My Rules

I started in Kings Lynn, on the Lincolnshire/Norfolk border, on April 18th 2010. I have been walking clockwise round the coast of mainland Britain, in stages, since then.

My Rules for Walking the Coast

Breakwater, Ruth Livingstone's Coastal walk1. Enjoy each and every walk.
2. Keep as close to the coast as is safe, legal and reasonable.
3. Start each walk at the point where I stopped the coastal section of my previous walk.
4. I don’t have to walk around islands (but I can if I want to).
5. I don’t have to walk around peninsulas where the only link to the mainland is a narrow isthmus or causeway (unless I want to).
6. When encountering a river or estuary, cross at the nearest public crossing point; stepping stones, bridge or ferry.

And now not a rule, but a philosophical statement. I concentrate on being present in the place I am walking through.
This means:

  • I don’t listen to music or the radio while I walk,
  • I don’t read up on history or check which sights  I should view in advance of my walk,
  • and I avoid looking beyond my current OS map, except for planning my start and end points.

People sometimes ask me how I am going to cope with Scotland, where the weather is inclement, the countryside is wild and the footpaths are few. I refuse to think about this until I get there.

27 Responses to My Rules

  1. melitat says:

    Our rules are very similar! Everyone has asked me about Scotland but it is a long way off!
    Completely agree on not listening to music or the radio. I love hearing the sound of the sea and the wildlife.
    Melita

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  4. Great walking philosophy, especially remaining present. You must be making some wonderful discoveries Ruth.

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  9. Mike Taylor says:

    I don’t really get ‘not reading up on history’ in advance of a walk…. For instance you walked over the Slag Heaps in Barrow without knowing they were entirely man-made hills hot-poured from a train at the summit, and you were unaware that you were walking over a [closed] tunnel which once-upon-a-time allowed fishermen to walk under these hills to reach the shore. Personally I think a bit of background history adds to the walk and the moment.

    • Hi Mike.
      There is no right or wrong way of approaching a long-distance walk and I know some people buy detailed guide books for each trail they do. But I soon realised I prefer planning my walks from scratch – with the aid of only OS maps and bus/train timetables! I was still working a full time job when I set out, and spending hours of my time reading, researching, analysing, planning – so I wanted to break away from all that and just do some ‘being in the moment’, if you see what I’m getting at.
      During my walks I try to leave myself open to surprise, to puzzlement and to discoveries. For example, I realised that series of hills near Barrow were probably man-made, because they seemed ‘wrong’ in the landscape- and then the women I met confirmed they were slag heaps. Later, when I write up each walk for this blog, I often research things that perplexed or that interested me and I guess you could say I do my research back-to-front!
      It’s an interesting debate, of course, and thank you for making me think about it.
      Best wishes, Ruth

  10. jeffmsc says:

    “How do you do it?” said night.
    “How do you wake and shine?”
    “I keep it simple,” said light.
    “One day at a time.”
    Lemn Sissay

  11. Just found you – what a wonderful ambition. All power to you!! I have done two long distance walks in the UK : Wainwrights Coast to Coast and The West Highland Way. At the moment I am both out of a job and suffering from gout, so of course the obvious thing is to sit back and plan how I will walk from Lands End to John O’Groats – a long standing ambition. And I live in Australia so no problems there 🙂

    • I love planning walks! Hope the gout improves and you can get out walking soon.I’ve just realised that I will be able to claim Lands End to J O’Groats too – if I ever get there, of course – and by the longest possible route! Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

  12. Hi Ruth, I was talking to a chap the other day who is walking the coastline and I was inspired! Ive been in need of a new mission and so I have decided to attempt this myself. On doing some research, your blog was the first I found. We have a similar mndset to how we walk so I have found your posts of great help, thank you! You will likely see me around now asking questions…!

    • What a wonderful adventure you are about to embark on. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Wonder where you’re going to start…? Do keep in touch and don’t hesitate to ask questions. Best wishes.

      • Thank you Ruth, I am excited! I live in Dawlish, move here last year. I’m currently trying to decide whether to walk the path in sections, first anti clockwise from home to Minehead them clockwise from home to Poole , or to start in Minehead and do it all clockwise. . . I’m torn!!!

        • My advice to anyone wanting to walk the whole SWCP in one go would be to start in Poole and walk to Minehead. I know that’s the ‘wrong way’ but it gives you a gentler introduction to the path and saves the more challenging cliffs of the north coast until the end. You’re planning to do it in sections, of course, and so it doesn’t really matter so much where you start.

          • Ah that’s very good and useful advice! Even though I’m doing it in sections, i would still like to do it in order, with this advice I think I will go with my plan of doing it in two phases. Phase one from Dawlish to Poole in sections and phase 2 from Dawlish to Poole . Thanks Ruth!

  13. Kristen says:

    Hello Ruth,
    I will be walking from Tenby to Swansea in May, and although I have downloaded GPS routes into a hand held Garmin unit, I cannot find proper paper maps here in Canada. Do you know if maps are available for purchase in Tenby? Have you or anyone else used a GPS unit successfully without maps for back-up. I am more trusting of a map…..maybe technology will be alright on it’s own? Thank you, and anyone else with an opinion, for your help! Happy walking,

    Kristen

    • Hi Kristen.
      What a wonderful walk you are going to have. Hope the trip goes well.

      Yes, like you, I prefer paper maps when going for a long trek. I’m not sure where you’re planning to stay in the UK, but you can use Dash4it to order UK maps and they will deliver to your hotel or B&B address within 3 days of you placing the order. (I find they usually deliver by the next day!) You will need Ordnance Survey Maps – the best in the world – from the Explorer series. Perfect for walking and show all the footpaths, rights-of-way, and other features. If you buy the paper maps, you can use a code to download the same map onto your Garmin device too, which is always useful as the standard maps that come preinstalled on Garmin are pretty useless.

      You can take a look at Ordnance Survey maps online by going to https://www.bing.com/maps/ and go to the drop-down box top right corner showing selection of maps. Choose Ordnance Survey to see the footpaths.

      I’m not sure how much walking you’ve done in the UK, but if you’re a beginner to long-distance walking, you might find my book helpful, which is available on Amazon.com
      https://www.amazon.com/Walking-English-Coast-Beginners-Guide/dp/191107931X/

      Best wishes, Ruth

  14. Kristen says:

    That is great advice, thanks Ruth! I will have the maps sent to my B & B in Tenby a few days before I arrive. I am staying in Tenby for 4 nights before I start the walk, both to explore Tenby and to get rid of the inevitable jet lag, so I will have time to have the maps delivered. I don’t really have a plan past Tenby and Amroth, so if there are places to explore in that area that you recommend, I am always open to suggestions. Thank you again for the help,

    Kristen

    • Leave plenty of time to explore the Gower Peninsula, which you’ll reach just before Swansea. The north coast of the Gower is marshy, but the west and south coast have beautiful beaches and great walking routes.

  15. snowgood says:

    I despair when I see walkers and joggers on the coast path listening to music! What could be nicer than a Skylark in song, or a scolding Stonechat up ahead? Perhaps my most amazing sounds have been jets and a helicopter that I looked down on whilst walking, then thinking I must be a right mug to walk higher than planes fly!

    • I agree. The only exception might be when walking very boring stretches, when I know music keeps some walkers going. As for looking DOWN on a plane, I don’t think that’s ever happened to me!

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