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.

Lejog

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Stourport on Severn Wednesday 13 May 2015

Start: Great Malvern
Finish: Stourport on Severn
Miles walked today: 22
Total miles: 334

Over breakfast Carol and BJ tell me about their lovely B&B, and ask me about my walk. I am taken aback when they refuse to charge me for my night's stay. Despite my repeated offers, they both insist that they don't want payment and want to help my walk. I can't get over how kind and generous they are. They have had a very busy year since taking over
www.puddlelanemalvern.co.uk/
and are leaving for Madeira on Friday for their first break in over twelve months. We exchange best wishes for our respective trips and I start walking.
The few miles to Worcester seem to take forever. The path I'm following - The Three Choirs Way - is a bit fiddly, but eventually I find myself following the river Severn past the very impressive Worcester Cathedral.
(What's the first thing you think of when the word Worcester is mentioned. Sauce! For me anyway. Mmmm.)
A couple of gentlemen sitting on a bench call out to me and we exchange walking stories.
The Severn Way will take me further north along the river. It should be straightforward, but at one point the path gets narrower and blocked by fallen trees, which I climb over or duck under. Eventually I reach a tiny tributary to the Severn which I cannot cross. Only now do I think to look at my map. The path left the river about a kilometre back. Grrrr. After retracing my steps I walk through an agricultural / industrial hotchpotch of small businesses then return to the river. There are pleasant meadows alongside the brown and sinuous Severn. At one point I remove my pack and lie down on the cool springy turf. I shut my eyes for a moment and consider forty winks. Not today... I keep walking...
A phone call from Suma updating me on her driving progress. Its great to hear from her. She has very generously donated to the Hospice. Thank you so much Bobby, Suma and Alvita! Also a text from Nathan - he's passed his test! Well done Nathan, and Darren too.
I reach Stourport on Severn around five. I sit outside an attractive pub with rooms next to the river. I call the pub, and several B&Bs, all are fully booked. There is a golf club with rooms a couple of miles to the north, and luckily, they can accommodate me.
www.burlishparkgc.com/
I could choose the campsite marked on the map, but it's going to rain tomorrow and I don't fancy striking camp in the wet. I am so soft. I didn't feel too bad walking the extra distance. A long day.
You must take a look at my donation page:
http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RichardFosh
Anonyken is buying me a daily beer (a notional pint), with local suggestions. Today's is:
http://www.hobsons-brewery.co.uk/our-beers/hobsons-old-prickly/
I keep searching for these daily brews. Thanks old sausage!

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Himley Thursday 14 May 2015

Start: Stourport on Severn
Finish: Himley
Miles walked today: 15
Total miles: 349

A day of rain and wonderful surprises...
The route this morning took me to Bewdley, along the Severn Way to Upper Arley, then along the North Worcestershire Path to Kinver, via Kinver Edge - a ridge with great views. The rain started quite gently, then set in with a vengeance.
At Kinver, I sat in the caves
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kinver-edge/
and drank a hot chocolate, while Googling and phoning to find a room. Eventually, I managed to book something at Himley.
Emerging from the National Trust tearoom into the rain, I took the route of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal most of the way to my room at the Himley House Hotel.
Ken phoned. He'd been trying earlier but I couldn't answer as I dared not get my phone wet. It turns out he's in Bridgenorth!
He's driven all the way up to Staffordshire to join me for a day or two. I'm gobsmacked. His plan was to walk nonchalantly towards me as I walked north along the Severn Way, and bump into me, but my route wasn't as he anticipated.
He joined me at the hotel. It turns out there aren't any twin rooms so we are going to make do with my double. Eric and Ernie all over again :-) It is a huge bed. Honestly...

