Earlier this year Jake Tyler published his first book, A Walk from the Wild Edge, the true story of how he came to terms with his mental health by taking on a 3000 mile walk around Britain.
Despite its serious backdrop, this book is far from depressing. In fact, it’s incredibly touching, funny and inspirational for anyone going through something similar. It’s certainly a must-read for walkers and outdoor enthusiasts. BCH Camping customers will resonate with how good it made Jake feel to walk in the fresh air under volatile skies, and how the adrenaline kicks in when crossing beautiful landscapes.
In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Week, for this blog we are taking a look at Jake’s book and considering how walking can have a significant impact on mental health.
In 2016 Jake was living in London as a pub manager. The job was stressful. Alcohol and drugs were easily accessible, there were late nights and regular episodes of depression. After one of many late night lock-ins, depression set in and he came close to committing suicide. Instead he called his mum who convinced him to call his GP, which he did and simply told the receptionist, “I think I want to kill myself”. Jake’s remarkable journey started there. He spoke to a counsellor, gave up his job and went to stay with his mum in Essex.
While recuperating at his mum’s canal boat, he was gradually persuaded to take her dog on regular walks. This was when he rediscovered his love of nature and the outdoors. He realised how good it made him feel to be in the fresh air, and how he’d “starved himself of something so essential” for his wellbeing.
He laid out a map of Great Britain and started to make plans. Having lived in Brighton and knowing friends who still lived there, he decided that should be the starting point of his epic trek around the country. The adventure began on 27th June 2016 as he headed out towards the South West Coast Path.
Jake’s South West route
Jake’s route took in some of the most glorious landscapes the South West has to offer:
Poole (South West Coast Path starts)
Along the coast to Exmoor
Minehead (West Somerset Coast Path starts)
Over the Severn Bridge to Wales
He continued on to Snowdonia, climbed Snowdon (as you do), and then went inland to Shrewsbury and Stoke. At this point he took a six month break to film Mind Over Marathon, a BBC programme that challenged a group of people with mental health issues to run the London Marathon. He completed the marathon in 2017 and referred to it as the best day of his life.
Jake returned to Stoke to pick up the journey and headed off on the Pennine Way to the Peak District, through Manchester and onto the Yorkshire Dales.
In the Lake District he climbed Blencathra, then followed the Hadrian’s Wall path to Newcastle and along the South East coast of Scotland to Edinburgh. He ran from Edinburgh to Glasgow along the canal route and headed north to Fort William where he climbed Ben Nevis and was introduced to the challenge of bagging Munros.
From here he took the Great Glen Way to Inverness and ran to John O’Groats before starting the return leg back through the Cairngorms, Edinburgh and onto the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads. He cut across to Oxford and onto Salisbury, then started the South Downs Way at Winchester before returning to Brighton.
A tale of challenges and people power
Jake’s story far from glamorises the challenges of camping most nights. The confines and lack of comfort in the one-man tent, night after night, took its toll. Jake’s relationship with his tent and his equipment is a theme that runs through the book. He got through two backpack tents. The first he called Flea. When Flea gave up the ghost, Jake was given a free shop display replacement by a kind assistant, to be subsequently named Toad.
There are tales of dangerous situations that tested his nerve. He recounts the story of losing a boot in the sea at Dorset in the first couple of weeks of the walk with humility and a touch of embarrassment! His tent and belongings were stolen in Pembrokeshire, but thanks to the power of social media, locals helped him find all his kit and he was able to get on his way.
The goodwill and kindness of people feature heavily in the book. Through apps and social media he received offers of accommodation, while people he met on his way also put him up for the night, or allowed him to camp in their garden. There are some poignant stories of the people he met and how they had their own mental health and life struggles, but were keen to talk to Jake and help him on his journey, showing him unconditional kindness.
Walking brought Jake to this realisation, “Being outside wasn’t just about fresh air and earthy smells, it had given me the mental space I needed to let go of poisonous thoughts, to recognise that, as insufferably painful as my life had become, I had never actually wanted to die, I had just needed to remember what it was like to feel alive.”
As Jake’s walk progressed, his newfound energy helped him to discover his love of running which he did for much of the return leg and in Scotland. He also climbed some of Britain’s highest mountains, finding a resilience that had been missing from his life for such a long time.
Walking for mental health
According to Walking for Health, a good walk “improves self-perception and self-esteem, mood and sleep quality, and it reduces stress, anxiety and fatigue. Physically active people have up to 30% reduced risk of becoming depressed, and staying active helps those who are depressed recover.”
Walking negates the symptoms of seasonal depression through exposure to the Vitamin D in sunlight while boosting energy and vitality. It also helps the mind to focus and reaction times sharpen. The Mental Health Foundation states that even a short burst of brisk walking “increases our mental alertness, energy and positive mood.”
While many of us are still reluctant to consider going abroad on holiday this year, we’re confident that our customers will make great use of the stunning landscapes in the UK. There is so much to see and you don’t have to cover 3000 miles to get your fix of the great outdoors!
BCH Camping supply footwear, clothing and backpack travel for all adventurers and the not so adventurous. Choose your level, clear your head space and enjoy! If we can be of any assistance in choosing your kit, please just get in touch.
Remember, the adventure starts at BCH Camping!