Cape Wrath Trail 6 day hike Part 1 – COMPLETED!

Day 1 Fort William to Gairlochy

Woke early this morning could not sleep, excitement & nerves creeping in. My foot with the plantar seemed to know it was going to be put through its paces at first light & started to give me jip. So hot shower, fully smidged up, stretches & a brew done, time for breakfast.

So off I went joining the Great Glen Way, destination Gairlochy. The canal was just beautiful, with only a slight breeze the reflections it gave me all the way were stunning. At each bend it  gave me another different picture.

I was also kept company by a different aray of boats, from small sailing boats to a rather classy boat from Jersey. Everyone returned my hearty wave & hello, boating community are as friendly as walkers I have discovered. Met a couple who were walking the Great Glen Way to Inverness who were very sensible & having their bags transported for them!

Day 1 done & still smiling.

Once I got to Gairlochy it was a mile road walk to the campsite which my plantar was not impressed by!

Pitched the tent & had a comfortable hour having food & few brews before the expected rain came in.

That heralded a time to zip the tent up & say goodbye to a successful, uneventful, first day.

Day 2 Gairlochy to Invegarry

Woke up at Gairlochy & it had a misty damp air to the feel of it. Was packed up & on my way by 8am, said goodbye to the three amigos I had got chatting to who all had arrived late at campsite previous night, due to spending to much time in Fort Williams Weatherspoons that morning!!

Only one had done any walking before, the West Highland Way, the other two zero. One of them asked me why I did this, I told them it was all about the experience, taking in each day & drinking in every sight & sound as well as the people you meet on the way. I also  imparted some advice on how to make their journey more comfy, by resting regularly, grazing on food during the day, taking boots off, putting cream on their feet etc. Next morning as I said a cheery goodbye, all three were starting to put cream on their feet & thanked me for my advice. They were walking the Great Glen Way & I do hope they got to the end ok.

Today I was walking to Invegarry about 25km, most of it forest tracks walking down the length of Loch Lochy, original name I know! I have began to realise how long Lochs are, very long! The morning went well, I managed the pain in foot & the glimpsing of the Loch through the variety of the trees kept my mind occupied.

I have a tendency to push on & not feel hungry when walking & that is a bad mistake. Luckily I experienced a Scottish mist with a fine drizzle which forced me to put my waterproofs on, so out came my wraps, tuna toppers & cheese…I sat on a bridge wall munched my lunch until I was forced to move on due to the midges becoming interested in me being their lunch time snack!

Just as I was leaving I saw this plaque, I did not feel sad, I thought if your time has come, as a walker what a fine way to depart this earth.

Anyway onwards & another 10 km or so, after an hour I was starting to suffer with my plantar every time I put my foot down it was like a knife going in, I tried everything to shift how I walked but nothing worked.
Eventually I came in towards Invergarry & I popped out onto the road, that is when my trail angel came & rescued me, name is Kevin & owns the Ardgarry Farm B&B at Invergarry.

I text him & 15 minutes later he appeared, I could have hugged him if it was not for Covid! With ease he put my bag & sticks in his car & drove me to my warm bed for the night.

This place is a gem, I had one of the self contained rooms with a very comfy bed, amazing walk in shower, a fridge full of fruit, juice, yoghurt, as much tea & milk I could drink, pure luxury. He has a variety of self contained units, which you can book for one night, so if you do the TGO, it may be worth giving him a call, he will pick you up locally & drop you back down where your walk starts. Cracking service at a good price!

Anyway I digress, after a hot shower, lots of medication, catching up with family & friends, it was time for a well earned rest.

Day 3 Invergarry to Poulary

So after a very comfortable night, it was time to get going again. My lovely family & Twitter family had given me great advice & encouragement the night before, so I felt quite buoyed up & ready to hit the trail again. Leaving a very heavy waft of ‘Deep Heat’ in the room, my trail angel Kevin dropped me back down onto the start of my walk.

Today I was walking to Poulary about 19km & hoping to find a camp spot on the side of Loch Garry, that was the plan!

So off I went through Greenfield forest, following a variety of trees & forrestation as I went. I love forests, whatever stage they are in, the smells, the colour, the different views they give, are all a delight. I often think how wonderful it would be, if trees could tell a story.

My foot was behaving which was good & my shoulders although sore were also doing good. I was enjoying myself today & felt quite content. Then I met this sign!


I went over the cattle grid & oh yes the beasts were waiting for me straight on the path. Mum, Calf & Dad, they were big, very big!

