lost hat

Not Walking, But Writing

I’ve just spent a couple of hours working on the website, focusing mainly on tenses. Every ‘I plan to…’ or ‘I will be …’ has now become a ‘I have.’ This wasn’t too bad (I’ve become something of a content wizard – I wish!), but it was poignant. As I reported in my last blog, the walk is now well and truly complete. The challenge now is to turn that intangible ‘asset’ into something real. To get writing. In other words, the whole Diagonal Walking project has moved onto a fresh stage. I haven’t hung up my cap, it’s just resting!

 

Stay tuned for the journey, it’s likely to have as many ups and downs as the walk itself!

 

So, Head Down and Writing Now Is It?

Sort of, but it’s more complicated than that. As it happens, I already have a first draft of the book. As regular readers of this blog will know, I’ve taken extensive notes along the way, and have devoted time in between legs of the walk to writing them up. This, along with the planning, research, booking of accommodation and actual walking, has pretty much dominated my summer. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been worth it, in spades; just that it’s been all-encompassing. Especially when other life stuff gets in the way, but you don’t want to know about that.

 

After the completion of the walk, I put a real shift in before a short break away and this brought me to the completed first draft. This included the tricky bit of writing a conclusion. One of the purposes of the walk was to take the temperature of the country as it stood on the brink of Brexit, and as such it was incumbent upon me to come up with some conclusions. I’d made notes on this as well, and as it happened, writing the conclusion flowed quite well. However, while the rest of the book almost writes itself, this bit is more subjective. The temptation to go back time and time again and tweak it is irresistible.

 

Discipline and Deadlines

The solution lies in deadlines. I like to think I’m fairly disciplined in my writing, well in most things actually, otherwise I doubt the project would have got so far, so fast. That said, there’s nothing quite like a deadline to focus the mind. So, I’ve created an artificial one.

 

Past experience has taught me the benefits of having an external pair of eyes cast over my work. No matter how much you go over a passage or proof a page, your mind plays tricks on you. You see what you think should be there, not what is there. An external perspective is essential. As it happens, there’s no shortage of people with editing and proofing skills. A shakeup in the publishing industry means many of these work as freelancers, and there’s a useful directory of them through their trade body, the Society for Editors and Proofreaders .

 

Understandably, these need to be booked ahead. So, I’ve been searching for likely candidates and am on the brink of appointing one. I have another break coming up in October (I know, I know, but it’s my birthday), so I’m trying to line them up to work on the book while I’m away, which means it has to be ready before I go.

 

This will mean some more long shifts, but that’s how things get done. Plus, I’m really driving the momentum on this project, as it really has to be out as soon as possible next year in order to remain relevant to the Brexit angle.

 

Publishing Options

In my blog The Sense of an Ending published back in July, I was very much of a mindset to go down the self-publishing route. My thinking at that time was that the traditional publishing industry just takes too long to get stuff done (you’ll have gathered I not a patient man). In a subsequent blog, The End of the Beginning I reassessed this thinking and approached some publishers. Four in fact, all smallish players who are likely to be more fleet of foot, two of whom I’d worked with before, two I hadn’t. Two (one of each) have come back saying no, one seems keen and another I’m about to chase. I still haven’t ruled out the self-publishing option as it allows me to retain more control, but it does require a cash injection. Hopefully, I’ll have made a decision by the time of my next blog.

 

A Fresh Direction

No, not north east to south west (although, never say never), but a fresh direction for the project. As this blog attests, the focus now is on sharing the publishing and promotion story, rather than the actual walk. I will continue to post on the various social media from the walk, but Diagonal Walking now moves into a different phase.

 

On the social media front. Twitter continues to creep upwards, and I’ve had some success boosting my Facebook followers, mainly by sponsoring a post boost. This cost £10 and got me and extra 20 followers, but over 1,000 engagements, whatever they are. Worth it? You judge. Instagram is still the hit, with followers now in excess of 1,100, which I’m pleased with.

 

I’ll leave it there for now, more to come shortly.

