Day 7: Saturday 29th April 2017

          Start: COLLIFORD LAKE                        Finish:  LIFTON

Having studied the map this morning I wasn’t particularly looking towards to the start of today’s walk, due to having to walk alongside the busy A30 dual carriageway. It was only for a short distance but there were no obvious alternatives except a wide diversion that would have meant an energy wasting extra two miles. I didn’t really want or need that. So along the A30 it was then. I really didn’t need to worry as there was a decent wide  grass verge on which to walk and it was well away from what was fairly light traffic, for 7am on a Saturday morning. Not long after setting off, as often happens, my thoughts quickly turned to food and to where I was going to get something to eat. I had a few snack bars in my pack but wasn’t that keen on having chocolate this early in the morning. As I approached Sprey Moor I spotted a roadside snack van, my prayers had been answered. I ordered a mug of coffee and a bacon bap. The lady serving the food, sorry can’t remember her name was interested in my walk. The only other customers were a friendly man also enjoying a bacon bap and a strong coffee before carrying on to deliver a car to somebody living in Bodmin and a youngish couple travelling towards Truro

Coffee and Bacon bap with a smile.

The rest of the morning was spent hurdling over barbed wire fences whilst trying to avoid injury to my neffer region. Was managing to avoid the worst of the A30, although the rumbling noise of the traffic was never too far away. I had wanted to look into the famous Jamaica Inn and when I had looked at the map I thought it was on the Western side of the road. As I stumbled across the fields towards the Inn I realised it was actually on the Eastern side. I decided to give it a miss, not wanting to try and cross the now even busier dual carriageway. It probably wouldn’t have been open this early anyway. I had gone through a place called Fourlanes yesterday and Fivelanes today. I’m not even sure whether there’s a Sixlanes but I’m going to look for it on the map and if it exists then I’ll be walking through it tomorrow. As I was walking along a minor road today somebody in a campervan decided it was a good idea to sound their horn as they drove past me. I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I was walking toward the traffic as close to the verge as possible. I have no idea why they think that it isn’t scary enough walking along the road with cars speeding past in excess of 60mph, without the addition of idiots who like to sound their horn as they pass you. It isn’t funny and it’s not clever.

Not sure what this is about.

Anyway, I entered Launceston (it’s pronounced Launston apparently) in the early afternoon and headed towards the local chemist store in order to grab myself a roll of sticky bandage for my painful heels. I don’t know how it happened but somehow both heels have what I would describe as grazing and it’s becoming a little painful in the heat.  Having exited the store I sat down on a bench in the middle of the town and almost immediately one of the local drunks started making his way over towards me. As the middle aged p**s head came towards me, without losing eye contact he gave out a loud belch, shook himself into an upright position and then said “You a backpacker”. I guess I am, so I replied in the affirmative. At the same time I diverted my eyes downwards in the hope that he’d take the hint at my lack of interest in where this conversation was going and leave me alone. No such luck, he then just asked me where I was going and when I replied “Lifton” he unnecessarily gave me some long winded instructions on how to get there. I gracefully thanked him and again lowered my gaze. There was then an awkward 30 second silence before he said, “You couldn’t spare a couple of quid, could you”. Bloody expensive the tour guides in Launceston. I’ve never given money to drunks on the street, not because I’m mean but because I know that it would ultimately end up in the till of the nearest off licence, so I politely refused. Thankfully he just walked off scanning the street for his next target. I saw and heard the same male again ten minutes later exchanging angry expletives with another male, it had something to do with a financial debt. On my way out of Launceston I passed a significant sign telling me that despite only walking for a week I was now entering my second county, Devon and bidding farewell to Cornwall. I ordered a quick pint at the Fox and Grapes in Lifton together with a large portion of fish and chips, before turning my attention to where I was going to sleep tonight. The lady behind the counter at the Fox and Grapes wasn’t able to help so I started to make my way along the side of the River Lyd in the hope of finding somewhere to set up camp. Fortunately, a short while later I happened to come across a lady named Jill who lived on Spry Lane near Lifton. Fortunately for me she owned a large field by the side of the river and she said I was more then welcome to stay there tonight, happy days. I checked the weather forecast earlier and I’m expecting my first LEJOG rain tomorrow.

