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End to End in Bits A story of a walk from Lands End to John O'Groats By John Drake


First published in 2011 by Alewords PR 58 Elmete hill Leeds LS8 2NT

©John Drake 2011 All Rights reserved. No part of this book may be produced, stored or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the permission of the publishers. The right of John Drake to be identified a the author of this has been asserted by him in accordance with Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. ISBN 0 9519047 6 0 Published on behalf of John Drake by:ALEWORDS PR Leeds England 2

This book is dedicated to Sue Life of my Life Love of my Love Heart of my Heart


Acknowledgements To my long suffering wife Susan (Sue) for putting up with a mad man for so long. Then all the other walkers who have accompanied me on the various stages of this walk, and not forgetting the ever present back up crews who made the tedious road walking bearable. A special thank you Fr Alan Taylor(>) who drove me all the way to Lands End, only for me to fail six days later in my attempt to walk all the way to John 'O'Groats.

(>) In the high Anglican church Fr is a title, which shows a sign of respect and endearment. 4

Prologue It was never my intention to walk from Lands End to John O'Groats in bits. That was forced upon me by circumstances, in so far as, as I got older my body started to fall apart and I developed arthritis in my knees. Not badly, but badly enough to cause quite severe pain on occasions. One of these occasions was 14th May 2005 when I set off from Lands End on my own to walk all the way to John O'Groats in 45 days. Five walking days later I limped into Okehampton with severe pain in my left knee and the walk was over. It was no use trying to continue for another 40 days with that kind of pain, and the little sod sitting on my left shoulder getting at me all the time (more about him later). So after a quick telephone call to Leeds and a car drive to Exeter the next day, I arrived in Cardiff by train and met up with brothers David, Simon and Paul plus John Browell, David's godson, who were all down for the cup final. After the match and a night on the town, I arrived back in Leeds on Sunday 20th May to a not so glorious home coming Everyone was very kind and sympathetic and most of my sponsors paid up to my charity 'Christian Aid' who were celebrating their 60th anniversary that year, and I raised just short of £5000. But, I hadn't done it, I had set myself a challenge and I had 5

failed. The only person you can't fool is yourself, no matter how hard I tried to rationalise the pros and cons of the situation I had failed. For me that was the hardest thing to bear, to the best of my knowledge I had never set myself a target and failed, but now I had. What was worse I now knew that if I tried to do the whole thing again, I would surely fail again. Sue, the ever practical one, came up with the answer 'why not do it in bits, if you can't do it in one go, do small sections at a time'. It was second best but at least it was not giving up on the project. Sue bless her cotton socks even volunteered to walk with me, even though she had given up long distant walking 4 years ago and was not to put it mildly 'in peak physical condition'. Then I had an idea, why not connect up all the other sponsored walks we had done in the past and see what 'bits' were left to walk?


The Bits (or put another way-The Chapters) 1/ Lands End to Okehampton May 2005:- The original starting walk of the End to End- approx. 105 miles 2/ Okehampton to Frome September 2007:- A walk by myself of about 96 miles, it being the first bit to connect Okehampton to Windsor; actually the second of the bits (notice the date of the third bit). 3/ Frome to Windsor June 2007:- A walk that Sue and I did, distance 107 miles, the second bit to connect Okehampton to Windsor. (the 1st bit by date) 4/ Windsor to Datchet:- Sue & I have walked this several times on visits to Windsor Castle to see Fr. John White an old St Aidan's Curate, 3 miles 5/ Canterbury to York via Datchet & Selby August 1999:- A sponsored pilgrimage*, a distance from Datchet to Selby of approx 190 miles 6/ Selby to Leeds:- This walk we have done twice, once in each direction. The 1st was in August 2001 on the Minsters Abbeys & Priories (MAP) sponsored pilgrimage, when we walked from Leeds to Selby. The 2nd time was in August 2003 on the Walking the Walsingham Way (WWW) sponsored pilgrimage, but this time we walked from Selby to Leeds. 7/ Leeds to Lindisfarne August 1994:- The very 1st of my sponsored Pilgrimages, to mark the centenary of St Aidan's Church Leeds, distance 187 miles 8/ Iona to Lindisfarne via Tyndrum August 1996:- A sponsored


pilgrimage, the distance from Tyndrum to Lindisfarne of approximately 183 miles 9/ Tyndrum to Inverness May 2008:- A pleasant walk along with brother Paul & nephew George, back-up from brother David & Irene his wife. Distance 104 miles. 10/ Inverness to John O'Groats September 2008:-The last hard slog of 126 miles walking by myself. 11/ John O'Groats to Duncansby Head July 2005:-A gentle stroll of 2.5 miles or so. (I will explain this walk in the chapter) You will by now have noticed that the bits are, in terms of dates, all over the shop, but that's just how the cookie crumbled or the dice fell. The extra bits to connect the walks together are therefore:Okehampton to Frome September 2007. Frome to Windsor June 2007. Tyndrum to Inverness May 2008. Inverness to John O'Groats September 2008. John O'Groats to Duncansby Head July 1st 2005

*A sponsored pilgrimage is exactly the same walking as an ordinary sponsored walk, except there is a religious element to the walk.


Chapter 1 Lands End to Okehampton I originally intended to get down to Penzance on Saturday the 13th of May 2005, and start to walk from Lands End to Penzance on the Sunday a short distance of only 12.5 miles. The real walking would then start on the Monday the 15th. But after all the preparation and arranging the accommodation, the first 8 days of which had been organised by the South Western Branches of the Lions, (By Bernard Whitaker an old St Aidan's man was one of the local Chairmen for the Lions), the rest being with local clergy or parishioners, our Vicar Fr. Alan stepped in and volunteered to drive me to Lands End. However he could not do it on the Saturday as he had to be back in Leeds on the Sunday. So we drove down to Penzance on the Friday and Fr. Alan bade me Bonn Voyage at Lands End on the Saturday morning before driving all the way back to Leeds. Day 1 Lands End to Penzance After breakfast Fr. Alan drove me to Lands End, which turned out to be quite a large tourist attraction, with a special event display of Dr Who sets and models. On signing in at the ticket office, I enquired if there were any other people walking the route to be told that a 70 year old Australian man had set off on Thursday. I was heartened and somewhat humbled to think that there 9

were people even older and madder than me in the world who where prepared to walk the walk.

After the obligatory photograph by THE signpost I set off in rain, hoping against hope that this would not be a omen for the rest of the trip. I was later told by Fr. Alan that he felt really 10

bad about leaving me in the rain with no back up crew. The 12 miles or so passed surprisingly quickly, the rain having stopped after an hour, and by 1.30pm I was back in Penzance at another guest house for the next 2 nights; I had to book the 1st night with Fr. Alan at another B&B because my original Guest House only had a single room for the Friday night. I did a quick calculation regarding my walking speed, and it turned out that I walked at just under 4 miles an hour, so I was feeling pretty good with myself. The rest of Saturday and the Sunday (no walking because of the extra day) passed very slowly, Penzance I have to say is not very exciting. Monday couldn't arrive too quickly for me, and so after breakfast I was off. Day 2 Penzance to Camborne The walking today up to midday was on the main A30, so there isn't a lot to write about. Just before noon I went off the A30 and into the town of Hayle, and walked along side what appeared to be a large lake but it is in fact the sea estuary from the River Hayle. The town itself is quite unremarkable, apart from the very large railway viaduct slap bang in the middle, which dominants the place. I sat down on a grassed area in a car park by the side of the estuary and had my lunch. On the way out of the car park I was stopped by a woman who was walking to her car and asked what I was was doing, she had being drawn to me by my weird garb. At this point I should like to say that I do not consider a man in his fifties, in short hiking socks, shorts, a fluorescent tabard, a T-shirt on which 11

are 2 maps, one Lands End and the other John O'Groats and with the words John O'Groats or bust, topped off with an Australian bush hat to be weird, but some people must have done? After a short conversation during which I explained all, she proffered a small donation towards the cause, this unsolicited offering set me off for the afternoons walk with a spring in my step. A short walk out of Hayle brought me back to the A30, not to walk on it but to cross over a roundabout and on to a B road to Camborne via Connor Down and Treswithian. Nothing much to report about the afternoons walking except that the weather was set fair, sunny but not too hot. I arrived in Camborne railway station at about 3.00pm. I retired to a local hostelry for a pint, and then made a pre-arranged 4.00pm telephone call to my host for the night My host Bill Hewitt the Chair of the Local Lions International (my hosts as I have explained for the next few nights were all the members of the local branches of the 'Lions'), picked me up at Camborne and took me to his home between Camborne and Reduth, where a very pleasant evening was spent, with food, wine and conversation: well at least I did a lot of talking and I am sure other people got a word in every now and again. And so to bed. Day 3 Camborne to Mitchell Bill drove me back to Camborne railway station where I said 12

goodbye but not farewell as I would be staying at his house again that evening. The walking was easy to start with as I made my way in good weather through the rest of Camborne and a series of small villages before arriving at a roundabout just before Redruth. I could have taken the by-pass or gone through the town, but the by-pass was longer, so through the town it was. What a mistake to make! The whole of Redruth appears to be built on a huge hill, so it was up and up for about ½ a mile then down and down again. The town itself was quite pretty, but like most towns nowadays it's been spoilt by new developments on the outskirts. At a tiny place called Scorrier I rejoined the ubiquitous A30 for most of the rest of the day. After lunch and still walking the A30, I spot a walker about ½ a mile in front of me, the stature suggested a man, and he is walking very slowly and deliberately. I am at this point walking at about 3.75 miles an hour, so I soon caught him up. It's the 70 year old Australian I think to myself, but as I and he stop for a chat it is obvious to me he is not an Aussie although he appears to be a similar age (70). Not being backward in coming forward I ask- he is in fact a South African and yes, he is walking Lands End to John O'Groats. It is also obvious to me that he may be older than me but he is considerable less experienced at walking in the UK than I . For a start his map for the route was a 4 mile to the inch road map(!) which for a walker is next to useless, and he seemed to be carrying a rucksack with all his worldly possessions in it and dressed in full wet weather gear, even though it had been 13

very pleasant all day. There was sweat pouring from every orifice and he looked knackered. I quickly offered him a cup of tea from my flask, as he didn't as far as I could see have any water! After some more talking it became clear that he needed some advice. He was in no hurry to finish the walk, as like me he was retired, but unlike me he had no near family to fall back on in an emergency. So I gave him advice on clothing and also advised him to do short sections each day (which he said he was doing already), and to break every 2 or 3 days at largish town. I said if he took this advice then he could reduce his rucksack weight by sending packs of cloths etc. by train or post to the next stopover destination, to be picked up when he got there. I also suggested he get a series of better maps if possible. He thanked me for my help and we parted (I often wonder if he made it-perhaps I should have got contact details?) My walking for the day finished about 4 miles further on in the little village of Mitchell, where I was picked up by a another member of the Camborne & Redruth Lions and taken back to his house in the very pretty village of Tresean near the North coast of Cornwall. On arrival at his house we had tea & biscuits in the garden overlooking an old prisoner of war camp (Italians I think) called Penhale Camp. After dinner of a very nourishing stew I recall, it was back to Redruth for the monthly meeting of The Camborne & Redruth Lions committee. As a guest I was allowed to sit in, as long as I addressed the meeting with a brief account of my walk. On a 14

point of interest, a source of income for the 'Lions' appears to be a sort of 'swear box' which is passed around if there is any breach of etiquette at the meeting. It raised a few pounds that night! After the meeting and a few drinks in the bar, the meeting having been held in an hotel managed by one of the committee, it was back to Bill's for some Zzzzz. Day 4 Mitchell to Bodmin The next morning Bill drove me back to Mitchell, where we parted for the last time. He wished me luck and I marched off in the direction of Bodmin, my resting place for tonight. There was nothing much to write about on the walk that day, except that at about 2.00pm I noticed a pain in my left knee, not in itself unusual, but it was there. I was due to be picked up at a petrol station about 3 miles the other side of Bodmin, and as the A30 did a huge loop to bypass the town, I decided to walk through the centre. This in hindsight may have been a mistake, because like Redruth, Bodmin is built on a large hill, in fact there is a high point called The Beacon at 532ft. It may not sound much but it was a big hill to climb, and I suspect that the reason the A30 did such a huge loop to the South of Bodmin was to get around the hill? Anyway, all things considered the walk through Bodmin was pleasant enough, and I was soon at the meeting point. However the petrol station was on the other side of dual carriageway and there was a strip of land with quite dense vegetation in between me and it. So I had to walk an extra ¼ of a mile to get around said vegetation, and, at the end of the day you can do without 15

detours. My accommodation that night was to have been at the home of a Bodmin Lions member, but there was a problem and I finished up in a very nice B&B owned by yet another Lions member. Later I was picked up by the Chair of the Bodmin Lions and taken to a pub for dinner, the name of the pub reminded me of the Beatles so I think it was called the Cavern, but I am not sure. Over a welcome pint the Chairman (no recollection of his name) spied a friend at the bar and to cut a long story short the friend was a journalist for the local paper and I gave an account of my journey and plans etc. I had my picture taken with the Chairman and I understand that it all appeared in the next edition (so there, fame at last). After the meal and the excitement it was back to the B&B and bed. Day 5 Bodmin to Launceston At breakfast I got into conversation with a couple who were very interested in my exploits, as they themselves were doing the Lands End to John O'Groats walk. They were doing it in a very unusual way, in so far as they were from London and they had come the previous day to Bodmin and were to walk for 2 or 3 days to Okehampton, then go back to London for a week or so then come back to Okehampton to re-start the walk again. They reckoned the whole walk would take them about 3 years to complete. At this stage I would point out that both of them were in their eighties: 16

now that really does make you feel humble. For information purposes Launceston is pronounced Larnston and with a Cornish accent of course (have a go!) A quick trip back to the petrol station and a farewell to the Chair of The Bodmin Lions (sorry again for not remembering your name). I was on my way to Larnston and it was to be all A30 walking except the last bit into Launceston itself. So nothing to write home about in terms of the walking, the exception being the thunder storm and torrential rain at lunch time, just as I had walked past the Jamaica Inn (of Daphne Du Maurier fame). This coincided with the resurfacing of my left knee pain! I had arranged to meet the Chair of the Launceston Lions at the White Hart Hotel which was to be my bed for the night, courtesy of its owner Mr Alan Squire, another Lions member. I duly arrived at the White Hart but a little before my arranged time, so into the bar for a refreshing pint! The Chair of the Lions, Mr Tom Stoneworth, and the Secretary Mrs Christine Rowe arrived to meet me only to find me ensconced in the bar talking to a fellow End to Ender. There will be more later about Mr Peter Samson, from London (again) although he was originally Australian. After being escorted to my room by the welcome party, and being told I could order anything I required from the Hotels restaurant that evening and a full breakfast, my hosts departed with my thanks ringing aloud in their ears. After a refreshing shower and some pain killers for my knee, which I must admit for the first time was concerning me, I went back down to the bar to meet up with Peter Samson again. 17

Here I made a huge faux-pas. Having been told that a 70 year old Australian had set off just before me, and having only met the South African on the way, I assumed that Peter was the 70 year old Aussie, because he had grey/white hair and was balding, and could pass as a very young 70 year old. Oops, what a mistake to make! I mentioned this to Peter who was not at all pleased because, although he was originally Australian, he was in fact only 51 and 4 years my junior. After a bit of flattery (actually quite a lot), I managed to gloss over my mistake, I think! It must have worked because we arranged to meet again in the Bar/Restaurant for our evening meal, and we spent a couple of hours comparing notes. Peter was being helped on his way by the 'Rotarians' and was planning to do the walk in about 2 months all told. Anyway after a few more pints in the bar I retired to bed. Day 6 Launceston to Okehampton The next morning I met up with Peter again in the breakfast room, which is actually the bar, and after breakfast we said our farewells, and off I went. Once out of the town I arrived back at the A30, but not before walking over a very pretty bridge which turned out to cross the River Tamar and was the border between Cornwall and Devon. Things started to go down hill fast from the start! After walking for only 3 miles the pain in my left knee started up with a vengeance and by lunch time I was in agony. Here I will 18

mention the little sod on my left shoulder. I am sure you will have seen in the cinema and on TV, the cartoons depicting a Devil sitting on the characters left shoulder telling him to do bad things, and equally the Angel on the right shoulder telling the character to do the good thing. Well by lunchtime the little sod (Devil) on my left shoulder was having a field day, what was I doing the walk for ?, your too old! and too knackered!, why don't you stop now? and lots of other negative thoughts. By the time I reached Okehampton, having taken nearly 2 hours to walk the last mile and a half, I was mentally shot to pieces. Making my own way to the home of my host, I was half way up a short hill to the house, and was overtaken by said host driving a JCB digger. Ross Campbell is a self-employed ground works contractor, digging out foundations for new buildings. Not surprisingly Ross got to the house before me and welcomed me to his home; a home that he had built himself from scratch. It was really quite magnificent. He took me downstairs into what he called the day room, a large room in the basement overlooking the garden, where I met the rest of the family. The house is built on a slope, so the front door lets you in at street level and the basement back door lets you onto the lower back garden. Everyone was so friendly and kind, and here I must admit my depleted mental state got the better of me and I burst into tears. I explained the state of my knee and the fact that I couldn't continue, and they there and then said that I could stay as long as I needed to get my knee better: so very kind, but a complete none starter. All my other hosts were lined up for specific dates and to try re-arrange everything when I didn't even know when the knee 19

would be better** was too much to ask. So, after a phone call to Sue to explain the problem, and another phone call from Sue to say that on telling my other brothers of the situation, they had informed her that three of them were to be in Cardiff the next day for the FA Cup final, and if I could make my way there I could get a lift home. Next morning saw Ross driving me to Exeter, where by good fortune he had a meeting of the 'Lions'. I caught a train to Bristol, then a connecting service to Cardiff and by 12 noon I was phoning the brothers to find out the directions for the flat they had hired for the night (which they got so they could have a night on the tiles as well as the Cup final). I got little sympathy from my brothers, who all thought I was completely mad to attempt the walk on my own in the first place, that's not to say they weren't concerned by my knee, But? The rest of the day was spent having quality time with the brothers, apart from the time they were actually at the match. I remember a lots of beer and an Indian meal but little else. The next day (Sunday) was the long drive home! Back to the real world, every one was very kind and 95% of my sponsors paid up to my charity, so it was not a complete waste. **It was a good job I didn't take up the offer to stay on at Ross Campbell's, as the left knee was diagnosed with osteoarthritis the same as my right knee and was very painful for nearly a month.


Chapter two Okehampton to Frome This is the second section of the connecting bits starting on the 1st September 2007, the first connecting section from Frome to Windsor was finished in June of the same year. The trip down I caught the 3.15pm plane from Leeds & Bradford Airport to Exeter on Sunday intending to start the next day at Okehampton. My place for the night was 'The Braeside Guest House' which was advertised as a English Tourist Board 3*. But I would have to say that the ETB must be very lax in giving out 3*'s as I not am sure that any Guest House with only one small shower room (and that with no room to actually get undressed in), for all the 10 rooms should qualify as 3 *? For the evening meal I was recommended to go to a certain Indian restaurant, who promptly turned me away because I would be dining on my own at a double table! But I did find another Indian which wasn't quite so fussy. Day 1- Okehampton to Exeter After breakfast which was very nice, I was off to the bus station to catch the 9.35 am bus to Okehampton. I found a spot on Okehampton High Street that I knew I had reached on the end of my abortive attempt at the End to End in 2005, and set off with a certain amount of trepidation, because this would be the 1st time I had walked on my own since then! 21

After only 5 minutes of walking the excitement started, I passed the bus that had brought me to Okehampton broken down on the steep hill out of of the town. Luck it appeared was with me, it could have broken down on the way in! I had made the decision not to walk on the A30 this time, but use the minor roads which happens to run pretty much parallel to the A30 anyway. So the morning and early afternoon saw me walking through such places as Sticklepath, South Zeal, Whiddon Down, Crockernwell before arriving at Cheriton Bishop for lunch. Lunch was taken at a rather posh bistro style pub, the sandwiches were expensive at £4.95 but extremely tasty, served with a posh salad, designer crisps and a balsamic vinegar reduction dressing. The beer was quite acceptable too,and I gave the owner (not publican) a potted history of The Black Sheep brewery and the Theakston family Brewery, partly because I was wearing a Black Sheep tee-shirt. After lunch I set off again. I had already made the decision not to take the low road to Exeter, as I travelled along it that morning on the bus, and, it was very narrow, very busy and would have been dangerous (NB, this is the 1 st time I have ever decided that a road was too dangerous- maybe I am getting wiser as I get older). So, when I reached Tedburn St. Mary I took the high road, when I say high, that's just how it turned out. Up and up for 3 miles, then down and down again into Nadderwater on the outskirts of Exeter. Then it was through a new housing estate which was not on my map, before finally arriving at a bridge that goes over the River Exe and the railway line to arrive back at the Braeside Guest 22

