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

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Day-51 Pac man mode!

A dry woodland wild camp again with another warm night. waking hungry again I decided to alter today's route from the off the route stays the same keeping to the Coleridge way a long haul uphill through the lane pictured, down a short lane to court farm and I'm walking along idyllic valleys with steep sides that are Beech covered and lush! Makes a change to be walking along valleys in this are rather than up and over! To Kingsbridge and normal service resumes with a long long haul up Lype hill, a nicely rounded hill this one with wide panoramic views in the early autumn sunshine, a nice long easy downhill into Wheddon cross where a small Garage had a good sized store as part of its holding's, a good coffee and adequate bacon roll along with other provisions saw me sat down eating on a nice bank of grass over road from the store. Catching more sunshine in the process. A chap cycling came over for a chat, a fellow wild camper it turned out, who had been on a three day wander and camp trip. Interesting guy who's certainly seen the world!.
At Wheddon is where my route changed, sticking to the B3224 rather than heading for the moors I start eating up (pac man mode) road miles and pub stops first at Exford in time for a good Sunday lunch and then finally to the Exmoor forest Inn for a second Sunday lunch! And free camping in their back garden! Great and recommended pub!

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Day-50 no longer on the level!

As often happens the transition from rest day to walking again can be difficult. Today's start was a bit like reviving the dead! A lateish start and body and mind not wanting to do as required didn't help, it was a bit like jump starting a car uphill but start I eventually did.
Uphill in the smilie was accurate as shortly after leaving the site I'm heading up into the Quantock hills a high range that quickly puts the levels behind you, very quickly in my case as my route is straight up and over. At the top I'm surprised at finding highland cattle, always pleasant beasties!
Down into Crowcombe then under the west Somerset railway where steam and diesel locomotives were shuttling tourists back and forth.
Following the track for a bit then heading into Stogumber (love these names!) In time for dinner at the pub, a very nice streak and kidney pudding.
With the hills rising around me on this balmy but grey day I pass through the village of Monksilver before a rollercoaster of hills through Huish Berton where i find the Austin six in the picture. Then up and down the route brings me to Roadwater where I stock up with provisions before passing the still to open valiant soldier pub and following the Coleridge way into the woods, where as I lay in my tent writing this the owls seem to be harassing pheasants... Noisy sods!!!

Friday, 26 September 2014

Friday 26th September

Rest day at curry pool mill campsite in lovely sunshine, clothes washed and dried blog caught up and lots of chilling out!
The evening sees my mates Rab and Saz from yeovil pay me a visit and treat me to a pub meal! Much appreciated peeps ! And great to see familiar faces, the first in six weeks!

Day-49 On the level

The field pitch of last night went without a visit from a shotgun toting farmer or a visit from cows in the next field! Though either was possible!
An early start saw me leave Allerton moor and continue across the Somerset levels to a village called Mark with its shop open early I could restock food for the day. Meeting some locals who expressed interest in the walk, with wishes of good luck I move on.
A straight track/road through Mark moor and I meet a heard if cattle being driven towards me. Knowing how skittish cattle can be I wait in a gateway until after much hesitation they pass.
Further on I reach gold corner a farm and major pumping station for the levels that boasted a spring tide that would reach half way up the first floor of most modern homes! Wonder where it reached in the flood of last winter? (2014).
The station pumps into the broad Huntspill river that upon close inspection looked higher than the foundations of the pump house...
On to Cossington where I join a short stretch of railway line before crossing the fields to Bridgewater. With the land so flat here you can't tell from the buildings that the town is so big, only the major A roads approaching give you a clue.
Into the centre a pub meal was found before heading out through a street fair where I felt disjointed from all the stalls with their gaudy tat on sale and the crowds pushing to enjoy the rides. I'm definitely a big step sideways from society while I walk this trek!.
With more provisions loaded up for my rest day tomorrow (no room at the inn for Friday and Saturday) I head west to Curry pool mill campsite for a good rest and clean up. This will also save me £50 in accommodation costs so not a bad change of plan ;0)

Day-48 A fruity passage!

My pitch under hawthorn bushes on çadbury camp hill provided a good dry night despite the gentle rain in the early morning. Everything packed away well and the sharp descent to Tickenham proved easy.
At this point I altered the route after last night's failure to find a shop. The route towards Nailsea took me over monkey bridge, interestingly named after a traveling menagerie lost it's monkey carriage here in 1906! Nice piece of local info from the local council who secured a plaque here!
Into town and a very convenient co-op secured my food for the day.
B roads from town through Chelvey and Claverham, with the clouds being blown away south and sunshine becomes dominant as I enter Yatton. A quick hop across some fields and my way becomes easy level but busy as I join the old Strawberry railway line now a cycle track/nature reserve. A quick conversation with another walker reassures me it's not just me who can't hear cyclists until they are right upon you, so taking a slightly militant approach I decide to hog the path! At least now 'the silent menace' as my fellow walker branded cyclists would have to pass politely!
Through Sandford and into Winscombe before rejoining the strawberry line to make use of the easiest passage of the Mendip hills that is available, railway line and tunnel! (pic) .
A bit of road walking through lower Weare and footpaths take me through Badgworth and Stone Allerton until I find a pitch in the fields.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Day-47 The sweet spot

As ever a camp beside a river means that you wake up in the mist! And after a clear night it's a now a cold brisk morning. With the sun rising behind me the temperature soon improves and matches the fine views of the wetlands along the river. Wild fowl are in abundance and twitchers are flocking to see (sorry!).
Bad jokes aside ... I walk on into Severn beach and find a bakery open selling breakfast rolls and tea so a quick stop is in order.
Back on the path and following my old route in reverse I find that a cycle way now links up to the industrial estate here, wonder if it existed in 2010? Would have been nicer than the traffic dodging I remember doing! And it really is better wending it's way through the estate with bushes either side and a pleasant steam that looks in a healthy state , you soon forget the sounds of industry around you.
The past joins the Lawrence western lane and over the M5 motorway on a bridge that had been preconstruction back in 2010 requiring an alternative route, today it takes me into the suburbs of Bristol and to a Gregg's where I load up for dinner.
Rejoining the cycle track I head towards the M5 and up onto the bridge over the river Avon , great views back to Bristol and forward to Portishead. My path though wiggles it's was down and under the M5 to join with an abandoned railway before coming back over the motorway to Portbury , where a quick pint of ale in the sunshine set me up for a walk under the Beech trees of prior wood, the path goes uphill here Charlton farm before cutting back into the woods and over to Naish house, a curious building that needs some research doing into its history.
The path i follow then joins an anonymous B road through Lime Breach wood where the occupants of the massive  houses maintain their anonymity with high walls, CCTV cameras and signs warning 'beware ferocious dogs patrol here' just made me more curious to find out who lives here!.

On a bit more along the ridge to the iron age ring fort (pic) of Cadbury Camp where I find my sweet spot for a pitch for the night!

Monday, 22 September 2014

Day-46 The last border crossing

Last night's B&B was a good and needed move , I really needed to eat like I did, once more the calories had been too few for the exertion in the last few days. Now though I'm seeing the problem a lot sooner, should have it sorted by the time I finish! Lol
Away from the castle inn and I disappear into the morning mist following a route through town that I'd looked at over new year, recognise the church Ruth or JP ??
Very atmospheric in the mist.
From Usk the road naturally climbs up a steep hill, gotta love these valleys!!! The road degenerates into a rocky byway which in turn becomes a sunken lane before reaching the hill top. A few turns and the tarmac reappears before I climb a stile and attempt to follow a path to priory farm. Without the GPS I'd have been walking in circles here. Thank goodness for tech! Although it didn't help with finding one path where I eventually scrambled up a steep slope with the aid of trees and roots to haul me up! Through another overgrown byway and I hit B roads , I'm making good time on the roads and I reach Mynydd Bach in time for a lunchtime beer , back on the roads to Chepstow where I restock meths for the stove.
While here I have another radio interview even now it feels surreal to be sitting in some housing estate and talking to Northamptonshire!!

From Bulwark (the estate) I find the footpath that goes the length of the M48's bridge over the river Severn and finally out of Wales into England. on the far bank at Aust I reach the path I followed on my lejog this is the first time I've crossed my 2010 route since John O'groats! Sticking with the old path for a mile until I'm about half way between the two Severn bridges where I find a nice out of the spot for tonight's camp. With views of the sun setting over the river to complete the day.

