New to long distance walking?
The Peddars Way & Norfolk Coast Path National Trail is ideal for your family's first long distance walk.
'This was an excellent starter route for my son and daughter; we were never too far from a point of evacuation by the wife,or food and water.'
'This is an excellent route for children, incorporating relatively level walking with the added benefit of beaches along the way.'
Could I do a long distance walk?
If you can manage day walks of six or eight miles you should be able to manage a multi-day walk with a little bit of planning and training.
Tackling and completing a multi-day journey means a fair amount of planning, in fact this is all part of the fun!
There are some clear elements to planning any long distance walk:
- Choosing a route
- Information gathering and planning
- Food and drink
- Obtaining the right kit
- Doing it
Choosing a route
Be honest with yourself and do not select a route that demands a high level of physical fitness or navigation skills. If the thought of navigating in thick fog when you are 5 miles from the nearest road is scary then do not choose a bleak upland moor to cut your long distance teeth.
Time of year
The Norfolk Coast Path in the depths of winter or the Peddars Way during a heat wave can be a challenge for the most seasoned walker and each will require special planning. The best time to walk is in the spring or autumn, although watch the path surface in some areas in or just following very wet weather.
Information gathering & planning
Before you can begin to plan your walk gather together all the information you need.
- Train & bus timetables
- Taxi numbers
- Accommodation guides
- Maps & guidebooks
- Distance charts
- Baggage carrier information
Train & Bus timetables
Available through www.traveline.org.uk. Some local services timetables may be available on the provider’s website the Norfolk Coasthopper for example.See our travel page
Hopefully you will not need these but worth having and taking with you – just in case.
Many routes do their own guides. (see our own on-line guide) these are best as they will make it easy to find accommodation on or close to the route. Also accommodation in these guides will be walker friendly – arriving wet through and with muddy boots should not startle them!
Map & guidebooks
Some guidebooks are better than others, those with maps in are advantageous.
Most National Trails offer their own distance charts from their websites or other promotional material to help you plan your route. See our distance charts. Decide how far you can walk in a day. It is a good idea to check out the type of terrain you will be walking over on a map or in the guide, as peat bogs or loose stone/gravel will make you walk slower and tire quicker. Over estimate what you can do and all your plans will fall to pieces. If you work on about 10 miles a day you should be okay but this will move up or down depending on the availability of accommodation. Plan your first nights stay. This will give you your starting time (assume 2.5mph walk pace). Do plan in a rest day. This might be a day or half a day but it will also allow you time to visit the local area.
Once you have your first night, repeat the process for day 2, day 3 and so on.
Baggage carrier information
This is a service which is provided by specific companies to make your trip easier. It is still recommended that you carry a daypack. If you are not used to carrying a heavy rucksack then don’t – unless you train for it. Baggage carriers can be expensive but incredibly worthwhile. Some B&B’s offer at a small fee, a luggage forwarding service which can be very useful. Check this and confirm your requirements with the B&B at the time of booking.
Food and drink
In some areas, such as parts of the Peddars Way, services are sparse, and you will have to rely on the contents of your rucksack for sustenance. Always carry adequate drink, in a water bottle or flask, with a secure, leak proof lid. If you're thinking about cutting down on the amount of water that you can carry and plan on drinking from local streams, then don't. Natural water sources may look inviting but they are often loaded with bacteria and could make you unwell very quickly. Plan your stops for food at least the day before, so that you know you will arrive during opening times if you are to be eating out along the way or have a pack up made at the B&B the night before you leave, if they offer this service. When you do set out on your first walk, do so slowly and avoid the mistake that many novice long distance walkers make of trying to walk too fast and to take too few rest breaks. Take your time and enjoy the countryside you pass through. You'll find you're able to last much longer between rest periods, and you'll enjoy the experience much more.
Obtaining the right kit
You shouldn’t need to spend a fortune to get the right kit, but some of the most important things like boots and waterproofs do need to be good quality so they are less likely to let you down.
- Socks & gaiters
Your feet will become the most important part of your body and you will need to care for them. For further advice visit the Ramblers Association site
One way of ensuring you do this is by wearing the right footwear. You will need a good grip, support and comfort.
Trainers or Wellingtons in the wet, are fine for a local walk but once longer distances are walked you begin to need something else. Trail shoes, very similar to trainers but designed for off road walking are appropriate in dry conditions. In wet or cold conditions you will need a pair of boots, which should be light and flexible. It is advisable to take your time in choosing a pair of boots, preferably in a specialist shop, ideally with the help of trained staff.
Socks & gaiters
Good quality, well fitting socks are essential. They may be synthetic or wool. Some people swear by two pairs, a thin liner sock inside a thick outer, whereas others find this leads to friction and perhaps blisters. Always carry a spare pair of socks in case they become damp or very dirty, changing them can prevent blisters.
Gaiters will stop the wet, snow and mud from getting in your boots.
It is advisable to dress in layers in order to keep dry and warm whatever the weather. For this purpose, the best materials to wear are wool, silk and polypropylene or treated polyester as they all dry quickly when damp.
Waterproofs are essential; they should be big enough to fit over other the layers. Ideally the over trousers should have long zips to the ankle, to fit over your boots, and the jacket an adjustable hood.
It is also advisable to carry a hat, either for the sun or the cold depending on the season and gloves too if necessary.
For low level and summer walking look for one in the 20-30 litre range, for winter a larger 35-45 litre capacity one will store extra clothing and flasks.
Padded back and hip belts or waist straps all make the sack more comfortable, but frames are unnecessary unless carrying a heavier load.
Take the time to test out different strategies for loading your pack and adjust this to get the best balance and to eliminate any irritation with your backpack rubbing against your body. Don't be afraid to take your pack with you whenever you can, even if it's just for a walk around town for some shopping and try to take routes that will take you over some rough ground if possible
The following are exceptionally useful to have:
- Small first aid kit
- Small torch
- Plastic survival bag
- Trekking Poles
- Maps & guides
Now you’ve researched it thoroughly, planned every detail – well as much as you can! It is time to go. Undoubtedly at some point if not regularly, you will be challenging yourself during your long distance walk. By possessing the right mental attitude you will enjoy your trip a lot more, preparing yourself mentally before you begin is advisable.
Then let us know how you got on!