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Brewood Friday 15 May 2015

Start: Himley
Finish: Brewood
Miles walked today: 14
Total miles: 363

Today was lovely. Company! How lucky am I to have such a good friend? Although Ken did construct a mini Berlin Wall down the middle of the bed...
Lots of highlights, including walking through "Giggetty" - honestly!
Now over to my guest diarist, blogger, and dear friend - Kenonymous:

Richard today informed me that he considered me, (Ken), his factotum......& I therefore find myself composing the blog-spot today.
We both woke refreshed in our shared bed. Richard was a bit grumpy, probably due to my refusal to read him a bedtime story last night. The hotel, though shabby, provided an excellent breakfast and we were soon checked out, leaving a slightly unsure receptionist wondering whether I truely was the top-bloke best mate that I am, or some casual acquaintance Richard had met online on Grindr some 10 minutes after checking in.
I began the day with some trepidation, as my foot was still quite hurty from 3 hours of pressure on the accelerator pedal yesterday. Rich showed little concern and so we headed off north out of Himley, got into our stride, & soon picked up the Staffs & Worcs canal towpath heading north.
I should really have had R on a lead as the excitement of approaching Giggetty (the western suburb of Wombourne) was becoming unbearable. There was something in the name that appealed. He'll grow up one day.
The lock gates we encountered were fascinating (honest) & the bargeman & lock-keeper we met filled us in on the history & engineering detail.....all good stuff. We left the canal behind only for the tranquility of the path that followed the disused rail line.
Wolverhampton was just to the east but you wouldn't have known.
Conversation had been constant as we relayed our latest news & experiences. The usual diversity of topics were covered & the miles flew by. The terrain was gentle & the sun shining. How could this get any better? A pub appeared - that's how :-) ......& so it came to pass that we sat in the company of a fish-finger sandwich with side order of beer.
The in-yer-head song today had been the Animal Magic theme tune, appearing from nowhere like an uninvited guest who then refused to bugger off for the rest of the walk.

The Staffs way was leading us on, past Codsall & over the M54, the noise of vulcanised rubber on tarmac almost deafening in contrast to our days aural intake.

The Shropshire Union canal led us into our final destination of Brewood, a very pleasant village dominated by a tall church spire which had been our focus for the last mile or so. The hotel was ideal, as was the evening pub.
www.lionhotelbrewood.co.uk/
A very, very, VERY enjoyable day.
The blister count was on zero, as was the bite, rash, sting, sore, stumble & fall counts. It hadn't rained either - it wouldnt have dared after yesterday. Perfick.
"Goodnight Eric"........
......."Sleep tight Little Ern."

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Stafford Saturday 16 May 2015

Start: Brewood
Finish: Stafford
Miles walked today: 13
Total miles: 376

Ken: The Lion Hotel was a gem. Thouroughly recommended.
Rich: Agreed.
Ken: What are those castings I'm pointing at on each canal bridge (photo below).
Rich: I haven't a clue, but guess at some sort of device to guide ropes?
Ken: Maybe someone out there can give us an answer........Chris or Nigel perhaps?
Rich: I do hope so. It's going to gnaw away at me otherwise. I'm hoping Chris will know what's being grown in the deserted poly tunnels too - also in photos...
Ken: Indeed - the ones encountered after our lunchtime stop. That pub was perfect wasn't it? .......shame the football wasn't on, but Katie was wonderful & good to chat to....
Rich: Football!!! A message from Dotty that Saints were 3 - 0 up with a record hat trick from Mane
K: Indeed.....we were concerned, as Southampton fans, about walking into a midland pub full of locals supporting a midland team that were losing 5-1 at the time......phew what a relief. Luckily our fears were unfounded......have I mentioned Katie yet?
R: A good day for the Hospice :) Katy (did we mention her already) donated - thank you so much - and here in the Vine Hotel in Stafford Pat Bailey also generously contributed. I need to thank at least a couple of other people but I'll save that for tomorrow when you're not plying me with Marston's Pedigree.
K: Glad to hear about Pat.....just the sort of lovely person to meet to keep your spirits up: ....just like Katie from the Red Lion - we can't forget to mention Katie :-)
I enjoyed the afternoon too, though less eventful than yesterday......agreed?
R: Yes, agreed. The YouTube video below is what we were chatting about today (already mentioned a week or two back). Every time we open a gate the screeching sound reminds me of the opening chord from Roxy Music's "Would You Believe " - it was nice to sing it together as we walked through that field of bewildered sheep.

