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]

Sunday 26 July 2009

What a good site!

With absolutely no credit to me, and entirely thanks to a link that I saw on a thread on Outdoors Magic, I found my way to a website called ‘Where’s the Path’ this evening. It puts a 1:50k map next to aerial photography, so that you can compare what you see on the map (or more often, don’t see on the map) with what is on the ground.

Pity I wasn’t aware of it a few hours before, when I had Anquet and Google Earth split-screened to have a quick look at a few features of the walk that we’re doing next weekend. The job’s a lot easier when, in pointing at the OS map, you’ve also got a cursor pointing at the exact right bit of the aerial photography.

Sophie and Patch

Taking a bit of a detour on a journey back from Scotland*, we popped by where Sophie and Patch (who are currently walking from John O’Groats to Land’s End) were camped last night, just north of Hebden Bridge.

After a bit of a hairy ride down a very narrow and windy road, both Sophie and Patch were found pitched on an otherwise deserted campsite, from where we whisked them down to Hebden Bridge, which was almost bustling in the sunny weather.

090725 Sohpie and PatchSophie and patch, with tarp and bivvy

A couple or three hours were passed eating, drinking and chatting in the Shoulder of Mutton where Sophie proved herself to be in very good spirits after 8 weeks of walking, and (impeccably behaved) Patch just wanted a good kip.

With a couple of hours of our nine-hour journey home still ahead of us, we finally had to drag ourselves away, so Sophie was deposited back at the still-deserted campsite to do battle with the midges and off we tootled back home.

Hopefully we’ll catch up with her for a bit of a walk in a couple of weeks’ time.

Sophie’s having problems with technology and so isn’t able to blog very often, but you’ll find her blog here.

(*by coincidence, I found out this morning that yesterday morning we had stopped at the very same services in Perth where Richard, another JOGLEr, had stopped for his breakfast just a few hours before; we must have passed within a couple of miles of him a few miles further down the road.)

Wednesday 22 July 2009

Saturday’s Photos

I would have posted the photos with the words, except that I’d already typed the words on one computer and downloaded the photos onto another and it was just too difficult (in the light of an attack of laziness) to transfer one to the other.

So, here are some photos:


Phil (with Catherine hiding behind him) strides away from Stoodley Pike


Catherine and Megan shouldering their fair shares


Phil, Megan and Catherine at White Hill


A bubble-car fest! As we walked by six bubble cars, plus various others, left the lay-by in convoy. It brought a smile to the face!


Not the most attractive pitch for Phil & the girls, but it was as far away from the party tents as we could get


An even less attractive pitch for Wendy – but it was comfortable (particularly when we found ourselves on a bed of water!)


Ignorami in the extreme


Looking deceptively cheerful on Sunday morning, despite the lack of sleep.

Hebden Bridge to Standedge (Saturday 18 July)

The timely running of trains on Saturday morning saw me arriving in Hebden Bridge just before 9am, which was just ten minutes after Mick, Phil and the girls had left their barn, slightly further north.

Given that my starting point was closer, it was unsurprising that I arrived at Stoodley Pike monument first, but the timing wasn’t too far off and I’d barely read a dozen pages of my book when the others arrived. After the girls (that’s Catherine and Megan; hopefully they’ll forgive me for collectively referring to them as ‘the girls’ - it’s a lot easier to type!) and Mick had popped up to the balcony on the monument and various foodstuffs had been stuffed into mouths, the brisk wind was braved as we headed south along the Pennine Way (seeing no woman in mini-skirt and fishnets, nor any sign of people searching for such a woman).

Once I’d caught up with Mick (verbally that is; I’d not seen him for five days so there was much catching up to do), we stopped being so ignorant and walked variously with all other members of the party. Phil I had briefly met before, but his girls I had not, and by the end of the day they had impressed me immeasurably. Aged 13 and 16, this was their first backpacking trip (which they had entered completely voluntarily) and despite some rather adverse weather and despite cramming the whole of the Pennine Way into 17 days, they were exceptionally cheerful, entirely uncomplaining and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the experience (on balance; they did confess to some low periods during the first few days).

Catching the occasional edges of showers, but with much better weather than forecast we made our way across t’moors until we reached The White House where it seemed a jolly good plan to pause for a cup of tea. The pause turned into a stop as it took 20 minutes to be served said cups of tea, but eventually we did move on, past the Aigin Stone, over the M62, across more moors (of which Mick & I mysteriously had absolutely no recollection despite having walked them last year), and thence to Standedge.

No sooner had we got the tents pitched, than Rosa (Phil’s wife) arrived* with the massive hamper containing fresh-out-of-the-oven lasagne, salad, crispy baguettes, pudding, post-pudding chocolates, wine and pop (not to mention real crockery and real cutlery). What an absolute star! I could get used to that sort of an occurrence when arriving at a campsite after a day walking!

Being party animals, we all managed to stay awake in the pub until gone 9pm whereupon the yawning led us to retire to our respective tents where a little sleep was had before the shouting, screeching, screaming and singing began, but enough has already been said about that.

Sunday morning dawned in a very soggy manner. It had rained heavily from about half past three**, which didn’t help to lift spirits after the poor night’s sleep (which must have been even worse for Phil and the girls in that they were so close to home and knew that there were comfy, warm, dry and quiet beds to be had just a few minutes drive away).

Not relishing walking in such a deluge, and with a relatively short day ahead of them, Phil decided to delay the start of their day in the hope that the worst of the weather would pass, and Mick and I decided to abandon our intended short walk (two sides of a triangle to Marsden station) and instead just take the direct route for an earlier train.

As it went Rosa (who had popped by) very kindly gave us a lift down to Marsden, which gave us time to pop into the excellent Angie’s Kitchen for tea and a bacon bap.

A while later, we made the dash from the platform shelter onto the train in heaving rain, and our mini-outing was over.

As for Phil and the girls, despite being so temptingly close to home in atrocious weather, they did, later in the morning, pack away all of their sopping gear, shoulder their water-logged packs, and make their way down to Crowden. On Monday, they made it to Edale. Apparently they’re already talking about their next adventure…

(*Phil had decided that, for completeness and not feeling like they were cheating, they would camp on Saturday night despite being only a few minutes away from home – hence the logistics of Rosa being able to deliver home-made hot food.

** We awoke on a water bed. The whole of the site is on a slight slope and ordinarily we would have pitched at the top of the slope to get as far away from the road as possible. Given the large tents at the top of the site, which looked like a nocturnal disturbance waiting to happen, we pitched at as far away as we could. In hindsight, the only flat ground, at the bottom of a slope, was perhaps not the wisest choice given the weather forecast!)

Tuesday 21 July 2009


“We need to think about food” said Mick in response to an email I had sent him about our plans for the weekend after next.

“Eeek!” I said, having completely failed to think about the fact that we would need to eat something during a three-day trip.

A small handful of hours later, after the use of almost every pan in the house and much washing up, and both dehyrdrators are running, containing chilli, shepherd, pasta sauce, chickpea curry, rice and pasta.

Thank goodness for the second dehydrator!

Sunday 19 July 2009


That was not a good night's sleep and exemplifies why I don't stay on campsites on weekends during peak season.

Imagine the volume at which one yells when two feet away from a pneumatic drill and then apply that to a dozen people in a huge tent between 11pm and 3.15am. Add in to the mix much squealing and screaming, then a bit more squealing and squealing and it was not a fun night.

The good news is that my Neo-Air is every bit as inflated now as it was when I crawled into my sleeping bag last night. Hopefully that's a good indication that I have a good one.
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Saturday 18 July 2009

A Day On The Pennine Way

Have you ever seen such a spread put on at a campsite after a day of walking?

It was 17.5 miles along the Pennine Way today, from Hebden Bridge, with Phil (who works with Mick) and his two teenage daughters, who set out from Kirk Yetholm 15 days ago.

We've only joined them for a day and a bit, but it seems that we picked a good day. Not only was it an excellent walk in good company, but on arrival in Standedge (busy campsite here at the Carriage House) Phil's wife arrived by car with a huge hamper full of freshly cooked food - and a bottle of wine. What an absolute star!
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Friday 17 July 2009

Making (Part 1 – The Stuff Sack)

P7040254 (If you ignore the maps (I got a bit distracted) then what we have here is a length of lightweight tent material and two rucksack liners)

The background: until we set out to walk LEJOG I had always managed to keep the contents of my rucksack perfectly dry with a £1.99 orange backpack liner. Somehow, that felt a little too low-tech for such a big undertaking, particularly with its absence of a secure closure to keep rain out of the top, so I looked around for a suitable alternative.

Coming across Sea-to-Summit sil-nylon roll-top stuff sacks, it appeared that they would do the job nicely. In total six were bought.

What we discovered over the course of last year is that despite the word ‘waterproof’ on the packaging, the lightweight Sea-to-Summit waterproof stuff sacks are not actually waterproof. Given prolonged rain they lea and not through the seams, but through the fabric. And I’m not just talking about one defective item; every single one of the six that we bought has failed to keep its contents dry.

In October last year, on our Wet Highland Washout, not only did my sleeping bag get wet around the edges, but at the moment of needing them I discovered that I could wring out my spare hats and gloves that had been secured in the smallest size sack in the front sip pocket of my Osprey Aura.

Disappointing indeed.

Mick went back to his heavier (but waterproof, which is the more important feature) Exped drysack and the obvious thing for me to do would have been to buy one the same. What I actually did (for reasons that are not entirely clear to me now) was to buy some lightweight tent fabric to make my own.

