My time, my legacy

A lifetime of writing and adventure + an extreme midlife running crisis. How can I put that to good use?

In July and August 2024, I will combine my abilities, running 2000 miles, linking every one of England’s 42 cathedral cities whilst telling the story of modern and historical England with a daily postcard blog.

The result of this will be a powerful legacy in words and deeds to help inspire the next generation.

If you’ve got 5 minutes, there’s a video of me explaining who I am and why I am capable of doing this.

The Route

30 miles/50km per day for 62 consecutive days

Every Cathedral City – from Newcastle to Canterbury, Truro to Carlisle

The run takes in:

Sustrans cycle routes – to promote urban-country exercise and wellbeing

5 National Trails

6 National Parks

Numerous Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Passing a vast collection of tourism highlights of England, from natural wonders to historical monuments to cultural celebrations and museums.

 

The Story Telling

Journey journal: Where I have been that day and what I found noteworthy

‘Where I live’ – interview snapshots with the people I meet about where they live and what they love

Food – Local cuisine from cheese in Cheddar to Balti in Birmingham.

Drink – From tea tasting to local apple juice, I’ll also answer that crucial question, what’s the best pint in England?

Overnight stay: The place I stayed in and why the area attracts visitors.

Shopkeeping: From small independents through to our shopping and leisure centres, I will snapshot the mood and the data as I travel around the country, together with a look at the brands and culture that are defining the modern era. I’ll also chat with shopkeepers from tradional to modern pop-ups getting a true view of this nation of shopkeepers and our habits and expectations. A special edition of my FMBE magazine follows the tour

The Natural World – I’ll pick out the flora and fauna of the day, celebrating life in urban gardens, parkland, farms and wilderness

Friends old and new – I’ll be connecting with friends all the way around the route, to meet, help, support and run with me, and also making new friends using the power of the Internet connecting with fans of my running and writing.

Club Scene – I’ll note any notable sports and outdoors clubs I come across, especially running, cycling, triathlon and long-distance walking and inviting club members to join me on each leg of the journey. This company will be helpful in terms of motivation, useful in terms of local knowledge, practical in terms of lifts and logistics.

Heroes and Villains – Famous folk and Cultural Icons – from William Shakespeare to Stephen Hawking, from Emmeline Pankhurst to Judy Dench, I’ll note the notables.

Dog of the day – a daily chat with a dog walker.

Photo of the day – from village green cricket to summer carnivals, there will be a photo of the day selected from the daily album.

Events and Festivals – I’ll chart the ones we see and the ones that are hosted each summer in the places we go through creating a diary

Inspiration – What inspired me most that day. This will link to the charity programme.

The Charity Programme

My charity fits with the Tour of England’s ethos, and which encourage and support the connection between urban life and outdoor wellbeing, with a leaning towards youth and youth development. You can get directly involved with through volunteering – which enables an ongoing legacy of support.

Brathay Trust

Inspiring young people to make positive changes (The Trust also organises the ASICS Windermere Marathon and the Brathay 10in10 fundraising events).

The Schedule

Saturday 29th June

Pre Event day 1 – Drive to Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire ahead of tour. Bucks and Beds are the only two English counties that my running tour doesn’t set foot in.

9am -Higginson Parkrun, Marlow followed by Thames Path walk then lunch at Tom Kerrdige’s Hand and Flowers Michelin 2* pub. Afternoon drive Whipsnade Tree Cathedral, Woburn Abbey and Gardens, Beds and Bletchley Park and Caldecote Lake, Milton Keynes.

Sunday 30th June

Pre Events Day 2: Caldecote run followed by Bletchley Tour. Then on for tourism day in Northumberland, including Holy Island and Bamburgh Castle and a walking tour of Newcastle.

Monday 1st July

9am Newcastle Cathedral (1) to Piercebridge near Darlington via The Angel of the North and Durham Cathedral (2).

Newcastle – Angel of the North – Chester Le Street  – Durham Cathedral – Spennymoor – Bishop Auckland (Auckland Castle)  – Piercebridge. 34 miles

Time Permitting – Piercebridge Roman Fort, Eyesight test at Barnard Castle

Fuel – Pan Haggerty, Pease Pudding, Stottie, Ale

Tuesday 2nd July

6am Piercebridge – Bedale (Yorkshire Dales town) – Ripon Cathedral (3) 31 Miles.

