Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Look Forwards

Only a week now until Bryn and I arrive on the launch pad - well, our start point at Sutton Bank, North Yorkshire, for The Cleveland Way. And yet.…… I find myself thinking about another long distance path; The Coast to Coast, which runs from St Bee’s in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay in Yorkshire - 190 miles in all. I’m eager to walk that route next year. Thoughts of that are probably more about setting a new challenge though and having another “look forward” in place when the current one has passed.

In the meantime, I’m keen to continue blogging. The technical side has not gone strictly according to plan. I had wanted to send pictures as well as text when walking. The posh phone that I wrote about at the beginning of July should have enabled me to do so but my contract with Virgin Mobile didn’t work out. Therefore, I still rely on the text only PocketMail device whilst on the move, adding pictures from a PC at a later date.

I might have to tinker with the title of this blog. “The Cleveland Way 2009” won’t serve if I’m wittering on about another trek in another year. Brian walking? Brian’s walking? Brian wittering?

[Prodnose: Laters! First things first. Get your mind in gear.]

Right you are! The Cleveland Way 2009. Next week.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Clean Socks

I had taken my socks off at some point during the night - absent-mindedly, only half awake. As you might your clothes, in the early hours, after falling asleep fully clothed, inebriated perhaps following a night of excess. (If you haven’t done so then you should try that - the next day just gets better and better as you recover.)

I had followed Alan Sloman’s advice, except that I had fallen asleep after doing so. “Try wearing Bridgedale liner socks beneath your Merino walking socks …….. Wash the liner socks every night and then put them back on in the tent - they dry in minutes on your feet.”

As I put the wringed-out socks on my feet the night before, I couldn’t help wondering if this was one of those cruel hoaxes - accepted innocently only to realise later, embarrassingly, that you had been well and truly duped. Like the recruit sent to the Quartermaster’s store for a Long Stand. To be asked, having waited outside for 30 minutes “Is that long enough?” Or, to be sent to the same place by the Platoon Sergeant to get some Sky Hooks.

No. Alan Sloman wouldn’t do that to this recruit. And he hadn’t.

So I pass on his advice. Wear two pairs of socks when walking (which for me and most walkers is the norm). At the end of the day, wash and then put the still wet liner socks back on. When tired at night, I’m dead to the world moments after my head hits the pillow so my variation on his advice was to fall asleep in wet socks. It worked though - the socks were dry.

It was an odd sensation; putting wet socks on, and I did get cramp in my lower legs briefly. An odd thought too, momentarily, before dropping off; sock, line and sinker? Then, this morning, grateful thoughts - that my floor was a dry carpet rather than wet grass, that my socks were dry and that Alan had taken the time to tell me.

Thanks Alan.

Monday, 20 July 2009

The Cumbria Way - After

After spending the morning exploring Carlisle I returned, along the coast by train, to South Cumbria. Then, the following day I left for home. So there has been plenty of time in which to recover from and reflect upon my walk.

I didn't cover vast distances each day when compared to some - those who are walking or have walked the LEJOG or JOGLE (see Great Blogs that I follow) for instance. Since my five day walk I have raised my level of admiration and respect for such people.

My body coped well with the walk and I am very pleased, and relieved, about that. The soles of my feet were a problem; they were fairly sore most of the time and I got a couple of nasty blisters on the final day. This is to be expected but I will try to firm up my feet in some way before Bryn and I set out on The Cleveland Way. My main pre-walk concern had been whether or not my right knee would last the course. It did. I wasn't so organised when setting out, in the rain, on the final day's walk and forgot to take my daily dose of pain killers which were meant to numb my right knee. As it turned out there was no pain just the odd twinge so I'm off the pain killers now.

I'm very pleased with my kit too - especially the rucksack. Yes, especially the rucksack - it's lovely. The packed weight went up to 24lbs depending on food and water which was more than I had aimed for. It wasn't a problem but I will try to reduce it further. I didn't know it at the time but somewhere north of Keswick on Day 4 my rucksack rain cover flew off. I could have done with that on the following day especially. My sleeping bag was the main casualty - it got drenched. The replacement rain cover will be secured to the rucksack in future so that if the elasticated band does ease off then I'll still have the cover. I was in shorts for the whole journey. Leaving out the long trousers would save me some weight. However, I was glad to have them for my evening out in Carlisle on what was more like a Winter's night. (The Cumberland Show, an internationally recognised annual show was cancelled whilst I was in Carlisle - rained off!)

