An Army Marches on its Stomach

Dost thou think that because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale? – Sir Toby Belch, Twelfth Night

Farewell card from my friend Justine, who knows a thing or two about D of E expeditions

After the route-planning and the ‘virtuous’ body sculpting (see posts passim), Toby and Tobina Belch find they have worked up rather an appetite. Prompted by a series of 2am night terrors imagining scurvy and rickets caused by being forced to hike the length of the entire no-deal Brexited Britain without being able to buy a single vegetable, I contacted my friend Caroline Rees, a nutritional therapist, for some targeted suggestions about how to fuel the walk. She has a wealth of expert knowledge on the biochemistry of nutrition and did a tonne of research into peer-reviewed, evidence-based studies into how to eat to fuel endurance exercise. The headline recommendation, I was enlivened to hear, is that I should be eating about 4,000 calories per day. Which is going to take some organisation, if we are not going to resort to filling ourselves up on cakes and ale at every available public house and tea room.

So Stephen went through the maps again and identified food and water stops en route. We discovered when doing the Coast-to-Coast walk that there were surprisingly many little shops where we could fill up on trail food snacks of the fruit, nut and dark chocolate kind, rather than schlepping tonnes of it ourselves from one side of the country to the other. And our favourite butcher has promised to send us PIES

But there will be sections of the route where food shops and water stops are quite scarce: in the six days we walk across Flow Country north of Ullapool to John O’Groats, for example, we only cross four remote roads. We have heard that it’s possible to arrange a Tesco delivery for a roadhead (absolutely worth a punt!), but failing that we’ll need to be carrying everything we need.

We’ve learned from watching generations of dismal Duke of Edinburgh students waiting interminably for pasta to cook in impossibly small amounts of water over Trangias… and even more memorably, seen with our own eyes the potentially lethal results of heating a can of baked beans without puncturing a hole in the top (super-heated baked-bean missiles were fired at terrific velocity by the explosion, burning holes clean through the fabric of the tents). Rehydrating freeze-dried complete meals is the way to go; that way, we figure, we’ll have to carry the minimum of weight.

Unexpectedly flavoursome.

Since last we fuelled a long-distance walk the technology of freeze-dried foods has developed exponentially. Although this doesn’t look enormously appetising, a taste-test revealed that it ate far better than it looked, and will seem a deal more delicious at the end of a 30km day. And practically be serve-uppable in the amount of time it takes to boil 300ml of water.


One of the many lovely farewell presents we were given on the last day of term was an absolutely gorgeous and excitingly titanium hip-flask (complete with little bottle of Talisker to fill it with). I can imagine it being the most beautiful sight when sheltering under a dripping tree chilled to the bone by the raging tempests of the wettest summer on record. The titanium was a revelation, and once we’d hefted it, we decided to replace our horrid, pain-to-clean plastic, weirdly-triangular Light My Fire boxes and sporks with titanium incarnations. We can also use them on the top of the tiny stove, so we won’t have to carry the stove’s saucepan. And boiling water doesn’t create pans to wash up ๐Ÿ™‚

Although if we did decide to cook, stewing up the first of the season’s nettles and wild garlic is food fit for a king, especially when washed down with a slug of Talisker. Thank you, Anguses!

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