House and the tiny shower room. Fish and chips tonight! Day 2 -Exeter to Fenny Bridges After another very good breakfast it was off to Fenny Bridges, although I had an idea that, as the day would be a short one of only 14 miles, I might walk on to Honiton and catch a bus or taxi back to Fenny Bridges; it would make the next day or two shorter. The reason for the short day 2 was that I couldn't find any B&Bs on the Internet in Honiton itself. So it was off to Honiton and hope for the best. On the eastern outskirts of Exeter I went past the airport, and at one point I had to make a detour onto a very minor road which turned out to be completely overgrown. This was because the track I intended to use had been severed by the M5 and I had misread the map. Through Jack-in-the-Green and its closed pub(!) and Hand and Pen (both actual places), also with its closed pub, onward I went to Fairmile and Patterson's Cross; no pubs, and arrived in Fenny Bridges at about 1pm, and the pub was open Hurrah! At this stage I would like to point out that I am not an alcoholic, but it is good to have liquid refreshment when you are walking, and a pint is pretty good at quenching a thirst; also, frequenting pubs means you don't have to carry lots of water! So, after a very thirst quenching pint and a good sandwich it was off to Honiton, where I arrived at about 3pm. I had already ascertained from the pub in Fenny Bridges there were no buses so it would have to be a taxi back to Fenny Bridges. I was sitting on a bench in the centre of Honiton wondering about 23

taxis, when one stopped in front of me. I clocked his telephone number and rang through, and an hour later, having walked to the far end of Honiton, I was picked up by the taxi and taken back to Fenny Bridges. At this point I had a couple of hours to kill, because the previous evening when I rang Sue up to say that I was OK, she had informed me that the B&B owner at Fenny Bridges had rung to say she would be at a funeral in the afternoon and would not be back until about 6pm. So it was back to the pub which fortunately was an open all day establishment. Hurrah again. Just as an aside, whilst I was walking through Honiton I spotted about half a dozen B&Bs! Why Oh! why can't they get into the 21st century and get on the internet; it would make life a lot easier for everyone, and would even make them more money! Day 3- Honiton to Peasmarsh (Over Stratton) Before I start, Peasmarsh! Its a little place about 3 miles SW of Ilminster. Why Peasmarsh for an overnight stop and not Ilminster you might ask? All I can say is that the B&B owners of Ilminster are equally as backward as the ones in Honiton, because there are none on the internet for Ilminster! Having gained about 4 miles or so the previous day I had only a short walk today of about 13 miles, which, if I stuck to would mean about 25 miles tomorrow to get to Castle Cary. Therefore I made the decision to walk through Peasmarsh and onto a place on the far side of Ilminster called Over Stratton, where 24

there is a pub that I could have my evening meal at. I say this because I was always going to have a problem at Peasmarsh getting an evening meal, as there is nothing there but six houses or so. So after breakfast of a very indifferent scramble eggs, I am picked up by the same taxi as last night and taken back to the exact spot where I finished up the day before. The walking started on the A303 for about 8 miles to a place called Marsh where I branched off onto a minor road to Combe St Nicholas and lunch. The Green Dragon pub was a hive of activity, because it had been nominated for a good pub award with the campaign for real ale (CAMRA), and just that day they'd heard that they had been successful and were busy putting up signs to that effect. I took the opportunity of celebrating with them, so it was 2 pints this lunchtime with a not half bad ploughmans. By 2.00pm I had arrived at Peasmarsh at my overnight stop. I knocked and introduced myself and explained what I intended to do in terms of the walking for the rest of the afternoon. They gave me a taxi firm's number, which I tried ringing using my mobile; no signal, so I rang using the house phone, booking a taxi for 6.30pm to pick me up at Over Stratton. Confident all was OK, I left my ruck sac in my bedroom and off I went to Over Stratton. You have heard the expression 'The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft and go a astray'- well they did! I had a very pleasant walk to Over Stratton walking via the back roads, arriving just after 4 O'clock. The pub was shut! I asked a 25

person in a nearby drive about the pub's opening time, the reply about 7pm! b****r. What to do? I decided to walk back the way I'd come, to another pub back at a large roundabout I'd passed. It was closed, so it was back even further to Seavington St Michael (pub closed), back even further to Seavington St Mary (pub closed until 7.00pm). By this time I was getting desperate. I tried ringing the taxi firm to re-arrange my pick-up. Guess what? No mobile signal. It seemed there was nothing else for it but to walk all the way back to Over Stratton and wait for the taxi there. Then my luck changed! As I reached the pub on the roundabout, it was open; “are you doing food”“no, we don't start serving into 7.00pm. I explained my problem and he relented and also let me use his phone to re-direct the taxi. So after a very passable Lasagne and a couple of pints the taxi arrived at 7pm to pick me up, and I arrived back at the B&B shortly after. All I had to do now, was to placate my darling wife who had been waiting for my usual 6pm phone call for over an hour. Fortunately she believed me as we have had problem with network connections before. My extra walking today, to avoid having to walk 25 miles tomorrow, had resulted in me walking 26 miles and I still had 20 miles to walk on the morrow! And so to bed. Day 4 Over Stratton to Castle Cary. After breakfast (full English, and v. good) the same taxi as the night before arrived on the dot of 8.30am to pick me up and return me to Over Stratton. As another aside did you know that taxis now charge approximately £2.40/per mile! It was back 26

onto the A303, up to Ilchester and Yeovilton, where I branched off to walk through the towns. Ilchester is an old place and very quaint, but the bit of Yeovilton I walked through was all Royal Navy (RNAS) and very prim and proper; grass cut to within an inch of its life and security fencing everywhere, although no-one seemed interested in picking up the vast amount of conkers that were strewn all over the neatly cut grass. Then it was back onto the A303 and up a steep hill. Half way up I felt a splash of water on my neck and turned around to see what I can only describe as a wall of water advancing up the hill. In the 15 seconds it took to get my waterproof on I was absolutely drenched to the skin and was very glad to reach Sparkford and my lunchtime stop. After a leisurely repast the rest of the day was a lazy walk to Castle Cary on the A359 and my over night in a local pub cum motel. Here again I struck lucky, the pub was under new management as the previous manager had been sacked for being useless. Consequently, no food was being served at night; except the manager took pity on me and the barmaid volunteered to do me pie and chips for my evening meal, which went down a treat with a couple of pints. I decided to watch a bit of telly in my room and get an early night, because the following day I needed to make sure I got to Frome as early soon as possible, as I wasn't sure of the trains times back to Exeter. And so to bed. Day 5 Castle Cary to Frome Well today is the last day and whilst the little sod on my left 27

shoulder had been 'at it' with his constant niggles and taunts, he had not succeeded in shaking my resolve to finish this first bit of walking that I had done on my own since the abortive attempt, and I only had 14 miles to do to finish it. The walk to Frome was fairly uninteresting, and by 12.30 I was walking off the A361 and down into Frome when, what should I spy, but a pub (I knew it was there, its on the map), so a quick stop was called for. Well, after 2 pints the stop was a bit longer than I had planned, mainly because I got chatting to some locals; one of whom was a ex lorry driver. I told him of my pleasant encounter with friendly lorry drivers who mostly gave me plenty of road space, and I also said that it was important for walkers to anticipate the problems that lorry drivers had on narrow roads and step off the carriageway when necessary. He agreed whole heartedly. I said my farewells to the pub locals and set off for Frome train station arriving at about 1.40pm, only to find out that if I arrived 10 minutes earlier I could have caught one of the only five trains a day, as Frome is a loop line off the main London to Exeter line. I had nearly 3 hours to kill before the next train, so back into Frome proper for something to eat. I would have to say the trip back to Exeter via a change of trains at Castle Cary was interesting, if only because I could actually smell myself, and it wasn't good. I even apologised to the person next to me for the smell, who seemed OK about it after I had explained what I had been doing. Back in Exeter and the Braeside Guest house and then back to the same Indian that had let me in on the 1 st night. And so to bed. 28

Day 6 Exeter to Leeds I caught the afternoon flight back to Leeds and Bradford, where I was picked up by son Simon and taken back into Otley to meet up with Sue and friends Ann & John Lejins who were staying with us for the Otley Folk festival weekend. I had completed my first solo 'Bit' without too much trouble, the knees had been reasonably OK, in so far as I knew I still had arthritis in them, but it appeared to be manageable.


Chapter Three Frome to Windsor June 4th 2008 Sue and I drove down to stay with John White who is the Vice Dean of St Georges Windsor, which if you didn't know is the Queen's private chapel in Windsor Castle. We weren't staying in the royal bit with 'E:R indoors', but in the St George's part, but still actually in the castle itself. We met up in Windsor castle with brother David and his wife Irene who had kindly offered to take both Sue and I on to Frome to start the next 'Bit'. This would be the first 'Bit' chronological, but the second in terms of this diary, and the first and only extra 'Bit' that Sue would accompany me on. I had to take and park our car over to the Windsor Castle cricket ground as parking is very limited in the Castle itself, and it would have been selfish to have my car parked up for nearly a week without it moving. That evening we had a very convivial meal and plenty of reminisces about all sorts of things, before bed beckoned and sleep. Day 1 Frome to Market Lavington David and Irene drove us to Frome, and dropped us off in the centre of Frome and we said our farewells. They were going on to do some sight seeing in Bath and the surrounding area for a few days to make it a mini holiday. The problem was I couldn't get my bearing; the day was overcast and the streets were all higgledy piggledy and it wasn't 30

easy to get started. After about 1/2 an hour I finally got the right road- the A362 then onto the A3098, through Chapmanslade and Westbury. Westbury rang a bell in my mind and on leaving it I found out why- 'The Westbury White Horse', a huge horse carved into a limestone hill just outside of the town and one of the oldest of its type in the country. Just as we were passing underneath the horse the heavens opened. I should say at this point, that so far the year had been the wettest on record and there had been extensive flooding all around this area, and in places we thought we might not be able to get through. The next hour and a half were horrible, and the first signs of how unfit Sue was were becoming apparent; she was very slow and wanting to stop for breaks all the time. Not that it was a problem, except I usually walk quite fast and I find walking very slowly actually difficult, but never mind! Onward we went through Bratton, Edington and Erlestoke, at which point the rain stopped and 3 miles later we reach our overnight stop at West Lavington. The village had a ribbon like layout (North-South) and our B&B was near the northern tip with the pub at the southern tip, so, after checking in at the B&B, showering and having several cups of tea it was a hike to the pub for dinner and then back again. And so to bed. Day 2 West Lavington to Easton Royal After a very fine breakfast we're off again; the day was set fair for a good days walking. 31

Through Urchfont and then onto a series of minor road passing Chirton, Marden and Bottlesford where we had an enforced stop to adjust Sue's boots and have a pint at the pub! Sue was by now suffering both with her feet and another ailment which modesty forbids me going into. Consequently the afternoon was very slow and frustrating for me, and at one point I may have lost my temper, (and hated myself for doing so) because Sue was now constantly drinking water, which daft as it sounds isn't good, especially as on a hot day you sweat lots and you lose salts which make you even thirstier. I was getting worried! We trudged through Pewsey, Little Salisbury, Littleworth and finally reached our overnight at Easton Royal. Easton Royal is a tiny place with nothing there, not even a pub, but its shortfalls were more than made up for by our hosts hospitality- tea and plenty of biscuits on the patio when we arrived, and a lift to and from the local pub in Burbage for our evening meal. So after a long shower and a rest it was off in our hosts car to the Pub, and then back again. And so to bed. Day 3 Easton Royal to Hungerford Sue and I had decided to have a late breakfast at 8.30am, and on arriving in the breakfast room, which was in fact a very large conservatory at the back of the house, we met up with are fellow guests, who by another co-incidence were a couple and their parents from Huddersfield. So we chatted quite a lot, until our breakfast arrived on a very large meat type platter which was put in front of me. Our host left to fetch what I thought would be the individual plates from us to help ourselves from 32

the large meat platter. But no, our host arrived back in the breakfast room with a second large meat platter for Sue; it was a large meat platter for each of us! On each platter were 2 sausages,2 large rashers of bacon, 2 eggs, 5 large fields mushrooms (whole) 2 hash browns, beans and a very large tomato cut in half, along with lashings of toast and all this after we had had breakfast cereal. Needless to say we didn't finish even half of it, although me being me I did do better than Sue. Our host did point out that this amount of food was produced on the first day only and if we were staying more days we could have arranged a more comfortable amount as required. So after breakfast we set off for our days walk slightly slower than usual! The day's walk was a short one of 13 miles to Hungerford, walking most of the way on the Kennet & Avon canal. After walking to Burbage, the place where we'd had dinner the night before, we branched off onto minor roads and footpaths until we arrived at the Kennet & Avon canal at a place called Crofton. The Crofton Beam Engine is apparently quite famous (but not with me). The rest of the day was a gentle stroll along the canal passing Great Bedwyn and Little Bedwyn, which was supposed to have a pub, which was closed because now it was a posh Bistro type place, and only open in the evenings? So we arrived in Hungerford at about 2.00pm instead of the 3.00pm as planned, which was a good job as it happens because Sue was still having problems with her little problem! Here I must make a confession! I had booked accommodation for the 2 previous nights in advance as both places were very small, but in Hungerford I hadn't because I figured it was a 33

bigger place and accommodation should be easier to find. What a mistake to make. Apart from the incident years earlier with Michael Ryan going on a killing spree, Hungerford has nothing about it at all. The selection of Hotels and B&Bs is pitifully small, i.e. 2 hotels and 3 B&Bs (1 of which had closed 2 years previous). All of these I found in the out of date area tourist information booklet that I found in 1 of the only 2 pubs. To cut a long story short, we finished up at the Black Bear Hotel, and, on enquiring I was told a room would be £120 excluding breakfast, which was reduced to £90 after I baulked at the price. As everywhere was either full or no-one answered the door bell it was the best we could do. That night we had a make do and mend dinner in our room which we purchased from the local Co-op; total price £12.50 including a half decent bottle of wine. We turned on all the electrical heating appliances in an attempt to get our monies worth, and to dry out our clothes which had got wet in our attempt to find accommodation after, the pub shut at 3.00pm! And so to bed. Day 4 Hungerford to Newbury (Thatcham) After breakfast which was bought at, and eaten outside the local Somerfield store that which Sue had spotted in a street off the High street the night before. We set off on our 14 miles walk to Newbury, once again on the Kennet & Avon canal. I had decided that we would walk all the way to Newbury before stopping for lunch as the only watering hole on the walk at Kintbury was too early in the day to stop for lunch. So at 1.30pm we arrived in Newbury in a very muddy state, because the canal side walk between Kintbury and Benham Marsh farm 34

although not designated as a cycle path was being used as one. It had not of course being upgraded in terms of its construction to cope with the bikes and was therefore very muddy! But at least the pubs in Newbury were nice and friendly, so we lingered a while over a pint or two and a sandwich before deciding to look for accommodation (again I hadn't booked). At the tourist information office we asked about accommodation, and this time we struck lucky. Although not on the official Tourist Information Office approved list, the woman behind the counter knew of a pub/hotel at the next place down the canal at, Thatcham. Now I had considered Thatcham as a stop off point but ruled it out as I considered the place to be too small and I thought a place to stay would be difficult to find. So, after a phone call to the pub, Sue and I walked on to Thatcham, a walk of about 4 miles. The Pub was about 100yards from the canal, which was fortunate because Sue was again suffering. The pub was a modern-ish affair with a separate annexe containing the rooms, which were all very clean and comfortable. There was also a fine selection of pub grub, very much making up for the night before. And so to bed. Day 5 Thatcham to Reading. I don't think I have ever had my breakfast in a pub bar before, but the food was very acceptable nevertheless. Because of the extra we did yesterday, the walk today would only be about 14 miles and again on the canal all the way into Reading itself; at least that was the plan! After about 5 miles we reached a full stop, the path was closed 35

for repairs to the canal, and the detour was quite a long way out of our way. Another decision was called for, the outcome of which was to go onto the main A4 road all the way into Reading. On arriving at the A4 Sue made a decision of her own. She had not enjoyed the walking because of her little problem so, as we would now be walking on roads, she took the opportunity and decided to stop walking and catch a bus into Reading. She hadn't been able to do this before because we were walking off piste, and she didn't want to wreck my walk by packing in too early. I left Sue at a nearby bus stop and marched on in double quick time arriving at the train station in the centre of Reading, about 8 miles and 2 hours later. On the walk through the outskirts of Reading I had spotted an Hotel and booked an overnight, so after the customary pint and a sandwich at a city centre pub we caught a bus back to the hotel, had a shower and a later afternoon siesta before going off to a very local pub for an evening meal. And so to bed. Day 6 Reading to Windsor After breakfast and a bus ride backed to the railway station I left Sue to catch a bus to Windsor, and I set off to walk to Windsor. I walked at a fast pace through the rest of the centre of Reading and back onto the A4, turning off to walk through Twyford, Ruscombe, Paley Street, Touchen-end and Oakley Green. At 36

Oakley Green I should have turned right just after the pub but in my haste to finish I missed the turn off and ended up on the A308 instead. It wasn't a problem as this road also goes straight into Windsor. So at 1.30pm and 19 miles after the start in Reading I arrived at the statue of Queen Victoria outside Windsor Castle to meet Sue who, by happy chance, had only been in Windsor for 15 minutes; the first bus to Windsor (missing Slough) had only left Reading at 11.45am, going around the houses before getting to Windsor at 1.15pm. As we were earlier than anticipated, it was off to our favourite Windsor pub for a pint and a sandwich, before arriving at John White's in Windsor Castle at 4.00pm. That evening I am sure we bored John rigid with our story of the walk, but after a long and enjoyable meal with plenty to drink, Sue & I bade John good night. And so to bed.


Chapter 4 Windsor to Datchet The walk from Windsor to Datchet, is a walk that Sue and I have done many times whilst we have been visiting John White who is the Vice Dean of St Georges Chapel Windsor. John is an old family friend from his days as a curate at St Aidan's Church Leeds in the mid 1960's, and we have kept in touch ever since, through all his job posting in Leeds, Manchester and then to the elevated heights of St Georges Windsor where he arrived in 1982 as a Canon. So we have visited him virtually every year since 1982, and have walked all over the area around Windsor. The walk to Datchet was one of our first walks around Windsor, because in the early days the M25 was not complete and to get to Windsor from the M1 meant you had to use the North Circular road to get to the M4 and then come off at junction 5, passing by The Queen Mother Reservoir through Datchet, then on to Windsor by the back way. If you have driven that way and seen what appears to be a pretty village it made sense to walk there and have a look round, which is what we did, then walking back the other road to Windsor via Eton- a circular walk of about 4 miles.


Chapter 5 Datchet to Selby Part of the Canterbury to York Pilgrimage 1999 This part of my story I have to thank my brother David, because he is the one who kept the diary of the Canterbury to York pilgrimage, and produced it as a book. You will notice that David's writing style is very different to mine, definitely more flowery and none the worse for it. (I have shortened some sections) As I am starting the account of this walk five or six days into it, I suppose I should introduce the party. Firstly the walkers:- Myself and Sue my wife, David and Irene my brother and his wife, Peter Walker my youngest brother Paul's father-in-law, Ann Lejins, and a new walker to make up the magnificent seven, Clare Newton. Then half way through the walk we would be joined by Carolynne Pepper. Secondly, the back up crew (not that the back up crew could or should ever come second):-Peter Davey this time without his wife Doris (see Tyndrum to Bamburgh), My mother-in-law Iris Tasker, Mobile Mary Hill, Ann Lejins's husband John, and our spiritual leader for this walk, St Aidan's new deacon of only six weeks Fr Mark Heather. Day 1- Datchet to Farnham Common (my day count, not the original count)! Arriving at Datchet, our mood changed. The town was a delight, completely devoid of the plastic shop signs that can so destroy the period look of places that are supposed to be 39

ageless. What really changed the mood though was the Royal Stag where we had sandwiches in the car park at the back which doubles up as a beer garden. In the bar, was a tombstone propped up in the corner. We hoped that it's owner's demise had nothing to do with the beer. Outside we took advantage of relaxing in the sun, watching John (me) use his walking stick to knock plums from a tree for others to catch. Joviality returned and we set of again. On the outskirts of Datchet we got some long distance views of Windsor Castle to our left, before crossing the M4 and entering the edge of Slough town centre. Sir John Betjeman had some harsh words to say about Slough and we saw nothing that made us dispute his criticism. The A355 gave us our escape from Slough (it should be spelt Sluff!) and we headed North for the first time and into the countryside. We had been led to believe that we were staying that night at Farnham Royal but we'd been conned. It was actually Farnham Common, a mile and a half further on the A355. David and Ann, a bit bit fed up, decided that the only thing for it was to get a move on and they forged ahead legs going like the clappers. A car papped and Ann said “that looks like Chris Davey”, it was. He had taken some time off from his London parish (he's a Priest and the son of Peter Davey) for a flying visit and was waiting for us when we arrived at the 'Brian Jubb Memorial Hall' to the rear of St John the Baptist Church in Farnham Common. The hall was circa 1950's with no fridge and little in the way of pans, but the caretaker lady had borrowed billy-cans from the Scouts. There were facilities enough for a cuppa to be made though, and we had one. Chris 40

had arrived with his dog Mutley and you may suppose that a guest wouldn't be troubled by the collecting tin. You'd be wrong, Chris coughed up but the dog pretended to be deaf. We had three more miles to do before we finished for the day, still on the A355 going North passing Burnham Beeches where the England football team make their HQ before matches at Wembley. After about three miles we were met by the van just short of the M40, and taken back to the hall for an Iris special, a Chicken & Mushroom pie complete with a St Aidan's pastry motif, which was polished of in quick time motif and all. That night we had a knock back with the collecting tin at the Foresters pub, so after a quick and expensive pint we went on the the Stag & Hound where we were not only given permission to collected but the landlord chipped in a fiver as well. We strolled back to the hall and bed happy, if tired. Day 2- Farnham Common to Wendover. We breakfasted and were dropped off at our finishing point of yesterday evening, and started walking earlier than usual as we had no morning service because of the one we'd had the previous evening. It was cool as we walked facing the on-coming traffic, but at least we were headed in the right direct now; North and to Yorkshire, and there was a real sense of making progress. We left the road, finding a footpath near to Beaconsfield FC's 41

ground, and crossed over the M40. On the far side of the footbridge was Beaconsfield RUFC's ground, the motorway keeping the two codes apart, with symbolic finality! As a town Beaconsfield looked prosperous, a nice place to live; the old part of the town (the original Village?) was being used as a location site for the filming of a children's programme 'Return to the Secret Garden'. The newer part of the town was still pleasing to the eye, even the local Chinese was a laundry not a take away and the Waitrose supermarket was barely recognisable as such, unlike the monstrosities we are used too. Through to Knotty Green via minor roads with steep high hedges on both sides and so narrow that passing places were needed even for walkers. We met up with the back up crew for morning coffee at Penn Street, a rather incongruous name for such a pretty village. We were loath to start again but did, briefly on the A404 and then on a side road where we were supposed to pick up a footpath, but the path appeared to go through a private property and the footpath sign had been replaced with two vicious yapping dogs, discretion being the better part of valour we stayed on the road which added an extra half a mile but what the heck (a lot better than losing the seat of ones pants!) Little Missenden, a village with a charming name and a rather grand Missenden House next to a 12th century church of St John the Baptist (it being the second such named church of the day), we went off piste onto a footpath, over the A413, over a rough ploughed field a railway line and through nettle alley. Then it was fields and more fields up to lunchtime at the 42

Pheasant Inn at Ballinger Common. Before restarting, the ladies gave the toilets in the Pheasant 10 out of 10. It is certainly a fact that no matter how poor the beer is, nor how expensive, ladies always judge a pub by its toilets. That afternoon we picked up the Chiltern Link Footpath, through woods and fields crossing into Buckinghamshire. This was followed by minor road walking all the way into Wendover. We then walked passed the back up crew vehicles, which were parked neatly outside St Mary's (church our over night stop), and onto the Wendover branch of the Grand Union Canal (GUC), which started rather inauspiciously in a residential street behind some railings. The walking to today's end was three miles of uninspiring canal path and then, to cap it all, the expected drink in the pub at Buckland Wharf (the reason we miss a stop at the church) was not forthcoming as the pub was no longer there!

