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, 30 April 2014

Day 5 – W of Penrhosfeilw to Rhosneigr

Wednesday 30 April (0700-1455)

Distance: 20.75 miles (Tot: 100)

Weather: Foggy start, then overcast; a couple of sunny intervals late on.


The sun set last night. I know that because I witnessed it:


I wasn’t able to witness it rise this morning for two reasons: 1) I was asleep; and 2) it was foggy:


Colin in the fog. Mick (very sensibly) was still in bed inside

It was tempting, when I first stepped outside, to turn around and go back to bed for an hour. But, I was up, my pack was on my back, my shoes on my feet and thus I didn’t give the fog chance to burn off, but rather groped my way (using the sound of the sea as my guide) back to the coast.

Visibility slowly improved as the day went on, and by the time I found the sea I could see sufficient yards to appreciate the gist of the surroundings.

I fear that I’ve been boring and repetitive with my raptures about coastal scenery, so I’ll not say more on that subject today. Instead, let’s talk about water.

There have been a few places on my way so far that I’ve thought “This would be a bit tricky at high tide; I’m glad the tide’s out!”. It was inevitable that at some point I would get to such a place at high tide, and today was that day. In the photo  below, the path goes down the slip-way and along the beach. I managed to clamber over the rocks on the left and got to the other end dry-shod:


The tide was still on its way in, and when I got to this newly installed board-walk a while later, I found they hadn’t installed it high enough:


I didn’t get my feet wet there either. Teetering along the left edge of the walkway, I managed then to rock-hop my way to dry land.

Then I got to this bit:


I actually approached from the other direction, but forgot to take a photo until I got to the other end

I did get wet feet here, although more by carelessness than necessity. By good fortune, just at the point where I would have had no option but to wade (and I would have waded rather than back-tracked), there was a set of narrow steps leading away from a mooring point. I followed them and from their top was able to walk across a grassy area to a road. My wet feet didn’t stay wet for long; Mick was waiting 100 yards up the road and whilst he cooked me a fried egg bap, I indulged in the luxury of a dry pair of socks Smile.

It was at the end of the day that I had a proper wade, which is a little ironic considering that I was relieved upon reaching the beach in question to find that the tide was out and thus I could avoid a soft-sand/dune walk by simply striding across the firm beach. That put me a little off course from the line of the coast path, but was not a problem in terms of general direction. The problem came when I reached the river at the far end of the long beach. Had I been on the coast path (which was now about half a kilometre away from me), there was a bridge, but I didn’t much fancy going all that distance out of my way. So, I took my shoes and socks off, left my trousers on (in view of the number of people around) and waded to mid-thigh across the river. It was quite refreshing! Not long later, I found Mick who had taken a gentle stroll down to meet me.

Another subject that warrants a mention is that this is not a peaceful area in which to be walking. Yesterday the Hawks were seen but not really heard, but for a few days the Sea Kings have been an intermittent droning presence. Today, in getting closer to RAF Valley, the noise was such that I had to give up on my audiobook as it was getting drowned out too often. In between the planes, there was the sound of the local racing circuit.

However, after the event, I’m pleased to have done this section on a weekday, rather than a quieter weekend. The path weaves about a bit and crosses the end of the runway three times. The first time is between the first and second set of runway approach lights. The next time is another set of lights further on, and the final time is right at the end of the runway. It was quite fun (but a little scary) to stand on the centre line and see a plane come at me so low that it felt like it would brush the top of my hair. Obviously, this photo was taken a little distance away from the line of the runway, but there was no zoom involved:


Finally, the distance is worthy of a mention today. When measured on the map, today should have been 19 miles long. As I’ve got the luxury of electricity at the moment, I’m carrying and using my Garmin Gadget and thus am getting accurate data as to the actual route taken and distance. It turned out that today’s route wandered around the cliffs far more than the line on the map suggested it would, such that (combined with the high tide detour) the intended 19 miles was actually just over 20.75 miles in length. That’s the biggest ‘measured versus recorded’ variance of the trip so far.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Day 4–Borthwen to W of Penrhosfeilw

Tuesday 29 April (0710-1555)

Distance: 20 miles (Tot: 79.25)

Weather: Glorious!


I’ve been spoilt for the last two days with almost uninterrupted rugged coastline. Today didn’t start off on the same spectacular footing. Indeed, it was a day of three parts and it wasn’t until the third part that I got back to the really good surroundings.

The first part of the day was perfectly pleasant, but gone were the rugged cliffs with steep ups and downs. Instead I had entered a much flatter area, which included an inland detour through some farmland to cross the Afon Alaw via a bridge that has saved what had previously been a nasty walk along an A-road. The river was quite picturesque, and the farmland inoffensive (although it did feature great stretches of long, wet grass which soaked my legs and feet).

Part 1 ended with a cup of tea and a very early first lunch. Mick needed somewhere to park up for the bulk of the day and, handily, the obvious place (just over the causeway to Holyhead) was directly on my route. So, at quarter past ten I sat down to first lunch and a cup of tea, taking with me, when I left, a second lunch for later.

Soon afterwards, I got to the outskirts of the town of Holyhead and I can’t claim to have enjoyed my passage through to the other side, what with an alleyway-esque path that made me a little uncomfortable, a road detour via the town centre (caused by my failure to find my way to the pedestrian bridge I wanted to take), and a group of drunks who looked worrying like they were going to try to engage with me as I passed by the church. Added to that, the local council seems to have decided that public toilets are not required in the town, and thus all were locked up, which only served to increase my discomfort!

Fortunately, Part 2 was short, and soon I was on to Part 3, which provided me, once again, with stunning views. I mean, just look at this:IMG_6649

The summit of Holyhead Mountain doesn’t lie on the coast path, but it is so close that it would have been rude not to have nipped up there on such a nice day. It appears a giant compared with the low level of the rest of the island, but only stands 220m high and thus was no great effort. Here I am, happy to be on the top (and listening to a rather good audio-book, hence the earphones).


People were out in force at South Stack, which is the site of one of my two memories of my last visit to Anglesey in 1987. On that occasion, my father and I stood on the headland there, leaning at 45 degrees into the wind, and still being blown backwards. It was rather calmer today, with barely a breeze.

IMG_6675Smiling away at the loveliness of my surroundings, it was only a mile or so further on that I spotted Mick, parked up in a field with an uninterrupted view back over Holyhead Mountain and South Stack.

As for today’s weather: I watched both the regional and national forecasts on BBC Breakfast this morning, both of which told me quite clearly that it was going to rain over Anglesey this afternoon. At 11am about 3 clouds bubbled up out of no-where. By noon they had gone. They were the only clouds seen all day, and as I type this the sun is still shining from wall to wall. I fear I’m not going to be quite so lucky with the weather tomorrow…

Monday, 28 April 2014

Day 3 - Bull Bay to Borthwen

Monday 28 April (0730-1650)

Distance: 19 miles (Tot: 59.25)

Weather: sunny intervals, quite hazy

Number of packed lunches carried today: 3

Number of packed lunches carried at any one time: 1

Number of packed lunches eaten by me: 1


In the league table of ‘unexpected turns of events during a walking day’, today is vying for a title position.

It all started ordinarily enough. Mick was a star and got me back to my start point before 7.30 this morning and off I toddled, through Bull Point and along the coast. Even though it wasn’t set off with the backdrop of a blue sky, it was every bit as lovely as yesterday, and I was really quite taken by the ruined buildings (copper mines, I expect) across the bay at Porth Wen:


Many a photo was taken as I made my way around the bay, and then the steep ups and downs started.

It was at the bottom of one of the downs, at a place called Hell’s Mouth, where the day went unexpectedly off course, when I came across a lurcher lying in the grass looking rather sorry for himself.

He looked in such a sorry way that I quickly handed over my lunch, of which he made short work, but in eating it he didn’t move more than his head. It was soon clear that the poor thing wasn’t capable of walking along with me, and that left me with a problem. Whilst I may not be an ardent dog lover, I have sufficient compassion for the beasts not to want to leave this lost chap in his predicament.

The situation wasn’t helped by Mick’s phone being turned off, my one mobile having no signal, and the other (it turned out) being down to its last few pence of credit. I spent those few pence wisely and despatched a text message to Mick asking him to call the police and/or RSPCA and to meet me in Cemaes with more lunch provisions.

I didn’t pay much attention to the next 2.5 miles, as I pondered what, if anything I could do to help the dog, and upon reaching Mick (who had turned his phone on and acted on my message only a few minutes after I sent it) I sat with a cup of tea whilst we mulled over the options. The final decision was that we would have to put trust in the RSPCA and I was just about to set off to dwell and be maudlin about the situation some more, when the phone rang. It was an RSPCA man, who had been despatched with all speed and was now just down the road.

