The problems with long distance walking when you have young children

Published 4 February 2018

No way! sign

Recently I had an email from someone asking me about the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. The correspondent was thinking of walking it. However they noted I’d not done it myself. Was this an indication of the quality of the trail? Should they be looking at doing another walk instead?

My response was absolutely not. Go, do it. For it is a lovely walk. Or so I’m told as I’ve not actually done it myself, although my partner Catherine has done. She did it with her mother, when she was nine years old.

Many a time she has extolled the beauty of that part of the world, and the Pembrokeshire Coast Path is certainly a walk I’d like to do some time. I just need two weeks to go and do it. Which when you have a 5 year old and a 1 year old in the family, and have a job, is easier said than done. After all, if I go away, then I’m leaving Catherine to look after the offspring single handedly. And vice versa if she departs. It’s doable with the eldest. But more challenging with our youngest one.

As such, I have concentrated on trails I can do in short chunks in recent years, as well as the Wainwrights. The longest walking trip I managed last year was three days spent in Patterdale last year. In 2016 I did plan four days on the Thames Path, but had to knock it down to three thanks to poor weather.

As they get older, hopefully more options will appear. Very important though is not to forget about these things completely.

There’s one person I regularly keep in mind in this respect. The writer Mark Wallington. He left his house in Edale and spent three weeks walking the Pennine Way. He wrote about it in his excellent Pennine Way Walkies, a book that’s well worth reading.

Mark had children when he did this. He showed it can be done. Before kids, both Catherine and I agreed he was a good role model in this respect.

Funnily enough I mentioned Mark to Catherine recently, to remind her of this. I also pointed out the age of his two children at the time of his epic walk to Scotland. 4 and 2.

If he can do it, so can we, I said over a pint, mentally planning to bog off and walk the South West Coast Path at the earliest opportunity. For some reason she didn’t seem massively convinced by the idea.

Perhaps in the cold light of day, it wasn’t Mark’s achievements we should have been concentrating on back in those heady pre-children days. Maybe we should have been looking more the achievements of the certain person left behind in Edale.

Although maybe if she’d written a book about it, we would have.