Walking from Lands End to John o'Groats

April 2015: Wikipedia says that the shortest distance by road between these two British extremities is 874 miles. Probably over a thousand on foot. The call of the wide open countryside has lured me back to try again.

Will I make it? Am I as fit as I was ten years ago? Find out here over the next few weeks and months.


Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Basingstoke Thursday 16 April 2015

Sitting in chaos at home a week and a bit before the start of my holiday long walk. Tina and I are not sure how we are going to travel down to Cornwall - drive or train? We're doing the first week together which will be lovely. No tents to start with as the one I plan to carry is too small for two. Plenty of time to be under canvas later.

I've sorted out a charity page, which makes things a bit tricky if I don't complete the walk...

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Basingstoke Friday 24 April 2015

Getting quite exited now :) Our train leaves at 6.45 am tomorrow and we get to Penzance just after one. Ken has offered us a lift to the station! I was going to walk but Teen put her foot down.
If we can, we're going to get a bus down to Lands End and walk back to Penzance. That would be the first short leg out of the way on Saturday.
We packed our bags tonight. Mine was lighter than I thought it would be - just under two stones according to the bathroom scales. Mind you, I'm nine stone seven according to those scales...

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Penzance Saturday 25 April 2015

Start: Lands End
Finish: Penzance
Miles walked today: 11
Total miles: 11

We're walking along a narrow country lane. The hedgerows are all yellow gorse and white may. Behind the hedges are freshly ploughed fields of an impossible rich brown colour which wouldn't look out of place in a child's crayon drawing. The rain has stopped and we've just had a delicious beer in a village pub. All in all a pleasant contrast to the development at Lands End itself, which is a bit of a carnival sideshow.
The day started very early, our limousine arrived on time and Ken and Carol whisked us off to the station to get our 6.47 train. Thank you both so much :)
Arrive in Penzance at 1.15, rush to the B&B - www.morrabplacebedandbreakfast.co.uk - drop our packs off, and get to the bus stop for the 1.43 to Lands End. Except that I've looked at an out of date timetable, and the next bus isn't for an hour.
No problem.... walk out of Penzance, and thumb a lift on the A 30. Which, amazingly, worked.
Sue pulled up in her chic Fiat 500 and said she could take us to her village, about halfway to LE. Teen, Sue and and I chatted about her previous address (Kent), her wedding anniversary (tomorrow - 18 years - congratulations), her family (husband and daughter), and our walk. Before we knew it she had taken us all the way to LE. What a lovely person.
(Note to self: Sue recommends The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - a novel by Rachel Joyce - relevant as it's about walking).
We stayed long enouh to sign the register in the LE hotel and take some photos.
The walk back started wet and brightened. We had dinner in the swish "Mackerel Sky Cafe" and retired to our room. Knackered.

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Helston Sunday 26 April 2015

Start: Penzance
Finish: Helston
Miles walked today: 17
Total miles: 28

It's funny how a tune rattles around in your head when you're out and about. Yesterday was Chacka Demus and Pliers seminal hit "Tease Me" - today Roxy Music's "Would You Believe" from their amazing first album. Teen says it's the same for her, the Proclaimer's "Walk 500 Miles" her most recent.
We walked for a while out of Penzance with Barry and Geoff. They are just over half way through the South West Coast Path. 630 gruelling miles from Minehead to Poole. They are both very experienced walkers, and marathon runners. Geoff has (amazingly) walked all the UK national trails.
Today we stayed on Geoff and Barry's path until Porthleven, where we diverted inland to Helston. The blue sky - punctuated with fluffy white clouds - was reflected in the sea. St Michael's Mount looked spectacular, and the birds were out in force singing to us. We saw some Choughs flying above, and Barry pointed out a seal poking it's nose out of the waves. A great many surfers could be seen trying to catch their special wave, their black wetsuits dotted about in the surf.
All along the coast were the remains of massive stone buildings and chimneys, a reminder of the bygone tin mining industry. Some of the mines extend a long way out under the sea.
The final leg of the walk today was through a national trust estate. Penrose Estate is a mixture of rich farmland and woodland around Loe Pool, the largest natural freshwayer lake in Cornwall, cut off from the sea by a broad shingle bar heaped up by heavy atlantic seas.
As we walked into Helston, we saw the Strathallan guest house, which had vacancies, a lovely room and a recommendation for an excellent Indian restaurant.

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Truro Monday 27 April 2015

Start: Helston

Finish: Truro

Miles walked today: 18

Total miles: 46

We've seen five wheel trims, various birds of prey, a fox, two viaducts, and heard a cuckoo. Which didn't really distract us from the feeling of being totally exhausted. Feet not too bad, other places surviving, but tired.
After an early start - and a delicious breakfast - we wandered lanes between Helston and Truro. All very scenic, but tough going. At one point we walked through a tumbledown farm yard, and chatted to the farmer. Rarely do you see someone who looks so perfectly in place. I took his photo - not on my phone, though. ( Update - I added the photo).
Truro cathedral looked stunning as we entered the tiny city, and we forgot our aches and pains.
Booked into the Mannings Hotel ( www.manningshotels.co.uk ) and grabbed a bite to eat in a pleasant pub. I notice from the photo below that the camera puts pounds on me...

