Thursday 15 November 2007

Butterfly Mural

*Beatrix Potter nursery mural pic's to be added soon....

I painted a life-size (ish) mural for Will's Mum and Dad on their front porch, taking about 70 hours to complete.
We went for a butterfly theme as they are all over the net curtains. The four seasons go from left to right, but scroll down to view each side of the mural.

Butterfly Mural

Swallows nesting on top left hand side of front door.

Butterfly Mural

Pesky robin, chrysalis and butterflies.

Butterfly Mural

Even more butterflies... with a well hidden caterpillar.

Butterfly Mural

Julia the rabbit, butterflies, caterpillar and spot the frog?

Butterfly Mural

Top right hand side of front door. More butterflies, a lamp loving moth and a cheeky mouse.

Butterfly Mural

Butterflies and moth magnified....

Butterfly Mural

Mouse, dragonfly and some hollyhocks in bloom.

Butterfly Mural

Butterfly and a Mr Bumble Bee after some pollen.

Butterfly Mural

Cyril the Autumn Squirrel and some ladybirds trying to hide?

Wednesday 14 November 2007


Just been back to Dovedale after visiting relatives in Doncaster. I finally saw a kingfisher! It was lovely to see the Stepping Stones so quiet. When we passed through on our Land's End to John O'Groats walk it was choca block.

Wednesday 12 September 2007

Wasdale Head Bridge

My favourite bridge in the Lakes, behind The Inn at Wasdale Head. Tried a Yewbarrow, the only and strongest home made ale at the time - lovely!
Great Gable in the background.

Tuesday 11 September 2007

Daisy is the Highest Dog in England

Classic shot at the top of Scaffell Pike.

Yippee Made it to the Top!

See, that porridge with cranberries, brown sugar and cinnamon was a good idea at 6am! Slow and steady and you can do anything. :-)

A bit busy on the top as usual, but at least we had quite a good view.

Sty Head

Mum taking a breather and enjoying the view of Sty Head with Derwent Water in the distance.
Nearly there, after a few false summits!

Mum Hits the Hills

Finally, dragged Mum away from Portsmouth to experience the beauty of the Lakes.
First attempt up Scaffell Pike from Wasdale Head with Wastwater behind.

Friday 31 August 2007

We've Made It! Thanks for your Support!

Sorry for the delay with the pictures!! I have added some links to other Internet sites too so you can get a better idea of the areas that we passed through. I've also added a couple more stories to earlier original updates if you really fancy reading it all again from the start!!

Thank you to everyone who has been following and supporting us. It has definitely been the support and interest of everyone and meeting such interesting people along the way that kept us going and have made this so memorable.

You have helped us to raise £2070 for the Rowans Hospice! Thanks :-)

Feel free to leave any comments.....

Tuesday 21 August 2007

John O'Groats Back Home to Portsmouth [18th-21st August]

[Update 13]

Subconsciously, our feet must have known it was the end as we were in the worse physical pain yet. Our gear was on it's way out too. Will's thermarest mattress and watch broke the day after finishing, and all of a sudden our patience was running out for living in our tiny tent and smelly clothes. It was definitely time for a rest. I think Daisy felt the same way, sticking her out out of my sleeping bag for breakfast and getting straight back in again. We wrote lots of postcards, sheltered from the cold wind, still not quite believing what we had achieved, or that we didn't have to get up and walk anymore. We had faced the worse summer on record but although it had hindered things we were thankful that injuries or anything else had not prevented our completion. In fact we reckon the rain has made it all the more memorable.

That afternoon our friend from the Pennine Way, Jonathon, brought us a celebratory bottle of wine and we met his family as they were on their way to Orkney for a holiday. It was really good to see him again as it reminded us of our favourite section of the walk. Despite the awful weather the Pennine Way had the best character (and fish of chips)! I'm surprised we didn't turn into a fish and chip (and Daisy a battered sausage). Fuelled along by batter, pasta, chocolate, shortbread and sweets we relished any fresh veg' we could get. We thought that we would come across lots of country farm shops but Petrol Stations, Tesco's or Spar's seem to be the only shops in abundance. At the end of a long day a two mile hike to the shop makes the campsite shop tins of food sound so much more appealing!

At John O'Groats, we had forgotten the day. It's just lovely to do that, but not so much when it's Sunday and the local Grocer is shut, so we ate more rubbish from the burger bar and gift shops. We had a nice plod to Duncansby Head though, and enjoyed the white beaches and the amazing Duncansby Stacks. The Orkney's looked lovely too but we decided to save exploring those for another day, for when we had more energy and started our journey home on the Monday.

