Run for Sue

It is very rare for me to post anything these days, but this is something that really needs mentioning and it’s about someone who is and always will be very close to my heart.

As a reader of this blog, my book or even the Flickr photos you will have come across Sue in more than a few of my posts and pages. Sue and Diesel (her loveably mad rescue dog) were essential to the success of my walk. She helped assess my initial fitness and devised a training program based upon her distance running experience. She also provided a huge amount of support, fund raising, advice and general chivvying, particularly throughout Scotland where she joined me for over a week in Morvern and Ardnamurchan, rallied her friends to drive my bus and put me up at her home near Aberdeen. She also joined me again for another week along the Northeast coast of England, cheered me up when I was having a bad day and visited whenever she could. Sue walked more miles with me than anyone else and by a very big margin. Her little legs easily kept apace with mine, and if it had been possible, she would have dropped everything to walk each one of those 5,045 miles with me.

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Sue has always put me to shame in many ways. Not only in being as fit as a butcher’s dog on performance enhancing drugs, but also in being a far nicer person than I could ever be.

We met at Newcastle University back in the 1980s, where we both studied Geology in a small but tight knit year group. Whether it was talking nonsense together, sharing slightly nerdy interests, exchanging loads of affectionate banter or offering support and advice when life took a few worrying or troublesome turns, Sue and I have always been close and best of pals first.  It just wouldn’t be right for me to publish privately held feelings here as we had only really admitted them to each other a few years ago. But our story is a complicated 35 year old one, underlain by a mutual and misunderstood fear of acknowledging any affection beyond friendship. To some, our entire story would probably make a half reasonable romantic comedy – if it wasn’t for the ending.

Sue suddenly became poorly early this year and to spare you the full tale, she very sadly passed away after a short illness. Her unexpected, untimely and utterly unjust departure has been felt by many, not least her lovely daughters Steph and Abi, her mum Lena, her siblings David and Lesley, and her extended family and friends in Aberdeenshire and across the UK.

We also shared a good university friend who had connections to the Spinal Injuries Association and Sue ran the 2016 London Marathon,2016 04 London 2aa like I had walked the coast, to help raise money for them. She wasn’t slow either and completed it in a very impressive 4 hours 11 minutes, whilst always believing she could  do better! She was a huge supporter of numerous charitable causes in so many ways and was just an all round enthusiastic good egg, tackling everything in life with optimism, natural congeniality and a big cheesy smile. She completed many half-marathons and marathons whilst trying to balance being a great mum and working her socks off to develop her career in Aberdeen before recently moving close by to become a highly respected, honest, diligent and dedicated Group Chief Finance Officer at Coventry University.

It was Sue’s intention to do the Great Aberdeen Run on 26 August and she had chosen to run in support of Brain Tumour Research.  Sadly her brain tumour denied her the opportunity to run. However, in a few weeks time her running partner, Caroline Inglis, Irene Bews and a large group of Sue’s friends from Aberdeen University will be doing a ‘Run for Sue’ at The Great Aberdeen Run in support of the Brain Tumour Research charity.

4af83e1f-996b-436e-88b5-b5301c2822eaIn reading this I am hopeful that you will either click on any of the photos or on the links in the text nearby and maybe offer your support to Caroline, Irene or any member of the Aberdeen University team.  I am all too aware that there are so many cruel illnesses, diseases, injuries and conditions out there that take so many lovely people, but this one is particularly close to my heart and I hope that you can find it in yours to contribute and maybe help others who are diagnosed with such a devastating disease.

Thanks for reading this far and I can only offer you my heartfelt thanks in advance if you manage to support Caroline, Irene and the team.

 

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For “My Suze” – an enormous warm blanketing soft hug, as always and forever a team! x

Sue Richardson 1963 – 2018


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A Little Favour and Other Walkers

Having no personal news of walking adventures, I thought I should take advantage of this opportunity and maybe ask all of you kind souls and all-round wonderful people who may have purchased, acquired, borrowed or stolen a copy of my book to do me another favour. Could you please leave me an honest (but preferably half-decent) review on Amazon???

Apparently it helps sales and if I can get rid of the heap of boxes sitting in my study gathering dust, the weight bearing floors in my house would certainly gasp a big sigh of relief. I’m not begging for kind words or glorious recognition of a literary masterpiece, but if you can be vaguely pleasant it will protect my tender feelings. I am hoping to see the back of this hefty lot, if only to make sure that the paper gets used before I find another use for it in the smallest room of the house. AND if you haven’t bought one yet then – go on – pretty please. It makes a great door-stop!

