Carlisle Adventure

It was pointed out (in jest I have to add) that I appear to have done Carlisle a disservice in an off hand comment made in my Hadrian’s Wall blog post. I’m currently living in Hexham, which has a short train route to Carlisle, so with some time to kill and my shin splints feeling better I took up the challenge and jumped on a train to explore Carlisle.

Before I went I did some research and found there is actually quite a bit to do. A castle, an art gallery and an urban adventure park (with aerial trekking, a zip line and climbing wall) as well as the Solway Aviation Museum and Watchtree Nature Reserve just outside town. Also, in nearby Brampton, there is the Birdoswald Roman Fort (part of Hadrian’s Wall obviously) Lanercost Priory and the Talkin Tarn Country Park (offering orienteering courses, environmental education and watersports like kayaking, sailing and open water swimming)

I opted to to visit Carlisle Castle (I love castles) and pop into the massive Bookcase second hand book shop (I’m a sucker for these)

The castle was built by William Rufus (William the Conqueror’s son) around 1093 on the site of an old Roman fort. Located on the border between England and Scotland, it was built to keep England secure against the Scottish. The many skirmishes meant it was one of the most under siege castles in the UK and changed hands a number of times for 700 years.

It was the temporary prison for Mary Queen of Scots in 1567 and soldiers loyal to Bonnie Prince Charlie were imprisoned there during the Jacobite Rebellion in 1745. That Rebellion, and subsequent failure, marked the end of the castle as a need to protect the border because the countries were united as Great Britain shortly after.

Inside the castle grounds there is also Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life so I went in. It tells the story of Cumbria’s County Infantry Regiment through various audio/visual and diorama displays. It was fascinating to see how warfare has changed from when the regiment was formed in the late 19th century, following the wars they served in up to present day. 

After a morning at the castle I went into the nearby Bookcase bookshop. It is one of the UK’s largest independent bookshops. Located in the heart of the historic quarter, it occupies two old georgian houses with thirty rooms over four floors full of books. All kinds and genres. I walked in and was blown away by the range, the staff were very helpful and it had a great ambience. The climbing/walking/mountaineering section was pretty extensive and I think I did pretty well to walk out with nothing other than a few OS maps.

So I stand corrected. Carlisle does have a lot to offer, I enjoyed my time there and now think I owe someone dinner.

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Coast to Coast Cancelled

For the last few weeks I’ve had a pretty painful case of shin splints. I’ve rested but just not enough and it’s still a problem.

 

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Looked pretty bad when it first flared up

I’m my own worst enemy.  I make a bad patient and just can’t seem to sit still. I went up to Scotland for a few days recently and wasn’t allowed to do anything. All those mountains we passed and not one was climbed. I didn’t get very far from the van at all.

It’s starting to feel better but, because it hasn’t cleared enough, it means I’ve had to postpone my third and final training walk.

The Wainwrights Coast to Coast is 180 miles across the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Park and would have been my final opportunity to do some more kit tests, nav practice and walk some big hills.

Those who know me well, know how determined and committed I can be when I put my mind to something. Normally I would just be bull headed and walk it. But with LEJOG following it a few weeks later I can’t take that risk.

I’ve invested so much time in setting all of the walks up but I have to put my smart head on and rest up. The LEJOG walk means so much to me that I have to take into account the risk of further aggravating things.

I’m gutted, heartbroken and disappointed more than I care to share. But I’ve made the right call and that route isn’t going anywhere. In fact I’ve already had ideas to customise it, make it longer and take in more mountains which will count towards my ML. Every cloud…..

So I’m now back up north in Hexham where I intend on doing nothing at all for the rest of the week.

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Ice is my friend

Maybe I’ll go for a few swims but the plan is to read, plot out what I need to do for my ML and sketch out some adventure ideas. With nothing to do and time to kill it makes sense. Always scheming, always plotting, always learning and always dreaming. The way life should be.

