Lancaster man Arthur Livesley is 1,000 miles into a 10 month charity trek across Europe, and Guardian reporter Gayle Rouncivell caught up with him along the way to find out how it’s going.
From glorious sunshine to rain and snow, Arthur has already experienced the highs and lows of European weather – and he’s yet to reach the colder part of his journey.
Arthur, 33, is spending 10 months trekking 3,662 miles through Europe from southern Portugal to the most northerly mainland point of Norway, taking in countries including Spain, France, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Finland along the way.
He is raising money for Medecins Sans Frontieres and the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society, a condition which his mum Rebecca Parris suffers from.
Arthur flew to Faro in Portugal in September, and has since walked through Portugal and Spain and is now in France – and is already on his second pair of boots.
He said: “In Spain I went via Badajoz, with a side trip to see the Roman ruins and castle of Mérida, Plasencia, where I got new boots, and then more or less followed the mountains west and then north to Logroño, where I joined the Camino de Santiago pilgrims’ route.
“I followed that through Pamplona and over the Pyrenees into France.”
Arthur was joined by his dad Peter in Bordeaux before heading for Poitiers.
He recently passed the 1,000 mile mark, leaving about 2,800 to go, and is on course to finish in Norway at the end of July.
Arthur is walking around 12-13 miles a day, with some rest days and the chance to sightsee also on his itinerary.
He is mainly be camping along the way, although also occasionally staying in youth hostels and with friends and family.
“I’m particularly interested in castles, so I’ve looked round about 10 of them so far,” he said. “Some of the scenery has also been spectacular, especially the mountains in central Spain and the road leading north through La Rioja, which was in the bottom of a canyon.
“The scenery in Spain, as there was so much variety, from alpine-type mountains with ski resorts, to steep sided river valleys and canyons, often with birds of prey circling overhead.
“It was partly my favourite because of how beautiful it was, and partly because of how far removed it is from the seaside resorts that seemed to be all I’d heard of.
“It has been hard in places, although nothing worse than I’ve encountered in the Lake District. The hardest stretches have been due to walking long distances, rather than ascents or rough paths.
“Most of the people I’ve really talked to have been from elsewhere, as I barely speak any Spanish or Portuguese – I met a Dutch guy with an old VW camper van in Spain, who had thought of camping in the same place as me (under a bridge).
“He had just driven from the Algarve that day, which put things in perspective a bit as I’d taken three weeks to walk that far.
“There was a shopkeeper in a village in La Rioja who gave me a loaf of bread and some chicken when he closed his shop for lunch, and there was quite a group of friendly people in one of the pilgrims’ hostels on the Camino de Santiago, who shared their large pan of pasta with me.”
Having spent much of the trip on his own, Arthur aims to be in Paris with his cousin for either Christmas or new year.
“I’ve never had a problem with being alone, so it’s OK,” he said. “Plus I have been able to keep in touch pretty well with family and friends, via text message mostly, but Facebook and Skype as well.
“Navigation hasn’t been too bad – there have been a few instances of invisible paths, but I’ve been spending a lot of time walking on roads, so mostly it hasn’t been a problem.
“The biggest practical problems I’ve had have been replacing my walking boots and coat, which both started leaking – the boots long before I’d expected).
“I will struggle to find campsites for a few months, as they’re mostly shut for the winter, although I will probably just stay in more youth hostels.”
After experiencing some late summer sun at the start of his trip, Arthur is now heading towards cloder climes.
“In Portugal the weather was lovely, sunny and temperatures in the high 20s, although this did make it quite tricky to find enough water sometimes,” he said.
“Since crossing into Spain it’s been far more variable, mostly dry but sometimes with a couple of days of solid rain.
“There was even a bit of snow in the mountains on my way into La Rioja. The last few days it’s been beautifully sunny, though cold at night – this morning the flysheet of my tent was frozen solid, though I was nice and cosy inside.”
Arthur is aiming to be in Paris by new year at the latest.
“I’m not sure what I’ll be doing for Christmas,” he said. “I may have reached Paris by then, but quite likely not. I’ll try and find somewhere with a good internet signal and call home on Skype, so hopefully I won’t miss family too much!
“I’m hoping to stay with my cousin in Paris for new year – it’s not usually a massive celebration for me, so it should be fun spending it abroad.”
From there it’s on to Belgium, where Arthur – who gave up his job at Cross Bay Brewery in Lancaster to carry out his walk – will sample the local brew.
“One of my main reasons for going via Belgium is that I’m a fan of the beer, so I’ll be tasting a few while I’m there,” he said.
“Other than that, I hear Tallinn is a particularly nice city, and I’m hoping to see some midnight sun in Norway.”
* You can follow Arthur’s trip at www.facebook.com/abitofastroll or his blog at abitofastroll.wordpress.com.
Donate online at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/ArthurLivesley