Day-45 The Skirrid and beyond

Similar to the day from Hay, today started with a long steep uphill, this one though was long over due. The Skirrid (holy mountain) is a hill that I've long wanted to climb it's a small ish but impressive lump from the north, with extremely steep sides and a long ridge descent to the south. Naturally I get the steep climb! But it was so worth it! Due to it's small peak the Skirrid gives a stunning 360 degree view of the black mountains, long town valley, England and on a clear day the Severn estuary, not quite clear enough for that today with the slight autumnal haze, but a beautiful day none the less! . walking down the ridge I get chatting to a fellow hiker who informs that after the war Rudolf Hess was incarcerated in what is now Abergavenny hospital and he was used to exercise by walking up the Skirrid with his guards, not such a bad life!.
Away from the hill across pleasant farm land to a very unused byway which I had to hack my way through, but just about passable. At llanddewi Rhydderch I join the number 42 cycle route for an easy road stretch to Abberffrwd and then on to the Esk valley way for a long gentle walk along the river to Usk passing the now inevitable Himalayan balsam that's taken over our river banks for most Britain that I've seen. Can't say I'm too fond of its sickly sweet smell!.
At Usk I restock provisions and head to the private campsite at Usk castle who had previously arranged access for me, though with no one about and nobody answering the phone I didn't feel comfortable just setting up here, so into town again and a B&B was booked for the night at The Castle Inn.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Day-44 donkeys in the mist

Radnors end campsite worked out very nicely. And a thank you to them for the free pitch!
The walk downhill into hay gave an easy start to loosen leg muscles then with provisions purchased I started the 6km walk up to the top of Hay bluff, very steep in places but finding the donkeys in the pic gave me an excuse to stop and gave them a good fuss!
With every step up I was walking deeper into the cloud and a light but continuous rain, the path loops around to approach the top from the north east flank of the ridge, although by this time all I knew was that I was going uphill with about 8mtrs visibility. Reaching the top was OK my fitness must be massively improved over my normal condition! And so I started the 15km walk along the top of the black mountains. In good conditions this is a fine walk with great views, not for me today tho. So head down and march, I did meet two other souls up there but we were all eager to complete our walks and passed with brief Hello's.
Down and out of the clouds and the short walk to days end at llanvihangle Crucorney set me in sight of my next hill The Skirrid. The local pub of the same name has the translation  of this meaning Holy mountain! Tomorrow will tell!

Saturday 20th sept rest day 7

Another days rest and reading eating, washing of clothes plus a trip to the pub..... Nothing else ;-)

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Day-43 Thank goodness for New Radnor!

Waking up once again in pine forest, everything is still dark apart from the glow in the dense fog that permeates the top of Radnor hill, despite the fog the trees have once again kept my tent dry :-), walking in the near white out fog tho everything soon gets a clammy damp feel, but that won't last the heat I put out walking soon dissipates any damp, though I wish it clear this fog, visibility is about ten yards and without the gps I'd have little hope of finding the paths I'm walking, once again the inner boy scout has kept me prepared!.
Although yesterday's shop shortage no one could prepare for! And this morning the fear that the shop planned for in New Radnor might not exist was a strong fear, coming down from the hill the first person I met is a lady Claire and her dog Alice who not only provided water but also dispelled my fear! Thank you! 

Into the village and word of my trek has spread to the shop!.. Esco a great village run establishment who kindly donated to the charity! Lovely people! 


Now carrying enough food for the day I walk south out of the village past the impressive monument to Sir George Cornwall Lewis... I'll have to look him up!

South I go and up and over steep hill called The Smatcher seems oddly appropriate!? Catch of breath at the top and straight downhill to Yardo then via ancient sunken lanes and they're modern equivalent I reach Gladestry where I stop for lunch. 

Here I also rejoin the Offas dyke path, uphill and to Grove farm where I meet a fellow end to end walker! A lady named Caroline (pic) who is walking the route in sections for a Gaza charity (will supply details later) 

Down hill to Newchurch and up again through more sheep country. Down into the next valley and I make my stop at the perfectly named Radnors End camp site! You couldn't make that up! 

Day-42 Roller-coaster country

A good dry pitch in the woods again, away in good time. Note to self... Use real maps not the mental version you'll head in the right direction that way! .... Ahem!
On the right path and the long downhill from Kerry Pole starts in a cold wind with overcast skys although with a pack on I'm soon sweating so it's down to a t-shirt again, the map shows a stone circle here, must be very well hidden there's no trace to my eyes.
From the top of the hill the track goes through Coed-Nantyrhynau woods... Wonder what that translates to! From the woods I'm into 4k of B roads to Felindre where the expected shop had closed down, very glad to have bought plenty of food yesterday! From Felindre the route heads up on Glyndwrs way to a 11km path over high moorland where the path links 10 hill tops of varying names most noticeable being Stanky hill, where a grouse shoot was going on, think some birds got away today as they had to stop until I'd passed. A quick lunch on the tops and with the sun breaking through I descend into Llangunllo to briefly hit the valley before ascending pitch hill and then down the other side (see what I mean about roller coasters?). The expected pub in Bleddfa does exist though it's not open yet at 5pm and with a long haul up through Radnor hill I push on a good pitch. A cheap day today though I'm going to be in trouble if the shop in New Radnor doesn't exist as that's the only reprovisioning point until Hay on Why!....

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Day-41 following Monty

My wild camp was noisy this morning articulated lorries were thundering west towards Welshpool, at least that meant I got moving early, into the warm misty morning along the Montgomery canal I'm into town quickly and Tesco for provisions, while shopping I was given a donation for the charity, good to think I'm not just seen as the smelly hobo that I currently am! Authentic that's me!
The canal path I'm following also doubles up as the Severn Valley way so some of you will know it well!
Belan passes by as though it's moving not me! Level walking on canals is done almost in a trance these days! Though spotting red deer on the western bank caught my attention!
Berriew is past in a similar manner except where the road has built into the canal completely blocking it! My canal trance takes me to Abermule where I cross the iron bridge in the pic, a quick pint and enough provisions for tonight and my road heads into the strange but pleasantly bumpy land to Kerry, I say strange as at first glance it looks like hard work but the road I'm on threads levely along steep sided valleys, no effort required until I head uphill to the village of llanmerewig and in sunshine wander the hills to Kerry (Ceri).
Into the village post office I get another stamp for the end to end club form and get chatting to the proprietor also an avid walker, who kindly supplies free Mars bars!
Out the village and a long hard end of day drag takes me up to Kerry Pole the highest point on the kerry Ridgeway and into the woods for tonight's pitch.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Day-40 Open to Offas!

A misty and damp morning meant a slightly soggy start to the day from Selattyn hill, with Offas Dyke here it was also an easy start there's no way you can get lost following this national trail with signs everywhere! Initially these led me through simple farm lands until a B road section approached Racecourse common the old (victorian?) ground for Oswestry horse race's not much trace of these with just the ruins of its rather small grandstand visible from the path. From the common my path led into candy woods, a rather good name for these pretty woodlands, although anyone walking the dyke south to north may be too tired from climbing the hills these woods are set in to appreciate the beauty! Personally I found a nice stone built cove with seats to take a few minutes rest and enjoy the scenery and the squirrels hoping around.
But the path must be trod and down I go and with every down there's another up, this one on the road up to Trefonen, where annoyingly my planned stop for food was hampered by the shop having closed recently... No planning for that! Still with plenty of wild damsons to gorge myself on this wasn't such a problem.
The rather busy B road through Treflach and Pont-y-waen leads me to path around Llanymynech hill and on to the redundant Staffordshire canal, even though this canal is no longer passable it is still in the capable hands of good maintenance and the the tow path and lock mechanisms are in good order as are the old buildings and homes that would have been associated with the canal (pic).
Of the canal at Four Crosses I find both pubs closed down but at least the garage shop is still in operation, I bought a cracking locally made pork and blue cheese pie with damson topping! They could have charged twice what I paid for that!.
Crossing some more fields the path runs along the flood defences of the river Severn with views to rapidly diminishing Breiddon hill where mining has certainly shrunk the hill since my last visit... Must compare photos!.
The path followed the Severn somewhat laboriously (or I was just tired!) to Pool Quay, a quick pint there and the Montgomery canal after a few miles became home for the night.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Day-39 jumping the border

Away from Allt Gymbyd rested but far from full, rations are next to none and just a few snacks to keep me going, other than wild fruit that is luckily I see plenty this morning, blackberry's, bilberry's,damsons and sloe so energy was enough.
My path away was following the Clewidian way which appears sparsely used and certainly indistinct, not a problem for long as I'm away from it and after hoping over a few A road's I meet another old friend the Offas dyke path, not been here for about ten years,how time flies! Following the way uphill through steep wood land of Llandegla forest then passing over the Marsh boardwalks of Cryn-y-brain I'm into a track leading to the world's end! This is actually an agricultural estate!.
Following the track around the valley of the estate I come across various check points for, as i found out later an 88 mile cycle race.
Leaving the road for the cycles I keep to the path that wends a precarious way along the scree of Eglwyseg mountain (pic), though even here I couldn't avoid mountain bikes as four of them tottered along this pretty dangerous path towards and past me as I hunker down on the scree to give them room.
At rock farm I rejoin the cycle race for a mile, so many cyclists passing mid race were wishing me luck and giving me the thumbs up! I guess quite a few have cycled the end 2 end!
Down into Llangollen I stop for a Sunday roast of lamb which finally restored my energy, provisions for tonight and new insoles for my boots and I head south up the steepest road I've walked yet! This could really benefit from being zig zagged! Over the top of the hill and down to Pontfadog to find another steep hill to sap my energy! But this is near the end of my day so through Craignant and up onto Sellatyn hill rejoining Offas dyke for a wild camp.

