Yes, I am still alive, just haven’t been able to get any internet access since Bristol, mainly because I’ve been having some long days and not wanting to go and try and track any down inbetween walking and sleep.

But, I’m now in Cornwall, and thanks to the generosity of their library service, I’m currently online in Liskeard library before I head off – on what looks like it might be a nice sunny day – to St Austell. In other words, yes, I’ve changed my route again, as the southerly route through Cornwall looked slightly shorter, and with some dodgy weather coming in off the Atlantic during this week, this way looked slightly shorter (and drier) than the northern coast.

So, the plan is to get to St Austell (or maybe Par) today, Truro tomorrow, Camborne on Thursday, Penzance on Friday and then – drum roll please – Land’s End on Saturday. If you are planning to come down and see me cross the finish line, then I should be getting there sometime around 1 or 2 in the afternoon – it’s only about 10 miles from Penzance, so that leaves plenty of time for celebratory drinks in the afternoon and evening. If you need to contact me, my number is oh798one eight96three75.

Strange to think I’ve got this far, and this time next week I’ll be getting back to normal life again…but for the next few days, I’m still on the road, and you can still donate and make it all worthwhile.

One of the problems of getting so close to the end – besides the question of how do I get back to normality when I don’t have to get up every morning and walk – is that it gets easy to concentrate on the end and not pay attention to the days between now and then. For instance, today I found myself thinking that in two weeks time I’d be finished and possibly on a train home and if that’s not pride coming before a fall and fate being sorely tempted, I’m not sure what is. So, time to refocus on where I am, not where I hope to be in a few days.

This week I was on the last National Trail that I’ll be following for any substantial way and the Cotswold Way is a very nice walk, one that I can see becoming very popular, as it – with the possible exception of the ones in Norfolk – is perhaps the easiest of the trails, not too rough, no really savage ascents or descents and nice scenery all the time. The only trouble is that most of it is through Gloucestershire, which is a strange county. It all looks rather nice on the surface, but it seems like a thin veneer over something strange beneath, like an edition of The Jeremy Kyle Show set amongst beautifully architectured stone and country.

That got me to Bath yesterday, even though I ended up staying in Bristol as there were spaces at the hostel here, but none at the one in Bath. I’m here again tonight, having done a bit of shuttling with trains and buses, and managing to walk further than I planned, getting all the way to Wells, thus linking Bath and Wells in one baby-eating bishopric of a walk. I’m still going to Street tomorrow though, there not being any place to stop overnight between there and Taunton, so just a half-day. I did get to see Glastonbury Tor today, coming down the hill into Wells, seeing it and the tower rising up in the distance, cloaked in the mist of oncoming rain that threatened to soak me, but didn’t hit the town in time to catch me before I got on my bus to Bristol.

And that’s 859 miles down, probably a bit less than 200 to go, and tomorrow marks two months on the road – it took me an entire month to get out of Scotland, so having gone so far through England in the same time helps to give an idea of just how big Scotland is, really.

In cider country

Yes, I am still alive, even if I’ve been quiet for a while – I’ve been walking through Gloucestershire, and I’m not sure they’ve got new-fangled things like the Internet there.

Anyway, I’ve now made it as far as Bath and the end of the Cotswold Way, and finally get to switch from heading mainly south to heading mainly south-west as I make the turn towards Cornwall. Slight change of plan with regard to my route, though, as I’ll now be taking the central route across Devon, rather than going north along the Exmoor coast. Looking at the map the other day, I realised taking the central route cuts a day or two off my journey, so decided on taking the slightly shorter route to the finish. The plan now is to head for Shepton Mallet or roundabouts tomorrow, then through Street, Taunton, Tiverton, Crediton and Okehampton before entering Cornwall at Launceston next Saturday and spending the final week of the walk going down the north coast of Cornwall.

More tomorrow when I’ve got a bit more time to write, but until then you can pass the time by donating and keeping my total moving…

I went further and got a bigger plane

Not a bad day yesterday, even though I didn’t make it to my final destination – was aiming for Broadway, but started pretty late and didn’t want to leave my brother Andrew (who was picking me up at the end of the day) sit around too much, so ended it at Willersey, which was still 21 miles down the road from Redditch, taking the total on to 757.

Had another rest day today, but did have to put my boots on around lunchtime as a photographer from the Redditch Advertiser came to visit and take my picture for the paper – I’ll link to it if it becomes available online at all. Aside from that, I’ve not done too much, but did manage to get around to uploading some photos. When I was going through Scotland, I had a couple of disposable cameras with me, and as you can now get your pictures from them copied to a CD, it’s made it easy to stick them all up on Flickr for you to take a look at. Of course, the problem with doing it all a few weeks later, is that my descriptions may not be accurate in some cases, but if you spot any egregious errors, then please let me know.

If I’ve been counting right, I’m up to 736 miles now, having walked all the way to Redditch, where I’m now enjoying a day off doing as little as possible – and I’ll be doing the same on Monday. I haven’t had a full day off in almost two weeks, so I’m making the most of this one, especially as I’m getting to use my own computer for the first time in almost two months.

Anyway, I’m now at least two-thirds of the way through my trip, as I think there’s only about 300 miles to go, and it really does feel like it’s all downhill from here. Coming down one of the last stretches of the Pennine Bridleway on Sunday, just before it reaches the High Peak Trail, I reached the top of a hill to see the Midlands laid out before me and rejoiced in the sight of hills that could be climbed in about five minutes rather than five hours. Added to that is the fun of going through Birmingham, which gave me the chance to do lots of walking along canals (for those of you who haven’t heard that most famous piece of Birmingham trivia, it has more miles of canal than Venice).