We waved goodbye to the wild but serene John O'Groats as a nice bus driver took us down to a different stop otherwise the busy school bus that we needed would miss us. Then, at Wick the lovely ticket lady booked us on the trains before a four hour wait. After a wander and a violinist played on the platform for a bit we were whisked off to Inverness. We saw seals flopping about on the shore and it was starting to hit us how far we had walked, Scotland is huge! We'd seen so much of the country, being fully immersed in it's character all the more because we were on foot and yet there is still so much more to see. In the simple world of backpacking everything slows down and the whole world seems to open up. Touring around, collecting as many sites as possible just isn't the same.

Our return to civilisation smacked us in the face at Inverness though. We were expecting an after trail 'culture shock', but nothing quite prepared us for next part of our journey home. The hustle and bustle was just bearable but not the unkind, unhelpful train staff on the sleeper train to London. They provided a completely impersonal service, one in particular getting a kick out of his authority, ordering us around like school children. The problem was that the lovely lady in Wick hadn't realised that dogs are not allowed on a sleeper train, unless booked into a sleeper carriage. We'd waited four hours for this train, but now with only half an hour before the train left we were unable to pay the extra £120 to upgrade as it was too late in the day to transfer money from our secure account. We frantically tried to find another solution, but they were passing us around to more unhelpful colleagues, all were saying that we would completely lose our money for their mistake! I was a blubbering, embarrassed idiot begging some manager in First Class for another way, but even explaining about our walk didn't help. We started to think that walking all the way to John O'Groats was a bad idea, would it be easier to walk back? Eventually a nice ticket lady suggested taking different trains the next day as the ticket would roll into the next day anyway. Easy, what was the point of causing us so much worry? While trudging to a campsite two miles away through a dark creepy park, we tried to remember what we'd learned on the trip - that something good would come out of this soon....?

Eventually, after getting away from Inverness, then a train change in Edinburgh later we reached London, where we met Joe from Yorkshire on his way to China. He very kindly donated £20 which took our target of £100 to collect en route to £110. This was our 'something good'!:-) Then, a little freaked out by the hot underground, of all the people to see, Miss Portsmouth was there with her sister and they helped us find our way to Waterloo. Eventually we arrived home at 9.30pm extremely relieved. We were greeted with hugs, kisses, flowers and champagne. We'd made it, now both more than a stone lighter (Daisy I think doubled her weight with muscle), we were already reflecting on the best adventure and planning our next trip. A little shorter and less strenuous next time though!

Friday 17 August 2007

Highlands: Inverness - John O'Groats [11th-17th August]

[Update 12]

We passed the official end of the Great Glen Way at Inverness Castle and started the dreaded road walk to the end. It had some bonuses though, burger van goodies to pig on (Daisy did well with two free sausages) and we found two lucky pennies to help us on our way. Toilet spots were more tricky to find along the roadside though! We could smell the sea and at Dingwall, our friends Brian and Caroline treated us to a lovely roast beef dinner and a shower with dry, warm towels, an absolute treat!:-) We were quickly knocked back down to earth back at the campsite though - it was raining as usual, but one of our tent zips finally broke, so we duck-taped ourselves in away from the flies.

Next morning after stuffing ourselves with pastries, we met an interesting chap called John, outside Tesco. We had a lovely chat about his own Land's End to John O'Groats (LEJOG)'barefoot' walk in 1979, raising £50,000 for Leukemia, also how he served in the Royal Marines based in Portsmouth and how he had lived in a cave for 17 years. He later very kindly sent us a donation and his interesting press clippings!:-)
After John and some maltesers had raised our spirits, a smaller road took us to a sunnier Evanton where we met another LEJOGer, cycling this time. It was too cloudy to see the meteor shower that night though.

We had showers and wind for the last few days, except one morning when the suncream made a rare appearance and Irn Bru refreshed and helped us burp our way along the busy roads. We managed to get off the A9 for a bit around the lobster pot shoreline near Dunrobin Castle but it was soon back on again to face the dusty lorries. We saw a seal bobbing around at Helmsdale Bridge and had the best fish supper in Scotland so far (nothing can beat Yorkshire though)!