The question was how I was going to form a good, watertight closure, and the very simple answer I came up with was to cut the top off one of the not-actually-waterproof Sea-to-Summit bags and sew it on to my creation.

The end result was something that matches Wendy’s colour-scheme nicely:

P7050255 You can’t see from the photo particularly well, but it is ‘square bottomed’, and not just an envelope design

I’m not going to recommend sew-your-own as the way forward. For the amount of effort and minimal weight saving I may just as well have bought an Exped bag. The only real benefit of the exercise was keeping me entertained for an hour or so whilst making it (with a marginal price benefit; the cost of materials was just under £6).

Looking at it now, it’s bigger than I need it to be. As it happens I’ve got just under half of the material left, so I may just make another, smaller version.

Not in a tent

Had today gone as I had hoped it would, I would have been sitting inside of Wendy on the Pennine Way by now.

Plans went awry when my car failed its MOT (admittedly given its age, the high mileage and the fact that a service was overdue, it was a little optimistic to think that it would pass). The failure wasn’t an irretrievable one, but the necessary certificate came too late in the day to make the journey north.

Add into the mix the fact that I’m so tired that I’m struggling to string a sentence together and driving looked even less advisable. So, I’m at home and Mick’s having his first ever camping adventure without me (except that it seems that he’s in a barn rather than camping; due to a dodgy phone signal I’m a little unclear as to the details of why and what sort of barn).

All is not lost for my plans to give my Neo-Air its first outing. A train ticket has been booked for a ridiculously early hour of morning and if the train companies oblige with timely services there will be a rendez-vous at Stoodley Pike tomorrow.

The unexpected few hours at home has had one bonus: I’ve found the time to mix some sealant and white spirit together to seam-seal my new rucksack liner. It likely won’t be dry in time for me to use it this weekend, but at least the job is done.


Friday 10 July 2009

Of Feet

'Are you worried that the first thing your plumber did on arrival was to don a pair of waterproof socks?' I asked Vic having arrived to carry out her Christmas present of fitting a new radiator.

As it happened, in the day that I was absent from Vic's house (having my stitches removed - I can soon pick up my backpack again), my new Rocky GoreTex socks had arrived. They're reputed to be the bells and whistles of waterproof socks and when I heard of a vendor with my size in stock I had to get some.

Hopefully they'll get a test next weekend but in the meantime I can report that the fit is a lot less baggy than Mick's Trekmates Amphibians.

As for the photo, that's Mick's feet clad in his Salomon Fastpackers. He ripped the plastic off the parcel this morning and hasn't taken them off since. His first stroll in them was deemed a success. He's a happy chap.
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Wednesday 8 July 2009

On Saturday Last

Poking my head between the curtains and seeing a blue sky I declared that we were going out for a walk.

“Local fields and the canal, or the Chase?” I asked, giving Mick the option.

“Fields and canal” he said.

As logistically easy as a local walk is, it wasn’t what I fancied, so I sulked and pouted until Mick changed his vote to the Chase, and off we set.

We knew not whether it was the threat of rain or the imminent women’s final at Wimbledon that were keeping people indoors, but it was noticeably quieter than we’ve found it on any other visit this year – including the cold and wet ones during the less hospitable months of the year.

Despite the appearance that it was going to rain at some point, it was decidedly warm with some good sunny periods (made me regret, within the first half a mile, not wearing shorts (the first half a mile did involve me running back to the car for Mick’s forgotten hat and back, which didn’t help with the heat)), so when I spotted an Ice Cream Van at the car park at Seven Springs we diverted to give the bored vendor a bit of custom.

We fairly paced along (I was completely packless thanks to doctor’s orders), but not so fast that we couldn’t appreciate the surroundings. It’s not that often that we find ourselves on the Chase in summer and I couldn’t get over how incredibly green everything was. Places that were bare seemingly only five minutes ago were now sporting six-feet-high bracken.

Passing numerous signs that announced “You are now leaving a plant disease control area” (see this post from January for details of the disease), we noted that the consistency of signage was up to its usual standard, as we didn’t pass a single sign telling us that we were entering a disease control area and were to keep to the paths. Wonder if the battle against the ancient-oak-threatening disease is being won?

It was only a quick stretch of the legs. We were back in the car two hours after leaving, having covered 7.5 miles. The rain held off, and it was the first outing of my Roclites since I abandoned them in Chepstow last year; pity about the durability issues that I’ve had with Inov8, because they really are comfy shoes.


Starting and Ending

More LEJOGing news:

Brendan announced his arrival at John O’Groats today after a 66-day walk. With a very open and honest style of writing including not just his story of the journey but also details of the problems he encountered and the hurdles he overcame, his blog was an excellent read.

