2021 arrived and I decided to take on a huge challenge. Walk from Lands End to John O’Groats (LEJOG).
It’s 1083 miles using an app, and I want to do it by mid-May when Mental Health Awareness Week arrives. I’m also raising funds for Restore, a mental health charity in Oxford. Along the way, I want to discover about the places I ‘visit’ and share some mental health stories with you too. I hope you enjoy it. Note, these pages may get updated even after posting if I have photos to upload or more info to add.
(1st Jan 2021)
Starting in Lands End, on my first day I’ve made it to a village called Sparnon. Haven’t completed as many miles as I’d hoped. At Lands End you can see the Celtic Sea and the benefits of the sea are numerous. Lands End has a large visitor attraction but I can’t stop. Time to head inland. Typically long country road to start with. It’s quite good to see progress being made, but looking at the route it takes me and the street view I’m sad I’m not actually doing it.
I pass through a small village/hamlet called Trevescan. As somebody living in the city, I often wonder what it must be like to live somewhere like this. Are you from the area? Does it get lonely? As far as the eye can see, there’s views of fields and nothing else, so I’m actually hopeful for some other form of life to appear. Beautiful countryside though, although the bends are tight and a bit scary!
I make it to another hamlet called Polgigga and interestingly the duck pond is classed as a point of interest. It even has its own Facebook page. In Trethewey I pass the Lands End Coastguard Rescue Team’s base. We’re then out into the wilderness of fields once more. It’s almost single track. At the end of the day there’s some steep hills and as this is Day 1 (and New Year’s Day), whilst I may be in Oxford, it still feels like I’ve achieved a lot. Sparnon is the resting place at the end of Day 1 where if I were really there, I think I’d have to camp.
(2nd Jan 2021)
DAY 2 (02/01/2020) starts and a midday walk in Oxford sees me clock up more than five miles, although it was a really difficult distance as I went mainly uphill and my knees are hurting. In virtual terms though, I’ve continued on yet more winding country roads. If I’d have managed a little bit further yesterday I’d have reached Treverven Campsite. It’s got some good ratings and excellent facilities by the look of it.
Continuing my journey there’s quite a few moments of tree lined roads with the odd house as you venture round a corner but otherwise it’s fields as far as the eye can see. I stumble upon Boksenna Cross, a scheduled monument, reminding travellers of old of where they were and the Christian faith. Further along the road, the Tregiffian Burial Chamber, a tomb purportedly dating to the Bronze era, greets me. I’m walking with my brother on this walk and as ex-Scout leaders we agree that it feels very much like when we supervised the Duke of Edinburgh Award. Lots of walking. We reminisce and before we know it we’re at The Merry Maidens.
I’ve reached Boleigh, a small hamlet where the artist Samuel Birch stayed in about 1982. I’m quite amazed that just a bit further up the road, seemingly in the middle of nowhere is a bus stop. Back in Oxford on the real walk, I’m desperate for a bus to get me home. It’s been lovely in the sun, but my feet are hurting. I think I need to change shoes really.
I reach Lamorna, a small village with a cove, which due to the route, I don’t quite take in but it lies in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. As I head out of the area, I’m on a single track road. How it can be called a road, I’ve no idea. It climbs steadily and steeply unlike the same point in my actual walk which is now heading downhill. I reach Castallack, another small hamlet. the road widens and it’s now not so scary to walk along here but it soon narrows again as I leave the area. It’s quite amazing that you can walk the usual roads in Oxford and it doesn’t feel like you’ve gone far but seeing the distance on online maps shows all the things that I could have seen. I feel energised to keep going of course because it’s a great challenge and a great charity.
After a dogleg, I’m heading towards Raginnis, and before we know it, I’m on Raginnis Hill, which has the most gorgeous views over the sea and it’s then onto Mousehole, which is the end of the day’s big walk. The remainder of my walking has been done around the house. I’m pleased to have made Mousehole as it’s somewhere I’d love to visit. At Christmas they bedeck the harbour out with lights and somebody on a local Facebook page often advertises a holiday cottage with great sea views. To keep me remotely on track I need to try and get to Newlyn/Penzance by tonight. I’ve not long passed the old Penlee Lifeboat station, now closed, and am following the coastal path north. Halfway to Newlyn is a quarry, with deep water. There are plans to turn it into a marina. As I settle down for the night, my total mileage for the day shows that I have made it safely to Newlyn, a hillside view of the harbour coming into view.
(3rd Jan 2021)
DAY 3 of the expedition and after a good night’s sleep (not been sleeping well recently) I manage to do about a mile’s worth of steps around the house as I’m clearing up and taking the decorations down. In virtual land, it means that after a hearty breakfast at either The Smugglers or The Red Lion (not sure where I’d have stayed), I’m on my way again around the harbour. The real-time weather forecast says it’s sunny and looking at the webcam, it is. I like webcams of the coast and often they’re a bit of a go-to when the mental health gets bad. So, with that mile under my belt this morning, I find myself having gone past the new RNLI building, crossed the Newlyn Coombe River bridge (the starting point being the sea on the other side of the bridge, of course). An interesting building on the right is the Newlyn Art Gallery. I’m still following what seems to be the coastal path, so a morning of viewing the sea is great. There is something satisfying about sitting in Oxford but being able to explore the coast with a purpose. Where would we now be without the technology of Google Street View?
Newlyn quickly gives way to Penzance and the promenade. Whenever I think of Penzance I’m reminded of the Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan, the first major play I ever performed in. Three weeks before we were due to perform, the Pirate King left and little me had to take over. I’d not done anything like this before. I learned the whole script in a week. Penzance looks like a sleepy seaside town online. I’ll be happy to be proved otherwise. If I was at the right pace, I’d probably have stayed at Penzance last night, perhaps the Queen’s Hotel, which I’ve only just passed. This means I do need to start picking up the pace over the next few days. My tracker believes I’ll be at Longrock tonight, but if I can get closer to St Michael’s Mount, that would be a massive bonus.
What’s great about the app is I also receive postcards from places I’ve visited. I’ll see if I can add those into the updates too. On a side note, my friend Nicky, who is a great masseur, has decided to join me on the challenge now but she’s having to catch me up, as she’s only just been dropped in Land’s End.
In the meantime, I’ve just had a walk around the local area, again mostly uphill – I suppose that’s what happens when you live at the bottom of a valley. It was a good walk, not especially chilly, and we saw a few parts of Oxford we’ve not seen for a long time. There was a beautiful nativity reminding us that Christmas still isn’t quite over. Sad though that somebody had stolen their original baby Jesus figurine so they’d had to replace him.
Virtually, the intention was to reach Longrock, but that walk has bumped me up to my current point of walking out to St Michael’s Mount and back onto the main land again. The walk has taken me along the beautiful coastline at Penzance and on street view I can see an outdoor bathing pool, so I’ve had a look at this. It turns out to be an art deco sea water lido. Well, sea water has many benefits for the body, so it’s great that the ‘largest and most celebrated’ one in the UK is here. It contains 5 million litres of sea water, and whilst the learner pool is not heated, the geothermal one averages 30-35 degrees. The fact it is on battery road hints at wartime connections, and this would be right as the headland housed a gun battery for protection from France.
Battery Road leads on to The Quay where boats rest peacefully in the harbour. This harbour is as stated on the Penzance website, the first secure harbour on the coast of the English Channel on entering from the Atlantic Ocean.
I’m having to head slightly inland now because the train station sits on the quayside, so I’m going to scoot around it. It’s as far south-western you can go – the last stop on the line, opening in 1852 and still very much in use today. Away from the station but still very much along the route, we reach an industrial/retail park with what seems to be every service you could need. This is a long road and looking at the map, I could have taken the South West coastal path (another challenge I’d really to try) but the route set out by the app wants to take me more inland. It’s probably for the best as I should start heading northwards more.
Just off of the bypass, there is a company called The Real Cornish Crab Company. I’m not a seafood fan myself but the thought of a crab sandwich by the beach always makes me smile – one of my mum’s favourites. It’s about here that the pace marker was set for today so I’m quite pleased to be further on. It’s here that I take a detour southerly and actually end up crossing the train line again, but for good reason. The sea beckons and in the distance is St Michael’s Mount. Opposite is the RSPB Marazion Marsh. I must research a little more about the wildlife here.
The walk that I did today took me through some more natural areas (more playgrounds and open spaces) than of late and I think I must make more of a point of walking these green spaces more in the coming days.
As my walk in Oxford ends today, I find myself walking out to and then back from St Michael’s Mount. I’ve actually wanted to visit it properly so one day I’ll get there. I became a National Trust member at Christmas and it’s part of the NT, so you never know. Once things are open again and we can travel out of the area. It’s a tidal island, which means that it’s connected to the mainland and can be reached when the tide is low but is cut off when the tide is high. It would usually take about 30 minutes there and the same back and the route allows for an amble around the island too. Quite exciting, as I pick up my next virtual postcard there explaining more about the island. It has 30 residents and a castle.
Back on the mainland, I’ve just walked through the delightful market place and am at the Marazion Museum. Marazion is Cornwall’s oldest town and what’s great about the town’s website is a page dedicated to wellbeing. I think this is the first I’ve ever seen on a town’s website.
I know I’ll get another mile in before bedtime walking around the house, and that would take me to St Michael’s Coastal Cottages which look a good place to bed down for the night. This is the last glimpse of the sea for a while as I’m now heading inland.
A late diary entry but I’ve put in a bit of walking around the house after dinner sorting a few bits out so in reality I’m now past those cottages. There’s another one ahead with great sea views called Beach Comber Cottage, so that’s where I’m laying my head for tonight. My pace setter says Townshend is the target for tomorrow but I’m going to aim for Leedstown. In reality, I’ve some driving to be done tomorrow so I may not get as many steps in as I’d hope for. Let’s see….
(4th Jan 2021)
Beach Comber Cottage was a self-catering cottage with great views over the sea but it was only for one night. Today we head inland. Firstly, in the real world, I was up earlier than I’ve been for a long time as it’s MOT day, which means walking may be a bit more limited. Nevertheless, around the house I’ve clocked up a bit although as the office is officially open again, I’d only managed to get further up the road by lunchtime.
With a break in the day around 2.30pm, I managed to get a quick walk around the local area, crossing the fields that had recently been flooded over Christmas, and in to the edge of town past the old Morris Motors garage. By the end of the walk, I’d virtually passed through the village of Goldsithney. The weather in the area was chilly, much as in Oxford, and I can imagine it probably felt colder with the sea air still whipping across the fields. The village itself is a conservation area and holds a fair each summer. It’s a steep hill out of the village which is completely different to the walk back home which is mainly on the flat. Down a lane to the left is Guy’s Butterfly Farm. I’ll try and find some more out about this and post it later.
There doesn’t seem to be a lot to look at for some time and this is problematic normally where mental health is concerned. I’ve seen it in myself on long walks and I’ve seen it in Scouts completing their Duke of Edinburgh Award. How to keep your spirits up when the road is long and the outlook leaves you wanting more. Cornwall also reminds me of that song with the lyrics ‘the road is long with many a winding turn’. There’s a picturesque village called Relubbus which frankly I love purely for the sound of it. Makes me think of pirates – ‘you lubbers’. Isn’t it great when we let our imaginations run away with us? You never know how far they’ll take you. The target today was to reach Townshend. As I’m only on the outskirts now and still have a few hours before bed, I reckon I can make Leedstown. Still no news on Nicky catching up with me.
Before an announcement by the Prime Minister that we are once again in lockdown, I managed a quick evening walk, which takes me past Townshend, a once busy community but now a quiet, sleepy village with little amenities. Although there’s a little farm shop on the way out of the village. Leedstown, the next village along was named after the Duke of Leeds, and the road leading out of it to the next leg of the journey is a long, straight one – presumably a Roman road. My stop off for tonight appears to be a field or at the side of the road, so I suppose it’s tent out, unless the house on the junction would take me in. A few more steps would have got me to Praze-an-Beeble, but it was not to be. Tomorrow though I’m going to try and push for Burncoose which is a lot further than the pace setter.
(5th Jan 2021)
Not a great start. I did get up and go for a walk, so that was positive, and I did vlog (well, I’ve filmed but not edited and uploaded), but I got home to find I’d paused the step counter halfway through my walk so have had to do a bit of mapping work online. Now everybody is in lockdown again and online learning the internet is so slow so trying to get my own work done today will be interesting. I have to run a class later! Let’s hope it’s better by then. In virtual land though, I’ve passed through the village of Praze-an-Beeble (meaning meadow of the pipe). A small village, it used to have its own train station. Can’t hang around though. Must stay on the right track(!) and keep walking. I’m slightly off the beaten track again now having taken a back street and am walking between high hedges. In reality, these are often the most boring bits of long walks, but you have to hold onto the fact that at any moment, the perfect view will appear. The road continues like this for some time though and I end the evening, following another walk (around Sainsburys granted!), at a small campsite in Four Lanes. Having said that’ there’s a few B&B’s so I may have chosen one of those instead. It’s quite surprising that in a small village like this there’s shops and things to do and the church itself holds 200.
(6th Jan 2021)
A cold morning but a sunny start in Four Lanes. Here in Oxford the same cannot be said. It is grey and overcast, but I’m getting out early. It’s only just light. I’m feeling slightly despondent today and I think that’s because I realised last night that although it’s early in the route, I’m already behind my pace setter, nearly by a day’s walking. I thought I was doing well. I’m not going to let it get me down though. I need to find a way of getting more in, that’s all. Positive mental attitude. I’m a short way in and I can do this.
A bonus though, Nicky (you remember Nicky right?) was dropped at Land’s End a few days after me, well, she’s already in Penzance so not far behind. I think tomorrow we will probably have ‘met’ – and then she’ll overtake. Hahaha. It’s a shame because we live in the same county but under Tier 4 restrictions can’t actually meet otherwise we would have had a photo together on an actual walk. We’ll find another way.
Anyway, back to the walk. I set off in the sunshine (virtually) and leave the village, where incidentally Wendy Eathorne, classical soprano, was born. Naturally I have Youtube-d her. Not bad. Music is great for our soul and although I love walking along listening to nature and it’s own chorus, putting on your favourite music to cheer the day along can make a massive difference to your wellbeing.
And so it is as I leave the village behind I head out in an easterly direction taking a turn down a lane which doesn’t give me a street view on Google. I’ll guess from the satellite shot that it’s a dirt track like a bridleway and nothing much else, cutting a track through a field so I don’t need to add an extra mile to the journey going up to the next junction. I’m quite pleased about that.
I rejoin the main road and cross over. The next road has great views over the rolling hills in the distance. We’re so lucky in this country with the nature that’s around us and often we don’t truly appreciate it. Whether in your own area or even looking on street view, we can appreciate the land around us. From what I can tell the distant hills are hiding the sea again, at least the port area of Porthgwidden. My route won’t take me quite there but I may be close enough to see some water, but that’s likely to be tomorrow. I’m meant to reach Carnon Downs today, and I’d like to get a lot further in order to keep on track but it’s a computer day really so I’m going find it hard. Moving will do me good though. I have been naughty and eaten chocolate and I said I wouldn’t in January. Won’t beat myself up. Life’s too short.
My evening check in and I’m only two miles from the pacer which is great news. It puts me overall a little way behind still but the feeling is good. I’m closer to staying on track. It was a bitterly cold walk this evening with subzero temperatures and frost on the vehicles. Paths extremely slippery. As for the virtual world, Four Lanes which I left earlier is a positively sweltering two degrees. There is masses more to report on. The road just keeps on going with very little sign of life, although as I said in my video yesterday, having time to yourself to enjoy the view can be really beneficial. Lots of dry stone wall around here. I might add that to my bucket list. Anybody fancy gifting me the experience? Along the road the odd farmhouse but nothing else for miles. If I were doing this in the actual location I know I would be bored by now. The explorer in me would probably have taken footpaths and bridleways more but passing endless fields can become tedious. It’s at times like that the mind can wander and you have to fill the void. That’s what’s so good if you can walk with others and keep connected. When I used to run the Duke of Edinburgh Award expeditions I would tell my Scouts to remember to always talk to each other. It’s one of the ways you know your team is OK and nobody gets left behind. I think that’s an important thing to remember in life too.
It’s very much single track roads around here and reminds me of when my brother came to Cornwall to work. He returned saying driving the roads was scary in a transit van, not least because the locals the know the roads well and he didn’t so they would fly around corners without a care and he would find being the tourist (and I’m sure locals always have a sixth sense in this respect anywhere you go), he had to reverse into farmer’s gateways. There’s very few appear on this stretch of street view.
I reach the hamlet of Burncoose, another name I love because it makes me think of burning a good. It’s the little things that make us laugh. It’s very much a blink and you’ll miss it kind of place, so on I continue. It feels like a routine now walking on the same stretches of roads, and I fear it could get like that back in Oxford so despite lockdown I’m going to have to find new and exciting ways to ‘pimp up’ familiar places. I arrive in Frogpool. How come the Cornish have such great names for places? Another hamlet, which oddly, the only thing marked as being a real point of interest on the map is the park. I’ll carry on and leave the swinging to the children.
I think in a previous life I was an architect or at least an appreciator, especially of small, traditional buildings. I like places like village halls that still have echoes of days gone by, and lots of these hamlets and villages have these. I then get consumed reading about them, which leads to me wanting to hire them for a non-existent event. Dream big, eh?
It’s been a tough day walking today and I think I need new boots or thinner socks. Either way, my feet are a little sore. Hopefully this isn’t a sign of things to come. It’s been tricky virtually too because I’m desperate to find new things on the route and I know if I were walking this on these roads I would have been ready to give up. Whoever would have been my support would have really come into play today. We mustn’t forget to use those people around us willing to help. I’d have probably bored them senseless by now with silly anecdotes of my singing.
A very small lane which won’t let me go down on street view but is on the route would have been a real pleaser as from what I can tell, it’s sufficiently different to the other roads I’ve been on. I’m in an outer part of Perranwell Station and the houses are largely detached which makes me feel a little inferior. Why do we compare ourselves to others so often? We should be happy with our lot in life. Along the route I’ve stumbled across a place called Cornwall Coaching, a life coach who looks like she could provide a friendly refuge. I might call in.
I’m not sure why this village is called Perranwell Station. Perhaps because it has a station and that’s all it is known for. Either way, I skirt the station, although the stone bridge over the single track reminds me of the TV programme Oh Dr Beeching. Anybody remember that? The plight of the railways. The road from here opens up and another bridge crosses the Carnon River, a heavily polluted river in Cornwall from when pollutants from a mine entered the water flow way back in 1992. To this day, the water still flows red, although there is hard work going on to remove metals from the river.
The road climbs steeply for a while before I turn off and, for what seems a strange reason but must really be because the virtual app prefers roads, gets me to walk up the A39. There is a path but walking up a dual carriageway feels wrong, especially as it very quickly vanishes. If it were me I’d walk through the village of Carnon Downs. It looks quite pretty and full of life. There’s a Premier Inn on the roundabout where I could lay my head but if I could walk for two more miles around the house before bed, I’m a bit more back on track.
(7th Jan 2021)
A brisk morning walk in the cold certainly wakes you up. My walk was a little later today but still cold at a sub-zero temperature. It would have been similar waking up in Cornwall this morning. Brrr. Having said that, at least they have sun. I had one of those walks this morning that seems to go on forever but in reality is only a few miles. It was lovely though and because we’re on lockdown does mean there’s very few people around. You can truly appreciate the beauty around you. I enjoyed a ‘go where the mood takes you’ ramble. My mood took me to the outskirts of town, parts of the city I don’t usually walk to. There was a man selling hot chocolate from a horse trailer and I wish I’d tried it now but I might go again another day and see.
It’s at the quieter times you do notice things more, as do others. I find it rare that people walk with a view to noticing nature and the world around them but there were more and more people with their cameras out actually photographing birds, the river, the architecture, rather than video calling their friends. I wonder how much their eyes have been opened to the world around them thanks to the lockdown?
In Cornwall, I’m back on the A39 again. It does feel surreal to be walking along it. There’s a dedicated bus lane along here which suggests it perhaps gets busy. I suppose it’s a main route to the south. A bit of a shame because I feel the virtual route is missing a trick with some viewpoints because back on street view I find that not far away is Carnon Viaduct which looks lovely. The viaduct actually carries the railway line that I mentioned earlier and crosses the river. The original viaduct was created by Isambard Kingdom Brunel but was replaced in the 1930’s. See, so much more interesting is life off the beaten track.
I find it fascinating. The next place I’ve reached is Playing Place. I wonder if people in Cornwall think Oxford place names are a bit quirky too. Behind the hedge there’s another community centre. I’m not sure what my fascination with these buildings is. Maybe it’s the fact that they are based around the community and bring so many various types of people together. The A39 continues under a leafy covered canopy.
As the canopy vanishes, I’m greeted on one side of the road by a paintball venue called Bedlam. Interesting name considering it originated as an alternative name for the lunatic asylum. How we use names to describe different things is strange. How times have changed. Today, the lunatic asylum, bedlam, has been replaced with proper hospital names and mental health support services like Restore, which focus on the individual recovering as opposed to labelling them as being in bedlam.
I’m now entering Truro and as I do, the quayside comes into view. It’s quite a way out to the sea from here though. Oh, the water again. I do love it. I passed through a lovely watery river area this morning and it made all the difference. Again, a slight detour would have taken me to Truro Cathedral, which seems an odd place to have one because Truro in my mind is a small town in Cornwall, yet the maps online show how vast the sprawl of the place really is. There is what looks to be almost an old canal basin in the centre of town now used for a market and bus terminus. I’m not sure if it is. We have one in Oxford and it would be lovely to see it return to a turning circle for canal boats. Having reached the centre of Truro (population circa 19,000) I will now take an outer road to continue in a generally north-easterly fashion. Truro has many narrow, cobbled streets, which when lockdown is lifted I’d like to explore more. There’s the Royal Cornwall Museum for example, and the Lemon Street Gallery.
A short evening walk sees me with my walking buddy again (AKA brother) and we have a lot to talk about that the time passes quickly. As he’s been back at work a few days and I’ve had new clients, plus did a different and interesting walk this morning, there’s lots to catch up on. We did a usual route which I don’t think we’ve ever done in reverse to reckon we should at some point.
The road out of Truro has a steady incline – naturally. You tend to find that as the coastal towns are at ‘sea level’. The climb gets harder and if I were there now my knees would probably be shot. I would have to stop quite regularly. It’s relentless and sometimes we find that with our own mental health struggles. The hill may be one we have to struggle up but one foot in front of the other and we’ll get there.
Very soon I’m back to those pesky small roads. There are good views through the hedge of rolling fields before we hit the single track roads again. How anybody gets down here is beyond me. The road drops steeply and steadily which suggests we’re heading towards the sea again. I know it was on the cards as we’re only slightly inland anyway. We cross Trevella Stream, and arrive at what is actually Tresillian River. Before flood defences were put in place, it was known to flood across the area down here. The river’s wide and I’m walking alongside it until I reach Tresillian village (meaning ‘place of eels’ – not sure why). The village is left behind very quickly and I find on first glance that there’s not a lot to write about unfortunately. From time to time you spot something but otherwise I’m desperate to find something new to learn about. I’m a learner. I like to take on new information. It’s a good way to keep the brain active and occupied. I’m on my way to Probus where I’ll probably bed down for the night.
Tomorrow I’ll arrive in St Austell where I’ll reconsider how I write this blog as it’s too long for one page.