I could usually find the time to walk for even a shortie. Having a spreadsheet to fill in each time and photographs to post on social media, to show the beauty of each walk helped to motivate me, particularly on some of the dark, dank days where I could have easily decided to stay indoors.
Every walk undertaken has made me feel alive and grateful for the opportunity to be outside. It was often just the medicine I needed to ensure a break from the duties and working at home. A healthy head space was maintained as a result throughout some very difficult months… not to mention a mahoosive collection of memories.
Only three months into the challenge, I had a hospital procedure which took a few weeks longer to recover from than I had anticipated. Shortly after this, my Dad was taken into hospital following a fall. Mammoth changes were brought into play as the family worked to ensure Mum was cared for and adaptations began at their house to await Dad’s return. At this point, although I had only been able to manage one 100MappyDays walk a week, it was truly the highlight of every week. Each mile I stepped and breathed through, became a necessity and a means by which to recharge and reset my brain and my body. Anything that was not related to school work or family sadly fell by the wayside – apart from my lifeline. My walks.
Having begun the challenge on 1st January, within a twinkly blink, New Year’s Eve of 2018 glowed fiercely on the calendar and here my 50th 100MappyDay was ticked off and it was an absolute beauty. Twelve and a half miles around the Wye Valley, Tintern and the Devil’s Pulpit, every step in memory of Dad, who we sadly lost just before Christmas. He would have been proud and would certainly have enjoyed hearing about the trails and seeing the photographs. There and then, I decided that 100MappyDays needed another year – so that fifty could rightly become one hundred.
Halfway and further challenges
2019 saw a continuation of the walks, though another break in continuity due to a ski accident in April, meant that I was out of action for anything remotely like walking again for many weeks. I had torn my medial and cruciate ligaments and so patience was the only treatment to begin with. Mike and I had made plans to take two weeks off in September, in order to walk a long distance trail to mark my first September of not returning as a permanent teaching fixture in a school. Once physiotherapy was permitted, I worked hard to bring my knee back to strength and by September 2nd, I was astonished to be able to take off as intended on the Wainwright’s Coast to Coast trail. Completing 192 miles of tough terrain (in places) and catching up with fourteen days of back-to-back 100MappyDays, in truth made me smile!
The highlights of this challenge are so hard to pinpoint as each walk held many worthy merits that on the day, I would have put it up there as one of the greatest so far… until the next time of course, when the current walk became top cat instead. Looking back through my photographs, I decided to put together a few bulleted highlights and on the flipside, a few toughies too.
- Deciding to go into a village club in Witchampton on Day 4 and meeting some super friendly people. We stayed way longer than intended!
- Finding a ruined chapel on Day 5 in Minehead, not far off the SWCP. It was covered in ivy, tucked away and only discovered through the use of our OS map.
- Views – most of the walks had something visual to give.
- Discovering new trails and hidden paths in areas that I thought I knew well.
- The aesthetic quality of every walk amazed me – particularly the old woods and ancient beech-lined droves and gullies. The magical moss, the wizened branches and the rocky streams all gave me something to buzz about, both during and after the walk.
- Walking in the snow – something I don’t often get to do – and turning up on my friend’s doorstep after a surprise 8.5 mile walk in the snow to see her on Day 11.
- The sunsets… oh the sunsets!! Actually, the skies… oh the skies! I say this a lot but they truly do make my heart sing. The sense of drama that the landscape, skies and light can create stays with me long after the colours have faded.
- The old buildings, barns and bunkers. The churches, the quaint villages and houses and the names chosen for some of the houses. Some of the names can be really clever and some are totally hilarious.
- Revisiting the lane leading to Zennor in North Cornwall, the lane where Langers and I first met in 2011.
- The hills, hill forts, castles and ditches. The rivers, streams and bridges – some of these are really old and interesting. I fall in love with the coastlines every time. I want to say they are my favourite but then I see some amazing places inland and I often change my mind.
- Dismantled railways (I love to hunt these out on the OS maps) and the associated structures like old platforms, bridges and huts. It’s a nod back to other worlds of industry and transportation. Canals for the same reasons – and they’re so picturesque. Often lime kilns can be found at the side of the canals too.
- Walking to Grange Arch near Corfe Castle, in the snow on Day 56 and spotting the snowmen on top of the hill.
- Sharing the walks with others – sometimes just Mike – other times, family or friends.
- The Long Mynd and Carding Mill Valley in Shropshire was a priceless jewel in the 100MappyDays crown. I will be returning there.
- Seeing the carpets of spring flowers at Canford Magna on Day 60 walk from Delph Woods.
- Witnessing a murmuration near Corfe Mullen in Dorset on Boxing Day, Day 99.
Thankfully, there were not many toughies:
- Day 1 – coming down off Crooks Peak on the Mendips to walk our last day of the Mendip Way. We had slept very little after a rough and windy night’s wild camping on New Year’s Eve (which was still amazing due to the multitude of fireworks). We reached the nearest village and despite normally opening at 12noon, the pub wouldn’t let us in for a hot chocolate at 11.45am. The landlady was outside sweeping up and commented something remarkable, like “didn’t we realise it was New Year’s Eve the night before…”
- Boxing Day – Day 99 – it was rainy, cold and close to darkness. The headtorch was dimming as the battery drained and we were faced with severe flooding along our footpath, (though murmurations were cool, which was on the same hike).
- Day 11 Tearing my beloved Paramo jacket sleeve on barbed wire, while walking in the snow. I don’t believe I have ever actually recovered from this traumatic event and it still haunts me to this day.
- Discovering our circular path was closed due to almost impassable mud on Day 9 at Upton Heath, however we discovered this on reaching the end having battled through narrow, slip-slidey footways, deep with a gloopy chocolate mousse.
- Leaving boots at home for Day 100 – driving all the way home again to get them!
How should you get started?
To be honest, those tough points were few and the highlights far outweigh the hard stuff. I would wholeheartedly recommend giving this challenge a try and if you feel that 100 days is way too many, then adapt it to suit yourself. Why not try 50MappyDays or even a 25MappyDays just to get started. If you decide it’s something you enjoy then there is nothing to stop you increasing the target later on. Remember, you call the shots and no one else.
You would of course need a map and if you like, a map app like OS Maps. The app is actually very easy to use and will give you peace of mind that you can pinpoint your exact location if you are unsure from the paper map.
Walking poles can help on steep sections but are not essential. A good waterproof jacket, waterproof trousers, a warm layer and a drink are necessities in my view.
As are boots. Take it from me – don’t forget your boots!