In the end, it’s all gone rather quickly! I’ll have to look back at the blog to remind myself of the early days, the non-descript days, the uplifting days, the challenging days, and of course the woodpiles, bridges and doors. My JOGLE’s been a tremendous experience and I hope it’s inspired some of you to walk or travel in the UK. I was inspired by Bev’s friend, Judith, and I have to thank her for giving me the idea last year. Then a big thanks to Bev who was happy to cope without me for so long, and supported and encouraged me on what was a fairly self-indulgent adventure. To all of you as well who have followed my blog and, in doing so have kept me entertained and busy: thank you! I enjoyed your witty and imaginative comments (and so did my mum!), albeit some were a bit harsh …
In the 11 weeks that I was away, a lot of things in the real world have happened. Most critically for our family, my sister-in-law Sharon died. I wasn’t there for Bev and my nieces, Josie and Hati, and I feel sorry, sad and guilty for that. When she died I was in the Morangie Forest near the Dornoch Firth; I was on the shores of Loch Lomond when her funeral happened: places I won’t now forget.
When I left John O’Groats at the end of April, the Country seemed to be okay and in not bad shape. After two terrorist attacks, a retaliation attack, the appalling Grenfell Tower disaster, and an ill-judged, destructive general election, I’m catching up on the news and find the UK in a mess, having lost its leadership, cohesion and confidence. Perhaps I shouldn’t go away for so long next time – or maybe it should be for longer …?!
I was unbelievably lucky with the weather, which undoubtedly made some of the duller stretches more tolerable. People I met were, without exception, nice and welcoming and often with wise and interesting words – one lesson however might be not to take walking and route advice from people who look as if they’ve only ever walked as far as their car ….
My most valuable items of kit were the iPhone camera, my portable rechargeable battery pack, and my Droopy sun-hat. My least used provisions were my stock of medicines and the EBR (thanks heavens, I wasn’t ill at all), and the least used equipment was surprisingly my iPod – I had all those ‘ear-worms’ instead …. After I’d lost my water bottle I used two 750ml plastic bottles all the way from Douglas in Scotland to the end. They’ve now gone to recycling heaven for a well-earned melt-down.
Scotland was magnificent but having done them, I’ve no hunger to walk the West Highland Way or Great Glen again. The Annandale Way was pleasant but not dramatic like say, the Lakes which were great once we were properly up onto the fells. The Sandstone Trail through Cheshire is a nice walk for two or three days but I wouldn’t bother with the Maelor Way again. The trail that was new to me was the Offa’s Dyke Path and I’d recommend that and the Marches towns, and Bev and I will be going back here. I enjoyed the route between Bristol and Barnstaple and there are places in the Quantocks and Mendips and on Exmoor that I’d like to explore. The South West Coastal Path contained the hardest stretches and for me, is probably still my favourite walking in the UK – but I’m biased …
I’m disappointed that I had my injury and didn’t complete JOGLE on foot, missing 50 or 60 miles of walking in Scotland and travelling by train and bus instead – JOGLEEPOPT lasted five days. But I’m not moved to go up and fill in the gaps and under no circumstances will be tackling the Severn Bridge! For me, my walk was always an adventure to be enjoyed rather than a feat of endurance. From Malcolm on the West Highland Way to Darren on the SWCP, and in between, Jos and Dave G in Dumfries, Jon and Gav in the Lakes, Bob in north Wales, Guy and Jo (with Basil) and Paul – the Famous Five – along the Wye, Genevieve in and out of Bristol, Dave B across the Somerset Levels and Exmoor, and Henry on the north Devon coast, I had super walking company. I met up with Bev in Glasgow, Salisbury (for my three day super-break) and Woolacombe. In addition, I met up for dinner with Ferg and Meriel in the Lakes, Jon and Rob in Cheshire, Mark and Maria and Martin and Julie in Bristol (and again in Woolacombe), Mike on Exmoor (also my welcoming party at Land’s End), Steve and Karyn and their gang, Andrew and Jill, and John and Lisa in Cornwall for some fine dining. Thank you – it was great to see you all! Of my 77 days ‘on the road’, I had walking company for 29 days and 7 rest days.
It’s easy slipping back into normality. I feel no compulsion to walk or to load a pack of my worldly possessions onto my back or to track my movements and measure my mileage. I have the luxuries of no longer pulling soggy pieces of soap from a plastic bag, planning in advance where I can do my next ‘no. 2’, or wondering what tonight’s accommodation will be like. I’m getting used to carrying keys and my wallet (no more odd looks or giggling as I pull out my ‘ladies purse’).
One very enjoyable experience has been opening the wardrobe and choosing normal clothes – a pile of ironed boxer shorts, untouched for months, a choice of trousers and shirts, and soft socks that don’t smell. Dressing for dinner no longer means bare-feet in lemon yellow Dudes, walking trousers, my least-used pair of pants at the time, and a merino grey top. My kit did do well – only a worn-out shirt and one pair of socks are destined for the bin; my shorts need a stitch and a pair of pants are oddly – and strategically – ‘laddered’, but things will generally ‘go again’. Go again when? Well, it’s FatBlokesWalking as normal in September along the south Cornish coast, a winter trip to the north somewhere with Malcolm and some other wasters, and maybe the Julian Alps with Jon in the spring. After that, who knows …!?