“The hill, though high, I covet to ascend; The difficulty will not me offend, For I perceive the way to life lies here.” John Bunyan
We had Alex Ellis Roswell come by last week, 5000 miles and 2 years into his journey on foot around the coast of the British Isles.
Now working through his seventh pair of shoes and carrying everything he owns on his back, he says, “I learned to get into the sea quite a lot. Try to get your legs into the sea. Just the cold and the salt seems to work well for the muscles I suppose.”
He will walk around all the islands that have a lifeboat stations, to raise money for the RNLI. In the Laddieshop having a well-earned dram, he jokes, “So my next one is Mull and then Barra up in the Outer Hebrides. Yeah! Good time of year to go up there as well.” View Alex’s Facebook page to keep up with his progress.
On Islay, it is the Port Askaig lifeboat station that serves the community, and has done since 1934. Its 5 to 7 man/woman crew that responds to ‘the shout’ from the Belfast coastguard is sourced from volunteers within a 15 minute radius of Port Askaig; two members of our distillery team who live that side of Islay carry pagers with them at all times. Joanne Middleton, our warehouse stock administrator, whose husband Derek is in the crew, is part of the ‘Guild’ – volunteers in the RNLI shop and leaders of fundraising events such as the soup day at Bruichladdich.
Here, it isn’t just local fishermen and sailors that feel the potential benefit of having the 40 tonne – 25 knot vessel permanently on standby (it can, apparently, “be upside down with its engines fully running for 2 minutes,” before self-righting) but passengers on every errand to neighbouring islands, or the mainland.
Alex grew up in Margate, Kent, and explained a bit about what originally motivated him to raise money for this cause. “I’ve just always been kayaking or me and Dad would have a boat on the Medway estuary. So it’s just always been in the water or next to the water or on the water in one way or another… 2013 had just been a crap year for one reason or another. We’d lost Dad and stuff like that, so I wanted to do something positive and get out of that environment and clear my head. I just got this feeling to kind of do it.”
As he walks, he thinks, and practises walking meditation. “I write a lot so it’s a great thing to be able to do, just walking for eight hours every day. There’s not many people that have that kind of liberty, that time, do you know what I mean? Old pilgrim paths really fascinate me, just the idea that it’s a journey other people have been taking for thousands of years. And even these little cliff paths in the middle of nowhere. They were used every single day, they were used for commuting back and forth. They’re empty now, but they’ve got a real kind of presence, you know.
“In the day when I’m walking I’ll usually be on my own. In the evenings I try and find a bar or something where I can mingle and be social. I love it. I love meeting so many different people, you know, different types of people, different places. You end up in different situations, and I love that.”
Islay marks about halfway, although, he says, “It’s a paradox – you can’t ever measure a coast. If you measure it point to point in inches, you’re going to get one answer, and then you break it down to something smaller, you’re going to get a completely different number; it’s never-ending, because a coastline is such a detailed thing. But I’m working on 9.5 thousand miles. That’s the figure that I’m kind of saying.“
And how has he found it here? “Honestly, Islay’s great. I haven’t been to somewhere like Islay since the West coast of Ireland. Like in terms of the community. People just get it, people get the charity, they understand why I’m doing it which is really, really cool. I’ve loved that. It’s my favourite place in Scotland so far.”
Good luck with the rest of your journey pilgrim.
You can support Alex’s campaign by placing donations here.
Islay Lifeboat facebook page.