The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

East to West Route: Part 4

The last section of the route, and you may notice that it involves the most indecision too. Whereas on other parts of the route the current plan has completely superseded the original plan, here I have left our options open. It was the approach to Edinburgh that seemed to present the greatest number of options and as it stands we intend to take the longest route – via North Berwick and the coastal route to the Forth Bridge.


North of Crieff the spur is a red-herring. I obviously started to plot something and then realised that it wasn’t sensible, but for some reason I’ve not deleted the route.

Rannoch Moor is the next place where I’ve plotted two alternatives. One goes via Kingshouse, along the West Highland Way, to Kinlochleven, the other takes a longer route, but one we’ve not taken before. Barring atrocious weather or ill-health, we’ll be avoiding the WHW as far as possible.

The final indecision is the final push to Ardnamurchan. I originally plotted a longer route to keep off the road as much as possible, but on further consideration conceded that it’s quite probable that by that point we’ll be so focussed on reaching our destination that we won’t mind a day on tarmac, so I plotted the road route too.

We’ll certainly walk some of that road in any case, as once we reach Ardnamurchan we’ll have to walk back east a little way to catch a bus to Fort William so that a train can be caught to Strathcarron.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

East to West Route: Part 3

On the original plan we would have joined the Pennine Way at Middleton in Teesdale and followed it to Cauldron Snout. It’s a lovely walk, but we’ve done it before. Moreover, on looking at the bigger picture I realised that I’d plotted three sides of a square, so on one of my route-tweaking evenings I re-plotted. Once again, by taking to ground that we’ve not before trodden the route also becomes more direct.


On this section we hit and cross out LEJOG route. For about a mile just before the Scottish border we follow the Pennine Way, before we head off along Dere Street towards Jedburgh. A little more repetition occurs after Jedburgh until Melrose before we head off to the north.

More of ‘heading off to the north’ in the next (and final) route post…

Monday, 21 February 2011

East to West Route: Part 2

By the way, my splitting up of this route into parts is completely arbitrary. It’s simply as much as I can fit onto my screen without faffing around too much with overlaps.


Originally I had planned to head further up the Cleveland Way, to pick up the Coast to Coast route, but finally settled on taking the (approximate) route of the Lyke Wake Walk from Ravenscar. It has the advantage of being a route that we’ve not taken before, and also cuts 10 miles off the original plan. Otherwise, I don’t think that I changed too much on this chunk.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

East to West Route: Part 1

With precisely one month to go until we start walking from Lowestoft (deep, calming breaths), I thought it was about time that I announced our chosen route.

As planned our East to West route totals 798 miles. In reality (on paper, at least) it will be less than that, as experience suggests that in some places I will have inadvertently plotted an unnecessarily circuitous route and in other places we’ll opt for a slightly less attractive direct route for some reason. I expect that it will come out at around 775 miles.

Here’s the first chunk of our intended route:


You’ll spot that in some places there are two alternative routes plotted. This is the refined version – originally I plotted a ridiculous number of options. For example, one possibility was to head up to the north coast of Norfolk and follow the coast for a few days before dropping down to King’s Lynn, but after much pondering and for various reasons we’ve opted for the inland route, and hence the coastal alternative is no longer shown.

In case you’re wonder, all the yellow labels show the location of campsites (the red labels showing the location of campsites which, for one reason or another are unlikely to let us stay).

Part 2 to follow…

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Catch-up (2)

Thursday 17 February

Thursday wasn’t one of my allocated working days, and I usually try to get in a decent walk on non-working days. This week, however, I needed to pop into work on Thursday afternoon, but didn’t want that to scupper my need for a walk, so I hatched a plan to combine the two by walking into work.

A bit more consideration told me that walking 19 miles, in my current state of fitness, in order to arrive in time for a 2pm meeting, was unlikely to see me arrive in a fit state to do much, but after a bit of thought the answer was found.

By catching a bus to Burton the walk was reduced to just 13 or so miles. As it went I walked a bit further, because at the point where I was supposed to leave the Trent & Mersey canal and take to the roads I decided that I couldn’t face 4 miles on roads (I drove those roads each day and they’re not dreadfully inspiring), so I opted to walk a little further, be traffic free and not have to walk through any dodgy estates. The re-routing saw me joint National Cycle Route No. 6 – the same cycle route as we’d been on a week earlier in the Sherwood Pines Forest Park area. That set me to wonder where the route starts and ends, and a bit of Googling has told me that the route will eventually link London with Keswick.

I was pretty impressed that of the 14.25 miles that I covered, only the first quarter of a mile and the last quarter of a mile was on road. The rest of the route was entirely traffic free; I didn’t even have to cross a road.

IMG_2086 Floodedness just before the Trent & Mersey crosses the River Dove

IMG_2088Funnily enough, warnings of quicksand are not something that I associate with the Midlands. Happily I managed to clear the area without getting sucked in… 

Friday 18 February

Thursday had seen me walking under grey skies and Friday was no better in terms of weather. What was better was that I had company as Mick joined me to walk to the library to return the maps of Scotland that I’d borrowed to plan the TGOC route.

The high route was shunned due to the certainty that it would be muddier than a muddy place, and so it was to the canal tow-path that we took (which was surprisingly low on mud levels, given the mud-fests that I’d encountered the previous day).

By cheating and driving to the other end of the village first, 11 miles were covered, with a mind-boggling 200 feet of ascent!


Be thankful we don’t have smellivision; it was a smelly brewery day yesterday.

Saturday 19 February

Today was supposed to be a long walk, but awaking to the sound of rain I wasn’t moved to jump up and get out of the house. Instead I procrastinated by cooking six more meals and putting them in the dehydrator, which delayed us long enough to give the rain time to stop. Per the forecast, so it did, and off we went to the Chase to enjoy a mainly-mud-free route (or so we thought).

Well, it must have rained some last night! Never have I seen so much standing water on those paths and tracks. On some of the tracks it wasn’t even standing water; rather, we were walking up- or down-some significant streams. It had been a poor decision on my part to take a change from the perfectly water-tight boots that I’ve worn so far this year and use an old pair of Salomon’s which I know to leak!

It was dreadfully grey too, with cloud covering the highest points, but on the plus side it was dry, save for a bit of mizzle, and extraordinarily quiet (when we arrived at Stepping Stones, where we stopped for a cup of tea and a hot cross bun, there was not a single other person within sight; that has never happened before).

With 8.25 miles covered we arrived back at the car to be pounced on by two people wearing fluorescent yellow jackets and wielding clip-boards. Their mission was to conduct a simple survey, and we were more than happy to take part, but they couldn’t have chosen a worse day for it in terms of numbers of people passing by. The forecast is better for tomorrow, so hopefully we’ll get our long walk in.


Shhh! If you don’t tell anyone that I forgot the camera today then they’ll not know that this photo was taken 11.5 months ago. Today I was wearing the same hat, jacket, trousers and boots, but was rather more muddy, and didn’t have that backpack or pair of gloves with me.

Friday, 18 February 2011


A couple of weeks have passed in silence, but that’s not indicative of my mileage having slipped. Here’s a bit of a catch-up:

Tuesday 8 February

With a mid-week trip to CenterParcs at Sherwood, Mick & I shunned our usual CenterParcs activities in favour of exploring the local area (with one eye on our rapidly approaching Big Walk Departure Date and continued lack of fitness). So, on the Tuesday I announced our intention to take a 5-mile stroll in Sherwood Pines Forest Park, and Vic, Juan, Tilly and Tony opted to come with us (well, technically, Tilly (being 11 months old) didn’t express a preference on her day’s activities).

The day was glorious (if a touch frosty), which may be the reason why each time I said ‘we can take this path to loop back’ the opinion that came back was that we should take the longer route.

It seems that I completely failed to take any meaningful photos of the day, but this snapshot (which fails to capture effectively the interesting mine workings which were the objective of the shot) does evidence the lovely blue sky:

IMG_2073a The end result was that we overshot the intended 5 miles, eventually covering 8.25 miles. Vic gets a special mention for having carried Tilly the whole way – which was the equivalent of her having a full backpack on whilst the rest of us strolled along unladen.

Wednesday 9 February

On Tuesday’s walk we had passed pretty close to a couple of geocaches, so on Wednesday we decided to venture back through Sherwood Pines Forest Park to see if we could find them.

Leaving the Forest Park on the opposite side to the CenterParcs complex, we took to National Cycle Route No. 6, which follows a disused railway line. Urgh!  Whilst the Forest Park is perfectly nice, the cycle route wasn’t. There’s obviously been a problem in the past with vehicles getting access to that tarmacked route, with the attendant fly-tipping and burning out of (presumably stolen) vehicles. It seems that the vehicular access problem has now been solved, but that the path wasn’t cleared up first. So, the conditions on the route were either extraordinarily slippery (due to leaf cover combined with lack of use) or extraordinarily unattractive with piles of rubbish and strewn broken glass to negotiate.

We were only on the cycle route for a relatively short while, and having found the two caches (one of which was particularly tricky, making us rather pleased to have found it) we were soon back in the Forest Park and enjoying a pleasing walk through native trees as well as the pines.

The outing had seen us covering 9 miles, mainly under grey skies, but at least the rain held off.

Thursday 10 February

“I’m hoping that we’ll be able to trespass along this bit of track” I said, pointing at the map (a bit pointlessly as Mick didn’t have his specs on) “and get into the Country Park that way”. The plan was a very short (2.5-mile) circular walk, including a bit of Rufford Country Park.

