UK Walks

               

ARCHIVE 1.

THE EARLY DAYS -1992 -2000

Cornwall to Oundle

John’Groats to land’s End

Walking around Gt Britain

Walking the Kingdom of Cornwall

ARCHIVE 2.

The Barmy Army Cricket Road Show Walk – 2008

Isle of Man Walk

Walking around Ireland

CORNWALL TO OUNDLE

FROM THE TAMAR TO THE NENE

THE DRY RUN

 It was Friday morning May 1st – Judgment day, whether  or not I would be able to cope with the 300 mile march, officially commencing at Launceston – Cornwall‘s old county town.   Earlier this week I was advised  by the doctor to rest for at least a fortnight following a severe virus.  I had walked to the surgery half a mile away which resulted in my legs shaking and my clothes soaking in sweat. I had no difficulty in convincing the doctor of my ailments.  However resting at home was not what I wished, and although at the mercy of the virus, I had no intention of  remaining in Cornwall for a further two weeks.  As soon as I had strength, I would assess myself in terms of walking.  I would need to be resolute, relying on much mental fortitude.

 By Thursday, I was able to walk to Redruth to pick up supplies, and with improvements to the weather, began to feel confident.  It was now or never. Deciding that I needed a test day,  I loaded my rucksack in anticipation for a 30-mile walk which would see me close to the border of Cornwall and allow time to assess my fitness before giving total commitment to the 7-day event. This time tomorrow I would be on my way – at least as far as Bodmin – a nice little prelude for the marathon ahead.

 So on Friday morning, I left Carharrack at around 10.00a.m. heading for Redruth, to leave last minute instructions with friends, before making my way to the  busy A30 to Bodmin.  It was extremely windy and the A30 was dreadful, with lorries hurtling towards me at menacing speeds, and after an hour of constantly retrieving my hat from hedges and streams, I decided to stop and revert to a headband.  I felt awful, soaking wet with sweat and in view of the cold, I did not wish to loiter too long.

 My first real stop was some twelve miles from Bodmin at 3.15 in the afternoon where I was able to change my clothes in a garage toilet block.  It was not the most serene of places, but nonetheless serving its purpose.  I was wringing wet and my body ached all over.  This, of course, was largely attributed to the recent virus, the additional component linked to the test.  To think the walk didn’t officially start until I left Cornwall, and I had a good 30 miles to go to reach that landmark!

 My break lasted for 15 minutes only, enough time to enjoy some cereal and fruit juice before continuing up a steep incline to make  my exit from this small town known as Fraddon.  Here I was spotted by an Oundle person on holiday in Cornwall, and although I was not aware of  his presence, he was able to report back to Jim and Co. that I was at last in action. He was impressed with the speed I was marching, evidence of which was substantiated by my arrival at Bodmin at only 6.00p.m.  This was after taking detours around the town allowing the opportunity to assess Bed and Breakfast facilities and enjoy a fish supper at the local chip shop.

 I had never been to Bodmin, and had expected to find a town as substantial as Peterborough, particularly as I have in the past heard comments made to the effect that Bodmin was once the county town of Cornwall.  I ambled through the town with my arms still swinging nonchalantly  in a bid to stave off the cold wind.  In what was a seemingly short time, I found myself approaching the A30 again – in fact I was now Launceston bound!  A frightening prospect for many, or merely an interesting challenge on what could be the most isolated stretch of road, in bleak conditions, without respite from traffic, and furthermore, little opportunity of finding accommodation.

 I did not wish to dwell on this prodigious task too long.  I had learnt from the past ( especially whilst serving in XV1 Lincoln Company Airborne Forces), that once you start marching there in no turning back.  To do so would sabotage the mission in terms of morale, as it would create a negative, demoralising effect.  I still had some light left, and there was a possibility of finding an Inn.   I remembered the old Jamacia Inn was on the moor, and would probably provide accommodation.  I was a little upset, having travelled 3 or 4 extra miles for nothing, believing I was to stay in Bodmin overnight – in effect I could have travelled straight down the A30.

 A sense of urgency crept in with the clouded sky, indicating that light was in short supply.  I hastened along the dual carriageway, finding sanctuary from some road works, which allowed me to walk for the first time in a traffic- free zone.  I was surrounded by green sections of hill, and wondered what it would be like to scale them with map and compass – that would be a marvellous way to achieve  my goal.

  Night time approached, it was nearly 9.00p.m.  I had passed the Jamacia Inn without realising, and Okehampton and Launceston were now featured on all the road signs, Launceston only being 8 miles away. However, it was pitch-black and my knee was starting to hurt,  causing me to slow down to a snail’s pace.  I realised that I would not reach Launceston and that the sensible option would be to retreat to the Jamacia Inn.  An honourable retreat I felt, as I had achieved more that was necessary, and did not wish to jeopardise the rest of the walk.

 I tried to run back to the Inn, but in fact hobbled most of the way, and to my horror, found that there were no vacancies.  I was quickly handed a glass of ale to treat the symptoms of shock after hearing such news, while the receptionist made various ’phone calls on my behalf.

 By 9.45p.m. they had found me an Inn, just west of my route.  If I had turned left instead of heading back, I would be been there by now, but lack of knowledge prevailed, owing to it being my first trip, and the fact that most of these places are bypassed by the A30, which highlights the major towns only.  A member of staff was decent enough to take me there, it wasn’t too far from the A30, so  I would have no trouble getting back to the route, and in any case, I had my pedometer.  Any extra miles at this stage were a bonus, and so far today, there had been 47 of them, with the Cornish border now firmly in my grasp.

STEPPING OUT FROM CORNWALL
Saturday May 2nd         45 Miles
 
 At 7.00a.m. I struggled out of bed and into yet another  hot bath, a temporary solution to my aches and pains.  I was in considerable pain in the back of my right knee where the tendons had been stretched due to prolonged marching.  Marching is  not a natural exercise when compared to walking or running, it is a fast method of travelling on foot whilst carrying weight, and I was looking for an average of 4 to 5 miles an hour, in order to complete the journey by next Friday.  I knew the injury was only minor, but would create a pain barrier for the rest of the event.  That morning I couldn’t eat as I was in physical pain and my nervous system had not yet adjusted to what was happening, especially in the wake of the disruptive activities of the virus.  I would now have to come to terms with pain if I was going to maintain the present standard of mileage.

 I set off at 9.30a.m. – the sun was shining and it showed promise of a much warmer day. Regular fluid would be required and possibly less clothing, which would add to the weight of the rucksack.  I passed through the gated town of Launceston around midday enjoying a glimpse of its Norman Castle, and beyond the rugby ground was a Devon sign post, my first significant landmark.  This was a tremendous boost and my next objective would be to reach Okehampton, a possible stopover for tonight.

 Walking along hilly countryside was a liberating experience and I took the first of two breaks at a Little Chef Restaurant near Lewdown. From here I walked part of the new road which was still under construction and took a further break at another Little Chef 4 miles from Okehampton, where I enjoyed piping hot tea with loads of glucose powder, used as a substitute for sugar, food did not appeal to me at all.  The roads were crammed full with traffic though I was relieved to see that I was not the only fundraiser at work, there was a large team of cyclists accompanied with a support group whom I occasionally met.

 On arriving at Okehampton I had a pleasant downhill run, free of traffic, amidst the  most lovely spring weather imaginable.

 Spring being the operative word, owing to the surroundings, which were cliff-like in appearance, with water in constant flow, portraying an image of cascading beauty.  I stopped at the town to replenish my supplies – the main area of importance being the chemist, as I was now in need of a knee bandage.  I also purchased another tracksuit and some Deep Heat.

 It was a superb evening, or to be more precise, late afternoon, as it was in fact 5.00p.m.  A tempting opportunity now beckoned for me to increase my mileage and head for the next potential stop.  I had initially planned to stay at Okehampton, but I felt good and the next village was Tawton, only 7 miles, with Crediton a further 12.  “Play it by ear”, I thought, after all it was a more relaxing, scenic route on a ‘B’ road away from the dual carriageway.

 Here I was exposed to the full splendour of the Devon countryside, passing over bridges on the narrow lanes where I could view the old train lines, some of which are still in use.  At one stage I was only 6 miles from Exeter. Tawton was no match for me – I conquered it easily, spurring myself on to Crediton, a small town in the heart of Devon, which would hopefully be my place of rest for the night.  I worked hard – almost running at times, though I stopped periodically to study the roads.  Many of the villages that I passed through were not featured on my map, leading to momentary confusion, usually remedied at the next signpost.  All that remained was the task of convincing by weary legs that they would carry me to Crediton,   My efforts were bolstered by sheer aggression and the will to overcome pain, but as I approached Crediton in the fading light, I was praised and encouraged by passers-by.  One person stopped to advise me where I could find accommodation, and two young lads gave me a pound, it was all very pleasant – a far cry from life on the modern carriageway.

 I passed through Copplestone, over the bridge, where I was able to catch a glimpse of the cross-country railway line which runs through the middle of Devon.  Not far to go, soon I would be seeking shelter for the night.

 I arrived at Crediton at 9.30p.m., this was excellent – only 14  miles from Tiverton, my next forecasted stopover point.  Accommodation however was a different matter, it was Bank Holiday weekend and there were major fun events being pursued.  On my final attempt for Bed and Breakfast, the lady of the lodge, which had no vacancies, ‘phoned a friend who owned a farm and occasionally provided facilities for travellers.  His name was John Roach (Wellparks, Crediton) and he was able to oblige and so I had a place at last to rest my weary head, or more appropriately legs.  Here I had to encounter stairs, which I endured unwillingly at the end of each day, just what you need after a 12-hour “hack”, also I realised that I had slight sunstroke, leaving me feeling dizzy, cold and shaky.

THE ADVENT OF SPRING
Sunday May 3rd          40 Miles            

 I had appreciated the benefit of a good night’s sleep and unlike the previous morning, I was able to eat a hearty breakfast.  I chatted to the farmer for a while as I was his only resident, then I paid him for his services, signed his register and with a few instructions from him, I was on my way.

 It was 9.00a.m. and I had to walk 2 miles to get back to my route, which was now on course for Tiverton.  I wasn’t too perturbed by this, but I was concerned about the pain signals I was receiving from the patella region of my right knee.  The leg muscles were still lacking flexibility and the weight of the pack was beginning to jar my knee-joints.

 In addition to this, it was extremely hot for the time of year, and the A3072 is a winding, undulating road causing me to experience significant discomfort on the downhill run.

 The countryside was endowed with a wealth of beauty, little villages with their old-world pubs by the river, hosting traditional local events devised to assimilate the awakening of spring.  The atmosphere created from the celebrations amongst some of nature’s finest characteristics offered much solace, helping me to ignore the pain I was suffering.  Although not complete as an anaesthetic, I absorbed the scenic detail and amused myself by developing certain walking techniques which enabled me to minimise the jarring and thumping against the hard road.

 I arrived at Tiverton, stopping for a drink of milk and to rest my feet, at this stage in the proceedings a passage through dual carriageway was now imminent – an 8-mile slog to be precise.  I walked up by Sampford Peverall, eventually leaving the carriageway where I was able to locate a tourist office and a Little Chef.  I stopped for some hot tea before seeking advice from the tourist office regarding  accommodation prospects at Taunton.  It was around 4.30p.m. and there was promise of a storm as I passed the road signs for Wellington and Taunton, the latter being my target for the day, a further 14 miles.

 Today was certainly taking its toll on my body, and I could feel myself slowing down, although I had not covered anywhere near the distance of yesterday.  I passed an inn called the “Last Pub in Devon”, 2 miles later I made my first contact with Jim Leigh.  It was 7.00p.m. when I informed him that I was making for Taunton.  One hour later I struggled through Wellington where I came across my first pavement. What a luxury! And it was here when I was spotted again by other natives of Oundle, Richard and Mary Sumner, once more I was oblivious of their presence.

 The “hack” from Wellington to Taunton was arduous in every aspect, by now I had blistered feet to accompany my aching knees – every mile was a mountain.  The struggle continued on arriving at Taunton where it took me an hour to find shelter. I struck lucky with a Bed and Breakfast at only ten pounds per night and with a nice long bath, which was put to use immediately.

 I rang my mother at 10.00p.m. to inform her about my progress and then hobbled up to a pub where there was an extension until 11.30p.m., this I gratefully appreciated and in which time I managed to consume three pints of local ale before retiring for the night.

A HOLY ENCOUNTER
Monday May 4th          44 Miles 

 With blistered feet and aching limbs I managed to confront the stairs and enjoy a large breakfast, which had become the highlight of the day as far as food was concerned, as it was usually my only meal.

 It was Bank Holiday Monday, and despite painful knees and blisters I was now fired up for an encounter with Somerset, Glastonbury a mere 24 miles away, being my afternoon stop.  Once again the day was hot but the weather, rather than slow down my movements, added to it by providing me with new-found vigour as I marched fiercely through the countryside  I passed straight by Otherby on the A361 and all the other small villages eventually stopping for refreshment at a café close to Glastonbury.  There is nothing better than a pot of tea on a hot day to alleviate the problems of dehydration.  Before leaving I swallowed some salt to help retain my body fluids for the remainder of the journey.

 I arrived at Glastonbury after 2.00p.m., this was an excellent session and I was able to enjoy a yoghurt and  cereal in a somewhat Gothic environment.  I checked in at the Imperial Cancer Research shop and had a chat with the staff before signing their book and departing for the City of Wells.

 This was a shortish trip to an amazing town, firstly I had never been there, and secondly it was probably one of the finest places I have seen so far.  There was a stream running through the street (possibly how its name was derived), which had many wonderful sites and historical buildings to see.  Unfortunately, my mission awaited me and I had to press on leaving behind the tourists and holiday- makers to admire its grandeur.  Pain had become more striking too as it so often does when renewing oneself to the task after a much desired interval.  There was hard work to be done if I was to reach Bath, an incredible feat of fifty miles or more for the day, but the B3139 seemed to yield few landmarks as I limped through Radstock in Avon.

 I cannot begin to describe the pain I was in, bursting blisters only to acknowledge the arrival of fresh ones, I wasn’t able to walk properly, causing further pain to my hamstrings and knees.  8 miles from Bath, I came to a standstill – whilst contemplating whether or not to tackle the hill leading out of Radstock, I was confronted by two young men.  One of them asked me if I believed in God.  I half-answered him, telling him of my brother who is a devout Christian.  He told me God had a purpose for me and gave me a Bible.  We chatted for a while until their friends arrived, by which time I was invited to stay the night with one of the group’s family.  This was marvellous as I don’t think  I could have gone any further, in fact they were all curious as to how I was going to manage to walk the next day.   That evening they took me to Midsomer Norton, where I stayed the night and enjoyed an interesting experience.  Some of the group were very fit, working out regularly with their social aims to prevent  juvenile delinquency and drug abuse, certain members themselves being former participants of these activities, and so portraying the poacher-turned gamekeeper scenario.

 In any event I appreciated a bed for the night, it had been a tough day on the road, my feet giving testimony of the effort with little skin left unbroken.

Tuesday May 5th          35 Miles

 I had enjoyed my brief stay with the Christian group known as ’3 SCORE AND THEN‘? They took me back to the point where they found me and bade farewell, leaving me to tackle the hilly climb on the road to Bath. I did not relish the thought to dealing with the task on the previous evening., but now I was joyfully limping in the cool of the morning.  It was a welcome reprieve from the unusual hot, spring weather, and by 9.00a.m.  rain was pouring down, forcing me to employ the use of a mac.  It was short-lived and quite innocuous, though it did seem appropriate that I should be subjected to a shower in Bath, a touch of divine intervention I thought.

 It was Tuesday and I had already passed through four different counties and would at some stage today be negotiating a fifth, namely Wiltshire.

 Bath, however, was my first tea stop where I replenished my needs at a Wimpy bar, after which I peered through a television shop to catch sight of Ian Botham opening the bowling for Durham in a Trophy match.  After some lazy window-shopping, I stealthily headed back to my route, the A4 to Chippenham , a journey of about 11 miles.  It was an arduous session, although the trek of 8 miles to Lyneham, proved to be a tougher barrier to overcome.  I had to accept that pain would be ubiquitous from here onwards owing to the fact that it was necessary to push myself to the limit in terms of miles walked and the length of time spent on the road each day.  It appeared to be a very long 8 miles going through some hilly terrain on what was now a hot day.  3 miles from Lyneham a public house was just opening, it was only 6.00p.m., most evenings had exceeded 9.00p.m.   I kept thinking it would be nice to finish around 7.30p.m., any town would do right now as long as it harboured both pub and chemist.  This was not to be, barely walking, I arrived at Lyneham to find that one guest house had closed and the other one was full.  This became demoralising as I was totally “knackered” and I even  considered the prospect of park bench facilities, I was no stranger to this option in my younger days, though usually when I couldn’t quite manage the trip home from the pub, as opposed to a 30-mile hike.

 Somehow I toiled on ignoring the discomfort, eagerly awaiting the appearance of a Swindon sign or more approvingly a Bed and Breakfast one. The pleasant chill of the evening allowed me to progress efficiently enough to cover a supplementary 5 miles, arriving at a small town called Wootton Bassett, a suburb to Swindon.  I tried half a dozen inns, most of which were patronised by contractors, eventually finding residence at The Borough Arms, the last pub in town.  I was so relieved, relaying the events of the day to the landlord and lady over a pint of Guinness before a nice hot bath, fish and chips, and two more pints of Guinness.  I took the opportunity to ring my parents, and Jim Leigh, indicating that I would aim to reach Chipping Norton the following day.  I then retired to watch the cricket highlights and revise my thoughts of the day gone by, recapturing the areas of interest.  I remembered all the detail, the green hilly landscape with the occasional path to accommodate my blistered feet, and provide me with safer passage.  One striking memory on passing by the Wiltshire County signpost, was the presence of an old Victorian railway tunnel, an internal structure, possibly extending back through a mile or more of hillside.  It is difficult to imagine the problems which would have tested the work force of that era, with few resources outside their sheer manpower, a feat such as this should be preserved to the end of time as a tribute to these men.  It is thoughts like this which construct the fortitude required to overcome the day-to-day ailments and discomforts suffered on the road.

THE ANONYMOUS HIGHWAY
Wednesday May 6th                         53 Miles

 I  rose a touch late that morning, scurrying off to the chemist to obtain some aspirin and then to the bank to increase my cash flow.  As I set off for the day starting on the A420, I acknowledged a road sign for Swindon which read 6 miles.  Encouraging as this may been at the time, it is often all to easy to overlook the importance of local knowledge, to which I should have sought in the course of replenishment.  Hours later, I was still walking with absolutely no comprehension of where I was going.  It certainly wasn’t Swindon, in fact I had not seen another signpost since leaving Wootton Bassett, I had clearly been going in the wrong direction.  An elderly couple informed me about the lack of signposts in the area and tried to reroute me on the back roads near Purton with the possibility of bypassing Swindon.  Sadly  my map was hopeless, as it only highlighted major roads and towns, so once again I was lost, and by the time I had found a sign, it indicated that Swindon was 5 miles away.  I could hardly believe what had happened, it was 2.00p.m. and I had technically gained only 1 mile, despite walking 20!  Although the miles were not completely superfluous, it had become so important to maintain the momentum by pushing for a daily target, usually another county, and it would be a gross misconception to think I would be staying at Chipping Norton tonight.
 
 The problems didn’t end there – getting in and out of Swindon as a pedestrian, was a nightmare beyond imagination.   Eventually I found a bus depot where I was given instructions on how to get to the A361 to Burford.  There was much to remember as I hastily made my way to the ‘Magic Roundabout’, somehow I managed to retain all the information along with mixed feelings of the relief of leaving Swindon, and the annoyance of ever going there in the first place.  Somewhat dejectedly I pressed on to Highworth arriving at 4.20 in the afternoon, by which time I was limping badly and in need of a rest and footcare.  I realised that because I had suffered a setback, enervating my morale, my threshold towards pain would now be lower.  At this point I began to think positively, not allowing the mishap to affect my mind, instead of which I hastily prepared myself, and with a couple of aspirins and a touch of anger, I stormed out of Highworth. Stripped down to shorts, with my knees immersed in Deep Heat, I was ready for some hard work, not just a walk as I had been doing for the last few hours, but some serious speed marching and running if required.  I was determined to reach Chipping Norton, feeling zestful as I entered Lechlade in Gloucestershire.  The journey seemed very brief and I celebrated my arrival by awarding myself some salt tablets and Dextrose, which the chemist let me have free of charge.  The lady wished me well  and at 5.45p.m. I was on the way to Burford, which was something of a mystery in terms of road signs.  At least I can be thankful it still had Burford on them, registering the fact that signs had been the low point of the day.

 Eventually I arrived at Burford, 6.30p.m. to be precise, and although it was getting dark, I allowed myself a beef burger before setting off towards Chipping Norton. Burford was a lovely place but I couldn’t dwell, owing to the remaining 11 miles which I had yet to achieve.  I was again greeted with the same frustration of countyy signs, and as dark crept in I noticed the occasional old-fashioned gypsy caravan parked up with the inhabitants enjoying a brew.  I was contemplating a brew myself at some stage, hopefully a pint size model, always a delightful sensation after a crazed day on the road.  Wildlife was also present on the road, foxes and deer were commonplace as total darkness provided the extra hazards I would now have to encounter  I had never been to Chipping Norton and had no idea of the size of the place.   I had visions of  not obtaining accommodation and either having to walk through the night or finding a bus shelter to sleep in.  I managed to arrive at a pub at 10.30p.m. allowing myself a drink of shandy whilst the barman kindly ‘phoned other pubs to arrange accommodation for me.  I was allocated to the King’s Arms where I was rewarded for my efforts with a further pint and was able to relay the distressing events that had occurred.  In summarising the day overall, I realised the value of the mind and the strong part in which it plays, illustrating how much more you can extract from the body in times of distress.

HOMEWARD BOUND  
Thursday May 7th                 50 Miles

 I paid the £20 for the “digs” and resumed by journey which was to be the most exacting stage of the entire mission, highlighted once again by the presence of pain.  The previous day I had negotiated three different counties, and with a mishap, concluded the exploit, realising a marathon 53 miles, an experience which had drained my resources.

 Initially it was the blistering to my feet that became the source of corruption resulting in slow passage to Banbury, where on arrival I had to remove some of my plasters due to the lack of room in my training shoes.  My footwear was bald in appearance, £50 for a week’s walking gives the mind something to chew over, loosely evaluated at around 20p a mile.

 Despite my admiration for Oxfordshire, I was eager to transfer to the next and final county, Northamptonshire.  It was a great feeling to know that what ever happened here on in, I had at least walked the distance between my home counties, which would always be the significant factor when reminiscing over the achievement.  Those Cornwall and Northamptonshire road signs fixed firmly in my mind, symbolic of my efforts.  There was much still to be done however, with a further 26 miles to complete in order to reach Northampton itself, my final resting place en route.  I felt convinced that I was heading toward Bugbrooke, a shortish route to Northampton on the B4525.  Somehow I missed the turn which I believe was signposted to Culworth, and was concerned as to whether I was actually now on course.  A gentleman eventually directed me onto the old Towcester road, one of which was not chartered on my map.  I hadn’t walked too far out of my way, but would need to air caution from now on and use local knowledge pertaining to the route.  It was on this road where I completed my 300th mile although not prompted to rejoice, with the feat itself overshadowed by lack of available drinking water and painful feet throughout this seemingly long trek.  The sign read 8 miles, loosely translated as the crow flies, the journey took hours, passing through small villages, the first of which was Helmdon.  It was fair to say it was an idyllic country environment, some pleasant scenery, buildings and disused train lines making suitable passage as a   nature trail for the leisure enthusiast.

 It was after 7.00p.m. on arriving at Towcester, by which time I could hardly walk, and with a dose of dual carriageway awaiting me, I decided to have a snack and repair  my feet for the final push of the day.

 Darkness was only an hour away, and I was relieved when the opportunity came to exit the busy main road and continue on the old Northampton road at the Blisworth turn off.  Signs for the Roade made me fearful of being lost, as I passed through small villages with lively pubs, and a garage, stopping here momentarily for a Mars Bar, at the risk of being accredited with the status of a tramp.  Old Northampton portrayed character with its buildings and bridges and provided a suitable epitaph for the day.  I remember an overhead train passing, reminding  me of my childhood trips from Oundle in the old steam days.  On entering Northamptonshire, I received instructions from an ambulance attendant at his  depot, which to my amazement left me just one mile to hobble.  I ‘phoned Jim Leigh at 10.45p.m. to inform him that I was in Northampton and it would either be an inn for the night or a park bench and an early start.  Fortune favoured me once again as I found accommodation just inside the town at the Plough Hotel near the old railway station.  There was no ale tonight, just a hot bath after which I slept as a result of sheer exhaustion.

Friday May 8th          30 miles

 The final frontier – I woke up renewed and refreshed with a relaxed approach, enjoying a 3 course breakfast and a stroll around Northampton, excluding for once a trip to the chemist.  My attitude was completely transformed, dispelling any thoughts of pain, I discarded the use of knee-grips and painkilling remedies.  Mentally I was strong, acknowledging my efforts, walking over 300 miles in a week incorporating my home counties and now I was set to conclude the event.  My main discomfort was the trek along dual carriageway which I endured until arriving in Thrapston, the second stop of the day, where I indulged in fish and chips.  I ‘phoned Jim Leigh stating where I was, he congratulated me, asking if I needed a lift home, as I  had walked the 300 miles.  Of course I declined, telling him I would see him in the Ship, hopefully in a couple of hours.  Many people saw me that day, not knowing what I had achieved, one person even said to his mate – look there’s Blob, he looks tired, I wonder if he’s just walked back from Cornwall!  On reaching Barnwell I was joined by Jim who photographed me approaching Oundle, and on arrival leaning on the signpost.  The epic journey was over, 344 miles in all, and for my efforts I received £520 from local sources (presented to Adam Baum, Imperial Cancer Research in August 1992).  As I sat in the bar enjoying my Guinness I was able to reflect back on the previous week, the turmoil of illness and getting lost and the character-building qualities required to overcome these obstacles. 

 The many milestones that lay ahead as I struggled to get through Cornwall, wishing that I had started either at  Plymouth or Launceston as forecasted, thus avoiding the desolate moors of  Bodmin with endless miles of soul-destroying dual carriageway.  Then there were the undulating, narrow roads of Devon with the tempting village pubs eager to service the travelling man, and the pain of blistered feet, my sole companion throughout the journey.  There were people who acknowledged my task, cheering me on and helping me if possible, the Christian group deputising themselves as a temporary backup team in my  hour of need.  Much can be derived from the experience of walking, besides raising one’s standards of health, as well as serving as a relaxing, therapeutic device, there is the construction of mental fortitude and tenacity required for goal attainment.  These qualities are possessed by many individuals, but sadly used by few. There will always be times when we need to summon that bit more from our bodies, maybe as well as extracting the surplus energy for our own needs, we should occasionally think of others – particularly those who are incapable of such actions.  I will always have good memories of this walk as I now have fresh insight to life and worthwhile goals for the future. 

 To summarise on the highlights, aside from the scenic beauty which nature so generously provides amid the geographical and historical benefits from the journey itself, was the reaching of landmarks.   Each county signpost being a major achievement, spurring me on to the next stop, remembering also that I was without backup, which meant walking to and from my “digs”, (which can be obtained on arrival) often miles from the route.  Not to mention getting lost, and the 45lb pack welded to my back throughout the event.  I’ll never forget the first sight of the Northamptonshire sign and the long journey on the Towcester road that followed.  Finally I realised I had walked between home to  home, although the trip from the Ship to my house several hours later was quite formidable.

 JOHN O’GROATS TO LAND’S END
‘THE BIG ONE’

Day 1  John O’Groats   6th Sept.   30 miles
Day 2   Lybster    7th Sept.   25 miles
Day 3  Helmsdale    8th Sept.    34 miles
Day 4  Tain     9th Sept.   36 miles
Day 5  Charlestown   10th Sept.   33 miles
Day 6  Carrbridge  11th Sept.   24  miles
Day 7  Newtonmore  12th Sept.   35 miles
Day 8  Blair Atholl  13th Sept.   25 miles
Day 9  Bankfoot  14th Sept.   42 miles
Day 10  Kincardine  15th Sept.   50 miles
Day 11  Biggar   16th Sept.   33 miles
Day 12  Moffat   17th Sept.   18 miles
Day 13  Lockerbie   18th Sept.   25 miles
Day 14  Carlisle  19th Sept.   20 miles
Day 15  Penrith   20th Sept.   30 miles
Day 16  Kendal   21st Sept.   22 miles
Day 17  Lancaster  22nd Sept.   37 miles
Day 18  Charnock Richard 23rd Sept.   42 miles
Day 19  Tarporley  24th Sept.   41 miles
Day 20  Wellington  25th Sept.   40 miles
Day 21  Ombersley  26th Sept.   40 miles
Day 22  Hardwicke  27th Sept.   40 miles
Day 23  Bristol   28th Sept.   34 miles
Day 24  Bridgwater  29th Sept.   30 miles
Day 25  Tiverton  30th Sept.   32 miles
Day 26  Okehampton   1st Oct.   40 miles
Day 27  Camelford   2nd Oct.   40 miles
Day 28  Carharrack   3rd Oct.   32 miles

LAND’S END

 
THE JOURNEY THROUGH SCOTLAND

 Almost a year after walking the coast of Cornwall I was prepared in readiness for the ‘end to end’ encounter.  There had been much tension in earlier weeks linked to the alteration of plans to accommodate my companion Douglas Kirkpatrick.  Finally on September 5th we embarked upon the long journey to John O’Groats – the starting point of our intended walk.  Previous walks had been completed successfully but this one was to be nearly twice the distance of any one of them, as was ominously apparent whilst driving up.  We tracked my route on the way, making note of the focal points and possible stopover place.

 I deposited a spare rucksack at Douglas’s mother’s house in Lockerbie which contained fresh supplies and clothing for the journey through England.  I rekindled past memories of Cumbria still firmly implanted from the epic journey from Hadrian’s Wall to Land’s End – an encounter I would be eager to repeat within a fortnight from now.

 We had allowed 12 days to tackle the Scottish section, largely because Douglas would be required to fetch his mother back to Lockerbie, and also taking into  consideration  the costs incurred from time spent on the road.  I had received generous support from one of my employers, namely Mr Richard Bizley, who was keen to support the project.  There were also donations from other friends as well,  my old pal Fred Wrougton gave me £50 and James Bradshaw chipped in with a ton.

 On the way up we had little trouble in locating the roads, with the inclusion of the odd country lane, and to our joy we discovered the old A9 had now become a cycle route, thus providing us with respite from the constant flow of traffic.

 We stopped briefly in a lay-by near a horseshoe-bend to stretch our legs, whereupon a motor cyclist shot past at incredible speed as if to challenge the shape of the road, I assumed he got around it, he might otherwise have been a bit disappointed, with a sheer drop of two hundred plus feet.  Sometime later I mentioned to the pipe-smoking Douglas that the stunt seemed rather incredible and how could he have achieved such a feat?  ‘Perhaps he didn’t’ was the reply.  I kept of thinking of the sheer genius and expertise required to engineer such an operation as well as having the courage to question the impossible. Or did he simply fail to acknowledge the warning signs, therefore taking a premature exit from the carriageway, cascading down into the valley – an experience appreciated more approvingly by bungee jumpers.

 There were many interesting place en route with some unusual names attached to them.  The roads in between were quite desolate, one in particular from Yetts o’ Muckhart was probably the longest 8-mile road we had  both come across – I’m convinced the crow was still airborne as the post went in the ground.

 By nightfall we reached Inverness, refilled the tank and made our way to Lybster where we found accommodation in the village pub.  We consumed Guinness for the next two hours before retiring to a brief, but much needed sleep.

 Morning was soon upon us and we breakfasted in earnest for the task ahead.  Originally Dougie was to leave the car at Lybster for his cousin to collect, whilst we made ground to John O’Groats using the bus service via Wick.  But, as a result of our belated recreation the previous evening, the landlady was fully aware of our tasks, and offered her son’s service in providing us carriage to the top end.  This was a major bonus, in effect, saving us a probable two or more hours, and giving us the opportunity of  a dry start in what was due to be an inhospitable bout of Scottish weather.

THE COASTAL ENCOUNTER

 So here we were at the edge of the sea, though with all its glory John O’Groats defied my expectations.  I had for moths lived in awe of this little place, conjuring up visions of great towering cliffs with the sea crashing about its shores.  Instead, we looked out upon the low-lying saturated grass banks adjoining the sea, which was in fact as calm as a millpond.

 Such as our haste to start the walk, we dwelled only long  enough to photograph each other outside the ’Last House’ in John O’Groats.  It was a weird sensation, stepping out from what felt like the edge of the world.  I was immediately embraced by the aches and pains from niggling cricket injuries, as if to remind me of the journey ahead.  Was I to start and finish in pain, or was it just an anxiety attack, forecasting doom on the momentous hour?  The weather too, had its say, with looming dark cloud bearing down upon us with a statement of authority, questioning our assignment.  In all fairness, the temperature was quite mild, given the coastal presence as we trekked steadily away from John O’Groats, to be confronted by only the odd bus, and a handful of cyclists.

 The mission was under way and one thing was ominously certain in both our minds – there was no turning back.

 The journey was to Wick was pleasant enough as we passed by many old dwelling scattered about the green landscape, which had plenty to offer in terms of nature, initiating us with a presentation of its many species of bird life.   The A9 was the basis of our route throughout  much of Scotland and, in the early stages, provided us with a splendid opportunity to view the coastline and its resources.  The many stone castles still echoed a voice from the past, where, in the presence of their great warriors, stood firm against time.  Historians revel in  the Scottish environment, as do the tourists, who ponder over some of the more mythical aspects, I too enjoyed my brief history lesson courtesy of Mr D. K. himself.

 After an enjoyable interval at a pub in Wick, we took stock of ourselves for a further 14 miles, on what was now a sunny afternoon.  I was still experiencing stiffness in the back of my knee, but was able to continue without too much discomfort.  The beautiful countryside provided me with the anaesthetic to combat the pain, allowing me to enjoy the fresh air, and toil with thoughts of how the damaging effects of time have  not yet fully eroded this country.

 By 4.00p.m. Douglas had become a speck in the distance, and although not walking in top gear, it was evident that our paces were different. This was not a problem, as Dougie had made it clear at the start, that my mission was foremost, and that I should continue at my normal pace.   However,  I could not help worrying about him, especially later on when an ambulance passed by me.  Could he have damaged himself, or swallowed his pipe, maybe?

 I stopped to examine my feet which were covered in blisters, largely due to my socks, which were far too thick, causing  friction.  On the assumption that Douglas was alright, I pressed on, feeling somewhat tired and uncertain as to how many miles I had left to do. It appeared that I was still on the A9, after all, there was no other road, yet there was a distinct lack of signposts indicating mileage and township.  Eventually I descended upon Lybster, a good 2 miles however, from the signpost itself, arriving at the inn around 5.00p.m. I enjoyed a shower and repaired my feet, whilst eagerly awaiting the arrival of Dougie.  He arrived 2 hours later, swiftly informing me of his visit to the Lybster Hotel at the top  of the village, where the Guinness was at its finest.  On hearing this wonderful news, I quickly renewed my footwear and sped off up the road to enjoy 3 pints of Guinness – maybe not quite sped, but I certainly limped at great speed.

 The following day I rose at about 6.00a.m. in order to stretch my muscles in preparation for the journey ahead, which would be the most arduous part of the Scottish section.   Brora was the target town – 37 miles in all, with little else en route save the odd small village, and a substantial place known as Helmsdale.  I could  only manage a  light breakfast, as I was still anxious about the walk.  I had yet to  find  rhythm, and felt that we both would have benefited from a proper rest before starting the mission.  The landlady was kind to us, charging only £20 for the two nights, and giving Dougie assurance that  his car would be safe on the premises.  We departed around 8.00a.m., both caped up, ready to be greeted by showery weather.  Once again, the  A9 provided a coastal setting for parts of the day, though the sea was more rugged in appearance than previously.  The wind blew fiercely, and the rain poured down as we tackled the largely downhill road with its sharp, curvy bends surrounded by forestation and Scotch mist.  We sighted occasional road workers on this desolate trail, which contained only small pockets of life.  In fact, there was one shop between Lybster and Helmsdale.

 On arriving at Helmsdale, I took shelter in a traffic warden’s hut, using the opportunity to attend to my feet, whilst waiting for the appearance of Dougie.  I had lost sight of him around midday, and it was now 4.00p.m., and Brora was still a further 11 miles.  Being soaking wet, I began to feel cold, and having pondered over whether Douglas was in difficulty or not, I decided to investigate the town for possible accommodation.  It was a brief assessment in view of the fact that Helmsdale, though classified as a port, was still quite small.  There was an hotel at the bottom  end, a Youth Hostel at the top, and a guest house and shop close by.  I stopped at the hostel to enquire about drying facilities, where it became apparent that there was little other than a bed available, after which I sauntered back to the hotel and booked two rooms for the night.  It was only £16 per head, and the maid was very helpful, offering to wash and dry our clothes, as well as keeping a vigil for Douglas, while I enjoyed a nice hot bath.

 By 6.00p.m. the maid reported his arrival – by now, he was scarcely moving, and soaked to the skin.  His first words were “There is no way I can move another inch, I’m absolutely knackered”.  I’m afraid that all I could do was laugh, though watching him walk those last few steps soon registered the work load that lay ahead.  Humour could never be dismissed however, as I reminded him of the experience over a pint of Guinness that evening, only to point out, still with raucous laughter, that I had been there myself on past occasions.

‘FIERY JACK’ 

 Dougie was convinced that it would need a miracle for him to walk any substantial distance following the ambitious task we had attempted the previous day, in fact he said he was ready to quit.  By breakfast time however he had recovered satisfactorily enough to present himself again to the road that was fast becoming the bane of his life.  With our usual issue of surgical spirit and Fiery Jack our bodies were stabilised enough to cope with the mandatory dose of pain which was now inevitable.
 
 Fiery Jack was an additional member to the party, whose role was to treat our ailing bodies, in effect loosening up stiff muscles and providing relief from pain, in a similar fashion to Deep Heat and other such remedies.  The orange-coloured ointment was contained in a shoe-polish size tin with a portrait of Jack and his fire grate on the lid, and by now the daily ritual of rubbing it on our injuries had become almost as important as the Guinness session in the evening.

 Fiery Jack was to be a loyal companion throughout the entire journey, making his presence felt in one’s hour of need.  There were times too when he commanded much respect, displaying the occasional act of violence when excessively using his services.  Once I liberally applied the substance to my lower back and gluteus muscles, after which, only half an hour into the day’s routine, I had to exit the road to spend the next few minutes with my backside immersed in a stream.  It was often difficult to find the correct measure; trial and error was the name of the game, and more often than not we had to live with the error though usually, because we were in such burning agony, we were oblivious of the initial problem.  Dougie was tempted to rub the substance all over his feet, just to see what the response would be, thus illustrating that insanity can creep into the mission in times of duress.

 So, armed to combat pain, or at least provide it with a good alternative, we braved the weather, which had become full-blow torrential rain.  We marched out of Helmsdale, where sheep ran across the road, diverting traffic into the verges, the first test of the day aimed at our awareness and concentration. The road, even at its quietest moments in the youthful stages of the journey, requires eagle-eyed vigilance to seek out the many hazards that the day provides.

 We still had sight of the coast with a railway line now present situated by the sea and running inland as we progressed further in the direction of Brora.  I think that if I had been alone, I might have been tempted to have pushed on to Brora the previous evening, though I felt sure at this stage, the effort was a satisfactory one.  Dougie was amazed that he was walking so freely, following the previous day’s experience, but after all, that’s what it was – experience.  I can remember being in that state myself, and not able to find accommodation, and having to force out a further 4 or 5 miles to get to the next village.  I suppose I owe much to the Parachute Regiment for the profound way they instil the self-belief that is required to make these goals attainable, often in the face of adversity.  Dougie is a tough bloke who could benefit and achieve a good deal more as a result of that second day, though perhaps with assistance from Fiery Jack.

A BRIDGE TOO FAR

 As I drew near to Brora, I lost sight of Dougie in what was now a major downpour.  I hastened towards a bank, only to find that it was closed for lunch, causing me to dash to the next option of shelter – a chemist, which allowed me a chance to gather further supplies.  Dougie knew that the chemist was an important aspect in both our lives, now patronised as frequently as a public house.  I inquired after the location of the nearest tearoom, advising the staff of a possible visitation from Dougie, to whom I requested they should relay my whereabouts.

 Soaking wet, but sheltered in warm surroundings, I was able to put fluid back into my body as I waited in anticipation for Dougie to appear at the top of the hill.  This never occurred, so after a pleasant break of roughly an hour, I left warm shelter to embrace the wet, still puzzled as to how I could not have seen him. He must have found another exit from the town, for as I passed some road works nearing Golspie, one of the workers stopped to inform me that Dougie would meet me at the inn over the Bridge at the Dornoch Firth near Tain – our target for the day.  With this knowledge I felt inflated enough to jog to the next place, where I had at last caught sight of what appeared to be another bank.  I was correct in my assumption, though not a mirage itself, the staff inside it were at first reluctant to provide me with funds.  I had recently travelled the world on my Visa card, which I was told would be accepted anywhere.  Anywhere that is but Scotland – unless you have a driving licence and passport.

 In a moment of anger, I accused them of discriminating against sponsored walkers and non-drivers, adding that I would hardly need a passport to walk from ’end to end’ of the country, nor would I risk its destruction in such horrific weather and have to pay for its renewal.  I refused to move and eventually they decided to cough up. 

 Relieved that I had money in my pocket again, I found another tearoom, where I enjoyed further refreshments in the company of two lady packpackers heading for John O’Groats.  We were able to exchange a few travellers’ yarns before parting in opposite directions with only the weather to remind us of the occasion.  On the next stage of the journey, I walked into a thick blanket of fog, more loosely termed as Scotch mist, which provided an eerie setting on the lonesome road, surrounded again by forestation .  In the distance I could see the shape of another walker nearing an old telephone booth.

 Owing to the opaque conditions, it was difficult to make out which direction the person was moving in, but as I closed in, it transpired to be the figure of Mr Douglas Kirkpatrick. He hadn’t stopped at all, pressing on regardless of the weather, in an effort to make the bridge by nightfall.  I said ”do you bloody realise I waited in that cafe for over an hour for you to appear?”  He chuckled heartily – I suppose it was a payback from the previous evening, anyway all was well once again as we set about the final push to reach the bridge.

 I had found some reasonable form at last which enabled me to shoot off down the road giving Dougie full assurance that accommodation would be organised on his behalf.  After ten minutes he was invisible again, with only the smell of his pipe lingering in the mist, though I hoped he hadn’t loaded it with Fiery Jack in an effort to dispel an established cold.

 As I neared the bridge with the light still good, I immediately registered the fact that it was no mean construction; this was displayed not only in terms of its length and size, but also the years of skill and workmanship required to put it there.

 Crossing the bridge was a task of its own, an interesting experience, though one I felt better reserved for the motorist.  At the roundabout Tain was exhibited on the signpost as being 3 miles and directly to my right was a caravan site linked to the grounds of the inn.  I hurried down to the inn in anticipation of finding food and shelter.  There was plenty of food, but to my horror, I was told that there was not one single room available.  I had to question the validity of such a statement with a field full of caravans.   The answer remained the same, so I reluctantly plodded off up the road knowing full well that Dougie would stake his all on resting here.

 I stopped the caretaker of the caravan site who assured me that there was definitely no chance of accommodation and that the nearest inn was at Tain. I realised that it had to be done – there was no choice, I would head for Tain without further thought, asking the chap to inform Dougie of the change of plan.  On leaving the roundabout I noticed a car in the ditch and two men standing by the roadside.  I asked them to keep a look out for Dougie, should they still be waiting there.  I decided to change into my fluorescent coat as nightfall was upon us with 3 miles still left to do.  As I did so the rain fell as if from a tap, soaking me within seconds, spurring me on and leaving me with little thoughts other than those connected with warmth and shelter.

 In what seemed a very short time I arrived at Tain, where my first port of call was an hotel.  As I approached the entrance I noticed a building operation surrounded by signs, but as I moved to avoid the area I fell down a hole, where my boots disappeared beneath the mud.  Much to  my disgust, I dragged myself out and found my way to the reception area, only to be asked to leave the premises, due to the state I was in.

 By now I was thoroughly cheesed off, but managed to make my departure without commenting on the overwhelming hospitality and safety regime.  My next bid for shelter was a successful one, with the landlord of the guest house observing me with pity, rather than worrying about the mess on his carpet.   He immediately offered to dry my clothes, and listened tentatively as I poured out a detailed account of the day’s events.  He could see my concern over Dougie, and made numerous telephone calls to nearby guest houses.  It was a fruitless task, which finally prompted him to take me back to the inn to see if we could locate him.

 There was no sign of him anywhere on reaching the roundabout, which left only one thing to investigate – whether or not he had  made it to the inn.  He had in fact arrived there, but could manage no further ground thereafter.  That bridge had become a symbol of sanctuary – a switch-off point, preventing any further activity.  This had induced him to order a taxi to Tain, where he would be certain to find accommodation, and have time to gather his thoughts.  At least he was safe, though the gap between us was beginning to increase, this was the first time since we had been parted at the close of the day, and I wondered whether he still planned to continue.

 I did not sleep at all that night, feeling shattered as I sat down for breakfast, only able to manage some scrambled egg on toast.  A Canadian girl sat opposite me, showing interest in my cause, but  because I was suffering from tiredness, I was scarcely able to communicate with her.  She had seen me walking the previous day and was herself hoping to visit John O’Groats after tonight’s intended stop at the Helmsdale Youth Hostel.  I was anxious to  get  back to the road, and hopefully find Dougie, so I bid the landlord and his family farewell, thanking them for their help.  They were amazed at the distance I had travelled already, stating that, of the many walkers who attempt this journey, none had come anywhere near this far is such a short time.

 I had a premonition of a pain barrier, and needed to attack the day aggressively in order to remain positive.  My first intended stop was to be the chemist, though at 8.00a.m. it was still closed, leaving me little choice but to continue up the hill, where I eventually arrived at the Scotchburn Road, leading to Alness.  This was to be the first of the  back roads chartered on the route, and featured in a tranquil background of forest and farmland,  with only small pockets of life along the 12-mile stretch.

 I had looked forward to this section, having been informed of its scenic qualities over breakfast, but although inspired by the occasion, I was now suffering discomfort with my footwear.  It appeared that one of my feet was larger than the other, a problem which I suspected after the “yomp” round Cornwall.  My boots, which were size 9, caused pain to my toes, and after the Helmsdale episode, I lost some toenails.  My walking shoes however were size 10, which was fine provided I could compromise with extra socks and insoles.  This was the main source of concern – getting it right for each foot.  The supposedly modest 12 miles took over 4 hours to complete, though I was rewarded with some excellent scenery and the opportunity to visit a chemist, where I received a ward welcome from Fiery Jack.

 I drank 3 pints of milk and adjusted my footwear for the sixteenth time, before heading off towards Evanton.  This was also a pleasurable hike along a solitary B817 – a reasonable walking road, which was again encompassed with forest growth.  Evanton was not a large place, though it was adequate enough to support accommodation for the passing tourist, in fact not too dissimilar to the towns previously visited.  I walked straight through it and ventured back onto the A9, observing the formation of the railway lines, which passed from left to right of the carriageway, with a background view now dominated by water.

 As I neared the Cromarty Bridge I caught sight of seals playing in the water, whom by now had attracted many spectators from the A9.  I as fortunate enough to photograph these marvellous creatures before making another memorable crossing over the sea, only to be reunited with the hazards of a busy dual carriageway.

 My evening target would be near Inverness, leaving me bang on schedule; I had separated Scotland into three segments, using Inverness as stage one, so this was to be  my first major landmark.

 Whilst contemplating this imminent milestone, Dougie pulled up on the other side of the road, my first thoughts on seeming him in the car were that he had thrown the towel in.   This was not the case, but as he was now so far behind  he thought it best to hitchhike back to Lybster to get the car and find me to let me know the score.  I urged him to continue the walk at his own pace, and explained there was no reason why he couldn’t have a day off to fetch his mother back to Lockerbie, providing he reengaged himself at the point where he had left off.  He was happy to do this and would return to Tain that evening in preparation for tomorrow.  In the mean time he would drive up to Charlestown near Inverness and book me into some “digs” to avoid the previous night’s dilemma.  Before he departed I gave him my boots, explaining the size problem, relaying instructions to pick up another pair from my house in Oundle and deposit them at his mother’s house in Lockerbie along with my other gear.  My feet were sore, causing me to limp gingerly as I renewed myself to the elements of traffic and weather, still with a further 10 miles to crack.  I had 6 miles to do when Dougie reappeared to leave me with a card from the Bed and Breakfast and the knowledge that on current form, I had roughly a two-hour journey left.

 As darkness drew in, I was relieved to exit the carriageway and enter Charlestown, where I was able to use a path for the final moments of the day,  The B & B was excellent and provided a Jacuzzi, a novel but welcome experience for the man-of-the-road.  After a period of recuperation, I ambled up to the pub for some refreshment, but sadly not any food, as it was after 9.00p.m.  I enjoyed 2 pints of ale which substituted a meal, whilst pondering over the agony of sore feet and the 30 miles to Carrbridge to follow – at least that left me with food for thought!

 With Dougie now at large, I was able to make greater demands on my body, looking to boost up the mileage after week one.  It had been a fierce baptism for him in appalling weather, which I had grown to believe Scotland owned the franchise of.  He believed, in all honesty, that we could complete the journey in 9 days, even after I had assured him it would be closer to 12, and that was pushing it with England to follow.

 Today’s effort would realise 30 miles aimed at a possible stay at Carrbridge, a little tourist town 2 miles off the A9. I had to endure the dual carriageway for the first party of the journey, crossing the bridge at Inverness, where shortly after I cracked my toe on one of the ribbed kerbstones.  From then on it was a painful experience with little respite from the traffic.  I stopped for a break at a park, where I soaked my foot in a stream, the fast-flowing water soothing it momentarily, as I absorbed the peace and tranquillity of the surrounding area.  At this stage it was a necessary break from the road, which for the best part of the day was a monotonous serge of oncoming vehicles.

 By late afternoon, following a tea break at a Little Chef restaurant, I was able to enjoy a detour away from the carriageway, where I passed through several small villages, one of particular interest, known as “Slochd”, before eventually linking up with the A9.

 I felt certain that there were parts of the old A9 that could be adapted for pedestrian use, though this was difficult to define with the many rocks and protrusions interrupting its flow.  I persevered on the now very wet, main road with the intrusions of blasting horns and waving passengers.  I suppose they thought me mad, even with my mission printed boldly on my jacket and cap.

 The day was still young as I entered into the final 2 miles of the leg, completed on a quieter country route, taking me into the  middle of the small town.  The inn was full, but I was able to obtain a bed at the guest house next door, and as I left the inn, with my promise to return, the barman promptly donated to the cause.  Later that evening whilst relaxing at the bar I was joined by an English couple Ron and Babs, who took an interest in my crusade.  We exchanged delightful conversation, with many interesting views concerning life in general and the impact of change created by the modern world.  The contemporary world has suffered many sickening blows struck by greed and industrialisation.  The pollutants and man-made poisons, including cigarettes, provide revenue to the government, who are in effect managing a self-destruct society.  In weighing up the odds from an ecological perspective, a depleted ozone layer and a few  million cancer statistics indicate the harsh reality of change.  I personally see little hope of improvement in terms of these changes, once a discovery has been made it is there for ever.  I am interested in observing change, and would like to walk around the British Isles before the turn of the century, this drawing a comparison from the previous hundred years.  It is time the country  had its temperature tested, even though a sick society is not always a willing patient, and may well lie in waiting for the last rites from its leaders.

 As the Guinness session drew to a close, Ron and Babs made tracks to their accommodation, and on departure donated £5 for my efforts, so far – a wonderful gesture from two very fine people.  Social activity is often the key to success on the road, leaving one with a satisfying experience of being able to summarise the events incurred over the course of the day.

A SPANNER IN THE WORKS

 Once again I appreciated the hospitality, acknowledging the extra chores I had bestowed upon the landlady in particular, who ensured that my clothes were dry for the start of the day.  I finished breakfast at about 8.30a.m., my normal start time, and commenced walking on the B9153 road to Aviemore, once again blemished by the usual wet conditions.

 At first my feet were sore.  I had used a ‘second skin’ on the ball of my foot, which took the brunt on the downhill stretch.  One of my heels had suffered a blister and was still tinder, so I resorted to running tactics for much of the day.  I reached Aviemore without too much drama – at least that was, until I arrived at the bank, where I was subjected to the usual hassle of trying to obtain money, resulting this time in a half-hour wait.

 It was only planned as a short day, allowing for some rest in preparation for the heavy duty days to follow.  Newtonmore would be the last significant stop before embarking on the desolate highway which provided little other than an odd farmhouse for 30  or more miles.  It was not to be a stressful day in terms of  mileage, so I took the opportunity to write some postcards and enjoy a spot of lunch in a café.

 I strolled out of the town putting the cards in a postbox, by then caping up ready for another wet session.  I felt sure I could finish the day’s walk within a couple of hours, but when I resumed running my toe was in agony.  I could hardly walk on it and after the crack I took the day before – perhaps I shouldn’t have attempted to run.  The pain had started to cause cramp in the bottom section of the foot, and like Saturday, I went through the ritual of changing socks and insoles.  By the time I arrived at Newtonmore I was particularly concerned, for if I had fractured that toe, it would surely mean the end of the walk.  It was a chilling sensation, one which I was powerless to evade.

 There was nothing much in Newtonmore, other than accommodation and tourist shops.  I had no problem in finding an inn, and was able to enjoy a hot bath.  I discovered a shoe shop, thinking maybe if I had trainers I might cope a bit better with the injury.  It was a difficult time, but I was able to enjoy a proper mean before taking an early night to view some television, by which time I  managed to drift into some form of sleep.

 It was Tuesday with almost a week of walking behind me, yet much work was still to be done to procure a departure date from Scotland.  Today would require plenty of character to overcome a troublesome toe complaint on a long stretch of road, offering little in the terms of stop points for either refreshment or accommodation.  The largest town from here would be Pitlochry, though there were smaller places after Calvine which would support accommodation.  Calvine however, was at least 30 miles and the only other place providing refreshment would be Dalwhinnie, which was ten miles from Newtonmore.  First however, I had to deal with the most significant pain barrier as yet on any walking occasion.  I was convinced that I  now had a cracked toe and the pain had extended to the arch of my foot.

 After a nourishing breakfast I paid  my bill and visited a shop which advertised footwear.  It was however very basic regarding its products, and in the end I convinced myself that I would manage with my walking shoes. I did however purchase a couple of pairs of insoles in order to create some form of comfort throughout the day.

 It was a bleak start – wet and windy, and progress was slow with discomfort  leading to regular stoppages on the trip to Dalwhinnie.  There was a back road leading to Dalwhinnie which was a pleasant detour from the A9 and offered the visual sundries usually associated with a tourist route.  Dalwhinnie was only a small community, the distillery being its main product, with other buildings amounting to a shop, hotel and a garage.  The shop was my first priority, then I opted for a  rest beside the war memorial where I felt I could draw strength from the great warriors whose names were inscribed upon it. It was the right place for me to gather fortitude – reminding myself of the bravery shown by these men, most of whom had been trained to die.  I had merely trained for a job, which I had taken 4 years to nominate myself for, and a cracked toe is a minor issue compared to the suffering of these great  men.

 I could not relinquish this task, and two cartons of milk later, I was up and gone, making my way through the village and back onto the A9 which was as intense as ever in wet conditions.  I enjoyed the occasional stroll along the old A9, now procured for cycle use and pedestrians, though available only at intervals.  I couldn’t get used to the discomfort in my toe, desperately trying to adopt an improvised step.  I believe that day all told, I must have stopped over 20 times, sparing the odd necessity of filling my water bottle from a stream, which helped break the monotony.

 Once, when filling  my water bottle at a cascade opposite a lay-by, I was offered a couple of tins of lucozade and a bar of chocolate by the owner of a Range Rover.  We talked for a while discussing my mission and the troublesome injury which was hampering my progress.  He could only offer sympathy and wish me well for the rest of the journey, as he headed off to Inverness, leaving me to admire the mountainous scenery fading rapidly beneath a blanket of mist.  The mist was accompanied by another patch of wet weather, but as I had taken to the cycle route again, I was able to enjoy my walk in a country-setting, devoid of traffic.  Even as the rain poured down upon me, I became free and relaxed, observing all the details of an environment which had given nature the opportunity to thrive.  The railway line was in view on my right as I passed over a bridge with a stream below, and shortly after a village came into view.  There was a sign reading ’Cycle route to Blair Atholl’ – a place I was not familiar with.   The little village was known as Calvine, represented only by a few houses and a signpost indicating a hotel half a mile down the hill on the right.

 All the signs that preceded Calvine highlighted Blair as the main town accentuating that there was a strong possibility of a night-time base.  The only other place that I knew to be on that trail was Pitagowan, which turned out to be a very small area – one I chose not to investigate as darkness approached.  I was now fired up for Blair, with the pain in my toe subsiding – giving me the will to continue.  In any event I had little choice as Blair was the only place of substance left en route.  It was now totally dark as I scurried alongside the railway line, pushing hard in an attempt to find human life and some leisure resources.

 By 9.00p.m. I achieved that satisfying goal arriving at an hotel just inside Blair Atholl, it was however £27.50 per night, though the bar tender informed me of a guest house location further ahead.  I was successful in finding it beyond a public house and hotel at the far end of the village, where to my elation the landlady had one room left, and into the  bargain offered to dry my kit for the morning.  My foot was feeling quite good despite an absence of flesh caused by the removal of a ’second skin’ covering which left only raw tissue.  Surgical spirit was liberally applied to stave off infection, but at least I could walk, and to end the day I strolled into the pub for a quiet Guinness.  I slept well that night reassuring myself that light was seeping through the tunnel on a day when I had conquered pain.

 With week one complete, I could target myself for Perth, the next main stop point.  I was feeling good in myself – it was a sunny morning and I enjoyed the company at the breakfast table, whilst consuming some of the finest cuisine.  On hearing the details of my mission throughout the course of breakfast, the landlady kindly dropped the charge of my evening stay as a contribution to my effort.  After expressing my gratitude for her kindness I strolled happily up the road, viewing the river below, now reflecting the morning sun.  Blair had been a marvellous experience displaying the authentic character and scenic attributes associated with Scotland, thus defining the qualities sought after by tourists.  The heat of the day was a welcome change, but progress was slow throughout as my feet were very sore particularly on the areas previously blistered.

 Pitlochry was a busy town equipped with all the amenities for the traveller, though aimed at attracting visitors and tourists.  I ate my lunch whilst sitting on a park bench, and afterwards I used the opportunity to write a few cards before making ground to Dunkeld.  It was slow-going to Dunked – a painful journey yielding only a few miles.  I decided to have fish and chips for my tea and sat by the bridge where I viewed fishermen standing in the shallow water in an attempt to catch salmon.

 It was a beautiful town, inviting me to extend my visit, but sadly the road beckoned, owing to the little ground covered over the day.  I would ain to get nearer to Perth before settling for the night.  There were a couple of villages on the way, and I felt confident of finding an inn or guest house.

 As I reached Bankfoot, I felt the presence of a storm.  The humidity had risen along with intense black cloud moving threateningly into a position above with a trace of its voice bellowing in distant areas already at its mercy.  The stage was set for its arrival, and I didn’t relish the thought of walking on open ground – I certainly would not endeavour the 9-mile trip to Perth.  There was only one inn at Bankfoot and a guest house – neither of which had vacancies.  On leaving the village I passed a man who was working on his garden – he offered me some advice regarding accommodation at the farmhouses en route to Perth.  He chatted about the other walkers he had met going through to Land’s End, but was anxious about the storm and my need to find shelter.  Whilst consulting his daughter, he discovered that the Hunt’s Lodge 1 mile out of Bankfoot, now catered for travellers.  I continued along the road to where the inn was situated.  It was a nice place with only a few residents using chalet facilities outside.

 It has been a miserly day regarding miles walked, but there could be little gained by trying to walk on sore feet, so an early night at the sanctuary of  a warm inn was a welcome reward following the previous day’s effort.  It was time to unwind and I did so with the resources available – namely Caffreys, Guinness, and roasted peanuts.

THE INDIAN SUMMER

 The storm had made little impact the previous evening, merely paving the way clear for the sun to interrupt the usual wet weather.  I resumed on the main road during the morning, signposted at 9 miles to Perth itself, which I had chosen to bypass in order to make use of the back roads., the first of which would take me through Dunning, then I would use the old B road to Yetts ‘0 Muckhart.  It was a strenuous trek as I had set my sights on Kincardine Bridge, totalling 40 miles for the day.  It was incredibly hot – at times similar to the August weather.  I kept thinking that perhaps summer had returned to its final hour, to grace us with its presence.

 It was necessary to take regular fluids and keep plenty in stock for the journey to Yetts o’Muckhart. I remembered the long trail from when we drove up, unable to imagine that we passed through here just over a week ago.  It was a touch “hack”, yet beautiful with an escarpment of  mountains and forestation as my arrival was heralded by an orchestra of barking hounds, heard echoing through the canyons.  You certainly got value for money walking along this road, inch for inch one could never contest its distance being less than the premised amount.  It offered  me a peaceful opportunity to reflect on the task so far, and examine the overall workload.  The itinerary itself was hard to reconcile.  30-40 miles a day for a month, is a stiff quota of penance, served with 30-40 lbs on my back.

 Eventually I reached Yetts o’ Muckhart, promptly taking the country lane was as to avoid Dollar, putting me  bang on target for Kincardine, a good  8 miles away.  On reaching the “main drag”, darkness was imminent, so I changed into fluorescent gear before getting into some overtime.  I moved at great speed in the dying light, as traffic hurtled towards me with the blinding full beam.

 I passed by the small communities set back from A977 before eventually arriving at the town around 9.00 p.m.  Kincardine at first struck me as being a large place, but in fact it was quite small, with its bridge standing firm as the main feature.  I enquired after accommodation at the garage where I was informed of 3 possible places.  I headed first to an inn and located a fish shop in the town.  The landlady at the inn took me down a road where there was a possibility of obtaining accommodation.  The people had just arrived back at their home and indicated that they weren’t an established guest house, but owing to the fact that I was on a walk for Cancer Research, they would help me  out.  The lady’s name was Ursula, whose normal occupation was nursing, but as their two sons were now living away from home, they had an opportunity to use the bedrooms for a subsidiary income.  At present there were two contractors staying at their home, and I was able to sleep in the spare room.

