2021 arrived and I decided to take on a huge challenge. Walk from Lands End to John O’Groats (LEJOG). This is Week 12.
(19th March 2021)
Up and at them. Exercise, baking, and on with the day. Today’s baking exploits revolve around a ready made cake. It’s OK and tastes lovely but I’d rather rather the fun of making a recipe from scratch. It feels better consuming it when you’ve poured your heart and soul into it and mixed it with love.
I have the most amazing creative business call this morning which lasts over an hour and enables me to spend a day developing some ideas for the future. I’m currently working on a product for use by, well, potentially anybody. I’ve really allowed the juices to flow. I’ve not had the buzz and excitement of an idea like this for a long time. This was followed by another business call of over an hour where a load of ideas were thrashed out. I really love productive days like this where people are listening to each other, really listening, and get what each other is saying and also allows for growth in other’s ideas. You can feel the energy.
With all of these calls and designing, I suddenly realise the time so go for a walk to enjoy the sunset. We can’t enjoy it in the immediate area due to some local building work overshadowing things. I’ve not walked more than a few footsteps and am collared by a neighbour. We don’t talk often, it’s more chance conversations in the street, but we’re very much on the same wavelength and it’s great when we can be so open about mental health, the state of the world, and again, it’s brilliant having two professionals in the same field to spark up a discussion.
Back at home, dinner is consumed, then it’s off to the shop to buy resources for youth club tomorrow. It’s been a fantastic day, yet a slower one where the walk is concerned. I’ve not even had chance to update my blog, which on a Friday takes a long time as I have to move pages around. As such, I spend about 90 minutes walking on the spot in the kitchen before bedtime.
When I woke this morning I followed the River Wharfe further north through England’s green and pleasant land. It is, as far as the eye can see, just hills and I savour every step as I scroll along Google earth. There’s lots of great sights such as the Middle Falls waterfall at Cray. Frankly there’s not a lot more can be said about the area. Other than a few small hamlets with a couple of houses, it is beautiful greenery stretching out in front of me. I end up in Bishopdale and stay for the evening in The Rookery, a rather luxurious house in the middle of the hillside. It’s a relatively clear night in Bishopdale, six celsius, not that that matters when you’re inside, but I allow myself to enjoy the stars, something I also do for five minutes before I crawl into bed back here in Oxford.
(20th March 2021)
It was a lovely cottage I stayed in but now I’m back out on the road, heading off towards youth club in fact as we take them for another wellbeing walk today. Virtually I’m walking in a valley area following Bishopdale Beck, the gentle lapping of water soothing the soul.
Today, our young people were feeling really sluggish. So much so that we hardly walked any distance at all. They got covered in mud again but I swear they seek it out. I set them a task to create an In Plain Sight photograph. Other members of the group had to be in the photo but could be camouflaged, but we still had to be able to find them. They were really good at it and one of them we couldn’t find at all until he was pointed out. I sat and read a poem about the spring equinox which started today and then they wrote their own Haiku poems. Who says you can’t be creative in nature? We had our hot chocolate and biscuit stop again.
I pass the Bishopdale Bunkhouse. No need to stop as it’s only the middle of the day. I head down a single track lane and into the village of Thoralby. It’s primarily a single road with a few houses on.
At the youth club somebody has finally rocked up to collect a piece of furniture. It was great that somebody did. He arrived on a bicycle with a little trailer. It was fascinating watching him get a bookcase on it. Really resourceful.
Back at the homestead, I’m back on my big creative task for work and there’s good news about a family matter. Life seems to be on the up. For dinner I make a bolognese bake. Slightly overdone but I always remind others, at least we have food. Some don’t. We should always be grateful for what we have got. However our lives are, they could be a lot worse.
I take an evening walk, and that, together with just a few steps in the kitchen tonight, takes me up to about 8.5 miles for today. Not quite the 9.2 average I’m aiming for but it’s enough. My foot is hurting again by bedtime so I need to stop.
I reach the village of Aysgarth. Two of the key attractions around here are the Aysgarth Falls, a three stepped waterfall, and the Edwardian Rock Garden. It’s then swiftly on to Bainbridge where I’m stopping the night. It’s a pleasant looking village, and plenty of pubs and cottages to stop in for the night. I’m going to bed happy. There hasn’t been a lot to say about today. It’s purely been stunning views.
(21st March 2021)
Yesterday I managed to get a bite whilst out on my walk. I’m presuming it’s a bite. It looks like a bite. It’s worrying me. Wake up to find it’s getting sorer and redder. I’ll keep an eye but it’s one of those things that for others they shove some cream on and keep going. For the anxious brain it like to overthink.
I lay in bed a while this morning. My mind was working overtime last night with ideas for work so I’ve not had much rest. I read a few pages of my book and then haul myself out of the comfort of the duvet. Once breakfast is out of the way we decide to head straight out for a walk. Today we walk in an area we’ve never walked. It’s like a new exploration…well, it would I suppose. We often forget how many beautiful walks are on our doorstep or a couple of miles down the road. This was so peaceful, and we stopped by a church we’ve never been in before either. I took some pictures of the stained glass windows, then we headed out across the fields and the only sound was birdsong. We saw a few horses roaming free, chomping the grass, and there was the gentle flow of the river lapping at the bank. The sun was out too. Bliss!
From Bainbridge in Yorkshire it’s a straight line pretty much due west following the 74 mile long River Ure, originally known as the River Earp. As with when I visited the Lake District, a straight line is not quite that. There are twists and turns, some often quite tight with no wiggle room as there are either drops down the hillside or stone walls in the way. The plus side is the views are ever changing and stunning. All you can see are fields upon fields with hills rising on either side cutting through the horizon.
The village of Hawes has some notable places to visit. The Hawes National Park Centre, housed inside the Dales Countryside Museum, tells all about the area, whilst the Wensleydale Creamery can be visited to explore the ins and outs of this famous cheese, known for being crumbly and moist, similar to a Caerphilly. The Gayle Mill Trust down the road can teach you how to make ceramics, mosaics, anything really. So popular is the area there are several caravan parks here. I continue to follow the river, primarily through walking around the house and at the kitchen hob, and bed down at Cotter Force. It means I have to pitch a tent, but it’s next to a waterfall, so I’m not complaining. The gentle sounds can send me off to sleep.
This evening I popped out briefly to the shop and watched a musicals thing on the TV.
(22nd March 2021)
This morning I decided to start the day with a chapter of reading. It was one of those days. I was soon up though and baking. Back on it folks. Forming a habit. Today it’s a fruit tray bake. Thank you Mary Berry. I mean, thank you for the recipe. She didn’t just swing by with it.
Aside from a few emails and social media posts for the business, today is planned to be a ‘me’ day. I’ve been working a lot recently, especially on a new project and I need to allow the brain and body to catch up. Whilst that’s what’s planned, being the workaholic I am, I soon found myself developing my work more, but also catching up on coursework, and so on. I’ve lost track of the number of phone calls today. It’s good to talk but my ears are ringing. Sometimes the phone was put down only to ring again.
I want an earlier walk today and as the sun is out this morning seems ideal. The best laid plans of course don’t always go to plan and I end up going in the afternoon. It was still really good out. The school had finished so excited children’s chatter filled the air, pensioners were hobbling around (some with a lot of determination), and a man was singing as he sat on the bench, his bicycle propped up next to him. The birds sang low in the trees, and a couple of mums were sat on the ground with their babies, swinging them about gleefully. I also saw a squirrel bury a nut. Apparently they can remember where they’ve buried them and return later. Based on our back garden that’s not surprising as we could locate them for them looking at the mess they make.
Having packed the tent, the hills rise steeply on the right and the clouds form overhead. There’s quite a few hump-backed bridges around here. Cleverly made looking at the patchwork of stone. I’m continuing to follow the River Ure this morning, until I reach The Moorcock Inn, where I bear right. It’s at this point that (according to Google anyway) the hills in the have a sprinkling of snow on the peaks. They’re quite high. The Great Shunner Fell is the third highest point in the Yorkshire Dales at 716 metres above sea level. Twice as high as the shard in London.
There’s been quite a lot of walking around the house today which has helped clock the miles, but I’ve taken in another evening walk too, and that’s pulled it back a bit. I can manage a few shorter walks in the day easier than one really long one. That’s too painful at the current time. I cross the border into Cumbria and realise that I’ve lost track of how many counties I’ve actually crossed now. I need to have a think.
Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire (for a couple of miles), Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire (which is larger than you realise), and now into Cumbria. What’s that? 13! This is the thirteenth county!
