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]

Monday 30 July 2007

Terrocs - RIP

After the wet-footed trip in the Rhinogau at the end of May (the weekend of the naked rambler encounter, as it will forever be in my memory), I declared that I was still wholly unconvinced with the Terrocs, but that I would persist with them in the hope that I would at some point get to like them. I intended to try them with waterproof socks before I gave up on them.

During our trip to the Lakes in late June, I found that both of my Terrocs had developed a hole in the inside of the heel cup. With less than150 miles of use, I was rather disappointed by that.

For reasons unknown, I didn’t put them in the bin straight away, and for further reasons unknown I opted to wear them for our walk yesterday.

We had gone less than 2 miles when I realised that the uneven surface on the inside of the heel, caused by the fabric around the hole rucking up, was rubbing against my foot.

A short while later I to be found sitting on a tow-path, applying plasters to my heels.

There’s no point in having a pair of shoes that are chewing up my feet each time I wear them, no matter how comfortable the fit is. So, with under 150 miles of use on them, the Terrocs have been retired.

Next on my list to try is the Saloman XA Pro, which I’ve tried on a couple of times. It’s not as nice a fit as the Terroc, but it’s probably worth a try. However, the non-XCR ones cause me a bit of an issue. Whilst I’m by no means a fashion victim (see, I’m struggling with adding a pair of bright red shoes to my collection of mis-matched colours. Perhaps this is a good time to try out the waterproof trail-shoe option, by getting the much more pleasantly coloured XCR?

Sunday 29 July 2007

Today's Random Thought: Talking of North Yorkshire...

I have been to North Yorks before. I’ve certainly driven through quite a number of times, but only on major routes rather than on little roads through interesting places. It’s not a place that’s ever really grabbed my attention.

Yesterday it became obvious that I’ve just not been to the right places before.

The trip to Settle and back (entirely different routes taken) was a bit of an eye-opener.

The bits of Yorkshire that I’d been exposed to before didn’t cause me to want to go and spent time exploring. Now I’ve added another area onto my list of places that we need to go and explore.

Saturday 28 July 2007

Strange Feet Cause A Visit to N. Yorks

Husband has funny feet. High arches and an over-pronation on his left foot to the extent that it really disturbs me when I’m walking behind him (which is, of course, my natural place) to see how it lands on the ground. Both features of his feet/gait would be fine if they didn’t cause him problems. The most notably problem at the moment is the poorly knee that’s now raised its head three times this year.

So, after a month of enforced rest (not even a short walk, never mind a slow run around the village for him), today we popped up to Settle to see Andrew Stanley (State Registered Podiatrist with a formidable list of letters after his name) at the Rebound Clinic. A long way to go, but with the ‘two birds with one stone’ stay at Ma-in-Law’s in West Yorkshire last night, and having seen so many recommendations for him, it seemed worthwhile.

I certainly want Husband’s feet sorted before next April. Getting a poorly knee or huge ball-of-the-feet blisters on day three really would be a bit of a disaster.

So, having done all the expected stuff on a treadmill and having watched the video back, followed by a bit of waiting for temporary orthotics to be made, Husband is now walking around with something that feels entirely unnatural in his shoes. Hopefully, the unnatural feeling will soon subside as he gets used to them.

With a need to get him accustomed to them (or otherwise to find that they’re not right) before our next big outing in less than a month’s time, we’re off out locally tomorrow for our first walk in a month. What a difference from our K2B training period earlier in the year.

I see that the weather forecast for this locale is obliging with heavy rain being predicted.

Thursday 26 July 2007

LEJOG Route Planning (1)

The route planning has now reached the Scottish Border, which feels like a big milestone.

It also feels like the most interesting, but most difficult, planning is yet to come.

For England/Wales I always had a notion of the route that we would take and the reality has deviated only slightly from that (Cheddar and Bridgwater being two surprise places that I hadn’t expected to incorporate, but I didn’t fancy the traditional route via Glastonbury and Bath). Planning has also been made easier for great swathes of the route so far by incorporating a couple of Long Distance Paths (part of the Offa’s Dyke Path and the Pennine Way).

For Scotland I don’t have any great plan and it’s complicated by my initial starting point of not incorporating any LDPs (bear in mind, however, that I am female and thus am at liberty to change my mind on any point, at any time!).

Off the top of my head, I’d say that I don’t want to go into Edinburgh itself and that we will take the direct route up to the north-west, rather than detouring via the West Highland and Great Glen Ways. That’s not a lot of information to get started with.

I think that there could be a couple of evenings sprawling on the floor with books and maps coming up quite soon.

Which brings me nicely to the subject of route planning and how I’ve gone about it so far …

For Those Who Are Wondering...

Just a quick explanation for the photo below, for the benefit of those people who haven’t seen my discussion about it elsewhere:

A couple of weeks ago, I made the statement that sleeping outside without a tent was a step too far for me.

Continuing my specialism in doing spectacular u-turns (‘for the avoidance of doubt, I will never go backpacking’, ‘for the avoidance of doubt, I will never walk the K2B again’ and that sort of thing), within a week I bought a bivvy bag.

Well, it seemed to be a spectacularly good price, and I had just sold some stuff on ebay…

My first inspection of said item was on the office floor just after picking it up from the sorting office. Fortunately, not many people wander into the office at quarter past seven, so I didn’t have to explain myself, but just in case, I resisted the temptation to crawl inside!

However, without concerns about looking silly on my own living room floor (hmmm, until I posted the photo anyway), I did try it out for spaciousness with a sleeping bag.

And then my mind turned to the subject of tarps and to spending a night on the hills (in good weather and just for one night, I hasten to add) without a tent.

I spent this lunchtime browsing tarps.

Now all I have to do is convince Husband (who is possibly praying that we don’t get any good settled weather this summer) that this is a good idea.

Monday 23 July 2007

What A Ridiculous Thing To Do!

Testing out the Alpkit Hunka on the living room floor (and you'd barely even notice my expert photo editing!)

Sunday 22 July 2007

Walking vs Harry Potter

I should have gone for a walk today. It feels like weeks since I was last out there getting muddy.

But, I am one of those people who just had to read Harry Potter before anyone started talking about it. With yesterday unavailable for the not inconsiderable task (607 pages this time), I've just spent a whole day reading (and now I can't even utter a word about the outcome, as Husband still has 100-odd pages to go).

Squeezing in a run mid-afternoon (seldom have I run so fast) was my only foray into the outdoors.

In my defence, I walked half way up and half way back down a hill yesterday - with the significant impediment of carrying a different double sized mattress in each direction. But that's a whole different (and entirely uninteresting) subject...

Thursday 19 July 2007

Anquet Maps - Again


(translation (close your ears Mother): F’ing Anquet Maps).

More LEJOG printing has been going on tonight. And more waypoints have been spuriously moving themselves. They were definitely in the right place when I plotted the routes. They were in the right place when I last looked at the routes. They were in the right place when I backed up the routes. Suddenly, when I came to print, 30 waypoints from one route had moved themselves onto a different route.

I really didn’t want to have to delete them and plot them again, but that’s precisely what I had to do.


Wednesday 18 July 2007

Random Thought of the Day

I was driving home from work today, knowing that I had to go for a jogette around the village as soon as I got home. I’d not run since Sunday, and I had go out today if I was going to get my three runs in for this week.

Sometimes I really enjoy a run. Lately it’s been hard to find the time, so I’m doing the shortest distances reasonably possible and finding that it’s just hard work.

The two things that keep me pounding away, even though all too often the thought at the end of each run is ‘that was hard’ rather than ‘wow, that was good’, are that 1) it makes walking up hills easier; and 2) I know that if I stop it’ll be a lot harder to build that fitness back when I start again (which I undoubtedly would).

So, on my drive home, I was cheering myself up with the thought that next year, whilst walking the length of the country, I will have a whole three months without having to run once. It was a very pleasing thought!

Hopefully, I’ll even come back itching to lace up those running shoes again.

Sunday 15 July 2007

Tickle Your Arse With A Feather?

… I said it's particularly nasty weather.

My work/walk balance is completely out of balance. Too much of my time is spent working when I should be walking. So, when I have a spare day (or even half day, if I’m desperate), I like to pop out for a bit of a yomp – quite often over local fields.

This weekend, having a rare day with nothing specific planned, I had two options with what to do with it: I could either go for a walk with Husband, or I could finally go and fit the new sink in Mother’s bathroom. The latter has been outstanding for a despicable length of time (I fitted the new toilet back in January and intended to do the sink not long after).

So, I spent the afternoon a cursing sink design that doesn’t allow a tap spanner (or indeed any spanner) of any design comfortably into the space around the tap nuts – but for once I found myself pleased to be indoors.