Reiver’s Way

I decided to walk the Reivers Way as it took me back up north, I was walking hills I’d covered as a child and figured it would involve some tough terrain similar to Scotland. Ideal training for the later stages of LEJOG.

I packed my kit and traveled up on the Friday. Carrying 13.5kg on the bus and train wasn’t pleasant and I immediately thought about how I could trim the weight even more. I hadn’t packed any food and still it was heavy.

After a good night at my Dad’s having a few beers, food and a catch up I was dropped off at Corbridge train station. The starting point of the walk for me.

Day One – Corbridge to Allendale

The weather was warm and sunny but the trails were muddy underfoot from the recent rainfall. Following my route was pretty easy going until I got to Steelhall Wood. Bad weather and recent logging activity had eaten up the trail so much I couldn’t get through. I had to find a way round.

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You can’t make it out but the mud was ankle deep. It wasn’t so much a problem but just a pain for the first day so I found another route round and got back on track.

The rest of the day was pleasant, and I took in some nice forest trails along rivers, but when I got to Allendale Common I started having navigation problems. I forgot what it was like to navigate the moors and find trails that didn’t really exist on the ground.

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I followed my pacing estimates and checked compass bearings but knew something was wrong when I checked my position and realised I shouldn’t be walking up hill. I backtracked to my last know location and checked the map. I couldn’t figure it out. There were tracks on the map but nothing on the ground at all.

At this point I got the phone out and checked my location. I was where I should be. I saw a house and road so headed for it. I’m not above checking with someone else to save time and hassle. Rather than knock on the door I followed the road up a hill until it ended. Great.

It was by sheer dumb luck that I saw a bridleway sign pointing to Allendale Town so I followed it and reached my first end stage. I had planned on wild camping in Allendale but struggled to find somewhere around the location I’d scouted. I was being watched by locals.

I traveled on for a bit and, after checking in with a friend, found a little place above the river. It wasn’t ideal but it had to do as it was getting dark.

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photo taken the next morning

I fell asleep after eating, listening to the sounds of the river and distance noises of life in Allendale. It was a bank holiday weekend so plenty of people out partying.

Day Two – Allendale to Wark

I left Allendale early after a good night’s sleep. There was some wind during the night, and the tent sounded like it was flapping, but it was still intact and standing when I woke.

Most of the morning was spent following muddy river trails and, in some cases, along paths that didn’t exist due to land slide or erosion. But it was easy going, manageable and in some cases just beautiful.

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I was finding the pack heavy so I started thinking on things to drop. I had a Hilleberg two man tent so decided to get a one man and there was pieces of kit I figured I could do without. Food was also something else I needed to rethink. On the southern stages of LEJOG I knew I wouldn’t need to carry much but up in Scotland I had to be smart about my resupply points so not to carry so much.

I left the river trail and started for Housesteads on Hadrian’s Wall via Bardon Hill. It was here I stopped to eat and the girls working there kindly filled my water bottles.

I got chatting to a guy about walking and cycling. He had this gorgeous husky called Christian and as I ate he kept looking at me with big begging eyes (the dog, not the guy) It was nice talking to someone and having a conversation. I didn’t catch his name but if he reads this (I gave him my details) then thanks.

I finished up and pushed on for Wark. Walking along the Wall was nice again but it was a lot busier than a month ago. I left it at Sewingshields and headed north. At this point the walk got slow and difficult.

The moors were boggy and forest tracks ankle deep in water. It started to become hard work. In hindsight I should have taken some photos but I was too busy just trying to pick my way through.

After a while I made it to Wark and rather than wild camp I took a chance on a B&B. It had been a demoralising afternoon and I wanted to lighten my pack, dry some things out, have a shower and sleep in a bed.

Day Three- Wark to Elsdon

After a good nights sleep I repacked my bag and posted some kit home. It wasn’t much but anything to lighten the load. Even though it was raining heavily I also found my spirits lifted after a night in a bed and a belly full of food. I donned my waterproofs and headed out of Wark.

