Walking 1004.9 miles from John O'Groats to Lands end in aid of Accommodation Concern! (starts august 3rd 2014)

Monday, 9 December 2013

Very true!

I'm currently reading the first Jack Reacher novel, he makes a very good point about the kindness of strangers.... 'A wanderer depends on the kindness of strangers. Not for anything specific or material. But for morale. '
How very accurate and something I've known for so long but never managed to put the words to! Great that you can learn the wonders of the trail even when your between walks!

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Day 7 22/6/2013 Pain stopped play!

Sad to say but we've pulled out of the last two days walk into Ullapool. Alfies feet have become too sore to walk on :-( hence the cheesy picture!

Having walked from the wild camp at slow pace due to Alfies sore paws and repeated attempts to bandage them failing we made it into Lochinver by about 9am, after a breakfast at the Fishermans mission (modern and clean tho not dog friendly) and much plodding around the village Alfie now having bandaged and duct taped feet.We picked up a bus at Lochinver bay just after 1pm and are now camping at the end of the route waiting for John to finish tomorrow or early Monday. Good luck mate!

Friday, 21 June 2013

Day 6, 21/6/2013

After a fitful sleep we face the dawn through a thick cloud of midges (still!). away from the wild camp without breakfast we had east in the direction of our next reprovisioning stop via a twisting and undulating road in thick low cloud, leaving much of the scenery to our imagination.

 a few hours in we reach the fishing village of Nedd with its eccentric road sign warning of pigs piglets sheep and dogs as you enter. Cute!, passing into this ancient village you see all the existing houses mixed in with the ruins of their predecessors and the odd gypsy caravan!. Leaving this quaint place in the mist I catch a sniff of garlic in the air, further along I find some wild ramsons and grab a handful for a light breakfast :-).
Over the hill to Drumbeg where the provisioning shop is, we find it closed for today..... Arse! Since we're all running low on food this could be a problem! So deciding to eat what we can we find the only shelter available to be the public toilets! Alfie enjoyed being held under the handryer for a bit lol!.
Continuing in the low cloud we head west to clashnessie picking up some eggs enroute, Entering Clashnessie we follow the single track road cut into the cliff....------------>
The bay has a lovely beach and very popular on a sunny day I imagine, for us it was a spot to boil up some of the eggs and make sandwiches and for Alfie an off lead opportunity!
The road out takes us across the neck of the Stoer peninsular to Stoer itself, a nice Crofters village with another nice beach through its neighbour Clachtolle and on to where a footpath runs along a stream to a ruin of a mill (pic), the grinding wheels still lay abandoned in the vicinity. The path continues to Achmelvich and is extremely dog unfriendly campsite!

We forgave them this as they filled out water bottles and sold us excellent fish and chips which we shared with the gulls. Probably a rule against this to ;-).
Moving on with filled stomachs and a food shortage averted we head into the hills north of Lochinver passing an ancient watermill for a wild camp and naturally more swarms of midges! This must be high season for the little b@5t£rds!.(isnt yet!)
Still once again the view more than made up for it!!!
View from our wild camp to Mount Suilven!

Day 5 20/6/2013 The A-B of roads

Away from Scourie bright and early for a full day of road walking starting with a quiet A Road that wended it's way through more of the rocky/lumpy post glacial landscape, passing Badcall bay where last night's salmon could have been landed from the Duart fisheries. a quick rest stop then continuing along the road we miss the track which would have given us an off road section,cant get everything right! so continuing on the road through Duartmore forest and then on to a viewpoint of the impressive mountains around Kylesku. here the award winning bridge crosses the sea loch via a small island. commemorated here was the incredibly heroic missions of British submariners from the second world war who piloted two man sub's into German harbours to sabotage the enemy fleet, far too many didnt make it back.
submariners cairn click to enlarge!

 The hotel at Kylesku warmly invited alfie in even knowing his breed! I had a smashing lamb pie while Ruth tucked into a bucket of muscles and John had fish cakes.
Back on the road passed Unapool and with the bulwark of Sail Garbh mountain ahead we join the B road to Drumbeg.

Swarming Midges!!!!
John heading towards Sail Garbh 

 passing the twin bulwark of Sail Ghorm with the accompanying gentle rain we follow the coast of loch a chairn bhain until we find a pitch the only available flat pitch around next to Alt na Claise burn where we are inundated by millions of midges, making for an early night.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Day 4 19/6/2013–sore paws and sleepy heads!

Awakening to more swarms of midges we had of quickly following the road South with stunning scenery all around, particularly Ben Stack behind us!

looking back from Tarbet Harbour
Following the road to Scourie in more of the amazingly rugged landscape we take a very busy  B road to the tiny harbour of Tarbet where excursions head out for bird watching on the isle of  Handa.
Tarbet Harbour


Passing up on this opportunity we take a vague path into the rocky territory for another 3 miles, briefly getting lost before we found the right path to Scourie, passing this wonderfull walled garden.....

Entering Scourie us wearily and Alfie with sore paws we take the opportunity to have an early day to rest and then head of to the hotel for dinner, haggis for starters and then salmon from loch Duart as a main...... Delicious!

 Then back to the campsite for another awesome sunset!......

Day 3 18/6/2013–is it me your looking for?

As has been the norm the day started slightly overcast but dry so no complaint, leaving the campsite in good time we were the first onto the beach only briefly waving hello to a couple Camped in the dunes, following the shore to the stacks (column of rock) until the indistinct path headed back into the dunes at the southern end of the beach. spying a lizard or stoat like creature crossing a nearby dune I headed off to investigate it's track as John and Ruth carried on,

the beasties tracks!

 at this point we lost track of each other completely and didn't meet up again for 6km! Not knowing if I was behind or in front of the others I continued along the path with the hope of catching or being caught up, many thanks go to the people I met heading towards the beach who carried my message of 'I'm in front' back to Ruth John and alfie who it turned out were behind me after searching the dunes for me :-). Eventually meeting at the road in Blairmore with much relief we headed southeast along the  B road in worsening weather, shortly before Kinlochbervie the skies opened and the rain came down waterproofs on until we find shelter and dinner at the Kinlochbervie hotel then off to the spar by the fish market to get provisions. Leaving town we meet the Durness bus driver again who entices us with a lift to Scourie!
Loch Inchard

Politely declining we continue along loch Inchard now under a pleasant bit of sunshine, views along the loch to the Atlantic included muscle beds being farmed tho we'd previously seen signs about not gathering wild muscles due to contamination?!.

At Richonich we start walking along a proper  A Road through the twisted rock formations of the area that were uncovered in the last ice age when glacier where up to a kilometer deep here!.
We carry on along this road in changing weather to Laxford bridge where a fisherman's path by the bridge led us to a suitable spot in the trees, unfortunately also a good spot for midges.
My tents view of Laxford bridge wild camp

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Day 2 17/6/2013– Evacuation!

Cape Wrath Light house
Waking to a clearing sky we get the nasty surprise of being told that everyone is being evacuated from Kearvaig as an Raf bombing practice is going to take place within the hour, no more than half a mile from the bothie!
Quickly packed this works to our advantage as the evacuation sees us getting a free lift to Cape wrath light house taking a chunk out of the route! Even better there's a cafe at the light house so tea and sandwiches are consumed as we watch a Typhoon circle kearvaig stack a small granite island the Raf have been bombing since 1927, tho this has allegedly caused no damage in all this time! Disappearing above the clouds the the Typhoon repeatedly hits the island with small and largely unimpressive bombs..... Could explain why the island still exists!

Distant explosion on An Garbh-eilean

With the bombing over and full belies (cunning easy to trap the tourist pound!) we leave the farthest north West point and head south along the wild and deeply undulating coastline in quickly improving weather, past a small group of dear we leave the track and start off across the unusually dry boggy landscape passing many cluster of insectivorous sundew plants (more obviously needed for midge control!), occasionally dodging inland or down and up we pass a variety of gulleys,  as lunch time arrives and with the sun now a regular thing we find a suntrap by steam to make tea and fill up on food.

As we progress south the cliff's become more broken and at one point look remarkably like abandoned building works! Or the building blocks of the gods ;-)
Heading steeply down to the bay of Keisgaig we sit to catch our breath and get the treat of watching two sea Otters playing and bathing by rocks in the bay, and briefly a seal showed it's head and then swam off, a great day for wildlife!.
As we get within reach of today's destination the river Strath Chailleach blocked our way and some fording was required. Boggy land beyond it before we climbed the last Hill and get presented with an impressive view of Sandwood bay which due to the appearance of two scout(?) groups wasn't the solitary beach experience expected, but beautiful none the less, setting up camp on the shore of the fresh water Sandwood loch we dine then settle in for the night with a view of the mountains east over the loch.

Sand wood bay in all its glory!!!

Day one 16/6/2013

Still sleepy after a good night at the Sangomore camp site in Durness and with a quick breakfast inside, we leave town on an impressively small  A Road that wouldn't even warrant a B classification back home and being Sunday morning no one was about but us tourists.
Reaching the kyle of Durness we turn right for the ferry at Keoldale, which left us with a wait till 11 am when the first ferry departure took the form of a small motor boat, squeezing in with a group of assorted tourists and college girls studying the local geology, we soon cross the quarter mile to the ramp on the opposing shore, uphill away from the vans our fellow tourists are taking to Cape wrath we gain a high view of the kyle and out to the north Sea.
Around a headland and down to an old rickety bailey bridge where a view past a tiny Dail farm entertained us while we had lunch.
Once more uphill on the only track to the lighthouse at cape wrath we pass into the military bombing danger area, passing an old bothie at loch inshore we walk between the peaks of Maovally and  Sgribhis-bheinn we reach the turn off to kearvaig bay and it's immaculate bothie.

 upon entering the bothie Alfie comes face to face with a double! Another border terrier also named Alfie! Belonging to one of three chaps who have the pleasure of maintaining Scotlands bothies, we later discovered that Alfie 2's dad looks after a bothie we passed when we walked to John O'groats... Small world!.
With the tents up on the grass overlooking bay we went of to explore the cliff's , so glad we did as just out of sight from the beach but visible from the cliff's were a small group of puffins! The first I've seen in the wild!

Back to the bothie to chat with our neighbours and the whisky Old  Poultney started to flow, way to soon this evening ended and we returned to the tents, but oh what what a beautifull sunset!!!!

A selection of the flora we got used to walking amongst.....


Pyramid Orchid

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Made it!

All connections for the journey went well, just a hiccup with the booking for the sleeper train but all turned out well so won't whinge about that :-)
We met up with JP in Inverness perfectly. had a breakfast in town then took the train to Lairg through some beautiful country passing some familiar sights from 2010.
Stepping straight from the train to the Durness bus we found ourselves having an unexpected guided tour from the bus driver who managed never to stop talking for the entire 57 mile trip including a tour of Durness,!!  All fascinating stories just a bit too much after travelling for 18 hours lol, he also stopped and waited for us to have a look into Smoo cave which was impressive.

Not as impressive as the moody north Sea crashing on the rocks by the campsite, with dry grey sky to enhance its mood!
Camping next to a pub which kindly broke it's own rule to allow alfie in :-), dinner and beer later we get an early night.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

A taste of things to come!

At the end of this week a merry band of walkers will be heading north!
Alfie, Ruth, J P and myself are heading to the furthest northwest point of Scotland, the aim being to walk from Durness to Ullapool along the coast via the extremely remote cape wrath!
En-route and with a good dose of luck we will be passing through sandwood bay and if the weather holds we may have the pleasure to enjoy similar conditions to those in the picture!
Naturally the blog will be going live when possible but I'm not expecting to be able to post pictures as we go so thought this tastey pic should whet your appetites til an update is possible!
Whatever the weather this going to be spectacular so keep a close eye on the blog.

Monday, 27 May 2013

27/5 The end of another epic walk!

As the title says we've finished! That's all four compass points of Britain walked an amazing accomplishment for a small ginger dog, well done Alfie :-)
More to follow on this post. batteries in phone are a bit low!

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Sun 26/5 A lazy day!