Day 3- Wendover to Milton Keynes Today's journey commenced after breakfast with lift in the van 43

back to the non-existent pub at Buckland Wharf, which took us passed RAF Halton, where Clare's mum had been stationed during the War. The walking started in mostly good heart, except for David who had had trouble with his gammy ankle the previous day and had even taken to wearing his lucky socks. In a short while we left the canal for a little road walking, crossing the Aylesbury Arm of the GUC before picking up the GUC proper at Stanton's End. This was more like it! A working navigable canal, with locks, barges, narrow boats and folk messing about on the river (poetic licence). We walked all morning without a break because there was no suitable place for the van to meet us, hoping to link up with it at the next hostelry. Brrr-brrr, brrr-brrr the mobile brought us devastating news that the pub was open every lunchtime and evening except one. Yes, you've guessed it: Saturday lunch. A complete bummer! A re-arranged lunch was taken at the next available spot accessible by the van and minutes later, disappointment over, a happy band of pilgrims enjoyed a picnic at the water's edge: sandwiches, coffee or tea, and a little duck feeding.


Replenished, we were soon off again in the baking heat. We saw Leighton Buzzard at canal level only and if we were asked what the town was like, we'd have to say “Pass”- a diversion in the canal side Tesco for 'New Skin', was all we saw of it. The stretch to tea-break at 'Three Locks' was a slog in the merciless sun, which everyone found hard and the relief afforded by the tea and cake was soon nullified by having to rev up aching limbs and sore joints. At least the canal-side walking was over as we took to the road for the last six miles of the day into Milton Keynes. Passing Stoke Hammond and the drive end to 'Dead Queen Farm'!? Then Newton Longville came and went and still the sun beat down on us. At last we reached the outskirts of the town, all new roundabouts and road works, but one of the roundabouts 'Westcroft' was old enough to be on the map and that is where we were to meet the van to 45

finish the day. It wasn't there, and John said, “well, we're not budging from here”. A dissenting voice was conspicuous by it's absence, and sure enough ace driver Mark Heather with a little help from the ubiquitous mobile phone arrived to take us all to Two Mile Ash, our stop over for the night. It sounded like a quaint old village swallowed up by Milton Keynes. It wasn't and it hadn't. The Holy Cross Church was a modern multi functional building in the middle of a housing estate. All on one level with kitchen, toilets, side rooms and a main hall with a worship area, which comprised of a plain teak altar, set on a raised platform, across a recess in a corner. Dinner was eaten along with copious amounts of 'Bombardier Ale' provided by brewer Charles Wells all courtesy of Barrie Pepper's contacts in the brewing trade, cheers BP. The evening was spent 'in' as there wasn't a pub nearby. It wasn't too much of a hardship, as there was still plenty of Bombardier and we had several travel games with us. A little merry and very weary, we adjourned to our beds, but the mirth wasn't over. Last one to bed puts the lights out and tonight the task fell to John L, who missed his footing getting into bed in the dark. His exclamation of, “oh! Sugar”, was immediate and very restrained, considering we were in a church. Less restrained was the fit of giggling that ensued from all corners. Day 4- Milton Keynes to Quinton At 7.30am next morning it was all hands to the pumps to clear the decks for the mass, which was conducted by the Rev Richard Davis- a Ken Dodd look alike, minus tickling stick. 46

This description is not a mickey take, he was a very sincere, pleasant and devout man but facts are facts. After Mass and breakfast completed we had some walking to do for a change! Leaving the Westcroft roundabout, we wound our way along V roads (vertical) and H roads (horizontal), the grid system that predominates in Milton Keynes, heading Northwest out of town. The morning was sunny and bright with a welcome breeze as we strolled through Stoney Strafford main street, then across a water meadow, over a bridge on the Great Ouse and into yet another county; Northants. We crossed over the A5 and onto a now defunct road leading through woods, a clearing in the woods provided us with a spot for our elevenses which we had carried ourselves, as the back-up crew had stayed behind at Holy Cross to join the main Sunday service. On through fields we progressed, locating a bridal path that led us to another bout of field walking, which proved difficult as the path was in places non-existent. It was definitely ankle-turning terrain. The road was eventually reached and John regaled us with a rallying, “onwards men, only one and a half miles to lunch”. Say no more, the sprint was on and our goal reached, the beer garden of the pub in Ashton. Peter Davey had only one thing to say about the main Sunday service at Two Mile Ash it had been very 'happy clappy'. He also informed us that England had lost a home test match to New Zealand for the first ever time!


Lunch over, we took to the road to Roade and headed across country towards Courtenhall House where we were to meet some locals from tonight's stop, who were going to walk with us to their church at Quinton. That was the plan at least but the path was indistinct and before long we came up against a hedge on the other side of which was the M1! Something was a foot and it wasn't 12 inches. A phone call to the white van was made to explain our predicament and to ask that our apologies for being late to be passed on. There was a quick reassessment of known co-ordinates which established that the Courtenhall House was in a wooded area about a mile in the distance. We then did some straight line trespassing (cleared after the event with the farmer) and arrived a little breathless 20 minutes late, to meet up with Gillian, David, Nina and Fran, the Quinton parishioners.


Introductions over, a larger band of pilgrims set off towards Quinton and passed said Courtenhall House, the owner being a direct descendant of Hereward the Wake calling himself Sir Hereward Wake; the name traceable right to 'The Wake' himself, so there! Under the M1 we sauntered into the village, via a footpath through the garden of the Old Rectory and into the church yard itself. The path passed the church, parts of which were a 1000 years old, and lead down a grassy lane to the modern church hall. We had our tea-break and set off to complete today's miles. Through Wootton and into the outskirts of Northampton, via busy roads and an even busier intersection. Confused, we chose the wrong option of roads leading into town. The mobile came in handy once more to tell Mark he was waiting for us at the wrong place. Back to Quinton, post walking rituals over, we were offered showers in the homes of local, an offer gratefully accepted by all. As the locals beavered over making us dinner, the clean laundry was dished out, the ownership of a black bra was for a moment or so in doubt. Mark nearly made a terrible admission in an effort not to delay dinner but Sue came to his rescue. The food was delicious, roast beef with all the trimmings, including wine. Our hosts took great pleasure in waiting on us and it was a real pleasure for us to do justice to that which had been provided. They all deserve a mention; in addition to those we'd met that afternoon, there was Bernard, Fran's husband, and Mary, David's wife. A fellow guest was the Rev'd Don Scholey, the infirm Vicar. An enjoyable evening was had by all and after the locals had left it was a set of humble pilgrims who set up their beds, said 49

their goodnights and then slept the sleep of contentment. Day 5 -Quinton (Northampton) to Market Harborough After mass in the beautiful part 10th century church, where we were joined by Fran, Bernard, Steve and Nina plus a new face Andy, we breakfasted and set off for the intersection to the South of Northampton. This time we walked down the correct road into Northampton itself, passing Queen Eleanor's Cross, one of the few erected on the instruction of a distraught King Edward I, at places where his wife's funeral cortège had stopped as she was being taken home to be buried. The centre of Northampton as approached from the South is not it's best aspect, giving as it did the impression of a town that had seen better days. The north side of town was different in that it seemed prosperous and well heeled, and we even saw a reminder of Northampton's industrial heritage as we passed the 'Foot Shaped Boot Works' sign of Barratts. Leaving the town, the Brompton Valley Way beckoned us. An old railway track offered us level walking with soft-ish ground, and the man with the map promised that we would be on this until we reached Market Harborough for tonight's stop.


A little further on the track widened and some railway lines started adjacent to Ritsford Sidings. It had all the paraphernalia of an old engine works but none of the glory as everything was rusted up! At the old station nearby we stopped for tea-break, just as the cavalcade of back-up crew arrived bringing the refreshments. Talk of the people from Quinton was in the air and we were told that Nina had baked us a cake. God bless her! As we set off again we could see that the Station was set up as tourist attraction, it had Engines, coaches and posters advertising trips, but after less than half a miles the line disappeared and we were back to walking on a trackless line again. The track provided us with variety, one minute we were in a cutting the next on a raised bank where we could see for miles over endless fields. A sign promised us that we would be seeing 'Merry Thomas Crossing', but we missed him, he must have crossed as we had a toilet break in the bushes. The map reader had perpetrated a terminological inexactitude as we did actually leave the track but only to go off piste to the 51

Stag's Head just off the track in a village alongside the railway line. There was a lot of frivolity in the beer garden at the back of the Pub and John L even managed to knock over his pint whilst trying to rescue his pint from a thirsty wasp. Replenished, the walkers set off to re-negotiate the railway track when suddenly John D decided that he had to go back to speak to the back-up crew. He told the rest of the party to, “pick up the path after the church, it leads to the railway track, I'll catch you up, you can't get lost”. True enough, he was right, we certainly didn't get lost, however having reached the track and waited in vain for 10 minutes, it appeared he could. Now, the mobile phone came in handy again, as we rang the back-up, to be told that John had only been with them for seconds before setting off again? So the others set off walking assuming that John D had found another way down to the railway line, and that he was now ahead of them and walking fast to catch them up. A good trick that, walking fast to catch someone up who is actually behind you. An even better trick is to try catch that person up, when he had a 10 minute start. They didn't manage it. John eventually, having walked his socks off for twenty minutes, realised they must be behind and waited. Was Sue a happy bunny? Did she let her husband off without a rollicking? Two questions, same answer. No! David at this point decided to add a little excitement and deliberately stood in front of the sign that said 'Kelmarsh Tunnel-480 metres long- Torch recommended for walkers'. It was only a recommendation so we all plunged into the tunnel anyway. 52

The tunnel was very dark and spooky and comments like “ was that a rat” didn't make it less so, but the pinprick of light at at the other end got bigger and bigger and soon we emerged from the other end chattering like kids with excitement. There was another tunnel to traverse, the Oxenden Tunnel, and the question would be, tea-break before or after the tunnel? The decision was left up to the back-up, with the possible out come that we could miss each other. But luck was with us as we met up with them at the entrance to the tunnel, with Fr Mark doing an impression of an acrobat as he negotiated the steep bank of the cutting with a large cardboard box full of goodies without mishap. John L on the other hand lost his balance and slithered down the bank on his bum whilst trying to video the proceedings. The nine walkers braved the Oxenden Tunnel, emerging on the other side to be greeted by a local who was either the village idiot, or someone extracting the mickey and making us smile, as he told us it was “straight on to Harboro”. It is supposed though that he didn't realise that we had been following the same track all day, aware that it led straight to 'Harboro', as it is colloquially called in these parts. Even if it was straight on it was still a fair distance to go. The last session of the day always seems long as fatigue sets in. Soon though the countryside disappeared and the urbanity which was Little Bowden, a Southern suburb of 'Harboro' sprang up, then the hall of St Nicholas's Church, at the far side of the village green. New arrival Carolynne Pepper now made an unlucky thirteen for dinner, so an extra place was set for Fred, but he didn't show, and from then on it was a competition to sit next to Fred, 53

in case not only was a place set for him, but some grub also. It never happened. The nearest place with Sky TV happened to be a pub (what a blow) as Leeds United were playing Liverpool on Sky. We got to the Greyhound pub just in time for the second half, only to to see them defeated 2-1. Deflated, some of us adjourned to the hall, whilst others went to the nearby Cherry Tree pub, where Mr Lejins did rather well with the collecting tin, one chap depositing £20 (a Liverpool supporter?). Carolynne Pepper was there to the death, making up for lost time. But eventually it was 'and so to bed' Day 6- Market Harborough to Tilton-on-the Hill We arose quite early today, some earlier than others of course, there's little point in getting up to queue for the bathroom when you can queue just as well in 'your pit'. After the usual breakfast prepared by the back up crew, it was eight walkers who readied themselves for the day, the eighth being the 'Beer Ritz's lady' (another £1 for the tin Carolynne if you please!) Today we set off at 8.00am for a short hour and a half walk before being brought back for a service at 10.00am. So we set off at a fast pace passing through Great Bowden (the other bit of Bowden!) and into the countryside proper. The silence was broken by the sound of a green liveried Midland Mainline train hurtling passed only 30 yards away and further on by two Harrier Jump jets overhead as we entered Thorpe Langton, the place we had arranged to be picked up for the service.


After the service in the 13th century church with its beautifully painted ceiling, it was back in the van to Thorpe Langton, immediately picking up a footpath, across fields where the footpath deteriorated into a series of uneven ruts, hard baked by lack of rain and terrible to negotiate. It was with some relief that these were left as we picked up and unadopted road which was being utilised by an encampment of new age travellers along with numerous yapping dogs. Onward we walked through Stonton Wyville were Mark said there was an interesting Church, which we didn't view (sorry Mark). More field walking followed and it became a real drag, the only diversion being to try to identify the blackened crop in a couple of them, they looked like peas, which starved of water had died. To our relief, we reached a road, and as we did the mobile rang. The news was bad; the pub at Skeffingham, clearly shown on the map, was derelict. The plan changed as did the location: Billesden had a pub and we wanted a drink with our lunch, so Billesden it was. Three miles of walking on the B6047 followed before we reached the oasis of the another Greyhound named pub, which was devilishly hard to find considering Billesden was such a small place. The mornings walk had been a real hard session and the beer and sandwiches went down a real treat. A path through a field helped us to cut a corner off and got us back to the road. Before long we were field walking again with more dead peas to reopen the debate. On closer inspection, consensus had it that they were either Haricot beans or linseed, but they tasted of neither. Back on the B6047, we belted down a steep hill and up the other side to Tilton on the Hill, which was our stop for the 55

night. It was not time to stop though even for afternoon tea. But we did stop for a brief chat at the road side where Peter W did his impression of Nick Faldo using John D's walking stick as a 5-iron. Unfortunately the divot he hit was stronger than the walking stick. Crrraaackkk, and the walking stick that Peter Davey had found in a barn on the 1994 Pilgrimage, and given to John, who had carried it for over 500 miles, on that and subsequent pilgrimages, was somewhat bent. Slightly put out, but undeterred, John set off again, still with the walking stick, but doing his own impression, this time of a rather forlorn Charlie Chaplin. We had our tea break at Tywford. The plan after tea was for John L and Mark to wait 30 minutes at Twyford and then catch us up but there was a cock up on the map reading (by the pack up) and an hour later we were still walking. Things got so bad that the normally placid Clare, hardly a rebel, declared that “I'm not walking another yard” then proceeded to contradict herself by walking another 100 to a junction that John had said would be a good place to be picked up. Having used the mobile again it was a good place but not before time, it had been a hard day. Arriving back at Tilton on the Hill, we were quickly off again to the local leisure centre at Melton Mowbray as John L had arranged for us to have showers, and none of the walkers were going to miss another opportunity for a really good clean up after a week or so of walking. Refreshed we arrived back at the hall again to be met by another delivery of beer arranged by B. Pepper's contact in the 56

trade, this time Everard's 5% Tiger Premium ale along with promotional T-shirts which we proudly wore. The dinner of an excellent salad prepared by Iris and Mary went down a treat with the beer. After which the temptation to empty the collecting tin was too great and John L was extremely proud (quite rightly) when he was told that his efforts had already surpassed the total collected in the previous pilgrimage. Afterwards we strolled to the local, not because we wanted a drink you understand, but to keep John L company, as flushed with success, he set about trying to fill the collection tin once more. The pub, it's name already lost to memory, was full of seafaring memorabilia, which was strange as Tilton hardly needs a harbour or lifeboat crew, but was that a parrot on the landlords shoulder? We didn't stay but half an hour, because the lure of a good night's sleep, to dream of a day off tomorrow, was too inviting to postpone for longer. We were awakened to tea in bed this morning, which is a treat under normal circumstances but on a pilgrimage such as this, it was the norm. Just about every morning so far, we had been aroused in this style by Peter Davey and it was imagined that he was in the habit of waking his wife Doris in the same fashion every day back home. Contradict if you wish Peter, but if you do then perhaps an explanation as to how you do wake her may be necessary. However this was a special morning for us. Firstly the daily papers accompanied the tea, secondly our stomachs were regaled with a cooked breakfast, prepared by John D and Sue 57

and lastly we knew that today was not to be spent trudging the highways and byways of England, because even the Almighty had a day off, and this was ours. What did we want to do with our day off? We couldn't stay in bed even if we wanted to, the village had entered the hall in the 'Village Hall of the Year' competition, and today the judges were coming round so a lot of sleeping bodies in the hall would not quite give the right impression. So it was decided to visit Stamford, but not until we had read the papers and waited for our visitors Doris and Chris Davey. So after they arrived and Doris had thanked us for her flowers, “they were luvvly” the convoy set off to Stamford. There was a small problem at Stamford working out how the pay and display ticket machine worked, then we went off, in small groups of like minded individuals. The amblers by the river, the shoppers doing retail therapy and the culture vultures visiting the local churches. For the trivial pursuiters amongst you, here are a couple of gems. Firstly, Sir Malcolm Sargent, according to a memorial in St Mary's Stamford, was a chorister there and is buried in the town somewhere, and the heaviest Englishman at the time (Guinness Book of Records), Daniel Lambert, is also buried in the town. The prearranged meeting place was the Golden Fleece, an Everards pub which we felt duty bound to support, and indeed some of us were even wearing the Tee-shirts we got the previous evening, which itself solicited a comment by the landlady, and after a brief explanation we received a generous donation in the tin.


After lunch we said goodbye to Chris and Doris, It was good to share some time with friends from back home. Peter W recommended that we took in Oakham on the way back, via Rutland Water. First though, we had to negotiate the A1 for a short stretch, where a lorry took exception to our driver's antic's, and papped us loud and long. A little farther on a quickly taken bend sent a cardboard box of food containing amongst other things a bottle of cooking fat, slithering across the floor in the back of the van.“There goes the cooking fat”, said David. Quick as a flash came the retort from Peter Davey, “what cat”? Eee we did laugh! Back at base camp in Tilton-on-the-Hill it was raining cats and dogs which had scuppered Mary H's attempts to dry some of our hand-washing. A near catastrophe for David as his lucky walking socks (he worn them everyday except the day he'd done his ankle in) were sopping wet. Half an hour with the hair dryer, a trick learnt from younger brother, and he was happy. Dinner was bread and butter pudding, preceded by pork pie and chips with mushy peas. The Stamford butcher (a purveyor of meats, not a assassin) was so indignant when asked if he sold Melton Mowbray pork pies, that a rather retiring pilgrim (Sue), entrusted to purchase said pies, had bottled out, and acceded to the request to, “try mine”. It has to said that he certainly knew his onions (pies) because they were excellent. To dispel the rumour that there are no social niceties at pilgrimage mealtimes, just a ravenous crew feeding their faces, it is now put on record that, around the dinner table that evening, there was a polite discussion regarding whether pork pie should be eaten hot or cold.


