When Nigel Heath and Peter Gibbs first went for a walk together 40 years ago, they didn’t think it would take them across Britain FOUR times. The couple, both journalists, first met at a party in Clevedon in the early 1980s and started chatting when Nigel, who worked for the Bristol Post, asked Peter if he would like to take a walk sometime. .

The couple agreed and have been hiking partners for decades with their adventures now covering a staggering 4,000 miles. The friends’ first walk together was up Scotland’s West Highland Way, where they quickly realized their packs weren’t waterproof.

The pair set off at Loch Lomond and enjoyed fine weather on the first leg. “When we woke up on the second day, it was raining,” said Peter, a former assistant editor at the Western Daily Press.

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“We left our bed and breakfast and walked through the rain to Tyndrum. We were drenched and sitting at the back of this caravan site with rain from the trees dripping into our coffee cups and feeling pretty miserable.

“I turned to Nigel and told him there’s a train station a quarter of a mile away. I asked him if we should take the train to Fort William and then come back and finish the walk another time.”

The soaked couple agreed and headed for Fort William. “We were rookies then,” said Peter, now 79. “And we didn’t realize that we didn’t need to carry multiple shirts and pants with us.

“Everything was soaked. Our backpacks now have a waterproof lining. And now we only pack the basics.”

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The couple arrived in Fort William and went to dinner at a local restaurant. While there, they passed a family they had seen at the beginning of their journey that day.

“They told us, ‘You’ve made good progress,’ considering we were about 50 miles from where we last saw them,” Peter said. “I don’t remember if we told them that we had taken the train.”

The couple returned home and then completed the West Highland Way walk for a couple of years. On another trip, Peter, now 79 and living in Clevedon, realized he had forgotten his walking boots.

“I had to buy a pair of wellies,” he said. “We walked for about 20 miles and when we were done, I felt like I was walking on broken glass.

Peter in Naseby Northamptonshire at the start of the Shakespeare Avon Way(Image: Peter Gibbs)

“Nigel had to force my boots off me.” Other adventures have included when the couple stayed at a B&B owned by a Scottish millionaire. “He was great and he ended up cooking us haggis for breakfast,” Peter said.

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The couple walk regularly, for a week every three months, touring the country in the summer months and exploring Britain’s canal network in the winter, when the days are shorter and the routes are flat and easy to follow.

The couple have now put together all their walking adventures to publish a book called Paths and Poetry, a lavishly illustrated collection of articles and poems. Nigel, 75, said: “While I write newspaper articles, Peter writes poems that illuminate and complement my prose, so the idea of ​​producing a book seemed like a natural progression,” he added.

“When we go on another ride, I always say, ‘I wonder what adventures we’ll have this time?’ And of course we almost always do, stopping and chatting with people we meet along the way and occasionally getting lost when we don’t pay enough attention to our maps or guidebooks,” he admitted.

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“Our modus operandi is to drive to the start of a long-distance hike and then follow the path, spending the night in hotels, inns and B&Bs before taking a taxi back to the start,” he added.

“During the summer months, we set off in particularly long sections around 6am, taking our breakfast of croissants, bananas, fruit juice and coffee to enjoy along the way,” Peter explained.

“In this way we have followed all our long-distance walks, including the 192-mile coast-to-coast alternative route, which starts at Weston-super-Mare and ends at Dover, passing Warminster, Salisbury and Winchester along the way. .”

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The couple, now hiking experts, hike in all winds and weather. “I vividly remember walking down Salisbury Plain in a blizzard, hearing the roar of gunfire at the military firing ranges,” Nigel said. “And then there was the morning we met a lady in her eighties who was waking up from place to place.

“Peter asked her what’s keeping her going and she replied, ‘It’s keeping going that keeps me young.'” For Nigel, his motivation to keep moving comes from taking walks with his Aunt Lil when he was a child.

He said: “My personal motivation goes back to my four-year-old self being walked up Durdham Downs in Bristol by my dearest Aunt Lil,” Nigel explained.

Nigel and his aunt Lil on the Weston seafront(Image: Nigel Heath)

“‘Auntie, auntie, can we go home now because my legs hurt,’ I begged on an unforgettable afternoon.” There was a pause before she replied ‘Come, come, put your feet up because walking is good for you.’

Nigel and Peter’s book is now available for £8.99 at www.Amazon.co.uk/books.



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