12 February 2008

A Man, A Plan And A Box Full Of Maps

Hi folks and welcome to my humble little blog. Most (if not all) already know me, but for those fortunate few who don't allow me to introduce myself. My name is Chris, I'm 23, I live in Stafford in the Midlands and I have a plan.

It all started the same way that many such schemes do, with a Friday afternoon daydream at work. We've all been there, it’s the end of a long week, the clock appears to have set up camp at 4:30 and the mind starts to wander in search of a mental shelter from the tedium. My refuge on this particular Friday was the view from the window of our stuffy office. Looking out beyond the industrial units and idling lorries of the estate I could just glimpse the hazy outline of green hills on the horizon. Anyone who has worked at a computer all day will vouch that at times the urge to abandon the thing and go stretch your legs is a hard one to resist and at that moment I would have liked nothing better than to strike out across country in search of those hills. Sadly my employers would probably have frowned upon an impromptu afternoon hike so I resigned myself to simply contemplating the logistics of such a trek. How many miles would it be? Could I walk it in one day? Come to think of it, just how far could I even walk in one day? Such questions eventually led to their inevitable conclusion: Could I, a relatively inexperienced hiker walk from one end of the country to the other? For most this would just be a fleeting thought no sooner dreamt up as dissipated but for some reason the question refused to stop circulating through my mind. Could I really do it?

I thought of my Granddad after he had completed the Coast to Coast with his mate Reg and his satisfaction at not only finishing, but doing so in well under the average time scale. I remember the fondness with which he used to talk about his exploits on the trail and I new that he for one would tell me to grab life by the scruff of the neck and run with it. So I did.

To cut a long story short, after a spot of internet research and a long conversation with my folks I became the proud owner of more ordinance survey maps than I'm certain is healthy for one individual to have. The reason for this cartographical extravagance was two fold;

First the route I had decided to take covers 54 1:25000 OS maps on its journey through the country and given my ability to get lost in even the most familiar setting I figured I would need each and every one of them to stand a chance.

Second I thought that the best way to invest myself in this endeavour was to 'invest' in the endeavour. There's no backing out when you've got a house filled to the brim with maps and the bill to go with it.

Now that there was no risk of backing out I started to form the framework of my plan. Going off recommendations from the web I decided to walk the route from Lands End to John O’ Groats otherwise know as the LEJOG, with an aim to start towards the end of May. The benefit of doing it this way around at this time is that I should miss the summer crowds of Cornwall and the weather should get more summery (though this is Britain so that’s all relative really) as I plod my way North where it is generally colder. Of course this does mean that I will be getting to Scotland bang in the middle of midge season but I’ll deal with those little buggers when I have to.

My next decision was who I should try to raise money for with this little adventure of mine. I’ve always wanted to do something for charity but besides for the occasional donation to children in need and a day dressed as a monk for comic relief when I was 10, I’ve yet to really contribute. With a challenge of this magnitude I think this is finally my opportunity to raise some serious cash for those who need it most. To that end, I’ve decided that I will be hiking this summer for the Katharine House Hospice in order to repay in some small way the excellent care that they gave to my own grandparents in their time of need as well as the hundreds of others that depend upon them each and every day. I implore each and every one of you to take 2 minutes out of your day and head on over to their site (linky is on the blog) and read for yourself about the work they do for the community. I shall be setting up the sponsorship in conjunction with Katharine House over the coming weeks, so when the opportunity comes I only ask that you spare what you can with the knowledge that every single penny is greatly appreciated.

So there I am, a man with a plan and a giant box of maps. Over the next few months I'll be hammering down my route, adding to my pile of equipment, and desperately trying to bash myself into shape before the big day. Along the way I’ll try my best to keep you up to date with my joys, sorrows and frustrations as I make the preparations for the longest walk of my life.

Until then, happy daydreaming to you all!