 Ursula repaired my damaged feet, whilst I described in detail how I had progressed  to date, explaining that Douglas would follow in a few days time.  She had suffered family losses though cancer and was keen to help out, using her nursing skills and providing me with a tin  of iodine and some fresh dressing for future blisters.

 At 10.00p.m. I entered the pub which was hosting a now well-established karaoke.  Some of the singers were a little bit better than my cousin John – but not much ( that is to say if you had a karaoke at a funeral service it would be more dignified to let somebody other than  John do the singing).  Anyway, it was a swift 2 pints and a fish supper before retiring to revise  my thoughts on what had been a very prosperous day.

 It was an early start the following morning –  not that I minded ,with another testing journey, destined for Biggar. I breakfasted heartily laying the foundation for the day ahead, with my knowledge of a probable 50 miler.  I had enjoyed my stay, and as I produced my cheque book, the gentleman insisted that there would be no charge, in view of the work I was doing.  His wife had replenished my first aid box the evening before, so I was now fixed up for a big day. I was delighted to have received their warm hospitality, and it is encouraging to know that people care about what I am doing.  The morning was crisp, showing promise of another hot day to come, as I confronted the great suspension bridge of Kincardine.  The first big target was Falkirk, where I would need to obtain money before heading for less-established places on the map.  Most of the morning’s walk was completed on  A roads, with some fiddly bits on the dual carriageway.  Falkirk was the most substantial place I had been to so far, yet the banking problems still continued.  The woman at the counter was totally incompetent and refused access to money, without even fetching  the manager, or making a telephone call.  I stormed out, angered by her attitude, but was quickly aided by a girl who had seen the whole  affair.  She explained that the other banks were more helpful, and indeed they were – in fact I entered a similar type of  bank, but wasn’t interrogated in the same fashion as before,  The woman knew the procedure and set about her job efficiently, as well as asking about my welfare and how the event was taking its toll on my body.

 The drama continued however, when I chose the wrong exit from the town, taking me onto the Stirling road.  A doughnut salesman was able to give me directions back through the town via the canal, up along Windsor Street.  At the junction adjoining Windsor Street was a garage, which I remembered from last week’s trip, then of course, there was the massive uphill climb out of the town onto the B8028 to Biggar.  Biggar was still a long way from here – my first targets would be Armadale and Carnwath, the latter was a possible nightstop  if required.

 I took the B road for most of the journey but fell foul of malicious mischief just 3 miles from Armadale where the signpost had been turned round, thus leading me onto an incorrect route.  I wasn’t aware of this until I arrived at Westfield, when it was indicated to me by the post woman that I was 3 miles from Armadale having just walked that distance from the suspect signpost.  In anger I ran to Armadale and onto the next town known as Whitburn.  I did not know at the time, but Dougie was breaking his journey to go back to Oundle to collect his mother, and had attempted to find me en route.  He had suffered a similar fate with the signpost, though it would have been earlier in the day, and probably whilst I was trying to sort out my finances.

 I wasn’t too despondent, though by now the heat of the day was taking its toll, as the rejuvenated summer continued  to flourish, with the prospect of wearing a turban in weeks to come.  I had no complaints at all on that front, after being at the mercy of bad weather for the last week.

 As I was leaving Whitburn I found a cyclist who had been knocked over by a car – he was unconscious with head injuries.  Trying to stop the flow of traffic to gain assistance was damned nearly a lost cause.  Eventually a car stopped, causing a domino effect with mobile phones appearing from all sections of the road.

 Fortunately a young girl know the victim and offered to stay with him until the ambulance arrived.  Some guy claiming to be trained in first aid, and eager to impress the crowd, tried to move him, but we quickly insisted that it was wrong to do so, especially with head injuries.  By the time the police arrived, had had gained consciousness.  With the knowledge he was in safer hands I expressed my need to continue walking and promptly departed from the scene.  I was  marching at 4 miles per hour, and had maintained this throughout the day, reaching Carnwath at around 6.45p.m.  It was still light, and I needed food and fluid so I indulged in fish and chips and a bottle of lucozade.  I had a brief chat with some local lads then made tracks for Biggar.  As the night drew near I was once again on the  back roads, where I struggled to read the signs.  The last three miles to Biggar were quite unnerving as I became engulfed by the darkened cover of forest and wooded-countryside where animal activity was now predominant,

 Biggar was of moderate size, not greatly endowed with accommodation, but I finally found shelter at a guest house close to an inn.  It was a cozy place owned by a friendly couple, and I was soon showered and installed in the inn with a good hour of drinking time available.  It had been a premium effort, though not paying full dividends, owing to the sundry miles completed a the expense of being lost.  The pub visit was brief as a much-earned sleep beckoned, with the last two days of the Scottish leg still to be completed.

 I appreciated a lovely breakfast, as waell as having a good chat with the owners.  They had treated me so well, and also refused any payment towards my stay.  The hospitality was outstanding, filling me with inspiration as I prepared for a shorter journey of around 30 miles to Moffat.

 Once again it was a fine day for walking as  I stepped out into the bright sunshine, now united with the cool morning air that is warmed by the sound of resident birds.  The first part of the day consisted of 5 miles to Broughton, where I would pick up supplies before continuing on what was in fact another desolate trail to Moffat.  On arriving at the town I asked a woman to take a picture of me standing under the signpost to Moffat.  She did so and after informing her of my activities she place £10 in my hand to put towards the cause.  The lady lived at Shap, a small town in Cumbria which I was soon to revisit.  I was less fit today, sporting a cold, resultant from loss of body temperature – a problem frequently suffered  on long-distance walks.  Mid-journey I stopped for a cup of tea at the Crook Inn – the only place en route.  From then on it was something of a drag, despite attractive countryside, now with a totally green complexion broken only by streams and the odd farmhouse, the main focal points seen from the road.

 The view of Moffat some 4 miles away was astonishing, as was the presentation of the town itself, proudly displaying its honourable name now accredited as the finest county town in Scotland, one which boasts  much tourist support.
 
 Accommodation was posted everywhere, but I quickly settled for a little guest house next door to an inn.  The landlady was a warm person ensuring that I had every requirement including a hot bath.  This ritual was a rare luxury with the implementation of compulsory  water metering, I suppose I had grown in admiration for these friendly people who remain so generous, despite the financial impact of privatisation.  Nobody can expect to live in a utopian world, but at times it becomes distressing to watch folks continually working to survive, only to have  their profits consumed by the martial law of capitalism.

 In England this system appears to be popular owing to the evidence of the many millions who vote for its existence.  In fact they are willing enough  to support it and in doing so, sentence themselves to long-term imprisonment at work in an effort to stave off the increase of charges, taxes, and V.A.T.  I have seen many situations on my travels which would question the need for such a trend in a world where people are simply wanting a piece of the action and a  bit  more security.  As it was a comparatively early day, my night was taken up with ’phone calls, postcards and visits to many different inns.

 By the next day my cold had subsided adequately enough for me to enjoy a breakfast before departing for Lockerbie.  The lady knocked a couple of pounds off what was a very small amount for  my evening stay, and again I was pleased to be reunited with the morning sun.  I took a wrong exit from Moffat, which led me up to the A74 dual carriageway, but I knew where to reconnect myself to the proposed country road at the expense of a couple of miles.  It was a very short trip to Lockerbie along a typical country road, supporting mainly agricultural machinery and Sunday drivers.  I managed to find Dougie’s mother’s house where a message was pinned to the door to say he would arrive at 3.00p.m. and to ‘phone the neighbours for access.  It was marvellous that we would meet up like this as we both had so  much to talk about. When he eventually arrived, we enjoyed the rest of the day, relating our experiences as well as preparing for the secondary part of the journey, changing over my gear with the inclusion of new boots.  In the evening we visited an inn where Dougie’s mother treated us to a lovely meal before we retired with hopeful thoughts about the day to come.

A FAREWELL JOURNEY

 At 8.30a.m. Douglas and I had finished our breakfast, bidding farewell to his mother, and then to each other as we parted in different directions.  Dougie was to hitchhike up to Perth, where he would resume the rest of his walk back to Gretna, a journey of around 5 days.

 My first place of recognition was to be Ecclefechan a 5-mile introduction to the day, which would renew me back to familiar ground.  The bottoms of my feet were very stiff, a complaint of which I had suffered throughout this walk.  I can’t remember ever having the problem before, but was able to wear boots rather than walking shoes used on the best part of the event so far.

 Ecclefechan was only a small place, as was Kirtlebridge and Kirkpatrick Fleming, where most of the attention was focused on road-building operations, which would produce a  new bridge and alternative road.  This was excellent for me as I could walk uninterrupted owing to the reduction in traffic.  I was able to enjoy the final few miles of Scotland on the B road, stopping at Gretna Green for a tea at Smithy’s café.    It was very quiet compared to my last visit where Annie and I had spent a cold afternoon prior to the Hadrian’s Wall episode.

 Today however was still very warm but clearly indicating the decline of the summer in terms of tourist interest.  It was a sweet feeling crossing onto English soil, yet a sad farewell to what had been a wonderful experience created from beautiful scenery and overwhelming hospitality.  It was just over 12 days on the road, and I found difficulty in equating the amount of work that had been done in that time, even though I had given a forecast to the effect that it was quite feasible.

 As I progressed towards Carlisle using the A74, it transpired that I was at fault with my route.  I should have opted for the longer A7 road through to Longtown and Blackford – a place that I knew very well.

 The carriageway was abysmal as the A74 accounted for all the motorway traffic.  I had to walk on the grass all the way until I reached the hard shoulder on the countdown markers – I was now technically on the motorway as the A74 would join with the M6, thus rendering me an outlaw on the highway.  The police were soon down alongside me and I expected them to make me turn back, but realising what I was doing they just pointed out that I could exit 2 miles down  and walk onto the A7 which would lead me straight into Carlisle.

 I remembered the roundabout and the lengthy walk into Carlisle on my last encounter whilst feeling ill.  At least this time I was fit, and furthermore eager to recapitulate the journey and improve upon it, having been lost on occasions before.

 I started to feel strong though I had planned 4 steady days using the same itinerary as before for much of the journey.  I wanted to observe change and hopefully see some of the people I had met previously.  I felt a little sad on missing a visit to Blackford, though  I had planned to base myself at Carlisle with the added hop of finding an English bank.

 On my arrival at the town centre, I had missed the bank by half an hour, but managed to cash a cheque at the Nicholas Arms near my evening lodge.  It was here that I celebrated my arrival in England, and gave a farewell toast to Scotland, with a good measure of Guinness to wash down a fine meal.  I paid my twelve pounds to the Polish couple who owned the lodge, and made my final journey of the day up the stairs to bed, where I slept with ease, feeling satisfied with the state of affairs.

A TOUCH OF NOSTALGIA

  The next day was soon upon me, filling me with pleasure and excitement over the prospect of retracing my footsteps covered on the epic Hadrian’s Wall to Land’s End walk.  Pain was of minor consequence with myself now reconstituted for the rest of the task, taking up the challenge of the A6 with the alacrity of a youthful athlete.  The sun did not present itself until late in that day, but the air was still warm enough for me to acknowledge the Indian Summer whose stubborn behaviour was showing signs of a season reluctant to move on.

 I remembered the garage situated by the A6, and stopped to purchase a  pint of milk before encountering a small portion of dual carriageway, which crossed above the M6.  I passed by a second garage where I  noticed my first signpost to Penrith registering 14 miles.  I continued marching at full speed, observing the many prominent landmarks which were opening up the memory, banks greeting me with nostalgia.  There were moments when I looked back with a certain ambivalence, reminding myself of the frustration endured at the hands of a virus – but  now I was strong and would allow nothing to oppose me or interrupt my impetus.

 I recognised the little pub where I had stopped for a lunch interval though on this occasion if was only 10.00a.m. and therefore closed.  I was making my ground quickly and appreciated having paths to walk on, allowing suitable time to take a rest at a café directly beyond a caravan site.  One must salvage the opportunity to stop periodically so as  not to burn out, and on this particular day it was quiet, allowing me a relaxing half-hour break spent conversing with the proprietors.  They recited details of the many travelling heroes whom had passed through over the years, there was one guy who walked from John O’Groats every year with a pram, used to collect money.  He hadn’t been seen recently, though other walkers still attempt the journey – often appearing exhausted, only to be reassured by the owner that they still had half the job left to do!  This delightful piece of information was not always accepted joyfully, although I was exuberant after hearing such news.

 It was a cheering interval, one which inspired my return to the road, where I would enjoy the last part of the day – a 7-mile trek through picturesque terrain concluding at Penrith, a major town in Cumbria.  I passed by a familiar hotel and a few farm-buildings on the remaining 4 miles, before eventually looking down onto a valley displaying a red-brick environment, to where a bustling train was now destined to arrive.  I followed the road into what was currently a busy town which hosted an abundance of market activity. I stopped to buy some postcards and use the banking facilities before attempting to find the guest house where I rested through illness on my previous walk.  This was an unsuccessful bid, and as I wanted to make use of an early finish ,so as to wash clothing and write letters, I opted to stay at an inn called the Druid’s Arms.  It was adequate for my needs and once I had attended to the administration requirements, I enjoyed a stroll around the town,  stopping for a meal and a couple of pints.  By 9.00p.m. I was in bed relaxing with an hour of television and a few encouraging thoughts after the day’s journey, which had been completed 4 hours faster than in 1993.

 I had scarcely closed my eyes as morning came round once more to greet me in the presence of the sun proclaiming good tidings for the day ahead.  Kendal was to be my destination using the A6 through Shap Fell, a notoriously desolate area with an ambience of mountains and greenery, with the valleys beneath.  There was indication of many historical attributes associated with the area, particularly on the stretch between Penrith and Shap.  Shap itself was quite a small town, situated in the heart of Cumbria, offering enough in terms of basic amenities, though after which there would be nothing until arriving at Kendal.  I simply picked up a few provisions and headed off up the hill to enjoy some rewarding scenery.  I did however stop at a caravan sales depot to replenish my water supply and attend to  my feet.  It was after this point where the countryside was phenomenal in every department, capturing many traits and focal points reminiscent of Scotland.

 The latter part of the journey appeared to drag on a bit, although it was clear that I had most certainly ameliorated in walking terms, reducing the time spent on the road quite significantly when related to my past efforts. It wasn’t long before I was in the confines of  Kendal Youth Hostel – an old building harbouring people of all types of nationalities.  I cooked myself a meal and did more washing before an evening visit to the pub, which was a lively place patronised mainly by young people.  At least I had allowed myself the opportunity to unwind properly, knowing all too well that the full impact of my workload was yet to come and with it, the promise of bad weather.

 I enjoyed the refuge of the hostel which enable me to dry my clothes properly, was well as cook as required, using my army ration packs.  It was a calm crisp morning as I slipped briskly out of town back on to the A6 where I thoroughly enjoyed the opening session which reacquainted me with the Lancashire countryside.  I was able to travel on footpaths for the rest of the day, relaxing my mind as my body moved up a gear.  I was fuelled by euphoria as nostalgia crept into the day, reminding me of the many products of  nature which have survived since my last visit.  The deer were still grazing near the sanctuary of the woodlands with an absence of shyness, stationed only metres from the road.  Train activity was present throughout most of the day, as was the odd shower.  I even experienced confusion concerning my route, which had occurred before – though remedied on both occasions.

 There were some lovely little towns on the way to Carnforth and the people were extremely friendly, showing great interest in my walk; one old fellow in particular voiced concern about  my feet, offering me advice on a special ointment used by himself after long walks.  Not only did he lead me to the chemist that sold it – he actually purchased the item for me as a contribution towards my mission.  It was nice to stop a while and talk, sometimes the road is a lonely place offering little other than the noisy intrusion of vehicular activity.  I stopped again at Carnforth, enjoying a break at a café before setting off to complete the allotted 22 miles to Lancaster.  It was now raining very hard, as several cyclists passed me by, I didn’t mind the weather, it was still fairly warm, and soon I would be at Lancaster and able to appreciate another early finish.

 Lancaster was a large town with many road-crossings to cope with in what was now the peak time of the day.  I plodded through the rain eventually finding a place of rest at the Duke of Lancaster Hotel, where I was charged a modest fee for the accommodation.  I was soon able to enjoy the privilege of a hot bath, followed by ration-pack soup which livened my appetite sufficiently enough to warrant an additional walk to a Wimpy bar in the town centre.  I was satisfied with the progress and felt prepared enough to boost up the mileage from here on.

 It was now Friday morning and with the weekend ahead, I made an early exit from the hotel with a spring in my step, eager to confront the increasing demands.  I recall struggling with sore toes whilst tackling this particular stretch, so I experienced a sense of relief at being fluent in my stride reclaiming the miles at a good  hourly rate.  It was only 11.00a.m. when I reached Garstang, so I allowed myself a substantial break to replenish supplies and participate in a spot of lunch.  Before resumption, I decided to employ the use of Fiery Jack, who in fact was never redundant, with my back playing havoc all the time.  I took the B road out of Garstang, and with my cape hauled over  my rucksack in an effort to stay dry, I set about the task of reaching Preston.  Parts of the journey were quite fulfilling, showing signs of a quality environment, but as I neared Preston, I became overawed by the road-crossings and the pollutant aspects relating to the growth of industry.

 I spent the next hour or so dealing with the peak time on the dual carriageway, eventually linking up with a  more subdued A49, where I was now poised to complete the final quarter of the day. Again I soaked up the nostalgia, stopping to photograph prominent points as well as observing certain changes that were taking place, as major building operations were progressing with stunning consequence.  It was almost profane to bear witness to the construction of such ugliness in the ambience of rural prestige.  Bit by bit our countryside is being dismembered against nature’s will, only to be replaced by the monuments of industry.  The towering pylons and smoking chimneys overlooking the busy motorways can only accentuate the presence of an ailing society that is highly resistant to any positive environmental change.

 Once away from the construction site, I was able to enjoy the finer aspects of the country, walking through the many small communities still clinging firmly to their agricultural roots.  By 6.30p.m. I arrived at a small haven known as Charnock Richard, a place where I had stayed previously.  I elected to seek accommodation at the inn, though the guest house used before was excellent.  The landlady of the inn was a good person and allowed me to pin my sponsor form up in the pub under the direction of the bar girlie.  Although I was tired, I managed to enjoy a home-cooked meal before retiring to my room.

 I rose as normal at 7.00a.m. which allowed me to participate in yoga exercises that would prepare my muscles for the day, as well as ensuring that I was adequately alert.  I was the only resident at this lovely old inn, so I was able to converse with the landlady over breakfast.  They were good people who, like many others, were struggling to a tied house, which badly needed repair work and the brewery reluctant to intervene.  With winter months now imminent, much would depend on food custom to  keep the business intact.  I can remember the days when the pub trade was a thriving enterprise, sadly now tenants in brewery-owned premises often work long hours with little personal gain.  One could certainly run the risk of being financially disabled as a result of taking on a pub – I have known couples to lose all their assets, including their own homes, leaving them with only the street to confront.

 The lady bid me farewell, issuing me with a couple of ham butties for the journey, as I stepped out on to the A49 where I was left to tackle the prodigious task of reaching Tarporley, a small town in Cheshire.  My attitude was simply that it had been achieved before and that I was feeling good, but  my first significant place would be Wigan, which presented the road-crossing problems associated with all places of substance.

 Wigan was only 6 miles and I arrived there unscathed, in time to view the rugby players warming-up at the ground in readiness for another big game.  On my departure from the town I took the opportunity to photograph some of its more distinguished areas before making tracks for Warrington – another large town, situated in the county of Cheshire.

 I found myself walking for most of the day in a built-up environment, where the towns seemed to merge together with tricky slip roads to follow, increasing the risk of getting lost.  My arrival at Warrington was something of a relief, and as I sat nursing my feet on a bench overlooking the canal, I was questioned by the local chemist whilst he watered his plants.  Intrigued by my feat (and of course my feet), we conversed for almost 20 minutes after which he used my camera to take a picture of me in a now relaxed pose.  He gave promise of a scenic journey throughout the county, where wealthy little villages were dissipated at regular intervals along the A49.  I could now gain salvation from past memories as I recalled the welcome transformation of township to rural life.

 Mid-way, with still 10 miles to account for I took a break at the Little Chef, where I spoke with a woman who had endured 12 operations to address the symptoms of breast cancer.  She was a cheerful sort with a warm heart, adding considerable weight to the importance of the walk.  If I was to stamp my authority on the road, now was a good time as any,  I focused my mind on the job and set about it in true military fashion.

 I passed many stone buildings and Tudor-style pubs whose titles usually depicted various gaming rituals and country tradition, walking my final 2 miles for the day in total darkness.

 I purchased some fish and chips before seeking sanctuary at the Forester’s Arms – the pub I stayed at previously when the owner had to reform his office room in order to accommodate me.  He was pleased to see me and on this occasion was able to supply me with a dormer room at a reduced rate.  As it was Saturday night I felt obliged to sit in the bar for a couple of hours where I found the Guinness highly commendable.  I did not in fact retire until after midnight as I sat entranced in the atmosphere of the inn now filled with people enjoying the coin of fun.

OLD ACQUAINTANCES  
 
 It had been quite exacting to complete the distance in such good time, having already walked over 500 miles in 16 days .  Although largely empirical, consulting the memory banks to prove self-belief that I could perform the task, I was still uncertain about whether or not I could maintain the present workload.  Nonetheless I bid a confident farewell to the landlord, adding that I would hope to see him again on a future mission, as I left the pub in pouring rain, which had emerged beneath a blanket of dark cloud.

 Walking to Whitchurch I noted the beautiful countryside, distinguished by its canals and bridges, where even on such a raw day, boating activity still presided over other leisure pursuits.  I admired the many impressive churches, to where people were struggling against howling wind and rain, to make their  weekly service.  Autumn had announced its arrival with an opening hymn, and promise of a lengthy sermon to follow.

 In the plight of a major downpour I took shelter in a pub, making the most of the break by consuming a pot of tea and a bowl of soup.  On completion of lunch, I was able to continue my journey under more refined circumstances with the rain subsiding enough to allow the sun to peep through the dense cloud cover.  As I neared Hodnet, I was accosted by a familiar character, namely Douglas Kirkpatrick, who had just finished his assignment in Scotland.  I was so pleased to see him as we exchanged greetings and recited our adventures and achievements since the previous week, with a comical account of Dougie sleeping under a hedge en route to Yetts o’ Muckhart,  I was able to commandeer fresh clothing for what was now assimilating a military operation with overwhelming deadlines to make.  I had only intended to use the previous itinerary as a guideline, and was now in fact aiming to increase the daily mileage, using country roads in preference to primary routes.

 As we parted company, an accident took place at the bend on the road, nobody was injured but Dougie stopped to ensure that things were in order.

 I sampled some fruit at Hodnet, then continued through to Crudington, where the pubs were just opening, indicating the time was around 7.00p.m.  I pressed on with darkness creeping in on a narrow road, encompassed only by grass verges and open fields.  It was a stressful session, where I was required at times to cross the road to avoid heavy traffic.  I was dreading the encounter at the roundabout, which brought about my downfall on the last visit, though it was technically a formality to reach Wellington.  In fact, aside from some minor confusion, it was relatively straightforward, and I was soon situated near the town centre.

 I was uncertain about Youth Hostel facilities and decided to ask at a hotel reception.  I quickly announced who I was and the purpose of my mission, in order to dispel any belief that I may have been an ambitious tramp.  The manageress, whose name was Sharon, said that she would like to assist in my cause by allowing me a free night’s accommodation.  I was over the moon, expressing my gratitude with mixed feelings of elation and relief after another arduous examination set by the road.  After a hot bath, I rejoiced at the bar in between intervals of using the ’phone to relay my position.  Tomorrow I would attempt to reach Ombersley on a much lengthened route, and hopefully manufacture a chance meeting with my aunt and uncle who I haven’t seen for 6 years.  I also ‘phoned Chris Hopkins of Severn Valley Catering Company to analyse the prospect  of walking through Bristol instead of Bath, along with his support.  I felt in need of some company, and there were times too, that I wanted a walking partner to share my burden – 40 miles a day is excessive, and I wanted someone to experience that sensation by accompanying me for a few days.

 The next day I was awakened to the sound of the telephone – it was Chris, ensuring me a stopover at Saul, just west of  my route along the A38, where I forecasted my arrival in 2 days from now.  It was a dull Monday morning as I departed from the hotel, thanking the staff for their help.  My first problem was finding the correct exit road to Ironbridge; there was a little uncertainty, but I eventually made passage along a subsiding road, which prohibited heavy goods.  Ironbridge was a fantastic place, and having missed out last time, I was eager to absorb its characteristics, photographing the unique creations.  The B road leaving Ironbridge was under heavy reconstruction, courtesy of Wrekin and Forest.

 The nature of these circumstances enabled me to progress unhindered by traffic, and passage to Bridgnorth became an innocuous task.  Bridgnorth was a beautiful site, with its gated entrance and Elizabethan structures, encouraging me to stop long enough to enjoy some fish and chips, whilst admiring its splendour.  I walked past the Severn Valley Railway just in time to photograph a steam train shunting out of the station.  I then made my exit from the town, taking a longer route to Bewdley in preference to the more direct A442 to Kidderminster, in the hope of avoiding the dead badger syndrome.
 The route was furnished with tree-life, but was largely open, exposing typical rural England, with the occasional appearance of a tractor renewing itself to autumn tasks.  The prodigy of life was present in an infinite manner as I almost expected to see a horse and cart appear at the next bend.  The country air had a sweet smell which was pleasing to the nostrils, in contrast to the foul air of the city environments and the larger townships.  This increased my momentum, stopping only to ask a farmer for the use of his water supply.  I experienced some pain at the back of my heels, incurred through blisters, resultant from wearing an extra pair of socks, which was aimed at cushioning the bottoms of my feet.  I ignored the discomfort, continuing through Bewdley and on to Stourport, where I ’phoned my mother, indicating my position.  She was to ’phone my relatives, and advise them of my forecasted arrival. I told her that Omersley was only a stone’s throw away, and that I would be there shortly – it was in fact 7 miles!

 Darkness was upon me as I had to encounter a few miles o dual carriageway and roadworks for the latter stage of the day, finally making my way up to the quiet little haven where again I took residence at the village inn.  I managed to shower and change by 8.30p.m. at which time my aunt and uncle had arrived in the company of their good friend, whose name was Ken.  For the next 2 hours, food and drink were plentiful amid the flow of exuberant conversation.  It was a joy to see them, giving me fortitude for the last third of the journey, and to aid my cause, they paid for my evenings expenses and nightly charge.

 I felt rejuvenated by my visit to Ombersley – the inn that gave me sanctuary was traditional in every element, with the English breakfast being no exception.  Once fuelled for the day I set about the task of reaching Gloucester on a very gloomy, wet morning, and with the added discomfort of blistered heels.  I was fresh and eager to press on, but my heels were a constant burden, causing me to stop frequently.  In an effort to remedy the problem, I used some emulsifying ointment to prevent the friction.

 It was a dramatic episode, with the weather and traffic keeping me on my toes.  I was able to use some footpaths along the A38 though it seemed an age to get to Tewkesbury, where I stopped to photograph the Severn and its Tudor background.

 Shortly after my departure from the town I was acknowledged by Chris Hopkins, who was keeping vigil for my anticipated arrival.  He was able to instruct me regarding my exit points from Gloucester and arranged to meet me at the roundabout adjoining the A38 to Bristol.

 I eventually met up with him around 6.30p.m., but not after walking the entire length of the city, though a pleasant detour, I felt relieved on sighting Chris at the roundabout, where I was given further instruction to progress down the A38 to Hardwicke.  It was difficult to pinpoint my location in the presence of nightfall as I plodded cautiously along the carriageway.  After an hour on the road I spotted a pub and garage in a lighted area, no sign of Chris.  On arriving at the garage a voice bellowed across the road, and within the space of 2 minutes, Chris was beside me in his Range Rover, and I marked the end of the day by the Hardwicke signpost.  I was then whisked off to Saul – my place of rest for the night.

 It was a quick bath and straight down to the local pub, called, oddly enough, the Ship Inn, owned by a member of the M.C.C. whose name was Arthur.  I don’t recollect spending a penny the whole time I was there, and in addition, I was allowed to gather £50 from the patrons, in  a bucket handed to me by his wife.  Chris collected a further £100 at a later date, to which he added £50 of his own money – an excellent gesture from a good man.  I enjoyed the day and Chris offered to pick me up at Bristol, so as to benefit from another night at Saul.

 Saul was an interesting place, dominated by the sheer expanse of the River Severn, whose tidal qualities have aspired to reclaim parts of the village, forcing the authorities to construct a sea wall.  I managed to photograph the view from the house, before Chris whisked me back to Hardwick where I could continue  my walk to Bristol.  The weather was deliberate in its manner with heavy downpours of rain, so fierce at times that I had to seek shelter.  There were only small villages on this stretch of road, but I was able to rest for a while at a mobile service stop near the border  of Avon.  As I approached Bristol, I could see the Severn Bridges on my right, it was now quite sunny as I embarked on an eventful passage through the city.  The A38 wound its way through the city with a boundless expression only to display many incidents that are commonplace in built-up areas.  I was constrained by the usual traffic ordeal initiated from junctions and crossroads – on top of that, there was an armed robbery which appeared to attract the entire Bristol police force.  Certainly the New York sirens gave that impression, causing further disarray with the traffic situation.

 Not only was it a problem crossing the road, but also difficult to maintain a clear indication as to where I was heading.  The ring road was very confusing, but I managed to find my way to Temple Meads, where I walked onto Long Ashton near to the Bridgwater road.

 It was 6.45p.m. when Chris picked me up, he was delighted at my effort, despite using a different route to the one he proposed, saying that he was confident that I would complete the walk.  Three quarters of the job had been done – to think that a couple of days from here, I would lunching on Cornish pasties.

 That evening Chris and his wife Sue took me out for a meal at the Ship Inn, where I enjoyed steak, complimented by a bottle of red wine, sanctioned by the M.C.C.

 It was a late night, and I suffered the effects of it, feeling loathe to renew myself to the task, but the road still beckoned, awaiting my return to Ashton.  Chris dropped me off at the tree which marked the start spot, where I conveyed a message of gratitude to him and  his wife for all they had done for me.  He was full of equanimity, assuring me that that I would make  my goal as I prepared to set off along the Bridgwater road, which now featured Taunton at 40 miles.

 The old West road, though reasonable enough, still harboured a busy traffic flow, which had inflicted death on its native wildlife.  There were many beautiful badgers lying dead on the side of  the road, as lorries rattled by, forcing me on to the grass verge.  It was proving to be a painful test, still hampered by blistered heels, and boots that had now worn down on one side, as I struggled toward Highbridge.  On my way there I noticed an old gypsy fortune-teller near the roadside – a rare sight these days, as gypsies tend to be superseded by the modern day equivalent known as the New Age travellers.  I had no desire to seek a prediction as to whether or not I would complete the walk, and so ventured a few yards further  to gain a much-needed break at a mobile café.  I consumed tea and sandwiches before leaving the unit to repair my feet – this was prompted by an unsavoury discussion taking place between some youthful drivers.  One guy was bragging that he was driving so fast that he nearly knocked an old lady over – this brought raucous laughter from his mates and total disgust to  me, as I left before reacting to the situation.

 The walk was now a struggle as the blisters continued to hinder my progress.  By the time I reached Highbridge it was too late to use the banking facilities, though luckily I had some money for a meal of fish and chips.  As I left the town, a tramp passed by on the opposite side of the street – he was a real man-of-the-road, yet sadly another dying-breed of a contemporary society.  The birth of the motorway has outlawed the man-of-the-road, and excessive use of primary routes have stalled the revival of many other travellers, with tramps in particular showing signs of decline.  Walking down the A30 or the A442 for instance, would be the equivalent of playing Russian roulette, testing concentration levels, rather than fitness, in order to stay intact.
 
  The section to Bridgwater wasn’t too bad, but I knew I’d had enough for the day and settled for just 30 miles.  I was not prepared to face the dangers of the road in the dark, and quickly opted for a night’s rest.  This wasn’t such a straightforward task, owing to the arrival of Bridgwater Fair – I was down to my final options on the Taunton road, where I located a guest house.

 I had felt drained throughout the painstaking day – exhausted to the point of instant sleep.  At least I benefited from the early night, arriving at the breakfast table refreshed and restored, with knowledge that I would soon be walking in known territory.  Taunton was only 10 miles and would be my lunch stop, after utilising banking amenities to cater for the weekend expenses.  It was a different story today, as the road offered little resistance, and I was soon on well-trodden soil.  It was my third visit to Taunton, resultant from sponsored walks, and although I modified the rest of the route to counteract the traffic problems, most of the major towns were now place of familiarity.

 After dinner I departed for Wellington, using a cycle trail near the river to reconnect me with the A38.  At least there were paths to use, giving me an opportunity to examine the surrounding countryside throughout the 6-mile journey.  It was around 3.30p.m. when I sat down on my favourite bench, where I half expected to see Richard Sumner, as I dwelled there for a while enjoying a tub of yoghurt and a pint of milk.  I was now hyped-up for the last session of the day, which would finish at Tiverton – this would be dealt with on some of the country lanes, so as to put in perspective the true value of rural Devon.

 I hardly saw a vehicle on the country lanes to Samford, where I stopped momentarily to speak to a farmer and a lady.  I appreciated the country villages with their little  lanes, contributing to a harmonious setting.  It was dark on arrival at Tiverton, though I had managed to elude the trickery of the road before the process reached peak capacity.  The accommodation front looked bleak again, as my efforts appeared to be constantly hindered by the presence of fairs now sprouting up in every town.  I eventually found a place just over the bride – much to my relief, with Crediton the next stop and a good 12 miles away.  As it was Friday night, I felt justified in participating in a customary Guinness session, with the task now diminishing to one remaining county to confront.

AN ASPECT OF REVISION

 On Saturday morning I set off to Crediton, a major town preceding Okehampton – my stop for the day.  The weather had proclaimed the arrival of autumn, yet the days were quite mild and the characteristics of the trees dispelled any such theory.  Rain was ever-present though, seeping through my depleted cape, as I now struggled under the onslaught of a cold.

 The A3072 was busier than usual, adding to the unfavourable odds that were currently stacked against me, as I relied on sheer willpower to carry me to Crediton.  I sat exhausted in a café trying to cope with a pasty and chips, as I contemplated how I could reconstitute myself adequately enough to continue the mission.

 Needless to say there was a visit to the chemist, in this instance to purchase vitamin C tablets – the dizziness was a problem, but I did manage to continue, and in fact appreciating a spot of revision in walking terms.  The previous walks had merely served as a  dress rehearsal for this event, though it seemed apt that the final days were to be staged at this end of the map, allowing myself another chance to grasp the virtues of a land forsaken by industry.  The fields now ploughed were unable to disguise the seasonal transition, displaying the reddish-brown soil, complimenting the green hills that typify the county of Devonshire.

 I enjoyed viewing the old railway lines and hilly terrain with the formation of the road still fresh in my head.  The effects of my cold were now transcended at the sight of a quality environment, unblemished by industrial intervention, leaving me with a note of satisfaction as I descended upon Okehampton.

 It was a moderate town with most amenities, as I stopped to buy a card from an old lady in a shop opposite an inn.  We chatted for a while, as she explained that age was forcing her to relinquish her business though she still desired to remain as active as possible – a healthy response I thought.  I then crossed the road to obtain a room at the inn, which gave me shelter 2 years ago.  Leisure was denied as I was in favour of an early retreat to my bed in an attempt to postpone a full attack of ‘flu.

 I certainly felt rough at first light, leaving Okehampton on a dull Sunday morning, but on reaching the old A30 I had improved, knowing for certain I had profited from an early night.  I had walked once on this road when it was the primary route, now it served only as a tourist road, providing suitable passage for my weekend stroll.  The villages were small indicating that change may have been destructive from a business viewpoint, highlighting the many shells of places which once flourished the well-worn tarmac.

BACK IN THE BASEMENT

 The vision of Launceston at the Cornish border heightened my awareness that tomorrow I could be sitting at home awaiting the final day.  Fortified by this, I decided to build on what had been an optimum performance, and take up the challenge of walking along my extended route to Camelford.  Originally I was going to opt for an early night at Launceston, owing to the attach of  ‘flu, however I was keen to examine newfound territory within the heart of Cornwall.  I walked up the hill to St. Stephens, viewing the narrow gauge train service at Launceston Station on the way, eventually locating the country roads which offered a further passage in a peaceful setting that would take me to within 6 miles of the North coast.

 The views were magnificent as I relaxed within the confines of a county that appeared to express defiance against time.  On nearing the main road, I met a farmer, he was anticipating the arrival of some runaway sheep.  I had not been confronted by these unlikely escapologists, sighting only those that had been securely incarcerated in fields close by.

 The main road was a dramatic transition, proclaiming a different code of driving ethics, which could  more suitably be sustained on a Grand Prix circuit. It was an unnerving trip in an hour of darkness, displaying only the conventional white windmills that are now commonplace in Cornwall as a source of power.

 I was relieved to reach Camelford, which was a typical Cornish town, supporting a wonderful old inn called the Mason’s Arms, which was alive with character, even the toilet seat was Edwardian, but most importantly I was able to relax in a hot bath.  I paid for the cost of my room and a  hot supper after which I thoroughly enjoyed some Guinness, whilst explaining to the landlord that I had walked over 40 miles with the prospect of equalling that target tomorrow.

 I woke up early and pondered over the decision to try and make it to Carharrack; if I could not manage this, there would be little sanctuary obtainable on this section, after Wadebridge there were only small communities skirting the A30.

 I finally arrived at the breakfast table, where I received positive greetings with one woman announcing that she had seen me several time yesterday, marching with fortitude, explaining that the distance I had covered was phenomenal.  At this point the landlady arrived with  my breakfast served upon a meat dish, and next to the tea urn was a twenty pound note – a donation to the cause.

 I was so happy now feeling able to lift myself enough to attempt the epic march across virgin land, I also had an added incentive to finish before the 4th October in time for my father’s birthday party.  I expressed my gratitude and hastily made my exit from the town with the memory of the inn now transcribed in my mind.

 I had conspired to make this journey with an effort to see new places and be rid of the A30, however at some stage I would be required to join the carriageway which is the only direct route to Redruth.  I persevered on the A39, which was a typical Cornish highway, winding itself through the countryside with its fields encased within a dry-stone cladding.  It was often necessary to cross the road to be clear of traffic, which was a greater hazard in the absence of a grass verge on a narrow, bending road.

 Wadebridge was smaller than first imagined, and I only dwelled long enough to draw some money for food and a possible stopover.  The only other significant place, before joining the “main drag” was St. Columb Major, which I never really investigated, with the day quickly diminishing.

 I made every effort to avoid the hassles of the main road, but by the time I reached Fraddon the game was ready to commence.  I made a brief ’phone call to advise of my arrival before joining the formidable A30, now riddled with traffic.  I am afraid I have never been one of its greatest supporters, and with darkness approaching, knowing the fearful aspects that lay in waiting, I alternated to run.  I stepped up a further gear, pumping out the miles, pushing myself to the limit.  This was often met with frustration, as inaccurate signposts continued to elude me on a boundless journey, the lorries spared little mercy as they swept past, missing me by inches.  I was so relieved to find salvation on a stretch of roadworks, which gave me safe passage to Scorrier – 2 miles from home.

 It was 2 miles of total darkness, as I continued to run along the country road with its engulfing woods, where only wildlife is resident.  I passed St. Day on my right, as I trotted downhill into the village, where I finished for the day at around 9.30p.m.  My brother had been to look for me earlier, explaining “you should have been here at 8.00p.m.  – what took you so long?”  There was plenty of time however for a hot bath and a good home cooked meal, in any case I stayed up quite late reciting all the details of a walk now drawing to a close.

THE JOURNEY’S END

 I was exhausted the next day, having fought against the strong north-westerly wind prevailing against me in a final attempt to sabotage the mission.  All my resources were drained, leaving me to slog it out with the wind and rain.  In addition, there was the stress of a deadline of 5.30p.m. to meet, in order to obtain  a lift back.  I set off accompanied by my brother Anthony, who walked with me to Redruth, after which I travelled on alone to Camborne, where I was joined by press correspondent Phil Monckton from the West Briton newspaper, who photographed me in transit.

 The journey thereafter was endured in horrendous rain and the ever-present wind, which had succeeded to decrease my walking speed.  It was 3.30p.m. when I arrived at Penzance, causing me to attempt running in the hope that I could make that deadline.  Again, I was frustrated at the inaccuracy of the signposts, only present  to benefit the tourists.

 At this point I was greeted by Roger, an employee of Chris Hopkins.  He had been sent along with a bottle of champagne to convey a message of congratulations.  Sadly he could not hang on to give me a lift, due to a college appointment in St Austell, so I lumbered on, eventually arriving at Land’s End at 5.30p.m.

 My arrival was immediately documented in ’The Hall of Fame’, where I was greeted by the staff of the John O’Groats to Land’s End Company, who awarded me with a certificate for my efforts, which was later complemented with a photograph by the signpost.  I managed to unwind at the bar, feeling pleased with myself, and received praise for walking with all  my kit, further more it was the 3rd October – the day before my father’s birthday.

 It was difficult to imagine that 26 days ago I was still coming to terms with the idea of walking the length of Great Britain.  In an effort to acknowledge the feat, I sat for awhile gathering all my thoughts about this new achievement, which appeared to eclipse all others.

 I had much to reflect back on since my departure from John O’Groats.  I had judged myself incessantly in terms of fitness, though my approach  was always positive, enabling me to rise and overcome pain, as I did at Blair.  The build-up walks had laid the foundation for this event, removing any doubts concerning its completion, clarifying my mind as to what was required.

 All four walks had provided an opportunity to assess the country in terms of change, this was ‘the big one’, and had incorporated Scotland into the programme.

 It was a pleasure to walk beneath those stern mountains, which share its landscape with cascading streams that tumble through the wooded glens; and the clear, calm lochs dominating a countryside where only a walker has any chance of penetrating its solitudes.

 I enjoyed the cycle route and the many country lanes and roads, where each destination is a reminder of the past.   Time may have eroded much of England, but traditional aspects still remained untouched in Scotland with plentiful access to explore its attributes.

 I live in hope that one day the cycle route will extend through England, hopefully to terminate at Land’s End, and with it a chance to rebuild our dying countryside and preserve its wildlife.

 Change is slow in England, a country blighted with industry and at the mercy of the capitalist.  The pollution aspects alone are detrimental to the environment and the health of a Nation, but show no signs of diminishing; the absence of wildlife and their habitats is resultant from the construction of additional roads, which can only emulate an unsuccessful trend set by America.  The dangers of the road must never be concealed as it is no longer a place for cyclist or pedestrian, who at times struggle to share a path – a situation once considered illegal and dangerous.

 It is easy to reveal the dark side o the country, but one must not forget its finder points that still exist and need to be preserved.  Rural England has much to offer, with the birth of new parks and the renewal of many rights of way now paving the way clear for people to appreciate their homeland.

 My journey on the back roads through Devon was a special treat, exposing me to a countryside that had prospered in the absence of industry.  My encounter with the romantic North Cornwall revealed to me its wild countryside and rich associations with the legendary world of King Arthur.  It may be a forgotten land with the demise of its tin mines, but still attracts many tourists who are captivated by its mystical enchantment of ancient lore and legend.

 The grand finale at Land’s End was as peaceful as the beginning, with only the waves crashing against the famous granite mass, as I sat contented at the bar.

 
                      
PHASE II WEST SCOTLAND

Map 4.

17/7/97 INVERARAY TO TARBERT 40 MILES

Passing by the old jail, not wishing to see its accommodation, I made my exit from this wonderful little Georgian place, presently enjoying the summer bloom. I felt less enthusiastic today, especially having grasped the knowledge that I would encounter few rest spots between here and Tarbert, a distance of about 40 miles.
  Following the A83 loch road, I passed through the village of Furnace stopping briefly to drink a pint of milk and apply some surgical spirit to my broken blisters. As the journey progressed through Crarae and Minard the road pulled in to grip the banks of Loch Fyne. Although the journey was less dramatic, these small places contain many secrets of the land. Crarae has become noted throughout Argyll for its beautiful gardens, which had flourished as a result of the damp and humid climate experienced throughout the last few days. The existence of this rare beauty is owed to Lady Campbel of Succoth who started planting shrubs and trees in the garden nearly a hundred years ago.
  In the distance across the low-tide waters of Loch Gilp lay the village of Ardishaig, and directly ahead was the only other place of substance along this busy road – a town called Lochgilphead.
  Lochgilphead was a scheduled stop for next week before I embarked on an epic coastal marathon over the Highlands and so I seized the opportunity to spend a peaceful moment sitting on a bench in a recreation area by the loch. The town takes its name from an inlet off Loch Fyne known as Loch Gilp and is surrounded by many attractive stone buildings and is adequately furnished with most amenities, including a bank. On leaving here the likelihood of finding the appropriate building societies would be somewhat bleak.
  The coastline was scenic with many vessels in view. As I neared Ardrishaig, there were people playing tennis on the loch side of the road, while others were content to lie in the afternoon sun. It was a smaller place than I first gave credit for, but suitably adapted to life by the water’s edge, distinguished by a tidy harbour, and the shopping facilities and a pub were in close proximity. 
  I was now walking as close to the coast as humanly possible with the A83 rising above Loch Fyne, which was now concealed by forest growth. As the road narrowed, the great conifers towered above the high ground smothering all its landmarks. The winding formation and excess foliage created new danger from the forestry lorries racing through oblivious to the existence of any other life form. On one occasion I dived for cover across a small stream and was shocked to see the driver continue on his way without stopping to investigate whether I was still alive. This performance carried on for several days and it became apparent that they were on price work and did not have time to stop. In their minds they had claimed all rights to this small road, not wishing to show consideration to anything below their menacing status. I must confess I did not see any other pedestrians en route and in the 2 days to follow I only saw a Chinese couple on bicycles.
  The journey dragged on as my pace slackened to 3 miles per hour, though the 14-mile trip from Lochgilphead to Tarbert had now been reduced to 11, owing to the fact that Stonefield is contained within the forest grounds, 3 miles from the town itself. One has to be thankful for small mercies on a perilous day where the road offers one the same chance of survival as its resident wildlife. At least the sun was shining as I completed my stroll back through the wooded grounds to Stonefield Castle where I finished for the day at 9 p.m.
18/7/97  TARBERT TO CARRADALE         27 MILES

THE HIDDEN TREASURES OF KINTYRE

It was the first of two stops at Stonefield Castle where the staff had made me comfortable. Like most Scottish castles, Stonefield is romantic and yet softened by its domesticity allowing one to relax and enjoy the wonderful views of the loch below. The grounds too were very picturesque – equalled only by the woodland walk back to the road. The road was less inspirational, but it was a lovely summer’s day as I entered the Loch town of Tarbert where I stopped to draw money and buy film, whilst making polite conversation with the vendors. Tarbert was a lively little place with its harbour-front lined with sailing vessels providing a delightful scene for the many admiring tourists assembled along the main street. Tarbert shares the working trait associated with many Scottish towns, priding itself on fish and was once the principle port of the Loch Fyne herring industry.  The harbour also provides a good base for water sports on the loch and this weekend it was destined to be a venue for my hosts from Helensburgh who had planned to do some yachting.
  I continued up the hill away from Tarbert with anticipation of joining the older road, which would allow me to enjoy the hidden treasures of Kintyre. Kintyre was a Viking province for nearly 2 centuries, finally ending in 1263 at the famous Battle of Largs. The Viking longships were blown ashore by gale-force winds and the aggressors, attempting to wade ashore, took a good pasting from the locals, led by Alexander III. Kintyre was actually claimed peacefully following an agreement forged between King Edgar of Scotland and King Magnus Barefoot, which stated that any land the Viking king could circumnavigate in his longship would rightfully be his. So great was his quest for land (possibly contrived by his sense of humour), that he asked his men to drag him, seated in his longship, across the Isthmus of Tarbert to complete the circumference of Kintyre, hence claiming it as Viking territory. These were serious opponents who were always ready for a challenge even if it included a small excursion along the tourist route!
  It may not have been a rewarding journey for those Viking sailors, but I was relieved to join the tourist road near Kennacraig. There was little else en route between here and Carradale, so my primary concern was to find a source of water on this very hot day. When I asked a gentleman from a neighbouring hamlet where I could obtain a drink, he immediately invited me into his friend’s caravan for a drink of coffee. I filled my water container and drank my coffee whilst chatting with the two men. One was elderly, the other in his 20’s; both were very informative and gave advice about the countryside. It was a refreshing interval and I was happy to resume along the quieter B8001, from which all heavy goods vehicles had been banished, thus restoring life to a quieter scene, revealing only the products of nature. It was a steep, winding journey with little else but woods in sight, though near Skipness the scenery was dominated by water, as the Kilbrannan Sound appeared on the horizon with Arran also in full view.
  I stopped at Oak Woods to repair my feet; they were very sore with deep wounds making it difficult to draw off the fluid, which I had to do before I could bathe with surgical spirit.
  Dwelling there for a good half hour, I wrote up my diary whilst soaking up the tranquillity and a much needed rest. Life drifted by for a few moments with my gaze fixed on the colourful plant life, which was presently the subject of invading insects. Occasionally my glance would shift to the dusty road as a small vehicle breaks the harmony on its way to the next town or village.
  Arriving at the Campbeltown junction, I felt tired and hot, still with a mile to walk in the opposite direction so as to reach my destination of the Carradale Hotel, situated in the village itself. It was a long mile, but I enjoyed the pint of Guinness at the end of it. There was a mix-up over the accommodation, but I was happy to sleep on the floor and in any case I was made most welcome. Marcus the owner had collected some money for my efforts and I was later joined by Sheila the local Macmillan girl who also helped with the fundraising and gave promise to support me for the rest of my crusade. She also organises a local event entitled the Macmillan Mile, which she walks every year to raise money for the charity. It was great to see that even within these obscure little crevices of the country people make a huge effort to support good causes.

19/7/97 CARRADALE TO CAMPBELTOWN 16 MILES

Summer was now displaying all its qualities on this fine Saturday morning. As I walked away from the Carradale Hotel, the sun shone brightly to the background melody of the native insects and in the distance a fishing boat drifted effortlessly across the calm waters of the Kilbrannan Sound.  It was difficult to grasp the quality of the lifestyle I had encountered recently, and in days to follow solitude and long distances beneath unblemished mountainous scenery would become the mark of a world devoid of demographic proportions.
  As another winding, undulating journey unfolded in extreme heat I stopped to savour a peaceful moment at the sanctuary of a picnic area, recessed from the roadside, where only the motions of nature could disturb my gaze. 
  I resumed my walk against the rising momentum of weekend traffic now destined for the shops in Campbeltown and the golf course of Arran. At least I got a few cheers and waves, probably from those who would consider my actions as being something of an ordeal in such hot conditions.
   I spoke to a couple of natives of Carradale whom I had met in the bar the previous evening. After exchanging a few cheerful words, I disappeared over another hill where the journey progressed in the shadow of Saddell Forest. There was only a holiday village called Peninver between Carradale and Campbeltown, so I had to ensure that I had an adequate supply of fluid, though it is usually safe to drink from the forest streams.
  As Campbeltown came into view I could see clearly across the Kilbrannan Sound, where a ferry was crossing towards the Island of Davaar. In recent times a ferry service has been introduced between Northern Ireland and Campbeltown, the whole journey taking 3-4 hours. The town itself may have been the capital of an ancient Celtic kingdom, but its name was actually derived from Archibald Campbel, the Earl of Argyll, who developed the lands in the 17th century. Once again the fishing industries of the previous century have now given way to the modern trends of leisure and tourism, with sailing and golf presiding over most other activities. Today was an exception: the town of Southend, near the Mull of Kintyre, was host to the Highland Games.
  Fortunately my hosts for tonight had arrived to direct me to their guesthouse, which was situated a substantial distance east of the main road. I finished the day at 3 p.m. – a little earlier than any time in the previous week.
  I spent a very relaxing evening overlooking the harbour at the exceptionally nice Balegreggan Country House where my hosts treated me as a guest of honour. There were only a few other guests, though I received a visit from a press correspondent assigned to the Highland Games, who arrived at the late hour of 10 p.m. Even then it was still light enough to enable the good lady to take a photograph of me for her newspaper.

20/7/97  CAMBLETOWN TO TAYINLOAN 20 MILES

I had enjoyed the hospitality at the Balegreggan Country House and was able to collect £15 from the visiting residents that consisted of an Irish couple and two chaps on a golfing weekend. I had slept well and was ready for the road although it was another hot day.
  My feet were less sore and I was back to 4 mph, enjoying views that exceeded all expectations along the A83. I was first destined for Tayinloan and then to return to Tarbert. People were bathing near the shore at Westport and there were many opportunities to stop at the picnic areas that typified the kingdom of Kintyre.
  Mid-journey my hosts from the previous evening pulled up for a quick chat, providing me a further opportunity to thank them. They had offered to transport my bag onto the Tayinloan Inn – my overnight stop that was, in fact, another 10 miles away. As it was a Sunday, the road harboured few surprises and the absence of the forest wagons allowed sufficient respite for me to enjoy the wonderful view of Gigha Island.
  Reaching Tayinloan around 3 p.m., I received a warm welcome and a pint of Guinness to honour the occasion. It was good to enjoy an early bath and then a chat to the landlady who had collected a substantial amount for the fundraising purse.  I listened with intent to locals at the bar telling stories of the neighbourhood. One in particular referred to an eccentric landlord from the Island of Gigha, which was accessible by ferry from Tayinloan, who refused to serve any of his regular customers on a Sunday. All other visitors were welcome; he simply felt that he needed a rest from the same old faces, which he had known and loved over the years. It was his unusual method of retaining sanity whilst in charge of a stressful business, and it apparently worked for him. I retired from the bar around 11.30 p.m. surprised to hear that in this neck of the woods ‘last orders’ exceeds the hour of midnight. I was now only 20 miles from Tarbert and looking forward to a more extensive visit to Stonefield Castle tomorrow.

21/7/97  TAYINLOAN TO STONEFIELD  23 MILES

It was another splendid day with the heat shielded by the coastal breeze and traffic remained insignificant throughout the morning. I stopped at Whitehouse for tea and cakes and chatted to the proprietor who was, in fact, from Norfolk. He was the second person that I had met on this coast who had defected from the East of England, the other was a Yorkshire chap who I spoke to at the bar last night. I being the sole customer we talked for a while, sharing our views about the country and the increasing difficulties of trying to make a living.  By 1 p.m. I was back on the familiar road, which I had walked only a few days ago. I felt I might benefit from a spot of revision and another refreshing interval at Tarbert, which was still enjoying its seasonal trade.
  As I was condemned to another session along this treacherous road, I began to realise that the dangers of the road exist through lack of policing, which allows forest truckers to become highwaymen, bullying all else into submission. The only suitable solution would be to create a cycle route. This could be constructed through forestry rights of way and financed via a government/Forest Enterprise partnership. Picnic areas could be situated along the route and monitored by the personnel running refreshment zones at these locations. They would also have the added responsibility of litter management in return for subsidised rates. A suitable arrangement would encourage a great business opportunity in a land that attracts explorers from all parts of the globe. In this way we can provide jobs in the country, a service to the public, (maintained and monitored by resident refreshment providers) and a safer alternative to the road for pedestrians/cyclists. It could be funded by the Millennium Trust and manned by all volunteer groups associated with the aforementioned activities: these could include Rambler’s Associations, college-linked groups and other outdoor adventure clubs. It was an interesting concept for me to chew over on my remaining 3 miles of the day, spent along a forestry trail leading into the grounds of Stonefield Castle.

22/7/97  STONEFIELD TO LOCHGILPHEAD 14 MILES

Today was a partial rest day as I had concluded the tour of Kintyre and so I was able to savour the view around the loch at Stonefield whilst enjoying my breakfast. The water was so calm that the rising fish in their airborne state surfaced almost in slow motion. It was very picturesque with the forest flanking the shores and the water’s stillness broken only by the rippling waves, caused by the motions of a solitary sailing vessel. It was an inspiring moment as I set off to advance on Lochgilphead. Leaving the grounds to join the A83, I was greeted by some landowners connected to the castle who both asked if I had enjoyed my stay. My response was in the affirmative and after a few words of support we bade each other farewell and it was back to the breach once more.
  An unnerving confrontation with the forest lorries led me to feel that I was walking up a gun barrel rather than the road, only occasionally daring to glimpse across at the loch and its pebbled shores. It had been a worthwhile tour of the smaller communities, of which Campbeltown was deemed as the ‘capital’. The hospitality had been outstanding and there had still been enough interest directed towards the cause. Sheila would continue to fundraise on my behalf until October. The press had also made an effort to put my journey on the map with the new week focusing on Oban and Fort William, after which I would be nearing the halfway mark.
  I completed the walk at lunchtime with a slight abrasion to the big toe of my right foot. To my astonishment, the press were awaiting my arrival at the Argyll Hotel. It became a day of serious administration rather than a well-earned rest and I suffered a slight gastric upset as a result of the stress involved. Luckily the ladies at the hotel had made an effort with the fundraising and later I enjoyed a hearty meal before an evening stroll.
  My brief tour revealed the Victorian face of the town and I was surprised to see how many different shops were trading, though their existence, as so often seen in these secluded regions, was owed largely to its visitors. The famous Crinan Canal flowing nearby, once a vital tool in the mechanism of the fishing industry, still provided an invaluable shortcut for boaters between the Sound of Jura and Loch Fyne. It was an educational affair that concluded at the hotel bar where I chatted to a delightful young lady called Davina. She was awaiting A level results with hope of entering a university in the Norfolk region. We discussed many topics; one now predominant on the agenda in Scotland was Devolution, a subject that was later to inspire me and reveal further significance to my crusade.
                              
23/7/97  LOCHGILPHEAD TO OBAN  38 MILES

Rainfall was almost a welcome sight, providing a more equable temperature for walking, as I prepared to tackle the 38 miles of hilly road. Dauntingly the narrow A816 filled with traffic and I suffered stiffness in my left knee, provoked by the excess weight of the two packs, which I now had to carry. Injuries occur throughout these marathons, never allowing one to become complacent of the task, and wet weather can often add to the discomfort. At least sometime today I would get to try on my new weatherproof coat, donated by the Northamptonshire Company called Totectors.
  I had planned to make four stops: the first was at Kilmartin, which involved a sock change in a bus shelter. It was here that I enjoyed my second breakfast, consuming an egg roll made by the ladies at The Argyll Hotel and drinking some milk purchased from the village store. Opposite the shop a car was receiving some attention having suffered a ‘blow-out’ whilst passing through the village. There were other walkers wandering up towards the top of the village, some of who were foreign, but once away from the town I saw little else other than a coach spearing towards Oban.  The countryside was still distinguished by forestland, though somewhat depredated by its resident lumberjacks. Their work had left an untidy picture of felled trunks strewn across the ground, and the gaping holes, which look like craters, scarred the mountain landscape.
  The landscape had changed a bit by the time I reached Arduaine, though despite the delightful view at the mouth of Loch Melfort I decided to push on a further 4 miles to Kilmelford. Just before arriving at the village, the Oban Times van pulled up and the driver emerged asking me if I was the man walking around Great Britain. It was nice to see a friendly face and have a chat followed by the photo session and brief interview. The road is full of surprises: if it’s not Macmillan volunteers, it’s the press – at least the event was getting some attention!
  At the village of Kilmelford I purchased fluid, but with the lack of resting facilities I continued, walking passed the Salmon Centre by Kilninver, where shortly after I found a picnic bench. I only stopped for a moment owing to the fact that, no sooner had I sat down, it poured with rain again. Forced back to the road I gave my all, pushing on to Oban where the sun reappeared accompanied by a rainbow as I completed my journey at the Crusaval Guesthouse by 7.30 p.m.
  I spent most of the evening with my hosts who were very friendly and later took me into the town, where I relaxed in a quiet pub overlooking the floodlit harbour, capturing the diminishing views across the Sound of Mull. The town stretched along the seafront, flanked by a wooded escarpment with buildings interspersed on higher ground thus combining its astounding natural beauty with modern day entertainment to make Oban stand out as the jewel of the Western Highlands.
                        THE HIGHLAND ADVENTURE

24/7/97 OBAN TO SOUTH BALLACHULISH 35 MILES

Thanking my kind hosts, who had promised to support the cause, I departed along the thoroughfare of this famous town, which has become a ferry gateway to the Hebridean Islands, increasing its summer population to maximum capacity. Today was no exception despite further reprisals from the weather. The streets were bustling with visitors, most of whom were Europeans. After discussing my route at the Tourist Office, the lady supervisor offered to transport one of my rucksacks to the village of Ballachulish, my next destination, which happened to be her venue for a meeting tonight. It was a blessing to be liberated from this heavy pack whilst at the hands of bad weather. It was also a comforting thought that my clothes would be dry on my arrival at Fern Villa.
  It was without doubt a demanding encounter with torrential rain to accompany the hostilities of the road. It was very difficult to see the coast in opaque misty conditions, though I stole a glimpse of seals playing as the shoreline emerged at Barcaldine. Barcaldine offered the opportunity to rest at a café, but I declined, progressing to the end of the village, sheltering under a building to eat a sausage sandwich before returning to the road. Shortly after leaving Barcaldine I crossed an old railway bridge, which at first glance looked a little rickety. It was in fact part of a cycle route, following the line of the old track now rich with hedge growth and native flora. The journey extended only as far as the road, but in fact saved probably about 4 miles, having snipped off a good portion of the A828, which skirts the shore of Loch Creagan. The Sea Life Centre based on the loch is a unique product owned by a fish farming company. It houses many different types of Atlantic sea creatures such as the wrasse and anglerfish, and is a very popular venue for holidaymakers.
  Descending from the railway embankment, by now totally drenched, I reluctantly resumed my journey along the main road, continuing up to the Creagan Inn and on to Appin. The landscape, as always, possessed that element of historical intrigue, emanated by a castle rising from the sea near Portnacroish. At this stage I felt wet and weary, hindered by sore feet and unable to step up the tempo. The journey dragged on through the teatime haul of traffic, and I spent a good half hour walking through Duror, where sheep wandering into the road startled weary drivers hastening back from work.
  At Kentallen I could again see the waters of Loch Linnhe now dotted with several vessels. The views of the coastline become more inspiring as the bridge at Ballachulish closed in, marking the finish at 8 p.m.
  The lady from the guest-house had just set off to collect me from the bridge as Ballachulish was a good 2 miles east of my route, though by the time we met I’d walked almost to the foot of the village. They had prepared a lovely meal at the Fern Villa despite the late hour, and afterwards I walked to the pub at Ballachulish and enjoyed a restful hour.

25/7/97 SOUTH BALLACHULISH TO FORT WILLIAM        18 MILES

Inspired by good company at the breakfast table, I was happy to answer questions put to me by other guests, who paused only to laugh at a story involving one of my usual misdemeanours. It was Friday bringing promise of another rest day, and once restored to the bridge at South Ballachulish, I thanked the lady for her kindness before crossing into North Ballachulish. At the top of the bridge the view of Loch Leven provided a suitable prelude for the day to come and I enjoyed the 4 miles of pavement that followed. The sky initially threatened rain, but instead remained dull throughout, though my waterproofs were poised for action at the first sign of adversity. At Corran I found a family of smooth snakes beside the grass verge: the adult was about 2 feet in length and seemed very friendly, posing nicely for my camera – first in a coil and then moving away to find appropriate cover.
  Revealing its usual hazards the road narrowed, not allowing me any foot space, and the path did not reappear until the Fort William signpost came into view. Other pedestrians were quite perturbed by the affray caused by the momentum of vehicles. A young couple stopped me to ask if I knew of any Loch paths or mountain access as a more suitable alternative passage. This was the only right of way round the coast and I managed to convince them that mountainous excursions required proper investigation.
  I was soon at Fort William, a popular tourist magnet at the foot of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain. Needless to say, the town was created from a fort, originally built in 1655 by General Monk, and later rebuilt in stone in 1690 by William III, whom the town was named after. The place was enjoying a lively induction of visitors, possibly gravitating from the presence of the Highland Games and other festive events that celebrate the summer season. I hastened towards the shops and after my stop at the chemist I checked in at the Milton Leisure Hotel, where Jimmy Saville was dining with guests.
  Making the most of the leisure facilities, I enjoyed a swim before my meal and afterwards I explored the hotel, eventually coming to a standstill at the bar where Jimmy was ordering his mineral water and sampling a huge cigar. He was in good form and looking forward to the Highland Games though I was surprised to hear that he was awaiting a serious heart operation. It was very quiet in the lounge, though I met a chap from Newcastle who was interested in the cancer campaign, and after a chat he took my details, commenting that he would try to help. He was a decent bloke on holiday with his family, and I was able to say goodbye to them the next morning before departing from the Milton Hotel.

26/7/97  FORT WILLIAM TO INVERGARRY       26 MILES

Once again it was a dull humid day as I was routed by traffic from both directions, unable to walk safely on the road, and at times having to escape via ditch or grass verge. It was not a heart-warming experience and on two occasions I was bowled over into the ditch by overtaking vehicles that caught my clothes – none of the drivers showed enough concern to even stop! Despite the chaos I was at least able to capture a view of Ben Nevis, known for its whisky distillery and leisure commodities. The fascination surrounding this remarkable landscape of Ben Nevis, its sister mountains and glens still remain the primary reason why so many visitors enjoy exploring the region.
  I took a break at Spean Bridge, another popular resting spot for travellers, many of whom had parked up to make use of the tea facilities and Tourist Information centre. I enjoyed milk and biscuits, and on resumption decided the best policy, given the state of the traffic, was to press on until the job was complete.
  Shortly after my departure from Spean Bridge, I ascended to a memorial spot where a statue of three soldiers stands to commemorate the sacrificial efforts of commandos during the Second World War. This sacred spot in turn formed the original training ground for the troops and there is a Commando Museum at Spean Bridge containing relics and symbols of the war effort. Departing from this emotional scene to advance towards Stronenaba and Invergloy, I was overwhelmed by the convoy of people arriving. There were desperate attempts to seek parking spaces, whilst the growing mass of established observers fiddled about with cameras amidst the fading light in an effort to salvage a reminder of the occasion. Rain fell around 2 p.m. forcing me to cape up for the remainder of the day as I made ground along the busy loch road that revealed little other than a few hotels plotted between the villages. There was a family optimistically preparing a campsite in the forest growth by the shore, though as much as I admired their enthusiasm I did not give much thought to the idea with the weather so foul.
  At Laggan the road meandered round the smaller loch where a group of people dressed in oilskin garments struggled to moor up their vessel, whilst curious visitors combed the shore with cameras and binoculars. I noticed the cycle route to Invergarry was on the left but my evening lodge was a good 2 miles on the east flank of my route and so I continued along the A82 beyond the village on the Fort Augustus road until arriving at Drynachan cottage.
  The owner, called Caroline, was a nice lady running the guest house single-handed, though at present she had only a few guests staying: two French girls travelling through Scotland and a family from the north of England. There was by now a strong indication that, owing to the strength of the pound, the tourist season in Scotland this year had experienced something of a draught, leaving only the month of August to redeem itself. It was a grim prospect darkened further by poor weather reports for what is usually a shorter season period in comparison to the English southwest coast. In these fragile circumstances I wondered how small business and holiday enterprises, often situated in tiny locations, would manage to survive.

27/7/97  INVERGARRY TO DORNIE  44 MILES

Caroline had arranged to have my heavy rucksack taken to Dornie by bus, which brought me some relief as today’s journey exceeded 40 miles, and the was little opportunity to rest up. She had made some sandwiches for me and I was taken back to the village to start the day and thus avoid the frustration of re-walking the excess 2-mile journey, which I had already made the previous evening.
  Today proved to a tough challenge, walking uphill into the headwind with little opportunity to stop for provisions owing to the lack of facilities until reaching Shielbridge. There were miles of desolate road in front offering few symbols of life other than occasional stone buildings scattered about Glen Garry and the Ardochy Lodge Hotel at the foot of Loch Garry. These solitary dwellings are a stern reminder of the restrictive elements imposed upon the journey, as the township is forced to give way to the harsh mountainous land that allows only the passage of water. It was refreshing to hear the streams tumbling through the Glen and later saw my first dam at Loch Cluanie, where I stopped for a sandwich and admired the sheer expanse of the construction. The countryside was at relative peace though the sky seemed less agreeable and the road remained busy throughout the day, serving traffic between the Isle of Skye and Inverness.
  After the break I walked to the inn on the other side of Cluanie Loch where at 4 p.m. I rested for half an hour and drank a cup of tea. Hotels in Scotland are a welcome sight to visitors especially as they all serve tea. There were many foreigners taking a break before returning to admire the attributes of the countryside. Some people were on cycles though most were driving, and there were also a few climbing enthusiasts. The journey between here and Shielbridge exposed me to the overwhelming beauty of West Scotland, now boldly defined by the Five Sisters of Kintail, which in places exceeded 3,000 feet. I felt humbled by the great mountains that towered above me, flanking the road as I passed through Glen Shiel taking care not to be concealed by the forest growth. Fast-flowing streams cut through the low-level ground alternating from left to right, capturing the interest of a small group who had left the road to explore the endless creativity of nature. An eagle glided regally across the sky, surveying the motions below, where the sheep wandered the roads in a carefree manner, almost expressing distaste for any Highway Code. Over the next hour the lay-bys filled with cars, as explorers flocked by the roadside to ponder over the inspiring wonders of Kintail. I paused only to attend to my feet at an area recessed from the road, later regaining its access after crossing a small footbridge. 
  The journey through the five sisters seemed to last a lifetime as the dull cloud rolled over with the threat of rain, until eventually I arrived at Shielbridge at the hour of 6 p.m.
  I waited patiently at the shop/cafe for a girl to come and serve me, wasting almost 20 minutes of precious time with light fading as dusk advanced another step. As I left the shop rain was tumbling, and with my toes sore and raw I employed running tactics to spark up the momentum. People waved as I dashed along the sodden ground, still engulfed by the dense mountainous terrain. The hotels lit up the shoreline though Loch Duich was still distant and it was in fact dark as I neared Dornie Bridge at 9.30 p.m. The great Eilean Donan Castle stood majestically on its rock foundation situated between the three lochs showing a meaningful portrait of the past. The castle has endured a turbulent existence, reduced to a ruin by the Royal Navy in 1719, but later being resurrected by Colonel MacRae who restored it during the early 1900’s. Beneath the bridge to my right lies the attractive village of Dornie now sparkling like a Christmas tree around Loch Long. It was a passive scene that typified the tranquillity and isolation of the communities in the Western Highlands. The Loch Duich Hotel was just the other side of the bridge and I was relieved to find that, despite my late arrival, the owners had saved a lovely roast dinner for me. Once they found out that I was walking from Invergarry they realised I was going to be late and had in fact been to look for me – no doubt when I was having my afternoon tea. Sadly my bag had not arrived but the landlord promised he would deal with the problem. He had been busy raising money for the cause and I was invited to the bar to meet the customers and enjoy some local ale. It was an imbibing evening with a traditional merriment accentuated by the presence of performing musicians. Most of the bands had travelled many miles from all parts of the Highlands to make this Sunday venue in honour of the charity.
  I was made most welcome and we talked into the early hours of the morning finishing with the topic of Devolution of which the landlord gave much praise, hoping one day that he would himself become an M.P.
28/7/97  DORNIE TO LOCHCARRON   21 MILES

In the morning whilst thanking the staff for their help I discovered that one of the ladies was in fact a native of Corby, a neighbouring town to Oundle. On my departure I looked back across the Loch where the Scotch mist now portrayed the old castle as a phantom rising from the water. Its ghostly image stuck in my mind for some time after as the road climbed towards the sky exposing me to mountains and rich green forests.
  One of the ladies had given me a first aid kit and for most of the time I was aware of the pain in my feet, which were again very wet. I still enjoyed the hilly journey up in the clouds where the solitude offered a sense of freedom, though sadly my camera would remain redundant due to the poor visibility. There was little sign of life along this trail until reaching Stromeferry when suddenly I was swarmed by a group of German hikers. They were trying to locate a mystery ferry, which in their belief, should have been moored at this ancient crossing point. Of course there wasn’t one these days, and I had difficulty in explaining the problem. Eventually I sent them off in the direction of Achmore, where at least they could learn how to make cheese to sustain them on what would now be a more extensive road journey. 
  The scenery was a beautiful composition of pine forest and towering hills bearing down on the water, where on the opposite shore the painted houses of Lochcarron became visible beneath the mist. A train line ran between the loch and the single-track road sharing a tunnel with the road on its journey to Strathcarron. I stopped at the Carron Restaurant for a cup of tea before tackling the final stages of the day on the opposite side of the Loch, passing the nine-hole golf course near Kirkton. I arrived at the Loch Carron Hotel at 3 p.m. where I could now see the road I had walked earlier on the opposite bank. It was a rewarding view defining the day’s effort, as my gaze became one of tranquillity, perusing the small boats spread along the water’s edge.
  My hosts were very hospitable and had made a huge response, raising over £200, which was remarkable for such a small community. It is an ideal place if you are a poet or an artist or just simply trying to escape or elude the modern world. In the eyes of a visionary it would be the ultimate west highland scene. I felt privileged just to sit by the window facing the water as day drifted into night and peaceful harmony was exchanged for the cheerful laughter of locals socialising at the bar.

29/7/97  LOCHCARRON TO SHEILDAIG  15 MILES

On my departure from the lovely little haven of Lochcarron, I thanked the family for their excellent services and efforts to raise money for the cause. The promise of gale force winds and a storm advertised on the morning news prompted me to push through in one big session. The pain and discomfort of carrying two rucksacks across the hilly land soon became insignificant, as the beauty of the countryside dispelled any negative thoughts. This geological miracle of mountains and canyons blended with the tranquil forest life was the perfect foil against the discerning weather. Once past Kishorn I met only startled sheep, awoken from their roadside slumber. The animal kingdom feels secure in this environment, where the single-track road restricts all visitors to a simplistic highway code. There was only one other route – a track that turned off to Applecross, and so for the rest of the way I was bound to the A896.
  The weather remained quite good, though showers prevailed after passing through the Glenshieldaig Forest when my poncho was on and off consistently, but at least it was a suitable temperature for walking.
  My main indicators for distance were the position of lochs along the road. It was a good day – thankfully short as my knees were aching, and I finished by the shore of Loch Shieldaig at 2.30 p.m. My accommodation at the Tigh an Eilean Hotel was but a few yards away and a welcome reprieve from the wet and windy weather. I received warm greetings from the landlady, who had organised a meal for me at the pub next door. The small inn filled quickly with other travellers and visitors who had gathered to seek food and relaxation on a day that offered little inspiration for any outdoor adventurer. I met an interesting couple from London who had also travelled extensively around Great Britain and were familiar with Polperro in Cornwall.
  It was so rewarding to sit in the bar facing the Loch where I could see the vessels come into shore. This little white-painted village had me thinking that one day in years to come I would return for an extensive visit. I would spend the morning walking, the afternoon sketching and in the evening I would sit here at the bar and look out towards the loch and rekindle fond memories of bygone days.

30/7/97  SHEILDAIG TO LOCH MAREE  27 MILES

Wind howled throughout the night unsettling me with the knowledge of a tough day ahead. After breakfast I thanked the lady for all her help before embracing the cold, wet weather, which was forcing me to employ the use of a winter coat as well as my poncho. It was a sad departure from this lovely slate-roofed village, which was founded by the Admiralty during the Napoleonic wars, but the road beckoned and the sky frowned down upon me as I turned away to greet the morning air.
  The gale force winds created problems with my balance as I walked along the single-track roads that still harboured lorries and the express delivery service bound for Torridon. The local postman stopped by and offered to transport my large pack to Kinlochewe, where I would be able to collect it from the post office/café in the afternoon, leaving only a small portion of journey to complete along the road to Loch Maree. I thanked him for his trouble and continued to toil against wind and rain along the winding road that skirts Upper Loch Torridon.
  By the time I reached Torridon I was drenched and stopped at the wooden cabin, which was in fact a tourist information office containing details about the 16000 acres of forestland owned by the National Trust. I changed into dry clothes and continued, witnessing more scenes of breathtaking grandeur, dominated by the mountain ranges of Liatach and Ben Eighe. Despite poor weather the walk was still enjoyable amidst this imposing landscape and I stopped for only one more break at a café in Kinlochewe where I was re-united with my rucksack.
  From here I had 10 miles left to walk on a very wet surface with more persistent traffic to contend with during the teatime session. Before long I was walking beside Loch Maree, which takes its name from the Irish monk Maelrubha, who built a monastery there in 673 A.D. The countryside was at peace as I walked the wilderness flanked by the ancient Caledonian forest receding to the shore, where the mist rising above the surface of the loch evoked more of that ghostly charm. Apparently there was an old burial ground close by and it was considered a bad omen to remove anything from this area. This may not be good news for the foreign souvenir seekers unable to comprehend English. As the weather was discouraging for explorers I did not encounter anyone else except for some very spiteful insects that persisted in annoying me for the remainder of the day. Around 6 p.m. I found the hotel situated near the shore of the loch and not too far from the ‘middle of nowhere’. It was a wonderful olde-worlde type building, which had retained all its character and historical charm.
  By 8 p.m. I was finished for the day and relaxing at the bar reading a newspaper with the knowledge that whatever the weather brought tomorrow, Poolewe was only 17 miles away.

31/7/97  LOCH MAREE TO POOLEWE  17 MILES

Today was another bleak episode cast in wind and rain as I plodded up the single-track road beside the wooded banks of the loch, where the mountains appeared less daunting. Trunks in the forests lay scattered all around and sheep were exploiting the rich pastures near the roadside: a fodder claimed exclusively for themselves. This was once the home of the wolf, which was banished from the kingdom over a century ago; since his exile these farm animals can share the land in relative peace and minimal stress. They showed little fear of the disturbance of traffic, yet were anxious when I appeared on the horizon. The lone wanderer is a puzzling sight to these naive animals that are dubious about anything sinister or unusual that crosses their territory.
  The Scottish landscape had become a powerful tool in my mission – its breathtaking views and vast forestlands diluted much of the pain and demoralising aspects of the journey. Here the land remained largely untouched by the modern world and native traditions and customs continue as they have for hundreds of years. The average commuter in the city areas would know nothing of this life, where water can be drank from mountain streams and islanders row ashore once a month to collect provisions.  Chemist and banks are few and far between; in some places inhabitants rely solely on the mobile bank that visits each week. I did, however, find a Bank of Scotland at Gairloch and after my visit I managed to obtain a bottle of Gaviscon from the community medical centre. Gairloch is a modest little port enjoying the tranquil harmony of Wester Ross with some of the finest scenery in the West Highlands. The sheltered bays at Badachro and another place sharing the name of Shieldaig offer a peaceful retreat at the south of the loch.
  Leaving the sandy beach behind, I departed from this neat little community, the A832 now diverting inland for several miles, until arriving at the Pool House Hotel in Poolewe at the foot of Loch Ewe. I felt at home here and my hosts treated me with great respect and kindness, doing everything possible to ensure that I was comfortable. The village itself was small, consisting of a few stone buildings set comfortably by the salmon-stocked River Ewe, which runs between Loch Maree and Loch Ewe. At the head of Loch Ewe is a garden of rare sub-tropical plants created in 1862 by a gentleman called Osgood Mackenzie, now belonging to Inverewe House, a National Trust property for Scotland. The humid climate of the Gulf Stream enables this exotic garden to flourish beneath its mountainous background where, on a normal summer day, it is acclaimed to be the delight of all botanists. Despite the blustery weather I felt quite sedate looking across the water at its emptiness, later defied by two fishermen who braved the storm in a bid to take on the mighty salmon. I was content to have a soak in the bath and write up my diary, later joining the owners for a drink. It had been a sparse season for most hotels, realising only half the usual trade.  There were only a few customers at the bar but I got on really well with my hosts, who ensured I had plenty of food, including a packed lunch, for the next day, and they donated £40 towards the cause.

1/8/97  POOLEWE TO INVERBROOM   50 MILES

Despite horrific weather I made an exceptional start full of positive elements, marching at double time to Gruinard Bay where from the hill I could see the sandy coves, which make it one of the most beautiful bays on the west coast. People were walking the shore as I stopped to change socks at the wooden steps leading to the beach. Many cars had pulled up at the roadside with their occupants scrambling about in waterproofs, almost desperate to capture the view. A lady was situated opposite in her tea stall and after minor adjustments I purchased a drink from her. We chatted for 20 minutes and she asked if I would arrange to send her a charity box for use at her stall.
  Once warmed and refreshed I was back to the grindstone, climbing the hills above the contaminated Gruinard Island, used in the second World War as a testing ground for biological warfare germ known as anthrax. Although the island has since been declared ‘safe’ (1990), inhabitants of the mainland have been reluctant to visit.
  The journey remained isolated from human life allowing the animal kingdom to reap the benefits of the land. Sheep continue to masticate the lush grass, oblivious to a nearby crow devouring his lunch with a certain butcher’s craft that portrayed his carnivorous profile. Although the scenery was exemplary, I decided to run, breaking up the monotony of an extremely long day, as well as to ensure I finished at a reasonable time.
  Following Little Loch Broom for part of the afternoon, I sighted only the small communities of Badcaul, Camusnagaul, and Ardessie. On reaching the end of the loch, I stopped at the village of Dundonnell to buy some milk. The River Dundonnell follows the course of the road, crossing from left to right as it flows back through the woodlands to reach its destination at Little Loch Broom. There were scenes of exceptional beauty as I continued to embrace the wild and varied countryside of Wester Ross. Throughout the journey I was exposed to commanding mountain ranges and dense forest, which later formed part of a nature reserve. Nearing Braemore Junction, the woods dropped into a deep gorge where below I could see a trail leading to a bridge, though I immediately dismissed the idea of trying a short cut knowing that the situation can be counter-productive.
  The early evening traffic was intense at Braemore Junction where the signposts indicated routes to both Inverness and Ullapool. I proceeded towards the next village assuming I would locate my Bed and Breakfast, known as the Laurrels. I trotted through the small habitats, remaining vigilant in the hope of seeing a B&B sign or the sawmill indicating its position. I thought I had seen the mill but there was only a couple of residential houses close by and so I continued passed Inverbroom, finally stopping a few miles short of Ullapool which was in fact tomorrow’s destination. Despite instructions I did not find my accommodation and had almost walked to Ullapool so I had no other choice but to find a house and ask for assistance. Fortunately at the first place I tried, the man who answered the door knew the people in residence at the Laurrels, which to my disappointment was about 4 miles back towards Braemore. He ‘phoned the people and the owner came to collect me explaining that he had taken the B&B sign down to deter any other visitors. I felt very dejected and unable to grasp the situation that incurred a total extra distance of 8 miles. An hour later I was so exhausted I fell asleep on the bed and did not know anything more until morning. It was an unfortunate incident of which no one was at fault and I was now content to tackle a very short journey of just 8 miles to reach Ullapool.

2/7/97 INVERBROOM TO ULLAPOOL  8 MILES

The guests were preparing for their departure as I approached the breakfast table: they seemed very cheerful and wished me well. They had clearly spent some wonderful times here before, and were happy to return for another fix of scenic wonder, which helps restore one’s sanity. I was now to head off to the larger province of Ullapool; considerably more substantial than anything I had seen since leaving Fort William.
  Bidding the owner farewell I walked back to Inverlael where on my left a road speared off to another village destination, tucked neatly against the opposite shore of Loch Broom. Remaining focused on Ullapool I arrived at The Four Seasons Travel Lodge at 10 a.m. (commenting that it was usually p.m.), and as a welcome gesture the owner made me coffee whilst her daughter prepared my room.
  After a rest I set off to explore the town, which was made up from rows of whitewashed buildings including many shops and pubs stretching along the harbour looking out towards Loch Broom. The sea loch is the longest in the northwest Highlands and up until the last century was noted for its herring fishing. Today its attractions focus on sea-angling and game fishing in the nearby lochs; boat trips are available and a ferry service transports the tourists across Loch Broom to Allt na h-Airbhe where it is possible to walk to Dundonnell forest.
  There is a network of streets behind the harbour front and I found a pub on the corner opposite the spar shop. I visited two other bars; the most popular was directly opposite the harbour where the sight of Loch Broom between the mountains was outstanding. On my return to the lodge I fetched my diary and went for a nightcap in the hotel lounge next door where I chatted to the barmaid who gave good praise to Macmillan. Her mother suffered with cancer and so she knew about the work of the nurses and the commitment to a cause that in reality should be the burden of the N.H.S.
  Before leaving I promised to return the next morning with a sponsor form so that the youngster could do her bit to help.

 
 MAP 5.
3/7/97 ULLAPOOL TO LOCHINVER  31 MILES

The new month brings with it a new record of achievement as I have now walked for the longest period of time since starting my campaign in 1992: the previous best being my “Millennium Challenge” walking round England in 64 days. I felt in good form but the previous day’s escapades had left me nursing a stiff knee and large blister on my heel. It looked destined to be a hot day with only a few hours in which to take advantage of the cool, misty conditions. Before leaving I popped into the hotel next door to deliver some sponsor forms to the young lady who I met the previous night. The place was overrun with lovely women and I was disappointed at having to depart but the road demanded my attention, summoning me before the harbour front. The activities around the bay were scarcely visible as the mist rose from the loch to conceal the sun and once more my camera remained redundant. 
  I was soon striding out towards Ardmair and Strathkanaird, where tourists had taken to camping, at last able to feel confident about the weather.
  I had enjoyed the peacefulness of the small crofting townships of the previous week, yet now felt an eerie loneliness as I joined the old coast road, bound for the desolate northwest coast of Sutherland. The trail was single track, often as narrow as a footpath, but well-used all the same as cyclists scurried passed the more cautious motorists. Initially the route did not expose me to the coast that often, although the scenery remained of the highest quality with a landscape of stern dramatic beauty. After the Achnahaird junction the road appeared to narrow even more as a striking coastline of fiords and sea lochs began to emerge. 
  I did see a few explorers grouped at an information point where parking facilities provided a rest opportunity. I dwelled at this prominent focal point long enough to grasp the picture of this amazing countryside, knowing that in a couple of days from now it would change significantly.
  After a good intake of the views below I made off towards Lochinver. Sadly I ran out of film but did get a good shot of Enard Bay, where a boat rocked peacefully by the shore with a background of rock pools and sparkling blue ocean. It was very hot and I had to obtain water from the mountain streams as the road stretched my endurance beyond comfortable limits. There were only two small villages on this track, a mile or so within each other and only 2 miles from my destination. Following the road into Lochinver via a stream, I eventually found the Culag Hotel near to the harbour. The harbour was something of a sanctuary to many international fleets that have for years supported the economy of the port. On the opposite bank I could see a substantial expanse of beach whose white sands, under the present weather conditions, would be favourable choice of venue for many people in days to come. I eventually checked in to the hotel at 6 p.m. and was soon washed and changed ready for my meal. The inn was once the home of the Duke of Sutherland and its character and atmosphere made it a suitable base from which to arm myself spiritually for the journey to the ‘Top End’. After supper I received a visit from the local Macmillan group and we spent a good social evening at the bar collecting money from all the patrons. The treasurer introduced me to her husband, and friends from England with whom I enjoyed the last night of this wonderful tour of the west coast. Tomorrow would see me to the penultimate stop before reaching the top of the country and the start of the journey east to John O’Groats.

4/7/97 LOCHINVER TO SCOURIE 27 MILES

THE TOP END

Exceeding all temperatures, the weather signalled an infinite summer reprieve as I set off at 9 a.m., stopping only to buy some film from a local newsagent. The previous evening at the hotel, although very quiet, still raised £50 at the bar.
   As the new week commenced one could feel the holiday atmosphere coming to life as people walked through the street with their cameras poised, watching the waves break gently against the pebbled shore.
   Leaving the fishing boats behind, the walk took shape beneath the great peaks of Sutherland, where the A873 was now a hive of activity, with many tourists using bicycles as a mode of transport. Following the River Inver the road skirted the shores of Loch Assynt, where in the distance lay the ruin of Ardvreck Castle, built in 1597 as a residence for the Macleods.
  From here the journey progressed north to Unapool where I spent my dinnertime break at a picnic spot next to the award-winning Kylesku Bridge. The bridge had replaced the popular ferry, though boat trips via seal colonies to Eas- Coul- Aulin Waterfall (highest in Britain at 200 m.) are usually available in the summer. There were several people enjoying the spot and I noticed the same band of cyclists who had passed by me each day since the start of my Highland journey. They now made the point of greeting me as did the coach drivers who passed by along this route. These simple little patterns stand out in a world still largely uninhabited.  There were no other villages between here and Scourie and so I gathered my water supply from the trickling springs cascading the rocks, and continued beneath the afternoon sun.
  The countryside remained beautiful with trails carved in the lonely hills and the silence of the land broken by the motion of running streams. Passing the Nature Reserve at Loch Mhuileann Wood I noticed a family group sat by the lake observing birds; later the road narrowed and for a short time I was engulfed by tree life as the journey continued in a winding pattern.
  On reaching Scourie I could at last see the coast. The community itself was certainly picturesque, set beneath the rocky landscape with a clean safe beach. It least the latter appeared to meet the satisfaction of a group of youngsters, who were keen to celebrate the revival of summer. Though tempted by the water I chose the more suitable option of a relaxing bath at the Scourie Hotel, arriving at 5 p.m.
  As well as providing me with every possible service, the staff raised money from the bar to aid the Macmillan cause. In the bar I noticed the European cyclists who shared my course each day, and there were many other travellers enjoying the comforts of the hotel. There were also many explorers hoping to make a long awaited trip across to the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s reserve on Handa Island, which lays 3 miles offshore and is said to be a classic spot for observing cliff-top birds.
  I spoke to the barman who was an ex-paratrooper with over 20 years service. Needless to say he had travelled extensively and seen many places, though some perhaps less favourable than this.  As much as I wanted to socialise I felt a definite lull of enthusiasm stemming from tiredness, and so retired to my bedroom to settle for the evening view of the beach before drifting into slumber.

5/8/97 SCOURIE TO DURNESS  26 MILES

Setting off northbound for the craft village of Durness – the top end at last! I spent the day walking at high speed with the cyclists acknowledging my efforts at Laxford Bridge. There were no cafes on this old route, designed exclusively for picnics and naturalists where the scenery at this end of the map still remained spectacular. The mountains retained their commanding influence, sharing the landscape with lochs and vast boggy terrain as I edged towards the striking cliff top coastline of the North. Fortunately spring water was still accessible and I did in fact come across an official drinking pump situated by the road.
  I arrived at the Kyle of Durness where the tide was out and people were walking their dogs along the shore beneath the road. In the distance across the water away to the far left was the trail to Cape Wrath where it was possible to gain access with a guided tour. On the grassy cliffs above was a flock of sheep and a man crouching by the edge: a moment later he shouted down at me, rejoicing over the arrival of summer. Such joy was less celebrated in the remainder of the community, the sudden heat wave taking its inhabitants by surprise, most of them finding it very uncomfortable. The top end was as I expected to find it, dry-stone walls and the open sea with the grassy limestone bluffs receding back to the road. I did not feel excited, in fact it was rather an anti-climax, having experienced the beauty of the west coast, and I now possessed the knowledge that the journey east would not offer the same promise. Sixty-six days of hard toil with only the North Sea to greet me – tomorrow I move east across the roof of the country with only three days walking to reach John O’Groats. This, I hoped, would sound the bugle in my mind for the epic march back to Cornwall.

6/8/97 DURNESS TO TONGUE  30 MILES

A LONG WAY FROM HOME

I enjoyed the peaceful stay at Morven, and had an interesting conversation with a South African traveller at the local inn. He was staying at the Durness Youth Hostel and was enjoying a nightcap before returning back there. We discussed some worldly topics, often referring to travel, and after 10 p.m. I wished him well and retired to bed. Feeling hot I suffered a restless night and was shattered in the morning. I ate a good breakfast and thanked my hosts, eventually setting off for Tongue.
  The heat was intense as I followed the road passing by Smoo and the village of Sangobeg, scouring the land below in hope of finding a location supplying food and water. I stopped briefly near Loch Eriboll, one of the deepest lochs on the West coast: its name derived from Norse language interpreted as ‘Home on a gravely beach’. The landscape was changing considerably now, as soft sandy bays and breathtaking cliffs replaced the sea lochs and pine forests. Yet the rich culture of the land and its historical enchantment derived from Druid and Viking descent provided the North with a character of its own, and at times I felt quite drawn to its fierce yet desolate appearance. 
  Later in the day I became very hungry, feeling the effects of missing out on an evening meal. Sadly, last night, the pub menu took an early exit from the bar owing to a busy day. I felt weak and exhausted, shaking at times as I forced myself through the barrier of hunger. Fortunately some of my luggage had been despatched in advance to Tongue, the heavy winter gear worn earlier in Wales now served little purpose in these Mediterranean conditions.  On the right of the road the sun blazed down on Loch Hope as sweat dripped from my cap, occasionally stinging my eyes. I stuck to the relentless task of walking 4 miles per hour though it was a solitary performance, walking in the shadows of Ben Hope and Ben Loyal whose loneliness is welcome only to the eagle. Approaching Tongue the road passed over the bleak moorland, exposing the Kyle and its low-tide waters. Fishermen sat beneath the bridge as cyclists admired the distant castle of Varrich situated near to the village. It was definitely a day for passive leisure and I did not give my blessing to the intense presence of summer. 
  Arriving at Tongue, a tourist greeted me, explaining that he saw me earlier and was amazed at my advancing journey. Near to the Ben Loyal Hotel I could see the footpath that lead up to the ruined Castle Varrich, once said to be a Viking look out point, perched on a neighbouring hill. The whole area around the village is steeped in ancient history, and has many paths with which to explore it. Before entering my accommodation I spoke to a couple that had just completed a walk along one of these trails: they had been to visit St. Andrew’s Church, which was built during the 17th century.
  There had been a mix up over my luggage, which had in fact been delivered to the Tongue Hotel and after a shower I gleefully retrieved it. Though, pleased to be reunited with my faithful blue rucksack I could not shake off the tiredness and now felt quite ill – too tired to eat, and not knowing what the problem was I retired to my room suffering with nausea.
7/8/97  TONGUE TO MELVICH 27 MILES

At the breakfast table I consumed a humble bowl of porridge and, despite my inability to eat, the staff issued me with a packed lunch.
   It was a sad exit as I struggled to maintain a good step, feeling totally run-down. I toiled on, gazing across at the picturesque Kyle of Tongue as it poked through the gaps in the woodlands. I then had to follow the A838 on another mundane expedition through baron wasteland amidst the punishing heat.
  There was little opportunity to stop until reaching the village of Bettyhill overlooking the sands of Torrisdale Bay. As I approached Bettyhill I could see a group of explorers investigating the ruins of Broch Cairn on the opposite bank of the River Naver where prominent stones are said to mark the remains of an Iron Age broch. At the village I managed to find a shop but little else of inspiration as I gave in to the tiredness, taking a nap at the bottom of the hill near to a campsite.
  I was reluctant to resume but the solution to the problem lay beyond the road as I summoned my mental resources to spur me on towards Armadale Bay. The scenery was changing rapidly as the ribbon of road unrolls across the pervading landscape where, at times, only the sky is a feature. It was becoming difficult to equate the transition from the vast mountain ranges and dense forests to featureless horizons of unbroken landscape absent of trees. It was almost as though I had reached a summit with all but the sky and sea to answer to.
  The road remained the sole master, unforgiving as ever, as I progressed shakily beyond Armadale Bay, which had nothing dramatic to reveal other than a few more holidaymakers testing the temperature of the sand.  An hour later I walked through the scattered hamlet of Strathy where to the west lays Baligill, once the foundation for an Iron Age fort. Though tempted to follow the trail my weary legs would see me no further than the next village. By 5 p.m. I had reached my destination and was relieved to be checking in at the Melvich Hotel. The receptionist was concerned for my health and called the doctor, who on examination said that I was suffering with heat exhaustion, which in turn had given me gastritis. His diagnosis was to rest for a week and drink plenty of fluid. The second part was okay; to rest, however, was impossible; further more I have been allocated 60 miles for tomorrow – almost typical, I suppose, when feeling at my lowest.

8/8/97  MELVICH TO JOHN O’GROATS TO WICK         57 MILES

THE BLEAKNESS OF A BENIGN KINGDOM

Feeling numbed and disorientated I did not sleep at all and was dressed ready to leave at 5.30 a.m.  I managed only to eat a bowl of cereal before handing the keys back to the porter and conveying my gratitude to the management. I was now faced with the prodigious task of walking 60 miles, knowing that I would need to be armed both spiritually and emotionally to survive the ordeal.
  First I would endeavour to reach Thurso, then John O’Groats and finally Wick where I would stay at the Mercury Hotel. I cannot begin to explain the amount of distress I felt, trying to summon all my spiritual powers to guide me through my darkest journey. I was tired after the restless night and at times when walking I slipped from consciousness only to be revived by a disturbance of vision usually precipitated by an early passing vehicle. I gained little solace from the panoramic sea views that extend to the Orkneys: no longer was I captivated by illusions of grandeur and the prospect of walking a coastline of Norse heritage. The forests and woodlands were now absent from the countryside as I wandered through the bleak wasteland of Caithness whose desolate fields were only capable of capturing the delight of resident sheep. The mountains no longer dominated the landscape; the tumbling streams and lochs had disappeared as the modern main road emerged to cater for Britain’s most northern town of Thurso.
  Taking my first break at Thurso at 11.45 a.m., I had covered 18 miles with John O’Groats still another 20, the thought of which was exhausting. Thurso was the most substantial town I had seen in the past week, once famous for shipping flagstones but today ominously noted for its nuclear power station at Dounreay. The busy town catered for most tastes including angling, water sports, golf and ornithology. There was also the usual tourist trade and the train service runs from here to Inverness: also there is a ferry service between Scabster and Stromness. I had worked there a few years ago for Bizley Cleaning Services, contracting with P.O when the vessel in question was the old St. Ola.
  Sitting on a bench opposite the road junction I tried to drink some milk and despite my looking somewhat lugubrious, a lady asked me to fill in a questionnaire. I was not feeling in the mood but obliged anyway as I tried to come to terms with my ailments, knowing that I lacked the dexterity required to fulfil the task. With an aching body I returned to the road with a certain enmity and to add to the pain there was a signpost at Castletown indicating a shorter journey to Wick of just 18 miles. I would see a similar signpost on reaching John O’Groats about 6 hours later. It was agonising – I couldn’t believe I was putting myself through this ordeal, my legs were almost bursting – there were scary times too when the pain disappeared and I felt separated from my body. 
  Dunnet Bay was something of a high spot in the journey and a popular stop for many visitors as Dunnet Head is the northernmost point of the British mainland: there were a couple of cars travelling from John O’Groats whose drivers pulled up to ask where the village was.
  Around the teatime period rain fell and traffic grew heavy, adding to the discomfort as I concentrated all my efforts into reaching the famous milestone of John O’Groats, wishing it to be my ultimate destination. A cyclist stopped to ask me about the location of the Youth Hostel; fortunately I had just passed the turnoff and was able to assist her. In the distance I acknowledged the sight of this formidable landmark though it still required a mammoth task to reach it. I photographed the John O’Groats post which said ‘welcome to the end of the road’ at the junction before turning left away from the sign to Wick, which indicated a further 18 miles. I continued for another half-mile along the low-lying land until arriving at the Hall of Fame (a pub) where I signed the Book of Achievement in order to proclaim the event. It was less official than the Land’s End version and nobody was waiting to greet me though a cyclist rode by saying ‘well done lad’. My long-awaited hour melted into complete insignificance and as I sat in the bar drinking a coke I wandered what sort of reception Jimmy Saville or Ian Botham might have received after achieving this great feat. I doubt they would have enjoyed facing these health barriers; in fact there aren’t too many people capable of sustaining this type of mileage and testing itinerary. For this reason I took one day at a time, not dwelling on the negative aspects of a journey. And I was quick to remind myself that the event was not designed to be a picnic outing with a fairytale ending. Instead the road lay before me, beckoning me to commence the journey south still with 18 miles left to complete the day. It was a monumental task just rising from the pub chair to greet the damp air and walk beyond this popular spot. I looked out towards the sea as the ferry deposited another batch of holidaymakers on the nearby shore. I then passed the famous signpost minus the photographer and so dispelling any hope of gaining recognition for what I had achieved. I departed without even a photograph to commemorate the occasion, leaving behind the sound of the wheeling seabirds hovering above the many anxious visitors who were trying to seek shelter from the deteriorating weather. The midnight sun in a land born from ancient rocks and majestic peaks was now a fading memory of a bygone week. Then came the real sickening moment – the 18 miles signpost to Wick, which I passed at 7 p.m. Worse still, the pouring rain and mist made me virtually invisible along this empty road.
  I was suffering with palpitations and at times scarcely able to put one leg in front of the other. I just had to grin and bear it for the next few hours and stay focused on the job, though I knew it would require an almost legendary performance to successfully complete the day. I resembled a very drunk man swaying on the roadside, though my mind was clear, knowing only too well that the road is a cruel master that knows no bounds. It was something of a revelation to have walked this far and fortunately there was little activity this evening and therefore no one to ridicule me or knock me over. Total darkness lay before me and the only place that bore any significance was a bridge and a minor road leading back to Thurso. Later I passed through the village of Reiss – only just! I was now scarcely moving, prompting me to think back to the last ‘end to end’ trip which featured the antics of Douglas Kirkpatrick entering the town of Helmsdale. I had to keep stopping in order to win back some strength; dextrose tablets and fudge were all I’d consumed as I struggled to gain ground. It was only when my spirit left my body that I could feel no pain; I was aware of nothing until drifting back to consciousness to hear my feet pound the road. I recall passing over a bridge with some buildings on the left and a road junction on the right indicating a route back to Thurso, the road I no doubt passed several hours ago. In my disorientation I panicked, thinking I was heading in the wrong direction and on locating a house I attempted to rouse some attention. It was late and music drowned out the sound of my knocking; there must have been a party in progress or a young couple enjoying a romantic evening. With no response I headed back into the darkness when minutes later the house became little more than a flickering candle.
  I could now see lights dotted about the countryside as the town of Wick glistened on the horizon but even this encouraging moment made little impact with the ‘tank’ running on empty. It may as well have been stars lighting up the skyline than the sanctuary of this small town, and it was a miracle I arrived there at all! Passing the famous Caithness glassworks I turned into the town receiving some directions for the Mercury Hotel from a late-closing Chinese takeaway. I found the facility on the street below, and I was let into the hotel at 12.30 a.m. by the porter.

9/8/97  WICK TO LYBSTER  14 MILES

Luckily there was no mountain to climb today! In fact, in comparison, it was something of a brisk stroll along the A9 to reach the fishing village of Lybster.  Wick was an attractive working town noted for its glass blowing and historical associations with the Vikings, taking its name from Vik meaning creek. The street was composed of many fine 18th-century buildings and north of the town lies the ruin of the famous Sinclair Castle (fondly remembered from 1995), which is a short distance from Noss Head.
  As I left Wick the morose countryside of Caithness evoked some nostalgia as I confronted the familiar landmarks of the A9, reminding me of that equally testing journey of 1995. The passage of time has evoked little change to this benign kingdom whose moorlands have become one of nature’s remaining outposts. Its bleak and desolate countryside, often speckled with sheep, continued to reveal its own charm and antiquity. Most villages were modest in size, housing places of historical interest: such as the Hill o’ Many Stones.
  Sadly I was unable to enjoy the journey to its full potential owing to my poor state of health. It was the inability to absorb food that was bothering me. How much longer could I keep going without a source of nourishment? I had tried everything from Complan to raw eggs and nothing remained in my system for longer than 20 minutes.
  I was overjoyed to see the Lybster sign with the village in the distance on my left. When I reached the Bay View Hotel there was no celebration or pub session, I retired immediately to my room where I dined on raw eggs and milk before getting into bed.

10/8/97  LYBSTER TO HELMSDALE 25 MILES

The landlady had looked after me well and sympathised over my circumstances and at least a Macmillan official had promised to pick up one of my bags to despatch to Helmsdale. Talking for a while, the landlady shared the views of many other publicans in Scotland, explaining that high business rates and a decline in tourism are the main factors pushing many out of the industry.
  I managed some breakfast but still felt dizzy and light-headed as the day commenced in conditions of mist and heavy rain that was soon to make me invisible again. Trekking steadily away from the village with the coast spread out on my left amidst these opaque conditions, I was still able to recognise a few simple focal points from my last tour. The Macmillan lady stopped by to wish me well, though by now I was under the constant siege of traffic. I was certainly thankful for my previous experience of walking the road during 1995. I stopped at a village shop for a drink and then continued up the hill, thinking back to the time when Dougie and I struggled to come to terms with a tough journey in similar weather constraints. It was a shame that the scenery had been blacked out by the mist, though I remembered the winding hilly road between Newport and Berriedale. As I moved away from the coast the forest scenery emerged once more, though I required a constant vigil until the mist cleared in the early afternoon. The clear sky revealed the Ord of Caithness and after passing by Navidale house I was exposed to a refreshing view of the shore with Helmsdale set nicely at the mouth of the Strath of Kildonan, once famous for its Gold rush of 1869. The village had been created originally to harvest the rich herring boom of the 19th century: although less busy now, the harbour still provides anchorage for many small vessels.  I gave no thoughts of reviving the Kildonan Gold rush; I had only the desire to locate The Belgrave Hotel, which was in fact not far from the harbour. I had stayed there with Dougie two years ago when it was under different management, and amazingly I was allocated to the same room.
  The new manageress was very helpful, washing my clothes and serving me a lovely meal, which I managed to eat, washing it down with a soda water.

11/8/97  HELMSDALE TO TAIN 33 MILES 

 Once again it was a misty morning, but I managed to savour the view of the harbour and the River Helmsdale: as I looked back at the hotel set in a mountainous background. Although bleak and desolate and unable to live up to its gold-panning expectations, Sutherland is still a wealthy commodity in terms of its natural environment, which harbours many aspects of wildlife. The gold may have vanished from the waters of the burn but the golden eagle still soars majestically over the mountains and moors diligently guarding this priceless domain.
  Looking out towards the North Sea a train runs close by the sandy shore, passing Portgower and Lothmore, now destined for the ancient little village of Brora. The road continued in its undulating fashion surrounded by the lush, green countryside, which eventually gave way to the boundaries of a golf course. Although not a suitable day for golfing, the course was occupied by many die-hard enthusiasts. I suppose by now, the mist was lifting sufficiently enough to allow them a reasonable assessment of distance. Salmon fishing is the other big-time activity associated with the village, which is also home to the Clynelish Distillery. It goes without saying that many places in Scotland derive their status from these popular activities.
  I passed through the village remembering the chemist though not requiring its services at present, but stopping at the Spar shop for a bottle of soda water. Once at the top of the town I allowed myself a short break before returning to the busy road. It felt good to reminisce over the splendid coastline from Helmsdale, enjoying another trip of nostalgia to Brora. The weather was clearing quickly later revealing a view of Dunrobin Castle prior to reaching Golspie, where I stopped to buy some Complan. Towns were starting to appear with greater regularity, though the crofting villages and smallholdings, separated by moor land and mountains, remained significant throughout both Caithness and Sutherland.
  The next stage of the journey would see me to the bridge over the Dornoch Firth known to Douglas Kirkpatrick as ‘A Bridge Too Far’. Today the distance would be exactly the same, and I remained as focused now as I did then despite continuous abdominal problems. My immune system was totally depleted and I found milk solids irritated me further, but I pressed on nearing the famous bridge where two Macmillan ladies pulled up to check my progress.  It was fortunate that they did, as there had been a change in the accommodation arrangement of which I knew nothing about. It was a special moment crossing the bridge and despite the heavy mist I made short work of the 3 miles into Tain, which is one of the oldest Royal Burghs in Scotland. It was dark by now, but the ladies kept a patient vigil, one of them joining me for the final few steps of the day, escorting me to the entrance of the hotel. I was anxious to know where the Scotchburn road was, not sure of my bearings in the dark. The road would form a good part of my journey in the morning and I needed reassurance that I could locate it easily. It had been another massive struggle – an ordeal lasting until 10 p.m. when all I was fit for was bed.
  My emergency hosts were very good, trying to encourage me to eat more food but a salad was all I could manage and again I steered well clear of the bar.

12/8/97 TAIN TO INVERNESS 38 MILES

The mist had beaten a hasty retreat permitting the sunlight to break through above the ripened corn, which now bordered the quieter Scotsburn Road. This was another familiar section, which also allowed the chance to relax beside the flourishing forest life and sedate farmland: thus providing a break from the melodramatic events of the recent past. Despite all its qualities, the A9 failed to match the solitude of the woodlands and so I made the most of this quieter route, which extended as far as Alness. Stopping for lunch at 1.30 p.m. I consumed my sandwiches whilst pondering over my ailments and the length of time it was taking me to reach these destinations. I knew that I would never give up – I didn’t know how! Yet without the support of the charity and my hosts, the job of fundraising would be seriously undermined.
  I departed from the town via a bridge, which held a certain fascination with a few local lads who were poised to jump into the water below. I shared little interest in their quest and continued along the B road to the tidy little village of Evanton, and finally back to the A9 so as to cross the Cromarty Firth. Once across the bridge, I decided to use another alternative route up through Culbokie and onto Munlochy where the nearby Drumderfit Hill was once the scene of a fierce battle fought between the Macdonalds and a party of warriors from Inverness. Time has since transformed these battlefields into a peaceful setting of forestland, bisected by a modest road that harboured only the menace of a tractor. It was so quiet that at one stage I stopped at a farmhouse to confirm that I was advancing in the right direction. I was, in fact, following the correct route but at Munlochy experienced some confusion over the network of back roads. After a spot of refreshment, acquired from the village shop, I asked a lady for assistance: her response was adequate enough to set me on the right course. It was an agreeable session until reaching a road fork where I was uncertain about whether to turn left or right. Sadly I chose the right section of road and did not find the correct return link to the A9. As the journey resumed under the threat of a thunderstorm, I continued nervously as lightening dissipated the skyline amidst the rising humidity. Traffic emerged at greater frequency, adding to the hazards of a substantially longer journey, tackled on this narrow country road. I did, however, manage to beat the thunderstorm, though by now I was less than ecstatic about walking a needless 3 miles. Crossing the Bridge over the Moray Firth was a weird sensation, looking out into the growing dense haze, which had engulfed the city of Inverness.  Shortly after, I negotiated a roundabout, trying to keep a solemn lookout for the Thistle Hotel. It was in fact visible from the road, (only just!) and after a 2-mile walk I descended down the embankment, arriving at 9 p.m.

13/8/97 INVERNESS TO FORRES 26 MILES

I still felt very tired and listless and was considering a way of allowing myself a rest day. Beginning today’s journey along the A96 was a dreadful experience owing to its partial re-construction to accommodate the new Tesco supermarket. These workings gave little to inspire the journey: nor did the bland scenery that failed to distinguish any differences between Scotland and England. The countryside remained rural, broken only by small villages and two large towns, the first of which was known as Nairn, where I stopped around 2 p.m. to obtain some product from the chemist. Nairn was a moderate town, born in the 12th century, when it received a royal charter from Alexander I. The popular beaches have attracted visitors since the Victorian era, and the town was at one time the centre of a great fishing industry. Despite a little modernisation, the streets and cottages of Fishertown help to preserve its marine identity, though golf has once again ascended to popular heights with the prospect of Nairn hosting the 37th Walker Cup in 1999.
  Despite many interesting discoveries, I found it difficult to keep motivated and often felt dizzy whilst walking the busy road, which offered little sympathy in terms of traffic. Passing through the village of Brodie, I was about 4 miles from my destination of Forres. In the distance stood a castle owned for centuries by the Brodie family who, despite the weight of their assets, were amongst the oldest landed untitled families known to the kingdom. Progressing beyond this small place my journey became less threatening, though the same could not be said about the weather. On reaching Forres a thunderstorm was imminent and, taking shelter under the post office, I waited for my escort to the accommodation at Tulloch Lodges, which was east of my route. On arriving there at 6.00 p.m. the heavens opened and all sources of power were cut off as the storm ravaged all local amenities.
  The family at Tulloch Lodges in the village of Rafford were very keen to help me and insisted that I rested up for a while so as to shake off the illness.

14/8/97  NO WALK

Illness had inevitably forced me to take a rest day. I was very weak and would probably have required a longer period to recover sufficiently. This meant that I would have to complete two day’s walking the next day. I had considered another day off though it would have meant adopting a different route to accommodate the itinerary. Sadly I had become a slave to the itinerary and had little chance of mastering the job to the standard of previous performances, where usually I could gain some psychological advantage from staying ahead of my target stops. It seemed on the days when I was tired and could have used a shorter workload; I faced 40/50 miles instead with little chance of recharging my batteries. This process had worn me down to the point that I found no meaning or purpose in my efforts other than to achieve the goal itself.
  Mrs Vinales was very kind and said I could rest for as long as was required. She had been a cancer victim and her son James was awaiting test results for M.E. He was studying at Southampton University and I was hoping to contact him when I knew my precise destination in the city. At least I could relax in the garden and enjoy the beautiful country scene, with the immaculate holiday lodges interspersed amongst the forest landscape. It was a pleasure to spend some quality time with the family, who later invited me back for a holiday, and as the evening pulled in I felt comfortable enough to consider resuming my journey again in the morning.

15/8/97  FORRES TO BANFF 48 MILES

I had forfeited my scheduled stop at Buckie and would now attempt to make ground to Banff, a journey that would extend over 12 hours, provided I remained strong. Mrs Vinales transported me back from Rafford to Forres, where I had time to admire the award winning, teddy bear floral patterns in the park. After this delightful treat I departed from the ancient little town to take up the challenge of walking 50 miles.
  I still felt very weak and had to endure the main road as far as the elegant city of Elgin, an old town known from my Navy days of the 1970’s, when 892 squadron of H.M.S Ark Royal were based at Lossiemouth. I was concerned about my lack of strength and ensured I had a substantial rest before making further inroads into what was to be a very long journey. I received information from the tourist office pertaining to the disused railway track at Garford, which I hoped would offer a refreshing alternative route to Spey Bay. Delighted with the news, I set off on a country outing that would break the deadlock of busy main roads and return me to my beloved coastline.
  Once free of the A96 I walked a network of minor roads, which served the local farming communities. I even found a shop at Lhanbryde, where I enjoyed a drink, and felt quite refreshed on arrival at Garford. With a little help from two local guys I managed to locate the footpath leading to the viaduct across the Spey. The river is Scotland’s second largest, running for 98 miles from its source at Monadhliath Mountains. The viaduct was still in good condition despite not having supported a train in over 30 years, and made an excellent point from which to view the mighty salmon. Many cyclists had gathered to see the spectacle, and although the fish may have rehearsed a few tricks, they were reluctant to treat its public to an airborne display. Walking up to the bay I took a path along the golf course, eventually joining the shingle beach as far as Port Gordon and Buckie. Stopping at the busy harbour town of Buckie, I bought some fish and chips and then ‘phoned the Banff Springs Hotel to inform them of my probable late arrival. I sat, enthralled by the town’s maritime prestige built from its fishing industry, which by all accounts still lives on. Later, on my journey through the town I saw many fish markets and processing halls. By this time it was 6 p.m. and I still had 18 miles to walk. Following the disused railway line I met difficulties on the section to Findochty. It was vastly overgrown, and finished abruptly at the edge of a cornfield, which was now undergoing the process of harvest.
  The coast road seemed less threatening than earlier, though I joined a footpath at PortKnockie, where I met three old ladies out on an evening stroll. They followed me as far as the cliff top where I started my descent, walking the last mile to Cullen along the shore. I left the beach crossing beneath the arches of the disused 19th century railway viaduct. Darkness was imminent as I marched through this attractive little resort until finding a route along the main road to Portsoy. By now it was pitch black with only the lighted houses of Whitehills sprawled across the horizon. I walked the last 6 miles to Banff in total darkness, on the coast road (B2139), which was at least very quiet. Eventually I found the Banff Springs Hotel on the thoroughfare, at around midnight – my ‘usual’ Friday finish time.

16/8/97  BANFF TO PETERHEAD       40 MILES

I was greeted at the breakfast table by a cheerful young lady who seemed to be enjoying the remainder of her school holidays employed as a waitress, though she hinted that an afternoon on the beach was more to her liking.
  Banff Springs gave the air of a friendly hotel, catering for many guests including a wedding party. Banff itself was a captivating little coastal town that had retained a strong Georgian image with rows of buildings shelved above the bay. As the town faded away to my left I entered the harbour at Macduff, a fishing port at the mouth of the River Deveron. It was a popular spot, presently occupied by camera-clad tourists who were keen to recognise its importance as a fishing port. It was also the venue for the annual Mobil North Sea Yacht Race between Stavanger and Macduff, and before heading off to the province of New Pitsligo, I photographed the lighthouse and the end of the pier. 
  The morning was hot, though later tainted by the head wind, which always makes the journey a bit more testing. With my ankle tendon now very sore I toiled slowly against the prevailing wind. My first stop was 20 miles from Banff at New Pitsligo, a farming village credited with producing Queen Victoria’s favourite lace. It was a substantial place, housing a couple of shops and I was able to obtain a reasonable source of food consisting mainly of fruit, which I consumed whilst sat on a bench outside of the local church. The remaining journey was also around 20 miles although I stopped again at Mintlaw, having explored the old railway route from Aberdeen, which passes through Aden Country Park. It was a resourceful village set in rich farmlands, which have been the home of the old Ruined Deer Abbey since the 13th century. I paused long enough to drink a pint of milk and undo the wrapper of a boiled sweet before moving on towards the final stop at Peterhead.
  The evening session was slow though I felt I had made good time until arriving at Peterhead town centre when I discovered that my journey was incomplete and my hotel was several miles away on the Frazerburgh road. This was an all too familiar tale of frustration though an acceptable situation if I had walked the dangerous coast road via Frazerburgh. I felt unwell and, having walked 40 miles already, I was incapable of expressing too much delight, though I managed to remain cheerful despite the misdemeanours of the day.

17/8/97  PETERHEAD TO ABERDEEN  40 MILES

I was totally shattered this morning but enjoyed an outstanding breakfast at the Waterside Hotel and afterwards had a brief chat with the manager. I then headed back into town to resume the journey, which, by the end of the day, would see me as far as Aberdeen. Peterhead is Europe’s busiest fishing port, housing over 400 vessels and possessing a rich fishing history derived largely from whaling. The River Ugie is noted for trout fishing, though salmon remain the prime requisite on the fishmonger’s stall, and the markets in Peterhead are open every day.
  The weather was treacherous again – the headwind must have changed direction when I turned right at John O’Groats. It was an overcast day with some light showers, and I could only walk at 3 miles per hour – sentencing myself to another walking day of 12 hours or more.
  I made conversation with a local shopkeeper, hoping to find out whether or not I could walk along the shore. He explained that the logical point to intercept the shore was at the golf course by Newburgh. After purchasing my sweets I turned off to Cruden Bay: a charming holiday village popular for its golf course and sandy beaches, yet distinguished by the gaunt ruins of Slain Castle which could easily have been the set for a sinister Dracula movie. I departed from the bay along the A975 coast road where a few miles southwest lay the tower of the original Old Slain’s Castle (both of which were built by The Earl of Errol), which was demolished by James VI in 1594.
  The weather had reduced the level of activity on the coast road today as the seaside now offered a less welcome destination to sun seekers and Sunday cruisers.
  At Newburgh I took a dinner break before following the beach path over the sand dunes and onto the shore. I enjoyed the next four hours beside the sea with few distractions other than a couple of ponies and a dog that invited me to a game of Frisbee. I felt obliged to participate, not wishing to disrupt his recreation, and so I repeatedly hurled the plastic disc across the beach until his owners came back into range.
  I watched a pair of young seals amble from the shore back to the sea to resume their playful recreation as the weather held out, with the sun occasionally peeping through the dark clouds. In the distance the granite city of Aberdeen took shape revealing the marks of industry, and as I moved closer the complicated network of busy roads start to converge. At the estuary people were still enjoying their fishing activities whilst others walked along the wooden slat path.
  Leaving the shore at the Don Bridge was a threatening experience as dark clouds loomed above, but remained innocuous throughout the evening session. The trip through this famous town, deemed as the largest holiday resort in Scotland, and also known for its floral displays and North Sea Oil, was yet another tale down memory lane. Despite the decline in oil since the days with Bizley Cleaners and PO ships, little change was significant since my last visit here in the eighties. It was a long-tapered journey to the motel passing many places I knew well including the cinema I used to visit on my days off. I actually arrived at the Dee Motel before 9.00 p.m. for a change – only just, I might add!

START
4 Portobello
DUNBAR
Map 6. 

18/8/97  ABERDEEN TO MONTROSE  37 MILES

My footwear, now looking a touch shabby having suffered a blowout up at Wick, was causing some concern owing to the fact that I would have to wait until arriving at Newcastle to obtain a fresh pair of boots. I reported the matter first thing in the morning to Derek, a Macmillan representative. We discussed possible replacements and after a new issue of Macmillan ‘Whites’ I was on my way to Stonehaven. The A956 was a difficult Monday morning proposition until I located a path on the opposite side of the dual carriageway near Nigg. It was a poor journey until I reached the charming white-painted village of Muchalls, where the road closed in towards the coastline trapping the railway line as I gazed across at a 125 train destined for Stonehaven. A short distance from the village lies the old castle that bears the coat of arms of the Burnett family; though its most intriguing story relates to smuggling activities where it is said that a tunnel extended from the castle all the way to the shore, hence the title ‘Gin Shore’.
  The journey progressed amidst rural bliss without intrusion other than the sudden movement of tree-hopping squirrels and the occasional train. Presently a golf course came into view on my left facing the sea with the shore now directly below as I descended to the picturesque fishing town of Stonehaven. It was now 1 p.m. and, despite dismal weather conditions, the streets were stifling with visitors.  Although clearly tailored for the needs of its holiday-makers, the town retains the traditional elements of a working fishing village with many small vessels, including a few sailing yachts, anchored in its sheltered harbour. After a fine luncheon of yoghurt and bananas I walked round the two-basin harbour, and continued up the hill away from the town, which was now under the siege of wet weather. Making my exit along the A92, I caught a glimpse of Dunnottar Castle, which is accessible from a minor subsidiary route. This great fortress was built back in the 14th century though the history of its site dates back even further, and like many other castles in Scotland it has had to survive its fair share of turbulence. At the shore near Crawton lies the Fowlsheugh Bird Reserve, the largest sea bird colony in mainland Britain. An hour later I approached the bustling town of Inverbervie, where a salesman stopped to inform me that he’d seen me on a few occasions before. Every time he stopped at a village or town I would soon appear on the horizon – marching robustly against the elements. Weather and traffic as always featured as the main obstacles, though other hazards occasionally arose: with today’s journey adding the intrusion of golf balls to the list of discomforts.
  After some more fluid I resumed my journey with mist rising above the villages near the coast, the first of which featured the picturesque Gourdon harbour and later the lobster fishing port of Johnshaven which, like Stonehaven, possessed a two basin harbour.
  Stopping again briefly at Johnshaven to address an ankle problem, I witnessed a sudden transition from mist to evening sunlight and the remaining 7 miles were a joy to walk. On nearing my destination the sky had cleared completely, allowing a beautiful sunset as I passed the Links golf course. Shortly after, I entered the flourishing port of Montrose, eventually arriving at the Carlton Hotel by nightfall.

