23. August 2020

Turn right at Land's End

John Merrill: Turn Right at Land's End: Penguin
Books, Harmondsworth, 1981
In ten months and 7000 miles John Merrill walked from St Paul's Cathedral around the entire British coastline. He was the first person to complete this unique walk. On the way he fractured a foot, raised £40,000 for the blind, averaged 26 miles a day humping 60 pounds of equipment on his back, ate 1511 bars of chocolate, wore out 33 pairs of socks and found a wife!

His account of his travels, his delight in historical bu ildings and country life and his notes on all manner of flora and fauna – from bluebell and poppy to dolphin and golden eagle – make this book a journey of excitement and discovery: an unusual glimpse into the many remote and unspoilt corners of this sceptred isle.

John Merrill, from London, England, is a marathon walker, a profession which he can be said to have created,[citation needed] and of which he remains a leading, if not the only, member. He attended Westbourne School in Sheffield, Grosvenor House School in Harrogate, Wennington School in Wetherby Yorkshire between 1955-61. He is active in two areas: firstly undertaking extremely long walks, and secondly publishing books about walking, dealing with both his experiences and describing routes for readers to follow. In January 2003, he was made an Honorary Master of Derby University, for his walking and writing. He also lectures extensively about walking. By 2016 he has walked more than 217,000 miles (349,000 kilometres), worn out 129 pairs of boots, over 1,500 pairs of socks and 47 rucksacks. A keen skier both downhill and cross country; a cyclist and Qigong teacher. In all Merrill has calculated that he walked over 217,000 miles (349,000 km) between 1969 and 2010, raising over £756,000 in charity sponsorship.

Some of his main walks
  • Hebridean Journey - 1,003 miles (1,614 km).
  • Northern Isles Journey - 913 miles (1,469 km).
  • Irish Island Journey - 1,578 miles (2,540 km).
  • Parkland Journey - 2,043 miles (3,288 km).
  • Land's End to John o' Groats - 1,608 miles (2,588 km).
  • First walk around entire British coastline - 7,000 miles (11,000 km)
  • Across America - coast to coast 4,260 miles (6,860 km)
  • Appalachian trail 2,500 miles (4,000 km)
  • Pacific crest trail 2,800 miles (4,500 km)
  • Continental divide 4,500 miles (7,200 km)
  • Buckeye trail, first thru hike, 1,300 miles (2,100 km)
  • Across Europe - Holland, Belgium, France, Switzerland - the Alps end to end to Nice - then round the Mediterrean to Spain and across the Pyrenees to Hendaye - 107 days, 3,000 miles with 600,000 feet of ascent.
  • Le Puy to Santiago 1,100 miles (1,800 km)
  • Seville to Santiago 750 miles (1,210 km)
  • Laos, Algarve via Fatima to Santiago 650 miles (1,050 km)
  • East of England Heritage Route - 450 miles (720 km)
  • Entire coastline of Great Britain - 6,824 miles (10,982 km) - first ever undertaking.
  • St. Olav's Way - Norway 420 miles, from Oslo to Trondheim.
  • First crossing of the Jotunheimen mountains and glaciers over a month. Crossed 28 glaciers and climbed all the highest peaks.
  • Hong Kong - 400 miles - walked all the trails on the islands.
  • Himalayas - Alpine style route to Everest Base Camp & Cho Oyu; Around Annapurna and to Annapurna base camp; the Lantang Valley; Kashmir & Ladakh.
  • All the trails and mountains in New Mexico - 2,000 miles.
  • Chesapeake and Ohio Canal 0– 230 miles.
  • The Cathars Way - 200 miles
  • The Bon Hommmes Way - 220 miles
  • Pilgrimage to St.Gillies du Gard - 180 miles
Merrill is author of more than 430 walking guides which he prints and publishes himself, and his book sales are in excess of 4 million. His best known work is possibly ‘Turn Right at Land’s End’ about his walk around Britain’s coastline. He has created many long distance walks including The Limey Way, The Peakland Way, and Jennifer's Challenge Walk and more than 50 Day Challenge walks which have been used to raise more than £1 million for different charities. He has also written about non-walking matters such as Sir Joseph Paxton and other famous Derbyshire figures.

Merrill has an idiosyncratic methodology which involves never taking breaks during a day’s walk, carrying no water, travelling unaccompanied and walking thirty miles a day and more at a constant rate of three miles per hour. He has suggested that the limit of endurance is approximately 200 miles per week. He claims on his website that "you need to walk 500 miles (800 km) before you are settled into the task and have comfy feet. After 1,000 miles (1,600 km) you are really adjusted and by 1,500 miles (2,400 km) you can push yourself relentlessly. By 2,000 miles (3,200 km) of continuous walking you are at your peak performance, but after 2,500 miles (4,000 km) you are physically declining".

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