I wasn't sure about the blogging when I left either. I wondered if I would have enough to say or the time to say it. The problem though was keeping it short. One of the joys of walking solo is the time you have to think so I had plenty of material as it were. I said little about the route. I probably said too much about food. The strangest thing for me though was/is writing something yet not knowing who I am writing it to. Knowing who, or at least a sense of who you are writing to is much more normal. I'm not sure how to come to terms with that aspect. I will though because I have proved to myself that I can blog and that I enjoy doing so. I'm not sure what others make of it but it's a record for me and if it serves to encourage someone else - someone like me perhaps; getting on a bit, (Patrick, a cheerful, enthusiastic young gentleman from Worcester, who I camped next to at Calbeck reminded me that you're never too old), someone who would like to try something new or get back to something he or she once did, then I hope these ramblings can light or rekindle that fire.

Friday, 17 July 2009

The Cumbria Way - Day 5

17 July 2009

Caldbeck to Carlisle - 12 miles

Full, glorious peals of the cathedral's bells hit me as I stepped out of The Sportsman Inn, Carlisle's oldest pub. I stood in awe. (13 bells in the full ring I found out later.)

Better late than never, I thought; I had arrived in Carlisle without fanfare five hours earlier. The evening before I had been settling down for the night, the rain falling on my tent. It was still raining. It hadn't stopped so I was drenched to the skin when I arrived in Carlisle, cold and suffering with very sore feet after a 7 hour/12 mile trudge - the last 5 miles over tarmac.

After booking into a B&B, a long hot shower, dry clothes and a marvellous home-cooked English meal in a good pub, I was on the mend.

I didn't enjoy this day's walk. It had to be done though - to complete the 70 miles. To feel the satisfaction of having done so, to soak up the comfort of the clean white sheets that I will sleep on tonight. And to hear those bells.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

The Cumbria Way - Day 4

16 July 2009

Keswick to Caldbeck - 15 miles

Someone sat on my spectacles last night (no names but his initials are Brian Cowling) bending the frame and forcing a lens from its fitting. Luckily, I found an optician in Keswick who was able to repair them.

Given that I was in town and that the shops were open, I couldn't resist the urge to vist the George Fisher shop; they have all sorts of outdoor goodies. I now have some new lightweight tent pegs. All of this caused a late start to today's walk.

Dinner at Throstle Hall Farm, Caldbeck

I'm tucked up in my tent now sheltered from the light, drizzly rain and set for an early night. I ate "in" earlier deciding to give the pub, which is just down the road, a miss. I'll have more time for that tomorrow, in Carlisle.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The Cumbria Way - Day 3

15 July 2009

Dungeon Ghyll to Keswick - 15 miles

In his book, Cumbria Way, Paul Hannon describes my route today as passing through the very heart of Lakeland, leaving Langdale by way of a splendid mountain pass, followed by a magical walk along a green floor of Borrowdale and by Derwent Water. He sums it up perfectly. i would add though, that in my case, I found it hard going.

Leaving the camp site at 06:15, it was still raining hard as I struggled over Stake Pass and then picked my way along the boulder strewn path alongside Langstrath Beck.

Langstrath Beck - looking north

I was a fully laden boat labouring in stormy weather. Sirens were guiding me though, beckoning me to Keswick. The Sirens were two pasties; one a Cornish, the other a Steak & Gravy. I knew this for certain because they had tempted me before. And they knew that I wanted to devour them. It is what drove me on - through the rain and over the rocks to Keswick before someone else could get their sticky fingers on them.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

The Cumbria Way - Day 2

14 July 2009

Coniston to Dungeon Ghyll - 12.5 miles

Dinner at The Black Bull in Coniston last night was just what I needed. Mind you, I wouldn't have been a good judge of its quality; I was ravenous and ready for anything as long as it wasn't moving.

The B&B was just what I needed too. They provide "Breakfast to Go" for those wanting an eary start - which I did this morning. Intending to get the miles under my boot I soon found that my state of mind had changed; yesterday I was focussed, mainly, on getting from "A" to "B"; today I'm much more laid back. I've had a gentle dawdle with no particular rush to get anywhere, enabling me to take in the ever-improving rugged scenery.


I'm typing this in the early afternoon at The New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel. There is a pot of tea before me with cake and there's half a bitter to follow. I am within half a mile of The Dungeon Ghyll Old Hotel where I'm hoping they can provide me with some more of the Coniston Bluebird Bitter that I quaffed last night. I have all the time in the world and haven't decided yet whether or not to stay at the nearby campsite as planned or go on. It's a glorious day and I fancy some more walking.