 

So stay tuned and keep diagonal!

 

If you would like to be kept up to date with future blogs from this site, why not use the RSS feed on the main menu. For more information, click here.

The End of the Beginning?

I’m feeling a bit guilty. It’s been a while since I posted an update on progress, but there is a good reason for that. I’ve been walking! Planning, walking, writing, marketing, reaching out to publishers. Reaching out to publishers? Didn’t I say in my last progress blog that I was minded to go down the self-publishing route? Well … yes, but I’ve been having a bit of a re-think. More of that later.  First, a bit on the wheres and wherefores …

 

How’s The Walking Going?

walking

It never rains but …

 

It’s going very well thanks. The weather has been a bit of an issue, with temperatures reaching into the thirties during the fourth stage of the walk. Still, it’s better than rain. The heatwave seemed to disappear between the fourth and fifth stages. It felt like we were back to a normal English summer. This meant, of course, I got to experience what it felt like to be a drowned rat while walking.

WGC

The Centre of Welwyn Garden City

 

The fourth leg saw me walking from Newport Pagnell, through Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire and into Epping Forest and the north-east London boroughs. Along the way, I walked along the River Lea for a fair bit – more on that here.

I also got to visit another new town and compare it with Milton Keynes. I’m talking about Welwyn Garden City, which is coming up to its centenary. As such, it probably doesn’t really qualify as a new town anymore. Anyway, more on Welwyn here.

Highams Park Lake

 

I also had the pleasure of being invited to look around a community project at Highams Park in Epping Forest. Here I met Gordon and Martin, and I recorded a podcast with the latter, which can be found here. Finally, I drifted into London, which was quite a different experience. There will be more on this, and how I nearly got mugged, in the book. In the meantime, here’s a picture of a tuk-tuk to illustrate the diversity I found there:

Yes, a tuk-tuk, parked up on a London drive.

 

Walking Through Kent

The fifth and final stage has been broken into two parts, and it’s the first of these I’ve just come back from. This stage involved crossing the Thames. As it happens, my diagonal line goes right through the Dartford Crossing. Alas, no pedestrians are allowed on the bridge, so I needed to have a think. Luckily, there’s a bus which runs from the Lakeside Shopping Complex to the north of the bridge to the Bluewater one on the south. Why anyone would want to use this route is beyond me – comparison shopping? Anyway, it suited my purposes, and for the princely sum of £3 I found deposited myself in Kent: my final county. I think I was unusual in wanting to get off in between the two shopping centres. The driver was asking me the way!

The weather on this leg was more suited to April than August – sunshine and showers. Still, I got to stay in places with wonderful names such as Bean and Snodland. I even went to Bluewater, because it was the nearest place to eat. The pub in Bean doesn’t do food on a Friday night. Why would it? Madness. I was there the day that it was announced that House of Fraser, one of the centre’s three anchor stores, was being taken over by Sports Direct. This gives me the chance to use the following picture to ask whether storm clouds are gathering over the retail trade:

Are the storms gathering over the retail business?

 

I was also joined on this leg for two days by my sister Sue. This is the first time I’ve had a diagonal walker with me for two consecutive days. We had a good catch up, and it was interesting to sees things (and places) through someone else’s eyes. My brother in law Tim was kind enough to ferry us around, as there was a dearth of places to stay when walking in the Weald of Kent, certainly on my route anyway. Anyway, you’ll have to wait for the book to find out what we saw and thought, and some of the encounters we had with people, and, in particular, with sheep. And fruit. A lot of fruit.

walking

Sister Susie holding shirt (not shoulders)

 

Publishing Rethink

 

Talking about the book, writing the last blog was cathartic, but it got me thinking. A mantra I’ve always followed in life is if you don’t ask, you don’t get. As a result, before setting off on this latest leg, I put together a pitch and synopsis and sent these to medium sized publishers who publish this sort of thing. I have avoided the big boys for the reasons stated in my earlier blog i.e. I’m not established enough. Plus, the book isn’t finished, although I have been writing it as I go.

