Steve Watts

Founder (Lakeland Walks & Talks), Fell Runner, Cyclist, Trail Hound Enthusiast

History...

Originally from Collyhurst in the heart of Manchester, my journey began at the age of 18...

Joining the army and serving Her Majesty the Queen in the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, with ceremonial duties at the Tower of London, Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace (including Trooping the Colour), the regiment offered discipline and endeavour, qualities I live by today.

Whilst in the Guards fitness played a major part in my life and as the saying goes I was "Army Fit"... or so I thought!

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The Inspiration…

Whilst at work one day I read an article in the Sunday Times supplement about a Lakeland sheep farmer who had recently ran over 72 mountains and almost 100 miles within 24 hours… could this be true?

Little did I know but Joss Naylor would change the path of my life forever.

After commissioning a local artist to paint a portrait of him running on Pillar I wrote to Joss asking if it would be possible to meet and for him to sign the picture – to which he agreed.

As we entered Wasdale for the first time we were greeted with a sight to behold and one which is a lasting memory of Yewbarrow, Great Gable and Scafell and the head of the lake – Stunning! This was his playground and soon to be mine!

Joss met us at his farm where we spent sometime talking about his incredible fell running achievements whilst at the same time sharing a lovely pot of Cumbrian tea. Joss’ final words were “Thee should lose some weight, stop thee smoking and start running!”

With those words ringing in my ears, the rest is history… My passion and love for the Lakes grew and grew, changing mine and my family’s lifestyle and way of life forever.

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The Fells, its People and its Hounds…

Following the meeting with Joss, I took up running and discovered a real passion...

Although running on local roads in Manchester provided an early taster, I truly felt at home on the hills and so training would see me travel to both the Lake District and Snowdonia where strength and stamina were building. Marathons were next, and after completing the Stockport, London and Snowdon marathons a bigger challenge lay ahead…

Bob Graham was a Lakeland guide and hotelier from Keswick who in June 1932 completed a circuit of 42 fells in the English Lake District, including the 3,000-foot (910 m) peaks of Skiddaw, Helvellyn, Scafell and Scafell Pike in under 24 hours. With a total ascent of 28,500ft and a distance of 74 miles, it is the height of Everest in a day! What a challenge…

I first attempted the Bob Graham round in 1983, but after 12 long hard hours I succumbed to the worst bout of cramp in my life… but this was not going to hold me back and so in 1984 I successfully became member no.311 to complete the round following fantastic support from fellow runners, friends and family.

The long hours training and running over the fells of the Lakes allowed me to discover some very special routes that I now know like the back of my hand.

Over the years we have formed many a lasting friendship with local people and one such family the Laidler’s (Barry, Roy, Pat & Jane) introduced me to one of the oldest of Lakeland pastimes, Hound Trailing, where hounds follow a scent of paraffin and aniseed over a mountain course of approximately ten miles. To watch these hounds is both majestic and thrilling as they follow in the trailers footsteps finishing to the whistle and calls of their owners at the finish line.

My best running friends have always been my forever trusting retired Trail hounds, Rob, Jan and currently Sally. They have ran many a mile by my side and the affection and trust is mutual.

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Never One To Sit Still…

The Lakes has given me a real passion for trekking and I have been lucky enough to venture far and wide...

Over the years I have embarked on many a journey some of which are more special than others, such as scaling the heights of Africa summiting Kilimanjaro (19,341ft).

However, most recently (thanks to my brother) in April 2014, I was lucky enough to venture to none other than Everest Base Camp and beyond… the summit of Kala Patthar (18,500ft). An unbelievable experience, to see the whole of the Himalaya with Everest seemingly in touching distance was enough to bring a tear to the eye. Truly special.

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Achievements

Below are a list of achievements I have successfully completed, which have all culminated in the creation of Lakeland Walks & Talks
  • 1983 – Stockport Marathon
  • 1983 – Sierre-Zinal Mountain Race – Switzerland
  • 1983 – Bob Graham Round – 12hrs (retired due to cramp)
  • 1984 – Bob Graham Round – Membership no. 311
  • 1985 – Oldham to Blackpool (non-stop) – 8hrs 40mins
  • 1985 – Barmouth Marathon – 2hrs 53mins (10th place)
  • 1988 – London Marathon – 2hrs 47mins
  • 1991 – Snowdonia Marathon – 2hrs 56mins (26th place)
  • 1993 – Kilimanjaro (19,341ft) – Africa
  • 2013 – Fred Whitton Cycle Challenge
  • 2014 – Everest Base Camp & Kala Patthar (18,500ft) – Nepal
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Away From The Fells...

My working career has taken me far and wide, with many achievements along the way...

Upon leaving the army, my first job was with the Central Electricity Board. However, running had become a major part of my life and it was through this new found passion that a chance to raise money and save young children's lives arose. I decided to run from Oldham to Blackpool non-stop and upon completion, and handing a cheque over for £3k, I was approached by a Director at Manchester's Booth Hall Children's Hospital to see if I would accept the position of Fundraising Manager and the rest as they say is history...

The challenge was set, to raise over £1million to pay for the first children's CT Scanner in the North West.

How can you raise £1million, I wondered? Well with a lot of hard work, dedication and support from loyal family and friends the successful organisation and management of a number of large scale events took place including; Children Running for Children (seeing over 7k children take part in a charity fun run and witnessed by over 100k people in Heaton Park, Manchester), the yearly Krypton Factor Assault Course Challenge and many, many more...

I am extremely proud of this achievement and feel honoured to have helped many a child throughout the North West and beyond.

Aside from work my son Matthew's love of ice hockey saw me form and undertake the role of Coach for the local Inline Hockey team the Chaddy Wild Sharks. Taking up to 100 local children off the streets and into the sports hall, within two years we successfully became National Champions!

I'm so excited to be on this journey… I just hope our paths will meet.

Steve Watts (Founder; Lakeland Walks & Talks)
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