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]

Saturday 30 May 2009

Hills vs Culture

Peeping out of the curtains this morning I had to conclude that the day wasn’t looking too shoddy. Not a cloud was to be seen in the sky and it was that intense colour of blue that heralds a perfect day.

Such a perfect day called for one of two courses of action. One option was that we could go for a walk. It seemed like a perfect mountain day, but journeying to mountains would have taken time and eaten too much into the day, so a walk would likely have meant us finding ourselves on the Chase. The other option that appealed was to pop down to Stratford-upon-Avon, enjoy a bit of sun on the riverside while having a picnic lunch, before going to see whatever was being performed at the Courtyard as the Saturday Matinee.

A phone call was made to the ticket office when it opened with the crushing news that the matinee was sold out. What a blow! I really did fancy a bit of Shakespeare.

Hot on the heels of that news was a correction that it wasn’t sold out but that the only tickets left had a restricted view.

How restricted?” I asked.

The only answer I got was that there was a pillar obstructing view; no information as to whether it was a three-feet wide pillar immediately in front of the seats, or a pillar off to one side. Still, restricted view seemed a better option than no view, so the tickets were bought and with unprecedented swiftness we pulled ourselves together and got out of the door.

I do like Stratford, particularly in good weather, and today didn’t disappoint. A picnic was had as planned, Mick read a newspaper whilst I relaxed with a book and then we ambled over to the theatre to see As You Like It. The restricted visibility turned out to be a small pillar that blocked the very corner of the stage; moving the head by two inches either way got around that tiny lack of visibility.

It was an excellent performance, and the fight scene was right up there as the best I’ve seen. As You Like It doesn’t go down as one of my favourite plays, but it was still a good three hours of entertainment.

Disgustingly large ice-creams were enjoyed with more lounging on the riverside before we made our way home (and we did get a modicum of exercise to and from where we parked (thanks to me being too tight to park in town when there’s free parking to be had a pleasant 1 mile riverside walk away)).

It’s unusual for us to pop out for a good-and-proper day out of this nature, and an excellent time was had.

Back to the walking next weekend (and if the weather could be as fantastic as today, that would be just fine too).

Thursday 28 May 2009

To Sew A Toe

Back at the beginning of March 2008 I posted about a blister remedy I had come across in a book from 1848:

On the feet, occasioned by walking, are cured by drawing a needle full of worsted through them; clip it off at both ends and leave it till the skin peels off.’

I was rather sceptical.

Mr. Sloman commented at the time that he thought that there was something in the advice given, as the thread would act as a wick, but at the time I didn’t think that sewing a piece of thread through a blister was something that I would be trying.

Of course, opinions can change, particularly when someone has acted as a guinea pig.

The guinea pig was Vic (the one who goes to great lengths to help me out when I find myself in urgent need of something in the middle of a long walk and who occasionally pops up on this blog). When she suddenly found herself inflicted with a number of blisters after a wet day on her Grand Union Canal walk last year, she thought the thread method to be worth a try, and found that her blisters dried out astoundingly quickly.

So, after the fourth day of the piffling blister on my little toe reforming during the TGOC, I decided that drastic action was needed. My needle and a length of thread were thoroughly wiped down with a pre-injection swab, and through both layers of my double-decker of a blister I sewed the thread. At this point Mick, who had been wandering around the vicinity of the tent taking photos, returned and snapped a quick photo of the work in progress:

P5110091a I then trimmed the ends off the thread.

The following night I removed the thread and sewed another piece through, in the other direction.

It was still a couple of days before I was pain free, and who knows, maybe it would have got better by itself by then anyway, but I wouldn’t write off repeating the experiment in future (hopefully not for a very long time though – as I said at the time, I’m not accustomed to getting blisters and I don’t want to start getting accustomed to them).


Wednesday 27 May 2009

It’s A Sign!

Every now and then whilst out and about I spot a sign that amuses or intrigues me. Here’s a selection, all seen in the last year:


I had to trespass to get that photo.


A worrying sign to find on the path of a National Trail!


From a distance I only saw the “Warning: Sheep Grazing” bit


Makes a difference from the usual “Forestry Operations Keep Out” sort of sign


I’m pleased to say that the milk wasn’t served via a pump on the forecourt


What is the world coming to? H&S instructions on how to use a ladder stile.


As opposed to …


I think I’m closer than the sign suggests (but, wow, do I look miserable there?)


At least it wasn’t raining when I took it.


Tea bags: that well known form of sanitary disposable…

Post-TGO Challenge Random Thoughts

Thank You!

Firstly a thank you for all of the comments left whilst we were away. I’m not yet sufficiently technologically advanced that I can access comments on the hoof (so please don’t think that I was being ignorant in not replying to them), but it’s always very nice indeed to catch up with the comments when we get back.

The Blogging Device

Despite having a very annoying fault and being limited compared to other solutions, my new phone did the job for sending the blog posts. I even got a signal far more often than expected (and on no occasion did I have a signal on o2 or vodafone but not on T-mobile, so I needn’t have gone to the trouble and expense of getting the phone unlocked).