Saturday 13th September

Rest day, eat drink read don't move!

Day-38 into Wales

My pitch high on Brandon point was a good choice as the Dee valley is thick with mist this morning, meaning my tent is only slightly damp and not soaked this morning.
Away and after no more than a few hundred meters I cross into Flintshire and Wales my third country this walk, passing by the Sealand mod firing range before entering an industrial estate, luck on my side again there's a burger wagon on my route, tea and breakfast roll latest one again free! Thank you Sizzlers!
Happily carrying on I pass a very empty looking Toyota factory, where security felt the need to check out this walker! A quick wave and they were on their way tho.
The cycle track I'm following runs parallel with the wirral railway and over the Dee into Shotton, quickly through I'm away onto footpaths to Buckley where chicken and chips for lunch, also getting provisions in for my rest day tomorrow.
South west out of town my route turns from twisty B roads to confusing footpaths and consequently back to little B road's to make the end of the day a little easier, a final byway that was in use for upgrading electricity pylons and I'm at my restday spot at Allt Gymbyd caravan park... Sadly both the bar and shop were closed but such is life I've got just enough food to get me to Llangollen on Sunday morning if I eat up some of the odds of food that have been gathering in rucksack... Will definitely make the pack lighter!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Day-37 ' when you walk through the storm '.....you get wet!

As usual when I stay in a hotel I can't sleep!  Oh 1am why did you wake me?
On the plus side it meant I was up and packed and away by 7.30 leaving me ample time to walk to my surprise, which I've obviously given away with the pic! Yes I was allowed to wander around the ground at Liverpool football club! Many thanks to Rachel for organising this it was very special for me to see the ground that my relative, former Liverpool player Phil Neal used to wow the crowds!
Even opportunities like this can't hold up the walk (too much!) so off I go threading through the victorian terraces surrounding the stadium and down into the city centre, and wow a stunning centre it is! The architecture was incredible, I've obviously read to many incorrect stories about Liverpool as a place! The grandeur of its time as the second largest port in Britain during the days of the Empire and the title door to the Americas was obviously not overdoing it!
Down to the Mersey, and with the famous Liver building behind me I catch the equally famous ferry across the Mersey! It's a tourist boat so I get a tour of the sights along with (inevitably) a few lines being sung from ' ferry across the Mersey'...Good cheesy fun!
Into Birkenhead for lunch and more victorian terraces to navigate, then back into the countryside and a little wild fruit foraging, before walking into Neston for supplies, down to marshes along the river Dee and on to Burton point where a nook high up in a hill gives me a great view of the sun setting over the Marsh and eventually the lights of Wales.
Wales actually being only a few hundred meters to my left as I look south!.

Day-36 a short day

With a slight mist rising from the canal into another azure sky I'm off on my last leg of the Leeds to liverpool canal, without a great distance to walk it's nice to kick back and just saunter along and stop more than I've been doing of late feeding the minnows that rise to the surface once you've not moved for a bit and taking a bit more time chatting along the way, I pass Haskayne, Lydiate,and Maghull before leaving the Canal at Aintree heading south in a remarkably warm afternoon to my 1.45pm stop at a Travel lodge for the night,  feeling hungry I visit a nearby KFC and my hunger decides the size of my dinner...a six piece bargain bucket that I demolish! Guess I needed it!.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Day-35 we're on a roll!

Right first off I'm going back to last night....
As I lay in the tent listening to the birds and watching the light fade I became aware of a roar outside, I could only describe it as being similar to the sound of a large ship going upstream, which with the apparent depth of the river Ribble was impossible! Curiosity took hold and I looked out to see a wave of water over a meter high going upstream, I've finally seen my first tidal bore!  Thankfully from a good three meters higher than it reached!.
By this morning normal service had resumed and I packed up and headed west with flocks of geese, lapwings, ducks and the occasional cormorant for company.
Following the Ribble valley way south to its beginning /end the path I need becomes amorphous again! Not being where it should be and not east of its course so it had to free west.... Yep took way to much faffing to find it but hey Ho I did!
The path goes along side the river link of the Lancaster canal and Leeds to Liverpool canal which at change of tide must be hazardous for barges as during a rest I watched the tide change and the still river became a torrent! Away from the river on small B road's until with great fortune I find Sizzlers snack van, being hungry as ever I order the biggest breakfast roll I can get and a cuppa tea, joining in with the banter between a chap delivering coal and the lady owner (pic) the conversation comes around to what I'm doing with such a large pack on my back, after the story is told I go to pay for my second breakfast only to be told it's free due to the charitable nature of my walk! (do I need to explain the title?) great lass who really made my morning with her kindness.
Away down the A69 to Bretherton and back on to the canal network, although the tow path here is non existent a regular path takes you along until the tow path emerges, after about 5km I leave the Leeds and Liverpool canal and go into the pub at Rufford, burger and chips a pint and some tea, and a cheeky use of a socket to charge my phone. Taking the b roads west in walking in farm lands as flat as the fens, where they are growing carrots, onions, potatoes and turf, my path I planned around Martin mere wetlands and wild fowl trust was a bit of a let down as I'm jammed up against 10 foot electric fences and not the hoped for wetland views. Something you cant plan for. Back to the canal and after a quick pint at Heston's bridge I find a nice little spot to pitch by the canal.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Day 34's photo!

Day-34 unexpected kindness

After a night listening to the screech of birds (owls?) in the beech trees overhead, I wake early with no great rush to get going as my first move is for provisions in Garstang. I quickly find a Booths supermarket and purchase a bench breakfast (exactly as it sounds!) and food for the day, moving off from said bench I head back to the canal.
Out of town the canal briefly follows the M6 to Bilsborrow where it slowly (as is the won't of canals) veers west, passing some canal workers repairing the tow path a few hellos are exchanged before continuing quickly on.
Leaving the canal for Woodplumpton, I stop at the Wheatsheath pub for dinner and a pint, great pub and great people here as I raise another £8 and then as I pay I'm told the food is free! That really caught me of guard as it's very much a first for me! Can't state how appreciated that was!.
Walking away with a full stomach and a smile I cross the M55,and head into Preston where walking along I see a chap in the uniform of the canal repairs team, not just any worker but one of the guys in the pic!.once I leave the canal I appear to have become invisible again!  People obviously too busy to say hello.
Finding a Lidl store I stock up again for the evening and cross over the river Ribble at the bridge, here I become visible again! And chat with a cyclist who is considering cycling an end to end route... Do it!, nice bloke and a good chat at the end of which he also donates!.
Walking from the clamor of the busy roads to the quiet of the riverside embankment the city soon fades away and I'm among wildfowl and a different raucous noise for tonight.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Day-33 Canal desires! ;-)

A chilly night always means a sunny morning, today's no exception the sky is azure blue, perfect! And the sky dominates my horizon as I walk across the thick clay like surface of morecambe Bay, I've walked a curious number of surfaces on this walk and this is one of the more odd! But saying that it's a good walking surface and progress is good into Hest Bank,into the town and back to the canal that's leading me on through today, with the sun shining down and sparkling in the water progress is relaxed into Lancaster, taking the loop east the canal keeps a nice view of the city and the dominant castle in the cities north.
Leaving the canal briefly to go into the center for breakfast and snacks, I'm drawn to the impressive city hall and facing it a huge statue of Queen Victoria! Very stern visage!
A quick visit to Greggs again (not sponsoring me!) and a chat a bloke as I ate, nice how this impresses people! During this chat another guy sat quietly at the other end of the bench as I stood to go he thanked me for what I'm doing, turns out he was homeless! This won't help him personally but to be appreciated like this was incredible.
Humbled I move on back to the canal and out of this impressive city... Must return one day.
The canal wends it's way through the country with an avenue of trees, with the sun bright above dappling the water. the mood I'm walking in is blissful!
At lunch I pass a canal side cafe where I purchase a baked potato, always good for energy, then with the trees becoming fewer and the sun brighter, I'm walking amidst a flotilla of Butterflies and dragonflies! Beautiful, this day couldn't get any better!
But it does, stopping to chat to a group of people with border terriers.. Has to be done, they offer me a few beers to take with me and to up my water! How appropriate that their barge is called Plodder! Lol
Nicely loaded up I wander until I spot a good place to camp under a beech tree just north of Garstang.

