Wednesday, 6 February 2013


ROSS Packman, from Raymonds Hill, near Lyme Regis, is taking on the 630-mile challenge of hiking the South West Coast Path this year in aid of the Alzheimer’s Society. He chose to support the charity after seeing the affects of the illness first hand when his late paternal grandmother suffered with dementia, and he was inspired to take on the hiking challenge by Paul Smith’s 2009 'Twitchhiker' adventure. Ross’ own adventure will be called 'Forgotten Paths'. The former Woodroffe School pupil, now 27, works as a bar manager at The Harbour Inn in Lyme Regis and is also a volunteer with The National Trust in East Devon.

HOW did you come up with the idea of Forgotten Paths?
My main inspiration was Paul Smith's 2009 Twitchhiker adventure, in which the writer hitchhiked from Newcastle to New Zealand, via Europe and the USA, on only the goodwill gestures of Twitter users. I found it incredible that our much-maligned social media nevertheless holds the power to genuinely bring together people on the global stage to assist in charitable endeavours. I hope to emulate that on a much smaller scale with Forgotten Paths, by using Facebook, Twitter and Couchsurfing to find places to stay as I hike, encouraging word-of-mouth about both my adventure, and my chosen charity.

WHY choose the Alzheimer's Society as your charity?
My late paternal grandmother was a dementia sufferer, which means I have first-hand experience of the effects of dementia on both the sufferer, and those around them. There are 800,000 people with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to rise to one million by 2021. While it is possible to develop dementia early in life, the chances of doing so increase dramatically with age. One in 50 people between the ages of 65 and 70 have a form of dementia, compared to one in five people over the age of 80.  

WHAT are you most looking forward to about the challenge?
Large stretches of the South West Coast hold special memories for me, so I'm looking forward to revisiting favourite spots with a fresh perspective. The collaborative nature of Forgotten Paths means that I'm hoping to meet lots of new, not to mention altruistic, people. If I reach Poole unscathed, I hope the hike will have been an empowering experience. A tan would be nice too.

WHAT are you most worried about?
Angry farmers, fifty days of torrential rain, and pumas!

HAVE you been doing any training for the challenge?
I've been walking regularly since taking part in the Three Peaks challenge last year, with Chideock to Lyme along the South West Coast Path being a favourite route. I recently completed the second half of the East Devon Way, an inland route that starts in Exmouth and ends on the county border in Uplyme. On top of regular hikes, I've been swimming three hours a week and I try to get out sea-kayaking whenever the surf, weather and/or fishing are favourable!

WHAT will you be taking with you?
I need to be prepared to wild camp if Twitter fails me on the trip, so I'll be carrying the necessary camping equipment such as a tent, sleeping bag and cooking equipment. I'm currently approaching corporate sponsors for assistance, so if any companies would like to get involved, head over to

HOW did you get involved with The National Trust?
After returning to the area following redundancy, I found myself lacking in both direction and drive. With some timely encouragement last August, I decided that I should volunteer and try something new, and the National Trust's work is something I feel is of genuine worth to the country.

WHAT do you do as a volunteer ranger?
My duties involve assisting the full-time ranger team in their conservation and preservation work at a variety of National Trust properties and sites in the area. At this time of year, this typically includes a variety of land management tasks such as hedge-laying and coppicing, but with the recent flooding we've also had a lot of pathway repairs to make close to the Branscombe yard. 

WHAT are your other personal interests?
I've always been an avid reader, and it's perhaps no surprise that recently I've been consuming a lot of wilderness writing from the likes of Jon Krakauer, Roger Deakin and Robert Macfarlane. 

WHAT do you like about living in the area? 
I would say that the Jurassic Coast is surely one of the most arresting landscapes in the world. The juxtaposition of rugged coastline and the quintessentially British pastoral interior is something you'd be hard pressed to find anywhere else. 

WHAT would you change about the area if you could?
While studying for my music management and marketing degree, I was heavily involved in the grassroots UK live scene. For all the politics and egotism, I still miss being immersed in that culture, and wish the area could sustain the same level of musical community.

WHERE is your ideal holiday destination and why?
I travelled up the East Coast of Australia in 2011, and would love to return to the town of Agnes Water/1770. A small, slightly bohemian community, a lot of the backpackers pass Agnes Water by, but I loved the laid-back atmosphere. It's also the most northerly surfing beach on the east coast, so the competition for breaks isn't so fierce! 

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