Ten minutes later I was heading back the way I’d just come in the RSPCA vehicle and after an off-road adventure followed by a bit of a walk, the dog was found where I’d left him.

With the RSPCA man pulling on a lead and with me coaxing with my second set of sandwiches, the dog made it back to the vehicle, and within two and a half hours of me first finding him, he was on his way to the vet. Even though the end result will quite likely be death by a lethal injection in a couple of weeks’ time (no microchip and no identification collar means it doesn’t bode well for him), I consider it a satisfactory outcome. Given the choice between a painless lethal injection or a drawn out death of starvation and exposure on a cliff, I’d certainly chose the former.

Having been returned to Mick in the layby in Cemaes, I took no chances: I ate my third lunch before I set off again. By then it was noon, and I’d only walked 6.5 miles, so brought forward my end point for the day and planned to omit the almost-out-and-back of Wylfa Point.

I did stick with the revised end point for the day, but I couldn’t bring myself to omit Wylfa Point, which it transpires was donated, in 1969, by the electricity board as a open space for enjoyment by the local parishioners. I fancied that the donation was by way of an apology for a monstrosity of a power station that was being built next door.

Once past the power station, and the building site next door, the rest of the afternoon was lovely, good and interesting coastal walking, with my only complaint being about the bit that (due to a closure to prevent disturbance of ground nesting birds) took me across a pebble beach, into which I sank on every step.

By the time I was in my final mile, the day was feeling longer than its true distance. It was no doubt due to this morning’s disruption (and I suppose I did put an extra mile in on my second visit to Hell’s Mouth), but by and by (and along some slightly overgrown paths – they’ll not be pleasant in a couple of months time) that mile passed and Mick was found exactly where I’d said I would meet him.

I’ll finish with a snap of the dog, once it had staggered to its feet, who looked at me so beseechingly, hoping that more sandwiches were going to spring out of my bag:


Sunday, 27 April 2014

Day 2 – after Pentraeth to Bull Bay

Sunday 27 April (0755-1550)

Distance: 20.75 miles (Tot: 40.25)

Weather: early high cloud clearing to give wall-to-wall sunshine


That was an absolutely fantastic day of walking! No doubt the weather helped, although the walking was pleasing even before the skies cleared.

It started with a walk back to the coast, taking a different route to my outward one last night, and soon I was passing through a lovely piece of woodland, bedecked with bluebells, and with the sound of the sea crashing just below me.

The path soon became what I picture when I think of a coast path, usually clinging to the edge of the land, and usually with the sea in view. Sometimes I was close to the edge, but shrubbery hid the water from view, but I could still hear it though, crashing as it was at high tide and with the wind behind it.


Very seldom (in fact, just three short sections all day) I had to take to a road, along one of which I got my only shower of the day, although not from the sky:IMG_6531

I was walking on the left side of the road, but there was quite a breeze behind those waves

Up and down I went, rolling with the land, and at some point during the morning the sky cleared completely, giving a glorious day to set off the stunning scenery nicely.

The only mar on the day (which lasted all of about twenty seconds) was the incident when, whilst distracted from my surroundings by having a quick chat with Mick on the phone, I completely failed to notice the low branch across the path. He was suddenly assaulted with some choice language and I now have a scab atop my bonce.

Until Dulas Bay, I saw just a few dog walkers, and after the busy beach of that Bay to about a mile before Amlwch (a distance of about 7 miles) I saw not a single person out walking. All those views, all to myself! Did I mention how fantastic it was?

I could happily have sat at my lunch spot, which was sheltered from the cool wind, for some hours, but Mick was sitting patiently in a layby, waiting for me, so after a good long pause I pulled myself back to my feet and not long after came to this view (which was far more spectacular that this snap suggests):


Just after passing the town of Amlwch (which was largely hidden from view from the path), I saw buildings and a road ahead and it didn’t take me long to pick out Colin parked along that road. It took Mick longer to pick me out between the rocks and the lush greenness of the fields beyond.

Tomorrow’s walk looks, on paper, to be as good as today’s, so fingers crossed that the weather plays ball for me.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Day 1 - before Menai Bridge to after Pentraeth

Sat 26 April (1145-1845)
Distance: 19.5 miles
Weather: a few drops of rain, mainly dry, some sun

It was quarter to noon when I bade Mick farewell in a layby in between the two bridges that connect Anglesey to the mainland, and set out on what I expected to be a 15-mile walk.

Almost immediately there were interesting things to be looking at, with a chapel and graveyard on a little island in the strait, as well as the engineering feats displayed via the two bridges.

The problem with having started at the most inhabited south side of the island is that it took a long time to get away from civilisation, and whilst the views over to Snowdonia were first class, there was more pavement and lane walking than I would have liked. In fact, there were miles and miles of them.

Lunch was had in a rather breezy spot at Beaumaris, which boasted yet more views of Snowdonia. Those hills looked close enough to touch, but to have reached out so to do would have resulted in a wet hand. All day long there were showers passing over those hills, whereas the most rain I got was a five-minute edge of a shower a mile before I reached my intended end point.

Beyond Beaumaris, I had expected a walk across country, just above the beach, because that's what the map suggests, and I was rather looking forward to getting off road. Alas, the reality was a walk along a beach of large stones, which makes an unpleasant walking surface. Thank goodness the tide was out, so I could detour over to some sand instead, which worked well for most of the beach crossing.
The next lane, taking me past the remains of Penmon Priory and towards the north-easterly headland, was tiny and no hardship to walk. By this point, however, I was getting an inkling that I had mismeasured the day, and was worried that Mick would be sitting in a car park beyond our rendezvous time, worrying about me. Even so, when I gave thought to lopping off a corner on the headland (the return path being just a hundred yards or so from the outward path), I reminded myself that the purpose of a coastal walk isn't to take the shortest line, so I forewent a break and walked out to the headland. I'm rather glad I did; the photo above is the view from there.

Finally, as I switched back on t'other side of the headland, grass was the prevailing underfoot surface and, combined with more stunning sea views, I was a happy bunny.

Then I got to the 'Coast Path closed due to land-slide' sign and decided it was best to heed its message. The alternative route was, of course, along another lane. A really tiny one this time - when a car came it had to wait for me to get to a passing place, as there wasn't enough room for us comfortably to pass where I was.

On my way down that lane (which fell steeply to the sea), I fancied that I could see Colin parked up waiting for me, two and a bit miles away (and it turned out that he was), and I put a bit more of a pace on. The speed was helped by the joy of the tide still being out, which allowed me to ignore the coast path signpost, and simply walk along the beach. I did get damp feet on a few stream crossings, but it was a lovely walk across a huge expanse of sand.

Mick had the kettle on when I arrived and, after covering a little over 18 miles in 6 hours, I was perfectly ready to stop. However, to take a lift from there would have meant that Mick needed to return me to the same point tomorrow morning, whereas if I made the effort to walk the mile and a quarter further to our night-stop then I could allow Mick to lounge in bed in the morning, whilst I set out on foot.

So, having sat in a car park waiting for me for an hour and a half, and after I'd drunk a very welcome cup of tea, off Mick went without me. He was busy cooking tea when I joined him a short while later on a campsite with an excellent view. I'm spotting that stunning views are a bit of a theme around here.

Nineteen and a half miles was a touch further than I'd expected to walk on Day 1*, considering the late start, but the ease of the walking and the excellent way-marking helped. Even so, I think I may have a shorter one tomorrow.

(*If I'd spared a glance at the mileage chart I printed from the Wales Coast Path website yesterday, my miscounting of the miles would have immediately been apparent. I'll pay more attention to it in future.)

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Wales Coast Path: Anglesey

I said I'd be back today and I certainly intend to be back blogging today. However, the eagle-eyed amongst you may notice from the title that there's been something of an unexpected change in country and objective.

Mick concluded yesterday that it wouldn't be the wisest decision to continue to walk on his poorly leg. It is walk-on-able, but pain on every step is no fun. Plus, the objective of this trip was the TGO Challenge and, understandably, Mick doesn't want to jeopardise his participation in the getting there.

My first reaction was that I would carry on alone and that he could rejoin me in a week or so. Then I looked at the prices of trains. Having a Two Together railcard makes rail travel far more affordable, but it does mean that we have to travel together, and short-notice or flexible tickets to and from Scotland are not cheap.

So, the decision was made that we would both sit out the next section and recommence the walk further north in a week or so...

...which was fine, except I didn't really want to do the 'sitting' bit of sitting it out.

Whereas ordinarily I spent days, weeks or even months planning a trip, this time I had an afternoon to decide what I was going to do and how.

A small amount of consideration led to the bringing forward of a section of my intended Wales Coast trip (which, whilst walking last week, I had pencilled in for September). And, whereas my first thought had been to start from Chester, when I got as far as looking at Anglesey, it looked so nice that it became the primary objective of the trip.

Colin, whose tax had been cashed in in anticipation of 2 or 3 months of inactivity, was hastily put back on the road minutes before the PO closed last night and as I type this we're heading west.

As you may gather from the mention of Colin, I'm not backpacking. Rather, I'm 'slackpacking', with Mick and Colin in support.

Phone service permitting, I'll be back with an update later...

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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Day 23 - Bavelaw Burn, Pentland Hills to Dalmeny

Wed 23 April (0630-1145)
Distance: 13.25 miles (Tot: 416.25)
Fitbit steps: 32000
Weather: sunny intervals to start, before it all got a bit misty again mid-morning

After a full day and evening of fog yesterday, when I popped out to use the en-suite at just before 11 last night, I found that the fog had gone and that the sky was clear. Even with the clear sky, it was a warm night, with enough of a breeze to give us a nearly-dry tent this morning.

Making our way out of the Pentland Hills, we looked back to see the surroundings we had missed yesterday and I resolved to come back and walk the Carlops to Buteland path again in better conditions.

A nasty bit of A road was hit at a busy time of day, but we weren't on it for too long before we headed off to skirt Dalmahoy Hill. Despite Mick egging me on, I declined to nip up to the summit, even though it wasn't far above us.

Coming down the other side of the hill, it became apparent that the way I'd plotted wasn't feasible, as it would have taken us straight through a working quarry. With the benefit of visibility (allowing us to see an exit point to a field), we simply cut across a field of inquisitive cows instead, before indulging in a bit more cross-country. It was there that we paused in a gateway for second breakfast, which was curtailed when we had to move out of the way of an approaching tractor.

How does that happen? You see no people and no signs of activity for miles, then as soon as you plonk yourself down mid-track, along comes a vehicle. At least I saved the farmer from having to stop and get down from his tractor, by opening the gate for him.

Passing so close to a major city like Edinburgh, I might have expected industry and road walking to prevail. There was a bit of road, but an ex-railway line (which seemed very little used, and along which we encountered no-one) took us where we needed to go. The main hint that we weren't in a rural location was the sound of Edinburgh Airport, the edge of which we skirted.

We ended our day (well, half-day really) at Dalmeny. We're now two days ahead of ourselves, and expect to make up another day yet, and as lovely as Torridon probably is, I don't want to spend three days there waiting for the Challenge to start. So, we will now pause for a couple of days and allow time to catch up with us.

Hopefully 2.5 days of rest will also allow Mick's painful shin-tendonitis to resolve itself too.

We'll be back on Saturday...

(I took three potential blog photos today and now I look at them none of them is worthy of sharing. I've plumped for the one of Mick walking out of the Pentland Hills.)

(Louise: I thought you'd sent the fog as retribution for us having so many sunny days!
Conrad: I can't recall the route you took, but suspect that the next time we will touch your LEJOG route will be as we cross the Great Glen. Intrigued to know where you're going as of Saturday, but I shall be patient and wait and see.)

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Day 22 - S of Dundreich Summit to Bavelaw Burn, Pentland Hills

Tues 22 April (0730-1525)
Distance: 17.25 miles (Tot: 403)
Fitbit steps: 40000
Weather: fog, a few showers
Number of views seen today: zero

What a contrast to yesterday!

Yesterday afternoon I stayed in just my baselayer till gone 6pm. Today the only items of clothing I didn't wear (other than spare undies) were my short sleeve t-shirt and my down jacket. Even then, the first time I felt warm was 13 miles into the day.

After a breezy night, we woke this morning in cloud. That wasn't too much of a surprise, given the altitude at which we had camped, and we assumed it was just an altitude thing. Pointing out that, in the way of a silver lining, our navigation was going to be easier than if we'd taken (the sensible) Option 2 last night, off we set down the hill. Had we ended the night at the Option 2 destination, we would have needed to navigate through the fog (not that 'head downhill till you meet a burn' is complicated), but from where we were all we had to do was follow the track; it was marked on the map and we knew where it was taking us.

We'd been going downhill for quite a while, with the track perfectly obvious on the ground, when suddenly it petered out. Alarm bells rang and the map was pored over. We eventually located ourselves the opposite side of Milky Law to where we were supposed to be. Not that we could even see there was a lump we had walked around; visibility really was quite poor.

Another re-routing got us, four miles into the day, back onto the route I had plotted, whereupon things got a bit tricky again. Had we been able to see more than 80 yards, it would have been a doddle, but as it was time and care were needed to see us pathlessly across a series of rough fields, finding all the gates on our way.

Things were more straightforward through a forest, even though a few new tracks had been installed to try to fool us, but we could still see only 80 yards ahead (pacing it out gave us something to do, given the lack of visual distractions).

Things next went awry at Deepsyke Forest, where a private garden lay where our track should have been. If I could have even seen some evidence of the track beyond, I would have walked through, but I couldn't (I suppose it must have been there; perhaps I just needed to wander through the garden for a look). As it went, the road alternative cut over a mile off the day, and given that we still couldn't see a thing, I wasn't disappointed to be taking the easy option.

The real shame of the weather came after Carlops, where we were to take a route through the Pentland Hills. I'm sure it's an area worth seeing (having walked through before, on a route lying further west), but we didn't even get a glimpse of the North Esk Reservoir as we passed by. I did, however, manage to spot another stray lamb (just a littl'un this time), which I reunited with its mother on the other side of a fence. This time I covered myself in mud in the process. It's a pity we couldn't help the farmer we'd spoken to earlier in the day (who was rather incredulous as to what we were doing), who stopped to ask us if we'd seen his lost calf. I doubt he found it in today's conditions.

About 3 miles through the Pentland Hills, within a mile of the end of our day, finally visibility improved. We could see maybe half a mile ahead at one point. Unfortunately, it was short-lived and also coincided with the rain starting.

We didn't go much further. As soon as we reached a burn that looked like it might yield a pitch, we went off to inspect its banks. A place was quickly chosen and in a lull in the rain, up went the tent.

I think it's the first time on this trip that we've finished a camping day before 4pm. Much grazing of food bags and drinking of tea is now in progress.

No photo today, I'm afraid, for obvious reasons!

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Monday, 21 April 2014

Day 21 - Selkirk to S of Dundreich Summit

Mon 21 April (0830-1900)
Distance: 23.25 miles (Tot: 385.75)
Fitbit Steps: 53000
Weather: misty start clearing gradually to give wall-to-wall sunshine. Strong easterly, but warm when sheltered.

As much as I like walking and am happy (mostly!) in a tent, it was nice yesterday to have an afternoon of repose on a comfy bed, watching nonsense on TV. That, combined with a big breakfast this morning sent us off from Selkirk with bundles of energy. A good job really, all things considered...

The large, extraordinarily well built cairns of the Three Brethren was our first landmark of the day, from where we took to the Southern Upland Way for a few miles. Those miles coincided with our LEJOG route from 2008, until just after Minch Moor Bothy, where the Way headed towards Traquair, whereas we headed north to Innerleithen.

There was no need for us to go all the way up to the top of the viewpoint on our way out of Innerleithen, but it was in the right direction and looked like it would make a good lunch spot. It did indeed, including some windbreaks to shield us from the keen wind, which became far keener in the half an hour we were up there.

Having descended from the viewpoint, up we went again, this time on a forest track, which we were taking purely as a bit of road-avoidance, on the basis that the distance wasn't much further than the road option. Then we were on road for a while, although in pretty surroundings, up the side of Leithen Water, before heading off past the rather pleasing building of Leithen Lodge, thence into the forest.

It was in the forest that things didn't go quite according to plan. At the ruin of Craghope, we had three choices: 1) pitch the tent on the lovely flat terraced 'lawn'; 2) continue to the track that would take us up to Cardon Law and pitch up there; or 3) take the track that would lead us to near the lump called Hog Knowes and hope there was a thinning of the trees there, which would give us a way out of the forest.

Having discounted option 1 (because we both had the energy to go on), it was 5.20pm when we reached the next decision point. Had we then taken option 2 (which, with the benefit of hindsight would have been the most advisable), then we would have had just a mile and a half to go and would likely have been pitched by 6pm.

We took option 3, walked another 4 miles (including an abortive attempt to exit the forest which required us to back-track), taking us another hour and forty minutes, and didn't, in the process, get any nearer to tomorrow's end point! We did, however (by the time we did find a way out of the forest), find ourselves a distance away from our intended route. A re-route was obvious, and that was the direction in which we then headed.

Our final twenty minutes of the day was a yomp up hill through the deepest tussocky grass, ensuring that we arrived at our pitch nice and warm. After contemplating going on another while to find a nice pitch, the decision was made to just chuck the tent up atop the tussocks. What the pitch lacks in flatness, it makes up for in views!

As for today's photos, we have Mick approaching the Three Brethren in the mist (we didn't get views until almost noon), and also a shot up Leithen Water this afternoon, by which time it was warm and glorious.

(Conrad: did we touch your LEJOG route again today, having left it yesterday?)

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Sunday, 20 April 2014

Day 20 - Lilliardsedge to Selkirk

20 April (not May. I really don't know why I'm so convinced it's May.) (0750-1300)
Distance: 12 miles (Tot: 362.5)
Weather: misty start, then overcast skies breaking up to sunny intervals
Number of discarded Diet Coke cans (almost all from Multi-packs) along a single half-mile stretch of lane: 19
Number of people we suspect discarded those cans from their car window: 1

It wasn't planned that each weekend we would have a 12-mile(ish) day, ending at a B&B, but that's how it has been working out so far. So, it was another half-day of rest today, after a pleasant amble into Selkirk.

In common with the last few mornings, it started with a hard frost, but the difference today was that rather than early sunshine to warm up the day and dry the tent, we had mist and cloud. A pity, really, that we didn't have a hill to climb to warm the fingers back up after packing away icy material and freezing poles.

The day started gently, along St Cuthberts Way, which, at that point, still coincided with Dere Street. At the point St Cuthbert left Dere Street we abandoned him and turned in the opposite direction taking to a little lane for a while. That was where it seems that one regular traveller likes to enjoy a can of Diet Coke, before ignorantly discarding the empty can out of their window, because it's just far too much trouble to transport the empty can as far as a litter bin. Ignoramus!

After Longnewton, where we paused to pay a visit to the old burial ground, I had hoped that the dotted line on the map would translate into a real line on the ground. Happily, it did, even if it did become something of a feint line at one point (which was a bit odd, considering how well used the rest of it appeared to be).

More lanes then took us to another such dotted line, along part of which there was no evidence of a path on the ground at all, but it was easy enough to walk across the grazing field which lay between two tracks. It was along that section that I found myself with a wriggling lamb in my arms. The mother was briefly distressed by the incident, and ran at me, before realising that I was the other side of a gate - as was her lamb who had been desperately (but unsuccessfully) head-butting the gate in trying to find a way back through. A few moments later mother and child were happily reunited and I had done my good deed for the day (with only a bit of sheep poo on my hand to show for it).

Elevenses was had not far out of Selkirk, at a spot that didn't have much merit save for being out of the cool wind. From there we phoned ahead to check availability at the B&B at which we hoped to stay tonight. That it was full was a disappointment as we'd both mentally prepared ourselves for a lazy afternoon where the most activity would involve the washing of socks and pants, whilst the phones recharged.

With our loins girded for an extra few miles on our day (yes, a short day anyway, but our minds were firmly in 'short day' mode), it looked like cleanliness was going to have to wait another few days as our fall-back plan was another wild camp.

Then, after enjoying hot-from-the-oven bread rolls, with cheese, at a bench in the town (yep, after my panic earlier in the week, both supermarkets were indeed open), we popped into the museum, which also doubles as a basic information centre. There, a very nice lady called Jean warned us that their information service is very limited and that all she could do was to write down a few B&B phone numbers for us. That was fine by us, but she then went above and beyond in making phone calls to try to find us a room. She finally suceeded, albeit with many disclaimers about not knowing what the place with a vacancy was like. We were happy to take the chance; the price (or at least the second one quoted, not that we got as far as rejecting the first) was acceptable to us and the place lay directly on our route out of town.

Having had such good service from the museum, we thought we would have a quick look around before we went on our merry way. Half an hour later my feet were feeling the need for a sit down; I do find moseying around a museum much harder on the feet than walking a few miles!

Today's photo is the Eildon Hills, a landmark in these parts which can stay within sight for days. It was taken during one of the sunny intervals (I promise it wasn't like this all day Louise!), with an unfortunately located telegraph pole and wire in the way.

(TVPS: oops! Thanks for putting me right.
Meanqueen: I haven't been meaning to ignore you - I only just saw your comment. Were your ears burning on the day we approached the Humber? We were talking about you, as I was saying that I was sure you lived somewhere nearby. Seems I was right!)

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Saturday, 19 April 2014

Day 19 - Chew Green to Lilliardsedge

19 May (0805-1830)
Distance: 19.5 (Tot: 350.5)
Fitbit Steps: 43000
Weather: truly glorious
Number of big-grin-making events: 1
Number of cups of tea consumed by Mick today: 8

Well that was another excellent day!

It followed a night that was definitely the coldest yet, as all of our water bottles had ice in them this morning, and our drinking tubes were frozen solid. In anticipation of the cold start, and with a desire for the sun to make it over the hill and hit us before I de-duveted, I set the alarm for half an hour later this morning, fully expecting to be awake well before it went off. To my surprise, it was the alarm that woke me.

Briefly joining the Pennine Way, up past the Roman camp at Chew Green we went, not far beyond which lies the Scottish border. Perhaps it's in anticipation of a 'yes' vote that the border has been closed; we found the gates up there (including the pedestrian ones on the PW) to be padlocked. Or, perhaps it's to stop off-roaders during the closed season. What it did mean is that we had to clamber over gates, in the absence of any stiles (and surely, if you're going to padlock gates on a National Trail, you should provide stiles?).

The walk along Dere St from Chew Green to the road at Pennymuir is through the most stunning bit of country. I can't think of anywhere I like more. So, with the glorious surroundings and the pure blue skies, I was already in a happy frame of mind as we started dropping down to the road.

When we came to realise, on our descent, that the car parked on that bit of road was a chap who I'll call 'TVPS', the grins on our faces nearly split our cheeks. By the time we reached him he was busy setting up a table and chairs to lay out the most impressive road-side picnic ever seen. Even the French (who are surely the champions of roadside picnicking) would have been proud of the spread put on for us - which was washed down with a plentiful supply of tea.

I cannot describe how good it was to have such an unexpected treat and to catch up with TVPS. (Thank you kindly!)

Alas, after a good break, Mick pointed out that we did need to carry on. The only obvious point to pick up water today was at a Visitor Centre 12 miles further on and we needed to get there before they closed at 5.

Dere St continued to be our route and parts of it were lovely. Unfortunately, parts of it were absolutely horrible, where up to eight sets of vehicle ruts (some over a foot deep) spread across the entire width of the track. We were pleased to be past those sections.

The Romans did like to take the direct route, so much of our day was spent going in straight lines, which (of course) undulated with the land. Although it was quite cool in the wind today, it was warm when sheltered, and it was sticky work going up the ups. For the first time (except maybe Day 1, but I can't remember that far back), we stripped down to our shirt-sleeves.

The River Tweed, when we met it, looked as pleasing as a river can look (again, those blue skies set it off nicely) and as we crossed it via a suspension bridge, we knew (from previous experience) that St Cuthberts Way was about to take us around the houses, going east along the river before looping back west.

Around the houses we didn't go - and not because we cut through Monteviot House's splendid gardens. Once across the bridge, a new path has been created and signed heading up-river and, not knowing where it would take us, we took a flier that we would be able to cut up to the Visitor Centre. It came good, and a very nice walk brought us out at the Centre with the best part of a mile of 'around the houses-ness' omitted.

Water was obtained, tea drunk, ice cream eaten and the crowds had thinned to almost nothing by the time we hauled our packs back on for the final bit of the day.

The people we met during the last couple of miles, who told us there were good camping spots to be had by the Lilliardsedge Stone, clearly don't know what makes a good pitch. It was tussocks a-go-go around there. Eventually we tucked ourselves into the unploughed margin in the corner of a field of wheat. What is the legality of camping in such a place in Scotland? I know you're not allowed on crop fields themselves (obviously!), but are the grassy margins fair game?

Anyway, that's where we are, having faffed around for well over half an hour looking for somewhere.

(Mike K: glad to hear there will be a stile at the unstiled fence in due course. Is Deborah Wood, off to the left of the road between Ramshaw and Blanchland? I do recall that it was a touch soggy in places.)

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Day 18 - by Harwood Forest to Chew Green

18 April (0800-1700)
Distance: 19 miles (Tot: 331)
Fitbit steps: 43500
Weather: wall-to-wall sunshine, barely any breeze, not too warm - perfect!
Number of vehicle encounters in first 4.5 hours of crossing Otterburn Range: 3
Number of 'comfort breaks' that coincided with a vehicle passing: 1

That was a remarkably good day!

Last night felt like the coldest yet, and the wind that howled yesterday stilled to nothing as the day drew to a close. That was enough for me to decide that a lie-in and a leisurely start was in order. It was worthwhile, as by the time we got walking the tent was almost dry and the quilt was aired free of its nighttime condensation.

I had thought that we would opt to yomp straight over to the road first thing this morning (rather than yomping the much further distance along the hippopotamus to join the road further along), but we agreed that we may as well have a quick look to see if there was any sort of a trod running in the same direction as the line of the footpath. It was the type of mountainously tussocky grass in which you can be 10 yards away from a path and not see it (and which, in the absence of a path is very hard going) but by good fortune I did spot a line and it gave us easy walking almost the whole way to Winter's Gibbet (named after the man hanged there, not after the season) where we met the road.

Some road and some field paths led us to Elsdon where it was with some delight that we found the tea room to be open. Two huge pots of tea and two breakfasts were put away, and two scones with jam ordered to take away, before we carried on our way. If you happen to be in Elsdon, I'd highly recommend that you pay it a visit.

Second breakfast usually falls 2 hours into the walking day and usually lasts 10-15 minutes. Today we had only been going an hour and a half and were stopped for over an hour, but thoroughly worth the time.

I knew what was coming next on our way, and had pondered last night whether I had made the right route decision. The 'track' through Otterburn Military Range is 14 miles of tarmac. However, in its favour is that it runs through a fantastic piece of the country, with the most incredible views on a nice day. Today was the nicest of nice days.

It was quiet too, being Good Friday, with absolutely no military traffic, and barely any other traffic either. We saw as many bikes as we did cars until we reached the junction by Cottonshope Head, less than 2 miles before the end of our day.

Moreover, the day wasn't as hard on the feet as I had expected. I was either blind or stupid last time we passed through the Range to fail to notice the perfectly walkable verge (no bowling green, but not tussocky) which runs alongside the road for all but a couple of miles of its length. So, even the going underfoot was okay.

And where are we pitched tonight? Where else but in our usual place. This is now the fourth time we've used this wild pitch, having arrived from 3 different directions.

(Conrad: we weren't as late leaving as that time-stamp suggested. I'd put my phone on to send the blog before we left but didn't remember until we were well under way that I hadn't pressed 'send')

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Friday, 18 April 2014

Gorgeous start to the day!

Just taking advantage of the sunshine (and delaying our start) by airing the quilt after another cold, perfectly still night.

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Thursday, 17 April 2014

Day 17 - Acomb to by Harwood Forest

17 April (0830-1710)
Distance: 18.5 miles (Tot: 312)
Fitbit steps: 43500
Weather: heavily overcast morning, a shower after lunch, then sunny intervals. Very windy and cool.

We didn't have to repeat last night's never-ending road in leaving the campsite this morning. Instead, a pleasant woodland path led directly from the tent to rejoin a different road further north.

Road was, unfortunately, the prominent feature of the morning. They were quiet lanes (on the longest section we were passed by more bicycles than cars), but after a total of 7.5 miles of tarmac, we were ready to leave the road when we reached Little Bavington.

In between two of the road sections we had taken a byway, but we weren't too happy with that either. It has been deeply rutted on each side by 4x4s, and deeply rutted in the middle by motor bikes. That left us with some thin strips of lumpy grass on which to walk, and it wasn't a happy experience (the photo shows a bit of that byway, but not one of the particularly offensive bits).

Perhaps the better route altogether would have been to follow Hadrian's Wall much further east than we did, then to pick up St Oswald's Way (which we did join, but rather later). That route would have been about 8 miles, compared to the 5 of the one we took, but it would probably have been proportionately nicer than our 'hypotenuse' route (or, as I would usually say, 'hippopotamus').

A later hippopotamus route didn't work out well either, as I didn't pay enough attention to the map and we foundered in a field of sheep for a while before cutting our losses and heading for a road. The last hippopotamus of the day worked out better.

The most alarming incident of the day came not long after I'd commented that we'd not yet encountered any bulls on this trip. Fate had been tempted and soon we found ourselves with a herd of curious cows, with bull in tow, trotting towards us. Having successfully cornered us, we had two options, but rather than escape through a gate in the wrong direction, we adopted the 'approach with confidence, waving arms and shouting' technique, which fortunately did the trick nicely. I imagine that those of a nervous disposition around cows wouldn't have enjoyed those few minutes!

We arrived in Kirkwhelpington before 3pm, giving us rather a lot of time to kill before continuing on for a wild pitch. Happily, the sun had come out, so we whiled away a good chunk of time on a bench on the playing field. It was rather more pleasant than our earlier lunch spot, huddled up on the steps of a chapel, trying to get out of the worst of the howling, cold wind.

St Oswolds Way would have been followed for most of the final hour and a bit of the day, except I feared it would involve more tarmac, so little local paths were taken instead. No sooner than we had joined St Oswald again, we left him for good, as he veered off in an unhelpful direction, leaving us to yomp off in a different direction across a tussocky, barren landscape, to find ourselves a home for the night.

(Martin: thank you for the weather update and have a good weekend, wherever you are going.
Conrad: that sounds very similar to the alternative route I had plotted, which saw us join the Pennine Way by Bellingham. It got ditched in favour of the one we're taking on the basis of not fancying another repetition of the PW quite so soon.
Louise/TVPS: thank you for the shopping advice and info. Much appreciated.)

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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Day 16 - Stanhope Common to Acomb

16 April (0700-1630)
Distance: 20.5 miles
Fitbit steps: 49000
Weather: early wall-to-wall sunshine; high level cloud later. Markedly warmer this afternoon

The day started with Mick getting a kick in the face. There he was, innocently lying all snug under the quilt, when I transitioned from the 'making tea' to the 'drinking tea' position, catching Mick's jaw with my foot as I did so. He reckons that with the number of times I accidentally kick, knee, elbow or thump him, he qualifies as a battered husband.

It was an early hour of day to be kicked in the face too, as I'd requested an early start, so as to cover the miles, buy groceries and arrive at our night-stop early enough to use the laundry.

So, it was just 7am as we hoisted our packs and left our pitch (an excellent pitch, even if I do say so myself). By virtue of having slept at the bottom of a valley, we started with a get-the-blood-pumping climb back out of that valley. Moorland was the theme of the morning, and it was incredible to see quite so much of nothing, save a couple of large chimneys (right on the moor) telling us that there used to be industry in these seemingly barren parts.

Good navigation (with, perhaps, a little luck thrown in) saw us land within a reasonable number of paces of stiles (or in one place, a waymark pointing straight through a fence with no evidence that there's ever been a stile) when we encountered fences during our descent off the first bit of moor.

A little lane, a pleasant path through a bit of forest and a bit more lane took us out of County Durham and into Northumberland at Blanchland. For us, today, Northumberland started with an absolute lung-buster of a hill. It did, however, offer excellent views back whence we had come, and the moorland onto which it led us was gentle on us, as was the forest road which followed.

From the little collection of houses that is Juniper, it's only 4 miles to Hexham by road, but why walk a road when there are (for a less direct a route) field paths instead? And so over fields and along byways we went, only hitting the road a short way before Hexham.

Our biggest resupply yet was needed in Hexham (our next shop isn't until Selkirk on Sunday - eeeek - Easter Sunday - that's not promising from a shopping point of view, is it? Wish I'd thought of that earlier!) where I nearly cried as I searched and searched, covering what felt like an extra mile or so, for the things I wanted in the big Tesco.

Our night-stop was another 2.5 miles further on according to the map, but I'm sure that the last lane went on for twice the distance it should have! Eventually the lane did end, the campsite was before us, and with relief our parcel was handed over.

Having paid our pitch fee (£17.50 - ouch!) we were shown to the scankiest bit of ground. Had the fee been more reasonable, I would have accepted it, but for that much money, I expect something half-decent, so I rejected it. We settled on another spot in the end, but it's still not great. It became slightly better when the warden returned to apologise for overcharging us and to give us a £2.50 refund. All being well, tomorrow night's pitch will be better - and free, although it won't have much in the way of facilities!

(Conrad: two offers of tea doesn't bring us close to your record of receiving hospitality! Unrelated to that: where did your LEJOG route take you after Rookhope Burn?
Martin: if we hadn't climbed up so steeply during those 3 minutes, I likely would have made an about turn! What's the weather for the weekend for the Borders (Jedburgh and Selkirk area)?
Mike K: that would have been really useful to know yesterday!)

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Day 15 - W of Barnard Castle to Stanhope Common

15 April (0810-1930)
Distance: 20.5 miles (Tot: 273)
Fitbit steps: unknown! Battery died!
Weather: glorious!
Number of lost-foot incidents: 1

One of the benefits of being to the west of Barnard Castle last night was that this morning we started out along the sunny side of the river. That was a good place to be, as it was a cold one last night; our first frost of the trip (even the dregs of last night's tea had frozen in my mug!).

Having rejoined the Teesdale Way for a while, we left it before Eggleston and took to footpaths which appear to be very little used. One didn't even have a single waymark along its length to indicate that it was a right of way. Notwithstanding those issues, only once did we have a significant dither as to which way to go.

Agility was the requirement of the morning, as we had to cross many stiles, few of which were designed for ease of passage (in fairness, some were so designed, but the effects of age and wear has reduced their friendliness for stumpy-legged, backpack-carrying walkers).

A march was had along a section of B-road, from where we'd intended to take a path via Pawlaw Pike and Hawkwood Head to Bollihope. Beyond a new bit of track, that path didn't exist on the ground (as far as we could see), so instead a track linking shooting butts was taken up a nameless hill, whereupon it promptly petered out. Yomp we did, and we no doubt cut a bit of distance off the day, even if it was slower going than staying on the road would have been. It was during that yomp that I, very neatly, put my left foot down a small hole - so small that it left me with my toes bent backwards. More of a predicament than the toe-position was that the smallness of the hole meant that my foot was stuck.

I giggled. Mick came to investigate what I was finding so funny, and after a bit of wriggling I managed to free my foot. Mick wondered what I continued to find funny, until he realised that my left foot no longer had a shoe attached.

With the foot no longer filling it, the shoe proved easy to retrieve, and, reshod, on to Bollihope we went. Plenty of people were around on the riverside, but there was no ice-cream van. We had a jelly baby break instead, to prepare ourselves for the steep pull up on to the moor which would take us over to Stanhope. It was less than 3 minutes into that pull up when I looked back and saw that the missing ice-cream van was now in place, right next to where we had just been sitting. What bad timing!

The bit from Bollihope to Stanhope took a bit of concentration and a game of 'spot the stile' as the lines of the footpaths weren't obvious. Top marks to Mick for spotting the gate that I would have missed.

Arriving in Stanhope at 1630, time needed to be (and was) frittered away; some on a bench, some in a pub and some outside the chip shop. Eventually we adjudged it late enough to head towards our intended night-stop, which wasn't without its challenges, due to some landslides along the Stanhope Burn.

By and by a good pitch was found, hidden from view from most vantage points.

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Monday, 14 April 2014

Day 14 - Darlington to West of Barnard Castle

14 April (0745-1645)
Distance: 21 miles (Tot: 252.5)
Fitbit steps: 49500
Weather: mainly sunny
Number of 'sun-kissed' noses we have between us: 2

Yesterday's half-day of rest did us the world of good, so we set out this morning (set up by a full cooked breakfast) with a spring in our steps. Or, at least, without a hint of a hobble.

Back to the Tees we went, and having found it we stayed with it, more or less, all day. There were a few places where the Teesdale Way wandered away from it a little, and one place where we opted to take a direct footpath to cut off a large meander.

Having the river nearby all day didn't, however, mean that we were walking along the river bank. In fact, I was a little disappointed by some sections where the Way ran on pavements alongside the A road, whereas I'd thought, from the map, that we would be river-side, paralleling the road. Admittedly, part of that misconception stemmed from the quality of printing of today's map being very poor, which obscured the detail.

Even when we were near the river (which was actually the vast majority of the day), it was often not in full view, but there were interesting buildings (halls, a 'tower' and a ruined abbey) and pleasant farmland. When we were alongside the river, or where we did have a view, there were no complaints from me. As I've mentioned more than once before, I do like the River Tees.

The other notable feature of the day was its undulations. The land that lies to the north of the river is at a much higher level than the river, and that path did like to take us up into the fields for a while, only then to take us back down to the water. On one occasion, it took us down just so we could see a sulphur spa fountain, before returning to the high ground.

By lunchtime (which was had at a gorgeous spot next to the water), all the good work of yesterday's rest had been undone and my feet ached more than they have on any other day. I can't pinpoint anything about today's walk which caused that.

Great relief was found in (bustling) Barnard Castle, when I switched to Crocs for my three rounds of the supermarket, whilst Mick sat on bag-watch outside.

After half an hour relief from my shoes, the feet felt much better on the final mile and a bit over to the campsite, which lies to the west of Barnard Castle (it didn't go unnoticed by Mick that after all that travel eastwards the week before last, today's walk has taken us only west, not north).

Arriving in reception, I really thought that the question "Would you like a cup of tea?" was directed at the policemen standing behind me. It took the warden three repetitions before I realised he was talking to me. Obviously, I gratefully said yes, both to tea and to biscuits, which then lessened the blow of the £17.20 pitch fee. Definitely comparatively expensive, but the site and the facilities are immaculate.

(Two photos today: Barnard Castle, taken from the middle of the Tees, and the riverside spa fountain at Piercebridge)

(Conrad: Yep, we did the unexpected and went west! I could tell you tomorrow's direction, but I'll keep you guessing.
Gimmer: thank you for the decryption :-))

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Sunday, 13 April 2014

Day 13 - beyond Appleton Wiske to Darlington

13 April (0730-1215)
Distance: 11.5 miles
Fitbit steps: 28000
Weather: sunny intervals, but a strong, cool wind

After 12 days of being impressed by the standard of way-marking of rights of way, and/or the obviousness of the line of those paths, this morning we struggled a little. With no waymarks and no evidence of where the path went, we were at times a little flummoxed as to which side of a hedgerow we should be. We did nothing more scientific than taking a guess at each such decision point and duly we reached the Teesdale Way at Girsby, from where we knew the route would be clear.

The approach to Hurworth-on-Tees seemed vaguely familiar, and I definitely remembered Hurworth itself. When I plotted this route I'd completely forgotten that we'd been there before, having walked into the village with Conrad ( back in 2010.

Various delaying tactics had been employed during the morning, but it was too cool to stop for too long in any one place, and thus we found ourselves outside our B&B on the outskirts of Darlington at the unreasonably early hour of quarter past noon.

After not being able to get a room in Barnetby last week, we booked this place as soon as we felt confident that we were up to the mileage required to get here by today, to make sure that we wouldn't be hunting around in the suburbs for a stealth-camp. As it was, rather than having the expected 21-mile walk-in today, we had fewer than 12 miles to cover, and thus could happily have carried on. However, the room was booked and, by good fortune, the owner was home and perfectly happy to let us in so early.

One of the benefits of a half-day was having the time to do some laundry. Some people (most people?) would be disgusted to know that I have worn the same top, unlaundered, day and night, for 13 days, so I thought it was probably due a wash. It was a bit of a challenge in the smallest-sink-in-the-world, but as I type there is washing drying all around the room. Even my trousers got cleaned; they took about eight changes of water before I declared them to be clean enough!

Today's photo is another field of rape shot. This one had a good width of path at ground level, but the plants had reached nearly shoulder height and were overhanging, so we came out the other side spattered with yellow.

(Gimmer: that was a bit cryptic!
Louise: definitely unlucky in my view. Doubly so as it's the second time I've been used for (successful) target practice this year.
Alan: we didn't get offered food specifically last night, but when we were asked if there was anything we needed, I had to resist answering 'a shower and the use of a washing machine'!)

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Mick was in charge of putting the brown sauce on the cheese and crackers today...

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Saturday, 12 April 2014

Day 12 - before Cold Kirby to beyond Appleton Wiske

12 April (not May as I erroneously said yesterday!) (0720-1745)
Distance: 21.5 miles (Tot: 220)
Fitbit steps: 50500
Weather: drizzly start to both morning and afternoon, but otherwise dry with a cold wind. Lots of blue sky as I type this at 1830.
Number of killer dogs: 4 (all in one pack, making defence a bit difficult)
Number of slugs I carried all day in my cook-pot: 1 (I really must stop transporting slugs!)

Contrary to the forecast, when I first peeked out of the vent this morning it was high cloud I saw, not rain clouds. My optimism of a dry day was misplaced as within half an hour there was the sound of very light rain on the fly. It was never troublesome and didn't last more than an hour, so by the time we had regained the Cleveland Way (having strayed off it to short-cut the around-the-houses bit that goes via Sutton Bank) it was dry.

Racehorses out training gave us something novel to watch as we made our way back to the Cleveland Way and once we got there the views off the escarpment, whilst curtailed by the weather, were still impressive. With very little noticeable up and down, save for a few small sections, for the next eight miles of first the escarpment and then moorland, we strode along the good path. Even with breaks for second breakfast and elevenses, plus a good few faffs, we were in Osmotherley before 1230.

Having established that we were going to be a bit stuck for cooking fuel for the next couple of days, and having decided that it was far too early to be stopping for the night (Osmotherley being our originally intended night-stop) we repaired to a cafe for lunch. Huge quantities of food were eaten (the portions were very generous), lashings of tea drunk, and an hour and a half frittered away before we moved on. I even had a shower, although it was accidental and fully-clothed, thanks to the mis-firing high-flush cistern in the cafe toilet!

We would have stopped for more tea in Ingleby Arncliffe, except the pub was closed, as was the cafe at the A19 services (where I did a happy dance upon finding that the petrol station sold canisters of gas), so on we plodded.

A pause on a bench in West Rounton (we were trying to kill time, with a stealth camp being on the cards) told me that benches that circle the trunks of trees are a really bad design, as I got splatted by a bird. We swiftly moved on.

The problem with this area is that it's very flat and open, so having failed to find a hidden field-corner in the area we had ear-marked, our only remaining option (other than sitting around until dark - over 3 hours away) seemed to be to ask permission to camp. Eventually, a farmhouse presented itself directly on our route and we crossed our fingers that the farmer would be both home and friendly. A refusal at that point in the day (particularly given the upcoming surroundings) would have given us a problem.

Happily, the farmer was both home and very friendly. Hence, we are lawfully pitched with a good view back to the high ground we came across this morning. Having completely forgotten to take a blog-photo at any point during the day, the one attached is taken from inside the tent.

It's nice to spend the evening hours until dark without the paranoia about being spotted and moved on.

And, with a plentiful supply of gas, I may just be extravagant and put the kettle on for another cup of tea.

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Stop the Press! We have gas!

Of all the (seemingly) unlikely places, it was the Shell petrol station on the A19 which came up trumps.

Never have I been so excited to see a gas cylinder in my life. The fact that it's a biggun (500 size) just means we'll have more tea making ability than we have tea bags available :-)

(Gimmer - thank you kindly for the info anyway. Much appreciated.)

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Oh Woe!

There is no longer an outdoor shop in Osmotherley. The village store doesn't sell gas or meths either. The campsite has Camping Gaz, but that's no use to us, and they've sold out of meths.

I reckon we've got one meal's worth left in our canister, which means there's none spare for tea :-(

It's not the end of the world - surely there's a purveyor of meths (even if not screw-top gas) in Barnard Castle, where we're due to arrive on Monday?

(Of course, if any of my readers happens to live in the line of Osmotherly to Darlington to Barnard Castle and happens to have any gas or meths to spare, then we'd be most pleased to hear from you!)

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Day 11 - by Welburn to before Cold Kirby

11 May (0730-1840)
Distance: 21.5 (Tot: 198.5)
Fitbit steps: 52200 (so maybe our distance was actually more than 22 miles)
Weather: glorious start, getting gradually cloudier as the day went on

There I was, lying in the tent last night, whilst Mick was away doing the dishes, when suddenly the body that I had assumed was Mick returning turned out to be a huge wire-haired lurcher joining me in the tent. It all happened fast and the first I realised that it wasn't Mick was when it thrust its face into mine. Can't half make you jump, something like that, you know.

Fortunately, that was the only dog-related disturbance of the night. Indeed, there was no other disturbance of any kind. We were the only people on the excellent C&CC Certified Location at Greets Farm, and much sleeping was done, to make up for the previous night.

We woke to find not a cloud in the sky and it was a perfect morning to walk through Castle Howard, through Coneysthorpe and along the 'ridge' (ridge implies it was bigger than it was, but I can't think of a more suitable word) that lies to the north. The air clarity was excellent, the rape in bloom, the skies blue and I could go into raptures about how perfect a walk it was (I'll overlook the torn-up mudfest condition of some sections of the path in that assessment!).

Equally perfect was the gorgeous village of Hovingham, where we didn't subject the well-dressed folk lunching at the tea-room to our odour, but rather obtained a take-away from the adjoining bakery which we consumed on a bench in the sunshine.

Having already used part of a Centenary Way and part of the Ebor Way (and having lunched on the ground, 2 minutes before finding a bench with a view), we arrived in Helmsley, where we were to pick up the Cleveland Way. It was teeming with people on this market day in Helmsley, which turned out to be a far bigger place than I expected, and we spent a long while there as we sorted out supplies. Alas, there was no gas to be had, leaving us hoping that there will be some in Osmotherley tomorrow.

Time was marching on by the time we got going again, and the sun was dipping low in the sky by the time we got to Rievaulx Terrace, which we really must go and explore sometime, but not with backpacks loaded down with water and near the end of a long day.

Some lovely pools would have provided a perfect pitch for the night if they (and we) had been in Scotland and thus at liberty to pitch in such a place. As we're in England, we had to find somewhere more discreet, and the unploughed margin in the corner of a fallow crop field, being in a dip, seemed to meet the bill. Approaching 7pm on a Friday evening, we figured the chance of the farmer passing (in the one direction from which we are visible) was slim, so up went the tent without further ado. We always seem to be wrong in our assessment of stealth and sure enough, five minutes later, an engine was heard and along came a tractor, straight towards us. There was no way he could miss us, so I sent Mick out to do the talking.

Once again, no talking was required. If he saw us then he didn't have the time or inclination to make his way down to the bottom corner of this field. We are not going to have a peaceful night though, surrounded as we are by pheasants!

(Conrad: I recall that we met you in Yarm on your Broads to the Lakes. Where did we leave you?)

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Friday, 11 April 2014

Feasting in Hovingham

This is where I had erroneously marked on the itinerarararary against yesterday. The bounty on the bench, from the excellent bakery, comprises a bacon bap, a fudge brownie (big grin!), a disgusting almond and cream thing for Mick, four rolls for lunch and two cups of tea.

We possibly didn't also need the two big bars of chocolate I bought in the shop across the road, but after yesterday's one-Snickers-between-us incident, I'm taking no chances!

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Thursday, 10 April 2014

Day 10 - Kilnwick Percy to by Welburn

10 April (0650-1240; 1350-1500)
Distance: 17 (Tot: 177)
Fitbit steps: 39000
Weather: morning - mainly sunny, sometimes hazy; afternoon - increasingly cloudy
Number of slugs I carried in the inner tent all day: 1 (what was it doing inside to start with?!)

I take back anything good I said about Lower Warrendale farm last night. It stayed in my favour until 1.26am, when their dog started barking. The dog then barked persistently, patrolling up and down the track outside our thin layer of nylon, until just after 4am. Every now and then it would shut up for a few minutes (usually when one of us yelled at it), but no lull lasted long.

At 4am, peace finally reigned again and off I dropped. I was just mid-dream (featuring storming into the farmhouse bedroom and shaking the occupants away whilst ranting at full-pitch about their dog barking) when the bloody mutt started up again.

At 5am I said we may as well get up. At least then we would arrive at our destination early and could sleep. Mick pleaded for a bit longer under the duvet, and we got up just as it was getting light at half past.

It's not a bad time of day to be out and about when it's such a fine day, and even if it was a touch chilly, we soon warmed up with the hills which presented themselves in front of us.

It was another day in glorious, green, rolling surroundings, which always look at their best under a blue sky, and whilst it wasn't wall-to-wall sunshine today, this morning there was plenty of blue around.

Our biggest focus of the day was food. Second breakfast was a meagre affair, as was elevenses (which was accompanied by the barking of three farm dogs which ran the entire length of a large field to bark at us; it must be the day for it), and by noon I was ready to eat a scabby dog.

We'd already had forewarning that the pub in Leavening wouldn't be open at lunchtime (thank you Louise), and so it wasn't, as hadn't been the pub in Acklam. However, having scrutinised the map I decided that the pub in Kirkham would be. It's relatively near a busy road, and there are no houses nearby, which suggested to me that it survives from lunchtime passing trade.

It was open, but we didn't go in. We weren't daft enough to pass by the pub in Westow, two miles previously, when we smelt food upon our approach. Very nice it was too.

That left us with just under 3 miles left for the afternoon session, although we added to the distance slightly by abiding by a closure notice at level crossing (another theme of this walk) as it wasn't too long a backtrack to go via a legal (and safe) route.

After a stroll through some woods, one final pull up a hill saw us to our night-stop.

Tomorrow we have many things to which to look forward including Castle Howard and a replenishing of the chocolate stocks. I'd give my right walking pole for a bar of chocolate (or a fudge brownie) right now.

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Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Day 9 - Brantingham to by Kilnwick Percy

9 April (0750-1600)
Distance: 20 miles (Tot: 160)
Fitbit steps: 45500
Weather: dry, some sun this afternoon
Number of significant errors found on my itinerarararary spreadsheet: 1

Even though we sought out the most exposed spot in the field last night, the death of the wind overnight, combined with a clear sky, created, once again, perfect condensation conditions.

The wind soon picked up once the sun was back up, and the clouds which also formed created pretty good walking conditions. It was a bit parky when walking into the wind, but a nice temperature when sheltered.

It wasn't just the weather that was nice; today's walk was absolutely lovely as we passed through green, rolling countryside. And roll, we did. After days of barely any up, there was no gentle introduction to the ascent. None of the hills was big, but there were many of them, with quite a few steep bits.

The ups gave us some views too, with the morning allowing us to look down on the Humber, whereas this afternoon saw us looking down over the vast Vale of York. So much flatness below us meant that even though we weren't high, the views were extensive, albeit hazy.

Having lunched at a picnic bench in a layby beside a main road (where we talked about how much we'd like a cup of tea, not knowing (until we set back off) that there was a cafe only 150 yards away), the first part of the afternoon was through the parklands of the Londesborough Estate. There we met a chap with whom we chatted for quite a while. It's unusual to meet other long-distance backpackers when out on a walk like this, but this chap was just at the end of a 450-mile jaunt which has seen him leave his home in Beverley, and take various local Ways to join up the Dales Way, Coast to Coast and Wolds Way to form a big triangle back to his front door.

He still had 10 miles to go of his monster 28-mile day; we had just 5 of our more modest distance, although even then we broke those few miles up with a pause on a bench outside a village church.

Our day ended at Low Warrendale, where the price of camping has doubled since we were last here, but £6 is still quite a bargain, in my opinion.

It was shortly after we arrived, whilst looking at the map for tomorrow, that I realised that I made an error on the itinerary spreadsheet. I've put the location of the next shop a line higher than it should be. That means that when I bought food yesterday, I bought 1 day's-worth less than we need. We're not going to starve, but plain oatcakes are not going to make a nice lunch, and there's a severe lack of chocolate in our remaining supplies. We don't go through anywhere of size tomorrow, but hopefully there will be a pub open at lunchtime in Leavening, and hopefully it will serve food (or at least have some chocolate or crisps).

(Sorry it's a bit of a dull photo - it doesn't illustrate the splendor of the day at all.)

(Martin: there was nothing careless about the webbing of our feet! The choice of airy footwear was considered and intentional. It doesn't stop me moaning about putting on wet socks in a morning, though (which I did again this morning, but this time because I'd washed them and they'd not dried in time).
JJ: We're not going via Wharram Percy, as we're veering off the Wolds Way tomorrow. We'll be passing through Osmotherley on Saturday.
Conrad: I'll be interested to know your prediction as to our route - particularly for the bits where I was torn as to which way to go.
Louise: sorry for the lack of photographic evidence. Mick was still snuggled down in the quilt when I fell out of the tent, and I was too busy laughing when Mick tried to get out, but fell back in!)

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Day 9 - 0630


Number of people who have exited the tent this morning: 2

Number of people who have done so with the slightest degree of elegance: 0

Good job there's no-one around to see us!

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Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Day 8 - Elsham Wolds to Brantingham

8 April (0730-1645)
Distance: 19.5 miles
Fitbit steps: 47000
Weather: mainly dry, some showers, only one violent; cool
Number of very long bridges crossed: just the one

The rain finally abated last night and, in between further showers, the sky cleared. With condensation then a-go-go, there was no opportunity for our already soggy tent to dry out. In spite of the dampness all around us, we were perfectly comfy in our bed, until that moment this morning when we had to throw off the quilt and put our nice warm feet into wet socks and wet shoes. At least it was a sunny start to the day, though.

The most remarkable thing for me about today's walk was that I remembered none of it except the approach to the Humber Bridge, the bridge itself and the couple of miles after. Some of the route was pretty noteworthy too, and it definitely featured in our E to W walk (it's the section Mick and I did separately), so it bamboozled me how I could have no memory of the majority.

The Humber and the bridge were the main features of the day and we could see the bridge from early this morning. Had we taken a direct line towards it, it wouldn't have been many miles away. However, that would have involved walking exclusively along roads, so we opted for the longer, but scenic, route which saw us heading away from our objective for a while before swinging back towards it. It was particularly nice for me to have the view of the river and the bridge today; last time I walked this section the haze was so thick I only saw the bridge just before I reached it (maybe that explains why I didn't remember today's surroundings - I couldn't see them last time).

It was as we reached the bridge, where the 'High Wind' warning signs were showing, that the one violent shower of the day passed through. The wet weather gear we donned ("Careful nothing blows away!") was a good idea from a warmth point of view too; it was not a warm day today and was even chillier on the exposed walkway of the bridge

After a prolonged grocery stop in North Ferriby, we only had 5 miles to go, but whereas the first 14 had flown by, the last 5 were long (not helped by a wrong turn and back-track, something in which I'm specialising at the moment!). We arrived at our night-stop in the end, and being paying customers of a B&B tonight (well, £6 to pitch the tent in their field and have use of a toilet and shower) we didn't have to worry about where or at what time we were pitching.

On reflection, I'm rather glad there wasn't a room available for us in Barnetby last night. Whilst staying there would have avoided the wet kit we incurred, I'm not sure I would have fancied an extra 4 miles on today's walk. Happily, I've just totted up and realised that (based on where we actually finished today) tomorrow is 1.5 miles shorter than I had it on the itinerarararary :-)

(Conrad - we too stayed at Holcombe Guest House when we passed through on our E to W and it was the fact that it offered such good value for money that lured us into trying to get a room yesterday. It's no doubt the same reason it was full!
Martin and JJ - thank you for the further weather reports. We particularly like ones which feature the word dry ;-))

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A Milestone

Unless I've got my mental arithmetic wrong, I do believe that as of some time this morning, I have now walked more miles in 2014 (in 98 days) than I did in the whole of 2013 (which was 666 miles).

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Monday, 7 April 2014

Day 7 - beyond Walesby to vaguely near Elsham

7 April (0810-1715)
Distance: 18 miles (tot: 120.5)
Fitbit steps: 43200
Weather: rain to start, epic rain to finish, but mainly dry in the middle
Number of fine tea-rooms frequented: just one, but notable for serving liquorice and peppermint tea :-)

It wasn't the dryest of starts to a walking day, but, counting our blessings, the rain was not heavy and the wind was from behind. Even so, we lived in our own little worlds of Underhood for the first couple of hours for the day, and the rain had removed all views from the escarpment along which we walked.

I blame the rain and the hoods being up for us merrily following a clear line through some fields and completely missing the gate where we needed to switch sides of the hedgerow. The first we became aware of the blunder was when we reached a multi-stranded barbed wire fence at the bottom of a large field, with no way for us to exit. It transpired that the only way to put ourselves right was to backtrack, uphill, to the originally-missed gate.

The second backtrack of the day wasn't really our fault, and was not large. Some wag had switched a sign-post to show the Viking Way going in a direction it didn't, and we merrily followed it for a handful of paces before both agreeing that the direction didn't feel right. A quick check of the map confirmed where we really needed to be.

Churches (all in fundamentally the same style) were a significant feature of the day. I can't think of anywhere else I've been in the country where there are so many village churches in such close proximity to each other. From a noticeboard at the church outside of which we lunched (Somersby, I think) we learnt something of the finances of these churches, thanks to last year's financial statement being displayed. We also learnt that church only holds four services a year (raising £311 in collection money last year, y'know).

It was also as we lunched that our presence horrified and embarrassed a couple of young teenage girls who came squealing down the churchyard steps on their bikes, not expecting to round the corner and find two (apparent) vagrants sitting there. Their total embarrassment amused us no end.
It wasn't much after lunch that we reached Barnetby. There we picked up our parcel from the Post Office (the Post Master had, until Mick's phone call last week, never heard of the Post Restante service and was expressively disgruntled not knowing how he was going to get paid for holding our box for us). As we were unpacking our goodies outside, we decided to cut short our day (or rather, return it to its originally planned length) and stay overnight at the Guest House across the road.

Alas, there was no room at the inn, so instead we added the weight of four litres of water to our resupply, and toddled off up the road.

The potential stealth-camp spots never looked great on the next section, and the place we ended up was dictated by the ridiculously heavy rain which started to fall. Unfortunately, when it started, I was taking a wander (without my pack) to scout out a pitch. More unfortunately, I wasn't wearing my overtrousers at the time. I wasn't gone more than a couple of minutes, but when I got back I was soaking. We threw the tent up where we stood and in all our years of inner-pitch tenting, this is the first time that we've had the inside get signficantly wet in the pitching.

If the rain lets up at any point, we may move a little - just to somewhere slightly less lumpy...

(Thanks everyone for the weather forecasts. Martin - yours was certainly detailed, and involved some sums to convert windspeeds in m/s to a scale I understand! Conrad - you (and Louise) achieved the level of detail I was expecting.)

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