16 September 2008
As you've probably guessed from the title of this post and from the rather dashing photo of yours truly above, I have at long last completed my epic trek across the country! To be more precise, I actually finished my epic trek across the country back on the 30th of August at around 4:30pm some 98 days and 1100 miles after leaving Land's End.
Despite having officially hung up my boots about two weeks ago, the fact that I've actually finished still hasn't really hit home. I'm not sure at what point the knowledge that I've managed to walk the entire length of the country will dawn on me, but at the moment I'm still convinced that I'm merely taking a few days off and that I'll be back on the trail any day now. There's something very pure about focusing all your efforts getting from point A to point B and the therapeutic effect of doing this day after day should not be ignored by those yearning to escape the rat race of modern life. That said, I am quite glad that the challenge has been completed but I know I shall nonetheless miss the simple life of the rambler.
I would like to take a moment to thank any and all who have taken the time to read my blog, leave comments and generally show their support for my challenge. That support has made a big difference, especially back in my planning days when the expertise of the LEJOGing community proved invaluable on more than one occasion. Also, to all those who were kind enough to make a donation to Katharine House Hospice on my behalf, the total amount raised so far is in excess of £2500 and I've still got a few more donations to collect. This is absolutely fantastic, and I want to thank each and every one of you on the Hospice's behalf. Your money will make a big difference.
Apologies again that I was not able to keep up the day by day posting that I had naively planned for way back in May but as I said in my previous post on that topic it simply became too much for me to handle at the time and in the end getting the walk done was my top priority. Now that I'm back and getting back towards some semblance of normality (these last two weeks have been unbelievably busy) I shall finally start the process of writing up my daily notes and sticking them up here with the odd photo or two. Obviously some of the suspense will have been lost as you're now aware that I made it safe and sound, but for the sake of completeness and for my own satisfaction I shall be continuing to write my diary anyway although it may take me quite some time to finish the whole thing.
Anywho, thanks again to all of you out there in blog land. I couldn't have done it without you!
20 July 2008
07 July 2008
03 July 2008
30 June 2008
28 June 2008
This is just a quick note to apologise for the tardiness on the blog front recently and to let you know that all is progressing well. I am making good progress; I am currently North of Ashbourne in Derbyshire and will be starting on the Pennine Way on Tuesday.
I hope to have a few more blogs up in the next few days, but I have slipped behind a little (??) in writing them up. I will do my best to bring them up to date as soon as I can so that you see what I have been up to as I made my way through several counties on my steady trek North. Thanks for all of your interest and support and hopefully normal blog service will be resumed soon.
13 June 2008
12 June 2008
10 June 2008
After a day off (Day 4) seeing the sights and sounds of Carnon Downs (not sure a whole day was really required for this), it was up with the sun this morning and back on the trail. The route for today was around 17 miles and, for the most part, along Cornish lanes again. This being the case, I was fully expecting my feet to get another hammering and unfortunately I wasn't disappointed. It seems that I now have more blisters than it is actually possible to plaster, which led me to wonder, at one painful moment, why they don't make blister plasters large enough to cover your whole foot. Hmmm seems to be a gap in the market there !!!
Apart from the blisters, today has actually been quite pleasant (apart from the last hour where I was dying on my feet - but nothing new there). This is something of a surprise as today is the longest day I've done thus far. Even more surprising is the fact that my niggly knee (which was becoming particularly tiresome) behaved itself pretty much all day. There were a few exceptions, such as on steeper slopes, but any improvement on the pain front is exceedingly welcome.
What of the walk itself then? It started off, as ever, with a good drenching from the maddeningly inconsistent weather; it's blue skies and lovely now. Sort of expecting that this was going to be the case, I made sure to transform myself into "Gore-tex Man" before setting off. This of course was the best way to ensure that immediately on setting off, it stopped raining, but having just started out on the road I was reluctant to stop to remove my "cocoon" only to have the drizzle re-commence.
First stop, of sorts, was the city of Truro, though given that it was a Bank Holiday Sunday and still early morning, the whole place was deserted, save for the few folks hurrying into the Cathedral in time for morning service. Seeing little point in hanging around an empty town centre, I took a couple of photos for posterity and headed along the road out of town. After a couple of miles of the now familiar lanes, I finally got a chance to bid farewell to the asphalt for an hour or two and threaded my way through Idless Wood.