Passing lots of brochs and clearance villages, the weather got colder and windier and we were finding that we both had horrendous shooting pains up through our feet and into our legs, our bones must have known that we were near the end, the roads were finally finishing us off. After a car skidded off the road where we were walking two minutes before, we thankfully left the A9 to join a quiet country road to Watten. Surrounded by old forests and moorland, the road seemed to stretch on forever and we passed the ancient Cairns of Camster before the weather turned even more colder and windier. With 50mph gusts the wind farms in the distance must have been happy! Eventually a perfectly placed Public Convenience provided sanctuary from the cold shards of rain smacking our faces. After a hot pasty from the shop, Daisy shivered her way into Will's rucksack, while Will found out if the campsite, 4k off route would take dogs and tents. He came bounding back with an end of trek treat.... room 7 from the hotel! No en suite but dry, warm towels, a radiator, beds and a TV - weird! The drunk, swearing landlord was even weirder!

From weird to surreal, it was our last day!! On the long cold, barren road the wind howled eerily through the phone lines alongside the road. Finally, the Orkney Islands and the rough sea came into view - yippee! A contrast to anywhere else in the holiday season, there were B & B vacancies everywhere, then a car bibbed and waved at us for nearly completing, then the John O'Groats sign... it looked amazing! Before we knew it we were having our photo taken by a nice round faced photographer and signing the End to End book in the hotel. After a drink and sausages for tea, we had an overwhelming feeling of contentment, listening to the shore lapping and watching the lighthouses flash through the tent before falling into a deep sleep. Zzzzzzzzzz :-) Yes, Daisy snores too!

Friday 10 August 2007

Highlands: Fort William - Inverness (Great Glen Way) [6th - 10th August]

[Update 11]

At Fort William, we had to decide whether to head North East up the Great Glen Way, another national trail, then up the east coast of Scotland (which would involve walking a lot of the treacherous A9) to John O'Groats, or to head North up through the West Highlands, then North East to John O'Groats. Despite the latter (North) being our original plan as it was the more scenic and remote route, everything seemed to be pushing us to choose the former (North East). Here's a list of con's for going North;

* The inner tent zips were breaking and there are plenty more midges North. We'd be eaten alive!
* It would involve carrying six days worth of food, then another six days of food after that. Also, our stove was on its way out.
* There would be lots of potentially dangerous river crossings, so after all this rain.... Also Will's shoe had gone through to his holey socks, Inov8 trainers have been great though!
* The expense £££££ of replacing all our kit!
* Deer stalking shots to avoid!
* We were knackered and going North was harder!!!

So, we decided to save the remote way for another drier summer and bought some duck tape for when our tent zips broke. Going NE would also have the bonus of seeing our friends in Dingwall, and be in time to see our new friend Jonathon from the Pennine Way, at John O'Groats as he was going to Orkney for a family holiday from there.

We started the Great Glen Way and saw some Harry Potter train carriages, before reaching a canal. Oh dear, memories of that painful 42 miler came flooding back. A view of Ben Nevis's snow patched north face and a peaceful Great Glen created better canal memories though, until the rain returned. Funny how all the bad, forgotten memories can come flooding back. Oh well, as we have learnt along the way, low points are always rewarded with high points (eventually) and our next high point was just around the corner in the form of a surprise fairy forest. We've never seen anything like it. Decorated in every corner of a dark forest were fairies, trinkets, wooded carved mushroom houses and wishing wells. Starting as an egg hunt, the locals have added to it over the past year and raised over £150 for Marie Curie. It was so nice to see something respected and unspoilt. We paid our fairy toll so that we'd safely find our way out and spent ages looking around. Daisy particularly liked the snake pit and leopard den and we particularly liked Eric the bagpiper who had timed his arrival there perfectly for us. At first we wondered if his photo would come out, or whether we'd just see a mysterious aura, but we later found out that he was maintaining the tradition of 'playing for pints' along the Great Glen Way. (incidentally the photo didn't come out)!

The stunning views of Loch Lochy ensured that the endless forest track didn't become too monotonous, until we reached the Caledonian canal's only floating Inn. You can't pass that by, so we didn't, and met two lovely ladies, Irene and Helen who kindly gave us a donation :-).
I finally ate my tin of tuna (a complete idiot for carrying a tin for 10 days) and noticed that my thumbs were sore again after developing hard skin as a resistance against my walking stick handles.

We found delicious dripping-cooked fish 'n' chips at Fort Augustus and the next day it actually didn't rain. Well, except for a few drops that night, it just can't quite manage it can it. Loch Ness looked an amazing deep blue mass of sparkling water. Even more amazing is that it holds more water than all the fresh water lakes in England and Wales put together. There were lots of American tourists along this part of the trail so toilet spots were tricky. Invermoriston had even more tourists taking pictures of the token Highland cow, but unfortunately the campsite there no longer took tents so we had to walk the next days walk that day, another 17 miles.

