I love a bit of armchair travel, and after reading an article about ex-paratrooper Chris Lewis and his walk around the UK, I was intrigued to find out more. In the depths of depression, in 2018 Chris set out to walk the entire coastline of the UK whilst raising money for SSAFA armed forces charity. No mean feat considering the sheer extent of the UK’s coastline with all its indentations – not to mention all its islands. And Chris started the journey with a tent, rucksack, boots, and £10 in his pocket.
Finding Hildasay is not just a book about walking. At the same time, it’s a book about survival. We hear how he battled with the elements (particularly in the Shetland Isles) summer midges in Scotland, and just sometimes finding a safe place to pitch his tent at night could be a major issue. And it wasn’t just the physical struggles, but Chris’ own mental struggles with coming from a very low place in his life, and trying to find purpose in the world.
Whilst filled with geography and interesting stories about the people and places Chris encountered, Finding Hildasay moved at a brisk pace, and I was never bored while reading.
One of the most remarkable parts of the book was when Chris became aware of some virus appearing in the news in early 2020, and the effect on Chris’ journey became the book’s namesake. While most of us were stuck at home, clapping on our doorsteps on Thursday nights, having family zoom Chris and his ever-loyal dog Jet were on their own, on an uninhabited island called Hildasay for the Covid19 lockdown. It took self-isolation to a rather romantic level!
When I saw I was reaching the end of the book, I was mildly disappointed. I’d expected the book cover the entire journey from start to finish. However, the ending is timed well, and rather than frustration. I can only guess that Chris is busy working on the second part of the journey. I’m keen to read the next ‘chapter’ as I’m sure many others are.