At the same time, I’ve been looking at digital publishers for a novel, which is finished and ready to go. These are a newish kid on the block, specialising in e-publishing, with a sideline in physical books. These might offer a decent backstop position, or a comparator to the self-publishing option.

Finally, I’ve decided to approach publishers I’ve worked with before. You may wonder why I haven’t done this already, and it’s a good question. The main reason was because my other books have tended to be more of a niche interest and I didn’t think they’d be interested. But, as I say, don’t ask, don’t get. Plus, as luck would have it, I noticed a book on similar lines by one of my previous publishers on sale in a shop in a tiny village in Kent during the walk.

Karma.

 

The Numbers

Finally, an update on numbers. I’m now tantalisingly close to the four figure mark on Instagram followers. Also, I counted up the number of ‘likes’ my pictures have had for the publisher pitch. Over 16,000. Not bad.

Tantalisingly close to 1,000!

 

The Twitter numbers are creeping upwards, as are the Facebook followers, although for some reason the podcast downloads have stalled. In terms of miles and steps, I’m now on 821,000 steps and 380 miles. As such, I’m unlikely to break the million steps, in fact I definitely won’t unless I get hopelessly lost during the past two days.

SEO walking

Writing, writing

 

In terms of word count on the book, I’m now up to 70,000, aiming for somewhere in the region of 85-90,000 for the whole thing, which is a manageable number. I’ve been making a lot of notes for the conclusion, which are included in that 70,000, and indeed, a conclusion is beginning to form – but again, sorry, you’ll have to wait for that!

I might be nearly the end of the walk, but as a certain wartime leader might have said, this isn’t the beginning of the end, merely the end of the beginning. I will continue to post updates on the actual process of writing and publishing the book. As these last two blogs have shown, this can be an up and down business mentally, and I will be sharing the journey here.

So keep following, and stay diagonal!

 

If you would like to be kept up to date with future blogs from this site, why not use the RSS feed on the main menu. For more information, click here.

 

 

Aiming For Middle England

I’m back after a short break away from Diagonal Walking, busy planning the next stage. As promised in my last blog, I’m going to use this opportunity to allow you to ‘get inside my head’ a bit. At the moment my main preoccupation is around planning the next stage, which is a long one, rather than the actual writing. I’ll explain why there’s not so much on this later. By way of compensation for those interested in the writing process, I’ve included some initial thoughts on publishing. Also, for those who want to know, an update on progress of the various social media channels.

 

The Route

The next stretch of the walk takes me out of Staffordshire. This is a big deal, see the Surviving Staffordshire video if you don’t understand why. Yes, within a day I’ll be walking into Warwickshire. After that I’ll be more or less following the Warwicks/Leicestershire border. Incidentally, this or more or less congruent with the A5, of the Roman Watling Street. It’s curiously pleasingly that the Romans built their road on a diagonal line passing through the centre of the country!

From there, my route dives into the centre of Northamptonshire, and the county town, and then into the top of Buckinghamshire. Technically, it passes into the unitary authority of Milton Keynes, but I’ll ignore that for now. Places people might recognise include Atherstone, Hinckley and Watford – but not that one. The Watford I’ll be going through is the one better known through its service station Watford Gap. When people talk of ‘north of Watford’ it’s here they’re referring to, rather than Watford, Herts. Not a lot of people know that.

 

 

Landmarks

There are three significant landmarks on this leg, one geographical and the other two more personal. The geographical one is that I’ll be passing through the centre of England. As such, I will truly be in Middle England. As an earlier blog has outlined, this is on private land outside Fenny Drayton, near Atherstone. This is a big deal, as you can imagine. I’ve tried to get in touch with the farmer who owns the field it’s in, but no luck yet. I haven’t given up though. I’ve also tried to whip up some interest from the body responsible for tourism in Leicestershire, but also nothing so far. Disappointing.