We met two nice musical Glaswegians, Mike and James, who helped us along the long, long Loch Ness forest track to Drumnadrochit. As it was a late finish we were too tired for pudding so we had that for breakfast the next day and had a day off at the campsite there, full of horses with flatulence, they even gave Will a run for his money! We reached Inverness the next day after reaching the Great Glen Way High point at Craig Leach forest, passing more ancient mossy forests, baby frogs and scary dogs - Daisy kept looking back in fear for ages.

Only one week to go now!!

Sunday 5 August 2007

Stirling + Perth and Kinross: Drymen - Fort William (West Highland Way) [29th July - 5th August]

[Update 10]

The whole Drymen campsite awoke, I'm, sure, relieved that the Belgian group playing whisky poker did in fact 'shut up' at 11pm. We thought they were heading for a telling off after they proclaimed that whisky was foul and that the West Highland Way was for whoosies! Funny though how in two days time they would be making use of the 'Travel Lite' service, which takes your rucksack ahead for you to the next campsite, probably due to their hangovers, but they were clearly enjoying themselves.

It was lovely not to have to navigate through the clearly signed and grit tracked West Highland Way (WHW) and apart from the toilet roll trail created by novice walkers not in the outside loo know how (read How to shit in the woods), it was the best bit for stunning views. Walking around Conic Hill, the first view of Loch Lomond was amazing and Daisy's energy came bouncing back after a play on the loch shore. The ups and downs of the loch shore path (still aching after that 42 miler) led us to a stunning wild camp site right on the loch shore at Rowardennan. Someone had left a tin of mutton hotpot by the camp fire so Daisy tucked into that while we watched the sunset and listened to the lapping shore. Romance was obviously in the air as our Pennine Way friends, Rachel and Adam announced their engagement :-).

Next day we scrambled up to Rob Roy's cave - quite cosy and we left the loch to join streams that led us to Inverarnan campsite where a really good guitarist entertained everyone. Road to Amarillo was best! We'll have to go back to the Drovers Inn here though, apparantly it's an old dusty traditional Scottish pub with stuffed animals and kilt wearers. Instead we had a dreadful tin of stewing steak for dinner, we really miss real food!

We met a nice, 'really' lightweight backpacking family, Mike, Ngaio, Jasper and Sam who was walking the Highland Highway. What an inspiration making their own lightweight gear (Ngaio was 10 when she made her rucksack) and Mike even knew Ray Jardine, the American lightweight backpacking guru. We kept bombarding them with questions and they've definitely pushed us in the right direction to make our own gear and go back to sleeping under a tarp with more space and no zips to break. We were a bit dubious using such lightweight gear before we started our walk with our British climate, but apart from winter conditions they've proved that gear can be cheaper and lighter, plus you know how to fix things when as we have found, everything breaks! See Ngaio's blog, we are featured on a couple of the August entries.

More forests, heather and streams later, (didn't see any otters or pine martens :-() Tyndrum had nice fish and chips (although not as good as Yorkshire) and lots of midges. Another drove road took us to the Bridge of Orchy, where we got chatting to James, who also had a Jack Russell called Daisy, but she was back at home. We've discovered that talking to fellow backpackers is great for taking the pain out of walking! We resisted the hotel bar and pushed on to Kingshouse, passing ridiculously lush yellow/green grass. Daisy was allowed in the bar there and she behaved as she was so tired so we treated ourselves to some real home cooked food - mmmm! We also met Steve, the camper van man, who shared tips about living in a camper for when we eventually finish the walk.

Stob a Ghlais Choire, and the moody weather looked amazing in the morning, then it was up the Devil's Staircase for a view of Ben Nevis and Kinlochleven where we dropped down to camp beside the best view on the WHW, Loch Leven and the Pap of Glencoe. Due to postal strikes, our next maps hadn't arrived at the local post office from home so we had a welcome day off to wait. It was nice to check emails for the first time too. The midges, however were worse than anywhere here, even worse than Byrness, so after choking on mosquito coils and Will, looking like he had been to a collagen injecting lip surgeon after so many bites again, we thankfully collected our maps the next day and moved on to Fort William.

Will thought he saw a wild cat in the misty, spooky forest and Ben Nevis, although under cloud as usual looked immense. At busy Fort William we had a feeling of being finished, but obviously there was still more to do - 200 miles in fact! Darn it, it was also Sunday, so the 1 hour photography service was closed. Sorry, will have to wait a bit longer for snaps!

Saturday 28 July 2007

Scottish Borders + Stirling: Jedburgh- Drymen [20th - 28th July]

[Update 9]

Still missing our new friends and the nice atmosphere of a national trail, our route quietly progressed through the vast Scottish landscape. A day on St Cuthbert's Way was lovely, no bog :-), roman roads, meadows and rivers, ending with the Eildon Hills sat neatly in a row of three. Two days off near Melrose Abbey gave us a chance to make use of the laundry room, me, the luxury of a hairdryer, Will, to cook up some fresh food and Daisy just enjoyed sleeping. Next was a lovely day on the Southern Upland Way, it was more hilly and even the suncream made a rare appearance! A lamb decided to kiss Daisy - priceless, and we received some more midge avoidance tips to add to the collection, citronella, lavender oil, Tiger Balm, Avon's Skin So Soft.... however everyone says that 'nothing' will stop a seriously large swarm!

As soon as we reached deeper valleys and moorland, so the rain returned, but thankfully just a heavy shower this time. At Cheese Well Spring, we had a to leave a gift for the fairies in exchange for some water, so we left our lucky penny which had got us safely through the midlands and a pink liquorice allsort. A thunder storm ended the day with an awesome display of training Chinook helecopters that looked like they were just missing the telephone lines overhead. Daisy wasn't impressed.

On to Peebles and the second dearest campsite along the way, but it did have an interesting toilet arrangement in a castle courtyard and we managed to get the weather (rubbish again) on GMTV. It was then on to more rugged hills with really annoying flies that seemed intent on getting up our nasal passages, the butterflies were nice though. Rachel, from the Pennine Way was right, Scotland does have the most butterflies. An old drove road led us to some rather large Highland cows and their seriously fluffy, teddy bear like calves, then on to a high moorland area called Cauldstane Slap. The clouds had formed 3 Scottish flags in the sky, but we had to press on as it was a 27 miler to the campsite. Thanks for the donation from Jean at Linwater caravan park :-).

My goodness, I still can't believe we did 42 miles the next day!! There was reason behind our madness though and Ray Jardine's book (our lightweight backpacking guru) said that it was possible when necessary. Our End to End guide book said that we would need to pass through a built up area that was "slightly riskier than climbing over Cross Fell (on the Pennine Way) in bad weather" and if we feared for our security then we should box around it! Heck, we'd already passed through some 'shifty' areas and the guide book didn't mention those, so we completely boxed around the area and aimed at the only campsite on route which was unfortunately 42 miles away. We passed some slag heaps that looked like a mini Aires Rock, and follwed the thankfully flat canals, through a long dark dripping tunnel, passed the Falkirk Wheel, more canals where the wind and hurtling dragon flies was against us, then a bit of road where Daisy had a 3 mile rest in Will's sack and eventually on to Drymen. Fifteen hours later with nothing but corner shops full of yucky chocolate and crisps to fuel us along, we fell in our tent before cramping up, ate two slices of ham and a Turkish Delight and slept rather well. Needless to say we took a painful day off in Drymen (the shops for food were still 2 miles away - ouch). When we arrived back, the campsite was full of backpackers that were also ready to do our next national trail, the eagerly awaited West Highland Way.

Thursday 19 July 2007

Durham, Cumbria + Northumberland: Keld - Jedburgh [11th-19th July]

[Update 8]

After the highest pub in England, some more rolling bog and sprigs of heather, we were in Durham. We passed through Cumbria briefly where the rivers and waterfalls were amazing in full force. Friday 13th we all had sore feet from the bog, including Daisy's paws, so she had to go in Will's rucksack for 2 days. Cross Fell was our highest point of the trip at 893m and also the coldest so far, with no view and plenty of rain. Although we did see a flock of birds doing their 'Carlsberg' thing, like a swarm of bees.
We had a cold shelter in Greg's Hut where dried fruit couldn't quite hit the spot, but Rachel's hip flask of brandy warmed our cockles :). A fast march and some silly jokes later we were down.

Alston was a 'memorable' place with a post apocalyptic scrapyard and campsite. Jonathon's dad joined us here briefly, and treated us to the Worsley family specialty of sausages and shared some interesting facts about storing eggs while backpacking :). We bought yet more warmer clothing here, weighty but we couldn't face the damp cold anymore.

The sun came out for Will's birthday on the 15th and we reached Hadrian's Wall where we treated ourselves to a midgy pub meal (Daisy keeps us outside), but it was heaven. There at the 'Roam n Camp' site we met Terry, shortly to turn 71, who lives in a horse drawn cart and doing the Pennine Way for the sixth time. The nice lady there gave Daisy some food enabling her to recover enough for more walkies. After more bulls, bog and a barbed wire fence we arrived late at Bellingham, after 21 miles.

A nice day off followed and we stuffed ourselves with BBQ food after trying in vein to clean our socks and soothe our sore feet. We also finally met another end to ender, Tom, so we shared experiences as we were going in different directions. The next day to Byrness was even boggier and ended with midges from hell (apparantly worse than Scotland, but we'll have to see). At the first and last cafe in England we bid farewell to Terry and headed up more boggy forests, but some stunning dewy views of the Cheviots.

When we reached the Scottish border we had to sadly leave our Pennine Way walking companions who had kept our spirits up, made us laugh and shared backpacking syles (the laid back one is really contagious). Watching them go off in the distance to even boggier hills and a free half pint at Kirk Yetholm as they had completed the whole Pennine Way, we felt strangely vulnerable and alone as we had to head NE to Jedburgh.
Although I've probably painted a bleak, boggy Pennine Way, it has by far been the best part of the trip so far, no doubt because of the interesting people we've met along the way.

Tuesday 10 July 2007

West and North Yorkshire: Marsden - Keld [5th-10th July]

[Update 7]

Yep, it's still raining. Sorry if you're sick of hearing about the wet stuff, but in the simple life of backpacking, food, feet and the weather dominates the day. I think we've hit our lowest point in the journey (hopefully)!

We started the day with food bags in between our socks and trainers in a n attempt to keep dry feet. Quickly failing, we passed a tempting train station, some scary village dogs and a creepy farm with police warning signs "Cottaging and Cruising is illegal"!? We raced to the Post Office to collect the next set of maps posted from home (thank you nice lady at Mytholmroyd PO for your donation), then, exhausted and soaked we reached Heptenstall.

Here the emotional roller coaster of our journey was thankfully raised by two offers of tea and one offer of a warm house for the night (unfortunately Daisy hates cats [I'm assuming they had a cat here!]) before hitting rock bottom at High Greenwood Farm where after about 28 miles we were turned away at 8pm as the weather was so 'bad'. We tried the charity bit but clearly her lush green grass was more important - fair enough, but she proceeded to blame the situation on us and that we were being cruel to the dog (a choice of walkies or being home alone all day? - hmm). We bit our tongues (until further up the road) in the hope of finding a friendly farm whilst questioning our sanity.
Thank you Jon and the Blakedean Scouts who were having a BBQ and let us stay in the graveyard next to their hut. We flopped into our tent and slept well despite realising that we were in a coffin shaped tent. There was no sign of 'The Green Lady' who supposedly haunts the ground, although Daisy seemed to bark at one of the showers in the morning!!! Perhaps she just wanted a bath? Jon's mum made us tea in the morning and lifted our spirits some more :) The simple pleasure of brushing my teeth whilst sat on a radiator was heaven.

Out in the wind and rain again we crossed the bleak moors to Top Withens ruin, supposedly Emily Bronte's inspiration for Wuthering Heights, so the sounds of Kate Bush stayed in our minds a while on the flagstones and bog. stopped raining!
Despite Will receiving an unwanted collagen injection in his lip from a local midge, things were looking up. In Cowling, dripping cooked fish 'n' chips were marvelous and I finally had a bit of power in my phone after the solar panel had been waterproofed and strapped to my back for days.

A dry 4 days followed which made the moody moors more hospitable, then canal and limestone valleys led us to nostalgic locals and passionate Pennine Way walkers. Busy looking at the only canal, river and train crossing point we missed the shop, but Daisy seemed happy with pork scratchings and pasta. After climbing Pen-y-ghent, Horton-in-Ribblesdale was our half way point which we celebrated with cider and pork and apple burgers.

Then, two days following the stench of dead rabbits and dodging 'Bulls in Field' we had marshmallows around a midge expelling campfire in Keld with some new fellow backpackers who we'd see along the Pennine Way, Jonathon, Rachel and Adam. But whatever happened to Pete?