 

          Walked: 15.3 miles                Percentage complete: 10.1 %

Day 6: Friday 28th April 2017.

        Start:  VICTORIA ROCHE      Finish:  COLLIFORD LAKE

Having packed up my bag I was away from the Travelodge just after 8am. No breakfast facilities at this particular Travelodge so I would just have to make do with a full English at Weatherspoons a little later in Bodmin. No, I don’t have any shares in J.D.Weatherspoon as some have suggested. I reached Bodmin about 2 hours after setting off pretty much following the route that the bus had taken the day before. As expected, I did indeed drop into Weatherspoons for a bit of breakfast. Not bad, £5 for a large full English breakfast and as much coffee as I could drink. I tend not to bother eating any lunch after I’ve had a good breakfast. If I do get peckish then I’ll just eat one of the small snack bars that I always carry in the size pocket of my pack. After eating and drinking my fill, I struck off North in eager anticipation of walking along a section of the Camel trail. It was a great path, initially through Shell Woods, but it was over too quickly as I left the track at Merry Meeting.

Old mile pos near Merry Meetin.

The sun was shining, I was feeling thirsty and I took the chance to quench my thirst at the Blisland Inn. I was amazed at how many people were sat inside the bar on a Friday afternoon. Lots of  pubs have eccentric quirks and at the Blisland Inn it seemed to be fashionable to hang a variety of colourful mugs from the ceiling. After leaving Blisland I walked along the road for about 2 miles searching for a footpath which should take me towards Bodmin Moor. I couldn’t find the footpath, even though it was clearly marked on my map.

Blisland Inn.

I decided to climb over the hedgerow which was over 6ft tall then I found myself  in a field containing a couple of what looked like old greenhouses and several piles of building rubble. I was then confronted by several barbed wire fences which had no right to be on a right of way, without the provision of a stile. The herds of cows which kept making eyes at me didn’t help much either. At that point my brother Andrew rang me, I quickly grabbed my mobile and cut him off as I was trying hard not to fall off the fence and into the path of the cows. Andrew persisted and called again seconds later, this time I decided to answer but quickly shouted. “Ring me back in 5 minutes I’m busy”. I don’t think Andrew was offended as he rang back later and we had a good catch up. I reached Bodmin moor and it was still early so I made the decision to take my time and savour the atmosphere and enjoy being off the tarmac. I had fully expected to get wet feet on the Moor but found the ground was dry and great to walk across. I headed off up towards Hawks Tor and had great views all around. I could see the A30 in the far distance with Colliford Lake a little further away.

Note my ex baseball cap.

After a 15 minute break I made my way down, now heading towards Colliford Lake (it’s actually a reservoir) which was where I planned to spend the night. As I was coming off Hawks Tor there was a short rough patch of wet ground which I had to tackle. It was here that I went up to my knee in mud a couple of times and in the process I lost my special baseball cap (see picture). I don’t know how, I just know that it must of fallen off my head at some point and I didn’t realise until much later. Anyway there’s no point in dwelling on this, but I did spend some minutes swearing to myself, hope the sheeps and cows nearby weren’t too offended. I kept to the Moor as much as I could as it ran adjacent to the A30. As I continued towards Colliford Lake I made up my mind to book into the Colliford Lake Country Park, I was feeling hot and bothered and wanted to have myself a nice cool shower. When I entered the Country Park I saw that there was a big crowd of people mingling around outside of the Colliford Tavern. Turned out there’s a wedding party booked into the Tavern. I got booked into the campsite and quickly found a suitable pitch, far away from the Tavern. Weddings parties can go on pretty late and can also get rowdy. I didn’t fancy eating at the Tavern which served mainly Indian Food but did go to the tavern for a drink and eating a snack from my pack. The pint of Worthington’s (£4) that I was served at the Colliford Lake country park was awful, it was cloudy, smelt bad and didn’t taste like it should. I didn’t say anything to the lone barman, he was very busy dealing with the Wedding Party and I didn’t want to stand around waiting to complain.