Day-32 Half day n Rest

The camp on the wrong side of the sea defence worked out well without any tidal disturbance, a little drizzle was the worst I got, nothing in not used to!
To reduce the time spent walking today I opted to stick to the b road that the cycle track follows, very little difference in distance just simple to do.
The track went thru Dallam tower's deer park... No deer just sheep and on into Beetham.dodging in and out of woodland to Yealand storrs,uphill to Yealand Redmayne and then up a Hovis add steep hill through Yealand Conyers.... Wonder what Yealand means???
Passing through Warton and into Carnforth I find the first available cafe for a full English breakfast.. Can't get enough of these!
Out of town via the Lancaster canal my first on this trek! And the going is easy and flat... Also a first!
Into Bolton-le-sands for supplies and across to the coast at Morecambe Bay for my rest at Red bank farm camp site.
Pitched and chilling a well loaded cyclist pulls onto the site, unloads near me and we get chatting, seems he's here to attend a 60's - 80's festival where he'll be celebrating northern soul!
Great chap and some good company.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Day-31 Foot sore!

After yesterday's mammoth push (well it felt that way!) my feet ache badly and my get up and go has done just that! Achingly I still have to follow suit! Into Bowness on Windermere for provisions and then straight up a road that runs up and out of town at an alarming angle to the top of Bram fell,tiny B road's and the track in the pic take me to Gilding mill and then appropriately a place called Crook Foot! You couldn't make it up!. Here my luck improves with masses of blackberries to munch and damsons too!
Going into Crossthwaite I take a break on a wall overlooking the valley, a car stops thinking I'm a local and asks directions to Witherslack Hall school, which I could help with,noticing my rucksack they kindly donated £5.
A tiny Lane across the valley and a footpath up the other side and my path goes around the flanks of the cliff edged Whitbarrow scar, up and on top of this hills plateau and a fascinating landscape is mine to explore of sssi woodland and the rocky but pleasant land that I've found for my dinner break.
Down through the woods to Grain farm and looping roads to Levens for provisions, under the A590 and follow the A6 road to Haversham, a couple of long straight roads that wouldn't be out of place in the fens and I'm camped looking over the marshes of Milnthorpe sands.

Day-30 hump day!

The wild camp above derwent water was spot on, with no interruption, a nice early start and I'm heading deeper into Watendlath, skipping across the road in front of me goes a red squirrel! I've not seen one since my last pennine way walk, must be more than 7 years ago now! It's a morning for unusual sights, as I pass another viewpoint I spot two presumably pagans greeting the dawn or the rising sun, would have liked to have a chat but their meditations were taking some time!
Past the tarn and up a steep sided ascent, I'm being constantly overtaken by dogs as the local farms put there hunt dogs through their paces, boy can those dogs move!
At my considerably slower pace I trudge up the side of High Tove and over to Blea Tarn before going up standing crag and high saddle on route to the high point of my day Ullscarf! At 2175 feet not the highest I've been but a good push to get up it!, downhill along Greenup edge and then to another old friend Wainwrights coast to coast walk! And the usual throng of thru walkers!. Down to the head of Easedale for lunch shared with a group of Canadian C2C walkers the chap in the orange shirt in the picture kindly donated £20!!!.
Into the bottom of Easedale and I'm in Wordsworth country though with the sheer number of people here there's no chance to wander lonely.... Well you get my point! ;-)
A good icecream break in Grasmere then I'm off following the coffin route to Rydal! Some lovely folk here to chat to and I gave out no end of info cards!, and received another £10 in donations!
Through to Ambleside for provisions and a long wearying trudge along the A591 albeit with pleasant views of windermere water, until at 7.30pm I collapse down at the campsite.
A very tough but great days walk! Which has put me at past the half way point! From here on in the larger distance is behind me!

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Day-29 Into the lake district

A late departure from Caldbeck with a full stomach was a good compromise, and with a day in the fells a necessary one.
The uphill starts right in the village as I get back on the Cumbria way with fairly steep paths along quiet country lanes and through sheep fields, at Nether row the path gets properly steep and zig zags help to get your lungs accustomed, this is old mining country but this side of the hill there's little evidence, four kilometers of ascent to the top and a horizontal path takes me to lingy bothy, I stopped here when I walked the way last.... Chilly old bothy it was too! The path descends here running parallel with graingill beck and the new boots prove there worth gripping nicely to the steep hillside, passing the visible remains of a mine at the bottom the path turns to the south west along a fairly level valley to Skiddaw house youth hostel, where I stop for my lunch, the solitude is broken here as suddenly the valley is full of walkers! Nice bunch of people, but walkers generally are.
After lunch I set off directly south along the side of longscale fell briefly crossing another long walk, this being one of my own devising that I titled the Cumbrian roman ramble!  Linking up a lot of roman sights over a 150 mile trek.
Lonscale fell's path is on quite a sheer hillside where one slip to your left as you go could be your last, the paths good though and progress is quick now I've eaten, and I soon catch up with my lunch time visitors, a good chat as we went with me having my pace matched by an 82 year old!  If I'm half that fit when I'm that age I'll be pleased!
Down the side of latrigg a small hill to the south of Lonscale and I'm into Keswick and the Booths supermarket sees me fed and stocked up for tomorrow.
I head along the banks of Derwent water looking for a quiet pitch for the night, without luck. plenty of flat areas but all shale ground so no chance of putting the tent up. Picking up the road to Watendlath I soon find a place to sleep,with great views of Derwent water. Nice way to end the day :-).

Day-28 new boots!

The first English wild camp goes nicely undisturbed and I'm away just after seven again, a few twisty lanes and similar b roads and I meet back up with the river Eden looping it's way through Carlisle until the A7 crosses over on a rather grand bridge, then I dip under the major roundabout via the nicely decorated underpass and into the city centre, crossing paths with the locals rushing to work in both boiler and power suits I'm quite the odd sight, though this town appears to be one where I remain invisible.
A quick wander around and a find breakfast and wait until the local Cotswolds outdoor shop opens who quickly supply me with new boots(heels and grip both worn out) and a new pair of waterproof trousers which I'd split on a barbed wire fence...Thankfully just the trousers!
As I'm heading out of town I receive a text from Rachel at Accommodation Concern with some most amazing and exciting news! Which you'll have to wait until the day to hear about! (major teaser!).
This news completely throws me and I lose track of my direction (not unusual in a town) my gps soon puts me right and and I'm reunited with another old friend the Cumbria way! Not too sure when I walked this but u think around 2004. This great path heads very quickly out of town following the river Caldew, where I soon become visible to people again, all of a sudden now I'm in my expected surroundings people want to know about the walk! And cards with all the info are soon flying out my hands! It's never raised this much interest in any other place! :-)
Into Dalston and the level of interest is similar though cash donations start coming in!.
My spirits match the bright sunny weather as I leave town and I'm back following the Caldew, past the posh lime house school and then Rose castle, a bishops palace in the past.
The river continues to be followed with diversions to alow for the large amount of erosion that this now placid river seems to have caused, winters must cause a considerable increase in flow.
Into woods now and the path sharply heads up hill before levelling out and and then dropping into Caldbeck, cheeky pint and a pub meal and then I settle down for the night.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Day-27 new month, new country

The rest day obviously did me good as I'm up packed and away by 7.15am, along the still quiet streets of Annan to Tesco, provisions bought and away I go to the solway firth and my first sight of England!
Not only England but Bowness on.Solway as well, this place being special to me as it was the end of my Hadrians wall walk a couple of years ago.
Along the Firth I walk passing huge sections of netting on poles to catch salmon swimming in these waters.the path here is well signed and a pleasure to walk until it turns inland to Eastriggs, not my route I'm giving one last stretch of black dots the opportunity to prove to be the path the map indicates..... Fool! Within half a kilometer I'm scrambling through reed beds and gorse bushes! The best way through its to follow the line of the MOD fence although this has plenty of opportunities to trip you up, eventually rounding Torduff point the path becomes obvious again with many small paw prints, this side of the point is obviously a regular dog walk and the going becomes easy.
At Browhouses I head inland along country lanes turning this way and that until I enter Gretna, pleasant place, I soon reach the old toll house which is now a cafe right on the edge of Scotland as the name suggests. Fish and chips for lunch.... superb! At the back of the toll house is a cairn being erected by pro unionists called hands across the border! I place a stone here.
Then finally and a little emotionally I enter England! Following a B road beside the M6 for a few miles no less than six end to end cyclists pass me, one stops to chat this is his third end to end trip one on foot and now his second by cycle... Wonder if two will be enough for me?.
My round turns south west to Rockcliffe and I start to follow with absolute confidence those wonderful pink dotted or dashed paths marked on English maps. These do not let me down!. Past a place called Cargo and along the river Eden until I find a wild camp for the night just outside Carlisle....perfect for tomorrow's plans.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Sunday 31st August

Horizontal all day! Now that's a rest day!

