Duvet day cut short

There are some places in Britain that would lay virtually unknown if only not for one or more terrible events. The mere mention of their name instantly links the mind to that event: Aberfan, Dunblane, Hungerford, Rothbury, Saddleworth Moor and others. Today I have walked the short journey up to one such town, Lockerbie. Visiting a town with such a tragic place in history puts much of my whinging tale of woes today in some perspective.

I am not sure what was going on in my head and body this morning, except a complete enthusiasm bypass. After breakfast, on discovering the check-out time was 11am rather than the more usual 10am, I returned to bed for an additional hour’s snooze. The fact that I had just a 10 mile walk in store was music to my ears and every other body part. Eventually I had to get up and get on with it.

Maybe I’ve reached the point where this walk is no longer a novelty and reality has kicked in. If so, it has taken a while! More likely it is that tiredness is kicking in. I suppose it is not surprising that there appears a connection between lack of enthusiasm and more aches and pains.

The route today had plenty of attractive possibilities, encompassing one end of the Annandale Way. A nice riverside walk for the first two or three miles but I diverted to the road, not before capturing this beauty:

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Ok, not as impressive as some I’ve seen. But that is as good as you are going to get today. A good chat on the phone with my cousin Mark and then with my mum did help me to focus on the task in hand and to achieve a finish just after 3pm. Tomorrow is another day. April Fool’s Day. Don’t worry, there won’t be any untruths here, I promise.

Bubbles to finish

Shattered after what on paper, grass and tarmac should have been a routine walk of around 13 miles. The hour lost by the move to BST had a much greater effect than anticipated due to, for no particular reason, a sleepless night.

There was no portent of what was to come in the opening four miles. After a publicity pic for potential use in the Pompey programme,

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I set off and reached the promised land (OK, Scotland) in just over the hour.

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I had a Costa in Gretna outlet shopping centre to celebrate and I felt thoroughly pleased with myself, also musing the purpose of the maverick of traffic cones. “Right, guys, you can go out in orange but I’m doing my own thing. What can they do? Sack me?”

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It was a long afternoon to reach Annan, and a leaden legged body really needed an injection of milk and Belgian bun from Tesco to scoop together sufficient energy to complete the journey.

I was too tired to even notice my accommodation and wandered about 100 yards past before realising the error of my ways. The Queensbury Arms Hotel is a big place, the price average, but the room is fantastic. I had a deserved first ever jacuzzi and it won’t be my last. It might not even be my last today.

Total distance 627 miles, under 400 to go. Another shortish one tomorrow, up to Lockerbie.

Christmas is coming…….

If a business wanted to improve their customer service, they could do worse than to stay at Holmhead Guest House. Judy and Alan know how to make guests feel really wanted and could not do enough to help them enjoy their stay. The little touches, like the cakes left for guests, just make it a very very special place.

Having woken up a bit dopey this morning, breakfast put me in a better mood and I set off from Greenhead toward Longtown, in a westerly but barely northerly direction. I have got to the point now that the best route is now the easiest, rather than the most interesting, and this was a straightforward 19 miles (how cocky does that sound) to take me over the 600 mark. It would be a shame if the walk turned into a mere statistical ticking off of places and miles but I have days like these.

Just as I was thinking that this was an idyllic area in which to live, I realised that it was still March and yet Christmas was already on the agenda.

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Oh my goodness. Get me out of here! At least I finally found another county sign, one which I had failed to collect on my initial entry into Cumbria.

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It was just perfect walking weather, a bit misty, slightly chilly if anything, but dry, yes dry. The miles were being gradually clocked up and I lunched lightly at the Black Lion in Hethersgill. A friendly pub and with this reminder of home…

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The afternoon was a bit more fragmented with regular checks of the scores from Newport and Sholing. The gaps between these checks gradually became shorter, particularly as Pompey clinched a vital win at Newport. Fortunately it was such an easy route that it was almost impossible to take a wrong turning, since my concentration on the walk was not all it should have been.

Very close to Scotland now, apparently about 4 miles from my b&b. That will be the main news tomorrow.

The rest is history

Rest day. General thing on rest days: rest.

Get done what you have to do in the mornings, then rest. It might seem like a waste of an opportunity to see some really interesting places, like Hadrian’s Wall, but rest is what I need.

So after a really fine breakfast today, and great to have people really make an effort with a fresh fruit salad (rather than the tinned mandarins / grapefruit that are pretty common), I was given a lift into Haltwhistle, where I got my form signed and stamped at the post office as evidence of my walk. On my last day’s worth of deodorant, so roll on today, Friday, when I can buy another one. Special offer too in Sainsbury’s.

Cream tea in La Toot and bus back to Greenhead. A read of the paper,………

then an afternoon snooze.

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Seriously, I do need it.

Spiceboy’s final thoughts for the day

40 days and 40 nights I have lasted in the wild. Should be in Scotland on Sunday, the land of haggis, deep fried Mars bars and The Krankies. OK, that might be harsh. Expecting some of the best walking here, but at the same time likely to be some hard days.