I've done coastal paths, moorland and country lanes but woodland is a new one on the terrain list for this walk so far, and I must say that the change was very pleasant. It reminded me a little of my rambles through Cannock Chase back home and though I enjoyed it, walking through dense forest for two hours without seeing another person felt a little creepy at times. I admit that on occasions, I found myself stopping to glance down the trail behind me, though quite what I was looking for, I've no idea.
Upon finally escaping the woods, it was back to the lanes once again for the remainder of the day. The problem with Cornish lanes from a hikers perspective is that they are invariably lined with tall hedgerows, which means that your view of the countryside is usually restricted to whatever happens to be growing by the roadside. There were occasions when the hedges relented and the views over the rolling hills were decidedly pleasant, but these seemed to be the exceptions rather than the norm. This is a little sad as I can't help but think that I am expending all of this energy walking through Cornwall, but somehow not seeing very much of it. Ah well; one benefit of a trek this long is that there are plenty more opportunities to see things, I suppose.
08 June 2008
05 June 2008
20 May 2008
Overnight I appear to have inhaled a wandering band of butterflies who are seemingly making the most of their new found lodgings by having a party in my stomach. Yes, today is the day and whilst I've been fruitlessly trying to nudge along the passage of time to get here over the last few months now that it's finally arrived I'm wising I had more time to prepare. Still it wouldn't be an adventure if it was easy now would it and given my working status up until last Friday I think I've done all I can in the time I've had.
Of course, that doesn't mean that I'm not going to spend the rest of the morning re-checking (and probably re-re-checking) the contents of my backpack for all those things that I've undoubtedly forgotten and as such this final pre-walk blog entry is going to be a little on the brief side I'm afraid. That said, once I hit the trail tomorrow morning I'll be trying to write a diary entry every day, which should hopefully be inserted into the blog on a vaguely weekly basis depending on the speed of the local postal service (yes I really am that low-tech).
Before I scurry off to continue my final preparations, I just want to say a few words of thanks. First on the list is my family, without whose endless support and encouragement this journey would certainly have never become a reality. Thanks also to my awesome friends who have shown outstanding patience with my endless LEJOG conversations and when the going gets tough their support will keep me on the trail. Thanks to everyone who has generously donated a portion of their hard-earned money towards my fundraising endeavours for the hospice, I promise you that it will make a huge difference to the lives of patients and their families. On the fundraising front, special thanks go out to Walton High School, Barnfields Primary and Berkswitch Primary who have all been kind enough to raise money on my behalf. A special mention goes out also to my Canadian friends across the pond for their extremely generous contribution to my fundraising total. Finally thanks to any and all who have taken the time to read this little rambling diary of mine over the past months, I'm sure it will continue to be an excellent vent for my thoughts, joys and frustrations over the next 1200 miles.
Right, that’s about it for now I'm afraid. I would have liked to write a little section about the excellent weekend (despite the weather) I've just spent camping with my friends in the Peaks but I fear the butterflies will not let me sit still any longer. In compensation to the fine individuals that gave up their weekend to sit in a field with me, I've inserted a few photos from the trip to make up for the lack of prose.
All the best to everyone and I'll speak to you from the trail soon.
05 May 2008
We caught our first glimpse of St Mary's long before we actually got to it through the rolling farmland. Standing proud upon the hillside above Colton Basset it's not immediately obvious that what you’re looking at is really little more than a shell. The church was gutted back in 1898 to make way for the new church of St John the Divine in the village itself. Maybe I've just got a soft spot for old buildings, but to let something that was built with such skill and care fall into ruin in order to build another half a mile away seems like a tragic waste. Fortunately, the site of St Mary's has been lovingly restored and it served as an excellent place for a spot of lunch whilst we poked around the ruins. It was upon entering the church itself that I suddenly became aware of deep humming noise. It appeared to be coming from the bell tower so I thought I'd put my sleuthing hat on and try to determine the source of the disturbance. This source became swiftly apparent when I tilted my eyes skyward inside the tower and beheld a veritable cloud of bees. Luckily, Rob was there to catch my hasty retreat on camera for all posterity. Cheers for the support matey!
I haven’t really got much to say about the last 3-4 miles from Vimmy Ridge to Rob and Vicky's flat except that it swiftly became an exercise in endurance. There were some pleasant distractions though, such as watching the little planes buzzing in and out of the local airfield as we trundled past and the sudden appearance of pine forest on the outskirts of the city made for a pleasant (if belated) change to the scenery. For the most part though I just kept my head down and plodded slowly towards my destination whilst at the same time feeling bad for holding up Rob who unencumbered by a portable home in a bag was clearly none the worse for wear from the days exertions. Still, "slow and steady wins the race" they say and we did of course eventually make it back to the flat, albeit with slightly less of a spring in our step than we left with.
