The man who has walked the Peak District, Britain, Europe and the World.
HOW I PREPARE FOR AND DO A MARATHON WALK OF 1,000 MILES OR MORE.
I am by nature a natural athlete so I don’t need to go into a training programme of a major walk. I do keep walking fit, by doing 20 mile walks during the week, and in preparation for the walk, will carry a reasonable load in the rucksack I am using on the walk. This is so my feet acclimatise to the extra weight on them. Of greatest importance are my boots and I ensure they are worn in, have a cushioned insole and are basically like slippers on my feet, and can dance in them.
However the key to success is not physical fitness but having the right mindset. When planning the route I basically work out each day’s stage. I make no overnight plans and know I will always find something when I get there. The daily schedule is put away and not looked at until the night before I set off. A quick look at it shows the first days route; that is all I need to know. I have preprogrammed my mind ready. So on getting up I know where I want to be by the end of the day. Again that night, the same ritual. Look at the schedule and where I need to be tomorrow night. Again on getting up I know my destination. I pay no attention to the mileage or ascent along the way, for it is the destination that is the goal. It is immaterial how long it takes and what obstacles and weather I meet along the way. I take it all in my stride and press onto my day’s goal. I also at the start have already visualised reaching the ultimate goal and know without a shadow of doubt that I will make it. I go with total confidence and unshakeable faith.
I keep the basic of life in my backpack - tent, sleeping bag, minimum spare clothes, maps, and food. I don’t carry a phone for in wilderness there no reception. My staff have a copy of my schedule and on reaching “civilisation”, I will phone them to advise that all is well and am on schedule. There is no alarm if I am a day late, for because of the terrain I could have had to make a longer route than originally planned.
I build up slowly to daily mileage of between 20 and 30 miles; sometimes it creeps to 40 or more. But initially for the first 3 days I like to keep it below 20 miles each day. Allowing myself time to adjust back to major walking with a pack. The third day is the hardest on the mind, but once past this I fear no obstacles and can start pushing myself further each day. I start between 7am - 8am and basically aim to get 20 miles done by 2pm. By 500 miles I am settling down. After 1,000 miles I can really walk any distance and by 1,500 miles I have no limits and totally at one with mother earth. I start reaching my peak performance about 2,500 miles and a 1,000 miles I am declining physically. But my mind is still fully focussed on the walk. I carry all that I need for the day, or weeks. I don’t leave the trail to find accommodation and food; that is extra mileage and spoils the mental flow of the walk. Everything I need is on the trail and all is done with my two feet.
Copyright - Revd. John N. Merrill - July 15th. 2020.
The Matterhorn Challenge Walk
It all came about because of a chance meeting. A friend ordered a book from me and discovered she had ordered the wrong one! So I sent her the correct one and as I would be walking to her city would collect the other book. We sat on her patio and during the conversation, her friend, Ann had done several of my day challenge walks. She asked if I had ever been to Skillington and seen the Matterhorn window? I hadn’t and never knew about it, although I knew the tragic story. She had a picture of the window on her phone.
Back in my office I did some research and couldn’t believe the synchronicity after more than 50 years. At school I was writing a book on the history of mountaineering and had amassed a collection of some 300 books on both Alpine and Himalayan expeditions. One was Edward Whymper’s classic book - “Scrambles in the Alps”, which details his first ascent and the tragic descent when the rope broke and four of the party fell to their deaths. One of whom was Revd. Charles Hudson, Vicar of Skillington, where in his church is a stained glass window dedicated to him. His body and two others are buried in Zermatt’s graveyard.
With reading so much about the early Alpine years, I went to the Alps, on my own aged 16, and headed straight for Zermatt and the Matterhorn. I slept in the Hornli Hut and at first light was soloing up the Hornli ridge. At 12,500 ft. all the guides and parties were turning back because of the icy conditions. Taking their advice I turned round and descended all the way back to Zermatt. Three days later the weather had improved and I was once more back in the Hornli Hut. The weather was good and I set off up the ridge and enjoyed a dry climb. Partway down the descent I passed blood stained rocks, a climber had been hit on the head by a falling stone and had died. There were no climbing helmets in the early 1960’s. Back in Zermatt I hitch hiked to Grindelwald to have a go at the North face of the Eiger! I was young and innocent. But falling stones on the face made me turn round. The following day two climbers were killed and I headed to Chamonix to have look at Mont Blanc and the west face of the Dru ……. but that’s another story!
