Chapter 21 – the sponsored walk – Lands End to John o’ Groats

Land’s End to John o’ Groats is the traversal of the whole length of the island of Great Britain between two extremities; in the southwest and northeast. The traditional distance by road is 874 miles (1,407 km) and takes most cyclists ten to fourteen days; the record for running the route is nine days. Off-road walkers typically walk 1,200 miles (1,900 km) and take two or three months for the expedition. Two much-photographed signposts indicate the traditional distance at each end.
Land’s End is the extreme southwestward (but not southern or western) point of Great Britain, situated in western Cornwall at the end of the Penwith peninsula, O.S. Grid Reference SW342250, Post Code TR19 7AA. The most southerly point is Lizard Point.
John o’ Groats is the traditionally acknowledged extreme northern point of mainland Scotland, in northeastern Caithness, O.S. Grid Reference ND380735, Post Code KW1 4YR. The actual northernmost point is at nearby Dunnet Head. The point that is actually farthest by road from Land’s End is Duncansby Head, about 2 miles (3.2 km) from John o’ Groats.

The straight-line distance from Land’s End to John o’ Groats is 603 miles (970 km) as determined from O.S. Grid References, but such a route passes over a series of stretches of water in the Irish Sea.

According to a road atlas of 1964, the shortest route using classified roads was 847 miles (1,363 km).

According to a road atlas of 2008, the shortest route using classified roads was 838 miles (1,349 km).

According to an on-line route planner of 2011, the quickest route by road was 838 miles (1,349 km) and took 15 hours 48 minutes (this uses A30, M5, M6, A74(M), M74, M73, M80, M9, A9 & A99).

So, 838 miles, say 4 miles per hour, 5 hours walking a day, 20 miles, 42 days, which sounded alright, when i said it quickly, didnt think about it too much and before i started this i was doing a lot of not thinking too much.

I’m not a good person,I used cross the road when i see charity collections, had been known to pretend I didnt have any money when the Big Issue seller caught my eye outside Marks & Spencers, don’t even really like Children in Need, so, no,I’m not your obvious choice to do this thing and i’m not even very sporty, didnt really like walking, when i used to walk.

When I told the kids,there was this stunned silence and my son looked at me in disbelief, rolled his eyes and went back to emptying the fridge of anything remotely edible

My daughter, doing a grab and run provision loot from the kitchen, before she headed back into the bedroom she rarely leaves unless its a real domestic emergency, something i cant do on-line or on the telephone. She just tossed her head, gave me the usual indifferent stare and mumbled something I didn’t quite catch and then she was gone.

But, once I’d said it, something took hold, that idea of walking a really long way, actually doing something, not just talking about it, achieving something, well, it went round and round in my head, I couldn’t get rid of it. Even though i knew it was mad, impossible

They’re good kids, really, do their best, and god knows they’ve had to do more than most teenagers in the last few years.
Neither of them mention the real issue, the real obstacle to her actually walking over 800 miles.

Of course, it didn’t come from no-where, this desire to do something, make a difference. It started when Fee got ill, we all talked about doing something. Some of the girls mentioned the Race for Life,getting someone to run on our behalf, dressed in pink,Fees’ name and dates on a little bit of pink paper safety pinned to their backs. i thought about it, thought about someone running across a park, a wide open space to remember Fee and i had to go and sit in my bedroom, very quietly, for nearly three hours until the panic subsided and i could go back to my usual daily routine, a bit wobbly, but holding onto the list of tasks, the humdrum, the everyday.

I didn’t know Fee, not in the way you probably know people, not in the way most people know people. i never met her, in fact I’ve never met any of the girls, but I know more about them than probably anyone I’ve ever spent time with.

i talk to the girls every day, sometimes many times in the same day. We share everything, the little lives we lead and let’s face it, our lives are very very little. Me and Fee, as was, and Annie and Deepak and Mo and Cherish and Niamh, the girls, we’re tight, to steal a word from my son, but it’s the right word. It describes us perfectly, tight, sounds cosy, comfy, safe.

Our friendships, our links are modern, 10 years ago, we’d never have met, all of us in our houses, looking out of windows, looking out at life, but hey, the internet’s a wonderful thing, you can talk to anyone, anywhere without leaving your house and we’re all big on not leaving the house, the girls.

