Stephanie Boon hiking on the South West Coast Smiling at the camera.

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Love Her Wild Women's End2End Relay. 3 women hold a relay baton at the end of a hike to Bude, Cornwall

The Women’s End2End Relay – I Did It!

The Women’s End2End Relay was a long-distance hiking relay organised by Bex Band of Love Her Wild. It was a way for women from the Love Her Wild women’s adventure community to come together from across the UK to carry the baton from Land’s End to John O’Groats – 74 days of glorious hiking. And on top of that, it’s raised over £13,000 for the Woodland Trust – so far.

(At the time of writing the relay is still making in Scotland making steading making its way to John O’Groats.)

That’s 3 of my favourite things all wrapped up in one event: hiking, supporting women, and conservation!

To my utter amazement, way back when the relay was originally planned someone recommended me as a leader for what turned out to be 180 miles from Land’s End to Barnstaple!

And I had absolutely no idea who it was, but no one in their right mind would pass up such an amazing opportunity: I was in. Then Covid hit and the event was cancelled. Twice.

I'm in mid-conversation with a huge smile on my face pointing at something out of shot. I'm wearing hiking gear and carrying walking poles. There's someone's shoulder just on the edge of the photo

In my element! Well, at this stage I was almost in my element… (Photo by LLE Photography – our official Women’s End2End Relay photographer down in Cornwall)

 

My Fears Before The Women’s End2End Relay

Earlier this year it got real again and all the anxieties I’d accumulated over the last 2 years really kicked in!

In No Particular Order!

  1. I have no idea what I’m doing
  2. Someone will soon realise I have no idea what I’m doing
  3. Bex will wonder why the hell she put her trust in me
  4. Someone will have an accident
  5. Someone will have a cardiac arrest and I’ll have to give CPR – and I won’t remember how
  6. I’ll lose the baton
  7. I’ll lose a person
  8. I’ll get lost
  9. I’ll fall over spectacularly and embarrass myself (again)
  10. I’ll be the oldest woman by miles
  11. Women in their 20s and 30s will be so much fitter than me and I won’t keep up
  12. People will wonder why the hell someone as ancient as me is leading a challenge-hike
  13. I’ll be carrying all my camping gear and everyone will think I’m slow and not fit for the job
  14. I’ll get so many blisters I can’t walk
  15. I won’t wake up in the morning
  16. I’m ALWAYS late…

This list is not exhaustive and I suspect a psychologist or counsellor would call it ‘a fixed mindset with imposter syndrome’!

I tried to counteract all these (irrational) fears by writing down any evidence to the contrary – but this strategy doesn’t work unless you actually believe it.

You have to get over it, get out of your comfort zone and into your ‘growth mindset’

I guarantee it’s the only way forward…

 

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I'm standing at the Land's End fingerpost that points to John O'Groats 874 miles and New York 3147 miles in the opposite direction across the sea. The sun is setting and adds a warm glow to the scene

Watching the sunset the night before the relay. Photo by our lovely cycle support Priteni Horning. (Follow Priteni’s journey from Land’s End To John O’Groats on Instagram.)

So, there I was at the Land’s End signpost at 8 am on the 16th of June 2022, a complete bag of nerves – and desperately trying to hide it!

Section A: Land’s End To Wadebridge, Cornwall

5 days, 92 miles, 1,943m of ascent

NB all distances shown below are the official Women’s End2End Relay distances mapped on Komoot. However… we invariably hiked at least a mile further (often significantly more) because the routes were mapped with straight lines and the paths we walked were more than a bit wiggly! How awesome are these women now?!

Day 1, Land’s End To Zennor

15.5 miles

This was it, the day the Women’s End2End Relay baton began its 2,028 km journey north (that’s 1,260 miles)

And I was so nervous I didn’t get a single photo – was I even there?!

It was the first time I met Bex, her husband Gil and adorable toddler Rivi (she agreed she was adorable!), and their friend Ella who’d be assisting us that day. Their energy and excitement were palpable –  and I was full of awe for this super inspiring team. It did nothing to help my feelings of inadequacy haha!