Anyone who knows me, knows I do not have a love for cows, this was always going to be hard part of trail walking, meeting cattle. So with little choice, armed with false bravado, I marched confidently but slowly on, Mum & Calf decided to move on to other cattle who were in the trees nearby, but not Dad. He refused to budge one inch, just looking at me, so I had little choice but to walk around him, heart was pounding but I looked steadfastly forward & kept moving slowly onwards.  My body was shaking & hands trembling, but when I was at safe distance I looked back & took this, he was still standing in same spot!

I did feel very pleased with myself though, an achievement for the day.

A little later on I had a good lunch which helped & just further down I met some people who were going to canoe down Loch Garry, camp up for the night & return back. I thought perhaps that is one to try in the future…

I decided at Greenfield not to do the faint boggy track with a river crossing. I was feeling good with my aches & pains & I decided to do the quiet single road track instead. A good decision in my part I think.

So just after Poulary I found some water, pitched my borrowed tent & camped up for the night. Looked at my map for the following day, which involved my first major climb & some faint tracks.

But that was all for another day, as I looked down at Loch Garry, with the wonderful forest laid out before me, I had my dinner & reflected on another successful day.

Day 4 Poulary to Loch Cluaine

Woke up in the morning with the air still, midges in force & the Scottish mist down, so I snuggled back into my sleeping bag, before forcing myself up to have a brew & breakfast.

My route today was Poulary to Cluaine, I was a little nervous today, so far my route had taken me down forest tracks & single track roads, but today involved going up & down two bealachs & route finding. Also the weather was forecasted to be hot with no wind.

I kept checking for the mist to clear & once the sun peeked out I packed up my gear inside the tent, donning my rather fetching midgy gear,  I came out quickly dropped the tent & got on my way.

Thanks to YouTube clips I knew there would be a sign for the start of my walk & there it was. So looking onwards and upwards following a faint path of stones & flattened grass I started off.

It was tough going, for me anyway, with the heat, weight of bag & having to take care underfoot. Halfway up I saw a man coming down with what I thought was a flashing light, turned out to be his compass reflecting in the light!

We enjoyed pleasantries with one another he had been out early for a walk & was on his way down. We said goodbye & off he went, I realised later he was wearing Wellington boots!

I eventually got to the top of Mam na Seliag or rather the col of it. I took my bag off, drank lots of water, sat on a rock & just drank in the views. The expanse of the mountains which lay ahead were breathtaking. I literally felt on top of the world. I just sat there for a while in my own thoughts. I thought how lucky I was to be there, to see this view which only your feet can take you. I thought how lucky we are to live in such a special place & we should never take it for granted.

So time for the descent, which was ok, had to take care underfoot again, lost & gained the faint track down a few times as I made my way to Loch Loyne, my first river crossing.

However, the views on the descent were fantastic as you looked up, the valley beneath you opened up, like opening a tin of beans, as the can opens, you know there are little beauties inside!

So got to Loch Loyne, I did have some water shoes to change into, but the river level was low so I gingerly got across with no mishap & only one wet foot…not sure why only one.

I sat on the side having got more water, as by this time I had run out of water, had my lunch & sat there for a while. Time was running on & I was already thinking that I had another climb to do then a further 7km to Cluaine & I did not think I had enough energy in the tank to get there.

So I wanted to get the final climb up Coire Odhar done, so off I went, in normal times it would be a good walk up but with 3 previous days of walking inside me I was starting to flag. I kept taking photos & getting my breath, always a good excuse!

Once I got to the top Loch Loyne opened up in front of me & so did a very flat pitch with excellent views. It should have had a sign on it, ‘Jenny Pitch Here’, so I did just that.

I had spare food which gave me flexibility in changing my plans, something that is important on treks like this, another bit of good advice from seasoned long distance trekkers.

I had not done great mileage only 10k & 654m of ascent, but it was enough for me. I am no spring chicken or fit like some of my fellow Twitter friends & YouTube makers like Scotland Mountains, Kevin Russell & Robin Wallace, of all but a few I could mention, who all have the ease of climbing up mountains with great speed & fitness, like mountain goats!

But I had enjoyed my day, had drank in the views, had enjoyed my experience & had an adventure & that is what this was all about.

Day 5 Loch Loyne to The Affric Kintail Way

Woke up to beautiful mist sweeping across the hills & Loch Loyne which lay below the summit I was on. The mist swept across the mountain tops giving me glimpses of what lay ahead, It was like theatre curtains opening & closing as the audience claps with joy & enthusiasm.

Today I had some catching up to do as I had 7km to make up just to get to Cluaine. So my plan today was to get to Cluaine, have some real munch food, pick up my cache of food & try to see if I could get to the Bothy or near there on the Affric Kintail Way. But that was a good 20km away so with brew & breakfast done, tent dropped I hit the trail once again.

