Walking from the Pyrenees to Northern England

31 Replies

I shall be walking from my current home in the Aude, to the house where I was born, in Blackpool, Lancashire. I plan to take 70 days for the walk and to arrive 70 years, to the day, after I was born. I will be walking an average of 30 kms a day, 6 days a week, for 10 weeks. If anybody wants to follow my planning, preparations, training, and eventually the walk itself (starts on May 15th 2010) my blog address is:www.vicsbigwalk.blogspot.comAny helpful suggestions will be gratefully received.Vic Heaney


kitten-460256 1244654076

What a great story and idea!!!

Good luck and keep us informed please

Vic Heaney-461025 1244654730

Thanks Kitten. The blog is updated several times per week.

I am thinking of writing a book about this. What do you think?

Tanya-460707 1244714748

Good Luck

Lovely story,hope my legs could get that far at 70

Vic Heaney-461025 1244719823

Thanks Tanya.

I hope mine do!

Vic Heaney-461025 1244900850

Anybody Know Anything About Internet on the Move?

I know I can get one of those little gadgets which fit into the side of
a laptop to give Internet connection while on the move. I need one for
updating my blog while I am doing the big walk.

I have seen
these for sale in France, but does anybody know whether, as in UK,
there is a tarriff on which you pay only on the days you use it, rather
than having to take out a contract for 12 or 24 months at so much a
month. The daily tarriff would be so much better for me as I shall only
be needing it for the duration of the walk.


Tanya-460707 1244917211

Most isp providers operate this type of moblile internet service.You initially buy what they call a key,which plugs into your usb hub,which is the modem then you either subscibe a monthly fee or buy prepaid hours just like a mobile phone.

The network uses mobile phone masts to transmit the signal,so check your mobile phone works first.I use this service quite a lot with work and it seems to work very well.

good luck,let me know how you get on

Vic Heaney-461025 1244918652

Sorry Tanya. Just realised what you said about prepaid hours. That would be better than a monthly rate and a long term contract, but pay per day would be best, if it can be don.



Tanya-460707 1244922644


The major isp companies all do thre prepaid top ups for the internet which charge for hours of use which will be perfect for what you need.Have a look at orange or sfr.You will need to buy the key as well about 60€

Keep us informed and good luck

Vic Heaney-461025 1244923117

Hello again Tanya

Thanks very much for all that. I'll get onto it.



Vic Heaney-461025 1245146133

Welcome to
all new readers of the blog, of which there are many in the past few days,
Especially those joining me from the AngloInfo websites in
France, Spain, Italy and Cyprus. A special “hello” also to members
of my old club Altrincham and District Athletics Club.

Reading the Blog. With so many new readers, not all having the
time to read the whole blog from its beginning last August – for those who
don’t know, in a blog the most recent entry appears at the top of the page – I
think it may be necessary to summarise progress to date.

Food. The
basic objective of the walk is given in the header above. I am doing the walk
alone. My wife Gay would like to accompany me on foot but there are insuperable
problems, mainly connected with our diet. We are vegetarians. Unless we want to
carry mountains of equipment and food, this means that, walking together, we
would have to stay in hotels or hostel-type accommodation and eat food cooked
by others in restaurants. As the concept of eating a meal without meat or fish
is virtually unkown in
France, we would either starve or eat 70

Transport and Accommodation. Therefore we have decided to buy a
motor caravan, which Gay will drive while I walk, so that we have our
accommodation and cooking facilities with us. The current plan is to sell the
van after the walk. We anticipate that what we lose will not exceed what we
would otherwise have spent on accommodation and food.

Corporate Sponsorship. There was much discussion in
earlier pages about whether I should seek corporate sponsorship to cover the
cost of the journey. For instance, whether to ask a motor caravan maker to lend
us a van in return for it carrying logos and adverts for his own services. I
decided against this because I would feel too obliged – I would feel I was then
doing the walk for others and, especially if injury or illness prevents me from
completing the walk, that I had let them down.

