«il to 27th June 1998 88 days i The planning stage of this journey encompassed a period of 12 months. Fitness We set ourselves a fitness program to ...»
A journey on foot, cross country
from Lands End at the end of England
to John o’Groats at the top of Scotland
1st April to 27th June 1998
The planning stage of this journey encompassed a period of 12 months.
We set ourselves a fitness program to increase both our strength and endurance. We have always
been regular weekend walkers but now we had to get serious. Initially we walked for one hour every
night. Where we live is very hilly and this served us well. After three months we planned regular full day Sunday walks through Sydney’s national parks, other suburbs and city streets. The rugged terrain in the National Parks increased our stamina and built our strength. The variety of a full day’s walking in other suburbs and in the city added interest to our task. During all these walks Philip used a map and compass for practice and to increase familiarity. One day we decided to walk from our home in Illawong to visit friends in Lilyfield. This journey would normally take about an hour in the car. They were most surprised when we arrived on foot!
Six months before our departure we started wearing our boots for all our walking and doubled the length of our nightly walk.
Three months before leaving we started wearing our backpacks and gradually over that 12 week period we increased the weight until one month before leaving we carried a full backpack.
Due to work commitments we managed only one overnight camping trip to test our tent. Our destination was down a steep and rocky hill to a picturesque and secluded sandy beach shaded beneath towering cliffs in the Royal National Park. We had booked our tent space and as we put our tent up atop a rise overlooking the beach we noted with some satisfaction that there were only a couple of other tents, one of them large, placed further down on a grassy level piece of land directly behind the beach. The occupants were not to be seen. Our first clue came when a young man arrived and erected a tent next to ours, went into it and emerged stark naked. He was friendly and chatty for a few moments then drifted off down to the sea. At dusk small groups of naked men emerged from the rocks at either end of the beach and trudged back to their tent. Whoops, a gay beach? It was rather disconcerting but I tried not to look even when the men paraded up and down the beach wearing only short jackets to warm them in the fading light and shadowy cool of the evening. Luckily there was a breeze to keep the mozzies away. Still all our equipment worked well and I even kept a straight face when one friendly soul stopped to chat to me whilst I was perched on a rock eating my sausage and eggs for breakfast.
He eyed my sausage and took great delight in standing directly in front of me with his groin at my eye level so when I raised my eyes to return his conversation, my sight had to cast over his penis.
Equipment We spent many hours researching our equipment on the Internet and visited every outdoor shop in the city centre of Sydney. As we had to carry everything the weight was very important. We listed all the items we would need and found the lightest and best of each.
We bought OS maps over the Internet http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/ and spent many a happy night mapping out our route with a yellow highlighter. We bundled our maps and guidebooks into parcels to post to Post Offices along our route, when we arrived in England. Some guidebooks we bought along the way.
Land’s End iv
Outfit and equipment:
Boots - we chose Scarpa leather boots. They are sturdy, reasonably lightweight, give protection for the ankles, quite waterproof and will last for many years. They are not cheap but our choice was justified in that we are both still wearing the same pair of boots that we wore for this journey. We Snowsealed our boots before leaving. If boots get wet, as they invariably will, then stuff them with dry newspaper overnight. This will absorb the dampness. If crossing a stream or river, always keep your boots on to avoid slipping and change your socks on the other side.
Socks – three pairs each. These need to be changed regularly. Good thick socks from an outdoor shop will protect your feet and give comfort. Always change wet socks straight away and never walk in them.
Gortex jacket. Expensive but worth every cent. Breathable and completely water proof and wind proof.
One pair of lightweight, comfortable, fast drying trousers. If they are slim fitting then they need stretch.
One pair of shorts. These should be slightly loose and comfortable.
One pair of thermal leggings. (These can be worn under trousers or with shorts if necessary) One thermal underwear long-sleeved top Two t-shirts each One long sleeved t-shirt for me and a long sleeved shirt for Philip. These can be bought in an outdoor shop made of a fabric that is light, warm and breathable.