 

       Walked: 18.45 miles                 Percentage completed: 7.8 %

 

 

Day 5: First Rest day. 27th April 2017.

Rest day 1: Victoria Roche Travelodge:-

When I was walking yesterday I genuinely would have preferred to have carried on, for a few more miles, however I had already booked the accommodation at the Victoria Roche Travelodge several months ago. I had a lazy day today and the only thing of note was my bus ride into Bodmin. I had a walk around the town centre, grabbed myself another pasty for my lunch and then visited the Lidl store to get myself some snacks for the next few days. It’s a nice old town with a great history but I found the main shopping area was a bit of a disappointment with many second hand nik-nak shops and the usual charity shops, not really my cup of tea. I then spent the rest of the day trying to get my washing dry, that’s no mean feat when there’s no radiator in the room and no washing line outside.

    Accommodation:-

Some people who walk LEJOG prefer to not book any accommodation and just wing it. Not me, I prebooked more then 20 nights accommodation, several months ago. A combination of Travelodges, campsites, Youth hostels and other bed and breakfasts. I like the certainty of prebooked accommodation, plus there’s the financial implication. Let me give you an example.

I booked my two nights at the Victoria Roche Travelodge in October 2016 at a cost of £34 per night. If I’d just turned up on the day the same room would have cost me £70. That’s a massive saving for one nights accommodation. A Travelodge isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, for me, there ideal. No matter where you book you know what your getting. This is different from youth hostels, campsites and B and B’s ,the variation in quality can be massive and you don’t really know what your getting until it’s too late.

 

 

DAY 4: WEDNESDAY 26TH APRIL 2017

         Start:  MITCHELL                    Finish:  VICTORIA ROCHE

When I opened up the tent this morning I saw that the weatherman hadn’t been joking when they said it would be cold, the ground was covered in a thin layer of hail stones and the tent was covered in ice. Today was going to be a relatively short day so I wasn’t in any rush. Despite this, due to the cold and icy conditions I didn’t hang about when packing up and I was walking out of Mitchell not long after 7am. Again, I spent the first few miles walking on quiet minor roads skirting alongside the busier A30. My first objective for today was too try and get myself some breakfast and that was my only aim as I headed for Indian Queens. I got a gruesome surprise as I was walking along the road near to Boswallow Farm, there were 3 dead deer (doe’s) lying at the side of the road in the long grass. There was no indication of them having been hit by a vehicle and for me it was clearly the work of poachers. I took a bloody photo in the hope of bumping into the land owner. I didn’t see anybody nearby but on reaching St Enoder I did manage to speak to a farm hand. She thanked me for letting her know, saying she would tell the farmer. Hopefully they managed to recover the poor animals and denied the poachers their illegal quarry.

Relaxing on Goss Moor

I carried on and knew I must be getting close to a McDonalds takeaway due to the ever increasing levels of said company’s litter scattered on the verges. I’ve whinged enough previously about the scandal of McDonalds litter and don’t intend to do it again. I grabbed myself a toffee latte and a couple of egg/bacon McMuffins. I’d not normally choose to eat breakfast at McDonalds but when I’m walking in an unfamiliar area I’ll take the opportunity for calories whenever I can, not knowing when and where the next chance to eat might come.

Gnome World, near Indian Queens.

After eating my food I headed straight through Indian Queens, passing Gnome World and having a bit of a chuckle to myself. Moving on towards the owl sanctuary near Goss Moor I encountered a couple of rather larger flying machines. The two enormous Galaxy aircraft were doing circuits across Goss Moor and they would keep me company for the next few hours as I travelled East towards my destination. Goss Moor is the sort of place where you can take your time and enjoy the walking, although it isn’t far from the busy a30 it’s far enough so as not to be disturbed by the rumbling of the traffic. Along the trail there were several tree trunks hollowed out to the shape of a seat and I used one of these during a long refreshment break, I even had the cheek to ask one of the dog walkers to take my photo whilst I was resting. The last mile towards Victoria Roche was uneventful and I arrived at the Travelodge before 1pm, way too early to get checked in. The pub next door ‘ The Victoria’ was open. After quickly speaking to the receptionist at the Travelodge I decided to have a wander around Victoria, it’s mainly an industrial estate on the side of the A30. There’s a train station but not much else. I then vacated to the Victoria and got myself a pint of cider, perfect for quenching a thirst. It was still way too early to check in, so I sat down on the grass directly opposite the Travelodge reception and started to listen to some music. Of course the combination of cider, sun and soothing music sent me off to sleep, I was only woken up by the receptionist tapping me on the shoulder to let me know that my room was ready. Later that night back in ‘ The Victoria’ I bumped into a couple who were also keen walkers. It turned out that one of these was part of the support group when Andrew Rivett did his LEJOG in a World record time of 9 days, 2 hours and 26 minutes in July 2001. That’s more then 90 miles per day, incredible.