It’s not all been easy, of course. Those of you in the Midlands may have noticed the heavy rain and thunderstorm that passed over on Thursday morning. I certainly did as I was walking from Lichfield into the centre of Birmingham during it and got thoroughly soaked by it. Before that, just getting into Lichfield was an interesting experience as I found my first route blocked by a road turning out to be private and behind a locked gate then the path I was taking instead being clearly visible, just surrounded by very tall nettle bushes, helping to turn my thoughts of ‘oh good, I’m almost here’ to a further two hours of walking and map examination.

But, I can’t stay here forever, and tomorrow I’ll be walking down to Broadway (not the one in the US – you can tell the difference by the fact that one is filled with American tourists and the other one’s in New York) then when I set off again on Tuesday, it’s down the Cotswold Way and hopefully I should get to Bath for the weekend.

Things are still looking good for me to be finishing on Saturday October 7th, and if anyone fancies coming down to Cornwall that weekend to cheer me over the finish line and celebrate afterwards, then you’re more than welcome to. For those of you in the Midlands, there’ll be a celebration party/fundraising night at the Woodland Cottage pub here in Redditch after I return on Friday 13th. After that, it’s back down to Colchester and real life, but I think I might organise some sort of gathering (AKA a bunchof bloggers and assorted others in a pub) if anyone’s interested in living up to all those promises to buy me a pint when I finish.

And while I’m here, don’t forget to donate if you haven’t already. We’ve now into four figures with the amount raised online, and with what’s coming in offline, I should be close to my target by the end, but I don’t just want to reach it, I want to beat it! And if you’re not confident about donating online, then get in touch and I can give you an address to send cheques to. Also, we’re planning on having a raffle and auction at the fundraising evening on the 13th, so if you, or your company, want to donate anything to that then get in touch as well.

After going a bit further than I’d planned over the last few days, I’ve almost got to Hartington a day early. Almost as I’m actually here, but I’ve only walked as far as Pomeroy, a few miles north of here. Still, it means I can take the next couple of days at a more relaxed pace, and today was made easier by having my friend Bana around – as she will be tomorrow – for company during part of the walk, and the just as useful having a car to carry the rucksack in for the rest of it. Down through Dove Dale to Ilam tomorrow, and from the views this afternoon, I think I’m now past all the big high Pennine mountains, so it should be easier from now on.

Catching up

That’s one of the disadvantages of B&Bs – unlike hostels, they tend not to have internet access, at least not for guests, so I haven’t been able to make any updates as I’ve passed through Yorkshire.

Anyway, it’s been an interesting week as I’ve steered down the eastern edge of the Pennines, passing over a few dales on the way. Of course, when you pass through the dales from north to south, you make it slightly harder for yourself in that you have to constantly go up and down hills to get through them, rather than the nice valley walks I had coming through South Tynedale and Teesdale.

Oh yes, Teesdale was where I left you last, heading out of Alston and to the highest point of the trip so far (and likely overall unless I get seriously lost coming through the Peaks in the next few days) as I hit 600m above sea level while still following the road. From there it was down to Langdon Beck and England’s most eco-friendly hostel at Langdon Beck, with nice views over Teesdale and nice people staying there – and thanks for your donations, folks!

It was south-east from there, steering well away from the Pennine Way at last as I passed through Barnard Castle and then on to Richmond on two days that were pretty pleasant but didn’t yield much to write about, except that village pubs in Yorkshire have a disturbing tendency to be closed at lunchtime, which is annoying. And then on Saturday, coming out of Richmond it rained and I took a wrong turn, resulting in me having to take a long diversion around Catterick Garrison and ending up in Bedale instead of Masham, as I’d planned. Then – possibly as a result of the soaking I got on Saturday, or maybe just because of the curry I had that evening – I ended up with an unplanned rest day on Sunday because of a stomach ache.

I got back on the road on Monday, and made it through Masham – weeping that I’d missed the chance to spend the night in the home of the Theakston and Black Sheep breweries – to Pateley Bridge, which is a nice little village, though one that’s probably not too frequently visited by walkers due to the rather steep sides of the Nidderdale valley it nestles in. I’m beginning to think that descents are worse than ascents, though, especially at the end of the day when your legs are tired and don’t want the rather taxing job of supporting your weight on a precarious downhill balance.

The descents have been much nicer since then, though – Tuesday took me over the moors to Ilkley, going past the listening station at Menwith Hill that’s clearly nothing to worry about in any way as it’s so inconsequential the Ordnance Survey don’t mark it on their maps. Though that may be because they were too busy sniggering at the name Blubberhouses which is right next to it.

Wednesday took me over Ilkley Moor, without a hat, but with the hood of my jacket up as it was raining again. Well, not actually raining, just that persistent Pennine drizzle that’s far too apathetic to be proper rain, but still manages to soak you. I was thinking about walking all the way to Hebden Bridge then, and having a day off, but decided that it made more sense to finish earlier at Haworth, go to Hebden Bridge today and have what amounted to two half-days. As they’re being followed by a day that’ll be mostly on the canal to Littleborough, it’s almost a holiday in itself.

Anyway, here’s the plan for the next week, vaguely following the Pennine Bridleway for the first four days:
Friday 8th: Hebden Bridge to Littleborough
Saturday 9th: Littleborough to Glossop
Sunday 10th: Glossop to Buxton
Monday 11th: Buxton to Hartington
Tuesday 12th: Hartington to Uttoxeter
Wednesday 13th: Uttoxeter to Lichfield
Thursday 14th: Lichfield to Birmingham
Friday 15th: Birmingham to Redditch

Yes, I’ll be back in proper Midland civilization very soon…