My short trespass didn’t quite work out though, causing us to find ourselves furtively skirting the edges of fairways and greens, trying to work out how we could get off the golf course, across a water course and to where we needed to be. The answer turned out to be by walking an extra couple of miles.

It was a worthwhile extra couple of miles though, as we saw bits of the country park that we wouldn’t otherwise have seen, and a very pleasant place it seemed to be. When we find ourselves back at that CenterParcs again, we’ll give the place a better exploration – but on this occasion we had a lunch date to keep, so we were happy with the 4.5 miles we had covered and the two geocaches found.


Obviously my week for taking pretty crap photos! This is one of the mill buildings in the Country Park

IMG_2080And the view of the house taken from the ‘Broad Walk’ 

Friday 11 February

Shortly after arriving home from CenterParcs our next door neighbour popped around to say that his hedge-cutting man was coming around within the half hour to cut the hedgerows in the field at the end of the garden (we’re talking a tractor-hedge-cutter here, not a man with pair of hedge-trimmers). That meant it was advisable for me to move my car until he was done, and so it seemed sensible to park it just up the road, at the entrance to the estate, and take a stroll whilst the hedge-cutting was on-going.

Darkness was already falling as I set out, so it was just the shortest of my circuits, but better to stretch the legs than not, I thought.

Saturday 12 February

The downward trend in the length of our walks continued, but this time for a good reason as we introduced our 6-year old grand-daughter to the fun of geocaching in some local woods. Only a mile was covered on foot (five geocaches found), but grand-daughter loved it.

Sunday 13 February

An absolute mud-fest in a light drizzle ended the downward trend of walk length, as I took the ‘haute route’ to the supermarket. Not much else to say about it, really.

And so that wraps up last week…

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Did It Wear Off That Quickly?

Last week I observed that there was an unusually high number of people out on Cannock Chase and that many were clutching maps or guide books.

Today couldn’t have been more of a contrast. Remarkably few people were seen during our five hours of leg-stretching and of those we did see most were in the three sizeable groups we passed (one of those groups being 26 people on horseback – an unusual sight).

Was it that Cannock Chase hasn’t received so much publicity this week?

Or was it that few people felt inclined to go out on such a wet and windy day?

TGOC Route

The route has been vetted. Very helpful pointers have been received. I had caused some confusion, but clarification has been provided and it didn’t involve any changes to the route. So, the route is now set.

We’ll be setting out from Strathcarron on the Friday afternoon (working on the basis that we reach Ardnamurchan on the 11th May, wend our way to Fort William on the 12th to spend the night, then head up to Strathcarron on the 13th).

It’d be nice if Loch Carron is looking like this:

Day 49 12

We’re not going far on the first day (given that we’re not planning to set out until after lunch), but Day 2 will see us cover the length of Loch Monar and beyond, positioning ourselves to pop over some lumps above Glen Strathfarrar on Day 3.

Day 4 sees us (perhaps inadvisably) cross Eskdale Moor to end the day in Drumnadrochit, where I’ll spend a night fretting about the impending ferry ride and wondering why I ever thought that a route involving a ferry was a good idea.

The Monadhliath will be the subject of our explorations the for Days 5 and 6. I have no clear picture in my mind as to what this area’s like, but am very much looking forward to finding out, before we land in Aviemore (well, Coylumbridge really).

Fingers crossed for reasonable weather on the seventh day, as the Lairig Ghru has been on my ‘want to do’ list for years so there will be disappointment indeed if I don’t get to see it.

Day 8 is ‘the middle Saturday’ and Mick made a special request to be sociable on this year’s crossing, so on Middle Saturday we’ll arrive in Braemar. We may even stay there for a second night.

Fingers crossed for good weather again on Day 10, as Lochnagar looks absolutely spectacular from the map and I’d like to see how the reality compares.


Hopefully there won’t be so much standing water at Tarfside!

Even though Tarfside lies at the end of our eleventh day, our route in differs from the one we took previously, as does our route out the following day, for on Days 12 and 13 we’re going to head over to investigate a bit of the Fettoresso Forest.

A final hop, skip and a jump, before heading down to the bash in Montrose, will see us hit the east coast at Stonehaven.

So, that’s the plan. Given some bad weather it could look quite different – and potentially a couple of days shorter. Did I mention that my fingers are crossed for good weather?


Tuesday, 1 February 2011

January (with a gratuitous graph alert!)

At the turn of the year, when I was announcing last year’s walking statistics, Mick asked me how many miles per day I had averaged over the year. The answer was 4.97. It wasn’t something that I’d considered before, but upon doing that sum, and realising that I’d fallen just 12 miles short of averaging 5 miles per day I decided that 5 miles per day seemed like a good average to aim for this year – or 1825 miles for the whole year.

With the first month of the year been and gone I’m pleased to see that I’m pretty well on target so far.

Here’s this January compared with the same month for the previous five years:


“Start as you mean to go on” I always say. It’d be nice if one year I managed to go on as I’d started!