19/8/97   MONTROSE TO DUNDEE 30 MILES

Mist continued to prevail, yet it remained pleasant for walking, and soon after departing from Montrose along the old coast road to Arbroath, I was joined by a lady from Macmillan, who had been trying to locate me. After chatting for an hour she sped off to a meeting, but gave me some interesting advice about the coastline, which I was now eager to walk in preference to the road.
  The journey to Arbroath was comfortable and I was not overawed by traffic. I enjoyed fish and chips for my lunch and then spent an hour looking around the town. Though recognised as a fishing town it is largely distinguished by the preserved ruins of its old abbey, founded in the late 12th century by William King of Scots and which lie within well-kept lawns and flower gardens near the roadside. It was here in 1320 that the declaration of Scotland’s independence was signed, and I passed the old Signal Tower Museum where many curious individuals were eager to unravel the historical details of the town. My thirst for knowledge was also great and I made good use of a long break collecting data and taking photographs. I did not leave until 2.30 p.m., passing the busy harbour and the 19th century Signal Tower to join the busy A92.
  The main road became a real bane and I took the first opportunity to trade it in for a coastal one at a place called East Haven. From here I walked for 2 more miles along the coast road next to the railway line until arriving at the larger township of Carnoustie where my observations suggested it was without doubt a Mecca for golf. So ‘The Golf War’ continued, with the afternoon activity reaching a peak: the journey to Barry now taken up between the golf circuit and the train line, where my safety would rely on constant vigilance so as to avoid a bombardment of descending golf balls. Departing from the M.O.D. location I rejoined the coast road as far as Monifieth, also supporting two popular links golf courses, where I enjoyed the remainder of the day on the coastal footpath. It was a true nautical epitaph; taking me past the docks where a ship was entering the harbour obscuring part of Tayport on the opposite bank. Passing a castle and an inn by the shore I approached the Tay Bridge, which dominated my vision as darkness prevailed. I finished the walk to the right of the bridge at the Stakis Hotel at 8.30 p.m. where the view of tomorrow’s opening journey lay directly before me.
20/8/97  DUNDEE TO LEVEN  27 MILES

THE FIFESHIRE COAST

It was a warm start to the day as I opened my account on the Tay Bridge: with Scotland’s fourth largest city tucked behind me, I walked the first 2 miles between the busy traffic flow until joining the Leuchars Road. Dundee was a city whose fortunes had been founded largely by the sea and its heritage clearly celebrated and preserved by the lovely coastal route that I had started to walk along the previous evening. This morning however, regressed into a mundane session that inspired little other than the memories of my Navy days. At best those distant times would have only painted a picture a young man in his late teens attempting the swaggering journey back to camp.
  Leuchars had changed a bit since my forces career over 23 years ago. With the exception of The Commercial Arms, which still had the same curtains in the window, the village seemed much larger. New shops had emerged along with different faces but the dreary, prosaic Forces environment destroyed any nostalgic feelings I may have possessed. The Navy had long since been disbanded and Leuchars was now solely a RAF establishment with its present personnel not even aware of its maritime relationship. Garbridge was even less inspiring though I remembered the hotel, where on occasions high spirits led to our premature exit during the evening sessions. Away from the busy main drag I joined the quieter back roads where there were small villages dotted about, each defined by its own charm and individual character. A touring party, who were seeking directions to St. Andrews, interrupted my journey briefly. Despite my long absence from the area, it was a town I knew quite well and thus I was able to assist them. My journey did not extend as far as the town; instead it took me inland, first crossing Strathkinness and Peat Inn, eventually narrowing between the smouldering farmland as it climbed up and down into Largo Bay. Lower Largo owes its recognition to Alexander Selkirk, born in 1676, whose adventures as a castaway inspired Daniel Defoe to create his famous story Robinson Crusoe.
  There was a strong shower, which dampened the burning fields and cooled the air enough for me to step up the pace beside the Leven Links, later finishing in town at 5 p.m. – my earliest night since joining the East Coast. I stayed at the Caledonian Hotel and after a lovely meal I ‘phoned John Woodcock explaining that I had been ill and that I would soon need some walking shoes. Most people felt that I should have stopped when ill, especially as there was a significant decline in the holiday trade this year. This proved detrimental to the fundraising cause, as most of the places I had stayed at were very quiet. It was also difficult trying to collect money at the end of a long day without the support of the charity whose presence was required to sanction the event. I appreciated the concern but my mind was focused to the point that nothing else registered other than the road and the distance I would walk each day to reach the appropriate landmarks. I simply willed myself to be fit and blanked out any such thoughts of retiring prematurely, thinking only of England and the trip across the border this coming Bank Holiday weekend.

21/8/97  LEVEN TO PORTOBELLO 46 MILES

It was a great start, though very wet. Keeping up a good pace I showed promise of reaching Edinburgh by 6 p.m. I used The Fife Coast Path and road at certain points of the journey so as to obtain the best views possible with no mist to spoil the day.
  It was a captivating adventure along Fife’s celebrated coastline where villages paid tribute to their fishing heritage and the unique ambience of the countryside created a sense of magic.  The journey to Kirkcaldy brushed the neighbourhoods of East and West Wemyss until reaching Fife’s largest town around midday.      
  My walk continued through Ravenscraig Park where the octagonal castle ruin was situated close-by at Pathhead Sands. On leaving the harbour I followed the road out of town, later returning to the coast via a lane. The shore route was excellent, as I took up the journey to Kinghorn: though there were a few tricky moments trying to negotiate the wet cliff tops with only walking shoes as footwear. Hemmed in by the train line, which prevented any sensible passage back to the road, I acknowledged the views, taking pictures of the ruined 15th century Seafield Tower, and a vessel passing behind protruding rocks. It was a joy to capture panoramic views amidst the sound of breaking tide, and on reaching Kinghorn, around 1.00 p.m. I stopped for a bowl of soup. I purchased some more film before setting off to Edinburgh and then ‘phoned for an escort at the Forth Bridge to help me take the correct access into the City. My maps were now soaking wet and I was given no written instructions on how to find my hotel.
  I made my exit from the town along the A921 to the historical Burntisland, an old port dating back to the 1st century when it was notably acquainted with Agricola and his legions. Though famed by its wartime history, its present day role was a peaceful one devoted to its visitors hosting many activities, including the Highland Games. Despite the many historical associations, Burntisland actually derived its name from the burning of its scrubland, which is aimed at making the land more productive. After leaving the town I enjoyed a lovely session beside the train line to Aberdour where I found an old traditional chemist sold me some ‘Flower of Sulphur’ powder, normally obsolete in the modern day pharmacies. He was an olde-worlde craftsman, carefully weighing the 2 oz of loose powder into a plastic container, for which I was happy to pay the sum of 50p. My only other stop was to obtain fish and chips at Inverkeithing, where in the distance, yet another great road bridge revealed itself, dominating the mixed scene of industrial sites and desolate bays that were scattered along the Firth of Forth.
  I managed to locate the cycle route and proceeded across the bridge, stopping occasionally to photograph the orange-coloured railway version to my left situated between North Queensferry and Queensferry.
  Sadly nobody was there to greet me and on leaving the bridge I foolishly followed the Edinburgh sign only to find 5 miles on that there was a long motorway journey and so I had to walk back to the bridge and start again. It was a difficult evening – longer than I needed, with the only interruption being a polite inquiry from a prostitute, outside the Port of Leith, as to whether or not I might require her services. I explained I was a little preoccupied at present but thanked her for the offer anyway. The night dragged on as I walked in darkness pursuing the lights on the horizon. The road meandered around Leith docks and on to Portobello, where I required several sets of instructions before locating my accommodation at the Lady Nairn Beefeater at 10.00 p.m. At this late hour I was not entitled to a meal and with my tolerance level at its lowest ebb I retired to my room.

                              
22/8/97  PORTOBELLO TO DUNBAR  27 MILES

The Spanish sounding resort of Portobello was founded by a sailor called George Hamilton in the 1700’s and is a popular location for the natives of Edinburgh who are attracted to its seaside charm. The town was alive with the usual hustle and bustle of city commuters as I commenced my journey that would extend as far as the seaports of Joppa and Musselburgh before joining the notorious A1.
  It was a nice sunny day – not too hot and easy walking through the built-up areas where the last place of distinction was the thriving town of Musselburgh, a seaport dating back to Roman times. It is said that the town folk once cared for the Earl of Moray; after his death the new Regent planned to compensate them. They declined the offer and in respect of their honesty the little burgh has since earned the title of ‘The Honest Town’.
  After leaving Musselburgh I managed to avoid the A1 by using the cycle route up to Tranent. From here I enjoyed another comfortable stint up to Haddington. Crossing the golf course at Haddington I used a country road up to Hailes, where I got a glimpse of the castle ruins, now accessible to the public. I left the quiet road to join the footpath along the river, where farmers were busy gathering their harvest above the bank. At East Linton I discovered to my delight that the cycle path was available all the way to Dunbar. It provided a reasonable journey, initiated by a National Trust building; where after, the remainder of the session as far as West Barns was completed in open countryside. I joined the A1087 for the final 2 miles of the day reaching Dunbar at 5.30 p.m., feeling somewhat disheartened after hearing about England’s poor batting performance in the final test match. I had to backtrack a little bit to find the Bayswell Hotel, where the owners made me most welcome, and we later posed for the press in the grounds overlooking some beautiful coastline.

 
 MAP 6
23/8/97 DUNBAR TO BERWICK-UPON-TWEED         37 MILES

Once a town where English and Scots met only in battle, Dunbar now has a peaceful grip of an area centred on fishing and tourism, yet retaining the antiquated charm of an old-fashioned resort. One of the fascinations with Scotland is the failure of the modern world to disguise its tumultuous past: though ancient battlegrounds may fade beneath the land of development, many monuments and buildings still remain to tell its story. The town’s old castle still serves as a reminder of its turbulent history when it was once the home of Mary Queen of Scots, the heroine whose beauty inspired many to lyrical verse. Joyful at the prospect of savouring the final glimpses of Scotland I set off to walk the slim coast trail that bordered the golf course.
  It was a cooler day for walking and the early attempt to follow the coastline in preference to the harsh laws of the A1 proved to be beneficial. It was a reasonable journey up past the lighthouse at Barns Ness and round the power station, where I gazed back at the view of Dunbar perched nicely in the distance above the rocky shore.
  I met difficulties beyond the Torness power station when I walked part of the beach, eventually having to ascend onto farmland to join an old road beside the A1. I had a brief encounter with the A1 but managed to locate the correct turning onto the A1107 coast trail. Having lost the map, I needed to put my faith in a route that cut across the open countryside of Coldingham Moor, accommodating only a small holiday centre and the village of Coldingham itself. Checking my route I conferred with a cyclist who had stopped in search of a spot of lunch at the local pub. It was a fine old village, and home to an old priory restored during the 11th century and now deemed as one of the area’s finest possessions. I could not find a shop and so marched a further 3 miles to Eyemouth, where I was able to buy some water. The town looked busy, and despite another shower, its narrow streets bustled with afternoon pedestrians. I had no desire to follow the road and so climbed up onto a cliff route overlooking the golf course where, to my astonishment, there was still a decent turnout. The scene to the left of the cliffs looked more sinister as the eerie black clouds loomed above the small vessels dotted around the harbour.
  I wanted to stop and rest but it was now raining and so I pressed on, continuing along the muddy coast path that divided farmland from the cliffs and allowed me the privilege of viewing the shore below. I spotted a lane leading from Burnmouth to a little harbour, where sea gulls perched on fishing boats waiting for the inevitable storm.
  From here I settled for a small dose of the A1 scanning the cliffs below that now revealed the main-line railway. It was an unsavoury along the road until it became dual carriageway: then at least it was a touch better for walking and I still arrived at my hotel before 7 p.m. This was good given the choice of route, which at times was strenuous.
  I was now on English soil, though unable to spot any significant demarcation during my journey by road. I enjoyed my first English meal at the Kings Arms Hotel and afterwards arranged to have some of my winter gear collected by Macmillan and hopefully returned to Oundle at a later date. I did not realise it then, but it was in fact my last correspondence with the charity until arriving back in Cornwall in October.

24/8/97  BERWICK-UPON-TWEED TO SEAHOUSES  24 MILES

THE KINGDOM CALLS

Berwick is England’s most northerly town, yet it retains a strong Scottish character, more obviously detected by its name and the accents of its people. The town’s tranquillity was a far cry from the tumultuous Middle Ages when its ownership frequently changed hands between England and Scotland.
  These fine old streets had survived years of unsettled history, standing defiantly against those invincible enemies Change and Time. The morning air was cool as I crossed into Tweedmouth on the old 17th century bridge (one of three bridges in a line) built in honour of James I. Having made my first steps of the day I was promptly greeted by a resourceful old gentleman who was a mountain of knowledge. He ensured I was following the correct course and had a good grasp of local geography, which I am glad to say, was useful to me throughout the day.
  Initially I enjoyed a good trot to Scremerston, after which I was forced to join the A1 where the busy exodus of Bank Holiday travellers continued to make an impact on this historical county. It was strange treading English soil after the epic six-week tour of Scotland, where in addition to walking, I also had to survive a huge dose of hospitality!
  My knee was completely numb now – I suppose I must have worn down all the nerves that were singing out in pain over these past months.
  Eventually I came to the coast trail overlooking the famous Holy Island, home to many types of wading birds and the famous Lindisfarne Castle, built as a fort in 1540 but later restored at the turn of this century as a private residence.  The island provided an interesting concept in so far as it was only accessible by foot for half the day thus the lives of its inhabitants remained governed by the restrictions of the tide. The coast path skirted Budle Bay revealing the excellent coastline, and later I joined the road that eventually guided me to the village of Bamburgh.
  The shops were quite busy and I stopped at a grocery store to obtain some fruit: it was here that I heard the joyful news of England’s unlikely victory over Australia, which was snatched from the jaws of defeat. I left the shop with more than I bargained for when a persistent wasp circled my apple as I clasped my hands tightly around it, only to feel the sharp sensation of pain.
  The village was endowed with ancient charm, its attractive green lined with 18th century cottages and distinguished by its long magnificent castle that covered 8 acres of land. I continued along the coast road, leaving the bustle of the village behind as the cars pulled up opposite the castle to admire its grandeur. Three miles from here I arrived at the picturesque little working port of Seahouses, where I was accommodated at the Olde Ship Inn, above the crowded harbour.
It was a superb inn steeped in medieval character, and after a brief tour I was allowed to enjoy the luxury of a bubble bath before dining in the lounge bar below. The village was a popular location presently patronised by Bank Holiday weekenders enjoying the last summer season break. The main attraction appeared to be the harbour, though there were many interesting little shops to visit and the street remained busy for the rest of the day.

25/8/97  SEAHOUSES TO WARKWORTH       20 MILES

Greeted by another fine day I departed from the Olde Ship Inn having enjoyed a very relaxing time in a good pub atmosphere. It was clearly an attraction that the village enjoyed its relationship with the sea, where despite the amusement arcade, its charm remained largely unspoiled. Following the road to Beadnell I noticed the occasional cyclist and a family who were busy picking blackberries: a sign that summer was drawing to a close.
  Passing a holiday settlement, I rejoined the B1340 at Beadnell, where people were making their way to the popular beach resources. From here I walked along the road passing through Embelton and Longhoughton as the constant flow of Bank Holiday traffic bore deep into the countryside. This became something of a problem during the last hour of the day with the bendy road causing me to cross frequently so as to remain visible. This made little difference to some of the users: one young lad nearly ran into me, completely unaware of a potential accident – his view obscured by his girlfriend clinging to his lips throughout the incident – both will have little future on the road and maybe even a sad lesson to learn.
  Arriving at Warkworth at the unusually early time of 2.30 p.m., I spent an hour or so admiring the bustling little village defined by its ancient castle ruin rising above the Sun Hotel where I spent the rest of the day.
  Isabel, the landlady, looked after me well and her son was interested in my journey so far, asking what I thought of the area. I explained that I was very impressed and intent on walking the shores and coastal paths from now on. Later I strolled through the village, visiting its crowded shops and eventually taking a look inside the castle grounds, which had been hosting a Bank Holiday jousting tournament.

26/8/97   WARKWORTH TO BLYTH 24 MILES

I decided to walk the coastline to Lynemouth as the day showed promise amidst the radiant sun and the sparkle of the sea, giving me a break from the pressures of the road that would surely appear again at Newcastle.
  Commencing on the road I left the impressive town of Warkworth along the line of the Coquet Estuary to Amble, whose history is based on the coal industry: once there existed as many as 80 mine shafts between Hauxley and Amble. The land no longer yielded coal and since their closures the town had grown content with a lifestyle adhering to the fishing and boat-building industries. From here I used a sand dune path and the beach for part of the journey, sharing the views with local walkers now making the most of a splendid day. Coasting the sand I felt at peace with the world, where the flashing lighthouse on Coquet Island, and squabbling birds hovering beneath the clear blue sky were all that caught my gaze.
  Later I joined a road, which led to a small village where only a footpath was available. It was an interesting detour, skirting a campsite and joining a Country Park. Eventually leaving the park I walked the final few miles to Cresswell along the white sands of Druridge Bay where the refreshing breeze and emptiness cast its own magic spell.
  Joining a road at Cresswell I walked up through the industrial areas around Lynemouth, where the land was scarred by coal works and the skyline dominated by chimneys and pylons. It was a horrifying transition from castles and fishing villages to the modern industrial world that is a constant demand on the sea’s resources. A van driver stopped and asked if I had seen the entrance to the power station. I could offer little help on these delicate matters of security but explained that I had seen other vehicles leaving further back beyond the town. The remainder of the journey was taken up on a cycle route next to the dual carriageway, where I stared less willingly at the industrial face of the northeast. The path was interrupted by a new bridge construction and I was forced back on to the road to endure a harsh session amidst city-bound traffic. It was a stressful period until leaving the carriageway at a bridge junction where I joined the A193 to make a 2-mile detour into Blyth, finding my accommodation at the Ridley Park Hotel at 4 p.m.

27/8/97  BLYTH TO SUNDERLAND 26 MILES

Although wet and blustery the coastline remained outstanding, yet it seemed to lack the credibility it deserves. Despite the presence of industry I enjoyed a journey derived from hearty seafaring townships that had survived the innovations of contemporary life. It grew wet and windy nearing the lifeboat station, next to follow the promenades along Whitley Bay where it was a pleasure to walk through a town full of friendly people. Stopping for 20 minutes I chatted to a lady in the health shop explaining that I knew the area having worked in the shipping business for several years. The Bisley Cleaning Company often stayed opposite Easy Street at the Avalon Hotel. Heading off via Tynemouth, I photographed the 11th century ruins of the priory, built by Benedictines on the same site as a 7th century monastery.
  At North Shields I followed the road up to the Jarrow pedestrian tunnel, which allowed me access beneath the Tyne. I then walked 5 miles into the busy town of South Shields and spent the afternoon in the company of Nora and Karen – work friends from Bizley Cleaning Company, who had also stayed at Whitley Bay. They gave me suitable directions through the town, and passing by the hall I saw the great monument of Queen Victoria and the sign indicating my route back to the coast. I also hold fond memories of this town, where in the mid-eighties I worked on the P.O. ships alongside Richard Bizley and Alan Double. It was nice to recapture thoughts of the past as my journey moved forward once again, returning to the coast to find adequate coast paths/cycle routes.
  The first phase followed the promenades and road until I joined a path around the cliff top, which extended 3 miles to the lighthouse at Souter Point. It was ideal coastal walking suitable for most types of people and adequately patronised despite the inconsistencies of the weather. Returning to the road I used the cycle route for the remainder of the journey through Whitburn and on to Sunderland, where I finished the day at 6.15 p.m.
  I spent an excellent evening at Sunderland, first talking to the local press at the Mayfield Hotel then indulging in a fish and chip supper after which I found a good pub close by and drank five pints of Guinness to celebrate the pleasures of the day.

 
 MAP 7
28/8/97    SUNDERLAND TO HARTLEPOOL 24 MILES

The day commenced with a photo session held by the press at the seafront, from where I continued to walk as far as the city itself. Approaching the Wearmouth Bridge I looked down on the River Wear below, where the banks had provided a natural base for a major shipbuilding centre. The bridge was an excellent focal point, revealing the secrets of a prospering industry in a town that had significantly expanded since the Second World War bombing. In contrast to yesterday I was now walking in the midst of a sunny late summer’s morning using the coast road that led to Seaham.
  The road was uneventful and I was simply happy to arrive at Seaham for a lunch break after which I stopped at a sweet shop to seek advice about the coast path. I was introduced to a local gentleman who gave me an extensive overview of the area involving an expedition through Durham’s coal mining past. It was, in fact, as dramatic as it sounded, leading me to discover a right of way sign in the middle of a busy construction site now destined to change the face of the land.  The noisy motions of the machinery proved quite distracting as I cautiously made my way to the edge of the cliffs, eventually finding the coastal trail.
  The journey upon the cliff top proved its worth as the murmurs of industry where soon drowned out by the chorus of the sea challenging its shores. Skirting a railway line, the path made a steep descent on to the beach where I paused for a while. Following a trail beneath a huge viaduct I met two people walking towards me, hacking through the tangled growth with their staffs. I wasn’t entirely sure they were enjoying their walk, which was aimed at leading their dog to the shore. But they seemed cheerful enough and no doubt spent the remainder of their time on the beach in marital bliss. Climbing back up to the viaduct, I passed underneath one of its arches so as to resume my journey to Easington. I stopped for a moment to admire the amazing creation that is claimed to be the second largest brick arch single span in Britain. I photographed the National Trust sign by the viaduct and continued along the path, noticing two other people who were on a blackberry-picking mission. It was a pleasant easy walk marred only by the agony of nerve endings in my heel, which created havoc all day long on every movement. At Easington I was able to use the pavement beside the coast road: my route for the rest of the way to Hartlepool where industrial Cleveland dominated the shoreline. Tomorrow would be a taxing day beside a busy dual carriageway and so I ensured that I had sufficient time to relax at the York Hotel, where I finished the journey in agony at 5.30 p.m.
  I spoke to a couple of contractors at the bar, one of whom came from Caithness, which allowed me the opportunity of reciting the events pertaining to the epic land march to John O’Groats. He simply smiled, acknowledging the bleakness of a countryside so desolate and baron, yet one, which he loved with a passion.

29/8/97  HARTLEPOOL TO LOFTUS 30 MILES

I started late at 10.30 a.m., owing to an extensive interview with the press concerning my travels in the northeast. It was windy but remained dry, which was one small blessing as I faced up to the momentum of heavy traffic in a major industrial environment. Great towers and cranes overlooked the horizon, and the Transporter Bridge was ferrying cars and pedestrians across to Middlesbrough. I chose the long route into town incurring extra 5 miles, showing commitment to the programme, thus avoiding an unnecessary journey across the water.  I had also assigned myself to the bulk of fundraising and press releases owing to the absence of Macmillan officials, who had not corresponded for over a week.
  The roads were hell to deal with, surrounded by the abstract scenery of chemical and steel works, which denied me any sensible access until reaching Grangetown where the cycle routes came into play. This note of sanity in a totally mad world was greeted like a breath of fresh air allowing me to relax sufficiently during the afternoon session, which ended at the more recreational setting of Redcar.
  The dramatic contrasting scenery no longer exhibited towns dwarfed by the stereotype industry of the north-east as the journey resumed back on the coastline, where I walked the beach staring out towards the wooden groynes. Despite a sandstorm it offered a satisfying break from the hard surface of the road, enabling me to appreciate the cleaner cool air. On the promenade people were enjoying the remainder of a fine evening before pursuing the nightlife of local pubs and clubs. Passing beneath the attractive village of Marske-by-the-Sea, later rising above the pier at Saltburn, I opted to walk the remainder of the journey to Loftus along the undulating, winding coast road. I trundled on through Brotton, stopping for a snack and drink at the Spar shop before descending into the working village of Skinningrove, where steel works now preside over mining. I walked under a railway bridge and negotiated another hilly section, looking down on the small pockets of life. I eventually arrived at the village of Loftus. At the end of the town I came to a standstill at the White Horse, my allocated stop, completing just over 30 miles for the day at 8 p.m.

30/8/97   LOFTUS TO WHITBY 16 MILES

Leaving around 9 a.m., I knew that I had only a short day to complete. As I walked the outskirts of the town, some idiot pulled up in a car asking if I would like to cheat a few miles of the walk. I was so mad I couldn’t even look at the man, totally ignoring him as he drove off in a huff.
  It was a different journey to the previous year, pursued along the Cleveland Way, but the undulating road exposed me to many fine villages, the most attractive of which is Staithes, lying to the left of the road and descending back to the shore.  I remembered the old James Cook fishing village with its tall houses and slim alleyways nestling beneath the crumbling cliffs of the Cleveland Way – a sight that typified the fishing villages of the Yorkshire coast. I followed the course of the road through Hinderwell and Runswick; the latter had grown up in the shadow of a lamenting tale about an earlier village, which slipped into the sea in 1662, disappearing forever. I joined the beach at Sandsend and the spirit of summer was instantly recalled, with many visitors indulging in the pleasures of the sea.
  There was a bit of footpath between Sandsend to Whitby, which revealed some of the secrets as to why this coastline remained so popular. It was certainly no mystery when one could observe the many people who were playing golf, walking the Cleveland Way or simply occupying the beach between the two towns. Whitby glistened like a jewel in the presence of its visitors, where even in the twilight of the season it remained totally devoted to the holidaymaker.

31/8/97  WHITBY TO FILEY 26 MILES

The weather was wet and windy initially. I used the coast road as far as the Robin Hood’s Bay turn off, next taking the B road into this old-style smuggler’s village, which was flanked by rocks and red cliffs. Legend dictates that brave Sir Robin came to Whitby to join the Abbot’s crusade against the Danish invaders, though its more recent history pertains to the smuggling era of the 18th century.
  From here it was tough going on the slippery Cleveland Way footpath, which led me onto a slim road. At the top of the hill a couple explained that my best option would be the walk to Scarborough on the old railway line, which is now a cycle trail. I was delighted with this news, not realising I could in fact have started on it at Whitby. It provided an excellent alternative route to the Cleveland Way, which I walked the previous year.
  Picking up my bearings from the coast centre at Ravenscar, I headed up Station Road to rejoin the path. I walked a good 8 miles along this excellent path, though I was annoyed by the interruption of motorcyclists who were ploughing up the muddy surface. I stopped at the old railway station near Cloughton, which is now a residential property as well as a café. There were many fine relics displayed around the building including an old bench from Goathland station. Stopping for a half hour break, I consumed tea with a slice of malt loaf before progressing to Burniston on the outskirts of Scarborough. I was slightly confused by the path, which abruptly halted at the road in the middle of the village. I picked up further directions from a family and we chatted for a good half hour. It was here that I learned of the tragic death of Princess Diana: having not seen the news for two days I had no idea of the incident. I was shaken beyond belief and totally disheartened for the rest of the day.
  Rain came down heavily at Scarborough as I gazed blankly at the lofting hotels. It had changed little since my last visit, the town still retaining affluent charm with the busy streets lined with hotels that distinguish it as the oldest holiday resort in the country. The traffic remained constant but I had reasonable access for most of the way to Filey, where there were few landmarks, barring the holiday camp at Cayton Bay.
  Filey was at war with the elements as the sea wall braved the onslaught of the North Sea whose ominous presence had captivated the more distant audiences, who were content to view its might from the shelter of their hotels. Arriving at the sea front, I found my location at the Southdown Hotel around 6 p.m.

1/9/97 FILEY TO HORNSEA 27 MILES

The wrath of the weather had now subsided as I followed the line of Victorian terraced buildings back to the main street where I was able to obtain some photocopies of recent press releases and diaries. The road still remained hostile, occupied by speeding traffic forcing me towards the hedgerows and ditches. Fortunately there was sufficient footpath for most of the journey to Bridlington, where I could at least choose a shore route.
  The seaside image, forged by many fine old buildings, some of which had been converted into guesthouses, conjured up the idyllic holiday atmosphere. Visitors languished on deckchairs near beachside cafes as I prepared to embark on a journey that would reveal only sea and sand for 15 miles. It was a difficult trek as I constantly strove to find firm sand to walk on, avoiding the sundry obstacles and debris that the tide had washed up on its previous visit. As Bridlington diminished behind me a caravan site came into view, perched precariously upon the crumbling seawall. Even the concrete repairs must have invoked a rye smile from King Neptune as his relentless waves ate their way into the eroding cliffs. Between Skipsea and Hornsea the beach was sparsely occupied, most participants were either dog walkers or fisherman. Without realising I was soon to find the shore narrowing as the incoming tide rolled in towards the cliffs. There were a few anxious moments as I searched desperately for an escape route, luckily finding a set of steps leading to another caravan site. Thereafter the sea engulfed the shoreline and I could not return to it until a mile or so from the promenade at Hornsea, where I finished the day at the Marine Hotel at 5.40 p.m.

2/9/97 HORNSEA TO HABROUGH 40 MILES 

Hornsea is one of my favourite places; it has a lovely promenade, the hotel I stayed at was fantastic, and although inheriting my visit from the previous owners, my hosts provided an excellent service, looking after me well. They were originally from the northeast and so I was able to give news of their native land and the pleasure it had given me throughout the course of my walk.
  It was a lovely sunny day and I was able to use my experience by adding variety to my route. I started out on the old Hull Road overlooking Hornsea Mere, an attractive leisure spot, developed from Yorkshire’s largest freshwater lake, where fishing and sailing are popular pastimes.
  Eventually I left the road in exchange for a dismantled railway track, which would take me all the way into Hull. Not far from Great Hatfield a lady joined me for a chat, discussing charity work and also the hidden secrets of the local countryside. Most places en route were small, mustering only a few buildings and occasionally a shop as the journey took its course near to the villages of Ellerby and Swine, eventually arriving at the edge of the town near Sutton on Hull. It was a good morning session in the country, later giving way to the busy streets of Hull, where another lady walker issued instructions which would lead me to the banks of the Humber. From here I could walk to Hessle Bridge free from traffic.
  Hull was a mixture of old and new buildings with some of its recent developments sprawled along the riverbank. I rested at the St. Andrew’s quay, photographing the statue before stopping for lunch. Many white-collar workers had chosen this location to escape from their office blocks and enjoy the harmony of the water.
  After a lunch of pie and chips I followed the trail to the marina, crossing the locks into the dockyard where I continued my walk by the water’s edge with the bridge now in close proximity. Then, struggling through the uneven ground along the Humber bank, I managed to find the exit via the Humber Bridge country park, gaining access to the bridge around 3.15 p.m. On reaching the other side, I followed a dead-end road where I used a right of way through farmland into Barrow Haven. The remainder of the journey developed into a ceremony of walking the familiar main roads through Ulceby and Habrough, but I was at least content with the knowledge that accommodation was secured at the end of each day. Leaving the carriageway to walk another farm trail, which led to the village of Habrough, I finished before dark (8.00 p.m.) at the popular Horse and Hounds Hotel.

 
3/9/97 HABROUGH TO MABLETHORPE  40 MILES

After a good chat with the staff I departed from this charming inn, joining the old Grimsby road to endure a tough day in what seemed to be an eternal head wind, a fate I had suffered on both coasts. It was quite wet and miserable as I made the initial journey along the B1210 via Great Coates, which preceded the town centre. Although the town’s name was not derived from the inadequacies of the weather, today ‘Grim’ was the appropriate word to emulate this great fishing capital of the east coast. It was once the largest fishing port in the country, cultivated by the Danish fisherman named Grim who landed here 1000 years ago to trade his hard earned catch.  Rain dripped from my hood as I waited for the train to pass over the road, where after, I proceeded to Cleethorpes choosing the coast road in preference to the beach. This at least enabled me to visit new places, in contrast to the ones I had seen on my previous expeditions.
  There were only small communities throughout. Two that I recall were Tetney and North Cotes, stationed along the flat open ground that offered little shelter and no facilities until I reached the scattered farming community of North Somercotes. I progressed comfortably to Saltfleet, crossing over the dyke and taking the beach path to the shore, where I embraced heavy winds. I felt as if I had walked more steps backward than forward along the soft sand, which lies beneath the popular dunes. On a fine summer’s day the beach would attract up to 50,000 people, though it wasn’t the sanest of places right now. Walking the open shore in these conditions seemed ridiculous enough until I met two people casting their lines across the bare beach with the sea a good 400 yards away! Later, Approaching Mablethorpe, I saw a chap in a suit and tie wandering by the water’s edge: next time I looked across he was in the sea up to his waist! It was just one of those days, and the 40 miles I had walked felt like 60 and so my relationship with the weather regressed even further: there was certainly no love lost between the wind and myself. It was a rewarding evening, however, as I rekindled fond childhood memories spent at the Golden Sands holiday site, where most of my adventures took place at Mablethorpe. The fairground still had its seaside charm, extending to the arcades linked to the main street, and it was a lovely walk up the promenade to the Aviralee Hotel, where I stayed that evening. So great was the nostalgia that I returned later for a peaceful drink at a pub near the promenade where I dwelled upon fond memories of a childhood gone by.

4/9/97  MABLETHORPE TO STICKNEY  26 MILES 

After a breakfast chat with other residents it was time to say farewell as I renewed myself to the task of reaching the inland destination of Stickney near Boston.
   Initially the journey commenced on the coast but only as far as Sutton-on-Sea, a quieter version of Mablethorpe, with pleasure gardens that lined the promenade. Sadly the beach was less flattering with wooden groynes stepping back to the sea as the coastline sprawls south to Skegness.
  At Sutton I branched off on the A111 to Alford, where I used the back roads to reacquaint myself with the peacefulness of the countryside.
  There were many small villages that would have remained anonymous to me had I continued along the coast. Each place was a product of farm life, bearing many old-style buildings and traditional elements. I followed the country roads for about 6 miles between Langton and Keal junction, and then returned to the busy A16 to finish the day. It was a shorter session than I had anticipated, even though walking the A16 was not a pleasant experience; but it was good to see the odd windmill, once symbolic of the fenland life. I arrived to a warm welcome at Mill House in Stickney, at 4.30 p.m. After I had had a relaxing warm bath, we all talked cheerfully together at teatime, and later enjoyed a pint at the local inn next door, where my host was once the landlady.

5/9/97 STICKNEY TO KINGS LYNN  45 MILES
 
Expressing concern over the lack of publicity and fundraising assistance, my hosts explained that it would be difficult to help in the collection department, especially as they were situated in such a small locality. I tried not to dwell on the problem, though I had heard the same lines on occasions before and each time it became a little disconcerting, often deflating my ego.
  Setting off in warm weather along that formidable A16, I passed the General Hospital, and soon after the red brick Georgian houses of Boston came into focus. After reaching Boston, capital of the east coast, at 11.30 a.m., I spent an hour with the press, relaying the whole event. I was now left to ponder over the sobering thought that, although it was my lunch interval, I still had to complete 35 miles to finish the day! Now poised to leave the town centre of this modern day port, I photographed the Boston Stump, parish church of St. Boltolph’s, which was presently under restoration. A tough journey beckoned with the intensity of the Friday traffic gathering a strong momentum. The road was like hell on earth from Algarkirk through to Long Sutton, only escaping to minor lanes for the odd couple of miles. Despite the unpleasantness I continued with imperturbable stolidity, realising the value of concentration and a stubborn will.
  After stopping for sandwiches and tea at a motel at Ongar Gedney, I put on a good spurt to reach the Sutton Bridge, using the A17, and later the B road. At this stage light was fading significantly and it was lucky that I knew the route, the first part of which was taken up on the cycle (old railway line) track down to Warpole Cross Keys. I later walked the old road to Kings Lynn, which contained a footpath virtually all the way. As darkness fell I was subjected to a storm, though lightening remained distant throughout. I remembered not to go into West Lynn, and from that point it was simply a geographical sequence pertaining to the town itself; all of which I covered extensively last year, though I did need an occasional reminder from local inhabitants. It had been a daunting task in perilous conditions and I was relieved to enter the Tudor Rose Hotel, which was aptly titled and equally charming to conform to its ancient town.
MAP 8
6/9/97 KINGS LYNN TO THORNHAM  20 MILES

 It had been a remarkable achievement completing this dangerous journey along busy main roads, and I felt relieved to be moving back to the coast, having enjoyed a very brief stay at this delightful residence. This Georgian town, built on the banks of the Ouse, still emanates the character of a port, despite living in the realms of modern life. Here the weekend is still celebrated with markets and fairs, and I was happy to walk through the bustling town before returning to the country villages that possessed their own special charm.
   It was a warm day and I was content to use the back roads via Castle Rising, Dersingham and Sedgeford.  Everywhere was closed as a tribute to Lady Diana, but the main road appeared to be quite busy. I kept thinking about the daunting sight of her coffin travelling down the M1 back to our home county, Northamptonshire.
  The last 6 miles were painful, with my feet starting to blister quite badly, though I managed to reach the Lifeboat Inn at Thornham by 2.30 p.m. where, surprisingly, there was a wedding reception in progress. After my meal Dr. Barry Williams ‘phoned to see if he could join me for tomorrow’s session along the Norfolk coast to Overstrand. I was delighted with the prospect of having some company and was surprised when he arrived within the hour, his girlfriend Elaine dropping him off at the Lifeboat Inn. It was an excellent pub and we spent the evening talking to guests: one lady who showed a genuine interest had endured several operations, which had saved her from cancer. We were invited to join them for a meal and spent the whole evening talking until it was time to retire, now with thoughts of a stiff journey coming to the foreground of our minds. There was much to tell of Oundle since my journey began and I was upset to hear the sad news about a friend called Clive, who had died in a fire incident.
 
7/9/97 THORNHAM TO OVERSTRAND      40 MILES

Nigel Laxton, nicknamed Fanner, and his wife Cathy arrived at the breakfast table, eager to join us on an epic journey along the Norfolk coast path which would reveal the excellent resources of the land in one of England’s finest counties. The lads were keen and ready as we started the first session along the road to Brancaster where we linked with Cathy and planned a rendezvous at Overy Staithes. This section proved a little counter-productive with the horseshoe effect of the trail, and it was a wearing task for Barry who had little time to adjust to the footslogging lifestyle. As he was failing to understand why I had chosen such an indirect course, I explained to him that it would be wiser to exchange the perils of a road journey for the solitude of the coast path, which was shared largely with boaters and birdwatchers. We all appreciated the harmony of the coast; the affinity between bird watchers and boating fanatics created another social dimension. The windmill in the distance seemed to take an age to reach though we were relieved to sit a while on the shore at Overy, one of Norfolk’s most alluring villages.
  The next episode was tougher still as we joined the beach at Holkham Bay, which proved difficult initially, until we found firm sand to walk on. Barry, however, who had been lagging behind, found a footpath through the pinewoods covering Holkham Meals, and arrived at Wells-next-the-Sea before us. We could see him crossing the fields as we walked towards the quay, which was a bustling mass of shops and arcades stifling with people. We met our friends from the previous evening at the Lifeboat Inn but there was no sign of Cathy and after an hour we plodded on to Blakeney. Barry remained behind: feeling the pressure of a military-style walk, he decided to wait for Cathy.
  It was a rewarding trip, despite the concern over Cathy, who we thought had been delayed by traffic owing to the recent influx of visitors in the area. Our next section negotiated Stiffkey salt marshes where other walkers were enjoying the mournful beauty of the land. Nigel was familiar with some of the plant life and explained that certain properties contained in the sea growth were beneficial to the human body. As the journey gained momentum in the heat of the day we drew solace and composure from the sight of the small vessels moored by the shore of Blakeney.
  Blakeney, once a thriving port, was now content to serve the tourists and long distance walkers, many of whom had gathered near to the shore to obtain refreshment served from mobile vans and a nearby shop.
   Nigel was feeling the pressure and we were now both concerned about Cathy, reeling through all the possibilities relating to her absence. We did not pursue the coast after leaving Blakeney, owing to the many complications that lay ahead, though the decision was largely prompted by the need to find the elusive Cathy. The lovely windmill at Cley-next-the-Sea was a cheerful sight, standing proud at the foot of the marshlands that had become a Mecca for birdwatchers. In diminishing daylight we gathered haste along the busy coast road, which we used in preference to the deep shingle shore between Cley and Sheringham. We could hear the sound of the steam train rolling over its engines in near proximity, and came across a tank called the ‘Iron Duke’ outside a military location. It was an appropriate feature symbolic of the effort and Fanner insisted on taking a photograph of me beside it. Darkness fell as we neared Sheringham eventually catching sight of Cathy, who had, in fact, been to the hotel at Overstrand to greet John Woodcock, whom we had hoped to see earlier. I was at last able to change into some trainers which John had provided, my boots were a little small, causing pain to my toes, and with the great relief I was able to run the remaining 6 miles! At Sheringham Fanner decided to call it a day, he had walked nearly 40 miles and, to be fair, it wasn’t his show, but he agreed to meet me at the hotel for a drink before returning home. At least he would have John and Verna to greet him at the splendid Sea Marge Hotel. My rucksack was now safely instilled in the confines of the hotel, and so, I ran the remaining miles beyond the lighted town of Cromer, eventually arriving at Overstrand around 9 p.m. It was a joyful re-union with John and Verna who had planned to follow me for the next two days. We discussed the day’s events over a couple of beers giving thoughts to Nigel’s plastering adventure with a mutual friend called Tim, due to begin in a few hours time! It was great to see some friendly faces, and at last I could see the light at the end of a very long tunnel.

8/9/97 OVERSTRAND TO GREAT YARMOUTH          33 MILES

Today was a big occasion – my 100th day on the road! With my walking pals heading back to work I was left to cope with the familiar loneliness of the coast which would realise a further 30 miles.  Four miles into the day I reached Mundesley, the base for the coastguard lookout station, which was presently the focus of police personnel investigating a sea incident. I chose to spend the day walking the beach/sea wall, feeling convinced that this was the most effective option. I also remembered last year’s episode along this coast when I walked for 36 hours solid, totalling over 80 miles. Then it was just another day in the life of Robin Moore on his epic marathon round England: but now I looked back with a sense of pride and satisfaction as I passed many landmarks that reminded me of the occasion.
  It was very hot, and I got slightly burnt, stopping only once for a 20-minute nap. It was a lovely walk as I recapped on the previous year’s experience, when the journey formed part of the 80-mile distance between Hunstanton and Great Yarmouth. Most of the time I walked the concrete path next to the beach. When the path disappeared beneath the soft sand I would head out towards the sea where the dampened surface was usually firm enough to walk on. There were only small pockets of life, often small groups and dog walkers ambling aimlessly past the groynes and other obstacles interspersed along the beach. Years ago I would have expected to see donkey rides though it was now the end of season, and the children were all back at school, transforming the beach into a quieter domain where many come to empty their thoughts. The soft sand slowed me down as I tried to reach firm ground only to risk being cut off by a water margin forming a stream across the beach. Finally the hard sand emerged at California and I enjoyed the remaining walk to Caister. Joining the thoroughfare I arrived at the Star Hotel completing over 30 miles by 7 p.m. John later explained that police presence at Mundesley could have been associated with a body found along the Norfolk Coast Path.
  After discussing my P.R. programme, he issued me with the addresses of the remaining accommodation. This included a stop on the south bank of the Thames, which he said might require a ferry crossing or transportation. I hoped that this would not be the case as I had avoided passage across water so far though I knew that I had a huge distance to cover between London and Kent. It was also agreed that I would not walk through the City this year; it was, after all, the highlight of the previous year’s walk.
9/9/97 GREAT YARMOUTH TO LEISTON      34 MILES

Bading farewell to John and Verna, I gave my interview to the Yarmouth Mercury and then ambled through the heavy maze of traffic, with thoughts of escaping from town without having to use the A12. It was a nice warm day again as I pressed on to Gorleston, a quieter version of Yarmouth, where the beach was also protected by the strategic placing of groynes. The good weather prompted me to advance down the sea front from Gorleston to Lowestoft. Some of the journey took shape along the cliffs though I was eager to return to the beach, already quite heavily populated owing to the belated summer. The trip grew arduous when the beach later became shingle involving a balancing act on the slanted sea wall, in order to remain clear of the advancing tide. Leaving the shore I entered the town, remaining long enough to enjoy fish and chips.   As the division between coastline and town grew I returned to the road, where for the second part of the journey I was able to use a cycle route. I passed through the village of Kessingland, skirting the Suffolk Wildlife and Country Park. Later the A12 became impossible, especially on the stroke of teatime, though I managed to join a B road at Blythburgh where traffic appeared to be less threatening. The B1125 passed through the peaceful haven of Westleton, where its pub and the pond on the green still give credibility to village life. Fulfilling the aspirations of country tradition, these small places live on devoid of time and their interaction with the modern world. It is always a pleasure leaving great towns and cities to find smaller communities in the countryside that exist now much the same as they did a century ago.
   Darkness was imminent, though the sky was clear and the moon assisted my passage as I neared the ghostly ruins of Leiston Abbey. Crossing a railway line at the foot of the town I then proceeded vigilantly until arriving at The White Horse of Leiston at 8 p.m.

MAP 9
10/9/97 LEISTON TO IPSWICH    24 MILES

On this bright summer’s day I was able to enjoy the Suffolk countryside along the less hazardous B road to the Victorian village of Snape Maltings, whose red brick buildings nestled at the foot of the River Alde. The village owes its existence to the Arts, particularly music: though this brief visit allowed only enough time to stop and gaze at a craft shop before departing on the B1069 to Tunstall.
   At Tunstall I transferred to the A1152, which I followed amidst the thicket of traffic, until arriving at the picturesque town of Woodbridge set by the River Deben. Its name is said to derive from the Anglo-Saxon Wodun Burh and like many small ports and towns in the region it enjoys a fervent relationship with water. The whole area was interspersed with attractive boatyards, marinas and regattas housing a variety of colourful vessels.
   After stopping for refreshment I followed the road out of this quiet little place where, later, I was able to use the cycle path into Ipswich. The afternoon session was a reasonable one, and I arrived at the Suffolk county town around 4 p.m. amidst the bustle of fair-weather shoppers.
   This ancient Anglo Saxon town grew up as England’s largest port and later became noted for its wool trade. These days the dock still handled goods, though the construction of Orwell Bridge and the modern roads provided a more conventional dimension to shipping. Ipswich was also the birth town of Cardinal Wolsey, and the Tudor characteristics of many buildings remained visible throughout the journey.
   I had difficulty in locating the correct access out of Ipswich and had to retreat to the tourist office, which was situated in an old church building opposite the Buttery Supermarket. When I received my instructions I was soon on track for Wherstead, where I located the Travel Lodge near to the Manningtree Junction.

11/9/97 IPSWICH TO COLCHESTER       16 MILES

Starting the day with some P.R work, I arranged to link up with the Colchester Daily Mail and booked a radio interview for the next week as I was now destined to become the last person to have walked around the country before it was devolved into separate kingdoms. I might well have been the first person to do so under a new government; it was certainly an historical walk full of incident and significant change, though some of which was regrettably sad. The receptionist was keen to join the fundraising bonanza and so it was a late start but there was little stress, owing to the fact that it was to be a short day of only 16 miles. Following the coast road, I sidestepped Manningtree, a modest Georgian town set back from the clinical world of the A12.  There were other small villages in the county of Essex, where the Tudor era still lived on with its lucarned buildings masking the intensity of imminent city life: at least until arriving at the A12 crossover. Thankfully I required the carriageway as far as my destination at the Travel Lodge, which was situated on the outskirts of Colchester. Finishing early at 2.40 p.m., allowed me a chance to unwind and write my diary before negotiating the stressful elements of the ‘Big City’.

12/9/97 COLCHESTER TO ROMFORD 42 MILES

Opting for an early start, I left for the town centre at 8 a.m., embarking on a road-hopping episode to remain on a pavement as the city environment prevailed throughout with the shape of London growing tall on the horizon. Colchester was today’s first main town and known to be the oldest recorded one in history, dating back to Roman times when it was a garrison. It still retains its military influence and is home to many Army personnel. The Castle Museum holds details of its past, showing insight into the great Roman Empire and its impact on our kingdom.
   As the journey continued the countryside gradually gave way to urbanisation as each town rolled into another with village life less frequently interspersed. With the weekend approaching there were many confused drivers stopping to ask me for the directions to Colchester as congestion built up on the A12. It was 4 p.m. when I arrived at Chelmsford – a pig of a place to get out of – and I must have given at least six sets of instructions to passing travellers who had been caught up in the traffic jam.
  The evening session rolled on nicely through Margaretting and Ingatestone, where I walked on the quieter B1002. And from Brentwood I was able to use footpaths as I started the big push towards the engulfing city. I was soon on the outskirts of Romford where great hotels lit up the skyline as I tried to make sense of the area, unsure about my destination of Gidea Park. There was no real drama, as it was actually situated on the course of my route, though I still did not reach the Guesthouse, known as the Gidea Park Hotel, until 9 p.m.

13/9/97 ROMFORD TO PURFLEET     15 MILES

Country life had finally conceded to the pillars of commerce and busy market stalls, which offered scarcely enough room to manoeuvre at comfort. The subways that typified London replaced many crossings and eventually I had to ask for instructions to Purfleet. The police were also helpful, phoning up the Dartford Bridge Transport Dept for a 6 a.m. Sunday crossing – the only time I could walk across it, owing to the closure for maintenance. I stopped at a chemist to buy some more film and nipped into Tesco to obtain more provisions where, on hearing about my crusade, the manageress gave me a coffee and a member of staff assisted me with instructions on how to reach the Travel Lodge and the bridge.  Reaching the Travel Lodge at 2.30 p.m. I immediately faxed the Daily Mirror and later collected money from the patrons, enunciated as usual by my sponsor forms. I planned future P.R work with local news correspondents, speaking to a press lady who took down the details of my walk with a view to helping the charity and providing support in a few days time.
  I felt dejected looking out across London; having walked the entire distance last year I almost wished I could have done the same this time. The Thames was a wider version than the one seen at Tower Bridge, and the smoking scrap yards and tall buildings were now more distant: at least tomorrow I would be walking through the county of Kent and the footpaths of the South coast.

14/9/97 PURFLEET TO WHITSTABLE      47 MILES

I imagined this to be a bad choice of stop for me and would have preferred last summer’s route through the city: on a positive note, however, it was good to visit other places. After walking to the bridge I climbed the slip lane onto the motorway where I proceeded across the bridge, only to be stopped and made to walk back to the end of the cycle route. After explaining that I had permission to be here I was then told that I could only have access to the bridge when it was closed and so I was banished to the controller’s hut to await his arrival. I liaised with the controller, who had me waiting for 2 hours and then decided not to close the bridge owing to the abnormal excess of traffic. He went on to explain that nobody had ever been allowed to walk across the bridge and, owing to a fascination with suicide cases the bridge had to be alarmed along the sides when the road was active. He claimed that sponsored walkers were usually transported on giving 24 hours notice of their arrival. Once he had finished lecturing me on the politics of the bridge I had five minutes to either leave the bridge or be transported from the end of the cycle route above the Thames to the tollgates on the other bank. The ferry still ran further down the bank at Tilbury but less frequently on Sundays and so this modern day method was the only reliable way across the water. As it was my only option with the next available foot crossing 15 miles back towards the city and with 50 miles already ahead of me I had to agree to the situation, though my moral was somewhat diluted. Once across I made a very sharp exit from the tollgate across the motorway up onto another bridge. I felt disappointed, having originally been told they would close the bridge for maintenance and so I would be able to walk across it. There was no other way around it and a walk back to the Tower Bridge and back up the other bank would have added another 30 miles to the already daunting 50 miles. It was, however, my only water crossing to date and I had taken pains to avoid these procedures. Despite the legal barriers over which I had no power, I felt it necessary to keep the record straight and so walked back up in the opposite direction for a mile to compensate for the section of transportation. I had felt somewhat despondent about not renewing my acquaintance with good old London town, although it was agreed that I should walk a different route this year. So I decided that my lap of honour after the event should be a walk through London, crossing the Thames at the appropriate place and thus closing the gap across the water that had been enforced against my will.
  My travels today were another reminder of the past as visions of the ‘Fleet’ flashed by on this epic journey. First revealed was the busy town of Rochester whose spectacular Norman cathedral is a feast of grandeur to its observing public. My walk through Chatham had its own historical worth inherent from its famous docks, where I once served in the Royal Navy and had also spent time at the neighbouring town of Gillingham. The dockyard was opened in 1547 by Henry VIII and has been home to many seafaring heroes such as Nelson and Drake. Today, though non-working, it is open for public display as a guided tour where one can revisit its heritage from days of sail to modern times.
  At least the busy A2 was paved and allowed the comfort of a few stops where shops catered for my needs. Resting on a bench at Sittingbourne, I watched alarmed as a local group of sponsored walkers suddenly emerged. Most of them had a look of distaste for their 10-mile journey and lacked the commitment required for walking, but they had admirably given up their Sunday afternoon to raise some money for their favourite cause. An event such as this involving so many people would have been a major fundraising success, providing everybody pulled their weight and collected sponsors from all family and friends.
   The A2 grew less inspiring between Sittingbourne and Faversham and I looked forward to the opportunity of walking the Saxon Shore Way.
  Faversham was one of the more elegant towns of Kent with distinct Georgian and Tudor decor and although the Saxon Shore Way was accessible from here I continued on the main road to avoid the extra detour. I was forced to join the motorway during the evening session though of course there was a footpath and I later made my exit at Seasalter. From here I continued along the shore until arriving at the Marine Hotel at Tankerton, beyond Whitstable. I felt shattered, emotionally run down following the bridge episode, not to mention the 50 miles, which I had completed by 8 p.m. Thus I relaxed in the bar with two lovely pints of local brew whilst giving thoughts to the Saxon Shore Way and tomorrow’s destination of Broadstairs.

15/9/97 WHITSTABLE TO BROADSTAIRS        20 MILES

I was still exhausted from yesterday’s performance, but least today the weather showed promise as the sun shone brightly over the Victorian resort of Herne Bay. Passing the Amateur Rowing Club along the Saxon Shore Way I continued along the shore as far as Reculver, once the site of a Roman Fort whose watchtowers still remained a focal point. There were other walkers enjoying the pleasures of the shore, where the shingle banked against the groynes evoked an image of the once-famous oyster industry that had brought prosperity to the region. As the Saxon Shore Way took its course east across towards Sandwich I was forced to take up the passage along the A299, now a motorway but with a suitable path adapted to pedestrian use. It was scarcely a delightful tour as I hurried my journey amidst the relentless serge of traffic and carbon monoxide atmosphere.
  Things got a little more serious at Birchington where towns once again merged and signposts focused on the action of vehicles rather than pedestrians, which can be misleading. Nonetheless I had little difficulty in reaching Broadstairs, which was a new town to explore along the way. At least on this walk I had visited a number of different places – some of whose existence I had no knowledge. This unspoilt resort meandering up among the trees was endowed with olde-worlde charm accentuated by its narrow streets, which harbour fond memories of novelist, Charles Dickens. The colourful gardens and Victorian beach-huts meld appealingly with the architecture, almost taking one back to that era, and the lovely promenade offered a splendid view of Bleak House, where Dickens wrote the famous novel, David Copperfield. It was, in fact, a far cry from the industrial turmoil I had experienced the previous week, where the monuments of commerce where all that stole my gaze.
  The management at the Royal Albion Hotel were joyful about my arrival, rallying round to make me comfortable as I poured out the details and traumas of the past few days. I felt completely exhausted but recognised the sincere enthusiasm of my hosts, who also made a conscientious effort to raise money for the cause.

16/9/97 BROADSTAIRS TO FOLKESTONE 35 MILES

I was the focus of media attention at The Royal Albion Hotel, where the manager used a complete roll of film on me poised to set off on the next leg of the south coast. Walking this section of the coast was a new experience and I remained on the coastline all day: first following the cliff tops around Ramsgate, where the Stena ferries destined for Europe were leaving the harbour. The town itself was at peak capacity regarding the autumn tourist invasion, which emulated a spring Bank Holiday rather than the middle of September. I was witnessing a declining summer that had blossomed with age, giving pleasure to the country in its twilight days. The verdict was unanimous in terms of public response and I felt confident that I was now to enjoy the finest weather conditions so far on the entire walk. Leaving the town, I passed a replica of a Viking vessel above Pegwell Bay and continued along the boundaries of an unknown countryside, sharing the route with the road and a country trail as far as the outskirts of Sandwich. This was a delightful medieval town situated on the Stour, where the summer weather had attracted a fleet of amateur boaters and carefree visitors. Most were content to picnic or stroll beside the bank, whilst others discarded their vessels to explore the town for its historical worth.
  Joining the Saxon Shore Way a short distance from Sandwich, I walked round the golf course, eventually linking up with the shore. The shore consisted of shingle and was occupied only by a few fishermen and their wives, who preferred the more passive occupation of sunbathing. Later the promenade provided good access and I stopped to attend to sore feet before purchasing a homemade apple pie from the Bakers at Deal. The Victorian town dates back to Roman and Viking times though much is owed to the Tudor intervention of Henry VIII, who distinguished the place by building its magnificent castle in 1540.
  After my lovely snack I toiled on to St Margaret’s Bay, stopping briefly on the cliff top to talk to an old gentleman (an ex-marine) who was impressed with my efforts. We chatted intently about changes in the country, recalling past times when walking was often the only means of getting to work. He was a Lincoln man who had moved down here years ago to work in the farm industry as a laboratory tester. Waving farewell I continued my walk over the cliffs to Dover, now taken up against fierce head wind though I had an excellent view of the harbour with the Pride of the Kent resting in its Berth below.  Dover, which is now a P.O. stronghold, has been a major port for nearly 2000 years when the Romans first used it as headquarters for part of their fleet, Classis Britannica. One can never escape the seafaring significance and history associated with the place, which over the years, I have come to know quite well. I had little time however to draw inspiration from the town as the light was diminishing, leaving no choice but to remain on the cliff tops owing to motorway instructions on the A20. It was a good route however, eventually levelling out and intersecting a coast road, which later adjoined the dual carriageway. Folkestone was a mass of speckled lights with little illustration of my destination of Cheriton, and so I was compelled to seek advice from local residents. I managed to remember the instructions, following the road beneath the motorway where I found my night stop at the excellent Brewer’s Fayre Travel Lodge at 8.40 p.m.

17/9/97 FOLKESTONE TO RYE 30 MILES

I enjoyed an extensive breakfast, seen mainly as a refuelling process throughout the event, which in the last month had tested my resources to the limit. After leaving the Lodge I required instructions near Sangate to obtain the correct road. I made a further visit to the Tourist Office at Hythe where the lady offered me a cup of tea, singing my praises for this marathon effort.
  Sitting for a while by the Royal Military Canal I enjoyed the company of the ducks, though I was reluctant to share my sandwiches with them. After the interval I made off towards Dymchurch, where later I was able to walk along the sea front. It was a very hot day, easily mistaken for the middle of summer. The beaches and promenade filled with people though wooden boards lay ominously against the sea wall, awaiting the imminent high tide and a probable storm. It was a slow, painful day for me, as my feet became a mass of blisters, almost bringing me to a standstill. I appreciated the occasional chat with local inhabitants, enabling me to break away from the discomfort for a moment or two.
  At Dymchurch one old chap told me of a pensioner who was still walking the country and had been approached by several writers who were keen to interpret his adventures. There were many people enjoying the promenade and the streets were bustling with activity as I struggled to capture a glimpse of the narrow gauge train departing from its platform.
  Leaving St. Mary’s Bay at Littlestone-on-Sea, I walked through New Romney where I continued along the main road, which was a different route to the one I had used last year. This was very much an ordeal and one not to be repeated as I felt regret at choosing it in preference to the solitude of the Camber coast.  I entered the town of Rye as the sun disappeared beyond the horizon. Invigorated by the fresh, cool air I marched briskly through the streets, meeting a lady student who directed me to the George Hotel. The evenings pulled in quickly now and it was another 8 p.m. finish. A spot of foot surgery and a bath soon followed as the day ended sedately with some fine cuisine and a glass of Guinness.

 MAP 10
18/9/97   RYE TO EASTBOURNE      33 MILES

Returning to the seafront, summer was again in full bloom and the beach was already loaded with people eager to exploit the good weather. I commenced the morning session walking into 1066 country along the Winchelsea beach, which comprised of shingle, much to the dismay of the bucket and spade brigade. The seawall extended as far as Cliff End where I was forced to continue on the road, leaving behind the chalets and campsites as I made a bid to reach Hastings by lunchtime. The road was quite narrow in places and I was grateful for the use of a modest footpath. There was not any significant intrusion other than a horse and its owner attempting a daring stroll between Fairlight and Ore, where the Sussex countryside was shaping neatly around the picturesque town of Hastings. This Saxon kingdom was steeped in history, retaining the spirit of its ancestors, enabling one to step back in time and savour the mood of a bygone era. It was here that Harold had something of a raw deal at the hands of William the Conqueror in the ill-fated year of 1066. At the entrance of the pier was a large rock known as the Conqueror’s Stone, which legend dictates that William ate on his arrival in England. It was extremely busy on the seafront at Hastings: many were splashing around in the water whilst their friends were protesting at the sudden wet intrusion incurred by their antics. The sun was so draining that I even ventured down to the sea for a dip as well. It was high tide today and warning signs were present along the seafront.
  Once again I endeavoured to walk the coastline of shingle beaches and groynes, which remain dominant throughout this region. Encountering a complicated section at Bexhill I walked through the town and crossed a railway bridge in order to rejoin the beach. The south coast had many powerful reminders of its turbulent past, complemented by a modern blend of holiday resorts and olde-worlde fishing traditions set in a lavish Victorian environment.
  At Pevensey Bay the tide was on the ebb allowing the shingle to give way to firm sand, which made my passage less demanding. There were still occasions when I was forced back onto shingle, though I enjoyed the experience, which was rich in maritime flavour with the net-drying huts and boats interspersed along the seafront. I was pleased with my efforts, which were slightly marred when I was cut off near Langney Point and had to retreat inland. An elderly couple explained that I could use the right of way around the marina. On doing so I found the adjoining the cycle route along the promenade, which I walked for 2 miles until reaching the Grand Hotel at 9 p.m.

19/9/97 EASTBOURNE TO WORTHING       37 MILES

Departing from the Grand Hotel in misty conditions I walked the remainder of the promenade and started my ascent up the South Downs Way to walk the Seven Sisters, cliff top path. The scenery highlighted the chalk cliffs and rocky shores that were not dissimilar to Dover. It was without doubt a popular route, currently well attended despite some blustery weather. At Beachy Head the cliffs rose some 500 feet above the foreshore, dwarfing the lighthouse below and allowing excellent visual contact with all other promontory points. As the day unfolded the path grew dense with activity as many fought hard against the wind to seek out the views and sundry attractions such as the cliff top lighthouse, known as the Belle Tout Lighthouse, built in 1834. The final descent led me to the River Cuckmere, which surged along the opening it had cut in the chalk to join the channel coast. Following a path to Exceat Bridge, I connected with the A259 coast road to Seaford. Near the bridge school children were grouped together eager to start their long-awaited adventure, aimed at exploring the Seven Sisters Country Park and the joys of the Channel Coast. I had now to endure the misery of the road, though I was happy to have experienced the joys of those white-faced Seven Sisters.
  I had lunch at Seaford, another popular resort, which was currently inundated with foreign visitors, most of which were young Germans. I resumed again on the coast road to Newhaven at 2 p.m. and, although the journey was a little distasteful, I managed to escape briefly, walking up the River cut, which led back into town. For the second time today I had witnessed the miracle of nature, which on this occasion had allowed the passage of the Ouse to interrupt the towering mass of chalk that was the foundation of the South Coast. I passed the town using the A259 as far as Peacehaven. This place was destined to be named Anzac-on-Sea owing to the influx of Australian and New Zealand troops occupying the area during the First World War, but it was appropriately renamed Peacehaven once the war was over.
  After visiting the bank I continued along the coast, at first by cliff top then below on the under-cliff with the escarpment of towering chalk rising almost vertically. The under-cliff was a convenient route for most people: there were many cyclists returning from work and keep-fit fanatics enjoying the boundless miles though somewhat perilously, owing to the wet slippery chalk on the surface of the track. The trail skirted round Rottingdean Harbour and its neighbouring buildings, eventually joining the promenade at Brighton. I walked through Brighton in the pouring rain; t was the second time in the space of a year, and only the sparkling lights of the pier added spice to the evening. It was a long haul, walking the Pier down as far as Shoreham-by-Sea where I followed the coast road to the neighbouring towns of Lancing and finally Worthing, the largest resort in West Sussex, reaching my destination at 9.15 p.m.