The first personal milestone is that, all being well, I’ll also reach my own half way point by the end of the walk. Due to the shape of the country there’s more walking after Fenny Drayton than there is before the centre. As the How I’m Doing page shows, I’ve currently done nearly 300,000 steps, and I reckon I’ll be on more or less half a million by the end of this stretch, having walked around 250 miles.

The other personal milestone is I’ll be close to Milton Keynes. That may sound an odd thing to say, but Milton Keynes holds a pivotal part in my life story. It was here, over 30 years ago, that I helped build a house for an exhibition of energy efficient buildings. Ours was supposed to champion a self-build system, and we built the house over a series of weekends with architectural students providing the labour. The house is still standing, and I’ve tracked down the current owners and they’ve agreed to meet with me. This house is as old as my marriage – I had just met my wife to be when the project was, quite literally, getting off the ground. It will be interesting to see if it has lasted as well.

 

 

Practicalities

I’ve been spending some time planning the actual route, and it’s a bit tricky. Although it’s not as rural as the run through Staffordshire, places to stay remain few and far between. This has meant having to set quite long targets for each day. This decision has involved a trade-off between having somewhere to stay actually on the route, as tended to be the way on the first leg, and taking a wider brief and being prepared to travel, as was more the case on the second leg.

I’ve gone for the former. Even though I had the option on a car, the time wasted moving it around is time I’d rather spend walking. On average, I’ve ended up setting myself targets of around fourteen miles a day. This is more than I’d like, especially given the fact that having no car means carrying everything in a rucksack. This doesn’t daunt me too much – I have done these distances already, but the problem is I hadn’t planned for them. When I’ve done these sorts of distances earlier, it’s normally because something’s gone wrong. In other words, I’ve not left a lot of wriggle room. If the footpaths in the next counties are as bad as Staffordshire’s, I’m in trouble.

On the subject of the rucksack, I’m determined to make it lighter this time. As a large part of the avoidable weight is clothing, I’m going to pack light in that department. Don’t worry though, I’ve arranged to stay at an AirBnB half way round and to use their washing machine. For those that are wondering, I tend to use a combination of homestays, AirBnBs and cheap hotels. I am to spend no more than £50 a night on accommodation, sometimes its more, sometimes less.

 

 

Mixed Emotions

This leg is going to be as long as the first one, but with a vital difference. This time, there’s less of the excitement that came with the whole project starting off. As such, there’s more of a sense of the mundane, no, not mundane, but routine. I remember having this feeling when I undertook the canal trek for Walking on Water, and I suspect it’ll pass. That, plus the distances, plus the variations in the weather forecasts for the week ahead, all add up to a sense of challenge and some trepidation. Still, challenge was part of what I signed up for so here I go!

 

 

Walk With Me – Physically

As anyone reading these blogs will know, the concept of Walk With Meis integral to Diagonal Walking. Whilst I continue to have a great relationship with Stay In A Pub, we have yet to secure anything with one of their pubs. The idea was for me to give a talk on a weekday to boost trade, or to review their accommodation, but none have taken the bait so far. Hopefully, this will come in time. What will be, will be.

I have managed to secure two people to walk with me in person for one of the days, which is great. I have also got a good response from local community websites, and there’s still time for someone to come forward for other days. Response from more traditional media has been sluggish, although it’s not always possible to know you’ve been featured until you get a response from someone who’s read a piece. I did manage to get this piece in Waterways World, the leading canal magazine, which I was quite pleased with.

 

Walk With Me – Virtually

Stay In A Pub organised a competition which required people to follow Diagonal Walking on Twitter, and this resulted in a couple of hundred new followers. Most of these have stayed, and I’ve since built on this number to get to over 500. Instagram continues to be the best social media outlet for me. Even though I’ve had little new to post in the hiatus between legs, followers here are coming up to 600. In both cases, followers were half these total sat the start of the last leg. I sense some traction here now, especially with Instagram.