In other walker news – I can report that Natalia Spencer recently completed her year long walk around the coast at Durdle Door in Dorset. Her extraordinary ‘walk of love’ in remembrance of her 5 year old daughter, Elizabeth, who tragically died after a short illness in December 2016, was done to focus her grieving energy positively and raise as much money as she could. With the assistance of a cracking back-room team, she has managed to raise over £130,000 for Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Appeal supporting Bristol Children’s Hospital and has rightly earned recognition with numerous awards including the Just Giving Endurance Fundraiser of the Year. A huge congratulations to Natalia and I am aware that she hasn’t by any means finished her fund raising efforts. She is now the most successful fund raising coast walker I know of.

To be completely fair to Natalia, I know that she also had a rather large grumbling bone to pick with me in trying to follow some of my Viewranger published routes. I sneakily suspect she was right to tell me, with a wry grimace, that more than a few of my….errr….20+ mile days ended up being more like 25 miles of actual walking. I know that my documented mileage was Pete Hill’s personal “official” yet completely unofficial record, but I also acknowledge that I probably walked a smidge further than I claimed. To save battery use, my tracking device only registered every 10 seconds / 33 feet. Hence a sharp bend in the path might be logged a little straighter than actually walked. Although it is reassuringly nice for me to know that I probably walked a wee bit further, it still means that there is room to improve in terms of accuracy and if I’m not careful I will get drawn into the old mileage debate again. I am and will remain adamant that the grand total is NOT an issue, it’s the effort that counts. I still silently seethe over those purist arseholes who consider their mileage as sacrasanct and belittle everyone else.  I just think I will leave it for others to check and improve upon my accuracy and hence I am not laying a belated unverified claim to having walked further than I recorded. Feel free to do so on my behalf if you can be bothered.

I am also aware of two other walkers (not telling you who they might be, yet) who are looking to start their circumnavigation of this island over the coming months and one other who managed to get going back in February but who sadly had to stop due to injury. From nerdy research, my best guess reckons that around 50% of those who have started the walk have made it round in one hit. But as far as I am concerned, anyone who has a go is a ‘coaster’ in my eyes and it is sometimes only bad luck that draws things to a halt. Indeed there have been many reasons for people not completing the challenge in one long slog. Bravely, many have returned later to complete it or reverted to doing it in sections. The following is a list of the reasons I could find for stopping and not one of them has been due to excessive rain, which could be viewed as a surprise to some who consider Britain to be a rather damp island:

  1. Injury or Illness (just bad luck)
  2. Injury (due to inadequate planning, lack of preparation or poorly fitting boots)
  3. Exhaustion (too fast / too many miles per day / inadequate diet)
  4. Lack of funds / resources
  5. Undefined Personal / Motivational Reasons (not telling)

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How About A Prize Winning Book for Christmas?

create_winner_seal-phpI have to say that I am genuinely and very pleasantly surprised, if not a little shocked!

Not that I am one to brag….err….too much. But it appears that my little tome has won first prize in its category at the 2016 International Photography Awards (IPA).

Now surely that must make it a half-decent Christmas pressie for someone you might love, like, occasionally tolerate, or even cross the road to avoid.

Much though it is truly grand to be awarded a gong of any kind, the manner in which I discovered I had won something was a reflection of my level of expectation.

Late last night I opened what I thought was junk mail from the IPA only to find a request for a high resolution image for the new IPA Book of Photography, featuring this year’s winning images. I responded asking them if they were sure they wanted something from me, as I didn’t think I had won anything. Err….wrong Mr Hill.   And now a few things began to dawn on me. Why was it that I had received an invitation to attend the awards ceremony at Carnegie Hall in New York last month? Maybe it wasn’t just an invitation to part with a huge wad of cash in air fares and tickets to an event they were promoting. Anyway, the invitation was very short notice and though they said that the tickets were complimentary I had some work booked in Sweden (which was then cancelled at even shorter notice…ho hum).

Nonetheless, I never suspected that I really stood a chance when the entry was sent off. Nor was I even sure that the competition was a big deal or particularly well recognised. Err….wrong Mr Hill. Maybe my category was a little low on entries? Err….wrong Mr Hill. So hey – I’m pretty chuffed! Thanks guys!