Why? Because on this mid-July day, the weather in Mother’s locale was very, very wet. Really – I’m not exaggerating here. It rained a lot.

Now, I wouldn’t call myself a fair weather walker. In fact, I’m sure that if there should ever be a freak drought in the Lake District then all they need to do is call for us – it’s almost guaranteed to start raining the moment that we leave the M6. Rain is definitely a recurring theme on our outings (‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing’ I always remind myself).

But, on a day when I could usefully spend time indoors, and thus free up another day (potentially with better weather, or so I will try to kid myself), I felt like I had allocated my time wisely today. The sink is fitted. Next time I have a free day, I will be out and about*.

(*Ma: don’t worry, I’ve not forgotten the new radiator – it is next on my list!)

Saturday 14 July 2007

Setting the Date

I already said how we reached the decision to walk LEJOG. Now for the (slightly heavier) reasons for the timing.

In 2003 my father was diagnosed with cancer. By the time of his diagnosis it had spread throughout his entire body. He died in 2004 aged 59.

My parents had made various plans for their retirement. Clearly, those plans never came to fruition.

My mother’s consistent advice has been to do things whilst I’m young enough (good advice Ma!); not to rely on being able to do them later.

So, taking that good advice, we decided not to wait until retirement to walk the length of the country, but set a date that was (at that time) about 18 months hence – April 2008 - which gave us enough time to save the pennies necessary to both become simultaneously unemployed.

Since setting the date, three other members of my immediate family have been diagnosed with cancer. Being the only person in my immediate blood line that’s currently free of the disease (or at least as far as I know) really brings home even more the need to go and do things that I want to whilst I know that I can. After all, I may not be here in five years’ time – and I’d hate to leave this planet without at least having a good shot at my goal.

So, there you go – that’s how we came to decide to do LEJOG and why we’re doing it now. I doubt that I’ll ever have a good answer to the more fundamental ‘why’?

Wednesday 11 July 2007

Why Walk From Land's End to John O'Groats?

The question that Alan Sloman had for me when I met him during his big walk was ‘why?’. An obvious question: ‘why are you going to spend three months walking the length of Britain?’.

It turned out to be a very difficult question to answer. I can say what led us to make the decision to do the walk. I can say what prompted doing it next year. But other than a flippant ‘because I can’t think of a better way to spend three months’, I don’t have a good answer to the ‘why’.

How the plan came about
Two or three years ago (time flies so fast, it may even have been four), the concept of long distance walks was almost alien to me (obviously, I’d heard of people walking LEJOG, but I didn’t think that it was the sort of thing that Ordinary People would do). The notion of me spending months completing a single walk had never even entered my head.

My first awareness of the formal long distance trails came by reading an article about the Appalachian Trail in a book (The Winding Trail) which fell into my hands. It was a single article and was scant on detail, so whilst being interesting, it didn’t make me leap to thinking ‘I could do that’.

Then, thanks to Podcast Bob’s Podcasts, one of Chris Townsend’s ‘Handbooks’ and other articles that I read, I came to know a lot more about the American three – and the idea of undertaking such a long walk really appealed to me.

The only problem that made turning an idea into reality was the ‘America’ bit, which presented me with three problems: 1) trying to arrange the logistics of a walk on a different continent was just too daunting to contemplate – way out of my comfort zone; 2) there are bears and cougars and snakes and other things that may kill you in America – a scary thought for a worrier like me; and 3) the USA does have a little bit of a reputation for being a dangerous place - the thought of having to hitch a ride into towns for re-supply was again a step too far.

Maybe one day I will become a brave person who isn’t daunted by all of these things, but that day seems a long way off.

Then one day (and I can’t recall how it came to pass), I Googled ‘LEJOG Walk’. Suddenly I had realised that I could do a long walk in this country, where logistics, re-supply and wild animals are not so daunting.

The Google results led me to a few diaries of people who had taken on the challenge. By the time I had read the first one I was absolutely certain that this was something that I could do and that I wanted to do.

Fortunately, Husband was just as taken with the idea (big sigh of relief: could have been a bit awkward otherwise!)

The LEJOG plan was born.

Monday 9 July 2007

Days 5 & 6 in the Lakes

Wednesday morning came around and my first waking thought was that the rain that was hammering on the tent wasn’t expected.

