July 2023

In May 2023, Ed Birchmore undertook a 36 day, 572 mile walk from the UK's East to West via an inland route to raise money for the British Skin Foundation and BBC Children in Need. Ed tell's us about his journey.

From East to West in 36 days.

Perched on a rock, boots and socks off, looking down from Chapel Carn Brae towards Land’s End, a couple of hours from the end of my challenge, rubbing in the last of the anaesthetic gel into my aching achilles and heels, I pondered the previous 36 days.

For decades I’d peered out from trains, planes and, yes, automobiles and past so much of the country and whilst spellbound by its beauty, I had always wondered what lay beyond that hill, or further up that valley. So it was, I determined the only way to really find out, to discover those hidden gems that scatter this land and hear stories that have kept the myths alive, was to one day walk it.

On 1st May 2023, after hundreds of hours of planning, mapping and cajoling sponsors, I’d set off from Ness Point in Lowestoft, England’s most Easterly point with a view to reach Cornwall’s most westerly point on the 5th June… around 4pm.

The initial route would take me via and inland only route. One, I believe has never been walked – almost certainly not following my circuitous ramblings. According to Mr Google, the distance between start and finish, walking a direct route, is about 404 miles. My indirect route was going to be 572 miles - approximately 16 miles a day.

As with other, far shorter walks, I decided that some motivation to keep me going beyond a pint of cider at the end of each day was needed. Naturally, I decided to support charities, make the effort worthwhile, so for personal reasons, I chose The British Skin Foundation and BBC Children in Need.

Carrying a smidge too much kit, I set off at 7am on May 1st. BBC Radio Suffolk set me off with a lovely interview as had BBC Radio Cornwall, Pirate FM and Greatest Hits Radio.

It’s not possible to go into extensive detail about the walk here but in summary, the weather was wet, then cold and then absolutely glorious… if a little hot in places. I can report my physical fitness held out but I had terrible pain from plantar fasciitis in one foot, then both and the aforementioned achilles caused much limping after about 10 miles in the last 2 weeks of the walk.

The incredible country didn’t fail to meet expectations… indeed it exceeded them. Nature literally bound all about me. From crazed hares to deer of every kind and perhaps the magnificent Red Kites on the ancient Ridgeway will always remain a highlight. I had not the slightest negative experience from any of our fellow humans – a few young bullocks got my goat but they are forgiven.

The generosity and curiosity of people really was life affirming and I’d like everyone to know there are some incredible humans out there… not to mention the wonderful support I received from every corner of the country, from friends and family and most remarkably from countless people I met along the way.  

Finally, a massive thank you to my dear friends and family who made my arrival at Land’s End feel incredible. I was so pleased to have them there to see me stagger in on 5th May… at 3pm – an hour early –  after notching up 645 miles, crossing 65 rivers, 12 counties and countless stiles.

As I pondered my journey atop the famous Chapel Carn Brae, a breeze in my beard and the sun on my face… with socks and boots back in place, I noticed the grip on my hiking pole had tightened. For a moment, I was absorbed by an overwhelming desire to keep going… beyond reaching the promontory below; I wanted to keep walking, stay “on the road”. I didn’t. However, the beauty of the country, the warmth of the people in it and the desire to check what was round the corners I didn’t go round remains and will call me again, I am quite sure. 

Ed Birchmore

You can support Ed through his Just Giving page below or read more about his upcoming journey on his website. 

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