What is 50FootHead?
Primarily: A walking blog created as a resource for people who want to walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats (LEJoG). It is aimed particularly at those who, like me, would be walking LEJoG in sections and may be daunted by those books and sites which are geared towards the challenge of walking the length of Britain in one go. I think, at times, it will be obvious that I am a bumbling amateur.
Also: A discussion of mental health, especially my own experiences. This aspect is kept separate in the “Head” section, but may sometimes overlap with the LEJoG walk blog. I have set up a Just Giving page to raise money for Mind, the mental health charity. Readers may wish to donate using the link in the main menu (top right).
Comments are enabled should you wish to ask questions or discuss anything related to the walk or mental health.
What does that title mean?
My target is to complete the LEJoG walk on or before my 50th birthday, on 7th October 2022. I intend to do so on foot, without using any other transport. And I am raising money for Mind, the mental health charity – that’s the head part.
Also, you might describe a LEJoG walk as being from the foot to the head of the island of Great Britain. More pedantically, that would actually take you from Lizard Point to Dunnet Head. However, it’s enough of a double meaning for me to settle on that title. I
may will return to the ‘island as human body’ metaphor as the blog progresses. Oh yes.
Finally, there’s an intended triple meaning, in that I’m hopefully documenting a long journey from the bottom (foot) to the top (head) in terms of mental health as well as geography.
Who are you?
You can see my WordPress name on the blog: this is an abbreviation of a username I’ve had at the Guardian website since 2010. For now, you can call me ‘Ben Wainless’…
What is your walking background?
I used to be a distance runner until being advised to stop by a knee specialist in 2004. After illness I started walking as a hobby in 2009, but only really became a regular walker in 2013. My first long distance walk was the Cleveland Way in April 2016 and my second was the Coast to Coast in May 2017 – both of these are covered in ‘Sidetracks’ (see main menu).
In May 2016, shortly after my grandma died, I was in the Lake District with my family – we scattered her ashes at Tarn Hows. I suddenly had the idea of walking from Land’s End to John O’Groats before my 50th birthday, asked my family if they thought I could do it and they said yes. The first leg was in April 2017.
Why Mind and mental health?
Doubtless I will provide more detail on this as the blog progresses. However, the basics are as follows:
- Over a decade ago I had a spectacularly horrendous mental breakdown, leading to loss of long-standing friendships, weight gain and severe depression.
- I was signed off work for years as a result. After returning I gained more weight and continued to struggle, although never seriously enough to be signed off again.
- Eventually I lost my job and was out of work for 21 months.
- Only after finding my current job did I recover to my previous level of mental health.
I have no previous involvement with Mind, but they do excellent work on what is clearly a growing societal problem: one that can literally affect anyone, however outwardly confident and successful they might appear; that still attracts disproportionate stigma; that is increasingly affecting even children; and one that seems destined to be underestimated and underfunded.
(couldn’t resist invoking my all-time favourite TV show)
Read “Pre-Amble” for everything you need to know before tackling LEJoG, or explore the menu and see if you’d like to stick around and follow the journey.
You’d be more than welcome.
The start of everyone’s LEJoG walk…including mine