Maybe now I can actually feed a little from this and get those hefty boxes of books shifted from my study. So if you fancy buying a book or ten for someone this Christmas, or for a birthday or even just for the hell of it, then please do?  Signed copies won’t increase the value – but I can still hold a pen.

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A Short Walk and an Award or Two

What with my more mundane life style firmly back on track and my waistline slowly returning to more typical dimensions, recent events have been a little more encouraging. Though regular work is still hard to come by I am nevertheless not entirely idle. Certainly the garden is looking a little more presentable, even if many of the weeds are still failing to motivate me enough to really want to dig them all out.

So what has become of GB Coast Walk and any news it might still generate?

  • At the SIA Awards dinner in Birmingham last week I was nominated and unexp11254277_1105692542780740_7943999245219318122_nectedly won their Community Star Award. It was a real honour to be invited and to sit in a room full of such hugely inspirational people. In truth I was a little embarrassed to receive the award and felt more than a little fraudulent for the recognition I received for completing something I had rather selfishly dreamt of doing.Yes the charity side of the walk became increasingly important with every step I took. Yes I felt pressured to raise as much as I could and indeed my fund raising frustrations sometimes got the better of me. But maybe it wasn’t me who deserved the thanks but all the people who gave money in person and via my Virginmoneygiving page who really needed thanking. The page is still open for anyone who still fancies chipping in. Hopefully the £16,000+ raised to date will help make a difference and I can only thank good friends Graham (SIA) and Rik (MSNTC) for all their support, encouragement and inspiration along the way. The only thing that really caught me off guard is that I wasn’t expecting to win and hadn’t prepared an acceptance speech. My incoherent and shaky handed mumble on stage was a little out of character for those who know my usual ease at standing up and talking, so I kept it to a few words to save further embarrassment.
  • As you may or may not know, this site was also up for Simply Hike’s outdoor bloFINALIST-GB-Coast-Walkg of the year award. It didn’t quite win but apparently it was very close with only the odd vote in it. However, Simply Hike have honoured me with a Finalist’s award and apparently I get a trophy. So once again I thank all of you who voted for GBCoastWalk and I hope that you can still find something on this site to keep you interested as I intend to slowly develop it into more of a reference site for British Coast walkers…. ideas welcome!
  • The routes now published on Viewranger are receiving quite a bit of interest and I ho11167950_10153768179559942_3803066591691673716_npe that they continue to do so. They are all available for download and the links are all live on my ROUTES page. I think that the per mile cost is very reasonable, with my favourite routes a little more expensive than some of the others. I have identified my Top 20 and Top 50 routes and might well do some more work on these to promote them further.
  • I have now produced a manuscript from my original blog and corrected it for typos and grammatical ineptitude. I still hope that I can get a book published of my walk last year and include all of my favourite photos.  Though completely expected, it is a smidge depressing to get repeatedly rejected by publishers or agents and even more depressing to not even get a response. Nevertheless, I understand that they have huge piles of poo to delve through and my work is probably just a small part of that steaming heap. If I cannot find someone foolhardy enough to pick up my photos and rambling tale I will dip into google and see if self-publishing with my limited expertise is a viable option……unless anyone has any good leads or ideas???
  • And…. what of my walking? Well apart from short strolls with the dogs every day I did manage to venture out with a few friends and a tent into Derbyshire. I can’t say that the weekend was great for anyone’s health. I proved that I’m a bit of lightweight these days as I hadn’t drunk as much beer as that nor had I played drinking games for 30 years. But we did cover a few undulating miles of Peaks and dales and my stomach muscles still hurt from laughing so much. I have to admit that they look like a posing bunch of ageing rock stars in the photo, but look a little closer and I reckon there is evidence of hard breathing and a tad of perspiration.

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All Routes Now Published

Since completing my walk I haven’t spent all of my time thumb twiddling. I have now managed to convert ALL 247 of my GPS tracks into routes on ViewRanger. I have corrected them for some of my minor detours and errors and have added a daily photo, notes about the terrain and a very brief description on what to expect. These are available for viewing and uploading for your own use if you fancy a go at any of my stages. I have also created six curated collections covering the more popular walking areas.