Rising late at 7am we didn't get away until nine, with the sun already high in the sky and the day warm we walk thru and out of Bungay, following a tiny B road that looped in line with river waveney to a hamlet called Ship meadow, a little Lane to our left took us to the path east that links with the Angles way a local path that we will follow to Lowestoft, for now it takes us through the glorious sunny meadows that flank the river. Away from the meadows and into Beccles a very pretty town which I can't recommend to highly! Quaint - impressive architecture and especially in the sun a vibrant town, tho after the last few days weather everyone has a good reason to be cheerful!
After a long lunch at the local Wetherspoons pub we enter the marina with the hundreds of other holiday makers walking past many an impressive and no doubt expensive river cruise boat. leaving the crowds behind but not the boats as many pass us as we walk along the river bank with plenty of waves and hellos from boat to bank and vice versa :-). We continue along the banks passing many different wild fowl on our left and cattle to our right until we set up camp on a loop of river miles from anywhere, as we settle to sleep the wildfowl sing a rather raucous lullaby!

Sat 25/5 out from the storm

Waking in another fine woodland wild camp with sun streaming thru trees doesn't get much better than this!
Until four hundred yards around the corner a ruined church to St Mary presents a very novel alternative! Shame we didn't see this earlier! Still with a such a  marked improvement in the weather and smiles once again on our faces nothing could dampen our spirits the way forward passed quickly thru Tivetshall st Mary and cross country to Pulham market where the village shop on the idyllic village green resupplied us for the day ahead, gentle country roads and paths led us to kemps corner where our path dead ended at an impassable footbridge thick with brambles! A quick reroute along a busy little B road called "the lonely road" ironically. North of Aldburgh until we found a b road that a cycle path linked up with that ran along the valley to Bungay, a quick pint in Earsham at the friendly queens head and we reprovisioned at Bungay and on to the Outney meadow caravan park for our pitch.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Fri 24/5

As forecast a night of heavy rain, not so bad for us tucked under the bows of a chestnut tree at the Dower house camp site during a lull in the rain we packed our gear away and headed off once more into the woods and then more rain which stayed with us most of the day.
Keeping to the roads we walked thru East Harling and Kenninghall, upon reaching Banham we spotted a walkers shelter that turned out to be the highlight of the day, it  was a religious shelter on tail called the Via Beata running between Lowestoft and St Davids! Pictures to follow!
Heading on thru the rain for the rest of the afternoon we stopped at two pubs sadly both closed! Until we reached or designated wild camp in woodland, where the rain finally stopped!

Friday, 24 May 2013

Thurs 22 a colourful day!

An early start from a wet tent at the Ram hotel campsite (basic but adequate site in Brandon), had us enjoying sun and deep blue sky as we wandered into the town for some provisions, pleasant small town with the first flint built houses seen on the route.
East and out of town we entered Thetford forest a temple of green hues in the sunlit trees, the peace and scent of the woods a balm for these fen weary walkers! Thru Santon down with its pretty church (surprisingly open!) and back in to the woodland with flights of tornados lining up to land at Lakenheath air base. we follow the St Edmunds way thru trees glistening with dew and delight in taking macro photos as we wander.
Over the riverThet via a nice wooden bridge with water weed streaming in the current.following the river east (where else! Lol ) we pass the earthworks of the ruined church of St Helen and the holy well.. Which had long been dug up for flint excavation.
More woodland walking led us to a huge factory with a massive chimney..... What possesses planners to allow construction like this in beautiful woodland is beside me!... RANT!
A quick stop at a weir for a snack and the weather changes drastically no more sunshine here comes the rain......! Splashing our way on to Thetford we pass very protective geese with their chicks and skittish ducks with theirs!,  into town we pass the ruins of the priory and into the modern commercial temple of the town centre, a stop for dinner of some lovely fish and chips during a break in the rain and out of town via the tesco superstore for supplies, while here the heavens opened and hail pounded the ground, we happily watched this from shelter until the hail became a downpour which we decided to brave.
Eastwards on road we pass a war memorial cunningly designed to catch water and fill a trough at the front... Nice design! With black clouds coming in waves now we road walk until we meet an old friend The Peddars way! Turning right along this over the remembered plastic board walks above the wet lands, we enter more forest and shelter from the rain, passing a heard of rare breed sheep and some fine bulls as we enter the fields again we finally reach our campsite during a break in the storm!