Day-26 Fruits, ruins and new friends

Last nights pitching of the tent had been a soggy affair, by this morning after a rainy night in a pine forest the tent was bone dry, love the advantage of forestry camping!.
Following B roads under a clearing sky into Lockerbie I get the days provisions from a greggs bakery, have to love the two pound coffee and sausage and bacon roll deal! I certainly have done in the past and it's taken four weeks of walking to get rid of the resulting belly!.
Some towns I can walk through and get no end of interest from pedestrians, to Lockerbie I was an oddly smelling ghost! Not a flicker of an interaction, I suppose with the towns horrific history they have a reason, though I'd hoped they would have left that in the past... Time will heal.
Uphill at Hayrigg I met a lady in horse back who admired my quest, wishing she could do it on her horse, like me she mentioned the freedom to roam Scotland and also the sheer inability to actually get anywhere off road!.... Glad it's not just me!
Directly south still following the Annandale way, with its excellent signs! I'm foraging the hedgerows for the huge blackberries while watching the ever present Buzzards drifting overhead, heading off road at Glenholm I'm following farm tracks to the most amazing find of the walk so far, imagine an old Hall from a hammer house of horror movie, covererd in ivy right? Ruined? Well this one certainly is! Wide open to enter at your own risk.... To tempting not too!
The porch is huge big enough to accommodate a horse and carriage, impressive steps into the house, where all the floors and roof have collapsed and been cleared out, trees now take advance of the walls shelter showing how long this place has been decaying, on a sunny day like today it's incredibly peaceful here, and to see the most beautiful fireplace still fixed to wall and balconies now looking only onto a lost past its impossible to not get lost in my imagination!
Stepping away from here I'm lost in reverie, hard to imagine this overgrown land to have once been immaculate gardens! And the fields either side may once have been parkland as after half a kilometer I reach a road and the ruined gates to this house! From the map I can only guess the house was known as Milkbank after the river that I'm following.
Beautiful old lanes bordered by trees add to this halcyon feeling and passing the nearby Hoddom castle is really the cherry on top of the cake, to mix my metaphors!
Keeping with the river and it's fly fisherman I get to Brydekirk and swap banks catching up with a group of walkers (pic) from Liverpool rotary club! I Walk the last miles to Annan with these lovely folk, and will hopefully meet up with them in Liverpool!
FYI guys I should be there on the tenth of September! Fingers crossed we do meet up!

Friday, 29 August 2014

Day-25 Crossing an old friend

After last nights sunny views of the beef tub this mornings were a bit damp in comparison, but that's what non stop rain will do to you!
I got a bit lucky packing up in a dry spell, so getting off worked well, the Annandale way path cuts out a loop of road going up and over a soggy lump of hill, not a huge gain from dodging the traffic!. Straight off of the road again and down a long soggy (spot the theme here?) track into the valley, plenty of cows galloping up expecting to be fed... Sorry girls!
At the bottom of the valley I join a nice single track road that runs all the way into Moffat, one last was doing multiple school runs past me so lots of smiles and waving going on! I do like how strangers can bond like this! It's one of those little things that gets you through the day :-)
Into Moffat I stop at the right cafe for breakfast, not only does it say walkers welcome but there's a pic of two border terriers up as well!, got served by a pretty blonde girl who got way to much attention from an old Londoner who comes in every day... Think I see why! Lol
Provisions topped up and out of town passing various gothic buildings! Under the M74 and I meet an old friend/adversary!  the southern upland way! Distant memories of 2000 when I set out on what was then only my second long distance walk! How many miles I've walked since then!!!
Up hill and my brief filtration with the past is cut short as The Annandale way carries me away in a generally southern and definitely rainy direction! Keep having to check if I'm growing gills these days! Nothing fishy about me or the path or likely even in the murky Kinnel water river, up into Oldshields wood they are typing down the trees to stop disease in the Larches, so the usual forestry devastation is my surrounding until normal woodland swallows me, emerging onto a road I cross into normal farmland, it takes a while for it to sink in that I'm out of the southern uplands here, it's starting to feel English! With the beech trees thinning out and Oaks becoming more common, past a cow farm and the usual churned up fields, then east along a Lane, it's here I find today's curiosity two plastic chairs fixed to the fence called Nono's seat, complete with a visitors book and claims to have its own Facebook page!... I'll have to look it up.... I think?
South again and I'm into woodland called Speedlings flow and nearby Speedlings tower, but by this stage I'm just concentrating on finding a pitch, so into the woods and down for the night.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Day-24 following the Clyde

The first glance out the tent told me the weather had changed, no longer is the top of Tinto visible, this morning she is wearing a veil of clouds, moody and menacing!.. Tho no longer my problem!
Kit packed and away in quickly into Wiston and out again onto a rough farm track to the A73. A very quiet A road happily.
Through Roberton with a brief sit down in a bus shelter, carrying on past an old mound once occupied by a Roman Fortlet now occupied by trees and farm equipment.
A quick dodge east and over the Clyde then under a railway and I'm on what must have been the only road along the valley in the past, a tiny single track road, how things change!
By now rather dehydrated I go into Abington where I have a shop marked on the map, groceries bought and a hot chocolate from a machine being drunk as I sit outside on a picnic bench, along come two lejog cyclists a father and son team who are making up they're route as they go!
Nicely refreshed I head on to Crawford in bright sunshine once again the only person in this tiny road, a ruined castle is my first impression of Crawford followed by a ruined hotel and another shut for staff training, not my day for a good hot meal then! The high light of Crawford was a pet parrot who could imitate the sound of a bubble popping perfectly! 
Walking from Crawford the clouds gather and visibility diminishing with the onset of heavy rain i now have the company of the A74 (M) motorway to add to my displeasure! Not a pleasing companion! Especially for 8km!..head down and keep going time!.
Finally into woodland and the roar of the motorway recedes, along with the clouds, thankfully this gives the ground a chance to dry before I pitch the tent, I push an additional 7km further than planned, passing various signs saying 'no unauthorised access' I've become very adept at missing these signs in the last four weeks!. The extra push was so worth while, as with the sun still shining I reach 'the Devils beef tub' a great gouge out the land (pic) and for me the start of the Annandale way!..but that's for tomorrow.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Day-23 one for our Marion at work!

Knowing today was a short distance day I allowed myself another late start eventually getting away at eight am, traffic on the roads was pretty loud by this time but not heavy on the my route. Lots of B roads today once again under an unblemished blue sky :-), a gentle breeze took the edge off of any excess of heat so the walking was perfect! Twisting along a flattish valley by the river mouse water I reach Carstairs and all I can imagine is some cheesy second world war army chap complaining to a fellow called Carstairs..Think it may have been Terry Thomas?.
With no clarification to mind I wander through the sister village of Carstairs junction and on and over the Clyde, following this south I pass a pass Covington a village with claims about Robert Burns and also murdered covenanters! Today it has an ancient ruined tower and dovecote and not a lot else!
Thankerton the next village suffers a similar fate with both the pub and café having closed down! Glad I'd bought provisions at Carstairs.
Out the village and Tinto hill is my next aim, this has been in sight all day and seemed pretty imposing! With each step I'm thinking that this has to be the steepest hill/mountain I've climbed on this trek! Certainly made me puff! On one of the many rest stops I looked back north and I'm fairly certain I could see sterling castle! Three days earlier on my route! The panorama in general was huge with Glasgow visible, Falkirk, Forth, and various other places I couldn't name in sight, great to be able to relive my recent days.
Over Totherin hill and a push up to the top of Tinto,great 360 degree views from this second highest point on the walk at 2477 feet according to my gps..the plaque at the top claimed less but I think that was more accurate.
With my route heading over the top to continue south my path leads down an impressively steep slope must be over 50 degrees of decent, ankles and knees were complaint about this but at least with this angle the route downhill was short, with a bit of dithering at the bottom I find a sheltered spot for my tent and cook up dinner.... Chicken korma... Not bad for a little stove cooking!... Chats with home then sleep till Dawn.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Day-22 long haul!

