Quintin Lake has completed about 40% of a walk that is taking him 6,213 miles all the way around the coast of Britain.
That’s 2,240 miles or 147 days of walking to you and I. His route began in 2015 at St Paul’s Cathedral back in London. He’s tackling the route in stages, and expects the photographic project to take around five years, with around two to three months a year spent walking.
Having just rounded the Welsh Coast in the spring of 2017, we caught up with him to hear more about the project and what he learnt about Wales on his travels around the coast. You can see his full route and progress to date at the bottom of this post.
Over to Quintin.
How it all began
When I was twenty I walked from Land’s End to John O’Groats and since then I’ve done a long journey on foot every year alone with a tent.
As a photographer I used to think that unique experiences could only be found abroad. That lead me to travels in 70 countries. Ironically these exotic experiences increased my fascination with the UK, which I’d previously found very hard to see with fresh eyes.
About 10 years ago I started combining photography with walking in the UK. I created a photo series based on river walks in the UK following the Thames and Severn from the source to the sea. I found my photography improved as I became more attuned to the landscape by spending so much time with it. The nature of long distance walking is that you are outside in a lot of ‘bad weather’ which can often be the most interesting time photographically.
When I got to the Severn estuary at end of the River Severn walk in 2015 I found the coastal landscape especially fascinating as it’s an in-between world where land and sea meet. I didn’t want to stop and that lead to the idea of walking around the whole country for a few days per month over five years.
Walking Around Wales
Coming from over a year following the south coast of England on foot, the landscape suddenly feels dialled up when crossing the border into Wales. The contrasts along the coast feel even more apparent: the industry is grander, the wild parts are more dramatic, the weather is more potent.
The edge of Glamorgan is dense with heavy industry and remarkable industrial heritage. There’s the Newport Transporter Bridge interspersed with the beautiful layered cliffs at Llantwit Major and the shore platform at Stout Bay that resembles the swirls of a giant’s thumb print. Passing through Cardiff felt truly momentous as it was to be the last large metropolis before Liverpool.
I camped in the dunes next to the Tata Steelworks at Port Talbot where mountain sized steam plumes rise from the machinery. Then quite suddenly natural beauty takes centre stage in a succession of remarkable landscapes in Gower; Threecliff Bay, Worm’s Head & Rhossili bay. I had the most magical moonlit camp by the River Taf, before wandering past the Dylan Thomas Boathouse at dawn. There were pinky red Caribbean sunsets at Whitesands bay and pulsing light illuminating the inside of the tent light from Strumble Head lighthouse.
As I walked Wales in the winter North Pembrokeshire has been the most challenging of the whole journey. I was in the heart of winter with gale force winds, driven hail and rain. It’s very steep up and down 100m cliffs throughout and a long way from any facilities. The paths get reduced to muddy troughs, my trekking poles snapped sending me slipping down and the relentless wet and cold made it hard to keep warm day after day. As the days are very short I needed to walk three hours in the dark by head torch to cover the distance which made route finding and balance even harder.
The misty mossy landscape north of Aberystwyth leads to the castles and mountains of North Wales, Barmouth bridge, Harlech castle and the sparse beauty of the Llŷn Peninsula.
From Caernarfon I made an exhilarating detour from the sea to the summit of Snowdon and back returning to Caernarfon at midnight like a raiding party. Heading east along North Wales things flatten off and the calves get a rest in preparation for many days of walking on tarmac.
The Joy of Wales
Throughout the journey around the edge of Wales I loved hearing the song of spoken Welsh when I entered a pub or a cafe, often heard after days of hearing only the wind and breath of the sea. Equally interesting was the shift in the English accent from Southern to Brummie and then Scouse as one heads north.
The people I met taught me about Owain Glyndŵr and the Eisteddfod which added greatly to my understanding of the Welsh nation. I’ll be back soon as I’ve developed quite an addiction to laverbread and Bara brith.
Endless Surprises and Staying Motivated
I’ve been amazed at how varied and interesting every single day has been, I was expecting at least a few days of limited interest but that hasn’t been the case. The extent of wild coastline has surprised me. Even a city like London only takes a day to walk out of before you reach the marshes.
I love discovering the world through photography so that’s never a challenge for me. Although it’s hard work to not get lazy in repeating the same formulas that have worked in the past. Motivation issues are more practical: if I’m too wet and cold or can’t find fresh water or am too hungry then all I can think about is getting warm and fed rather than thinking creatively with the camera!
I try not to look forward to any specific thing too much as the real joy of this journey is the open path, the wind on my back and discovering the unexpected along the the way.
Quintin’s route and progress to date: