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 - Todmorden Saturday 23 May 2015

Start: Todmorden
Finish: Todmorden
Miles walked today: 0
Total miles: 472

A day off! Whatever next?
Lesley and I have a delicious and leisurely breakfast and decide to walk to Hebden Bridge along the Rochdale canal. It's a lovely route and we stop often, examine locks and take photos. Although a little overcast it's quite warm and pleasant.
At Hebden Bridge we sit outside a bicycle shop (which doubles up as a cafe) and enjoy a coffee right next to the canal.
Hebden Bridge is perfect, the sun comes out and I wander around taking photos while Les scours the shops.
One shop catches my eye
and we spend a long time looking at the amazing recycled jewellery and talking to the lovely proprietor Karen.
We return to Tormorden on the other side of the valley. We're high up now, and Stoodley Pike Monument is clearly visible. The sun stays out, the scenery is wonderful and all is well with the world.
Back at Todmorden we pop into a local shop for apples and spend ages talking to the shopkeeper and his wife about his brother - mayor of Todmorden last year - and his uncle in Pakistan who sadly died recently. There were over 13000 people at his funeral. We see lots of photos and leave with regret that we might not be able to pop into that shop again.
An excellent dinner at the Queens Head rounds of a perfect day off.

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Skipton Sunday 24 May 2015

Start: Hebden Bridge
Finish: Skipton
Miles walked today: 23
Total miles: 495

It's funny how things turn out... They start off really tiny, defenseless and weak. Time goes by and they grow, thriving as you nurture them. You take pride in their progress, thrilled at each milestone. Eventually, as is the way with these things, they start to leave you, and soon you're left behind, lonely and bereft. Any way, enough about bank balances. Unless you've got a big one:
We're getting close to the target now.

Lesley got the train back to Nottingham. It was wonderful to see her. I started walking from Hebden Bridge at around 10.00.
The weather brightens as the day progresses. The sun shines in the afternoon. The wind doesn't drop much but is bearable. Charlotte, Emily and Anne must have wandered about here as it's near enough the heart of Brontë country. I don't see any of the hoards of Japanese tourists who are supposed to flock to these parts though.
The scenery is typical high moors, and lower down there are lush green fields punctuated with stone walls. I meet one other PWer who is heading for the campsite at Lothersdale.
When I get a signal I manage to book a b&b in Skipton
where I receive a very warm welcome from Jenny.
Football: the prediction game that Dot, Ken, Jim and I play has been won again by Jim. Well done to Ken, someone has to come last. Dot and I are very close for second place but I fluked it :)
Talking of football, Ken sent me this:

which shows that Saints aren't going to rest in their laurels.
PS Thanks to Sally and Chris for your kind donations!

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Horton in Ribblesdale Monday 25 May 2015

Start: Skipton
Finish: Horton in Ribblesdale
Miles walked today: 23
Total miles: 518

Imagine if you will, gentle reader (all five of you) that you are sat in a Bedouin tent. The walls are hung with rich tapestries and works of art. The carpet underfoot is thick and luxurious. The tent is furnished with all the trappings any nomadic desert dweller could wish for, including two large fridges.
This was the scene which awaited me at Horton in Ribblesdale campsite at around 7.30 pm tonight.
The tent has double glazed windows, and the door of the tent is solid wood. I knock timidly.
"Come in, come in" cried a disembodied voice from within.
I open the door to be greeted by a blast of lovely warm air and, if I wasn't mistaken, the aroma of the only grouse I really like - the famous one.
"Get your pack off lad, take a seat" says the older of the two occupants. "What would you like to drink?"
I have to say this is the best greeting I've ever had at a campsite. I'm rendered speechless for a moment.
"Whisky? Brandy? Or something long and cool?"
"Errr, do you think I could have a coffee?" I ask. I'm cold and long for a hot drink.
My benefactor seems taken aback, then laughs.
"Coffee? Why not."
While my drink is prepared, I'm quizzed about my walk, and own up to doing LEJOG.
"****ing hell" is the response. I note that the accent is more east Yorkshire, with the second and third letters of the expletive both "o"
As I sit sipping coffee and admiring the fantastic interior of the tent, Chris, the proprietor, enters. A large gentleman dressed in an immaculate three piece suit. His two friends update him about me.
"Have a biscuit, lad" Chris says, offering me a packet of large ginger nuts, "Take two - one gets lonely"
I wish I could have sat there all night but time was passing and my tent won't put itself up.
Tent erected, I make for the pub. Chris is in there, with his wife and son, Isobel and Jonathan. They invite me to sit with them and my resolve to go easy on the beer evaporates along with my beef sandwich and chips.

