A couple of months ago myself and some old school friends decided that we would do the Beverley Twenty; a 20-mile walk between Hessle and the town of Beverley.
A walk of that length is possible without a high level of fitness; you mostly need the mental determination to keep going despite the aches and pains (and good conversation to while away the hours). However, I’ve never done an official walk of quite that length before, which I didn’t realise until the actual day.
My previous walking experience included climbing Snowdon, completing the Duke of Edinburgh expeditions from Bronze through to Gold, and walking 40,000 steps in one day in Paris. Generally, I’m a pretty ‘fit’ person and I enjoy being active: most days when I’m living at home I will go out on an hour-long walk (as an opportunity to be active and to listen to a podcast). I knew that the 20-mile walk would give us the opportunity to complete a challenge and feel a sense of achievement. Being an achiever, this was the perfect Sunday activity for me.
The day started out with a call from my friend saying that it was my decision whether we would go ahead with the walk; the scene outside my window was dense grey cloud and drizzle. If we went ahead with the walk we had to be prepared that the day would remain like that. However, I’m not a quitter. I have a great Berghaus coat, a new-found love for the rain and a dislike for being left with nothing to do, so I said, “let’s do it”.
We congregated at the start point: I was next to the ‘start’ rock and the boys were at the other side of the construction works (because the start rock was inaccessible without a detour that I’d already completed as I’d arrived earlier. Well… on time). After setting up our fitness tracking apps, we began the walk and 5 minutes later I could finally coalesce with the boys’ path.
Then about 5 minutes after that, myself and one of the boys stopped to go to the toilet. Progress was clearly going well.
When we hit the tidal path, about another 5 minutes from the toilet stop, we encountered a problem: the path was closed for tidal barrier construction works. We considered our options and ended up bypassing the gate and jumping back onto the main path. The ground was fine and no works were going on at that stage of the route.
After making good tracks, one of the boys spotted a construction worker and so we had to drop down off the path, close to the river. This is where things got really interesting. The alternative ‘path’ was a slippy mud rink, edged by some mossy, wet rocks. As soon as I stepped into the mud my foot sank and I almost lost my shoe. We decided to attempt to make our way across the muddy terrain by walking predominantly on the rocks.
Multiple times I had a close-shave and almost fell over. It didn’t help that I was in the process of re-training a weakened ankle. One of the boys caught me on one occasion when I definitely would’ve ended up on the floor without him, “saving my life” (as he put it).
Although we could see how far we would have to walk across the mud rink, we were making very slow progress. And I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it that far without completely decking it (and potentially injuring myself in the process). I was beginning to regret my decision to go ahead with the walk – the drizzle, the grey day and our unexpected difficulties were making me wonder if we should scrap the walk entirely and do it another day.
I aired my hesitations and after a group chat, we decided that we would head back to the start point, see if we could get a lift, and resume our walk from the point where we should be (in terms of the miles that we had already covered).
My Dad came to the rescue, picking us up and dropping us off at Melton roundabout, where we resumed our fitness tracking apps and continued with the walk. The magic of solutions is refreshing and I began to feel a lot more positive again.
We made our way through Welton (a patch of forest trails that I have come to know very well throughout lockdown activities) and made good progress through the many fields and trails that we encountered. We hit the halfway point shortly after my first wilder-pee of that day. I was feeling good, and knowing that we only had another 10 miles or so to go invigorated me even more.
Out of our little group, I was probably in the middle in terms of preparedness for the walk. Alex was definitely the most prepared: he’s very outdoorsy and is the main guide for every group walk that we go on. He was kitted out with walking boots, a good coat, a walking backpack, plenty of water and a great selection of food. I had opted for trainers, which perhaps was my downfall (especially in the rough mud-rink terrain) but I had a solid coat, two bottles of water, a good pack-up of snacks and lunch, and a Vans backpack without a waterproof cover (another of my downfalls, especially considering the expectation of a drizzly day). Jonny, on the other hand, was probably the least prepared: he had a white pair of trainers that he didn’t properly tie-up, he didn’t bring a coat, and he only had two 500ml bottles of Lucozade along with just a few sugary snacks. It seemed to work out fine for him but even I was feeling a little unprepared for the walk, so I don’t know how he felt.
We continually kept up an arrival time of just after 5pm (according to Alex’s Garmin), as we passed through Skidby and the surrounding fields up through to Walkington. Jonny kept complaining about the amount of elevation left, which was very little after the Welton section. I ended up calling us the blood brothers and sisters because we all ended up drawing blood; Jonny did so from the back of his foot rubbing on his trainers, I scraped my leg against a rusty piece of metal and Alex scraped his arm against a thorn towards the end of the walk.
When we hit Beverley Westwood it felt like we were on the home straight. I had honestly started to feel like I was flagging a little from when we had 4 miles to go but I was re-invigorated by a recognisable landmark signalling our closeness to the finish line of Beverley Minster. I could feel a couple of blisters on the inside of my foot and my legs were hurting a little bit too, but my major ache was my lower back (clearly I’m not treating it well in my day-to-day activities!)
After cautiously avoiding the cows on the Westwood we hit Beverley town and finally came to the grand sight of the Minster. We had completed it! After a quick selfie, we headed straight to the pub for a well-deserved pint – lager for the boys, fruity cider for myself. It was great to top off an achievement like that with a celebratory drink together.
Overall that day was a great one. Although a lot of bad things have come out of the covid pandemic, one of the great things has been spending a lot of time with friends whom I don’t normally see so much. And we have taken more time to go on plenty of local walks, which has led to a lot of great conversations where we have learnt more about each other.
I am definitely keen to challenge myself to do more adventurous activities that have a clear achievement at the end. In the next couple of months, I hope to run a 10k and ideally I’d like to put more things in the diary to challenge my fitness and mental determination. So if you have any ideas of challenges that I could do, or if there’s a challenge that you’d like to complete and you need a buddy to do so, then be sure to let me know!