Athene’s resident ‘King of KMs’ celebrates National Walking Month

We love a walk at Athene. 

With our office nestled in the Lincolnshire countryside, walking is a part of our culture. We can often be found taking walking meetings, or simply ambling to enjoy the fresh air and take a break from the desk.

This National Walking Month, we’re getting serious, with a team effort to walk our way to Paris, hosts of this year’s summer Olympics.  To get us in the mood we asked our walking guru, our King of KMs (that’s kilometres to the uninitiated), Mark Pearson, to tell us his walking story and share his top walks.  

Do you have your sturdy footwear and rainproof jacket? This isn’t high octane content folks, we’re walkin’ here!

Our reliance on electronic devices, whether smartphones, tablets, or smartwatches, is far from ideal. We spend a third of our day on them, every day, in fact. But for me, it was a screentime encounter that sparked a fascination with daily step counts.

It began at Field Day music festival in 2017, when a friend showed me his step count at the end of the day. It must have been more than 30,000 steps. I wondered what I was chalking up each day.

This curiosity led to the purchase of a smartwatch and a newfound motivation to strive for 10,000 steps a day. I’m not alone here, Money Saving guru Martin Lewis often shares his commitment to the kms, averaging more than 25,000 steps a day in 2023. Some going.

Sadly, steps don’t happen when you’re asleep, so it results in more walking… and then exploring new routes and areas. Like many, the onset of lockdown shifted the focus to maximising outdoor time, which, for me, meant walking.

To mark National Walking Month, I’ve chosen some favourite walking spots – local to where I live in Peterborough and a couple a little further afield.

Fermyn Woods Country Park

The weekend before lockdown announcement. I met up with two mates to extend the legs before confinement. A wooded stretch surrounding the distinctive Lyveden New Bield Elizabethan house. The further you get in then more twists and turns arrive to head off the main path, often with deer crossing the path. Once out of the woods you are then near the village of Lowick, which has the impressive Drayton House on its edge, recently made famous by the divisive film Saltburn.

Holme Fen National Nature Reserve

“It reminds me of Jurassic Park”. This is what I was told by a friend who had recently taken her children there. I’d heard of the name but never been. Despite its somewhat car-unfriendly entrance, complete with potholes galore, Holme Fen’s unique features make it worth the tyre torment. 

The reserve lays claim to being the lowest land point in Great Britain. It can be disorienting on a first visit but once you are assured it’s basically a large rectangular area who can weave in and out of the internal paths. A great way to spend a couple of hours with the springy peat floor and ferns and silver birch enveloping the skyline. More tree sparrows than T-Rex’s, thankfully.

Nene Park – Ferry Meadows

No list of Peterborough’s walking spots would be complete without mentioning Ferry Meadows. A lockdown lifesaver for many, it’s a regular destination for locals, offering not only scenic walks but also the popular Park Run on Saturday mornings.

Favourite areas include the stretch along the River Nene towards Castor and the Boardwalk in Bluebell Wood. If you want to spot a kingfisher, then this is the place.

Isle of Skye – Quiraing Pass

This walk was a trip with the ‘lockdown walkers’. A group created with friends to get through pandemic lockdowns. We once broke 50,000 steps doing a midsummer loop around Oundle to Corby, fueled for my friend Liam by his regular picnic of Dairy Dunkers and Lucozade. 

We agreed that we’d try something different once the restrictions had lifted. A long drive beckoned, and the highlight of the Isle of Skye trip had to be the Quiraing pass with its stunning mountains, lochs and dramatic rock formations. It was extremely boggy at the top and the way down, with wet legs and slip n slides becoming unavoidable.

Slovakia – Sucha Bela

A find on a recent holiday. Set in the aptly named Slovak Paradise National Park, near the Tatra Mountains, this Sucha Bela hike is set in a gorge. 

A complete disregard for health and safety regulations awaits, as the steady climb is scattered with long, metal ladders and catwalks. Definitely the most unique walk I’ve done, but the smug sense of achievement was soon tempered by seeing two unfussed young children scampering through the obstacles ahead of me.

The opportunity walking provides to explore new areas is the main draw for me, but it also boosts mental health and wellbeing, and burns off the calories gained in the inevitable visit to the pub during or after.

If you want to see how we’re doing with our walk to Paris this month, follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn.