Broken: Scars

I’m sitting in a park under the shade of a tree. Its early but the sun’s been out long enough to warm the patch of grass I’ve parked myself. Its a new city so things are still a little alien. Slowly I’m feeling my way round, tuning into the same frequency of the machine, each street a new page to turn, a huge maze to explore, a puzzle to solve.

A homeless guy nearby is stirring. Appearing from behind the bushes he spent last night, blinking in the sunlight and wiping last night’s sleep from his eyes. Stretching and scratching his hair out like a dog when it finds the sweet spot.

I’m looking at my hands, scanning the lines that show my age and the scratches from my new neighbours cat. Its friendly enough but we’re both at that early stage. Wary of each other, unsure how much we should let each other in.

I look at the scars on my knuckles from another life so long ago. A teenager not understanding his place in the world. Lost, looking for answers and having no real guidance on what to do. Lashing out through frustration: bins, walls, windows. Real violence in the action but answers never quite coming. Pain lasting seconds but the scars forever etched, a reminder of where I came from.

I have another scar under my right thumb. I trace it and feel the lump that’s been there for as long as I can remember. I must have been 8 or 9 when I got that. A vague memory of sliding down a grass verge on a flattened piece of cardboard like some speed racer.

I caught my hand on broken glass and sliced it open. I ran all the way home crying, hoping to be healed. I got a plaster and cuddle. I have a few good memories of living in that house. Sometime later my parents split up and we moved away. The scar another reminder of where I came from.

I tried cutting myself once. I don’t think I ever told anyone but I took a craft knife and made a small slice in my arm. Not too deep but enough to draw a little blood and feel a blunt pain. The cut healed and whatever faint scar disappeared over time, now covered in tattoos. I never tried it again. It didn’t quite take care of the frustration I felt.

A scar can be a physical thing to remind you of an action, that you’re human and fragile in the shell you inhabit. It can also be emotional. Whether it be an insecurity, grief, post traumatic stress or, god forbid, a form of abuse. These mental scars can run a lot deeper than anything physical.

The homeless guy has moved on. Looking for breakfast, money, alcohol or even his next fix. I have no idea and I’m not judging. Whatever his reasons for living like he does are his.

The park is starting to come alive with people. Business folk, mothers and children, students. I wonder how many have scars, hidden deep inside. How many harbour those insecurities we all feel.

Its only human nature to feel this way and it’s how you deal with your problems that define you. Let them fester too long and you’re fucked. I’ve learnt to just grab a hold of the little bastards and squeeze them out. I’m broken but easily fixed.


Bad Dreams

When you have a bad dream and wake up sweating, confused, in that state of unconsciousness and the real. Rubbing sleep from your eyes hoping that action eradicates the bad memories of what you experienced while under. 

You pick up your phone desperate to find anything to wipe away the cloud of what bothered you. You check social media, the news, old photos. Anything to take away the bitter taste.

I had a bad dream last night. I woke up at stupid o’clock and couldn’t get back to sleep. I spent a while browsing various things on my phone and came across some random notes I made while on my LEJOG walk. Figured I would post them here. I think they were going to form some sort of “end of trek” report but I didn’t finish. Rather than see them just disappear in the ether I’ve edited them slightly and decided to post them. Some sort of line being drawn and the ending to the journey I took.

LEJOG represents a shit time in my life. A means to battle anxiety, depression & stress. To focus on something else.  I’ve questioned why I’m doing this a few times and thought of quitting. This walk has taken up nearly 10 months of my life. From initial idea, to planning, organising, mapping routes, logistics to the actual doing. I love walking but I need a break. I want a normal life. I need to adjust to being amongst people. Coming back from the last walk I did, I got off the train in London and got on the tube shaking. That anxiety of being among people. 

I need to reconnect, see my friends and family. I’m moving to Bristol but the time I have with them will be good. And there’s always FaceTime and Skype. I want to spend some time with my girlfriend, do normal things together and develop what might be there without stupid plans or work getting in the way for a bit.

Rain sucks but I’m getting used to it. I now smile when it starts, I laugh in its face. The two days walking in the heat has been worse. So much so I pray for rain. Forecasters can’t predict the weather.

I used to have problems talking to strangers, starting conversations, sharing. Now it seems so easy. I’m interested in the small talk that leads to full blown conversations about anything and everything. Looking for strands to keep the conversation going.

I’ve enjoyed the independence and being on my own for long periods but mentally its been tough. I have struggled over time but got used to it. I like being on my own but now find myself enjoying being with people a lot more. I appreciate the silence but also the inane chatter that comes with social situations. 

The physical aspects of the walk have not been a problem. I can walk for hours but I fear I have a glass ankle. If I don’t break it before I’m done I’ll be surprised and lucky. I may need physio when i’m finished.

There have been areas of my comfort zone I struggled with at first. A line I’ve sometimes had problems crossing. The weather being a big factor and the wild camping in built up areas. Managed it eventually. Just takes time to step out and get on with it.

The best laid plans….are sometimes not the best. I did a load of planning and recce work but on the ground I find where I thought I might wild camp I can’t. Fields are full of crops, there is no clean drinkable water around, no flat ground, water logged pitches. I really wanted to wild camp but sometimes it hasn’t been possible. The further north I get, and into hills & mountains, the easier it gets.  

Winging it has become the norm. Things I might have arranged have been cancelled in favour of keeping moving. The unpredictable nature of things has kept me on my toes and made things more interesting.

Litter. Not much in hills but the amount of times I’ve been walking along paths or roads and come across Mcdonalds, KFC, Costa or Starbucks cups and cartons is disgraceful. Hill and mountain folk appreciate nature and the need to protect it but there are idiots who just don’t have a clue.

My navigation & map work has improved. I haven’t used the compass much, trusting the map and what I see. At times I put the map away and just check it every now and again to make sure I’m on the right track.

Like waking from a weird dream it was strange reading all this back and remembering the times sat in my tent or on the side of a hill and just tapping away on my phone or writing in my journal. Thoughts that made no sense to anyone but me. Things were simple and uncomplicated. Its also interesting to see the seeds of doubt being planted throughout. I was already talking myself out of finishing

Its strange but I kinda miss it. Miss having the freedom to please myself. Not having to worry about anything other than where I was stopping and what I was eating. I have plans for next year so its back to some sort of routine, earn some money to fund it all and sweeter dreams.

Dehydrated Dust

Expedition and camping food has come a long way since I first ventured into the great outdoors as a kid back in the 80s.

The food we took away on weekends in the hills of Northumberland and the Pennines was some nameless grey ration pack containing dehydrated dust with noodles or pasta. No fancy packaging or thought into nutritional value. Occasionally we would take a tin of beans and sausages and supplement it all with crisps and chocolate as an after dinner treat.

As I got older and went away independently from school and scouts the food choices didn’t generally improve. Money being a key issue, it would be pot noodles or pasta in a bag meals. I recall on a few occasions taking tinned hamburgers or meatballs!!!! All I know is that those tins couldn’t contain the meat it professed to on the label.


Tinned burgers (believe it or not)

Much older still and the camping got more “glamorous”. Well-maintained campsites with all the facilities and comforts: huge four man tents, tables and chairs and inflatable beds. The food was generally cooked on the BBQ, sourced from the local take away or a meal in the pub. Then things changed.

The months prior to my LEJOG walk I experimented with different types of dry and wet expedition food, trying to find the right balance of affordability and weight. While the food was tasty and nutritionally well balanced I just couldn’t afford to fund my whole walk on it.

I had to find a way to make sure I hit my daily calorie count of between 4000-5000 so not to lose too much weight but more importantly enjoy what I was eating.

After doing a bit of research (this article was pretty helpful) I figured the best idea would be to make up little breakfast bags containing porridge or Weetabix with granola, dried fruit and powdered milk. Cheap, easy to make and lightweight to carry in batches of 10-12 days, I would post them ahead to carry at the start of each stage.


Putting breakfast and food packs together.

Lunch was bought on the go. I passed a lot of shops so it would generally be a bread roll filled with cheese and meat, a pasty or pork pie, nuts, fruit and chocolate bars.


Nothing beats ham and pease pudding sarnies.

Dinner was again whatever I could source from shops. Pasta in bags, noodles, cous cous or soup, lots of chicken, more cheese and plenty of vegetables. I generally got good at knocking up a cheap hearty meal and my favourite was a packet of noodles cooked with tuna, spring onions, red pepper and olives. This would often cost me around £3, which is a bargain for something so simple and filling.


Cheap and easy to put together.

However I did have some expedition food, kindly provided by the online outdoor company Above and Beyond. They sent me food from Extreme Food and Real Turmat which were posted ahead to use later on in the walk where it would be harder to come by food.

I tried the Extreme Food packs first when I was walking in the Pennines. They are freeze dried, lightweight, high in calorie sealed packs of food and I had three meals to try: chilli con carne, chicken & pesto pasta and chicken tikka masala.

The walking along the Pennine Way was long and hard so tucking into something easy to prepare was essential. You simply tear off the top and pour boiling water in before sealing it and leaving it to hydrate. However on my first go I made the mistake of pouring too much water in and my chicken & pesto pasta turned out to be more of a soup. A tasty soup but I like my pasta a bit a la dente.

I hadn’t read the instructions properly and poured past the level it showed. I didn’t make the mistake with the other two packs and tucked into those later on, having a fondness for the tikka masala.

The Real Turmat meals were tried when I was walking part of the West Highland Way. Freeze-dried and vacuum packed they profess to retain the natural taste and provide good nutritional value. I had a pasta bolognaise and a chicken curry to try.

After walking all day in the rain I arrived at a campsite in Inverarnan, which had a shelter you could go in to dry clothes and cook. The shelter was buzzing when I got there. People cooking the same bland food from the camp site shop: what looked like tinned dog food or noodles.


Shelter at Inverarnan

I got the chicken curry out, poured some boiling water and waited. It smelt good and tasted amazing.  Definitely needed after a long day walking wet through to the bone. I got a few jealous looks from people sitting near me so I drew the bag in close, ready to fight to the death with my spork to protect what was mine. It was like a scene from some prison drama.

Out of the two I have to admit I preferred the Turmat. It just seemed to hold its taste better. Yes the Extreme Foods were lighter and easier to pack but when given the choice of something hot and tasty at the end of a soaked day, sitting in a shelter in the hills of Scotland while the rain battered off the roof, it just seemed to me to be the better option.

Beats the dehydrated dust I used to eat.

LEJOG -Why I’ve Stopped

So……I’ve stopped my walk. What follows is a pretty honest account and the raw feelings I’ve felt.

On Monday the 8th August I was walking from Inverarnan to somewhere passed Glencoe with the plan to wild camp along the way. At some point, the weather taking a bad turn, soaked through and probably bordering on early stage hypothermia, I decided to stop and jump on a train from Bridge of Orchy to Fort William.

I’d been pushing myself for a while to get from point A to point B on a map without any thought for my own safety. I wanted to finish the walk and just get on with my life. For a few weeks I’d had nagging doubts about why I was still walking and what I was trying to achieve.

Last year I was in a hole. Some things are too personal to write about but I was crippled with anxiety, stress and near depression. I found myself living a hollow life and it got to the point where I needed to talk to someone other than my friends and family.

The counsellor I spoke to made me realise I was trapped in an endless loop, I had to take control and focus on something to break the cycle. Climbing out the hole would prove to be a slow process but I eventually found myself pulling through.

I started by spending my time planning some long distance walks including LEJOG. I got out more. Once where I dreaded the weekend I found myself looking forward to it. I started climbing. I took various outdoor courses. I was planning to get my Mountain Leader qualifications. I knew I wanted a change of direction and started moving towards it.

When the time came to actually “shit or get off the pot” regarding LEJOG I thought about it, handed my notice in at work and finalised the details. It was a hard decision as I’d worked my entire life but I wanted to escape for a bit and have an adventure.

This also meant stopping a life I’d slowly built back up. I’d made friends in London, met someone and started to live again. It felt I was giving that all up to spend 2-3 months walking alone up the country.

This was the basis of the nagging doubts I started feeling.

However, I started the walk and it was tough at first but I was enjoying it. Seeing parts of the country I never thought I would and meeting people along the way. I was off and really wanted to see it through.

A few weeks before I got to Scotland my mindset was changing and by the time I got to Fort William I’d had enough. I took a few days to assess things, prepare for the next stage up to Cape Wrath and try to find the enthusiasm I’d lost.

I talked myself into carrying on. The walk up to Cape Wrath would be tough. Going over rough harsh remote terrain. Unmarked tracks, boggy moors and many river crossings. The weather forecast didn’t look great for the West Highlands but I was determined to get on with it.

I set off on Wednesday 10th but after an hour the same nagging doubts came back. My pack was too heavy because of the extra food I needed, my ankle ached again, my shoulders sore and mentally I’d hit a wall.

I walked for another 3 hours in the pouring rain trying to get through the wall. “Just keep going to Laggan” I told myself and “take it from there”. Then I stopped by a road and sat down. For 30 minutes I sat in the rain thinking, willing myself to go on but I was done. The walk back to Fort William was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Since I started the whole walk, getting to Scotland had been my goal so I could have a proper wilderness adventure but I just couldn’t muster the energy or enthusiasm. It had disappeared. I was tired and sick of being alone.

Though I have kept in touch with people and met people along the way I’ve not been able to shake off the loneliness. It was the same state I found myself in last year and it was grinding me down. I was heartbroken I finished where I did. So close to the end. Three weeks.

I don’t regret the decision as I like to live by experiences, and in the months I spent planning the walk and actually walking I learnt a lot about what I’m actually capable of. It’s been invaluable.

I know people have been willing me on and supporting me, and I will be forever grateful for that, but I missed the familiar, my family and friends, having a life and the fledgling relationship I was in. My head and heart weren’t in it anymore.

The feelings I have are pretty raw but over time I’ll get over it. Sometime in the future I know I’ll go back up and finish it. But for now I want to get back to life, find a job, move on and look at what I need to do to get my Mountain Leader qualifications.

I stepped out of my comfort zone in a big way and I’m glad I did. I would encourage everyone to try it as you can learn so much about yourself. While, right now, I have no immediate plans for adventure I know the next year will see me hopefully finish this and go on more life changing adventures.




LEJOG – Stage Five

I was finally in Scotland. I’d been looking forward to getting here since I started. I followed St Cuthberts Way, Southern Upload Way, John Muir Way and the West Highland Way to Fort William.

Stage Five

31st July 2016 – Jedburgh to a wild camp near River Tweed (just past Galashiels)

I decided to miss the day and a half walk from Bellingham to Jedburgh. There was transportation complications and to be honest the route looked boring and I wanted to get started in Scotland. It’s my walk and my adventure and I was keen to cross the border and get into the mountains.

I left Jedburgh and followed St Cuthberts Way along Jed Water where I crossed a suspension bridge at Monteviot. From here it was a straight walk along an old drovers road to Maxton.

Along the way I passed Lilliards Stone where the English and Scottish would meet to try and resolve their differences. It never really worked and resulted in a few battles including the Battle of Otterburn.

From Maxton I followed the trail to Eildon Hills where I got a beautiful view down to Melrose. I headed down, picked up some supplies and headed on to the Southern Upland Way to look for a wild camping spot.

I passed Galashiels, came off the trail and followed the River Tweed. Eventually I found one near the river in a nice field with sheep.

After sticking up my tent and eating I caught up on a few things and watched the sun set. My first day in Scotland had been good.

1st August 2016 – Camp Spot to Peebles

I woke up to a beautiful sun rise and a herd of sheep charging down in my direction. They stopped when they caught sight of me. They wanted to be at the river and didn’t figure how to go round me.

After packing away and eating I set off and got back on the Southern Upland Way. It was a slow and steady climb up Three Brethern but worth it. The views were amazing.

After a while I followed the trail round Broomy Law and Lucken Head to Hare Law. From here it was a good walk to Minch Moor and down to Traquair.

This was my scheduled stop but it was only 12pm so I decided to keep going and eat into tomorrow’s miles.

I followed a road along to the bottom of Castle Knowe and went up for another beautiful view. 

I descended down into Peebles and decided to call it a day. I’d had a good run but was getting tired. I grabbed some food and sat down to look for a place to wild camp.

I found a park along the river so went to check it out. It required some cunning so I sat around for a bit then walked to a more secluded part with trees as cover.

I hung about a bit more before sticking the tent up. Then waited. I’m not sure if I would have been kicked out of the park to be honest but I just wanted to hang on before unpacking and eating.

Eventually I sorted my gear out, ate and slept.

2nd July 2016 – Peebles to Calder

Today was a hard day. I decided to eat into the next day’s miles and get the Pentland Hills out the way before camping. I underestimated how hard it might be.

I left the park early and headed up a track to South Hill Head. There was no recognisable trail up the hill at one point so I had to pick my way through heather. I walked from here to White Meldon Hill and then down to the start of an old track through a forest.

All fairly easy going and I dropped down to the Cross Borders Drovers Road. I followed this to Romannobridge and then on to West Linton. This was my scheduled stop for the day but it was early so I bought some supplies and kept going.

I went up a track into Pentland Hills and followed Theives Road. It tried to rain but didn’t get above a shower. The track was nice though and it was a slow walk down to Harpering Reservoir.

I stopped to look along the route where I might camp. I had a few ideas but the places that looked good on the map werent when I got there. Essentially a lack of good water. The streams were either dry or just didn’t look clean enough even for my filter. I got all the way to Calder before just buying some water, sticking my tent up in a field, eating (even though I wasn’t massively hungry) and sleeping.

3rd July 2016 – Calder to somewhere between Linlithgow & Falkirk (don’t recall)

Last night took a bad turn. I woke after midnight feeling nauseous. I got out my tent and was violently sick before having the shits. After cleaning up I crawled back into my bag. I had a splitting headache so took some tablets and tried to sleep. 

I managed a few hours on and off but eventually woke feeling stiff and achy. I had no appetite at all so just drank some green tea and plenty of water before packing away.

I passed a shop so had a banana and a can of Coke. All I could manage.

Today’s walking was flat along a river/canal thankfully so I just kept going. I decided to get as far as I could and just get a b&b for the night.

I got to Linlithgow (scheduled stop day) and just kept going for a bit before jumping in a b&b/pub.

I managed a salad and later a steak pie with vegetables before sleeping.

4th July 2016 – to Drymen

I woke up feeling a bit better but still had no appetite. I could only manage toast and cereal.

I left and got back on the John Muir Way for more easy walking along the rivers and canals.

I got to Kirkintilloch (my scheduled stop) but decided to keep going. I felt OK (even though I wasn’t eating)

The plan was to join the West Highland Way and wild camp somewhere. I kept going but again struggled to find anywhere to friggin camp. I’m not being too picky here but there are parts of Scotland I’ve struggled to find camping spots. This time it was finding a field that wasn’t overgrown!!!! 

I passed a sign that said “Drymen 7 miles”. How the hell had I got here so quickly!!! I say that because Drymen was tomorrow’s scheduled stop and I had a b&b booked.

I rang ahead and they could accommodate me so I just walked. And by the time I got there I felt ill again.

I’d pushed myself to exhaustion and whatever this bug was it hadn’t truly shifted.

The lady (Frances) took me in, fed me cake and a few cups of tea before I crawled into bed. Normally when I stop moving I layer up to keep warm but I didn’t so I got cold really quickly. And because I hadn’t eaten properly either I was shivering.

After warming up I went out and forced some soup down before coming back and sleeping. I woke up a few times in the night soaked in sweat. I was hoping that whatever bug I had was now out of me.

5th July 2016 – forced rest day

Despite feeling a bit better and having some sort of appetite again I decided to take a days rest in Drymen to build up my strength. I had 27 miles to walk up Loch Lomond to a campsite so wanted to feel 100% for it.

I make a crap patient though. I wanted to walk down to the Loch or go up Conich Hill but I had Sal and other people telling me no. Stop. 

6th July 2016 – Drymen to Inverarnan

I woke up in better spirits and planned to walk 27 miles down Loch Lomond. I ate breakfast and said a fond farewell to Frances.

The Loch looked beautiful in the early morning sun. The water a deep blue echoed by the sky, surrounded by hills and mountains luscious in their green splendour. 

The trail was clear and still pretty busy at this early hour. Everyone else had the same idea. Take advantage of the weather while it lasted.

At Inversnaid I stopped to eat lunch and the rain started. I heavy thick rain associated with the mountains of Scotland. This made the second half of the walk up Loch Lomond tricky. 

The trail stopped being a nice easy path to stepping over rocks and climbing round the edges of the loch. In the rain it was pretty slippy so it was slow going with a pack on my back. And before long I was soaked through.

I eventually got to the campsite and stuck my tent up in the gap between showers. The site had a shelter as well so I joined the group of people hanging up wet clothes and cooking hot food.

7th July 2016 – Inverarnan to Bridge of Orchy

Today started wet, cleared for a bit but then it got worse. Much worse. My objective was to get to Glencoe although I was scheduled to stop at Bridge of Orchy.

When the wind and rain came in I was soaked through again. And cold. And not thinking straight. I should have stopped, stuck up my tent and took shelter but in my own stupidity and the desire to get from point A and point B I kept going and risked hypothermia.

The nagging questions that had bothered me for weeks about why I was walking started to surface badly and I really started to think about quitting. The reasons for me doing this walk had gone months ago. The crippling anxiety, stress and depression had lifted and my life was better. Why was I doing this? I just wanted to get back to the familiar, be around people and get started with the plans I had for the future.

I reached Orchy and made the decision to get a train to Fort William. Something wasn’t right and I needed to think and talk to someone who’d been there and done this sort of thing before.

I changed out of my wet clothes at the station and got on the train. And when I got off the train the weather at Fort William was worse. My dry clothes were now wet and I had to walk around knocking on doors to find a room for an hour. Eventually I got one. 

I changed into what I could and went out to eat. I needed to eat badly. When I got back I spoke to Sally for a bit and tried to relax. I went out for a pint just so I wasn’t staring at four walls.

I had some serious thinking to do and slept on it.

8th July 2016

I’m no quitter. After speaking to Sal the night before and some family in the morning I decided to carry on.

I had a lot of people supporting me and rooting me on. And I didn’t want to let myself or them down.

I went to the hostel where I had a room booked and hung up all my wet gear in the dry room. I stuck all my damp stinking clothes in the wash and sorted out my gear.

I collected my Cape Wrath maps and book then went to Costa for three hours to study them. This trail is notoriously hard and I wanted to be prepared. The rugged terrain and remoteness would be a challenge. The bogs, unmarked tracks and river crossings tiring.

While I was nervous and apprehensive I also knew this experience would go a long way for my future plans.

Final Thoughts 

Not much I can say. The nagging doubts and questions I’d had for weeks all surfaced and I nearly quit. So close to finishing.

I’m just lucky to have the people I do in my life and maybe I need to listen to them more and talk when something is bothering me.

The next stages aren’t going to be easy but with a renewed sense of purpose I have to take the opportunity to finish this.

LEJOG – Stage Four

This leg had me joining the Pennine Way at Hebden Bridge and follow it to Bellingham.

Stage Four

21st July 2016 – Hebden Bridge to Gargrave

I left Paula and Beckys AirBnB place early. I’d had a nice relaxing time and they were lovely hosts with a great home. But the trail was calling.

I didn’t follow the usual Pennine Way route out of Hebden. I took a sweaty climb up a bank on the other side of Hebden before it levelled off and I was under the shade of a forest.

I followed this trail to the nearby reservoir and joined the Pennine Way which took me up to Top Withins. There stand the ruins of an old house thought to be the inspiration in Brontes Wuthering Heights.

It was a slow descent and then another climb to Oakworth Moor and then down again to Icornshaw. Then another climb up to Cowling Hill through fields and back down into Thornton. Hell of a lot of climbs. I was knackered and soaked in sweat.

Thornton was meant to be my scheduled stop but it was early so I kept going and looked for a decent wild camping spot further along. I passed loads but no where with a cleanish water source. I’m used to drinking out of streams but some of these I didn’t trust even with my gravity filter.

I got to Gargrave and passed a campsite so jumped in, pitched up, ate, chatted to a guy called Nigel about ML training and his cycle touring before turning in. I was shattered.

22nd July 2016 – Gargrave to Horton

Another long hard slog today. A lot of ascents and descents. Some slow and steady and some steep. I was hungry and tired all the time. I was drinking & eating loads and getting enough sleep but still felt lethargic.

I was also starting to miss being around people. I wouldn’t talk to anyone all day and, depending if I was stopping on a campsite or hostel, all night as well. I was starting to miss regular human contact.

I’ve never been a people person but the last six months I’ve had to change and now I was missing company. I like my own space but I also like to talk. The odd stay on a campsite or hostel helped, as did podcasts and music, but sometimes I just had to switch off and walk, trying not get in my own head. I can be a deep thinker and analyse all sorts of things so I was looking for any distraction.

The walk to Malham Cove was nice and I loved it there. Some day I’d like to be good enough to attempt some climbing there. Might be a way off though.

It was a hard short walk up and out of the cove up to the Limestone Pavement with a pack on. I had to stop at the top, cool off and catch my breath. Some guy asked if I’d ran up. I pointed to the pack and said “not with that on”. He looked and said “oh, ok”.

It was then a nice walk to Pen-Y-Ghent via Malham Tarn and on to Horton where I stopped in a bunkhouse. 

I met a couple of older guys attempting the Three Peaks. I shared my experience of it and told them to take plenty of water and food. They ordered a pack lunch each but I found out in the morning they’d left them in the bar and couldn’t get to them. 

I had to laugh but felt a bit sorry for them.

23rd July 2016 – Horton to Hawes

I had a good nights sleep even though it was a busy bunkhouse. My planned stop was 15 miles to Hawes at a hostel. I had considered walking on so not to waste half a day but decided to take it easy for a few days.

I was away by 7:30 and Horton was already buzzing with people doing the Yorkshire Three Peaks. 

I walked along a nice track to Old Ing and waved goodbye to the Three Peaks and headed along Cam Fell to Ten End. The trail slowly dropped into Gayle and then Hawes. I was there by 12.

I checked into the hostel, had a shower and got organised before going out for supplies. The next few days I would be without shops so I needed enough to keep me going.

I also met my friends Grif and Laura. They live in Catterick and I hadn’t seen them in years. We had a catch up and they brought me some pasties!!!! Always welcome.

I then relaxed all afternoon and watched a film before sleeping.

24th July 2016 – Hawes to Keld

I had a good nights sleep but woke up covered in bites. I slept with the window open in the hostel so I can only assume it was midges and not bed bugs!!!

I left Hawes pretty early and followed the Pennine Way to Hardraw and up to Great Shunner Fell. It was a slow gradual ascent up a decent enough track and the views were great until it started raining. On came the waterproofs.

It was a slow trek down to Thwaite and then on round Pot Hole Kidson to Keld. This was a horrible slippy rocky track. I went over on this and nearly threw my back out. I swear if I don’t break my ankle on this walk I’ll have considered myself lucky. As it stands the ankle is going to need some physio when I’m done.

I arrived in Keld at 12ish and decided to just pitch my tent on a campsite and wait the rain out. I didn’t see the point in pushing further into tomorrow’s miles and making myself miserable in the rain.

I ate some lunch, went to the local to use the wifi (I was in a mobile black spot) and then had a nap. 

I woke later and cooked food in a cloud of midges before locking myself away in the tent listening to podcasts and the rain tapping on the tent.

25th July 2016 – Keld to Middleton On Teesdale

Had a strange nights sleep. Woke up a few times in a cold sweat. It was a clammy night so I’d slept with the door of the inner tent open, without a t-shirt and halfway in my bag. But I still woke up soaked in sweat. Very weird.

When I eventually got up I ate and packed away a very wet tent (it rained all night) before starting the slow climb out of Keld up Stonesdale Moor and to the Tan Hill Inn. Britains highest pub but at 8:30 in the morning it wasn’t open for business.

I walked passed and followed a boggy trail over Sleightholme Moor that led to a nicer trail down to Gods Bridge and the A66.

There was a sign saying it was the halfway point of the Pennine Way and I knew I was way passed my own halfway point. I could also tell I was getting further north. It was the first time I had to layer up because of the cold.

I walked over Cotherstone Moor and took shelter in a hut to eat. I read the messages that covered the walls and left my own.

From here I dropped down and passed various reservoirs before getting to Middleton. I grabbed some food and found somewhere to stick my tent up. I then slept.

I hadn’t seen a soul all day. It was odd and just added to the weirdness I was feeling on my own.

26th July 2016 – Middleton to Dufton

I’m finding it hard to get up some days and this was one of those days. I set off at 9 (which is late for me) and followed the river Tees for a few hours. I stopped at Low Force and High Force waterfalls, nothing better than sitting by fast flowing water to relax.

I continued up stream and met Margaret and Keith. We chatted about my walk, The Youth Adventure Trust and the charity work their kids had done in India and Borneo. They donated some money and I took a quick selfie once Keith took off his neck brace. I never did ask about that.

We said our goodbyes and I made my way to Cauldron Snout. This was an impressive waterfall and I realised I’d been here before. As a kid with school I was a member of an outdoor club and we had walked through this way on a weekend wild camping trip.

I scrambled up the side of the waterfall and made my way along the trail. Then it decided to rain. I stuck my waterproofs on and plodded on. 

Thankfully it stopped as I approached High Cup Nick. The last time I was here was with my Dad when I was maybe 13-14. I don’t think I appreciated the beauty then but I sat down for 20 minutes just taking it all in. 

A massive U-shaped valley carved into the landscape with high craggy cliffs on either side. I can’t recommend a visit enough. It truly is awe-inspiring and I hope to return to wild camp there some time.

I left High Cup and walked down into Dufton where I had a bed booked in the Youth Hostel.

27th July 2016 – Dufton to Alston

I slept ok but woke up at 6. Problem with sleeping early is I wake up early and can’t get back to sleep. I showered, ate and left by 7.

I made my way out of Dufton and looked up to the hills. It had rained all night and the tops were covered in mist.

I followed the track up and it changed to rain sodden streams and the bigger streams were now small rivers.

I climbed into the mist and reached Knock Fell. I couldn’t see 10 metres in front of me but could make out the trail so followed it down and up to Great Dun Fell, the masts shrouded in mist were a great clue.

It was then down and up Little Dun Fell before making my way to Cross Fell. I’d heard the views were great but today was not my day.

I left and made my way down, passing Gregs Hut, over wet muddy trails into Garrigil. Typically, as I stopped to eat, I looked back and the mist was clearing.

I followed the South Tyne river to Alston where I got some food, pitched my tent and slept.

28th July 2016 – Alston to Winshields

I woke up to an overcast sky. The weather forecast telling me it would be dry with some showers in the afternoon. I’d decided to detour off the Pennine Way and follow the South Tyne Trail to Haltwhistle. There was nothing in Greenhead (my scheduled stop) and the Pennine Way was taking me round the houses on this stage.

I left pretty early, followed the old train track that linked Alston to Haltwhistle, and after 30 minutes it started raining. I’m now 99% sure the forecasters are making it all up now. On went the waterproofs (for what they’re worth) and I marched on.

The track itself was your typical cycle path, clear and flat. I came across a sign saying it was closed and to divert to the Pennine Way. Bollocks to that so I kept on it and couldn’t find any evidence why. 

Apart from seeing an Apache gunship (too quick for me to snap a pic) and passing over a few viaducts it was uneventful all the way to Haltwhistle. 

I picked up some supplies from the “centre of Britain” and carried on to Hadrians Wall. I got as far as Once Brewed and came down to pitch up at a campsite I’d been coming to on and off for years.

After sorting my gear out and putting my boots and waterproofs in the dry room I went to the local. The Twice Brewed Inn is a homely friendly place and I chatted with the locals for a bit before returning to eat and catch up on a few things. 

I fell asleep pretty quickly again. 

29th July 2016 – Winshields to Bellingham

I fell asleep to the sound of rain and woke up to he sound of crows. Apparently they have no concept of time so it seemed reasonable to them to wake me at 6am.

I ate and packed away a soggy tent, leaving around 7:30. I was back on Hadrians Wall and there wasn’t a soul about. I followed the wall to the point where the Pennine Way splits off and made my way to Wark Country Park.

The tracks were awful because of last nights rain. Ankle deep in bog and marsh. I trudged through and after an hour I came out the other side.

The fields down to Bellingham were kinder and I was finished by 13:30. 

My Dad picked me up and I had planned on a rest day in Newcastle to see family before starting again on Sunday.

Final Thoughts

The Pennine Way can have periods of great beauty and periods of tedious long moors. Some days are hard and some easy. I can see the appeal but I don’t think, having walked most of it, that I would consider walking the whole thing. There are highlights I would come back too though. High Cup Nick, Cross Fell and Cauldrons Snout all being things I could cover in a weekend of wild camping on a nice long summers weekend.

For some reason the long tedious days found me contemplating more on this leg. I missed company and talking to people. This isnt normally like me but over the last 6 months I’ve found myself opening up more to strangers and just talking. Striking up conversations out of nothing.

I know I could pick up the phone and talk to friends and family but they have lives and aren’t there as my personal therapists. One of the points of this walk was to see how I was on my own. Generally I’ve been fine but on some stretches of this leg I felt it.

Overall I feel great mentally and physically. I’ve lost weight, I’m tired and know Scotland is going to be tough. I have no illusions of it being easy. It’s a different beast to the last 6 weeks. But it’s a challenge I’ve been looking forward to from the start.

LEJOG – Stage Three

The walk from Knighton to Hebden Bridge took me through Shropshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire and the Peak District. Along the Shropshire Way, Monarchs Way, Staffordshire Way and parts of the Pennine Way.

I’ve had my moments during this stage although to be honest the scenery was boring till I got to the Peak District. 

Stage Three

11th July 2016 – Knighton to somewhere near Muchlock Edge

I woke up early and forgot where I was. Very deep sleep. I shook off the grogginess, took a shower, had breakfast and was off. 

I made my way up Stow Hill and the familiar rain started. This was becoming a recurring theme so I stuck my waterproofs on, smiled and kept going. Through Horton Castle I picked my way over difficult, overgrown paths to Craven Arms.

This was my meant to be my scheduled stop but I made the decision to keep going and eat into tomorrow’s miles. Rain or no rain.

It was a 45 minute walk through Craven to the start of the next stage. Walking along a ridge tree line on The Shropshire Way. 

The path was pretty muddy but I motored along with the plan to find one of the wild camping spots I’d earmarked. I found, as I went along, that most of these spots were corn fields and not ideal and the good fields had no source of water. 

I spotted a campsite on the map so just kept going and headed for it. It ended up being a long tough days walk and in total I think I did around 28 miles. 

It had stopped raining so I set up my tent, dried what I could, ate and slept.

12th July 2016 – Campsite to Bishops Wood

Woke up to more rain. It started around 6AM and didn’t look like stopping anytime soon. To make matters worse my inner tent was wet through. I thought a  leak but, after speaking to Sal, she thought condensation. All the vents were open so I wasn’t sure.

I threw a tantrum to myself. I was sick of being wet and moaning about it. I got a kick up the arse for it but my mood was foul.

After packing my wet kit away I started walking. It didn’t stop raining all the way to Ironbridge. I considered staying here as it was my scheduled stop but thought sod it. This was meant to be a challenge and so I kept going. Bollocks to the rain.

I joined The Monarchs Way and decided to just walk until I came across somewhere to wild camp. Nothing. Not even any safe place for water and I was running out.

Then out of nowhere I walked passed a Texaco garage. I filled up my water and bought a bunch of food & snacks to feast on before moving on in good spirits.

Just past Tong Norton and before Bishops Wood I found the perfect field hidden by a large hedgerow. It was part of an Outdoor Kids Nursery and no one was around. I did knock on the door of the building and, with no answer, set up camp for the night.

It had stopped raining a few hours ago so I dried the tent out and cooked some food. When full I climbed into my bag and slept with the intention to get up early and be away before the place opened.

13th July 2016 – Bishops Wood to Penkridge.

I slept well but had a weird dream that someone dragged me out my tent. I woke up early and for once it wasn’t raining. But the inner was still wet. Sally was right, looked like condensation so she’ll read this and no doubt I’ll get a “told you so” 🙂

I was packed and away before 7 and ate on the go. It was a 3 hour walk to Penkridge and I’d booked a room in a B&B which I as going to use. I wanted a warm bed for the night and the opportunity to clean and dry some stuff out.

On my way I stopped by a pub called The Swan At Whiston and ate a snack. The landlady (called Helen) came out and offered me a cup of tea. We talked about my walk, the work The Youth Adventure Trust do and how kids don’t get outside enough now. She was a lovely lady and that act of kindness and social interaction really helped. 

I got to the B&B before 11, checked in, showered and starting drying stuff out. I also took a walk around the local farmers market and even managed to get some replacement liner walking socks and t-shirt. There was no washing the ones I had. They were beyond help.

After getting back, taking a long nap, rotating stuff on the dry rail in the bathroom and eating I went to bed and slept. Really well.

14th July 2016 – Penkridge to Uttoxeter

I left the B&B and walked along a nice canal tow path where it joined the Staffordshire Way. From there I went through Brocton Country Park, following a maze of paths. Some on the map and some not. I really had to concentrate to keep on the right trail.

I came across some DoE kids on their bronze assessment going the wrong way, stressed and arguing. I offered them some help by showing them how to set the map and locate where they were. I waved them off clearly in a better mood.

Leaving the forest I joined the Trent and Mersey Canal tow path for a bit. The weather was picking up and the walking good. I even raced a canal boat for a bit, talking to the owners, people walking their dog and other boat owners.

After a while I got to my scheduled stop at Abbotts Bromley but decided to keep going to Uttoxeter. The weather was good and I was having an awesome days walk.

I was an hour outside Uttoxeter, walking through a farmers yard, when a pack of dogs came running out at me. There was a mix of Jack Russell’s, Collies and Alsations making noise. The farmer tried to call them back and then the old Alsation decided he didn’t like me and bit me.

Trying to keep calm and not agitate it I backed away and made for the exit. I really wanted to give the farmer some grief as he didn’t check I was ok or apologise but decided keeping a calm head and leaving was better.

I got to Uttoxeter and checked my leg. It had broken the skin and I figured I needed a tetanus. I checked into a B&B, cleaned the bite and spoke to the owners who told me where the local surgery was for the morning.

After getting some supplies and eating I had an early night.

15th July 2016 – Uttoxeter to Biggin

I got up, had a quick breakfast and headed to the doctors. Thankfully they would see me and I got a tetanus booster. With that done I set off for Thorpe.

Through fields and paths I got to Rocester where it started raining. I honestly don’t think I’ve had two days of consistent good weather. Waterproofs on I kept going through muddy tracks in forests and overgrown paths along fields.

I got to Thorpe by 2PM, my next scheduled stop, but decided to keep going and look for somewhere to camp.

I followed Dove Dale and got to Biggin by 6PM where I camped in a pub beer garden. Two guys welcomed me, as I put my tent up, with a beer and burger. I got talking to them. They were taking the weekend to unwind, get out in the countryside and go for a walk.

After a while I went back to my tent, cooked some food and slept. 

16th July 2016 – Biggin to Youlgreave

I woke up at 6AM to the gentle sound of rain on my tent. After snoozing for a bit I ate breakfast and left. I said goodbye to the brothers, who were surprisingly up after going to bed after 1AM.

It was a short 3 hour walk to Youlgreave where I had a bed booked in a hostel. I could have kept walking but it would have messed up things down the line on this leg. I knew I would have plenty time to make up days on the Peninne Way.

17th July 2016 – Youlgreave to Hathersage

I fell asleep at 8:30 and was woken at midnight by a drunk guy coming in the dorm and then starting to snore. I managed to get back to sleep but made sure he was woken up early the next morning. Selfish idiot.

I left the hostel at 7:30 after breakfast as I wanted to get to Hathersage in good time and the weather looked good.

I walked fields and tracks to Edensor where I crossed into Chatsworth Park. This whole private estate had a Richmond Park feel with deer and sheep roaming freely.

It was a nice walk to the start of Curbar Edge. It was here I met a guy called Andrew Skidmore and we talked about long distance walking, Scotland and how youth hostels had changed. He also kindly donated £5 towards my cause. The generosity of strangers still amazes me.

Curbar Edge was a delight. It was a clear day and the views inspiring. It was also pretty busy being a Sunday and the sun making an appearance.

After and hour or so I started my descent into Hathersage along a river which rounded the walk off nicely.

I had somehow messed up my booking at the hostel but the manager sorted me out so after a shower I went out to meet Sandie.

We had met a few times on EC events so it was good to see a familiar face. He treat me to dinner and a few pints and we caught up. I could only manage a few hours wrote the beer got to me and I felt tired. Bit gutted as I like Sandies company but I wanted my bed.

I got back to the hostel, sorted my kit out and went to bed.

18th July 2016 – Hathersage to Holmfirth

I got up early as a result of my early night and left in good time. Today was going to be a long hard day so I didn’t mind. I was going over tough terrain I hadnt really walked in a while.

It was a slow steady climb up to Stanage Edge, I was sweating when I got there but the views were worth it. I followed the path round to Moscar Moor and Lost Lad before making my way to Upper Derwent Reservoir.

Here I followed a cycle path along the reservoir, made my way up Margery Hill and over Midhope Moors. It was a hard climb up and I was in the open during probably the hottest period of the day. And running low on water.

It was a long slow descent down into a small valley where there was a stream feeding into Langsett Reservoir. I dropped my rucksack and waded in to cool off.

Once done I followed the Trans Peninne Way to Dunford Bridge and then on to Holmefirth where I found a nice place to camp, eat, get out the sun and sleep.

19th July – Holmefirth to Hebden Bridge

Today was another long hot day in the sun. Hate to say it but I could have done with some cloud or even a nice shower. Had to keep covered and drink lots from streams.

I followed a trail out of Holmefirth and made my way to Digley Reservoir. Another sweat on before 9!!!

At Wessenden Reservoir I joined the Peninne Way for a bit before splitting off on a trail to Marsden. I took the chance to take a break and hide in the shade and load up on fresh water. Only mad dogs and Englishman go out in the midday sun. I surely must be mad as it was blazing.

I joined the Kirklees Way for a bit and passed more small reservoirs, filling my water as I went. Crossing the M62 I followed more trails through fields and trails, skirting round Manshead Hill. Just couldn’t bear going up in the sun with a heavy pack on.

I dropped off the moor and could see Hebden Bridge. It was a slow walk, sticking to the shade where I could, to the nearest place that sold ice creams. Where I had two on the bounce.

Hebden Bridge was my scheduled stop for the day and the end of this leg. I had a rest day, which I was taking. I needed to be out of the sun and wanted to rest before joining the Peninne Way. I had plans to try and get through that quicker than I had scheduled and make up some days.

Final Thoughts

The weather. I started this leg in rain and ended it in blazing sun. Two very different environments to walk in. I’m still waiting for the happy medium. Walking in heavy rain all day can be soul destroying but walking in sun can sap the energy out of you. Still, it’s just weather and so long as I can put one foot in front of the other then that’s the main thing.

I know I can be moody at times but throwing tantrums at the stupidest thing like the weather was daft. This was meant to be a challenge and I knew it would be hard. Pointless whinging about it. It took a kinda kick up the arse from someone who’s been there and done it for me to realise that. So now I just have to get on and deal with it. 

People have been so good and kind on this leg. Total strangers I’ve had a 5-10 minute conversation with have been interested in the walk, the charity and just generally happy to talk. Even given me, a random stranger, money for the walk takes me by surprise. With everything wrong with the world it’s good to know that deep down this planet has a lot of good souls.

Dogs freak out. It’s the rucksack. I’m quite good with dogs but some of the canines I’ve come across just freak when they see this extra thing on my back. Most just back away and bark until I get down to their level and they come over for a closer look. Then they’re OK. But that farm dog was nuts.

Overall this leg has been a mixed bag. A lot of boring walks through fields and forests until I hit the PeakDistrict. From that point I was hit with wonderful views and some truly beautiful experiences.

Now I have a rest day to try and work on my tan and get rid of these stupid tan lines from wearing a t-shirt.