I must admit that that evening I began to feel a little apprehensive about the 1200 mile walk I'm starting in two weeks time. We set out that morning with the aim of doing a 16-17 mile route and if that was the case then it was considerably harder on the knees than I had anticipated it was going to be. I was a bit confused though, as I've done that sort of distance in the past without too much complaint (notice how I've used the qualifier 'too much') and surely the training I've been doing up to now should make it easier rather than harder. Deciding that this merited closer investigation I dug out my map measurer from the bottom of my bag and set about getting an accurate mileage for the day. I'm pleased to say that our guestimation skills leave a lot to be desired, as our steady 16-17 mile day turned out in fact to be a 21 mile slog. This caused a hasty u-turn in my appraisal of the situation, as at 21 miles the walk was just half a mile short of longest day I've got planned all summer and if I could manage it now then by the time I've had a couple of months on the trail to toughen up, I should have no problems going that little bit further.
Well. That's the theory anyway.
21 April 2008
Another week gone and another week closer to setting off on my little stroll.
Now that I've finally got all of my gear together, I thought it was well past time I throw it all into my bag and try carrying it across the countryside for a bit. I reckon the only way I'm going to be able to get an idea of how much weight I'm going to want strapped to my back for three months (if you're curious, none at all would be my ideal answer) is to go ahead and try it as many times as I can in advance. So with my folks in tow, we decided to spend Sunday walking another small section of my route for the summer, namely Shugborough to Penkridge. I've done this walk before and I can see myself doing it a few more times yet before the 21st. At a little over 10 miles it’s hardly a mammoth trek but it's long enough to get the blood pumping and strengthen up my legs a fraction more. As a training walk, probably the best selling point in my opinion is that it has a little bit of everything, woodland and hills on the chase, roads and fields around Bednall and canal towpaths into Penkridge. Given that this was the first walk with everything I intend to take with me on the LEJOG I wasn't really sure what to expect and more importantly whether my back and knees would protest about the extra strain. I was really pleased (and a little suprised) then when we reached Penkridge and I still felt pretty fresh. I know it was a short day in comparison to some of the 20-21 milers ahead but hopefully by the time I get to the longer days I will have had a chance to build up some strength on the trail. Besides I'm not attempting to break any records, and if I feel that I need an hour or two resting my legs in the pub half way through one of the longer stretches then I shan't hesitate to do so. After all, it would be rude not to sample the local beverages of the places I pass through now wouldn't it.
11 April 2008
Wow. Time really does seem to be zooming along at the moment, I find it hard to believe that it’s already been over a week since my last post but the calendar is determined to prove otherwise. The weather on the other hand appears to have lost its calendar altogether and after careful consideration has decided that it's now winter. I was somewhat surprised therefore when I drew back my curtains on Sunday to find that someone had stolen my fine spring morning and replaced it with a winter wonderland. Still, on the plus side the sun was out and it wasn't raining for a change so I figured I might as well grab my rucksack, pull on the boots and go for a trundle around Cannock Chase.
I'm quite fond of Cannock Chase. Not only because it's a lovely place for a stroll that's right on my doorstep but also because I've been walking up at the Chase with my family since I was a kid. I remember my dad used to drag my brother and me for a ramble every Christmas Eve in a valiant but vain attempt to wear us out so that he and my mum could enjoy a bit of a lie-in come Christmas Day. Another family favourite is a short stroll from the Punch Bowl (car park in a little valley) to the stepping stones (speaks for itself really) which is only a couple of miles at most but has nonetheless been the Sunday afternoon walk of choice in our family for years. That being the case there was really only one place for me to tromp about amongst the snow and so I shrugged into my pack (it's slowly getting heavier as I acquire more gear though for the time being it's still quite acceptable) and set out along the usual trail.
It was one of those walks where I didn't really have a plan, though a quick glance at the map provided me with a vague circuit of seven or eight miles which I figured would be ideal. I was quite content just to wander along at my own pace and enjoy the snow covered landscape before me. I found myself contemplating what exactly it was about snow that makes everyone into a budding photographer. There's no denying that a snowy scene can be exceedingly photogenic but after dodging around my forth camera tripod (conveniently set up in the middle of the path for maximum annoyance) I did begin to wonder whether I'd accidentally wandered into an outdoor photography convention. Such was my musing on the snow's appearance that I totally failed to spot the fact that it is also rather adept at concealing the various tracks and trails criss-crossing my route. This fact was hammered home rather effectively however when it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn't seen another person in about 20 minutes (the Chase is something of a magnet to outdoorsy types on a nice day) and whilst I wasn't lost I also had no idea where I was going. A hasty consultation of the map later, I had a plan to rejoin the trail.
