Yappy Hikers: Pre-Walk Thoughts

by Christine Saul

Whilst writing this blog, it’s less than a week until my chocolate Labrador, Gino, and I will be heading off on a mammoth adventure — to walk the entire England Coast Path, around 2700 miles in total, or to follow the proposed new coast path as closely as we can, as some sections are yet to open.

Depending how we get on/feel, we may also continue afterwards to walk the entire Wales Coast Path too, a further 870 miles. It’s hard to put a time frame on our adventure but at a guess it’ll probably take us between 6–8 months in total.

Gino the brown labrador sits on a pebbly beach trail on the Isle of Anglesey

I have been planning this mammoth walk for the last four years, ever since I heard about the plan to create the England Coast Path National Trail. But this walk is both exciting and scary — it will be a huge challenge for us both. I’m very excited but nervous too, about our start in just a few days’ time. Gino has no idea what’s coming, although he has enjoyed all the walk training and camping we have been doing. 

Hiking with Gino

I’ve done quite a few two or three week solo thru hikes of long distance trails in the UK before, plus I hiked the entire 2200-mile Appalachian Trail over five months in 2014 with an ex-partner, but I haven’t thru hiked this far or for this long solo before, and never with a dog in tow, which certainly changes the logistics.

Gino on a practice hike.

It would be much simpler without Gino, but much lonelier. Just the simple tasks of nipping into a shop to buy food, going for a shower at a campsite etc. won’t be easy as it’ll be hard to leave Gino tied up anywhere without the fear of him being stolen. There are so many horror stories of dog theft these days.

I will find ways around these problems though. I couldn’t leave him behind; I got Gino with the intention of him joining me on this walk. He is my best friend and companion and we are now inseparable.

The practicalities

We will be self-supported carrying everything we need between us. Gino will have his own backpack carrying his own food and bedding. He’s big and strong enough; he can carry his fair share! We will camp along the way either at campsites or wild camp, with the occasional stay at cheap hotels or B&B’s.

Gino tests the Yappy Hikers tent

A practice walking and camping trip to Anglesey in September 2020, Gino’s first such trip which he loved, and more recent training walks from home have highlighted that my usual average pace is slower hiking with Gino due to stopping and starting more often for water breaks, sniff stops etc. I can drink, eat and walk at the same time, hardly stopping at all, but that’s not so easy for Gino.

We plan to take our time though and enjoy the walk, have regular break stops as well as stopping to admire the ever-changing coastal scenery, nature and the coastal towns and villages we pass through. It definitely won’t be a race. 

The challenges

We’ll have good days and bad days. Some days, hopefully many, we’ll feel on top of the world. other days, hopefully very few, we’ll probably feel like giving up. We won’t, hopefully, and would ‘never give up on a bad day’, which is a thru hiker mantra. Good days you wouldn’t ever want to quit anyway: only serious illness or injury will halt us. This walk will definitely be much more of a mental than a physical challenge, and emotional challenge too sometimes.

There’ll be so many challenges to face along the way: finding enough water, avoiding cows, finding wild camp spots out of sight etc. The first month will have even more limitations and challenges with some COVID-19 restrictions still in place until hospitality opens fully in mid-May.

Testing the Yappy Hikers equipment with Gino

The English weather I am sure will test us many times too, wind and rain and especially if we get some heatwaves in the summer. We’ll have to night walk or walk in the very early hours or late into the evening in the cooler temperatures for Gino, and for me as I’m not good in the heat either, resting instead in a shady spot during the midday heat.

I’m confident though that despite the challenges we will face, which will only make us stronger, we will have the best and most unforgettable adventure ever.

Yappy Ever After

Whilst walking we will be raising money for Yappy Ever After Dog Rescue, the rescue charity Gino came from. Without them I wouldn’t have my handsome boy, best friend and companion to accompany me. They are a small charity that help rescue hundreds of dogs each year into loving new fur-ever homes all over the UK. 

Yappy Hikers tee

Gino was rescued before he ended up in the wrong hands after being advertised free to a good home on Gumtree. He was massively overweight after being fed a diet of fast food and donuts.

When he arrived with me, he weighed a whopping 60kg/9.5 stone. He is now a much healthier 38kg/6 stone, an incredible 22kg/3.5 stone lighter! He has lost more weight than my 60 litre backpack weighs fully loaded, which is very hard to comprehend. I can’t imagine how that must have felt to him. Now a healthy fit slim boy, he is loving life and has turned out to be the most beautiful dog and my perfect hiking companion.

We can’t wait to get started on our incredible and amazing journey and share our mammoth walking adventure with everyone.

You can follow Christine and Gino’s journey via daily updates on their Facebook page.

Interested in walking the England Coast Path yourself? The trail is not yet entirely complete, but you can find a section to get stuck in with on our Walking Holiday Location Map — including the South West Coast Path, Kent Coast Path, Lincolnshire Coast Path, Cleveland Way and the Northumberland Coast Path.

Originally published 16/04/21

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