My second thought was that we needed to make a move, and quickly. We had learned on arrival that the road to Wasdale Head was to be closed again at 9am so we needed to be away before then.

It was 8.30am as we left the Wasdale Head road, just as the roadwork trucks were arriving. Phew – just in time.

After taking the long route up to Keswick we had something of a lazy morning, once again doing the drooling-over-gear thing (couldn’t resist a pair of those sunglasses that roll up into a film-style canister; the more dangerous purchase was a copy of Three Peaks, Ten Tors – there’s always the danger that I’ll start to think that walking across Wales in a day is a sensible thing to do).

Keeping up our near-100% record, the C&CC site told us on our arrival that they were too waterlogged to accommodate us, a fact that I challenged in that we stayed there last March when half the site was under water and this March when it was a mud-bath. They did relent and offer us a small pitch in between other tents, but it was a little too cosy for my liking so we high-tailed it up to Castlerigg Farm instead, from where we spent the afternoon pottering around (and reading about ridiculous challenge walks, some of which started sounding a bit too interesting).

Wednesday afternoon also saw our first contact with the outside world. Having been cut off from phone and radio reception for a few days and having not seen a newspaper, we had no idea that parts of the country were in significant trouble under feet of water.

We had certainly been lucky. Okay, we’d seen a bit of rain, but I’ve certainly experienced far worse weather in that area.

Thursday was the last day of our holiday, and there’s not much to say about it. The weather was rather showery and we took a bit of an amble around the valley, in the area between Bassenthwaite and Keswick. All was going well until we were just about half way around the circular route we had devised, then just as Husband was thinking that his knee was better, always a foolhardly line of thought, his leg fell off again. Suddenly he couldn’t bend it at all. And there we were at the furthest point from the car.

Still, I needed a bit of a jog … so off I trotted along the main roads, dodging the cars (most of which refused to give me a wide berth, even on straight sections with nothing coming the other way) to retrieve the car and then to retrieve Husband. It was nearly a plan that went horribly wrong when I set off without liberating the car keys from Husband’s bag – that could have been a bit of a disaster had I not realised so soon.

It was then a quick trip down to the Flock Inn Tea Rooms at Yew Tree Farm in Rosthwaite for tea, lamb stew and a leg of lamb, before we were on our way to Ma-in-Law’s for a couple of days before heading on home to drape tents and sleeping bags around the house.

Friday 6 July 2007

Day 3 in the Lakes

Having had a sudden surge in visitors (thanks to and I was today reading back through what I’ve written before. What I noticed was that when I started this I managed to be really disciplined with brevity. Somehow lately I’ve slipped back to waffle. I must make a bigger effort.

So, back to last week; last Monday to be precise. The day dawned cold, wet and windy (with a big emphasis on wet). Our plan had been to backpack over to Wasdale, and had we not had a big tent and a car at our disposal, we would have gone ahead with that plan without batting much of an eyelid at the weather. However, this was our summer holiday, we had luxuries with us and thus we declared the day to be a lazy one and postponed our trip to Wasdale until Tuesday.

So, Monday became a day that was filled with reading, lazing and a trip into Ambleside to drool at the gearshops. With remarkable restraint, we left Ambleside without any purchases having been made and went for a drive over to Patterdale (‘going for a drive’ – that’s something that we don’t do; it was quite a novelty).

Tuesday was a fine day, but Husband’s knee was not fine. The walk over to Wasdale was reluctantly abandoned, so instead we packed everything away and headed over Wrynose and Hardknott Passes to reach Wasdale by road.

We have intended to visit Wasdale Head repeatedly over the last 4 years. Somehow, we’ve never quite made it. So, can you believe that on the day we finally got around to it, the road was closed for resurfacing? We arrived at 11am to be told that the road would re-open at 3.30pm for half an hour. Four and a half hours to kill without the ability to walk up hills (although to be precise the poorly knee was just fine going up hills, it’s the downhill that causes the problem).

Of course, we did manage to fill the time, split between a walk in the valley and a sojourn in a pub.

Having surveyed the options, we opted for the NT campsite, and what a fine view of Scafell Pike we had. Indeed, in the settled weather, we had a fine view of all of the tops.

The day was rounded off with the short stroll up to the Inn, which turned out to be what I expect such an Inn to be.

With the midges biting by the time we returned to the tent, we soon battened down the hatches looking forward to the good weather to continue on Wednesday, as forecast.

It’s a pity that forecasts are so often wrong, isn’t it?