I wish I’d stayed in bed. It was another day of waterlogged forest tracks and bogs. Hour after hour of difficult terrain. I knew it was good training but started to bitch and moan. I would get the odd spell of respite along roads and paths but after a while I was back to bogs.

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I wasn’t far from Elsdon so carried on hoping the pub on the OS map was open so I could get some good. When I got there there was no pub. Great. I was wild camping that night so made the decision to eat into tomorrows miles for a bit.

I filled up my water bottles at the local community centre (which is open at all hours for this very reason) and climbed up Landshot Hill. I stopped at the top, looked over and saw rain clouds approaching. I carried on for a bit and the heavens opened.

Rather than persevere I got the tent up and climbed inside. I changed clothes, made a hot drink and got settled.

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The rain stopped after a while and the wind started. I honestly thought the tent was going to lift so went out to check the pegs. All good. Then I looked at the view. I couldn’t have picked a better spot.

I was getting a decent mobile signal so phoned a few people, listened to the radio for a bit while I cooked some food and then looked at the terrain for the next few days. I had some decisions to make.

Day Four – Elsdon to Rothbury

I woke up after a restless sleep. The wind didn’t let up and rattled the tent all night. My thoughts had also turned to day five. I really didn’t fancy another day walking 22 miles through waterlogged tracks and bogs.

This day was a short 12 miles to Rothbury and I was stopping in a bunkhouse so it gave me a few hours to assess my options.

For 10 miles I had more bog and waterlogged forest trails with the added bonus of knee high cotton heather and unsteady ground. I fell twice and got my foot caught, twisting my knee in the process. I was fine but my mind was made up.

This was meant to be a training walk and fun. It stopped being fun so I ploughed on to Rothbury aiming to figure out how to skip the walk on day 5 and get a bus to Wooler.

The last few miles did make it worth the walk though. I got to Simonside and looked up. I last walked this way when I was a kid. I remember it being bigger.

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After making my way up and across the top I looked down over Rothbury. I arrived at the bunkhouse by lunchtime and was shown around. This had to be the finest bunkhouse I’d stopped in and I had it to myself. There was a kitchen, lounge, Sky TV and they even did my washing!!! If you’re ever in Rothbury and want somewhere to stay I can recommend Tomlinsons.

I got settled, showered and went out for food. I’d made the decision to skip the next day and head straight for Wooler so looked up bus times. It would take a few hours but I knew it was the right thing to do.

I walked back to the bunkhouse and stopped by the river to cool my feet off. It felt good as I sat in the sun and enjoyed the quiet.

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I slept for a bit in the afternoon, chatted to a friend and went out to get a takeaway.

Day Five – Rothbury to Wooler

This day was meant to be a 22 mile walk to Usway Ford, a half way point to Wooler. Usway is in the middle of nowhere with nothing around it. I had fancied the idea of camping here but just couldn’t face another day of the shitty terrain.

I got the bus to Wooler, found a campsite and pitched my tent. Rather than sit around I went for a walk to the Cheviot. I had hoped to get up and down but it was a three hour walk there and maybe a few hours to get up and down. I didn’t give myself enough time but at least I got out into the hills. It was a lovely day to be out walking ground I last covered when I was a kid.

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I got back to Wooler, grabbed some supplies and sat in the sun watching the clouds pass overhead and the rabbits playing.

Day Six – Wooler to Bamburgh

After a good nights sleep I woke, showered, packed my gear and headed for Bamburgh. It was looking to be a hot sunny day with a cool breeze so I made good time. Leaving the moors and boggy terrain behind for gentle hills and coastal tracks.

Most of the day was spent following St Cuthberts Way to Belford. My pack felt good, I was getting used to the weight and starting to have more fun. After lunch in Belford I headed for the coast and Budle Bay. What a view. I think I sat here and watched the wildlife for 30 minutes. It was so peaceful.