Raising money for Charity. There have been many suggestions
that I should raise money for charity as I walk. I am inclined to do so, but am
a bit chary because I would still feel the same sort of obligation as above.

Route. Although France has an incredible network of long
distance paths, I will not be using them because they wander about to much and
I would not be able to complete the walk in the symbolic 70 days. I will be
walking on (quiet) roads from the
Pyrenees to Caen/Ouistreham. I will be publishing more
details of the route in the near future in the hope of blog readers advising me
about off-road routes which are parallel but (clearly) safer. In
England, with help I have already refined
the route. From
Portsmouth to Oxford I will be on long-distance off-road
footpaths. From
Oxford for most of the rest of the way, on canal paths.

Company. I have had many offers of company along the
way – people joining me for sections, even one or two offers of joining me for
the whole walk. I am very happy to have company on sections, but I will
generally be setting off for a section at 7 in the morning, will not wait for
people who are not at the start point at that time, will usually walk for 30
kms non-stop (about 5 hours). For those offering to do the whole walk with me -
sadly, I can not envisage wanting to spend 70 days with anybody except my wife.
And that is before we get to the problems of accommodation and food.

Book of the Walk. I shall be writing a book about the build-up
and the walk itself. Suggestions for a title will be welcomed. One is “Walking
Back. Through 70 years in 70 days”.

Blog address is:


Vic Heaney-461025 1245307647

Now that I have sorted out a safe walking route through England (see Monday 15th June, I am turning my attention to finding the same through France. This is a much bigger proposition, if only because France is so much bigger than England.

As mentioned, I received a great deal of help from the Long Distance Walkers Asssociation. Is there a similar body in France?

Chris-460212 1245316858

Hi Vic are you involved in any charities for the walk?

Good luck

Vic Heaney-461025 1245325741

Hello Chris

Your question is answered higher up page 3.

kitten-460256 1245328055

Hi Vic

For such a tremendous feat,it would be a shame not to match this with a little charity raising.I can however understand that you

dont want to be under pressure.Im sure that any money raised would be most welcome,and it takes a very special person to raise

a single penny for charity.

Good luck

Vic Heaney-461025 1245330539

Hello again Kitten

I shall probably be doing it. My first wife died of pancreatic cancer. I think I should probably try to raise money for a charity associated with that.



Vic Heaney-461025 1245481147

Walking the French section. Stage 1 of 3. Puivert to Sarlat le Canada.

Ok, listen up, here it is:

Day 1. Puivert to Mirepoix. 33 kms

Day 2. Mirepoix to Salles sur l'Hers. 38 kms

Day 3.Salees to Gardouch then to Caraman. 34 kms

Day 4. Caraman to Lavaur. 24 kms

Day 5. Lavaur to Rabastens. 18 kms

Day 6. Rabastens to Bruniquel. 33 kms

Day 7. Bruniquel to Puylaroque. 27 kms

Day 8. Puylaroque St. Pierre Lafeuille. 41 kms

Day 9. St Pierre Lafeuille to St Germain du Bel Air. 19 kms

Day 10. St Germain to Sarlat le Canada 38 kms

Total for Stage. 287 kms

I believe I have selected quiet roads throughout, for walking safety.
If anybody has local knowledge which contradicts that, or knowledge of
DIRECT, off-road footpaths between any of the above points, I would
like to hear about it.

If you want to know exactly which roads I will be using, to:


Click on "directions", select the "walking" option, and put in the "to" and "from" towns.