K: Indeed! .....all the way into Stafford, where you desperately needed to locate a launderette....remember? You found one that was close to closing, but luckily you sent your pants & socks, by now almost feral, on ahead, where they made it themselves into the washer.....phew!!!
R: Phew indeed!!! Luckily it was a launderette of loose standards, they even let me use their equipment. The Romanian person was most helpful with my smalls. We have to go now, to catch Mane's hat trick, Long's goal of the season from 45 yards, and Pelle's final nail in the Villa coffin. Come on, we're not having another one!
K: OK OK!!!.....it's you who wanted to stay. Now turn this thing off & turn on the goggle box. COME ON OR WE'LL MISS THE START!!!
R: ..........................
www.albridgehotel.co.uk/

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Froghall Sunday 17 May 2015

Start: Stafford
Finish: Froghall
Miles walked today: 21
Total miles: 397

Back to talking to myself today...
Ken and I shake hands and sort of hug - it's not really a bloke thing is it - and he marches off to the station. I think he had fun - know I did :)
I head out of Stafford to the north, still not sure of my route and destination.
As I walk along the road leaving Stafford, I give my inaugural speech after being elected Prime Minister:

... and the first parliamentary business will be to honour my election manifesto. A new law will be passed immediately whereby any driver who turns right at a mini roundabout without signalling will have their car impounded and crushed. They will be sent on a two year rehabilitative correction course at Milton Keynes...

It could work :)
Lots of motorbikes roar past. They look like mean men and women, hells angels all, but I bet they're stockbrokers from Esher.
The day comprises of some roads at the start and finish, a long section of the Stone Circles Way through meadows, and a disused railway into Cheadle.
I encounter lots of cattle (I'm getting used to bullocks cavorting around me now), some sheep, a heron, and what could have been a buzzard.
Denise, a fellow driving instructor from Kent, has been advising me about cows. Her partner has a farm, and raises beef cattle. It seems that most of the bullocks I've encountered are likely to have been hand reared and are quite tame. They see humans and think "Food!"
Denise also advises me to give cows with calves a wide berth. Will do!
Nigel and Rebecca both say that the cast iron posts on the canal bridges are for ropes to rub as horses pull barges through. Saves the brickwork. Ken and I still don't know what the planks at each bridge are for. They're usually housed in brick containers.
A big thank you to Derek and Lynn for their support and donation:

"If Anon doesn't tell you, in those parts Slater's Smoked Porter will keep you going, & going, & going......."

Beer of the day:
www.peakstonesrock.co.uk/Oblivion.htm
Thanks Kenonymous!
I also received a message from Steve, Ken's colleague:

"Could you help me to settle a bet with my work mate Ken, who I understand will be joining you this weekend on your walk.
He tells me he doesn't regard anything less than 20 miles a day as a proper walk."

You obviously know Ken very well, Steve. If we include visits to the bar, we probably DID walk 20 miles each day ;) Thank you so much for your support and generosity.
Rain is forecast for the next day or two. Edale is my target, the start of the Pennine Way. It's too far for one day, so I'm going to do two relatively easy days. I think. I'm not going to worry about it tonight. It's too comfortable here at:
www.hermitagefarm.co.uk/

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Buxton Monday 18 May 2015

Start: Froghall
Finish: Buxton
Miles walked today: 20
Total miles: 417

It's amazing how quickly the landscape can change as you gain height. For the first three hours this morning, I climb (albeit gently) as the rolling Staffordshire scenery is replaced by the altogether more hard nosed Derbyshire Peak District.
The views would be fantastic - if I could see them. I emerged from the warmth of Hermitage farm full of their delicious breakfast into a light rain. The rain gathers intensity as I climb up. By the time I reach Morridge Moor Ridge the visibility is occasionally down to around 100 metres. Cloud surrounds me and it's cold enough to see my breath. I'm warm enough, except for my hands. I need some gloves. I can't help thinking of friends and family all cozy in their warm, toasty offices. A smile breaks out over my face and I stop, turn to face the way back so the wind is out of my face, spread my arms wide and shout a loud, long Alan Partridge "AAAHHHH HAAAA!!!!!" I wouldn't be anywhere else at this moment.

At one point the cloud is blowing across the road and I catch glimpses of a house in front of me. As I get nearer it appears to be the "Local Shop" from the League of Gentlemen. It's the spitting image. I wish I could take a photo but my hands are too cold and I'm still scared of getting my phone wet. Try this instead:

Eventually the weather eased, and I reached the village of Flash. There are signs claiming it to be the highest village in the British Isles at 1519 feet above sea level. It's cold enough to be true. My hands are completely numb. As I cross the busy A53 shortly after, there appears, like a mirage, a cafe. Hot chocolate and a Danish restore my circulation.
The rest of the walk into Buxton is dry, and the sun shows itself occasionally. I find a outdoors shop and buy some water proof gloves, and a compass. I've stupidly kept mine in my pocket near my phone, and de - magnetised it. Kenonymous has sorted a room at:
www.oldmanse.co.uk/
which is warm and very comfortable.
Ken's beer of the day:
Staying with Peakstones Rock Brewery; have a pint of this stuff:
www.peakstonesrock.co.uk/blackh.htm
After 3 weeks in the sun, it seems to describe you rather well :-)

Thank you so much Ken.
Buxton is a splendid town. It has grand architecture, an opera house, caves, public spaces, music and theatre festivals, amongst many other atttractions:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buxton
A short day tomorrow. Wet again in the morning. I might just put my tent up...

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Edale Tuesday 19 May 2015

Start: Buxton
Finish: Edale
Miles walked today: 11
Total miles: 428

To paraphrase Churchill:
This is not the end. This is not the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning
It's around 4 pm and the rain is beating a tattoo against the fabric of my tent. I'm lying down typing this inside the tent although there is no signal here in Edale. I plan to head over to the Nags Head a little later to see how their wifi situation is.
Edale! The start of the Pennine Way. The start of a trail which will take me 270 miles north and across the border into Scotland. Fingers crossed.
It's raining as I walk away from Elizabeth's lovely B&B. By the time I get to the edge of Buxton, it's turned to hail. Whatever next? I stride across a deserted track wondering where it will take me. Across a golf course, apparently...
The hail reverts to rain and for the rest of today's short walk it's a very mixed bag of weather. Occasional sun, sharp showers, and some strong gusts of wind. I skirt around the impressive Mam Tor, and drop down into Edale.
The very expensive water proof gloves I purchased yesterday worked very well. No more numb hands. When I asked the proprietor of the shop if he had any water proof gloves, I half expected him to go to the back of the store and return with a pair of yellow Marigolds. That's what I'd have done, anyway...
Thanks to the Reddit community for your support:
www.reddit.com/r/unitedkingdom/comments/36etul/im_walking_from_lands_end...
and to the mysterious Mrs of Old Basing. I'd like to know who you are... :)
Later... The Nags Head is perfect. Their fish finger sandwich is to die for. Ethan, behind the bar, chats to me enthusiastically about walking, life in general, and his job at the pub (two months in). He's a natural with people, has the right words for each customer, and will go far in life, I'm sure. I'm touched when he asked me to contact him if I want a walking partner.

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Crowden Wednesday 20 May 2015

Start: Edale
Finish: Crowden
Miles walked today: 16
Total miles: 444

A night under canvas! How romantic that sounds. Factor in wind and rain, and maybe not so. One of those nights when you listen to the comedy at 11.00 on Radio 4, then Westminster Hour, then the shipping forecast, then the World Service programmes. Perhaps I got a couple of hours sleep...
Ahhhhh Haaaaa!!!
In the morning I wait for the rain to stop for a moment, and pack everything away. Off I go towards the Nags Head and the official start of the Pennine Way (PW).
It is, to be frank, a tough day. Some steep climbs, and cold wind and some rain. The views are obscured by clouds, sometimes visibility is down to 100 yards.
I encounter several walkers, it's good to exchange pleasantries in an inhospitable landscape. Unlike the lake district, there are no distinct peaks here, just flat (ish) moorland tops
Eventually I drop down towards the reservoir near Crowden, my destination. As I descend, I hear disembodied voices. I look all round, and then see three men on top of a huge pylon. It looks quite dramatic.
The campsite at Crowden is very good. No charge for a hot shower either. No wifi and no phone signal though. The camp site lady did give me hot water for a pot noodle from her shop. Luxury...
I chat to a fellow camper, Chris, who is doing the PW, and also to a couple of lads walking past who are wild camping and navigating only with maps on their iPhone. Google maps or similar. They must be mad :) What it is to be young...
I'm in sleeping bag by 7.00 and listen to the Archers. I'm relatively warm thanks to Chris's lovely sleeping bag liner. It's silk, takes up no space, but seems to have an insulating effect. Good night all.