To be continued…

Tuesday 3 July 2007

Day 2 in the Lakes

Sunday saw something of a slow start to the day.

Having switched campsites by 9am we were soon heading out with our sights set on the Langdale Pikes.

However, walking down the road in the rain (Husband was a little bit too pleased to be out walking in the rain again, but he’s a bit strange like that; he likes running in the rain too), I realised that I had forgotten to pick up any lunch for myself. What more of an excuse does one need to pop into the Sticklebarn for second breakfast?

When we finally got ourselves out onto the hillside, after greasy food was eaten and tea drunk, it was under the still falling rain, but the day was warm so waterproofs were soon dispensed with.

Being mid-morning on a Sunday, solitude was not to be had. Despite the rain, the stone staircase that leads up to Stickle Tarn was a veritable motorway, and so it remained the whole way up to the tarn, which is where we made a swift change to our route plan.

The change wasn't caused by the number of people around; rather it was because (for reasons unknown) the original plan omitted Pavey Ark. We rectified the omission and I was pleased that once we made our way from the popular point of the tarn and up Pavey Ark, we were finally by ourselves.

The solitude didn’t last long. By the time we reached the top there were so many people crammed onto the highest point that we decided not to add our sweaty bodies to the jam, so made do with a bit of ‘oohing’ at the view from a few paces away before heading on over to Harrison Stickle.

We probably didn’t take the most direct route to get there, but it was pleasant all the same. After stopping for a chocolate break on the top (more ‘oohing’ at the views – the cloud was happily very high, notwithstanding the rain) it was time to head on over to Pike of Stickle (again, taking an odd route choice, but this time mainly because I was paying no attention at all as we wandered away from the summit).

My recollection of Pike of Stickle is that it was infested with midges, so our time there was a) limited and b) spent slapping myself around the face. Even the rain that started falling on us every time we reached a summit didn’t deter these pesky midges.

A short while later, with Loft Crag under our belts, we had the option of making the day longer by circling back over towards High Raise to descend via Stake Pass (in retrospect, that may have been the best plan) or just calling a day early and heading straight back down.

We saw the heavy rain heading towards us, considered that we would be better saving ourselves for the next couple of days backpacking and headed on down.

The path that we took down was just as rocky (in the same stone-staircase sort of way) as was the path up, but perhaps a little steeper. Alas, the nature of the path soon disclosed that the pulled ligaments in Husband’s knee (the ones that he originally pulled back in March and then aggravated again in May) are still not fully healed. By the time we reached the valley Husband was hobbling notably, and my right knee was feeling the strain too (hindsight: Stake Pass would have been gentler).

We could only hope that after a night’s rest they would be sufficiently recovered for our trip over to Wasdale on the Monday, although we did acknowledge that we may have to omit the planned detour up Scafell Pike on the way.

To be continued…

Monday 2 July 2007

The Summer Expedition

A bit of a hiatus in the blog, as we took a bit of a holiday.

It was a bit of a surprise holiday in that on the day of departure we hadn’t firmly decided where to go. The options were:
1. to pop down to Cornwall to do a bit of a recce of some campsites (ie to see whether they exist) that we plan to use on our big walk next year and to check out if some of our route choices look to be feasible; or
2) to pop up to the Lakes for a week of walking up hills that I’ve not walked up since childhood and that Husband has only ever seen from a distance.

The weather forecast didn’t help a decision: both places had equally bad forecasts.

In the event, after a morning spent packing we turned right out of the drive and headed to the Lakes on Saturday afternoon.

A plan was formed on the drive up the M6: we would spend a couple of nights at the NT campsite in Great Langdale, then leave the car there as we walked over to Wasdale, via Scafell Pike, to spend a night, before walking back to Langdale to pick up the car to head over to Keswick to take in Helvellyn and Blencathra.

The first part of the plan didn’t start well when we arrived at Great Langdale to find the site full. Weighing up the options (turning the trip around being the main one) we ummed and arred for a few minutes before opting to go to the campsite at Chapel Stile for the night before heading up to Great Langdale the following morning.

A sharp shower just as we returned from the pub was fortuitous as it sent indoors the big group who were playing music at inconsiderate volume from their car stereo (with the doors open), so a reasonably peaceful night was had.

Sunday would see us taking in our first (and as it happened, last – but that’s a different story) hills of the holiday – but you’ll have to wait for tomorrow for the next instalment.