Bit of a late start sees me negotiating tiny farm tracks and more elusive os map black dotted paths! These ones not too bad, after a longish drag uphill to Wester Shieldhill it's 9.30 and I'm really just starting this is where I push to finishing catching up with the first day I need to claw back from Alfies return home... Going to be a long one!
The whole of the rest of this mornings route is on road threading through curvaceous farm land, and rough boggy land with only the company of farm animals expecting feed and the chirp of flocks of birds to distract me, pleasant but fairly anonymous landscape after the mountains, by lunch i'm at Blackridge and the first food stop of the day and a chinwag with home.
A couple of kilometers and I'm in Harthill briefly then over Polkemmet moor with the tall slag heaps of past industry and new woodlands of the pasts replacement. Provisions purchased at Fauldhouse and the road south west takes me past more huge slag heaps, South East and over the A71 at Headless Cross who's name is far more exciting than the reality! Just a farm bearing the name.
Traffic dodging up to the top of Black Law hill and the impressive array of wind turbines in the picture at my count is 52!. Down hill to Forth for end of the day food and a further push of about 1km sees me past my planned stop and now only one day behind schedule. After a 20+ mile day I'm well happy! Obviously a big feed is needed now to maintain this then sleep :-)

Monday, 25 August 2014

Day-21 itchy feet

My planned half rest day got of to a good start with a lay in until 7.30 then a good fry up at the Yha, breakfast was shared with a group of cyclists heading to John O'groats aiming to raise money for the air ambulance service,a nice friendly bunch :-)
Having packed my pack before breakfast and with the sun shining the lure of using today to catch up with lost time was to great, so somewhat sensibly I wandered slowly off through Stirling old town admiring the architecture... A truly grand town!
Following my nose out of town and I'm in gently undulating farm land, with a far from gentle history, this is Bannockburn the site of a great Scottish victory against the English, though now from my position as I  wandered through it was impossible to tell if I'd not already known.
A slight rise took me into Cowie for lunch a massive portion of chicken and chips, Lovely! That's three good meals in a row now, I'm in danger of gaining some weight here!
Loaded up with provisions and out of town on a cycle track that eventually passes a castellated tower attached to more recent though ancient house.A few turns in the road and under the M9 and over the M876 and I find myself getting lost in a new housing development at Larbert, as always I only ever get lost in towns! Still a friendly bloke with his springer spaniel pointed me in the right direction before I'd gone to far wrong.
Now earlier in the day I'd received a message from radio Northampton who wanted to an update on the walk certainly with regards to Alfie having retired from the trek.. Nice to see they are reading the blog!. We had arranged a time to do the interview (2.10pm) and this coincided with me walking in Larberts suburbs so there I was sitting on someone's wall doing a radio interview as people walked past giving me weird looks! Odd!
Normality resumed and I'm wandering through the town, over the railway line that I'd travelled coming back from taking Alfie home. Feels a long time ago now!.
A few twists in the road bring me a sight I've wanted to see since the early days of planning my lejog in 2009, The Falkirk Wheel! What piece of engineering, transferring barges from one canal to another and using no more than 3kw (a domestic kettles equivalent) of electricity to achieve it! Pic
After a coffee break here I'm off and into Howierig woods to pitch the tent. This puts me just the kilometers behind where I wanted to be yesterday, this catch up plan seems to working I just have to keep the engines stoked!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Day-20 Who dares wins!

Away from my nights rest (!).... And relieving my unfulfilled stomach with snacks from a shop, I pick up a B road twice the size of most A roads in the north and far busier traffic didn't seem to expect walkers along here.What I didn't expect was the statue in the photo, a memorial for Sir David Stirling the man who founded the SAS! It's quite a memorial too,it lists all the men who have died in the service of this great brigade, a very grounding moment.
Back on the B road and I really know I'm out of the wild as the road joins a massive roundabout on the end of the M9 giving me a whole new set of concerns as I struggle to cross multiple dual carriageways that join here!, around and on the road to Bridge of Allan another victorian spa town with its posh coffee shops, I settle for a fizzy drink from Tesco!
From here my next target is in easy sight the impressive Wallace monument that towers above the valley perched on Abbey Craig,well worth the climb to the top though I'm puffing a bit.....Think I was trying to show off to the tourists! Hehe!,spectacular views back to the mountains as much as at the exquisite architecture!.
My crossing of the river forth was much less time consuming than its eastern equivalent in 2010! Hard to imagine it's the river that eventually forms the Firth of Forth!. 
Into Stirling now I head straight to the grand Yha building to start my 24 hour rest period. Night all

Day-19 karma at play

Walking into the campsite took me a kilometer off route last night, it also put me within a hundred yards of my route! The problem being ten meters of the river balgie blocking my route, chewing over this problem with Hugh a chap I'd met walking into the site with his wife last night, he gives the ideal solution with the use of his canoe!
So many thanks Hugh :-)
Once again the crossing water thing left me a bit pale...I'm told! Still well worth it, across some rough farmland and onto the cycle trail again, as ever running smooth and easy over the landscape with pleasing views of Loch Lubnaig in the morning sun (!) one view I certainly didn't expect was to meet a young lass walking from Callandar in her party frock and carrying two heavy looking handbags! Poor girl did look a bit tired to say the least! So passing on some rations was the least I could do! Think that glucose drink helped :-)
Continuing along to a place called Stank (it didn't) I met another lady who was accompanied by a border terrier called Leonard! Lovely to fuss one, though it did bring home how much I miss Alfie :-/
The trail goes through a holiday park and consequently a few people were around jogging, cycling etc.. Leaving the holidaymakers to their exercise and heading into sun dappled woods beside the river my company is back to the usual little birds I've still to identify! (note to me!!!)
With one step I'm out of the woods and utterly blown away by how flat the land had become! No mountains ahead gave me a very weird albeit relieved feeling, the pressure should be off now, the hard graft of mountain walking is done, at least until I'm back in England.
A chap with his dogs passes me and donates a fiver, thanks!.
One thing I'm noticing quickly is how further advanced the local flora is here, in the mountains and only a few miles back the rose bay willow herb is only just in flower, here it's in seed! A remarkably different climate. Into Calandar for lunch and a huge fried breakfast is devoured quickly! Provisions purchased and I'm on the road once more via a tiny B road to Buchany, plenty of black berries here to gorge on making a change from all the tiny raspberries I've been nibbling on for the last few weeks!
Onto the main A road to Doune and into the village where I get a room in a very sub standard B&B... I was going to slate them here but I'll refrain at least I got my battery pack charged up.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Day-18 yours truly!

Up early today with the morning sun and blue sky (Yes sun!) changing the world around me from yesterday's cloudy view, such a view too this area is beautiful, and one I'll return to one day to explore in comfort.
A quick wander into town and scarcrows are everywhere! Apparently it's scarcrow week.... Just like JP and I found around Jedburgh in 2010 though still no idea why it's done!
A few groceries from the co-op and meths from an outdoors shop (who showed absolutely no interest in the trek! Anyone else found this in outdoors shops?) leaving town to the south west a bridge crosses the Drochter falls stunning even to my water wearied eyes, kindly two cyclists took the pic of me by the water, nice to prove I exist! Lol
The path out of town and indeed all day is on a Sustrans cycle path so good easy going! Initially walking through woodland I'm startled out of a reverie by two cyclists. I never can hear them as they draw close!, this was a father daughter team who I kept catching up with! Not sure if they are dawdling or I'm quick today?
The track crosses the A85 which it's been following and joins an old railway track, nice smooth and level! This runs high over Glen Ogle and is busy with cyclists and walkers fit about 5km until Lochearnhead where I met a couple of ladies who donate five pounds to the charity... Thank you both.
The path soon leaves this bit of railway and drops down to a viaduct repaired in memory of a cyclist who died on the dread A9.
Pushing on for a late lunch at a hotel (as I'm still not eating enough!) I gobble down some beautifully cooked fish and chips! Perfect for the push into Strathyre and my stop at the local campsite. Night all :-)

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Day-17 fed and flying!

After yesterday's big feed up and rest I'm back to myself, though caution plays a big role at the start of today, so slowly I start walking out of the campsite and over a bridge that looked faintly nordic, then onto the main trail south and slightly west through Rannoch forest.
Following a ravine carved into the hill by Allt na Bogair (stream) uphill with steep drops into this impressive feature, made all the more so by the still constant rain and churning waters below.
Once out of the pleasant damp woods I'm walking amongst smoothly rounded hills etherically draped with wispy clouds and of course sheets of rain! This limits the view no end but I'm used to that here! Over the top of Lairig Ghallabhaich which with this title I assume this to be an old drove road which leads me down through more forestry commission wood's to Innerwick where I stop in the church porch to change maps without getting them soggy, glad I did as they proudly show off a bell here that's reputed to be 1200 years old, it certainly looks it.
With the weather improving I make a very welcome and unexpected find the Glenlyon post office and tea room!, hot tea and carrot cake on the solidly built wooden veranda was quickly shared with around ten cheeky chaffinches! A very amusing bunch!.
The weather holds on the way south up and out of the Glen all 7km of ascent on a steep smooth tarmac single track road (Alfie would have approved!) pretty waterfalls that I'd normally enjoy to my right and traffic coming from front and back, at one point a car pulls up next to me for a chat, heads of ten yards, stops then the driver gets out to give me some shortbread biscuits! Very nice :-)
Passing the shielings (livestock pens now no longer in evidence) that my original plan had been to stop at I head east with black clouds gathering over the rugged mountain ridges around me. Naturally and to form this meant more precipitation, straight down and heavy! Hey Ho!
With the road going south past lochan na Lairage with its forbidding dam looking like a grim granite castle, another car pulls over offering me a lift! Politely declined they gave me food instead!.... I must be looking really needy today!
With the dam receding in the distance and a stunning albeit cloudy mass of mountains ahead none of which I can name! I start the long decent into the valley of Loch Tay still getting rained on of course, passing a shepherd in just a fleece jacket I realise damp is the natural state for anyone in the hills hereabouts. I may be going local. The road along loch Tay is uneventful leading me to  High Creagan campsite charging £5 for the night and giving me a good finish time in fresh sunshine allowing me to dry last nights damp from the tent. Another great day! (quote JP)

