We meet the man walking all 15 National Parks in the UK in a year to find out more about his Walk Wild UK challenge, his inspiration, and how he came to be the first ever solo Ten Tors challenger
Q: First of all, can you explain to us what your Walk Wild UK challenge involves?
To walk the 50+ mile length across, and climb the highest points of, all 15 of the UK’s National Parks in 2017. Each National Park is tackled in a long weekend, one a month until the summer when I will trek six national parks (walking almost 350 miles and climbing over 20km in height) in only 12 weeks. I have to carry all the gear I would need to survive out in the wild on my back, often alone and without the ability to contact anyone for days on end.
Q: What inspired you to take on such a big challenge?
A desire to push through adversity away from the endless day-to-day stresses of owning and managing a national business. My life is unpredictable and always busy managing Terrafirma. I wanted to force myself to escape to the wilderness and find out what it really means to overcome pain, adversity and hardship.
Q: Had you ever done anything like this before?
I enjoy walking and losing myself in the wild and have done so many times before, mostly with friends or family. Walking in the wild is the only thing that truly clears my mind and I love the serenity wide open spaces and particularly being up high can give you. I have spent many days walking in the Lake District, Dartmoor or the Brecon Beacons but never challenging myself to this sort of distance, over this sort of timescale, on my own!
Q: You’re raising money for the Devon Air Ambulance Trust. Why this charity specifically?
Devon Air Ambulance helped save my sister’s life in January 2016, airlifting her from Haldon Hill to Derriford Hospital quickly enough to allow surgeons to operate successfully after she was critically injured in a car accident. I’m aiming to raise £5,000 as a personal thank you to the charity and to drive awareness to this incredible team of people, who save lives on a daily basis across our corner of the world.
Q: You became the first person to walk the gruelling Ten Tors 55 Mile Challenge on Dartmoor solo back in May, a decade after walking the event with your classmates at Teign School. How did this come about?
I was very lucky to have a champion in the organiser, Lt Cl Peter Bates, who believed my challenge was worth backing. He helped me organise the walk and gave me permission to undertake my challenge on the back of the famous Ten Tors Event. I was invited to stay at the Okehampton Army Camp in the soldier’s quarters from Thursday and was allowed to sneak behind the scenes and get a glimpse of how this incredible event is successfully staged, managed and run by the 1000+ military personnel across Dartmoor. I was then able to start and set off on the same 55 mile route as the thousands of other teenagers at 7am on Saturday morning, however, with one small difference; I was the only adult and the first solo challenger in the 57 years since the Ten Tors was founded! I was lucky enough to receive a gold Ten Tors Challenger Medal that is now engraved with the word ‘solo’ to ensure I never forget being the first to ever complete the challenge alone.
Q: What keeps you motivated when you’re out there on your own?
Going through the last few years, experiencing my sister’s accident and her recovery and also growing a business single-handedly, I have realised that nothing should stop you from achieving what you set your mind too. ‘Pain is temporary’ is a cliché but also one that not many people now understand or have experienced. My sister survived against all odds and will go on to achieve incredible things. If that didn’t motivate me then nothing will.
Q: You’re about half way into your challenge. What has been the hardest part so far?
The Ten Tors Challenge. To this day, I have absolutely no idea how the thousands of teenagers (including myself ten years ago) overcome the physical and mental adversity that the challenge presents. But, as difficult as it was, I’d definitely do it again.
Q: Where can our readers continue to follow your journey and show their support?
I have just completed Stage 8, Pembroke Coast, of the Walk Wild UK Challenge. Stage 9 is coming up next – walking 50+ miles across the mountains of Snowdonia. If you would like to sponsor me, please visit my justgiving page, where all proceeds go to the charity: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/WalkGBNationalParks
Follow the rest of Tom’s challenge at www.walknationalparks.co.uk