Time Permitting:  Visit to Fountains Abbey, World Heritage Site, 3.5 miles from Ripon, last entry 16.30.

Fuel – Yorkshire lamb, Yorkshire Pudding, Wensleydale, Fat Rascal (fruit bun) and Yorkshire Curd Tart

Wednesday 3rd July

Dress Code – Viking Helmet

7am Ripon Cathedral to York Minster (4) [Viking Reception tbc] and on to Copmanthorpe (30 miles)

Via Beningborough Hall (& newly refurbished Art Gallery), York City Walls and The Shambles, then to the village of Copmanthorpe, via York Racecourse. The village is on the Roman Road, has Knight’s Templar history and is the location where the 57 Squadron was formed.

Fuel – Rowntrees of York

Thursday 4th July

6.30am Copmanthorpe to Bradford Cathedral (5) via Tadcaster Town (incl. John Smith’s Brewery), Bramham, Headlingly and Pudsey.  The Route passes north of Gascoigne Almshouses and The Triumphal Arch, a surprising celebration of American Independence. With John Smith’s and Tetley (Leeds) en route, this day will need end with a couple of pints (31 miles)

[Time Permitting – Evening visit to City Centre and Trinity Leeds shopping centre and/or Saltaire Bradford]

Fuel – Kohinoor Curry, Symington’s (Leeds),  Seabrook Crisps (of Bradford), Bitter

Friday 5th July

7am Bradford Cathedral to Locke Park, Barnsley via Wakefield Cathedral (6)  –  via Wakefield Bridge & Chantry Chapel and Newmillerdam Country Park (total 25 miles)

[Time Permitting – drive to sunset in the Peak District, Edale Rocks]

Fuel – Barnsley Chop (Lamb)

Saturday 6th July

9am Barnsley Parkrun – Locke Park – 5km – 3 miles

10am Barnsley to Worksop via Sheffield Cathedral (7) and Rother Valley Country Park – 29 miles

Total including Parkrun – 32 miles

Fuel – Bingham’s potted beef with Henderson sauce.

Sunday 7th July

8am Worksop to Lincoln Cathedral (8) via Babworth Hall and Retford (31 miles)

Evening walking tour of Lincoln’s historic city centre including Steep Hill, Roman Gate, Medieval wall, Lincoln Imp and the International Bomber Command Centre.

Fuel – Lincolnshire sausages, Hazlet, a cheese meal at The Cheese Society incl Yellow Belly Cheese

Monday 8th July

9am Lincoln Cathedral to Southwell Cathedral (9) via Fosse Way and Newark Castle, finishing at Calverton village (total 30 miles)

Tuesday 9th July

Dress Code: Robin Hood/ Lace

9am Calverton to Derby Cathedral (10) via Gedling Country Park, Nottingham City Centre and Wollaton Hall, finishing at Wilson village – 33 miles

Fuel: Bakewell Pudding, Fidgety Pie,  Local cheeses and oatcakes.

Wednesday 10th July

7am Wilson village to Leicester Cathedral (11) and onto Goadby village  (31 miles.)

[Time Permitting: At cathedral, visit to Richard III visitor centre by 3pm]

Fuel: Melton Mobray Pork Pie, Stilton, Red Lecicester

Thursday 11th July

9am Goadby to Peterborough via King’s Cliffe village (33 miles)

The heart of Weetabixshire

Fuel: Weetabix

Friday 12th July

Peterborough Cathedral (12) – Chatteris – the ‘last refuge of Boudica’ – Ely Cathedral (13) (29 miles)

Fuel: Ely means ‘Isand of eels”

Saturday 13th July

6am An early off in order to get from Ely Cathedral to Milton Country Park Run, located at mile 13 by 9am.

