Thursday, 7 August 2014

Beginning to plan the next one.

August 2014, it's now just over a year since I completed my walk from John O'Groats at the top of North East Scotland, all the way down to Land's End in South West Cornwall. I had walked a total of 973 miles in fifty six days of walking, broken only by six rest days along the way. Largely, it was a lot of fun, with a good amount raised for four charities. Two things, however, had tarnished the walk somewhat. Firstly, after Scotland - which was superb - I had picked a pretty naff route through 'middle England', with far too much walking alongside roads. Secondly, the person that I had agreed to joining me on my charity walk turned out to be interested only in shameless self promotion, so fund raising for the charities along the route became difficult, to say the least. That is now buried, done with, and I have learnt from it. The issue with not finding the best route for someone who dislikes flat, boring road and track walking I can also resolve with much better planning. So, here are my ideas for my next go at it, this time going the other way- south to north.

Firstly, I will be sticking very closely to the South West Coast Path as I make my way up from Land's End to the western outskirts of Bristol. This will take me all along the northern coast of both Cornwall and Devon, then into Somerset until the path ends near Minehead. From there I will be forced to steer inland for a day or two, until I can cross the River Severn into Wales. From Chepstow I will pick up Offa's Dyke Way, heading north west towards Brecon. Onwards from there towards Snowdonia, where I will bag Snowdon as the first of The Three Peaks that I'll be climbing along the way.

The picture above being part of The South West Coast Path, near Portreath in Cornwall. You can see the path pretty clearly, and just look at the view - the Atlantic ocean!

After Snowdonia, a few more days to reach the north coast of Wales, then I'll have little choice but to follow less inspiring routes as I head due east to North Derbyshire for a week or thereabouts. I will pick up The Pennine Way at its' start in Edale in The Peak District. The Pennine Way is a long and winding road - the backbone of England - and will take at least two weeks to complete it. The path takes you along the borders between Yorkshire and Lancashire, through stunning scenery and up and down many fells - the kind of walking I adore!

Two contrasting pictures here. The left one is part of the Coast to Coast walk, taken a mere six days after the other one! The weather can change drastically and quickly along this most beautiful of routes. Cringle Moor with laying snow, and Windy Gap, under Great Gable, bathed in warm sunshine.

After a few days walking through another of our National Parks - The Yorkshire Dales - I will then turn north west at Hawes to spend a few days following The Coast to Coast path into yet another beautiful area of our little island, The Lake District. Here I will bag number two of The Three Peaks - Sca Fell Pike - then head north to Carlisle to follow Hadrian's Wall for a couple of days, until I rejoin The Pennine Way just past Haltwhistle. From here, I will head due north through Northumberland National Park and into Scotland. I will need to find a good route to get me between Edinburgh and Glasgow, avoiding roads as much as possible, until I can pick up The West Highland Way just north of Glasgow at Milngavie.

Loch Ness, above, on The Great Glen Way, and on the right The West Highland Way.

The West Highland Way is stunning, beautiful, though I may well steer a path that goes a little higher - over the mountains as opposed to looking up at them! On this stretch I will bag number three peak - the mightily impressive Ben Nevis. On reaching the end of the WHW I will follow The Great Glen Way further north to Inverness, then it will get very interesting indeed. It is at Inverness that I plan to head west instead of north, into the wilderness to plot a route up to the coast without using the busy coast road alongside The North Sea. I hope to reach Dunnet Head after some one hundred days of walking, then stroll the last few miles down and across to my finishing place at John O'Groats.

The total miles plodded will be something over fifteen hundred I think, though as I get the route properly worked out it could be a little either way of that figure. I plan to walk for one hundred days, taking a rest day roughly every ten to twelve days. Mountain hopping can be a little more tiring than flat walking, so this will be taken into account as I plan where exactly to stop.
Last time I took a large bag full of all sorts of things that, in the end, I didn't really need. Getting the bag shifted from stop to stop was a major headache which I most definitely do not want to repeat. This time I will have only what I can easily carry on my back; one change of clothes, one book with my pre-prepared routes all in it, and a few basic provisions. The experience of last time has taught me to just treat every day as a single fifteen mile hike. As long as all of the planning has been thoroughly done, I should not need anything else. I will have the odd small package already wrapped and ready back home (possibly containing spare boots, fresh clothing) then I can call home to ask for the package to be posted to a pre-arranged place a few days ahead of me.

So over the next few months I will be meticulously sorting out my route, though not actually booking anywhere as I am not yet sure whether I will be able to afford it next year, or whether I will have to wait until 2016. I very much hope that it will be next year though, and I will be looking to start in mid-July in Cornwall, finishing in late October at Groats, just before we lose the extra hour's daylight. As for whether next year, or the one after, that depends on getting a little sponsorship in the way of free bed and breakfast at a few places. This I will be working on.

Now, the main reason for wanting to take on this really rather challenging task - to raise money and awareness for excellent charities. My favourite charity in the UK is called Whizz-Kidz. This is what they do:-

As you will see from the link, above, they help disabled children become more mobile and to enjoy and live life!

Also, I very much want to raise awareness - and therefore try to help in some way - about a most awful thing that affects more people than most of us would even know about. Cluster headaches. Please take a look at this you tube video of a cluster headache sufferer. I warn you, it's quite stark and disturbing. I do have the full permission of the poor lady to show the video. 

As you will have seen, it's quite awful that people suffer in this way. So, whatever I can do to help those who suffer from this beast - even just wearing a shirt that might help to raise awareness of this thing - I will very gladly do. What Whizz-Kidz do is also quite marvellous, so in due course I will be setting up a donation page on this blog where those who can afford to can donate to the charity via a safe place like 'Just Giving' the online charity donation site. If I can find a charity that actually provides practical and financial help to sufferers of those beastly cluster headaches as well, then that will be added also.

So there it is, I will endeavour to make my blog of the walk entertaining and include some lovely pictures of the mountains, lochs, rivers and anything else of scenic beauty. Watch this space for updates!

                                                                  Alec Hawkes  August 2014.


Simply Publishing said...

Alec that is a superb cause and what a great blog, will do what I can to help xxx

jane said...

Don't forget the offers still there to help on your fundraising with slideshow/talk night. Could probably volunteer Sam for techie help too. Can't believe you're going again ... But nice one x

alec hawkes said...

Thank you both, and Jane - yes most definitely this time. The last one was so tarnished by the time waster with me, that I was just wanting to forget it initially. Thank you, a very kind offer and one I will gratefully accept. x