That morning when I leave Jenny's lovely B&B she gives me a donation. Thank you so much Jenny. We hug and say goodbye.
The Leeds and Liverpool Canal takes me to Gargrave, where I rejoin the Pennine Way to Malham. It's a bank holiday and packed with people. I walked a mile or two with Martin, a PWer who is wild camping all the way. We get a snack in the village hall and I walk on.
Malham Cove is a huge natural amphitheatre, very busy with bank holiday people, then later Malham Tarn, a large lake. The area is porous limestone, but the Tarn sits in a saucer of older slate, which traps the water.
The weather improves, and I catch Mancunian Mike. We ascend the 2277 feet of Pen-y-Ghent together, a bit of a slog with back packs and involving a bit of scrambling up rocks. The views are wonderful at the trig point.
The last word to Kenonymous:
"As you trudge the PW, do you find yourself hankering for a Ramsbottom??? You can grab a pint of it at Dent Brewery :-) .... baa!!!"

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Keld Tuesday 26 May 2015

Start: Horton in Ribblesdale
Finish: Keld
Miles walked today: 27
Total miles: 545

A long day - but good. I'm walking at 8.30 after saying goodbye to Chris's family and Mike.
Looking back at Horton in Ribblesdale I'm surprised to see the scars above the village from massive quarrying operations.
Around 10 I'm sitting and breakfasting on cheese, apples and digestives. It really is a life of luxury out here... (Does cheese go off? It's been in my pack a while, not refrigerated. Tastes and smells ok).
There is not a sound except for birds and the occasional bleat from a sheep. Wonderful.
Twice in the morning I see lively streams disappear into massive caverns leading deep underground. Potholing? Perhaps not for me...
I get to Hawes around 1.30 and get some refreshments in a bikers cafe. It's a pleasant place with a market today.
It's too early to stop so I decide to head for Keld, via Great Shunner Fell (2350 feet). The climb is relatively gentle. By seven I'm walking high up on one side of the valley of the River Swale. At one point the side of the valley is completely yellow with primroses.
Don't want to camp. B&B full, as is the (ex YHA) hotel. But there is an excellent campsite with yurts and rooms:
I share a room with David and Stephen from the US who have both just qualified as doctors - two weeks ago! They're doing the coast to coast walk as a reward for over six years hard study. (Keld is where the PW and C to C intersect).

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Middleton in Teesdale Wednesday 27 May 2015

Start: Keld Finish: Middleton in Teesdale Miles walked today: 23 Total miles: 568 My alarm is set for seven and I creep out of the room trying not to disturb Stephen or David. Downstairs I make a coffee and breakfast arrives in the form of a bacon and egg baguette. Mmmmm. How very civilised. Walking at 8.00. The weather is fine, with occasional sun. Four miles in I get to the Tan Hill Inn (Britain's Highest Pub!!) and duck in for a coffee. Sleightholme Moor is a boggy seven or eight miles of flat, high wilderness, where I meet Stuart. He too is walking LEJOG! We swap stories and it turns out he's walked the Pacific Crest Trail - last year. It makes LEJOG look puny and took Stuart almost six months. You may have read Cheryl Strayed's book or seen the subsequent film. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_Crest_Trail Later it's reservoir land, serving lots of northern cities, I presume. (Typical pub loo graffiti: don't flush the toilet, Leeds needs the water!). One last up and down, which includes a chat to a very pleasant farmer, a little rain, and I'm in the huge metropolis of Middleton in Teesdale. The Teesdale Hotel www.teesdalehotel.co.uk/ has a room and I settle in for a night of luxury and catching up with this humble missive from the great outdoors. Night night...

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Dufton Thursday 28 May 2015

Start: Middleton in Teesdale
Finish: Dufton
Miles walked today: 22
Total miles: 590

What a day! Wild waterfalls, vertiginous views, flooded footwear and ailing alliteration.
I'm walking at 8.30 and following the River Tees to the west. West, you might ask, shouldn't you be headed north? Well, yes, but the Pennine Way does a sharp left turn for a day to take in some spectacular scenery before turning north again.
A nice surprise early on - I meet Stuart again. He too is headed for Dufton, which means we both have a long walk ahead.
What is it about barbed wire? I don't get it. At one point there is a field of sheep to the left, fenced with a double strand of barbed wire on top. Trees and the river are on my right, leaving a quite narrow path. It would be all too easy to catch clothing, back pack or skin on the wire, which is also at a child's eye level. Surely ordinary wire would be equally effective?
Enough moaning, as I meet two gentlemen out for a walk on the hills, looking for spring gentian. One of them, Brian Carter, asks about my walk and kindly makes a donation to the fund. What a nice man. I, of course, forget to take a photo.
Low Force and High Force are two waterfalls which are very easy on the eye. As the river is full, the water is cascading down through the rocks with great energy.
After another hour I reach Cauldron Snout, an altogether different scale of waterfall. The Tees pours down from a great height and is truly spectacular.