Losing one of my daily blog fixes is always a blow – but it looks like there may be some fortuitous timing here, as yesterday Alan Sloman pointed out the blog of Richard Barr who had just set out from John O’Groats to walk south and will be blogging it as he goes.

In the meantime, Sophie & Patch are heading down into The Borders. Technology problems are preventing her from blogging as regularly as she would like, but she’s updating when she can.

Friday 3 July 2009

LEJOG Photos

361 days ago we reached John O’Groats at the end of our Big Walk.

As soon as we got home, I downloaded all of the photos and enjoyed a reliving of the trip by virtue of those images.

A few months later, when looking through the photos for the umpteenth time, I suddenly realised that I had made a grave error in photographing the trip. We had plenty of memory with us, and had a spare camera battery, but didn’t take the charger. Because of not having the charger I was aware of the need to make the batteries last and thus didn’t use the camera anywhere near as much as I should have.

With hindsight it was incredibly silly to ration the photography for a number of reasons. For one thing, we could have sent a depleted battery back to my sister for recharging at any time and for a matter of pence; secondly rationing to that degree wasn’t at all necessary - we didn’t run so much as the first battery flat, so the second one didn’t even get called into use.

It was sometime in the early autumn last year that I was once again looking through the album and it suddenly struck me like a wet fish quite how awful an error it was not to have snapped away with gay abandon. Why did we not have a photo of our B&B room in Welshpool? Why did we not have a photo of 90% of our camping pitches? Why were there so few snaps of wildlife? Why are there so few photos of us? How many times did I think ‘a photo won’t do that justice’ and not bother even trying to capture a fantastic view?

So taken was I with this realisation of the magnitude of my error that I was all set to go and do the walk again, setting off right that minute, this time with a never-ending supply of power and intended to take all of the photos I missed the last time. Alas, Mick restrained me from my impulsive plan…

So, anyway, all of that waffle aside, some 11.95 months after completing the trip, I’ve finally got around to uploading some photos from the trip and putting some captions on them.

I’ve only up-loaded a selection of the photos – 131 of them – so it won’t take dreadfully long to view it. In the captions I have preceded each one with the day number, and it’s quite noticeable that entire days went by without there being a single photo worthy of making the final cut.

You can access the photos by clicking here or on the photo below and then clicking on ‘slideshow’ (near the top, on the left side of the screen). If you want to be able to read the captions and have time to look at the photo, then I would suggest that you need to slow the slideshow down to 4 or 5 seconds per slide (control the timing via the bar at the bottomn of the slide show).

LEJOG April 08

Right, think I may go and buy another couple of camera batteries now so that I’ve got no excuse on our next big walk!

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

A few weeks ago, when Ron over at Walking Fort Bragg absented himself for a few days to go and walk along a railway line, he posted a few links to other blogs to keep his readers entertained in his absence.

I clicked on one of the links, and over the coming days of avid reading I discovered that there’s a whole mad world out there of people rowing across oceans!

Ron’s link was to Roz Savage, who is currently in Stage 2 of her three stage bid to row solo across the Pacific, and soon I was so hooked on her writing that I dedicated a weekend to not only catching up with the events to date on her current trip, but also lapping up every word of her previous rows, across the Atlantic and the first stage of her Pacific trip.

Truly compelling, and exceptionally well written. I highly recommend popping over there to have a look.

It was befuddling enough to a boat-hater like me to learn that there is a woman out there, bobbing around, rowing an unfathomable distance half way across the globe. Then I found out that she’s not the only one.

Currently 3100 miles into a solo row across the Indian Ocean there is Sarah Outen, and then there’s a pair, Mick & Chris, who are 1700 miles into a little(!?) jaunt across the North Atlantic.

Even more befuddling is the fact that these people who really are taking endurance to the limits and are living in some incredibly testing conditions (even without taking the wetness, salt and bobbing into account) still manage to find the time and energy to post a daily Blog.

Excellent stuff!

Wednesday 1 July 2009


It’s been a bit quiet around here lately. There’s lots of kit related stuff that I could write about (if only I could find the time and enthusiasm) but walking activities have been absent.

That was all going to change this weekend when I was going to take Mick for a quick overnight, (probably somewhere on this side of Wales), which was going to give me the opportunity to test out both my new Neo-Air and my new mobile blogging device.

There was one thing I had forgotten when I made that plan, and that was that I was going under the surgeon’s knife today. Or more precisely, I had remembered the knife, but completely failed to consider that having holes and stitches in the middle of my back and on my shoulder wouldn’t be compatible with a backpacking trip.

No need to fret – I’m in perfectly good health. Perhaps a touch ironically, the whole purpose of the knife was to make backpacking a more comfortable experience by removing three moley things that kept getting sorely battered by carrying my pack.

In the long run, I will be pleased to have had the removals (scarred for life mind; the things I do in the name of comfortable backpacking!) but it is harrumphworthy* about this weekend.

* Made-up word alert.