I apologise for inadvertently placing Caen/Ouistreham in Brittany the other day. It is of course in Normandy

Vic Heaney-461025 1245514782

My Walking Route Through France - Stage 2 of 3

Stage 2 of 3. Sarlat to Chatellerault

Day 11. Sarlat to Le Lardin St Lazare. 32 kms

Day 12. Le Lardin to Lanouaille. 36 kms

Day 13.Lanouaille to Bussiere Galant. 35 kms

Day 14. Bussiere to Le Dognon. 31 kms

Day 15. Le Dognon to Gajoubert. 36 kms

Day 16. Gajoubert to Persac. 34 kms

Day 17. Persac to Touffou. 36 kms

Day 18. Touffou to Chatellerault. 25 kms

Total for Stage. 265 kms

I believe I have selected quiet roads throughout, for walking safety.
If anybody has local knowledge which contradicts that, or knowledge of
direct, off-road footpaths between any of the above points, I would
like to hear about it.

If you want to know exactly which roads I will be using, to:


Click on "directions", select the "walking" option, and put in the "to" and "from" towns.

Vic Heaney-461025 1245855580

Stage 3 of 3. Sarlat to Chatellerault

Day 19.Chatellerault to Rilly sur Vienne. 32 kms

Day 20. Rilly to Langeals. 36 kms

Day 21. Langeals to Couesmes. 30 kms

Day 22. Couesmes to Requeil. 33 kms.

Day 23. Requeil to Preuille le Chetif. 27 kms

Day 24. Preuille to Fresnay sur Sarthe. 40 kms

Day 25 Fresnay to St Denis sur Sarthon. 23 kms

Day 26. St Denis to Serans. 34 kms

Day 27. Serans to Potigny. 31 kms

Day 28 Potigny to St Martin de Fontenay. 22 kms

Day 29. St Martin to Ouistreham and the ferry to Portsmouth. 23 kms

Total for Stage. 331 kms

I believe I have selected quiet roads throughout, for walking safety.
If anybody has local knowledge which contradicts that, or knowledge of
direct, off-road footpaths between any of the above points, I would
like to hear about it.

If you want to know exactly which roads I will be using, to:


Click on "directions", select the "walking" option, and put in the "to" and "from" towns.

have listed only walking days. There will be rest days punctuating the
trip. I plan to take a total of 40 days, including rest days, to reach
the ferry, leaving 30 days to walk through England.

Rest days will be announced on the blog at least one day before, as will my specific walking plans for the next day.

Vic Heaney-461025 1245855618

Raising Money For Charity

There have been many suggestions to
me, via comments to my blog, e-mails, various forums which carry news
of the walk, that I should be using the event to raise money for a

I have decided that I shall do this. The charity I have
chosen is Pancreatic Cancer UK. Did you know that this very nasty and,
in my experience, heartlessly rapid cancer, is responsible for 5% of
cancer deaths, but receives only 1% of cancer funding? We need to try
to change that.

This is a matter particularly close to the heart
of me and my daughters Karen and Nicola. My first wife, their mother,
died of this dreadful illness only a very few short weeks after

I will set up an arrangement with Just Giving, so
that sponsorship donations can be made direct from the blog. I would do
that today, but there is a problem with Just Giving's new website. As
soon as that problem is fixed I will post more details and a button to

Vic Heaney-461025 1246207959

I expected a quiet week of walking, as we have visitors, but have managed to get in 133 kms - much of that accompanied by my brother Septimus - bringing my total, for the year so far, to 2304 kms

There has been a new entry in my blog almost every day this week, of which the latest is:


Vic Heaney-461025 1246801643

So far this year I have walked 2,386 kms, which with my little legs (I am not really such a big walker) equates to 2,982,500 steps!

I have one pair of shoes (Columbia Trailmeister IV) which have covered 1,500 kms - 1,875,000 steps. Not a blister in sight.

For more, see my blog:


Vic Heaney-461025 1247167658

Some interesting news today.

A major shoe manufacturer, having heard that I am giving their shoes some major punishment, is interested in:

1. Framing my shoes and exhibiting them in one of their stores, or making some other use of them.

2. Putting a link on their website to my blog, to "create some buzz".

Making a story to be used through their PR agency, so that even more
people start talking about me and my big challenge - of course I would
need to refer to their shoes, which I am happy to do because I think
they are most excellent.

