Tuesday, September 4, 2007


In January 2007, on my thirty-second birthday, I set off on an attempt to walk from Land's End to John O'Groats. This was almost as surprising to me as to the people who knew me. I am not an adventurous person. I do not have an obvious history of mental illness. I like chairs. Yet, somehow, there I was, windswept and sea-sprayed, at the southern tip of the land, taking the first steps of a journey, walking alone, in the middle of winter, between the two points of the British mainland separated by the greatest distance. How had it come to this?

For it had only been three weeks earlier that I had had no notion of doing anything other than continuing with my computer-based, office-bound, button-bashing career, the kind of role that, though often well rewarded, people fall into while they try to decide what they really want to do with their lives. And it had been only three weeks earlier that it occurred to me that I was inconceivably, mind-crushingly bored. That I needed a challenge that was as far removed from my normal existence as possible. A challenge that could be attempted with minimal preparation and no special skills, that didn't involve immunisation or visas or learning a different language, that didn't require a vast amount of savings or a team of people.

I would go for a walk.

So, in the three weeks between Christmas Day and my thirty-second birthday, I scoured the high street shops for appropriate equipment, poured over the internet for guidance, and attempted a couple of disastrous practice walks in the Peak District that saw me upto my arse in peat bog and wondering if I would ever find a pair of truly water proof gloves.
What I learnt from my quick studies was that there was no official route for the much travelled journey between Land's End to John O'Groats, and that there is very little in the way of published material. The best resource seemed to be the website of Mark Moxon, who had embarked on his own LEJOG in 2003. He had used a route and book by someone called Andrew McCloy, and as this route mainly followed long distance paths rather than busy main roads (which was something I was also keen to do), the decision was made.

As for kit, my existing boots and pants were complemented by a hastily acquired pile of gadgets, gizmos and goodness knows what. I was flailing in the dark, which is something I realised I may have to get accustomed to unless I began to focus on the essentials. The kit was pared down to what at the time I believed was an absolute minimum. Some decisions were easier than others. I wanted comfort and convenience, so the idea of a tent was quickly dismissed. This saved a great deal of weight, and allowed me to walk faster for further, but would result in the daily limitation of searching for accomodation in the pressing winter gloom.

Improbably, amongst the items I did not discard was a small laptop computer, which I reasoned was essential to plot the daily guide rope with which my bewildering GPS device could drag me to safety. Thankfully this proved to be the case, but the laptop also allowed me to maintain this daily blog of the walk, my first foray into writing of any kind.

I hope it proves to be of interest to any fellow chair-lovers, and of value to anyone who may be moved to attempt something similar.

May your feet be dry, your path be smooth and your landscapes inspiring.

It's all out there waiting for you.
The link below will allow you to download a gpx file containing the GPS tracklogs for the entire walk from Land's End to John O'Groats.


This file is compatible with Google Earth and MemoryMap, amongst others. Google Earth seems to only allow you to view one day at a time so you may need to fiddle around a bit.

This is the actual route that I walked, so it includes all the mistakes and detours that I took, but it may be interesting to anyone intending to walk all or part of this route in the future as it includes large sections of the Pennine Way, West Highland Way, Great Glen Way, South West Coast Path, Severn Way, Cotswold Way, Staffordshire Way and Limestone Way.

When I walked, I listened to music. It was my constant companion. Nothing compares to those moments where a mood, a view and a song fell into place, to stir the senses and enhance the experience. There were songs that I happened to be listening to on certain days that completely encapsulated the situation, and so for each of the 60 days of the walk I attempted to nominate a relevant song.

You can download all 60 of the songs from the links below. Each song contains a photo and the written account of the relevant day. I hope they bring you as much comfort and pleasure as they brought me.

LEJOG Music Part 1 of 6
LEJOG Music Part 2 of 6
LEJOG Music Part 3 of 6
LEJOG Music Part 4 of 6
LEJOG Music Part 5 of 6
LEJOG Music Part 6 of 6

Have fun!