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Chris the Coast Walker: An 11,000 mile hike to raise life-changing funds

It’s a snowy February afternoon and in the midst of lockdown, Chris dials into a video call with a group of family friends. Today, they’re learning how to navigate by the stars.

It’s the latest in a series of sessions he’s been running to help children learn about the joy of exploring. Something he knows quite a bit about.

Over the past years he’s rowed the Atlantic, cycled non-stop from Paris to Cambridge, completed three stages of the Tour de France, and stacked up an impressive array of running and spin-bike marathons.

His latest adventure – walking almost 11,000 miles around Britain’s coastline – began back in May 2020, following the UK’s first lockdown. Like many people, Chris was moved by the hardship of the pandemic and felt inspired to make a difference.

“During that first lockdown I was lucky enough to spend every day with my three daughters,” says Chris. ”We have a happy, healthy, normal(ish) home. Lots of children in the UK don’t have the same experience and I thought about that a lot.”

Chris decided to embark on the mammoth challenge with the aim of raising funds for BBC Children in Need.

After setting up a JustGiving fundraising page and planning out his route, he began pulling together his equipment. There would be no fancy beach hotels on this trip.

“I mainly sleep outdoors in a sleeping bag and bivvy,” says Chris, “I forage for food as well as taking food donations along the way. I hope to be offered a bed, sofa or shed occasionally but otherwise I’m surviving day to day on what I can carry.”

What he can carry is minimal; a selection of handpicked survival equipment to get him through the challenge. There’s a solar powered phone charger, a torch, a paraffin cooker, a tent and of course some trusty waterproof clothing.

“This is a challenge that is testing me both physically and mentally,” says Chris, “I have been strict in my approach to what is essential and what is not – if an item doesn’t have more than one use it doesn’t come with me.”

Having secured his first few sleeping spots and packed up his kit, Chris set out on his adventure, starting on the North Norfolk coast.

“I navigate by OS map, GPS and the stars,” says Chris. “I’m heading clockwise so really I just have to keep the sea on my left.”

Chris the Coast Walker

In 150 days, Chris made it from the North Norfolk coast, all the way around to North West Wales. He overcame torrential rain, scorching summer temperatures, fallen trees and even narrowly escaped a landslide.

But then, as the year came to a close and winter hit, the pandemic took a turn for the worse.

“I came home at Christmas,” says Chris, ”and I’ve been here ever since.”

With restrictions tight across the UK, Chris has been forced to put his coastal adventure on hold and remain at home. But he’s still determined to continue raising money and making a difference.

“I’ve booked in quite a lot just to keep myself busy,” he says. “We’re spending time in outdoor spaces around where we live in Cambridge, and we’re doing live streams for other children at home and families to break up their school days a little bit.”

The educational session he’s running on navigation is a part of this activity.

“We’re talking about lots of things like the environment, the coast, knotts and map reading, campfire cooking, den building. All sorts of things that they won’t be taught in school.”

To continue raising funds and to ensure he stays active for his return to the coast, Chris is also keeping himself busy with 24-hour walking and spin bike marathons.

Spending time with his family has also helped to remind him why his challenge is so important.

I have three amazing children of my own and I want to inspire them and others to always push their limits and help others. I’ve chosen BBC Children in Need because they support so many children and young people, reaching every corner of the UK

Chris the Coast Walker

Nobody is really sure when restrictions will allow Chris to return to his challenge, but when they do, he’ll be ready.

“The challenge isn’t over,” he says, “I think I’m at almost £23,000 raised, which is amazing!”

“I’m very grateful to everyone who has been following and all my supporters and sponsors. Hopefully we can all get out of this as quick as possible, and I can get back out there on the path and raising money for BBC Children in Need.”

A huge thank you to Chris for sharing his story and for raising life-changing funds for BBC Children in Need. You can track Chris’s progress on his Twitter by following @thecoastwalker or donate to keep him motivated by visiting his JustGiving page here.
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