Then onto St Botolphs Church, Cambridge 16.5 miles then to The Jockey Club Newmarket (Total 29 miles)

Total Mileage incl Parkrun  – 32 miles

Afternoon Tour of University colleges

Fuel: Braughing Sausage, Newmarket

Sunday 14th July

8am Newmarket to St Edmundsbury Cathedral (14), Bury St Edmunds via  Ickworth Park (16.5 miles), then to Knetishall Heath (30 miles total)

Evening visit to Knetishall Heath, site of Suffolk Backyard Ultra

Fuel: Greene King brewery – Bury St Edmunds

Monday 15th July

8am Knetishall to Wymondham Abbey to Norwich Cathedral (15)(27 Miles)

Time Permitting – Sunset on the Norfolk Broads

Fuel: Colman’s mustard, local fruits.

Tuesday 16th July

Dress Code – Home Guard/ British Sitcom

6am Norwich Cathedral (15), walking tour of Norwich to include Elm Hill and medieval highlights, then southwards to Bressingham Steam and Gardens (Dad’s Army) and then onto Diss (Total 28 miles + 2 x walking tours)

Bressingham Steam and Gardens, including Dad’s Army. Closes 5pm

Wednesday 17th July

8am Diss to Sudbury (32 miles)

Evening walk on Stour Valley Path, that inspired Gainsborough and Constable landscapes, and in Sudbury, The Talbot Trail with its statues depicting the town’s history.

Thursday 18th July

8am Sudbury to Chelmsford Cathedral (16), via Braintree (26 miles)

Visit to Hylands Park.

Friday 19th July

8am Chelmsford Cathedral to Welwyn Garden City   32 miles

A night at Barn Theatre, Welwyn

Saturday 20th July

5.30am Welwyn to St Albans – St Albans Cathedral (17) and Abbey (8-9miles), then to Verulanium Park for St Albans Parkrun

9.30 10am St Albans to Brent Cross Shopping Centre to The Woodman Highgate and on to St Paul’s Cathedral (18) (32 miles)

[Total including Parkrun, 35 miles]

Flash mob arrival

Evening river walk – Fleet Street – Temple Church – Somerset House – Blackfriars Bridge – National Theatre – South Bank – St Thomas’ Hospital – Big Ben – Whitehall – The Mall – Buckingham Palace – St James Palace – The Ritz – Trafalgar Square – Leicester Square – Chinatown – The Royal Opera House

Sunday 21st July

7am St Paul’s Cathedral to Tower Bridge to Southwark Cathedral (19),  then to Greenwich [London Marathon route] – then to Eltham Palace – Bluewater Shopping Centre– Rochester Cathedral (20) (total 33 miles)

City centre visit to Rochester Castle

Monday 22nd July

7am Rochester Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral (21) via Chatham Docks, Sittingbourne and Faversham (31 miles)

Pilgrimage character/ Chaucerian character company of runners to join on any of the route into Canterbury

Fuel: Canterbury Tart – recipe by Geoffrey Chaucer and Mary Berry. Sandwich named after the Earl and town.

Tuesday 23rd July

8am Canterbury Cathedral to Maidstone via Leeds castle (27 miles)

Wednesday 24th July

7am Maidstone to Oxted via Ightham Mote and also Chartwell House – family home of Winston Churchill (26 miles)

Evening – Titsey Place and Gardens or Barn Theatre or Hever Castle, Edenbridge (4.30pm last admission)

Thursday 25th July

9am Oxted to Guildford Cathedral (22) (North Downs/ North Downs Way) 28 miles

Time Permitting – Guildford Castle – tower open until 4pm, grounds until dusk. 

Friday 26th July

7am Guildford Cathedral to Chichester Cathedral (23)  – 32 miles.