I pass Aisgill Falls (or Force), a large waterfall with a 40ft drop, which is only noticed when you are upon it. I don’t know how I’ve not noticed, but aside from following the river, there’s a train line running parallel to it which I’ve been strolling by for the past goodness knows how many miles. Part of the reason for noticing it now is because I’m walking across a bridge that it goes under. The clouds seem to come in pretty low here, skimming the tops of the hills, and hugging the landscape. There’s lots of small houses and outhouses along this road, some of which look almost uninhabitable.
I’m walking past Wild Boar Fell this evening, the fourth highest in the Dales, and in the distance, Nine Standards Rigg. As bedtime beckons, I pitch up at the side of the road and stare in awe at this great landscape ahead of me.
(23rd March 2021)
What a day! I’m writing this whilst walking in the kitchen. You know the drill. It’s been such a busy day that I didn’t manage to upload the photos like I wanted to.
It was a day in which I caught up with work briefly, then was back on the big family project, before dashing out, back to do more on the family project, and then out again. Sadly the second time of going out involved running over a stupidly placed rock near the posh houses on the private road and destroying part of the car. This was in part because some pedestrians decided that they would continue to walk in the middle of the road despite their being space for all of us. I’m hoping this is not an expensive fix in the morning. My brother is my saviour as always but we believe the locking wheel nuts (yes, I don’t understand cars either) are pretty much knackered so this made the job of putting the spare tire on even harder. We went for a walk this evening, purely to the shop and back but it has meant not enough steps have been accomplished, hence why I’m not thinning the socks on the floor in front of the hob as I type.
Anyway, that’s the round up of the day in real terms. Let’s head back to Yorkshire. Awaking to the sound of the River Eden outside the tent door, the 662m high Nine Standards Rigg looms in the distance. It’s name comes from the nine stone cairns at the top, 10 foot each, which look a bit like men stood surveying the area below.
As I head on my way, I cross a train tunnel, and north of where I’m walking is Lammerside Castle. Originally built in the 12th century, it was reinforced in the 14th century, and all that remains…are remains. The scenery is really beautiful as I cross through fields and over grey dry stone walls. I pass through Ravenstonedale, a village primarily made up of one road, and then it’s on to Newbiggin-on-Lune. Another great name for the journey. Again, a small village, and there’s plenty of these that you easily stumble upon but which offer plenty of accommodation options and eateries. Thank goodness lockdown is easing and we can enjoy them.
I travel on a short distance continuously crossing the River Lune, which almost appears to split off in a variety threads across the countryside. Nestled between the river and the A685, near a farmhouse in case I need it, I settle down for the evening in my trusty tent. It’s been lovely weather, and despite today being ridiculously busy, it’s been a good busy, other than the car. Further donations too! I’m wondering whether I can reach £1200 for my final total. That would be three times what I was aiming for. That’s about £60 away. Night night.
(24th March 2021)
Woke up this morning with a feeling of anxiety plaguing me. Why? I’m not really sure. It wasn’t the usual scene of impending doom but it was a gentle, constant ‘thing’ that remained for the day. I was up relatively early. That pesky car situation yesterday means I need to go and get the tyre replaced. There’s no sign of damage but it’s better to be safe than sorry and I can’t drive around on a spare tyre for ever more.
The buzy beez at a local garage sorted me out quite quickly, but as the tracking needed sorting, and the other tyres seemed to have wear and tear, the car was having a birthday present and ended up with four new tyres. It was an expensive game. I didn’t expect to sit in a cold garage for so long and I could have gone for a walk, but there we are. Lost opportunity.
Back home there’s a stack of phone calls and admin to deal with before I head out to the shops for a few essentials I’m short of. Even then I managed to come back and forget one of the most essential. I’m struggling with my foot again today. I’m not having any real rest days and I think it’s getting to the point of being quite unbearable. I’m determined to continue. I’ve set myself the challenge and a date and I will make it. I’ve said before there is flexibility of a few days but no more. The walk to the shop was straightforward along the road but I returned via the park which was silent save from the birds. It does feel strange to walk around in these social spaces without any children and teens playing basketball or being on the swings, but you have to wait until the end of the day for those sounds now they are back at school.