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I dragged myself up and headed to Bamburgh Castle and the end of my walking day.

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At this point I had planned on wild camping but it was early afternoon and had plenty left in the tank so kept going to Seahouses. They take a strict stance on wild camping on the beaches in Northumberland so I figured I’d find a campsite down the coast and make life easier.

I found a place and opted for the bunkhouse with it being my last night. Again I had it to myself so I showered and walked into Seahouses to get food. I planted myself in a beer garden to eat.

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Looking out across the harbor I considered the last few days and thought about my walks to come. I was looking forward to the adventure they would bring.

Day Seven – Bamburgh to Alnmouth

I woke early after a good night’s sleep but felt physically tired. After some stretching I showered, had breakfast and was away by 7. The plan was to get the 3PM train to London from Alnmouth and I wanted to take time walking down the coast and enjoy my last day.

I joined the trail at Seahouses and headed for Beadnell. The weather was good and the views down the coast clear. After negotiating through Beadnell’s back streets I walked along the beach, singing to myself and enjoying the time I had. It really was a wonderful day and I had a lot to be happy about.

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I got off the beach at Newton-By-The-Sea and walked more coastal trail until Boulmer. This was the home straight and after a short while I saw Alnmouth. I sat and looked across the little town and pondered what I had learnt about my kit choices, reading weather, the route and myself.

I felt more confident and looked forward more to my little walk and the adventures that lay beyond it.

Scrambling in Wales

I went to Wales to do some scrambling through a BMC subsidised course at Plas Y Brenin last weekend. It was my first time in Wales and at PYB. Both places I now intend on visiting again to walk, climb, scramble and attend various courses to get my Mountain Leader qualification and improve my outdoor climbing.

When I arrived in Llandudno Junction I had a few hours to kill before my lift arrived so after eating at a pub I went for a walk to Conwy Castle. I was greeted with the most beautiful sunset across the estuary. I just sat there in awe as the sun vanished.

conway sunset

I walked back to the station and my lift had arrived. I was sharing the bus with a couple of guys doing other courses so we chatted for the duration of the journey, which was about thirty minutes. They came from different backgrounds and it’s always good to talk to like minded people. No matter what background, we all shared a love for being outdoors and getting as much as we could from being there.

After checking in I had a quick look round and crashed. I’d had a long day and wanted to sleep. But the centre has so much to offer: use of the climbing walls, kayaking, a dry ski slope, mountain biking, a nice pub with a great view. And I have no doubt you could chat to anyone.

The next morning, after a filling breakfast, we met our course leaders and split into teams of 4. This meant there was a 4:1 ratio of instructor to students. That was an ideal number to learn and not lose the ability to ask questions in a crowd.

After a quick equipment check and debrief we were off to our playground for the day. Its hard to believe I have never been to Wales but after arriving in Ogwen Valley and looking up on some of the mountains I was in love. I spotted Tryfan and hoped I would get the chance to get up there. As it happens I didn’t but some of the surrounding scrambles were a perfect way to break into it. And I know I’ll be back to take on the north ridge at some point.

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First day of scrambling

Chris was our instructor for the weekend. From Northern Ireland, he was friendly, good fun and full of chat. I seemed to bend his ear all weekend, asking questions about the ML mostly so that it became a running joke. He talked so passionately about the area, the fauna and flora, the wild life, the climbing and the scrambling that I ended up buying some books from the store that night. I wanted to learn more.

After going through some safety and route choice techniques we set off on our first route. Stopping every now and again to talk about spotting and foot placement, we made it to the top of the Y Gribin route and then the summit of Gylder Fawr for lunch.

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The weather was starting to turn so we headed down, talking about how the descent was when most accidents happen so it was wise to check where and how you would get down. At the bottom we got onto the bus and headed back to the centre for a debrief and practice some ropework for the next day.

After dinner (a lovely three course meal) we had the option to attend a film night to help save the river Conwy. But I was knackered so went back to my room, did some route planning and fell asleep.

The next morning we met and had another debrief before heading back to Ogwen Valley for the day to do more scrambling and practice some ropework.

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The plan was to make our way up and practice the ropework we’d learnt the evening before. This was important to know in case you found yourself in a tight spot and needed to get yourself or someone else down from a difficult route.

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After making it up we stopped to practice anchoring and belaying someone down. Looking at the ABCs (anchor, belay and climber) as well as making sure sure the person acting as the anchor is in tight and stable. When we’d finished we ate lunch and headed over to Y Gribin to practice more ropework.

As well as anchoring we covered some abseil techniques (classical & south african) and how to use fixed and retrievable anchors. After we were finished we made our way down to the bus and back to the centre for our final debrief.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the weekend but I had a great time and fell in love with Wales like I fell for Scotland last year. I learnt some new skills, met some lovely people and cemented how much I want to work outdoors and set my life on that path.

 

Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall was always going to be the first long distance walk I started with. I’d walked parts of it last year and should have actually walked the whole thing 20 years ago as a kid. It hung over me like a shadow. I hatched a plan to tackle the walk in 3-4 days over the Easter bank holiday weekend. Its the period where things start to open around the area and there isn’t much foot traffic. With train tickets booked I counted down the time. 

It flew by and I soon found myself getting off the train in Carlisle. I walked around for an hour and that was enough. Its the sort of town with history and potential but finding it just out of reach. Maybe I missed something but after eating and picking up supplies I had to leave. I don’t like to do places a disservice so maybe with a bit more research I might have found the real Carlisle but I wasn’t there as a tourist.

The journey to Bowness was strange. I talked about my walks to the driver and he told me about his recent visit to Fort William. I asked if he went to do some walking and he said no, he just wanted to get away for the weekend. Fair enough I said, so what did you get up to? Looking in shop windows and buying a fountain pen. Imagine that. You go to somewhere as beautiful as Scotland and a place like Fort William and you don’t got for one walk or take in the scenery. You browse around shops and buy a pen.

I try not to judge people but his next highlight really got to me. He pulled out his phone and showed me a photo of Jimmy Saville’s boarded up house in Tyndrum. The morbid fascination of stopping to take a photo of a house once owned by that guy. It was all I needed to know so the conversation dried up and I started playing with my phone.

Once my “friend” dropped me off in Bowness I met Liz. I was renting a room from her on AirBNB and, as she showed me round, we briefly chatted about things. I had a good feeling about Liz. She left me to unpack my gear and I slept for a bit. Seems all I do at the minute is sleep but at least this time I had an excuse. I was out the previous night which doesnt happen very often for me.

When I woke I went out to explore. I found the starting point of the walk and sat for a while. Watching river life and listening to the birds.

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Occasionally someone would appear, finishing the walk, and we’d chat. How was the walk? What were the condition like? How was the weather? Small talk of people experiencing the same thing and passing through each others lives.

As the sun went in I ate at the local pub and went back to Liz’s. I watched TV to just switch off and we chatted a bit more. She was so friendly, laid back and easy to talk to. We swapped a few life stories and she told me of her walking experiences. I love hearing tales like that. I knew I’d got a positive vibe from her, a good soul. I opted for an early night and went to bed waiting for sleep. It came quickly.

Day One

I got up early, showered and made breakfast. Liz had left some food out for me. I didn’t want her to wake early and make it for me but my ninja like abilities weren’t enough and she came downstairs to wish me luck. After eating we said our goodbyes and I was off.

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Flash at the start.

Todays walk would be 25 miles from Bowness to a bunkhouse at Sandysike. It was a glorious morning. The sun was rising and the sky clear. I was down to a t-shirt in no time.

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I stuck some music on. I’d spent some time making a playlist with 1000s of my favourite songs on. A welcome friend to keep me sane. 

