The Aging Adventurer: England Hiking Plans

Active & Adventurous - The Aging Adventurer

Anticipating My Hike in England                                      

Emily KimballI keep a travel list of adventures I'd like to experience before I die. High on that list is a hike on the South West Coastal Path in England. This 613-mile trail winds along the tall cliffs overlooking the ocean. The guidebook describes it this way: "Sheer granite cliffs which plunge into the sea, ancient stone monuments stand in mythical moors, family-owned farms and pubs so old they have no record of when they opened, dot the countryside. This is a scene to be savored, a land best explored on foot."

My mother's family came from England and I have several relatives there. Between college and graduate school I took a semester off to participate in a Service Civil International Workcamp in Wasmas, Belgium. Afterwards I hitchhiked around Europe and ventured to England to meet my English relatives for the first time. In my 50's I bike toured in Ireland, England and Wales. Later on a ten-day trek across England with Sherpa Expeditions I connected with my relatives once again.

I asked Cousin Roger about the many hiking trails in England. He responded with a chart outlining twenty different treks; he wrote a short description of each one. On the chart he rated them for National Park areas, pretty villages, type of terrain, etc. His description of the South West Coastal Path drew me in. "It's all under the control and management of the National Trust......on the north side you get spectacular rugged cliffs and you will get plenty of exercise though not of a crippling kind."

How could I move this hike from my "Adventures To Do List" to my "Adventures To Do Now List"?  

First of all I must find a willing and compatible hiking buddy. My friend Barbara, who often accompanied me on my Appalachian Trail hikes, had recently retired. She has heard me talk about this dream for some time. After she settled into her retirement–– training to be a Yoga teacher and becoming a Master Naturalist  –– she broached the question of hiking with me in England. Wow, now I had a tried and true hiking partner - why not do it?  I am approaching 80, and if I put it off too long it may not be possible.


Since money is an issue for me. Barbara suggested, "Why don't we do it on our own?  It would be much cheaper."

"You mean not hire a company to carry our stuff from one B&B to the next?"

 "Yes," she replied, "We could carry our needed clothes, toiletries, rain gear and other essentials in our backpacks. There would be no need to bring a tent, sleeping bag, pad, stove, cooking equipment and food. Our pack would be very light without all that heavy gear we usually carry."

"That would cut down on our expenses quite a bit," I said, "and allow our trip to be more spontaneous. We could stop wherever we wanted to, and not have to reach a particular B&B where our luggage would have been dropped; instead we would be carrying it in our backpacks."

It was settled. Barbara and I would hike a section of the South West Coastal Path. We choose October, working around one of my speaking engagements and the birth of her first grandchild. Cousin Roger is no longer alive but Second Cousins Liz and David assured us: "October will be more like the best weather of the Fall. A bit chilly in the evenings but a good possibility of sunny days. But we wouldn't rule out a bit of rain."  They also encouraged us to spend a weekend with them and said they would gather as many of their children and grandchildren as they could to greet their American cousin and her friend.

Barbara ordered the South West Coastal Trail book that gave distances between villages and phone numbers of hostels and B& B's. She also got maps of the part of the trail we would walk during our three weeks in England. I corresponded with Marian in England, an internet friend who published The Elderwoman Newsletter focused on aging issues. She subscribed to my Make It Happen! Newsletter; we often published each other's articles. Marian wrote back that she lived on the route(!), and had hiked a good bit of the Path; at 73 she was hoping to complete the journey. I told her we had decided to start at Minehead where the trail began. She said that this would take us through some of the most scenic sections. She agreed to join us for part of our hike; it would be nice to have someone along who knew the area intimately.

Now all we had to do was get our tickets. Barbara was using frequent flyer miles so had to choose specific routes and times. It turned out she would fly to London and spend the night and take trains and buses to Minehead. I got a flight to  Bristol, which was much nearer Minehead,  and cost $200 less than flying to London. We agreed to meet at the Minehead hostel where we had reservations. I didn't look forward to getting there on my own, but it had to be. I was more used to arriving in a country with my bicycle––taking it out of the box, putting it together and riding out of the airport. It was new for me to worry about train and bus schedules. Upon sending my plane reservation information to David and Liz, they said they would love to welcome me to British soil by meeting me at the Bristol airport and driving me to Minehead. Their offer was a real gift. I accepted after making sure they really meant it.

Now Barbara and I are working on getting money changed, studying maps, reading about the trail, figuring which oversees cell phone to get, and other trip details. I think it is going to be one terrific adventure. I must say that anticipating and planning it is half of the fun! 

 I will report on the trip in November after I return.

Emily Kimball, 9/12/10


Emily Kimball on Mt Katadhin


In retirement, Emily Kimball, The Aging Adventurer, rode her loaded touring bicycle across America and hiked the entire Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.  She continues an active lifestyle as she approaches her eightieth year, though at a slower pace.  In her speaking business, Make It Happen! Emily relates life lessons learned on the trail as she addresses  audiences on Risk Taking, Creative Aging and Making Dreams Happen. Her recent book,  Appalachian Trail Stories and Other Adventures: Living Your Dreams at 60 and Beyond, details some of her exploits.  For more information go to or contact Emily at or 804-358-4959.


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