The podcasts are steady if unspectacular. I’ve had over 250 downloads so far, but the frustrating thing is not having any idea who these people are! Facebook remains much the same, gaining a fresh follower every now and then, and the YouTube videos are a useful backup. Out of interest, I’ve also asked my website designer to find out how many hits I’m getting on the website. I’ll amend this blog if I get this.

 

 

Writing

I mentioned the writing at the start. This is a frustrating area as I cannot do much actual tapping away at a keyboard without fresh material. Stuff keeps popping into my head – thoughts, reflections, ideas – and of course I capture these as notes, but I don’t want to ‘pre-write’ the book. I want it to be real, a true reflection of the experience. At the same time, once the antennae are active, it’s surprising how many things crop up that might be relevant to the book. The recent BBC exercise in defining ‘Englishness’ being a good example.

 

 

Planning for Publishing

I’ve begun to think about possible publishers. I recently completed a novel and have been trying to get agents interested in it, as this seems to be the only route into fiction publishers. The experience hasn’t been heartening, it’s a very tough world to break in to. That said, there’s a lot less publishers focussed on travel, so it should be possible to approach them direct. I have put together a list of likely suspects from the Writers and Artist’s Yearbook, but don’t want to start approaching them until the book is in a more complete state.

So, in conclusion, I’m beginning to consider my options here, but am not quite ready to act. I’d welcome any thoughts or advice people may be able to give. The one thing I can say for certain however, is the book will be published. Self-publishing is a common route for this kind of book, or I may focus on a combination of e-publishing and print on demand. This would reduce upfront cost, whilst still making it possible to satisfy both those happy with their Kindles and those who like a physical book. More on all this as it happens.

 

That’s about all for this update. I hope you’ve found it interesting getting inside my head and not too scary!

There’s much more to come, so stay tuned and keep diagonal!

 

If you would like to be kept up to date with future blogs from this site, why not use the RSS feed on the main menu. For more information, click here.

how to write a travel book

Safe From Staffordshire

Well, I’ve made it safe from Staffordshire. As anyone who’s been following my other blogs, or indeed the YouTube Channel (see the video Surviving Staffordshire), or my Facebook page, might have gathered, the second stage of diagonal walking wasn’t exactly a breeze.

 

As with previous blogs, I’m going to use this blog to keep you up to date with progress on the walk. However, from now on I’ve decided to differentiate the various platforms I’m using in order to sharpen things up. This follows a discussion my son Ed, who ‘walked with me’ over the bank holiday weekend and provided some feedback, for which I’m grateful.

 

The following therefore is for clarification. In future the blogs will be more for giving an insight into the process of writing a book. In doing so, I intend to be very honest, perhaps disarmingly so. These are in addition to the FFS occasional series giving Five Fascinating Facts about places I pass through. Instagram and Twitter will be used more to provide pictorial updates on progress. YouTube will provide occasional videos for a bit of variety. As much as possible, I’ll be using interviews with people who ‘walk with me’, or who I encounter on the walk, on the podcasts. And finally, Facebook will act as a bit of everything and as a signpost to the other media.

 

I hope that all makes sense. Anyway, on with the show.

 

 

Mayday! Mayday!

 

The second leg took place from the Thursday before the Mayday bank holiday to the Tuesday after it. All the walking was in rural Staffordshire, pretty much all of it in East Staffordshire. This is not a particularly easy place to find convenient accommodation, so we took the decision to book a cottage for four nights and use that as a base. When I say we, I mean me and my wife Annette, who acted both as chauffeur and fellow walker for two of the days. This meant we could settle in somewhere and also have room for two other walkers, my son Ed and his partner Lydia join us for a couple of the days.

 

As most readers will know, it was a hot one. This was good, in as much as it meant we only got rained on once. However, it also meant taking extra care not to dehydrate or do anything heroic for the sake of it.

 

It also meant shorter days, as there tended to be a fair bit of driving to and from places. Typically, we got on the footpaths anything from 10 to 11 each morning and ended around 4 or 5. This was less than I’d got used to in the first leg, but as I say, it was hot, so this wasn’t a bad thing.