Forthcoming attractions:
Friday – rest day. Might pop into Haltwhistle, a town with population just under 4,000, about 4 miles away.
Saturday – a walk predominantly to the west to Longtown, back in Cumbria, about 19 miles
Sunday – into Scotland, again westward to Annan, about 13 miles
Monday – turning very much northward now, another 12 miles to Lockerbie
Tuesday – up the Annandale Way, probably, to Moffat, about 17 miles
Wednesday – a change of the original route due to accommodation issues, but the 21 mile trek to Abington, by the M74, does buy me a rest day on Thursday.

There should be no reason why I can’t do this now. In fact, I am already thinking about how I am going to adjust to bring back in my normal world, as opposed to the real world, in which I currently reside!? This is really challenging and at times extremely painful, but an incredible experience, one that I don’t think I can get across in my blog. I never thought I would have the nerve to attempt something like this, but you only live once and everybody should try to challenge themselves at least once with something well outside their comfort zone. I have always been much more comfortable with academic and work things, but the breakdown of the latter four years ago left me without a significant fall back activity. The stimulation this walk, the preparation, training and (ultimately) the walk itself, has breathed new life into my mind and absolutely benefited my work too. Is it right to say that man cannot live on work alone? You need it, but you also need something else.

I must thank everyone once again for their great support. Almost at £6,000 now, and that doesn’t include pledges and some off-line donations. Almost as important, while I am ‘on the road’, is the support on social networks, the ‘likes’, the comments, the views, and the visits I’ve had that have lifted my spirits, knowing there are people out there who really care about my wellbeing and success. It is not easy mentally and I am still sufficiently insecure to need that metaphorical arm round the shoulders. I think we all do, now and again.

If you enjoy this blog and haven’t yet donated to the massively worthwhile cause, SANDS, please think about doing so, either at http://www.justgiving.com/keith-spicer1, or pledge via one of my work friends ‘Dangerous’ Brian Parry or Neil ‘Space’ Hopper, or you could have the delights of speaking to my Pammy.

Blabbering on a bit now. Time for an early night. Speak to you all tomorrow.

Heavens must be drowning an angel

Drenched. There is just no other word for it. Except soaked. Or perhaps saturated. From about 1pm today, as forecast, the heavens opened and Muggins was under them.

The morning was both chilly and grey and so this became the first 5 layer day of the walk: base layer, sports shirt, fleece, thin fleece and waterproof jacket. Using the quiet A road, it was not long before I reached the final county in England.

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This was the nicest part of the day with the sign casting a shadow, even. Whereas the 9 mile morning was dry, by contrast the 7 mile afternoon was wet. At least I was able to find a really good tea house close to the end where I could have some vegetable soup, chocolate cake and a caramel latte and dry out a little.

Now I am at Holmhead House, in Greenhead, which is actually built using stones from Hadrian’s Wall. So tonight I will actually be sleeping on Hadrian’s Wall. Rest day tomorrow with the total on 595 miles.

Best I could do, I’m afraid, on viaduct watch!

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Going the extra yard

Music played a large part in what was the most exhilarating day of the walk so far. I was due to be staying at the Angel Inn in Alston so the first of three phases of approximately equal length, a flat and straightforward spell of quiet roads, was perpetuated by me humming or singing quietly tunes with ‘angel’ in the title. Eurythmics, Tavares, Aerosmith, Showaddywaddy and Roxy Music all got an airing. No, Robbie Williams didn’t.

Phase one concluded in Melmerbury with a cream tea. Phase two always looked the toughest, confirmed on sight of this sign

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but the climb was very gradual and not at any time particularly steep. However, it was still some achievement to reach the top,

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and In the space of an hour and a half the altitude had increased by three feet. I found music again that was almost all The Beatles. Obviously, The Long and Winding Road described everything, but I had plenty of others by the Fab Four in my head. I was ecstatic when I reached the summit, feeling almost smug with the surprise at how little difficulty I found in the climb. Humming Fool on the Hill (!) I had a lightish lunch of a toasted cheese sandwich and another pot of tea.

Phase Three was a very steady downhill during which I became both nostalgic and emotional as songs from the time Pammy and I started going out came into my head. In particular, the walking was helped by the rhythmical Killer (Adamski/Seal) and Blue Monday (New Order) and a whole set by Bryan Adams. I was realising how much I am missing Pammy and I’m not ashamed to say I did get a lump in my throat. But I also saw some stunning views to my right – yes, snow!

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Despite the descent, Alston is apparently the highest market town in England. It also gives the least warning for roadworks:

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A super day. I have had ambitions to repeat this whole walk when I am 75 in order to be the oldest ever to do Land’s End to John O’Groats on foot, but I realise that would be virtually impossible for me. However, I would just love to do this day again at some time, with Pammy if possible. 16 miles, total now 579.