Wednesday 4 July 2007

Derbyshire and South Yorkshire: Thorpe - Marsden [28th June - 4th July]

[Update 6]

At last, a dry day as we entered Dovedale. Stone cottages, herds of walkers and sheep s@#t laden hills immediately lifted our spirits. The famous Stepping Stones were well hidden in the sparkling river after all the rain, but the limestone valley was amazing - and only one horsefly!
By the end of the day the rain was back, but Derbyshire's friendly locals and pretty villages proved good motivation.

We discovered the best ever melt in your mouth pasties and Well Dressing mosaics at Youlgreave before reaching the lush green Chatsworth estate and then the gritstone and peat on Stanage Edge. No climbers to be seen here for a change, just giant ants, Highland cows and a good few content toads.

On reaching our 500 mile point at Hathersage - yippee - we treated ourselves to a couple of days off. Our equipment is falling to bits and I've had to buy some thermal leggings - some summer! Our senses seem to be at one with nature too as we can detect the clean, washing powder smell of other people before we see them, which can only mean that we stink. Will's Auntie Les and Uncle John confirmed our 'au de damp' smell, but treated us to a well missed roast dinner - thanks :)

After sitting out what we thought was the worst of the weather, the heavens opened even wider when we rejoined Stanage Edge. The 'Alternative Pennine Way' passed lots of interesting rock formations, reservoirs and brown frothing rivers to meet wild moors of flowering heather...and mud. A mountain hare, grouse and laughing curlews helped to keep Daisy interested as we entered and left South Yorkshire to meet the actual Pennine Way. Unfortunately the man at the campsite said the rain was here until August...eek and added that this was the official end of the Pennine Way (2 days in) as most people give up here. I could see why!

Wednesday 27 June 2007

Shropshire and Staffordshire: Knighton - Thorpe [21st-27th June]

[Update 5]

Sorry, too much rain to take any photo's along this bit so here's one of Daisy taking a nap in our tent at Melrose in Scotland.

Oops, my little toenail has fallen off. This walk has now officially turned into a challenge! Before now the target seemed so far away, but after this hard section of daily rain, wet socks, a wet dog and tent and lack of campsites we've been guilty of mile counting. We've also given up on our legs recovering soon as that hobble to the shower is not getting any easier.
BUT, it's not all bad news, we know that these are the parts we'll remember with a giggle!?

Various things have helped us keep our chins up on wet days gazing through pub windows at roast dinners (why did we get a dog, God I miss veg'), jelly babies, a dry phone box to eat hot bakery goods, an owl, poppy fields, canal boats and being offered a lift over a flooded road (don't worry we didn't cheat)!
Two friendly farms lifted our spirits by very kindly providing us with a field to sleep in. The first saved our bacon after a Youth Hostel didn't take dogs and the campsite no longer took tents. On the way to the farm we passed by a built up area where the grocery shops sold nothing but crisps, chocolate and alcohol, so we opted for fish a nd chips (again). We ate these on a golf course and received a random donation from a nice man called Martin :-). The farm lady had stopped doing camping for 10 years but let us stay in one of their cow dung fields. We were more than grateful, she even offered us a bath (we were mad for not taking her up on that offer) and gave us some divine fresh milk straight from the cow shed. It was like nursery milk that you used to get with those little biscuits with the cows on.
The second farm was hosting a 'folk in a field' charity event with, can you believe it, a beer tent, 'real' food and loo's! How lucky was that, plus the farmer had been sailing in Gosport that morning, it's such a small world! We're now going to be in their local community magazine too. After we enjoyed the excellent folk music we were zoinked so regrettably we declined their kind invite to the after party - Daisy isn't the best dog for socialising either. If you're in the Brewood, Staffordshire area next June, be sure to check it out.

Finally, our first campsite in three days provided us with a shower in Uttoxeter (I'm surprised they let us in) and at last, a dry tent and socks... for now! The birds were singing and the hills were coming into view - the Pennine Way was approaching - yippee - so I promised that I wouldn't moan about it being too hot to walk in ever again!

Wednesday 20 June 2007

Gloucester, Monmouthshire and Powys: Congresbury - Knighton [11th-20th June]

[Update 4]

We wanted to get through busy Bristol and the river Severn ASAP, so after hundreds of hot dusty lorries, horseflies (and hairdresser shops), we reached Severn Beach after a 25 mile hike, exhausted, only to find the camp site had gone! Thankfully a local pointed us to an angel who let us stay on her field.
Daisy was a bit scared on the wobbly Avon Mouth and Severn Bridge, but once over we could see those lovely hills ahead.

