Having lived in the desert metropolis of Dubai for the last three years – where a car was needed to get to almost anywhere – I relished the idea of walking everywhere and enjoying the lush greenery after moving back to the UK last summer.
I loved being home again but wanted an adventure that would challenge me and help me reconnect with this land I grew up in. I toyed with climbing its mountains, flirted with swimming its seas; neither of which appealed as much as walking the Thames from sea to source.
After a couple of weeks of poring over maps and buying some much needed equipment, I set off from Shoeburyness. I was so excited. The first glimpse of London was from Hadleigh Castle on day one; it took a further three days to reach the buildings in that skyline.
The early days were demanding. They tested my self-belief and motivation in being able to complete the full 215 miles. Instead of looking at the big picture, I switched my focus and lived each day as it came. I persevered and before long, exited the other side of the M25. It was a moment to celebrate because I had walked from this far in just a few days under my own steam; it was a gratifying feeling.
After this, the landscape changed from an urban sprawl into a more rural walk. By now my body was attuned to my pack and my feet had ceased creating new blisters. This living in the moment idea seemed to be working as I was feeling far more connected to the natural world around me, to the point that at one stage, I even helped save a sheep from a ditch full of freezing cold water.
Deciding to camp for the last nine days was a tough decision; it meant I’d save money but would have to give up a warm shower every night and I’d have space for fewer clothes. Naturally it wasn’t long before I started to smell. Almost overnight I had gone from respectable walker to seasoned, yet dishevelled-looking hiker.
I reached the source after 17 days. To say I was pleased is a wild understatement. I was so excited, proud and tired. I’m pretty sure I slept with a grin on my face that night!
I love feeling that I am part of this beautiful planet and so I try to recreate that atmosphere every day by getting out into nature – even if it is only a 20 minute walk close to my house!
Melissa is a writer, environmental enthusiast and sometime adventure seeker. She loves Lebanese food and cats, though preferably not on the same plate. You can follow her adventures at @Meli770 or via her blog www.sportseeker.wordpress.com.