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Weds 22 The last of the fens!

An early start see's us away from Littleport and back into the flat and timeless trudging thru the lands of the east, pushing our luck too far we follow farm tracks into farmland without rights of way, big smiles and an act of ignorance gets us past a farmer in his tractor, to allow us to link up with a b road that ran straight for a few miles until it met the little Ouse river. heading eastwards, we spent most of the day following the river with deer scattering ahead of us (with Alfie chasing them of course!) and swan's nesting to our right! Overhead pairs of tornado fighters from Lakenheath would push the sound barrier until it broke in the distance.
About three miles of dust track walking away from the river lead us inevitably back to its banks in time for dinner, with storm clouds building (which never broke!) we follow the river more, tho this section is rarely used as the thickly overthrown path showed, eventually this cleared with lovely meadows leading us to Brandon and the Ram hotel for dinner and camping in the rear fields.

Tue 21/5 A day of one half!

After a very disturbed windy night wild camping on the 100 foot drain we head off into the slightly damp morning. Going underfoot was fine especially as we left the drain and followed the road to  Wardy Hill,  renamed by us "Where De Hill" due to the complete lack of hill! Going thru here and into Coveney one of the fen island villages with views to Ely the biggest.
From here we went cross country thru the odd dry and granulated soil of the fens to little Downham. This nice village allowed us to stock up with food and coffee (which the Kindly Asian couple made us :-) ) before following track and road into Littleport where the pub by the railway watered and fed us, quickly down the road to a local campsite and we completed our lazy half day!

Monday, 20 May 2013

An odd land!

After the glorious sunshine yesterday it was a bit of a surprise to wake up with gray skies and a wet tent! Not that it was raining and neither did it rain all day! No complaints ;-)
As we headed off I can't say I made a mistake in navigation more like I just didn't bother to navigate at all! So after a nice circular walk in the lush meadows by the Ouse realisation sank in that this wasn't the route! We did see a nice church at Hemingford Grey .... Justification enough?. Back on the route half a kilometer from the start with two kilometers walked (ahem) and heading east (finally!) we wander thru a lush woodland called the thicket, part marshland with a nice paved cycle path running thru it keeping progress easy, the eerie call of peacock in the woods around us but none came to view before we walked into St Ives.
The hustle and bustle of the towns market was a sharp contrast to the woodland but pleasant enough, a coffee and breakfast roll eventually arrived from the tardy service at Greggs!, following the great Ouse way out of town past the delights of heavy lorries transporting sand and gravel from the pits we were walking thru to a place called Holywell where we found the well! Or recently bricked over spring by a church.... Nice little garden by it tho.
From the village onwards we enter the fens and find some wild Alexanders an edible cow parsley like plant introduced by the Romans into Britain and last seen at the beginning of this walk in St Davids!
The trail continued by the Ouse past a wide expanse of wet land with a profusion of water fowl and lap wing, into the dreary town of Earith to resupply before dragging our waining attentions for eight kilometers along the very straight and flat hundred foot drain, which goes all the way to King's Lynn thankfully without us!
At Mepal we restock water and head back to the drain to find a wild camp for tonight.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Hot n sunny!