The wind is blowing constantly from the west, and now the path rises up through Maize Beck. A boggy few hours are spent with the Tees on my left and the wind pushing me back. At one point my left boot goes under, and fills with muddy water. It had to happen sooner or later...
There are places where the path scrambles over boulders and streams need crossing as they join the Tees. Some of these tiny tributaries spring right out of the rocks from dark places.
I knew that the long slog would be rewarded, and I was not disappointed. Suddenly the desolate moorland disappeared, and spread out before me is a deep, narrow valley: High Cup Nick. In the distance is the lush Eden Valley, and beyond that the mountains of the Lake District. It is truly a wonderful view.
A gentle descent takes me to Dufton youth hostel.
The hostel is a delight. I pop over to the pub for a pint and some wifi, then return for dinner at seven. And... they do breakfast :)
Angela made a comment on my fund raising page (thank you so much) about my "wonderful blog" - are you reading the same blog I'm writing, Angela? Good to know I'm up to six readers if so :)

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Alston Friday 29 May 2015

Start: Dufton
Finish: Alston
Miles walked today: 19
Total miles: 609

Oohh hello! How are you today dear reader? Good day? Grab a hot beverage, pull up a chair, and find out how my day went...
Breakfast. I'm finding the full English a bit much so the marvellous hostel sends me on my way full of the vegetarian option.
The weather is damp, not raining, and the tops of the hills are lost in cloud.
Quite early on there are stacks of huge stone paving slabs ready to pave yet another part of the Pennine Way. The photo below is a bit pants, apologies for that. I presume they have been dropped by helicopter. I know the purists don't approve of paving, but I'm happy to keep out of the sticky bog. I know some object to the cairns as well, but on a filthy day they are a welcome reminder that you're on track.
The path leads ever upwards, past Knock Fell, Great Dun Fell with ita ghostly radar globe, Little Dun Fell and finally Cross Fell at 2930 feet. The cloud occasionally parts and gives me tantalising glimpses of the views I'm mostly unable to see. On a clear day it's possible to see the sea and, to the north, the hills of Galloway in Scotland. The weather plays games, and in the space of ten minutes there is weak sun, rain, and, at the highest point, sleety snow. Mercifully, the Helm Wind, notorious at Cross Fell, is absent.
Greg's Hut is a refuge just a little down from the summit, where I stop briefly for a snack, and am startled by a fellow PWer who arrives just as I am leaving. He's the first person I've seen all day.
The rest of the descent is pleasant, with views opening up to the north, then a riverside few miles to Alston, where the youth hostel awaits me.
As I shower I ponder on the good advice I've been given, several times, to "Look after your feet." Just how does one not look after ones feet? Leave them outside all night? Wear stilettos over Cross Fell? Let them eat too many sweets? I know what these kind folk mean, but no one advises me to look after my ears, for example. They should, though, as they are sunburnt and slightly uncomfortable. Poor me... Night night :)

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Greenhead Saturday 30 May 2015

Start: Alston
Finish: Greenhead
Miles walked today: 17
Total miles: 626

Today was supposedly an easy day, following a lower level route along rivers and over moors. It started well: the youth hostel has red squirrels nesting right outside the dining room window. Breakfast with red squirrels - a unique event for me.
The weather was kind to me - no rain, some sunshine, and hardly any wind. The moors turned out to be very boggy and, on a small scale, hard to navigate. There must be some psychological reason but it didn't feel like an easy day.
I met up with Stuart again at Greenhead, also Dan, a PWer who I've seen a few times over the last few days. We sat at the bar of the Greenhead Hotel swapping stories of wet boots, and places we'd seen and would like to see.
Hadrian's Wall tomorrow!! But I'm not sure if it will stay dry...