Long sleeved fleece top with zip at top front from an outdoor shop.
5 pairs undies each 2 bras (me) One red silk short nightie (for me – just so I remember that I am a girl) Warm beanie and fabric sun hat Gloves (I didn’t take these but had to buy them along the way as my hands became swollen and red with the cold) Scarf Waterproof over-trousers – Gortex would be best as breathable. We wished we had bought Gortex.
Gortex gaiters – for those times (which were frequent) that you need to walk through slush and mud Telescopic hiking stick – this protects the knees and gives stability on steep ascents and descents. We climbed over hundreds and hundreds of stiles. A hiking stick reduces the stress on the knees by 30% and is a great aid up and down (most particularly down) steep, often slippery with mud, hills.
Remember that extra weight on your back is extra strain on the knees.
70 litre backpack (We bought Macpac from New Zealand as they suited our body types the best and are adjustable) Large heavy duty plastic bag to line back pack (from outdoor shops). If you don’t have this then the things you are carrying in your back pack will get wet.
Selection of nylon drawstring “sacks” to separate items in backpack. We used the sack with our clothes in it for a pillow.
Self inflating mattress from outdoor shop Goose down sleeping bag. Expensive, but light and warm.
Lightweight tent for two with annexe for backpacks. It should be weatherproof and be able to withstand strong winds.
Trianga stove (uses methylated spirits and contains cooking pot and pan). We kept our stove in a special waterproof drawstring bag we purchased from an outdoor shop.
Fuel bottle for methylated spirits – 1 litre Waterproof matches or lighter Ground sheet for tent Second smaller groundsheet for sitting on to eat or relax pen knife small torch whistle (to blow if you need help) v small plastic spatula for burying your faeces in the countryside 2 x plastic plates 2 x plastic bowls 2 x plastic mugs 2 x plastic cutlery sets small to medium lightweight containers (from outdoor shop) to store coffee, teabags, sugar, powdered milk, butter, eggs etc.
zip top plastic bags to keep other food items in (All food kept in separate drawstring waterproof bag from outdoor shop) Small plastic spatula and spoon for cooking 1 water bottle each (1 litre metal from outdoor shop) Waterproof map case which Philip wore around his neck Good compass and the knowledge to use it competently Sewing kit Maps and guidebooks. The maps we posted in bundles to Post Offices en route for collection. The used maps we posted to a friend in the UK. We bought guidebooks for long distance paths as we journeyed. These were readily available in the town at the beginning of each path.
Journey plan – we carried a detailed journey plan so we knew where to go and what we needed to do when we got there.
Pen and notebook (for the writing of this Journal). Each filled notebook was posted and then a new one purchased.
Electronic organiser contained addresses and useful information. Also for recording expenses (budgeting) and making notes.
Credit card (with cash deposited on to it to cover the entire journey) for cash withdrawals. We always carried enough money, shared between us, for several days.
Small light fabric shoulder bag (for me) for carrying money and cards when not shouldering back pack.
Telstra phone home card for ringing family in Australia from public phone boxes. We did not want to carry a mobile phone and charger but this is of course a personal choice. We were very weight conscious when it came to our packs.
SLR camera and film.
Camp towel (from outdoor shops) Toiletries (soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo sachets, deodourant, nail clippers, hairbrush, small pair of scissors) – we used one type of soap for clothes and bodies. However, campsites, with washing machines and sachets of detergent, gave us the opportunity to give everything a ‘proper’ wash. Also in some bed and breakfast establishments, the owners took pity on us and washed and dried our clothes.
(Or maybe they just didn’t want us to use the bathroom for washing our clothes and radiators in our room for drying them). To our credit, far into the journey we had a comment from a woman that we could not possibly have walked so far as we looked so fresh and clean.
Sun cream Moisturiser, mascara, lipstick (for me) Small “twist” clothesline from outdoor shops.
First aid – our first aid kit consisted of one elastic bandage and Moleskin. (Moleskin – blister protection.