Agoraphobia is a very complex phobia usually manifesting itself as a collection of inter-linked conditions.

For example many agoraphobics also fear being left alone (monophobia), dislike being in any situation where they feel trapped (exhibiting claustrophobia type tendencies) and fear travelling away from their ‘safe’ place, usually the home. Some agoraphobics find they can travel more easily if they have a trusted friend or family member accompanying them, however this can quickly lead to dependency on their carer.

The severity of agoraphobia varies enormously between sufferers from those who are housebound, even room-bound, to those who can travel specific distances within a defined boundary. It is not a fear of open spaces as many people think.

We started off on a forum, a chat room, found each other among the really mad, the weird, the bitches, the fakes. We made contacts, links and then we discovered Face Book, friend-ed each other, shared photos, followed each others lives, projects. Mo’s been baking for 3 years now, her cupcakes are beautiful, works of art. i can look at the pictures, almost taste them. Deepaks’ been doing up her house up, room by room. She has to wait for her ex-husband to feel kind, do a run to Homebase for her, but she’s making good progress, her bathroom is stunning and the bedroom is coming along nicely.

I haven’t left my house, this house for 2 years, 3 months, 2 weeks and 1 day, not once, not at all. So far, I have missed;
My baby sisters’ wedding
My mums 60th birthday
My sons’ 18th
My neices christening
2 family christmases
2 family easters
My daughter singing in her schools’ talent show
My grandfathers’ funeral

And thats just the big stuff, I try not to think about all the little stuff, try not to think at all.

I’m much better now, really, a year ago I couldn’t go into the garden, on bad days, I didn’t even like standing by the windows, but now, some days, I sit in the back garden, not the front garden, never the front garden and I feel ok, calm.

It was Niamh who got me into the walking, the cycling. She posted a picture of her little home gym, her treadmill, said she was going to do the London Marathon, had a TV in there and she did it, ran her 26 miles, watching the other runners going round London. Mo baked her a cake, a medal made of icing, posted it to her and Niamh put a picture on her timeline, it got 2,00 likes.

But, it got me thinking and i found a company who deliver and there i was with a bike and a running machine and most days i cycled and walked and Niamh was right, i felt better for it.

The big walk thing though, that was something different, a proper challenge and i knew the girls would support me, maybe even sponsor me.

i talked it through with the kids and Ben, my lovely Ben ruffled my hair and laughed and said i should do it and could he borrow a tenner and did we need anything from Tescos. Emmy just shrugged and went back upstairs and i heard her mobile pinging and the tapping of her keyboard started.

I decided that if i was going to do this, i would need to do it properly, so i logged on and of course, there were web sites, blogs, virtual experiences.

I read them all, looked at pictures, downloaded maps, googled the towns on the route, planned my route and choose a start date.

I’m on day 10 now, 200 miles – just arriving in Taunton

Welcome to the county town of Somerset. Taunton is a thriving, forward-looking town where modern life sits alongside relics of its dramatic past dating back to Saxon times.

The town is the retail capital of the county with all the top names in shopping, eating and drinking, as well as a wonderful mix of specialist and independent retailers. For evening entertainment the Brewhouse Theatre offers something for all tastes.

Taunton has had a turbulent past most notably in 1685 when the Monmouth Rebellion was brutally quelled by Judge Jeffrey’s Bloody Assize in the Great Hall of Taunton Castle. The Taunton Heritage Trail is a self guided tour through this rich history and heritage.

i’m looking out of the window, its dark, very late at night, the children are asleep, the house is quiet and i’m staring out of the window, legs moving automatically, moving forward.
There’s a coach, big, white, waiting at the traffic lights, I’m not really staring, I’m tired, legs aching, but this girls catches me eye, she’s the only person awake on the coach, staring out of the window, i don’t think she see me and then the coach moves off and i go on walking, I’m aiming to get to Street today, its a big walk, 16 miles, I keep on walking, one step, another step.

About cathi rae

50ish teacher & aspiring writer and parent of a stroppy teenager and carer for a confused bedlington terrier and a small selection of horses who fail to shar emy dressage ambitions. Interested in contemporary fiction but find myself returning to PG Wodehouse when the chips are down View all posts by cathi rae

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