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Walking for Nepal is the name I have given to my unassisted walk from John O'Groats to Land's End. Money donated on this page will go to the Gurkha Welfare Trust. Last year, newly retired, I ran the lowest and highest marathon's on earth (see photos 1&2). Now in my second year of retirement I want to complete the ultimate walk. But this walk is not just a walk from one end of the country to the other; it takes in the very best off-road walking the UK has to offer. The route amounts to 1600 miles which I aim to complete in 80 days. No rest days in between! Accommodation is pre-booked, so it's must do the distance every day. As I am putting myself to the test why not donate generously to make it all worthwhile. On May 10th I fly from Southampton to Wick and overnight at John O'Groats. On Tuesday May 11th I start the walk to Land's End and will arrive there on Thursday July 29th.
The Gurkha Welfare Trust supports Gurkha ex-servicemen and their families. These fighting men of Nepal are well known for their bravery and courage. For nearly 200 years the Gurkhas have fought alongside Britain as a friend.
"They are the bravest of the brave, most generous of the generous, never had country more faithful friends than you"
It is now our turn to reciprocate that generosity and friendship with many donations and by hitting the target of £30,000. Please give generously. Thank-you!
WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THIS EPIC WALK - THEN READ ON
Starting from John O'Groats the first seven days to Inverness is primarily on roads. Wishing to stay in overnight accommodation and without the need to carry camping equipment this is the only viable option. From Inverness to Fort William it is off-road as the route takes in the Great Glen Path and concludes with crossing of Ben Nevis. Next is the West Highlands Way down to Glasgow and then heading along the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Union Canal by-passing Glasgow and Edinburgh before heading for the Southern Uplands and the Cheviot Hills.
After Jedburgh it is into England to join the Pennine Way following it down as far as Hadrian's Wall; form here follow Hadrian's Wall Path to Carisle by the end of day twenty-five. Now into the Lakes on a north to south route on the Cumbria Way to reach Coniston. Here the route changes direction heading back into the lakes again, over Scafell Pike and on to the coast at St.Bees.
Next it is east on Wainwright's Coast to Coast across the Lakes, the Dales and the North York Moors arriving at Robin Hood's Bay before heading south on the Cleveland Way to Filey for yet another change of direction. From here, for the most part, it is the Centenary Way into York on day forty-two and just over half way through the journey. Then Ebor Way and the Millenium Way into Haworth; then onto the Pennine Way once again and south to the paths' end at Edale to overnight in Castleton on day forty-eight. Contining south on the Limestone Way then onto the Midshires Way for a while, then the Dane Valley Way links onto the South Cheshire Way leading to lesser footpaths into Wales and the Offa's Dyke Path.
Now heading north on the Offa's Dyke Path to Prestatyn then the North Wales Path to Colwyn Bay on day fifty-six. After Conwy leave the path and head into Snowdonia, over Snowdon and heading south all the way to Brecon then the Usk Valley Path to Abergavenny. From here the route leads to Chepstow and the Severn Road Bridge into the West Country on day sixty-seven.
A combination of the Severn Way, Monarch's Way and other paths lead to Cheddar and the Samaritan's Way South West and Macmillan Way West to Dunster. Now onto Exmoor and the Two Moor's Way linking Exmoor with Dartmoor and south to Hexworthy; here head off Dartmoor to Tavistock at the end of day seventy-five. Paths and country lanes lead into Cornwall and head west on a route to reach the north cornish coast at Perranporth; then along the South West Coast Path to Hayle. Finally a more direct route from Hayle to the outskirts of Penzance and on to Land's End.
1600 miles in 80 days!
They say it's all in the planning. Plan it right and it will go right. Well, I hope they are right! The planning for this walk has certainly taken a lot longer than the 80 days it will take to complete. Once the basic concept of walking from one end of the country to the other had been decided upon that was when the planning really started. First came the usual research on the subject and there are plenty of books on the market to help. Then decision time, how far and for how long. For this walk the original concept was 'it will be as far as it has to be and will average 20 miles a day'. The route was planned using Memory Map on a PC and the first outine of the route was created by selecting various locations to visit. This in turn created the ten sections of the walk. Then section by section the detailed route was mapped out to create the Route -1600 miles.
An important part of the planning process was how to tackle the route. Travel freely and take each day as it comes or be more precise and elect where to stay each night. I like precision, I also like to know that I have a bed and a meal at the end of each days walk. So with that decision made came the lengthy process of finding accommodation for the 80 nights at locations roughly every twenty mile along the route. Guide books, local tourist information, walking associations and the good old internet came up with a short list of possible accommodation stop-overs able to provide an evening meal, or, with somewhere close by to have one - close by means yards away, not miles. The reality of booking the accommodation was not always straight forward, even booking as early as January it was not always possible to stay at the chosen accommodation. Helpful proprietors recommended other establishments that usually were able to take the booking. In some of the more remote locations when this occurred a rethink of the route had to be considered. Most of the bookings had to be done in sequence to ensure each days walk stayed within an acceptable mileage. After a week of phones calls the accommodation booking list was completed and the walk became a reality - 1600 miles in 80 days.
Making important choices is all part of the preparation for any walk. For a walk of this magnitude it is vital to consider all aspects of the journey and the situations that may be encountered. Some important choices have already been made - 1600 miles in 80 days, staying at pre-booked overnight accommodation with an evening meal and cooked breakfast. A desire to travel as light as possible is aided by the prior choices. No camping equipment, no food supplies or cooking equipment to carry.
