Update since August

Since returning to Wantage I have been trying to sort out my hernia repair operation and am delighted to report that it will take place at the Great Western Hospital, at Swindon, on November 12th. The NHS have turned up trumps as I was expecting a much longer wait.

The consultant is very confident that I should recover quickly and be able to resume my trip in the spring. My plan is to restart at the end of March at Craven Arms, walk to Horton in Ribblesdale and then catch a train to Darlington. Alan will take me up to West Linton and I will walk to Fort William as originally planned. When I leave Fort William I will now use the Great Glen Way to journey to Inverness. I take a break there to join my friends in MAC for our May meet in Braemar. Returning to Inverness I will follow a new Trail up the east coast to John O’Groats. Two days walking on roads should see me at Dunnet Head at the end of May.

This means that I can finish the trip at the most northerly point in the UK. More important, I will not have to carry camping equipment so I can travel much lighter. The route will not be as interesting as the Cape Wrath Trail, but I am not prepared to run the risk of another hernia problem in country where the only means of escape would be by helicopter.

I was able to visit Cape Wrath, with Alan, at the end of September when we were staying at Durness. We were very lucky as the ferry was only able to operate one day that week. That was the one day when we did not get torrential rain or gale force winds and I was pleased to be in a comfortable cottage rather than a tent.

27th August – Peebles to West Linton – The End for 2018

20180827 Looking back on Peebles
Looking back on Peebles

The day started well. I had a substantial breakfast, the weather forecast was good and I had found a much better route to take, by following the Cross Border Drove Road.

20180827 Heading for Linton on the old drove road
Heading for West Linton on the old drove road

I left Peebles at 8.30 and climbed up from the valley floor over a ridge before descending and climbing another hill.

20180827 Highland Cattle
Highland cattle – luckily the bull was otherwise occupied!

By this time despite the forecast it had started to rain. I stopped around 10.00 as my lower abdomen was painful with what I took to be trapped wind.  I took some tablets but they had no real effect.  The rest of the day was not very pleasant and it was with great relief when I arrived at The Gordon Arms at 3.30.  I went straight to my room, dumped all the wet kit and jumped into the shower.  It was then that I discovered that I had a lump in my abdomen, near where I had had a hernia a few years ago.  To cut a long saga short, I ended up being taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, just before midnight, where they confirmed that it was a hernia which needed treatment.  When the registrar arrived from theatre, he managed to reduce it, and I was admitted.  He tried to get me on the list for the following day, but this proved impossible.  After X-rays and blood tests, they decided yesterday that I could return to Wantage and get things sorted out there.  Alan kindly came and picked me up and I will be returning to Wantage tomorrow.

I cannot overstate the kindness and concern shown by all the staff at The Gordon Arms at West Linton.  The owner, Seonaid Mann, took me first to Bonnyrigg and then on to Edinburgh Infirmary.  She also very kindly picked me up yesterday ,and could not have been more helpful.  I do not know how I would have managed without her assistance.  The nurses and doctors at Edinburgh Infirmary were also very attentive and kind.

I think that I knew from the moment that I saw the hernia that my trip was over.  The doctors all confirmed that it would not be possible to continue.  This is obviously very disappointing, but I am glad that there was no uncertainty about what has to happen.  The walk is over for 2018.

I will need to decide whether I can complete the trip next year.  Whatever happens it would need to be a different ending.  I will now not risk carrying a rucksack with camping gear – and without camping gear, I cannot go up the Cape Wrath Trail.  Anyway that is for the future.  For now I just need to get home and sort things out with the doctors.


11th August – Horton in Ribblesdale to Hawes

20180811 Bridge at Ling Gill
The Bridge at Ling Gill


The main news is that I am in Hawes and my leg seems fine, which is obviously a great relief.

The day started early as for once my room-mates were keen to get up and get going.  I left the hostel at 7.15 in bright sunshine making my way up onto Birkwith Moor before dropping down to Old Ing Farm and the National Nature Reserve at Ling Gill. This is a small rocky gorge with rare plants. On the bridge at Ling Gill there is a sign starting that it was repaired in 1765.

20180811 Pen-y-Ghent from Cam High Road
Pen-y-Ghent from Cam High Road

From Ling Gill the path joins Cam High Road, an old Roman road and packhorse way.  This has good views over the famous Ribblehead Viaduct and Ingleborough.

20180811 Ribblehead Viaduct and Ingleborough
Ribblehead Viaduct and Ingleborough

At Kidhow you leave the road and contour around Dodd Fell at 580m with glorious views down into the adjacent valley.

20180811 Looking north from Dodd Fell
Looking north from Dodd Fell

Near Ten End the path left the track and I could descend steeply down to Hawes.  I was a bit surprised to find that it was only 1.15.  Luckily there was a tea-shop and I was able to get a snack and had an enjoyable chat with Jonathan, a walker I had met on the trail.

