Walking a long-distance path is not simply a matter of putting one foot in front of another. Many are daunted by the organisation needed – where to stay, what to take, how to get around. This page gives an insight as to how to tackle the practicalities, using the Essex Way as described in my Cicerone guide Walking in Essex as an example.
All at once or in bits?
If you can afford the time to walk the whole path in one go, do. Walking the 81-mile Essex Way is likely to take between five and seven days, and so fits nicely into a week’s break. If you can’t though, it’s practical to break the walk into shorter sections, indeed perhaps a succession of day walks, and string the walk together in that way.
Shorter sections mean however that you have to be able to cope, time after time, with the nature of a linear walk – simply, you don’t end up where you started. For most people, after all, the circular route is what they are used to. There are four main ways round this.
- Have a friend or partner drop you at the start and collect you at the finish. Nice if you can get it! Alas, not always practical.
- The two-car shuffle. Two of you drive to the finish, one car goes back to the start, and reverse that at the finish. That’s how I walked the Essex Way for the first time, with my long-time walking partner Dave Travers: he driving from near Harwich, and me from Forest Gate.
- Use public transport. In Essex, this is very practical – it’s of all but no use on the Pennine Way, for example. From my home in east London, it’s how I did all the route research for Walking in Essex. Below there are a couple of examples of how you could walk the route in sections either from London or the county town of Chelmsford.
- Walk there and walk back again. Good, in that you see the countryside differently coming back, but by definition takes twice as long.
How far is a day?
Only you can answer this. If you are an experienced walker, you will know. If you aren’t, don’t over-estimate your abilities: but most reasonably fit adults, indeed teenagers plus, can cope with 10 miles or so fairly easily in lowland Britain, if they but knew it, and 12 to 15 miles is no outlandish aspiration. My guidebook gives stage lengths from 5 miles to 15 miles, but most are in single figures, and the longer stages can themselves be split.
Personally, in lowland Britain, I will quite often walk 18-mile days on trails like this, but I know others who will walk even more. But many will be looking to fit in the route as single stages whenever they can, and the staging in the guidebook bears this in mind.