3 DAY WALK & KIT TEST
Well I could not have chosen a worst three days to go walking and rain was certainly the daily feature of this walk. On the first day, not only was I getting wet from above but the mud squelching ground penertrated my walking shoes and made the going very heavy under foot; and at one point I took to the country lanes to make up some time. I arrived at the B&B just as it was getting dark and looking like a drowned rat. I managed to dry everything including my walking shoes ready for a fresh start. Second day and the forecast was more rain. I prepared for the worst and kitted up in wet weather gear and planned a route staying on country lanes and avoid the muddy consequence of foot paths . After an initial shower or two in the morning, it then stayed dry until mid afternoon when, with about six miles still to walk, the heavens opened with a vengance. I arrived at the youth hostel having made good time on this the longest day; but drowned rat syndrone still prevailed. Drying out was much easier this time. No mud to contend with and the inside of my walking shoes had stayed dry. Day three and the day starts off dry and mild. Wet weather gear stowed away today, or at least to start with. Initially it was country lane walking then onto foot paths and forest tracks. When the time came to decide to leave the lanes and go off-road I look cautiously at the conditions. Not too bad, so off-road it was. The ground was soft but not water-logged as it had been on day one. Walking on softer ground made it easier on my feet and the enjoyment came back. However, the enjoyment was short lived as the rain started to fall once again. Out on open heathland it fell relentlessly from the sky and the tracks became running torrents of water and I headed back onto lanes at the first opportunity to finish this wetest of walks.
From the kit test viewpoint a lot of positive points came out of this walk and a few negatives ones. But all worthwhile and of benefit when it comes to the big one. Wet weather gear - excellent. Need a larger water proof cover for my rucksack, despite being able to fit bags upto 45 litres. Mine is 35 litres. GPS - excellent in the conditions and battery life lasted all day. Using a B&B and a youth hostel proved a useful test - recharging GPS batteries at a hostel can be difficult with a limited number of sockets available. The weight of my rucksack needs to be reduced. It became less of a problem as time went on, but not the sort of weight I want to endure for 80 days. So some more work to be done and another test, perhapsin better weather.
I have been working on the weight of my rusksack and have now whittled it down to just about the 20lbs mark (9kg). I have walked a few walks with the reduced load and find it easy to carry. I completed a 20 mile walk with it and was able to average 3.6mph over the distance. I have also started using a new pair of walking shoes and they are great. They are lighter than the last pair I had and the fit is superb. I am thinking of buying a second pair immediately to use as back-up. Now the weather has finally settled down after all that rain and cold it is great to be out walking regularly clocking up the miles in preparation for the main event.
FIVE WEEKS TO GO
With now only five weeks to go time is slipping by fast. I am feeling more confident about the weight I shall be carrying on the walk now that I have been out on many long and short walks carrying it and it has become the norm. Everything feels just right, so all I need is good weather for the journey. April is going to be a busy month as final preparations take place. I have a number of walks organised over varying distances with the longest being the LDWA's New Forest Marathon challenge walk, a point to point walk over 26miles. This I will do in full kit as a final check and confidence boost. Also, April will be another push with the fundraising trying to rally more support.
THREE WEEKS TO GO
With only three weeks to go I am busy checking all has been done and nothing has been missed. I seem to have a growing list of last minute things to do and if the planes don't start flying soon, making alternative travel arrangements to John O'Groats will have to be added to the list. This past week I put in 100 miles of walking over four days ranging from 20 to 28 miles. I made one walk 28miles to equal the distance of my longest on the main walk, although I could not match the amount of ascent. On three of the four walks I carried full kit and has proven that weight-wise I am okay with the rucksack. The last walk of the four was the challenge walk organised by the Wessex Group of the LDWA and for this I decided to travel light and have some fun. With brilliant weather and the New Forest dried out after the long winter the going was good under foot. I hacked (walking at speed but not running) my way round the 26miles in 5hrs 35min being the first walker home and with only two runners ahead of me. I finished feeling fresh and had no after effects of aches or pains either. This I take to be a good omen the BIG ONE ahead. And finally, I collected that second pair of walking shoes I ordered a couple of weeks back and that completes the shopping.
THREE DAYS TO GO
With just three days before I leave to start my walk I have just about everything ready. I'm sure there will be some last minute things to deal with, there always is. The recent dust cloud that stopped some flights in Scotland has passed to the west, so for now I am flying to Scotland as planned. I have a contingency of using the overnight sleeper train on Sunday evening should the cloud blow this way again. With all the accommodation pre-booked I cannot afford to miss the start day on Tuesday 11th May.
I have had two weeks rest and have been bulking up on food trying to put on a few extra pounds. I will need these pounds to combat the excessive weight loss that is bound to happen over the duration of the walk. Physically I feel ready for it and mentally I am confident in my own mind about the schedule I have set. In the last few days all five of the lads from last years Everest trip have confirmed they will join me on some part of the walk. This is welcomed news and will break the silence of walking alone every day.
THE END OF THE END TO END - MISSION COMPLETED!
Welcomed in by the South West Branch of the Gurkha Welfare Trust, on the 29th July at 3.50pm I walked across the finish line at Land's End after 80 days and a total of 1644 miles. A fantastic journey down and across the country that was demanding and challenging yet enjoyable and memorable. A journey made special by the people I met along the way. Those that provided the accommodation that allowed me to rest and recover. Those that provided the food that sustained me on each leg of the journey. Those that I met along way that encouraged me and supported me. Those that accompanied me on a few of the days. And especially those that left messages and donations on this page.
SPONSORSHIP MONEY CONTINUED TO COME IN OFF-LINE DURING THE WALK AND MORE HAS STILL TO BE COLLECTED.
A BIG THANK-YOU TO THOSE THAT HAVE DONATED