This walk took me from where I camped, following the River Lune, to the village of Gaisgill. There’s a stopover called The Waiting Room. Turns out there used to be a train track through here, part of the now disused South Durham and Lancashire Union Railway, and this was where the station was.
The day passes relatively easily, although I can feel the anxiety remains. I’m pretty exhausted so I spend some time baking again. Reading my blog you’d be forgiven for thinking I’m spending a lot of time doing that. It’s one of the things I love doing, and actually, I am getting work done still, but not in great swathes. Ideas keep forming and I think come next week I’ll be flying. I bake a chocolate sponge this afternoon, and then I’m straight into working with a client. I normally work with the children but today the child was distracted and upset so I began working with the mum. It’s great when parents really get to experience the magic of what I do, and this mum explained ‘it’s really hard work focusing your energy and mind on…the mind, and your own wellbeing’. Yes, it is. It’s tiring, and that’s because we don’t do enough of it. If we want to have better mental health and wellbeing, we have to work at it. Things don’t just happen.
After class, a little more work, and dinner, I head out for an evening walk. Short one tonight which means lots of steps in the kitchen. My foot is killing me. So much pain. I don’t manage to get a lot done. It’s a chilly night but not as cold as last night.
I’ve managed to reach Tebay, another village which also once saw the railway pass through, and was quite a major junction. It’s primarily lost to the A-road leading into the area. The sheep in the fields give an indication of what the locality has been well known for. At the other extreme, Castle Howe, the remains of a motte and bailey castle can be seen on the hillside, built after the Norman conquest. I head in the general direction of the M6 for a while – inspiring! (he said tongue in cheek). Oddly though, between the north and southbound M6 is a small road running parallel to them which I follow. It feels safer. I’m not able to walk at 70mph to keep up with the flow.
It’s not the quietest place to bed down, but thankfully the noise is only virtual tonight and we’ve none of that noise from the other week, so as I pitch the tent between the motorway carriages, there’s also another great achievement today. I’ve reached 60% and you know what the means…tree number three has been planted by the Eden Restoration Project. Hoorah!
(25th March 2021)
Great morning. Lovely sun, but soon the clouds emerged and we had on and off rain all day. This morning I’ve made mincemeat brownies. Yes, that’s right. Strange mixture you may believe but surprisingly they work. Always worth trying something different.
I had an assignment due today and it’s mainly done but still requires a bit of tidying up so I spend a while sorting that amongst other things including covid paperwork for youth club. Our Spoonington event, which you may remember was where our youth club members and others in the community decorated wooden spoons for a display, has to be removed at the weekend, so I spent a fair bit of time trying to make the relevant communications to see if we can move it and keep it going rather than it stopping completely.
At lunchtime I head to Restore, the charity who this is all for. As the walking weather is slowly getting better and I’ll hopefully soon be out in t-shirts more, they’re gifting me a Restore t-shirt. I thought it would be in their green logo colour but they’re determined to help me shine so it’s a sort of gold shade. Maybe they’re trying to tell me something. Going for gold!
I stop at the Garden Cafe for lunch. They are only doing takeaway but I’d highly recommend popping in and taking a few minutes out of your day to enjoy the peace and tranquility here, just yards from the busy Cowley Road.
Tent packed and it’s northwards once more past several quarries. As I walk back from Restore, I notice daisies and remember as a child making daisy chains. Simple pleasures. We don’t do things like that any more.
I’m following the general direction of the M6 now and as I do I pass the Gunnerkeld Stone Circle, which consists of concentric circles, the outer ring being 28 metres in diameter. After class this evening, I head out for another evening walk and this thankfully takes me to my total steps for today, so no need for kitchen steps. I saw a hedgehog and a fox this evening running about the streets. The wildlife still tries its best to find routes and paths despite us continuing to destroy its habitat.
I’m right up into the area of The Lakes now. I visited here last year. There’s so much I can say about it, and although the route doesn’t quite go where I’d like, I’m going to divert tomorrow to revisit some of the places I loved. There isn’t a great deal more I can say about the route I’ve taken today. Lowther Parish Hall have kindly put me up for the night so I’ll be a bit warmer. It’s not especially cold outside, but inside the house it is. The boiler’s gone off. I settle down on the hall floor inside a building that by design looks as though it’s an old cricket pavilion but completely wooden slatted in style. The view from the window is over the local primary school and in the distance, the Lake District mountains.