Relieved to be back on a national trail, our first camp site on the Offa's Dyke path had a 'refreshing' outdoor pool and swallows nesting in the loo. Here we met Kenny, who was doing the trail twice for charity, who we kept bumping into. Unfortunately it was the start of a rainy period - all because we had our first BBQ!
We followed the trail for 5 days to Knighton where we reluctantly had to turn off in order to meet the Pennine way.
It's been a really lovely historic section (despite all the young bulls, styles - apparently 85 in one day, and being spat out onto a road from a brambly forest) where we passed old Abbeys, villages, misty forests, the Wye Valley and its jumping salmon (and horseflies of course) and the Hatteral ridge in the Black Mountains.
We also met loads of fellow backpackers and lovely, interesting Welsh folk. One in particular is the owner of the Little Oasis campsite in Pandy. If you like small farm-like sites and are backpacking that way you just have to meet Bill Evans. He'll have you chatting for hours about his interesting life. He used to make toys which he sold on to Disney, he's had Adam Faith and Tom Jones in his cafe (among others) and has doubled for Sean Connery in the film 'First Knight'. He has also made a stunning water feature in memory of his late wife and he gave us some invaluable advice for preventing blisters - sheeps wool, free, environmentally friendly and it works! We also saw BBC Coast's presenter Nick Crane in the Wye Valley, but he was too busy filming to ask him for sponsor money!

Weather is looking increasingly ominous and I still can't charge the phone, but we're still really enjoying it! Losing lots of weight too!

Sunday 10 June 2007

Somerset and North Somerset: Barnsaple - Congresbury [4th-10th June]

[Update 3]

In Somerset already and still scoffing copious amounts of food. Funny how everything tastes good when you're backpacking! We're now managing to get away by 7am most days, and have passed some ridiculously pretty villages with old rose cottages and trickling streams, mysterious forests, Exmoor (with large cats on our minds) and miles of country lanes. With few camp sites and high mileage we've welcomed the hundreds of bronze beetles on the path, fighter jets, birds of prey and a fox tucking in to a rather large lunch!

We had a lovely day off at Westermill campsite in Exmoor (as Will's feet were on fire and I was hobbling about like a robot at the end of the day) where some swallows were nesting in the laundry room. We then stayed in a damp, smoky camping barn one night and met and chatted to a lovely lady called Helen. We all experienced the noises of a farm and watched some lambs get hand fed, before we had to leave Helen to get our first view of Wales beyond the Quantock hills.

Bridgewater was a sudden culture shock, but we did get some sponsor money at the Fairways camp site :). Missing the coast a bit, the scenery flattened on the flood plains (some scary farm dogs there) and a long humid stretch followed but the local strawberries and raspberries kept us going.

A disused railway line, the Strawberry Line at Cheddar led us thought the Mendip hills and into a welcome long damp tunnel, emerging into North Somerset and some cider orchards - their local cider is knock out! Tip toeing over some teeny baby frogs the lane brought us towards Bristol.

Just having a few problems charging the phone with the new solar panel though!

Sunday 3 June 2007

Devon: Bude - Barnstaple [31st May - 3rd June]

[Update 2]

Well, Devon has definitely been an eat as much as we can phase. The 'Pocket Rocket' stove and titanium pots combination create a distinctive mix of BBQ and burnt - mmm.

Devon has shot by, the scenery now more rolling lush green farm land. Still lots of steps to climb, but more overgrown, so wet feet, hay fever and my first tick (about Will's 50th). "Aah the joys of walking" as a passer by put it. As the flowers changed colour and the foxgloves stretched higher we passed rock pools, an old shipwreck and the dreaded cows (still overcoming our fear after being chased because of their interest in Daisy).

We found sanctuary from the rain in an old driftwood hut in the cliffs where the local vicar used to smoke his pipe, then a camp site with a menu! So we scoffed enormous scones while watching the sunset behind Lundy.
A bluebell forest led us to the steep cobbled street of Clovelly where we picked up our next 2 sets of maps and passed a few backpackers with enormous rucksacks. Phew, thank goodness we were so strict with our kit!

Our last day in Devon followed a long estuary around to the never ending tarmac 'Tarka Trail' and a busy Barnstaple where we scoffed crappy burgers and hot dogs, which completely reversed the rare find of an organic shop next to the camp site the day before (which had incidentally made up for the awful communal showers there).

For Somerset we hope to perfect getting up early to avoid the heat...