I'd take the next path to the right and join up with the main road that I knew was running vaguely parallel to my route somewhere just out of sight (I could hear the occasional traffic quite clearly so I knew it was probably only a mile at most). I could then follow the road to the next junction where I could pick up another trail to take me along a winding stream and back into familiar territory. It started promisingly enough, the next path I took was wide, clear and most importantly heading in the right direction. Sadly said path also thought it would be amusing to lead me the brink of the road without a hitch and then dump me unceremoniously in an overgrown copse of trees. I wasted the next 20 minutes trying to find a way around the obstruction before finally losing patience and battering my way directly through the stubborn undergrowth whilst the snow from the branches above battered its way directly down the back of my shirt. It must be said that despite this little hiccup the rest of the walk went like clockwork. I found the next path a little further down the main road as I had expected and after a brief moment where I thought I had gone astray once again the little stream appeared from under its snowy blanket and led me all the way back to the stepping stones. Not a particularly strenuous walk really, but every mile I get in my boots makes them that little bit more comfortable which is going to pay dividends when I hit the trail for real.
Speaking of hitting the trail, I've now finally pinned down a start date for this little adventure after spending forever trying to find the best way to dodge around the bank holiday. I shall be setting off from Land's End on the 21st May with the hope of arriving in John O' Groats some 91 days later on the 19th August (though this will no doubt alter once I get under way). This gives me little over 5 weeks before the big day which is not much time at all given how the past week has flown by. It has however allowed me to add a bit more structure to my itinerary to the extent that I think it's ready for its first public appearance. What follows is my plan as it stands at the moment although until I stagger into John O Groats in August it should really be considered a work in progress. Still, it should give you some idea of where I will be and when, so if you fancy joining me for a day or two you'll know vaguely where to look.
Until next time folks.
21/05 - Day 1: Land's End -> Penzance (9.5 mi)
22/05 - Day 2: Penzance -> Pengoon Farm (13.5 mi)
23/05 - Day 3: Pengoon Farm -> Carnon Downs (12.5 mi)
24/05 - Day 4: Carnon Downs -> Carnon Downs (0 mi)
25/05 - Day 5: Carnon Downs -> Trekenning (17 mi)
26/05 - Day 6: Trekenning -> St Breward (17.5 mi)
27/05 - Day 7: St Breward -> Five Lanes (12 mi)
28/05 - Day 8: Five Lanes -> Five Lanes (0 mi)
29/05 - Day 9: Five Lanes -> Roadford Lake (17 mi)
30/05 - Day 10: Roadford Lake -> Bridestowe (11.5 mi)
31/05 - Day 11: Bridestowe -> Venton (13 mi)
01/06 - Day 12: Venton -> Salmonhutch (12.5 mi)
02/06 - Day 13: Salmonhutch -> Salmonhutch (0 mi)
03/06 - Day 14: Salmonhutch -> Tiverton (13.5 mi)
04/06 - Day 15: Tiverton -> Taunton (20 mi)
05/06 - Day 16: Taunton -> Street (20 mi)
06/06 - Day 17: Street -> Radstock (18 mi)
07/06 - Day 18: Radstock -> Radstock (0 mi)
08/06 - Day 19: Radstock -> Bath (12 mi)