As I walked along along the river, the world slowly waking, I found myself thinking about various things. What I had planned to do, the pressure I put on myself, the time I was taking out of my life, what I wanted to do after. Did I have it in me? Could I get through it? Was I making the right choices?

The answers weren’t coming. This was just the first day and realised I had months of this ahead so switched off my brain and turned up the music. 

After passing through Carlisle I started getting into the countryside but still no sign of the wall. I knew that wouldn’t come until the next day. I was just happy to be out of the urban environment. Nothing worse than trying to negotiate pavements and roads.

After an uneventful walk along back country roads and fields, passing through small villages and settlements, I reached the bunkhouse. I chatted to the farmer for a bit. He told me about some of the flooding in the area last year. I had seen signs of this in Carlisle as well. Must have been devastating for people who depend on the land for their livelihood.

He then dropped the news that the local pub was closed. I really wanted a pint so the kind dude sold me a few cans. I went to the bunkhouse and got through my routine. Stretches, protein shake. hydration drink, change of clothes and sorting out my feet. No blisters. 

I had the bunkhouse to myself that night. It was equipped with a kitchen, bathroom and a bothy room with a fire. I cooked up some food, got the fire going and had a few beers. What a great end to the first day.

Day Two

I slept well and, after breakfast, I sorted my pack and left. It was that early even the farmer wasn’t up. Today was over 22 miles to a bothy just off Sewingshields and that distance was covering a lot of the hills that make up the wall. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

As the sun slowly appeared, it burnt away the clouds and I was met with another gorgeous morning. The weather gods were really looking after me. I walked for a bit and then found myself crying. I wasn’t sad so figure it was a build up of emotion. I was enjoying myself.

I sat down for 5 minutes and in the distance a small herd of deer came out of the woods. I cleared my head and just watched them. They hadn’t spotted me and were coming closer. Then their heads went up and they darted. I’ve been close to deer before but that was special. I got up and started moving, wondering if I was meant to stop and wait for that moment.

I eventually started passing pieces of the wall and when I got to Thirwell Castle I saw a familiar site. The tall crags at Greenhead. From that point I could see the route stretching out for miles ahead of me.

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I had a quick break then carried on. It was everything I had hoped for and more. I love this section of the wall. The undulating hills with views that take my breath away. I always try to put myself in the head of a roman centurion. Far from home at this remote outpost of the roman empire. What must they have thought? Did they fall in love with this place and were they sad to leave? I know how I would feel.

After reaching Hole Gap I decided to stop for lunch at The Milecastle pub. I’ve eaten here before and the food is always hearty. I chatted to the landlady for a while and bummed some cigarettes off her. After filling myself with slow cooked belly pork I went outside for a smoke and to check my feet. I’d felt some hot spots the last mile and wanted to sort them. After finishing up I went back in, grabbed my pack and said goodbye. The next stop was going to be my home for the night. A bothy at Haughton Green.

When I arrived at Sewingshields Crag I checked the map to look for the attack point I needed to find the bothy from. I wasn’t far off and when I got there I took out my compass to follow the bearing to where it was located. The walk in took me over a few hills and boggy fields but I got there before the rain. And it was empty. I had a look around and got through my end of day routine again.

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Haughton Green Bothy

After a while two brothers from Durham showed up and I was more than happy for some company. They’d come to check the place out but weren’t sure about staying. We ate and got the fire going. After a while they decided they were off. I can’t help but think my eagerness to chat put them off so after our goodbyes I sorted my sleeping bag and got settled for the night. 

As I slipped into my bag I listened to the wind outside, the tapping of the rain against the window and the crackling of the fire as it slowly went out. I felt at peace. Safe. I drifted off.

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My bed for the night in the bothy.

A few hours later I woke to rustling. I made the mistake of leaving a bag of rubbish on the floor and the mice were at it. I got out of my warm nest and packed the rubbish away. Bloody swines but it wasn’t their fault. Given it was my first stay in a bothy I think it could have been the least of my problems.

