Peculiar travel suggestions do not, as Kurt Vonnegut would seek to have you believe, originate from God. In my experience, they come from Lichfield every spring when Dave the D sends out the landmark list. And they come from Graham, who not content with turning the slightly vague suggestion of a Lands-End/John O’Groats run into an itinerary with miles, times and campsites, also suggested individual unclassified roads in Scotland. I would have taken more heed of the warning about his not being able to get the chair up it if I’d known he was a former sidecar racer (and therefore must be missing a sense of self-preservation.)
Those searching for logic behind a trip of some 2700 miles at a time of soaring fuel prices and rising congestion would probably be stumped. Those of us doing the End-to-End, plus the four cardinal points of the British mainland, shuffled a bit, pointed at the blue sky and muttered something about the road calling.
Day 1 – Cornwall: any port(aloo!) in a storm
The blue skies were, however, a long time coming. As was Cornwall. Day -1 of the 6 points was a soulless slog down the M5 to the knuckle of the Celtic fringe, ready to smile for the camera at Lands End, turn round, and head straight back. Lack of research time also meant I had only the vaguest idea about the location of the site of the Lydford Leap, and no clue at all where the railway monument at St Cleer was. So on Day 1 I returned north with a half-empty bag, pursued for the whole 300 miles by a rain cloud with a vengeance. If anywhere in the UK cries out for a web cam, it has to be the Lands End fingerpost – so the rest of us can be cheered by the queue of the optimistic, the super-fit and the worryingly keen, psyched up and ready to go. We were followed by “Brian’s Brain Tumour” in his lycra and panniers, and three guys who had to be from the forces, because no-one else could possibly possess that unique combination of fitness and insanity that makes running the length of Britain sound like a good idea.
Day 2 – East Anglia – flat.
On the third lap of Lowestoft I started to think maybe it’s time to buy a satnav after all. Like many things, the Euroscope wasn’t hard to find, once I was starting from the right place…but I was last to the party. (This will become a pattern.) On the third pass around Mansfield trying to find the B-road to Teversal, I realised that, short of a sat-nav, navigation would also be easier if my A-Z wasn’t 10 years old and missing an entire bypass.
Day 3 – Heart of England
All went a bit pear-shaped today! It was supposed to be an easy transit day, nothing to achieve except being in Haltwhistle between 2 and 3pm. But shivering through the night in an under-rated sleeping bag in an unexpected May frost wasn’t the best preparation. I’d started the day feeling quite smug (as well as chilly) because in an outstanding display of mobile research, I’d found the OS reference and a picture of the Hunter Stone capable of being shown on a BlackBerry. But in another prime display of numpty navigation, I set off down the wrong unclassified road and lost 2 1/2 hours getting back on track. No pressure, but everyone was waiting for me at the Centre of England. So the M6 saw some brisk progress and I used up at least one life on an overtake badly affected by target fixation. Fortunately the man in the silver 4×4 seemed serenely unperturbed at the thought of acquiring a heavily-luggaged BMW as a hood ornament and some last-minute prayer got me back on the correct side of the road.
To avoid a day with nothing in the bag at all I decided to give up on my judgement completely and just follow the Twins, Steve and Jim, who were following their Zumo to the Market Cross at Alston. Slightly confused hoodies will be appearing in several photo albums later in the year…
Day 4 – luxuriously appointed tent!
Moffatt Camp Site being just behind Moffatt Woollen Mill, first priority was to buy some extra layers of insulation before heading further north…and why can’t a girl have cashmere? Just because I’m camping doesn’t mean I’m roughing it… 🙂
Today was a much better day – after yesterday’s sole “photo a hoodie” success (thanks again to Steve and Jim!) things started well at Coalburn Village Green – Man vacuuming car “are you on some kind of rally? You’re the third one this morning, there was a guy with a sidecar when I left for the tip.” Me: “there’s going to be a few more…” – before I took Graham’s recommended diversion, with an added detour to the Lochearnhead Watersports Centre and Lochside Cafe. Best biker-friendly establishment on the 6 points! I approached the counter sheepishly for a stamp for my Transit Verification Form (I get a certificate and a non-specific privilege card) and got an espresso on the house (as well as the stamp). Then to Killicrankie which was also swarming with 6-pointers – “have you a stamp for my form?” I asked the strapping blonde lady in the Gift Shop. “No, we are saving the local post office.” Small pause for puzzled silence.