20/9/97 WORTHING TO EMSWORTH 36 MILES

Over the years the town of Worthing has expanded from a few fishing cottages to a major resort, where even on a wet day people enjoy the atmosphere of its seafront and pier. Unlike the tenacious spirit of Brighton, deemed as Britain’s most regal seaside town, Worthing has a quieter appeal, where life drifts gracefully into mellow revere. Arriving at the promenade for a dull windy start I opted to follow a route via grass and beach as far as Ferring. At Ferring the tide was distant enough to allow a few peaceful moments walking the sandy shore, now accessible beyond the groynes. It was a lovely journey on the firm sand, taking me all the way to Littlehampton where I enjoyed an early lunch at 12 a.m. and then located the South Coast cycle route. Littlehampton, like Shoreham, was another popular harbour town accommodating many small non-commercial vessels along the River Arun. There was a lucrative air about this little town, which had enough to interest the tourist as well as the boating fraternity, and although modernised it still retains its seaside charm. Departing along the cycle route I made my way to Climping, where I asked a chap, who was busy restoring his garden, if I could reach the coast path from here. Responding to his infinite wisdom I marched diagonally across a ploughed field, eventually picking up the shore again at Climping Sands. Stopping at the beach I was able to capture the gentle breeze, removing my trainers to allow my feet to breathe whilst attending to an inflamed little toe.
  The path consisted of gravel, but formed a firm enough surface to walk almost as far as Bognor. I was forced to retreat inland as the waves engulfed the sea wall leaving behind a splendid sight, though one best viewed from a suitable distance! The might of the sea showed no remorse and I was glad to exit, resuming on the cycle route to Chichester. Narrowing my options down to the road, I had to brave the relentless invasion of traffic, now gathering momentum from weekend travellers returning to their destinations in Hampshire. Once again I had to endure the dangers of the highway until finding a safer access to Havant by nightfall. Stopping at an Army and Navy Store on the Chichester road I purchased a pair of Army trainers, which I hoped would provide more comfort to my suffering toes. The owner was very helpful and also gave me a pair of socks into the bargain and I promised to let him know how they stood up to the task.
  On reaching the second roundabout adjacent to Tesco, I was able to transfer to the A259, which had footpaths on both sides; at least I felt relaxed for the evening session despite painful feet.  It was frustrating to walk slowly and once more the journey was not complete until 8.30 p.m. when I finished at the splendid Brookefield Hotel, now busy catering for wedding guests.

21/9/97 EMSWORTH TO SOUTHAMPTON           28 MILES

Appreciating my stay in this elegant hotel I now felt refreshed for the day ahead, as I kept a vigil for previous landmarks along the Havant road. It was very hot: hard going on the feet, though the top road to Portchester afforded excellent views of Portsmouth harbour. This great historic naval dockyard had survived many campaigns of war throughout the passage of time, though its modern-day roads and industrial appearance had left it looking a little defeated. 
  As the day unfolded activity increased on the road though there were footpaths beside the carriageway, which were also cycle-adapted. Stopping at Portchester I picked up some items from the chemist, and after the purchase the consultant took a photograph of me leaning against a street lamp. From here the journey continued in the shadow of main roads and the relentless traffic, skirting the smaller towns of Sarisbury and Swanwick. There were a few pleasant moments spent at the water’s edge, where small boats lay in the distance and resident waterfowl were hastily evacuating their young to quieter shores.
  Slowing down in the heat of the afternoon, I took a wrong turn, which led me to the motorway. Rectifying the damage I then used the A27 as far as Swaything, several miles away from Southampton. In the course of the journey I past the regional airport and a few miles further on I reached a small town called Westleigh, my destination for this evening.
   Later that night I found a lovely restaurant and ate as much as I could for the token cost of £4. It was a peaceful conclusion to my tour of the South of England, which had revealed a sumptuous kingdom of resorts set within the aspiring modern development of its historical coast. I was contented enough despite the added detour which had pushed me away from my city destination, thus leaving a very long day tomorrow when I would cross the New Forest on the way to Dorset and the roller coaster South-West Way.

22/9/97 SOUTHAMPTON TO POOLE 42 MILES

Commencing a tough journey in traditional summer heat, I first engaged in a battle of concentration with the city centre traffic at full peak as I strove to reach Totton Bridge. Remembering Shirley from last year, I passed a few familiar pubs and shops, and the alignment of the streets enabled me to reach the bridge unscathed. Then low and behold, to add to the drama, I couldn’t find my way out of Totton! Eventually I crossed a railway bridge and relocated the A35, my route for today, which would first negotiate Ashurst.  Ashurst was a modest place, housing the necessary commodities; namely pub and shop. Here most activity stemmed from the popular forest and its resounding leisure resources. Despite the natural countryside I failed to enjoy the experience, which was impeded by constant traffic and some heavy showers throughout the day. Having remained dry as far as Lyndhurst I rested my feet for 20 minutes. Lyndhurst was the centre of the New Forest and the streets were crowded with business people and tourists who were enjoying a welcome lunch break.
  Leaving the town around 2p.m I was immediately greeted by a further exodus of traffic, which lasted until I arrived at the outskirts of Christchurch. At the town centre a lady confronted me, assuming I needed directions. She’d had a few drinks but was able to assist with my enquiries, emphasising the dangers of the criminal element, now resident in Bournemouth. Deciding to return to the coast I resumed my evening stint to Bournemouth, initially following a path around a marina, and later descending to the promenade. It was a lovely journey, shared with many joggers and cyclists, making the most of the late summer evening, which was clearly at its best. Arriving at Bournemouth in near darkness, I could see the Sandbanks Ferry leaving for Studland Point now lit up in the distance.
  Soon I was back in the turmoil of the town, chasing signposts and uncharted roads. I missed the A35, and instead, walked along what I now recognised to be a coast road – adding some 2-3 [Check that throughout all documents hyphens are small and dashes larger characters.] miles more to the journey. Although I was familiar with the Parkstone area, on the outskirts of Poole, it was still difficult to recognise some of the landmarks in the dark. I reached my hotel at 9 p.m. only to find out I was a day early – an error created during the merry month of May but soon rectified by the manageress who arranged other accommodation for me. In the meantime I retired to the bar for a bit of R and R, enjoying a lovely supper and a glass of ale, which was a welcome gestation.

 MAP 11
23/9/97 POOLE TO OSMINGTON MILLS         27 MILES

THE SEDUCTIVE SOUTH WEST

Summer weather continued to preside over the southwest as I set off from my rearranged accommodation, which was 2 miles from the Travel Inn. Arriving back at the inn, I then continued along the busy coast road until locating the appropriate shore routes. The first footpath took me as far as the country estate near Upton: from there I used the B road to Lytchett Minster. I decided to use the nearest road route, the A351 coast road, which was seriously busy and tough going up to Wareham. Wareham was only a small town of early Briton descent, later colonised by the Romans, and although it had survived the passage of time, it had a tale or two of strife to tell. 
   There were many small places to break up the journey, but once the teatime traffic emerged I had to retreat to the coast path at Holworth, following the uneven track that led to Holworth House. Using a right of way to the farm at Poxwell I shared the journey with a herd of cattle as far as the road, at which point they were brought to an abrupt standstill by a wooden gate. Rejoining the busy coast road I was able to find the turnoff to Osmington Mills (a mile ahead). Walking the narrow road, I passed a shop and residential site, arriving at the Smugglers Inn before opening time where I took the opportunity on this sunny eve to write up my diary above Ringstead Bay. The landlord was pleased to see me and provided me with an excellent meal: as I sat engrossed in the rustic atmosphere of the 13th century inn, which was presently satisfying the curiosity of some of its multi-national patrons.

24/9/97 OSMINGTON MILLS TO SEATON         48 MILES

Looking relatively peaceful, the sea drifted almost reluctantly onto the shingled coves of Ringstead Bay as I departed from the Smugglers Arms, taking the inland coast path back up to Osmington. I soon had the White Horse in my sights, though I opted to use minor roads for this section of the journey until reaching Abbotsbury, when I would take the shore route. Moving steadily away from the coast and its chalk downs I progressed inland as far as Preston, spurring off to pick up the B3159. It was a fairly straightforward task initially, growing more complex as the minor country roads emerged, giving passage through the rural surroundings of Thomas Hardy’s Dorset. The quaint little villages enjoyed their country status where authentic buildings with olde-worlde charm, continue to captivate visitors worldwide. I saw foreign tourists and British nationals too, many of who, felt relieved to escape the alienation of city life. In particular I noticed a small church whose appealing nature had drawn several cars to its forecourt. It is wonderful buildings such as this that have for years given pride and prestige to this little community.
  At the Bresham signpost I met another walker called Adrian who I joined for the remaining few miles of his morning walk, now nearing its final village destination. He had been walking since 6 a.m., using an ordinance survey map to locate the village route. He was due to conclude his journey at the next inn, The King’s Arms, where he offered to treat me to lunch. It was a nice gesture and I joined him for a meal, happy to have some company and a chance to rest, with today destined to be a long affair, using a mixed agenda in terms of my route. Adrian was a businessman from Hampshire who shared with me the same passion for the Dorset countryside. Eventually he hoped to complete a walk from Lyme Regis to his home in Hampshire, though his activities were purely derived from leisure incentives, leading him away from the fast lane of the business world. After lunch we discussed my route, with the option of walking a disused railway track to Abbotsbury. Once we were agreed on the route, he asked me to sign a book that he possessed in order to mark the occasion. After all, it’s not every day you meet someone who is walking around Great Britain. I gladly obliged and once again we stepped out in the fresh air. The ducks were feeding heartily, sharing their main course of bread with a tame young trout as we parted company, Adrian now returning to his home in Poole, giving further thoughts to his ambition of walking from Lyme to Poole in the near future. My immediate future was Abbotsbury, first using the dismantled railway track, which took me to the village. It was without doubt an enchanting place, deriving its name from the 11th century abbey, which I was able to photograph as I passed beyond the swans. Continuing up the cut leading through the churchyard, I eventually arrived at the village, where I brought refreshment from the grocer shop. Walking slowly away from the village, whilst admiring the stonework I pondered over my route and which roads to use. At the main road I chose the left fork, passing some fine gardens and forest escarpment until finally reaching the shore. I had decided to walk along the shingle beach and South West Coast Path from Chesil Beach as far as Burton Bradstock. This was another one of nature’s miracles, displaying the shingle beach whose banks between Abbotsbury and Portland could reach up to 40 ft in places. For most of my journey I could not see the sea and occasionally climbed above the shingle to observe its motions. The path eventually became shingle, bringing about a more difficult and time-consuming task, and an hour or so later I felt quite relieved when I joined the road to Bridport. The journey was short-lived, gradually drifting away from the coast, where signposts pointed back towards West Bay as I entered the perimeter of the town.
  I had a bite to eat at Bridport and managed to draw some money from Safeway before tackling a stretch of dual carriageway on the A35. This was inevitable given the length of the journey, which would first see Lyme Regis and then extend as far as Seaton in Devon. It was much the same as any other experience on the highway and so again I had to switch on my powers of concentration to overcome the test. Though not too unsavoury, the traffic became a bit more tedious at Chideock, and so later I took the opportunity to disembark at the village of Charmouth, where I chose to walk the coast path. Charmouth was a welcome haven, only minutes from the carriageway, and soon I was enjoying the uphill climb amidst a more refreshing atmosphere. It was in this village, at a pub called the Queen’s Arms, which Charles II sought sanctuary after the Battle of Worcester in 1651; since then it has been a welcome watering hole for many, a weary traveller.
  It was a steep ascent, eventually joining the coast path at the golf course, which saw me safely to Lyme Regis. The light was still good and a few people were participating in a round of golf, almost oblivious to my presence. There were signs relating to access, or in this case lack of it: no doubt set to deter the many travellers that walk this section of coast. I was having none of it, knowing only too well that there is no restriction regarding this route. It was a tranquil evening, with light fading as I descended through a difficult section of woods into Lyme Regis, where there was still enough light to appreciate the ‘Cobb’ (seafront). After a telephone call to reassure my hosts at the Seaton Heights Hotel that I was on my way to them, I endeavoured to tackle a mile-long stretch of hill on the coast road. Needless to say there were a few perilous moments in the dark: there was one incident when an idiot who full-beamed me then drove straight at me, causing me to stumble over hurting my knee and damaging my big toe with the impact of my heavy backpack. Added to the problem I had no idea where my hotel was situated as I had not been given any instructions and so had to proceed first into Axmouth, following the River Axe to its final destination of Seaton. Hugged by the cliffs of the South West Way, this Victorian resort was aptly named, with a small harbour sitting at the mouth of the river and a bridge, which I crossed to continue my journey through the busy streets. At the main street I received distressing news from a couple of local lads. If I had continued up the coast road instead of turning off to Axmouth, I could have saved a 4-mile detour. Instead I now had to return to the coast road to find my hotel, thus completing almost a circle: not good after a long day and a troublesome evening, though I managed to get there at 10 p.m. – a 14-hour day!

25/9/97 SEATON TO DAWLISH  38 MILES

Today started off in much the same manner as the previous one, involving yet another excursion. I just hoped it would not be a continuation of last night’s fiasco, where I found difficulty in linking roads and coast path, doing a complete circle at Weston.
   Eventually I sorted things out, and throughout the remainder of the morning I enjoyed the beautiful scenery that encompassed the road. There were a few significant landmarks too: one such place was an observatory near to the Regent town of Sidmouth, which I reached at 12.30 p.m., having walked twice the required distance. The cliffs towered on each side of the promenade, now lined with deck chairs as many holidaymakers savoured the dying moments of a summer season, reluctant to make the transition to autumn. The town’s regal presence, instilled by its many Georgian and Regency hotels, conveyed a more refined holiday atmosphere, enjoyed by many older patrons. Silt had caused the demise of this town, which once served as a port. Since then it has become a popular haven for visitors allured by its sumptuous yet sedate lifestyle.
  After savouring a few moments by the shore I returned to the road, invigorated by the quest of seeing new places as well as reviving memories of those seen on past encounters. It was a good session along the coast road, which took me through Pinn and the lovely little village of Otterton. After crossing the River Otter I joined a narrow country lane, which I struggled to share with motorists throughout the journey to Yettington and Ebford. At Ebford the traffic flow reached peak capacity on the main road and so I continued along another back road, passing through Topsham at the top of a hill, where I photographed the Exeter signpost. Topsham was another enchanting settlement endowed with the character of an estuary port. I walked beneath the M5 Bridge, passing a garden centre and a housing estate, finally crossing the bridge at Countess Wear, allowing the journey to resume along the other side of the estuary. Initially greeted by the onslaught of teatime traffic, I felt relieved to transfer to the Powderham road, where the estuary proved to be relaxing and enjoyable. To my right, deer were grazing heartily in the grounds of Powderham Castle, occasionally looking up in a curious gaze. As I stared across the peaceful waters, the town of Exmouth comes into view. Suddenly a train hurtled past disturbing the harmony, and obscuring my vision. Trains, in fact, run along both sides of the estuary and the Exmouth to Barnstaple Service is known as the Tarka Line. The old atmospheric pump at Starcross was built in during the 1840s to serve Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Great Western Railway between the stations of Exeter and Newton Abbot. The principle behind the invention dictated that air evacuated from a tube underneath the rails would create a vacuum, which in turn pulled the pistons connected to the train. Rats ensured that the venture was short-lived, eating away the mechanism designed to keep it airtight. Though its demise was seen as one of the low points in Brunel’s life, it lived on as a museum dedicated to the story of its existence.
  As dusk drew near I approached Dawlish Warren, later walking the coast path through the dense woodlands into Dawlish town. It was very dark as I continued amidst a background social activity, stopping at the town to enquire about the location of my guesthouse. Fortunately it was not too distant and I made my final journey up the hill towards Teignmouth, finishing for the day at 8.30 p.m. at Shell Cove House, set ready for a session on the South West Way tomorrow.

26/9/97 DAWLISH TO PAIGNTON 17 MILES

I chatted with Linda Osborne and her parents – my hosts at Shell Cove House in Dawlish – explaining my dilemma of fundraising and the pressures of doing my own P.R. work whilst on the road. They gave me a similar example concerning her brother, who embarked on a charity crusade in Zimbabwe. Despite promises of support and the instigation of media coverage initiated by the programme Blue Peter: he received little reward for his efforts and had no backup from the charity concerned, allowing the event to fade into total insignificance.
  I did not leave until after 10 p.m. as I was scheduled to have a short day and Linda was quick to remind me that today was in fact my last Friday of walking on this present tour. She took a photograph to commemorate the occasion and then gave a farewell wave as I disappeared down the hill, enjoying the Regency atmosphere of Teignmouth, which was typified by the lofty buildings that looked out towards the dark red beach. Though dating back to the Saxon era, like many of our seaside towns, Teignmouth had been developed to tailor to the needs of tourism and today, despite the seasonal transition, its popularity showed no sign of decline. My journey continued along the promenade to a logical point of exit then I doubled back through a narrow street, leaving the town behind, as I walked to Shaldon, which was almost paddling distance across the water. It was an eventful experience crossing the long iron bridge over the Teign, eventually being greeted by an attractive display of 19th century houses. I then walked part of the Southwest Way, initially taken up beside the golf course, later offering the more traditional roller coaster journey that had become the hallmark of the route. The path was misleading in places; I remember having difficulty on this stretch last year and Linda had explained that there were plans to modify the route. Unfortunately for her the Trust had hoped to reroute the trail through her garden; news that would not be welcomed in any situation. Eventually the path led me back to the busy coast road where I progressed comfortably despite being inhibited by a considerable influx of weekend traffic, extending as far as Babbacombe. This little resort was once rife with smugglers, yet a popular spot for its royal visitors who patronised the place long before Torquay was established as a holiday town. There was also an intriguing presence about Oddicombe Beach and its red cliff backing which is accessible by its charming cliff railway. It was not difficult to understand how the natural elements of rocks and sand add their own special magic, making these coast towns the jewels in Devon’s crown.
  Reaching Torquay around 2 p.m., the heavy mist still lay across the harbour, though the day was now quite hot. The seafront revealed a fair show of activity as the seductive charm of the southwest continued to mesmerise its visiting public. Torquay is without doubt a jewel in South Devon’s crown, though primarily a fishing village until it became a base for military families involved in the Napoleonic Wars. The arrival of the Great Western Railway and the unique Mediterranean appearance of the town have seen it rise to astonishing heights in terms of holiday trade. It was a struggle at times to avoid the bustle of the crowd, people still enjoying ice creams and seafront walks beneath the lofty hotels. It was an uplifting experience walking the promenades watching people enjoying their lives, and after a short road trip I was again sharing a similar experience at the town of Paignton. A lady in her snack stall offered me a cup of tea and we chatted a while before I finished off the day near the harbour at 3.15 p.m., staying at the Esplanade Hotel. This was another old fishing village, which had escaped the permutations of the industrial world, yet later to be baptised by the spirit of tourism. Many were enjoying the pleasures of the harbour and the pier whilst others, in an act of seasonal defiance, were participating in an afternoon bathing session. I located my accommodation, the Esplanade Hotel, where I was made most welcome, the manageress organising my radio interview for the following morning. At suppertime she announced congratulations over the speaker system, after which I received loud applause. Earlier that day a mystery lady had called to visit, leaving £5 towards the fund. Many were bemused by this Nomadic gypsy lifestyle that had allowed me the good fortune of travelling this spectacular countryside: though I was quick to point out that my journey had a charitable purpose. Later that evening, despite the self-promise of an early night, I was invited to give a brief speech in the entertainment lounge while the staff rallied round to collect funds on my behalf. I happily obliged and can tell you we had a hell of a time and I did not reach my bed until 1 p.m.

27/9/97 PAIGNTON TO FROGMORE 21 MILES

I enjoyed an excellent stay at Paignton where we raised over £100 on the Friday evening. In the morning I participated in a radio interview with Paul Wills from Radio Cornwall before departing to Totnes. I was unsure about my route, retreating back to Elmsleigh Road where Keith Newman, whom I stayed with last year, used to live, eventually ascending to join the A385. Near the top of the road a lady, who had made efforts to contact me on the previous evening, confronted me. She was, in fact, a good friend of my Auntie Marjorie, both of whom worked together at Cadbury in Birmingham. It was quite a coincidence, and furthermore, was resultant from being lost during the early stages of the day. We exchanged our greetings, and I thanked her for the £5 donated at the hotel yesterday afternoon, and once again I was on my way with a chance to see more new places.
  I did not enjoy the treacherous journey along the narrow busy A381 and expressed a certain relief as I crossed the River Dart to reach the sanctuary of Totnes. Totnes was a lovely little town largely depicting the Middle Ages when it once prospered through exporting tin and wool, making it one of the busiest ports in England. It was market day in Totnes and the whole place was a hive of activity accompanied by a musical background of buskers with the smell of fish and chips wafting in the air. Taking the opportunity to indulge in a fish lunch, I sat on a bench watching the world go by, contemplating the fact that I had less than a week on the road to complete my journey. The narrow streets were condensed with people who were as intrigued as I was with the town, whose buildings evoked an air of romanticism and the charm of the olde-worlde. After lunch I walked beneath the 16th century Gatehouse at the top of the hill, catching a glimpse of the ruins of a Saxon castle. Eventually the noise faded as I passed beyond the realms of the town, leaving behind the merriment created by local musicians, some of who were clad in Tudor garments.
  It was back to business once again as I had to endure more of that ‘beloved’ main road, but thankfully only as far as Habertonford. From here I enjoyed a more lucid journey along a country lane up to Moreleigh and then on to East Alington. I was somewhat over-eager, having discovered a better route, and my lack of attentiveness caused me to take a wrong turn at the East Alington junction, now spearing me towards Slapton. This fatuous act, one of many, cost me an extra hour of walking which would have been more had I not remedied the problem by calling at a house to obtain some instructions. The young girl pointed me in the direction of the Cider Press where at the next junction all was revealed – at last a signpost to Frogmore! Traversing the country roads exposed me to many small communities: one of the last places I came to was a quaint little village known as Sherford, which was distinguished by its towering church. From here it was back to that notorious A381 where I located the Globe Inn, and found to my dismay, that the booking was five days later than expected! I was still given a room and I was able to relax in the knowledge that on this walk I had now completed the last Saturday in the programme.

 
 
 WALKING AROUND THE KINGDOM OF CORNWALL

                                          ‘Cornwall 2000’  

Based on Robin’s first walk for Cornish Hospices, this story is both enjoyable and informative.  The adventure comprises of a challenge of endurance along one of Britain’s toughest coastlines as the journey weaves in and out of estuaries, visiting towns and villages inland as it links from north to south.

At the bottom of the map lies a rugged little kingdom rich in antiquity and mystical enchantment.  It is a country shaped by centuries of geological turbulence and historical events, including the industrial development of the 1800’s that helped change the face of the land.  Entering  into Cornwall on the Tamar Bridge, one can witness Brunel’s epitaph, a modern triumph of Victorian engineering, that is still proclaimed as the greatest feat of its time.  It was during this era that Cornwall enjoyed prosperity and prestige, resulting from its tin-mining industry.

   Beyond the River Tamar, the Cornish landscape portrays a picture of its past, inviting one to step back into ancient times through patchwork fields bordered with weather-worn boulders, charged with Celtic symbols.  Adding flavour to any historical influence, natural erosion of volcanic rocks have given birth to great myths and legends in a kingdom that has immortalised its heroes.  Churches and monasteries stand in honour of eponymous Saints from Irelandand Wales, who have drastically changed the culture of the land.  Even on the clifftops engine houses and mine-stacks remind us of how Cornwall once extracted a living from its rocks.  Tin has since traded with tourism as visitors colonise the fishing villages and resorts in the summer months to taste the mystery of the Cornish World and relax in its sandy bays. The sea has also provided for its people, bringing prosperity to fishing causes and illegal ones too!  Dig deep into the diverse land and you will find prehistoric tombs,Norman relics, amphitheatres, ancient wells and castles.  You can walk the dramatic clifftops, witnessing spectacular scenery ranging from the industrial white Alps of china-clay to the sub-tropical backwaters of  the Roseland Peninsula. Enjoy the serenity of Frenchman’s Creek, once a haunt of smugglers, though now the scene of artists, and the contrast of The Devil’s Frying Pan amidst the craggy landscape of the Lizard. Beyond lies Granite Country and the grandeur of Land’s End leading to the geological wonders and industrial past of Cape Cornwall, followed by the creative world of St. Ives.  Like the journey around this rugged kingdom, the diversity is endless and every day is the start of a new adventure.  Whatever your experience of Cornwall you may rest assured you will take something away that will stay with you forever.   

FAUNA

Wildlife thrives inCornwall, where it can be viewed from many excellent vantage points along the coast.  Seals and otters can be found by the shore and in the woodlands badgers and foxes roam freely. Different voles and shrews inhabit the estuaries but watch out for the mink, especially if you have a dog.

 

BIRDS

Bird watching is among the prime activities in Cornwall, where the coast path has lured ornithologists from all corners of the globe.  My favourite bird is the Osprey, first seen at Trevince Woods, near Carharrack.  Others in Cornwall include the Curlew, Sandpiper, Razorbill, Redshank and many varieties of Gulls and Grebes.  Birds of Prey abound on the North coast and include the Kestrel, and Buzzard. On the estuaries look for Kingfishers and Warblers, whilst in the forest you will find the Jay and the Cuckoo.  Information boards around the coast path may indicate what can be found in the immediate area. 

 

REPTILES

Reptiles are also prevalent throughout this kingdom. Adders are often found sun-bathing on the path, but retreat hastily once disturbed, finding cover amidst gorse and ferns. Do not try to catch these zigzag serpents as they are poisonous.  Unlike the adder, the grass snake is harmless and found in most parts ofBritain.  One reptile you will frequently encounter is the Slow Worm, a thin, silver creature that lives on insects and slugs.  

 

 

OTTERS

Otters are famous in the South West, they have trails and places named after them and parks dedicated to them as well.  It is encouraging to see this little chap return to the rivers and tributaries, in particular the Tamar and also the Camel estuary.  They can grow quite large, sometimes a metre long, helped by a diet of eels, which are known to be the otter’s favourite meal.

 

 

THE CORNISH COAST PATH

Possibly the most difficult coast walk in the country, which according to the National Trust, stretches 268 miles(I believe it to be more and don’t forget the estuaries – you may wish to walk them), between Marsland Mouth near Hartland, on the North Coast, to Cremyll at Plymouth Sound.  It forms part of a longerSouth-West Waywalk starting at Poole in Dorset, and finishing at Minehead in Somerset, making up a distance of over 600 miles, (excluding estuaries) which is reputably the longest footpath in Britain.

ROBIN MOORE’S WALK AROUND CORNWALL

This more recent journey shows an extensive picture of Cornwall, encircling the whole Kingdom and walking some of its estuaries.  A brief overview of each day has been set out, outlining the journey and terrain, also giving alternative routes. The story itself is packed with detail about day to day adventures, showing insight into the Cornish world.

   It starts at the Hayle estuary, heading north on the Atlantic coast, where surfers parade the sands and tumultuous waves terrorise the rocky shores.  Progressing to St. Agnes Beacon the path shows a poignant insight into Cornwall’s extraction industry, displaying old relics of engine houses, that once worked tin and copper. 

   Beyond the graveyard of mines lies a world of enchantment, full of fables and legends about Celtic descendants, portrayed in effigies and Iron Age  buildings. Cornwall’s adopted saints of ancient times have also helped shape the land with monasteries and churches, instilling traditional elements that exist to this day. 

    At Bude the journey trails the hinterland of Cornwall along a network of country roads into valleys and farmlands, broken by wooded glades.  Rejoining the coast path, the South provides a calmer version of the sea, which has been a friend to both fisherman and smuggler, though monuments and gravestones remind us of those it has failed.  All along the Cornish Riviera colour-washed villages, and fishing hamlets line the seaboard, while river banks and drowned valleys expand in sub-tropical growth.  Nearing the serpentine rocks of the Lizard one can envisage the hazards that awaited mariners, where the tranquil beauty of the coast, viewed from the cliffs, could easily become a source of terror. Heading west towards Granite Country one can marvel at the grandeur of St. Michael’s Mount and explore the last outposts of the fishing world at Newlyn and Mousehole. Dramatic scenery and mighty headlands dominate once more as the trail passes Land’s End on its lonely journey to Cape Cornwall.  Ivy-clad mine-stacks stand empty on the cliff-edges as the Atlantic breaches its rock pools to hammer relentlessly against the granite coast.  Finally the obstacle course subsides and the bustle of resort life emerges to break the solitude.  From here one can enjoy a gentle epitaph above golden sands that lead back to the estuary at Hayle, savouring memories of Cornwall that most people could only dream about.

THE ATLANTIC ANVIL

Day 1. Hayle to Perranporth.  23 miles.

Departing from St. Michael’s Hospice at Hayle, around 8.30am, I braced the windy conditions, and the dampness of sea mist. I had a mile or so to walk before reaching a coastal route, realising that this was one of the few occasions that I would be walking on flat ground until reaching Perranporth.  Following the course of the estuary I began to marvel at the wonders of nature that thrive by the shore.  Over the course of time the estuary has adopted much bird life, becoming a focal point for many ornithologists.

   I was soon to leave the town behind, advancing past the ageing boat sheds, with the distant 15th-centurychurch ofLelant barely visible beyond the opposite shore.  Taking the beach route to Godrevy in lieu of the Towans footpath was quite exhilarating, though the experience was not shared by many.  In summer months these golden sands would be stifling with activity, giving  Hayle prosperity as a resort town.  Today it harbours only dog owners, dedicated fitness fanatics and the odd madman wishing to walk roundCornwall! It was a 3-mile initiation against the incoming surf and already I had gambled on beating the tide.  I could not see beyond the steep Towans flanking the beach, and so, was unaware of any danger the journey might pose.  As the waves thrashed about the shore nearby I leapt across rock pools, and streams, fearful of being cut off by the tide.  Luckily there were steps leading from the beach to the safety of a sandbank. I walked the open ground, crossing a stream via a footbridge, then followed a lane to the top of a hill, where I noticed a cafe.

   Rain fell as I strove on towards the coast path at Godrevy Point, leaving behind an empty beach, and a sea only welcome to surfers.  The fury of the waves beating the rocks around Godrevy Island conjures up a fearful vision to all at sea, reminding mariners of the constant perils that exist on this Atlantic anvil. As well as the obvious importance to seafarers, the unmanned automatic lighthouse, which was originally built in 1859, earned fame in Virginia Woolf’s novel ‘To The Lighthouse’.  I was simply grateful not to be on the island today: once more, I was away from the sand, and looking forward to the clifftop journey.

   The coast path to Portreath was relatively easy despite wet muddy conditions, passing great points such as Hell’s Mouth – a 200 foot sheer drop to the rocky shore.  The lighthouse at Godrevy had faded behind the misty haze, and it was only in the latter part of the morning session that I could clearly decipher the distant coastline of Portreath.  On my right lay the towns of Camborne and Redruth and their neighbouring villages, which were once part of a great mining empire. The engine houses and mine stacks dotted around the countryside are now just hollow reminders, left to tell a sombre tale of what once used to be.  Below lies a collage of rock shapes and pools, carved by the sea: a result of centuries of geological turbulence and erosion that defines this rugged North coast.

   After making a couple of steep descents near Basset’s Cove, I followed the path across clifftop pastures cropped by farm animals. At last I had sight of Portreath and dropping between 2 houses situated at the foot of the beach, I passed a large signpost that read, ‘North Coast Footpath’.  From here I proceeded across the shore, coming to a standstill at an ice cream van.  Dispelling thoughts of cold refreshment, I sat on a bench and changed into a pair of dry socks.  The rain had stopped and I enjoyed a quiet moment watching the surfers take on the mightyAtlantic.  It was a brief interval with my next objective aimed at refuelling with milk and chocolate to encounter the less populated areas of coast that lay in waiting. The beach shops were now quite desolate, patronised largely by contenders of the surf brigade, and other bad weather enthusiasts!  Ordering my provisions I made polite conversation with the vendor about the tourist trade, which she indicated was at an ebb.  Encouraged by the fact it was only 12 noon, I scampered off towards the coast path, whilst swilling down a pint of milk.

   Climbing the hill away from Portreath I was rewarded with an excellent view of the harbour, a legacy of the Basset family, who provided the land for building the pier.  Though looking somewhat withdrawn, it was in the 18th century, a busy location for exporting tin and copper, often in exchange for Welsh coal to fuel the engine houses.  Turning away from the seaward views momentarily, I was able to locate the North coast footpath with additional signs advising of danger due to erosion.  The fierce wind prevailed, but at least now it was dry and I could progress more comfortably.

   Laden with wet clothing the trek across Nancekuke Common proved a little tiring, as I tackled the undulating terrain.  The man-made steps that run alongside the military boundaries take their toll, reminding walkers of their mortality as the North coast journey begins to honour its reputation.  I remembered Diamond Point, my brother Anthony’s favourite fishing spot, where as a youngster, he spent hours of pleasure landing Mackerel and Sea Bass.  Beyond the point the roller-coaster trail hugs the military fence, as the cliff edge draws near in places, leaving little room to pass.  Gradually the journey eases and once again houses and chalets decorate the distant landscape, heralding my approach to Porthtowan.

   The surfers at Porthtowan were also enjoying the challenges of the hostile sea, though the greater population had sought comfort from a local beach cafe.  Resting by the beach I consumed another drink, inquisitively watched by a dog.  Many visitors were savouring the late summer views, seated on clifftop benches, courteously provided by The National Trust.

   The steep exit from Porthtowan gives way to level ground, providing a pleasant passage to the diminutive Chapel Porth, whose name is derived from a church situated in the valley close to the sea.  These valley communities punctuating the clifftop journey are a welcome sight for weary walkers, and this place is no exception.  Framed by great cliffs and sandy ledges, Chapel Porth is a noted sun trap in summer months and an inspiration to all its visitors.  Many had gathered to obtain refreshments from the cafe facilities: other walkers had temporarily sidelined their waterproofs, stopping at the shore to ponder in awe over the power of nature. It was a tranquil affair, composing me with positive thoughts about my adventure. I was now beginning to absorb the atmosphere of the North coast, and invigorated by its undying energy I was again ready to champion the human spirit.

  Stimulated by the experience, I pressed on in the shadow of St. Agnes Beacon, where the distant Wheal Coates mine stands idle near the footpath. This old relic of a bye-gone industry worked copper and tin until1889 with shafts extending to depths of 600 feet. With so many reminders of its past it is impossible to forget that tin and copper were once the hallmarks ofCornwall’s trade.

   Not far from here is Trevaunance Cove near St. Agnes, now heavily populated with late season holidaymakers as the afternoon is transformed into summer array.  Encumbered by the rock pools, I crossed the shore, slippery in places, but ensuring my link with the coast path, which would otherwise be beyond the village from the road. A delightful outing now lay ahead: full of diverse scenery, which included capped mines and man-made shelters, enjoyed by clifftop artists and European travellers.  A kestrel hovers attentively above the indigenous flora, capturing the interest of a hiking-family: before disappearing beneath the cliff edge only to reappear moments later in a background of blue sky and rolling surf.

   By late afternoon the golden sands and rock scenery of Perran Bay lay before me as I made my descent into the busy town of Perranporth.  Peaking in 1874, Perranporth was once a prosperous mining village, though the evidence of its industrial life is less conspicuous compared to St. Agnes Beacon.  These days it is more of a hostage to tourism, and despite living in the shadow of Newquay, it has grown as a lively holiday town, noted for its long sandy beach and golf course.  The streets were bustling with activity, largely contrived by end of summer sales and meal deals, offered by many cafes and pubs.  I pondered over the prospect of a fish supper, but denied myself, first wishing to locate my accommodation at the Tides Reach Hotel on Ponsmere Road.  This I found near The Ponsmere Hotel, arriving at 5pm.  My hosts were pleased to see me, offering a discount on my room, which was a lovely gesture. Having showered and with the evening young, the beautiful weather soon lured me back to the busy streets to sample one of Cornwall’s popular seaside resorts. 

Day 2. Perranporth to Newquay.  12 Miles.

I was made most welcome by the hoteliers, who purchased a copy of my book ‘The Millennium Challenge’ – A Walk Around the Kingdom.  Many of the guests were interested in my activities, a couple of whom bought copies of my books.  The breakfast interval lingered on, delaying my departure until 10.30am.  I now hastened towards Perran Sands with hope of walking the 3-mile beach in preference to the inconsistent path along the sand dunes above.  It was a windy morning offering little to promote any beach activity, though other walking enthusiasts were enjoying the occasion.  Further down the beach I came across a water-sports group donned in wet suits, preparing for action. To the right, below the clifftops, workers were servicing an exit point, presumably leading back to the coast path, east of which lies a caravan site and golf course.  It was on this beach that an Irish Saint, known as St. Piran, later referred to as the Patron Saint of Tinners and all Miners, landed around the 6thcentury, bringing Christianity to the kingdom.  There may be plenty of mystery surrounding his sea journey here, though the secrets of the sand have at least revealed the remains of the St. Piran Oratory(half a mile east of the coast path): an epitaph to a man great enough to be hailed as The Patron Saint of Cornwall. The ancient centuries may have passed but this lovely expanse of beach still remains, and has since become popular with many famous surfers, and holidaymakers from all corners of the globe.

   At the end of the bay I met up with the army who were just completing a training schedule along the dunes.  We exchanged greetings as I left my low-tide route to continue on the high ground, where I deduced that cap-wearing was not a suitable option.  The wind blew fiercely as I skirted the military perimeter of Penhale, territory known to me as a child.  In fact, my first visit toCornwall was resultant from the Army Cadet training, organised by Oundle School, way back in 1973.  It hadn’t changed that much: I even remembered the billet I lived in for that week. Scarcely nostalgic but worth savouring, even though more pressing thoughts came to mind as I strove to make my deadline in accordance to the Charity.  I had arranged a rendezvous with members from Mount Edgcumbe for 2pm, in order to initiate a fundraising march through the town ofNewquay.  We would walk as far as the Charity bookstall where I was destined to spend the afternoon signing my personal books and talking to members of the public about fundraising.

   It was something of an added challenge making these deadlines as the path dictates the tempo of the journey and does not offer a straightforward route compared to road-walking.  The road plays a limited part in this event, which is predominantly footpath, except at nightfall.  There will in later days be the coast lanes and canal walks of The Cornish Way as well as the country routes to Launceston and the South coast.  On this occasion there were no other options: first walking the sand dunes and beach at Holywell Bay, then rejoining the path atWest Pentire. From Penhale Point I descended to thevillage of Holywell.  The beach here was named Holywell Bay by pilgrims who claimed that the cave on its north side induced healing elements, hence derived from holy powers.  There is a stream running across the shore, which is a welcome treat for the youngsters or those with very sore feet (maybe I should visit the cave).  Once across the stream, the path can be reached from duckboards leading to the sand dunes, though initially I followed the beach as the tide was out.  This was a novel experience for me as I do not trust beach walks inCornwall, where usually there is little chance of escape via the towering clifftops.  It is always advisable to acquire information regarding tides and beach access when walking the coast: in most cases it is best to stick to the traditional routes and coast path signs.  From Kelsey Head and West Pentire I pushed on between the tufted sand dunes above Crantock Beach, where I faced the prospect of ‘somehow’ crossing the Gannel Estuary to keep to my deadline.

   The path retreated from the beach to autumn fields, soon to be encompassed by woodlands.  I had noticed, however, 2 people crossing the water, ankle deep, in what seemed to be a man-made causeway.  On arrival at the area it became apparent that there were wooden slats spanning the water.  I hastily removed my socks and boots, fastened my rucksack and nervously began the crossing.  It was quite an ordeal, demanding much concentration.  The wind was still blustery and bits were missing from the wooden structure, which was also slippery.  The depth of water each side of this narrow causeway would have been great enough to cover me thus soaking all my equipment.  Nonetheless I managed it despite the burden of my rucksack. Once more I had saved myself from an hour of walking to reach the main road at the Trenance Boating Lake, from where I would have to return along the other side of the inlet.

   Asking for directions, I was soon able to locate the footpath along Fistral Bay, whose magnificent white crests have given it international status as a surfing tournament venue.  A young lady had pointed to a large hotel, known as the Headlands, which I had believed to be my rendezvous.  This was a misunderstanding on my behalf and once confirmed by the manager of the establishment, I continued under his instruction, beside the golf course, later finding my associates at Red Lion Cross. They were both armed with buckets and banners and so the fundraising bonanza began.  Most people were helpful but the biggest blow was struck at a busy pub, where patrons in the beer garden were eagerly scraping together coins, only to be told by the bar manager that fundraising is banned from this establishment.  I was devastated to think that a local business was against helping a vital cause in the community, especially when so many people were willing to help.  The process of fundraising is seriously undermined by these people, who should at least support the community and their local charities.

   On reaching the bookstall I was able to change into dry clothes and enjoy some hot tea.  Towards the end of the event I visited the tourist office to check on other book sales. Whilst discussing the matter with the officer a voice yelled across – ‘ I’ve got that book’ – referring to the Walker’s Diary – a copy of which he bought in Oundle, in Northamptonshire.  It turned out that the chap and his wife, called Mick and Evelyn Sadler were on holiday in Cornwall and in fact live in Titchmarsh – a suburb of Oundle.  After a hasty greeting, I mentioned the possibility of meeting later in the evening at the Red Lion Inn, near Red Lion Cross.

   After my fundraising duties had finished, I located my hosts for the night who were situated at the top of a hill at the Terraskane Lodge, Mount

Wise.  I also required a trip to the chemist to treat a persistent chest infection.  The town, once renowned for its pilchard fishing industry, is now largely served by leisure and tourism.  Today was a perfect illustration of a place submerged by the spirit of tourism, where streets are bustling with activity of carnival flavour.  As a resort Newquay has grown in stature: born from the Railway Era of the late19th century, and further developed in the 1920’s and 30’s, becoming a jewel amongst holiday resorts.  Unlike the lavish appeal of Eastbourne, and the bully-like elegance of Scarborough, its strength lies in its natural resources. The alluring quality of the clear blue sea and its golden beaches, which create this Atlantic playground, have won admiration world-wide.  The firm sands punctuated by rock pools are a continual source of exploration to youngsters, whose safety is monitored by the watchful beach patrols.  The harbour at Newquay may still have a tale to tell, though the waves that were once cursed by fishermen are now a Mecca for surfers.

Day 3. Newquay to Sladesbridge.  30 Miles.

After a sleepless night incurred through a chest infection, I decided to visit the local surgery, where the doctor prescribed a week’s course of antibiotics.  Making my way from the surgery, I stopped at the chemist to collect the medicine.  Whilst indoors I changed into suitable clothing to encounter the wet and blustery weather that lay in waiting.  Facing me was the massive coast journey to Padstow:  followed by a walk up the Camel Estuary along the old railway route, known as the Camel Trail.  There would also be some roadwork, which would take me beyond Wadebridge, to the unknown destination of Sladesbridge.

   I felt awful and initially it was not a fun outing.  My feet were soon wet and the clifftop conditions were quite misty with constant drizzle.  Despite being muddy the path provided a relatively easy walk, though the mist concealed the breathtaking views that are usually the highlights of such a journey.  I remembered the spot where I had camped above Watergate Bay, during the 1996 campaign.  I could just see the beautiful beach below, where the sands extend back towards Newquay for 2 miles or more.  I also enjoyed a brief visit to Mawgan Porth.  I had stayed at the Merry Miller back in 1994 when walking the coast for Imperial Cancer Research. There was much to reflect on as I marched across the golden sands to rejoin the ascending path, embroidered by gorse and ferns.  There was also plenty to look forward to with many great landmarks ahead.  I was reminded of one by a Danish couple, who were seeking the Bedruthan Steps.  Sadly for them they had walked straight past the site and were now bound for Newquay.  Bedruthan Steps is the title given to the huge rocks rising from the sea, once claimed to be stepping-stones used by a giant Bedruthan. Cornwall has always been a land of ancient lore and legend, giving birth to many great myths and fables: this story may simply refer to those Celtic colonials who were taller than the native inhabitants.  The point lies between Mawgan Porth and Porthcothan and I passed it about half an hour later.  It was still misty, but I managed to take a photo of the steps, not able to remember their individual names: I know that one is called Queen Bess, believed to be an effigy of Queen Elizabeth 1. The site is a natural habitat for birds and seals, but I am uncertain whether people are allowed access to the beach these days, owing to the dangers of erosion.  I also realised that there is not a sign indicating the Bedruthan Steps, which is a great disadvantage for any tourist not familiar with the tale and its representation.

   I struggled on through the blanket of mist, hoping to reach Porthcothan where I could purchase some milk and chocolate.  I had also intended to stop by at ‘The Bay House Hotel’, to say hello to the owners whom I stayed with in 1997, when walking the coast towns of Great Britain for the Macmillan Nurses. 

   I was tired but relieved to reach Porthcothan, where other walkers were resting on the seats at the little grocery shop.  I collected my provisions and scurried off towards the Bay House Hotel, which to my astonishment was closed and up for tender.  I sat despondently beside the hotel, wringing out my wet socks, then indulging in a pint of milk and a banana. My mind momentarily strayed from the coast path as I pondered over the whereabouts of the proprietors, who had been so kind to me on my previous visit.

   Eventually I collected some positive thoughts and continued along the road, rejoining the trail at the bottom of the hill.  From the clifftop I had a clear view of Trevose lighthouse, only 5 miles west of Padstow, yet the journey to reach it was quite formidable and painstaking. I stopped again at Treyarnon Bay, where at least the rain had subsided, and a few more people were venturing out to sample the beach. As well as a shop or two, there is a Youth Hostel here, priced at £10 a visit.  It is apparently open to organised groups all year round, making it an ideal location for the water-sports activities, that have been consistent throughout the tour.

   When I eventually arrived at Trevose Head, I stopped to take a few pictures, thus savouring the moment, knowing that I had completed the greater part of today’s journey.  I was joined briefly by a couple, who were heading off towards Bedruthan Steps, the next stage in their weekly walking itinerary.  What a lovely pastime I thought: walking the footpath in stages allows a wonderful opportunity to seek out the coastal attributes, and absorb them in greater depth, as well as experiencing seasonal transition and the mood changes of the weather.

   After a 10-minute interval we parted in different directions: my journey taking shape along the farmland that skirts Harlyn Bay, the first part of which is Mother Ivey’s Bay.  The bay is aptly titled, referring to a formidable old lady who used to collect salvage from the rocky shore below, claiming it as her own.  An interesting story, although on a day like today, I doubt anyone would have even noticed her!

   It had remained dry but the sky still cloudy as I drew near to the Camel estuary.  Now I could see the small communities on the opposite shore as I followed the path across fields and forest land, finally walking a huge expanse of beach to the penultimate point.  Sailing vessels were also in view as I turned towards Padstow with less than a mile to go.  The harbour looked beautiful, with coloured craft wobbling to the motion of gentle currents, in a background of medieval buildings, which were soon to be the focus of my camera.  It was only 5.30pm, and so I took time out to explore the town.  

   Sir Walter Raleigh’s Court House is a prominent building, though history retreats even further to the 6th century, and the arrival of St. Petroc, who founded a monastery and church. Cornish towns have enjoyed their long association with their adopted saints, and Padstow is no exception: its Parish Church being one of several in the area dedicated to St. Petroc, who is also referred to asCornwall’s Patron Saint. So it may not come as a surprise to know there is in fact a famous trail known as the Saint’s Way, starting in Padstow and finishing at Fowey on the South coast of Cornwall. Once a great trading centre for tin and copper, Padstow as a port later suffered from the effects of the sandbank suitably named the ‘Doom Bar’, which has visited death upon many ships of the old world. Today, fishing remains part of Padstow’s working life, though it relies more significantly on tourism, reflected by the restaurants and refined establishments that line the streets around the harbour. On my way through the town I entered the bookshop to pick up a copy of my Millennium Challenge, which had been put to one side for me to collect.  In the shop were two ladies who had seen me breaking through the mist during the early part of the day.  I did in fact recall seeing them, though they were part of a big group at the time.  They praised my efforts, telling how they had “chickened” out as the wet weather drifted in.

   Dusk approached as I set off on the final stretch of the day, taken up on the Camel Trail.  This famous path was once a mainline train route from London, but with its fate sealed in 1967, now offers cycle/walking access to Wadebridge, and beyond to Pooley’s Bridge near Bodmin.  As well as being a footpath in its own right, it also forms part of the Cornish Way.  It provides an easy, enjoyable passage along the estuary, which has been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  It still has the look of a railway route with bridges  intact, affording excellent views of the Camel estuary, a scene portraying both work and leisure.

   It was dark when I arrived at Wadebridge, where I had to cross the old bridge and turn right to face Sladesbridge.  It was a place I knew nothing about, situated in the opposite direction to my route, adding an extra couple of miles to my total.  After confirmation at a farm house from a lady, who once worked at the Slades House Country Inn, I eventually reached my destination at 9.30pm – with I must say a great deal of relief!

Day 4. Sladesbridge to Camelford.  30 Miles.

The breakfast chat was reassuring, having heard the landlady tell of great fundraising events over the past year with her efforts realising £800.  A lady on the adjacent table was kind enough to give me a donation and after a lovely meal I departed from the premises, eager to renew my encounter with the coast.

   First I had to return to Wadebridge, where I stopped momentarily to photograph yet another bridge,( the town possesses 3 in all) beside which stood a signpost indicating the direction of my journey to Rock.  It had been my third visit to Wadebridge, the first was in 1995 when walking from John O’ Groats to Land’s End, the latter in 1997 when trekking around Great Britain.  The town is larger than first thought, making it an ideal night-stop for Camel Trail and coast to coast walkers.  It has shops, banks, pubs and plenty of character, accentuated by its 15th century bridge, (acclaimed to be the finest medieval structure in the country) built to overcome the dangers of wading across the tidal Camel.  Subsequently the town may have derived its name from the act of crossing the infamous ford, though this 13-arch bridge was called ‘The Bridge On Wool’, after, it is believed, sheep farmers helped to fund its construction.

   Once away from the town, the coast road narrowed considerably, bearing the usual hazardous bends.  There was also the odd shower to contend with, though I avoided the use of my poncho, which was green, and against the foliage could serve only to add to the dangers of traffic.

   I passed a farm, which the landlady had mentioned in connection with a fundraising clay pigeon shoot, held earlier this year.

   Occasionally I had sight of the Camel estuary, but for most of the time it was encompassed by woodlands, which at least offered peaceful country scenery.  There appeared to be a short cut via a caravan/holiday centre, though I was uncertain as to whether access was permissible.  I strove on, passing the signpost to St. Minver, eventually finding a small community, 2 miles from Rock.  I made use of the Spar shop, then photographed the Rock Road sign, which is also the title name of my home address.  It was a novel experience walking down the hill into Rock – normally I would simply catch the ferry across from Padstow, a service that has been in use since the 14th century.

   Though modest in size, Rock is in fact the main centre for water -sports in the area, and is also a tranquil place to reconstruct one’s thoughts. Stopping at the shore I changed my socks and drank a pint of milk.  Many were gathering at the ferry point, waiting to continue their coast path journeys, or perhaps find an inn or restaurant, where they could enjoy the more leisurely pace of Padstow.  I had little time to dwell over the leisure aspects of the coast as my itinerary presented great demands, which today would include a detour inland to the town of Camelford.  Initially the footpath from Rock is easy, skirting the golf course above the shore.  The sandy beach at low tide makes a superb alternative to the path, though I decided to stick with the latter. I progressed comfortably along the trail beside the golf course, later returning to the shoreline of Daymer Bay, where activity was at a peak. Sailing and kite-flying were among the beach pastimes, though many lay motionless on the sand, content with the more passive aspects of leisure.  Walking too, remains popular in these remote parts ofCornwall, and throughout the day people emerged from different points to join the coast path.   As the sun broke through it projected a magnificent clifftop scene, glowing gold with gorse against the backdrop of the shimmeringAtlantic.  In addition to the beautiful landscape, the journey is broken by many charming bays and colourful resorts.  New Polzeath, I found to be one of the liveliest, but thereafter I could sense the journey becoming quieter as it grew more arduous.  After leaving Pentire farm to tackle Port Quin the sections seemed to take a lot more out of me.  I passed a fine castle on the clifftop, before walking the most difficult ground to date, which lies between Port Quin and Port Isaac.  This I recalled from 1996 as one of the most severe parts of theSouth West Way.  It contains many man-made steps of differing heights to test the knees, and its winding course stretches the journey way beyond its apparent distance, eventually falling into Port Isaac: the descent of which contains about 84 steps.

   Having reached the peak of endurance, I was deflated by the fact that I still had a huge journey ahead in fading light, shared with footpath and road.  In the past Port Isaac had always signalled the end of the day, and was a welcome sight from the clifftop.  Knowing the day could get no better, I had to lift my spirits and walk on to Delabole, turning inland to the town of Camelford.

   Passing beyond the labyrinth of white-washed stone buildings and slim alleyways, I continued on the path to Port Gaverne, which seemed little more than a coastal appendage of Port Isaac.  I have friends in Oundle, notably one, Richard Vic, who appreciates the antiquity of both these little ports.  Richard spends many an hour painting and sketching the wonderful scenery, that aspires to bring out the artistic qualities in a person.  Still respected working towns, though more dependent on tourism, both these places capture the semblance of Cornwall’s seafaring heritage, borne from the glut of pilchards, and their connections with Delabole slate. 

   As shadows fell along the clifftop I exchanged the tormenting footpath journey for a more logical road one, allowing me to progress inland to Camelford.  I met another lad walking towards Port Gaverne and we exchanged views about the North coast journey, which for both of us had proved to be a formidable challenge. The famous slate quarry town of Delabolewas my next objective, where the smell of fish and chips almost lured me away from the task. The time deterred me from such action, not wishing to finish later than the hour of 10pm.

   When I eventually arrived at the Camelford sign, I had still to walk another 3 miles in what was now total darkness.  It seemed a remarkably long time to get there but at least I made the supper deadline.  The meal was more than welcome, and after, I sat with a group of people, whose lively conversation diverged from global travel to modern genetics, which included men having babies, (lucky men!). The landlady, Jo, was pleased to see me, remembering my previous visit, when walking from ‘End-to-End’. To remind her of the occasion I gave her a copy of myWalker’s Diary, which describes that particular adventure.

Day 5. Camelford to Bude.        21 Miles.

Opting for an early start, I crept stealthily out of the inn, ensuring I did not disturb anyone on this quiet Sunday morning.  There was little activity on the road but the sun was giving signals of a hot day to come.  Laden with wet gear, I struggled up a country lane via Slaughter Bridge, passing the famous Camelford Station. The town Camelford derives its name from the River Camel, and is said to have been King Arthur’s Camelot. Slaughter Bridge, is believed to be the place where he died in his last battle. Though I was not entirely convinced that the town is adorned with Arthurian magic: not far from here, rising above the North coast, is Tintagel Castle.  This is yet another site steeped in historical uncertainty, giving rise to more legends and myths from the Dark Ages.  With the assistance of modern poets and writers, the gaps of ancient time have been adequately filled with great tales of King Arthur and his brave knights, who once ruled in an era of chivalry. However, because the details of Arthur’s existence are a little vague, they merely serve to add more mystery and flavour to this ancient tale that has captivated the world for centuries.

   I was now destined for Boscastle with several miles to walk before pursuing any coastal routes.  I had a serious deadline to make today: a scheduled liaison at 4.30pm with Jean Corne of the Mount Edgcumbe Trust, and a few of her ‘Rambler’ friends.  Any route that I chose would pose difficulty given the hilly terrain.  As well as the coast path I would be able to use The Cornish Way, which is a cycle/walking route also following the coast to Bude.

   I did not reach Boscastle until 11.30am: feeling hot and tired I stopped to nurse my feet on a wall near a grocery shop.  Whilst resting, a Welsh chap from Cardiff, aged in his eighties, sat beside me, asking about my adventure.  Once I explained who I was he enquired if I had a copy of my book to sell.  There was only one Millennium Challenge book, which I let him have as he went on to explain about his own walking experiences. Sadly his son had died at the age of 40 – a terrible blow to any parent.  He too had followed in a long line of walking enthusiasts.  The gentleman was heading off to another coastal destination and so we said our farewells, departing in different directions amidst a bustle that would indicate the height of summer.

   The weather was a clear influence on all pursuits today, which could easily be mistaken for the middle of July. With the early deadline ahead of me I continued on the coast road to Crackington, which although hilly, was easier than the coast path, and thus allowed me to progress more efficiently. Sadly this meant that I would be denied some of the dramatic scenery, including High Cliff, which over 800 feet is one of the most precipitous points inCornwall.

 Descending from the village of Crackingtonto the shore below, I found the beach a hive of activity, owing to the many people who had gathered to enjoy the novelty of a September swim.

   I quenched my thirst, swallowing a couple of pints of water, and after re-filling at the toilet block, I continued uphill towards St. Genny’s church.  It is at this famous churchyard, filled with mariners’ gravestones, that one can comprehend the enormity of the sea.  These sad epitaphs are a grim reminder of a coast that is beautiful to behold yet menacing to all within its grasp.

   As soon as I was able I joined the cycle paths associated with The Cornish Way.  At least now I had a slightly more even course, though the hills remained steep, providing a stern examination of stamina.  I also found the road tough on my feet, causing blisters and after a while I rejoined the coast path, feeling confident that I would meet my deadline.  I could see Widemouth Bay, though it took several sections of coast path to actually reach it.  Once again the beach was heavily patronised by sun-worshippers, clinging dearly to the last remnants of the holiday season. I was by this time desperate to leave it and embark on the more important quest of obtaining fluid. On satisfying my great thirst, I enquired at the shop, if by chance any Ramblers had stopped by, as Widemouth Baywas the chosen rendezvous.  After a substantial break with the time now at 4.30pm, I decided to continue, returning once more to the clifftop.  Half a mile into the trek I was approached by a group of people announcing that they were in fact my walking escort into Bude.  After a photo-session orchestrated by the press I continued with 2 members of the party along a gentle footpath leading to the breakwater at Bude.  As the evening temperature dropped I bade farewell to the mighty Atlantic, which along this stretch alone had wrecked more than 80 vessels during the 19th-century. Even with this knowledge the white-crested sea appeared little more than sparkling ripples in a paddling pool, filled with bobbing surf boards, and wet-suited adrenaline addicts, who seem drawn to its seductive power.  The destination was in sight as we approached Bude Canal, which is also the Start of The Cornish Way.  I then booked into the Falcon Hotel where I was made most welcome with a buffet supper held in my honour.

WALKING COAST-TO-COAST OF CORNWALL

ROUTE: Initially along the Cornish Way, following the Bude Canal as far as the thatched village of Marhamchurch.  Continue on the back roads to Week St. Mary: a more substantial place with adequate facilities – the only one until reaching Launceston. 

   You will now walk the desolate back roads passing only Clubworthy until reaching the B3254 near the Countryman Inn, 4 miles from Launceston. Proceed cautiously to Launceston, this road is very busy, linking traffic with Bude and Stratton. Launceston, dominated by its medieval castle, was once known as the gateway to Cornwall.  Walk through the town and continue on the B3254 toSouth Petherwin, and finally Upton Cross.  Ensure that you have adequate provisions, as you will be walking through the rural hinterlands for most of the time.  Apart from Launceston there are no substantial towns between Bude and Liskeard along this chosen route.  

HINTERLAND OF RURAL AMBIENCE

Day 6. Bude to Upton Cross.    30 miles. 

Despite being very tired after a punishing day, I had a wonderful evening at the Falcon and woke this morning, feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.  Bude has so much to offer, and before retiring the previous evening, I had visited the Star Illusion point near the breakwater, which I found both relaxing and fascinating. Bude has always thrived on its natural resources, bringing prosperity to the fishing industry in predominant years and later prompting the development of its 35-mile canal, where barges shipped sand to Holsworthy and Launceston for use as fertiliser.  Only the theme has changed in the last hundred years: sea and sand remain the prime requisites that breathe life into this colourful seaside town, which has become the focus of families and travellers worldwide.   Before departing I photographed the breakwater, once the site of a chapel, where Bedes lit lanterns to guide approaching vessels into a port, which in those days was scarcely navigable. It was the altruistic behaviour of the holy men which assured the town its name of ‘Bede Haven’, which in turn became Bude.

   Starting with confidence on this fine sunny morning, I set off alongside the Bude Canal, using the Cornish Way footpath as my route. The Canal was completed around 1823, linking with the Tamar as a means of transporting calcium-laden sand from local beaches to inland farms for use as fertiliser.  The path is also a recognised cycle route and is a gateway to the Cornish world. There were others enjoying a stroll along the banks, where fishermen sat vigilantly beside the calm waters.  In contrast to the voice of thunder echoed by the tumultuous Atlantic seas of previous days, these still waters emanate tranquillity, amidst Cornwall’s rural hinterland. Here life drifts aimlessly without disturbance of solitude, other than the plopping of a float and the antics of waterfowl retreating from urban life.

   Crossing a bridge I continued along the west bank, eventually finding the appropriate exit at the next bridge.  Crossing the road away from the canal I found another trail that led to the village of Marhamchurch.  Reaching the top of the lane I entered the thatched village, immediately finding a shop.  Here I collected food and water for a journey, taken up on solitary back roads that would reveal only modest village life with few amenities. Having confirmed my route with the village shopkeeper, I was on my way to Week St. Mary.  The road was full of twists and turns, and at one stage cattle, who, left to their own devices, would no doubt have escorted me all the way to Launceston! However, they were under strict supervision of the herdsmen, who ensured that they roamed only as far as the farmyard. 

