During the mid 1990s my long-suffering wife, probably fed-up with me being under her feet at weekends, bought me a book on pub walks in Northamptonshire for a birthday present. I had walked a lot over the years, from Norway in the North to New Zealand in the South, mostly at the expense of Her Majesty's Armed Forces, but in recent years this has slipped into the background as life has taken me down different paths. So it was a pleasant surprise for me to rediscover the byways and footpaths near my home as I tried first one then another and finally all of the walks in the book.
From this start I volunteered to become a footpath guide for the county. This involved researching a number of walks then doing a "recce" to make sure they were OK for "Joe Public". These walks were then published by the council, along with others from other guides, and I would turn up at the appointed time and place to guide walkers around the walk and back to the start.
The organizers recommended that each guide should have a number two to "ride shotgun" on these walks, and this is where my brother Ken came on the scene. He had enjoyed walking over the years and had taken time out to walk some of the long distance paths down in the South West of the country. We enjoyed this pastime once a month for about a year until unfortunately the leaflets fell foul of council cost cutting. The information was still available, but only to those who actively sought it, so numbers fell and we eventually found ourselves waiting alone at the RV.
Not long after this demise I bumped into my old friend Bill. Bill walked several times a year with a group of serious walkers and had undertaken such marathons as the West Highland Way and the Coast to Coast. We decided to meet once a month and walk some local footpaths which ran near or through our counties, and if we could gather other old friends to join us then so much the better. So it was that Bill, brother Ken and I walked the 80 odd miles of the Jurassic Way, 126 miles of the Nene Way, and several other shorter but equally enjoyable walks.
During this time Bill contacted several friends, one of whom was Nimrod who had an old address book with names and telephone numbers from our era. Well versed in forms and the like Nimrod duly proceeded to become our membership secretary. By now we referred to ourselves as the Hobblers, reflecting the fact that we were no longer spring chickens!
Our happy band had expanded and we could expect anything from 3 to 20 walkers to turn up each time, including old friends such as Pete, now a skilled and enthusiastic amateur photographer, and various friends and relatives of theirs. Everyone welcome!
By now the turn of the century was approaching and the idea formed to do something special for the millenium. The something special finished up as an alternative coast to coast walk going from the Wash in the East to the Severn in the West, spread over 12 legs during the year. The Alternative Coast to Coast had been born! I hope you enjoy the experience as much as we did.
Tred Parris, Hobbler.