As I descended the faint path down, what I thought was the path I would take, was not, just shows how sometimes your bearings can go a little array. So after checking my GPS, I came across a much stronger easier track which opened up to the wide expanse of Loch Cluaine.

The cloud formations were giving me a full performance today, sweeping over the mountain tops like fluffy cotton wool or super large cobwebs stretching their web across from one peak to another.

As I turned a corner a wonderous sight behold me, Cluaine Inn, this meant food, real food, the kind that has some real bite to it! So with renewed energy it was not long before I was at the Inn.

I soon demolished a Philly steak cheese sandwich, with paprika fries & mango sorbet, gosh it was good!

I picked up my food bag from them & packed up my bag.
The manager looked at me with some amazement & asked me how heavy it was, I said around 15kg, he just shook his head & asked where I was going, when I told him he just shook his head again & wished me safe journey.

Getting going again was tough, not helped by the uphill that followed when I turned off the road, but I still had a long way to go.

As I was forging ahead I saw a apparition or what I thought was an apparition, then I realised I did not have a fever or was hallucinating, but what I saw was a 4×4 truck with camper box on top coming slowly towards me. I was not on a path as such, I was following a very grassy stony sheep trail track, muddy & indistinct at times & this truck was on it. I was flabbergasted, I could not acknowledge them as they went very slowly past. To say I was disgusted by their total disregard to their surroundings & more important the environment & the damage they were causing was understatement.

Anyway, with a shake of my weary head I went on my way, following the glen which undulated & at every corner gave me another slice of valley to revel in.

I decided not to follow my predestined route as that was another 2km on & then I would have to come back on myself. So I decided rightly or wrongly to go off piste & heather bash my way down to a gate I had spotted. I knew I would have to cross the river but this was my only river crossing of the day & therefore it did not matter if I got wet feet.

I carefully made it across & eventually got a rather soft pitch & was soon snuggled into my tent once again.

Day 6 Final day to Shiel Bridge

Woke this morning to a heavy heart as it was my last day on this trek, another 19km or so. I had been advised by friends that after 3 days, I would soon get used to the rhythm & routine of walking & camping with my bag & they were right. My plantar had seemed to disappear on Day 3, my aching shoulders did not groan so much as I put my bag on at Day 4 & I even enjoyed  the rhythmic click of my sticks as I walked.

Anyway it was also Midge fest & I mean Midge fest, so packed up inside tent, donned my best anti Midge gear, dropped tent & quickly got onto the path.

I had not bothered with breakfast or tea that morning as I was keen to get away from being eaten alive, but I knew there was the Cambian Bothy further up & was hoping I could take some respite from the midges & have a brew & breakfast there.

Sure enough I saw the red roof of the Bothy, hoping & praying in equal measures it was open. I got to the door & with a satisfying click the door opened. It was a little piece of haven within a stunning location.

After brew & breakfast it was time to get on my way. It was what I call a Scottish mist type of day, where there was rain in the air but in return you got the beautiful inversions of low cloud, which gave a fantastic show on the mountain tops as you walked.

Underfoot it was going well, the stones were slippy & when I approached the waterfall on the left side, I knew for me anyway, great care would need to be taken as one slip could cause a problem. It is fair to say, there was two places when ‘bum scrambling’ came into play. Always the safer option in my humble opinion if you are not comfortable coming down smooth granite rocks with a big pack on!

Eventually the bridge came into welcome view with another Bothy in site, I got a little emotional as I came down off the tops & back into the valley, as I knew at the end of the Glen, was the end of my walk.

I reached the Bothy but it was locked so just a bit further on sat & eat my wraps & tuna toppers, with chocolate bars & took my surroundings in, savouring my last lunch out on this trek.

I continued to walk down the Glen, thankful the cattle who reside in this Glen were happily munching grass on the other side of the river.

So as I walked down the last few km I reflected on my walk & what I had learnt about myself, but that is for a separate blog, the ‘Epilogue’.

For now as I reached the gate & sign for Affric Trail, I cried with emotion & achievement that what I had set out to do, I had done it.

The lady who started walking on the Chiltern Hills all those years ago was back packing the first part of CWT.

I had done it…

Cape Wrath Trail Part 1

Earlier this year during yet another lockdown, the reality of hitting another milestone birthday in 2022 started to loom in my head. I started to think about what I would like to do to celebrate in reaching this milestone in relatively one piece & good health. A plan started to formulate & true to my most predictable nature, birthday party quickly disappeared…then a ‘outside my comfort box’ plan started to form in my head.

Inspired by the Twitter community who have done the Cape Wrath Trail in breath-taking speed and agility, though I decided speed and agility was not my forte, and I have difficulty in taking so much holiday in one go…the plan started to formulate.

So, after looking at the maps, I decided this year I would plan to do a taster or a starter, so I have decided to walk from Fort William to Shiel Bridge as logistics for getting there and getting home from there, are much easier. This is with a view that next year, I take an extended holiday & finish the walk from Shiel Bridge to Cape Wrath.

I have also decided, because I have done so much walking around & out of Glenfinnan, that I am choosing the alternative route from Fort William to Invergarry and go onwards from there.  This way it will ease me in the first two days and yes, I know I could do it in one day – but it is a holiday – honest – not a challenge.

I have never done anything like this before, yes, I have done several UK well known trails and walked the TMB in the Alps & Pyrenees etc – but there is something about walking the wilderness of Scotland which I am finding exciting and nervous in one breath.

Quite a few of the Twitter walking community have done the TGO challenge many, many times and would probably consider this a ‘walk in the park’.  But for me it is a challenge as I have plotted my route, worked out hopefully where I will camp, carefully looked at river crossings, download my route and tried to think of every conceivable event – which I know I won’t have. Something a few years ago would have terrified me and I would have thought well above my capability.

I have got myself fit, lost some weight, I am managing the pain with my Plantar Fasciitis and strengthened my shoulders with daily exercises & stretches to carry a rucksack for 6 days – something I am not used to.

Talking of rucksack, I have yet to pack it, I know it will take several attempts as I try to lessen the weight, I look at my list, look at my rucksack and already I am shaking my head trying to make 2+2 = 4!

I do consider myself to be a newbie & inexperienced compared to so many I know who walk our great mountains with apparent ease & knowledge. However, I know where I was in terms of knowledge & experience 6 years ago & where I am today & I feel better placed to face any challenges that will come my way.

So, in just over two weeks I am off, so watch this space. Do I have any expectations – no – I am taking each day as it comes & drinking in the experiences of being totally immersed in my walk & my surroundings.

Scotland, I hope you are ready for me, I am certainly ready and excited for you.

 

 

2020…what was that all about!

2020 started like any other year. Plans being made for my various walking holidays in Scotland & Pyrenees, thinking about how to improve my fitness as a lot of us do in January!

Then a mood, an atmosphere, whispers about a new disease started to arise & suddenly almost overnight we were in lockdown.

Luckily the weekend before lockdown I was able to see my Dad, for that I was grateful.

So that was it, lockdown it was! I did not really know any local walks in my area apart from the prom. Well that was never going to satisfy my walking hunger, so I set about exploring my area & was quite surprised what I found. Little country lanes, the woods & of course my lovely sunsets & sunrises on the prom.

I worked from home during lockdown & have done ever since. Which was great at first with no commute & being able to have the flexibility it gives you. But when you live alone, your own support bubble can feel quite suffocating & incredibly lonely.

We were then told that lockdown was being lifted gently at first. My first walk out was Winter Hill & it felt so good!

Soon I was making plans again, meeting up with friends like Anelda, we had kept each other going during lockdown via wapp etc & when we met up in a wee cottage in Wales, life felt normal.

I was back out wild camping, after months of feeling cooped up, I wanted to be out as much as possible. I then went to Northumberland to walk the Cheviots, a very good substitute for the Pyrenees, can highly recommend it!

As some of you may know I am in love with Scotland. So fully aware come the colder months, we may go into another lockdown, a 9 day trip in Louise was planned. We had a grand time, out wild camping for 2 nights on the Glen Affric trail from Shiel Bridge. A visit to Skye, a stay in Cannich, just truly beautiful & just for a moment I could forget the pandemic world we were living in.

Then my last social contact was my betsie Hayley, as we like to call one another. Another very good friend who always checks up on me if I go into my cave! She came to stay & we went off to Coniston & camped in Louise for the weekend. I suspected but did not dare to admit, this would be my last interaction for a while.

So back into lockdown of a sort as we went into Tiers. I still went out walking of a weekend choosing my places carefully, keeping in my own bubble, just me & Louise. Felt strange not supporting local cafes & shops, but I kept to myself & having Louise meant I was once again contained!

Christmas I was so lucky my son Chris could make it. It was the only family meetup we could have, but with the power of technology, video calls with my daughter & hubby, helped bring them closer. I cannot tell you what it meant, but maybe these pictures do.

So after he left & before we went into higher tier, one last wild camp in the mountains. But no, 2020 had one last surprise for me! Off I went, got up to the top, pitched my tent, unpacked & went to lit the gas & voila…the gas would not ignite, no matter what I tried.