20180811 Descending towards Hawes from Ten End
Descending towards Hawes from Ten End

The hostel is Hawes is very quiet and at the moment I have a 6-bed room to myself. All the other people staying are around my age and all want twin rooms.

10th August – Moving Again

20180810 Horton-in-R with Ingleborough
Horton-in-Ribblesdale with Ingleborough on the skyline


After another 7 days of rest with new antibiotics my leg seems to have improved. Yesterday I went onto the downs and walked for 3 hours with no adverse effects so I decided to resume my trip.

I have come to Horton in Ribblesdale for a number of reasons.

  1. I could get there by train.
  2. I could restart with 4 fairly short days.
  3. The Craven Arms to Horton section is the lowest part that is left, and the weather there in October is likely to be better than in Scotland.
  4. If it all goes pear-shaped I can get my brother, Alan, to collect me.
  5. I have a few more days in hand before I have to be in Fort William so can shorten some days if necessary.

The train journey was uneventful and all the trains kept to time.  I arrived at the 3 Peaks bunkhouse at 5.00 to find it almost completely empty.  I have also managed to get into hostels for the next few days.

The big test will be tomorrow when I walk to Hawes.  If that goes well I should be back on track.

I am apprehensive about tomorrow as the future of the whole trip really hinges on what happens.  It is very frustrating that I have been forced to leave a section out, but I am happy with the decision that I have made.

2nd August – Return to Wantage

20180802 Resting up


When I woke at 4.00am my leg was still swollen and painful. It was obvious that I could not complete the plan for the day which was to go 20 miles to Much Wenlock. I also have to face the fact that the antibiotics and rest had not sorted things out and more treatment would be necessary.

I therefore booked a train to get back to Didcot and then used my bus pass to return to Wantage.  I got home at lunchtime and managed to arrange to get a call from one of the doctors.  After a quick conversation he wanted to see me so that he could rule out a thrombosis in the leg.  Luckily he was happy that it is an infection and has given me some different antibiotics which cover a wider range of bugs.  He also emphasised the importance of keeping the leg raised above the level of my heart.  After the previous 3 days of lying in bed I can now look forward to another 7 days as his advice was not to walk again until I have finished the course.

This is all rather depressing and frustrating but there is not a lot that I can do about it. Once my leg improves I will need to plan what happens next.

1st August – Knighton to Craven Arms

20180801Looking down on Knighton from Stowe Hill
Looking down on Knighton from Stowe Hill


Finally this morning, having rested my leg for 3 days, I felt able to leave Knighton.  The people at the George and Dragon could not have been more helpful and it was an excellent place to stay and eat.

20180801 North from Stowe Hill to the Long Mynd
North from Stowe Hill to the Long Mynd

It was another “Grand Old Duke of York” day.  First I was marched to the top of Stowe Hill before descending to the River Redtake at Lower Lye.

Then it was up again to Hopton Hatterhill and down to Hopton Castle.

20180801Looking down on Abcott
Looking down towards Abcott

Up again over the ridge to drop down to Abcott and the famous Rocke Cottage Tearoom, which was closed.

20180801 Rocke Tearoom at Abcott
Rocke Tearoom

A short flat section led to Clugunford where I found a bench in the bus shelter and stopped for a late lunch.  This was followed by another ascent to join the old Roman road to Craven Arms.  Once on the Roman road I was surrounded by sheep, which were enjoying the cereals in the adjacent fields.  A small flock preceded me up the road and eventually turned off into what turned out to be the field they were supposed to be in.  I stopped someone in a pickup who was working for the farmer and who went off to try to sort things out.  He said that they had all been out earlier in the day.  As there was a large gap between the gate and the hedge I was not too surprised.

The descent into Craven Arms was painful as my leg had swollen up again and I was pleased when I hobbled up to the Stokesay Inn at 4.00.

In the evening over dinner I got chatting with a couple on an adjacent table. In conversation it turned out that he had rowed across the Atlantic on two occasions.  They were planning a Land’s End to John O’Groats for next year.


30th July – Knighton


I woke at 4.00 this morning and quickly realised that my leg was still a problem. I decided to spend one more day in Knighton. My sister in law Susan and her husband Michael kindly took me out to lunch which cheered me up no end.

I think that the leg is getting better and I plan to move on to Craven Arms tomorrow. Plan A is to try to catch up the lost days by cutting out rest days. Plan B involves leaving out a section of the Pennine Way near my brother’s home in Co Durham. I will fill this part in once we return from Scotland. I am committed to being at Fort William by September 13th. The weather seems to be improving which is always useful but tomorrow will be a critical day.