 

         Walked: 10.2 miles                Percentage completed:  5.8 %

DAY 3: TUESDAY 25TH APRIL 2017.

     START:  ST DAY             FINISH:  MITCHELL

Was up early again this morning, that’s an unfortunate side effect of my sleeping in a tent. Not long after leaving the St Day tourist park I found myself walking through the bizarrely named Goon Gumpas which has the appearance of an old, disused and now overgrown quarry or mine, these works seem to be pretty abundant is this area of Cornwall. I could look in any direction and see several red brick chimney stacks standing proud on the side of a hill. It was really pretty walking, unfortunately it didn’t last very long because I was soon back onto road walking. Whilst leaving Goon Gumpus I suddenly realised that I wasn’t wearing any proper walking socks but was only walking in my sock liners, which I’d slept in last night. A quick stop at Twelveheads would put things right. I was just about to enter Truro, a decent sized town, when for the first time since leaving Lands End it began to rain. It wasn’t heavy, more like a light drizzle, so I didn’t bother with any waterproofs. I just upped my pace a little and headed directly toward the nearby McDonalds to grab myself a latte. It was only 10am and the place was packed out with students from the nearby Truro and Penwith college, don’t students have lessons to go to anymore. I enjoyed my coffee despite the noise and order myself a second cup. I began the walk towards Truro town centre, alongside the main road and fortunately the rain had stopped. I had a little bit of navigational trouble trying to locate Truro’s Wetherspoons pub the ‘Try Dowr’ in the centre of the town. With the help of a few locals pointing me in the right direction, I got there eventually. I took off my boots and chilled there for an while. After leaving Truro along a cycle route I had the pleasure of walking towards first Idless and then into the beautiful St Clements Wood. In Idless I came across what was my sixth red telephone box in just three days. I’ve done the majority of my more recent walking in Scotland and Northumberland and these old red BT phone boxes are a rare sight. This was the second I’d seen converted into a book exchange. The other being located near to Relubbus. Their ingenious these Cornish folk. I noted on the map that these boxes are still regarded as operational telephones, maybe somebody should inform British Telecom and/or ordnance survey.

Book Exchange at Idless.

The box contained approx 100 books covering all sort of subjects, fact and fiction and several autobiographies. I then switched onto a footpath marked on the map but ended up walking towards a farm where somebody had placed an old wreck of a Citreon Picasso across the path. I walked around it but was then confronted by a fairly new looking, huge metal barn full of cows. Enough is enough the farmer clearly doesn’t want anybody walking along this route. I turned around and headed a little further North into St Clement wood via another track. I enjoyed walking through St Clement Wood, the sun was shining again and I took my time. On arriving in Trispen I bumped into Joanne who works at the Premier Store. I’d popped in to pick up a couple of bits and pieces from the store and as I approached the counter Joanne, seeing the large backpack asked that question that I’d been dreading. “You going very far” I really didn’t want to be presumptuous this early and say John O’Groats, so instead said ” Just towards Mitchell today but my final destination is a bit further North” (not a lie). She then said “Where to”. I then just blurted it out, unable to stop myself “Hopefully to John O’Groats”. Joanne clearly looking confused, pulled a strange face and said “Where’s that”. I then went on to explain in as few words as possible that it was in Scotland and the furthest point North in the mainland UK. (that’s not strictly true, but was good enough for Joanne) By this point she clearly thinks I’m bonkers so I just paid her, picked up my items from the counter and said a friendly goodbye. I’ll have to rethink my approach to this question as I’m bound to be asked again in the future. From Trispen I took to the minor roads leading towards Mitchell where I intended looking for somewhere to pitch the tent. These roads, which I walked for 2-3 miles would have been very busy prior to the building of the A39 between Truro and Carland Cross. Apparently 12,000 vehicles per day now use the A39, leaving the old road almost obsolete, except for dog walkers, cyclists and the very occasional LEJOG walker. This helped to make the last few miles to Mitchell less fraught.