   By the time I reached St. Mary I was a little dazed by the heat and suffering slightly with exhaustion, incurred from the previous day.  I stopped at the village green where a gardener was mowing the grass. This idyllic little place is an epitome of old-world village life, still anchored to traditional elements. I suspect there were many listed buildings, some dating back to the Norman Invasion, and the site of an 11th-century castle, lies north of the Parish Church. Taking the opportunity to eat some lunch I tried to focus on the great task that lay ahead.  It would require a monumental effort to reach the outskirts of Liskeard, and my proposed stop, which was slightly west of my course.

   I needed confirmation from the gardener that I was actually on the right road, given the fact that there was a choice.  The network of minor roads caused some confusion, though I stuck rigidly to his instructions, which were plain and clear to understand.  Avoiding all junctions, I continued virtually in a straight line, sighting little traffic other than a tractor leaving the village of Clubworthy.  I was feeling a bit better having enjoyed the harmony of the countryside in contrast to the indomitable rigours of tourism. Despite occasionally hearing the main road traffic, the mud-track road never allowed any sight of it.  I was at times enveloped in woodlands, later emerging to silent fields, that echoed only the motions of rural isolation. Inevitably I arrived at a small junction where country roads linked together, indicating imminent primary routes, and I was now gleeful at the prospect of soon reaching Launceston.  I joined the B3254 just beyond the Countryman Inn, near North Petherwin, (I had stayed here when on my 1994 walk of Cornwall) and proceeded along a much busier, but still narrow road.  My concentration was immediately tested to capacity by an impetus of traffic, that remained constant until my arrival at Launceston.

   All activity at Launceston had ground literally to a halt, which was something of a revelation to any pedestrian.  Having not seen or heard the news in latter days, I did not comprehend the situation. I was totally oblivious to the petrol strike, which had brought the traffic to a complete standstill.  Crossing the road, I hopped between angry drivers, who queued despairingly for the last few drops of petrol left at this garage.

   After a snack I treated the public to a sock change, illustrating that even in the 21st century, much could still be gained on foot! Moments later I started my ascent through the town, passing the Launceston Narrow Gauge Railway Station, leaving behind the widespread furore caused by the tailback of stationary vehicles.  

   Despite appearing to be an exile of tourism as well as a hostage to the perilous A30, the ancient town ofLauncestonhas many distinguishing traits, once being the County Town of Cornwall with castle and wall.  The hilltop castle dominates the place and although little more than a shadow of former years, retains a remarkable depth of history, dating back to Norman times.  Finally I reached the top of the hill, looking back at the town one last time before accelerating towards the roundabout.  For once I was moving faster than the traffic, and I quickly made the decision to rejoin the B3254. It was 5pm and I would need to press on as light would fade after 7pm, owing to misty conditions. 

   I passed throughSouth Petherwin, where traffic was at a teatime peak.  The roads were narrow, but still provided a typically Cornish rural flavour, enhanced by alluring river scenes and beautiful stone-built bridges.  As the journey lengthens, the villages diminish, becoming more secluded as life retreats beyond the wooded boundaries of the road.  I ran the odd mile to build up the momentum as darkness fell, bringing with it the voice of the night. The quiet roads were now filled with the cries of native fauna, waking from their daytime slumber.  There were exit lanes from the road, which I felt certain would shorten my journey, though I declined knowing full well the risks that await one in darkness.  An hour passed, by which time I had reached Upton Cross, and with confirmation of my position made at the pub, I walked to the nearest phone box and called Mrs Bunny.  Mrs Bunny lives at a farm house near Siblyback Lake, west of my route, and had kindly offered to put me up as a donation to the campaign.  As it was a few miles west of my route, she would pick me up and return me to Upton Cross the next day.  This ensured I would not lose valuable time on the road and could therefore keep to my timetable, which tomorrow included a fundraising tea party at Downderry.

ROUTE:  From Upton Cross the journey continues along the back roads, avoiding Liskeard.

   For coast walkers the journey begins at Cremyll and trails Mount Edgcumbe CountryPark. The park was developed in 1970, offering opportunities to visit Mount Edgcumbe House, restored after the blitz of 1941. The 800-acre park acclaimed to be the most beautiful inEngland, provides an easy walk to the twin villages of Kingsand and Cawsand.  There are excellent views of Plymouth Sound, and beyond Penlee Point you will see the monks’ ancient chapel, (dedicated to St. Michael in 1397) perched upon Rame Head.  The path runs from cliff road to beach, but beware of Tregantle, an area requisitioned by the military as a Firing Range.  Also note the tides before charging off up the beach!  The path skirts the seaward perimeter of the golf course at Crafthole, and then descends to the beach at Portwrinkle.  Pass beyond the hotel to the end of the shore, locating the public footpath on the right. You will pass the old route to Downderry, which is closed off. Continue on the public footpath to the road. Then follow the road for about half a mile. Hopefully you can (if you locate the sign on the left) rejoin the path, which will lead to the shore at Downderry.

Day 7. Upton Cross to Downderry.  16 miles.

I enjoyed my stay at Siblyback, having had sufficient time to unwind and appreciate some wonderful home cooking.  At breakfast I chatted with other guests, who were also spending their vacation exploring the Cornish countryside: in particular the moorland scenery had stirred their interest.  Although captivated by the misty lake land my attention was focused on the East coast ofCornwall, and by 9.30am I was back at my marker, ready for a brisk march.  Bidding farewell to Mr and Mrs Bunny, I departed from Upton Cross with hope of reaching Downderry along a network of farm lanes.

   Unfortunately the journey was hampered by the lack of signposts that consequently made the day more complex.  My initial instructions were to turn left before the gypsy site, which unfortunately I did not see.  I suppose my early memories of gypsy life were ones of authentic horse-drawn wagons, parked in the roadside with log fire and tea in the background.  The last time I had witnessed such a spectacle was on my John O’Groats to Land’s Endwalk in 1995, when ambling along the A38, known as the old west road, to Bridgwater.  The modern day gypsy appears to be more elusive than his predecessor, and my illusion of hedgehog meals by the roadside promptly disappeared back to the 20th century. Not by choice, owing to excess miles that now lay before me, I was now bound for Liskeard.  I managed to win a slight reprieve at the next junction, where two local lumberjacks, who were clearing a residential garden, directed me to the hamlet of Merrymeet.  The pattern of slender roads remained synonymous with rural life, scarcely allowing the room to manoeuvre a tractor, but luckily there were few encounters.  I met two other hikers following a circular route, and we stopped to chat for a while.  When I informed them about my task they replied saying -‘ You must be that chap who walked round Britain’.  I explained who I was and that I had recorded the events in diaries, which I am in the process of publishing.  They listened with intrigue and after wishing each other well, we parted in different directions, now beneath the blistering sun.  The next problem was finding a source of fluid in a countryside so rural and sparse in terms of village life.

   Soon I found myself on the A38, an experience that did not exactly fill me with euphoria, though nonetheless it was another stepping- stone in the great journey east.

   Locating a garage near Catchfrench GardenI attempted to get a drink.  Innocently forgetting that there was a petrol strike, I ran into a closed door patrolled by an attendant, who refused access to anyone, however desperate their plea.  Advancing a few yards further, I found a Little Chef café, where I was able to purchase some  Cola.  From here I progressed along the A387 to Polbathic, noting signs to St.Germans and Looe.  None of these were relevant today, and at the next minor road junction I enquired at a nearby house, as to whether I could reach Downderry along this course.  The lady confirmed my assumption, explaining that vehicles are prohibited on this lane, which a mile or so up the hill would link to the Downderry road.  This I managed successfully, but then foolishly tried to locate the coast path into Downderry.  Most of the path is obsolete, though in 1996 I recall walking a small section of it, however I did not manage to locate it this time.  The misconception led to a late arrival at Tremorran House, where I was to be the Guest of Honour.  Punctuality was never my finest attribute, but despite my poor time-keeping I was made very welcome indeed, and the tea party raised over £100 for the Hospices.  The rest of the day was now mine to enjoy, and after writing up my diary I went for a drink in the hotel bar.  I was staying at the ‘Inn on the Shore’, a place I knew from a previous expedition in 1994.  I was surprised to see it had changed significantly, catering more for food clientele, yet retaining pub facilities, including pool table and Sky T.V. The views from the inn are also outstanding, overlooking the beautiful sand and shingle beach, caressed by the gentle rolling tide.  Before retiring I met a chap called Nigel who is a missionary, recently back fromAfrica.  He showed an interest in my crusade, and later bought a copy of my ‘Walker’s Diary’ book.  He has dedicated his life to God, and believes that everyone should have a purpose: indeed he is right, but so few people look at life in this way.  At least I had unwound enough to sleep, although my thoughts drifted momentarily to the heavy workload of tomorrow, which would yield over 30 miles of coast walking to Mevagissey on St. Austell Bay.     

A FISHING WORLD ENDOWED WITH SMUGGLERS CHARM

Day 8. Downderry to Mevagissey.  30 miles. 

Today is a big one: a journey of about 30 miles of coastal walking,  initially taken up along the shore. Descending from a steep path adjoining the inn, I walked the beach of shingle and sand to Downderry’s twin village Seaton.  It was a refreshing, yet tranquil sensation, walking beside the sea early in the day, where activity is usually minimal: today it was confined to boat maintenance, fishing and playful canine commotion. As the elegant clifftop houses give way to Seaton I exchanged the beach for the road in hope of walking the ‘monkey trail’.  The actual coast path is a difficult and time-consuming experience and so I planned to walk the trail by the Monkey Sanctuary,(an orphanage for Amazon monkeys) which later joins a public footpath leading to Millendreath Beach.  It is an excellent route and given my timetable was an important link in the journey.  Unfortunately I had not walked it since 1994, and instead of continuing uphill at the sign, I followed the road round to the right and missed the sanctuary altogether.  In my haste I absent-mindedly passed the sign and continued on the coast road.  I could have returned to the sanctuary at another point, but pressed on feeling sure I would find a suitable route back to the coast.  This did not happen or at any rate not until arriving at ‘No Mans Land’, appropriately titled on a morning now full of dismay.  Further on I managed to divert myself onto a satisfactory quiet back road entering Looe, later finding a downhill lane into the main town.  Filing through the narrow streets, now choking with people, I stopped at a chemist and purchased some ‘Build-up’.  I find this meal replacement substance useful on endurance marches, especially as it is usually unethical to eat bulky food. 

   The ancient fishing towns of East andWest Looeare most definitely places to visit if you are in search of a traditional family holiday location.  Separated by the River Looe, both towns are lively and picturesque without being stretched to commercial limits, offering clean beaches and ample restaurants serving local fish.

   After a short break I crossed the old stone-arched bridge that links East toWest Looe.  Progressing to the top of the hill, I found the view of the crowded harbour and the shoreline back to Downderry quite rewarding.  At this point I realised it may have been possible to continue along the shore from Seaton, in which case I would have arrived at Looe at least an hour ago.  From this I reckoned that I had selected the poorest route out of at least 3 options available. This was quite demoralising given the length of the day that was scheduled, and the fact that it was already 11pm.

    Despite feeling somewhat enervated by the misfortune, I gained solace from a lovely stretch of footpath extending aroundTallandBayto Polperro. I now had a clear view of St. George’sIsland, owned by Miss Atkins, whose sister I met in 1998, when visiting Looe. Later I passed through the tiny inlet of Talland, where a few people had gathered by the rocky shore.  In contrast to the resplendent weekend the sun had retreated beneath a dull cloud cover of intense humidity.  The path tumbled through the wooded glades, woven by native flora, where the sticky heat had aroused an insect population of pandemic proportions.  

   Polperro is another place thronged with life: the hilltop view of the harbour sprinkled with whitewashed houses, reveals why it is such a powerful magnet.  Tourists cannot disguise their fascination for these quaint Cornish villages, where under a spell of ancient charm, they wander almost dazed in an inspirational time zone. Much of the interest with this picturesque harbour lies in its furtive smuggling past, said to have rivalled any legitimate cause of that era.  Presently at low tide, it looked beckoning to the artist’s eye, and I took several photographs before marching through the narrow winding streets, amidst the mixed idioms of its European visitors.  At the top of the hill I veered right, away from the village to follow a tough section to Lansallos.  I slowed down to accommodate the difficult task but was unable to obtain water, which left me feeling drained.  I fought through the barrier despite a bleak spell of weather, which made the journey linger. 

   It was 3.30pm when I arrived at Polruan: thankfully I had time to buy a king-size bottle of water before catching the ferry across the River Fowey.  I had drunk most of the fluid before reaching the other side, but saved enough for the leg to Par. Fowey, though younger than its river companion Polruan, has enjoyed a greater affinity with the sea, forged from diverse activities, ranging from smuggling to boat-building: the latter remains a reputable profession in the area. 

   The air was cooler now as I set off towards the Gribbin.  I noticed theSaints Wayfootpath sign as I passed St. Catherine’s Castle on the left of the woodland path.  Years ago I had followed the Saint’s trail by mistake, but somehow managed to reach Polkerris by marching across a field. It was a steep climb to the Gribbin, where I spotted an elderly couple checking out the history engraved on the Mariner’s monument.  The striped beacon was built in former days of wood and sail, marking the eastern tip of St. Austell Bay.  It was an important milestone, though I would not be happy until I reached Par, and the easier footpaths along St. Austell Bay.  There was some confusion over the woodland path to Polkerris.  After employing the tactics of trial and error I managed to locate the exit, emerging beyond the curving breakwater, once a shelter for its fishing fleet.   It looked cold and desolate now, unlike summer months when it is a welcome sanctuary for bathers and sun lovers.

   At last I could see St. Austell Bay, where broken communities sprawl across the coastline.  Soon I would be walking through these little ports and fishing villages, though some I would not reach until dusk. 

   Stopping at a shop in Par I gathered basic provisions of milk and chocolate, whilst chatting briefly to the shop assistant.  Pressing on through the streets, which represent the coast path, I finally located the mud-track beneath the railway line, situated opposite Par docks.  Passing beyond the fenced boundaries of the china-clay works, the trail follows the golf course aboveCarlyonBay.  Thankfully it was easy and I managed to reachCharlestownat the point of darkness. Charlestownwas originated by Charles Rashleigh, who developed the port in 1800 for exporting china clay and copper.  It still evokes a commanding portrayal of the Georgian era with the authentic tall ships displaying old naval anchors and huge cannon guns.   Owing to total darkness it was now more expedient to follow the coast roads, which I had already chartered as an alternative route.  Departing from the harbour I asked a young couple for instructions to Duporth road but their dog protested bitterly at my intrusion.  Had he not been on a lead I know for sure I would have been on the way to hospital. Certainly one of us would have been, and it soon became apparent that they had no control over the beast.  I fear for youngsters who own these monsters, as it seems that so few of them are capable of instilling any discipline.  I managed to escape from the creature, and using my initiative I followed the line of the coast in somewhat unfavourable circumstances.  The Duporth road offered no light and it was difficult to read the signs, but I eventually emerged at the Mount Edgcumbe Head Office.  This was encouraging and it simplified my journey as I knew I was only a couple of miles from Pentewan, another town born to serve the china-clay industry.  Running for a while I kept up the momentum, reaching the village at the bottom of the hill at around 9pm.  Shortly after, Simon and his family had emerged having patrolled the area in anticipation of my arrival.  After exchanging greetings I passed him my rucksack and continued to run along the road, which also happens to be part of the coast path.  I kept a good pace and finished the day at Mevagissey at 9.30pm, celebrating with a Chinese meal and a couple of pints.

Day 9. Mevagissey to St. Mawes.  24 miles.

Meeting Simon and his family the previous night proved to be a morale-boosting liaison and it was evident that they all appreciated what I was doing for the cause.  Owing to the late finish I did not see much of the town: so I gave myself a brief tour of the place, and visited the picturesque harbour, which makes Mevagissey a paragon of Cornish village life.  Although it has become a popular tourist haven, Mevagissey has always been recognised as a key centre for fishing, with its first harbour pier dating back to the 15th-century.  The pier is a popular point for beach-casting too: I have two friends from Oundle, Nick Hornsby and Pip Weatherington who enjoy a fishing trip here.  Even wet days fail to dampen their enthusiasm: probably due to the fact that sanctuary lies but a few yards west of the harbour at the old Ship Inn! 

   Beginning the day at 9.30am I set off up the hill towards the hamlet of Port Mellon. It was a dull, wet, muggy sort of day, initially hindered by traffic, as I scrambled past the modest bathing beach, which signalled the end of easy walking. Despite my elation of eluding the busy road, it was the clifftop path that would now become the menace. Initially it was easy, passing Chapel Point and its inspiring seascapes to traverse fields separated by stiles, where I would occasionally stop and glimpse back at the attractive buildings dominating the distant shore.

     Rain fell heavily on arrival at Gorran Haven, where beach relics of its fishing past remind us of a once thriving port deemed greater than its neighbour Mevagissey.  Today it has expanded to suit the needs of residential growth, which thankfully meant that there was a shop. I was relieved by this, as the greater part of the journey now lay before me, presenting desolate clifftops, interspersed by solitary bays and beaches now subdued by the advent of Autumn.  Once I had gathered my provisions I set off across the road, joining the path near the beachfront. Less defined than before, I struggled to find my way through the bracken, stumbling periodically on the rocky ground.  Following the trail through the escarpment above the graceful sweep ofVault Beachwas a tasteful reminder of this beautiful stretch of coast, embossed with a mariner’s monument at Dodman Point.  The Dodman, fortified during Iron Age times to preserve its territory, also became the demise of fishing fleets that sailed this magnificent headland. The Point, now owned by the National Trust, occasionally evokes the seafaring spirit of sail, relived during the meritorious crusade of the Tall Ships Race.

   After a tricky section to Hemmick Beach, where the lane leads up to Boswinger Youth Hostel (about half a mile from the coast), I marched on, passing Greeb Point and Black Rock.  Then with some relief I descended through fields of cattle to Porthluney Cove, which lies humbled by the grandeur of St.Michael Caerhays.  I stopped to savour a view of the castle, the centre piece of lush green fields, built in 1808 by John Nash.  As predicted the solitary scene of a desolate beach and boarded café now gave a bleak picture of the summer twilight giving way to seasonal change.  Winter is the nemesis of all coast life and this bleak caption of blustery weather, had ensured that even the boldest of holidaymakers were forced to retreat inland. Departing from the scene I ambled uphill, engulfed by woodlands, eventually finding the coast path, which turns left away from the road.  The path provided an easy journey, and looking back in the distance behind me an eerie cloud cover hovered above Dodman Point. I pressed on hastily towards Portholland, where I was able to pass over the beach: once again activity was at a low ebb: in fact confined to a couple and their dog, enjoying the peaceful rolling motion of water.  I struggled alongVeryan Bay, feeling the effects of dehydration, owing to lack of fluid.  I felt as though I was never going to reach Portloe, walking the rocky ground and man-made steps of differing heights.  Often I stumbled on jutting rocks concealed in the over-grown vegetation, that has luxuriated throughout this damp humid summer.  I was also still bewildered by the presence of insects, in particular large swarms of bees that had colonised the tunnels of bracken, which I nervously encountered.

   Finally I descended to Portloe, where it was quite a relief to obtain water from the post office, though I still had over half the journey left. Taking a detour away from the path I attempted to follow a public footpath only to end up cut off by hedgerows.  I returned to the road and queried it with a lady who simply replied ‘This isCornwallwhat do you expect’.  Basically I think her abrasive reply meant that a right of way simply means you have access to a field, which does not necessarily adopt a walking trail.

   From here on I witnessed some beautiful countryside with thatched houses, built in round style to leave no corners for the Devil to hide! Returning to the cliffs I negotiated some difficult points, later entering a farm, patrolled by geese, and then dropping to Pendower Hotel along a slim gated-road.  With Portscatho in the distance I crossed a smaller beach, where to my horror I saw a man swimming!  I very nearly joined him as the advancing tide swept over my boots, soaking me as I narrowly escaped up the clifftops away towards Portscatho.       

   Portscatho is an inspiration to the East coast and I rewarded myself with a chocolate bar, gazing back at the day’s effort so far.  It was by now 4pm and there was no sign of the Ramblers who were supposed to escort me to St. Mawes.  Little wonder I thought with this horrific weather.  After chatting awhile with some tourists, I left the harbour and walked back to the village shop, stopping to ask the attendant if he had seen any other walkers.  He was a walker himself and had made the same journey aroundCornwall, curious to know whether I would be doing the section to Place.  This would require a pre-arranged ferry crossing to St. Mawes, and was not on the itinerary owing to the difficulties in planning.  My route from here would follow the road back towards Trewithian to link with the A3078 to St. Mawes.  On leaving the village I asked a lady in her garden for advice.  She pointed to a track opposite:  it was not sign-posted but would take me to within 3 miles of St. Mawes. 

   This was encouraging and I enjoyed a tranquil journey to the main road.  Walking the A3078 was a little disconcerting as teatime traffic sped by along the narrow highway.  A car had broken down at the top of the hill beside the estuary, causing a few problems for other road users.  My main concern was the intrusion of more wet weather as a storm looked menacingly imminent. I walked past an estuary and on reaching St. Just-in-Roseland the heavens opened. The session that followed was a fierce one leaving me somewhat bedraggled and by the time I reached the Rising Sun it was difficult to distinguish any view ofFalmouthowing to the deluge.  On entering the hotel, John Milan and his staff raced into action ensuring my needs were tended to and later I received a visit from the Mount Edgcumbe Hospitality and Rambler’s organisations.  Luckily I had resurrected my old army sweatshirt, usually re-commissioned for these events, and so had something dry to wear for the occasion.

Day 10. St. Mawes to Carharrack (via Truro).  19 miles.

In contrast to the previous day, this morning paraded clear blue sky as the sun beamed brilliantly above Carrick Roads.  Striding out towards St. Mawes Castle, I stopped to photographFalmouthdocks on the opposite shore withPendennis Castle rising above.  Both castles were built by Henry V111 as part of his sea defences against the French and have stood for over 450 years.  Initially created to protect the Carrick Roads entrance, both castles were actually besieged from land by Oliver Cromwell during his civil war against the crown.

   After a close-up view of St. Mawes Castle I proceeded along the coastal trail, which led to the sparse settlement of St. Just-in-Roseland.   It was a lovely journey: slightly muddy in places but much easier than the sections walked on the clifftop coast.  The journey crossed several fields as I looked back at Falmouthand out towards Penryn.  In the distance I could see a church and within half an hour I was making my way down to the quay at St. Just.  I had a lovely view of the estuary, now a picture of serenity.  There was a workshop nearby with modest activity capturing the interest of a tourist group.  A lady from the group shouted across to me, explaining that we had met at Portscatho Harbouryesterday.  Suddenly I remembered and spoke briefly to them before advancing uphill to the 13th-century church, situated above the tidal creek of the River Percuil.  This picturesque church is a popular monument, immortalised by Cornish writers and artists, giving it status as an important landmark on this secluded Roseland Peninsula.

   The transition of rolling patchwork fields and glinted waters to tranquil estuaries and creeks was in some ways more of a relief than an elegy – at least I could enjoy the sensation of walking on level ground. Sheltered from the sea, these Mediterranean backwaters allow nature to be more indulgent as tropical vegetation luxuriates in this warm damp climate.  Leaving St. Just I engaged in a brief burst along the B3289 road, which led to the King Harry Ferry point, where I awaited my crossing toTrelissickGardens. The ferry is a platform connected to a chain link – a bit like a transporter bridge, becoming a necessary integrant for vehicles and pedestrians, extending their travels beyond the estuary to the city boundaries. The service has existed for centuries: one of its first mechanical ferries operated in 1889 when the craft  was steam operated. I was now within 5 miles ofTruro, where I would be attending an interview with Cornwall Radio, later this afternoon. People were admiring the elegant Trelissick Garden, owned by the National Trust, which is suitably positioned at the head of Carrick Roads, allowing panoramic views along the estuary towardsFalmouth.  I marched nonchalantly beyond the point, noticing other well-kept residential grounds nearby.  After stopping at the shop at the top of the road for a pint of milk, I continued, turning right along the old coach road in the direction ofTruro.  Parts of the road are now deemed the Cornish Way, and well-established as a cycle route toTruro.  I occasionally needed some confirmation of its course but I enjoyed the experience, arriving in good time for some lunch.TruroisCornwall’s city and despite its excellent pedestrian shopping centre, remains unspoiled by the rigours of modernism.  It is more of a vibrant town than a city, though it is difficult to ignore the three-spire cathedral, which took 30 years to build, eventually finished in 1910. I had ample time to prepare for the radio show and so explored part of the town before arriving at the BBC Radio Station for the 3.30pm deadline.  It was fairly brief -15 minutes in all and I was soon on my way again – this time in the direction of my mother’s home in Carharrack.  Luckily I had missed the downpour of rain and although there was threat of another I continued unscathed.  I passed the villages of Threemilestone and Chacewater as teatime traffic emerged with growing intensity.  I had only to endure an 8-mile hike, of which the last 2 miles were walked on the back roads, passing Crofthandy, finishing at Carharrack at 6p.m.   

ROUTE BACK TO THE COAST

ROUTE: Follow the footpath from Carharrack (down past Sparry Lane) through Trevince Woods (on the right) to Gwennap village. Do not confuse with Gwennap Pit, which lies southwest of Carharrack.

   At Gwennap Church climb the hill until locating the Perranwell road on the left.  Continue to Perranwell and its neighbour Perranarworthal.  After a short blast on the A39 you will be able to join the coast cycle trail, on the left of the road, to Penryn andFalmouth.

Day 11. Carharrack to Falmouth.  12 miles.

Leaving home around 10am on a fresh dry morning I took the country footpath through Trevince Woods, leading to thevillageof Gwennap.  Not that long ago the woods were condemned in favour of a landfill project, but hard-fought campaigns have saved the site and its wildlife.  It is hard to imagine that such an exchange was ever contrived. In fact it is totally unethical in today’s world that has endured the ailments of global warming, highlighting the disasters of a modern age.  To think this planet is now dying at the hands of the rich and powerful, whose greed has ignited the blue touch paper.

   After the forest experience I pressed on through Gwennap, walking to the top of the hill, opting for the less tedious, country route via Perranwell and Perranarworthal.  There were many roads branching off to village destinations, and I had to keep a close vigil for the appropriate signposts.  It was a simple journey, only skirting Perranwell as I walked downhill through Perranarworthal, where I briefly encountered a busy A39.  This is the Truro/Falmouth road, which fortunately I sampled only for a short while before joining the cycle route to Penryn.  This was an old road serving small villages such as Mylor and Flushing.  Traffic was obviously less frequent so I enjoyed a modest journey to the ancient estuary town of Penryn, finally emerging on the coast road.  The harbour looked like a postcard portrait with small boats anchored all round the shore, adding flavour to the town’s charm and character, conveyed by its buildings and courtyards.  Its maritime history stretches back to the 15th-century when it was a prestigious port.   Continuing beyond the marina I joined theFalmouth road, where I stopped at a shop to buy milk.  Walking intoFalmouth was scarcely a novelty, having been here on numerous occasions, though I still took time out to savour the moment.  At least I had arrived in good time to visit the shops and have a quick soda water at the Grapes Inn whilst writing a few postcards.  I stopped at the bookshops to say hello then continued towards the Docks and Pendennis Castle. I have worked on Cross-Channel ferries at the docks in winter months andFalmouth is said to be the third largest natural harbour in the world. The clifftop point above the docks affords some of the best panoramic views of Falmouth town: a charming combination of old and new, prospering from a blend of industry and tourism. Rows of colourful buildings set in an ambience of palmaceous growth are tantalisingly seen from Pendennis Point.   Above lies the castle that has survived a colourful era of smuggling and rebellion, protecting our shores for over 450 years.  Its Discovery Centre retains a strong grasp of its history, and its Tudor gun-deck is one such powerful reminder. Rounding the point, the coast road is transformed into a source of wonder as the seaward views extend acrossFalmouthBay, where the sea plays host to many anchored vessels. This tranquil scene will soon be a distant memory for many mariners, who by tomorrow, will embark on a new voyage across tumultuous seas to foreign shores. My journey concluded gently as I ambled casually away from the promenade to register at the Poltair Hotel, where Malcom and his wife were eagerly awaiting my arrival.  I had stayed here during the winter months whilst working on the P&O. ships in refit.

Day 12.Falmouthto Cadgwith.  30 miles.

I felt tired in the morning, resulting from the previous night’s social activities. I had planned for a meal and an early night but by chance ran into a friend from Redruth, Carol and her companion Mary Anne, who is a member of the Rambler’s Association.  After a couple of pints at the King’s Head I was dragged off to a club to indulge in more social revelry, which unfortunately is not always the best preparation for a 30-mile coast-hike. It is good to unwind and lubricate the soul with a spot of liquid libation, though this course of treatment does have its side-effects!  Despite feeling a little bewildered, Malcom introduced me to the other guests and I chatted for a while, eventually departing around 9.30am.

   It was a refreshing morning: calm and still as I skirted Falmouth Bay, feeling a little worse for wear. Gyllyngvase Beachwas quiet, attended in military fashion by dog walkers and the occasional swimmer wishing to gather some zest for the day.

   My body was still partially asleep but I tried to remain focused and motivated, owing to the intense work load ahead. Today’s journey included a ferry crossing at Helford Passage, and I hoped that there would be no delays.  Initially the path offered easy walking, with few surprises, though thankfully there were signs of some extensive maintenance, which enabled me to progress more efficiently.  The trail has looked in good shape throughout Cornwall and I have seen some significant improvements since my last visit.  Although the route is more easily defined, I suffered a slight mishap through the woods, joining a different footpath to Mawnan Smith, where I could hear the sound of a football match in progress.  I recalled having this problem a few years ago, when I at least took the opportunity to visit its lovely church.  I did not get to that stage this time, retreating through the hedge-growth, where I sought help from a couple picking blackberries.  A good activity on this fair-weather day: no wind nor rain to blight the event, and further more they assisted me, pointing to a broken trail across the fields.

   The adventure continued with the path traversing grazing pastures, woodlands, many small bays and private grounds, eventually halting at Helford Passage at 11.45am.  There was a 15-minute interval, which was a blessing in disguise as it forced me to appreciate a proper rest, having reached this point in only 2 hours!

   The ferry service at Helford Passage has been active since the 15th century, and the inn by the shore, called The Ferry Boat Inn, which serves coffee and food to waiting travellers, is at least 300 years old. It was a gentle crossing in the small vessel that carried eight of us at a cost of £1.50 per head.  In a matter of minutes we were on the opposite shore, and marching nonchalantly through the little village of Helford.  I passed an inn and managed to obtain a few items, including milk from the village store, which I drank in readiness for the next stage of the walk.

   Scarcely covering a quarter of the journey, I resumed with hope of building up the momentum along a relatively easy track.  On firm mud I continued through the woodland glades to St. Anthony, where a small group of people were attempting to ford Gillan Creek.  I stopped to photograph the lovely 12th-century church before crossing the low-tide stony beach in trainers, thus avoiding an extensive road detour to Nare Point.

   The course of the footpath was difficult to follow and took 4 attempts to find the correct exit from the woods.  The monotony of forest life continues, though more frequently broken by sandy bays and fishing coves, which in the smuggler’s hey day would have proved a nemesis to the Revenue. The remains of a wooden boat beside the shore is a scene that typifies South Cornwall, adding flavour to this comprehensive and diverse journey.  This rugged yet fervent landscape, carpeted with sub-tropical vegetation, now provides a sharp contrast with the awe-inspiring North coast clifftops, clad in gorse and heather. Despite the serenity of the coastland, I had no difficulty in obtaining drinking water, as there were public conveniences and shops at many of the bays.  Stopping at Porthallow, I asked for directions around the Dean Quarry.  The lady replied, saying that there was in fact a path through the quarry, which I would be able to use, in any case it was a Sunday, and they would not be blasting.  This was good news as I had not been through the quarry before.  First I had to reach Porthoustock: the journey commencing initially uphill by road, and a mile or so later rejoining the footpath through farm grounds, eventually descending into the little bay.  At the beach, I saw the warning signs, prohibiting access to the quarry, where only meters away divers prepared for their Sunday afternoon sub-aqua encounter with the Manacles.  The quest for the sea is endless as is the curiosity surrounding the demise of other marines; some whose epitaphs can be found locally in the graveyard of St. Keverne.  Many a seafarer has sealed his fate on this dangerous reef, which in turn has become a fascinating project for those wishing to explore the wreckage below.

   Leaving the site I continued to the top of the road, passing the quarry entrance, finding the coast path sign further uphill on the right.  The route led me diagonally across three fields and into a small village, where I found a farm trail on the left of the road.  People were busy tending their gardens as I ambled across more farmland, eventually descending to the shore at Godrevy Cove.  After some apprehension I followed the shore, which soon revealed the quarry footpath.  Again warning signs were displayed, threatening fearful retribution to those who do not adhere to the rules. The expanse of the quarry was greater than first imagined though easily negotiated.  I caught a glimpse of two fishermen below: one was reeling in a substantial sea bass, witnessed by an approaching female audience.

   I was now on course for Coverack, pursuing a grass track beside the rock -strewn beach, where the main inhabitants were cattle.  The trail was easy and by 5.30pm I was again sampling village life.  Coverack seemed at its busiest with many visitors milling about the village, enjoying their ice creams, and taking photos of white-washed cottages jostling above the cove.  Once more I stopped for milk and chocolate, as I prepared for the final session of the day.  I passed other walkers on my way back to the clifftop, most of whom did not envy my remaining journey.  Despite some confusion over the footpath I managed to find the correct route to Black Head, which at times was strenuous and resembled an obstacle course.  The cloud cover had brought darkness, and I was relieved to reach Kennack Sands, where my journey across the golf course was something of a wind down.  Though light was fading I knew that I had only a mile or two left along a straightforward stretch of clifftop.  Even after sunset the light remained good enough for me to catch a glimpse of the old pastel-washed cottages ofCadgwithBay, arriving there at 8p.m – 10.5 hours in all.  I was staying at the Cadgwith Cove Inn, famous for its Friday- night choir of fishermen, who at the end of each week celebrate life on the rolling sea.  Despite its mood swings, the sea still remains the foundation of life to many small fishing communities, anchored to their traditional ways. This small fleet has gained much recognition from its coast, landing record-breaking catches of Pilchards in the early part of last century, though today it is more likely to harvest Lobsters and Crabs.  Sunday seemed clearly designated as a day of rest and prayer, with all imbibing parodies banished until the end of the week.  I was silently happy about this as I sat enjoying my meal under the gaze of 4 customers, none of whom looked destined to break into song, though a few strong words were uttered in a political debate over fishing rights.  As the night grew old, bad weather swept over the harbour, and with the mellow atmosphere of the inn dwindling away, I climbed the stairs to my room. After a few moments of listening to the patter of rain, I sank wearily into bed, wondering what joy and adventure tomorrow would bring.   

 DAY 13.  Cadgwith to Porthleven (Helston).  23 miles.

Leaving Cadgwith in sunny weather I looked down on the rows of boats nestled in the arms of this quiet bay, where only fishermen sought any interest in motion. Only moments away from this minuscule fishing cove lies the Devil’s Frying pan, the fearful title given to the collapsed cave roof, where the sea spits and froths like a violent cauldron.  The momentous journey continues beyond the Lizard lighthouse to Britain’s most southerly point, where I was able to take snaps of the old 1914 lifeboat location.  I did not visit the village on this occasion as there isn’t a Bank, which I needed so desperately: it is however endowed with serpentine craft shops, refreshment facilities and a very nice inn.

   I was progressing swiftly despite suffering the effects of a strenuous weekend, and the present endurance along an uneven path. Descending to a beach café, the journey reaches a geological climax at Kynance Cove, where many had gathered to explore the caves and arches of this famed beauty spot.  The Devil’s Bellows is one of the dramatic features, where the sea roars through a cleft in a spurting fury.  It seemed appropriate that the Devil has gained recognition in the basement of the country, where the coastline is perceived as a formidable entity.  High tide had prevented any close encounter with the serpentine rock, repelling disappointed visitors back to the nearby café. After exchanging greetings with an Australian hiker, I climbed the steps away from the beach and continued my journey to Mullion Cove.

   I arrived at Mullion Cove around lunch, descending to the working harbourof Porth Mellin, presently occupied by a few tourists and a solitary fisherman.   The sun was shining brightly as I removed my socks to enjoy a moment of comfort.  The tranquillity served as a tonic, revitalising me for the next session: as I ascended to the clifftop location of the Mullion Cove Hotel, where I once stayed on my tour of Great Britain.  The trail continues past the Marconi monument near Poldhu Point, and on to Church Cove, where an elderly couple were enjoying a spot of refreshment.  The afternoon sun had intensified enough to draw people away from the path to sample the warm sandy shores. Beyond Gunwalloe the path expands across the Loe Bar on its approach to Porthleven.  This great sandbank blocks the mouth of the River Cober, severing its sea link with Helston, which was once a port, transforming it into the largest freshwater lake in Cornwall.  It was an energy-sapping process, walking the trail of sand, which had now become a haven for sun worshippers.  A mile or so beyond the Loe Bar lies Porthleven. This town of rendered rooftops, waterfront shops and inns, is distinguished by the granite quays and piers of its 19th-century harbour, born from an era of boat-building.  The dearth of industry has not led to a decline in the town’s social behaviour, evident from summer months, where the harbour is a popular location for regattas and lively ceremonies.  Veering right at the chemist I advanced uphill towards the town of Helston, using the B3304 as my route.  Helston’s days as a port are long gone, and in contemporary times is best known for its famous Floral Dance in May.

   Its social connections with the Royal Navy have livened it considerably, but it also contains some fine places to visit, including the excellent Museum and Cornish Bookshop.  Not far from the town is Flambards Victorian theme village, notably acclaimed asCornwall’s Family Attraction of the Year.  The main attraction for me at this moment in time was the Chy-An-Gwyn Guest House,19 Godolphin Road, which I found opposite the police station.  It is a lovely place, and Mrs Jackson, the owner (also a keen walker), made me most welcome.  She was hoping to join her son abroad on a walking venture in October, and shared a keen interest in charity funding.  Later that night I linked up with Selina Tressider, a lovely lady who has worked extremely hard to raise funds on behalf of the Hospices.  Her own family have been victims of cancer: her sister had recently died, and her brother had been diagnosed with a liver tumour.  Despite the enormous strain on her life she had pledged to help out during this event, and that night we set off on a massive fundraising pub-crawl, covering over 12 pubs!

Day 14. Porthleven to Newlyn. 12 miles.

In contrast to the previous day of sunny array the weather was now quite deplorable. The coast path had become a deluge of mud and water as defiant nature attempts once more to chase away the remnants of summer.  Stepping away from Porthleven with water splashing over the tops of my boots, I trundled beside turf walls and the carpet of ferns. Workmen were desperately trying to repair the path, though some of their efforts proved more detrimental as I slipped trying to cross some boards, which they had laid.  I stopped to talk to two ladies out for a refreshing stroll, realising they were getting more than they bargained for.  One had a child in her backpack and I promptly advised her of the slippery surface that awaited them on the boardwalk.  After cracking a few jokes we parted in opposite directions, acknowledging that my sense of humour was all that remained dry amidst this saturated landscape.  A wetsuit was the only garment suitable to aid a performance that was better reserved for a monsoon.  I wasn’t the only one struggling: marooned in the mud before me lay a wounded serpent. In fact it was a slow worm, which had ground to a halt and now faced with the prospect of swimming as its only option.  In an effort to help the creature I removed it from the mud, transporting it to the rich vegetation beyond the path. 

   At least I maintained a steady pace over the wide sweep of Mount’s Bay, reaching prominent points such as Rinsey Head: below which lies a cove of geological wonder, inspiring me to make good use of the camera.  Beyond this point stands the skeleton of Wheal Prosper Mine, whose brief existence ceased in 1860, though it has been preserved as a monument of respect to the industry.  Remains of Wheal Trewavas are also exposed by the coast path: it once mined copper ore from under the sea until ultimately overcome by its force, bringing about a closure, due to flooding, in 1850.

   Advancing through the ferns at a good pace, I could now see Praa Sands.  The sandy beach was a welcome contrast to the sodden bracken, but although a popular location in summer months, it was now totally abandoned without even a surfer to commend its worth. I continued to Prussia Cove: water-grave to Cornwall’s largest wreck, H.M.S Warspite, destroyed by the rocks in a savage storm in 1947.  The cove also derives notoriety from its smuggling activities during the 18th century, pioneered by the infamous John Carter – a self-styled King of Prussia.  Mist was clearing above St. Michael’s Mount as I walked beyond Cudden Point.  The path was little more than a stream, but offered no serious threat in terms of endurance. Soon I emerged on the lower ground, passing small communities that overlook the shore.  I was now entering Perranuthnoe, known locally as Perran.  I photographed the 15th –century church before hastily returning to the path.  Fully aware of the time, I was now considering my social duties, which today would involve a meeting with the Deputy Mayor.  Also at the Town Hall I would hope to see Liz Anderson from Mount Edgcumbe, and of course the press.  It was a great relief to reach the town of Marazion, Cornwall’s oldest charter town, and once the main trading port, later superseded by Penzance in the 16th century. Across the water lies St. Michael’s Mount, once thought to have been the lost land of Lyonesse, embodying all the enchantment of Arthur’s world. This 14th- century castle towers above the granite island, founded by Edward the Confessor, who gave it to the Monastery of Saint Michel.  The site, now owned by the National Trust, can be reached by a stone causeway trailing from theshore of Mounts Bay.  Leaving Marazion I followed an easy footpath, surprised to see ice cream vendors trading near the seafront. Then crossing the railway line I entered the town of Penzance. The town still thrives on an atmosphere of fishing life, housing a Maritime Museum, and a promenade that extends to Newlyn, the most affluent fishing port inBritain.  Near the terminus railway station is a helicopter port, and there is a ferry service to the Scilly Isles – top location for ornithologists.  My next location was the Mayor’s office, found beyond the busy Market Jew Street, where small lanes and roads branch out into a web of architectural delight.  Thankfully I was punctual, reporting to the office where I awaited the Deputy Mayor’s arrival.  At least I had ample time to discuss my journey, and I was able to benefit from a useful history lesson about the area.

enuous. Difficult to complete in a day. Sennen offers good amenities, and there is a Youth Hostel at St. Just.

GRANITE COUNTRY

Day 15. Newlyn to Pendeen.    24 miles.

Dark clouds loomed above Mount’s Bay but thankfully without the fury of a storm.  Setting off along the promenade offers a different view of St. Michael’s Mount and before long I was skirting Newlyn Harbour. Despite colonial battles fought in the area, Newlyn rose from the ashes of war to becomeCornwall’s most productive fishing town.  The whole element of the trade is alive in Newlyn, celebrated in museums and interpreted in fine arts displayed at its galleries. It was an amazing experience watching the tide roll in, extending the harbour boundaries beyond its shore-built houses.  The powerful aroma of fish hung in the air as lorries passed by with consignments of a catch, which would be distributed to local dealers. Reaching the top of the hill, I looked back at the lively harbour, lined with hillside cottages, and its colourful fleet that looked a picture of delight.  From here I was able to enjoy a recently constructed footpath/cycle route, which forms part of The Cornish Way.  It was nice to view the coast without the intrusion of traffic, in fact I didn’t even see a cyclist!

   I was now approaching the last major outpost of West Cornwall’s fishing industry.  Tourists warm to the archetypal scene of Mousehole harbour, once the prime fishing port inCornwall, whose timeless beauty still has the power to ascend one to creative heights.  I had to settle for a few photographs, though I noticed a couple of contenders armed with their sketch boards at the ready. Mousehole is another port that has survived the turbulence of the Spanish War, having been burned to the ground in 1595.  Today it is a forest of life, thriving on visitors who travel from all parts of the world to enjoy its craft shops and galleries, still portrayed in former glory.  I drank a pint of milk then continued uphill in search of the original coast path.  I had no trouble finding the route: The Cornish Way carries on uphill, but I veered left beyond a few houses.  I passed through the wooded glades, and despite the mud, progressed with ease to Lamorna Cove, another famed beauty spot, sandwiched by the rocks of Mount’s Bay.

   Leaving on the quarry footpath, which was something of an obstacle course, I now endeavoured to reach Penberth Cove. In the distance I could see the Tater Du Lighthouse, built in 1965, to help prevent further shipping disasters. The journey was becoming a little tedious and certainly more strenuous as the sun warmed up the autumn air.  The sea matched the blue sky as I scrambled through the bracken that typified a jungle scene with an almost tropical approach to Penberth. Here I stopped for a sock change, and relaxed for a few moments, enjoying the tranquillity of the bay, which I shared with just two other people.  Ascending above the point the path provides a magnificent view of the bay as the clifftop journey grows in stature.  The climate change had managed to revitalise some of the primary destinations along this route, and the path had once more become a source of interest.   I was surprised at my good progress to Porthcurno, home to the Museum of Submarine Telegraphy, which promises an informative excursion, showing insight into its secret past.  At present the beach was a scene of summer delight as the turquoise sea breaks into glinted white lines, dotted with surf boards and sun-tanned bodies. It was a more refreshing sight than the Minack one, which indicated a steep climb of many steps to reach the cliff-side amphitheatre.  This authentic clifftop stage, founded in the 1930’s by Rowena Cade, is paramount to the modern performing arts in a kingdom that thrives largely on summer attractions.  Two weeks from now, my friend Clare Wilson, a Macmillan Nurse Executive, will be hosting a charity event at this site: one can only hope the weather does not have another tantrum as has been accustomed throughout the year.

   Descending away from the popular scene I followed the path to Porthchapel, where I photographed the Holy Well of Saint Levan, which I believe is still used for Baptisms.  Not far from here is the villageof St. Levan, which derives its name from a 5th-century Breton saint called Saint Selevan.  Stopping near the shore at Porthgwarra I took a short break as other walkers passed by in the direction of Minack.  I could sense the journey nearingLand’s End, the evidence of which is revealed in its changing landscape.   The inexorable work of the sea has not gone unnoticed. Magnificent granite rock scenery emerges in a portrayal of bizarre effigies and human shapes that could so easily have been carved by hand.  

   The lighthouse at Gwennap Head now heralds the approach toLand’s Endand its scenes of dramatic grandeur.  I photographed the point, waving to the keeper before descending to even ground, ready to tackle the next summit. It was here that I lost my way, taking the wrong footpath angling to the right of the coast.  Realising my mistake I had to retreat back down the hill and start again.  I delayed my arrival at Land’s End still further by chatting with a local lady over the matter of reaching Pendeen.  Despite a demanding session along boulder-strewn terrain, she forecast a trek of about 4 hours fromLand’s End.  I felt anxious about the distance still left to walk as it was 3.30pm when I arrived at the great landmark.

   Once more the insurmountableAtlanticreigns supreme as tumultuous breakers crash against the Longships lighthouse, captivating an audience that remains mesmerised by the spirit of the Cornish coast.

   The sea holds a fascination with the visitors atLand’s End, but now with added attractions, including a new museum, the place has become internationally recognised. It is a vital tool in the mechanism of leisure and tourism inCornwall, which as an industry has grown rapidly since the 1980’s.  This will hardly compensate for the industrial menopause inCornwall, though it could help treat some of the symptoms of recession and prevent it from regressing further by offering an alternative solution.  In this way Land’s End has at least put Cornwall firmly on the map, providing a passage to leisure and recreation as well as a gateway to discovery.  It is also the most famous destination for walkers, one I have been to on numerous occasions throughout my charity crusade, today being no exception! As I lined up to have my photograph taken at the post, the camera ladies reminisced about previous journeys, which included walking around the whole country and End-to-End encounters.  After a few moments I prepared for the next stage of the walk, which I can only describe as being a perpetual obstacle course, filled with megalithic remains.

THE GRAVEYARD OF TIN MINES

A compelling journey now begins amid the graveyard of derelict tin mines, that leave an indelible mark on this granite landscape.  Initially it wasn’t too bad and the scenery added inspiration, though I was a little perplexed on reaching Sennen Cove.  I had no complaints about the view of the beach and its turquoise water – just the problem of getting to it!

   In the end I walked down the hill and back to the harbour, stopping to obtain further refreshment.  The path now trails the beach along the splendid sweep ofWhitesandBay, returning later to the clifftop for a more exacting version of the North coast, where the distant skyline remains haunted byCornwall’s mining past.  The path trailed above the spectacular rock pools, climbing steeply in places and at times becoming elusive, which can be a bit scary at summit points.  Not one to do in the dark – and this would soon be imminent.

   I met with the usual problem atCapeCornwall, first having experienced the frustrating journey to the Youth Hostel, only to cross the road and double back towards the coast.  On my approach toEngland’s only cape, I could see the towering chimney pointing out towards the great Atlantic skies, now filled with the air of dusk. After reaching the point, I was unable to find any drinking water, noticing that the toilet facilities did not supply a suitable source.  Activity and light were both in decline. The last of the Cape’s visitors were disappearing in a car as I made my departure beyond Kenidjack Castle to commence a journey in the dark to Botallack.  The cliff-edge mine of Botallack drops hundreds of metres below the sea, where men once toiled against the sound of thunder as ocean waves uncurled above them. The stark remains of the mine, rising above the Atlantic, appear almost defiant on the edge of the world!  Like all other relics it now stands tirelessly against the tide of time, and the inexorable quest of the sea: marking a tribute to a brave workforce, who once risked life and limb to make Cornwalla prosperous kingdom.

   Breaking away from the coast path I could barely make out the shape of Levant, the oldest beam engine in Cornwall, which offers the public another incisive insight into the hazardous occupation of mining.  Geevor is another local tin mine that pays continual homage to the eponymous Richard Trevithick, Cornwall’s most acclaimed engineer, whose knowledge helped shape the country’s social and economic history.  Now in total darkness I concluded the journey along the road, and a public footpath leading to the village of Pendeen.  The lighthouse at Pendeen sits on a dramatic stretch of coastline known more for its deleterious elements than its beauty: when in days of sail it reduced sturdy ships to sunken wrecks.  However, since the 1900’s the Pendeen Watch with its beam range of 27 miles has become a sentinel for all shipping near the Head. Tomorrow would allow the opportunity to photograph the site, which is to be one of the final points in the journey.  As I neared the end of yet another big walk, I sat at the bar in the North Inn savouring a few quiet moments.  The landlord and his companion, ‘Boot’, were kind to me, making me feel welcome.  The landlord’s brother, Andrew Coke actually thanked me for what I had done to promote this good cause: that above all meant as much to me as the achievement today. 

JEWELS OF THE KINGDOM

Day 16. Pendeen to St. Ives.  13 miles.

Today’s weather is an epitome of autumn as wind blew fiercely across the lighthouse path. It was a tempestuous display causing great concern as I scaled the slippery clifftops, and the many obstacles along the way.  I saw other walkers arrive from Morvah, equipped for the day as they set off towards CapeCornwall: my destination was St. Ives with my first stop targeted at Zennor.  This was by no means an easy task, climbing clifftops riddled with granite boulders, along a zigzag course bearing only solitary residential buildings and decaying mine-stacks.  I came badly unstuck near Porthmoina Cove, having taken a farm route above the path: in an effort to regain access I fell stumbling into the marshy ground concealed below the ferns.  In the end I retreated to a farmyard, and then having consulted the farm hand, I continued past an old mine-stack re-routing myself at a stream below the clifftop.  The course was now straightforward, though still strenuous, accentuated by the rocky impediments that are consistent with West Cornwall’s landscape.  By the time I reached Zennor Head, I had completed the bulk of the journey, and stopped to talk to a couple of tourists.  Mentioning that I was thirsty after some doggy footwork, they explained that the villageof Zennorcatered for travellers these days, and had recently opened a Youth Hostel that provided refreshment.  I hastened towards the location and to much relief I obtained a drink, which I enjoyed despite being sodden wet.  There were others gathered around tables sampling food and outside people were taking photographs of the 12th- century church.  The village is also the home of the Mermaid of Zennor, whose alluring spirit is said to have claimed the life of the Squire’s son at Pendour Cove.  Another place of alluring spirit, though possibly a safer venue is the Tinner’s Arms.  For although a visit here might leave one feeling a bit strange, the consequences are usually less harmful!  I remembered there are several routes to St. Ives and noticed a new one starting at the church.  At least it was new to me, and feeling adventurous I immediately rose to the challenge.  The proper coast path follows a course of dramatic rock-pool scenery affording excellent Atlantic views when visibility is good.  Today was not an exceptional day and one could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps summer has been well and truly exiled to foreign shores.

   I welcomed the idea of discovery and the opportunity of recording an alternative coast route to the traditional version.  I found it much easier and well sign-posted thus making an ideal nighttime trail or one that is simply less time-consuming.  In fact it would make up an excellent circular day walk from St. Ives, using the coast path initially and then finishing on this easier version.  The route, which runs between the coast path and road, crosses farmland and many hamlets that would otherwise remain anonymous.  There was one tricky area where I misread the path and came to a standstill in front of woodland.  As I retreated to grazing quarters I met a retired couple who were also heading for St. Ives. They had walked the difficult coast path and were using a map to guide them back.  We agreed on a diagonal route to the next field, where fortunately there were signposts to simplify the journey.  We were all relieved to be on course again as I bade farewell, leaving them behind to enjoy a more leisurely pace of life.  At least the weather had brightened up, giving some inspiration to the world of weary travellers, whose journey in this region consists entirely of farmland.  I crossed farmyards and country lanes, eventually linking with the road, where town life gradually emerges uncovering the coastline below.     The downhill journey into St. Ives runs past the caravan site until reaching Porthmeor Beach. From here I continued around the Island, passing Porthgwidden Beach, where a young man had skilfully created the shape of a horse in the sand.  There were people fishing on the pier by the harbour and the Sloop Inn was thronged with spectators as I made a difficult passage through the cobbled town, finally coming to a standstill at the Western Hotel.  To my astonishment the streets were a carnival scene of imbibing ceremony extending down to the harbour, where even the seals had come to rejoice.  The town was adorned in flags, and people in fancy dress sang songs beneath an echoic frenzy of wheeling sea birds.  This must surely be the last celebration of summer, hosted by a town deemed as a jewel in Cornwall’s crown.   I was soon informed that it was the St. Ives Folk Festival week – what a lovely time to visit! I was in fact here last year, enjoying the displays of innovative and inspiring works of art that evoke a scene of quaint Bohemianism.  The hotel staff at the Western were pleased to see me as I have become a regular over the last 2 years, always enjoying my stays here.  We had hoped to host a coffee morning but in view of the current festivities there would be little point as the week was already packed with entertainment.

Day 17. St. Ives to Hayle.  9 miles.

Setting off from the Western Hotel in bright sunny weather I used the last of my film on the harbour.  Legend dictates that St. Ia, who founded the town, sailed here on a leaf from Ireland in the 5th century, (St. Piran went one better, making his voyage on a stone!).  Today St. Ives is a prime holiday location, vigorously animated by the surfing fraternity who occupy Porthmeor Beach, yet softened by the presence of its art galleries and tearooms.  Equally endearing is the town’s labyrinth of slim lanes and cobbled alleyways with unusual names such as ‘Sellubrious Place’ and Bethesda Hill, flanked by stone cottages that tumble to the popular harbour. Unlike yesterday the harbour was presently a scene of tranquillity, broken only by the squabbling birds, keen to cash in on the remnants of the town’s festivities. The footpath journey was excellent, viewing all the prominent points and lovely beaches, stretching back to the Eddystone Lighthouse and the 15th-century church of St. Ia.  Below, the gentle roll of sea caressing its shore had managed to lure some of its visitors away from their deckchairs. Most, however were still getting used to the idea of a warm autumn day.

   The trail follows the terminus branch line, changing from left to right according to how the land lies.  At times I was encompassed by woodlands, often walking adjacent to private accommodation where gardens extend to the path, now vivified by the drone of nature.  Insects patrol the corridors of bush growth, becoming less conspicuous on my arrival, which forces bees and abseiling spiders to retreat from dew-glistened leaves.   Occasionally the harmony is broken as a train rattles by and the distant bark of a dog signals the approach of a fellow walker. The gentle undulations posed little threat, differing from the granite-strewn moorlands with bracken and ferns of previous days, as I advanced unimpeded to Carbis Bay. This is another summer location, overflowing with charm and character, enjoying the serenity of its surroundings. After crossing above the train line, I marched up the hill to rejoin the path, where the view extends from St. Ives  Bay to the sweeping desert landscape of Gwithian Towans.  To my right is the Carbis Bay Hotel, and below lies the beautiful Porthkidney Sands that make Cornwall so appetising on a sunny day.  It was an inspirational section, possibly the easiest on the North coast, given the absence of precipitous cliffs and man-made steps.  Beyond Porthkidney Sands the journey ebbed away beneath the railway line to Lelant Golf Course, from where I gingerly followed the exit lane to the village’s splendid St. Uny church. 

   Annoyed that I had run out of film I pondered over the thought that I should return at a later date to obtain a picture.  Before continuing I spoke with a lady about the possibility of walking to Hayle alongside the estuary.  She advised against it and after a pleasant chat I walked up to the village.  Lelant is a lovely village with most amenities, situated comfortably between Hayle and St. Ives.  My journey would now be completed by road with the last remaining 2 miles walked beside the Hayle estuary.  I passed by the amusement centre near Lelant Saltings and there was also an inn at the side of the road: shortly after the River Hayle sign came into view.  From here I climbed down onto the mudflat and walked round the edge.  In the distance opposite, the train was making its way into the mainline station at St. Erth.  I could now see the birds picking scraps from the low-tide water as my journey neared its end.  Using the estuary footpath, which comes out at the viaduct, I finished my coastal journey, leaving only a few steps to the hospice at St. Michael’s, where I could report my achievement to the fundraising staff.

EPILOGUE

Walking around Cornwall has always been a great experience as well as an education, matching its historical influence against a geological landscape of dramatic cliffs and rocky coves.  Above all I enjoyed visiting the quintessential fishing villages that embody the traditions of smuggling and tales of the untamed sea.  Sea and sand still play an integral part in Cornish life, which in terms of the economy has become paramount to the tourist industry.  The spirit of Arthur still reigns in this land of enchantment, where myths and legends are part of ancient lore and towns derive their names from saints.

   My fascination for Cornwall grows ever-strong as I look back on this recent journey with eagerness to retrace my footsteps and hopefully acquaint myself with new territory.  I can only hope my walking experiences in Cornwall will benefit all those that read about them as well as the charities I represent.  It is an adventure that cannot be over-looked by any walking enthusiast: one that I note as the most challenging and enjoyable in the country. Enjoy it half as much as I have and you will not be disappointed!

DURATION OF THE CORNWALL 2000 WALK

It took 146 hours of walking to complete the marathon, which was scheduled over 17 days.

The distance in miles walked amounted to 358 miles.

Average distance walked per day was just over 21 miles.

 

ROBIN MOORE’S BARMY ARMY WALK
2008
Having spent the last part of my life as a traveller I have many great occasions to reflect on. Casting my mind back to the year of 1995 reminds me instantly of one remarkable occasion in Adelaide where two significant events became assigned to cricket history. Firstly England won the test match, (a rare feat)leaving just the Perth test to square the series, but more significantly I was able to witness the birth of England’s Barmy Army. As it turned out the whole year became one of beginning for me too. By October 4th I completed my first national walk – John O’Groats to Land’s End in just 27 days and two months later I had written a book to mark the occasion. It was the start of greater things to come – little did I know then that I would walk the whole country,parts of Europe and indeed the Commonwealth in latter years. As an endurance walker I was keen to offer my services to charity supporting many cancer organisations, raising their profile through media coverage and collecting around £100,000 over a 15 year period. As well as challenge events I still enjoy cricket and have since linked up with the Barmy Army on tours abroad where I have walked for charity. After my recent tour of New Zealand I agreed to join the Cricket Road show, walking the length of England using the cricket days as staging posts in the journey. We would use my ‘sub-challenge’ as part of a fundraising/media exercise for ‘A Chance to Shine’ and Cancer Research UK wherever appropriate. Setting off from Land’s End also enabled me to instigate a fundraising fortnight in the West Country for Hospice Care in Cornwall. All-in-all I wanted to ensure that each organisation benefited from my effort which endeavoured to be one of my greatest challenges to date.

WALKING THE WEST COUNTRY FOR HOSPICE CARE

Day 1 Land’s End to St Ives – 27 miles

As with previous expeditions I started the journey from the signpost at Land’s End where I posed for a photograph to mark the occasion. Then striding past the ‘Hall of Fame’whose latest celebrity guests were the ‘Cult of Scaro'(Daleks),I left the tourist furore behind to embark on a new adventure. I guess I was not the only traveller in town, though a tardis would have been handy given the incredible workload that lay in waiting. Once away from the hustle and bustle I made steady progress, ticking off the smaller places between Sennen and Penzance. A group of ‘young heros’ sped past shouting insults and waving fists in the ‘brave’ sort of way that they do these days, but other than that I reached my first town unscathed and in reasonable time. Portraying that seedy image of a smuggler’s town, Penzance has been emboldened by its relationship with the sea. Its characterful buildings, old-worlde pubs and promenade walks with views of St Michael’s Mount are among the attractions that add flavour to the region of West Cornwall. What ever time of year I pass through the town, the streets are always a hive of activity: I guess its one of these places that attracts what I term as the ‘genuine tourist’.

From Penzance I walked the coast to Marazion stopping to enjoy a cup of tea at a small cafe on the promenade. Reaching the causeway to St Michael’s Mount, I began to walk the St Michael’s Way to Carbis Bay which is itself a test, as the ancient trail is, at times, difficult to follow. People were still busy working in the fields as I followed the path beside the marshes as far as The White Hart Inn at Ludgvan. After passing Ludgvan Church I had great difficulty in locating the signposts, and lost my way on a few occasions. Despite dull weather it was a reasonable day for walking, and I was at least able to deliver a few donation slips on behalf of Cornwall Hospice Care. By 7pm the resort towns of Carbis Bay and St.Ives come into view, and I was able to savour the last part of the journey along the paved road festooned in summer bloom. St Ives is a jewel in Cornwall’s crown, and during the summer months its population swells to excessive proportion. As the holidaymakers sprawl across the thoroughfare it is almost impossible to drive anywhere in town. As well as the Tate Gallery and Barbara Hepworth Museum St Ives has many older attractions including Smeaton’s Harbour, the Church of St Ia, and the old Island between Gwidian and Porthmeor Beach. There were more quaint old buildings, characterful inns and alleyways with unprenouncable names. Even my lodge for the night, The St Ives Backpackers, possesed unique charm having evolved from the town’s old chapel – what a lovely place to be at the end of the day.