It soon dawns on you though that inspiring people get where they are because they’re supportive of others. The support I received in my role to support (and hopefully inspire) the amazing women gathered at the start of this hike was phenomenal. Every step of the way, above and beyond.

Then there were the women themselves. They’d come from around the country and were there to take on a big challenge – big miles, tough terrain, their first multi-day backpacking trip, celebrating significant birthdays and life events… bucketloads of inspiration. And, of course, it was a unique opportunity to meet like-minded women.

There were so many smiles and so much laughter, and it’s a cliche to say, but it’s a day I’ll never forget.

 

Cape Cornwall – once thought to be the westernmost point of the UK

 

Photo opportunities for Demelza at Portherras Cove

 

Bex (in yellow) and the group head up to cross a boggy section of trail

 

Women cross very watery ground along a series of granite steps. The woman at the front is wearing white summery shorts and a straw-style hat

Skipping across the bogs

 

Women's End2End Relay head inland and uphill at the rugged cliffs of Bosigran

The turn inland for the last stretch across the countryside to Zennor

 

The Women's End2End Relay team head up to an old engine house on the top of a grassy hill

West Penwith – mining country

 

Heading to Zennor nestled between the sea and moors

 

Finished – time to celebrate at the Tinners’ Arms – an old pub that should be on every South West Coast Path hikers ‘to visit’ list

What. a. day!

Day 2, Zennor to Gwithian

15.5 miles

In a heatwave with temperatures around 24 degrees

I absolutely love hiking in this kind of weather, and with a smaller group on a section of trail I know well, I was firmly in my comfort zone. (Groups up to about 12 people = my comfort zone!)

Smaller groups give you the opportunity to get to know people, their goals, and the challenges they face – and the comforting knowledge that I’m not the only one motivated by ice cream!

3 Women are at the bottom of large granite boulders ready to climb. Another woman stands at the top silhouetted by the sun.

Climbing the boulders near Zennor

 

A Women's End2End team member holds the baton as she negotiates rocky ground on the north Cornwall coast

Jacqui took the opportunity to use the hike to train for an ultra hike later in the summer

 

4 women are on steps at the bottom of a steep climb. The women at the front is holding up the relay baton. Steep cliffs fall away into an aquamarine sea behind the group on a boiling hot summer's day

Aimee holds the baton!

 

2 members of the Women's End2End relay team take in the views of north Cornwall from a high cliff

Time to take in the views

 

3 women are sitting on a bench and me and another woman are sitting on the ground either side. We're all eating ice cream! Behind us are some colourful houses on a street in Hayle

Ice cream in Hayle – best thing ever after hiking miles in searing heat all day!

 

4 women are seen from behind walking barefoot across a long sandy beach. They all have rucksacks on and are carrying their walking shoes.

The final 3-mile beach walk to finish the day

 

The day 2 Women's End2End relay team of 4 (plus me!) smile for the camera at Gwithian beach, north Cornwall

The end of the Zennor to Gwithian hike – ready to hand the baton on to the day 3 team

Day 3, Gwithian To Perranporth

20 miles

Fog, 40 mph winds, and sideways rain!

The weather was the main concern on day 3, especially around St Agnes Head where I decided we needed to take a short detour inland – St Agnes Head is no place to be in gale-force winds unless you want to be smashed to bits at the bottom of a high cliff.

 

A group photo of 7 women dressed for a summer walk - in thick fog!

Day 3 couldn’t have been more different from the sweltering heat of day 2 – where are the views?! Sharon, Faye, Jacqui, Daisy, Rachel, Tamsin and Aimee

 

Tanya smiles at the camera and 2 women are climbing up the steep hill behind her. In the background you can see steps cut vertically into the hillside

Tamsin’s all smiles even though near-vertical steps (in the background) are a major feature on the earlier part of this hike (of the entire 10-day hike tbf!)

 

Ominous grey skies and a churning turquoise sea are the backdrop to 3 women starting to walk up a hill

Bracing ourselves for the onslaught of incoming 40mph winds and heavy rain. Sisters Sharon, Tamsin and Aimee

 

Stormy weather and a group of 4 women are heading off a path up a hill to avoid being blown over a cliff!