Suffice it to say one of the 'anti-hot' merchants was Peter W, the same Peter W who ruins his taste buds by chewing his Ibuprofen because he can't swallow a tablet whole, with or without water. On the other hand, 'pro-hot' were the Drake brothers who can hardly be said to have discerning palates, their philosophy, being ' if it's not moving you can eat it' The pub had little pull for a few of us that night, and they only stayed a short while, there was a real apprehension for the challenge of kick-starting the walking bit of the pilgrimage tomorrow. Day 7 -Tilton-on-the-Hill to Cotgrave There was a nervousness about the preparation for the walking, doubts in the minds of the walkers could be imagined, 'my muscles feel tense', 'can I get my head round another hard day's slog?', 'will my feet be OK?' The tension was lifted as incidents occurred that made a mockery of Tilton-on-the Hill's aspirations in the Village Hall of the Year' competition; Iris found a black beetle in her trousers, as she changed in the toilets, and Carolynne found a big juicy slug in the Kitchen. After mass in the Old English village church of St Peter, which had not been mucked about with by the Victorians and was therefore a Grade 1 listed building, we were deposited by van at the point were we'd stopped walking the day before yesterday and we started on our merry way (actually Klondike road) at 9.45am. We joined the main A607 at Kirby Bellars where we spotted the first church spire of the day, not a Leicester stumpy, had we crossed into Notts? No, the next footpath sign was a left 60

footprint! We walked in to Ashfordby via Klondyke Way with a different spelling, but what is it with folk around here and the Gold rush? Crossing a field, we entered the tiny hamlet of Saxelbye through a farm yard. It was a collection of very old buildings tucked away in a shady valley of well established trees, except the hamlet had spread off up a small hill with an estate of modern houses. Just outside Saxelbye the white van, and red and green cars arrived and we enjoyed our tea-break and a bit of pilgrim larking about, in the gateway of a field. Refreshed we were off again, shortly coming to a road sign, telling us where we had just come from Saxelby. It was spelt incorrectly, and someone had taken exception to the miss-spelling and added the missing E to the end by hand. A couple of hours of pleasant country road walking followed, sunny but with a slight breeze; perfect. The elongated village of Hinkling with houses only one deep by the road side, was traversed. It looked at one point that it didn't even have a pub, until after about a mile of this 'one street' village the Plough Inn came in sight nestling idyllically opposite a small lake, with anglers, ducks and a motor launch. Double take!a motor launch on a tiny lake? On closer inspection, it was a canal, with no entrance or exit immediately visible. Another two miles and we reached Kinoulton where lunch was taken in a picturesque beer garden, the sandwiches washed down with 'Frolicking Farmer's' ale. Spirits high, the afternoon flew by; we passed several signs for 61

Cotgrave our stopover place tonight and the rain even held off as we had afternoon tea on the village green in Cropwell Butler. After tea we crossed the main A46, and then on the side of the road just before the A52 there as an oddity, painted in white on the road surface was the outline of two sprawled bodies. It looked like the scene from a homicide but was, we deduced, the work of kids. Just before this we had celebrated, rather mutedly, compared with other pilgrimages, the passing of the 200 mile mark. Only 87 to go and any absence of outward jubilation was surely matched by inner elation. However, elation nearly changed to mourning within a minute or two. As we looked to cross the very busy A52, David and Carolynne were at the rear. They started to cross believing the way was clear. They didn't dawdle but suddenly realised that the traffic coming from the left was moving faster than they'd anticipated. For a split second they were caught in no-man's land, locked in a 'can we can't we' situation. Trouble was, one thought they could, and the other thought they couldn't. Not much problem excepting they were holding hands, for mutual safety. At the last split second they stopped in the middle of the road, on the white line to be exact, with two cars hurtling past on either side and inches from their trembling bodies, horns blasting their eardrums. Phew!! We walked on to a pre-arranged pick up point by a X roads, beating the rain by seconds, as predicted by John D. Back to Cotgrave and the bijou church hall of All Saints, except that the dictionary definition of bijou is 'small and elegant', and the hall although small was anything but elegant. Normal service (foot washing and drinks) was resumed; we'd missed it yesterday. 62

Barrie Pepper and Jack Thompson showed their faces as expected to start their turn as back-up crew. Barrie and Jack set about preparing dinner for us, whilst we made merry. The dinner of spaghetti Bolognese was superb. Had we not known what the fare was, we could have guessed, the Italian accents coming from the kitchen were only marginally better than Dick Van Dyke's cockney one in Mary Poppins! The pilgrim banter, always good, took a new slant, the injection of new blood in any situation never does any harm. For example, when Barrie was asked if he'd seen the sole surviving pork pie from the day before, he replied with immaculate timing,“seen it, I've eaten it”. As Basil Brush would have said, “BOOM, BOOM” The humour continued after dinner at the local Shipstone's hostelry, with tales of Jack's Irish beer trip and whether 'Silence is Golden' was sung by The Tremeloes or The Searchers. Jack and David lost this one too as Ann and Sue knew it was The Tremeloes. We said goodnight to Barrie and Jack who made their way to a nice little B&B pub (where else?) in the next village, whilst we retired to the small but perfectly formed sleeping quarters in the church hall. Day 8- Cotgrave to Farnsfield Everyone awoke to the sun streaming into the hall through the high windows. However the delights of the toilet facilities soon dampened the mood. Especially as the tiny sink in each of the equally tiny toilets poured scalding hot water on to the floor through an unplumbed overflow thus washing our feet at the same time as hands. After breakfast and the service in the newly restored church of All Saints, restored after a fire gutted 63

the interior in 1996, we headed off to the finish point of yesterdays walk, passing the scene of the near fatality for the two pilgrims. The van's exhaust pipe having broken yesterday, was fastened to the subframe using a wire coat hanger, and seemed to be working quite well (Heath Robinson lives !). Within half a mile we met up with the A46 and crossed the River Trent and trundled on through Gunnerthorpe at which point the van passed us and tooted. A side road parallel to the A46 gave some respite from the heavy traffic, and after entering Lowdham, we took a bridle path and then a small country road into Epperson to take a mid-morning coffee break. Here Iris presented us with a Mars bar each, her multi-purchase having aroused the shopkeepers curiosity and that curiosity cost the shopkeeper a donation of £3 for the tin: and sure evidence that Iris had been taking lessons from John L and Mary. Back onto the A46 for a mile or so, then onto a side road to Oxon, where Sue spotted a road called Pilgrims End. We hoped it was an omen for next Tuesday in York and nothing sooner. More field work, a stretch of woodland, a turnip field, and before long a farm track was joined, on which was John L and a John L lookalike, at least from a distance he was. He turned out to be Bob, a likeable and friendly parishioner, who had come to meet us for the last half mile into Farnsfield. Lunch today would be at the Red Lion in Farnsfield, which would also be our overnight stay. Replenished, we left Farnsfield for our afternoon walk along an old railway cutting 64

for a good a paced three miles to Bilsthorpe. At the edge of Bilsthorpe the track widened and gave a long distant view of the surrounding countryside; there being a distinct feel that it had once been a big mining area. The grass wasn't so green, the trees not so thriving and the houses less salubrious. It felt friendly though; Northern perhaps. Was this when we knew we were nearly home, when we knew we would complete what we'd started, and finish as a team? Through Bilsthorpe we continued, where the van was met and its precious cargo consumed, before setting off again for the last part of the days walk. We picked up a path at the edge of a large wood and walked through purposefully, arriving at the far end, by the Rufford Country Park & Abbey. The housing development here was very exclusive and as we strolled through it you could only imagine what it would be like to live in one of the luxurious houses. But there again if we lived in one, would the delights of our current lives, the friendships we have, the beauty of St Aidan's church, the pleasure of this pilgrimage, all the things we currently take for granted, would they be missing. Would we be happier living in a mansion? The answer must be, not necessarily; happiness is being content with what you have, no matter how little or how much, Here endeth the Wayside Sermon. Arriving at our stop off point, on the main A614(T) road, by the Rose Cottage pub, we waited 15 minutes or so, most of us not bothering, quite happily sitting on a wall, but the leader was agitated. He doesn't like his well laid plans to go awry. He needn't have worried as the van did arrive if a little late, but in time to whisk us back onto the church hall of St Michael's and All Saints in Farnsfield, where after the usual foot washing and Gins, we where whisked off again for showers in the homes of various parishioners. Rested, washed and as presentable as we 65

could manage, we strolled over the road and back to the Red Lion where we were treated to a meal courtesy of Barrie Peppers contacts in the 'Trade' at Mansfield Brewery. There was a small price to be paid beforehand in the form of publicity photos for the 'freebie' press and the Brewery Magazine. We felt like celebrities, and none more than Clare, Carolynne and John D, who were interviewed by Radio Nottingham, for their Sunday morning religious slot. Appropriately enough the reporter was also a bell-ringer at St Michael's. The dinner when it finally came was a fine fayre, and all the better for being 'free, gratis and for nothing'. A bonus was free drinks that went with it, a fine and unexpected gesture from mine host, the landlord (one Martin Cooper by name). We had also been invited to a soiree at the vicarage at 8.30pm and, running late, we were spared ruining the food (and drink) by rushing it, as the reporter/bell-ringer promised to pass on our apologies. Dinner finished we made our way to the vicarage, where we were again treated like celebrities (or was it curiosities) as we answered questions about the pilgrimage. We answered all the hows, and the whys, and the what's, as best as we could, as we drank parishioner Dan's Damson wine and ate the nibbles prepared by Jenny, the vicar's wife. A pleasant hour or so was spent before the party started to break up. We said our thank-yous and good-nights and made our way back to the church hall in the eerie dark, and who should greet us but our Vicar Fr Alan Taylor, just passing, on his way from somewhere or other. Nice one Father!


Day 9 -Farnsfield to Worksop There were two extra bodies for Iris's birthday breakfast feast; actually the food was the same as we'd had yesterday and the day before. The two extra bodies were the Rev'd David Bartlett and his wife Jenny. They nearly missed out as the bread for toast had all but run out. It really didn't seem fair when you consider what they had provided the night before, but as the song says “if we'd knew you were coming we'd have baked a cake”. It would have come in handy, doubling up as a receptacle for 72 candles, Oops! sorry Iris, it just slipped out. After the service in church where we joined by a fair few of the locals, and, after the usual photo session outside the main west door, we were off again. We had two additional passengers as we waved goodbye to Farnsfield and its people. Bob who had joined us yesterday afternoon and Sue who on the spur of the moment went home for her boots. Our route took us passed Center Parcs (spelling correct, if American) and into the town of Edwinstone, where the local Chinese was called 'Wok this Way' (well it tickled us!). It was also the place that a rather insignificant statue of Robin Hood and Maid Marion started off the great' was he from Nottinghamshire or Yorkshire' debate. We had in the red corner Bob, and in the blue corner John Drake, that well known exponent of claiming a link to Yorkshire of anything he can get away with, for example did you know that Mickey Mouse was from Yorkshire? At a small place called Budby we said our farewells to Bob and Sue. Onward we marched to our tea break at the entrance to 67

Clumber Park, and there we said a temporary good bye to Barrie and Jack. Carolynne's knee was playing up and so then we were back to seven. We set off again and, before long the tea took its toll; some of ladies needing a spot of privacy, if you get my drift. Clare managed to find a place in the wood but, in the middle of whatever she was doing guess what? Brrrrr-brrrr, brrrr-brrrr, “you're never alone with a mobile phone”. Arrived in Worksop. To say that some towns look run down is sometimes a bit mean but not in the case of Worksop; apologies to all Worksopians but it really does seem to be the true about the bits we walked through. We walked through the town centre and picked up the A60 and our lunch stop at the Cannon pub in the outskirts of Worksop. The forecast had been correct and the weather was gorgeous, making the half hour break whizz by and the restart even harder but, start it we had to, and we continued on the A60 to Carlton on Lindrick, where we went off the main road and onto a series of country roads and farmer's tracks, add infinitum. John D said it was only a mile and a half to tea break, but we of little faith swore it was at least a mile further than that, before we eventually came to the A634 and found the white van and the tea. It had been a long stretch since lunch (four and half miles of John D miles), where the normal pattern had been for the vast bulk of the walking to be done in the mornings, perhaps thirteen, and then to do two short spells of about three in the afternoon. Perhaps you think an extra mile or so is nothing, and that would be understandable, but routines are easy to get into, and hard to get out of. The good news was 68

that, after the break, we now had less than three miles to do before calling it a day. The road was straight and we gobbled up the yards. Away in the distance a huge hill dominated the skyline; it had to be a slag heap we thought, and so it was. We walked through the village of Styrrup and under the A1, stopping a hundred yards further on the outskirts of Harworth.

The van arrived within minutes to whisk us back to the Priory Church of Worksop. We pulled into the grounds of the church taking an immediate right turn to an isolated building which was in fact the 13th century gate house and our bedroom for the night. The main door was locked and covered in graffiti and appeared not to have been used in ages. John L excitedly showed us up the external side stairs to the large hall above the main gateway. To say this was the oldest and probably the grandest (if a little run down) room we had ever stayed in would be and understatement. This was our digs for the night, hardly 69

luxurious, but just imagine sleeping in a room steeped in over six hundred years of history. We washed in the rudimentary facilities and shared in Iris's celebratory drinks and cake, these being an aperitif to the meal provided by the parishioners in the old mill house some two hundred yards from the Gatehouse. One of our hosts even regaled us with stories of the Lady in White who haunted the Gatehouse and appears from time to time out of the chimney. It was enough to send shivers down the spine, and make sleep more difficult. As there was no pub in the vicinity and the streets around looked anything but salubrious, the decision was made to stay in, it wasn't too bad as we had drinks in stock and by way of entertainment we tried getting something on an old radio. Tired though, everyone soon retreated to their beds. Day 10 -Worksop to Doncaster(Intake) First task of the day was to try to get Radio Nottingham on the old radio to hear the recording we did two days earlier; no luck there though. Breakfast was back in the old mill house, and again was provided by the parishioners. The service at 8.00am was in the Lady Chapel of the Priory and conducted by a priest who by common consent was a cold fish lacking in personality; even the peace was cut wafer thin as if by a knife. The coldness of this service was in contrast to a service that the back up crew had later in the morning (it being Sunday).


After our service Mark drove us back to Harworth and dashed back for the aforemention later service, attended also by Iris, Mary and Katherine; Marks wife who had come to join us the previous evening. We started walking at 10am and after a mile we crossed over into Yorkshire. There was no sign to say we were back in The White Rose County, but he who is certain of Robin Hoods credentials had a map and, the beam on his face, as well as his words, said everything. Peter Davey passed us in his red motor and papped us. He had taken over the role of tea-provider this morning, as Mark (as mentioned before) was otherwise engaged. We continued on to Rossington and passed a fishing lake and lots of locals who confirmed we were indeed in Gods own county, with lots of “all reet's” and “tha' knows's”. We travelled through fields, across becks, over Bessacar golf course, then the M18, into some woods, where a boy-racer, a 6 year old on a miniature motorbike, cut a rather more sophisticated figure than his similarly aged contemporary in Sherwood Forest, who'd been poncing about in Lincoln Green. After the mid-morning tea break we were 'On the road again', as goes the song by Willie Nelson. We passed through two villages to the East Of Doncaster, namely Cantley and Armthorpe. At Armthorpe we had a celebration to mark the 250 mile stage, the first time we had really marked any of the milestones on this pilgrimage. On walking into Barnby and lunch, John L tried to fool us into thinking it was another three miles to lunch, but we weren't fooled and Carolynne even told him to go forth and multiply! (only joking) As we left for the afternoon stint, the weather was cloudy and 71

clammy, and it looked like rain was on the way. What could we expect; it being a bank holiday tomorrow after all! At Kirk Bramwith Irene got bossy with Carolynne and told her not to even think about taking a rest at a conveniently placed bench on the green outside the church. But she got her way as just then a man looking very much like Arthur Askey (if you're younger than fifty, don't ask) drew up in a beat-up old Passat and proceeded to snare with a long pole and a noose, a large white swan which was lurking on the other side of a hedge in the Vicarage garden. Was he an official Swan catcher or just someone with a large family to feed at Christmas? A mile or so further on we crossed a swivel bridge, the second we had crossed today. At least this one was open, not like the last one where we had to wait. The van was not at the pre-arranged tea-break stop when we got there, it arrived 20 minutes late having been held up at, you guessed it, by a swivel bridge. The news from Mark and John L was of a drama unfolding at that moment back at our overnight stop for the evening (Doncaster (Intake)). Nothing as minor as a swan being caught. More like a burglar not being caught. The story is thus. As the back-up had been unloading the van Iris witnessed a burglary at the house next to the church and was now helping the police with their inquiries as it were. Talk about excitement eh! According to the map, the field next to our tea-break stop was the 'Hacienda Leisure Park' but there were no signs of it unless you count a man flying a kite and two parked caravans constitutes a Leisure Park?


Setting off again down a country lane we were called back by the local farmer whose out-houses we had just passed. “could we walk the lane and report it's state to the local council”? He told us the lane ahead was pretty much overgrown and made impassable by a neighbouring farmer. He was trying to get us involved in a local dispute. We replied that we weren't local and were walking from Canterbury to York. His response to this was “Eeee you're a long way from York”. Resisting the temptation to tell him that it was a bl---y sight further from Canterbury, we moved on. He hadn't exaggerated about the state of the lane. An hour later we reached the road, after stumbling over barriers of earth, through shoulder high weeds, over an extremely rickety fence, forded a stream via an even more rickety bridge, across a rough stubble strewn field, and through several bramble patches. We were tired, scratched and fed up but, with less than a mile's further road walking, the white van was espied that would take us back to Doncaster Intake. Back at Intake we realised that perhaps Iris's burglary escapade was unlikely to be an isolated event on the estate which All Saints Church served. The hall (next door) was surrounded by a high fence topped with Stalag Luft-type barbed wire! The pre-dinner drinks were interrupted by the arrival of Paul Drake, the brother of John and David. He arrived with news of the yesterdays football results, his sleeping bag (he was staying the night), his boots, he thought he might do a little walking in the morning, and a thirst. It has to be reported that the first was useful, the second used, and the third redundant. His thirst? Well, lets say it was sated.. He also 73

served a useful purpose in that he sat in for Fred. Fred who had never turned up for a meal, despite our setting his place ever since Carolynne had joined, who'd made us a bakers dozen. Paul ate little, as he said he had eaten earlier, but was he being polite?. After dinner the pub beckoned (we needed to do some fund raising after all!) The Lonsdale had presumably been the Red Lion at one stage, as it was next door to Red Lion Motors. We hoped it hadn't been renamed to appeal to pugilists? The landlord lent John L an Aluminium bucket to go round the pub collecting and even announced the fact on the PA system, and the locals were generous and friendly, so our reservation about pugilism were allayed. In a lull between records Ann and Sue took the opportunity to show they were in fine form and sang 'Silence is Golden' thus not letting David's Tremeloes boob die a death. The rest of the evening was spent drinking and watching a large Millennium countdown clock at the back of the bar; 124 days 2 hours 15 minutes and 42 seconds, no-41 seconds, no-40 seconds , to go. The late night visit to the local chippie on the way back was a treat and spirits were high as we strolled the streets of Intake on a balmy (or was it bar? Probably both) night. Back at the hall, neither the food, or the girls high jinx were over for the night, as Mark had breakfast in bed a little early so to speak. Well let's put it this way, he had to empty the cornflakes out of his sleeping bag before he was going to get some sleep.


Day 11- Doncaster to Selby 'Revenge (OK-it should actually be vengeance) is mine sayeth the Lord'. So what was our man of the cloth doing exacting his own? It took Sue all morning to get the cornflakes out from the back of her Tee-shirt. Now just how did Ann escape any retribution? Must be that innocent looking smile! After the usual mass with the Rev'd David Morling officiating along with three parishioners,and brother Paul doing the reading, we set off for Selby (Riccall). The walking was flat with long distance views of two power stations, Eggborough and Drax were a good guide for us as we knew we had to walk between them. A few miles further on we crossed the M62 and onto Snaith. We were in good spirits, except Carolynne who was struggling with a painful knee. She was obviously in much pain and was persuaded that it would be prudent to be picked up by the van, to rest her knee for the final push into York tomorrow. The rest of us continued on over the river, passing Carlton Towers Cricket Club and on into Carlton proper for our tea-break next to the church, where we were joined by the full team (not a common occurrence). Walking again, we almost immediately turned off the main road and bisected a modern housing estate, which was too new to be on the map, picking up a single track tarmac road between open fields, with no hedges. We needed to go across country using any one of three foot paths but could we find them? Could we heckers like! It didn't matter that the first two went begging but, when we came to where the third should be, 75

we had no option but to traipse confidently across several fields, some with crops in, along the general line of where the path should have been. We passed a copse where there was a grouse breeding pen, with accompanying feeding stations, and all became clear, the landowner didn't want walkers disturbing the rearing of his game birds and so had failed to keep the paths up to scratch. This sort of thing doesn't half make the leader mad! After a couple of hitches involving doubling back we eventually picked up the small country road we had been aiming for. We were picked up at a bridge over the canal at Brayton and taken to the Grey Horse in the village where we lunched in the beer garden, before returning to the canal bridge and heading off through Selby. On walking through Selby a period of reminiscing followed for Irene who lived in Selby before marrying David and moving to Leeds in 1969. “This is where Brown Owl lived”, was followed by “down that street was where I used to play with....,etc. etc.” A slight diversion even took her past the family home at 49 Armoury Road. Through the centre of Selby we strolled, one wonders what the folk made of six walkers following a bloke with a goatee beard, sporting a Crocodile Dundee hat and a colourful neckerchief, carefully measuring out each step with a bent walking stick? Suddenly it all became clear. The strange looks, and the “Gudays”, we'd attracted for the last 15 days had nothing to do with most of us. They'd all been directed at John Drake, the mickey taking had been directed at him and not the rest of us.


Onward we marched over the River Ouse using the Selby toll bridge, and on through the old village of Barlby to our very last afternoon tea-break involving our old friend the white Leyland Daf mini bus. Her registration N536 EVR and if she's seen on the road, she deserves a blown kiss. We had just a short walk after tea to the pick up point on the A19 at Riccall, and then back to Selby via Kelfield, and a 'gander' at the place where we would be eating the final celebratory meal, The Grey Horse pub. On arrival at the Standering Hall attached to St James's church, we found that the back up crew had done their usual thorough job, the beds were all laid out and as a joke Peter W's bed had been set up in a Wendy House on the stage. We settled down to the ritual of simultaneous feet washing and spirit drinking for the last time, almost with a tear in the eyes. Soon we were off back to Kelfield and the 'Grey Horse', for our final evening meal. The Landlord didn't normally serve food on Monday's (the chef's night off) but a special exception had been arranged for us weeks ago. The food was good, as was the company, and the euphoria of a successful pilgrimage flowed in abundance. Slightly presumptuous, but surely nothing was going to stop us completing less than 10 miles the next morning. Here I leave the account of the Canterbury to York pilgrims story, as they set off for York, to be met by a host of family and friends, plus a coach load of people from St Aidan's, there to celebrate the completion of the pilgrimage with a service in the Minster. My journey on the 'End to End' continues with the walk to 77

Leeds from Selby, actually the other way around, but who cares.