It was a few days through the trip when it dawned on me that I should be able to send photos, and it was good to finally see the results on a proper sized screen. In fact, at the time that I sent each of those photos the daylight on the screen meant that I couldn’t see what I was sending, so it was particularly pleasing to see that my ‘point, click and hope’ method worked just fine (even if the Edinburgh photo does look like it’s been tampered with).

Coming up - Kit

After a few people asked me, as we progressed east, what was in my pack, I thought I would put together a kit list of what I carried on this trip (although it’s not much different from what I carried on our LEJOG last year). This time, I even sat and weighed every single item. I ran out of time at the weekend to put the spreadsheet into a sensible order, but I’ll do that this weekend and post it.

I’ll also try to pull together a few thoughts as to various bits and pieces.

Also Coming Up – Another Angle

On the first night of our trip, as we sat there amidst the slug-fest, I typed my blog entry and I gave the notebook to Mick – and without complaint (even though it was girly pink) he wrote an account of our day. He then continued to write up the journal each night.

Now, I may be biased, but I thought it was rather good. So, if you can bear a second account of the same walk, once Mick has typed it up (it would be faster if I typed it, but I can’t read the writing!) I will post it here, probably in ‘seven episodes’.

Also Coming Up – Photies

We took a lot of photos! On the ‘to do’ list is the job of culling them and putting them somewhere suitable so that others can view them.

Comfortable Sleeping

Before the Challenge, when lots of people were getting excited at the Thermarest NeoAir and I was looking at other comfy looking mats, I managed to convince myself that I was trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. As nice as the thought of having a thicker mat was, I don’t have trouble sleeping on my thin Prolite 3 (mine isn’t actually the one shown in that link; it’s the old, heavier, pink one).

Once again, I had no problem getting a good night’s sleep, but with my mind now concentrated on the alternative mats that are out there, I did notice my stiff shoulders in the morning, which felt (unsurprisingly) like I’d been lying on a hard surface.

Mick now has a NeoAir on order, and I’m contemplating an Exped Downmat or a POE Thermo Thingy Whatsit.

And so…

…that really was a random selection of thoughts wasn’t it?


Friday 22 May 2009

200 feet and 6 inches above Edinburgh

With an hour and a half between trains in Edinburgh I thought we would briefly be tourists.

The first touristy thing that we stumbled across (diffcult to miss, really) was the Scott Monument - and if there's a tall structure of that nature with public access then I like to climb it.

The £3 entrance fee seemed reasonable and the chap taking money was happy for us to leave our packs in his tiny area, so up we went.

As much as I like going up towers and such, it's always about a minute into the climb that I remember that spiral staircases make me silly-dizzy.

The views from the four viewing platforms were superb and the structure of the monument itself magnificent.

Staggering with dizziness we reached ground a good while later happy to have found a worthwhile way of stretching our legs and lungs whilst getting a bird's eye view of the city - and all within three minutes of the station.

Only two more trains and a bus now before home is reached.

Thursday 21 May 2009

Day 13 - North Water Bridge to St Cyrus

Wed 20 May
8.5 miles

(delayed posting - too busy being sociable yesterday)

It was a leisurely start from the campsite yesterday morning and half of the tents had gone by the time we got away (Rory's Argos tent having gone in the bin - not that there was anything wrong with it but he was quite adamant that he was never going to backpack again).

We had not gone far when John Maning caught up with us and so it was as a party of three that we chased Kim from Yorkshire, who was just ahead of us, to the coast.

The miles flew by and before we knew it the tea room in the village came into view just in time to see Kim's back disappearing through the door.

A short discussion was had as to whether it was acceptable to stop for tea and cake within sight of the end before we followed Kim's lead.

A few others (who had got the seqence of finish - tea - cake right) came in whilst we were there but we managed to drag ourselves away.

I recalled someone saying on the way across that St Cyrus is not the wisest choice of finish because of the long walk down to the sea. At the time I pictured a long beach. The reality is a steep cliff path down to the beach - fine on the way down, a bit of a pull on the way back (and for completeness we did carry our packs).

Of all the nationalities on the Challenge I did note that I found myself on the beach with three blokes - all from West Yorkshire. John and Kim were each completing their 10th crossings and so photos were accompanied by a rather nice 10 year old whisky that John had carried to mark the occasion.

After the toil back up the cliff more tea and cake was consumed before the bus ride to Challenge Control in Montrose to sign in and officially complete our first Challenge.

Wednesday 20 May 2009


All go at Challenge Control.

Made it!

And the sun came out for us too.

Day 13 - Elevenses

We would be on the beach at St Cyrus by now, except that to get to the beach we had to walk past the tea room. Unsurprisingly we fell in and in front of me I now have a very large pot of tea.

Next, the beach.

Tuesday 19 May 2009

North Water Bridge Backpackers' Convention

Some of the tents at the campsite (28 in total at the last count).

Terra Nova dominates by a whisker above Hilleberg but there has been much discussion of the Argos Tiger Paw, in the middle of the cluster, which set Rory back £15 when he bought it new 8 years ago. There is talk of condensation amongst those with the expensive tents. Rory looks duly smug as he confirms that his Argos model is condensation free.

Day 12 - Forgotten detail

Ooops. Forgot the stats again for that last post.

Day 12 is Tuesday 19 May (good job my watch tells me these things or I would have struggled to work that out) and the mileage for the day was 17.

They were fast and easy miles though, so it didn't feel that far.

Day 12 - Tarfside to North Water Bridge

Twenty five or so tents were pitched on the field at Tarfside last night, but by 7.30 this morning that number was already reducing as people made their way to one of the breakfast establishments or to start their day.

By just gone 7.30 we were away too, retracing our steps a short way to the other side of the river North Esk from where we followed paths and tracks alongside the river the whole 12 miles into Edzell.

Arriving dripping (heavy showers once again today) at the tea room we joined 3 other Challengers who were already inside and set about consuming quantities of food and tea. More Challengers (increasingly soggy ones) came in until the place was full and it became only proper that we give up our table to some new arrivals.

Edzell marked the point where our route becomes a road-walk to the coast so the final five miles of the day were fast but unremarkable.

We were the second tent to pitch at the campsite but it wasn't long before many more arrived (all pitching on top of us and one another despite the big area available).

The showery weather is continuing, so having done laundry and taken a blissful hot shower we're now unsociably zipped up in the tent.

The end is now in sight. Tomorrow morning we will set out for the final 9 miles along little roads to the sea at St Cyrus.

Day 11 - Glen Clova to Tarfside

Mon 18 May
14 miles

As we walked into Glen Clova yesterday and I saw the hills over which we were to walk this morning I was really looking forward to the views we would get in the good weather that was sure to hold.

As I opened the door of our bunkroom at 6.15 this morning I gave fleeting thought to just turning around and going back to bed. The cloud was down and it was raining. This was not the day we had planned!

By 8.10, 20 mins into our day, we were up in that cloud and the light rain had become wind-driven heavy rain. The climb up to Green Hill (870m) got the blood pumping but we saw nothing and we made our way along the tops often with compass in hand.

The compass got even more use as we decided that we didn't fancy following the path as it descended 200m off Skuiley only to reascend 200m up Burnt Hill when there was an obvious route across the tops. The heather and hags
made it a strenuous option but it felt better than the alternative down and up.

As the morning went on the odd few holes started appearing in the low cloud giving us occasional glimpses of our apparently stunning surroundings but still the rain fell.

The best thing to do in the conditions seemed to be to keep moving so we motored along until at just after noon the rain stopped - which coincided with us reaching a wind shelter on Cairn Caidloch - our last hill of the day. We didn't need persuading to pause briefly for lunch.

Then all we had to do was to drop down to the road (took an interesting route there too) and follow it to Tarfside and as we did that the weather turned to heavy showers interspersed with a golden orb.

Arriving at 2.30 between showers the tent was pitched before we hotfooted it to the church for tea & chat & tea & cake & chat & tea & chat.

A damp day, with 5 hours of rain in the 6.5 we were out, but not a bad one all in all.

Day 10 - First view of Glen Clova

As we broke out of some forestry just after noon it was with an 'ooh' that we noticed this view.

The path from this point to the next lump of forestry had the distinction of being one of the wetest paths along which I've walked - and I'm no stranger to bogginess. Squelch!

Day 10 - Glen Markie to Glen Clova

Sun 17 May
15 miles

'Did you hear the rain in the night?' asked Mick. I can't say that I noticed it, but I did notice the absence of rain (but the presence of dripping condensation, thanks to the still night) as we got up and packed away.

As if on cue the rain started again the very moment I exited the tent and I was a tad morose at the thought of another day of being wet and cold.

Mick helped my morale with a pep talk ('for goodness sake, pull yourself together, you've got a face like a wet weekend'), and off we set.

As a bonus over yesterday visibility was remarkably improved so we could see the lumpy, heather clad landscape through which we were passing.

As a double bonus, by the time we stopped for elevenses, on a bench by the chapel in Prosen Village, the sky was looking decidedly brighter and I was having thoughts of removing my overtrousers.

A woman who arrived with her Dyson to give the chapel a bit of a fettling before the noon service gave us some (unsolicited but very useful) route advice for the last couple of miles of the day, then we were off again.

The landscape of Glen Prosen is pleasing indeed if lumpy, rough and heathery is your thing, but it was as we broke from a lump of forestry on the way down into Glen Clova that an 'oooh' escaped me. By this time the sky was blue and Glen Clova was looking absolutely stunning. I'm so pleased that we arrived today, with good visibility to allow us to appreciate it.

We were at our destination at just gone 2 and were soon booked into the bunkhouse and once again doing the chores that occupy me when I want to be resting. Still, the chores are now done and as I type this (at 4.30pm) I have my feet up & a cup of tea to hand.

Monday 18 May 2009

It's all gone quiet over there...

For those who've been looking out for the daily updates, I can report that Gayle and Mick are alive and well (if slightly damp) in Tarfside, enjoying cups of tea.

As expected, the mobile phone coverage has gone from patchy to non-existent. Normal blog service will be resumed as soon as they get a signal.

Saturday 16 May 2009

Cloud's Lifted!

Ooooh! For the first time since before 10 this morning we can see some of our surroundings.