I am very happy to do this or many
other things to maximise the publicity because, now I have decided to
raise money for Pancreatic Cancer UK, the publicity will help that

More about that very soon. I expect to have a link from
my blog to the charity donation website up and running in the next few

My blog is at:


Vic Heaney-461025 1247382546

Let’s Nail This Serial Killer

cancer is the most deadly of the cancers. There is a shockingly low survival
rate. And yet it is also the least known cancer. 5% of cancer deaths are from
cancer of the pancreas, yet it receives only 1% of the funding. Most people are
not aware of its existence.

I have a
very personal reason for wanting to help in the fight against this deadly
illness. My first wife Gaile died only a few short weeks after diagnosis. My
daughters miss their mother dreadfully. One of my grandchildren has never seen
his grandmother. The others have only dim memories because they were so young
when she died.

So what can
we do to help? I am going to walk 1800 kms. You can support me with a donation
to Pancreatic Cancer
UK, and I hope you will do so. Even if
you do not live in
UK, the work done will benefit people
in your country, possibly somebody close to you.

Today I
have inserted a “JustGiving” link in the header of my blog. If you click on
that (or copy and paste into your browser), it will take you to my fund-raising
page on JustGiving. The procedure for donation is simple and quick.

After you
have donated, I would like you to write to everybody on your address book,
asking them to do the same. Also asking them next to write to everybody on their address books, and so on down the

We all
receive enough chain letters which are nonsense, about non-existent or
redundant viruses, or like the one about Starbucks refusing to send coffee to
the troops in
Iraq while in reality they had special
arrangements in place to send coffee to the troops. Let’s start a chain letter
which will actually do some good.

click that JustGiving link now. Then
please write the letter to your friends. They will need the address of this
blog, or just tell them to Google “Vic’s Big Walk”. That will bring them to the
blog and the link will be staring them in the face. The link which could save

Here is the
link again:


Vic Heaney-461025 1248625423

One Tough Mother

Those wondering what to do with their time in
retirement should have a look at the book "One Tough Mother" that I
recommend on my blog today.

An 85-year old woman running a company with over $1 billion turnover,
jetting all over the world opening stores, meeting presidents, starring
in advertising campaigns!

No need to put your feet up just yet.


Vic Heaney-461025 1249737985

The more I read about people doing long distance walks in France, the
more I come across references to frequent attacks by dogs. As I shall
be walking the full length of France, from almost at the Spanish border
to the ferry ports to UK, I don't suppose I shall be immune.

So earlier in the week, I was asking in my blog if anybody knew whether
pepper spray is legal in France. I am still not sure whether this is
the case. I know they are available. I believe it is legal to own one,
but it may be illegal to carry one. But that the gendarmerie turn a
blind eye to ladies carrying one in their purse for self-defence. What
about an old man carrying one in his rucksack?

Then came the news from New Zealand about a female jogger being savaged
for fifteen minutes by EIGHT pig-hunting dogs. She is luck to be alive.
If you haven't seen the story, just
Google "Jogger New Zealand" and you will have a vast choice of news
reports about it. It seems to have been covered by every newspaper in
the world. The news also sharpened my own thoughts.

What about tazers? I met an interesting man
who had a stall at Mirepoix market the other day. He was selling a wide
range of splendidly made marble Buddhas. He had a very interesting life
story to tell and I would be keen to hear more of it. However, the
relevant bit of our conversation concerned tazers.

He had been
on a market somewhere and on an adjacent stall someone was selling
tazers. Probably not the full monty type as used by the police but, he
said, just the sound they emitted was enough to deter a marauder, human
or animal. And that's before the ultimate sanction of applying the
electricity to the beast.

Does anybody know anything about these, whether they are legal in France, where they can be acquired?

