Finding Hildasay: What I learned after walking the entire UK coast – Christian Lewis

Walking around the UK helped Christian Lewis reconnect with nature, making him feel part of something truly special

It’s hard to define exactly what it was that made me leave and set off to walk the entire UK coastline that morning of August 1, 2017. Looking back years later, there is no doubt in my mind that I was searching for something. It was evident that life was not going well for me. Constantly fighting just to feed and put a roof over my and my daughter’s heads and working in jobs I hated. After decades of this, I reached breaking point.

The lingering thought “I’m worth so much more than this and what is the point of living if I’m to be constantly unhappy and a slave to society” tumbled around my head. Wracked with unhappiness, anxiety and depression, I knew I had to make a change. When my daughter flew the nest, I immediately went for a surf at my local beach in Wales, and that’s when the idea hit me… I should walk the UK coastline.

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All of a sudden excitement coursed through my veins so strongly I was gripped. I had no idea how I was going to achieve such a mammoth undertaking, but I didn’t care. I knew I would figure it out. If something was making me feel this excited, I just had to go with it. A few days later I set off to walk 1,900 miles with £10 to my name, a broken tent and a pair of boots that didn’t fit.

Christian Lewis spent years walking around the coast of the UK (Picture contributed)Christian Lewis spent years walking around the coast of the UK (Picture contributed)
Christian Lewis spent years walking around the coast of the UK (Picture contributed)
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From that first day on Llangennith beach, it took me just short of six years to finish my walk. I had started a broken shell of a man, and I returned stronger both mentally and physically. Over the course of the walk, I adopted my beautiful dog Jet. I met my fiancée Kate Barron who joined me on the walk, and we had our son Magnus. I didn’t expect any of that!

I walked more of the UK coastline than any person has ever done, meeting the most incredible people with endless acts of human kindness. With little to no money, I lived off of the land and camped throughout, stripping myself away from the clutter of modern day life. It was so liberating. I could do it all again. Now it’s all over, I realise that what helps bring me happiness is far more simple than I could have ever imagined.

The walk helped me to reconnect with nature and made me feel part of something so special. I’m not a religious man but for me mother nature, the planet and the elements are my god. Being outside for so long made me slow down, take a huge breath, stop investing my time in meaningless things. It made me invest instead in myself.

Once my mind had been reset, I could start to focus on the things I enjoy doing. My path to a happy future became clearer and clearer. The walk showed me where I want to be in life, and all the hard work it took to finish it made me realise I was more than capable of achieving whatever I wanted going forward.

Christian Lewis will be discussing his books Finding Hildasay and Hildasay to Home at the Boswell Book Festival at Dumfries House tomorrow

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