So I packed up, the sun was going down & the temperature dropping on already snowy, icy paths, but you know, it was the most magical experience. This no longer felt that I was being robbed of a camp, but more that I was being given a very sensory & beautiful gift.

So that is my 2020 in a nutshell. What can I take from it. Family & friends have helped me get through the loneliness I have felt. You may not be mentioned here, but you know who you are. I have not been able to see all of them this year, but we have checked up on one another, made sure we are all ok & for that I am very blessed.

I am stronger mentally then sometimes I give myself credit for & I am fitter than I allow myself to believe at times.

But I am truly blessed that I have my family & friends & I have this passion for walking as all three take me & allows me to experience most wonderful moments.

Thank you x

Highland Adventures

With 9 days booked off it was time for my trusty companion Louise my campervan & I go off exploring….first stop Shiel Bridge. The night I arrived it was a warm still night, the start of a good few days weather.

Day 1 a walk & wild camp up the Affric Kintail Way – was not sure how far I was going to get had no plan I had decided on two nights out. It was a glorious start to the day, the sun was shining beautiful blue skies & not a soul about, my companion was the sounds of the river keeping me company as I walked.

Once I got to the end, I came across an old wooden bridge which used to cross the river, after going on just a little bit, I came to a brand new bridge – phew did not fancy getting my feet wet on what is quite deep water. I started to walk up over the top – by this time the weather was hot, no wind at all, which from what I have heard is a miracle on this route. The views looking down were spectacular, but I was struggling in the heat.

Not long after getting to the top, I spied a spot & the first thing I did was sit myself down on my folding chair – I was tired – so tired in fact there are no pictures! That night & the following night though I had company, a Stag & his herd on the top of the mountains behind me. I find the grunt sound comforting & loved listening to it. During lockdown I kept the image of a wild camp at Barrisdale where the deer come down off the hills to take water & the stag there would grunt all night – that sound & image gave me great comfort at time when lockdown became a very isolated place to be.

Day 2. Will not go into details but suffice to say I was suffering from an upset stomach, I think I had a touch of heat stroke, so was not feeling 100%. I decided to stay where I was but walk out further on the trail with just my hip bag. So off I went to carry on down the trail to nearly the Youth Hostel, I have to say again the weather was hot, but this time there was a little breeze which certainly helped.

It is a lovely walk with gentle undulations, amazing scenery wherever you look. Met a few people on the way & said hello – with suitable social distancing of course!

Day 3 Time to get back to civilisation & to Louise so walk back down the valley on a much cooler but pleasant day. I was a little worried about the descent as in places the path was narrow & rocks were slippy, not a problem on a uphill, but I lack sometimes the confidence on a downhill. However, despite not feeling 100% I managed fine & as normal I was worrying about something, that was no need to worry about! However, I had to pass some Highland Cattle, which I was not too happy about & took a wide berth!

Day 4 – Woke to a wet Scotland morning, after a little bit of thought I was only an hour away from Skye & I love Skye – so decided Louise & I were off on a midi road trip. Did not do much but had a drive around, stopped & had lunch in Louise at Elgol – a place that holds a fond memories of previous visits, where I took a boat out to see the seals & wildlife, also the highland cattle roam & are surprisingly friendly as they mix with people on the beach, even I relaxed – just a bit – yes good memories.

On way back had to stop at Sligachan & take this photo of the water, it was so powerful the rain coming off the hills & onto the river & out onto the loch. Despite the rain, it was so worth a stop – I find the power of water fascinating, we have no control over it whatever we try, it will always find its own way.

Day 5 – well the plan was to go back to Barrisdale & wild camp for two nights, to park at Loch Hourn & walk out. As I have mentioned earlier, it is a place with memories that gave me great comfort on lockdown. However it was not meant to be, soon after leaving Shiel Bridge, I was caught in a road closure, due to car accident which was going to take several hours to clear. So with a look at a map & a text to a friend for advice & a phone call to a campsite – Louise & I were on our way to Cannich! Was not disappointed by the campsite, set in woodlands, very friendly & social distancing in place.

I decided to stretch my legs & took a woodland walk nearby as by this time it was afternoon. On my way back down, I sat at the bench & reflected on the disappointment of not getting to Barrisdale, but it will always be there & I was lucky, I was safe & well & so was Louise.

Day 6 As this was never planned after looking at the map, Louise & I took off up the road to Loch Affric. I decided to get back on the Affric Kintail Trail & approach the Youth Hostel from the opposite direction. I decided I would just keep walking & see how far I got. On reflection what I should have done is gone down one side & come back on the other – but that is the plan for my next visit. Again it was a lovely track I was surprised by how much ascent there is on these walks & as for the distance, well that was my fault, I kept on walking & kind of forgot I had to walk back!!

But I loved it & every now again my Stag would grunt & I knew I was okay.

I came across this fantastic Fisherman Hut – well I presume it was a Fisherman hut as it had a launch onto the loch. I thought what a lovely place to hide away….

By the time I finished my walk the sun was going down…

Day 7 Louise & I were on the road again to our planned stop at Fort Augustus, the weather had turned to be cloudy & rather cool. Before leaving Cannich I went up to Plodda Falls Forest, I had seen the sign the previous day & was intrigued enough to go & have an explore. The road up there was interesting & I don’t think Louise was impressed with the pot holes, nor the fact she had to drive on the wrong side of the road to avoid them! However, I was impressed by the falls & the walk that followed through the forest.

Day 8 okay I found a walk that took me out of Fort Augustus up through Glen Doe to Lochan a Choire Ghais. It was an ascent up in total over 778m but I felt good & was surprised how well I was feeling, despite the fact I had walked out each day. I realise my powerwalking is doing me good with my fitness & stamina. Anyway on my way up I came across an inquisitive Highland Cow…just on the other side of the path, not moving just looking at me. With my heart in my mouth as it was far too close for comfort, I had my escape route at the ready & gingerly walked as far as I could away from it, always knowing it may well be waiting for me on the return!

The views going up were beautiful – felt a world removed to the busy town of Fort Augustus.

After arriving at the Loch it was time for my final walk down back to Louise before travelling back home the following day.

And the Highland Cattle on the way back….bit like me worrying about a descent, when there is no need to. It was back with its herd, which I am glad to say was far removed from the track.

Day 9 – my journey home was a long one due to another road closure! But I managed to see Glencoe again & pay my respects at the Commando Memorial near Fort William.

I loved my trip, Louise worked well, plans changed but that was okay as long as Louise & I were alright & in one piece.

I have great affinity with Scotland, it is part of my ancestry, it is a place that I always feel like I am being drawn to & that it could be my home – maybe it will one day – who knows what the future holds.

In the meantime though, thank you Scotland you let me have a share of you for a wee while, the sounds of your rivers & waterfalls, your wildlife, with the stag & its herd, the birds singing & your mountains & tracks which you let me roam & I left leaving only footprints & very good memories.

Louise & Jenny – Cheviot Hills

After not being able to go the Pyrenees due to lockdown, I thought it gave me an opportunity to go to Northumberland to explore the Cheviot Hills.

I did think about not using a campsite & Louise & I just going where we fancy, but with the current situation, I thought it was safer to be on a campsite. I booked into a campsite at Wooler, Highburn House Holiday Park. Not normally my cup of tea so to speak as it was normally a large campsite with children facilities etc, but as there was no tents allowed & facilities closed down it lent itself to a much quieter site, then I think as normal.

Wooler though is a brilliant place to centrally locate yourself to the Cheviots – easy access to anywhere.

Day 1 eased my hill legs gently into this walking malarky & went up Yeavering Bell, well it would have been eased in if I had not ‘misplaced myself’ on the start of the walk! Easily done I tell myself. So after a little detour, all kilometres for my yearly tracker, off I went out of Wooler, followed part of the St Cuthbert Way & then up through the forest to following the rolling hills up to the top of Yeavering Bell then a circular back to Wooler – a grand day out.

Day 2 now I was all warmed up, Louise & I set off to find the start of the walk up to The Cheviot. We followed a single track road down the Harthrope Valley & started our walk from near Langleeford. The drive in & out was beautiful, both of us were a little nervous of meeting cars on the single track & Louise only had to breathe in once or twice to allow cars to pass!

The walk follows the river to start with before climbing up gently again through the rolling hills. Plenty of time for ‘photo opportunities’ i.e. getting your breath! Again I ‘misplaced myself’ common theme here as you can see & involved a bit of a tricky bum walk down, but hey ho all the joys of walking somewhere new.

It was a steady climb up & when I thought I was nearly there, no there was one more climb to go, always the way. However the views were amazing from the top. For once I was lucky with the weather & did not have to don my normal attire of the wet weather look!

Day 3 – I spoke to soon, the wet weather came in so a road trip for Louise & I off to St Abbs to a smokery to replenish supplies & as the weather dried up, off we went to Bamburgh for a beach walk. After that as the afternoon drew to a close I visited St Cuthberts cave where it was reported the monks of Lindisfarne brought his body after the Vikings raided Lindisfarne, before taking him on to Durham Cathedral.

Day 4 – the wet weather continued but was not going to waste the day, so waterproofs at the ready off Louise & I drove down the Beamish valley, another single track road of passing places. So from Hartside I walked up to Chesters & up another ascent to Salters Track, then onto Little Dodd where the wind came whistling down the valley & then a short diversion to avoid my four legged friends the cows, before coming back to Louise. This was a lovely walk & I have vowed to do this again in good weather, because I believe the views would have been amazing!

Day 5 – This has been on my bucket list for a long time, Windy Gyle & as the sun made another appearance it was boots on & Louise & I drove off down another valley road to Barrowburn. I was given this route by a social media friend, Martin Lawton, who gave me a fantastic route, with scenery that was eye watering at times. Thank you Martin.

So off I went from Barrowburn, up The Street, onto the Pennine Way where I sat & had a boots with a view moment & took time in to look at the Cheviot Hills in front, most of which I had walked over the last few days. It was a time not to rush, but just to savour, fill those memory boxes & just be thankful that you love walking so much, you get to enjoy such wonders. I met some mountain goats – did a bit of a double take as did not expect to see them!

After a final push up the summit of Windy Gyle, I was not disappointed. Sometimes when you want to do something so much, when it comes to it, it can be a bit of a disappointment, this was not. It is not known Windy Gyle for nothing, windswept Jenny came in to action.

I then took the descent through the meadows, again, another diversion of taking a very wide path to avoid the cows was required, where I let out a sigh of relief as I closed the gate behind me. But what a walk, truly stunning, thank you Martin.

Day 6 – Another lovely day of weather, so off I went to walk the Pilgrims Way, with nothing but sand under my feet (& mud at one point) & the local seal colony in full voice with birds also in full chorus. It is a very atmospheric walk & one to be experienced. Holy Island itself was busy & after a quick scoot around the island I walked back to the safety of Louise.

Day 7 – my final day, the sun shone brightly, so again Louise & I set off to Dunstanburgh Castle & walked St Oswald Way to Crasters. I stopped for lunch & watched the dolphins play in the sea, chasing the boats & giving us all a sight to behold. Once I was in Crasters it was time to visit another smoke house to bring back some lovely delicacies – oh & I may have had an ice cream before returning back to Louise.

I had a lovely holiday in Northumberland, I found the people incredibly friendly, Louise got quite a bit of attention as she is not your average VW campervan, being slightly smaller etc. She does of course do a great sunset or two!

If you have not been to Northumberland, I do highly recommend it, the walking is fantastic, so much choice for every ability. Northumberland, thank you for a great time, Louise & I will be back!

Lockdown

Lockdown it brings so many feelings & emotions already that word.

How am I feeling about it as we start week 4. Well I am lonely, it is okay to say that, nothing ashamed in saying that statement, I am lonely. I am used to interacting with people during my working day & meeting up with friends & family at weekends & that has suddenly been taken away. Its okay if I choose to have a weekend by myself, which do not get me wrong, I do enjoy a weekend in Louise my campervan & walking the hills on my own. But there is a subtle difference, it is my choice.

The good news is, I have not had an argument with myself, always a bonus! I do find I am talking to myself more, but that ok, we generally agree on most things!!

So what the positives, there are always positives!!

I have found I have the most amazing neighbours!! We have a wapp group for our street. We have coffee gate every day, we make birthday cakes to help celebrate during this difficult time, I find a chocolate Easter egg on my doorstep to cheer me up, the list is endless.

I have discovered loads of new walks from my doorstep & met a Shetland pony on my travels!

I have had the most amazing sunsets & sunrises from the prom

I have also turned my hand to a bit of painting & gardening, which my wee little house is so pleased about.

I am also very grateful for the bird song I wake to every morning as I lie in bed. I am loving the bird song as I explore new walks. I love the way I feel nature is getting a little louder & flowers appear to be on so bright.

But most important what I have learnt, is no matter what, I have my family, my friends & made new friends through the lockdown & we all have our health.

I am not going to feel guilty when I have a bad day or a bit of a wobble. It is perfectly normal & like loneliness, it is okay to say & feel it & let others know.

What I do know is we will all get through this, I believe it will be a very different world & you know, I am actually looking forward to how it will look.

Moving on

As everyone who knows me, the last 18 months have been tough.

We all have work issues, I am sure a lot of us would rather not work, but rather follow our hobby or leisure interests. But we are in the real world, where bills need to be paid & to indulge in our interests those need to be funded.

Being in a work environment where you are constantly made to feel worthless, is like a bad relationship. It is constant, day after day, chipping away at you, eventually it becomes ingrained & you believe what you hear. You truly start to believe when they say you are useless at your job, you feel you have no voice, no opinion, you become worthless.