Day 9 - Evening

Two things have been learnt this evening:

1) When Terra Nova warn that the Superlite Voyager is not watertight they are quite correct. In this evening's rain we have sprung a leak. Not catastrophic (yet!). I will be sealing those seams myself when we get home.

2) If you fall asleep whilst waiting for your Chick Pea Stewy Thing to rehydrate and accidentally leave it for an hour then the chick peas do fully rehydrate. I've never managed such patience before.

Day 9 - Kirkmichael to Glenmarkie

Sat 16 May
13.5 miles

After we left Kirkmichael this morning, after a lie-in & a cooked breakfast, we discovered that had we continued on yesterday we would not have been short of choices of pitch.

I was happy, however, to have had a night of luxury and was particularly pleased with having indulged in an indecently long shower followed by the joy of getting dry in a warm room with a big fluffy towel. After 8 days of being outside (featuring just 2 showers!) it was a worthwhile treat.

So, off we set this morning, noting the possible pitches & making our way through farmland, all the time playing 'spot the stile'.

The spotting of stiles became trickier when, about 45 minutes into the day, the cloud came down. Down it stayed too, such that we didn't see a thing all day.

I know that we passed from farmland onto open moor and that we skirted a bit of forestry & crossed more moorland. Great attention was paid to navigation in the pathless yomping & we managed to stay on track (on the tricky bits anyway; we did go very mildly awry on forestry tracks right at the end of the day)- but at no time could we see where we were going or what our surroundings were like.

And so I find that after a day of walking through this area I have no feel for the visual nature of it, which is rather a shame.

On the plus side (every cloud and all that) the day was not as wet as forecast. Although mizzly in the cloud, it wasn't until 4 hours through that any real rain fell and then it was only light. The proper wet stuff managed to hold off until we had been in the tent for a whole 10 minutes - what timing!

We're now pitched in our preferred position - at the edge of a babbling stream. It should lull us to sleep nicely later.

As for other people, it has been a quiet day. Just one couple was met out for a stroll in their 'back garden'. We chatted a while and proving what a small world we live in it transpired that the chap grew up 1 mile away from where I did.

Friday 15 May 2009

Day 8 - Blair Atholl to Kirkmichael

It was a sociable night last night in the Atholl Arms, chatting to people we already knew & meeting new faces. Amongst those present was Alan who we first met at Wolverhampton station & who has been having an eventful challenge. A few days ago he slipped, fell & did a nasty mischief to his head/ear. Glen Coe MRT went to his rescue and a local Medical Centre glued his ear back on, then incredibly he got himself back to the point where the accident had happened and continued his walk. He wins my award for continuing in the face of adversity.

As for today, we knew that the weather had changed as soon as we woke. There was not the clear-night chill in the air & sure enough a short while later a gentle patter of rain was to be heard.

Waterproofs on, off we set hoping that it would just be a passing shower. That rain did pass but as we ascended it was replaced with a strong headwind which made the going much tougher than the terrain suggested it should be.

Then, about an hour and a half in, the rain started again & this time it didn't stop. From what I saw the surroundings were very nice indeed, but from my little world of Underhood it wasn't possible to enjoy them to the full.

Terrain was varied, ranging from a few km of heather-bashing & yomping to a lovely forest path to a not-so-nice couple of miles down a quiet A road.

Amongst all this, lunch turned into a quandary as we needed to eat but I was cold by then & knew that stopping would risk me getting so cold that I would struggle to get warm again.

3 miles from our destination we did find a spot sheltered from wind and rain and as we ate I started fantasising about finding a B&B for the night.

Had a good pitch presented itself before we reached the village we would have used it, but as it didn't we succumbed to our first luxury of the trip. So this afternoon not only do I get the rest that I failed to achieve amongst yesterday's chores, but due to the time of breakfast service we get a lie-in tomorrow too.

Day 8 - Unplanned luxury

After six hours of hoods-up-heads-down rain we arrived in Kirkmichael and found that we had to walk past the hotel. We fell in and enquired about a room. They had just one left. And what a nice room it is.

Joyfully, I can now feel my hands again!

Thursday 14 May 2009

Day 7 - Tummel Bridge to Blair Atholl

Thursday 14 May
Distance: Haven't measured it yet

The cold nose as I awoke this morning told me that it had been a chilly night and that was confirmed when I popped my head out to the tent to see everything covered in frost. As enticing as it was to stay in my nice warm sleeping bag, I was also on a mission to get to Blair Atholl early so that we could get chores done and still have a nice relaxing afternoon.

Our route today was not as planned. I've a feeling that the planning may have been undertaken after a couple of glasses of good wine, as when we looked at the map last night a much nicer looking route jumped off the page at us, which also proved to be more direct. So, instead of forestry tracks this morning, we were mainly on open hillside, with just a bit of forestry (on a grassy (often boggy (sometimes very boggy)) path) thrown in.

Not only was it a very pleasant walk, with stunning views under yet more fine skies, but the directness of it also meant that our mileage was reduced, and so we found ourselves arriving in Blair Atholl at just noon - with plenty of time not just for chores but also for a sit-down cooked lunch. Pity that the checking in at the campsite proved to be such a ridiculously complex process. I don't think they're used to backpackers (and we're fully anticipating a telling off later for having ignored the rule about which direction your tent must face; we've faced it according to the rather brisk wind in contravention of their strict rules).

The exciting news about the morning was that I walked the first 40 minutes without any pain in my poorly toe, and although it protested a bit as we walked along the road, it settled down as we started on grass.

Even better, Vic excelled at the challenge I set her on Tuesday lunchtime, when I sent her a cryptic and somewhat curt text message from a hilltop asking her to get a pair of very thin X-Socks to reach me in Blair Atholl today. Despite the campsite initially telling me otherwise, the socks were here awaiting me - which means that Mick can now have back his sock that I've been wearing for the last three days. Having experimented with all of the socks we have between us, it was the only one that was comfortable on the sore toe.

(typed on a blissfully-large keyboard on the campsite computer, which is a pleasant change after the tiny keyboard of my blogging device - but I'm out of time now...)

Day 7 - 3 miles in

Another fine day!

Wednesday 13 May 2009

Day 6 - Pitch

Not a bad pitch, after miles of pitchlessness.

Day 6 - Bridge of Balgie to Tummel Bridge

13 May
18.5 miles

As we bade farewell to our fellow Challengers at 0730 this morning we set out on what, at a glance, had looked like a pretty easy 13.5 mile day. We even rued, under the clear sky, not having planned a 'fair weather alternative' over some more hills.

The track up to the pass over to Loch Rannoch was indeed easy and fast. Our plan to then yomp for 3 miles across country was modified when we weighed up wading thight deep through heather with the alternative of extra road walking and extra miles and took what appeared to be the better option.

The tracks we took through forestry were pleasant enough, offering as they did some views and even the road had its merits. But my feet! Oh they did protest at the pounding - particularly my poorly toe.

The route I had planned from the road to the river Tummel looked so straightforward on the map but proved to be tougher on the ground - which was actually a relief for the toe after the repetitive pounding of the road.

After an incident of Mick climbing over a remarkably tall deer fence without noticing the gate a few yards down (I opted for the gate myself) we reached our intended destination - only to find that the expected access to water was missing.

On we went, with me changing to my crocs and back again, and getting increasingly desperate for somewhere to pitch.

Even foregoing the usual comfort requirements there was nowhere we could see that, even with the desperation factor, looked feasible. With faith in the fact that something always turns up, on we plodded, but as we approached the main B road our faith began to dwindle.

It turned out not to be misplaced faith. There, about 100 yds down a grassy side track, alongside some houses and just before the road we found a grassy pitch on the side of a large pond.

It had been a long day, but with this pitch I think that we fell on our feet at the end of it and as an added bonus we're now 2.5 miles into tomorrow.

Day 6 - Lunch

Not a bad spot for lunch - In the sunshine looking down the length of Loch Rannoch.

Day 6 - 2nd Breakfast

Not too shoddy a day again today and hopefully this post has a photo to prove it.

Day 5 - Pubil to Bridge of Balgie

12 May
12.5 miles 3500' ascent

Our day didn't have the most successful start when it turned out that the first track we intended to take had been curtailed by someone who had built a big house there. What we did find at the end of the now dead-end was a group of 6 challengers pitched in someone's back garden - including Darren who had blown a little off his intended course.

After hearing how they had been treated to tea and beer by the people who had allowed them to pitch, we dragged ourselves away, back to the road and to the next track along - which was the driveway to the new house.

We followed the drive a little nervously thinking that we may be somewhere we shouldn't be but it came good and we got to where we needed to be.

A slightly longer than plotted route was then taken up Stuchd an Lochain purely because it looked nicer on the ground and we basked in the loveliness of it all.

Had the day been a rainy one then I'm sure that my thighs would have burned on the ascent, I would have puffed and panted and it would have been jolly hard work. As it was, in the spectacular conditions, I skipped along loving every minute.

The views were first class from the top, which we had to ourselves, and the first day walkers were not seen until we had visited our second top of the day and were on our way down.

From the end of Loch an Daimh it was a road walk to Bridge of Balgie - which is the point where our route intersects last year's LEJOG route. This time, however, the tea room was open so we tarried a while before joining 4 others to camp at the picnic area (complete with toilet facilities).

There are 'no camping' signs here and the Laird did spot us and stop by to see what was going on, but was happy when we explained.

A sociable evening has been had and we're now looking forward to another sunny day tomorrow (please!).

Tuesday 12 May 2009

Day 5 - Elevenses

Hopefully there's a photo with this post - should have tried out this function in advance!

It's just gone 11am on the most stunning of days and we're sitting atop Stuchd an Lochain drinking in the most magnificent views and feeling like we're the luckiest people in Britain to be able to be here.

Day 4 - Other Thoughts

I ran out of characters on my post about day 4 (it's the blogging device that I'm using) without giving the vital stats.

We walked 16.5 miles with something like 1500 feet of ascent all on easy terrain.

Since I tapped away to create the main blog post I've also taken drastic action with the little toe - I have sewn a piece of thread through it. fingers crossed that the thread is wicking and keeps it drained.

I think that my problem with the toe are two-fold - 1) I'm not accustomed to blisters and had forgotten how sore the little bastards can be and 2) I am a girly wimp with a low pain threshold!

