Chris Howard’s 11,000-mile walk of self-discovery around Britain
A builder and dad of three from England is 4000 miles into an estimated 11-000-mile walk around the very edge of the coast of Britain.
Chris Howard – The Coast Walker – set off on July 26 and has so far walked around eight million steps from Heacham beach in King’s Lynn to Aberystwyth in Wales. He is raising money for Children In Need.
Due to lockdown, the 35-year-old from Cambridge, has had to put his walk on hold but he hopes to restart as soon as restrictions allow. He left Wales on December 19 to returned home.
He said he is walking because “I’ve always been fascinated with my own levels of endurance and perseverance”.
He added: “I’m walking to raise money for a very worthy cause but when I do anything it has to have a meaningful connection of self-discovery, so I’m really learning about who I am.”
The coast walk
Chris, who is originally from Kent, has so far walked for 150 days. His route has taken him from Norfolk, south along the east coast to north Kent, then along the south coast to Land’s End. From there, he walked up the north side of Cornwall and made it to Aberystwyth in north-west Wales before lockdown sent him home again.
He stays as close to the sea as he can, often walking on beaches and timing his walk each day with the tide to allow him to be on the sand and in the surf itself. Otherwise, he walks on a cliff path closest to the edge of the coast.
He estimates the full distance will be 11,000 miles although it will depend on tide times, weather variations and diversions inland due to erosion.
He had hoped the trip would take him around a year. He said: “That’s has now changed due to the Covid situation but I hope I can go as quickly as I can and not delay the end date too much.
“I’ll be leaving again as soon as the restrictions are lifted. The annoying thing is I’m actually more isolated out there and pretty much self-sufficient than when in lockdown at home.”
Once he returns to Wales, Chris will headed up the north-west coast of England towards Scotland.
The time to walk
Chris owns a building company and during the first lockdown he realised he was able to leave his employees to continue working.
He said: “During lockdown, I stepped away from the business a bit to help with home-schooling my children. My wife also works for the company and along with the help of everyone else in the office and on site, she’s running the company while I walk the coast.
“I dial in when needed but basically they’re all supporting me and working very hard. It’s a risk I’ve taken, but I have full trust and confidence in the whole team.”
Chris admits he misses his kids while he completes his coast walk. He said: “We have seven-year-old twins and a four-year-old, all girls, and I miss them immensely every single day but they’re my strength. Every step I take, I know I’m getting closer to seeing them again.
“Also, I want to inspire them and others to always push their limits and help others.”
Walking for charity
Chris explained his choice of charity. He said: “The current situation is hard for so many of us but it’s very hard for children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds or abusive homes in the UK.
“Those children need a voice and someone that won’t forget about them at a time like this. Children In Need is exactly that in my opinion and they do so much for so many in every corner of the UK.”
His original goal had been to raise £10,000 but he quickly passed that, so he has doubled his target to £20,000 and then he passed that so he doubled it again to £40,000. He said: “The £40,000 goal ties in well with Pudsey’s 40th anniversary in 2020.”
Highs and lows of charity coast walk
The highlights of the walk so far have come as a surprise for Chris. he said: “It’s been the kindness of people that I’ve met that has been such a highlight.
“People have fed me and offered me shelter in whatever form they could, from lighthouses, castles, caravans, sheds, boats, fields and hay barns.
“I was genuinely excited to see the amazing places of our country, but it’s the people that have made those places.”
Chris has suffered some initial blisters, as well as aches and pains as his body adapted to the daily walking. He has also needed to find mental fortitude to cope with the routine of being alone for so long.
He said: “I could easily go seven to 10 days without talking to a single person, especially in the more remote parts or Cornwall and Wales. That has been tough.”
He has also learned some unexpected lessons. He said: “I learned that it is not a good idea to grab on to gauze bushes when you slip off a cliff. That hurts!
“I’ve also learned how little we need as human beings, not only to survive but actually to perform well in terms of endurance over long distances. We’re so very much more capable than we give ourselves credit for.
“The body and the mind are extraordinarily adaptable.”
The Coast Walker’s essential kit
Because Chris is never sure where he will sleep and usually he sleeps outside, he carries a bivvy bag and a lightweight tent. He said: “I like the fact that I get to see the stars last thing and the sunrise first thing. It’s a powerful primal connection to the natural world.”
He wears Vivobarefoot trakr boots – “I love everything about them,” he said – and carries other essential kit such as a LifeStraw water filter and my JetBoil stove for cups of tea and cooking.
His pack weighs around the same as one of his twins! He said: “In the beginning, I obsessed over lightweight kit and cutting out any unnecessary luxuries. I think I got my pack down to around 12kgs.
“Now, in winter, I have the mindset to tell myself that whatever I’m carrying is only 10kgs! Although I’m probably carrying somewhere closer to 20kgs, or the same as one of my twins!”
See his essential kit list.
Funding for the trip
To fund the walk, Chris sold his car, road bike and a few other “bits and pieces”. IN addition, while walking he spends very little.
He said: “For example, I have a ‘buy me a coffee button’ on my website, which people can support me with.
“I also produce content and hold talks for schools and community groups for a donation that goes to the charity. This often comes with a donation to the coffee fund but otherwise people feed me along the way and I survive pretty well. I need very little actual money.
“I get told a lot that I’m amazing, but I’m not. I’m just an ordinary human being like anyone else and I think we’re all extraordinary just for being human and here. It’s just that I don’t like sitting still.”
See www.thecoastwalker.com and follow him on social media @ChrisTheCoastWalker. Chris would welcome people to support and walk with him when he sets off again.