Time Permitting, Harbour Walk

Evening – Festival Theatre or a visit to Goodwood

Saturday 27th July

9am Chichester Parkrun (3 miles)

9.30am Chichester Cathedral to Portsmouth Cathedral (24) via South Parade Pier, Southsea then Gosport Ferry to Fareham 26 Miles

Total incl Parkrun 29 miles

Sunday 28th July

7.30am Fareham to Winchester Cathedral (25) using South Downs Way (19 miles)

Walkiing Tour of Winchester (Visit  – 430pm last entry – The Great Hall, King Arthur’s Round Table)

Then to King’s Somborne village – Total 26 miles

Monday 29th July

8am King’s Somborne to Salisbury Cathedral (26) and to Fordingbridge, New Forest National Park (28 miles)

Time Permitting – New Forest evening walk

Tuesday 30th July

8am Fordingbridge to Cranbourne and Cranbourne Manor then to  Bryanston village near Blandford Forum – (23 miles)

Wednesday 31st July

9am Bryanston to Milton Abbas, Milton Abbey, Dewlish, Dorchester, Pucknowle – 30 miles

Fuel: Dorset Knobs and Blue Vinny cheese. Apple cake.

Thursday 1st August

9am Pucknowle – West Bay – Lyme Regis – Seaton – Sidmouth joining the South West Coastal Path at West Bay to follow the dramatic Jurassic Coast – route via West Bay, Lyme Regis, Seaton, Beer Head to Sidmouth – 31 miles

Fuel: Lobster

Friday 2nd August

7am Sidmouth to Exeter Cathedral (27) – Mortonhampstead – 27 total.

Time Permitting: Walk an Alpaca through the gardens at Powderham Castle

Fuel: Cream tea with scones

Saturday 3rd August

9am Parke Parkrun (Bovey Tracey)  (3 miles)

10.30 Moretonhampstead – Dartmoor – Plymouth 29 miles

Fuel: Fish and Chips

Sunday 4th August

Plymouth (ferry), Tregantle Fort, Looe,(Ferry or Bridge) – Fowey (Ferry) 25 miles

(Polruan Ferry to Fowey)

Fuel: Dressed Crab

Monday 5th August

7am Fowey to Eden Project to  St Austell to Truro Cathedral (28) to Trispen – 27 miles

Time Permitting – lunch tour of The Eden Project

Fuel: Pasty, Cornish Yarg

Tuesday 6th August

8am Trispin – Bodmin – Bolventor (Jamaica Inn) – 29 miles

Time Permitting – lunch visit from Bodmin to Lanhydrock House – National Trust – filmed for Trevor Nunn’s Twelth Night starring Helena Bonham Carter.

Run dress code – “Cat ears”

An evening visit to the museum of Daphne Du Maurier and Smuggling and a viewing of the film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. A discussion of famous authors and books the south west – Du Maurier, Fowles, Golding, Hardy, McEwan, Conan-Doyle

Torchlight search for the Beast of Bodmin Moor. 

Wednesday 7th August

8am Bolventor – Launceston – Okehampton – 31.5miles

Fuel: Fudge

Thursday 8th August

8am Okehampton – North Tawton – Tiverton – 28 miles

Friday 9th August

7am Tiverton – Wellington – Taunton – N Curry – 29 miles

Saturday 10th August

7am North Curry to Street for breakfast then

9am Street Parkrun (3 miles) then

Glastonbury to Wells Cathedral (29),  – Total incl Park Run 28 miles

Fuel: Cheddar and Cider

Sunday 11th August

7am – Wells Cathedral to Bristol Cathedral (30) via Cabot Circus, then lunchtime tour of Bristol including Clifton Suspension Bridge, Banksy Mural, Street Art, Harbour, then on to Bath Abbey, total 34 miles (+walk tour)

Walking tour of Bath, including Roman and Jane Austen connections.

Fuel: Josh Eggleton Brunch, then Pieminister

[Time Permitting – Bath Komedia]

Monday 12th August

7am Bath Abbey to Avebury Standing Circle via Corsham, Chippenham and Calne – 30 miles

Fuel: Cousin Normans, Coq

Tuesday 13th August

7am Avebury to Wantage via The Ridgeway – 25 miles

Fuel: Wiltshire Ham sandwiches

Wednesday 14th August

7am Wantage to Oxford Cathedral (31) then Oxford to Witney – 27 miles

Afternoon walking tour of Oxford and Oxford University and Oxford Westgate shopping centre

Fuel: Oxford Sausages (Mrs Beeton Recipe), Frank Cooper’s Oxford Marmalade (Sarah Cooper 1874 recipe)