Day 2 St Ives to Carharrack – 23 miles

After a breakfast of fruit I departed from St Ives backpackers around 8am, and enjoyed a relatively easy walk along the coast path to Hayle where the sun was shimmered across the Atlantic. Solitude was at a premium, broken momentarily as the branch train rattled past, bringing new arrivals to the bay. Laterly the path circled a golf course, and nearing the Church of St Uny I could hear the chatter of ramblers heading towards me.  Stopping for a snack in Hayle, I delivered a few slips and drank a coffee before continuing to Camborne. It was barely 11am as I left Copperhouse, climbing the steep road:  first to Connor Downs then to the busy town of Camborne – once the richest square mile in the world founded on copper and tin. A century later has seen it shaped by modern shops and cafes, though its narrow streets remain a symbol of its simplicity as an old mining town. Reaching the main street, I stopped for fish and chips, and a chat to Anna Murby on BBC Northampton. She would be tracing my footsteps via my internet diaries, and hopefully covering our cricket match at Syresham in Northamptonshire.

After my lunch I carried on with my leaflet delivery service as far as Redruth and St Day, stopping at The Star Inn at Vogue, where the landlady gave me a pint of beer for my trouble. Then after a visit to the village shops I went home to prepare for the greater journey, which would also involve camping as part of my challenge.

Day 3 Carharrack to St Agnes – 15 miles

Leaving home around 10am I walked down to Crofthandy, and continued into Poldice Valley. Crossing Poldice Valley I used The Portreath Tramroad, which was once a horse-drawn railway transporting ore to Portreath, and other products such as arsenic and dye to Devoran. The last decade has seen it flourish as a modern-day cycle route serving the interests of outdoor adventurers, though several old mine-stacks in the valley remain to tell the story of its past. Passing the information boards along the way, I eventually arrived at the St Day/Scorrier Road, which was lively to say the least! From here the trail flanks the road, and cuts through the Fox and Hounds carpark. I was glad to stop at Sue’s Pub, and enjoy a coffee before reverting the country road to reach St Agnes. Following the network of backroads I made my way into St Agnes where I spent the day delivering more donation forms. I enjoyed a free dinner at the local bakers, and finished the day at the Petersville Arms with friends Micky, Ray and Mark before retiring to the local campsite where the lady was kind enough to let me stay for free.

Day 4 St Agnes to Bedruthan Steps – 22 miles.

Dismantling the tent early I enjoyed a small breakfast consisting of last night’s fish and chips donated by the local ‘chippie’. Away from the site I headed back into town to pick up the coast road which would be my route as far as Perranporth. The narrow road was a little busy, but I managed to amble my way to Perranporth where I stopped in a cafe for a more traditional breakfast. Setting off again, I was tempted to use the coast path, but having walked the seaboard many times before, felt the journey would benefit from a few unseen landmarks along the less conspicuous lanes, now adopted as tourist routes. Sea mist and rain presided over the north coast today as I toiled on towards Newquay passing farm buildings and inns along the way. The winding coast lanes hold many mysteries, exposing visitors to historical landmarks pertaining to the culture of Cornwall. One such mystery uncovered during the mining era was the old St Piran’s church, built in the 6th century – not far from my present route. For many years the church remained buried beneath the dunes near Perran Sands, consigned to the history books only as a popular legend. St Piran is still widely known as The Patron Saint of Cornwall, although his counterpart St Petroc also has many churches built in his honour. Both arrived here from Ireland in the early centuries, and the church that St Piran built here by the coast is said to be the oldest in the kingdom. Few believed it actually existed until the 19th century when finally the sands gave up their secret thus silencing the non-believers and their theories pertaining to Celtic myth. Continuing up the steep lanes where only hamlets exist, I navigated my way around Crantock until finally reaching the outskirts of Newquay. Once in town I delivered more of the envelopes, and stopped for lunch at Whetherspoons, sampling their fish and chips with a cup of tea. The meal was satisfying and reasonably priced as an afternoon special, and on departing the premises I strode through town with a watchful eye for other bargain deals. Leaving Newquay I tackled the coast path around Watergate Bay and Mawgan Porth, until finally coming to a standstill at Bedruthan Campsite where I managed to obtain food, drink and a night’s shelter amid the stormiest weather to date.

Day 5 Bedruthan Steps to Camelford (Slaughter Bridge) – 28 miles.

After a modest breakfast I powered into the Hilly terrain, feeling thankful at least that the storm had lifted: the previous night under canvas felt like a tsunami rising above the clifftops, and I was grateful that the shelter stood upto the test. After stopping briefly for a snack at Porthcothan I continued to Padstow, where I delivered more leaflets to Rick Stein’s empire and other local premises. Rick Stein is one the leading figures of commerce in Cornwall today making Padstow an enterprising destination for those in search of top class cuisine. It was from Padstow that the Irish saints began their pilgrimage of Cornwall and St Petroc’s Church marks the starting point of The Saints Way Trail which continues across land to Fowey. My journey is taken up on a different path known The Camel Trail, which starts at the fish processing halls beyond the town. The route takes in other historic landmarks such as ‘The Bridge on Wool’ at Wadebridge and the old Southern Railway: part of which is retained as the Bodmin and Wenford Steam Railway. Cycle enthusiasts enjoy the path, which has retained some of its platforms as a reminder of the great days of steam. The journey rolled on in gentle motion set serenely by the River Camel, and at Wadebridge I took photographs of ‘The Bridge on Wool’, which was built by the local farmers. It was said that they used wool sacks to support the structure in the water, though I suspect its name was derived through sponsorship by the local sheep farmers. Either way the bridge remains an historical feature, and the region’s farming heritage lives with Wadebridge hosting The Royal Cornwall Agricultural Show each Spring.
Beyond Wadebridge I joined the Atlantic Highway for a quick blast high speed tourism as I faced swaying caravans and campervans destined for many of the prime locations I had seen already since starting my journey on Tuesday. After some nourishment from the garage at St Kew, I joined a quieter back road via St Teath. By early evening I was advancing into Camelford where I was delighted to catch up with my old pal Jo who runs The Mason’s Arms. She no longer does B/B, but I was able to camp out in her summer house by the river bank near Slaughter Bridge. The sound of running water in the middle of wild countryside evoked a sense of freedom, and I later returned to the inn where I enjoyed my supper with a few pints.

Day 6 Slaughter Bridge to Bude – 24 miles.

Leaving Slaughter Bridge around 9am I shunted back to the A39 and continued toward Otterham Station where I stopped at the cafe for a breakfast. Whilst drinking my coffee I chatted with the owner about my fundraising venture, which she thought was good for the hospice cause and promotion for cancer research. The fact that I was serving a pennance made people more aware of what they could do: at the end of the day there are many people, some out of work, that could do alot more to help others, or champian a worthy cause. On starting back the cool north coast breeze added a spring to my step, and at Wainhouse Corner I joined the Cornish Way cycle route to continue my journey around Dizzard Point and the hilltops of Millook. Later I followed the coast path to Widemouth Bay where surfers ride the whitetops, and bronzed holidaymakers carpet the beach. I savoured the latter stages of the walk into Bude, reliving old adventures with endearing nostalgia. It was lovely to visit the old sea loch and the famous breakwater where Bede Monks in the days of sail used lanterns to guide approaching ships into a port that was scarcely navigable. The town thus named as Bede Haven in honour of the monks, later became Bude, and the warmth of the place was present in all the premeises I visited. Stopping at The Globe Inn I was cheered on by the bar staff, and just north of the town I found a camp site where the receptionist let me pitch fee-free. Once established for the night, I returned to town to deliver the remainder of my leaflets and some sponsor forms. The family nextdoor to my tent bought a copy of my ‘Walking the kingdom of Cornwall’ book. Another lad at the local pub put out a sponsor form for the hospices so all in all I had a good day, and to round it off, it was a pleasant evening for camping.

Day 7 Bude to Buck’s Mills

Starting the day with a full breakfast at the site restaurant, I was now equiped for the task ahead, and picked up the coast path beyond the campsite. In the distance lie the awe-inspiring clifftops that are a feature of Cornwall’s attic, and there are times when you need the skill of a roofer to climb them. The section leading to Standbury and Morrenstow is physically demanding as the path weaves in and out of the pastures in a constantly undulating fashion, culminating in climbs of over 700 feet. Reaching out in the final breathless steps of a summit, one could easily grab an electric fence or a hand full of gorse on this journey so full of surprises. Equally shocked and dismayed, the clifftop adder pauses momenterally before disappearing reluctantly into the bush. Though generally a passifist and recluse, the adder is well-prepared for conflict should it arise – usually a bite is not life-threatening and can be treated with penicillen.
Above the ground winged assassins hover tentatively before swooping beneath the clifftop cover to claim its unsuspecting prey: this is Cornwall in all its majesty – rugged and often unforgiving. Stopping briefly at Hawkers Church in Morenstow I met other walkers enjoying the path, and later a group of 3 guys, who spend a week each year testing themselves along the Cornish coastline, paused for a chat. After a brief cameo of my walking history, one of the guys bought a copy of my book before the group heading off to the Bush Inn at the village.
Descending into Devon I crossed the stream that separates the two counties, and on my next ascent stopped at a hut for a drink of water, which was stored in bottles for weary pilgrims. Bidding Cornwall goodbye for another season, I made my descent into Welcombe Bay and the surrounding suburbs of Hartland. As dusk drew near, I located the campsite near Buck’s Mills where I settled for the night – later visiting the pub a mile down the road, where luckily, I was in time for a meal. I met a couple, also camping at the site, who gave me a lift back and asked if I’d join them for tea in the morning.

Day 8 Buck’s Mills to Fremington – 27 miles.

After enjoying tea with my neighbours who hailed from the south coast, and receiving a donation for the children’s hospice made by the owner, I continued my journey to Westward Ho! Descending through the wet, muddy forest in an eerie tropical atmosphere I came to the Hamlet of Buck’s Mills where I saw another walker heading back towards Clovelly. A young lad had seen me looking for the coast path sign, and asked me where I was going. ‘The length of the kingdom and Ireland too’, I replied as the lad looked up in disbelief. Disappearing into the woodlands I tackled the undulating growth above the coast which became more arduous as the journey went on. As the forest steps meandered back to the sea, large grey cobblestones became visible along the shore: from here I could see the coastline as far back as Clovelly and almost to Westward Ho!. I started to walk the beach realising it was quite difficult and dangerous as it was all too easy to twist an ankle on this harsh unforgiving terrain. Making the decision to rejoin the path I was soon encompassed by the woodlands again, and met other walkers enjoying the challenge of The South-West Way. Later I found a slow worm who had ventured beyond the comfort of wet grass. It objected bitterly to having its photo taken, and soon slithered back to the moist green banks beyond the muddy path. Nearing Greencliff I spotted some idiot trying to cycle the coast path – I told him he was mad and apart from anything else it is illegal due to the dangers it holds. He gave up after a mile or so and headed back to Westward Ho!
My tough journey went beyond this fairly modern town, which was largely created by Charles Kingsley’s story about Elizabethan sailors, and I did not take my first break until reaching Bideford around 3pm. Four centuries ago, this busy riverside town was one of 3 major ports in the kingdom, gaining prestige from its navy and several industries including the wool trade. Today it is adequately primed for tourism and celebrates its heritage through art and craft, though the obvious attraction to me were the old buildings and hotels along the river bank. Crossing the 15th century bridge that spans the River Torridge, I located the old railway, which in my eyes is another great attraction. Now known as The Tarka Trail, the railway has been transformed into a cycle route/coast path for those wishing to explore the towns of North Devon as far as Gt.Torrington. Seizing the moment to stop for a break, I enjoyed tea and scones at the cafe, which was little more than a disused carriage salvaged from the days of steam. Sitting outside I watched the cyclist come and go between Torrington, 5 miles east, and Barnstaple 10 miles west. My present location set between these towns provided an interesting scenario, as my itinerary could have accommodated either destination. Having contemplated what would be a suitable evening distance along this route, I continued walking the old trainline towards Barnstaple. Reaching the next town I noticed many people sat outside a local bar enjoying a sunny evening beside the water. I’m never sure these days whether it is the weather or the smoking ban that encourages people to sit outside bars and cafes. After picking up a few items from the local shop I passed the lively hub once more, then continued to Fremington Station my next scheduled stop. This is now a tearoom though at this late hour was sadly closed. A local guy said I could camp by the estuary, but I pressed on for another 30 minutes  stopping before dusk to pitch a tent in a nearby field.

Day 9 Fremington to Lydbridge – 28 miles

By 7am I was on my way into Barnstaple, the Capital of North Devon and also the oldest borough in Britain. Like its neighbours the primary trade was wool, and it was once a busy seaport situated on the Taw Estuary. Arriving at the town centre I stopped at the Owl Cafe where the friendly staff who sell vegan produce made me some beans on toast. Taking a longer route than planned, I braved the narrow country lanes, which at times became quite hazardous. This part of the country is also spectacularly hilly where arduous work was rewarded by secret green valleys and windswept moorland broken by quaint old-worlde villages with cob-and-thatch roofs. Stopping at Bratton Fleming, the prorieter was helpful in offering a country route near to the old Lynton narrow guage train line – 2 miles of which is still intact. Although it was a demanding journey, I stayed on top of my game, and enjoyed  several moments of quietness as the forest closed in with imposing beauty. There were popular haunts and landmarks including a zoo, which appeared out of nowhere: though the busiest to date was The Station Inn at the A39 crossroads, where I stopped for a pot of tea, and a chance to air my damp clothes amid the late afternoon sun. A few miles on, at the next summit, I was able to visit the narrow gauge Lynton Railway at Woody Station. There were two chaps working nearby, clearly enjoying the revival of steam, and at the end of the platform I saw a coal shed which I photographed to mark the occasion. As the evening began to draw in, the echo of the forest grew louder, and around 8pm I came across a lovely little campsite set beside a shallow stream at Lydbridge in Exmoor. This was my home for tonight, and I enjoyed an hour in the pub writing up the details of a day, which has seen the transition of coast ports and old wool towns to one of the great forest epitomised in Blackmore’s Lorna Doone novel.

AN EPIC FROM LORNA DOONE
Day 10 Lydbridge to Porlock – 18 miles

After a tranquil experience in the backdrop of Exmoor I set off for Lynmouth amid the tune of cheerful songbirds with a background of running water. Before long the echoes of the forest were replaced by the din of tourism, as I neared the bottom of the hill. Nestling around the harbour is the picturesque village of Lynmouth – twin sister to Lynton, situated 500 metres above. I found it most apt that one of the harbour’s popular attractions is a clifftop railway that links the two villages together. The novelty of a clifftop ride may soon conjure up for many the alluring atmosphere of Lorna Doone Valley, which has made this Victorian village so appealing to its visitors. It is mind-expanding to try to empathize and embrace the characteristics of this entire section of coastline, where in places, the thickly wooded cliffs of Exmoor drop a thousand feet to the sea. With that thought lingering in my mind, I set off for Countisbury Hill, struggling through groups of tourists queing for cream teas and local souvenirs. Reaching the coast path I leaned into the steep hill and plodded on to County Gate, the Somerset/Devon border. The wild wind howled across the moor where equestrians and cyclists toiled hard to reach each summit. From here the path was difficult to follow, and there were a few sections diverted due to cliff erosion: so I walked a few miles by road and concluded the day along a small section of a forest trail leading to Porlock Village. Looking back at Porlock Hill was a final reminder of the steep terrain that makes up the spectacular countryside of this unique part of the West Country.  Before long I was at the Lorna Doone Hotel visiting my friends Dick and Toni who would soon be celebrating their Ruby Anniversity. They had been at the hotel for over 20 years, and prior to that they owned The White Hart at Bythorn in Northamptonshire. Once the tent was blown up I went back to the hotel for a meal and a chat with Dick before finishing the day at the pub next door.

Day 11 Porlock to Cannington – 36 miles (via coast path and road)

Setting off amid cloud cover and fine drizzle, I endeavoured to find the cycle route, which takes in the smaller communities between here and Minehead. Leaving Porlock I met some equestrians who confirmed I was walking the correct route, and from here I enjoyed a delightful passage through Bossington and Allerford. There were countless cattlegrids and small bridges; a village green and pub; also, the walk was easy in comparison to the steep ground of yesterday, when at one stage I managed to overtake a cyclist! Today the high ground was situated away to my left above the coast, making up part of The South West Way. Reaching Minehead I stopped for tea and a chat with a few locals, who were intrigued with my journey and what it entailed. Passing through the seaside town I took photos of the train station: then set off along the coast path to Blue Anchor, mindful of airborne golf balls deviating from a nearby course. The dull sky and fine mist were no deterrent to the beach dwellers who had already taken to the water, and normal beach pursuits remained at a busy level throughout this section of coast. After pausing to watch the fishermen at Blue Anchor I continued by road to Watchet, a popularal tourist destination. Many had gathered at the once famous harbour- a legacy of the shipping industry which dealt largely with steel and coal. As well as inspiring the works of Coleridge, the harbour still evokes that seafaring spirit emanating from the days of sail. Walking away from the harbour and its maritime museum I passed a few tearooms and shops happy to gain from the bustle of summer season. Crossing the Railway bridge I saw the trains pass by on either side, but nearing Qountoxhead the sound of tooting horns could scarcely be heard.
Using the coast path and Coleridge Way, I continued my journey through ancient forests, and later, pastureland to the village of Kilve. Here I stopped for some tea at the local grocer shop – a place I always made a point of visiting throughout my time as a traveller in these parts. After chatting for awhile with a local lady, I set off on the evening session, which followed the country roads. Passing Stourgessy I noticed the village church was in good attendance as a ceremony was about to reach its conclusion. Climbing the hill beyond the village I snapped a few photos of the spire which is one of the few landmarks along this quiet little stretch. Later the road became busy, now serving Friday evening traffic bound for Bridgwater, the next major town mapped on my route. Nearing dusk I entered Cannington, a suburb of Bridgwater, where a lady from the nearby camping club allowed me to pitch at the top of the garden, giving me access to the amenities as well. She had lost family to cancer and was happy to help me in any way she could. Heading into the village to find a shop the local grocer sponsored me £5, and every one at the inn next door made me welcome and supported the cause too.
WONDEROUS COUNTRYSIDE PUNCTUATED BY AFFLUENT TOWNS
Day 12 Cannington to Cheddar – 25 miles

The King’s Head had been very supportive, and the people at the local campsite let me stay free of charge – Bless them all!
It was a muggy start, but soon the sun revealed itself adding warmth to the daytime air. Reaching Bridgwater I stopped at Whetherspoons for breakfast, and then purchased walking shoes from a sportswear store nearby. Continuing along the A38 I came to Highbridge, where I bought a few provisions and sat soaking up the sun for a while in a nearby park. After contemplating my route, I decided to take the Wells Road, and before I barely got into stride, a couple stopped to offer a free night’s camping. Explaining that it was too early in the day for me to finish, they donated £20 towards my sponsorship instead and wished me well for the remainder of the journey. Pressing on along a fairly busy road, which harboured a few small villages, I was at least able to break up the day. One of the places I stopped at was Wedmore, where I called into the cricket ground to say ‘hello’, remembering the team had once toured Oundle back in 1993. Unfortunately they were fielding, but I left my details with the tea lady, so they would at least know I had passed through. Marching on I found a camp site at Cheddar, which was quite expensive at £15 – ‘exclusively adult’ I was told! The whole region was geared for tourism: it particularly welcomed outdoor adventurers, most of whom would be destined for the Gorge some time tomorrow.

Day 13 Cheddar to Box – 36 miles

Cheddar Village hosts a number of amenities and fun activities throughout the summer, and although it was still early, the stewards were preparing for busy a day ahead as coaches began to roll into the village. Leaving Cheddar I was grateful for the shelter of the gorge against a bout of unforgiving heat. Amidst this geological masterpiece I came across a few climbers, most of whom were in organised groups thus highlighting the regions popularity as it offers good natural amenities for outdoor adventure sport. Beyond the gorge I was subjected to tormenting heat, and with today scheduled to be the longest of the tour so far meant it would be quite harsh to say the least! Enjoying some refreshment at the next village, the proprieter sponsored me £20 and took a photograph to remind her of my visit. The rest of the day became a laboured effort in treachorous heat, and on reaching Bath at 6pm I felt I’d had enough. Ambling through the Georgian streets eternally sublimed by that affluent college atmosphere, calmed my mood, and soon the cool evening air livened me enough to continue along the Box Road. Despite the initial blast of dual carriageway, the road was mostly paved thus shielding me from the hazards of speeding traffic. I remembered old landmarks from bye-gone days when I first set off on this life of adventure borne from the love of travel. Passing into the county of Wiltshire, and then the nearby village of Box, I set up camp in a wood beside the railway. The locals at the Queen’s Head made me welcome, and I spent an hour or so talking to some interesting people. One of the guys had separated from his wife and was living in his car. He borrowed my ‘Walker’s Diary book which chronicles my early days as a traveller including my first visit here in 1992. Leaving him to read the account I returned to the woods where my tent was so well camouflaged I spent an hour trying to find it! A few beers may not have helped but I got there eventually, and despite the passing of trains above I slept well having endured the toughest day of the event so far.   
FROM SOURCE TO CITY
Day 14 Box to Cricklade – (River Thames) 30 miles

Whilst enjoying breakfast with the fellow who camped out in his car, we discussed many issues concerning life as we find it today. He was having a difficult time resultant from the split with his wife, but despite his present circumstances was still able to work and maintain a social existence. He had also used campsites and appeared grateful for work to keep himself occupied: soon he would focus on moving forward again. He was a decent fellow and my gratitude went out to the locals who had offered him comfort and friendship in his darkest hour.  After sharing a packet of cereal we said our farewells as I set off in cooler weather to Chippenham, using a cycle route to reach the town where I stopped for lunch around midday. After a chat to local Cancer Research workers at the charity shop, I had a coffee in the bar opposite, and then continued uphill to the post office.  On completion of my administration duties I Joined the Lyneham Road where I endured a hazardous 6 miles of roadwalking. Luckilly I found a cycle route adjacent to the motorway which led me into Wooten Basset, sparing me further conflict with tea-time traffic. On arrival the heavans opened – the first of many thunder storms to come, and I was drenched having barely left the town. Taking a country route via Purton to reach Cricklade, I still had to remain watchful of traffic as the road transformed to a running stream. As darkening skies loomed above the town of Cricklade, an old gentleman showed me a good campsite near to the banks of the Thames. Barely a trickling this was the great river’s source, and commencing tomorrow, for the rest of the week, I would use the footpath along the bank as my route to London and Sunbury Cricket Ground – the first of my cricket venues with The Barmy Army. I thanked the gentleman for his help and good advice: then after a fish supper I enjoyed a pint at the Red Lion inn. It was just as well I had allowed myself some recreation as the remainder of my night was spent in the tent under the wrath of a full-blown electric storm – a little disconcerting to say the least.

Day 15 Cricklade to Longworth – 36 miles

Finally the Thames journey begins,and this week I would follow its source into London to join the Barmy Army and the Cricket Road Show. What a journey that promises to be! It was showery initially, and for most of the morning I was neck-high in stinging nettles as the river wound its way through woods and pastures as far as the boundaries of Gloucestershire. One lady, walking the river from source, had to retreat to the road because her dog was unable to climb over the tall stiles which we encountered along this difficult section. I was to meet many interesting people throughout this journey: soon to be characterised by riverside hamlets and locks that helped to make the day pass pleasantly. The path was muddy in places, and almost too narrow at times to get a proper footing as I slipped and stumbled through the long grass. There was also a 2-mile encounter with the main road as I crossed into Gloucestershire reaching the riverside town of Lechlade by 1pm. Collecting some groceries at Lechlade, I sat by the bridge for a while enjoying the different activities which the river provides at will. Fishermen, boaters and many walkers are among the people that make the most of the Thame’s resources. Chatting to a couple of ladies moored upstream, I was able to learn a bit more about the villages en route, and on parting company one of them purchased a copy of my ‘Walker’s Diary’ book. As village life evolved so too did the path, and before long I was passing local ramblers at every point. I even had to help a farmer round up part of his sheep flock which had strayed beyond their paddock and were now advancing along the river bank towards me. Good job they weren’t bullocks is all I can say! But at least I did my bit for the rural community. Often there were times when I chatted to other hikers along the way, and enjoyed listening to their wonderous tales of the riverbank. Each small village gave me an opportunity to rest, as I reflected on the day’s journey and all its richies. Unfortunately I hit a problem in the evening trying to reach Duxford by path, which suggested I had to cross the river to gain access to the village. Returning to the Thames and starting again, I managed to find a way into the little village. Once there it became apparent there where no amenities, but a local guy explained how to access the bridleway into Longworth. Continuing along the path as dusk drew near, I soon came to the village where I found an enchanting pub called The Boer Inn. Setting up camp  on the Thames by-way I returned to the inn, and had a fantastic hour with the local farmers. They were quenching their thirst after a busy attempt at harvesting – the weather, of course, resurgent as their nemesis. All of them made a contribution to the charity, and a local couple bought me a drink before leaving the inn. It had been a difficult first day on the Thames footpath, and these good people had helped to ease the strain of that by showing kindness and praise for my effort.

Day 16 Longworth to Clifton Hampden – 16 miles

Yesterday had presented some difficulties, yet the Thames itself, the wonderful people that inhabit the smaller communities and some decent weather today would inject a newfound enthusiasm into the journey. In any case a shorter day was scheduled as I set off to Abingdon, stopping for breakfast at a local hotel. After a wash in the gents, the South African Proprieter gave me a free breakfast, and a donation to the cause. Chatting for a while we talked of her homeland where I have enjoyed playing and watching cricket as well as walking coast-to-coast from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth in 2004/05.  Having received a few donations along the Thames it made sense to visit the Cancer Research Shop at Abingdon where the mangeress and myself counted up the funds, which were duly sent as a cheque to Headquarters. Grace who runs the shop also bought a copy of my New Zealand walk book, having enjoyed her association with the country.
Leaving here I walked along the river bank to the next lock where fishers and boaters made the most of a rare summer’s day. Walking another 6 miles to The Barley Mow in Clifton, I discovered the tragic news about England’s poor first innings show against South Africa, and had to quickly order 2 pints of beer to numb the pain! After a meal of bangers and mash, I opted to camp at the site below the bridge, where I enjoyed the remaining hours of daylight nestled against a tree close to the river. The call of dusk adds a new dimension to the riverbank:as the boaters moor up for the day the tranquil motion of the Thames becomes a playground for native waterfowl and many creatures of the night. The call of the wild is a playful one as ducks squawk and splash sharing their joy with a community of campers and local inhabitants that preside in this quiet corner of England.

Day 17 Clifton to Purley – 24 miles

Another wet day lay in waiting as I quickly dismantled the tent, continuing my journey along the banks of the Thames. As well as being muddy in places the humidity began to rise, and feeling thirsty I took a coffee break at a marina near Benson. Thoughts of London sprang to mind as the roads linking the riverside journey became notably busier. Affluent towns now jumble together, and throughout the day I found myself regularly crossing county borders as the river meandered towards the city. Marching on to Goring I stopped at a pub for another coffee which cost nearly £3! That deterred any purchase of food: instead I sat in the churchyard and ate some cereal, which I had brought from a supermarket at Abingdon. As I did so, hundreds of Chinese tourists poured into the inn in to escape an iminent shower. I was merely pleased to allude a hefty lunch bill, but remained confident that the local economy was still thriving as I crossed into Berkshire, later visiting the town of Whitchurch. Beyond here I was able to return to the tow path to complete the evening session. At Purley lock, I met a lady who took me to her house where I was served a lovely meal. Her husband who worked for British Gas, (now owned by the French), told me of the floods they’d endured in recent times. Its always going to be a bit disconcerting waking up to the Thames in your back garden! Bursting its banks, the river had flowed freely into area engulfing his newly built pond. I had to chuckle when his wife went on to explain the difficulty he encountered recapturing the inhabitants of the pond. Fuelled by the opportunity of adventure, and an appetite for sweet peas, it couldn’t have been easy trying to round up a lawn full of carp – over 300 in fact! I’m sure the fish were grateful to the Thames for their little excursion just as I was to the couple for their hospitality, and after I returned to the riverbank, setting up camp just beyond the lock gates. As I was close to the village I called in at the social club to see if I could get a drink. The locals were great and asked if they could do some fundraising for the event – all being well they will make a contribution to Cancer Research UK at a later date. It was a pleasure to spend the evening with such lovely people who gave me every reason to believe that I could still make a difference despite the limitations imposed by the weather.

Day 18 Purley to Marlow – 28 miles

After a stormy night I rose to a dull calm day, and from the Purley Lock Gates I set off again. The threat of rain was never far away as my mind revisited thoughts of the gasman chasing carp around his garden. Not the vision of summer I had quite expected, and with the cricket tour under way I began to feel apprehensive about the weekend to come.  Reaching Caversham in time for breakfast, I stopped at a cafe beside the marina. The cheerful maid was happy in her work, chattering away as she prepared a bacon bap and hot tea for my break. After the interval, I went into town to locate a bank, and from there I rejoined the foot path which led me away from the town, restoring me to the harmony of the countryside. As the afternoon approached I ran into a group of ladies enjoying a picnic celebration in honour of their friend Judith’s birthday. She sponsored the cancer charity, and invited me to join them in a splendid afternoon lunch. It was a great afternoon: we ate good food, drank wine and listened to stories about bears from mythical times narrated by one of the girls. Leaving them to enjoy a dip in the Thames I parted through more woodlands walking the soggy bank under cloud cover that was growing more ominous as the day went on. Later that afternoon the girls passed me in their vessel as I made my way towards the affluent town of Henley. Boats were moored along the bank leading to the town bridge which I crossed to rejoin the footpath. Passing more locks either side of the the river I reached Marlow before dusk where the local cricket club were happy to let me camp out near their pavilion. Enjoying their company and enthusiasm for cricket, I hoped that one day they would take on the ‘Army’s’ mighty X1.

Day 19 Marlow to Staines – 30 miles

Rising to dampness and the patter of rain, the ground staff were under pressure to prepare their wicket in time for a league match scheduled later today. Leaving the scene of a water-logged square I had to go into town and eat a good breakfast at the local Wimpy Bar. Once replenished I rejoined the footpath and trundled on to Cookham. The town was busy, as weekend shoppers dodged the showers: no respite for me though, and searching for cover, by now completely soaked, I was releived to take a break at The King’s Arms Hotel. After coffee in a warm, dry environment I marched off in military fashion enjoying a moment of sunshine offered by parting clouds. By mid afternoon the weather had brightened up around Windsor with the view from the Thames dominated by the eminnent castle: the Queen’s place was simply a portrait of grandeur, though sadly she wasn’t at home, but I still took a photograph of the palace anyway! The town was busy catering for summer tourists and seasoned historians taking note of epitaphs on stone tablets beside the palace. Not far from here is Eton College, also high in prestige and enjoying its location beside the river. Once more the path beckonned and in brighter weather I continued along the bank sharing its pleasantries with all the local waterfowl which were engrossed in their usual playful banter. Fishermen also occupied the banks, some of whom were of Polish decent: most were enjoying the harmony of running water, and further on I passed a grand hotel set just beyond a wooded coppice. 
The meandering Thames now takes in larger suburban provinces which limited my camping options significantly, and after a few enquiries at Staines I was compelled to pitch a tent near the town’s Bridge. By now the tranquility of the riverbank had been seriously disrupted, with the town overwhelmed by police cars, helicopters and all else the establishment could throw at it. Nobody seemed that bothered in the pub, so I just guessed it was part of every day life. Winding down from all my own action, I joined in the chat with local groups, jotted notes in my diary and relaxed for the remainder of the day, making use of the lively riverside inns that frequent this place under seige. Despite the furore, all was well when I returned to my shelter: the stars twinkled, fish leapt for their suppers and gradually the din of party life faded away to distant cackling babble as I drifted into a slumber.

Day 20 Staines to Sunbury Cricket Club.- 15 miles (Thames River).

The party scene was now replaced by the chant of the coxwain as rowing teams peruse the waters of the Thames, participating in morning excersise shaped by the spirit of competition. My penance continued along the river bank interspersed with maritime centres, yards and of course riverside inns serving traditional sunday roast. What should have been a formality turned into total disaster when I discovered I had walked to Sunbury Lock which unbenown to me sits on an island, and of course, I was on the wrong side of the water! With the morning wasted and any hope of an early finish forfeited, I walked all the way back to Shepperton to locate the road to Lower Sunbury. On reaching the town I purchased a few groceries and called into a nearby inn to obtain further instructions for the local cricket club. Thankfully I made my destination at the cricket club, where Sunbury where enjoying the rub of the green in a low-scoring league match. Having set up camp I was joined by ‘Leafy’ Burnham for a couple of beers and a chat about the tour over the coming month.
WALKING WOUNDED!
Day 21 CRICKET DAY

Today I have to play cricket (first time in 5 years!) as part of my Barmy Army fundraising duties/promotion. This I have to say is a bit scary as I was sadly ill-equiped and underprepared. Marching flat out with home ect welded to my back 24-7 does not aid my flexibility which is required to play a game such as cricket. Contrary to common belief endurance and suppleness do not always go hand in hand as I later found out after a painful lesson in the field.
I did not stay on the field for whole innings – pulling a hamstring after our second break for rain, owing to muscle fatigue caused by the heavy endurance factor that I face on the road each day. I did get to walk to the crease, but sadly never faced a ball as the skipper held out in the deep first ball of the next over, and thus the ‘Army’ went down to a heavy defeat. Thankfully the colts shone in the midst of wet weather displaying talent that befits our chosen charity ‘A Chance to Shine’. This is encouragement to the nation in future years to come, and hopefully from it one day, a star will be born: it will be the moment in waiting – a true legacy of the Barmy Army – achieved through the love, committment and passion of God’s given game – cricket, lovely cricket.

Day 22 TWICKENHAM MATCH CANCELLED DUE TO BAD WEATHER

A cancellation due to more rain at least meant a day’s rest and a chance to deal with a very stiff and painful hamstring with possible back and gluteus damage too. Arriving at the ground late morning I was a bit disappointed not to meet up with ‘old Jack’ again who had just left five minutes earlier. We had spent time in South Africa at Newlands in Cape Town watching the 2005 series which England won 2-1. He got truly ‘leathered’ in the celebrity tent and fell off the bus on the way home! I think I was supposed to be there as a calming influence, but it was a hot day and by the end of it I had to concede there weren’t many occasions I had felt as bad as this! I was a little worse for wear to say the least – much the same as now, though it felt I was dealing with a pain barrier that could threaten the entire event. After a social beer with the opposition, a bit of administration back at HQ and some food, I got my head down at Paul’s place, knowing that the next couple of weeks would be hard in wet weather and the aginising pain that now caused me to limp.

Day 23 Thames River to West Wycombe 10 miles

Returning to the task with a hamstring injury we opted for the shortest possible journey north of the Thames, which meant restarting at Marlow where I had stayed the previous friday evening. Here at least I had the comfort of familiar surroundings, and at present fairer weather. Starting slowly I located the appropriate exit road, and finding a forest footpath continued steadily to the village of Bottom Marlow. Whilst contemplating my journey at a nearby housing estate, a gentleman directed me to the old Wycombe Road, which, lacking a pavement, was also quite busy. Revealing only a few stops along the way, I completed the task in one hit. There was an awkward roundabout to cross, but once I joined the thoroughfare it was time to visit a town called High Wycombe, which I knew little of, set amid the Buckinhamshire countryside in the heart of England.
Once at the town centre I was able to locate a Whetherspoons Inn, and after a quick wash there, I ordered some food. As it was barely 4pm I decided to press on a little further to West Wycombe, and after receiving advice from locals at a bar, I camped out in a nearby field sheltered by trees. Meeting the same locals in the George and the Dragon Inn, I was treated to a few beers, and sponsored some money for the cause. Seated near a window for the remainder of the night, I enjoyed a meal and a couple of pints whilst savouring the atmosphere of the old inn, bottled up over centuries of merriment.

Day 24 West Wycombe to Hardwick – 20 miles

I had enjoyed a great evening at the George and The Dragon, and a peaceful night in the woodlands set me up for the morning, as I walked the paved A4010 as far as Princess Risborough. Stopping in town for a break, I first had to survive a ten minute interrogation from Barclay’s Bank in order to obtain the mandatory ten pounds, which I would need for my daytime expenses: at least they understand the meaning of security, and its need in this dreadful era of fraudelant crime. Next I found a cafe where I endulged in a much-needed dose of caffeine and a glance at the sports page of the Times. Before leaving the town, I bought a loaf from a market stall, and engaged in conversation with a lady from one of many charity shops on the square. Still in pain, I pressed on slowly to Stoke Mandeville, passing the hospital which had become symbolic through its association with pioneering fundraiser and DJ Jimmy Saville. ‘The Barmy Army’s Jimmy Saville lookalike, Vic, is better known for his songs and avid support of England. However it is also known that his duties extend to fundraising as well, often spearheading the BA who are usually happy to participate in charity events whilst on tour overseas. Baring a smile in a moment of private humour, I pondered over the similarities of the two famous characters, only to realise that the ‘Barmy Army cheerleader’ was probably ambling around some far off northern cricket ground singing ‘We are The Army – The Mighty, Mighty Army’…..  Pressing on a little further, the road led me to Aylesbury, where again I was fortunate enough to be in time to qualify for a special’s board meal at a Whetherspoons. After my lunch, I enjoyed the novelty of bathing under one of the fountains in the highstreet, refreshing myself for the latter stage of today’s journey.
The sun was now shining brightly as I reduced the tempo to a beautiful evening stroll along unspoilt countryside harbouring characterful stone-built farmhouses and quaint olde worlde villages. The first place en route was Weedon, where I stopped at a house to make enquiries about camping. Unfortunately the farmer only had a mobile phone which was usually switched off so nobody could locate him. That’s handy – a land owner who has no means of communication! God help him if he ever fell foul of cattle rustlers, or his stock decide to take a hike: an excursion beyond their permitted boundaries may well lead them to greener grass, butinteresting new destinations usually come at a price. The word negligence can sound a bit more intimidating when used in the same context as fence repairs, vet bills and damage to private landscape: all of which add up to a costly venture. Many times on my travels I have found stray sheep wandering aimlessly near the busy main road, or cattle sunning themselves next to broken fence posts on the local manor lawn: on each occasion the farmer is several fields away totally oblivious to any problem. Such is life in the sticks where sometimes the murmur of a distant tractor is all that indicates the presence of modernisation. Wild life is abundant here too: the resident turtle has enjoyed village life for many decades. The local pond on the green has provided our overseas guest with the finest accommodation in the area. He probably suffered a panic attack when locals dredged the pond a few years ago, but has settled down since, appreciating his refurbished environment and the dutiful affection shown by the community. Leaving Weedon behind I passed a terrace of sumptuous properties on the way back to the main road, and soon I was entering another small community – the village of Hardwick. This was a characterful little place with idyllic pub called ‘Ye Olde Jug’, and a churchyard containing a poignant epitaph from the days of the Civil War.  The owner of a nearby manor let me camp on his lawn, and after a chat to his gardener, whose brother lives in Oundle, I spent a pleasant evening at ‘Ye Olde Jug’. Shaun,the landlord was very cheerful and kind, and I enjoyed the company of his locals who taught me much about this historical region, which was once a battle front in the Civil War. It was a grim note to end the day, and as I headed back to my tent, I felt sure that tomorrow’s visit to the cemetery would reveal a gruesome chapter of its past.

Day 25 Hardwick to Syresham – 22 miles.

I was awoken at 7am by the gardner who issued me a cup of tea, and before leaving the village I went to  the churchyard to visit a burial site from the Civil War where 243 soldiers lost their lives in combat. Their bones had been recovered from a battle ground near Aylesbury, and the stark words of the epitaph record that the loss of life caused by an event such as this should never be forgotten nor repeated.

Stepping beyond the village amid a fine drizzle I followed a footpath beside the busy main road as far as Whitchurch: from here I chose to walk the quiter back roads to Winslow. Taking refuge in a nearby hotel I had a coffee break, and then set off for the town of Buckingham. I had enjoyed my tour of Buckinghamshire, my tenth county to date, and appreciated the company of locals who I found informative and friendly. At an pub in Buckingham I was able to watch Peiterson and Collingwood stage a fightback in the test series. I also had a picnic lunch on the outskirts of town before trundling off in search of Syresham in Northamptonshire. Keeping to the back roads, I stopped at a couple of villages inside the county, though there was little of interest to prolong my stay. By 6pm I had reached my destination at Syresham Cricket Club, where Adam Jeskins, the club secretary, introduced me to club members who were eager to know about my journey to date. We now all hoped the weather would stay fine for Sunday, and the local turn out would be one of excess.

Day 26-27 CRICKET TOUR.

Thankfully it turned out to be a great day at the cricket, and despite another Barmy Army defeat we all enjoyed the event, raising a substantial sum of money for Cancer Research, and ‘A Chance to Shine’ which was supported through our auction and sales from local stalls. It was important to recognise the effort everyone at Syresham Cricket Club had put in – the 3 days I was there I couldn’t believe how much was going on ‘Well done Adam Jeskins and all club members for an outstanding effort to make the occasion worthwhile. It was great to see Phil Defreites there too, as I recall, with great pleasure, his match-winning innings at Adelaide in 1995 appropriately highlighting the birth of The Barmy Army in what was deemed as its founding test match. What a fantastic weekend, and the weather held too! This at least gave some fortitude for tougher days ahead: my hamstring was still weak, yet I felt hopeful I could make it to Colwall in time for next Friday’s tour match. The last hour at the bar gave me time to reflect on the past week since leaving the big city and its great river. I had seen historical villages unknown to me until recent days, and a chance to revisit the far regions of my home county – seen only briefly before on my first charity walk in 1992.

DAY 28 syresham to Wroxton – 17 miles (via Sulgrave)

Leaving the club after a memorable weekend, I picked up a pint of milk from the local grocer shop, and departed from the village using the Wappingham
Road. I ticked off the many villages along the way, following the old railway routes which would have filled the country air with steam a half century ago. Just my age I thought – though I’m fairly confident it will be the only half century I’ll get this year! stopping at Sulgrave to purchase cheese and bread, I enjoyed a moment of humour as the two elderly shopkeepers struggled to embrace the rigours of modern technology that the computerised till had thrust upon them. Eventually the problem was solved, and after leaving the shop I spent a quiet moment enjoying my meal on a bench near the church.
Beyond here, the road became busy accommodating traffic from Northampton and Banbury. Taking another backroad via Chacombe I was able to join the cycle route into Banbury, and in the wake of a shower I retired to Whetherspoons for tea, fish/chips and peas. Talking to an Irish chap called Vince and a mate of his, I acquired the necessary geography to exit town, as well as enjoying a lively conversation about the towns of Britain. Vince knew all the places I had been to even ‘Smokey Joe’s’ in Redruth! Now that’s ‘serious tourism’ – by definition he is surely’a true man of the road’!
Leaving the town I was on my way once more, remaining mindful of the teatime traffic that can be quite menacing along the main road at this time of day.
Arriving at the village of Wroxton the chairlady of the local cricket club let me camp at the ground, and I was soon instilled in an old inn across the road, where the landlady was kind enough to grant me a free super. Can’t beat that! And after I chatted with the landlord and a few of their regulars before returning to face a wet night in the tent.

Day 29 Wroxton to Welford -on-Avon – 25 miles

Normally, when camping, one hopes to wake up to song birds and running water. Sadly a storm had drowned out the morning chorus – though there was easily enough running water (fish too!) to wet the appetite of any bad weather enthusiast! it was a disasterous night as I watched my tent drift off down the paddock – I was completely wet through before my day had even started! Commencing at 9am – somewhat disheartened I soldiered on – walking almost the entire stretch of 20 miles to Warwick. Luckily I did manage to get a ham sandwich at a garage 7 miles from the town. The attendant asked how I was given my dishevelled state, and with a half chuckle I replied, ‘Been better!’ After all it wouldn’t take much to improve on that, though I recall dreaming earlier that the RNLI had been called out to rescue me from my tent: they saved the tent and left me there! I think I was doing backstroke in the paddock when I woke up! On that cheerful thought I headed off towards more dark clouds as bad weather loomed again, remaining very cold for the rest of the morning. Marching on I reached Stratford in time for a bit of sunshine, presently enjoyed by many visitors perusing the river bank that has for centuries been a highlight of this historic town. Across the Avon lies a network of streets comprised of charming timber-framed buildings complimented by modern day amenities and shopping centre. Finding a Millets shop I purchased a new tent and camera memory card: then of course I found a Wetherspoons inn for lunch and refreshment. After enjoying an hour in ‘Billy’s Town’ I called in at the Cancer Research UK shop before departing to Welford -on -Avon. Traffic ebbed and flowed in the afternoon, building greater momentum around teatime. Beside the bridge leading to the village of Welford was a caravan site where I was fortunate enough to be invited to camp by the owner’s relatives. There was little at Welford other than rain and an inn beside the swollen banks of the River Avon. The people, who were caretaking the site for the owner, were very kind and made me a cup of tea while I pitched my new tent. In between showers I managed to reach the pub over the bridge where I finished the day with a meal and a couple of pints.

Day 29 Welford-on-Avon to Defford – 24 miles

What a summer! Well I’m as drowned as a despondent kipper! Even the fish are concerned as they wake up in all sorts of places these days – usually playing fields, paddocks or a brook if they are lucky: I swear I stumbled over a carp the other morning whilst crossing a bridleway in Oxford! The day before I watched my tent drift off down the countryside (literally abandon tent!) though this time I dismantled it before the mandatory rain seeped in, and managed a tea with the kind caretakers. By the time I was on the road it poured with avengence, and there was little point in trying to stay dry. Instead I embraced the situation pouring some shower gel over my clothes to freshen them up a bit, and enjoyed a good hair wash too!
By the time I reached Bidford-on-Avon I was glad to retreat to a cafe for a hot drink and breakfast. Chatting to a couple of ladies who were interested in my activities, I learned by chance, that the one named Jan, had a sister called Audrey from our village Carharrack, and who attended my mother’s church. What a coincidence! We must have chatted for an hour as I was almost dry by the time I left! The proprieter was most kind to me and did not present a bill for my breakfast: instead she issued me with a good packlunch to help get through the day. After buying some batteries for my camera, I left along the Evesham Road, beleagued by more obscene weather that makes life under canvas a dispiriting prospect.
Reaching Evesham in pouring rain I found a pub where I stopped for lunch. The place was packed with bewildered holiday-makers banished by the weather from the outside world. To be confined to an inn with little else to do with their time is not the ideal formula for a summer break. Leaving the despondent tourists behind I Walked on to Pershore where I stopped for another tea break to warm both spirit and body. The hot drink gave some comfort, but from here on I encountered teatime traffic along the Upton Road, and with the journey declining beyond the realms of satisfaction, I called it a day at The Defford Arms where I was given a warm welcome from the publicans. The landlord Neil Overton washed all my kit, and his mother let me camp free of charge. I enjoyed a lovely evening there amid good company, and dried myself next to a log fire – never witnessed before in August!
I also met a couple from the North-East which evoked many fond memories of the region where I worked and walked over a 12 year period: in particular I marvelled at the coastline from Berwick to Hartlepool: a characterful journey comprising of castles, coal dust and charming inns.

Day 30 Defford to Colwall – 17 miles.

Rising after a great night’s sleep, I felt refreshed and rejuvinated and after a chat with my friends from the North East I scampered off down the road into Upton-on-Severn, which although a notorious flood plain, seemed to be enjoying the pleasantries of a normal summer. I paused for a while capturing the atmosphere of this bustling town before continuing along the B road to Malvern. At least the pavement offered some solace, and there was only one short sharp shower which occurred in the afternoon. On reaching the Colwall junction I climbed a steep hill, and was immediately rewarded by a mind-blowing vista. Here panaramic views on a lower level sprawl between two counties,providing a sight to behold on this my first visit to Herefordshire. Descending fro the hilltop the country road winds round to the Colwall sign, though it is quite some time before the village reveals itself. There was an old Roman mound to the left of the road called British Camp, and a mile or so on is the village centre. It was compact enough housing the right sort of amenities; a couple of inns; post office and several grocer shops. All in all a nice place. Better still is the beautiful county cricket ground where Hereford would be playing a county match on Sunday weather permitting. Before that of course, we have tomorrow’s 20/20 game and Barmy Army Colts fixture. That night, having abandonned my tent for a couple of nights in a proper bed, Darren and Gareth (Barmy Army / Colwall CC) took me to their local club in Malvern where I met a surfer, Yorkshire barman, and played my first game of snooker in over 30 years!

Day 31 BARMY ARMY CRICKET TOUR AT COLWALL CC

What a fantastic cricket day! We were blessed with sunshine and an appearance from Devon Malcom: a great favourite in the cricket world, and celebrity guest for the Barmy Army. Today Devon would be making his debut for the Barmy Army, and I was looking forward to hearing him talk about his cricket life later on that day. The 20/20 game was okay but the Army came second again! The Colts game showed much more promise with strong players on both sides shining through. One of the young guys in the bar with Darron last night was also deemed very talented, but presently injured and relegated to umpiring the colts match. Recently he bowled at Hashem Amla: not aware who Amla was, he posed a number of problems whilst bowling his spin: so much so, that he told him he wasn’t fit to be on the same square! Amla has been knocking England all round the park since, so we enjoyed a good laugh about this earlier contest. Devon was on great form too, and after the match gave an interesting overview of his test career as well insight into the modern game and England’s present test side. He also sponsored me a pair of boots for the remaining weeks of the roadshow, and generally people were kind and happy to be part of this social occasion, which on the day saw cricket as the winner.
THE TIMELESS SEVERN VALLEY
Day 32 Colwall to Stourport-on-Severn – 30 miles

Starting in wet weather I appreciated the footpath to Malvern and Worcester given the fact I was following a primary route for the best part of the day. Malvern was a lively town with a few good pubs which we visited the previous evening, though today the streets were dominated by weekend shoppers dodging short, sharp showers and over-zealous traffic wardens. Beyond here the road presented a few testing moments with inter-town traffic, though the passage to Worcester, via the A449, was otherwise non-eventful. Once accross the River Severn, I continued through the thoroughfare stopping at an inn for coffee. Whilst resting I planned my course via Ombersely which offered a cycle route for most of the way. Walking beyond the town the rain poured down, and the path became more diminuitive often overgrown with stinging nettles as I passed the suburbs of Worcester on the way to my teatime stop at Omberseley. Reaching this little village in my sodden state,  I visited the King’s Arms pub where I had once stayed when Walking end-to-end in 1995. Only the personnel had changed, and the old building like the rest of the village still retained its affluent medieval character: despite modern roads these little places remained largely unscathed as if trapped in a web of time.

Beyond here I braved the wet as far as the boundaries of Stourport where I set up camp in a forest near an inn. Tomorrow the Severn awaits my arrival as I step back in time once more to savour past journeys long done before.

Day 33 Stourport to Bewdley to Bridgnorth – 25 miles

 After supper at the inn I  returned to my tent to find it full of water. Decamping in pitch black I managed to roll up the saturated equipment and return to the road for a most unwelcome over-night session. I could not find shelter at this late hour, and a truck manned by intoxicated scrap dealers, leaving the pub after hours, tried to run me over for a bit of fun! Great – that’s just the tonic I needed – especially as I was unable to move quickly after a soaking wet 12-hour session on the road carrying backpack and tent! My hamstring was hurting and I was shivering, but soldiered on to Bewdley where by chance the Bowling Club was still open, and the barman was kind enough to let me rest in the lounge area whilst he cleaned up the main hall after a birthday party celebration.
After a few hours sleep he woke me up and took me to his cafe, where I was issued with a full English breakfast. He also dried my clothes into the bargain – I was overwhelmed by his kindness and to thank him I gave him a copy of my NZ book, which he had been reading earlier after his shift. Saying goodbye I crossed the bridge and continued along The Severn Valley Way, which skirts the river itself and interchanges with the famous Severn Valley Steam Railway. It wasn’t long before a train shunted past, and I was able to take plenty of photos throughout the morning session. Stopping first at Arley I enjoyed tea, scones and a chat to other visitors who had taken refuge at this lovely little bistro. The next stage was less pleasant as I negotiated muddy terrain which incurred some slippery moments along the way.
Feeling tired and struggling with a painful leg I rested at Hampton Station where I was lucky enough to watch two trains pull in side by side. It was like stepping back in time, as the coal dust and smoke cleared revealing a century-old station buffet, and platform decorated with Bisto advertising placards – even the Gents had retained its Victorian influence! For a moment it had seemed that time had failed to erode this part of the valley, and feeling uplifted by the old world of steam I returned to the Severn, where boaters and fishers continue to operate in the same timeless manner, creating their own unique semblance of serenity. Trapesing through more mud and sodden banks as far as Bridgnorth, I decided to find a room for the night. Booking into an inn for the first time in ages, I felt glad not to be camping, and as I sat at the bar writing my diary, I was approached by several people interested in reading my books and hearing about my adventures on far and distant lands. Also, by chance, I met other walkers just back from completing a great mountain challenge. I spoke with their leader, who despite having breast cancer ten years ago, had rose to many great challenges across the globe. She was a lovely lady, and after telling me of about her ordeal, went on to organise a collection for me at the pub. She also gave me a sleeping bag into the bargain – some positive energy for the journey to come as well as warmth in a diminishing summer.

Day 33 Bridgnorth to Penkridge – 27 miles

Leaving Bridgnorth on the wrong road was a frustrating start to the week which cost me half an hour. Returning to the town clock I took a steep lane adjacent to the cliff railway which led me to the bridge and exit roundabout. Once established on the correct road, which was the primary route to Wolverhampton (A454), I then walked a brisk 4 miles to the Albrighton junction. After stopping briefly at a garage for fluid I followed a cross country course using B routes for most of the morning. Reaching the small town of Albrighton around 1pm I indulged in an excellent 2 course lunch at a very reasonable price. Unbelievably, whilst enjoying my meal, a robbey was in progress and a man armed with a machete was apprehended by PC Plod. An unusual choice of weapon I thought, but then in these are hard times even criminals have to cut their cloth to suit!
Once away from the fiercesome streets of Albrighton I found a small lane leading to Wheaton Aston where a sudden downpour stole my concentration leading me onto a much more extensive course for the evening session. By the time I remedied the problem it was almost dark, and reaching the town of Penkridge I decided to camp under a road bridge down by the river. At least I would be sheltered fro m heavy rain, and Once established beside the water I went to the Bridge Inn for a pint and a meal. There were only a few visitors enjoying a holiday night out at this lovely old inn where some of the finest local ale was on tap. They were interested in my journey, and a couple of them were kind enough to buy some of my books: this at least ensured I had enough funds for my journey tomorrow, and feeling relaxed after a fairly stiff examination from both weather and road I slept well benefitting from the thermal sleeping back gifted by my friend from Bridgnorth.

‘A BIT OF NORTHERN SOLE’
Day 34 Penkridge to Rocester – 26 miles

Returning to the inn for coffee and breakfast, the staff wished me well for the day and also donated £5 to my cause. After chatting away for a few minutes we said our farewells as I headed off to Stafford amid a shocking weather front. Once in town I sheltered at a cafe for an hour before venturing off along the Uttoxeter Road, which was almost as scary as yesterday’s events at Albrighton! Thankfully I found another cafe en route where the lady was very kind donating to the cause, and giving me a free meal whilst her partner helped with instructions and ideas of where I might camp tonight.
Leaving here I headed on to the next town amid another blast of fiercesome weather. Uttoxeter has a distinguished town centre comprised of characterful stone buildings. Luckily the locals were friendly enough as I needed some directions to locate the Ashbourne Road – the next phase in the journey. Back en route the traffic remained intense yet the appearance of the countryside was softened by the presence of a river. Just 6 miles on with the evening still young, I found the village of Rocester which had plenty of facilities but insufficent ground for camping. Walking to the end of town, not far from the border of Derbyshire, I came across the football club which looked to be my last option. An important match was about to commence but the gateman let me in just in time to speak to Tim, the manager and commentator for the evening. He was happy to help and suggested I camped on the field behind the clubhouse next to the river. I was delighted as it was a good spot, and later that evening I returned to the centre and enjoyed a pint at the local inn. A quiz was in progress and I was able to assist a team of young girls whilst entering the day’s events in my diary. This week had provided new opportunities amid different terrain where northern banter now flows freely as they would for the remainder of the walk. The inn provided a good community atmosphere, and every one made me welcome. The bar lady also mentioned that they would have offered me a room if the camping option had not arisen. There was also some sandwiches and chips on offer: a perfect way to round off what was a pretty tough day.

Day 35 Rocester to Swanwick – 24 miles.

A good night’s sleep made all the difference having spent the night with a group of girls assisting with quiz whilst enjoying local ale. The football club had seen me right by allowing me to camp, and after a breakfast bought from the village grocer shop, I set off walking to Ashbourne. The morning’s walk was little more than a few miles as I crossed more bridges realising I would pass through here again at the end of the week once the Mansfield match was concluded. I just hoped the weather would hold after making such an extensive detour to accommodate this match, which afterall was part of my duty. On reaching the top of the town I located an adventure shop where I purchased new boots. Satisfied with my purchase, I enjoyed a tea break at a nearby cafe recommended by the salesgirl. It was an affluent town: probably a bit too posh for me – hope I didn’t lower the tone of the place too much! Taking the Belper Road gave a journey of about 2 hours which was often laden with traffic and generally quite unpleasant. Certainly most of these road routes would not feature in my top ten journal of favourite walks, and although Belper failed to inspire me with illusions of grandeur, I did at least stop at a Macdonalds for a cup of tea. Soldiering on beyond Belper I crossed the main Chesterfield road only to miss the next turn off which incurred an excursion via Riples to get back on the correct course. I endured a shower on reaching the town and joked with a local, explaining that every time I take off my mac it resumes raining again! We spoke of Australasia and my travels around the continent as it now seems every one thinks I’m a bloody ‘Aussie’! But despite the unintentional insults I remained humorous and deliberate in my quest, passing through a few small places until finally coming to a standstill at Swanwick. After setting up camp at dusk in a field next to a housing estate, I paid my nearest neighbour a visit to inform her of my situation. The lady ensured me that it was a quiet area and I needn’t worry about intruders. Feeling relaxed with that knowledge I ventured into town and visited a pub where football was the focus of a large social gathering. Not my cup of tea, but I remained long enough to enjoy a pint and complete my diary for the day. Tomorrow would feature our own sporting event hosted by Welbek Cricket Club situated a few miles beyond the town of Mansfield.

Day 36 Swanwick to Welbek (Mansfield Woodhouse) – 20 miles

Not the best day’s walking I’ve ever had: most of which was spent negotiating built-up areas as towns begin to merge in characteristically Northern style. On reaching Mandfield, believing the day’s journey to be near its end, I stopped for some lunch, only to find out after that I still had another 5 miles to go! Well I found the right village, and retreated to a nearby inn during a sharp storm. Then on receiving instructions for the local cricket club proceeded uphill past the station only to find the venue empty. It was the wrong club!How many cricket clubs are there in a tiny place such as this? Returning to the village I received fresh instructions from a merchandise trading office connected to Welbek Cricket Club, and from here the chairman was able to set me back on course again. After all that confusuon I arrived in time to see a covered wicket, and Dean Headly’s after match speech. Only other problem was a ball had not been bowled, leaving the weather victor once again. With the weather now as formidable as the recent Australian side I pondered of the extra effort I had put in to make this venue. A bit demoralising to say the least, but after a hot shower(you’d think I’d be fed up with water by now!) I felt better and Duncan, who had organised the fixture, took me back to his place where I appreciated a meal and a good night’s rest.

Day 37 Ashbourne to Congleton – 26 miles

Avoiding an arduous and pointless trek back to Ashbourne I was transported to the town in order to head north again. I still had to walk a few familiar miles along the Uttoxeter Road as far as the Leek turn off by which time the process of wet weather emerged again. The Leek Road was a hazardous one at times, as I skirted the edge of the Peak District where at least the countryside had brightened up my day. Its green fresh look remained a wet one, prompting me to stop midway once I had found a cafe. It was too early for lunch so I sat for a while enjoying a coffee until the rain subsided. Marching on I coped with the difficulties that the road presented -now mindful of the fact that new towns lie on the horizon. Reaching leek at teatime, I took a few photos and went for a coffee in the centre of town. There were several quaint little tearooms and many more characterful old restaurants and inns set to stimulate the appetite of visitors arriving for the Bank holiday weekend. Beyond the town I found the appropriate back roads to continue my journey, though I began to rue not having a cream bun or something to revitalise me. Abstaining from an afternoon snack had led to an energy crisis, and the uphill journey left me feeling listless and weak. It was always going to be an energy-sapping affair without food, and there were no facilities along this rural plateau comprised only of farmyard and pastureland. Eventually the lanes converge on Congleton where I was able to get sufficient groceries for today’s supper and tomorrow’s breakfast. Above the supermarket was a park where I camped out having a somewhat restless time affected by Congleton’s embibing nightlife.

Day 38 Congleton to Glazebry (The Raven) – 30 miles

Having decamped by 8am, I hastely shovelled down a bowl of cereal/yogurt before departing on the Manchester Road. Once beyond the town I asked a nearby hotel if they would serve me coffee to keep me focused on what threatened to be a hazardous session. They were trying to clean the bar as well take breakfast orders from residents, yet nonetheless made me welcome. After drinking my coffee in the bar I took a quick swill in the toilet facilities and on leaving the premises thanked the proprieter and his multi-tasking staff. I was glad to break the intensity as the morning became a long drawn out affair against the impetus of Bank holiday traffic. Snipping off part of the main road, I stopped again at the lovely village of Chelford where I sat on a bench for a while, enjoying the sun on my back. As time drifted slowly by the road became peaceful place transformed by its rural surroundings where only equestrians roamed.  Reluctantly I saddled up for another session, knowing that soon the remainder of this weekend journey would be dominated by towns and city life. Thankfully there was a path for most of the way as some of these drivers were ‘percentagers’- happy to live their lives by way of a lottery.It was difficult to grasp their concept of over-taking which caused many oncoming vehicles to stop dead to allow the impatient offenders pass by.  Reaching Knutsford by lunch time gave the opportunity to peruse the busy streets and enjoy the holiday atmosphere. Later I was treated to a pot of tea by the landlady of the Angel Inn – by heck I was ready for that – Lancashire here we come!
Full of restored ego I set off on the Warrington Road where I had to make a decision over my choice of route for the evening. Worried about the flow of traffic I joined the backroads which I knew would eventually take me to the familiar surroundings of Wigan. Ticking off the villages along the way I reached Glazebury around Dusk where I asked the landlord of The Raven inn if I could camp in his garden. He was happy to find me a spot, and later I enjoyed food a lovely meal in this characterful old inn originated by the Holcrofts in 1562. Their history owes much to Colonel Thomas Blood who served with Cromwell in Ireland. He was a ‘bit of a lad’ too – even tried to steal the Crown Jewels: only to become a favourite of King Charles 11. Having lived life to the full and survived his brush with Royalty during a more turbulent period of history, he eventually died in his Westminster home in 1680. 