Day 4 - Tyndrum to Pubil

We walked further than intended today. That we reached our intended overnight stop at just 12.30 wasn't a significant factor in that, as the spot I'd earmarked from the map turned out to be as suitable as they come - idyllic in fact.

With legs still weary from yesterday we could happily have lazed the sunny afternoon there. What made us continue was the comment that our route vetter made about tomorrow's plan: 'this is a really hard day.' It made getting a 4 mile headstart on ourselves look like a good idea - particularly as today's walking was easy.

The afternoon was somewhat marred however by a blister. It first formed on day 1 and despite efforts to get rid of it, it has been sticking around. It is under my little toe and is now a blister on a blister. OUCH!

This afternoon, it became so painful that I could stand walking in my boots no more and adding their wet weight (we had earlier forded a rather deep river) to my already heavy pack (lots of days food in there) I walked the final 3 miles in my cheapo mock-crocs. That proved to alleviate the problem but doesn't strike me as a long term solution.

Having foregone a number of lovely camping spots along Loch Lyon it wasn't until the houses beyond the dam came into sight that we thought that we ought to stop. It was only 3.30 but aside from my poorly toe, if we carried on further we would have had a distance further to go to find somewhere even semi-suitable.

Weather news is good today; we didn't see a cloud in the sky until late morning and it has been hot. I'm feeling quite aglow. Fingers crossed that it persists for our high route tomorrow.

News of other challengers is that we met another last night. Of all of the walkers in Tyndrum the one to whom Mick said 'are you walking the WHW' replied 'I'm doing something called the TGO Challenge - you've probably not heard of it'. He was Kim from Yorkshire and although he was heading in a different direction to us today our paths may cross again in a few days.

Sunday 10 May 2009

Day 3 - Ben a Chleibh to Tyndrum

Sun 10 May
9 or so (hard) miles, 3200' ascent

The headline news is that, after our failure back in October, we did today make it to the top of Ben Lui.

Snow fell on us as we made our way through the untouched inches a ready lying there and conditions were such that I did question whether we would make it to the top.

Make it we did though and, with good timing, during one of the breaks in the cloud, so we did have a bit of a view even if most of the tops in that view were in cloud.

Things didn't go so well on the descent, so we'll gloss over that save to say that the problem was a failure to navigate. By that I don't mean that we navigated badly I mean that we failed to look at the map - absolute ridiculous stupidity.

Still, all is well that ends well and we did make it down with lives and limbs intact. As an added bonus the weather steadily improved until we were baking and all of the tops were clear - most stunningly Ben Lui.

After a hard day of pathlessness we almost flew the last 6km down the track to Tyndrum. Once here, although desperate for a rest, we weren't treated to a sit down thanks to an urgent need to wash and reproof Mick's jacket... Something of a repeat of our last trip to this place!

However, the chores are nearly complete, our stomachs have been filled at the Real Food Cafe and we're looking forward to a good and long kip to refresh us for tomorrow.

Rumour has it that the weather's looking good for the next couple of days too.

Atop Ben A Chleibh

And the sun is out! Next we go take a look at Ben Lui. Looking a bit snowy over there.

Day 2 - Glen Noe to By Ben a Chleibh

Fri 9 May
15 miles, 3700' ascent.

Our pitch last night proved to be in the midst of a major slug-fest, so it was after removing the slimy beasts from inside our shoes, mugs, food bags and the like that we set off this morning during a brief break in the rain.

The planned route up Glen Noe was based purely on it looking doable from the map and although hard going in places it turned out to be a good choice. Aside from anything else it was the solitude and scenery of this Glen that made my head finally catch up with the fact that I'm on a walking holiday. It's taken a while!

It was near the t op of the Glen that the cloud suddenly rolled in and the earlier showers became persistent rain (and hail, sleet and snow) that stayed with us for hour upon hour.

It was because of the rain that we didn't stop for 2nd breakfast or 11ses. During a lull in the wetness we did pause briefly for lunch but being wet, we soon cooled down and needed to get moving again.

The A85 was diced with for a short while, where one motorist seemed willing to mow us down in order to overtake (certainly made me jump!), then it was back onto tracks - forestry at first then grassy (and boggy).

The rain finally turned to showers as we tackled our final couple of KMs of the day, by which time, after a hard day with only the shortest of breaks I was more than ready to stop.

So tired was I that I wasn't even fussed about our pitch being flat, level or dry, but as it happens we found somewhere that almost managed each of those traits.

By good fortune we got pitched in the dry and between a few more showers the sun even showed itself.

Tomorrow we have a short day planned albeit (provided the weather clears up) a hill or 2 will feature. It'd be nice to get some wet stuff dry too!

Saturday 9 May 2009

Day 1 - Oban to Glen Noe

8 May
Distance - 18 miles

It was as a party of five that we left the Youth Hostel this morning, with Bob, Rose and their daughter Beth.

Leaving Oban we were a party of 7 as we had bumped into Ellie and Derek and, with much chatting, we made our way up a glen.