I'd like to find a public phone in order to send this to the blog. Another reason for a halt at the next pub; they may have one - there continues to be no Virgin/T-Mobile network coverage in this area.

Monday, 13 July 2009

The Cumbria Way - Day 1

13 July 2009

Ulverston to Coniston - 15.5 miles

Niggling thoughts about what I may have forgotten and qualms about my knee (which has been giving me trouble) faded gradually as I made my way north from Ulverston this morning. Arthur (Brother-in-Law) had dropped me at the start of The Cumbria Way after breakfast where a short time before he and Bernice (Sister) had sung "Val deri, val dera, with a knapsack on my back" together.

The rain that had been forecast didn't fall - it's been a fine, warm day. The crowds of tourists that I had pessimistically expected didn't turn up - it was mainly just lots of cows and sheep, and me. And ever improving scenery. It has been a great start to my walk.

The locals turn out to greet me

Highlights of my day have been: stopping a pace short of a snake basking in the sun - it slithered away as I tried to take a photo; a sparrow hawk a couple of yards away studying me from its perch in some bracken; and now this - an Internet Cafe in Coniston where I can get no network connection on my mobile phone.

I'm in an excellent B&B - Lakeland House, which is also an Internet Cafe - a new experience for me. A dash though before my time runs out.

The next three nights I camp out. Before that though I'll be spending the evening in the pub round the corner which is also the brewery. Steak I think and a pint or two of bitter.

And now I remember. I did forget something - it was the half bottle of fresh orange juice that I was going to have with my breakfast at Bernice and Arthur's.

Friday, 10 July 2009

The Cumbria Way - Before

On Sunday I drive to Cumbria and then on Monday set out on The Cumbria Way - a 70 mile route from Ulverston to Carlisle which I plan to walk over a 5 day period.

I don’t really know what to expect which is as it should be. I’m not familiar with the Lake District so this walk, which runs through the middle of it, should give me a good overview. Or perhaps that should be an "under view" because the path keeps, where it can, to the lower ground. There are a couple of high points though (Stake Pass and a contour of High Peak) and I believe the whole route has 10,000 feet of ascent.

Apart from it being a holiday in the Lake District, this is the conclusion of my preparations for The Cleveland Way walk with Bryn in August. This is my dress rehearsal.

Getting me and my kit ready for walking has been a challenging yet enjoyable journey in its own right. Reservations about my preparedness at this stage centre on fitness and technology; my knees aren’t performing properly and I’m not confident with my mobile phone or about mobile blogging yet.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Diabetes UK

James Readman and a couple of his mates (20 - 21 year olds) are walking 65 miles of The Cleveland Way starting 17th July. They are trying to raise £200 for Diabetes UK.

I don't know these lads but James contacted me on the scrounge and as I think it's a fine thing that they are doing I've sponsored them. If you'd like to as well then you can donate directly HERE or via their BLOG where you should be able to follow their progress. Check em out!

Saturday, 4 July 2009

A Walking Phone

I’ve got a new mobile phone. It’s a posh one.

Mobile phones are not really my thing. Issued with one at work several years ago, it’s a lifeline should there be a problem when lone-working. That has been the purpose of my own personal similar device. Selfishly, for use at my convenience when needs be; not for anyone to contact me. So my mobile phones are normally switched off until I need them.

As I recall, I have only ever sent two text messages. That was done under instruction from my 10 year old Granddaughter. And I’ve forgotten how to since then. My Daughter assures me that once I start texting then I’ll wonder how I ever made do without it. “What?” I think. “Like car windscreen washers, non-stick pans & e-mails.” Hmmm. Perhaps. Mind you I didn’t see the point of canned shaving foam when it became available. [Caveman, about his wife, to his friend: “She calls it a hat! But it’ll never catch on.”] So what do I know?

My new personal phone, a Nokia 5800, isn’t primarily for texting though. As well as calls in and out, it’s for internet access and blogging on the move. It’s more a walking phone than a mobile phone. In camera mode I will be able to upload images to this blog. And combining camera with phone seemed an obvious way to reduce rucksack weight by a few precious ounces. Gayle (we’ve not been introduced so I hope she won’t mind me talking about her) in her blog of 1st July makes a convincing case for taking a camera though so I’m not so sure now.

Texting and packing a camera; something to think about.