Protecting our seas
Our seas give us life. They give us food, they give us oxygen, they make clouds to give us rain and they absorb carbon dioxide.
And yet, our seas are in danger. We use them as a sewer, we're filling them with plastic that will linger for hundreds of years, and we're fishing faster than populations can replenish.
The Marine Conservation Society works tirelessly to create healthy seas and coastlines that support abundant marine life. They want our seas to provide enjoyment for everyone as well as sustainable livelihoods, and I want to help them.
Phase 1 - the fantasy journey - walking the Malvern Hills
I initially planned to walk the South West Coast Path from Minehead on the north coast of Somerset to Poole on the south coast of Dorset during June and July. The route is 630 miles long - that's 1,014 km - and much further than I have ever walked before.
Because the path follows the cliff-tops and dives down to river level at every estuary, the total ascent of the route is almost 115,000 feet - just over 35,000 metres, which is four times the height of Mount Everest. This is not an easy challenge!
I have pledged to raise £10,140 for the Marine Conservation Society - that's £10 per kilometre I walk. Will you help me?
Due to the restrictions on travel this year, my challenge became 'Julia's Fantasy Jellyfish Journey'. I walked the same distance and the same ascent/descent, following government guidelines at all times. I am lucky enough to live near the Malvern Hills, so I could do this walking out from home every day. Dressed as a jellyfish, I gained quite a lot of attention with coverage on the radio and in local papers.
Phase 2 - the actual journey - walking the South West Coast Path
As travel restrictions were lifted within the UK, the South West became exceptionally popular with British holidaymakers, so I waited until the end of the school holidays to start walking the South West Coast Path.
I wasn't sure that I would always be able to find accommodation, so I carried (and often used) my tent and associated camping kit - it was a far harder challenge than I had originally anticipated because of the extra weight. By the time I finished I was thoroughly exhausted and struggled up every incline. Except for very well developed leg muscles, and despite eating as many calories as I could, I was a bag of bones when I arrived back home.
I set off from Studland near Poole on 1st September and walked every day until I reached Minehead on 21st October, racing against the threat of lockdown.
I walked through a glorious Indian summer in September - and storms that threatened to blow me off the cliffs in October. I camped on clear, still nights, enjoying the view of lights and stars twinkling over the ocean. On other nights, I barely slept, worried that the wind would rip my tent and the rain would soak me.
In the end, it was a person in a rage who ripped my tent and put paid to my camping - not a storm. Luckily, that was just a few days from the end of my trip, and most of the people I met were immensely kind and generous, offering me encouragement, advice, water, food, even a bed for a night.
What does the sea mean to you?
I did this walk because the sea is important to me. It started with childhood holidays, as I'm sure it did for most of us, chasing waves, peering into rockpools and playing on the beach. As I grew up, I developed a love of cliff-top walking and boat trips to look for whales and dolphins. I get next to, onto and into the sea at every opportunity, although living in the centre of the country, it doesn't happen as often as I would like.
But this isn't about me - I am asking to you support my fundraising efforts because of what the sea means to you, and to all of us.
Anything you can contribute towards helping me achieve my target will be massively appreciated – and help us all to share in a brighter future.
Training on the Malvern Hills
The start of the path - Studland (Poole)
Finishing the path - Minehead