History of the Walk
The idea of walking from Keswick to Barrow originated in 1966 as a result of a statement made by the late U.S. President, John F Kennedy, that "every American should be capable of walking 50 miles a day".
We have researched further back ('Time' magazine, 22nd Feb 1963) and found that in 1908, U.S. President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt had issued an Executive Order requiring all Marine Corps Officers to be able to walk 50 miles within 20 hours. In 1963, U.S. Marine Commandant David M Shoup unearthed the Roosevelt Executive Order and sent this curio to another presidential believer in vigour, JFK, who replied asking if U.S. Marines were still fit enough to complete this test. The president's response was published and soon everyone was in the act: Americans were taking an old-fashioned 50-mile walk. JFK's brother, the Attorney-General, Robert F Kennedy, upheld the honour of the Executive Branch (i.e. the deskbound Government officers), by completing 50 miles from Great Falls, Virginia, to Camp David, Maryland, in 17 hours 50 minutes."I'm a little stiff" he admitted, "but that's natural, never having walked 50 miles before".
In 1966 the first Royal Naval Polaris Submarine, HMS Resolution, was under construction at the Barrow Shipyard where several American experts were involved with the project. The idea of the walk was conceived and plans were soon under way to organise it and build relationships between the submarine crew and the Shipyard workers. The initiative was taken by the Installation Manager (Submarines) to formally challenge the Commanding Officer of HMS Resolution to form a team and walk from Keswick to Barrow, approximately 50 miles, on 1st April 1967.
The Commercial Department of Vickers heard of this challenge and joined in the walk making it a three-way contest with the crew of HMS Resolution and the yard team. The HMS Resolution crew finally won the team contest in the face of severe competition but a Shipyard worker claimed the honour of being the first person back to Barrow.
The first walk started from Castlerigg Stone Circle but the walk length was reduced by moving the start away from Keswick to prevent any problems which might arise through congestion on the difficult entry to the town. The more convenient start point of Rough How Bridge was established, three miles south of Keswick, with a final measured distance of approximately 40 miles.
Although not originally planned as an annual event, the walk gained popularity with the Furness people and soon became an important part of the calendar. This first walk was intended to increase the social relations between the Royal Naval crews and the workers in the shipyard. As the walk is still going strong today thanks to the organisational skills of the companies originally involved, it must have been a success!
Within the space of just 7 years, the walk had grown from 63 participants to 1,500 expected walkers (1974), and people from across the country were taking part. In 1974, a team from HMS Vulcan travelled all the way from Dounreay (Thurso, Caithness) at the very top of Scotland to take part in the walk: that's over 400 miles! Nowadays, it is common for about 2500 walkers start the walk, and charity donations of over £300,000 are made in the autumn after each walk. Teams still arrive from the north coast of Scotland to the south coast of England, and many points in between. Since 1967, £2,401,132 has been raised (2012 figure) and more than 2,120,000 miles have been walked.
Some of the more interesting features that have been present throughout the history of the Keswick to Barrow Walk are the trophies and shields. The "Resolution Cup", offered by the HMS Resolution crew at the first walk for the first team of walkers home, has been awarded every year since. As a challenge cup, it has been won 10 times by Royal Naval teams and 36 times by Shipyard teams.
The year 1982 was a significant one for creating K2B speed records which stand to this day. Local man Dave Kelly finished in an incredible 3 hours 59 minutes to take the "Best Performance Cup", and the Rolls Royce team, "RR&A Flashers" achieved a time of 6 hours 50 minutes winning the "L. Redshaw Cup" for the Best Overall Team Performance. The fastest lady, Iona Robertson, achieved her record more recently in 2006 with a time of 5 hours 10 minutes to with the "J.M.Redshaw Cup" that year.
There are several participants who have lasted the test of time, with 4 people having completed the walk at least 30 times. Gordon Ingall is at the top of the board, having completed 39 walks as at 2012: he is perhaps one of the most notable participants over the years. The more times you complete the Keswick 2 Barrow walk, the higher your rank in 'Ye Ancient Order of Barking Dogs'. This 'order' has been a part of the Walk's history for many years. For those who have finished the walk over 30 times, as with the 4 walkers above, the award is a silver tankard. After 40 completions, this becomes a ruby glass. We hope to be able to award the very first ruby glass in 2013. There are also awards for those who complete the walk once, 3 times, 7 times, (a china tankard), 20 times, (a china plate), and 50 times: a gold award yet to be designed!
With so many people taking interest in a 'big walk' for charity, there are often large donations. The 1974 walk raised £7,300, a sum worth nearer £70,000 in 2013 money. This money was split between a total of 27 charities operating in the Furness area, each receiving between £150 and £500. In 2012, £310,991 (plus £48,789 value of Gift Aid) was donated to 265 charities. A sum of £22,625 cash plus £3,677 Gift Aid was donated to a single charity, Cancer Research UK, creating a new record for the largest donation in a single year.
The 23-mile Coniston to Barrow Walk (C2B) was introduced as a limited trial in 2010 as an easier version of the K2B, primarily to allow younger children to experience the concept of a long sponsored walk. The intention is that they might move on to the K2B as they grow through their teen years. The trial was successful and the C2B is now going from strength to strength, reaching its 4th walk in 2013 with ever-increasing walker numbers. The route and timing run parallel with K2B from Monk Coniston southwards: it shares the same checkpoints, timing facilities, safety support and attractive Furness scenery through to Barrow. The sponsor money raised, and the following charity distributions, are combined with the K2B money.
The Keswick to Barrow Walk has a long and successful history, and the number of entrants increases every year. The total amount donated to charity since the walk started is now over £2.4 Million. The next target is to raise a total of £3.5 Million by 2016, the 50th walk.