Walking home

Walked: To my mum’s house

Date: 17-19 July 2018

Distance: 75 miles

Weather: Heatwave!

Despite all the well known long distance trails I’ve walked, there’s a much more random – and personal – one that I’ve been wanting to do for ages… to walk to my mum’s house.

Now, I appreciate that for some people the distance to their parental home would be impossibly long, and for others a short stroll. Mine was a 75 mile, 2.5 day hike through the South London Alps (aka as the hilly bits that start immediately south of where I live in East Dulwich), the Surrey Hills and the South Downs, finally pitching up near Chichester Harbour on the sunny south coast.

It was also a totally new kind of walk for me. Armed with my newly purchased online access to all the OS maps in the UK (£25 a year: total bargain), I made up the route as I went along, checking my phone to ensure I was heading southwest by zigzagging my way out of suburban London, Surrey, West Sussex and – last but not least – a tiny bit of Hampshire. I also tried out wild camping for the first (and then second!) time, and to keep my bag light / because it’s been so darn hot, I had a bivvy bag rather than a tent. Day one ended in the fern-filled woods of Abinger Common, where I learnt that even the smallest of birds make quite a lot of noise when they walk on a bone-dry thick-pile carpet of leaves. I admit that, on my own as I was, it freaked me out a little and I didn’t have the best night’s sleep! Day two found me racing against the dying light of dusk to find a suitably secluded spot to stay, finally nestling myself among a pile of hay bales near Heyshott in the lovely South Downs: super comfortable, and I was rewarded with a beautiful sunrise.

After the longest, hottest spell of weather that the UK has experienced since 1976 (and as I was one at the time, I don’t exactly remember it), England’s countryside is parched; the normally green meadows are yellow, the rivers and ponds are either dry or running low, and the fields have deep cracks running through them, as if there’s been an earthquake. But the sunlight dappled forests were a delight, the hedgerows alive with life, and the air around me was often filled with butterflies. And despite my walk taking me through one of the most densely populated parts of the UK, and the dire warnings from some that our island nation is ‘full’, I walked for hours every day, on (largely) well marked footpaths, without seeing a soul. Reader, it was glorious. As was the much needed shower I had when I got to my mum’s!

About silkakt

I'm a map addict. I nip out in my lunch break to go to the National Map Centre, just around the corner from where I work, to feed my habit. My fix normally costs £7.99 and comes in the form of an OS map, although I'm a big fan of Sustrans cycle maps, the Trailblazer walking guides and maps of the world too. And once I've got my new map, I start plotting - routes, adventures and an escape away from the office that I spend too much time in. Maps, quite simply, make the world a better and more exciting place.
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6 Responses to Walking home

  1. Siwan Hayward says:

    This is a magical tale! Wonderful! Love that you did this all on paths while traffic trundled along motorways and A roads x

  2. Eleanor says:

    Spectacular, Silka! Love it. And you’ve moved to digital maps which I found a bit surprising.

    • silkakt says:

      I still love my paper maps, but it would have cost a fortune – and been very heavy – to do all this with paper maps. It’ll be paper for the Dales Way, don’t you worry!

  3. Bill Ludwig says:

    Lovely story. Brave lady to camp alone. Not sure I’m ready for that ( actually getting to old) thanks

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