Late 2016 and our group of hardworking Americans (and one Brit) had been busy training for and completing various fitness challenges. We had talked of undertaking something bigger but were not ready to row an ocean or climb a mountain. Instead, we were inspired by an extract from the Prologue of Bill Bryson’s 2015 book “The Road to Little Dribbling” which had been passed round the office in which Mr Bryson describes the “Bryson Line” – the shortest distance one can travel across the United Kingdom without having cross large tracts of water (see extract further down the page).
Our Anglo-American team determined that the Bryson Line represented something other than just a straight line across the mainland of the UK; it represented a challenge and an opportunity for a group of anglophile Americans and their friends to take an idea created by another anglophile American and turn it into a way of giving back to this wonderful country we call home.
And thus Walk the Bryson Line was born. With the blessing of the esteemed author we are setting out from Cape Wrath in early June 2018 to trek to Bognor Regis. As Mr Bryson himself suggested, we are not taking the ruler-straight Bryson Line too literally. Instead, we measured the line at 569 miles and have constructed a route that takes us from the top of Scotland to the bottom of England via well-known trails and walks such that we will walk the 569 miles on 30 consecutive days.
Our goal is to raise in excess of £100,000 for five separate charities, all close to our hearts. You can read more about the charities on our Charity page.
Later that afternoon, at home, I pulled out my ancient and falling- apart AA Complete Atlas of Britain (so old that it shows the M25 as a dotted aspiration) just to have a look. Apart from anything else I was curious to see what is the longest distance you can travel in Britain in a straight line. It is most assuredly not from Land’s End to John O’Groats, despite what my official study guide had said. (What it said, for the record, is: ‘The longest distance on the main- land is from John o’Groats on the north coast of Scotland to Land’s End in the south-west corner of England. It is about 870 miles.’)
For one thing, the northernmost outcrop of mainland is not John o’Groats but Dunnet Head, eight miles to the west, and at least six other nubbins of land along that same stretch of coastline are more northerly than John o’Groats. But the real issue is that a journey from Land’s End to John o’Groats would require a series of zigzags. If you allow zigzags, then you could carom about the country in any pattern you wished and thus make the distance effectively infinite.
I wanted to know what was the furthest you could travel in a straight line without crossing salt water. Laying a ruler across the page, I discovered to my surprise that the ruler tilted away from Land’s End and John o’Groats, like a deflected compass needle. The longest straight line actually started at the top left-hand side of the map at a lonely Scottish promontory called Cape Wrath. The bottom, even more interestingly, went straight through Bognor Regis.
Larry was right. It was a sign.
For the briefest of periods, I considered the possibility of travelling through Britain along my newly discovered line (the Bryson Line, as I would like it now to become generally known, since I was the one who discovered it), but I could see almost at once that that wouldn’t be practical or even desirable. It would mean, if I took it literally, going through people’s houses and gardens, tramping across trackless fields, and fording rivers, which was clearly crazy; and if I just tried to stay close to it, it would mean endlessly picking my way through suburban streets in places like Macclesfield and Wolverhampton, which didn’t sound terribly rewarding either. But I could certainly use the Bryson Line as a kind of beacon, to guide my way.