 

 

A Different Dynamic

 

As well as having Annette walking with me one day, and Annette with Ed and Lydia on another, I also had my cousin Simon and his wife Judy walking with me one day. On the first leg I’d done all the walking alone, and this meant a different dynamic. Walking with others means you tend to do more talking and less thinking. Or at least I do. This also means less notes, which makes the writing harder later.

 

On the other hand, having others’ perspectives helps add to the thinking process afterwards. Plus, their insights invariably add to the mix, making it richer. I think the challenge for the future will be getting this balance right. On this leg I did have the final day on my own, but this was only half a day. Still, I found it invaluable to get my thoughts in order. I hope the book, when it’s finished, will show this.

 

 

Writing

 

Writing is what I promised I’d talk about in this blog, so here I go. As I mentioned in my previous blog having good notes makes a tremendous difference when it comes to writing the passages up. What I tend to do is think of a unifying ‘message’ or theme for each chapter and write to that, weaving the actual experiences into it. Sometimes this emerges from the experiences, other times it is more deterministic.

 

To give an example, on this leg we visited our old university at Keele. This allowed for some ruminations on education and how it’s changed and is changing in England. Certainly in the last twenty years, which is my horizon for this book. Throughout, I am keen to keep the book as a mix between a travelogue and something a bit grittier, hopefully providing some insight into the state of the nation.

 

At the same time, I want to keep the book highly readable. This means injecting some humour, or letting it flow. I don’t want the humour to be forced, and I do want the book to have ‘a voice’. Luckily, this seems to come fairly naturally, especially as I have the template of my first book, Walking on Water, to go by. I am also not just writing notes up, but trying to write straight into a first draft. Sure, there’ll be some polishing, but I hope what I’m writing is 80-90% of the way there by the time I’ve finished. Again, another objective is to have the book reading asap after the walk is finished. This is so it’s fresh as we approach the actual ‘exit’ part of ‘Brexit’ (assuming we do – controversial), and also so it’s still fresh and relevant.

 

The only exception to this is the conclusion – for conclusion there will be. I want to bring the various strands of the book together in the end, and here I have been typing in notes, or streams of consciousness. I see these as helping to refresh my memory when it comes to writing those pages.

 

 

Wordcount

As for progress, I’ve now written about 25,000 words. That’s the equivalent to around 50 to 60 pages of a paperback. They fit into five chapters, two of which cover the last leg, which required around 9,000 words. Of course, all this may change in the editing, but it gives an idea. This seems about right. I’ve completed around 25-30% of the walk (it’s difficult to know) and somewhere around 100,000 words is a good target.

 

 

The Staffordshire Experience

Interestingly, as I’ve said, the entire walk this time round was in Staffordshire. In fact my diagonal also cut a diagonal through the county, which is a big one geographically. This was both good and bad, Good in as much as it allowed me to get under the skin of a distinct area. Bad in that the footpaths in the county are pretty poor. Not only are they poorly maintained, but there seems to be a semi-deliberate policy to deter walkers. This said, at least it gave me an angle for the book – a chapter theme! There’s more on my experience in Staffordshire in the above mentioned video and on this blog, which I called ‘Playing Hunt the Footpath’

 

 

And Finally …

 

I know some people like to be kept up to date with the progress on social media, so here goes. Remember, the reason I want numbers here is to make the book more of a compelling proposition for potential publishers, not vanity. I am even beginning to wonder whether to start to approach potential publishers sooner rather than later, rather than waiting until its finished. More on this in the future.

 

I now have approaching 400 followers on Instagram, and again following the advice of my son Ed, have installed an app caller ‘Followers’ which allows me to monitor who is following me to get their own numbers up and then dumping me. Twitter had been lagging behind, but has received a boost through a competition run by the Stay In A Pub initiative I have been working with. The prize is a signed copy of Walking on Water, and to date this has seen at least 50 new followers on Twitter. Okay, they are not of the highest quality, but hopefully it will kick start things. The total here now is around 350. This article was the second from Stay In A Pub, the first came out in the 26thApril.

