Some of the 1700+ walkers that took part.

Forty Miles and Only Two Feet!!

Author Chf Tech Martin Thompson and Edited by Flt Lt Si Kirby

Note to self – ‘You need to do the Keswick to Barrow walk again don’t you!’

Answer to self – ‘Silly idea…very silly….stupid!....You couldn’t walk for a week after the last time you did it, but it would still be fun....and you could try to better your time ’

So, much against my own better judgement, the planning phase started in early 2007.

The Keswick to Barrow challenge (K2B) is a team event with 14 different categories to compete in. The walk itself is described as ‘a 40 mile stroll through some of the country’s finest landscapes’. Starting just outside Keswick, the route meanders past the peaceful banks of Thirlmere at the foot of Helvellyn, winding up and over Dunmail Raise and down through the picturesque villages of Grasmere and Elterwater. From there the walk passes Yew Tree Tarn before reaching the head of Coniston Water, where the east bank of the lake is followed. The walk continues through John Ruskin country to the tranquil village of Nibthwaite before arriving in Lowick. The most challenging part of the walk is the progressive climb up Kirkby Moor to the highest point of the route. The route then descends through the village of Marton into the historical town of Dalton before reaching the finish on the outskirts of Barrow-in-Furness.

Route Profile

Route Profile

The first resource I had to find was nine willing volunteers to do the walk with me (entry requires a minimum of ten people per team), as well as support drivers who would cater for our every whim and suitably chastise us on the way round. I then had to bid for funding, book accommodation, buy food, arrange transportation and, the most important thing, get a team T-Shirt designed and printed. The willing volunteers list rapidly wilted after the first training walk and, from then on, the list changed to press-ganged volunteers as the training regime got tougher. I found the best way of cajoling people to do the walk was to wait until they were quite merry in the pub and ask them if they fancied doing a walk in the Lake District; then, the following morning, re-iterate to them the full extent of what they had agreed to the night before! As it turned out, the only willing volunteers I got were the support drivers! In total I took the press-ganged volunteers on 10 training walks, the longest of which was 23 miles; these were simply to get everyone used to walking longer distances and to make sure that their equipment wasn’t going to rub too much during the main walk.

The walking team. The walking team from left to right were Chf Tech Des Nichols, Chf Tech Jeff Buxton, Sgt Al Hiscock, Sgt Dick Wilson, Chf Tech Neil Pickthall, Chf Tech Tommo Thompson, Sgt Phil Beazer, FS Den Garvey, Flt Lt Pete Jackson-Soutter. All of the team were from the Nimrod MRA4 IPT based at BAES Warton.




11 May 07 Starting the walk at 0600 meant that the team had to be up, fed and watered by ‘oh my gosh it’s early!!!’….o’clock. Sausage butties and plenty of cheer were amply provided by the support team of Chf Tech Doug Baldock, Chf Tech Rick Berry and Sgt Mike Kaill. We then began our epic adventure. Setting off, the only thing I had on my mind was completing the distance in eight and a half hours. When it started to rain the only thing I had on my mind was completing the distance soaking wet!

The Start at ‘oh my gosh it’s early!!!’….o’clock The Start at ‘oh my gosh it’s early!!!’….o’clock.

People raring to go at the official start time






People raring to go at the official start time of ‘0600…oh my gosh it’s early!!!’….o’clock

Throughout the walk various check points have to be ‘swiped’ with an electronic tag. These check points also provide places to meet up with the support team, giving them a golden opportunity to chastise you for attempting such a feat. Comments such as “How far are you walking? Forty miles in a day!!!” were the order of the day or the all time classics such as “The finish is just round the corner!” and “Only another ten minutes to go!!” were all taken well, despite a lot of muttering under my breath! However, the obvious reason for having a support team was to re-supply you with anything that you required during the walk; this negated the need to carry spare clothes or food.

Some of the beautiful Lake District scenery

Some of the beautiful Lake District scenery Some of the beautiful Lake District scenery








Some of the beautiful Lake District scenery

Two miles into the walk I was on my own; having to cover such a distance meant that the team was going to spread out; therefore, a great deal of planning had to go into co-ordinating the support drivers. I ended up utilising three vehicles to ensure that everybody was supported throughout the day.





Dick really liked the 20-mile marker Dick really liked the 20-mile marker, because he knew that he only had half of the walk left to do!

The first 20 miles passed me by in 4hrs and I was well on course to achieve my 8½ hr target. From my perspective the most picturesque part of the walk was around Coniston where there are supposedly fine views of Coniston Old Man; however, on the day, it was bucketing down with rain so it was hood up, head down and keep on plodding. Food and refreshments were made available by the walk organisers at the 21-mile check point and they were very well received.

The most challenging part of the walk as far as I was concerned was at the 30-mile point as I missed the 30-mile marker. I thought that I was well on target to achieve 8 hours (cool) only to be totally disheartened when I got to the 35-mile marker at 7hrs 40 mins, mind you from 30 to 35 miles the views over the Furness Peninsula and out across Morecambe Bay to the Irish Sea were quite spectacular and it had stopped raining so I could actually see. Everything has its down- side though and these fantastic views minus the rain were no exception as I could then see how far I still had to go!

The Finish Line!!

Blister of the Day Winner








The 'final' stretch










Wow…Look my feet are still there!!!!! I haven’t felt them in ages!!!!!!

RAF Personnel. RAF Personnel.








RAF Personnel.








The finish itself was at the BAE Systems Sports Club in Barrow, where walkers got a well-deserved hot meal and ample opportunity to recharge their batteries with complex carbohydrates, but once you were sitting down, it was incredibly difficult to get up again! The St John’s Ambulance tent was a must for the treatment of aches, pains and blisters. The only prize that the team won on the day was awarded to me by the St John’s Ambulance nurses for the ‘Best Blister of the Day’. I received a nice, crisp new bandage that I had to wear around the offending object as I hobbled unceremoniously to the beer tent for some much needed ‘pain killers’ - serves me right for paying £9 for anti-blister socks! All of my team finished in times ranging from 8hrs 47mins (me) to 10hrs 47mins. The sense of achievement in all of their faces as they crossed the line was further amplified by the comments that they muted e.g. ‘thank heavens that’s over!!’ (or words to that effect!).

Back to the Saturday night stop over for ‘tea and

In conclusion, the Keswick to Barrow walk is a very well organised and supported event. Above all, it is a competition (this year’s winning time was 4hrs 45 mins), but more importantly it is a huge challenge for people to cover 40 miles on foot in one day. How many people can say that they have walked 40 miles in a ‘oner?’ It affords excellent opportunities for force development, team building and collecting charitable donations in the process. Charities that benefit from such donations include the local Cumberland community or any others that charity walkers should wish to nominate. My team collectively raised £1500 for Hope House (a children's Hospice in Shropshire) and The Claremont First Step Centre (a drop-in community centre in Blackpool).

If you require any more information then visit the web site

Back to the Saturday night stop over for ‘tea and medals’.

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