Martin Hockey's End to End Walk: Land's End to John O'Groats


Land's End to Barnstaple (15 to 26 June 2004)

Barnstaple to Oxford (27 June to 6 July 2004)

Oxford to Edale (11 to 20 July 2004)

Kirk Yetholm to Edinburgh (10 to 15 August 2004)

Edinburgh to Inverness (16 to 28 August 2004)

Inverness to John O'Groats (28 August to 4 September 2004)

Pennine Way, 21 July to 9 August 2004

The first day on the Pennine Way is a toughie. 16 miles with nothing on the way, so first I stocked up with food in Edale village. Then it was up Jacob's Ladder and into the wild stuff. Past Kinder Scout, the crowds thinned out, and by the time I reached the summit of Bleaklow I was on my own - which was a bit spooky when I got lost. A spot of compass work put me back on track, and fortunately the weather was clear. Down in Longdendale, I had a two mile slog off the PW to the B&B at Padfield.

It was fine again next day, with great views as I made my way up Black Hill, into Yorkshire and the B&B at Marsden. There were few people about. I had been expecting the PW to be quite crowded, but my guess was that fewer than 10 people a day were going the distance.

Next day was windy and progress was slow through reservoir land. It was a relief to descend to lower ground after Stoodley Pike. Susan came to meet me at Hebden Bridge and replenish supplies.

Day 4 of the PW was wet almost all day - the first continuously wet day of the trip. It was eerie crossing the moors alone in mist and rain, real Wuthering Heights weather as I passed Top Withens. By late afternoon the weather had cleared for the crossing of the last peat bog before the Dales and the descent to the B&B at Lothersdale. Next day was easier going, a gentle walk by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and up Airedale to the youth hostel at Malham. By now I reckoned I had passed the halfway point to JOG.

Penyghent from Fountains FellThe mountain climbing started on Day 6 of the PW, first Fountains Fell and then the steep end of Pen y Ghent. By this stage I had found that a plus point of the PW was the chance to chat and share experiences with other walkers - I kept meeting up with the same people over 2 or 3 weeks. All sorts make the trip - the wild campers saving every penny, older couples doing it in style with baggage carriers to take the load, those who had done it 2 or 3 times before, those with private reasons for getting away. Many, like me, were walking alone, but we did not lack company when we wanted it. That evening, 6 or 7 of us were swapping stories over pints in the pub at Horton.

Day 7 of the PW, Day 44 from Land's End, was a short day, to Hawes. But my leg muscles, which had played up for a few days, were getting really painful. Next morning I kitted myself up with a second walking pole and a compression bandage, which made life easier. I stayed at Keld youth hostel that night, and next day, after the obligatory stop for a drink at Tan Hill Inn I left the Yorkshire Dales behind. Then across two more peat bogs, the PW brought me to the isolated youth hostel at Baldersdale for the night.

The pain in my leg returned with a vengeance on Day 47. This was not going to get better of its own accord, so in Middleton in Teesdale I sought medical advice. A 15 minute telephone conversation with the doctor on call (this was a Saturday afternoon) diagnosed shin splints, with a recommendation to slow down to one-third pace for a couple of days, apply ice and take Ibuprofen. Great news - this meant minor rescheduling and did not jeopardise the whole trip. The advice turned out to be spot on. The National Health Service can be wonderful.

Susan was meeting me again that day, and we stayed at the pub in Holwick. Next day we took a short walk to see the waterfalls at Low Force, and I stayed a second night at the pub. On the Monday, Day 49, I walked a few miles up the dale to a B&B at Forest in Teesdale, and by Tuesday I was ready to go again.

High Cup NickDay 50 started ominously. This day was supposed to be the highlight of the whole PW, but upper Teesdale was blanketed with thick mist. As I passed the spectacular waterfall at Cauldron Snout and neared the watershed, the mist lifted. High Cup Nick was awesome, as billed.

At the B&B in Dufton that night I had a dilemma. Would my leg be up to the next day, 20 miles over Cross Fell, the highest peak on the whole trip? Fortunately the owner of the B&B was a walker himself and had an answer. He arranged for a baggage carrier he knew to take my pack to Alston for a modest sum. He also arranged for the mist to lift off Cross Fell just as I arrived at the top, so I even managed to find my way down the other side.

Day 52 from Alston to Greenhead was easier, apart from navigational problems on Hartleyburn Common where the trail disappeared into yet another peat bog. Next day was a short day, a gentle stroll in the sun along Hadrian's Wall to Once Brewed, time to get psyched up for the rigours of the Borders.

From the Wall the PW led across a mix of moor, forest and farmland, and at one point a back garden where a family were having a party in the hot sun. I never found landowners at all hostile where rights of way crossed their land: the Northumberland family offered me a drink as I walked across their lawn. I stayed that night at a B&B in Bellingham. Next day was warm and sunny again - a pleasant route across the moors and down through the cleared forest to Blakehopeburnhaugh and the youth hostel at Byrness.

The last day of the PW is a challenge, 27 miles of wild and empty country. Ever since Derbyshire the talk on the trail had been how best to tackle it. I opted for a one-day attempt, and found a baggage carrier to take my bag to Kirk Yetholm. For company I had Jeff, whom I first bumped into back in Malham. He was an expert in survival techniques from his army days, who delighted in telling tales of staying alive by killing and eating sheep. Down into Scotland - the last leg of the PWJeff was a useful guy to be with in the Cheviots, except that he had a blind spot when it came to navigation (he must have missed that course). So he needed my map and compass. We set off at 7.30 am, hit the rain at 7.35 am, and it never let up all day. We crossed into Scotland soon after 9 am, and for most of the day followed the border fence across wet and desolate hills. Halfway we caught up with two lads from Manchester whom I had last seen at Hawes. They were the only people we saw all day, apart from two maniacs heading south from Kirk Yetholm late in the afternoon. The four of us rolled into Kirk Yetholm at 7 pm and claimed our free drink at the Border Hotel.

The signing-in book at the Border Hotel recorded the relief of the PW finishers, but for me another 400 miles of walking lay ahead. In the youth hostel that night I met Chris and his daughter Kate heading from JOG to LE. It was good to swap info on the route ahead, and to be reminded that I was not the only crazy out in the hills.


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Updated November 2004. Copyright © Martin Hockey 2004.