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Standedge Thursday 21 May 2015

Start: Crowden
Finish: Standedge
Miles walked today: 13
Total miles: 457

A miracle! I slept all night. And the tent is dry as there's no rain which makes getting packed and going so much easier.
Chris is preparing for the day and we set off together. He is an experienced walker and an excellent companion. Like most PW days, the start is a steep climb. Not much chatting from me as breathing is hard enouh but later I find out Chris is a retired fireman from Cambridge, around my age.
The wind is still chilly today, but it's clear and dry. We meet one or two walkers along the way.
At Standedge there is a pub around a kilometre off the PW with a campsite. At the bus stop next to the pub are the two young men from last night. They are calling it a day and heading back to Liverpool.
Tent up, shower (50p lasts ages) then a walk back up the road to get a signal. I speak to Tina, and Lesley, who might be able to meet me at Hebden Bridge tomorrow.
Back to the pub, which is now open, and a delicious meal with Chris. I am introduced to Titanic stout - truly a red letter day...
Three nights in a row in my tent!

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Hebden Bridge Friday 22 May 2015

Start: Standedge
Finish: Hebden Bridge
Miles walked today:15
Total miles: 472

Brian is one of those people blessed with a natural charisma. He's also got a vocabulary which is a little... colourful.
"**** me, another ****ing walker" he cries from behind the counter of his snack wagon, parked in a layby where the Pennine Way and the A672 intersect. A crowd of truckers huddled under the awning eating bacon sandwiches and drinking tarry tea snigger.
"They never spend **** all, either!"
(Insert your own expletives every three or four words from now on. You get the idea.)
He has the whole crowd in the palm of his hand. Pouring tea with one hand, turning bacon and eggs on the hot plate with the other, he keeps up a machine gun rat a tat tat of wonderful banter.
"Did you want black pudding with that?" he asks a trucker from Leicester, "Make your mind up!"
"Coffee and a bacon and egg roll," he says, confirming my order. I pay up.
"No tip!!!!" He exclaims, "Typical!!"
I tell him that I enjoyed my visit ten years ago so much that I felt I had to return.
He reminds the assembled throng that he's been in that layby for 38 years.
"I'm famous, I am. Been on all the TV shows. Coronation Street, Emmerdale, and in that **** Wallington's book!"
"Come on, one minute to go" he tells new arrivals. Apparently, he likes to finish at 11 am. Not surprising, if he starts at 4.00 am. No weekends any more, either.
I raise my phone and tell him I'm going to take his photo.
"**** off, it'll cost you £45.00 for a snap of me,"
He makes a pantomime of running up and down behind the counter to avoid my lens, then poses with tea pot and cup to make sure I do get a good shot.
I have to say that apart from visits from family and friends, this is perhaps the highlight of the last four weeks. Brian is exactly the same as he was ten years ago. There is something surreal but wonderful to walk out of the cold wind and rain and fog and find Brian's oasis smelling of bacon and tea.

The day started with fog and a wet tent. I did sleep well and awoke quite late. Chris was packing up at the same time as me, but I set off up the hill to the path before him to get a phone signal and find out if Lesley (my lovely daughter) had managed to get some accomodation for us. If so, she would meet up with me tonight.
Lesley had succeeded. But not at my destination, Hebden Bridge. The nearest she could book was a B&B in Todmorden. No problem. I'd walk to HB and get the train the four miles back.
I set off along the path. Not such a steep climb today. Visibility was around 75 to 100 yards. There was a wind from the west blowing drizzle across my face. Chris never did catch me up, so good luck to you Chris and I hope to see you further along the PW.
I did meet Martin walking the opposite way with his friend. He has done LEJOG in....
28 DAYS!!!
He must be made of steel.
I walked the rest of the way into Hebden Bridge with Mike, a Mancunian PWer. We passed the huge Stoodley Pike Monument,
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoodley_Pike
perched on the edge of a ridge. Truly massive, it stands 38 metres tall, yet we couldn't see it from 100 yards away due to the fog.
At HB, I got a coffee, then made my way to the station, and asked for a ticket to Todmorden. The ticket man said that I might have a little trouble with Yorkshire folk if I pronounced it that way.
"It's Todmadon" he kindly advised me. I was duly grateful.
Lesley and I met up at our delightful B&B
http://lindores-b-and-b.co.uk/
and hit the town. The Golden Lion to be precise. There was a live guitar duo belting out numbers which we knew, and excellent food. Perfect.

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