So I pulled out my maps of the Skillington area and initially thought of doing a 20 plus mile circular walk from Grantham. The first part looked alright but the return was not attractive. I looked at Melton Mowbray and possibly use the town as the start for a circular walk but the distance was too far. So the thought of walking from Melton Mowbray to Grantham over the Wolds became my chosen route. The previous year I had been to a funeral of a walking friend in Long Clawson, north of Melton Mowbray. As I drove there I was surprised at the scenery and filed it away to do a walk there. Somehow I had missed this slither of land between the Nottinghamshire Wolds and Charnwood Forest. I wouldn’t be disappointed.
As a rough guide I thought the walk was approximately 22 miles, but it proved a 20 hour day and much longer - 27 miles; but a great day! Although I was up at 4.15am to begin the bus and tube ride to the railway station, the trains were cancelled due to power failure the previous night. I had planned to be walking from Melton Mowbray by 8.30am but it was 10am. A cloudy and windy day with a few squalls of short heavy rain; but I never donned my rain gear. Proved a lovely walk along a section of the Jubilee Way to Scalford where I turned right to the attractive village of Waltham on the Wolds. I sheltered by the green and appropriately ate two Melton Mowbray Pork Pies! Then it was on over the Wolds with extensive views before heading for Skillington.
I came to the small church appropriately dedicated to the Pilgrim saint, St. James. The church was locked but found the key keeper and she let me in to see the Revd. Charles Hudson window and Matterhorn information boards. I pressed on to Stoke Rochford and its delightful country estate before heading along paths to Grantham, finally arriving at the station at 8.15pm. Apart from scratched and stinging legs from nettles I was in fine shape. The trains were back to normal and was soon on my way back to London, finally arriving home at midnight. A very rewarding day.
This is long walk but full of interest and extensive views. Enjoy your crossing of the wolds and pay homage to a fine climber who has become immortalised in an early Alpine tragedy.
John N. Merrill
SHAME AND NAME
I don’t often complain or comment, which is my Buddhist nature - don’t complain, don’t explain.” But, on this occasion I feel I should speak out about the serious infringement of my intellectual property rights. And as a warning to other walk and guidebook creators.
Being a leading Pilgrim walker I was delighted to learn of a new website - British Pilgrim’s Trust. However, when I went onto the website I discovered some 30 book covers and brief walk details of mine. I had had no communication, no request for permission to do so. I can only conclude that the cover pictures were hacked from my website. At first I thought this would be good publicity but a few weeks later I discovered that they had changed one of my route names, without even a request to do so. I also learnt that my guide to walking from London to St. Albans shrine had been removed. They said it was because St. Albans cathedral had now written their own, and took precedence over mine! Mine was the first guide detailing the route. Again I had not been consulted. As a result I told the BPT to remove all my content from my their website. This they did - their loss, for they could have had my full cooperation had they approached me first.
This set alarm bells in my mind and with more than 8.700 routes and 470 copyright guidebooks, I googled some of my walks and was astounded at what I found. The Long Distance Walkers Association website has all my challenge walks on their site. This was acceptable, giving details of the start and finish, the guidebook available and completion certificate and embroidered badge. BUT they had now gone further and added free gpx details, walk log, trail profile etc., without my permission. I contact an Intellectual Property lawyer and he informed they were in serious breach of my rights. He said they needed a Cease and Decease letter, which would lead to an agreement whereby they could under licence provide these details. I had no reply from LDWA but two days later found all my walks were no longer on their website. I resigned my membership. Again their loss.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg for I have found numerous sites using my information without any permission to do so, or any acknowledgement. Some of the information they give is totally inaccurate. One site details and describes one of my challenge walks with photo’s and the walks title, but no reference to me as the creator and writer of the route and guide. The author and creator should be acknowledged, not ripped off and made to look as though it is the website’s owner’s walk. Another site does an annual charity walk around one of my routes, with a a copyright guidebook by me but they have never asked permission or acknowledged that it is my walk. Another details all my walks from one book. Others have copied the information from the LDWA website. I am slowly working my way through these sites and ensuring that my intellectual property rights are restored, if not then I have no option but to bring legal action and sue for damages, and the content will also have to be removed.
Among the sites grossly infringing my intellectual rights are -