Updated: Feb 26, 2021
Julia’s Jellyfish Journey is now complete. I will touch briefly on the walking and fundraising, but really want to focus today on other elements of the walk – the wildlife I encountered and people I met.
It took just under three months to complete the walk during lockdown conditions. That meant walking from home every day, for 3-5 miles a day during the strictest lockdown period and then 10 miles a day as things eased. My jellyfish costume was great at keeping flies at bay and the rain off my face. It was not so great in windy conditions, and became very heavy when wet.
The walking was wonderful. All of my aches and pains, which I had put down to age, disappeared almost overnight when I started walking ten miles a day. It seems that they are due to inactivity or possibly long periods of sitting, rather than age.
The fundraising and awareness raising were also fantastic. I have loved talking to so many people about how important the oceans are to us and steps we can all take to protect them. I have been delighted about the number of people who have reached into their pockets or donated to the Marine Conservation Society online via my Crowdfunder page. Donations have just topped £3,500 to date – please add yours at: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/julias-jellyfish-journey.
In terms of wildlife, the first thing that struck me was the number of birds that I saw and heard. When walking early in the morning during April and early May, I heard woodpeckers, saw a small flock of goldfinches and encountered robins every day. During one of those early days, I watched a green woodpecker fly to a tree that had half fallen, land on it and appear to disappear completely. The moss on the tree was exactly the same colour as the feathers on the back of the bird – it was perfect camouflage.
I encountered seemingly perfect camouflage later in my walk too, when I was watching some peregrine falcons. As the sun moved round and their eyrie went into the shade, the birds appeared to melt into the rock face, despite their vivid yellow beaks and legs. During my walk, I often visited the nest and saw the chicks transform from little balls of fluff into fully-formed raptors. Incredible.
In May, I heard cuckoos every day, although by June they had stopped calling. I saw blue tits nesting in a crevice in a stone wall. I watched kestrels hovering, buzzards soaring and, on one day, I saw three jays in the trees. For the first time ever, and on one day only, I saw a red kite soaring over the hills.
The hills are alive with insects, some beautiful and some less so. Dragonflies abound, even far from the nearest pond. The grassland is hopping – and humming – with crickets and grasshoppers. A large variety of butterflies live in the area – I have been particularly taken with the marbled white butterfly, and was thrilled to spot a red tiger moth resting on a leaf.
I had heard about lizards living on the hills, and even seen photos of them, but never seen one myself. Even walking 630 miles, I only saw one once. I was so surprised that I jumped and almost landed on the poor thing.
What I think surprised me most about the walk was the array of interesting and unusual people I met. One morning when visibility was poor, a man thought he was seeing a Chinese water demon appearing from the mist as I approached him. Another man showed me his ankles and feet where he still bears the scars of a jellyfish sting from when he was a child.
A third told me about how he had scented his garden to deter badgers. I encountered a Rastafarian who walks barefoot, and a woman who likes to wear Victorian dresses.
One family walks the hills with bags and litter-pickers, keeping them nice for the rest of us. Another litter-picker blesses the litter as she bags it, and blesses the person who dropped it, as they haven’t yet learnt about how important it is to dispose of litter responsibly.
The colourful Julie Angel, international mystic and psychic, claims to have seen a jellyfish in her tea leaves and then met me as she walked on the hills later that morning. What a hoot!
On the final day of my walk, I paraded through Malvern with my friends the starfish, the cod and the turtle. The starfish dipped and dived, the cod waggled its tail as it walked and the turtle kept trying to eat me (the jellyfish). Archie and Bo Wilde, who I also met while walking, kindly agreed to come along and take some photos. I giggled my way through the final steps of this adventure, thankful for the support of so many of my friends and all of those other people I have met on my wanderings.
Cover image - JJJ on the hills - Archie Wilde
Fishy friends - Archie Wilde
By the trig point - Michael Goodfellow-Smith
Others - Julia Goodfellow-Smith