Weds 20th the wall

Woke up tired, never a good start, but off I went, into Kinloch Rannoch to the shop, food for a day and a half purchased and a coffee for a boost.
Plodding out of town with loch Rannoch in all its beauty on my right I'm sitting back and enjoying the view, pace is at best ok. By ten I'd only clocked up three miles and I was exhausted. Looking at the food in my pack and the distance to walk at the pace I'm managing, well to say the least the numbers didn't add up!
So swallowing my pride and swearing at everything, while knowing I'm doing the right thing I turned around back to Kinloch Rannoch.
Which is where I am now making use of the WiFi in a cafe while eating a huge jacket spud with chilli the start of rebuilding my energy.
Point to note mobile coverage for O2 here is non existent and it seems that the WiFi in the cafe works along similar lines...... :-/
You know I said I'm stubborn? Well after getting in more provisions I wandered off again not to far I know I've got to rest, but far enough to know I won't be walking any track tomorrow that I'd walked today.
Had to get a positive start tomorrow ;-)

Day-16 sunshine again! Tues 19th

My first glance out of the tent was to a pure blue patch of sky! Think that was the only patch of blue as by the time I'd packed away the familiar grey was back!
Still the road goes on, and with a quick cup of garage coffee I march off south along the A9, this section has a good cycle track so no need for traffic dodging, just let the feet do  what they must and enjoy the view of the Drumochter pass, with its interestingly named mountains, Boar of Badenoch and The sow of Atholl amongst others!
Shortly before Dalnaspidal lodge I see more Balfour men at work using heavy machinery to break up the old pylons that I've seen laying in fields like old dinosaur skeletons since Strathpeffer. Turning south west at the lodge towards loch Garry I meet an old chap off fly fishing who donated £5 to the charity! and with this good fortune sunshine is also finally with me, and such timing! With sunlight twinkling on the loch it's a balm for my rain battered self! The loch is only about 4km long and about half way is building with plaque proclaiming the construction of the Garry tunnel....? Some research is required for this one as no tunnel is visible.
Passing a small waterfall, which in any other walk I'd have taken interest in, but I'm about done with cascading water for a bit! ;-). The track stops here and for once the black dotted line on the map corresponds with a visible path past Meall Doire, over a stream and a good track between two hills leads me through a herd of highland cattle and calf's, downhill the track splits with me heading south east as a heavy squall hits, quickly passing I met a game warden just off to pick up two fresh kills, at this point midges reappear after not being a problem since before Garve! That was a great break from them, but this is the Highlands and your never going to avoid them for long!.
Downhill and into tarmac I'm heading east to Kinloch Rannoch and upon the advice of the game warden the Mcdonald hotel... Extremely nice hotel just a bit out of my price range at £120 for the night! Still they did let me pitch at their marina.... Bit high class here innit! (mum!).
And that's where I'm writing this with a stunning view east along the loch towards the sharp peak of Schehallion, last seen on my trek north in 2010.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Day-15 Disney land.... Sort of!

After a warm nights sleep only disturbed by odd dreams which a psychologist would have had some fun explaining! I pack up for a late start of 8am with no concern as today is almost entirely valley walking albeit 19 miles of it.
The valley in question is the Spey valley famous for its whiskies (a pure accident of planning this ;-)..) this morning finds it raining again but lightly and with a milky mix of sunlight that does improve during the day, noticeably as I make tired but good progress to Garva bridge, during a quick sit down a convoy headed past back up the valley, the middle vehicle had blackened windows, I wonder which Toff/Mp/celebrity was off out for a shoot? I'll never know but they were all chuckling at my disheveled self! Which I can understand after my time on the trail.. I just smiled back.
Further on I met a chap by a dammed section of the Spey who was in charge of controlling the depth of this man made and unnamed loch, he looked a little shocked when I said I'd crossed the Corrie Yairack pass the day before...the locals have more sense I guess! Passing the dam I pick up another section of General wades road nice to be on agricultural land for a bit, passing highland cattle one of which posed beautifully for me (pic to follow).
Passing the ruin of Laggan church and what should have been a hotel.... Blowing my chance of a beer!.... I progress to posh cafe at Middleton to be accurate the cafe is Middleton no idea why every remote building on os maps in Scotland have names? But they do.
A much needed cappuccino later and cake of course, I carry on along the A889 traffic dodging on this almost single track A road for about 9km to Dalwhinnie, with great views of the cairngorm mountains to the east some of which still have pockets of snow visible, wonder if the Lairig Ghru has? Fond memoirs of my south to North walk come back to me.
A final loop of road and I'm in Dalwhinnie, curiously my feet walk me straight into the distillery! ;-)
A quick look around my version of Disney land and I head off with a small medicinal bottle for my pack!
Things go slightly awry here as I was hoping to get a room at the hotel to scrub up a bit.... Closed for renovation..... There was a cafe still open in the building so a quick burger and chips and a chat to the owner, who kindly allowed me to camp in the grounds for free... Good man!
And with this nice early finish at 4.30 and already fed I'm playing catch up with some needed rest!

Day-14 cheers Balfour Beatty!

After a long rainy night I get lucky while packing with a break in the rain! Away along the old military road to Allt Phocaichain (a stream) for the first of today's obstructions! Naturally overflowing with rain water I go through the now familiar process of beating my phobia of crossing fast running water by tentatively paddling across and filling my boots, as ever! Sloshing off over the top of the hill via the power line construction road passing all the usual no access signs! Tough I'm going this way!. Leaving the road to continue on the old military road into fort Augustus tiny town heaving with trekkers going this way and that.. All looking wet!, entering the first cafe I see I order a full breakfast... So needed today!
Then stocking up on provisions to keep me going for three day's making my pack bleeding heavy but that's unavoidable.
The trail for the Corrie Yairack pass is nicely marked, so uphill I go... Naturally in the rain, it's a long old slog up the first hill on a twisting and undulating track, feeling the weight of both my pack and my breakfast at this point! After a few kilometers I find Blackburn bothy right next to another overflowing stream that's about a foot deep in the track... Soggy feet once again!
The track continues past the fork in the valley to Glen Tarff and into the luxury of a bridge over the raging torrents of Allt Coire Uchdachan, the road now pushes steeply uphill for about 3km passing an old battered bothy where I rung my socks out, feet warmer now I continue up the hill still following the power line construction track though that now lies below me, into the clouds and the top foggily shows itself. This is the highest point on the trek and according to my gps tops out at 2700 feet (pic).
Finally downhill into the Corrie that gives the pass it's name, a great scoop of a valley, but that just means trouble in these conditions and so it proved with no end of streams /river's forging across the path, all sort of passable though occasionally risky.
With the corrie disappearing in the distance my path levels out as we head into the valley, then big trouble strikes, the Ford on the map is huge! No way I can cross this and the ruin of an ancient bridge to my right just rubs salt in the wound! Thinking about my surroundings the works on the power line bring an obvious solution to my trouble with the works track that's up the hill from me, bit of a scramble to reach it but the bridge over the torrent makes my day! Hence the title of this blog - it's also a bit of an apology to Balfour for all the ranting I've been doing about their health and safety signs doting the hillside today ;-)
Back downhill and on track we reach a little of nirvana in the shape of the Melgarve bothy. Tonight I'm sleeping on a warm albeit manky sofa in my toasty sleeping bag! Result.... Also my kit is hanging up and drying out.... Couldn't ask for more after today :-)