The Buddha man is called Howard Owen and his website is:


His stuff is excellent.

Vic Heaney-461025 1251122184

Booking My Place

Well, a week of hard work, and I have sent off the synopsis and several
chapters of my book to a publisher, and also to a literary consultancy.

If you would be interested in receiving details - with no
obligation or commitment - of when the book will be published, please
e-mail me at:


Please put the word "Book" as the subject. I will keep all these
e-mails in a separate folder and will keep you informed of progress. I
will also notify you of publication date and details of how to get the
book, if you so desire. This will, of course, be after the walk has
finished, which will, of course, be July 23, 2010.

This week I have walked 86 kms, still restrained by the heatwave. 3063 kms for the year to date.

Big Walker's Blog:


Vic Heaney-461025 1253459499

I mentioned some time ago that I was rethinking the whole idea of walking through France mainly on roads. After a year of experimenting with walks on the public highways, I have definitely abandoned the idea, in the interests of my continued survival as a member of the human race. There are too many nutters out there - too much possibility that I may meet one of them on a blind corner, with no means of escape.

Now I will walk from Puivert to Caen/Ouistreham on the Grandes Randonnees. It will be further, it will take me longer, but it will be more likely that my ferry ticket will not be wasted.

I have scores of maps and it will take me some time to refine the exact route. This may be easier once my eyes are fixed.

Once in England I will, as before, walk from Portsmouth to Oxford on various long-distance tracks, then from Oxford into Lancashire on canal towpaths.

Follow my blog on or donate to Pancreatic Cancer on:


Vic Heaney-461025 1253463048

Although I have not fully defined the route through France, it will mainly involve the GR36. I could join this at Carcassonne, and walk it all the way to Ouistreham and the ferry. But it has a huge loop to the west and I shall bypass that by using the GR46 for some of the way. Also, it may make sense for me to strike directly north from Puivert and to join the GR36 at a different start point, rather than Carcassonne.

Vic Heaney-461025 1254325984

An otherwise fairly accurate article about Vic's
Big Walk in the English-language French newspaper Connexion, has me
walking 70 kms a day for 70 days. This would give a total of 4,900 kms,
which would get me to New York.

I think most of that would involve swimming, not walking. And it's
not the sharks that bother me, it's the fish - what would a vegetarian
eat in all that time?

I first crossed the atlantic by sea when I was 17 but this new way would be a novelty - there is always something to learn.

Vic Heaney-461025 1254582409

I said some time ago that I was reviewing my planned route through France to cut out road walking wherever possible.

Today I have published the new route on my blog. In France it uses mainly the Grandes Randonnees.

Big Walker's Blog:


Vic Heaney-461025 1256490242

An Evening With Big Walker?

Sounds a bit over the top, doesn't it? As if I think I am a star - one
of those people on the television - "An audience with ... Billy
Connolly, Dame Edna, Neil Diamond, et cetera"

But it is happening. It's not my idea. Chris, a donor to Pancreatic
Cancer research through my JustGiving page this week, has a guesthouse
in a lovely location in this lovely area. He is brimming with ideas for
raising my fund raising profile.

One of his ideas is the above "Evening With ...". With my approval
he is going ahead with it. He is putting this up as a special offer on
his guest house's website. After VBW, and as the tourist season tails
off here, guests can come to stay at his place, where they will have an
evening meal, with some other invited (and paying) guests from the
area. I will give them a talk on my experiences during VBW - incidents
and accidents, highs and lows, people encountered, anecdotes about
things which I witnessed or which impacted on me along the way.

The guest house will subtract only its costs, the ingredients of
the meal, the cost of cleaning the rooms. All other proceeds (including
cheques written on the spot) will go to Pancreatic Cancer research. It
will happen in September 2010.

This is an excellent idea. Futher plans are being developed for
talks to other groups in the area and maybe beyond. Have talk, will
travel, that's me. Stand by your wallets!

Big Walker's Blog:


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