About four weeks later, although feeling fine, I became aware that I had a health issue and, to cut a long story short, on 11 January 2017, I had a cancerous left kidney removed. I am now getting back to full strength although my surgeon advised against a backpack of the Cumbria Way for the last week of this month. I have, reluctantly, taken his advice but he assures me that I will be fighting fit to tackle the Pennine Way towards the end of May. Training is now starting. I have started back at the gym, taking it a little easy and I am doing a few day walks.
I have a friend, Mike, from Germany, who is planning to walk Land's End to John o'Groats (his blog is at https://off4ahike.wordpress.com/) and I plan to join him at Edale around 23 May. He and I haven't walked together before so I don't know about his walking pace. I'm sure we'll get on, though. I have bought a rail ticket to Edale for 22 May and, assuming Mike hasn't arrived at Edale before then, I shall wait until he turns up.
I first walked the Pennine Way over three separate weeks in 1975, 1976 and 1977, armed with 1:50,000 maps and, more importantly, Wainwright's Pennine Way Companion, which alternately cheered us up and depressed us along the way. I still have this rather battered book. 1975 was a wet week and the first couple of days were horrendous. That was the time before flagstones were placed over the worst bits of bog and quagmire over Kinder Plateau and beyond. My companion and I floundered through the seemingly endless peat groughs, often sinking up to our knees. It was truly awful. I also remember waking up in the dark hours one morning to find that our tent was a couple of inches deep in rainwater. The first week took us to Gargrave.
Being gluttons for punishment, we returned in 1976 for another week. Those of you of a certain age will recall that the in summer of 1976 the UK experienced a severe drought. Consequently, we got through a lot of sun cream and there was very little water to be found along the route but, at least, there was no rain.
The final week was in 1977 when we tackled the final stretch from near Bowes to Kirk Yetholm. It was another dry week but, unfortunately, my companion suffered badly from blisters and left me at Byrness to finish on my own. He left me with the rather heavy tent but I just about managed. My abiding memory of that week was planning to camp at Windy Gyle. I was quite parched with just about enough water to get me through the night. I met some walkers who were coming down who gave me some orange squash that they had spare which I carefully carried in a mug. Unfortunately, while I was pitching the tent, an inquisitive sheep came too close and knocked it over. During the week I possibly drank some suspect water and arrived home with a tummy bug.
|Me, looking very stylish!|
|Camping on Windy Gyle|
|Evidence I reached the end|
Although it seems ridiculous looking back, the clothing I wore was totally unsuitable. Denim jeans and Tuf work boots, although not the steel toe cap variety. They gave me terrible blisters and let in water.
Nevertheless, those three weeks remained in my memory for years. Since then, I've walked parts of the Pennine Way, notably Dufton to Bellingham in 2007 and Marsden to Horton-in-Ribblesdale as part of my LEJOG in 2009. This year will hopefully be the first time I have walked it from end to end.