Thursday 15th August

7am Witney to Burford (Cotswolds) – Cheltenham

Friday 16th August

Dress Code – Dr Foster and other childhood rhymes

7am Cheltenham to Gloucester Cathedral (32) then to Hereford Cathedral (33) (34 miles)

Time Permitting – Blackfriars Rose Gardens, closes 5pm

Fuel – Double Gloucester

Saturday 17th August

9am Hereford Parkrun

10am Hereford Cathedral to Worcester Cathedral (34) via Malvern Hills, and Malvern, home to Elgar – 34 miles

Fuel: Worcestershire sauce

Sunday 18th August

7am Worcester Cathedral to Stratford Upon Avon to Holy Trinity Church (Shakespeare’s Tombstone) – 29 miles

Afternoon: Guided tour of the theatre with Royal Shakespeare Company

Monday 19th August

7am Stratford to Meriden. Meriden is the Centre of England and is the start point of notorious madcap ultramarathon, Escape from Meriden.

The route has some significant vias:

Via Warwick Castle and Town Centre, Kenilworth Castle, Coventry Cathedral (35) and Coventry Motor Museum.

(total 27 miles)

Tuesday 20th August

8am Meriden – to St Philip’s Cathedral Birmingham (36) and then Lichfield Cathedral (37) via The Bullring and Sutton Coldfield Park – 33 miles

Wednesday 21st August

8am Lichfield Cathedral – Stafford – Market Drayton  36 miles

Time Permitting at Stafford – Tour of Ancient High House – tudor wooden framed town house.

Thursday 22nd August

8am Market Drayton – Nantwich and Dorfold Hall – Chester 31 miles

Friday 23rd August

7am Chester Cathedral (38), Roman Gardens Chester and Chester Castle, then St James Cathedral Liverpool (39) – then to Widnes – 30 miles

Includes a ‘Ferry Cross the Mersey’

Walking tour of Liverpool

Evening at the Cavern Club/ Drive to Anfield/ Goodison

Saturday 24th August

7am Widnes to Warrington Parkrun (8.5 miles)

9am Warrington Parkrun

10am Warrington to The Trafford Centre then Manchester Cathedral (40) Total miles for day incl Parkrun, 29 miles.

Evening tourism walk

Sunday 25th August

10am Manchester Cathedral to Blackburn Cathedral (41) via Bolton and Darwen Tower, Darwen – 24 miles

Monday 26th August

8am Blackburn Cathedral to Hornby – 31 miles

Time Permitting visit to Carnforth Station (Brief Encounter/ David Lean)

Evening visit to Hornby/Wray Castle

Tuesday 27th August

7am Hornby  – Bowness on Windermere – Ambleside 31 miles

Wednesday 28th August

Ambleside – Rydall Cave – Catbells – Keswick – 20 miles

Midroute swim stop at Rydall Cave a film location for The Witcher.

Celebration of the author and fellwalker Alfred Wainwright with a pint of Wainwright’s at the Wainwright pub

Evening hike to Castlerigg Stone Circle

Thursday 29th August

Keswick – Carlisle Cathedral (42) – Brampton 34 miles

Visit to Carlisle Castle

Friday 30st August

6.30am Brampton to Chester’s Roman Fort, Wall near Hexham, via Vindolanda and also Housesteads Roman Fort, 28 Miles

Walk to Hexham Abbey and Hexham Old Gaol

[Time Permitting – Museum of Classic Sci-Fi in Allendale, by special arrangement]

Saturday 31st August

Tyne Green Parkrun (3 miles)

Possible jog from Hexham to Wall if joined by other runners. (3 miles)

Wall – St James’ Park – Newcastle Cathedral (22 miles)

Total miles 28 incl parkrun and Hexham- Wall extra miles.