 

I was initially disappointed by these totals, but have to keep reminding myself that the accounts are only a few weeks old. Actually, they’re doing quite well considering, and I think there may be a snowball effect. Certainly the Instagram account seems to be gaining momentum. This may be due in part to some of the publicity I’ve been getting, both locally and nationally. One coup I was pleased with was this article on The Great Outdoors website.

 

Facebook is still stuck in the friends and family plus odds and sods zone. I’m okay with this, but it would be nice to ‘break out’ a bit. As I’ve said above, I’m changing direction on the podcasts, but these are accumulating a following. I’ve regularly been in the top 5 in the Travel section of the PodOMatic chart, where I host the pods. In March I had 40 downloads, and I doubled that in April. So far, I’ve already reached the 40 mark in May and I’ve two more podcasts to come out. The YouTube channel is there as an adjunct really, but I enjoy doing them.

 

 

That’s it for now I think. I hope you’ve found this update on progress blog interesting. There’s much more to come, so stay tuned and keep diagonal!

 

If you would like to be kept up to date with future blogs from this site, why not use the RSS feed on the main menu. For more information, click here.

 

Actually walking

First Leg Over

There comes a time when you have to break your duck, lose your virginity, get the first one over with. So it was with the first leg of my diagonal walk. In this blog I aim to share some of the emotions and practicalities involved with finally getting on the road. Of actually walking at last, as well as its aftermath.

 

 

Actually Walking

 

Let’s start with how it felt to be actually walking. I’d planned for ten plus miles a day, with the first day slightly shorter. Best laid plans and all that. Around three miles were added to the first day to find the start point! On other days there was the disappointment of finding my bed for the night was still a couple of miles off. Take it from me, that’s not something you need after a dozen or so miles. Still, it was all learning for next time. I only count actual miles and steps on the walk in the ‘How Am I Doing’ section by the way. I’m usually doing much more than that in total over the day.

 

Another learning was what may appear to be ten miles on the map was rarely ten miles in reality. Hills and diversions all add to the total. Equally, I learned that the rucksack was heavy, although goodness knew why. I thought I’d packed light. On the other hand, it didn’t really trouble me once it was on my back, it was more the getting it on and off. I think it’ll be alright.

 

There’s no doubt my feet took a battering. I’d employed a two pairs of socks strategy, which I find usually does the trick, but not this time. Blister city. In the end I bought some special two layered socks in Liverpool, and these seem to act as a shock absorber, making the rest of the walk do-able. I was also expecting to feel more creaky the day after a long stretch and it was a surprise this wasn’t the case. Sure, the first mile or two required an extra push, as did the last mile or two, but I soon got into a rhythm. Maybe all the training actually paid off?

 

 

Time

 

I usually tried to get on the road by nine or half nine. In theory, ten to twelve miles walking at three plus mph would mean, with a couple of stops, getting to my destination early afternoon. Again, so much for the theory. In reality, time tended to get gobbled up in the taking of notes, and in meeting my (self-imposed) social media obligations. Taking pictures, posting them with hashtags, thinking of and noting podcast ideas, and filming sequences (these often need more than one take, believe it or not), all take time. I now plan on around two mph.

 

In reality, I tended to get to my room for the night by late afternoon – around five. It was then that the fun began. Updating the social media, sorting out clothes, showering and tending to the feet, all took time. Then I had to find somewhere to eat. All this before readying myself for the next day, checking the route, making sure I had the right maps, ready for that none am start. Time, time, time.

 

 

Partnering Up

 

From the start, I’ve wanted to make the Diagonal Walking project a collaborative exercise. I also wanted to get the first leg done so I had something to show to potential partners. I understand that for many there’s a huge gap between theory and practice. Of ‘getting Diagonal Walking. This has seen some success. I have received some press coverage (a couple of local newspapers and a national Waterways Magazine). I’ve also had an invitation to work with the StayInAPub initiative, funded by Cask Marque and Visit England, including a piece on their News page. This is a £1.2million initiative to promote walking trails and getting people to stay in pubs. Watch this space for updates on this, but I’m excited by it.

