Royal Navy veteran who stayed in Shotley completes 9,000 Uk coast walk

By SWNS

3rd Oct 2022 | Local Features

Jim Morton with Admiralty Pier in the background (Nub News)
Jim Morton with Admiralty Pier in the background (Nub News)

A Royal Navy veteran and lighthouse fanatic has achieved his "lifelong ambition" of walking 8,903-mile around the entire coast of Britain, including the Shotley peninsula.

Jim Morton was 60 when he set off from his home in Yorkshire and spent the next 537 days crossing rivers and ragged cliffs edges, supported by his doting wife Sue, 63.

During his epic voyage, he scaled England, Wales, and Scotland's highest peaks, rescued stranded sheep and visited all of the 243 lighthouses on UK mainland.

While in Shotley he chatted with Nub News -full interview here. And stayed at the Shotley Rose field.

It was the realisation of his boyhood dream as Jim hatched the idea aged just seven after being enthralled by the seaside structures in his dad's AA road atlas.

But he was also swept out to sea twice and suffered a bleed on the brain when he fell 20ft from a patch of crumbling cliff, before being evacuated by air.

And In Scotland, the grandfather of four was chased by gun-wielding military police after he got too close to a nuclear submarine birth while trying to take a selfie.

Jim, now 62, averaged an impressive 16.5 miles per day during his 18 months voyage, with Sue and his two pet Westies, Shauna and Masie, following him in a motor home.

And the retired serviceman, who has raised nearly £32,000 for the Gurkha Welfare Trust, said his military training had given him the "guts and determination" to keep going.

Jim, a grandfather-of-four, said: "The services gives you a certain mindset and the guts and determination to keep going, and that's all you need.

"There was never an option to not complete the journey. I would have done it if I had lost half a leg halfway round, I was that determined.

"And when you actually meet the Gurkhas – we stayed in barracks and had meals there – you grow more admiration for them."

Jim set off from his home in Penistone, South Yorks., on April 12, last year, before heading 50 miles on foot to join the coastline, near Widnes, Cheshire.

He then went up Scotland's West coast before moving clockwise around Britain and ending up back at his home on Friday (Sept 30) at 2.30pm, just under 18 months later.

However, the trip didn't go completely to plan as within the first few months he was airlifted to hospital after tumbling 20ft down a cliff on August 16 last year.

He said: "I was on the mainland opposite the Isle of Skye in Scotland when the cliff collapsed. I ended up falling 20ft.

"It was just a crumbling cliff and before I could move, it gave way. I landed on my back, and my legs were alright.

"But I smashed my head on a large boulder when I hit the bottom and knocked myself out, and ended up with a bleed on the brain and a broken thumb.

"I had to be rescued by a Coast guard helicopter."

Incredibly, Jim managed to leave hospital just two days later, but within a few months, as he was traversing the top west corner of Scotland, he was swept out to sea twice.

He said: "I was aiming for Cape Wrath lighthouse.

"There are no roads at all in that part of Scotland, so Sue had dropped me off three hours before with my big rucksack and tent and sleeping bag.

"At the end of October, it hadn't stopped raining for three of four weeks and the river I needed to cross was up to my knee. The force of the water took my legs away.

"It swept me out to sea, and I managed to recover and compose myself, but when I tried to set off again, then I got swept out to sea with my rucksack on."

Jim, who spent five years in the Navy, also encountered the wrath of the military police when he got too close to a nuclear submarine pen in the North West of Scotland.

He said: "They weren't too keen on me being next to the nuclear submarine base, but I was only having a selfie outside the gate.

"They parked their black Range Rover on the escape lane on the road, and I just looked round and I could hear trampling through pebbles and then male and female police officers came running after me.

"I said, "Are you after me?" and they replied "We'd just like to have a word".

"They went through all my photos and took my details, and I satisfied them I wasn't doing any harm."

Besides raising money, Jim's desire to take on the epic trip was down to a fascination with lighthouses, which he developed as a youngster.

He said: "When I was seven years old I was fascinated with lighthouses.

"I watched a TV programme about them – and then my dad gave me a map for Christmas, and that had all the lighthouses marked on it.

"I told him I wanted to see them all."

He added: "I really liked visiting the Flamborough lighthouse, and I also got close to the ones on the Needles and Beachy Head. There was also a nice one on Penman Point in North Wales."

Retired Jim said since he's been home, he hasn't moved at the pace he's been used to over the last 18 months.

He joked: "I was in a routine where I was getting up at 6 am, having my breakfast and walking 20-odd miles, and now everything seems like hard work.

"I'm going to have to find something to fulfil me – I might have to write a book. At this stage, I'm ready for a bit of relaxation. I don't think I'll do anything on this scale again."

Jim used his walk to raise money for the Gurkha Welfare Trust, which provides financial, medical and development aid to Gurkha veterans, their families and communities.

He served on HMS Gurkha and was inspired by the cause following the devastating Nepal earthquake in 2015, which killed nearly 9,000 people and injured almost 22,000.

He is still trying to reach his target of £50,000, with donations being accepted here: I may be gone awhile.

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