Coasting it, one man's walk along 1600 miles of British coast

For those who don’t know me and what I am doing, my name is Josh and I am walking the Welsh and South West coastal paths to raise money for the Marine Conservation Society.

So what is my background story? I am a 23-year-old Waitrose partner who has been working at Waitrose Windsor for five years now.

From a young age I have had a strong passion for wildlife and the natural world. With a dream to pursue a conservation based career.

Having worked with Waitrose for five years, this meant that I could take up to a year off unpaid as a career break. I wanted to use the time to pursue a charitable cause, but was unsure as to what to do exactly.

It was mid October 2017, my dad’s birthday. We had driven down to Devon to visit family and went for a walk along the coast at Prawle Point. We were talking about how we had always said we should walk the South West coast path in sections, when it came to me! Why walk it in sections, when you can walk it all in one go!

I researched the distance and found out it was 630 miles long. Now this seemed like quite an achievement to do, but what could make it more of a challenge? The Wales coast path! Adding on another 870 miles and walking this too would definitely be a worthy challenge of undertaking!

With a little planning, I devised a 100 mile route between the two coast paths and with that, the ‘Coasting It’ walk was born! 1600 miles of fantastic coast line to walk! With 200 days taken off of work to do it! Starting March 1st 2018 and ending September 16th 2018!

Once I had the idea for the walk, choosing the charity to walk it for was a no-brainer! With MCSUK being the UKs leading marine charity and all the fantastic work they do to ensure our seas are healthy, pollution free and protected, I wanted to do what I could to support their cause! A walk along the coast, to protect the coast!

coasting it

A big reason as to why I wanted to make this walk as physically challenging as possibly is because at the time of devising it, I weighed in at eighteen and a half stone! The heaviest I had ever weighed, serious action was needed to get me back to the strong physical health I was used to not so long ago!

I joined the gym and with the prospect of the walk on the horizon it kept me motivated to keep going and to get fitter! I would go to the gym after work and focused on my cardio, legs and upper body strength. This became a near daily occurrence in the build up to the walk.

My dad would go on practice walks with me of eight miles. With a loaded backpack on my back and plenty of hill climbs to try and best simulate the conditions I would experience come the coast paths!

Before I knew it, the day had come to head to Chester for the start of the Wales coast path! I’m sure you will all be familiar with the lovely weather we had on March 1st… I was certainly thrilled to bits to be starting my adventure during the ‘Beast from the East’! With four substantial layers on and my bag filled to the brim with extra thermals, a thick sleeping bag, my tent and everything else I could possibly need, I set off on my adventure.

I had a pleasant, but cold first two days of walking, as my dad and his partner Linda walked them with me. It was nice to ease myself into the walk with some company!

tent coasting it

When the time came to set off by myself, the weather had warmed up slightly and the snow was starting to melt! Fantastic! It can only get better from here I thought to myself! That evening as I walked into Llandudno, round The Little Orme, I had my first significant wildlife spot of the trip! No less than forty grey seals, hauled out onto the beach below! It was a fantastic sight and the sounds they were making were equally as impressive! Things were looking good for the days to come!

Seals coasting it

“It can only get better”. Oh boy was I wrong! Before long I was on Anglesey, I was making terrific progress! But Anglesey quickly became the home of what is now my arch nemesis of this walk. Mud! It became a near daily battle trying to skirt round deep muddy paths. Unfortunately it was often unavoidable and I found myself up to my ankles in thick mud more than I would care to remember!

Just as the mud seemed to be drying up, I made it to Newborough Forest. “Things can only get better” I thought to myself as I pitched camp for the night. Boy was I wrong! Again! Waking up that next morning, I was greeted when opening my tent, to thick snow all around me! The ‘Beast from the East’ part two had struck swiftly and silently during the night! Although conditions were cold, it did at least add to the adventurous feeling of things and certainly made everything look pretty!

Things did eventually get better, as I even managed to get sunburned a while on, in Aberdaron on the tip of the Llyn Peninsula!

Over the Easter weekend, I took an excursion inland to climb Snowdon with some friends. As if I hadn’t done enough walking already! I also discovered Glaslyn osprey center! A fantastic little viewpoint keeping watch over the lovely Glaslyn ospreys! I spent my spare time volunteering with them, painting their hide and talking to visitors!

Unfortunately, when it came to Snowdon, we couldn’t reach the peak as, you guessed it, snow! Conditions were too dangerous to carry on beyond 850m and we were turned away! At least I was well conditioned to the weather!

The biggest highlight of my journey so far came at New Quay. A place I had sea kayaked from many years ago and have been a regular visitor ever since. For the sole reason of falling in love with the dolphins there!

I had planned to take a couple of days break here at New Quay and use the days off to try get to see the resident bottlenose dolphins! I went out on twice with the fantastic team at New Quay Dolphin Spotting Boat Trips, but was unfortunate not to see any dolphins! We did however have some of the most amazing porpoise encounters I have ever had!

The day came to leave New Quay, but I wasn’t going to leave without one last boat trip! Surely I would be third time lucky? Well, I was! My day was made with some great close encounters of a couple of bottlenose dolphins! My persistence paid off!

Dolphin Coasting it

I carried on my walk after that boat trip, along the cliffs above where the boat tours go out. I could not have timed it better! As I walked along, I could see what I worked out to be four dolphins below, they were heading the same way as I was. As I came round a headland and looked down again, there was what I can only describe a feeding frenzy! Bottlenose dolphins galore! There was easily over 20 of them, but hard to say an exact number! I sat and watched them for about an hour as they put on a show of a lifetime! Every 30 seconds or so, dolphins would leap out of the water and show off their acrobatic talents!

Most recently I visited Skomer Island and got to see my first ever puffins, it was fantastic to get up so close to these funny little birds! A bird so seemingly full of character! Unfortunately, I couldn’t get myself a stay on the island, so I missed out on the shearwaters! But that just means I have a reason to visit Skomer again when I finish!

This brings us to now. Two months in. Taking in the glorious sun out in Tenby. With only three weeks to go until I leave Wales, I am sure going to miss it! The wildlife has been fantastic and the people have been so supportive! Be sure to stay up to date with my progress and follow the journey with me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @CoastingIt, the more people I get to share my adventure with, the better!

See you on Monday 14 May for my beach clean with MCS in Swansea Bay at the slipway. We’ll be on the beach from 10:30 to 12:30.

Hope you can come along.