Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Epilogue



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.

http://www.megaupload.com/?d=1DGB0MGQ

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!
Dave

66 comments:

Mark Moxon said...

Hi Dave.

Been meaning to post for a while to say I've really enjoyed exploring your musical selction. Pleasingly, I've only got 14 of these tracks already; some of the others are on my 'must buy' list, but the majority of them are new to me, at least in terms of the songs, if not the artist (I love the Merry Go Round, for example, but until now haven't heard any of Emitt Rhodes' solo work - I'll be investigating further!). Indeed, there's only one track I'd skip, and that's Richard Ashcroft, whose solo work I just don't like (though the three Verve albums are high on my playlist - go figure). The rest of the songs on your list... well, they're just great, and as a compilation, it works wonderfully

(By the way, the songs I already own are the ones by Bill Fay, Vashti Bunyan, Led Zeppelin, The Byrds, Wilco, Radiohead, Fairport Convention, Coldplay, Electric Light Orchestra, The The, Sufjan Stevens, Van Morrison, The Arlenes and Nick Drake. Glad to see there's someone else out there who appreciates the Gospel-Oak-country of The Arlenes!)

Mark

chris wright said...

Dave,
Just read your LEJOG blog over the last few days. Inspiring! I have read Mark's and Martin Hockley's accounts plus others for the last couple of years. I have been planning my own similar journey. Will go JOGLE beginning August 25, 2009. I retire after 41 years in teaching on June 12 that year. Just set the school calendar with my staff for that year.
I, too, am not doing this for charity but fully support others who do. I figure the summer of '09 will feel like holidays. However, Regina and I will be selling our house in Whitehorse, Yukon and driving across Canada to our other house in St. John's, Newfoundland. I have been a school principal in the Yukon the last ten years after first retirement from the Dept. of Education in Newfoundland.
I an an ex-pat and my mother lives in Retford, Notts. I emigrated to Canada at age 25 in 1970. Enough of my bio.
I thoroughly enjoyed following your journey. Your self effacement, wit, stamina, mental toughness, written insights, honesty, and anglo saxon wordsmithing was a joy to read! Being a tad older (62) my music is somewhat stuck in the 60s and 70s. I'm into Pink Floyd, Moody Blues, Supertramp. Also, Lanza, Pavarotti, Bach, Brahms, Vivaldi and anything Baroque. Glad you had ELO in your collection. Saw them live when I was teaching in Montreal in 1975. Great band!
I have done the C2C twice and ran the Lyke Wake Race a couple of times. I'm a runner and feel fit enough to do the End to End. I'm thinking 70 days and I'm very impressed with those plus 25 mile days you regularly did. The point about my walk, if I have one, is to back about my career, it's ups and down, and to, hopefully, feel I am a retiree at the end of it. August 25, 2009 would be the first day I was to be opening school for another year.
Got lost late one night on Greenup Edge in the Lake District in thick fog and drenching rain. I groped my way eventually after midnight into Grasmere. However, somewhat frightening as it was (I walked 34 miles that day)it was not as testing as your snow walks in the Pennines in winter. Wow! I've walked the Chilkoot Trail here and you have to be ever alert for Grizzlies. You have to discharge the bear spray only six feet from a charging bear. Fortunately, have not had to do this to date!
Thank you again for an excellent blog. It has fired up more resolve than ever to replicate your achievement. Brilliant effort! Chris.

Jim said...

Hi Dave,

Nice job on the PDF, I'm sure I'll dip back into your story now and again.

Your blog inspired me to make a JOGLE attempt from November to January this year, although I couldn't match your mileages. Now I'm trying to write it up at JOGLE. Got any writing tips?

Dmitry said...

Привет,Dave!!!
Это было круто!!!!
Меня впечатлило!!!!
Хотел бы я вот так же, как ты...
Приезжай в Россию, здесь есть где развернуться. Например пешком от Москвы до Владивостока ??? Что скажешь? Извини что на русском пишу,плохо знаю английский.

Dave said...

This is a great site for information on holidays I really feel like I'm due a break! thanks for the inspiration. i might look into a romantic breaks Devon way for me and my wife and a little beach time would do us both the world of good.

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