Hail Dave Duke, crown prince of Square!

26 Jun

On March 14, David Duke set off for a walk. But this was no trip down the road to buy a pint of milk! Dave’s plan was in fact to walk the coast of Britain for a bowel cancer charity. Three and a half months later, Dave had returned, mission accomplished, and walk completed, a month quicker than anyone else has ever done it. Dave is hoping to put out a book about his walk, and in advance of that, I grabbed the opportunity to talk to him about his amazing feat (no pun intended).

I started off by asking him about his reasons for the walk. Dave’s immense modesty would not permit him to talk about it being in any way a great achievement on a personal level, instead he preferred to talk about the charity. “The walk was for Bowel Cancer Wales, a charity based in Pontypridd. They’re campaigning to lower the screening age of the screening kits. At the moment, it’s set at 60, but because of the backlog, people don’t usually get the kits till they’re about 65, which might be about 15 years too late. They’re aiming to get the age lowered to 40, or as low as possible, to get the backlog cleared, which would be a massive boost.

“I’ve had family and friends that have suffered, and I thought, if I couldn’t help people individually, if I could help people on a larger scale, that would be something. I thought about them on the way, and being aware that whatever I was going through was not a patch on what they’d gone through made it easier.”

“I’d done a lot of hitch-hiking and rambling before, not in a serious way, more in a Hank Williams way, but it was just nice to be out in the open air and have complete freedom. Every day, there’d be massive highs and massive lows, in a similar way to hitch-hiking. Once, I was sat in Cornwall, duct-taping up my shoes that were falling apart. Someone stopped and asked if I was alright, and I said, ‘no, I’m not alright, I’m having a pretty crap day, if I’m honest!’ He invited me back for a coffee. So the one minute, I was sat in the cold, the next I was sat in front of a fire, smoking cigars!” This was also the place Dave met his new girlfriend, who was the barmaid at the local pub.

“My favourite place on the walk was Apple Cross Peninsular. I’d crossed the cattle pass, which was 2½ thousand feet above sea level. I hadn’t been intending to, but someone had told me – you need to go to Apple Cross!

“I took the mountain pass up, which was like the scene at the start of The Italian Job. At the top, I was shin-deep in snow, thinking, this was a bad move. But the view from the top was like being on the moon! You could see the Isle of Skye on the other side, across beautiful seas, with unspoilt land all around me.” This was like a pinnacle of the trip, and after that, it took a lot to impress him! Other places that stood out though included Cape Wrath and Wells Next-the-Sea. Here, as he recalls, “I had some company, some fish and chips, and I stayed the night on a boat. I was watching a Romany Gypsy band, with a pint of cider watching the sun coming up, and I realised I could be doing something a lot worse!”