Click Here To See All The Routes ViewRanger_Logo_2

AND – if you haven’t already – PLEASE VOTE FOR ME by 31st May in the hiking and walking section of the Simply Hike Blog Awards.

Click Here To Vote
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The Tyne, The Wear, The Tees

Stage 193, 5th October: Blyth to Whitburn

With Woody having accompanied me most mornings last week it was now Sue and Diesy’s turn to join me for a few miles down the sands around Seaton Sluice and on towards Whitley Bay. In doing so we ran the gauntlet of literally hundreds of other dog owners all out for their Sunday morning beach stroll in the autumn sunshine. I had never seen so many poo-bag carriers in my life and a level based computer game idea (based on attempting to get a dog safely from one end of the beach to the other without any mishap ©peterhill) became a strange topic to discuss as we strode towards the Tyne.

Back on my own again, Whitley Bay merged into Cullercoats and thence to Tynemouth where I bumped into Phil (a prospective coast walker and blog follower) for a quick hello and a chat. Those sort of meetings have always been great for my morale and I have found any enthusiasm for my bizarre quest a great boost when things aren’t so great. Tiredness had certainly been creeping up on me over the last few weeks.

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I then turned briefly inland for a sanitised walk up the Tyne. North Shields was now populated with cafes, bistros and miscellaneous but popular eateries, rather than the rough run-down old docks I would have expected. As I crossed over by ferry to South Shields a similar story unfolded as I was greeted by flashy dockside apartment blocks and quiet residential cul-de-sacs. It was a little disappointing not to find the docks I remembered from 30 years ago, but clearly the outskirts of Newcastle and Tyneside had moved on from the three brief years I spent up here with the luxury of a free university education and a student grant.

A low cliff top walk took me around to Whitburn. It was all rather pleasant with so many out enjoying the Sunday sun, whether it be a beach stroll, a promenade amble or a roam along the cliff top. This had been a people heavy day, though communication had been very light or non-existent. Only my strange hikers attire had raised any reaction and it was barely more than a raised eye-brow or a mistrusting sideways glance.

Stage 194, 6th October: Whitburn to Crimdon

Kate’s weather forecast from home had become quite predictable over the last few weeks. After my very wet August came a very dry September and something was bound to break eventually. Today Kate broke the news as gently as she could but the weather broke big time. Not only was it persistent heavy rain but strong blustery winds were buffeting my face and slowing every forward step. It would have been lovely to see what was around me but most of the time I had my hood up and my head down to watch one foot in front of the other.

A very brief respite from the wind was offered as I made my way up the Wear estuary into Sunderland but the rain didn’t abate and I suspected that Sunderland missed out on a photo opportunity or two as what I could see looked more interesting than I had expected. Nonetheless I was quickly back out onto the exposed cliffs with all my hatches battened down with the occasional peer up to check that I was following the now very welcome and very new brown England Coast Path signs. It might be an incomplete project, but it certainly eased my navigational conundrum for the day.

After Seaham the old collieries around Easington took me along a supposed Heritage Trail. Unfortunately the heritage was lost on me beyond the appearance of the slowly recovering black beaches somewhere down below. Nature, of sorts, was slowly returning. Possibly not the nature that was originally there, but it was nature nonetheless and though it hadn’t completely obscured the grim industrial presence of the past, it was clearly trying. Sue and Diesy met up with me at Denemouth looking decidedly bedraggled and we headed for camp at Crimdon like a small pack of drowned rats.

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Stage 195, 7th October: Crimdon to Redcar

I was expecting a few industrial views today and to my relief the weather brightened considerably and I didn’t have to suffer the chemical and steel works of Teeside with the added bonus of rain sheets. So I set out along the cliff top to Hartlepool missing a perfectly good beach and instead followed the official marked trail to walk across Hartlepool Golf Course and the flattened wasteland that was once North Sands Works.

Hartlepool had a big harbour museum and marina with plenty of new development work in various states of completion nearby. It was clearly trying to reinvent itself and the project was still in progress. I can’t say I was impressed but I can’t say that I was disappointed either. I had seen plenty of dock and harbour improvements on this trip and the fashion for such waterside improvements doesn’t seem to have lost momentum. I had probably just become accustomed to them and maybe become a little blase.