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Newquay Tuesday 28 April 2015

Start: Truro
Finish: Newquay
Miles walked today: 13
Total miles: 59

Is Newquay the Blackpool of the North Devon coast? Possibly. It certainly has it's share of chip shops and amusement arcades. But behind the gaudy main street there are beautiful beaches, Georgian buildings and, of course, surfers everywhere.
We decided to walk the relatively short diatance to Newquay today to ease our aches and pains (successfully) and because we couldn't find anywhere to stay in Indian Queens. It's good to book ahead but annoying if you can't find anywhere. A fruitless search of Google last night made our minds up.
Disappointed not to visit Indian Queens as I wanted to sing this as we walked through:

Another day of lush lanes and pretty villages, then. A day also of Whatsapping with Ken. The petro-chemical industry must be on its knees.
We saw a HUGE solar energy farm, and lots of towering wind turbines. We also managed to sample a pint of Betty Stogs bitter (Cornwall's finest) - thanks Ken for your tireless research. No crisps though Carol...
Waves B&B had a vacancies sign as we walked into Newquay so we checked in then gorged on rock salmon and chips in town.
Thank you so much to everyone who has donated so far. It's quite a thrill to see the emails from Virgin Giving keeping us up to date.

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Bodmin Wednesday 29 April 2015

Start: Newquay
Finish: Bodmin
Miles walked today: 19
Total miles: 78

The early morning rained stopped just as we left our B&B. Very lucky with the weather so far. We passed through St Columb Major - a tiny town with tiny streets - just before noon, and had our second Cornish pasty of the trip. Such excitement...
We got to Bodmin around 4.30, and found Roscrea B&B and Sarah. A perfect place to arrive when tired and aching.

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Minions Thursday 30 April 2015

Start: Bodmin
Finish: Minions
Miles walked today: 17
Total miles: 95

We set off full of Sarah's delicious breakfast. If you want to stay in Bodmin, stay here!
After negotiating some busy roads to exit Bodmin we end up on our usual route of pretty lanes. In one village a man is sweeping his drive, and asks us our destination.
"Towards Launceston" we reply, pronouncing it "Lawn sest on"
He looks puzzled for a moment, then smiles,
"Ah, Lanston!" he says, in a broad Cornish accent.
We live and learn.
We pass through England's best village - 2004. It can't be that good as the pub is shut. The local shop keeper is taciturn to say the least:
"A lovely day outside"
"I'll just pay for these then"
"Thanks - have a good day!"
Later, sitting on a bench at Darite, our online travel guide finds us a room at the Cheesewring Hotel. You really need to get some work done, Ken.
After an interesting walk through deserted tin mines up onto Bodmin Moor we encouter a massive bull walking towards us. It seems unattended but quite harmless. Just around the corner is the hotel. Perfect.

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Launceston Friday 01 May 2015

Start: Minions
Finish: Launceston
Miles walked today: 11
Total miles: 106

Gary (photo below) told us at breakfast that the bull, a local feature, is called "Scrunch." He lives in a house with a local man and likes nothing better than to watch TV and have his belly rubbed.
Gary also said that a week ago Tim Burton spent two days filming Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children right outside the Cheesewring. The famous director and a huge retinue were often in the pub and Gary's wife spilt beer all over the great man and his PA...
Our walk to Launceston was damp and drizzly. A short day as Tina travels home tomorrow :(
The afternoon is brighter and after finding a room at the White Hart we explore the town.
There is a gallery:
in rooms above the old town walls full of amazing art and we talk to the proprietors for ages. All the amazing paintings, glass, ceramics and fabrics are the work of the husband and wife team.
Later we get coffee in a farm shop (shades of Borchester) where we are served by a very friendly and chatty woman. I wonder if her name is Helen? Launceston is just our sort of town, full of nooks and crannies. The ideal place for a B&B :)

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Okehampton Saturday 02 May 2015

Start: Launceston
Finish: Okehampton
Miles walked today: 21
Total miles: 127

Got to the second county today - Devon! The sign is very welcome and I turn to Teen to point it out... and she's not there :(
The bus to Exeter left Launceston at 9.40 and I wave to Tina and turn away to attempt the walk to Okehampton. While waiting for the bus I booked a bed in Okehampton Youth Hostel. A long way but a good incentive.
Lanes to Bridestow where I stop for a welcome pint and chat to a man sitting at the bar - from Aberdeen - and the bar man - from Orkney. Are there any real locals left in Corn - sorry - Devon.
There is a section of the Two Castles Trail which takes me onto Dartmoor and almost into Okehampton. The Youth Hostel is up a huge hill but it's good to get there.