Getting off the cliff edge (again!) near the end of the day at Perranporth

This fantastic group was totally up for the kind of challenge the stormy weather presented: “I love an adventure like this!” Aimee declared – with nods and grins all round.

Day 4, Perranporth To Mawgan Porth

20.5 miles

This hike was on easier terrain than the past few days but the distance meant it was no less of a challenge. And we were back to a large group, which definitely presented a challenge for me!

A large group of people hiking the Women's End2End relay face the camera with a woman in the centre holding up the relay baton. It's a cloudy day and the 'twin peaks' of Carters rocks rise up from the sea out at Holywell Bay

The fabulous Newquay group: Taryn holds up the baton and our day 4 assistant Becky is on the far right with Ella on the far left in a gorgeous shade of yellow! Carters Rocks Holywell Bay, Newquay

 

A group of women walkers, seen from behind, cross a stunning field of red poppies under an overcast sky

Crossing Crantock poppy fields near Newquay – how lucky were we to experience this – perfect timing!

 

A field of poppies and wildflowers with the sea in the background

Crantock poppy fields near Newquay

 

The Love Her Wild Womens End2End relay team make it to Mawgan Porth Beach - a group shot at the end of the day

Mawgan Porth – we made it!

One of the things I loved about the last few days was that several hikers booked up for more than one day: Aimee, Sharon, and Jacqui. The continuity makes the shared experience even stronger but today was the last day that would happen for a while and I was really sad to say goodbye to Sharon (Sharon’s in the centre just behind the baton). There’s no time for sentimentality though! And who knows who’d be in the group tomorrow?

Day 5, Mawgan Porth To Wadebridge

19 miles

Two pairs of friends. One joined the team for the first section of the hike, the other took on the challenge of hiking further than before.

Stunning views, hilarious banter – and yet more ice cream!

2 women hold a relay baton and smile at the camera. A beautiful beach and headland is in the background

Jane and Mandy at the start of the day

 

A group of women are seen from behind as they walk towards tall rocky islands and stacks in a blue bay near Newquay

Heading towards the iconic Bedruthan Steps

 

2 women stand on the cliffs beside a wooden national trail sign. Big smiles all round!

Cathryn and Emma carry the baton on to Wadebridge

 

Clear blue/green seas seen from the clifftops with a lifeboat station just visible in the distance

Mother Ivey Bay looking tropical!

 

Two woman walk along a sandy beach

Harlyn Bay, where we met Priteni for lunch on the beach – who wouldn’t!

 

2 women in summer hats walk across a field of barley

Bucolic Cornish countryside just outside Padstow

Day 5 ended with a 5-mile hike on part of the Camel Trail – a tarmac cycle route from Padstow to Bodmin. At least one of us was happy with the ground beneath our tired feet – Priteni could join us all the way! The baton was handed over to the next Women’s End2End Relay team in the centre of Wadebridge – a team of 1, me!

Getting to Wadebridge was a landmark hike: the end of section A. I was fortunate to experience not just an amazing hike all the way from Land’s End (with no incidents!) but the utmost kindness and generosity too, from strangers to the team at Love Her Wild.

Bex and Gil put Priteni and me up in their B&Bs, Ella lent me her battery bank, they gave me a gear shakedown that made my load a bit lighter – and shared their meals and showers too! (As in shower rooms, not the actual getting wet part, ha!)

And…finally, Bex revealed the mystery woman that recommended me as a group leader: Seanna Fallon, a remarkable adventurer that I’d got to know a little on Instagram. I couldn’t have been more grateful.

Section B: Wadebridge to Barnstaplbae – Cornwall and Devon

5 days, 88 miles, 2,858m ascent

Day 6, Wadebridge To Boscastle

20 miles (I hiked around 24 including a minor detour and a long walk to the campsite)

Solo Day

It’s always the way: you book things and then life gets in the way and plans have to change. And so it was on day 6 of the Women’s End2 End Relay: the hikers who’d booked had had to drop out. It meant several things: enjoying a solo hike at my own pace (generally faster once out of the blistering heat of the middle of the day), taking a longer lunch break (erm, much longer as it turned out!), basking in the heat and sunshine, minor adjustments to the route – oh and the responsibility of getting the baton to Boscastle without losing it!

