13th May – Evanton to Tain

20190513 Typical section of road walking near Tain
The sheer joy of road walking again

Today I crossed the Easter Ross peninsula, which entailed 19 miles of almost entirely road walking.

I left Evanton at 8.00 with a blister on one foot and a hot spot on the other.  This was totally down to my own stupidity in leaving my boot inner soles at Braemar.  I had replaced them in Inverness but obviously something was not right.

20190513 Rich agricultural land above Alness
Rich agricultural land above Alness

The best thing seemed to be to get the day completed as soon as possible.  The 7k to Alness disappeared in 95 minutes, so I had a short break.  More road walking took me to Newmore which had some beautiful gardens.

20190513 Beautiful flowers at Newmore
Beautiful floral displays at Newmore

Finally after 13k of roads, I moved onto a forest track and stopped for another rest.  I decided that some music would help pass the time.  Quick look at the guide map.  Follow the path to a road, turn left, get to a T junction, turn right, take the second road on the left.  Right, off we go.

20190513 Back in the forest
Back in the forest

An hour later I suddenly thought, “This left turn is taking a long time to appear.”  A closer inspection of the guide revealed that it was not a road, but the entrance to a farm that I had passed about a mile back.  As the trail only ran parallel with the road I was on, I chose to continue.

Around 1.15, I was less than 3 miles from Tain, when Stuart, my son, rang me.  When we had finished, and as I had stopped, I had lunch by the side of the road – getting some strange looks from the locals.

Entering Tain I paused at a very impressive building, to discover that it had been the Easter Ross Poorhouse.  Closer examination of the information board revealed that the large building was in fact the warden’s house, and what seemed to be a barn was the women’s quarters.

20190513 Easter Ross Workhouse
Easter Ross Poorhouse

I arrived at my accommodation in Tain at 2.45, after a day with little memorable about it.

Tain seems an interesting town, and I am planning to visit the museum before heading off to Dornoch.  I only have 14k to cover tomorrow, so for the first time I will indulge in some sight-seeing.

12th April – Malham to Horton in Ribblesdale

20190412 Malham Cove
Malham Cove

After a peaceful night at the Youth Hostel, aptly named as our combined ages are only 138, we had an early breakfast, collected our lunches, and left at 8.30.

20190412 Wyn at the top of the climb
The climb up Malham Cove

The weather was fine but very cold and with some of Yorkshire’s finest scenery before us we set off with a spring in our step.  This enthusiasm soon waned when we started up the 400 steps to reach the top of Malham Cove.  On December 6th 2015 after Storm Desmond a waterfall appeared for the first time in living memory.  At 70m or 230 ft that must have been quite a sight.

Avoiding the limestone pavement above the Cove, by using a higher route, we dropped into the valley which led the way to Malham Tarn.

 

20190412 Malham Tarn
Malham Tarn

Walking on the level made a pleasant change and although we did not see a roe deer buck in the woods, as we did in 2008, there were some very fine carvings and sculptures.

20190412 Woodcarving at Malham Tarn
Wood carving at Malham Tarn

Leaving the Tarn the track to Tennant Gill was a delight: short, soft grass and easy walking.  From the farm at Tennant Gill the work of the day started, 3k of continuous ascent to the cairns on Fountains Fell.

20190412 Above Tenant Gill farm
The climb above Tennant Gill Farm

By now we had lost the sun and the wind made it very cold. Our lunch stop in a sheltered depression was necessarily brief.

20190412 Enjoying lunch
“Enjoying” lunch

Once at the cairns it was possible to look north across the intervening valley to the imposing bulk of Pen-y-Ghent with Ingleborough visible on the horizon.

20190412 Pen-y-Ghent with Ingleborough behind
Pen-y-Ghent (right) and Ingleborough (left)

The descent of Fountains Fell is rough, long and steep and we were wary of aggravating Wyn’s knee.  Having reached the road at Dale Head around 3.00pm a decision had to be taken.  Taking into account the time and the fact that we were going quite slowly, the nature of the ground and Wyn’s knee we resolved to miss out Pen-y-Ghent.

20190412 Path up Pen-y-Ghent
Contemplating the route up Pen-y-Ghent

By taking an alternative path via Brackenbottom, which still involved a knee jarring descent, we reached Horton in Ribblesdale at 5.30.

20190412 Wyn and Pen-y-Ghent
The alternative route

Wyn and I had a small celebration as I have now linked up with where I recommenced last summer. I have therefore walked from the Lizard in Cornwall to West Linton in Scotland.

20190412 Neil back in Horton in Ribblesdale
Back in Horton in Ribblesdale and the end of the English section of the journey!

Wyn returns home tomorrow and will rejoin me at Fort William for the Great Glen Way. Thanks are due to Wyn for his grit, enthusiasm and, as always, his good company.

Tomorrow I am being picked up by my brother Alan who will take me up to West Linton on Monday. I will restart the walk and the blog on Tuesday.

9th April – Heptonstall to Ickornshaw

20190409 Cross Inn Heptonstall
The Cross Inn, Heptonstall

Unfortunately Wyn had twisted his knee yesterday so we set out knowing that we had a long and difficult day ahead of us.

20190409 May's Alladdin's Cave
May’s Aladdin’s Cave

We left the Cross Inn (recommended) at 7.50 with no lunch.  Fortunately May’s Aladdin’s Cave at High Gate opens at 7.00 so we could load up with food.

20190409 Wyn crossing Heptonstall Moor
Wyn crossing Heptonstall Moor

Suitably weighed down we crossed Heptonstall Moor and dropped down to Gorple Lower Reservoir, quickly followed by the Walshaw Reservoirs.  Well – maybe not quickly – but we got past them.

20190409 Walshaw Dean Middle Reservoir
Neil at Walshaw Dean Middle Reservoir

Then came a long slog over Withins Height End to drop down to Top Withins, which is supposedly associated with Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.  We stopped briefly for lunch.

20190409 Top Withins - Wuthering Heights
Top Withins – Wuthering Heights?

Returning to the fray, we descended to Ponden Reservoir and began the interminable climb over Ickornshaw Moor.

20190409 Canoe rescues in Ponden Reservoir
Canoe rescues on Ponden Reservoir

By now Wyn was finding the rough trail very tough in both ascent and descent.  Steep slopes were encountered at Further Dean Hole and Eller Hill before finally we could drop down to Ickornshaw arriving at 6.50.

20190409 Steep climb above Ponden Reservoir
Yet another steep climb…

Winterhouse Barn B&B was a very welcome sight and I had volunteered to go on to Cowling and get fish and chips for dinner.  Disaster: the shop closed at 7.00!   Our wonderful hosts immediately volunteered to take us to a local pub and collect us when we were ready.  By 7.30 we were in the pub rehydrating on the local ales and trying the local delicacies.

Once back at Winterhouse Barn, we basically collapsed after a very long day.  Wyn had been a trooper all day, never complaining but just keeping on going.  A gutsy performance.

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

Saturday

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

Friday

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

Wednesday

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.