09/06 - Day 20: Bath -> Tomarton (13.5 mi)
10/06 - Day 21: Tomarton -> North Nibley (15 mi)
11/06 - Day 22: North Nibley -> Painswick (15.5 mi)
12/06 - Day 23: Painswick -> Cheltenham (11 mi)
13/06 - Day 24: Cheltenham -> Tewkesbury (10 mi)
14/06 - Day 25: Tewkesbury -> Tewkesbury (0 mi)
15/06 - Day 26: Tewkesbury -> Worcester (14 mi)
16/06 - Day 27: Worcester -> Stourport (14 mi)
17/06 - Day 28: Stourport -> Kinver (13 mi)
18/06 - Day 29: Kinver -> Brewood (18.5 mi)
19/06 - Day 30: Brewood -> Stafford (14.5 mi)
20/06 - Day 31: Stafford -> Stafford (0 mi)
21/06 - Day 32: Stafford -> Uttoxeter (15.5 mi)
22/06 - Day 33: Uttoxeter -> Fenny Bentley (14.5 mi)
23/06 - Day 34: Fenny Bentley -> Blackwell (16.5 mi)
24/06 - Day 35: Blackwell -> Edale (12 mi)
25/06 - Day 36: Edale -> Crowden (16 mi)
26/06 - Day 37: Crowden -> Crowden (0 mi)
27/06 - Day 38: Crowden -> Standedge (11 mi)
28/06 - Day 39: Standedge -> Hebden Bridge (17 mi)
29/06 - Day 40: Hebden Bridge -> Cowling (10 mi)
30/06 - Day 41: Cowling -> Malham (16 mi)
01/07 - Day 42: Malham -> Malham (0 mi)
02/07 - Day 43: Malham -> Horton (13 mi)
03/07 - Day 44: Horton -> Hawes (12.5 mi)
04/07 - Day 45: Hawes -> Keld (12.5 mi)
05/07 - Day 46: Keld -> Middleton (18.5 mi)
06/07 - Day 47: Middleton -> Langdon Beck (7.5 mi)
07/07 - Day 48: Langdon Beck -> Langdon Beck (0 mi)
08/07 - Day 49: Langdon Beck -> Dufton (12 mi)
09/07 - Day 50: Dufton -> Alston (19 mi)
10/07 - Day 51: Alston -> Greenhead (15 mi)
11/07 - Day 52: Greenhead -> Stonehaugh (14 mi)
12/07 - Day 53: Stonehaugh -> Bellingham (8 mi)
13/07 - Day 54: Bellingham -> Bellingham (0 mi)
14/07 - Day 55: Bellingham -> Cottonshopeburnfoot (13 mi)
15/07 - Day 56: Cottonshopeburnfoot -> Jedburgh (18.5 mi)
16/07 - Day 57: Jedburgh -> Melrose (16 mi)
17/07 - Day 58: Melrose -> Melrose (0 mi)
18/07 - Day 59: Melrose -> Innerleithen (18.5 mi)
19/07 - Day 60: Innerleithen -> Peebles (9 mi)
20/07 - Day 61: Peebles -> West Linton (15 mi)
21/07 - Day 62: West Linton -> Edinburgh (18.5 mi)
22/07 - Day 63: Edinburgh -> Edinburgh (0 mi)
23/07 - Day 64: Edinburgh -> Beecraigs (21.5 mi)
24/07 - Day 65: Beecraigs -> Beecraigs (0 mi)
25/07 - Day 66: Beecraigs -> Kilsyth (20 mi)
26/07 - Day 67: Kilsyth -> Drymen (20.5 mi)
27/07 - Day 68: Drymen -> Drymen (0 mi)
28/07 - Day 69: Drymen -> Rowardennan (14 mi)
29/07 - Day 70: Rowardennan -> Inverarnan (12.5 mi)
30/07 - Day 71: Inverarnan -> Tyndrum (10.5 mi)
31/07 - Day 72: Tyndrum -> Kingshouse (17 mi)
01/08 - Day 73: Kingshouse -> Kinlochleven (9 mi)
02/08 - Day 74: Kinlochleven -> Kinlochleven (0 mi)
03/08 - Day 75: Kinlochleven -> Fort William (15.5 mi)
04/08 - Day 76: Fort William -> South Laggan (19 mi)
05/08 - Day 77: South Laggan -> Invermoriston (14 mi)
06/08 - Day 78: Invermoriston -> Invermoriston ( 0 mi)
07/08 - Day 79: Invermoriston -> Drumnadrochit (14 mi)
08/08 - Day 80: Drumnadrochit -> Inverness (19 mi)
09/08 - Day 81: Inverness -> Inverness (0 mi)
10/08 - Day 82: Inverness -> Dingwall (15.5 mi)
11/08 - Day 83: Dingwall -> Alness (9 mi)
12/08 - Day 84: Alness -> Dornoch (20 mi)
13/08 - Day 85: Dornoch -> Dornoch (0 mi)
14/08 - Day 86: Dornoch -> Brora (19 mi)
15/08 - Day 87: Brora -> Helmsdale (10 mi)
16/08 - Day 88: Helmsdale -> Dunbeath (15 mi)
17/08 - Day 89: Dunbeath -> Dunbeath (0 mi)
18/08 - Day 90: Dunbeath -> Wick (21 mi)
19/08 - Day 91: Wick -> John O' Groats (17.5 mi)