I enjoyed a change of scene through the countryside early in the day, but it soon deteriorated. Chapel Amble had the worst-kept paths of the entire hike; shoulder-high nettles, hemlock and brambles are not my idea of fun!

 

The End2End relay took me through a wonderful old-fashioned farmyard where I said hello to a group of nosy pigs peeking out of their traditional pigsty!

Farmyard friends

 

An overgrown path with shoulder high nettles - you can't even see the footpath

Chapel Amble parish council needs to get its act together – feckin rubbish!

 

My arm showing the red blisters of a nettle rash

I tripped over a fallen log buried in the undergrowth…

 

A women cyclist poses with her bike in an old village street without any traffic

Priteni and I met up for a 2-hour lunch break in Port Isaac…you don’t do that when you’re leading a group! Chips for lunch on a boiling hot day? Yes please. Lounging about on the harbour, joining the throngs in the quaint village – why not? It was won.der.ful, with the best company you could hope for.

 

A set of earth steps wind their way down a high cliff to a village and large sandy beach at the bottom

Heading down into Trebarwith Strand – one of the many sets of vertiginous steps on this section (up and down)

 

A tall sea stack rises from the bottom of the cliffs and there's a small island rising from the sea in the distance

Stunning views and sparkling seas near Tintagel on another hot, hot day

 

I'm bending forward with an etched wooden baton in my hand that's pointing to a National Trust Boscastle Harbour sign

Relief: the baton reaches Boscastle without me losing it! Then it was a trudge up a long hill to meet Priteni at the campsite

At the end of the hike, there was only one word I had: yessssss! And the baton was safe!

Day 7, Boscastle To Bude

17 miles (well over 20 for me including walking to and from campsites!)

Day 7 was the day we met the indomitable Donata. She’d chosen a tough day’s hike, the longest she’d ever walked, and was doing it on a significantly calorie-deficient diet (part of another challenge); we worried she wouldn’t make it.

She did and proved that focus and determination would win the day. A reminder that we’re all capable of extraordinary things with the right mindset. Respect.

A group of four women (I'm second from the left) standing under a wooden shelter in Boscastle

L-R Rehana (a step-eating hiking machine!), me, Sharon, and Donata at the start in Boscastle

 

2 women sit on a bench beside a footpath as another women comes along in the distance

Making our way out of Crackington Haven

 

A group of 4 women smile at the camera with spectacular cliff views behind them

Rehana carries the baton across High Cliff

 

A tall cliff with a folded rock face drops vertiginously into the sea .

Steep climbs and spectacular cliffs at Millook – voted one of Britain’s top 10 geological sites by the Geological Society

 

A group of 4 women in a pub courtyard holding the relay baton

Sharon, Rehana, Donata and Priteni. Donata bumped into old friends here and decided to call it a day just 3 miles outside Bude – the furthest she’d ever walked, and an inspiration to us all

 

Day 8, Bude To Heartland Quay

16 miles (although far more – on possibly the toughest terrain of the whole 180 miles!)

This was the day we hiked into Devon, the second county on the baton’s journey north

It’s a tough hike marked by steep flights of uneven steps through 7 combes (one flight of 185-steps is enough when you’re carrying your camping gear!) one after the other. Remote. Rugged. Quiet. A fantastic day with a really lively group – I loved every minute!

 

A national trail sign is in the foreground and a group of 4 women are seen hiking side by side across the dunes

Striking out after breakfast coffee at Sandymouth Bay – with no more refreshments available until Hartland Quay.  L-R Lauren, Tash, Karen and Sarah

 

A view of the coast looking down at a beach with cliffs all the way to the horizon. There are surfers in the sea.

Fantastic views above Duckpool

A milestone…

A group of four women stand on a wooden bridge. The woman at the front holds up a wooden baton and in the background you can see a wooden sign that reads ' Cornwall / Kernow'

L-R Sarah, Karen, Tash, and Lauren carry the baton across the border from Cornwall into Devon – woohoo!

