Training for my trek

ROGER Betts has set himself an epic journey, walking from John O'Groats to Land's End and back again next spring. JAMES MARSTON took up the challenge to join the Ipswich man out training in Trimley.

ROGER Betts has set himself an epic journey, walking from John O'Groats to Land's End and back again next spring. JAMES MARSTON took up the challenge to join the Ipswich man out training in Trimley.

OK I admit it from the outset, I cheated.

I'd arranged to meet charity walker Roger Betts in Trimley St Mary and walk to Felixstowe.

But when it came to it though, it was so cold and so windy I bottled it and took the car - and anyway I didn't have the right footwear.

But for Roger being a fair-weather walker won't be an option next spring, when he begins the classic British trek. He said: “I'm aiming to walk about 30 miles a day, so I'm building up to walking 50 miles a day in training so I get used to it. Every now and again I go away camping and practice on some hills.”

Roger is expecting his trek to take four to five months, using the nation's footpaths rather than roads.

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He said: “I've done it by road and it was so boring. I'll be using some of Britain's ancient trading routes like the Pennine way and walking through the canals of the industrial revolution. I'll be following in the footsteps of our ancestors.”

It might sound romantic, but the 60-year-old retired postal worker is under no illusion that the trip will also be hard work so he adds a bit to his journey each day.

Roger said: “I like the challenge of walking. I was in the army so I was used to route marches then. You get to meet some fascinating people and see lots of wildlife. I've had red deer walking alongside me in Scotland and foxes in my tent and been close to wild ponies in the New Forest.

“You become part of the scenery. There are parts of Ipswich that you just don't see if you drive around.”

Keen on history Roger said he is looking forward to seeing the great industrial monuments.

He said: “Things like tin mines and coal mines, canals and factories are part of the history of Britain. I haven't seen these things yet so I am looking forward to looking at them.”

On his own for the journey, Roger has mixed feelings about what's ahead. He said: “There is a joy of being on your own. You can go at your own pace. But I'm a gregarious person and its difficult being without conversation. Sometimes you just want to have a chat with someone but you do sometimes meet up with people who are travelling your way for a while.

“My wife is a bit worried. I can understand as there are things that could happen to me like injury and I'm going to be on my own. I shall have my mobile phone with me.”

Also a keen cyclist, Roger has cycled the North Sea route in Belgium, Holland and Denmark.

He said: “I've done the London to Brighton, and always tried to encourage people to get out and do something. Things don't have to cost a lot of money either.”

To illustrate his point Roger and I arrive at a footpath which runs from Ipswich into Trimley St Mary. The bracing autumn weather and my ineffective scarf are no match for the biting wind.

Roger said: “You have to have the right equipment. I've got a windproof coat and a hat and I'm warm. You need to be prepared.”

Roger has a few more tips for the budding walker. He said: “I carry sterilising tablets if I need water. You also have to look after your feet. I make sure I have proper blister plasters. You feet are vital as they carry you each day. There the most important part of your body to look after.”

Walking through the village Roger is chatty and keen to pass on his knowledge.

He said “I've cycled from London to Brighton a few times and I'm doing this to raise money for the British Heart Foundation. Heart disease is the biggest killer in the UK and I want to do something to help.”

As we amble past Trimley's two churches - and I've been walking with him at least ten minutes by now I ask him his plans for the rest of the day.

He said: “Well I got the bus here because I didn't want to be late. From here I'll go on into Felixstowe and then back to Ipswich. I think it will take about four, or four and a half hours. I guess it's about 16 miles' walk.”

He's clearly more determined than I am, and when I leave him to climb into my car I wish him well for the challenge ahead.


Hoop Bivouac tent - 18 inches high

Sleeping mat

Water bottle

Sleeping bag

Petrol stove

Lightweight pot with frying pan lid


Dried food

Blister plasters

He said: “I don't walk in the mornings.”

2pm - “I leave home in Bridgewater Road, Ipswich, and walk up to Yarmouth Road, along Chevalier Street and then on to Colchester Road.”

3pm - “On to Felixstowe Road and back in to the town centre.”

4pm - “I stop in the town centre at the Labour Club in Silent Street and have a drink. Then off again past the Novotel, Stoke Park Drive, Ellenbrook Green and back home by about 6pm.”

The British Heart Foundation that funds research, education, care and awareness campaigns aimed to prevent heart diseases.

The charity is a major funder and authority in cardiovascular research, education and care, and relies predominantly on voluntary donations to meet its aims.

To increase income and maximise the impact of its work, it also works with other organisations to combat premature death and disability from cardiovascular disease.

In 2006 The British Heart Foundation had a gross income of over £100m.

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