Walking my Way – John Merrill – 24th November 2014.

Many of us would walk three to ten miles and think that we had done well, but how about 215,000 miles in forty years of walking!

John started life having a disruptive childhood.  Born in London, he came to Sheffield and attended Westbourne School when he was six and a half.  He was not the ideal student and was caned many times for unruly behaviour.  His main aim was to escape school and walk on the valleys and moors of the Peak District.

He was sent to a Quaker boarding school at Wetherby and subsequently his father enabled him to go to Norway where he enjoyed climbing mountains and glaciers for a month…(this was all before his O level examinations which he failed in all subjects).

After a short spell working in his father’s factory he left and decided that walking would be the main focus of his future life and to write books about the walks.  The first book was “Fifty walks in Derbyshire” and it sold 9,000 copies. His further walks then began in earnest….walking 1004 miles in 54 days in the Hebrides.  He was the first man to walk the entire British coastline (7,000 miles of it). This earned him a place in the Guinness Book of Records.  He took eighteen months planning the trip and walked clockwise around the coast.  He arranged that 55 parcels of clothing and foodstuffs could be collected at post offices along the way and got through four pairs of boots and 230 maps.  He met climbers on the top of Snowdon and re met them again, by chance, on Scafell Pike.  His ascent and descent of Ben Nevis in 30 minutes was a record.

John didn’t drink any water on his daily walks as his body was used to doing without it and, to stop and drink would interfere with his walking rhythm.  Coming back down the 3000 miles of the East coast experiencing many cliffs, he arrived at Southend on Sea where he buried 35 pairs of old socks in the sand (his shirts and shorts he only washed on a three monthly cycle!).

Subsequent walks included walking across the U.S.A (2500 miles);  Mexico to Canada (2700 miles); the Camino de Santiago walks on three different routes.

His walking raised over £756,000 in charity sponsorship.  He was much in demand from Radio and TV film programmes as well as giving many lectures and slide shows about his walks.

More information can be found on his website.

We thank John for an interesting account of his walking adventures.