Chapter Six Leeds to Selby Part of the Minsters Abbeys and Priories pilgrimage of 2001 A quick note before I start. In theory it should be Selby to Leeds, as I am walking North to John O'Groats. But this walk was completed in one day, and on the other walk (Walking the Walsingham Way 2003) the Selby to Leeds bit was part of a two day walk. This would be our 4th sponsored pilgrimage so we were getting quite blasé about the whole process of setting off, but there is nothing quite like the start of a good long walk. The preparation for this walk had been particularly difficulty, in so far as having completed the planning of route, everything had to be change due to the outbreak of Foot & Mouth disease, which meant no footpath walking through farm land! Setting off from St Aidan's to walk to Selby wasn't going to be too much trouble. A straight forward walk through Harehills through Crossgates and bits of Garforth which included the car park of 'The George' pub where we met up with the yet another white van. Not a Civil Engineering vehicle this time, as John D was on long term sick leave at the time, but one sponsored by 'The Daleside Brewery and the new Roscoe Pub courtesy of Noel Squires the landlord. Peter Walker on a visit to the facilities in the 'George' managed to acquire a donation for the tin and a good luck kiss from a patron in the pub; a good start therefore on the donations front. Kippax exuded its own brand of charm and the pavement 79

outside The White Swan revealed that a Friday night reveller's stomach couldn't cope with eight pints and a curry! More salubrious surroundings awaited us at our lunch stop in Ledsham; the car park of the 'Chequers'. Two points of interest arose there; firstly the leaders inability to sex a goat as it stood with its front legs over a fence, begging for food. Secondly, a John L demonstration that he'd not lost the knack of extracting donations from strangers, descending like a preying mantis on any hapless lunchtime drinkers entering the car park in BMW's and Mercs. After a bright repast the walking continued; under the A1 we went, on the A63 through Monk Fryston, soon hitting a straight stretch of road which the locals regarded as part of the Le Mans circuit. The well tuned pilgrim self preservation 'kicked in' as we adopted a single file and much concentration was called for. At Hambleton, the leading group of walkers was seen talking to a strange man with a dog; on closer inspection it turned out to be Fr Alan and Melton his golden Labrador. Tea break over we carried on, passing Thorpe Willoughby and into the outskirts of Selby. At The Hawdon Institute (our overnight resting place) to the side of the Abbey we were welcomed by the portly curate and his equally well endowed wife. Ere long Peter Davey provided the large bowls of water for foot- bathing, and his usual large G & T's; well at least the G's were large if not the T's. Was this to be the norm or was Peter's attention diverted by the charms of Sarah from the Selby Post, who's arrived to get an interview and a photo? Jonathan and Valerie West were somewhat of an unknown quantity to a few of the group and their ability to take a joke 80

had to be tested. An opportunity arose when the average age of the walkers was declared to be 56 years. “What would it be without Jonathan and I”, asked Valerie. The phantom pilgrim replied in a flash, “About 27”. The test was passed; they laughed along with the rest of us. It has to be reported that the sense of giddiness got worse, as the alcohol permeated tired minds and bodies and, before enjoying the buffet meal provided by the local parishioners, we began to raise money for the cause. Peter Walker contributed £7 towards the swear box and ten other pilgrims forced themselves into a single pair of knickers as a forfeit. This was all in the line of duty you understand. Later, a more conventional approach to fund raising followed, as we set out to local hostelries to give the local folk the chance to show their generosity. The response was great, especially from Mr Cooper, the landlord of the Station Hotel, who 'coughed up' the contents of his charity tin for are charity 'Martin House'. An hour later, we returned to the Institute and within minutes the sound of our efforts to replenish energy reserves resounded round the room. Yes we were snoring. Here, I leave the this account of the Pilgrims as they go on to complete the pilgrimage in fine style by walking to York and Whitby, across North Yorkshire, and on into the Dales before returning to Leeds-a total distance of 305 miles-ish. They raised nearly £5K for Martin House Children's Hospice in the process. But my story lies elsewhere, i.e. The Leeds to Lindisfarne pilgrimage.


Chapter Seven Leeds to Lindisfarne (Holy Island) pilgrimage 1994 This is the very first sponsored pilgrimage and the account is from my faulty memory, as brother David (my brother that is, not the religious type) didn't write an account of this walk. So apologies if it's not as accurate as it should be. Day One- Leeds to Ripley The walking team consisted of yours truly, Sue (my wife) our son Simon, brother David and his wife Irene, Ann Lejins, Fr Chris Davidson and his son Stuart and the back up crew was the Rev Pauline Bicknell in a hired green van, assisted at times by John Lejins, Barrie Pepper, Howard Bicknell, Peter & Doris Davey and my mother-in-law Iris Tasker, plus I am sure others who for the life of me I can't remember; sorry if you are one of the forgotten ones. The walk began with the a Mass in St Aidan's and send off by members of the parish. Firstly through areas of the parish, then onto Gledhow Valley road, Harrogate Road- all at this point on pavements. Passing through Alwoodley we finally left the public road and onto our first track at Eccup reservoir, and our very first morning coffee stop (remembering that this walk is our very first sponsored pilgrimage). I should point out that being a novice at the long distance walking game, I had planned the walk to include as many footpath paths as possible: you will learn later that this is sometimes a big mistake. Suitably refreshed we were off again, around Eccup reservoir and into Lord Harewood's estate. All through my growing up 82

Harewood was pronounced HAREwood, but when Lord H. married his second wife it was changed to be pronounced HARwood. I can only assume she had delusions of grandeur (as if being married to a peer of the realm was not grand enough), and decided HAREwood was far to common! So on we tramped through the HAREwood estate (I'm a bolshie sod), out the northern side to the HAREwood bridge, and onward towards our lunchtime stop at the Square and Compass pub in North Rigton all on footpaths. At the Square and Compass more controversy! Having acquired our liquid refreshment from the bar, we deemed it inappropriate to eat out sandwiches in full view of the restaurant, so we moved to the far side of the car park some 50 yards away and with no direct line of sight with anyone in the pub. We were happily munching on our sandwiches, when an underpaid lackey from behind the bar was sent out to tell us that we could not eat our sandwiches in the pub car park, because they sold food and it would unfair on the diners to see us feasting on our sandwiches. After a discussion on the relative merits of the argument and the fact that we were on a charity walk, it made no difference. So we walked out of the car park with our drinks and sat directly opposite the pub and in full view of the diners and ate our sandwiches on some conveniently placed benches! (I told you I was a Bolshie sod). After our picnic victory we moved on for the rest of today's walking passing Brackenwaite, Harlow Carr on the outskirts of Harrogate where the Royal Horticultural Society has its Northern Headquarters to our afternoon tea stop on the main A61 near Killinghall, but not before getting lost. Mistakenly I say lost because we (I) never get lost; just for the moment we 83

(I) couldn't place ourselves (myself) on the map. After tea we took to more footpaths and bypassed Killinghall, and this is where the footpath plan started to go awry, in so far as the footpath way marks were either not there or the foot path themselves were no longer recognisable as such. So, after a very frustrating hour and lots of too-ing and fro-ing, we arrived at our over night destination; the Memorial hall at the lovely village of Ripley with its medieval castle. I would have to say that the previously reported rituals of feet washing and G&T's had not yet become part of the institution of pilgrimage walking, so we all tended to our needs individually. Fr Chris, who for an experienced walker (he had in fact done the first Leeds to Lindisfarne walk in 1983) had made the novice mistakes of a/ not prepared his feet correctly, b/ not wearing proper walking boots, just trainers. As a consequence his feet were shot to pieces, and he spent ages taping up his feet with plenty of plasters. The meal preparation had been started by Pauline with the help of the ad hoc helpers, and we even had a contribution from the local village ladies in the form of cakes, which were much appreciated. The memorial hall was well equipped in other ways; it had a social club bar and a full size snooker table, so that evening was spent in. Needless to say the evening ended in lots of snoring, another tradition of all future pilgrimages. Day Two-Ripley to West Tanfield After Mass presided over by Fr Chris, we set off with the soon to become familiar words of 'What shall we do today?' the answer being 'how about a short walk' 84

Today we were to walk to the cathedral City of Ripon and visit the tomb of St Wilfrid then onward to West Tanfield, but before that we indeed had some walking to do. Straight onto the Nidderdale way North of Ripley, but not for long. After about a mile or so we branched off at High Cayton on foot paths that had a habit of not being there or, if they were, then the farmer had ploughed right up to Hawthorn hedges. Very uncomfortable for the walkers but we managed! We soon arrived at the pretty village of Markington, and then slightly further North to Markenfield Hall, which is unusual in so far as it is one of the very few moated and defended Manor houses in the country. You can visit it, but it is only open a few days a year and even then you have to book the visit in advance. I don't really think they want visitors, but they have too because it is sponsored by English Heritage! We did manage to have our morning coffee stop just outside though. Onward toward Ripon and the lunch stop, bypassing Studley Royal and Fountains Abbey to arrive at the Cathedral just in time for Lunch, albeit after the visit to Wilfrid's tomb. The afternoon was taken up by a long walk on a series of farm tracks running along side the Rive Ure, through North Stainley and on to our overnight stop at West Tanfield. West Tanfield also has a relic of more warlike times in the form of a Marmion tower; not that we had time to visit it, what with tending feet and preparing meals etc. On the subject of preparing meals, the hall at West Tanfield was somewhat lacking in pots, pans, crockery and for that matter cutlery. After a careful hunt around and the fact that we scrounged pans from the lady at the post office, we did manage 85

to have a meal of sorts (breakfast was equally frenetic). On taking the matter up with the Vicar on our return, I was told that the parish had a meal capacity for 50 with matching crockery & cutlery, so he didn't know what we were talking about. I felt like asking him if the aforesaid crockery & cutlery were in the many padlocked cupboards we were not privy too, but decided that it was a waste of time. After dinner, a visit to the local pub proved much more acceptable in terms of hospitality and welcome, and we retired to bed in a much better frame of mind. Day Three- West Tanfield to Scorton (The hospital of St John of God) After Mass in the local church and breakfast, it was once again time to ask what shall we do today, the answer being as before was, 'how about a short walk'. On leaving West Tanfield we walked North to a small village called Wells, thence on to Bedale and our lunch time stop via a series of foot paths. Well that was the plan, but it didn't quite work out like that. The foot paths were just not there and it fell to the leader (me) to sort it out, and when I say the paths weren't there I mean the signposts were, but the paths weren't. So it was a case of dead reckoning and hoping for the best, and after a series of forced marches across ploughed fields we did arrive slightly late at our morning coffee stop at Snape. However the back up crew had not been idle, and had been talking to the owner of the local pub who was a keen walker, and he knew all about the problem with the local footpaths. So as compensation he provided excellent fresh coffee & biscuits for us all, a very fine gesture we thought and much appreciated. 86

The pub owner also put us right about a foot path we had intended to walk on, and advised us to walk instead through the local Arboretum at Thorp Perrow, which turned out to be a very pleasant detour. From there we went through Firby and into Bedale by a minor road. Lunch outside a local pub proved a welcome break, and it also gave me time to sort out a problem I was starting to suffer with. Travelling North as we were, I had not anticipated that the sun in England would be a problem. But it was, and the back of my legs and neck were getting quite sun burnt and therefore sore. The legs were easy to solve, just wear my jumper with the sleeves around my waist and the body dangling down the back of my legs-problem solved. The neck was a different story! I had a brain wave; 'a women's head scarf. A quick trip into 'Age Concern' and the purchase of aforesaid women's head scarf (worn like a boy scout neckerchief)-it worked a treat. The rest of the day proved much easier as it was mostly minor road walking, with afternoon tea at Hackforth, another road walk to the outskirts of Catterick, then a footpath inside the racecourse into Catterick Bridge itself. The final stretch into Scorton wasn't without a bit of excitement, because we walked a footpath by the side of the river. The only problem was the field was full of cows, and Irene and Sue have always been afraid of large animals; particularly cows. It took a lot of persuading, and group cover to get the girls through the field, before we could arrive at our final destination for the day, The Hospital of St John of God at Scorton. I suppose I should explain what the Hospital of St John of God is. It is a hospital run by the Roman Catholics as a convalescent 87

home, and they had kindly offered to put us up in one of their unused wards, with dinner and breakfast without charge. Although they did say we could make a donation in their charity box, which we did and I hope we weren't stingy. Needless to say we didn't go to the pub that night, because we thought it would be inappropriate. Day Four- Scorton to Shildon After eggs & bacon with all the trimmings, which after just cereal and toast breakfasts since the start of the walk made a pleasant change (no, lets put it a bit more forcefully-it was fantastic), we started walking straight away. This is because the Roman Catholics are a bit funny about other denominations using their churches for communion masses, so it had been decided to hold a mass at the nearest appropriate place, which turned out to be the village green at Middleton Tyas. However this was not before we had a bit of a detour around a huge quarry that had sprung up across our footpath in the intervening time since our map was printed and now. The Mass on the green caused not a little interest with the locals, especially the youngsters, and I not sure if they had even seen anything quite like it before. It was followed by our morning coffee break, which caused less of a commotion. After coffee the walk commenced again, and a short while later we crossed under the A1(M) and onto the B6275, following it all the way into Pierce Bridge and lunch in a pub just by the North bank of the River Tees. Aficionados of geography will know the river is the official boundary of Yorkshire; none of the new fangled administrative boundaries for us (me)! 88

In the afternoon we progressed well and stopped for afternoon tea at a place called Houghton Le Side, which is aptly named;a village literally on the side of a hill. After another short and pleasant walk we arrived in Shildon, our stop for the night. It had a very pleasant hall, which was actually a new extension built inside the church on a separate floor at the back. All very clever! Dinner was consumed with great relish, and afterwards we were invited by the Vicar to have our evening refreshments in the Shildon Working Men's Club (affiliated). It was very interesting, until we rattled our collection tin, offering the punters a pilgrimage badge in return. One of the members (with dubious parentage) asked to see our official collector permit, which of course we hadn't got. But there again we didn't think it was called for, especially as we had been introduced by the local Vicar. The little incident spoilt what had been a good day, and therefore we retired to bed slightly earlier than anticipated. Day 5 -Shildon to Durham After Mass in the church and breakfast it was the 'short walk', in fact today would be a very short walk as it was to Durham, only 13 miles away. We walked out of Shildon and into the outskirts of Bishop Auckland before joining the Auckland Way footpath for a mile or so. Then, after a short piece of road walking, we joined the Weardale Way alongside the River Wear until we reached the bridge at Sunderland Bridge, which has nothing to do with Sunderland itself. 89

Morning coffee here before the mad dash for Durham only 4 miles away. After a short road walk we branched of onto another footpath which went through a wooded area that skirted the promontory which the Cathedral is built, the path exiting the woods in the City itself, not 200 yards from the pub where the back-up crew had set up lunch. Hows that for map reading!! So, after a much more leisurely liquid lunch than usual, we retired to the church hall for the afternoon. Well that was the plan, until someone pointed out that there was a swimming baths not 100 yards away. So it was off to the baths and a session of laughter and fun. Firstly, Ann had no costume, and secondly Fr Chris's feet, which as it's already been said, were shot to pieces and needed protecting. Ann's problem was easy to solve, borrow a costume, but Fr Chris's feet needed foot condoms; well that's what we called them. They are in fact things you can buy to cover your feet if you have problems like athlete's foot etc., but they do look like condoms. Well, by the time Fr Chris had purchased his foot covering and got them on, the rest of us had just about had enough of swimming & for that matter showering, but we had to hang about a bit so he could do his thing. Then it was back to the hall to sort out the newly washed laundry, which the back-up crew had kindly done for us. Clean shorts-Heavenly! Then off to the Cathedral for a visit, and for some a first visit. It has to be said 'what a magnificent building it is'. The evening was just the usual, a meal then off to acquaint ourselves with the locals and do a bit of money collecting, and may be have a drink or two, but all in the aid of charity it has to be said! And so to bed. 90

Day 6- Durham to Newcastle Straight after Mass & breakfast we were off again for our 'short walk', firstly on the road to a place called Nettlesworth and then onto the ubiquitous footpaths, and today the newly acquired aversion to footpaths was to really come into force. After Nettlesworth our path crossed over a natural trail at Waldridge, except that our path just disappeared completely, at the bottom of a steep valley with a stream running along it, and after about half an hour of meandering about, it was decided to rethink. Back out of the valley we traipsed, sideways for a mile through the small village of Edmondsley and then back onto a farm track to Tribley farm, the farm we should have been at about an hour ago! Then about a mile and a half later the same thing happened again, this time in a valley bottom below the hamlet of High Urpeth. The footpath plunged in to a sea of Himalayan Balsam that was about 6 foot high and completely obscured the path. The leader (me) just lost his rag and ploughed through the plants bashing them down with an improvised scythe and cutting a path through the weeds along the side of a stream; all the time saying 'I do not need this'. After about half a mile of this hard work we came to a bridge across the stream which was on the map and we were back on track again. Ten minutes later we arrived at our lunch spot, hastily arranged in a hay barn at Riding farm, which was useful as it had just started to rain! Here a legend was found, i.e. THE Walking Stick. Whilst 91

lounging about eating sandwiches Peter Davey noticed a piece of wood which looked like a ducks head. On picking it up it turned out to be a walking stick covered in dung. It was an omen, so after checking with the farmer that it was OK to keep it, it was cleaned up and used by John D for the rest of the pilgrimage (and for all the subsequent pilgrimages and walks since, including the Lands End to John O'Groats, except on the last day near J'O'G, but that's for a later chapter). The afternoon session was far less interesting, except that trying to navigate the western reaches of Newcastle was difficult to say the least. There are only two crossing points over the river on the western side of Newcastle; one is the Western Bypass, which is the A1(T) (a route not for the faint hearted); the other is a bridge slightly to the East of that, which is itself anything but pedestrian friendly. But, after several organised dashes across dual carriageways, we did eventually get across the river to the North bank, and after a mile or so of walking we finally arrived at the West Denton Church (a suburb of Newcastle) and our over-nighter, at about 6.30pm. There was little to celebrate, we had spent nearly ten hours walking just over 26 miles, and to put it mildly we were knackered. The bangers and mash though went down a treat as did the in-house beer. Fortunate as there was no pub close by; not that anyone could find the energy to walk another step! And so to bed, very early! Day 7- Newcastle to Morpeth After the usual Mass and breakfast, we were off for the usual 'little walk', today though would be a doddle compared to 92

yesterday as it was only 17 miles to Morpeth. After wiggling our way through several housing estates on the north western fringes of Newcastle we emerged onto more open road just south of Newcastle airport, taking morning coffee at the village of Dinnington and lunch at the pub in the village of Stannington, before crossing the A1 and onto very rural roads for the afternoon walking session. During the afternoon we had to walk across several fields, all but one were the usual trial, with the farmers having ploughed right up to the hedge and making life just that bit more difficult. The one that was different came as a complete surprise, as it was the opposite to all the others. As we approached the field it looked just like the others (wall to wall wheat) but, as we turned the last bend before the footpath, it opened out into a proper footpath across the field, the farmer had used some kind of cutting machine and cut a 5 foot wide path for us and others to use. What a nice kind farmer!


Not only that, as we crossed the field I found the second icon of the pilgrimages. A ten shilling note, not an English ten shilling note as they don't exist any more, but one from Kenya and in good condition, so it hadn't been in the field that long. Its discovery sparked some interesting ideas as to how it got there, which made the rest of the quiet day go by very quickly. We arrived at the church hall in Stobhill, an area of Morpeth to the South, in good time and enjoyed our evening meal of Fish and Chips. This was followed by the usual visit to a local hostelry, all in the aid of Charity of course. And so to bed, but this time not so tired. Day 8- Morpeth to Lesbury I have to admit that the walking today is a complete mystery, after 15 years I cannot for the life of me remember anything to write about. I have scoured the route maps for some inspiration, but nothing comes to mind. I say nothing, but in fact I do remember one thing. Near the end of the day we were walking into Lesbury, a small village near the mouth of the River Aln. As we crossed the river over a footbridge some way from the main road, consequently in quiet surroundings, we stopped halfway across waiting for some of the others to catch up. As we waited we looked down river towards the sea, and there, on a small islet in the river, two otters were playing. It was a really magical moment. The only other thing I remember was that the church hall was tiny and Lesbury had no pub, and so no beer that night except what we had with us. An early night!


Day 9- Lesbury to Bamburgh Today the sense of anticipation was now building, it would be our last full day of walking; we had nearly finished! Not only that, the walk today would mainly be on the coastal footpath. All the usual things happened but things just seem to blur into one. Three things did stand out in my mind. First, on walking through Craster, a village famous for its crabs, the road went through the village and on the left were houses and on the right were boats and fishermen's huts on the beach. At one of these huts there was an old man sitting on a boat or bench. We got into conversation and after a few minutes we bade him farewell. Afterwards we all agreed that we had only understood about a quarter of what the old guy had said, such was the strength of his local accent/dialect. The secondly, I remember was David having a few hard words with me regarding lack of leadership. This all came about at Beadnell, where the footpath crossed a caravan site in the general direction of the church. I thought I had mentioned that we were heading towards the church and did my usual thing and marched off in front and got to the church before everyone else. Some of the others soon caught up, but David and Irene were nowhere to be seen. So I went off to find them, and, when I did, hard words were said. But I have broad shoulders. My final recollection was on walking into Bamburgh from Seahouses. A car pulled up and in it were Brian and Betty Sharp, two St Aidan's parishioners who were up for the weekend to greet us on the final day tomorrow on Lindisfarne 95

Island. After a few words of greeting Betty asked, very kindly I thought, if we would like a lift into Bamburgh. At which point we had to remind Betty that we were on a sponsored walk! The final full days walking was complete and we were guests of the Rev. Eric Zachau the Vicar of St Aidan's in Bamburgh, in his very palatial Vicarage. We were wined and dined in style, and we were all in high spirits knowing that this would be our final dinner together. We even went out into the village to hobnob with the locals and holiday makers, all in aid of charity though. Day 10- Bamburgh to Lindisfarne (Holy Island) No service this morning as we would be holding a Mass in the Priory on Lindisfarne in the afternoon along with the many St Aidan's parishioners who, even now, were travelling up from Leeds. Walking started straight after a leisurely breakfast provided again by the Rev'd Eric and his team of ladies, but not until we had the customary photos outside the vicarage and said our farewells. The walking today would be even easier that the Durham day; only 12 miles, all of it flat, although we did have to walk on the A1 for just over a mile. All too soon we were approaching the causeway to the island, and here we had to stop, and wait for the coaches from Leeds. We had arranged this beforehand, so that the parish as a whole could walk across the sands to the island on the old pilgrims way, the old way of getting onto the island before the causeway was built. 96

This gave us plenty of time to eat lunch, actually we had to wait nearly an hour and a half, and even then when the coaches arrived there were no congratulations from the Vicar on a job well done, just the news that the parish entry for the Harehills (Leeds) West Indian Carnival had scooped first place. Not that we had done it for the glory, but, a quick well done would not have gone amiss. Be that as it may, we then set off across the sands to Holy Island, and our Mass in the ruined priory, and the completion of our walk. The Mass itself was very uplifting conducted as it was by St Aidan's (Leeds) very own retired Bishop, Bishop Derek Rawcliffe. Afterwards we had an hour on the Island before we had to leave before the tide came in and the causeway became inaccessible for 6 hours. We went to Seahouses and fish and chips, before making our way back to Leeds on the coaches. The sponsored walk raised nearly two thousand pound, half of which went to Martin House, a Children's Hospice near Leeds, and the other half going to The Centenary fund, which itself was divided 50/50 between the parish restoration appeal and our link parish of Katlahong in South Africa.


Chapter 8 Tyndrum to Lindisfarne Part of the Iona to Bamburgh Via Lindisfarne Pilgrimage August 1996 ' In The Footsteps of Aidan' Once again the route should be Lindisfarne to Tyndrum, if I were following the South to North route, but we actually walked for Iona to Lindisfarne and brother David wrote the diary that way, so hard cheese. I suppose I should introduce everyone now, as I will be starting the story of the walk four days in at Tyndrum. The walkers were:- John Drake (me) Sue Drake (my wife), David & Irene Drake (my brother, and sister in law), Peter Walker (my youngest brothers father in law), Ann Lejins and last, but not least, son Simon Drake again. The back up crew;- Rev'd Stephen Webb (mini bus driver), Peter & Doris Davey, Iris Tasker (Sue's mum & my Mother in law) and Mary Hill who would be joining us at Rowardennan Youth Hostel, which is on the shores of Loch Lomond. Mary's reason for arriving late being that she is an Edinburgh Festival freak? The walking before Tyndrum was fairly straight forward:Saturday 17th August, drive up to Pennyghael community hall which is half way across Mull. Sunday 18 th, drive to the ferry terminal for the ferry across to Iona, and a Mass in the church. Then the walking starts, walking back to Pennyghael and then a little extra. Monday 19th, walk to Oban; well actually walk to 98

the ferry terminal to catch the ferry to Oban, and then walk a little extra. Tuesday 20th, walk to Dalmally. Wednesday 21st, walk to Tyndrum then onto Crainlarich and a little extra walking to the West Highland just as it branches off to go along the far side of Loch Lomond. We join the walking this day as we walk into Tyndrum. Day one -Tyndrum to Cranlarich + a bit We arrive at Tyndrum in time for lunch and, just as the morning rain had eased, we went straight to the Inverary Hotel, where John L and Peter D had negotiated with a fellow Christian (from an obscure sect called Psa-Baba) manager at the hotel to eat our sandwiches in the games room (strictly against company policy). Doris tries to convince us that tonight's accommodation is duffer than the accommodation had been at Dalmally, but we realise straight away that she could not bluff her way out of a wet paper bag. Explanation hereDoris had regaled us at lunch the previous day of how bad the accommodation that night (Dalmally) was, only to be chided by her husband that “the walkers need inflating not deflating”. We left Tyndrum on the A82 just as Peter D returns with some free cress donated by the manager, we hope it isn't dosed with conversion powder- we can't even spell his sect, let alone subscribe whole heartedly to it. The weather is better, and after the initial stiffness of stopping has worn off, the benefits of the break are evident. We give another part of General Wades military road a miss (General Wade had been cursed enough for one day), as this mornings 99

walk had included part of one of his roads, and much to our regret it was very overgrown! Some camaraderie creeps back and the small section of walk to our overnight stop at Cranlarich is reached by afternoon tea-break. The community hall is palatial compared with Dalmally, but we soon have to leave it for a while as our walking is not finished for the day, there are three miles on a busy stretch of road towards Loch Lomond to negotiate. This section proves to be remarkable for one of our number, Peter Walker, who has been struggling in the late afternoons for a couple of days, suddenly finds a self belief and a spring in his step reminiscence of Judy Garland following the yellow brick road. Steve and John L pick us up at the point where we can conveniently start on the West Highland Way footpath in the morning. Back to base where Peter D has arranged for us to go to the local YHA for much needed showers. Later it all started happening at the hall, firstly we had a visit from a Belgian young man looking for somewhere to stay the night along with his girl-friend and two Dutch girls that they'd chummed up with, there is no room at the YHA and they couldn't afford B&B. A familiar story but no pregnant lady and no donkey! They couldn't stay with us because of the booking condition, but Fr Stephen made a phone call to the Vicar at Dalmally who was happy to provide them with room at the Hilton (church Hall). He completed the good deed by giving them a lift there. Secondly the cooker was playing up and Iris was fearful that the St Aidan's steak pie was going to be a disaster. When it came, she was still disappointed, without justification, as it was 100

excellent. She was told as much but didn't believe it, she'll have to now as it's in print. After dinner we went across the road to the Rod and Reel, purely to fraternise with the locals you understand. Things didn't go to plan as there wasn't enough room to swing a mouse let alone a cat, and that was without 'Wiggy' on the pool table ramming his cue in your ribs in an attempt to play his shots. It was wall to wall youngsters and very noisy. Steve tried his best to mix with an Australian beauty called Serena and was doing OK until Peter D approached him, “ have you got the kitty Father?” Possibly we would have got a seat a week next Tuesday but we couldn't wait and so we retired early. I don't think John L even got the collecting tin out! Day 2- Cranlarich to Rowardennen Mass outside at 7.00am. With the mountains in the background and the swifts twittering and swooping in the sky, it was a morning to appreciate God's gifts. The value of midges, biting viciously as they were, will however remain a mystery. David had a speaking part “and the reading today is from Judgesagain”. We were dropped off at yesterdays finishing point for a spot of walking just for a change. Sandwiches and provisions for the day had to be carried as there were no roads for the van to meet up with us until tonight's stop. The sun was shining and we were optimistic that the rain we'd had at some stage nearly every day so far, wouldn't trouble us today. We lost, found, lost and found again, the footpath along the 101

side of the River Falloch which would eventually lead us to the bonnie, bonnie banks. However the first sight of Loch Lomond was not to come until a candle lighting celebration, marking the spot where the total mileage walked matched that which Ann reached before she retired on the last pilgrimage; the smile on her face was a picture. The path rose up high and we had our morning rest with gorgeous long distance views of the loch. Spirits were high at this point but the track soon got very tough and we began to feel like the mountain goats that we came across; we hoped we smelt better than the male with the paint stripping fragrance. We also saw a giant slow worm; looks like a snake but is actually a legless lizard (saw a few of them in the pub last night), and several iridescent blue Loch Lomond hissing beetles (and yes,they really do hiss). The track was to get even worse and we were glad when the lunch stop arrived, at the posh Loch-side Inversaid hotel who's hospitality belied the signs which seemed to be distinctly anti-walker and we were allowed to eat our sandwiches on their tables, provided we bought a drink, which we really didn't want to do as can be imagined. The chaffinches joined our repast. On with the walking and we soon came across another rare species, the lesser spotted Cheshire bike rider, whose name could well have been Richard Head. At times the path literally meant scrambling up an almost vertical crop of rock, perhaps for 15 feet, with a steep drop on the other side and to have the encumbrance of a bike, with panniers, and a massive rucksack, 102

was the height of folly. The going remained hard and those with bad ankles, or knees, or a dislike of heights, or those who were tired (all of us) found it tough, except for Peter W, with his newly found confidence. Irene's knees had been alright right up until she tripped full length and landed on a rock with both of them. The rocky path gave way to a forestry road which went on for an eternity but eventually battered, bruised and tired we arrived at Rowardennen youth hostel, with it's gentle slope down to the loch, fifty yards away. We were greeted by the back-up, always a lovely feeling but today especially so, as we we hadn't seen them since first thing this morning. Mobile Mary Hill had caught up with us (and now we were thirteen), her pilgrim sweat shirt was a different colour than everyone else's, what does she have against burgundy? Still the green one suited her. Allocated our accommodation; the seven boys all in one room, with Francois from France, and the girls likewise, supposedly with a French girl. Was she Francois's girlfriend? Did you hear the one about two ladies in a youth hostel who tried to get a mattress inside the white sheet sleeping bag provided- the Waters sisters (Iris & Doris) strike again! Another excellent meal cooked by Iris, Doris and Peter D, with the now additional support of Mary. The post dinner relaxation was marred by the screams of Susan, who was having the large plaster on the sole of her foot taken off lovingly by her husband. For the life of her though, she couldn't remember asking him to remove a large piece of skin as well. Rob Roy's bar was half a mile away and the van was required. Steve having to reverse 200 yards to get out of the complex. 103

We had two affable rounds and John L went round with the tin again; it was suggested that someone else ought to take turns but he's so good at it. The rain which had held off all day put in a show for the return trip. Day 3 -Rowardennen to Fintry Woke at 6.00am and Francois, who'd not been in bed when we retired, barely stirred as seven bodies stumbled out of bunk beds to prepare for the day. The French girl hadn't shown up in the girls room but we can report that neither did she creep into Francois's bed. We held Mass on the grassy banks of Lomond, with views on the far side of hills shrouded in cloud. In the foreground the loch was still, rabbits frolicking and birds twittering completed the scenario of calmness, a calm that our humble hymn singing hardly pierced; even the midges were notable and welcome absentees today. Breakfast over we readied for the day ahead. David had abandoned his boots in favour of trainers. Would he cope, and how would Sue's foot do, minus as it was a large chunk skin, only time would tell. A cracking pace was made early on and spirits were as high as the clouds on this fine morning, and the banter, which wasn't possible for much of yesterday as survival concentration had been needed, returned and the world was put to rights again. We soon arrived at Balmaha for morning coffee and biscuits, which were shared with a host of ducks who had waddled up from the loch. “Break over, back on the road”, our intrepid 104

leader urged us on. We obeyed willingly; how can you argue with someone who has organised everything with hardly a hitch worth mentioning. Loch Lomond had been seen for the last time with some sorrow, she'd been a friend for a day and a half, and we headed inland with the landscape changing perceptively into a rural English type feel. Having never seen a slow worm before we saw our second in two days and a buzzard on a telegraph pole waited until he'd got a full audience before showing his full wing power. Progress was still good and Killearn, our overnight stop, was reached by 1.30pm, where the back up had secured a splendid spot for lunch in the beer garden of the Old Mill pub, which doubled up as an insect wild life park: wasps to be precise. Sandwiches eaten, it was off again, but not before a group photo was taken on the church wall, with a backdrop of the Trossach Hills. We'd covered a good few miles in the morning but were soon to feel the pace as the afternoon proved to be just a plod, despite some excellent views of the close by hills. Particularly memorable was a brief moment as an impending storm's edge bathed the hills in sunlight, when all around was black as pitch. The peace was ruined by a clap of thunder which turned a quiet herd of cattle into a stampede. The thunder was coming from our rear but the storm never reached us, although we were later to learn that Killearn had been hit by a torrential downpour, the speed of this mornings walk had saved us from getting very wet. Around ever bend we expected to see Fintry, our goal, but many bends came and went before we finally reached it. The village approached and from a distance Irene was sure that the flashing lights plus a man on his knees, face down to the ground, equalled someone being given mouth to mouth 105

resuscitation. Wrong, it's a BT man looking down a man-hole. Walking all day does addle the brain! The van arrived to take us back to Killearn and the accommodation is excellent. We adjourned to the dining room where Peter D served drinks, for internal refreshment, and buckets of warm water, for external refreshment (much appreciated by the feet). Dinner was ham, home-made chips and cauliflower cheese, followed by a treat of cream cakes courtesy, of Doris and Iris. To accompany the meal, Mary had made some sangria, ingredients with the compliments of Harehills Tesco, mixed in a bucket recently used for foot-bathing? The minister arrived to see how we were getting on and Mary chanced her arm by asking him if he would like some of her brew; well how was she to know he was a teetotaller? Mind you, Peter D, had already had a taste of his staidness, as the Rev had nearly suffered a bout of apoplexy when permission was requested to celebrate mass in his church. That's the Scottish Presbyterian's for you-not into pagan rituals! Washing up proved to be an ordeal as the sink was blocked: Peter had it mastered though, off came the S-bend and under went a bucket. Meanwhile, in the main hall, Father Stephen was laying his hands on Susan's feet, and a silent prayer was also said. Afterwards Susan said that she had experienced a deep inner heat and now the pain was gone. What's more the injured foot looked less angry and the truth is that she felt little discomfort on the subsequent days. Out for a couple of unwinding drinks in the Old Mill, and the Hotel further along the main street, and then back to bed.


Day 4 -Fintry to Falkirk John and Sue's bed has been on the slow deflation trail for a few night's and it happened again last night. John has become an expert at finding the tiny nicks, a bit like you do with a bicycle inner tube, with soapy water, and sticking on the patches, usually on the seams. Last night John and Sue's bed sprung a leak again (JASBSALA) and he's unbelievably calm about it. Mass took place in the dining room, with a musty smell which we were assured was dry rot by the font of all knowledge, the mender of beds. Irene did the reading and Peter D led the intercessions prayers with feeling. Breakfasted immediately and set off again, first by van to Fintry and then the old legs came into play when we started walking at 8.25am. We were expecting another road-side celebration after 3 miles, to coincide with the half way point of 121 but our leader having re-assessed the mileage made us wait another 3 miles. The familiar candle was lit on the road adjacent to Carron Valley reservoir. The ceremony, and the in unison shouted question “what have we done to the first half of this walk?”, with it's response, is to bawdy to put into print. Suffice to say it coincides with a preparation lovingly given to the Christmas turkey prior to being put into the oven. Mid morning break, including the remains of last night's cream cakes, was taken close to an ancient churchyard (Kirk of Muir cemetery). Continued on along the side of the reservoir, picturesque with the trout jumping and, several hundred yards away, rowing boats of fishermen, probably frustrated at the cleverness of the fish in keeping their distance. 107

Onward through Carron Bridge and the country road gradually gave way to the built up area of Denny, passing a foot-path sign for Dunipace-tonight's stop, taking derisory jibes from some local youths “I love to go a wandering”, we replied by singing the next verse. The van passed us and Steve wanted to know if we'd seen Mary; this could be a disaster, she'd made sandwiches and had them with her but where was she? Worry over, she soon turned up and she's learnt a new skill by watching a Killearn youth break into her car, after she locked her keys in it. Stopped for lunch at the Donner Arms in Denny High Street, advance negotiations on eating our sandwiches inside having been successful. Being Saturday lunch-time there were plenty of local drinkers themselves into oblivion and we really wondered what the heck we'd walked into. Oh ye of little faith; they were very friendly. Even the chap at our table, who at first glance gave the impression of being trouble, turned out to be a star turn, by the name of Tarmac Willie, a nick-name given due to his occupation, he was interested in our walk and looked at Simon muttering “serious boy, serious boy”. We walked on to Falkirk, on the very busy A803, and were tooted by a car. It being 2.30pm, we thought it was probably a Donner Arms local on his way to watch Falkirk AFC- hope they win! As we approached Falkirk, John realised that there was some doubt about the pick-up point as he had told Steve it was the railway station, and on perusing the map and some local reconnaissance, it revealed a couple of alternative stations, we therefore waited at the town hall, a point the van would have to pass anyway, and flagged it down. Back at Dunipace Church of Scotland hall we were given a 108

tremendous welcome by the minister, Jean Gallagher, and half a dozen parishioners. They were busy preparing an evening meal for us and, whilst we waited to be fed, one of them took us back to his house in shifts to use his shower. The back-up had set up all the beds as usual, earlier in the day and yes, another case of JASBSALA. (John gets his repair kit out to effect the eighth repair of the trip). The dinner was magnificent and Peter Davey's eyes lit up when he saw the Pavlova pudding, his favourite, and the proof was him devouring seconds and thirds. Actually we all did full justice to the fare, gave appropriate thanks and retired to rest. Peter W went missing and an hour later we were about to send out a search party when he returned. Allegedly he'd gone to the house of the shower-provider, ostensibly to get some board games for the evening entertainment but Finley, his new found friend, had plied him with malt whisky. The Red Hoose public house was the venue for some of the party and the rest stayed in (on a Saturday night?) Day 5 -Falkirk to Broxburn Mass at 7.00am was up a few stairs in the church, homely and welcoming, and whilst we were worshipping the parishioners were preparing a full Scottish breakfast. The breakfast was eaten with a great deal of relish, and we even had time to ring Clare Wheelhouse and wish her a happy birthday. The time had come to say goodbye and we tried to match the hospitality of the Dunipacers by presenting a box of chocolates and a post card of St Aidan's to each of them. It was then outside for team photo, after which the walkers left with heavy 109

hearts and stomachs. A last act of kindness was a discrete gift of a bottle of Famous Grouse from Finley. After dropping the walkers of at Falkirk town hall, Steve returned and joined the rest of the back-up in Sunday morning worship with the Rev Jean Gallagher and her Samaritans. When it was time for the children to go into Sunday school, they were given the chocolates we'd given Jean, asked to enjoy them but, “to think of the St Aidan's pilgrims and what they were doing, as you eat them”. After the service our people were thanked by THEM for the visit and given a cheque for £50 to put to our charities and another parishioner palmed Peter £10 as they shook hands. There are times in life when you really feel humble and this is one of them. Meanwhile back at the walk, Falkirk town centre pedestrian precinct on a quiet Sunday morning, with the sun shining, the town revealed itself at its best, well preserved old buildings intermingled with rather tasteful modern ones. We strode out of Falkirk along the A803 with the M9 never more than half a mile away on the left until we reached Linlithgow, where we recalled that Thomas Hamilton, the Dunblane psycho, had one of his notorious boys' clubs. It looked a nice little town but we didn't dwell, turning left, and onward and upward into the country. The quiet roads went up and down, but mainly up, until away to the left we caught sight of the top of the Forth road and rail bridges. As we continued to climb, the extent to which we could see both grew majestically. Saw our first badger, albeit a dead one, on the road-side and, shortly after, held another candle ceremony, complete with pilgrim chant, to mark another mile-stone, only another 100 miles to go. No mid-morning 110

meet-up with Steve and John L because of the Dunipace service and accordingly today was dragging as we came off the minor roads, to find ourselves on the A89. Turning left we soon arrived at our prearranged lunch stop in Uphall at the Oakridge Hotel, who do a really naff line in Coca Cola, as per the expert on these things, Simon. Peter D told us he'd met some of the parishioners at Broxburn, our overnight stop, and they had been uncomplimentary about their minister, “ a bit of a sour-puss”, by all accounts. They added that alcohol could only be taken in the church hall for medicinal purposes but we were of the belief that anybody choosing to walk 242 miles couldn't be right in the head and so we qualified. Broxburn was only a mile down the road but our afternoon walk started back along the A89, at the junction of the B8046. Our termination point was to be the railway station at Kirk Newton and, although from the map it looked like a country walk, in reality it was a series of built-up ribbon development-type places, waiting to be swallowed up by a giant conurbation. The walkers and the van arrived within a minute of each other at Kirk Newton railway station, if you could call it that, as it only had a flashing light barrier across the road, a tiny platform and a small building. Back at Broxburn the feet-soaking and drinking the of medicinal alcohol took place in the Minister's aptly named “session room”, the bar administered by Peter D. If he were to leave his job at the University, he would make an excellent publican, but on second thoughts he'd bankrupt himself, he's no idea about measures. JASBSALA, John D effects repairs nine, ten & eleven. “What 111

are you two doing on that bed every night?” John and Sue were asked. The reply, minus a naughty word was “trying to get some sleep”. Susan's feet had been splendid today and David's decision to walk in trainers is improving his ankle no end. After the “session” the pilgrims tuck into the superb meal of roast pork with all the trimmings that had been prepared by the ladies. It was washed down wine kindly donated by Betty Gawthorpe, who received thanks by way of a phone call that winged its way to Leeds. A rest period was required after such a meal, in the middle of which, some of the pilgrims snook out to the Grenadier Arms, leaving David snoozing, but can you get rid of him that easy? No way! He awoke, dressed and went in search of those who had abandoned him, found them and questioned their parentage. John L showed his prowess at darts, little else to do as there was no-one there to shake a tin at! Returned to the hall to find some knickers at full mast on the flag-pole at the stage end of the room. Don't ask. Day 6- Broxburn to Broxburn It's 8.00am and we are just getting up! What's the crack? It's our day off, no walking and a trip to see the sites of Edinburgh. So after a cooked breakfast, prepared by John D and Sue, it was off to St Mary's cathedral for an 11am Mass in the side chapel, then a short walk to The House of Frazer store, for a free Lunch arranged for by John L, who until recently had worked for the sister company Rackhams in Leeds. Afterwards we all went our own way. There were the shopaholics, Susan, Doris and Iris; a culture vulture, Peter 112

Walker, who wanted to see the Monets in the art gallery and the Ukrainian State Dancers; Peter D, both Johns and Ann, part of the lets see what happens brigade, who ended up relaxing in Princess Street gardens, at the same time collecting an unsolicited £6.00 for our charities (without a street licence); David and Irene, who visited St Giles Cathedral, the castle, the Last Drop Inn, Greyfriars church to see Bobbie's grave and they witnessed some street theatre, a fire and razor blade eater; and Steve and Simon who went one step further by actually appearing in the street as assistants, the introduction to which was the wise-cracking performer pointing to Steve's stomach and asking “when's it due”, but not to be out-done, the quick as a flash reply came back, “you should know, it's yours”. All returned to St Mary's, except Simon and Steve (negotiating the film rights?), in time for the 5.30pm choral evensong. The van took us back to Broxburn safely but only just; there was a slight altercation on a roundabout. Late Afternoon tea was interrupted by the Rev Misery guts (Richard Corbett) who came into the hall to do some chore or other, and left without speaking to anyone! Later adjourned to the Grenadier Arms, still a bit grim but at least the Leeds match was on Sky- Leeds 1 Wimbledon 0, the same score that Falkirk won by yesterday. It was slinging it down in Leeds, hope the rain isn't coming up North: it's going to be hard enough tomorrow as it is, after this rest day. Day 7- Broxburn to Gorebridge Prospect of a hard day ahead, 19 miles and the Pentland Hills to get over, John pulled no punches, telling us all that we could 113

expect it to be tough. 7.00am Mass in church, with two hymns and to be honest we definitely needed the practice as the first one was poorly sung. Breakfasted and set off in the van to Sunday's finishing point at Newton Kirk. We had only just got started when we were separated into two groups, one on either side of the level crossing, barriers down for the Edinburgh train! We walked on side roads, crossed some field terrain near Glenbrook, passed close to a big quarry, cutting off the corner in the process, and soon met the A70, turning left towards Balerno. Balerno was a quaint village, with some new roads, constructed to protect the original cobbled main street, now pedestrianised. The leader in the front group then devised a devious plan to loose the following group in the maze of streets, and was successful in so far as they remained lost for twenty minutes, until a search party found them. Met up with Steve and John L, for mid-morning break on the climb up from Balerno and we were given cakes that had been provided, after we left, by the wife of the minister. She'd recently been diagnosed as having MS, hence the possible reason for the ministers lack of interest, as he may have had other things on his mind. A rare event took place at this stop: the normally implacable Ann lost her cool with husband John. The newly purchased vacuum flash, to replace the one broken outside the Oakridge hotel two days ago, had been put down the sleeve of Ann's kaghool and unfortunately it had leaked because the top wasn't secure. Protestations from John that it wasn't his fault fell on deaf ears. 114