 

2 women, one standing, one sitting, look out across the cliffs on a hazy afternoon

Pit stop – Karen and Tash

 

4 women squeezed into a wooden shack smile at the camera

Hawkers Hut is the National Trust’s smallest property. Made from shipwreck timbers by the Reverend Hawker of Morwenstow – he sat here to smoke his opium pipe and compose poetry… it’d work for me!

 

A group of women walk down a flight of steps in single file on the cliff side

Close to the bottom of another flight of steps – finally!

 

4 women in a row are hiking down a cliff with views out across a rugged coastline

Lundy Island comes into view on the horizon

 

Rugged cliffs with amazing geology stretch out into a hazy sea under a cloudy sky

The end is in sight – outstanding scenery near Hartland Quay

What a brilliant day! If you’re planning to hike the South West Coast Path make sure you give yourself plenty of time to take in the views on this section and prepare yourself for some brutal hiking – take plenty of water and loads of fuel!

This was also the day that Priteni and I met Tash who was joining us for a few days backpacking and assisting me with a larger group on day 9.

Day 9, Heartland Quay To Clovelly

10.5 miles

Day 9 was a shorter day, yes, but with plenty of gruelling climbs at the start. The hard work was balanced with gorgeous wildflowers, peaceful woodland and impressive rock formations – not forgetting an inspiring group of yet more determined, supportive women!

 

Daisies, poppies and cornflowers line the edge of a field and a group of women are walking beside it in the distance

Wildflower field edges in Devon

 

A group of 11 women walkers pose for the camera on a woodland path

Some welcome shade on a warm day

 

A group of 6 women are sitting on the grass eating picnics, but one of them has a small camping stove on the go and is cooking up noodles

“I want to be remembered as the one who ate all the food” – no worries Tash!

 

Blackchurch Rock is a large stack with 2 arches that stretches into the sea. It looks like a fallen pack of cards.

Blackchurch Rock – breathtaking geology at our lunch stop

 

The Women's End2End Relay group reach the top of Clovelly village and come together for a group shot

The wonderfully supportive Heartland Quay group reaches our final destination –  Clovelly

 

A narrow cobbled street is lined with quaint, colourful old cottages and a group of walkers stand smiles in the foreground

Coming down into the village for a sugar shot at the sweet shop and a celebratory drink at The Red Lion – you need it before you go back up the steep hill! (It’s much steeper than it looks in this photo!)

Day 10, Clovelly To Barnstaple

24 miles

Stormy weather: 30+mph winds and torrential rain showers

The group: 13 or 14 women – 2 turned up. I guess most people weren’t up for the experience of hiking in the storm that was due to roll in later in the day. A smaller group though means a faster pace, so I decided we’d out-hike it and (hopefully!) make it to Westward Ho! before it hit. We made perfect time; the gale picked up and the heavens opened just as we got there – pub time!

Tash, wearing mirrored sunglasses, is sitting on a kitchen floor wrapped up in a sleeping bag

The morning after the night before – we were battered by a storm overnight and the storm won! Tash’s tent was flooded and my tarp was raining as much on the inside as it was out so we decamped to the campsite’s tiny kitchen for the night. Priteni on the other hand stayed warm and dry in her tent!

 

Jo faces the camera with a smile on her face and a wooden relay baton in her hand! The Women's End2End Relay - day 10

Down at Clovelly Jo was ready to carry the baton for the next 24 miles!

 

Two women, one bending over doing up her rucksack, the other standing with her back to us photographing the view. The Women's End2End Relay - my final day.

The calm before the incoming storm (L- R Jo and Maddy)

 

2 women seen from behind are sitting on a curved wooded bench that overlooks the sea.

Looking back the way we’d come – and keeping an eye on those clouds!

 

Maddy stands beside a colourful row of houses with bright summer flowers in the gardens.The Women's End2End Relay, reaches Westward Ho!

Colour burst in Westward Ho! (Maddy included!)

