GetOutside Champion: Emma Brennand
Dr. Emma Brennand is a journalist, photographer & documentary filmmaker with a passion for wildlife conservation and outdoor education.
For many people, the idea of a 'walking challenge' seems out of reach with regards to time, resources or ability. But TwoTravlrs are here to tell you how they are making a walking challenge which suits their lifestyle, and how you can do the same!
When you say ‘walking challenge’, most people will conjures up images like the 3 Peaks Challenge, Moonlight 5 and 10ks, and other famous walking routes such as Hadrian’s Wall, the West Highland Way or Wainwright’s Coast to Coast.
But sometimes these can feel a bit out of reach with regards to time and resources, or we are simply not inspired enough by them.
For quite a while now I’ve been wanting to do my own walking challenge, but I just wasn’t particularly taken with any that I had seen advertised or mentioned in magazines and on the internet.
The ones that did capture my imagination often appeared to be inaccessible with my current commitments.
So instead, I set out to plan my own.
Out came the spreadsheets, and I began by listing all the walking and camping kit I currently own, how much time I was prepared to commit, and what budget I was prepared to spend on my challenge.
This gave me a great starting point to help put things into perspective and narrow down any potential challenges as to what was currently within my means, and what wasn’t.
Next I started to make a list of all of my favourite places in the U.K., narrowing this down to places that I’d really love to explore more on foot.
Here, I also started to think about the kind of challenge I wanted to do.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a challenge as ‘a task or situation that tests someone’s abilities,’ and so next in my spreadsheet came a list of all the types of walking I had never done before but wanted to in an attempt to stay true to the idea of a challenge.
Finally, after consulting the OS Maps app to check route feasibility, I arrived – eyes wide and grinning - at the challenge of a solo, self-supported, multi-day coast to coast walk across Snowdonia, taking in as many mountains as possible along the way.
A ‘Traverse of Snowdonia’, if you will.
Now that I have my heart set on a challenge I’m truly excited about, I’m planning on spending the next 6 months or so identifying and saving up for any gear and knowledge that I need to get to help keep me safe and comfortable during my challenge, as well as giving me ample time to put annual leave plans in place and block the time out in my calendar.
This preparation also includes making sure I know my route well, and have an estimate of the time and distance it will take me, and someone I trust to be able to leave this information with when the time comes. It also includes looking at areas where I think I’ll be able to sleep, any escape routes should a problem arise, and be absolutely certain that I know what I need to do in the case of an emergency.
But between then and now, that’s not the only training I need to do to make sure I’m prepared, and to give me the best chance of completing my challenge.
So I’ve decided to set myself lots of smaller challenges along the way to help me reach my goal.
During some research, I found that there are actually lots and lots of equally incredible alternatives and a huge amount of potential for some really incredible walking challenges.
All of which can help build skills and confidence, whilst still providing the views, feelings and environment that I’m looking to experience, and, even better still, I realised that I can do it whilst fitting my normal life around it – I didn’t need to take weeks of annual leave just to go for a walk!
So to inspire you to make the most of your spare time and complete your own walking challenge, here are 5 of my favourite challenges that don’t require a huge amount of free time, can be tailored to suit needs, but at the same time are a little more unusual compared to some of the ‘classic’ walking challenges.
Pick any 3 (different) routes up the same hill or mountain. Now go and walk them all within a day!
Walk from the coast to the nearest summit – and back again!
Why not take some of the famous 24 hour running challenges and turn them into an 2-3 day walking challenge?
There are lots of incredible, shorter, circular routes in the U.K. which can take a handful of days to cover – some doable over a weekend (or a long one). For example, why not try walking the Bob Graham round, the Paddy Buckley round, or the Ramsay round?
Perfect for more urban adventures. Collect as many bridges/churches/blue plaques as you can over a certain time frame, or download a geocache app and get caching!
Why not tackle one of the national trails in stages, at times that are convenient to you?
I have some colleagues who are walking the Pennine Way (all 267 miles of it!) over the course of the year, just by using free weekends and bank holidays.
Much of the route is accessible via public transport (most notably by train), which always makes things a bit easier, and they’ve often talked about the changes of seasons and landscape they notice more by breaking the trail down into more manageable chunks.
At the end of the day, it’s still a huge achievement and the claim of walking the whole of a trail (regardless over what timescales) is something to be proud of.
Ultimately, these kinds of challenges can be as simple and as accessible as you need and want them to be, but they’re all incredible and unique adventures in their own right.
Adventure is what you make of it, and a challenge is a really subjective thing.
Try not to be put off by the thought of having to plan your own challenge either - planning can really end up being part of the fun, and making slight changes to the way you would normally do things, for example, trying a solo walk and getting a friend to meet you at the end, can hugely change the feel of the challenge for you.
So next time you have a spare weekend, why not lace up your boots and see what you can achieve? See you out on the hills!