The earlier set-back was quickly forgotten, as the climb up to the pass through the Pentland hills was gentle and comparatively easy, comparative that is to the given prediction. We were so full of ourselves that at the top we debated for a brief moment whether to tear up the peak to our left. The views all around were wonderful and over our left shoulders were our old friends, the Forth road and rail bridges. Descended down the other side to meet up with the back-up crew at the Flotterstone Inn, to find that they wouldn't allow any sandwich eating on the premises. We dined in the National Trust car park a few hundred yards away, and were introduced to the delights of smoked ham flavoured sandwich spread and gherkin sandwiches, requested by John D, which were not everyone's cup of tea. Speaking of liquid refreshment there was a short debate as to whether we should frequent the inhospitable Flotterstone Inn? Well there was nowhere else! We set off for Carrington along country lanes with high hedges and an old railway track, along a riverside walk and then on an embankment with long distance views. Eventually Carrington was reached and we finished off the banana cake (donated by Mrs Rev'd) outside the old church that was now a photographic studio. On the last leg to Gorebridge, tonight's stop, we decided against the planned short cut footpath, as it looked to be completely overgrown, but later, after descending into a valley bottom, espied another footpath winding upwards through a wooded area on the other side. Not on the original plan but we were feeling adventurous and so we took it. It was certainly shorter than the road and partly successful, despite the fact that the path petered out, leaving a short hack through undergrowth, down a hill, over a barbed wire fence before tumbling onto the 115

main A7. This little diversion was reminiscent of many undertaken during the 1994 pilgrimage. Oh happy days! After a short walk on the A7 and then a minor road we arrived in Gorebridge, a small run down place, but with traces of what it had once been, a full employment community, reliant on the pit for its prosperity. The closure of the coal-mine must have had a devastating effect on the morale of the locals and their community. The church, a nice looking stone late Victorian building, was decorated with wire mesh over the windows, which tells its own story, and foreboding was to descend on us. This was quickly dispelled by firstly the back-up crews find of a plastic toadstool which they led a dance around; fear not it is not a pagan rite, just a few choruses of “Gin-gan gooly”. Secondly we were to meet the local parishioners, who like Dunipace, made us extremely welcome, and were soon preparing our dinner. They'd also made arrangements for us to shower at the local sports centre next door and insisted on picking up the tab. Before dinner, the table tennis table was erected and Peter W proceeded to show he was no mug at ping-pong. After dinner we retired to the near-by Coronation Arms and spirits were high as there was a growing belief that we were all going to finish, despite a further 73 miles that still had to be knocked on the head. The locals were friendly and one person put money in the tin as soon as we entered the lounge bar, without being asked and without hearing John L's spiel. The ladies tried some speciality drinks and Iris took a shine to the sherry and the Baileys glass it came in. We hadn't been back in the hall for many minutes when the 116

local yobs started banging on the doors and throwing bricks at the wire mesh windows. “9-9-9” and the constabulary were there in minutes, but not before the irritating little b's had gone. The police, bemoaning the trouble these regular nuisances put the public and themselves to, nevertheless reassured us that they would keep their eyes open, although they doubted we'd hear any more. Will we get to sleep tonight? Answer-within seconds somebody was snoring. Day 8- Gorebridge to Lauder No more trouble during the night. It's a pity that some people get enjoyment from trying to upset others' but a bit like midges, they are only an irritant, with few brains and little lasting affect. Whilst we were in church at 7.00am for our daily Mass, in the hall kitchen Mary, Alice, Margaret and husband and wife team David and Effy had risen early to cook a breakfast for some strangers from Yorkshire. What could we do to return this hospitality, other than to enjoy the fare put before us, which we did. Waving good-bye to our hosts, the walkers set off on today's route march. We spotted our first pheasants and the countryside was distinctly North Yorkshire-ish. To the right was to be seen the medieval Crichton Castle, probably built to keep the marauding English out, or the Scots in, depending on how you look at it. Either way it was a reminder that the Scottish/English border was fast approaching. This pondering was quickly forgotten as we started to climb a wooded stretch of road that seemed to wind endlessly in an upward gradient. 117

The climb was tough but we all seemed to cope with it in a way we couldn't have a few days ago; walking every day is making us fit. Is there a moral here? The A68 beckoned and it was then crossed. We then travelled on a parallel minor road, taking in Fala Dam and then Fala itself, where we rejoined the main A68 via an archway between two farm buildings, just in time to see the coffee van disappearing to who knows where. For the first time communication had gone haywire. Steve and John L had been expecting us on the main road and had gone off to look for us. We waited and they turned up a quarter of an hour later. The belated coffee and cake was very welcome. We set off again towards lunch, on what has been described as the longest 6 miles of our lives, with a more descriptive language emanating from Irene, “I'm peed off with road walking”. The traffic to be fair was quite hairy, but we've become quite blasé about the hurtling lorries which, if they travelled three feet to their left, would make mincemeat of us. Left the A68 for a spell of a mile and crossed some heathland, which coincided with the 186 mile mark, the distance we'd travelled on the 1994 pilgrimage, so it was out with the candle and the pilgrims chant had another airing along with a share of a block of Kendal mint cake. Back on the main road and then off again towards Oxton and the Tower Hotel, to eat our sandwiches with a cooling beer, refreshing the parts that it could, and for the first time a lunchtime blessing from Fr Steve; we must have looked tired! Off again and there was the prospect of walking on an old railway line but the first section of it didn't look conducive to easy walking so we gave it a miss. A little later another stretch seemed more inviting and we took the plunge. It was fine for a 118

few hundred yards and then it disappeared as a recognisable track and we were left with more shades of the 94 pilgrimage, with cross country exploring and the heaving of women over barbed wire fences; great fun and a diversion of nostalgic proportions. Eventually hacked our way back to the A68 and at 3.45pm we trooped into Lauder, with its solid, typically Border houses of greyish pink sandstone. We found the church, similar in colour as the houses but of more intricate design and, tucked away in the corner of the churchyard was a detached hall that was to be our accommodation for the night, it being clean and comfortable but small, so small that Doris and Iris were in a separate room downstairs. A refreshing cup of tea was taken whilst we debated whether or not to tackle an extra 45 minute of walking. Nobody was dead keen but, on the basis that what we did today was less tomorrow, we plodded up the long drag of a hill that was the B6362 towards Coldstream, pausing only when Mary turned up, “did we have washing”, her host for the evening was doing a wash? Discretion being the best part of valour we decided against walking in the nude and being arrested for indecency. The van was waiting for us at the top of the hill to take us back down again for the foot soaking and Peter D's bar, sat amongst the gravestones in the churchyard, enjoying the late afternoon sunshine. Before dinner of mince and tatties, which had to be eaten in the upstairs sleeping area, there was another case of JASBSALA, 19 patch repairs and counting. It's catching as Peter D's bed has been playing up (or should it be down) over the last couple of nights. The nightly sojourn took us to the Black Bull, where Steve did his impression of Barbara Woodhouse on the house 119

pooch, with a degree of success, as the dog did actually sit to order. Charlie, as we were told he was called, was a star for a few minutes until the discovery of fleas, when he suddenly became less popular. Retired fairly early: sleep was calling. Day 9- Lauder to Coldstream We had a sleep in this morning, not because we overslept, but, because we couldn't get into our accommodation that afternoon at Coldstream until 5.00pm, so there was no rush to start. After breakfast the van took us back to the top of yesterday's hill, the revving of the engine was a constant reminder of the prudence of the decision to get it out of the way. We set off walking on the A697 Edinburgh to Coldstream road with the weather cloudy but promising and the countryside very pastoral. Dropped down to a small place called Dodd Mill and looking over the side of the bridge, we were enchanted with the sight of a large heron, unaware of our presence, wading on a rocky ledge and fishing in the deep water over its edge. We watched it for a few minutes in silence till it spotted us, whereby it launched itself into the air and was away in a split second, huge wings flapping. Mid-morning break was held outside a telephone box in the hamlet of Houndslow, and then we continued on to our lunchtime stop at Greenlaw at the Blackadder Hotel, named after the local river, not Rowan Atkinson. Continued walking throughout the afternoon on the main road, which frankly was becoming a bit tedious but the miles were being eaten up satisfactorily. The afternoon break was taken in a lay-by and a large sheet had been spread out on the adjoining grass verge to enable us to do a bit of sunbathing. An 120

impromptu discussion ensued regarding the options for Saturday, do we walk onto Holy Island or walk off, on the causeway or on the pilgrims way across the sands. No decision was made, the time available and the tide tables will be all powerful: time and tide wait for no man, as someone once said! A diversion for the rest of the afternoon was mushroom collecting, the idea being to see from Simon's book back at base whether they were edible, this was to late for David and Peter W who had chanced their arm, or should I say their stomachs, earlier in the day. Passed “The Hirsel”, the family estate of the Douglas Hume's, most famous recently for producing a prime Minister, Sir Alex, and marched into Coldstream, home of the Coldstream Guards. The Rev'd Gordon Tams was there at our arrival and seemed happy to witness our end of walking drinky-poos and foot bathing, again provided by that man Peter Davey, who always seems to know what you want and when you want it. Iris and Doris couldn't cook for us as the cooker was vintage 1950 and didn't work anyway, which wasn't an insurmountable problem as the fish and chip shop was open, but it did make you think about the logistical problems facing the back-up crew, of providing for the walkers, everyday, at a different place, without knowing exactly what facilities were available until arrival time. JASBSALA, and John has now lost count and the bed appears to have more patches than bed. Further mixing with the locals was called for. So we adjourned to The Besom (an old English word for a witches broom stick). Gordon Tams was already in as we arrived and other locals we met, included a BT engineer, who had seen us on the road, the 121

BT tee-shirt David was wearing proving its usefulness as a conversation opener. At the next table to us were a group of Ministry of Transport guys, checking the grey traffic counting boxes we had all seen at the side of the road, but we didn't enquire further as it seemed a pretty boring occupation. What was interesting was that one of them had been to Trinity and All Saints college in Horsforth,Leeds, where he met the Rev'd David Smith, who had connections with the Society of St Vincent de Paul (one of our charities), but who had died of a brain tumour in the USA last year. Needless to say he and his group contributed to John L's tin. Shortly before we left the local auxiliary fire service came off shift and into The Besom. One of the party decided that there might be a 'lock-in' and, probably realising his bed was flat anyway, stayed; not wanting to miss the action. Steve arrived back at 2.30pm. With lights blazing, he burst the remaining balloons under his sleeping bag, placed there earlier, muttered something about revenge, waking everyone except David and within two minutes was out to the world, snoring like it was going out of fashion. Day 10 -Coldstream to The causeway to Holy Island Yet another late rising as an early walking start was not required because the mileage was small. Was this a bonus for Steve, who might have looked reasonable fresh and alert, but underneath who knows. He regaled us with tales of new late-night friends met, free malt whiskey and a £25 donation from The Besom charity allocation, as well as the acquisition of two promotional tee-shirts.


Back in the church hall after morning Mass for breakfast, but with no toast as the cooker was still not working, so it was simple fare of cereal, bread and marmalade. Gordon Tams joined us and, it was felt, was a little embarrassed that the facilities were not as they might have been. The walkers set off on this penultimate day, and were soon crossing the River Tweed to arrive back in England and the county of Northumberland. The welcome to England sign being ever so slightly less flamboyant than the welcome to Scotland sign on the other side of the bridge, but then we English are a more reserved nation, hiding our light under a bushel, whereas the Scots choose to make a mystery about what they wear under their kilts. A whimsical observation only, as in no way would we knock Scotland and its people as we remember, with fondness, the events, hospitality, scenery and emotions of the previous thirteen days. A few hundred yards later we arrived in Cornhill on Tweed and, as in Linlithgow, where we had been reminded of the horrific side of man's nature, here too another famous incident occurred, the snatching, and subsequent murder, of the 11 year old Susan Maxwell, from this very road, by lorry driver Robert Black, who later was responsible for the similar fate of Sarah Harper of Morley near Leeds. Passing the sign post for the historical site of the battle of Flodden (1513) we left the main road at Crookham, eventually arriving at the entrance to Ford Castle, where the van was waiting to give us morning coffee. On leaving, the van keys were secretly taken and placed on the outside over the radio aerial. Moments later the walkers looked back to see Steve and John L desperately searching for them and, it transpired later, 123

blaming each other. A shout of radio probably got them out of this fix but, in any case, Peter D and the Waters sisters approached us in their car and we gave them the full SP. We arrived at Lowick after the next walking session in double quick time. Lowick was the place where we were to spend our last pilgrimage night. Lunch was taken in the White Swan, the proprietor being kind enough to let us heat up 'our' scotch pies in 'his' oven and they went down a real treat with the sandwiches and ale. His kindness will be rewarded as there will now be a party of fifteen in his restaurant for a last night celebration; the additional two because Frances, who'd seen us off on our first morning, was to join us for the last days walking, along with a friend of hers. We stretched out with a carefree gait towards Holy Island, soon leaving the road to try a bit of footpath walking. The row of rolled hay bales along the side of a field was too tempting for Peter and David, who launched themselves on top of the first one and preceded to run and jump from one to another, like spring lambs with gay abandon. That was until Irene shouted, “get down from there, don't you want to finish the pilgrimage?” It was an order rather than words of advice and they obeyed. We crossed the A1 at the Plough Inn where John checked the notice-board containing the tide tables for tomorrow: double check really as he already knew the answer, but it was an act typical of his thoroughness in organising the whole pilgrimage. Over the railway line at Beal and up to the brow of the hill,there to see Holy Island laid out before us.The van, and Peter's D's car, passed us in a dip in the road, a few hundred 124

yards from the end of the causeway, which, at the top of the last hill, we could see was a little like Briggate. There were maybe fifty car-loads of people, and soon we were to join them, watching the creeping tide eat up the last remnants of the road over to the island, cutting off inhabitants until the next low tide (just as it would have for Aidan and his followers all those years ago). All the pilgrims joyfully had their photographs taken, together, as they had been for the whole journey, with their backs to the island and the sea lapping at their feet. We also had a poignant blessing from Father Stephen after which smiles and laughter melted softly into tears of relief and joy as the emotion of the occasion took over: one moment it was something you wanted to share and the next something you needed to keep to yourself. After a few minutes some composure returned and we intermingled with a few groups of people, who were intrigued as to what was happening. We spoke later and agreed that for most of us, our being overcome at this stage of the pilgrimage, was unexpected: the advance expectation being that the crunch time for tears and jubilation was surely to be at Bamburgh, but the memory of the emotions and spiritual significance of those moments on the causeway is something never to die in the hearts of all who were there. Here my End to End story takes a different route, as I go back to Tyndrum to head North to Inverness. But the rest of this chapter continues the next day with a walk onto Holy Island and then onto Bamburgh and a meeting with the rest of the parish of St Aidan's Leeds, for a Mass in St Aidan's church, 125

on St Aidan's day August 31st. A day I learned of the arrival of another nephew-James Drake, son of brother Simon.


Chapter Nine Tyndrum to Inverness 27th May to 2nd June 2008 Day one- Tyndrum to Forest Lodge. The cast and crew this time consisted of the walkers:- Brother Paul and Nephew George and myself (John D), back up David and Irene; who also took turns to walk as they saw fit. The day saw an early start with brother David picking me up in Otley at 6.30 pm, as we had long drive of 270 miles to Tyndrum before we could start walking. We arrived in Tyndrum just after 12.00 noon and had lunch in the car park of the local pub. The place was heaving with tourists of all descriptions, and the weather was set very fair. It was at this point I realised that I had forgotten my Australian bush hat, and as we would be travelling Northward, the back of my now balding head was going to get burnt to a crisp. Irene came to the rescue with a woolly hat and a handkerchief as a makeshift neck protector. With these modifications to my dress we were off, Paul, George and myself, and straight into trouble. We couldn't find the start of our walk on the West Highland way, The path came through Tyndrum, but it wasn't obvious where it had finished or where it restarted. The only thing to do was walk up the A85(T), branch off onto the A82(T) and pick up the footpath at the nearest convenient point, which is what we did. The walking on the path was quite easy, although in places it 127

was very boulder strewn, but on the whole the afternoon past off without incident, and we arrived at the Bridge of Orchy at about 3.30pm. As we arrived the path crossed the railway line at Bridge of Orchy station, which by no coincidence was to be our over-night stopping point, as the station building was now a bunkhouse. We booked in and then went onto the Bridge of Orchy Hotel to meet up with David and Irene who were not slumming it in the bunkhouse, but staying in the relative luxury of the hotel. A quick pint was called for before the walkers set off for a last bit of walking to Forest Lodge, our stopping point for the night. This bit of walking was easy and the view over Loch Tulla was spectacular from the high point of Mam Carraigh. David picked us up at Forest Lodge and brought us back to the Bridge of Orchy, and after a quick shower it was back to the Hotel for a good meal, if somewhat expensive; something we were to discover in this part of Scotland, meals drinks and for that matter accommodation are dear. And so to bed Day 2- Forest Lodge to Kinloch Leven After a breakfast of cereals and toast that had been set out in what passed as the dining room and was in fact the old waiting room of the station, we were picked up by David and taken back to Forest Lodge, to start walking again. At the lodge we took the usual photograph, said goodbye to David, knowing that we would see him later at the King House Hotel in Glen Coe. The walking was very pleasant as the sun was shining and the temperature was not too hot (things would 128

change later). Onwards and upwards we went, into the hills of the Black Mount, passing several conifer plantations as we went. The walking as yesterday was easy if again a little boulder-strewn. The morning dragged a bit, and the temperature increased forcing us to take a number of liquid refreshment breaks, but we eventually arrived at a metalled road which lead up to the White Corries Museum, where there was a chair lift up into the hills (I assume for skiing). We took the road to the right towards the A82(T) and then onward to the King House Hotel for our prearranged meeting with David and Irene and lunch. It was taken without the usual beer and afterwards we were off again this time with Irene for company. Out of the back of the Hotel and onto one of General Wade's military roads (my assumption), and a short way ahead the road split into two; both ways being The West Highland way, but we stayed on the military road and the 'High Way'. At a place called Altnafeach the two paths rejoined each other and started to rise out of Glen Coe and up and up we went, still on the Old Military Road. How the hell you can call what we were on a road I don't know. Up ahead was a section called the Devil's Staircase, and it certainly lived up to it's name; it was a hands and knees job, with in places almost vertical bits. To our credit all four of us took the section in one go without stopping, no mean feat for the youngest and eldest in the group, but we did make it to the top. The top being a pass between two mountains- Stob Mhic Mhartuin and Beinn Bheag. (don't you just love these wonderful unpronounceable Gaelic names?) From the top it was a very long downhill slog, still on the Old 129

Military Road, down into Kinlochleven. Looking at the map again the town appeared to have two names, on the South side of the river is Kinlochleven and on the North side is Kinlochmoor. About half way down who should we spy coming the other way, but David! It should be pointed out that David is not supposed to walk long distances, as his right ankle is shot to pieces, due to a series of football injuries. But, be that as it may, here he was walking up a very step hill to meet us, and doing a grand job of it. On meeting up with David he informed us the two miles I thought we had left to do was a lot further because the road is a switchback for the rest of the way down and very steep at that. But make it we did, and in doing so passed a spectacular fountain, which emanated from a broken joint in a water conduit. The conduit brings water from the Blackwater Reservoir down to the now disused paper mill in Kinlochleven. We had ulterior motives for getting down quickly today, first we wanted to finish the walking, and secondly David had found a pub in the town that was showing the Leeds versus Doncaster play off final for promotion out of Division One. So, after finding our B&B for the night and having a shower etc., David picked us up in the car and took us to the pub. The beer was fine, but the football match was a disaster, as we lost and it's yet another year in Division One After the match David and Irene went back for their second night at the Bridge of Orchy and we boys were left to out own devices in Kinlochleven. Not an exciting prospect as nothing seemed to be open and one wonders about the impact the closure of the paper mill has had on the place. We did find 130

something that was open; part of the old paper Mill had been converted into a sports centre of some kind, a climbing wall I think, but it did have a bar which sold a limited range of fast food, which just about halted our hunger. A short walk back to the B&B and to bed followed. Day 3- Kinlochleven to Fort William After breakfast it was back to the walking again, through the rest of Kinlochleven (or is it Kinlochmoor?), then a short sharp upward climb of about 300ft, after which the West Highland Way flattened out and we walked into a side valley off Glen Leven called Allt Nathrach. Still following the West Highland Way we walked out of the Allt Nathrach valley in another valley called Allt na Lairige Moire; all very pleasant. There was even the sound of two cuckoos calling to each other, which I must say caught me by surprise, as there was hardly a tree to be seen, but I was assured by Paul and George that this was not at all unusual, so there! Just after the confluence of the rivers Allt na Lairige Moire and the Lochan Lin Da Bhra,which forms the river Kiachnish,we walked through what I can only describe as the valley of desolation. In so far as the local forest owner had cut down all the trees leaving the area looking like a scene from the First World War trenches. Later we met up with David and Irene for lunch and afterwards David decided to risk his gammy ankle again, and walk with us into Fort William (we hoped he wouldn't come to regret his decision). Irene was to drive into Fort William and meet up 131

with us later. The start of the afternoon walk was through another valley of desolation, before we reached the Nevis forest and started to drop down into Glen Nevis itself. The shade of the trees was quite welcome as the day was getting hot, and the six miles or so were soon eaten up, as we reached the visitor's centre in Glen Nevis. Irene had parked up and walked to meet us and then retraced her steps back to Fort William as part of a fivesome. The arrival at Fort William called for some light liquid refreshment so we retired to a local hostelry for a couple of pints, after which the walkers decided to walk a little extra and finish the day at Caol, which is the start of The Caledonian Canal. A brisk two miles later David picked us up at Neptune's Staircase, a series of locks at the start of the Canal, and took us back into Fort William and our B&B for the night. Arranging to meet in the town later for our meal, we, the walkers, showered, changed into decent clothes and met up, after a short siesta. The meal was an Indian and very nice too. Fort William as far as we could tell was not bustling with night life, so after the meal we walked down to Loch Linne, where the walkers dipped their toes into the water. The plan was to do the same in the water at Inverness and thus cement the fact that we walked across Scotland! And so to bed Day 4 - Fort William to South Laggan After breakfast David picked us boys up from our B&B and took us back to Neptune's Staircase, but this time instead of driving off to meet us later for morning coffee, both David and Irene joined us for the first part of the days walking along the 132