Bob and Rose's route soon diverged from ours so good luck was wished all around and we carried on with Ellie and Derek in the direction of Taynuilt. Another challenger - Jenny Headscarf - was passed as we tootled along and fast progress was made as we omitted any rest stops bar a quick elevenses due to the distraction of chatting.

As the showers were just getting more frequent we reached Taynuilt, and it would have been rude to pass through without stopping for a cup of tea, so that's precisely what we did.

Thankfully we finally got off road as we left Taynuilt and stayed that way until we reached the smokery there. We bade farewell to Ellie and Derek as our routes parted but our departure was delayed by a most impressive and violent hail storm.

It didn't see like much later when we reached our intended overnight stop, but a suitable pitch didn't present itself and as we weren't desperate to stop we carried on into tomorrow's route.

In all we have walked 1.5 miles further than intended today. It's been a touch damp but enjoyable nevertheless.

We're now pitched in a pleasant-but-not-spectacular spot in Glen Noe looking forward to our day tomorrow.

Thursday 7 May 2009


I realised in the middle of the night that my watch was not on my wrist. Nor was it on the table next to me and from that information I deduced that it was still on my bedside table at home.

For some peple being watchless for two weeks would be a joy. Not so for me. I need my watch and its absence kept me awake (silly, I know) whilst I came up with a back up plan.

I was up early this morning to put my plan into action - and having arisen so early, what should i find sitting there on the floor but the missing item. Sigh of relief.

With grateful thanks to my sister who, bleary eyed, gave us a lift to the station this morning, our journey commenced.

Our first encounter with another Challenger was on the platform (and I think it was for the fun of seeing people running up stairs with baggage that the last minute platform change was made). More have been spotted joining the train since.

There's a little nervousness on the the train - not at the thought of the walk to come but because the train was already running late when we joined it and we have an important connection to make in Glasgow...

Wednesday 6 May 2009

Rush, Rush, Rush

It is seldom that I have felt so incredibly disorganised as I have today. With Mick just back from America, and with me having to work, and with food to be sorted, parcels to be packaged and sent, kit to be organised and bags to be packed, we had a full day ahead of us.

I finally got around to packing about three hours before we had to leave the house, by which time the pressure was getting to me and Mick was taking the brunt of it.

Despite feeling like we were going to be rushing around until midnight, we were only a handful of minutes later than planned in getting away - and hopefully I won't get to Scotland to find out that I've omitted something critical, like my head or sleeping bag or the like.

In amongst this uncharacteristic disorganisation, I realised over the weekend that there were a few things that we needed/I wanted. Three orders were placed with fingers crossed that things posted yesterday would arrive today.

At just gone 1pm there was a crunching of gravel and Postie was no doubt bemused to have me fling the door open as look expectantly at him as he approached. My disappointed 'oh' as he handed over the post was a further giveaway that I was waiting for something in particular.

Once again had come up trumps and (along with the usual little bag of sweets) we had a new mapcase and a new Platty. Alas, another company based just 25 miles away didn't have such luck with Royal Mail. When I spoke to them this afternoon they assured me that my order had been mailed first class yesterday; they also confirmed that they were now out of stock of my size of the item I wanted so I didn't even have the option of sending Mick to pick it up. That put the cat amongst the pigeon of my clothing choice (still haven't quite decided what I'm doing about that).

The third package was a bit of a flier. There was always the chance that it wouldn't even be mailed first class, and it's hopefully no disaster that I don't have a memory card for my new phone.

Talking of my new phone, Mick did manage to get it unlocked today so I now have a choice of two different networks via which I can send my blog posts over the couple of weeks. So, all being well things won't go entirely quiet until we get back (although I do forwarn of lots of typos!).

Sunday 3 May 2009

From Uttoxeter to Ellastone (And Back)

By ten past eight this morning the earlier rain* had abated, there was blue amongst the clouds and we were back in the Station car park at Uttoxeter. Five minutes later we were walking north – always a good direction to be heading when one of the party is heading for John O’Groats.

Again farmland was the theme of the day, but with one notable difference today: there were lumpy bits and from some of the (very modest) inclines there were appreciable views to be had.

Three and three quarter hours after leaving Uttoxeter, we reached Ellastone where a pub was marked on the map. The pub had been discussed. It was our focus. It was going to supply us not only with beer but also hopefully with chips or some such snacks (I had managed to pick up something for lunch, but completely fail to pick up all of the snacks that I usually eat during the course of a day-walk and so was ready to start gnawing on my own arm). Alas, despite Ellastone being the sort of village that looked like its pub should be thriving on a Sunday lunchtime, it turned out to be closed. What a blow!

Across the road was a bus shelter with a bench – which was no competition as a lunch venue against a pub, but in the absence of an open pub, it had to make do.

Half and hour later (after Geoff had taken pity on my lack of food and donated two of his flapjack slices to me, which I gratefully received) it was time to go our separate ways. I was simply going to retrace my steps back to Uttoxeter, whereas Geoff is continuing his journey and his adventure.

Having walked the same paths that very same morning, you might think that the navigation on the way back wouldn’t be too difficult.

Within five minutes of leaving the village of Ellastone, I realised that wasn’t going to be the case. As I walked alongside the river I had absolutely no recollection of having been there before. That’s what happens when more time is spent chatting than concentrating on the surroundings!