 

Having completed the first leg, I also felt more confident approaching national media, including newspapers and walking and outdoors magazines. This has already born fruit with the magazine TGO (The Great Outdoors) wanting to do a piece and an interview.

 

 

Walk With Me

 

I have also had my first Walk With Me companion, albeit only for a few yards as he is wheelchair bound. However, the next leg will see more of this. As for the virtual side of things, there is movement here too.

 

The Twitter account has seen around a 40% increase in followers since the start of the first leg and I’m starting to attract Facebook followers from outside the immediate friends and family circle, which is satisfying. The number of podcast downloads in April was double that in March, and I’m now well past the 100 mark here. It would be good to get into the high hundreds and maybe even thousands on at least one of the accounts.

 

Instagram looks like the favourite. This has seen a 50% increase in followers since the start of the first leg, but I did suffer a brief setback here. In an effort to ‘cull’ people I’d followed and hadn’t followed back, plus the various obviously non-sincere accounts (I’ll just say the word ‘actresses’), I blew a fuse in Instagram’s algorithm. It wouldn’t let me follow people back, or add fresh follows. Having Goggled the problem, it seems too much following and unfollowing makes you look like a bot, so they’d frozen the account. I felt like a child who’d been put on the naughty step. In the end it resolved itself overnight, thank goodness!

 

 

Actually Writing

 

I started this blog with ‘Actually Walking’, and will now turn to ‘Actually Writing’. One of the main drivers for the project, other than doing it for its own sake, is to write a book about my experiences. Writing up my notes and creating a voice for the book has taken a good three to four days of my time since ending the first leg. But boy, what notes! The value of writing things down as I go, of having ready-baked finely parsed sentences, has proved to be essential. I’ve written around 15,000 words so far, which considering I reckon I’ve done 15-20% of the walk is probably about right, especially considering this is only a first draft.

 

 

Planning the Next Leg

 

The first leg has also shown the importance of good planning. So, nothing for it but to invest the same time in the next stage so it can be as successful as the first. This involves not only planning the route, but also researching places I should go and interesting details about where I will be walking.

 

The next leg is largely rural, and away from water, in contrast to the first. This will mean a lot more countryside walking and a lot less ‘civilisation’. As I’ve mentioned, I will have more partners walking with me on this leg, plus I am employing some back up in the form of my wife. She will have a car to get me to and from a central location, a cottage we’ve rented for four nights. This will give me more freedom to get as far as I can each day, rather than having a specific target. The route on the next leg will take me from Alsager, through Stoke and points south east, through Meir Health and Yoxall, with an ambitious target of reaching the National Arboretum at Alrewas, or as near to there as possible.

 

 

I hope you’ve found this update on progress blog interesting. There will be more to come! In the meantime, keep diagonal!

 

 

 

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Walking With Me

Walking with me in person is an important part of Diagonal Walking, and I actively welcome requests to walk part of the route with me. This may be for a short stretch, or longer, or maybe just to meet up and share a flask of coffee (I don’t do tea).

 

Where and When

 

The map on the How I Am Doing page will show you where I have already been, and an idea of the direction I’m heading in and how far I’ve got. If you follow the updates, blogs and podcasts, you will have a good idea of when I expect to be walking. Broadly speaking though, the route follows a line that starts just above Liverpool, goes through Stoke, Milton Keynes, Luton, the east of London and Maidstone, before ending up at Dungeness. The walk started in April 2018, with the first leg ending in Alsager in Staffs, where I expect to pick up the route in early May. The aim is to end around the end of September.

 

Next Steps

 

See what I did there? The best way to organise things is to contact me either via the Connect tab on the menu, or direct by email.

 

If you would like to be kept up to date with future blogs from this site, why not use the RSS feed on the main menu. For more information, click here.