Ffyona Campbell

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Ffyona Campbell born in Totnes in 1967 is a British long-distance walker who was the first woman to walk around the world. She covered 32,000 kilometres (20,000 mi) over 11 years and raised £180,000 for charity. She wrote about her experience in a series of three books.

Early life[edit]

Born in 1967, into a family with a long Royal Naval tradition. During her childhood and early teens the Campbells moved home 24 times – which resulted in Ffyona attending 15 schools.[1]

After leaving home and school at 16, she raised the necessary sponsorship to enable her to walk from John o' Groats to Lands End. Walking 20 to 25 miles a day six days a week, she completed the journey in 49 days and was the youngest person at that time to have done it.[citation needed] Through sponsorship of the London Evening Standard, she raised £25,000 for the Royal Marsden Cancer Hospital.[citation needed]

At 18, she set off from New York crossing the United States towards Los Angeles. The media schedule to coincide with the sponsors' public relations events en route was demanding, requiring hours of interviews at the end of each day. Due to illness, she began to fall behind the heavy schedule demanded of her, her sponsors repeatedly threatened to withdraw their sponsorship and so finally, she felt she had no choice but to accept a lift in her support van to catch up. Her support driver, Brian Noel, has no memory of the occasional lifts he had to give her between Indiana and New Mexico, he remembers only the bravery and determination of a young person under great pressure to satisfy her sponsor, continuing to battle away at the miles despite her illness. As an 18 year old, the course of action she felt she had to take took its toll, and led to her refusal to miss out any miles on the rest of the world walk. It meant she walked through war zones, mine fields and diverted 4,000 km on foot around a closed border. At the end of the world walk, she returned to America and walked across it again for her own satisfaction.[citation needed]

At 21 she walked across Australia, 50 miles a day for 3,200 miles from Sydney to Perth in 95 days,[citation needed] beating the men's record for this journey.[citation needed] She suffered severe blistering of the feet but was determined not to miss out any miles. She wrote about this journey in her book Feet of Clay.

On 2 April 1991, she left Cape Town, South Africa and walked the length of Africa covering over 16,000 km (9,900 mi) before arriving in Tangiers, Morocco two years later on 1 September 1993.[citation needed] She had been joined by her ex-boyfriend, British survival expert Ray Mears, for five months during the journey through Zaire after an uprising had forced her and her team to abandon the support vehicle and be evacuated by the French Foreign Legion along with all the other expats. She was able to return to central Africa within weeks of the evacuation and continued walking from the place she'd left. During the stretch across the Sahara, she walked an extra 4,000 km around a war zone to avoid missing out any steps. She reached Tangiers and was greeted by the international media.[citation needed] The walk raised awareness of Survival International, an organisation which helps protect the lives of threatened tribal people. She wrote about this journey in her book On Foot through Africa.

In April 1994, she left Algeciras, Spain and walked through Europe on the Via de la Plata through Spain, through France, crossing to Britain at Dover. She then completed the last 1,300 km (810 mi) walking from Dover back to John o' Groats accompanied by young people from Raleigh International who came to find out just how far they could walk if they really put their minds to it. She arrived at John O'Groat's, the world's end, on 14 October 1994. She was shadowed by a BBC film crew and presenter Janet Street-Porter.

Campbell raised half the amount for charity in one go when one of the organisers at Raleigh International sold the advertising space on her forehead during her well-publicised return. After a period in hospital for a back operation, she went back and walked across America again for her own personal satisfaction and wrote about that journey in her final book, The Whole Story. The media castigated her for her honesty.[citation needed]

Inspired by the hunter-gatherers she met on her journey - Aborigines, Bushmen, Pygmies and North American Indians - Campbell returned to Australia after the end of the world walk to live with the Aborigines. After three months she returned to Britain to learn how to be a hunter-gatherer in her own country and to work out what had separated us from the life we must have loved so much.[according to whom?] She wrote about her adventures in her fourth book, The Hunter-Gatherer Way, to great critical acclaim[citation needed] and is now teaching others how to be hunter-gatherers in Britain through her company Wild Food Walks based in Devon and contacted through wildfoodwalks.co.uk.



  1. ^ Ffyona Campbell, Feet of Clay: On Foot through Australia (Firebird Distributing), 1999.

See also[edit]