With a bit of map work I did get back to a point that I remembered, and it seems that my attention had only waned towards the end of the morning’s walk as the latter parts of my return journey were much more familiar (compass still came out a few times, but then the game was ‘spot the stile’ and one green field does look very much like another).

In a complete contrast to my nervousness of farm animals last year, when I had to re-cross the field of overly-inquisitive young cows, I didn’t even that the trouble to walk around them as they lazed on the ground. Instead, I walked straight through (they ignored my comments to them that they needn’t get up) and, as a boost to my confidence in such situations, once again I didn’t get trampled.

It seemed like only a few paces later that I was back at the car – having taken an hour less on the return leg than on the outward. It didn’t feel like we were walking slowly during the morning, but navigating across farmland does, I find, tend to take time with the map-work and, of course, my incessant chatting probably also slowed us down.

My total stats for the day were 14.5 miles covered, with (wait for it…) a whole 800 feet of ascent. Geoff was scheduled to cover 17 miles – about which he will almost certainly blog tomorrow. You can follow his journey here.


Geoff (sporting his third backpack of the trip) strides towards a lumpy landscape


And then somehow I got ahead and he strode towards me


I proved once again that I’m crap with the SticPic, and in changing the size of the photo also accidentally inverted the colours. I thought it looked better like this!


But for completeness, here’s the extraordinarily badly composed proper version (and you’d be right to think that my hair has been cropped to the extreme – the barber was so busy chatting that he just kept shaving – shorter and shorter and shorter)


No story here – the house just caught my eye as I left Ellastone


Aaaah! (and in about 3 months time: “Mint sauce!”)

(*With rain falling first thing I had reached for the Paramo VAL thinking that it would get a waterproofness test before the TGOC. As it went I proved that it’s most definitely wearable in warmer temperatures than my standard Velez, but once again it wasn’t troubled with rain.)

Saturday 2 May 2009

From Rugeley to Uttoxeter

The trains did as trains should, and within five minutes of me arriving at Rugeley Trent Valley, along came Geoff’s train and a few moments later we were to be found perusing a map deciding which route to take to get ourselves onto the Staffordshire Way.

The longer canal route was chosen and soon we had picked up the tow-path that I have walked plenty of times in the past on Keswick to Barrow training excursions (the training for such an event being the only reason I can think of why I would find myself 15 miles from home in the midst of a circular walk). In fact, I was familiar with the Way right until we reached the pleasant village of Stockwell Heath (where I did let out an ‘aaah’ at the sight of a gaggle of tiny goslings), which is probably a good thing because I’ve noted before that chatting with someone and paying close attention to a map seldom go hand in hand.

From Stockwell Heath we did have to start paying attention and walking through more pleasant farmland (we did find mud obstacles, but thanks to the dry weather of late, not hideous ones) we found ourselves outside of a choice of two pubs in Abbott’s Bromley at lunch time.

Purely because Geoff needs the calories to fuel his long-distance walking extravaganza, we chose one for a helping of beer, following which it was fortunate that Geoff was on the ball as I was ready to walk the wrong way out of the village (nothing to do with the small helping of beer – more to do with being blonde and female).

A handful of other people were seen out and about shortly after Abbott’s Bromley, but as the afternoon wore on I was getting the distinct impression that fewer people walk the far north of the Staffs Way than the southern sections. The paths were becoming increasingly overgrown in places and whereas earlier in the day I had commented on how well waymarked the route is, the waymarks stopped being quite so consistent too (although some marks did turn out to be hidden or otherwise missed by us – fortunately only very minor amounts of backtracking were involved in our two accidental deviations).

We arrived back in Uttoxeter at 5.30, just as people were leaving the races, but it wasn’t silly-busy so the car was collected without fuss and a few moments later we were heading out of the town.

The mileage for the day was 12, through much green-and-pleasantness. We even got a view at one point. It’s not that it was a low-visibility day – on the contrary the weather was most well suited to walking and visibility was fantastic – it was just that on land that is so flat you don’t get views of any note.

Tomorrow morning we’ll be back at Uttoxeter station from where Geoff will make his way north to Alstonefield. My destination for the day will (for obvious reasons) be Uttoxeter, but I plan to also walk a short way north first. By the time I turn around to head back to the car, no doubt Geoff will be desperately hankering after a bit of peace and quiet!

At Uttoxeter

As I bought myself a new mobile bloggng device a couple of weeks ago in the hope of beng able to blog our TGOC as we go, and as I now find myself sitting at a train station with time on my hands I thought I would test it out.

The station is Uttoxeter, which some of you (or indeed all of you) may know falls on the path of the Staffs Way. It's a town passed through by many LEJOGers when taking a middle-of-England route north.

Today Geoff (, who set out from Land's End just under a month ago, is walking a leg from Rugeley to Uttoxeter. And so that's how I've come to be here on this fine sunny morning.

If a train deigns to arrive (it's running late) then I will be taking a very long and circuitous route to travel the 12 miles back to Rugeley to meet up with Geoff for the day.

It seems that there is racing on at Uttoxeter today. The racecourse is next to the station. All is quiet so far but I'll wager it could be busy around here when we arrive on foot later.