Day 39 Glazebury to Preston – 30 miles

Despite bad weather I managed to get a decent night’s sleep, leaving the inn around 8am. After walking a couple of miles into Leigh I found a little community centre, where I was able to purchase a cooked breakfast whilst sheltering momentarily from the rain. Later as the clouds gave way to blue sky and sunshine I made good progress through Wigan, retracing my footsteps from byegone days of penance. Having reached the soul of the north I felt a spring in my step as I passed the town of Coppul, and around lunchtime I stopped at the Inn at the village of Charnock Richard. I had stayed at the pub many years ago when it was in a rundown state, but has since been refurbished and restored to former glory. Tempted by curiousity I entered the premises for tea, and enjoyed a chat with the barmaid who lives in Leyland. She had taken on the pub job to subsidise the income from her main job of hairdressing, and was saving up for a holiday abroad. I pondered over what had become of the previous owners who were so kind and thoughtful all those years ago, knowing they were suffering with poor health induced by the financial worries of running a business. I would like to have seen them again if only to thank them for their kindness, and reminisce over past journeys which have made my life so fulfilling. Beyond here I walked through Bambar Bridge where I thought I had lost my wallet, but the panic was unecessary as I had simply moved it to a place of safety! On reaching the Preston Sign, just after the bridge, I asked the innkeeper if I could camp in her beer garden. She was happy to oblige on this lovely eve where the bank holiday atmosphere had already started to flow. It was a peaceful riverside setting with fishers interspersed along the bank, as I watched the sun go down whilst enjoying a guinness amid the distant wailing of Karaoke.

Day 40 Preston – Lancaster 14 miles

After a still dry night, it was time to embrace the payback of more rain as clouds loomed large over Lancashire. I stopped briefly at Preston Football Club to enjoy a roast chicken breakfast, hot off the spit at Somerfields. The nearby park contained placards and stones of local heroes that had given the region much hard-earned prestige. Beyond the city boundaries I found the A6 adequate for my needs housing both shops and pavement, and I arrived at Garstang in time to buy a dinner from the’special board’ which helped to stave off the cold on this dreary Bank holiday morning. By the time I reached Lancaster, there was little prospect of camping with only the sodden banks of the canal on offer. There were many vessels moored below the town bridge, though they only looked marginally more appealing than a tent on an eve such as this! Luckily, I stumbled across The Royal Kings Hotel, where after some fierce bartering, I settled for a room at £35 inclusive of breakfast. Lancashire is home to local entrepreneur Dave Speak who was at this time busy organising The end of tour Barmy Army match that was forecasted to be a big one! I would look forward to seeing Dave and the rest of the guys at the end of this walk when I would return from Scotland to join the last part of the tour.

Day 41 Lancaster to Kendal – 22 miles

Fuelled with a massive breakfast, I marched off beyond the city enduring the mandatory downpour of rain that is a characteristic of British life. One doesn’t need to be a prophet to qualify as a weather forecaster these days – this is easy work if you can get it! Although the weather has been the main feature of our British summer, the trend for outdoor pursuits has not declined as barges meandered gracefully along the Lancaster Canal. Throughout the day I alternated from road to tow path, stopping at the lively town of Carnforth where I found the heart-warming sight of tea and cake difficult to resist. Equally warm were its people who where both kind and friendly, and I had always made a point of stopping here on previous walks of the kingdom. Marching on through the spray from the deluged A6 I reached Milnthorpe by 3pm feeling cold, dejected and less enthusiastic about the prospect of camping. I stopped again for tea at a cafe which turned out to be my last moment of respite until later this evening. I did not enjoy the latter stage of the journey, which yielded greater traffic on a flooded dual carriageway. The modernised road now presented constant danger as there wasn’t sufficient paving to offer safe passage. I can’t express how releived I was to exit the carriageway, though it took some time to find my way into Kendal, stopping at the Cock and Dolphin Inn to enquire about accommodation. After another wet day on the road a room in lieu of the tent would be more appropriate, and I had hoped to stay at the YHA here in Kendal. Publicans, Ian and Claire telephoned the YHA where there was a vacancy but the tarrif seemed a bit expensive for a dormitary room. After making me some tea, they decided to let me stay free of charge as a donation to the cause. The weather had incurred a greater expense than anticipated for this walk and had hamapered our fundraising programme significantly – even the Barmy Army struggled to reach parity over the course of the tour.  Ian and Claire were good people, and released what I was up against, encouraging me to stay strong to complete this tour of the kingdom in time for Sunday’s cricket match and grande finale. Ian even offered to pick me from Carlisle and take me to Lancaster after my tour had finished, so I could make the cricket deadline.  I couldn’t be more happy with that with the walk becoming so expensive coupled with the most significant journey yet to come. This being my walk of The Isle of Man and Ireland which will see the completion of my British Isles portfolio-  walking a full circle of each Celtic Kingdom.

Day 42 Kendal to Penrith – 27 miles

Predictably,it was a wet start, though on reaching the high ground, the wind dried up the road making my journey more bearable.The mountain scenery added a different flavour to the journey, taking me beyond the builtup suburban regions of the previous week. I saw little in the valleys below other than sheep which paused momentarily from their cud to observe my intrusion. They soon returned to their task, mindful of any fish that could have strayed from the overflowing stream nearby. The decolate landscape offered only small dwellings along the A6: in fact the rare sight of a farm house became the only sign of community life until reaching Shap Fell. Shap was an idyllic staging post in the journey, and I stopped at a cafe for a couple of fairy cakes washed down with a pot of tea. Now I was really up for it! Beyond the village I found myself almost running to Penrith as I watched the motorway close in on my left flank with the railway interchanging alongside the A6. Reaching town about 7pm I was able to stay in a Cycle Lodge geared for adventure travellers and journeymen like myself. Costing £20 for the night it was extremely clean and well-kept with all the modern amenities. The owners had hoped to develop it more, but couldn’d afford to do so at present – hopefully one day they will.
Day 43 Penrith to Gretna Village – 34 miles

Using a map donated by my host, I followed a back road to Carlisle, which inter-changed each side of the motorway, serving only the hamlets and small communities between the two towns. It was still deemed a proper highway despite its quietness, and could easily qualify as a cycle route in the future. And as foretold, took me all the way into Carlisle City Centre, where I stopped for a fish dinner at Whetherspoons around 4pm. Leaving here I managed to find the correct road out of the city, and then faced an arduous evening journey along the A7 to Longtown. Passing Blackford, where I had stayed previously in 1993, it took almost until dusk to reach Longtown, and then I walked a further 4-5 miles to Gretna Green arriving at dusk where I was greeted by a flood of tourists. Finding no camping facilities and little else to encourage me and continued further into Scotland walking as far as Gretna Village. There was nowhere to camp here either, and the owner of the caravan site would not help me: so having completed my task I  returned by bus to Carlisle where I camped in a nearby Recreation Park.
I had now at least completed Phase 1 of my mini tour of the British Isles, and with one cricket match remaining on 31/08/08, I began to cast my thoughts to Ireland, Phase 2 and the final frontier in travelling the British Isles.     

Returning to Lancaster allowed a weekend break and a chance to play our final cricket match of the tour. Derek Randall turnout as our guest celebrity and Dave Speak had summoned Lancaster Radio to the ground to give commentry of the event. Dave also took valuable wickets to enable the Barmy Army to snatch their only win of the tour. Despite the rain it was great to get a full game in and although the turnout wasn’t overwelming, all concerned enjoyed a great day out. Dave took us all to an Indian Restaurant to round off the day. Now all I had to do was walk around the Isle of Man and Ireland!
Looking back on the tour I felt I had achieved much throughout my challenge, although the weather had severly dampened our fundraising aspirations. Firstly we did not give up or become despondent thus making committment to every single day. My leaflet exposure and local support in Cornwall helped to yield at least two thousand pounds for Cornwall Hospice Care, and so
me of our venues provided support for A Chance to Shine and Cancer Research UK. Moreover it was a fantastic media excersise which significantly raised the profile of our charities. Invaluable contributions to cricket were made by every one: in particular the progress of the Colts who surely deliver an England star yet.
Despite the soaking nights in a tent and countless wet days I took comfort in humanity which still harbours compassion and good-natured people. Like the weather the countryside is unmistakably English – its diversity comes second to none. Waking up to running water and songbirds is surreal to most city dwellers who have never get enough quality time to appreciate the countryside. The world I have seen is a special one that I am happy to share in my books, as it aminates an eternal journey with a true definition of ‘life on the road’.
 

ROBIN MOORE’S ISLE OF MAN WALK

British Isles – Day 49 Lancaster to Isle of Man (Douglas to Castletown)

As the sun shone brightly over Heysham I prepared myself for the next phase of this infinite tour of the British Isles which would incur an 80-mile walk around the Isle of Man, the sixth Celtic kingdom I had encountered to date. This idyllic little island steeped in antiquity is situated between the coastlines of Lancashire, North Wales, Galloway and Northern Ireland, and would make a nice little excursion before the main event of walking Ireland. Leaving Heysham at 2.30pm I enjoyed a relaxing passage across the Irish Sea, docking around 6pm. My first steps on this little rock were precarious ones, greeted in the eye of a storm – mandatory I guess one could say, as the weather has been my nemesis throughout this tour to date. New kingdom, different adventure – yet same old weather to dampen any aspirations of a pleasant trip. Once the initiation was over, with my baptism from above complete, I set off from the dockyard passing the old railway station as I left Douglas behind for now. Douglas is deemed the island’s capital and I would hope to complete my journey along the sweeping promenade of this grand old Victorian resort. This evening I endeavoured to reach Castletown, which was the former capital until 1860, when it handed over the responsibility to Douglas. Leaving the outskirts I walked along the Castletown Road via Fairy Bridge in the parish of Malew, taking in the rich green countryside amid fading light. I didn’t see any fairies along the way though legend dictates the importance of greeting them when crossing the bridge. This is one of many local superstitions that lay in wait to test the unsuspecting tourist: in fact the original ‘Real Fairy Bridge’ is found in the parish of Braddan. Continuing in changing weather that eventually gave me a glimpse of blue sky, I Passed the village of Ballasalla: one of many places containing the letters ‘balla, which in Manx Gaelic means homestead. Close by lay the ruins Rushen Abbey, believed to have been founded by Magnus Barefoot of Norway in 1098 who, at that time, had already claimed the entire kingdom of Kintyre in Scotland when he ordered his men to drag his longship over the isthmus of Tarbert. King Edgar of Scotland had then agreed to let the Vikings colonise any territory they could circumnavigate: not quite the result Edgar had anticipated! Since the Vikings departure in 1265, and years of conflict that followed between England and Scotland when the Isle of Man was a bone of contention, the village remains remarkably intact comprising of an inn, restaurant and a few terraced houses just north of the airport. Approaching the airport at Ronaldsway, I was pleased to find the terminal near to the road, which would make it easy to reach on Thursday. From here I would fly to Ireland for phase 3, and endeavour to complete my portfolio of the British Isles. Ronaldsway is believed to have been a well-used battlefield during the days of Viking rule and actually translates as Reginald’s Ford. Walking beyond the airport darkness fell quickly as I passed the terraces leading into Castletown, which sits on a site of an ancient volcano. No eruptions today – only the thunder of approaching air traffic and a slight tremor as a plane embraces the tarmac in conclusion of its journey. The town itself is one of the oldest in the British Isles dating back to 1090, and just beside the narrow gauge railway I found an equally antiquated inn called The Sidings. At least the last two hours had transformed into a beautiful evening allowing a glimpse of the lush green landscape and small communities that give the island much of its character. As well as being a charming place, The Sidings Inn was also one housing plenty of ‘characters’ and a number of real ales to assist the cause of social well-being! The landlord Dave, who had lived here for 7 years, and his manager Widget agreed to let me camp in the back garden, and once sorted I was back inside to sample some of that lovely ale. It was also refreshing to meet good people on a long journey where one’s social life is an integral part of the day. The atmosphere was welcoming, building me up for my diminutive little journey that I hoped would expose me many great landmarks between the ports around the island over the next 2 days.

Day 50 Castletown to Kirk Michael

Castletown, deriving its name from the fortress overlooking its harbour, has a gentle appeal in contemporary times, hosting two major agricultural shows and ‘The World Tin Bath Championships which Widget suggested I should sign up for next year! Not quite sure I’m up for that and even when I was in the navy I could never get to grips with that sinking feeling, and in any case I’m a ‘shower person’ having walked through countless ones already this summer! Leaving the town behind, now bound for Port Erin, I arranged to meet up with Widget at The Sidings on Wednesday evening if all went well. Then using a mixture of coast path and road, I set off for a full day’s walk in a new world of adventure which gave promise of intrigue and diversity. Almost immediately I headed into a fiercesome storm, and so for the second time in barely 15 hours, I was totally immersed in H2O. The rain later eased off transforming into blue sky and sunshine by the time I reached Port St Mary. It had only taken an hour to walk to this quaint little place, which was once a thriving fishing port, and still processes local shell fish including a delicacy known as ‘queenies’ to the locals. Turning away from the fishing village I was able to capture a glimpse of the steam train passenger service heading into Port Erin, the railway’s southern terminus. It had stopped momentarily at a station nearby, and I was fortunate enough to get there in time to photograph its departure. I became so engrossed with the narrow gauge train service on arriving at Port Erin I visited the museum next to the terminus station and enjoyed an interesting half hour studying old archive footage: the building also contains some excellently refurbished steam trains and carriages. The museum opened originally in 1975 but has undergone extensive refurbishment since with part of the building allocated for maintenance of trains in service. This popular coastal town has attracted holiday-makers since the Victorian era and today, despite some inclement weather, there were many visitors perusing the souvenir stalls, digesting the fervent gospel of steam proudly embroidered on most of the merchandise. Due to my wet state I didn’t even attempt to buy a postcard, but when the sun came out I stopped to dry off on a bench above the sea front, where I enjoyed a sandwich purchased at the local Spar Shop. Whilst indulging in dry patch of weather a builder, who had been painting nearby, came and sat beside me giving a local’s perspective of the island which was both heart-warming and informative. We chatted for an hour or so and agreed that life here drifts on without being caught up in that web of discontentment so often seen in mainstream Britain. My recent travels to New Zealand taught me a more laid back approach to life, and here amid The British Isles is one of the world’s best-kept secrets offering a coastline within walking distance from any point on the island, coupled with a gentler pace of life in a good social climate: a style of life revisited in the 60’s elsewhere in Britain. I also liked the combination of painted cottages and beachfront cafes rising to a promenade of tall elegant hotels, which give this little port the authority of a resort. The seaside atmosphere is ever-present, enjoyed by carefree tourists who were genuinely interested in the town, and so far to date, even the beer has been cheaper! It was time to move on, and parting company, I said goodbye to my painter friend as I headed off along the coast road to Peel. Unbeknown to many, this road was closed off for the day now destined to play its part in a film set. My first knowledge of this was when I walked into the path of a vehicle skidding round a bend at about 130 miles per hour! He did reverse and explain his actions, but after a few rounds of this I retreated into the marshes, making my way safely to the film crew’s base camp. I spoke to a passing cyclist who explained my best option of reaching Peel was still along the road, and wishing him well I continued as far as the next signpost, where I saw several mine stacks in the ground on my left. By now, I realised, it was of course the wrong road! It was no big deal, however, as I diverted left onto a country lane which cross-sectioned the St John’s Road, and later I joined a footpath by the river. Eventually the path linked with the Peel Road, which had become busy due to the build up of teatime traffic. Reaching Peel around 6pm, I stopped for fish and chips, and took a few photos of the town to mark the occasion. Captivated by Peel’s photogenic St Patrick’s Isle ablaze with sunshine as it edges closer to the horizon, I indulged in some quality time beside the shore. Situated on St Patrick’s Isle were the ruins of a large castle built in 1392 by William le Scrope, and the old St German’s Cathedral founded earlier in 1227 by Symon of Argyll. The castle was built to fortify the isle which is said to be the first location on the Isle of Man to adopt Christianity during the 13th century. A more modern version of St German’s Cathedral, built in 1884, helps to derive its status as ‘Sunset City’ – in fact the island’s only city: one that I felt made an ecclesiastical analogy between itself and the small community of St David’s in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Despite its diminutive existence which I felt was one of its attractions, history also tells us it largely gained its prestige from the fishing industry boasting strong maritime tradition, housing a substantial fleet of boats. Mesmerised by the motion of the sea and the thought of Manx kippers, I found it difficult to motivate myself to press on. After taking a few more shots of the harbour I passed beyond the town and continued along the awe-inspiring A4 coast road, which is also part of the annual TT circuit held on the island in the spring. Reaching Kirk Michael at the point of dusk, I visited the local campsite where the warden was kind enough to let me stay for free. He even bought a copy of my New Zealand book, and went on to explain that he left the mainland 20 years ago, but still enjoyed a trip to Wales once a year. He had a couple of youngsters too, so his work was cut out! It was nice to meet such kind people as it is not the tarmac that makes the journey, and once I had set up camp I left for the Mitre Inn where a young girl called Kaley took an interest in my travels explaining that she had just moved here from Derbyshire which I was walking through little more than a week ago. The Mitre was a characterful inn as was the whole community which in bye-gone days was first called Michaeltown, sharing the name of a place I know in Southern Ireland. Feeling tired I left the inn after writing my diary, and returned to base for a good night’s sleep oblivious of any bad weather that may have occurred in the night.

Day 51 Kirk Michael to Douglas

Starting well I dismantled the tent in sunshine, enjoyed a tea with the warden and then to spoil it for every one I started walking! From here on it went downhill quite rapidly – as the sky opened and rain tumbled down in bucket-fulls. At times it felt like I was standing in the u-bend of a bath after the plug had been removed! Given that the situation looked unlikely to ameliorate, I walked straight through to Ramsey which was about 10 miles, reaching the town around 12.30pm. Feeling relieved to take refuge in a cafe, I spoke to a chap who had seen me earlier. He praised my efforts in braving the elements, as we chatted for a while trying to make sense of the inclement weather front that has hung over the British Isles for much of the summer. Still cold and dishevelled I tweaked my back whilst saddling up to return to the road. That’s what comes of being soaking wet 24-7 when one’s back pack grows heavier by each drop of rain and the body weakened and demoralised by its relentless battle against road and weather. Unbelievably my pack now weighed greater than 60lbs! And I would certainly need to dispose of some kit if I am to follow the luggage regulations of the airport on Thursday. For now I had to press on despite the sensation of agonising pain on each uphill climb which was usually accompanied by severe headwind. Unfortunately, Ramsey, the second largest town on the island was noticeably hilly too, though the vista provided a partial remedy for the pain when at times it was both awe-inspiring and beautiful to behold. Enjoying the backdrop of the North Barrule Hills and many prominent landmarks along the way lightened my mood considerably. Mooragh Park deemed a jewel of the town was one such place living up to expectations, boasting substantial gardens set against panoramic seaside views. By mid-afternoon the rain had gone, and blue sky accompanied me into Laxey which in Norse means Salmon River. What a lovely town – sprawling along the sides of a deep glen, where its mine workings fall to the harbour below. In the centre of the river is a huge waterwheel built in the 19th century by local man John Casement, to pump water from depths of nearly 2,000 feet. It remains the largest working waterwheel in the world with a diameter of 72ft and a circumference of 227ft. Like many places in Cornwall during that period, Laxey had founded its fortune on mining, extracting minerals such as silver, copper, zinc and lead. The Laxey Wheel and Mines Trail have since become prominent representations of local industrial history: greater still they form an integral part of Manx National Heritage, recorded nearby at Lonan Heritage Trust.  Crossing the bridge, I was again engrossed in the island’s wonderful railway system. The present one running by cable cuts through the towns and villages sometimes on a diagonal path leaving me to ponder how accidents are avoided. Occasionally the traffic exceeds normal limits, and the road becomes a bit of a rally circuit, sending a shiver down my spine each time I see the train pass across the highway. Eventually the coast road merges with the promenade near Onchan, an ancient parish expanding into Douglas. It was lovely to sit at the top of the promenade where I ate a sandwich and enjoyed the warmer coastal breeze zipping across from the Irish Sea. Walking the promenade on the last stages of this journey I was able to admire the stately buildings that help Douglas retain an aura of Victorian grandeur. Imbued with seaside charm, it compares amiably with Brighton, Scarborough, the Regent Sidmouth and other authentic seaside resorts of the British Isles. Fittingly it has boomed as a tourist centre with holiday trade becoming established as early as the 19th century. Tradition remains strong here, visibly embraced in vintage steam railways, eccentricity of its seasonal events and national attractions such as the horse-drawn tram seen on the promenade during summer months. Fashionable shops, elegant facades and waterside inns, cafes and bistros add their own flavour to the capital town.  Passing the ferry port I concluded my walk at a nearby pub which was a suitable location for a man of my social background. After a spot of refreshment I returned to The Sidings Inn in Castletown and enjoyed an evening with Dave, Widget and the rest of the locals.
The next day we visited Castletown’s market square which has probably changed little since the 19th century, boasting Smelt’s Memorial and a one fingered clock donated by Elizabeth 1 in 1597. Housing the clock is the most distinguished attraction – the medieval Castle Rushen that sits above the harbour. It is one of the most complete castles in the British Isles, once the residence of the last Norse king of Man and later besieged by Robert the Bruce, it survived to play a more official role in the running of the town when it became a working castle.
Castletown had been an excellent base for me on this brief island trip and I had enjoyed the excursion immensely. Sitting by the harbour appreciating a Guinness with Widget and his girlfriend, I could reflect on my journey, which has helped me gain a brief insight into Manx life. Seen only before on Country file TV, I could at last embrace the culture and characteristics of this unique part of the British Isles. I particularly enjoyed the simplicity of the island’s rail network: the amazing waterwheel deemed to be the largest in the world: and the honour of seeing cathedrals past and present – the latter has been the island’s cathedral since 1980. How privileged I felt and equally humbled to walk in the steps of former great men who have worked hard to preserve the identity of this wonderful little island. Though unable to imagine taking part in The World Tin Bath Championships, especially at low tide, I could understand the closeness of a community which enables tradition to live on and the opportunity for others to enjoy its timeless appeal. Methodism John Wesley summed it up when he preached in front of the castle – ‘A more loving, simple-hearted people than this I never saw’.
 

With my plane ready to board and my thoughts drifting to Ireland, there was one thing left to say ‘ Thanks so much for your kindness – God Bless You all’.

PLACES TO VISIT

DOUGLAS
Isle of Man Steam Railway
The Manx Electric Railway
The Manx Museum

RECREATION – Golf Courses
Pulrose Park
King Edward Bay
Mount Murray

LAXEY
Laxey Pipes -Situated on the quay selling woollen goods and Meerschaum and Briar Pipes.
Lonan Heritage Trust – information about Laxey heritage also featured in the ‘STORY OF MANN’.
Snaefell Mountain Railway – 5-mile ascent to the Island’s highest point.

RAMSEY
Ramsey Harbour

PEEL
The medieval ruin of St German’s Cathedral and Peel Castle both found on St Patrick’s Isle.
The town’s present day St German’s Cathedral (the island’s cathedral since 1980), built in 1884.
House of Manannan – a heritage centre presenting Peel’s role in ‘THE STORY OF MANN’

PORT ERIN
The Steam Railway Museum at the Terminus.
Erin Arts Centre

RECREATION – Golf Courses
Rowany Golf Course

EVENTS
TT Festival – held in June
Manx Grand Prix – held in September
Annual Walks – 2 festivals – autumn and summer.
Fireman’s Walk – raising funds for the fire service in April
World Tin Bath Championship – held in June

TRAVEL TO THE ISLE OF MAN
STEAM PACKET COMPANY – Sailing from Heysham, Lancaster – daily service.
www.steam-packet.com or contact: 01624 661661
AIRPORTS
Bristol
Birmingham
Liverpool
London
are among airports serving the Isle of Man
Websites include:
www.euromanx.com
www.flybe.com
www.ba.com
www.aerarann.com
Manchester

MISSION STATEMENT
As a representative of endurance athletes I willingly take up the challenge of walking for worthy causes.
AIMS
Each effort is to be rewarded with by financial contributions made to the charities on my behalf.
Encourage and instigate fundraising in local areas with a view to collecting/presenting money to the appropriate charities.
Deliver fundraising donation slips and sponsor forms throughout the areas en route to destination.
Establish media /liaison contacts throughout relevant regions.
Raise the profile of the beneficiary organisations

For more about CANCER CHARITIES and Robin Moore visit:
www.robin-moore.co.uk

IRELAND PHASE 11

Having walked the west coast and ‘Ring of Kerry’ the previous year; in addition to other coast-to-coast walks of Ireland; I was now set to tackle the remainder of this Celtic kingdom, starting as before along the west coast at Galway.

 

Recently, this summer, I had walked the length of England with ’The Barmy Army’ in aid of ‘A Chance to Shine’ (youth cricket); also to raise cancer awareness and funds for hospice care.

 

On conclusion of the cricket road show, I then circled The Isle of Man en route to Ireland where I was destined to complete my portfolio of The British Isles, adding to the 12,000 miles on previous tours of our beloved kingdom.

Galway from 4th September

EXPENSES 14eu Bus

£64 Flight (£76)

 

Day 1 Isle of Man to Galway 10km (8miles)

Not arriving at Galway until midnight, meant a 10km walk beyond the city boundary to camp out the night. Using a nearby field, whose resident was a solitary cow, I sheltered from cold, windy weather, scarcely getting any sleep.

Day 2 Galway to Cloonfad, County Mayo 50km (30 miles)

Dismantling my tent under cloud cover I could at last see my campsite and nearest neighbour which was presently grazing in the far corner of the field. The cow seemed unperturbed by my intrusion and was still enjoying breakfast as I departed along the busy road. Bristling wind and high-speed commuters kept me on my toes, but within an hour I stopped for breakfast at the next town. After a nourishing meal, I cranked up the speed doing 7km per hour all the way to Tuam, where I stopped at a café for lunch around 1.40p.m. From there on the weather became windy, wet and cold – demoralising in fact.

By tea time the road was flooded and traffic made the task near impossible. On reaching the next town, I could not feel my hands and the landlady at a nearby inn (Griffin Inn) had to ‘phone a B & B for me as camping was no longer an option.

Struggling up the hill, I located the Eascai B & B, owned by Seamus and Annette Fleming, who immediately took pity on me, drying my clothes and preparing a hot meal for me. I was dead to the world, and after a lovely table of food I drifted off into a deep sleep.

Day 3 Eascai B/B to Tobercurry 44km (28 miles)

Annette served a lovely breakfast and bought a copy of my NZ book. Whilst handing back dry clothing for me to pack, she made it clear she would take no money for my stay, and insisted she wanted to help me, giving words of praise and encouragement for the future. I couldn’t thank her enough – she was there for me when I needed help the most. Thank God for this lovely woman.

The weather also gave hope of better times to come, and with this borne in mind, I celebrated the day first walking to the next town, stopping briefly for tea. Cranking up the pace again, I rejoined the N17, reaching Charlestown by 4p.m, enjoying a coffee and commencing on the first extract of my Irish diary. I did not leave town until 5p.m. with blue sky and sunshine making for a good journey. I made excellent time though heeded a narrow stretch of road where carefree drivers exceeded normal speed limits in haste to make their evening destination. I completed mine at the town of Tobercurry – one of many placed in the region connected to the word Curry!

It was 6.45p.m. and having completed 12k in that last stretch, I asked a local farmer if I could camp on his land, and once having obliged, he ran me into town to obtain Guinness and a meal. Top man!

Day 4 Tobercurry to Drumcliff Bridge 45km (28 miles)

Chatting to a Welsh lad at a local, we exchanged political views, and agreed the British Isles was still a good place. Grabbing a Chinese on the way home, I retired to a deep slumber, oblivious of any rain until morning.

After decamping, the showers faded away, leaving just overcast conditions as I marched for 2 hours, eventually coming to a café where I was served a breakfast by 3 young ladies. The place was empty and after discussion we all concluded that Ireland, since the rise of the Euro currency , has become to expensive for visitors. Bidding farewell I continued amid Sunday traffic enjoying a glimmer of sunshine as the day unfolded. The afternoon dragged on a bit with little to break up the journey. I stopped at a garage shop for a tin of fruit and used the supermarket at Collooney to replenish my needs. Eventually the village route (N4 Old Sligo Road) led back to the dual carriageway where I walked another 10km to reach Sligo – what a journey – but thankfully blue sky had emerged to cheer everyone up, and after a photo session in town, I continued for another hour as far as Drumcliff, where I camped by the river.

Day 4 Drumcliff Bridge to Ballintra 32 miles (55km)

It was fine again as I set off from Drumcliffe Bridge, stopping a few km up the road at a restaurant that let me in for coffee. Chatting for a while with Francis, the Landlord, the maid and a local in for a Guinness I got an insight of the journey to come and the miles remaining to reach the N I border. I felt set for a long day and on leaving ticked off many small towns along the way until reaching the seaside town of Bundoran, where I enjoyed scrambled eggs, toast and tea. Departing at 4pm I picked up a cheap pair of trainers in case my boots broke down – almost down to the insoles in places!! (6th pair).

Beyond Bundoran I enjoyed the coast road to Ballyshannon, which gave the opportunity to use my camera. The golden beaches and seaside panorama were a heart-warming sight and once in town I purchased a few postcards to tell of my journey. Choosing the longer scenic coast route to Ballintra, I avoided the tedious N15 which I would see again tomorrow. It was 5km longer, but the scenery was rewarding as I passed by many small villages and beachside locations. Despite the extra mileage I made my destination before dusk where a local farmer let me stay in the family garden. Returning to the village I obtained a snack from the mini-market and enjoyed a Guinness at the inn next door.

Day 5 Ballintra to Ballybofey 28 miles (40km)

Rising to wet conditions and a pool of water in the tent, was a little disconcerting to say the least, and it did not ameliorate from there as I continued my journey along the busy N15. Gaining some respite I stopped at a café for breakfast, just short of Donegal. Beyond there headwinds became the main enemy along with a treacherous downpour throughout the day.

With little else on route or any place of refuge, I was continuously tested by the elements until completing today’s itinerary at Ballybofey where I found shelter at Roseville House B/B. Once more camping was out of the question as most of the days to come were long and arduous. The people at the guesthouse were helpful and I was able to enjoy the simple luxuries of Shower and TV.

Expenses: E65

Day 6 Ballybofey to Claudy (N. Ireland) 34 miles

(188 miles)

After a chat to the Radio and Cancer Research UK, I embraced another fiercesome day, culminating with high winds and short sharp showers. Stopping first at a café midway to Lifford, I enjoyed conversation with the maid who treated me to free coffee. I needed to walk a further 12k to Lifford on flooded narrow roads amid heavy traffic, all keen to overcome conditions, come what may!! Tough job!!

Crossing the bridge at Lifford, I continued to the border town of Strabane, where I enjoyed a meal at a transport diner for £5. Leaving here, I used the back roads adjacent to the Londonderry route passing small villages on a course to Claudy. In the evening I chatted by ‘phone to local Cancer Research people who want to link up with me at Dungiven. Later I spoke to a farmer and his two lads out minding their sheep.

From here I walked 5 miles to Claudy after dusk, locating the local hotel which no longer offered rooms, but the landlord advised me where I could camp. It was very difficult pitching tent in long grass, rain and high wind but eventually I managed to erect it alongside the local church next to the hotel. As the ground was so barren I had to tie some stones round the ropes to keep the tent erect! It was quite a task and I was glad to benefit from the inns late hours where the locals were very hospitable and friendly.

Expenses: £10

Day 7 Claudy to Toome (N. Ireland) 36 miles (58 days)

Luckily the wind had dried the tent, but did keep me awake, despite a bit of a Guinness session with the locals. The landlord had lit a fire, so I could dry my clothes, having retrieved them from the cleaner. I was on my way by 9.30a.m.

Walking the main road to Dungiven would be a terrifying prospect if it was not for the pavement which enabled me to relax a bit. Later on the Cancer Research ladies contacted me (Anna Canning, one of the ladies) dropped me off some caps and arranged a breakfast for me at ‘Skippers’, which I found in Dungiven at 12.30p.m. Having enjoyed a good break, I headed up the mountain, taking in the scenery until – and of course by mid afternoon, the rain set in!! It was unbelievable!! I was soaked in seconds, and remained so throughout the remainder of the day.

Stopping at 4p.m. at the highest pub in Ireland I enjoyed a lovely interval where the landlord was very hospitable, as well as being a ’mountain of knowledge’. We had a great chat as I was the only person on the premises amid this shocking flood weather, and he also cooked me a meal which was a lovely gesture.

Waving goodbye I was soon back on it, as I descended on to the valley, wading through the flooded hard shoulder of the A6. I was now bound for Belfast City, with a hopeful night stopover at Toome – ’wherever that may be’!! Cracking on, I bypassed Maghera – a possible early finish, but underestimating the distance to Toome, I continued on, in improving late evening weather to my destination, reaching the McNalley’s Inn by dusk. The landlord was very cooperative, given what I’d been through today, and allowed me to camp in the beer garden. Before long, I was eating an omelette meal and drinking a couple of Guinness – a fair reward for a testing day on the road in Northern Ireland.

Expenses: £13.39

Day 8 Toome to Belfast (N. Ireland) 32 miles

 

Dry day for once as Oliver, the pub cleaner woke me around 8a.m. He was a lovely guy who treated me to breakfast, wishing he could take time off work to join me in a cause he feels strongly about – maybe one day he will.

After nourishment, I took on the first session of the day, along the narrow A6 which eventually links with the motorway (M22) to Belfast. My journey continued on a quieter A6 through Randalstown, where I stopped to enjoy a coffee and draw a bit of cash for the weekend.

From here the road led to Antrim – home to an Army Regiment, and a place which had character and beauty. After another coffee and a chat with the girls from the Tourist Office, I bought much-needed footwear before beginning the long haul into Belfast.

At last I had pavements to walk on and was able to tick off the villages on the way through. Reaching the City Centre by dark I met a couple, Ruth and Jean/Paul?? who took me to the Belfast Y.H.A. where I paid for a bed and went for a well-earned Guinness or two.

Miles completed = 256

Day 9 Belfast to Loughbrickland (N. Ireland) 30 miles

Leaving the City in perfect weather I walked towards Lisburn, stopping at the Cancer Research UK shop near Dunmurry, where the supervisors made me coffee and sandwiches. The gentleman had stomach cancer, but felt happy to work as a volunteer within the Organisation. Despite his ailments he was a cheerful fellow who made the most of life which must be a great boost for many others confronted by the disease.

Leaving the town I marched on to Lisburn, stopping again at a café in the shopping centre. From here I continued down the hard shoulder/pavements, past Hillsborough and a further 7 miles to Dromore, where buntings flickered gently above pictures of the Queen. As well as many old-style buildings, there were some signs of modernisation with contemporary fast food shops, and a lovely old café where I stopped for afternoon tea/lunch.

Beyond here was a three hour slog along the A1 through Banbridge, eventually leaving via the roadworks at Loughbrickland, where a local lad called Dennis took me to his mother’s garden to pitch a tent. The whole family made me welcome, Dennis’s mum made me sandwiches and tea while I pitched my tent. Afterwards I went to the pub for a nightcap. (Guinness of course).

Day 10 Loughbrickland to Dundalk (N. Ireland) 30 miles

Didn’t leave the local inn until 1a.m! so I slept well and enjoyed breakfast with Sally and Ryan before setting off for Newry. It was a cold day and I had pavement/hard shoulder to walk, stopping only once for coffee. Arriving at Newry by 12.30p.m., I entered a diner for a snack and a rest before heading off to Southern Ireland.

After a very expensive interval where a tiny slice of apple pie and tea cost me around £6, I ambled past the Cathedral, taking photos and then departing for Dundalk on the ’old’ Dublin road. After reaching Jonesborough there was a cycle route on most of the journey and I stopped at the an old sports pub for a coffee as rain began to spit. Following the old road I eventually came to Dundalk, crossing the bridge where the river was at low tide. I entered the character filled town, booking into a B/B. After a shower, I walked to the Cathedral and then purchased Guinness/food.

Day 11 Dundalk to Gormanston 42 miles

Despite the weather forecast it was a dry start and good walking temperature as I made my way out of the City on the ’Old’ Dublin road (A132), my route for the next two days. It was a steady hike to Castlebellingham where I stopped for coffee at an authentic Irish Tea Room called Foleys, set by the village green.

Still vibrant, fresh and green in appearance, the countryside remains diverse with the aesthetic charm of its towns, historic castles and lofty mountain ranges. As the road beckoned, I continued along the way to Dunleer, picking up pie and scallops at the shop, where the lady gave me the pie free of charge. Sitting on a nearby bench I enjoyed the meal and then powered into the tough afternoon session to Drogheda. It was tough going, reaching the town after 5p.m. feeling tired.

It was too early to finish so I bought more provisions and decided to take a chunk out of the Dublin journey. Nightfall came quickly and I walked for an hour in the dark, before finding a suitable campsite alongside the oldest pub in Ireland ‘The Cock Tavern’ in Gormanston.

Day 12 Gormanston (Nr. Balbriggan) to Dublin 27 miles

Starting after coffee at the ‘Cock Inn’ I walked into Balbriggan and had a breakfast of egg/bacon around 10a.m. Leaving town I acknowledged that I had 18km just to reach Swords, which was arduous and tiring, finishing the leg around 2.30p.m. where I stopped at a café for dinner. Re-commencing, I made ground to the City Airport, but lost track of the thoroughfare thereafter, as rain crept in to spoil any chance of passing beyond Dublin. Instead I toiled on to find the City centre and eventually booked into a Hostel around 6p.m.

Day 13 Dublin to Wicklow 33 miles

Although overcast leaving the Hostel on O’Connel’s Street, it warmed gradually as the day went on. Leaving the City traffic behind I left the motorway and used the slip road into Shankhill and Bray where I stopped for a coffee break. Powering on with the task I was now into the last few days of Southern Ireland, with Wexford less than 130km away. Got on to motorway by mistake and had to walk a few miles back to pick up the coast road again at Bray. It was busy initially, although I arrived unscathed to Greystones, where I stopped for some food, bought from Lidls. Beyond here, despite drizzle, it was a pleasant evening on the coast road with glorious countryside and mountains. As night came in I encountered small villages to Wicklow, where the Hostel was closed. I opted to camp by the river and visit the local Inn on the east bank.

Day 14 Wicklow to Courtown Harbour 32 miles

Starting at 8a.m. I crossed the bridge at Wicklow and continued out of town using the coast road. It was quiet and exposed me to the beautiful Brittas Bay with its lovely sandy beaches. A lady at the caravan site made me a cuppa and gave me a pasty for the journey ahead. There was little else en route, so I walked the whole distance of 27km to Arklow, where I stopped for lunch/coffee.

I was now following the N11 which was the only route on offer with at least a further 20km to go in the day. Using the main road wasn’t too bad as I had the hard shoulder to run on. After an hour or so I was able to use the route into Gorey and from there the 742 to Courtown. On arriving I entered the Taravie Hotel at Courtown Harbour where the landlady and her relatives made me welcome.

Day 15 Courtown Harbour To Wexford 36 miles

The Taravie Hotel were more than generous – the landlady extending her kindness from free Guinness to a complimentary B & B. Everybody here was very hospitable. I think the lady had lost relatives to cancer as well, so she had been through an awful time and still had to run her business – and it really was a smashing place – a lovely unspoilt part of the Irish coast that would welcome holiday makers deserving a quiet break from hectic City life.

From here I enjoyed the beautiful coastline, walking the famous coast trail which took in several villages along the way, including Kilmuckbridge, Blackwater and Greencloe, reaching Castlebridge junction just before 6p.m. Wexford’s steeple lay before me, though I needed to cross the bridge to get to it. Blimey, what a journey! Eventually I found the Y.H.A. and settled there. Then it was off to Boylos for a Guinness, where I would hope to catch up with Micky Morressey from Kilmeadon – Ireland’s famous Raleigh driver and a keen charity fund-raiser too.

Day 16 Wexford to Rosslare/Fishguard 15 miles

IRELAND COMPLETE 215 for the week

Leaving amid brilliant Sunshine, having enjoyed a great night out with Micky, I headed off along the Wexford coastal path, which eventually became the N25. The road was wide enough to accommodate the heavy traffic and myself, so I was now to tick off the remaining out-posts of this journey of the British Isles.

Concluding at the harbour around 1p.m. I purchased my ticket and enjoyed a Guinness whilst contemplating an arduous trek through walks, which I hoped to complete by next weekend.

WALES

Day1 Fishguard to Newport (vi coast path) 15 miles

After some admin. at Steve’s place (backpack et.) I set off around 1.30p.m., walking the coastal path from Fishguard as far as Dinas. Fearing the muddy coast might cause an injury, I decided to finish the coast, 3 miles along the road, but it was a lovely journey amid good September sunshine, and there were many enjoying the water below, on their little vessels as well as leisure walkers. I was able to take some good photos before reaching my destination at C……… by 5p.m.

 

DAY 69

(2) Newport to Carmarthen (Johnstown) 35 miles

It was great to see Mike and Judi again at Gwenapan where Ollie celebrated his 30th birthday on Sunday. Leaving Newport, I located the back road via Crosswell, and managed to arrive at Crymmtch in time for lunch at 12.30p.m. – a third of the journey covered for today.

Continuing on the back roads, I passed many places on seriously undulating terrain throughout the hills and valleys of Wales. By 5p.m. I reached Meidrim and had a further 8 miles to reach Carmarthen, using the cycle route on the A40. I reached Johnstown by dusk and pitched a tent in the coppice by the A40 bridge.

DAY 70

(3) Carmarthen to Llandovery 30 miles

Rising at 8a.m. I went into town for breakfast, then settled my bank balance, before leaving on the A40 for Llandovery. This was a fiercesome journey, with nothing en route until reaching the town itself at 3p.m. Feeling hungry, I went into a café and had a full dinner with a pot of tea. After a good rest I set off again amid clear sky and sunshine, but needed to stay vigilant with tea-time traffic looming. Passing all the small villages and green fields set beside running water, dusk approached as I reached the town of Llandovery, where after making an enquiry I camped next to the bridge. From here I went for a pint before retiring.

DAY 71

(4) Llandovery to Three Cocks Village 38 miles

Having enjoyed an evening with locals and a chap from Cambridge in a pub called The Lord Rhys (1 College View, Llandovery, Carmarthonshire, SA20 0BD – 01550 720 757), I had a reasonable night’s sleep beside the river, rising at the call of dawn (7a.m.). I packed the tent and headed back to town for breakfast at Tudors.

Leaving at 8.45a.m I marched along more of the A40 for 3 hours, stopping for an early lunch at the Tea Rooms in the village of Trecastle. Beyond here was Sowny Bridge and the winding road to Brecon. It was a steady hack throughout the afternoon, as the sky became blue, bringing forth bright sunshine, though the traffic remained perilous throughout. Scenery remained awe-inspiring with green mountains and forest leading the way into Brecon, where I stopped around 4.30p.m for a coffee before commencing the evening session. The evening drew in quickly as I took a longer route out of town beside the canal, eventually picking up the main road to Hereford. It was dark by the time I reached Three Cocks village, 6 miles from the border. I did not dare go any further on this narrow road, so thankfully I was allowed to camp beside a stream at the Old Barn Inn where I enjoyed a meal before settling down for the night.

DAY 72

(5) Three Cocks Village to Herefordshire 12 miles

Starting before dawn I set off for Herefordshire to reach Hay-on-Wye around 8a.m. After a brief visit to the market and open-air book store, I crossed the border into England and concluded this incredible journey which has touched all the Celtic Kingdoms of the British Isles. I have now in any case, walked around them all!!

‘A COAST-TO-COAST EPIC’- Featuring a diary of the 2007  walk from the west coast of Ireland to Exeter

Robin’s epic coast-to-coast walk of the British Isles finished at Exeter on 5th October having covered around 1,000 miles.
As the train pulls into the terminus of Limerick City Station I began to capture the atmosphere of Ireland and the charge of excitement at the prospect of another great journey in waiting.
 
CHAPTER 1
A DAY ON THE ROAD IN SHANNON COUNTRY
Day 1     Limerick to Glin

Starting on the N69, near the River Shannon in Limerick on 13th September I began my journey of the west coast of Ireland in dull but dry conditions. Leaving the city behind I pushed on steadily with little else but city-bound traffic to contend with and only a few buildings to break up the well-formed countryside. It was at least a couple of hours until I came across the village of Kildimo where I purchased sardines and fruit, feeling glad of a rest and refreshment. My main concern was how I would cope having suffered with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome all year. The lack of training would not just affect my general fitness but also incur untold damage to my feet, which had scarcely exceeded a walk to work and back over the summer months. I could feel the soreness already even though I was taking my time and looking forward to a closes encounter with the River Shannon.

The road remained hazardous throughout, catering for ferry traffic though I noticed quieter country roads spurring offer to cater for tourist attractions such as the Celtic Park and gardens Passing only small communities I was a little anxious as to whether I would be able to obtain shelter for the night, but as the banks of the Shannon closed in I could see a larger place ahead. This was Foynes noted for its Flying Boat Museum, but although impressive as a town I had skipped through in a couple of minutes.

 Stopping at the maritime museum at Foynes a lady told me that I would find accommodation a mile up the road and so I plodded on beside the River Shannon having now completed 33km thus far. At least I should get somewhere to stay I thought ambling up the next hill with the Shannon below opening up into a vast sea exposing more of the west coast between Ennis and Kilrush.

The road remained busy and the shingle rock that made up the seaboard looked even more unforgiving. To follow this coastline on foot would break any man’s heart but I remained content to savour the views and enjoy the sea air despite having walked a few more miles without a glimmer of accommodation.
There were the occasional farmhouses and eventually I came to village called Loughill where an innkeeper explained that I would have no trouble getting a place a mile or so on. Where have I heard that before I chuckled having now registered 40km for the day.  Nearing some road works a lady stopped to offer a lift. I politely explained the requirements of my challenge and the need for a place to stay. She also told me I was about a mile and a half from the next village. My word another bloody 10km I thought! Any way we exchanged farewells and on nearing the road sentries I asked for confirmation of the next town. They even gave me the name of the guest house there and wished me well for my trip. Soon I was walking into Glin and across the road in the village centre was O’Driscolls where I landlady invited me in and made me welcome. It was a long mile! – But worth the effort. At least I had time to sample the Guinness at the inn next door and enjoy a Chinese meal before retiring to a nice warm bed.

Day 2 Glin to Tralee

Setting off at 8.30am in relatively warm weather I bid farewell to the landlady and her American guests now destined for the city of Dublin. They had already seen the Ring of Kerry, which I hoped to reach by Sunday, and walk the following week. At least they all had a good time and kissed the Blarney stone into the bargain. As they prepared to head north, I made my way cautiously out of the village in the direction of Tarbet using the pavement beside the seawall.
At least I enjoyed the seaward views without too much commotion as I gathered some momentum towards the town where I stopped briefly to obtain a tin of sardines.

 Continuing beyond Tarbet I joined the coast road to Ballylongford which lacked the intensity of the main highway. Later I used a way-marked trail, which cut off part of the busy N69, and gave me a pleasant insight into rural Ireland. On rejoining the main road I had the usual confrontation with farm machinery and heavy goods wagons with little else to focus on other than a church to my distant left.

The unrelenting road cut through the wooded glades and pastures with no sign of any communities ahead. At one stage I had to knock on a farmhouse door to ask for water. The chap was friendly and sorted me out a king size bottle. He was thoughtful enough to offer a lift though I explained my task had to be fulfilled on foot.

A few miles on and I was entering the lively town of Lostowell, apparently still enjoying a prosperous tourist season. The streets were busy and I noticed accommodation at every other premise: even the chemist had a room and I came across a hostel too.

Despite sore feet it was too early to stop for the day and I decided to push on to Tralee the next place of substance. Feeling intimidated by the severity of the traffic, which had impeded me enormously to date, I opted for a longer route via Abbeydorney (R567) where at some stage I hoped to find a B&B.

Passing a solitary inn I saw only sparse communities made up of farmhouse terraces interspersed along the road. Approaching an escarpment a lady stopped by, asking about my quest having heard a news report that I would be heading for the Ring of Kerry. She took my press release about the walk, a sponsor form and one of my books to show the Kerry Radio Station, and then gave advice on where I may find a room for the night. It just seemed a little to rural out here with barely a glimmer of tourism let alone an inn or guest house. I saw the lady briefly again though she expressed concern about my using the road at night. I had no choice to press on, and as dusk approached I could still hear the farmers tilling their land giving me some salvation knowing I was not the only one still at work as the weekend begins. Initially I was relieved to enter Abbeydorney, but then to my horror I found no accommodation. The whole affair had amounted to a fruitless excursion leaving me to walk a dangerous section of road in the dark to reach Tralee.

An off-duty police officer tried to stop me explaining the perils of the road: he suggested I should abort the mission and get a taxi into town. I was none to pleased with his advice and trudged off despondently along the narrow lane which registered another 10km journey to reach the next town. Cars sped by and I soon realised his fear for me as I was nearly knocked over trying to climb into the hedgerow for safety. From this moment on I feared for my life as I soon learnt there was a different set of rules on the road by night. It was as if pedestrians were taboo and knocked down on sight in a lawless countryside where the road is a wheels only abode. I guess at night in normal circumstances that was fair comment, though many were driving recklessly and much too fast. Shocked and dismayed I pressed on in total darkness with only a torch for comfort. Stopping at a garden centre I sought help from the grower who told me that I would find a guest house 3 miles on. With this knowledge in mind I continued cautiously knowing that at this desperate stage I would have settled for a night in one of her sheds!

Two miles from Tralee, whilst adjusting my torch, a police car turned up in a bid to stop me from walking, and once more their remedy was to offer a lift. ‘Its only 2 miles, and nobody would ever know that I gave you a lift’ he said. ‘I would know  – and that’s all that matters!’ was the stark reply, and on that note I set off to complete the remaining 2 miles.

As I approached the downhill run into town I noticed the guest house on my left, and promptly crossed to see if I could get any attention at this late hour. Fortunately there was no one staying at the lodge, and the couple welcomed me in making me comfortable for the remainder of the day. She was a cheerful lady who originated from Guildford in Surry where her former occupation was in publishing for 18 years.

Day 3 Tralee to Milltown

Having appreciated Eileen’s hospitality I stayed until late morning, enjoying breakfast and a chat with her. She had moved to Ireland after her husband died, and having spent a few holidays over here, fell in love with the place eventually making it her home.
Bading farewell I limped off towards the town centre of Tralee, which was still another 3 km. Despite the bright sunshine I gained little solace from the task in waiting with my feet throbbing at every step. I had sustained some nasty blisters on yesterday’s power-march of nearly 60 miles, and as a result I could barely walk without cringing in pain. The downhill road into town was a nightmare, and I had to ensure I took adequate refreshment for the imminent mountain journey that now lay in waiting. Once in town I found the Tourist Office where the attendant was helpful giving me a map of the area, which thankfully chartered the mountain pass to Castlemain.

The road was a hazardous affair and I couldn’t face the prospect of another day against the traffic. So I carefully monitored the signposts for the old Dingle Road, which I required to pick up the mountain trail to Castlemain and Milltown.

There wasn’t any indication or signpost illustrating my journey though I asked a couple of lads who had just pitched up at a house near the next turn off. One of them scurried off to fill my water bottle while the other confirmed that the little lane ahead was in fact the Dingle road. A mile or so on I needed confirmation about the mountain pass when a family in a jeep stopped and pointed me towards a steep climb to my left. ‘Two miles up and two miles down’, exclaimed the driver as I began my ascent up the narrow the slim lane pleasantly encompassed with rich green forest.

I enjoyed the solitude, which bore little intrusion other than the odd four-wheel drive looking for a short-cut to the towns beyond. Standing isolated in the distant mountains was a building as the road continued to wind its way through acres of unvisited beauty.

Nearing the summit I came up against a stiff headwind slowing me down considerably, and forcing me to employ the use of my windproof jacket. To ease the discomfort of walking on uneven ground, I used an old fence stake, which I found by the roadside, as a staff to aid my suffering feet.

On reaching the summit I was exposed to panoramic views of Dingle Bay and the distant villages I would encounter during the rest of the day. The trouble was I had a 2-mile downhill stretch, which tortured my feet to the point of submission. Still I pressed on – slowly but positively knowing that soon I would find a town, and hopefully a bed for the night.

If I was free of injury I think I would have ran downhill, but instead I was content to savour the views on this late sunny afternoon. Unbelievably, even up here a freight lorry thunders past breaking up the harmony along a trail that was barely wide enough to accommodate a mini! The experience at least reminded me of the harsh reality of the imminent main road. I could see the traffic building up in the distance, and knew soon I would be arriving at the next town.

When I finally reached the main road I was amazed that I was only a mile from Castlemain. On reaching the village I stopped at the shop and purchased some water and continued my journey to Milltown. Passing over a bridge I noticed a B&B to my right where for a moment I was tempted to stop and inquire about accommodation. The memories of the previous evening laid heavy on my mind and my feet had already stated their case for an early night. Marching a further 3 miles I came to a place called Milltown, where thankfully I found residence at a nearby inn.

Day 4 Milltown to Glenbeigh

Rising at 8am after a restless night due to the soreness of blistered feet I made my way to the breakfast room where the landlord made me feel most welcome. He was a dear old fellow full of enthusiasm and genuinely concerned about my welfare. After a lovely breakfast I prepared for the headwind and rain that lay in waiting. Leaving the premises the landlord wished me well, giving me a five euro note to buy some Lucozade and chocolate. Thanking him for his kindness I bade farewell and limped off into the drizzle.
 
 using mountain routes I was able to avoid some of the dangerous roads and in particular enjoyed the ‘Ring of Kerry’ which is a noted tourist region celebrated by diverse scenery and quaint old seaside villages. Waterville was the nearest one gets to a town along this unspoilt coastline where touring coaches deposit countless groups of spellbound Americans on a daily basis.

Beyond the Ring of Kerry lies The Beara Way gloriously defined by postcard water scenes with yet more mountainous terrain to encounter. Despite the rugged landscape and some hazardous roads I made good time reaching Cork in less than 2 weeks. However I was unaware that the ferry service has now ceased and the next terminal was 200 miles up the coast at Rosslare, thus adding an extra few days to the itinerary.  The remainder of Ireland entailed 3 water crossings and some seriously long days on the road owing to the lack of accommodation in what appeared to be a more industrial region. On this stretch my endurance and fresh-hold of pain was tested to extreme. On one occasion, unable to get accommodation, I walked until 1.30 am, bursting a blister which formed a deep hole near the arch of my left foot. Luckily a pub appeared – almost from nowhere! It was still open and thankfully patronised by some great people: it was here that I met a good friend called Mick Morrissey who helped out in my hour of need. The barmaid, Carol, and manager Sami who hails from Turkey, made me comfortable supplying Guinness to ease the pain and by 3 am a warm bed over at Mickey’s place.

The next morning Mickey carved a stick for me, and cooked breakfast before I left for another foot-slogging episode which was completed at Duncormick by 11.15 pm. Here the landlord Andy and his good lady gave me free board and lodgings having recalled my previous visit in 2003, when I walked from Galway to Land’s End.

Crossing to Fishguard the following evening the security watch allowed me to sleep over at their office. A few hours later having warmed up with coffee and been instilled with local knowledge at a nearby cafe, I set off for Carmarthen with fond thoughts of previous days spent with people so kind.

Using the network of country lanes I was able to make safe passage to Carmarthen where by chance I was spotted by a lad called Mathew who works at one of my local pubs in Cornwall. He was amazed at my feat and my feet! And after a chat he phoned The Fox and Hounds to let them know the news.

On the way to Llandoverry with dusk approaching, I stopped at The Plough Hotel to enquire about accommodation where to my joy the manager gave me a room free with a meal.

At breakfast the next morning the staff collected £53 for Cancer Research UK, which I thought was a wonderful gesture having helped me so much already.

The journey continued to Brecon where motor-cycle enthusiasts contested their skills, burning serious rubber throughout the day. Here the winding roads presented a different test, where powers of awareness and concentration became prime requisites in the game of survival.

My foot was badly maimed on reaching Brecon and the following morning I required new footwear and protection at the ball of my foot.

Leaving the town in soft hi-tech boots I at least had the comfort of the Brecon Canal Tow Path, which would see me close to Usk by evening.

The trail was lovely despite the rain, but longer than the road. Whilst seeking shelter at a village chip shop, the proprietor showed me compassion offering a meal and donating £10 to the cause.

The fish supper cheered me up and sticking to her advice I continued along the canal route as far as Chainbridge where I completed the journey to Usk by road.
Arriving at the King’s Head by 9pm the bar lady promptly stuck my clothes in the dryer ready for morning and then served up some hot soup and toasted cheese sandwiches.

Morning passed quickly as I descended through the valleys where mist hung above the trees, eventually giving way to Chepstow where the great Severn Bridge awaited me.

It took an hour to cross it and after a decent spell along the Severn Way to Severn Beach came the stretch I had been dreading – the encounter with Bristol!

It was all as bad as I could possibly imagine – a tortuously long episode with my feet suffering the worst ever injuries as I walked until 11pm. Finally I found a backpackers hostel, but had little chance to repair my injuries. My left foot was so bad that other members tried to persuade me to go to the A and E.

The next morning I spent the first two hours trying to get used to the pain of walking, whilst struggling with directions to the A38. I was so relieved on leaving Bristol behind I hadn’t realised I was walking quite normally for a change. I kept the momentum going reaching Highbridge by dusk. After a fish supper I located an inn along the Bridgwater Road where I rested for the night.

I was now entering the penultimate day with at least 40 miles to walk in order to break the back of the job. It was far from exciting – it was certainly dangerous as it entailed walking without a pavement along busy stretches of the A38. I had little respite in Taunton and Wellington and by evening I was in absolute agony. Reaching Collumpton by 10pm I obtained accommodation at the White Hart. The customers stared in horror as I removed my socks in a bid for some sponsorship – any doubters where soon silenced!

 

Friday was here at last and my torment would soon be over. A mere 20 miles in beautiful autumn sunshine was all that was required – and boy was I glad to finish that last descent to Exeter St David’s where a Great Western 125 was only minutes away!

FUNDRAISING

Donations can still be made by sending direct to the appropriate charities located on this website: www.robin-moore.co.uk
Or at the following inns:
THE ANGEL INN, OUNDLE
THE SHIP INN, OUNDLE
THE CHECQUERED SKIPPER, ASHTON
THE MONTAGU ARMS, BARNWELL
THE TALBOT HOTEL, OUNDLE
(Charity Boxes and sponsor forms are available for donations)

THE CARHARRACK STARS, CARHARRACK, CORNWALL
THE COPPICE INN, LANNER, CORNWALL
THE FOX AND HOUNDS, COMFORD, CORNWALL

THE POST OFFICE, CARHARRACK

CHEQUE PRESENTATION

A cheque presentation for Cornwall Hospice Care and Children’s Hospice Care will be held at The Carharrack Stars Inn on Saturday 1st December. All are welcome and entertainment and raffle will be available. We have so far raised £1100 at the inn and will endeavour to build on that. All support is welcomed.

A further £500 was raised by the Coppice Inn at Lanner, and will be presented to the St Julia’s Hospice the following week.

The Fox and Hounds at Comford also helped to raise £125 for hospice care and Ann Newman has spearheaded the campaign for research by selling hand-made cards which have raised over £235 to date. This will be presented along with funds raised for Cancer Research UK, hopefully later next month.

FUNDRAISING AT OUNDLE FOR CANCER RESEARCH UK

The fundraising at Oundle has been strongly supported and we expect to hold a presentation locally next month for what should be another four-figure sum. I must appeal at this stage to all people to help with this worthy cause either by supporting the local effort or by donating via the web links/local fundraising office. The cheque payments represent the Robin Moore Coast-to-Coast Challenge and are made payable to the appropriate charity.
While it is important to open up each campaign worldwide using the internet and use each walk to raise the profile of the charity in question (after all one must look at the bigger picture), the foundation of fundraising must never be forgotten. By that I mean the root core of local support – the nitty gritty task of running around with that sponsor form that every one so dreads!

It is for this reason that we hold presentations, as I believe it is important to thank the communities for their loyal support in fighting a disease that affects so many people’s lives in the modern age.

I’d like to personally thank every one for your kindness and support.

FUTURE CAMPAIGNS

WALK AROUND THE BRITISH ISLES NEARING COMPLETION
A walk around the remainder of Ireland will be scheduled for next summer as the last section of the British Isles. This will complete the portfolio giving a total of over 12,000 miles for the region. 

WALKING AROUND EUROPE
I hope to complete the Mediterranean coast of Spain and hence my travels around Spain and Portugal. The journey so far has been covered from Perpinon:
Coast-to-coast crossing the Pyrenees/Cataluna Camino.
The Camino Coast
The Camino de Santiago
The Portuguese Camino

Estimated Distance: 2,000 miles

OTHER WALKS
Australasia – new year
Africa

ONLINE PUBLISHING
This remains our number one priority for funding all charity work and although it is in its infancy we hope to further develop the concept using informative documentation/extracts from diaries which we hope will make interesting reading as well as providing a valuable insight into the life of a charity walker.

SAMPLE TITLES
The Portuguese Camino
The Camino de Santiago
The Robin Moore Great Britain Walk Vol.1
The Portreath Tramroad
A Pilgrim’s Journey
The Cornish Pilgrimage Journey
A Walker’s Journey Vol.1
Oundle Walks
Walking the Garden Route

Please Support our efforts and help these worthy charities

THANK YOU FOR TAKING AN INTEREST

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