After a blissfully sunny wake up call from the dawn chorus, memories of an earlier wake up call from a baking fox last night return to my mind, a first for me!
Thru a sunlit green tunnel under the trees we approach Old Weston, dropping off our rubbish from the night before at a village club's bins, out of the village and east thru the fields to the idyllic village of  Leighton Bromswold which was basking in the sleepy Sunday morning sunshine, walking under the avenue of chestnut trees towards the church we come upon a thousand year old stone that was used as meeting point (one of four in this part of England) for justice to be dealt out and taxes to be handed in!
Across the fields again thru the brightly glowing Oil seed rape and into Barham a very deliberate choice of Waypoint this as my family on my mother's mother's side came from here, they ran the local pub which is sadly long gone... No free beer! Into the tiny local church and a break was had by the graves of my ancestors the  Huffords, a quick look into the church which had been kindly opened by a chap we met as we rested.
Following a Lane we headed into the fields Nibbling on Shepherds purse as walked. more rape fields led us down into a shallow Valley and on to Alconbury where we followed the old "great North Road " to a bridge that spanned it's modern counterpart the A1, the path led us into an ongoing dressage competition, a pleasing surprise! Then in hot still air we plodded through more fields to Huntingdon where a garage supplied us with fresh orange juice to quench or thirst as we sat in the grass near the pumps, much to the bewilderment of folk filling up they're cars! He he!
A quick stop at sainsburys for dog food and the path by the great  Ouse river led us through parkland and out of town.
Now weary we walk into the impressive village of Houghton where our campsite for the night is at a fully functioning water mill. Quickly set up and to the pub for dinner at the three horseshoes, which leaves us nesting down for the night with a woodpecker near the tent tapping away trying to do likewise! Lol!
(pictures will follow when data permits!)

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Going backwards again!

Or back on the backwards east west way! Lol
Lying in the tent after a nice easy 16.5 mile day having Walked from my front door to a wild camp near a village called Old Weston.
The weather has been pleasant with no R word  occurring only getting wet once at the pub in Titchmarsh and a very nice local wet ale it was named  Wherry!

The path has lead us out of Kettering (thank goodness!) thru Warkton to Grafton Underwood passing a small holding with a nice variety of rare breed sheep and fowl.,. then via Slipton to the grand Drayton house (picture to follow) Lowick was it's usual pretty self, following the road East took us into the Nene Valley where the old gravel pits are now a beautiful wild fowl reserve, hundreds of swallows were dogfighting overhead as we crossed the valley putting on a thrilling display!
Into Titchmarsh for the aforementioned pint and out  again following a roman road East, a field of highland cattle by the road added a pleasing interlude to the road walk!. With the road turning north away from our path we pass Molesworth airforce base, which still brings back memories of the CND peace camp here back in the eighties!
Tonight tho no military police are showing interest in our little wild camp.... For now anyway!.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Off again!

This coming Saturday I'm finally setting off on the last stage of my backwards East to West way! Walking from home, (the end point of last year's stages) to Lowestoft a final distance of 136 miles of huge open skies and flat farm land.
So in preparation and to test it, I've made up a four meal batch of chilli to take with me!
Excellent weight loss between the cooked and the dehydrated meals! With the dehydrated meal weighing in at one third of the cooked version, this is after I've taken off the weight of the plastic container shown in the picture ;-)
Naturally I'll knock together more dehydrated food for the trip to Scotland in June, this batch will at least be a good test of its nutritional value not to mention whether it's actually edible when prepared in the field!
Keep an eye on the blog! :-)

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Jogle latest news

This is my latest acquisition for use on Jog-Le next year , this Lightwave wildtrek 60 pack is larger than the pack I carried on Le-Jog to allow for carrying larger quantities of food which I will need for some extended wild sections in the Scottish highlands! (details to follow next year! ;)  ).
Weighing in at only 1.5 kg and purporting to be waterproof! (this i have to see to believe!!!)  it should be perfect for next year, though naturally the pack will undergo plenty of infield testing this year with the two walks planned. The first, to complete my west to east walk restarts in exactly one month!
I have a serious amount of training to do between now and then! what with bad weather and illness I've not walked further than 5 miles in a walk this year!! but walking fitness soon comes back.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

A sizable change of plan for jogle

Having been off work with a virus for two days I've had no shortage of time to muck about with route planning!
At this rate i'll have my route planned a good year and a half ahead of need but this is just too much fun!
The original idea of a route slanting down to the Scottish west coast has been abandoned in favour of a central route, which while maintaining a mountainous landscape and multiple days away from civilization does make the path underfoot more certain! i still maintain that the Scottish right to roam does not guarantee an ability to roam! so i stick to marked paths and tracks or roads! ;).
The red flags on the map to the right are provisioning stops (thanks google maps!) and and the green tent marks are expected end of day markers working to an approximation of my average daily 17.5 miles walked per day.