10,000 Kilometers: Quintin Lake on Walking and Photographing Britain’s Coastline

Two Aprils ago, with a camera in hand and pack on his back, Quintin Lake set off from St Paul’s Cathedral in London. The journey? To walk 10,000 kilometers around the coast of Britain. Tackling the route in sections, he walks for up to two weeks on each leg, averaging 20 to 40 kilometers a day. In between walks, he returns to his home in Cheltenham — to his family and work as an architectural photographer — and uses these breaks to recharge, research the next stretch, and blog his journey on The Perimeter. We caught Quintin just before he embarked on a 15-day adventure around the edge of Snowdonia, North Wales. Here’s a glimpse into his epic walk along the sea.

This project must be a great exercise, physically and creatively. How is your photographic process evolving? Is it changing the way you see things?

View Quintin’s route map: where’s he’s been, where’s he’s going.

Yes, I adapted to the physical rigors of the journey after about 80 days, but the creative process remains a challenge. I want to keep developing creatively — not repeating the same kinds of photographs, which would make such a long journey pointless. It’s all too easy when a style of shot is successful to be complacent and repeat that elsewhere.

I’m following my intuition much more, and if there are a few days of rain, I now know that can still produce great images, so overall I’m more relaxed with the creative process. Not every day will produce a diamond. But I’m still surprised and inspired that almost every day has moments of great beauty.

Scenes from Wales. Left: Threecliff Bay, Gower, Glamorgan. Middle: Whiteford Point Lighthouse V, Gower, Glamorgan. Right: Selfie approaching Devil’s Bridge, Worm’s Head, Gower, Glamorgan.

You are over 130 days into your journey. What stretch of the coast have you especially loved so far? What part has been the most challenging?

The Isle of Grain in north Kent is particularly strange and remote. I enjoyed that stretch very much. The only encounters I had there were with security guards, asking what I was doing! Crossing the River Erme in south Devon was also a special moment. It felt like being in the jungle in places, and at low tide you can just wade through it to cross. I felt like I was hardly in Britain at all. I had a grin on my face all the way across the Severn Bridge, which leads from England to Wales.

North Pembrokeshire has been the most challenging — I was in the heart of winter with gale force winds, hail, and rain. It’s very steep up and down 100-meter cliffs, and being a long way from any facilities, I wouldn’t see anyone for days. The paths get reduced to muddy troughs, and my trekking poles snapped, which sent me slipping down. The relentless wet and cold made it hard to keep warm day after day. As the days are very short in winter, I had to walk three hours in the dark by head torch to cover the distance, which makes route-finding and balance much harder.

Flock of Sheep, Gammon Head, Devon, England.

You could have picked many routes, but you’ve chosen a path where land meets sea. Why?

Listen to Quintin describe his Perimeter project in this BBC News video.

The coast has been our first line of defense, where we take our children on holiday, where we choose to commit suicide, where we generate the energy for our nation, where we train the military, where we retire if we have money, where we end up if we have none, where the rocks of the millennia are exposed, where we go to dream or forget or set sail for new horizons. To me, the sea represents the wild and the infinite, and tracing the edge where one world becomes another contains a lifetime of inspiration.

On a personal level, I’ve learned that slowing down to look by walking through the landscape makes me happy and fulfilled.

To me, the sea represents the wild and the infinite, and tracing the edge where one world becomes another contains a lifetime of inspiration.

Ynys Lochtyn from the coast path, Ceredigion, Wales.

What stretch are you walking next? And what’s in your backpack?

It’s a long stretch: 15 days around the edge of Snowdonia, North Wales, and just over the border to England. I’m detouring one day to the summit of Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales. It will feel like a big milestone to complete the coastline of Wales.

The first week is sparsely populated, and as the Easter holiday is approaching, all the hostels and guest houses are full, so most of the time I’ll be wild camping.

In my pack, I have my camera — a Canon EOS 5DS R with 16-35mm and 70-300mm lenses — and a small tripod, spare clothes, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, food, stove, water filter . . . and lots of coffee!

There are many blogging options out there, and even more targeted to photographers. Why have you stuck with WordPress.com all these years?

Quintin uses the Ubud theme, which has a grid layout that’s ideal for portfolios and photography sites.

There are a few reasons: the ability to customize the overall look and feel for a standalone photo project is very important. For The Perimeter, I wanted the design to work with square format images, and I found a premium WordPress.com template that works well.

The WordPress community is a really important part of the appeal — I like the feedback from other bloggers, and seeing what others are up to is very motivating.

And then there are the technical advantages. WordPress.com works really well with Google for a great SEO ranking. I can also embed YouTube videos, Google Maps, and other content easily and without any coding ability.

Quintin embeds maps at the bottom of posts to show the ground covered during a trip. Here’s “Day 128: Tywyn to Barmouth.”

Follow Quintin’s journey at The Perimeter. If you live along Britain’s coast, consider supporting Quintin by offering him a space (sofa, bed, or spot for his tent) for the night!