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Events > 2010

The 2010 Wainwright Memorial Lecture

Speaker: John Merrill
Saturday 9th October
2010, Rheged near Penrith

Peter Linney & John MerrilOn Saturday 9 October 2010, over 120 people gathered at Rheged to hear John Merrill, noted long-distance walker, deliver the Wainwright Memorial Lecture. It was a lecture, delivered without notes, and, full of memories and amusing anecdotes about John’s life and exploits on some of his epic walks.

He recounted that he did not have the best of starts, being expelled from his first school at the age of seven, and, thereafter, his main accomplishment at his next school was to hold the record for the number of strokes of the cane given to any pupil, a total of 76 – ouch!

Having failed all his ‘O’ Levels, he went to work in his father’s business, but his love of the outdoor life and his interest in walking meant that his destiny lay elsewhere. His first major walk was a 200 mile hike around the Isle of Mull, which he followed up by planning a 1000 mile walk linking all the islands of the Inner and Outer Hebrides and, having accomplished the walk, he wrote a book about his experiences.

His greatest walk in this country was the epic 6824 miles around the coastline of the Britain undertaken in 1978. It took three months to plan the expedition and he walked the Pennine Way just to break in four pairs of boots! He had set himself the restriction of not taking short cuts across estuaries and his longest detour was the crossing of the Humber, which added 186 miles to his journey, and, even then, he was forced to cross a railway bridge as the road bridge was closed. When questioned by a friendly policeman as to how he had managed to cross the river, John replied, ‘You’ll have to read about it in my book!’ Arriving back in London ten months after he had set out, he was inundated by television and radio all wanting interviews.

John’s approach to walking is to focus on the objective at the end of each day and not worry about the miles or feet of ascent. He walks an average of 28 miles a day and does not research his walks beforehand, preferring to ‘walk around the corner and discover it for himself.’

With many more tales of his walks both at home and overseas, the hour passed all too quickly and it was left to Peter Linney to thank John for his fascinating talk and to present him with honorary membership of The Wainwright Society.

Derek Cockell - Press & Publicity Officer