A night on the Brown Ale

 

Bath Abbey , for Sunday 11th August

TOE Highlights

42 Cathedrals, Cathedral Cities

Newcastle – Durham – Ripon – York – Bradford – Wakefield – Sheffield – Lincoln – Southwell – Derby – Leicester – Peterborough – Ely – St Edmondsbury – Norwich – Chelmsford – St Albans – St Pauls – Southwark – Rochester – Canterbury – Guildford – Chichester – Portsmouth – Winchester – Salisbury – Exeter – Truro – Wells – Bristol – Oxford – Gloucester – Hereford – Worcester – Coventry – Birmingham – Lichfield – Chester – Liverpool – Manchester – Balckburn – Carlisle

National Trails –

North Downs Way

South Downs Way

South West Coastal Path

The Ridgeway

Hadrian’s Wall Path

National Parks

Northumberland

North Yorks Moors

The Peak District

South Downs

The New Forest

Dartmoor

The Lake District

 

About Me (also on video below)

This project is my chance to make sense of a lifetime of energy, experience and wordy worldliness. I’ve created Frank’s Big TOE, my Tour Of England, to be completed in two months, July and August 2024.

Being locked into England in 2020 gave me a new appreciation of what England is. I travelled around it whenever allowed, running and making new friends, finding inspiration every step of the way.

The challenge I have come up with covers 2000 miles mapped around all 42 of our cathedral cities.

Newcastle – Canterbury – Truro and Carlisle are the four corners of an adventure that will take me just about everywhere to snapshot England in 2024.

There is a British Cycling route that does something similar, showing the town and country links. This is my runner/hiker take on it, using all types of terrain to show how accessible and extraordinary – England is and to use its incredible landscape to evoke its history and culture – both ancient and modern.

But why me? Why am I the one doing this?

I describe myself as an experiences writer – living life through experiences, events and travel. I have edited and published event, business experience and travel magazines and written for numerous publications. I have been a public speaker at events and hosted my own radio show.

Travel writing commissions and projects have seen me with many exciting visits – to judge the inaugural Miss Kazakhstan competition, to ride horseback amongst hunting lions in Kenya and to follow a general election around the Ukraine, from Kyiv to Lviv.

I’m entrepreneurial, with previous success in making things happen.  I set up my own magazines business in 1999 by writing a book sponsored by Royal Mail and Experian called Data Integrity.  I created the Field Marketing and Brand Experience Awards in 2003, which I still host annually.

As an adventurous entrepreneur, I also once transformed a defunct lung hospital in the Auvergne back into a chateau, successfully running horse riding holidays there, simultaneously with the publishing and writing business. These days the lovely Chateau de Chazelles hosts weddings.

Stamina & Charity  

2000 miles is a huge ask, but I do have what it takes – both as an athlete and as a money raiser.

I raced Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race as a child, 125 miles in 3 days as part of the winning team.

In my 20s I raised 1000s of £s when running London Marathon.

I was a part of Howards Way Walk, long distance charity walking group for 5 years -a group which raised £400,000 for charity.

I started running seriously as recently as 2018, aged 48, with my first ultra, the 100KM Race to the Stones in the middle of that year.  My second ultra was a 125KM volcano ascent and island crossing in Gran Canaria, with 7000 metres of elevation. I have since completed a further 80 ultras and marathons including epics such as Beacon’s Way, 110 miles, and the Kerry Way, 120 miles, both across extreme terrain.

I have qualified for and competed in the World Series Final, Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc (105 miles, 10,000m elevation) and even won one especially brutal ultra, the Linkenholt Backyard Ultra where competitors complete the same very hilly 4 mile loop over and over until only one runner is left standing.

I’m adding to my multiday running experience this year but I have a good track record so far.  I was the quickest participant in the 2022 Mongol 100 – a four marathons, 4 day crossing of a frozen lake in Outer Mongolia. I won the seniors prize for the Lake Tahoe triple in California and Nevada, a 3 day circuit of the lake. In 2021 I completed Ring of Fire, a 3 day circuit of the Anglesey coast – 135 miles.

Through all of this I have always championed youth and the great outdoors. I’m very positive about the next generation. Given the right opportunities, they are destined to be better than us.

This is my chance to make sense of my life, to drive these experiences, their collective energies and the many connections I have made into a substantial legacy.

Using your support, your donations, your spreading of the word, your skills and your kindness I will run and write this unique project, epic in terms of its visceral energy, eloquent, entertaining and evocative in terms of its delivery.

The money raised and the message we put out these will be used to build a lasting legacy – young people growing up to make the best of the country we live in, and then to go on to make it even better.