Road sign adjacent to A39.

On arrival in Mitchell I needed to find somewhere to pitch the tent. It’s not a huge town but what’s  there is pretty and there’s some really nice houses. I popped into the local named ‘Plume of Feathers’ and after purchasing a pint of Thackers dry cider I asked the lady behind the bar if she know of anywhere nearby I could pitch the tent. Poppy came back a few minutes later and said I could pitch in their beer garden at the rear of the pub. It was very much appreciated, thank you Poppy and Paul (the manager). Later after pitching I went back into the bar and ordered myself some food. It was quiz night at the Plume of feathers and I was tempted to join in, however it looked a bit too high brow for me so I decided not to embarrass myself. I’ve checked with the weather forecast and they say it’s going to be a cold night with a risk of snow.

 

        Walked : 16.82 miles               Percentage complete:  4.7 %

DAY 2: MONDAY 24th APRIL 2017. IT’S TARMAC TORTURE.

    START:  RELUBBUS              FINISH:  ST DAY

According to the wild campers code book, page 4, section 3.1 you should try to be packed up and away from your overnight pitch well before the sun rises and most definitely before the red faced land owner turns up with his snarling dog and burly sidekick(s). I had a quick study of the map and could see that today going to be tarmac all the way as I head off towards the St Day tourist park. I certainly wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice and decided that as soon as possible I would call Gemma and see if she would contact the campsite on my behalf and make sure they accepted backpackers, especially ones that turned up out of the blue. I made good time and arrived at Praze-an-Beeble just before 9am. I was surprised at how busy these minor rural roads could get, especially during the morning school run. I popped into the local Premier store at Praze-an-Beeble and picked up some provisions. As I left the store I noticed there was a small Philps bakery store in the village on the other side of the grassy town square. Philps is a traditional Cornish bakery, established in 1958. Even though I was still some distance from the store the smell emanating from the shop was making my mouth drool and I rushed over. I dropped my pack at the wooden bench on the finely manicured grass and on entering Philps I ordered myself two standard size pasties. These (standard sized) pasties measured about 7″-8″ across, awesome. I plonked myself down onto the wooden bench in the middle of the village square and set about finishing off one of the pasties, all washed down with a litre bottle of lucozade. The second pastie would make do for my tea later today. I had a good mobile phone signal so contacted Gemma who was able to speak to Katrina at the St Day tourist park and confirm that they would happily accept campers. I hung around Praze-an-Beeble for more then an hour enjoying the sun on my face until I replaced my boots and took off towards Four Lanes along the B3280.

Pastie eaters heaven

The number of vehicles on the roads was now a lot lighter following the early morning rush so I was able to relax and enjoy the walk a little more. Instead focusing on the views and not so much worrying about the dangers of road walking. After passing though Four Lanes and having resisted the temptation to visit one of several pubs on the Main Street I was finally able to make it off the tarmac and onto a farm track leading into Lanner. At Lanner I popped into the local park in order to use the public toilets and filled up my water bottles. I also took the opportunity to sit down, remove my boots for half an hour and take on some water. All too soon I was back onto the road and eating into the final few kilometres towards St Day. As I approached a minor junction near to Carharrack I encountered my first angry motorist. I was quickly crossing the junction, making my way back onto the right hand side to face the oncoming traffic when the said speedy motorist came towards me, she unnecessarily tooted her horn and made an unrecognised pointing motion with her hand whilst muttering some undoubtedly helpful comment, no doubt. I was almost tempted to reply in kind with my own hand motion but being the better man I resisted. I’d see this driver again, later as she pulled onto the St Day tourist Park. I was able to avoid being seen by diving under a hedgerow, I didn’t fancy a confrontation, it’s far too hot for that sort of thing. I was so pleased I hadn’t made any response to her rudeness. I arrived at the tourist Park about 2pm and immediately spotted one of the owners, Katrina who was busy painting the wooden fence running around the entire campsite perimeter. I approached her and made some comment about Karate Kid and ‘paint a fence’. Being a child of 80’s movies she clearly understood the joke. Katrina and Colin run this beautiful site on their own and it really was a pleasure to have met them. The site was clean with nice facilities and for the first time on this trip I saw the generousity of people as they waived their usual fee of £16, which I will add to the charity fund.

Great facilities at St Day.

I had a good chat with Colin and I wish them luck with what is a fairly new and expensive venture for them both. It’s amazing who you meet when walking LEJOG. Later that night I devoured that second Philps pastie whilst sitting in the sun.

 

 

 

 

    Distance walked: 14.17 miles          Percentage complete: 2.4 %

 

Day 1: HOT, HOT, HOT AND BOTHERED.

      Start:  LANDS END           End:  RELUBBUS

Having finally arrival in Penzance I then had the frustration of having to wait for the next A1 bus that would take me to Lands End and the start of LEJOG. I imagine the drivers on this particular service have seen countless walkers, with their heavy backpacks, heading towards Lands End. I’d already read somewhere that the roads towards Lands End were very narrow and the hedgerows higher then those seen in other parts of the country. The driver, expertly managed to weave her way around the streets towards Lands End. Several times cars sped towards us in the middle of the road and I was able to make out the expletives from the driver as she pressed down hard on the buses brakes. On arrival at Lands End I spoke to the driver and rightly congratulated her on managing to manoeuvre the double decker bus through those tight streets and without an accident. She just laughed, but seriously I don’t envy her having to wind her way through those lanes to Lands End several times each day. Anyway the sky was clear blue and the views were stunning out across the sea. I sat down, then just watched the sea rolling along for a few minutes before heading off towards the now (in)famous Lands End signpost. Having parted with my tenner, I was asked to pose in front of the sign. I felt a little uncomfortable as several other people were now standing around staring at me, probably wondering what was going on. Whilst chatting with the photographer he informed me that I was the fourth End to End walker that he had seen in the last 3 days.
I then headed over towards the reception area of the Lands End Hotel and signed the visitors book Only the receptionist was present to witness this momentous and historically significant occasion. Also made time to locate ‘Mikes’ earlier entry in the book. Unfortunately it looks as if our itineries are so different that I’m unlikely to bump into Mike but I wish him best of luck on his adventures. I didn’t hang around in Lands End much longer, after that epic bus journey my feet and legs were just  itching to get going. I headed off North along the coast towards Sennan Cove, slowly at first, trying to enjoy these early moment as much as I could. I quickly headed inland and soon reached the A30. This was the skinny road that the A1 bus driver had brilliantly manoevered and several times I was forced onto the verge to tuck myself snugly as close to the hedgerow as possible, trying to avoid becoming roadkill. This tarmac strip would take me all the way into Penzance where I managed to pick up some snack bars before heading into The Tremenheere, my first Wetherspoons pub of the trip. I wanted to try and charge my phone but couldn’t find any electric sockets. I ordered myself  a pint of lime and soda for only 80p before later ordering myself a Texan burger, chips, and a pint of lager. I’m a creature of habit as this is exactly the same meal that I had on Friday when out with Gemma, Ben and Ruth. With my stomach now full I headed off along the coastal path towards Marazion with an excellent view of the St Michaels Mount to keep me company all the way.

