Wild Walking UK is all about sharing the adventure and freedom of long-distance walking and wild camping in the UK, both with and without children.
My name is Mark Webb. I’m 51, married with four children (aged between 7 and 20) I brought up 2 of the children on my own, from the ages of 1 and 3, after their mum walked out on us. I’m now married to Emma, with another 2 lovely children.
I’ve been walking the hills and mountains of the UK all my life, also Australia, Canada and Europe. My philosophy is simple: low weight, low cost, low stress – and getting in as many walks as I can before I’m dead.
The daily routine
I’m a self-employed wood-turner by trade (they are my turnings on the Oak Pavilion at Highgrove House) but circumstances meant I had to close down my business a few years ago. I’m now working as a handyman a few days a week. I finance my walks from the sale of a rental property, so I have to make this money stretch as far as possible by being very selective with the walking gear I purchase, and then making it last as long as possible. My eldest son is still using my 30+ year-old Karrimor rucksack.
On an ordinary day I will be on the school run with my two youngest children, fitting in working as a handyman and extending our house. My wife works full-time as an Assistant Head in a school, which means we have the luxury of the school holidays to head off into the hills. I live in Norfolk so I’m never hill fit when I set off on a hike. I have to set of slowly and get fit as I go.
For many years I have carried too much weight, often 20kgs (44lbs) or more. As I got older I was just doing day walks because I didn’t enjoy heavy loads. Then a few years ago when I sold my rental property I had the money to change all my walking kit. So I learned as much as I could about the latest and lightest gear available (Thank you Chris Townsend for your very informative website). I then set out to find the best deals.
I class myself as a lightweight hiker rather than an ultralight. My winter base weight is around 10kgs (22lbs) and in summer it’s often around 7 or 8kgs (17lbs). But I have been known to do weekend walks with just a 2kg (5lbs) waist pack in extremely good weather. I haven’t always gone for the lightest weight items, I want comfort in the hills too.
This has given me a new lease of life in the hills. In the years since lightening my pack weight, I have taken on long distance hikes that I would have never considered before. The Cape Wrath Trail, TGO Challenge and in 2019 I walked and wild camped 1200 miles from Lands End to John O Groats via Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis in 62 days, wild camping for 58 night.
I love the freedom and challenge of the hills with nothing booked. Usually camping wild, this means I can change my walk to suit the weather, family demands, my mood, or even the quality of the pubs! (I know I said low cost, but I see it as my contribution to the local economy…)
I particularly enjoy the sense of purpose in long-distance walks. My favourites include the Cape Wrath trail and the TGO Challenge. I walked these alone, which for me is the least stressful way. I find I can shut off from the outside world completely – no more bills and politics! My latest challenge was walking alone from Land’s End to John O’Groats, to see if it’s possible to wild camp every night.
Walking with children
I’ve found that the same walk with my family can be a completely different experience. My children find fun in things I had barely noticed – hide and seek in the heather, playing in a mountain stream or the thrill of walking in the dark. As a family, we’ve completed Wainwright’s Coast to Coast, the Pennine Way, the Cumbria Way and the Weavers’ Way. All of these walks included at least two children under 10!
To my delight, my children walked a lot further than I expected them to from a very early age. They especially love it if there is a hill to roll down or a river to dam up. The children look forward to the next pub just as much as me. It’s obviously not for the pint that I’m after, but the bag of crisps, fizzy drink and game of cards. They love the 24/7 attention, and even my two teenagers still join me in the hills when they can.
I feel very privileged, to be able to get away for so many weeks. I worked very hard, long hours when I was younger and it’s now paying off. Thanks to my wife Emma for allowing, even encouraging it.
This blog is designed to share the highs and lows of my adventures. I hope it will inspire someone to get out there and enjoy what our beautiful country has to offer, without it costing the earth.
Please contact me with any questions etc.