Walker Alan Nolan
PUBLISHED: 19:12 04 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:58 20 February 2013
Shortly after celebrating his 60th birthday, Alan Nolan set off with his fellow 'Old Spice Boys' to follow in the footsteps of famed fell walker Alan Wainwright.
Shortly after celebrating his 60th birthday, Alan Nolan set off with his fellow 'Old Spice Boys' to follow in the footsteps of famed fell walker Alan Wainwright. His amusing 12 day experience led to a book and now a television appearance. It's not quite what he had planned for his retirement, he tells Rachel Crow.
"I had no desire to appear on television at all," says Alan Nolan of his interview on a hillside with Julia Bradbury for the new BBC 2 series, Wainwright's Coast to Coast Walk. Neither had he any plans to write a book when he set out with his friends in September 2005 to complete the 190 mile walk devised by Alan Wainwright, stretching from St Bees Head in Cumbria to Robin Hood's Bay on the North Yorkshire Coast. "But so many things seemed to happen on the way and we had such a great time I thought it would be a great subject for a book," Alan explains.
And it is on account of his amusing recollections of that 12 day experience in Ancient Feet that he found himself in front of the TV cameras. The book, "slightly embellished" in parts, follows the five men in their 60s as they undertake their challenge, encountering along the way threatening buzzards, randy bulls, an occasional eccentric landlady and a fair few blisters. With varying degrees of walking experience, pace and equipment, Whinger, Shorty, Scaredy, Windy and Dosh make it to the end, despite one member of the group packing almost everything bar the kitchen sink, or Alan's conviction that his 'sporting diet' of pies and pasties would see him through. The highlight of the trip, Alan notes with a laugh was: "The fact we completed the walk without falling out. It was an achievement for five of us to complete it without any real arguments along the way, especially when two of us were 69 years old."
Although a partial walking guide with detailed accounts of the route taken and accommodation stops along the way, the book is much more a discourse on the fact that while the advancement of years may manifest in physical ways, it doesn't destroy the spirit for adventure. An Independent Financial Advisor close to retirement at the time, Alan admits he had lost the fearlessness of youth and harboured a certain reluctance to try anything new but the experience gave him a new found confidence. He's now completed the Coast to Coast Walk four times, twice on his own. The real appeal of the book is in the witty, almost schoolboy banter and anecdotes that pass between the friends as they labour up hillsides, struggle through bracken and gorse, tackle tortuous descents on their backsides and then relax at the end of each day's walking.
"It's inevitable when you get five blokes together there will be a lot of ribbing going on," says Alan who lives at Aston near Market Drayton with his partner Suzy. "You need the humour, because everyone would have their own worries and thoughts about their capabilities, so to have that sort of humour going on between us would keep everyone going. "I retired the following April and by then had developed a few ideas in my mind for the book, so in June did the walk again on my own to remind myself of a few things and after that set about writing the book. "I found the walk more enjoyable second time round," he adds. "The first time you wonder if you're capable of walking long distances day after day. You may be a keen walker but in the ordinary course of things don't walk 16 or 17 miles every day. But second time around you know what you're doing and can relax and enjoy it more. Doing it on your own you also notice more and you meet more people." Alan's words of advice for any inspired to follow in Alfred Wainwright's footsteps are to simply plan carefully.
"You've got to know your capabilities and plan accordingly: plan your stops and where you're going to stay and have support. There are support
services that can help in the planning and will move baggage as well as people!" While he's since completed the Tour de Mont Blanc with his son, a 10 day walk around the base of Mont Blanc, Alan is content to tackle less arduous walks in the Lake District and his favourite Shropshire walk
along the Port Way on Long Mynd. Having found his debut book "relatively easy and very enjoyable" to write, he has ideas for another. So as one who had "no great plans about what I was going to do in my retirement," Alan's managing to fill his days well
Wainwright's Coast to Coast
is being aired on BBC4 and will then be shown on BBC2. Ancient Feet is published by Troubador, priced 9.99