From Hartlepool the works of Seal Sands and Teeside loomed ever closer. I crossed Seaton Sands and circled another golf course before dipping inland for the Tees estuary, heavy industry and bland pathless roads. I briefly stopped for lunch by a bridge over a small tributary and some mud flats. Wildlife came to the rescue as a small colony of seals basked on a muddy bank nearby and a sparrowhawk, whom I suspected might be injured, fluttered to rest in a gateway.

I returned to the road and looked forward to a crossing of the famous Transporter Bridge. It was closed for painting work and my chance to complete my pair of crossing transporter bridges with that of Newport in South Wales was thwarted. The irony of having an extra four mile diversion up river to cross the Tees via the Newport Bridge wasn’t lost on me.

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Having recovered my tracks I then took to the bizarre and extraordinary Teesdale Way. This OS marked trail took me straight through heavy industry, alongside huge pipe-tracks and even between rail tracks. The path was liberally covered with litter, industrial debris and edged with imposing but rotting high fences. It also became overgrown in places and even blocked by temporary security fencing. With nowhere else to go, I just scaled the obstacle course and followed the trail. The only wildlife I came across was the occasional rat, a few tethered traveller’s horses, a goat and surprisingly two roe deer who pranced away the moment they saw the lunatic who had decided to walk along this path. Why anybody would want to walk this part of the Teesdale Way was a bit of a mystery to me and indeed it seemed as if local industry didn’t want anyone to walk it either and though I felt uncomfortable and a little intimidated using it, I thoroughly enjoyed following it all the way to Redcar.

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Trudge, Trig and Tinsel

It’s been a good yet equally bad week. I have to admit that another 70+ miles of Leicestershire mud takes its mental toll. Whilst trudging the slippery paths and bridleways, dodging herds of surprisingly excitable and overly curious cattle, the mind wanders off at peculiar tangents. It is a sobering thought that I now find myself chatting to my mate Trig as I would an old friend, even though he is a waist-high concrete obelisk overlooking the Vale of Belvoir with a sad subsided disposition. I suspect that those pointy headed chaps at Ordnance Survey who once lovingly pitched Trig at a remote beauty spot weren’t interested in a long-term relationship. As Trig’s new best pal I can vouch for his lack of personality, even if I won’t hear a bad word said about him.

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Undoubtedly I will have to endure days when strange or negative thoughts dominate and will need to make sure that they don’t exaggerate a minor injury, find me an excuse to quit or just plain ole rot my brain.  Hmmmm……think think…….HANG ON……. It was trudging these sodden paths with the dogs that gave me this crazy coastal idea in the first place. Oooeerrr….. this walking lark is dangerous. Lesson 1:  Don’t let your partner do all the dog walking unless you want them to develop a wanderlust.

On the good side – I have two very fit dogs! Though Bracken, the girl dog, was sadly diagnosed with cataracts on Thursday, which does explain her walking into the occasional lamp-post and the odd fallen tree. Funny though it sounds, I think Kate and I are relieved to have a diagnosis that might explain Bracken’s neuroticism. I just wish she had actually bitten the guy who fancies himself as the local Dog Whisperer and who offered to “whip” her submissive aggression into shape for us.  She’s the biggest insecure softie you will ever meet really.

Also on the good side – I have my first sponsor! Profuse thanks go to Viewranger for providing me with the digital OS 1:25k maps I need. I am genuinely impressed with their product and I could bore you for weeks with a spreadsheet of the stats it produces. But as a quick example, I have now ascended over 38,000 ft in the last 8 weeks. I never even vaguely considered climbing Everest before – maybe it’s not too late ………mind wanders………..

And yet more on the good side – I made Kate smile by dispensing with the 15-year-old wire and plastic Christmas tree and spending ….”How much?”…. on a real one. I’m sure the pine needles and tinsel threads will find their way into my boots to taunt me painfully within days.

On a final begging note for today. This isn’t a pipe dream anymore….It’s going to happen. In truth it’s got to happen. If it doesn’t, Kate will undoubtedly kick me in to touch rather than live with a bloke who regrets not taking his one chance in life. It’ll only fail to get off the mark in its current guise if I don’t get enough motorhome support drivers and I need a few more confirmed drivers to get going. So if anyone, and I mean ANYONE, can spare some time for a couple of great causes and fancies a week in a motorhome with me ….please, please, please…. book yourself in before Christmas. I really cannot go to the effort and expense of acquiring a motorhome in January if I don’t have enough drivers.