I learnt my method off a seasoned long distance walker. It seems to suit me so I've stuck with it.
My aim is to walk 20 miles a day. This can vary depending on where the hotels are. Sometimes I don't have much choice.
I start in the morning with breakfast at 7.00 and I am walking by 7.30. I walk for approximately 7 hours, with 10 minute rest every 2 hours with 30 minutes for lunch. It means that I can arrive at my destination around 3.oo for the night with time to rest, soak body/feet, wash clothes, write diary, eat/drink and get to bed early. I try to limit stopping for chats, reading noticeboards, taking photos, watching wildlife as little as possible. It is amazing how as soon as you stop for any length of time your
time-keeping is completely thrown.
I walk twice a year at the end of May and in September for anything from 2 days to 7 - so far!. The Canal Trust usually cut the banks around the end of May which makes the walking easier. October is too late as the dew in the morning is very heavy and my Merrell barefoots get soaked right at the start of the day. Been there, done that and it's not nice!!
I don't carry much food with me as I find I am not hungry when I am walking. I think my brain is otherwise engaged and it is not until the evening that food has a compelling attraction. I carry an energy snack bar and some nuts and dates for emergencies. I make a marmalade sandwich at breakfast to eat at my second stop. Hotel breakfasts don't give much opportunity for making picnics but I can always make a marmalade sandwich! And come 11.30 or thereabouts it is jolly welcome.
I carry two water bottles. Finding water to fill up empty bottles can be tricky so two water bottles gives me more time to look for top ups. I don't carry a water pack with syphon just because I never have. The water bottles seem to suit me. I can hang one of my finger and they're no bother.
What to carry
I have an equipment list (see separate list), some of which is essential:-
Eyemask - how often is there an annoying light in your hotel bedroom
Earplugs - ditto for noise but I don't use them as I find them uncomfortable. I've been known to go to sleep under a pillow.
Sticks - I have tried walking sticks and friends swear by them for lessening the strain on knees and hips. I found the continuous noise of them hitting the ground annoying and they gave me blisters on my thumbs. They just didn't work for me. If I had dodgy hips or knees I would probably persevere.
Lypsil - amazing how dry ones lips can get.
Scarf - so useful in many ways but particularly to shelter from the sun. You do not want sunstroke!!
Bathcaps - always scrounge the hotel bathcaps indispensable for wrapping things in, keeping things dry etc.
Spare socks - vital for obvious reasons but also if I have sore feet I have found that if I change my socks for a slightly different size, shape etc it can sort the problem out.
I've stayed in all sorts from b&bs to pubs to boutique and chain hotels. As long as there is a restaurant either in the hotel or handy by I am not fussy.
To get a bath is often difficult and I have been known to ask for a bucket to soak my feet in magic crystals.
The one certainty is the hotel has to be as near the canal as possible. What I don't want is to get to my destination and then trail several miles off the canal searching for the hotel. If that is the case, I call a cab!
I struggle with blisters on my little toes. I have twice lost my right hand little toe nail. I looked up blisters on the internet. Wow, I have never seen so much 'chat' about what to do about blisters. Amputation was one extreme solution!
I have worked out my own method. I cover my little toes in Compeed blister plasters before I start walking. I also wear foam dividers between my little toes and the next. So far this is successful. My brilliant Merrell Barefoots are a size bigger than my feet so my toes have lots of room to move!
A recent addition is to smear all toes, balls of feet etc with Compeed grease stick . This works brilliantly as the socks slip over the surface of the toes with no rubbing. On the Cotswold Way I had no problems at all with my feet.
There aren't many but I thought I'd just highlight the three I have found.
For a girl, it is difficult to find places to have a pee. So take your opportunities when they appear. I also have a large bicycling cape which is a great coverall and I just squat beneath it. The farmers keep the hedges very tight and full between canal and field for obvious reasons so its not easy to pop into a neighbouring field. So boys have it easy!!
Another is the surface of the canal path which various hugely from extremely muddy, slippy and narrow to immensely uncomfortable when large stones dig into the soles of your shoes. The track made by feet can be very narrow and indented so you find yourself walking uncomfortably on the two edges. There is not a lot you can do about it. Just be thankful when you are walking on an easy surface! My Merrells also dry out very quickly so I'm not walking for long in wet shoes and socks.
Finally, the canals are amazingly empty and it can get lonely at times. I can't believe in this supposedly over-crowded island that I can walk for several hours and see very little human life and sadly not a lot of animal and bird life. So I now have a dictaphone that keeps me company. When I feel a bit down and the going is hard and my feet are hurting and I still have hours to go I have a chat with my 'pocket friend'. It is amazing how if you divert the brain you suddenly realise that your ache or pain has gone away. Another one may appear but at least you got rid of that one!