Not long after I had reached Marazion I starting heading inland. On reaching Goldsithney I bizarrely turned around, waved and even shouted ‘goodbye’ to the sea. It felt strange that I wouldn’t encounter the coast again until I reached Inverness, more than 800 miles away. I now turned my mind to finding somewhere to pitch my tent, I knew from the map that there where several caravan/campsites near to Relubbus so headed towards there. The first campsite was ‘The Wayfarers’ which was perfectly located on the side of the road. I’d checked out this site on the internet weeks ago so knew that they accepted tents, what I hadn’t checked out was when it opened for the season. When I knocked on the site owners door I was informed that the park didn’t actually open for another week, damn. I pleaded with the owner for a small patch of grass to lay down my head but was countered with some waffle about health and safety, blah, blah, blah. It was my own mistake so I headed off a little bit annoyed with myself. The next campsite was some distance from the road, in the opposite direction and the sun was starting to descend. After only ten minutes I fortunately bumped into a couple walking their dog. They informed me that my destination was a caravan club site and didn’t accept tents. I turned around 180 degrees and was almost running to my third and last option as the sun began to disappear beyond the horizon. The River Valley Country Park looked like a pretty and nice site to spend my first night, unfortunately as I reached the entrance to the park I saw the sign which read ‘No tourers, tents or motorhomes’. I’d spent two hours and about 2 miles wandering around Relubbus and was no further forwards to finding somewhere to spend the night. I eventually gave up trying find a legitimate campsite and was reduced to pitching up in a field just outside of Relubbus, not what I wanted for my first night of LEJOG, but beggars can’t be choosers. On this occasion the high hedges of Cornwall would help to hide me away from motorists and any other passers by.

 

             Distance walked: 18.95 miles.                   Percentage complete:  1.9 %

Alnwick to Lands End and not a wink of sleep.

DAY 0:

I always knew that getting a coach down to Lands End to start LEJOG would be a pain and so it proved to be.  I said goodbye to Ben and Ruth at home as I didn’t want to get myself upset at the bus station in Alnwick. Being a Police officer in the town, I really didn’t want people to see me crying, that wouldn’t do my street cred any good. There was a slight to do with the bus station staff about where we had parked the car, apparently its for bus company staff only. Anyway the matter was resolved peacefully and a few minutes later, bang on time the National Express coach arrived to take me down to London Victoria. The first couple of hours were fine as I just stared out of the window dreaming of all the pleasant days ahead. I deliberately forced myself to stay awake all the way down to London Victoria, with the intention of sleeping later on the bus from Victoria to Penzance. There was one only other thing of note on the bus, there was a young boy, aged about 3 years who was two seats behind me and another child, a girl of a similar age in the seat in front of me.

Stomach in, chest out.

This was fine until they both discovered each other and then spent the next few hours shouting at each other and playing peek-a-boo across the top of the seats with me stuck like piggy in the middle, the parents apparently oblivious to my torture. This only stopped after they had worn themselves out. The bus duly arrived in London about 8pm and I now had a 3 hour wait until the coach arrived to take me to Penzance. Even at this time of night the station was heaving with people waiting to catch their next coach. I grabbed myself a coffee, used the rest rooms, paying my 15p to take a leak, then having found my platform I just people watched for the next two hours. Its been a long time since I had to endure crowds of people like this and to be honest its not something I’m comfortable with, I much prefer the quite and relative solitude of living in a relatively small rural town and rarely venture into big cities. The service number 404 arrived and I boarded with several others. I did attempt to grab some sleep but I just couldn’t get comfortable in the seat and maybe I still had too much on my mind to relax completely. I think that I nodded off several times but awoke again fairly quickly. The bus seemed to stop in every small town and city as it travelled through Devon and then into Cornwall, including Bath, Bristol, Torquay and Plymouth. It seemed to be taking forever to get to Penzance. About 5.30am as the coach was pulling into Plymouth I noticed there were four young men, maybe early 20’s waiting at the platform. I’ve seen enough people under the influence of alcohol to recognise the signs. Clearly so did the coach driver, as they boarded the coach he gave them a jovial warning. They sat down and completely against my expectations they just sat down in silence on their mobile devices for the first 15 minutes, before then all falling asleep. There’s not much more to say really. I’d had to spend more then 18 hours on two coaches and that was never going to be much fun. After the coach had arrived in Penzance I had a shorter wait for the No 1 service to take me to Lands End. The sun was shining so I filled up my water bottle at the public toilets and then sat waiting for the bus, I was enjoying the warm sun, so much so that I dropped off propped up against the bus stop.