Top ten walking tips

10 Never trust a wet rock. You could end up some or all of the following: wet; hurt; embarrassed. I know...
9 Always say hello to the animals. They have feelings too. "Hello sheep," "Morning birds!"
8 Always carry a compass. You never know when you might get lost.
7 Never carry a compass in a pocket near your phone. The magnets in the phone and its case will de-magnetise your compass, leading to great confusion.
6 If you haven't seen anyone on your path for a few hours and desire a bit of human company, take what the Americans euphemistically call a "comfort break." As soon as you start your "break" it's a certainty that a gang of walkers will stroll along, leading to an awkward moment for both parties.
5 If you're at a fork and uncertain which way to go, take the high path. If you're wrong, at least you won't have to go uphill to get back on track. (I ignored my own advice this morning. Much cursing ensued).
4 Always be super polite to the people where you are staying. It does pay off. From campsites to hotels, the hosts will be prepared to go that little bit further for you.
3 Blisters and sore feet will happen, no matter what precautions you take. But don't worry - after three weeks or so your feet will have toughened up :)
2 Expect bad weather. It's a bonus when it doesn't materialise
1 Enjoy your walking. One life - have fun every day :)

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Bellingham Sunday 31 May 2015

Start: Greenhead
Finish: Bellingham
Miles walked today: 22
Total miles: 648

Suddenly, there it is: Hadrian's Wall. I've been walking for thirty to forty minutes or so, climbing gently. It's quite misty, unlike the sunny day last time I was here, which seems to generate a more appropriate atmosphere for this special place.
I walk up to the wall, and rest my hands and forehead on the cold stones. I try to commune with the long gone Roman soldiers who manned this northern outpost of the Roman empire. Did they volunteer for this posting? Were they lured by extra pay? Did they all have wives and children back home? How did they adapt to the climate? And how did they cope with the logistical problems communicating with Rome? Or the south of England for that matter?
Unbidden, a face looms up from my subconscious mind. A giant of Roman history. This mighty figure utters those immortal words:
"I have a vewy gweat fwend in Wome called Biggus Dickus!"

The walk along the wall lasts all morning. It's truly unique and amazing. The ground goes up and down like a roller coaster. Then it all becomes like an episode of Casualty. Two people within a half a mile of each other have fallen and hurt themselves badly. Ambulances are summoned and I can do nothing to help so I walk on.
(Another sad event. I read in the local paper at breakfast that on Friday - the day after I walked past - a father out with his family drowned while swimming at Low Force waterfall.)
Just after midday I leave the wall and head north. Soon I bump into a ranger, out collecting litter and looking out for people who need help. He tells me that some colleagues have walked the Pennine Way and Hadrian's Wall with Google Steeet cameras on their heads. Yes, within a month you can experience walking the entirety of these paths without leaving your chair! If only I'd known ;)
The afternoon is spent walking through coniferous plantations and more moors. It's very boggy, of course, but I survive. The sun comes out in earnest as I cover the last few miles and I check into the hostel at Bellingham relieved that another quite long day is over. I've been walking for around nine to ten hours without more than a five minute break.
Dan from yesterday is staying at the hostel, as well as Keith, who has walked from Lands End but is finishing at the end of the PW.
I know who Mrs of Old Basing is now :) Thanks Denise for your support. Tina did the detective work.
Last word today to Kenonymous:
Bit of trouble finding a brewery near you tonight. It'll have to be something else - is a glass of Fentimans Botanically Brewed Ginger Beer ok?? (Dont go urgh .... please! After all, there IS a nice video)

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Byrness Monday 01 June 2015

Start: Bellingham
Finish: Byrness
Miles walked today: 15
Total miles: 663

Byrness is a tiny and remote place. The hotel is closed. As is the filling station where you used to be able to get a mean hot chocolate. The youth hostel is now "Forest View Walkers Inn," the same two middle houses in a row of terraces. My only problem is that there is a "No Vacancies" sign in the window. There is nothing else in the village, and a campsite a mile or two back. It's just starting to rain and I'm feeling a little concerned.
The lady proprietor arrives and takes pity on me. I can camp in the back garden for free, so long as I have dinner. I'm happy with that as there is nowhere else for miles.
The day's walk was short and uneventful. Some fields, some coniferous forest, some very boggy patches, and some gravel tracks. And a fence with five (yes, FIVE) strands of barbed wire.
Before I put my tent up, rain starts, and Keith and Dan arrive. Dan and I get our tents up in a brief pause in the downpour.
The hotel ìs full, there are lots of people chatting in the conservatory looking at my and Dan's tents and making jokes about the rain...