How do you break that cycle. Well as the bullies are chipping away, family & good friends are too. They keep reinforcing what a good person you are, your opinion does matter, they want to hear your voice, they ask for your opinion.

Then you start to fight back, a little at a time. In my case I scuttled off in Louise, took the weekends to recharge batteries, talk to strangers who want to hear your adventures, who think what you have done & are doing is incredible & shows a strength of personality.

So little seeds start to grow, you put out feelers, in my case CVs, you get a few knock backs, but with help of family & friends, you dust yourself off & you start again.

Then you get the news, someone thinks you have something to offer & they want you to be part of that team. You feel elated & think perhaps I am not totally worthless.

You close the door on the bullies, you open a new door to new work beginnings. No one knows what the future may be, but like all new relationships, you have to take those tentative first steps.

I got thanked at the end of my first week, for all my hard work & the difference I had already made. I cannot tell you how that made me feel.

So it may take time, but I will move on. I will dust myself down, I will find the Jenny who has been hidden for so long.

My advice… remember it is not you, it is them that has the problem.

You are the better person, you & only you have the power to change your destiny. But remember you are never alone, family & friends will always come & start the new walk with you…

As one chapter finishes..

So as another long & rather painful chapter of my life closes, another one opens.

The last 12 months in particular have not been easy at work. The constant chip, chip, like a mason at work, on my confidence & abilities has taken its toll & I know will take some time to recover. I am resilient but it has even stretched me.

But tomorrow after my last day, a new door opens, no idea where it will take me, but I am holding on & going for the ride!!

What has got me through….well certainly Louise…

She has certainly helped in me escaping most weekends & grabbing the freedom she has given me despite the weather.

But family, friends & my lovely Twitter community, some of whom I have been lucky to meet…have supported me & got me through these particular dark & difficult last few weeks.

My countdown days have sparked fun & banter & I thank them all for that.

So with best foot forward, it is time to brush myself down, sleep a little, love myself a little, find my true smile & inner self & start again.

Jenny will be back…god help us all!!

Ready for a 10 day road trip – better than sitting on a sofa…

Well I am tantalising close to go off in Louise for our longest trip – 10 days in total to one of my favourite places, Scotland. Scotland feels like home, I have Scottish blood in me, my birth father was Scottish, it all makes sense to me.

I know some may think I go off most weekends & how lucky I am, but it helps in keeping the loneliness at bay. I work hard, make sacrifices & have to work with Muppets to keep her.

When I go off in Louise I meet some incredible & interesting people from all walks of life who leave a good foot print on my soul. This photo of a lady is one I walked with, but not in the direction I intended, but she was too interesting not too, I still think about her.

As my favourite expression goes, this walking malarky…. is better than sitting on a sofa!

So with only a day to go, Louise is packed & ready.

But you know the most exciting thing, I know I am going to meet interesting people with stories to tell, I know I am going to experience being out on the hills, I know I am going to fill those memory boxes, but I just don’t know what they are yet…

Louise…

Louise is my campervan.

Nothing strange about that, but I have wanted a campervan for years. Just the thought it would bring freedom, the open road, you can park up wherever you wish. Boundaries are suddenly gone.

I had another ‘lightbulb’ moment in Skye, whilst spreading some of my Mum’s ashes in the Fairy Pools at Glen Brittle.

It was a particular bad spell in weather & I was sitting it out, a string of events then made me think that a campervan was possible.

I came home & started my research. Within a week I had sorted funds & disposed of my nearly new car for a run around!

I gained advice from people who had one. My Twitter friend Gary was a great source after he had bought & converted his own van.

So with encouragement from a very good friend, I went a hunting. After a few dead ends & some dubious offerings(!), we went to Newcastle & I met Louise & knew she had to be mine. It took some negotiations, but I got her.

Why the name Louise. It is very simple, my birth Mum sadly passed away this year, it was the name she gave me when I was born. My sister Denine in her commeration, called her an adventurer & I knew she would be really happy the opportunities Louise would give me.

So 3 weeks later I picked her up.

The following day I took Louise to Eskdale in the Lakes.

We had a lovely weekend. I was wondering how driving a van would feel. But driving on the country roads behind the wheel, I felt so good & knew it would not be a problem.

I went for a walk, followed by a celebratory prosecco & a celebration meal of steak, onions & potatoes.

What I have loved is my friends response to Louise. I am a big Twitter fan, I have met so many people from Twitter. Their response to Louise is amazing & my friends encourage & embrace Louise & our adventures!

Someone recently suggested Louise should have her own Twitter account…maybe…let us see!!