Later today the real journey begins, today was just the necessary evil that I had to endure to get to the start.

Final pre-walk thoughts

Saturday 15th – One week to go.

It’s more then two years since I first reignited the idea of walking from Lands End to John O’ Groats and at long last it’s just around the corner. I’ve prepared as much as I could and managed to tie up any loose ends at work, passing over any ongoing work to my colleagues. The list of jobs given to me by Gemma at the start of the year, which needed doing at home is almost complete and one final push of the lawn mower should help to keep the peace.

I’m not scared to admit that I’m both excited and more then a little afraid of the challenge ahead during the next 10 weeks. I’m a bit of a softie when it comes to Gemma and my kids and I’ll miss them all enormously during the trip, this will test me mentally. I’ve considered any difficulties I might encounter during the trip, including keeping in touch with family and friends and any potential boredom along the walk and hope I’ve taken action to compensate for these, only time will tell. I’ve broken in my new boots, tested my new sleeping bag and any other new kit. I’ve started to monitor the weather down in Devon and hope that the first few days will be kind to me. I  know that the weather can play a big part in the mood of any walk and several wet days can be depressing on a big trip like this one.

Few short walks this week, between 5-8 miles just to maintain a little bit of fitness and a few drinks and a meal with family on Friday, looking forward to that.

NORTHUMBERLAND COASTAL PATH: Day 3.

Start:  NEWTON BY THE SEA.                    Finish:  ALNMOUTH.

                 Distance:  17.4kms (10.6mls)

My priority when I woke was too try and find somewhere to grab a coffee, that’s easier said then done at 7.30am and I’d spend the day chasing after the elusive coffee. After packing away the tent etc I headed off towards the Dunstanburgh golf course clubhouse with fingers crossed that it would be open at 8. I did see a couple of golfers on the course so it wasn’t completely out of the question. No such luck, doors were locked and no lights where illuminated inside. Quick check of the map and saw next possibility would be a cafe at Craster. By my own reconning it should be open at 9am which was perfect timing for me to complete the next 4kms. I took my time as didn’t want to arrive to early and lingered around Dunstanburgh Castle for a few minutes and took photos. On arrival in Craster I took a seat overlooking the pretty harbour and watched the fishermen fiddling around on their boats. As I approached the cafe at Craster it was now 9.15am and I saw a couple approach the front door. A minute later I stared at the sign blu tacked to the door, said they opened at 10am, few mild expletives whispered to self at this point.

Dunstanburgh Castle

After few deep breathes pushed on through Craster now heading for Boulmer and the hostelry named ‘The Fishin Boat Inn’ , locally known as ‘The FBI’. It’s a really nice path along this part of the coast particularly as the ground was dry and I strolled along humming to myself . I also started to feel a hot spot on my small right toe but chose to ignore it for now.

I’d reached Boulmer about 10.20am and made use of the public toilets. I’m not going to dwell too much but you probably guessed that the ‘FBI’ was closed until 11, still no coffee. I didn’t hang around in Boulmer. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with Boulmer but I’ve done a lot of walking around here and didn’t feel need to linger.

There’s only about 3 miles to walk before I head for home and then the pleasures of a nightshift. I still have 2 more golf courses to cross, first Foxton and secondly Alnmouth. I this point I was pushing on quickly because despite all the previous coffee disappointments I knew I’d find plenty of choice in Alnmouth. About a mile before I reached Alnmouth I bumped into two ex-colleagues, now retired. John and Gail were walking their dog and I joined them on their return leg back to Alnmouth. It was nice to catch up. As I approached the end John asked how I was getting home. I had intended catching the next bus after having acquired that elusive coffee and something to eat. John offered to give me a lift in his car and a gratefully accepted his hospitality despite my craving, thanks John and Gail.

Craster Harbour

I’ll bear in mind when I walk LEJOG that if I’m up and walking at 7am then most of the facilities will still be closed. I’ll assume nothing is open and that way I’ll plan ahead.