Day Three

As I woke I spent 10 minutes figuring out my plan. Get out bag. Check feet. Get dressed. Make a brew and eat. Pack everything away. Get going. 

Today was going to be a long day. The clocks had gone forward so I had lost an hour but I was still up early enough to make good time. As I stood at the bothy door and watched the sun rise I knew I was leaving the quiet behind for Newcastle. My only wish at that moment was I had someone there to share such a beautiful morning with.

The walk was meant to be 27 miles to Newburn but I ended up doing 31. Rather than follow my compass bearing back to Sewingshields Crag I wanted to avoid the bogs so followed a land rover track back to the wall. This essentially had me doubling back on myself. Classic mistake. My feet wouldnt thank me later.

After getting off the wall it was more fields, paths and roads. I didnt enjoy this at all. It had rained and a lot of the paths were made of slabs of stone or rocks. In the rain it made for dangerous walking. The surface of these paths had been made smooth through years of walking so it was pretty slippy and I nearly had a bad fall. A lesson to be careful in future. 

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A lot of walking along roads.

There isn’t much else I could say about this leg. It really was a boring walk and was hard work. I reached Heddon and slowly made my way down to the Tyne where I met my Dad and Stepmother at a pub. It was nice to chat although I felt a little short tempered. Out of sync somehow.

When I got to my Dads I went through my routine, had a shower and enjoyed a beer. After we ate I ended up falling asleep at 9 but found myself waking at 12. Something was obviously bugging me. I was struggling to sleep. Not sure what. 

I rang my mate, who was still up with it being it a bank holiday, and we chatted for a bit about the walk, life and his little girl. I then watched a film and fell asleep around 3.

Day Four

I woke up at 7, got myself sorted and we jumped into the car. My Dad was joining me for the final 12 miles.

The weather was overcast with some rain. We donned our waterproof jackets and set off. My feet were complaining already and I was reconsidering my footwear for the next walk. I like the Salomon Ultras but they had started biting into my ankles which is why I hate wearing boots. I would try the Inov-8 Roclites on the next walk.

This part of the walk I have cycled and ran on my way to Tynemouth. I always imagined a time when boats would carry their goods up and down the river. A busy vein of industry. We passed many a testament to how powerful the north east used to be. Empty factories or huge blank open spaces where they once stood. The occasional plaque detailing what once stood. A sad reflection on how the north has been treat over the years.

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Dunston Staithes

But the Tyne remains and the people are proud. And why I’ll always love the place no matter where I travel.

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My Dad told me stories as we walked. Pointing out where his parents lived, where he first worked while starting his apprenticeship, where he was sent to get lunch from the chip shop, where the boilermakers would go for a pint. The bus stop he would wait at on a Friday night, describing it as the loneliest place on the earth.

Before long we reached Segedunum. I was pretty disappointed. All shining glass and viewing platforms surrounded by empty decaying buildings and a dying shipyard. I took a few photos and we got a metro back to Newcastle. I had finished my first long distance walk.

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So how do I feel? Relieved its out the way. I’d managed a few days on my own in my head, put some ghosts to bed and learnt some valuable lessons.

It had been a hard few days walking and a realisation of what lay ahead. I was under no illusion it was going to be easy. But nothing good or scary is.

Yorkshire Three Peaks

Last year I planned to complete the Yorkshire Three Peaks but because of a long drive down from Scotland the day before, it didn’t happen. Just too damn tired to get up early enough to start.

So when I planned my walks this year I wanted to try a few micro-adventures or days out walking and figured why not get a train and do this. It’ll be good training.

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First impression of Horton? It really is in the middle of no where. One pub and the Peny-Ghent cafe (which never seemed to be open) Not even a shop to buy provisions. Luckily I had a few things and my hosts were very friendly. Even acting as a taxi service to and from the pub, the station and the start point of the walk. I can’t recommend staying at the Pen-y_ghent B&B enough and if I find myself doing more walking in the area I will be back. 