Caledonian Canal. It has to be said that for a man with an extremely wonky ankle David seemed to be going rather well at walking? As you would expect the walking was easy and completely flat, after all it is a canal! The plan was for David to walk for about an hour and a half then turn back, pick up the car, and meet up with us further up the walk for lunch, and that's what happened. He met up with us at a point just North of Gairlochy Gearr Lochaidh; more of the wonderful Gaelic names? This is where the first part of the canal joins Loch Lochy and we had lunch at the side of Loch near a place called Bunarkaig. Lunch over, Irene rejoined David in the car, and the boys set off to walk the rest of the day to our accommodation at South Laggan. The walking in the afternoon was on a footpath on the left hand side of the loch all the way to South Laggan and very pleasant it was too. In no time at all as it seemed to us, we were walking into Laggan Locks to meet up with David and Irene, and to a refreshing pint in a old canal barge which doubled up as a pub. We did think about having our evening meal here, as it also had a restaurant, but on looking at the menu and especially the prices we decided not to as it was very very pricey. It was a short walk to our overnight B&B, where we dropped off our bags, before another short extension walk to a caravan site cum water park leisure facility, where David picked us up and took us back to the B&B. After a shower etc., and a short siesta, we were collected again and taken back to the water park for our evening meal, after which we watched a bit of TV and had a few drinks. Back at the B&B we met up with a group of Glaswegians who 133

were walking the the Great Glen Way to Inverness, having already walked the West Highland Way from Glasgow to Fort William. And so to bed. Day 5- South Laggan to Invermoriston. In the morning after breakfast David took us back to the water park to start the days walking, and once again he & Irene joined us for the first bit of the walk along the right hand side of Loch Oich. At this point I should tell you that the Caledonian canal is actually short pieces of canal and locks which connect up a series of lochs, the biggest being Loch Ness. After about an hour and a half of walking on an old railway line, which according to the map used to join Spean bridge to Fort Augustus, we had reached Aberchalder at the top end of Loch Oich. Here David and Irene turned back and walked all the way back to the water park to pick up the car so they could meet up with us at Fort Augustus. The boys rejoined the walk on a canal section, and for the first time the locks were now going down hill towards Inverness and the North Sea. It has to be said, and I am sure it has been said in this book, that canal walking is fairly boring, and we were glad to reach Fort Augustus at lunch time. We had no packed lunch today, as we thought that Fort Augustus would be large enough to find fast food of some description, and we were not disappointed as there was a fish & chip shop next to a series of locks which went down hill into Loch Ness. Here we tried a local delicacy of deep fried battered haggis, and it has to be said that if you like haggis, as I do, the deep fried version it not half bad. As we were all eating said haggis (that is all except George who 134

was eating an ordinary sausage), David and Irene turned up with coffee and tea, which did help as the haggis was quite dry (it is usually better with a nice gravy); no beer today as we couldn't find a pub! The afternoon walking was on the left hand side of Loch Ness, which would have been pleasant except the weather was closing in, mist was descending along with intermittent rain, and we were walking in a forest so the views were not at all good. The very last mile or so into Invermoriston the heavens opened and the footpath appeared to zig-zag down into a steep valley. By the time we met up with David and Irene, water was oozing from everywhere, and, as we warmed up in the car, the subsequent steam from our bodies made it very difficult to see out of the car windscreen. But David did manage to get us to our overnight B&B in one piece, and the owner took all our wet outer garments and hung them in the garage to dry, so it wasn't too bad. After the requisite shower, siesta and change of clothing, it was off to the only food outlet in the village; the local posh hotel. The food was very expensive, but equally very good, (I am informed by a reliable source that the then owner has moved on, and the new owner has introduced a new menu, which is equally as good but considerably cheaper). The rest of the night was spent back at the B&B watching the TV. And so to bed. Day 6- Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit +plus a bit The breakfast today was all home made, including the marmalade, and is therefore I think the best we'd had so far. 135

David and Irene picked us up as usual and dropped us off at the bridge outside the Hotel were they collected us the previous evening. Neither David or Irene joined us for a walk this morning, they had other plans i.e. a trip around Urquhart Castle, the ancestral home of the Clan Grant from 1509, which is just outside Drumnadrochit, and our meeting point for lunch. So it was best foot forward for the boys and off we went, into the hills above Loch Ness. The walking went well for the first hour or so, then the foot path started to zig zag up the hill. First backward and upward for half a mile then forward and upward for half a mile and so on for what seemed to be for ever. After about six or seven of these switchbacks I was beginning to lose my temper, but finally they stopped as we reached the top of the hill. We then started to walk all the way back down again, until we reach a point roughly the same height we had started at. I later looked at the map and saw that we could have stayed on the original path (at the bottom of the hill) for about a quarter of a mile, where the path stopped, and then after a similar distance of off piste walking we would have picked up another path, which joined the path we had just descended to? This would have saved us all the uphill walking that had added about two miles of hard walking to the days total! As the morning progressed the weather improved and became quite hot, such that by the time we met up with David and Irene we were all hungry and very thirsty even allowing for the water we had been carrying. Lunch taken, and as we were just outside Drumnadrochit our overnight stopping place, it was decided to walk on a bit, 136

which would also mean that tomorrows walk into Inverness would be even shorter. At this point the Great Glen Way follows the main A82 for about a mile then goes into the hills again, but we could see a shorter route which took a side road at lower Drumbuie up into the hills and into open country and some off piste walking. The idea of a bit of off piste walking certainly appealed, even David with his wonky ankle was up for it, so off we went. The first part of this bit was fine, as it was on a road uphill from Lower Drumbuie to Upper Drumbuie, then we were on a foot path into the hills. This is where things started to go wrong, the foot path faded out completely, and we were walking across open moorland. We could just about see where we wanted to get to, but getting there was over very rough terrain. After about half an hour of incredibly hard trekking we finally reached a farm track that was on the map. Everyone was pleased that it was over, nobody more so than David, whose ankle had even more incredibly withstood the battering it had just received. A quick mile walk down the farm track saw us met up with Irene and a trip back to Drumnadrochit for the now usual shower, change of clothing and a siesta before the trip to a local for dinner; this time in a pub. That is to say David, Irene and I went to the pub, Paul and George decide to have a bit of father and son time with a pizza and a DVD back at the B&B. And so to bed. Just a quick aside here:- David's ankle had been diagnosed as being in need of some surgery to fix it permanently at roughly a right angle, but after his experiences on this walk he decided that if he could do all that walking, and rough terrain walking at that, then maybe the surgery was not that necessary after all 137

(at least for now). Day 7- Drumnadrochit + a bit to Inverness After our breakfast (continental style), David and Irene picked us up and took us back to last nights finishing point. This mornings walk was all on farm and forest track and was therefore very easy, although I think the weeks walking had finally caught up with young George, as he was very slow today, or maybe he was slow because he didn't want the walking to finish, I couldn't say. Suffice it to say we walked into Inverness three and a half hours later, crossed the Caledonian Canal at the point where it reached the sea, and at this point ceremoniously dipped our feet into the water to complete the crossing of Scotland, from Fort William to Inverness.


You will recall that I have previously walked across country from Iona to Lindisfarne, but not all of that was in Scotland. We haven't finish yet though, because on the next 'bit' I will be starting from the railway station, so we need to finish at that point to have a continuous link. So we walk to the station and then onto the Morrison's car park meet up with David and Irene for the trip back to Leeds


Chapter 10 Inverness to John O'Groats September 2nd to 6th 2007 I had intended to use the railway to get to Inverness and then back from Wick to Inverness and then to Leeds. However after using the Internet to get prices, there were two ways to get there. One involved travelling over night and a changes of trains with only three minutes between them, along with a wait of about six hours at Preston. This route would have been only £25.50, but it was useless. The other route was a straight forward Leeds to York, York to Inverness, but it cost well over a hundred pounds. I did initially book the Leeds-York route, but then had second thoughts, as going by car would only cost about £60.00 including the weeks parking fee in Inverness, so I cancelled and drove up to Inverness on Monday the 1st of September, to start the walking on the Tuesday. Before I start with this account, I feel I must point out that walking on ones own is very tedious and therefore the mind can just blank the mundane things out. So I can only put to paper memorable details of this walk. Day one Inverness to Alness After a very good breakfast at the over night B&B, I was off on the last part of the End to End (not in distance, but in time-see the last bit). Through the centre of Inverness I walked, passing the stopping point at the railway station, and on over the Kessock Bridge across the Beauly Firth on the A9. It was a very warm day and the walking was fine. I branched off the A9 on to a side road 140

leading to Tore, then back on to the A9 and onward towards Duncanston and the Cromarty Firth. The mile long bridge across the Cromarty Firth gives a grandstand view of some moored North Sea oil rigs that are in 'storage' at the far end of the Firth, near the sea. I sat at the side of a roundabout at the far end of the bridge and partook of a meagre lunch of marmalade toast and an apple, before moving on for the afternoon session of walking. At Evanton I went off on the B817, which I understand was the old A9 before the new road bypassed all the little towns and villages on the way up to the top of Scotland. The pub was shut so I picked a couple of cans in the local shop, as by now my supply of water was running low. Another three miles saw me approaching Alness and my stop for the night at about 3.30pm. The town is nothing to shout about, just a main street with about 90% of the town to the North of the road and only a few shops actually on the road. The overnight B&B was comfortable enough, and my room was actually in an annexe at the bottom of garden next to the railway line; not that the railway trains would keep me awake, the train service was very infrequent up to Wick and back again to Inverness (the last train in either direction being about 9.00pm and the earliest being about 7.30am.) I went along the high street to find something to eat, but it was to be fish & chips or nothing, so I settled for fish & chips, then back to the B&B for a bit of TV. And so to bed. NB:- distance covered 21 miles


Day 2 Alness to Golspie The breakfast was a little disappointing (cheap sausages!) Then it was best foot forward as today's walk would be nearly 27 miles, so it was going to be a long one. The morning passed without incident, and was boring. But coming up to lunch time I could see the weather behind me getting blacker and blacker, and as I turned off the A9 to go into Tain (where Glen Morangie is based), it started to rain. By the time I reached the centre of town it was bucketing it down, so I dived into the nearest pub, which happened to be a sports bar, to wait out the downpour, and it also gave me time to stock up on my fluids? After about an hour the rain slowed, so I ventured out to find a sandwich shop for lunch, and lunch having been eaten it was off again. I did a bit of reckoning and realised I had made a boo boo in my calculation for the distance of today's walk. I had already walked about 15 miles to get to Tain, and I also knew the the rest of today would be over 15 miles, so the walk for today would be over 30 miles (the most I had ever walked in my life in one day)! But it was no use bemoaning my error, I had to get to Golspie today and that was that. Just outside Tain and it was back on the A9. I crossed a bridge over Dornoch Firth, and here I was overtaken by some cyclists who were obviously doing the Lands End to John O'Groats and, from then on, every day I noticed more and more cyclists. The rest of this long day dragged on and on with no special items of note, except the closed pub at Poles, just outside of Dornoch, and the fact that the road that crosses the River Fleet is a huge embankment 142

called The Mound with its special views down Loch Fleet. Suffice it to say by the time I reach my B&B in Golspie I was a little on the knackered side, as it was nearly six o'clock and I had been on the road for nine and a half hours. When I got to my room, I took my boots off to reveal a spectacular blister on my right heel, and luckily a much smaller one on my left heel. I did some emergency first aid on them, had five cups of tea, as I was dehydrated, had a shower, and a brief siesta, then ventured into the main part of Golspie which unfortunately was nearly a mile away! Golspie had much more about it than Alness, and consequently I had a greater choice of food emporiums. I finally decided on a fish & chip shop that had a restaurant attached; it was closing, but the manager relented and let me in. I didn't have fish & chips, but a very acceptable chicken pie with chips. Whilst I was eating I noticed the menu board, which showed that you could purchase a bottle of Linderman's Bin 51 wine for £4.95; a good price even if you where buying in a supermarket, let alone a restaurant! I didn't partake, as even for me a full bottle would have been to much. Back to the B&B and early to bed, I was done in. NB-The final calculation for mileage for the day was an awesome 32 miles Day Three- Golspie to Kings Park Llama farm (just North of Berridale) The walk today would be an accurate 27 miles and most of the morning walking would be like the two previous days; fairly flat, but the afternoon walking would be a different matter!


After a breakfast of very good scrambled eggs, I was ready for the off, and feeling much better than the previous night, as well as actually looking forward to the next three days and the finish. The morning walk was beside the mainline railway from Inverness to Wick and Thurso. Between the sea on the right and the mountain on the left there is very little land, so everything in places is scrunched up together. About two miles out of Golspie I passed a fortified tower called a Broch (I know this from watching too much television, as my family will tell you). At the mouth of rivers there is usually a flat area of land, which is where you find the towns, and I passed one of these called Brora about mid morning, a very pleasant little place that seemed to stretch on for about a mile on either side of the road. The rest of the morning was a drag, passing lots of little places like Lothbeg, Lothmore and Portgower, before I reached Helmsdale. At Helmsdale the mountains come right down to the sea so there is no room for the railway, which makes a detour inland up the valley of Strath Ullie and Strath Killdonan. The road however keeps on towards Wick, but it rises about 700ft in less than a mile. This meant that I had a stiff walk to come, but I left that until after lunch. Lunch was taken in one of several pubs in Helmsdale, where I was advised about the Berriedale Brae. A brae is a steep sided valley, so apart from the huge hill out of Helmsdale, I had another downhill section with a steep uphill section to follow and all this at the end of a long day! I did a little shopping at the local Spar for my evening meal, as my B&B at Kings Park Llama farm didn't do evening meals and it is miles from anywhere. Having stocked up I set of for the hill. As it turned out it wasn't too bad, because by now I had 144

got my walking legs in good fettle and I was quite fit. So after half an hour of quite bracing uphill walking without any stops I was at the top, and feeling quite pleased with myself. The rest of the afternoon was a series of switchbacks as the road veered left and right into small valleys, in its attempt to stay at the same height above sea level. It achieves this with the exception of the Berridale Brae, where Berridale Water (river) goes inland for miles and hence the road has to descend steeply into the valley, then out again. Needless to say, by this time in the day my walking wasn't as sprightly as it had been earlier in the day, and by the time I got back up the hill on the other side of the Brae I was knackered. The Kings Park Llama Farm isn't a Llama farm any more as the lady who ran it has now retired, but does still have two quite elderly llamas as pets. The greeting was excellent, as was the tea and cakes provided in the guest lounge, which I had to myself, as apart from not running a farm any more the owner didn't really do B&B any more either, but had made an exception for me! So after my self prepared dinner and a bit of TV with wonky reception I retired to bed. Day 4- Kings Park Llama farm to Wick Another 26 miles today. The weather was set fair as it had been all week, and the walking was to be quite easy if a little long. Dunbeath came and went as did Lathronwheel and I reached Lybster at 12 noon 145

just in time to see the pub/hotel on the main road opening, so I went in to have lunch, which was a very acceptable Leek and Stilton soup with nice crusty bread. I also did more first aid on my blistered left heel, which I must say was giving me a bit of grief, and looked quite nasty. The afternoon walking went just as easily and without incident, if you discount a near death experience. So far this walk I'd had no problems with traffic, but today an elderly motorist did try to kill me. He saw me and indicated right to bypass me, then, not only did he not move over, but veered in at the last minute causing me to jump off the road onto the grass verge. Then he had the gall to wave and smile at me as well! Apart from that incident the afternoon was a walk on through Ulbster, Thrumster and into Wick, then down into the dockside area and my B&B for the night. The Harbour B&B is in hindsight not somewhere I would recommend to anyone as a comfortable place to stay. I was the only person staying, yet I was put in the attic, in a twin bedded room with a non-functioning shower and lumpy really cheap beds, and as for breakfast, I will leave that for 'tomorrow,s diary'. My evening meal however was great. I was recommended to try the local J.D.Wetherspoons on the town square, which I did, and it was a delight. A pint of Duchy Organic best bitter and a very acceptable half pound burger with chips and salad for £5.95, which I must say hit the mark, as did the second pint. I was not looking forward to going back to the B&B, but needs must, and at least the TV had good reception. And so to bed.


Day 5-Wick to John O'Groats After breakfast I had 18 miles to walk to get to John O'Groats, so I arranged to have breakfast at 7.15am so that I could reach the target for about 12.30pm; there was a bus to catch at 1.45pm to get back to Wick in time for the 3.40pm train to Inverness. Well, I thought I would keep breakfast simple, porridge and toast. The porridge was the worse I have ever tasted, as it was made with just water and was very thick and lumpy, and the toast was to say the least very well done! I was on the road for 7.45am and was quickly out of the confines of Wick and into open country. It then dawned on me that in a short while I would be soon at the finishing line, and my dream of doing the Land's End to John O'Groats would be realised. Suffice it to say I became quite emotional and the nearer I got to the finish the more emotional I became. However there was still the matter of the walking to actually complete, and after about 4 miles I left the A9, my friend and enemy for so long, and went on the A99. Keiss was passed, and here the weather for the second time this walk turned nasty and I had to put on my plastic multi-colour poncho. It was only after walking for a further 10 minutes that I realised that whilst putting on the poncho I had left my trusty walking stick behind, there was nothing for it, it had to remain lost for ever. After passing through Nybster and Freswick I rounded a bend in the road near Warth hill and spied John O'Groats in the distance. Here again my emotions got the better of me.


The last three miles seemed to drag on and on, but eventually the main street, if you can call it that, came into sight. I just wondered what the locals would think, if they could see my face, with the tears running down as they were? As I approach the finish line (and yes there is one), the real tears started as there I spotted Sue and my youngest brother Paul, who had driven up the previous day, so that I would have someone to greet me as I finished, and this time I was very emotional.


After a while I composed myself and I did the official bits, dipping my toe in the water at the harbour side and getting my Land's End to John O'Groats record sheet signed by the owner of the last shop in Scotland, along with a series of photos to record the event, then it was the boring bit; back to reality. But at least thanks to Paul I wouldn't have to get the bus and train back to Inverness,(on the way back to Wick I asked Paul to slow down at the point were I put on my rain gear, and sure enough I found my treasured walking stick) and we did stop off in Wick for a celebratory pint, and in Inverness we had a slap up meal in a local restaurant. Then next day Paul drove to Northumberland for a Golf week-end, and Sue and I picked up the car from the long stay car park and drove back to Leeds. I should record that I messed up the welcoming committee's careful plans, as they had intended to meet me on the outskirts of John O'Groats and walk with me to the end with a banner Paul had had made. They fixed a banner to a fence at the road side then hid, intending to jump out and surprise me. Well, I walked straight by the banner on the other side of the road with wind in my face, and my head held down in an attempt to stop my hat falling of. They frantically took the banner down and hitched a lift to the end to meet me there? Sorry.


Chapter 11 John O'Groats to Duncansby Head I think I had better explain this bit first. If you look at a map of Britain and you decided to walk from one end to the other, then you have choices. You can walk from the furthest South, Lizard point in Cornwall, to furthest North at Dunnet Head (above Thurso) in Scotland, or you can do furthest South West, Lands End in Cornwall to John O'Groats the furthest North East in Scotland. But John O'Groats isn't the place that is furthest North East, that honour belongs in fact to Duncansby Head a little place just to the east of John O'Groats. So that's why I did this little 'bit' to make sure I had done The 'End to End' properly June 30th 2005 If all had gone to plan on this date I would be walking from Lathronwheel to Wick, but as you know I ignominiously crashed out at Okehampton, so what I was actually doing today was travelling up from Newcastle to Pitlochry with Sue and my two children Simon and Joanne plus Joanne's boyfriend Thomas. Having arrived and booked into our B&B it was decided that we should all visit Pitagowan & The Bruar Falls, places where we as a family had spent many holidays when the children were small; Simon is now 28 and Joanne is 26.


We visited Cromoltin, the house where Sue's Gran used to live at Pitagowan, and where we used to stay, then we walked up the Bruar Falls, which are a series of waterfalls close by. Here Thomas pulled a master stroke and got down on one knee and proposed to Joanne. Needless to say Joanne accepted; after all they have been together for 8 years, all the way through Uni and beyond. So that night it was off to a posh restaurant in Pitlochry to celebrate the happy event. July 1st Having driven up from Pitlochry we arrived at John O'Groats, and my first impressions were not at all good. The place seemed very down at heel compared to Land's End; nothing seemed open, the shopping complex was half empty, the large Hotel was closed, and had been for some time. The only cafe that was open took nearly an hour to produce our baked potatoes (heaven help them if a coach load came in!), and it was raining. Fortunately the time we spent waiting for our baked potatoes was time well spent, because the rain passed over and the sun came out. As I said this was fortunate as Sue & I were going to walk the 'Last Bit', because since my failure in May at Okehampton I had now completed the planning for all the 'Bits' and knew that when I did finally finish 'The walk' at John O'Groats I would probably not really want to do an extra 2.5 miles: how right I was. So Sue & I set off to walk the 2.5 miles on what was now a quite pleasant afternoon in July. After just under an hour we 151

finally arrived at Duncansby Head, which turned out to have a series of spectacular sea stacks and quite high cliffs. The others, who had driven here so we wouldn't have to walk back, were nowhere to be seen, which is not surprising as Thomas is a keen photographer and the scenery was not to be missed. They finally showed up about ¾ of an hour later, which was fine with Sue and I as it gave us time to explore. Once again though the locals are missing a great commercial opportunity, because even though there were lots of people about there was no place even to have a cup of tea or for that matter an ice cream! As we finally drove away from John O'Groats, I knew, like General Douglas MacArthur, I would return, and this time on foot. (As indeed I did, as you will realise if you started at the front of the book and not the back).

Epilogue In hindsight I suppose that walking from Lands End to John O'Groats should be done when you are young and fit, but to take 40 to 50 days off work is not something that most people can do. So if like me and you really want to do 'It' you have to wait until later in life, when if you have been a walker all your life, your body has started to go down hill with wear and tear. It then follows that you may, like me, not be able to finish in one go, and the 'Bits' option may be the only way to walk the walk.


Therefore if you are going to do it in bits, why wait until you are older to do it, and why do it on your own. Get a group of like minded individuals together and have a regular walk once a year for a week, it will then only take about seven years to complete the whole thing. It is also, as you have noticed from this account, much more fun to walk as group.