If you feel a “hotspot” on your foot then immediately sit down and take off shoe and sock and cover the spot with a piece of moleskin. It will prevent a blister from forming. A wonderful product.) We were fortunate in that we did not need first aid on our journey. A first aid kit for hikers can be obtained from The Red Cross.
Other information A lightweight rope would have been handy. We did not anticipate the necessity of a river crossing as we experienced in the Scottish glens. Our crossing would have been much safer if we had crossed one at a time secured to the other with a rope.
The average weight of my pack was 12kgs and the average weight of Philip’s was 16 kgs. This was limited to 20% of our body weight.
One of the joys of this journey was to have a free spirited approach to it. The feeling that where you ended the day was a matter of choice, not a matter of necessity. We gained security from the carrying of a tent.
Food We always carried food for about two days, just in case the villages we passed did not have a shop (and many of them did not). There were times, eg. when walking through the Glens of Scotland that we needed to carry more food. We had no difficulty in planning this a day or two ahead. From the maps we carried it was easy to determine what was necessary.
Maps and Books Used:
Ordnance Survey Mapping Index (Free) – used for working out which maps were necessary for our journey.
Ordnance Survey Maps and books used in journey:
Other books used for planning:
Lands End to John O’Groats – A Choice of Footpaths for Walking the Length of Britain by Andrew McCloy Published by Hodder & Stoughton (1995) Long Distance Walker’s Handbook Published by A & C Black, London Stilwell’s National Trail Companion Published by Stilwell’s Publishing Company
Marazion, near Penzance in Cornwall, England, stands on the shores of Mounts Bay, bounded by sandy beaches and looking out over the fairytale and I might say, quite romantic, island of St. Michael’s Mount, home to an 11th century monastery and a 15th century fort. The castle, today set amid a serene grey sea, is perched above terraced gardens on a great granite crag. We look upon this sight with excitement and enthusiasm for it is just a taste of the wonders we will see on the journey ahead. After bussing in from London we make our way to old pub by the quay where we spend our last night before beginning an 1100+ mile (1860klm) journey on foot and mostly off road from Lands End to John o’Groats. From the bottom of England to the top of Scotland.
This is the beginning and our dream is ahead of us. For many weeks we will be together 24 hours a day, we will share everything and for the most part have few others to talk to.
This will be a test of our resolve and a test of our relationship. As we start our first day our enthusiasm is perhaps only slightly marred by the rain that is falling in gentle drops from a leaden sky. Philip gazes out at the wintry damp and gloomy grey day. “We must be bloody mad, it’s bloody freezing” he groans, pulling his coat tighter around his hunched body and squeezing a questioning look through scrunched eyes. We both laugh with a bit too much excitement and cloud our faces in gusts of vapour as our breath hits the cold air. We know that this is a great moment for us and so with that strange twist of emotions, excitement stirred with wonder, and a short walk to the bus station, we begin our first day.
The rattly old double decker bus rocks and rolls its way over the green hills and narrow hedge lined lanes at the end of England. Not many on the bus. A slightly rotund grey haired and bearded man shouldering a huge backpack and carrying a large staff which tops his height by several inches climbs past us and up the stairs to the top deck. I like his face. It is open, rosy and wise, my supposition probably drawn from the roundness of his face and the neatness of his beard. Across the aisle is a thin scruffy man with a day pack; his demeanour circumspect, and behind sits a man who would go unnoticed but for his a dog. It is perched on his knee, looking haughty despite the ragged shagginess of its coat. The English love their dogs. I wonder whether the two with the backpacks have similar plans as us.
The bus shudders to a rumbling halt. No more time for thoughts and reflections as we step down into the large empty carpark, our anticipation as sharp as the cold wet wind that slaps our faces. There is no longer an admission charge to the tourist complex that occupies the southern most tip of Britain and so we buckle up our backpacks and head beyond it to the first and final shore of this green and ancient land. “My pack feels heavy already” I groan.