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Day-13 solo

Over sleeping after all the travelling, I wake up at 7.15, requiring a scramble to get everything packed away. I still managed after breakfast to be on the road by 8.30  so not too bad a start, first off I (weird not writing we!) stop at the shop in Cannich that's run by aussies (nice folk) and get the provisions topped up and had a good chin wag.
Then off down the road past yet another hydro electric dam! This one at an area called Fasnakyle, it's a great monolith of a building with random carvings of cows bears and a dragon or wyvern.... Wouldn't have looked out of place in Orwell's 1984!.
Over the great rocky channel of the river glass and on into the conservation village of Tomich with its quaint post office and imposing victorian water fountain.
Through an avenue of trees and then double back slightly to pick up the forestry commotion track up through the silver Birch woods, always a joy this but today I'm treated with a rainbow below me refracting from the sun behind me into the mists in the valley below, I can't think of a time I've looked down into a rainbow! With a little cheesy singing to myself I continue up and out of the woods and back into moor country, heading up to loch na Beinne Baine in increasing rain though still with some great mountain views (pic), I find a rather battered old bothy perfect timing for a dry lunch out of the rain!.
Fully fed I step out into improving weather and further great mountain vista to the west,I reach the highest point on the trail and look down on the valley of Invermoriston. At this point is convenient to mention the power lines that we've been following pretty much since Beauly an upgrade to the existing to a whopping 50kv line! Though here it looks unsightly and with the massive trail that was built for its construction it's a sad scar on the mountain behind and ahead of me, though the track does make my progress quick.
Descending rapidly the track heads Straight,but the old path leads east admittedly in the wrong direction but so much nicer to follow! Finding a path directly down hill through more Birch woods I stop for a breather on a very comfy rock with such a peaceful surrounding I could have easily dozed off! But with some miles yet to do I resisted.
Reaching the road in the valley I head over the river Moriston and pick up a trail heading diagonally up hill through the woods. This is until I reach an old General Wade road that's going to take me all the way to Fort Augustus tomorrow, tonight it just takes me past huge wood ant hills bustling with busy ants, further along and away from my industrious little friends I reach my planned stop for tonight, still in the woods but getting a nice 5pm finish is perfect, so the usual process of tent up, cook pasta do the blog and chill out starts for another evening.

Friday, 15 August 2014


Well after 33 hours 18 of which were spent on trains I'm back at Cannich!
The last half hour in a taxi with a great driver named John Foy, who got me back in time to get a good kip before starting off on the trail again tomorrow.
Must admit I'm a bit too tired to string much of a blog together tonight but suffice to say it's going to be a very different walk without my stalwart companion!
Here's hoping this still works!

Happy hound!

A little update on Alfie, he's now home and enjoying lot's of sofa time! A few days off the trail and he's back to himself, the precaution of bringing him home before he gets hurt has paid off for him :-).
For me it's back on the train this morning for a another 10 hours trip!
The walk must go on!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Paws for thought

We're having to implement Alfie rescue!
His paw is getting no better sadly So the walk is on hold for a few days while I take him home.we're catching a return train from Inverness, with luck I'll get back to Cannich tomorrow or thereabouts, this way with an unnecessary rest day ahead we should only lose one days walking..... Fingers crossed

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Day-12 surpassed ourselves!

Waking in our wild camp it seems we've used the local dog walking woods! Happily clean woods!
Moving we enter the loose collection of homes called Dunmore with a few hellos as we go.. Always nice that!,  the twisting road carries us as we plod tiredly this morning, down eventually to a renovated chapel that is now the Kilmorack gallery we didn't enter but had look at a very tactile looking sea otter statue and a huge lizard fixed to the side of the building!
Passing over a bridge there's another hydro electric dam that blocks the river Beauly,onwards we plod slowly up and over a gentle hill really not on form this morning! This pleasant little road takes us to Hughton were we take a cheeky use of the bench in bus shelter for a quick break and jelly baby sugar fix!
This seems to help as we follow a very level road along the valley heading upstream with the Beauly river on our right, making a lot better time now we eventually stop for lunch with a view to the grave in the image! And there was me thinking Bambi was a cartoon character ;-)
Keeping level the path finally meets up with my planned route again at the beginning of Strath (valley?)Glass now this valley/Strath is really beautiful! And the road still so very level! With Mountains either side and gentle pasture on the valley floor with the river meandering along  its idyllic by 4.30 we'd reached my estimated end of day and decided to push on, by quarter to six we'd reached Cannich.... Which miraculously is the planned end of day! Not sure how we made all that distance up after yesterday's diversion but we have, that little dog rocks!!!

Day-11 Road blocks!

My A really nice night in the hotel with all the mod cons was great! everything is packed away and dry again and Bertha is finally going on her way!
One downside to hotel living is you never get away early so with a full stomach I head out at 9.30 with an hour and a half to make up, out of the pretty village of garve and into the woods again, first stop was to pick up a food and fuel cache that I'd hidden on the drive north, timing of this was perfect with my fuel for the stove low and down to one more use!
The trail takes us along the north east bank of Loch garve where the track is on a steep wooded hillside, Bertha had one last surprise for us (see pic) where her flood water had washed away the the track! After a few tentative checks of the depth and with dog under one arm and my walking pole for balance.we wade out, the strong flowing water made finding a footing treacherous, since the road surface was washed away and we were stumbling across hidden boulders, but make it across we did with boots full of water!
A familiar feeling squelching off again but the going underfoot was now easy, the track took us under a railway line and over a hill still in silver Birch woods towards Strathpeffer, a tiny loch just before town had a crannog in the middle (man made island!) not sure if I've seen one before? Still it was lunch and my stomach was calling again, and finding a reasonably priced steak baguette was just the job!
With provisions bought we headed back out of town the way we'd come to a hamlet called James town where passing a ruined church we find that the path marked on the map no longer exists! @#(§!!!!!!!
Finding a road route puts us further behind but gets us back on track and over the Moy bridge that crosses the river swollen river Conon.
Up into the woods and passed a comical robot letter box decked out in the pro independence 'yes campaign' stickers and flag (pic will follow). On to Aultgowrie and quick check of the river Allt Goibhre proves my suspicions of a further road block ahead to be very likely (we need to cross this river in the hills!).
So route change was in order taking us off the map and east towards conon bridge, turning south a few miles before town we aim for another 'path' that barely exists! (so many whinges could be put here!) onwards and around a hill with views of the Beuly firth and distant Inverness and the Kessock bridge we eventually find a pitch in woods for the night.
Though we now have about five extra miles to go and playing catch up with the plan will be a long term game.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Day-10 Bertha shows us!

What a night! fighting to keep dry, keep the tent from blowing away and trying to sleep... Didn't get much of the last plenty of the other two!
Hurricane Bertha was really putting us to the test, extremely heavy rain and winds up to 100 miles an hour made this a trip into survival not just an adventure, but stubborn gets me through most stuff, and this was something I can do, so packing everything away wet was not just optional, off the hill and finding a safe place to relaunch the trek was the order of the day, although not easily done in the high winds we did get away with some kind of order, just walking now proves difficult the wind behind isn't so bad you just lean back into it and keep going, where the track led across the flow of the wind is where It gets hard throwing you around and threatening to throw you on the floor at any moment.
Like this we pass loch Vaich where the mountains to either side are white with water gushing down into the valley and so on to flood the lower parts of the Glen. At Strathvaich lodge the river is swollen and churning white/brown where it hasn't already broken it's banks, splashing through this until black bridge where Bertha finally kicks us out the valley.
A bit of road walking past an old hotel and into forestry commission wood's soggy but under cover from the wind, a few miles of this till lunch where we shelter under a tree perched on a dry but uncomfortable rock while I heat some noodles and give Alfie ham and other treats.
From here we leave the woods aiming for Garve which we reach in his time and get a room at the hotel here, the room is soon converted into a drying room with my entire kit splayed around the room! At least we'll be starting in good order again tomorrow.

Day-9 positive pictures only!

Title will become obvious.....
Woke up to the most beautiful day, not a cloud in sight! Sunlight on the mountains around us and on the road as we headed along Strath Carron, butterflies skitting around and wrens hoping from post to post!
Great views of the rocky river Carron the photo was taken from a rusty old bridge near a building marked on the map as a school.
Waking into the woods of Amat where red squirrels live allegedly... None about, the sky clouds over pleasant still, up and around a hill for Dinner with a view from the track down Glean Mor. A really nice view point!, then we head down and it starts going wrong! The grey clouds have started to shower us, (probably needed!). Walking along a section marked in gaelic 'Abhain a Ghlinne Mhor' I translate this with zero knowledge of gaelic to mean 'abandoned hope! midges moor' and boy was it! Normally if you stop for a rest they attack, not here tho this breed hang around in gangs mugging you as you walk along!, even in the rain the persistent b@$t@rds!!!!!! Think they annoyed me!
Eventually the rain increased to such a level they dispersed, across the bridge at Deanich lodge and a quick break inside the generator house of said lodge (they have no mains connection) to avoid the deluge which didn't have the grace to stop! We pushed soggily on past Meall Chorainn (cor rain?  pretty accurate!) a great lump of a hill to descend in increasing weather towards loch Vaich where we gave up trying to find a good pitch and have curled up still soggy but fed for the night.
Hours later it's still raining and windy think this must be the promised tail end of hurricane Bertha
Well she knows what she can do!!! ;-)