 

A women is on bended knee photographing a pink door with a pot of summer flowers on the doorstep

Gorgeous Appledore

 

Priteni is in her brightly coloured cycling kit (including a turquoise helmet!), with a bike in the background as we cross on the Appledore ferry on the Women's End2End Relay

Appledore to Instow ferry crossing

 

Women's End2End Relay, Fremington Quay, Devon. Priteni leans against her bike, Jo sits at a picnic bench fishing in her rucksack and maddy is pulling up her waterproof trousers!

Maddy’s Magic Trousers…every time it rained she put her waterproofs on and it stopped within seconds!

 

Three women walk along an urban pavement wearing brightly coloured rucksacks

The final mile. Tash (who developed an injury and could only join us for the last 8 miles), Jo and Maddy walk into Barnstaple to meet the next leader for the baton handover

 

The Women's End2End Relay: A group of 4 walkers with trekking poles and rucksacks stand smiling at the camera with a cyclist in the foreground

We made it to Barnstaple! The end of an epic day and an epic hike for me, where we handed over the baton to Alison, the next Women’s WE2E relay leader

We trundled into Barnstaple to a flurry of unexpected cheers, smiling for cameras that appeared out of nowhere, on tired legs (me on bruised and battered feet with an excruciatingly painful knee) high on endorphins. However, when Maddy handed over the baton and my heart sank: it was the end of the line for me. Tash and I would be catching a train back to the far southwest in the morning while the baton continued its journey north.

That night though, we accepted Alison’s kindness and generosity and stayed with her and her two daughters in their caravan just outside Barnstaple. The celebratory prosecco flowed and enough pizza was eaten to sink a battleship. I hoped Alison would meet the same kindness at the end of her section.

Priteni carried on, following the baton and lighting up other hikers’ days just as she’d done for me. All the way to John O’groats. And I was sick with envy!

Finishing The Women’s End2End Relay On A High

One last thing. Reflection. Never pass up the opportunity to sit down and mull over what went right and what could be improved.

It’s a positive thing to do whether you’re in a professional role or out there to achieve a personal goal or challenge. It doesn’t even matter if you didn’t meet the goal you set yourself – it’s so easy to batter ourselves with the perceived failure and forget the triumphs along the way.

 

I'm standing on the edge of a cliff, photographed from behind, looking out over the ocean and a rocky headland.

High on the cliffs

Here then, are my rebuffs to the fears I had before I began my challenge to lead 2 sections of the Women’s End2End Relay. If it’s in black and white it’s something I can come back to next time I need a good kick up the arse!

  1. Most of the time I knew what I was doing (I can’t believe I just said that)
  2. Women support each other, especially when you think you have no idea what you’re doing
  3. Bex gave me invaluable support and reassurance on ‘big-group days’ when I had no experience of working alongside an assistant leader
  4. No one had an accident, just blisters
  5. No one had a heart attack (tf!!!!)
  6. I didn’t lose the baton. I’ll repeat that: I didn’t lose the baton!
  7. I didn’t lose anyone along the way
  8. I didn’t get lost and lead us on a wild goose chase for an extra 15 miles
  9. I didn’t fall over. Except over a stupid log hidden in a sea of nettles – but no one saw (or heard the swearing), so all ok!
  10. I was often the oldest woman, but not always. Older women than me do actually exist, and guess what? They hike!
  11. Meh, I’m still way fitter than most women in their 20’s and 30’s, but I already knew that
  12. Age is not the challenge when you’re leading a challenge-hike
  13. Have a lift of my rucksack and see how far you think you’ll get haha! (Happy to swap btw)
  14. My toes were eye-wateringly sore on the last day and my knee was painful after all the steps on the previous days – but I still hiked 24 miles. With my camping gear (here’s an article with 23 tips on how to look after your hiking feet haha!)
  15. I slept through my alarm a couple of times. Ahem. (Thank you for the rise and shine call Priteni!)
  16. To my absolute shame, I was late a couple of times, and one day was particularly stressful. I hate this, but no matter how hard I try things always seem to go wrong in the mornings – even when I get ready the night before. I don’t know how to overcome this – any suggestions welcome… (NB dynamite might be overkill but it could possibly work)

Thanks for reading!

And happy hiking

Stephie x

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I'm sitting down smiling at the camera showing off the khaki greet tee-shirt Love Her Wild tee shirt that I'm wearing

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