When I got off the train and looked over at Pen-y-Ghent I couldn’t see it. It was covered in mist which was fine with me. I managed to catch another look later on and there was patches of snow. Even better. I like a challenge.

I ate a hearty meal at the pub and went back to the accomodation. Having had a late night previously it was very welcome and I embraced sleep.

My alarm kicked into life at 05:30 and I dragged myself up. Not even god was awake that early but I wanted a good crack at the time.  

After an excellent and very filling breakfast I was dropped off and set off towards Pen-y-Ghent. The weather was overcast and cloudy but there was no rain forecast. It wasn’t warm but not freezing. Perfect conditions.

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Pen-y-Ghent

Pen-y-Ghent wasn’t that bad with a nice little scramble. I was up in under an hour with a nice easy descent. I had planned my own route down towards Whernside to save some time and it seemed to have done the trick.
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I arrived at the foot of Whernside and was up by 11:30. I couldn’t believe the time I was making. However the descent really took its toil on me and I started to flag.

By the time I got to Ingleborough my legs were aching but I powered through. Ingleborough was by far the hardest of the three. There is a slow steady ascent to the foot with a steep scramble up to the top.

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Ingleborough.

 

The flat top offered little protection from the cold wind so I had a 5 minute break and walked back down to finish at Selside. The traditional finishing point is Horton but I’m not one for collecting trophies. I had got round the peaks in under 8 hours and could have easily made it to Horton. But this was a training exercise with Hadrians Wall in mind for the weekend after so I had done enough

The question was how I would feel after a long day’s walk with a couple of peaks to climb. Truthfully? I was stiff but the stretches I was given helped. And after a day? My ankle feels a little stiff (I felt it go a little coming down from Whernside) but overall I’m good.

Lessons learnt? Concentrate. I missed a feature and it made my life harder. I recovered but if I had caught it sooner I would have saved myself some aggravation. 

Also realised I could survive a long day on a good breakfast, a bag of jelly babies and trail mix. And plenty of water. Although I wont be doing that every day for 2-3 months.

Why Do This?

I’m just a normal guy from Newcastle. From an early age I was always interested in the outdoors and travel. I was a member of the cubs, then the scouts.

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Me at my first night at cubs

I joined an outdoor activity group at school when I got older and went away for weekends around the Cheviots backpacking or staying in outdoor centres before moving on to the DoE.

My Dad is a keen walker himself having completed the Pennine Way a few years ago and he used to take me out walking with him. I also got the chance to travel abroad with my mother, brothers and grandparents. I still remember my first trip on a plane and my Granddad pretending to pedal to get the plane going.

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Canoeing at Lightwater Valley with Granddad and brother.

While my childhood wasn’t without problems I had a good upbringing and was lucky to have the opportunities I did to go out and make my own adventures. The kids that the Youth Adventure Trust help don’t have those opportunities and so I made the decision to try and raise some money to help.

This charity rely on donations to keep going and the work they do is awesome. They take vulnerable or disadvantaged children and put them on an outdoor programme to learn skills and build their confidence up. They show them that there are good things in life and that they have a future.

I never had to be a full time carer for my grandmother at 11. Or had to walk two hours because my parents didn’t care enough to drop me off at a bus stop to go away for a weekend with school. Or actually just take me places. Some of the things I have read and have been told were heartbreaking and will keep me going throughout the walks. Not only that but the support of my friends and family, and in particular my nieces and nephews, whom I want to share my experiences with.

Through my walks I want to inspire kids and adults to realise that there is a whole country to explore on their doorstep. They don’t have to climb Kilamanjoro or ride a bike across the desert (although great if they do) Everyone has the ability to go on adventures whether it be a day, a weekend or a few months. Just dare to take that step, have the heart to carry it through and the rest will fall into place. 

I just need your help. I’m up for the challenge (and it will be tough) so please visit my Just Giving Page and donate what you can. And please share the link with your friends and family.

Thanks