Lands End to Cape Wrath

      > Introduction
      > Getting Out There
      > 1. Lands End - Bude
      > 2. Bude - Severn Bridge
      > 3. Severn Bridge - Liverpool
      > 4. Liverpool - Arnside
      > 5. Arnside - Carlisle
      > 6. Carlisle - Ardrossan
      > 7. Ardrossan - Oban
      > 8. Oban - Mallaig
      > 9. Mallaig - Badrallach
      > 10. Badrallach-Kinlochbervie
      > 11. Kinlochbervie - Durness
      > Kit List
      >
Daily Schedule

 

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Lands End to Cape Wrath
 

SEVERN BRIDGE TO LIVERPOOL
A month out, Hergest Ridge, choosing a night spot, getting super-duper organised, Eglwyseg Mountain.

Onto Offaís Dyke after a good (that is very good) lunch in Chepstow Sunday lunch in Wales roasted chicken dinner all the trimmings.


Lunch in Wales.

Early summer of 85 I walked Offaís Dyke. 12 days that came gradually to represent strength and care free youth. Real or imagined.

20 years later almost to the day, here we go again.

Wild Garlic and Buttercups.

5.30 Oíclock in Brockwier and I was sitting on the bank of the river Wye laughing and drunk. Hilarious and surreal evening with 3 Sikh guys having a party after a Sunday market in Chepstow. Celebrate a successful day with a bottle of Vodka, (then another one) before their journey back to Edgbaston (but not cricket fans). We cooked curry and sang songs and did the declaring eternal friendship before they boarded their van, (the driver one of them sober and bemused) and I wandered for a couple of miles up stream to a lush green camp spot by the river.


Wye side company.

In the morning there were Swans riding the rapids. I mean twirling and twisting like on a tyre swing. There it is: Fulmars dig the thermals on the cliffs, Swans dig the rapids.

Searching then for a spot in the woods beyond Bigswier Bridge where a lonely and doubtful 24 year old had spent a wet night in a bivi-bag.
I think I found it among the mossy rocks and perhaps caught a fleeting glimpse of him too, still around somewhere but I donít know.

A lovely rich wood and soft and green ferny, tumbling boulders and oaks in their prime.

Spent the afternoon walking into Monmouth with fellow rucksack man Peter. He sat down beside me to share lunchtime on a hillside above the river Wye and we decided to walk on together. Friendly enthusiastic early retired lawyer and lots of time to walk.

The first time I wasnít walking on my own. Hard to walk and talk at the same time, but lovely to share excitement and be taken out of myself.

Campsite by the old bridge gate in Monmouth and out across rolling farm land to Pandy the next day and then the Black Mountains.

I was looking forward to the Black Mountains, especially a route across that I had walked a couple of years before. Not the Offaís Dyke route but up to the hill fort Twyn Y Gaer and north along the central ridge from there.

Confluence of experiences:

It was a strange sensation to arrive there by foot, one month on foot, somewhere I had previously visited by car or motor cycle from London. So following a path I had walked a little less than 2 years earlier. The solstice weekend 2003. No ticket for Glastonbury so making sure I was having my own little time anyway.

I had camped on that hill fort, now having lunch on the spot I had camped. Somehow like 2 dreams had met each other. Sounding like romantic nonsense but it was kind of exhilarating, disorientating; that dream is now inside this one or this one inside that one as just 2 years ago my head was full of plans and excitement for this trip.

So thatís what Iím doing, dreaming. These walks are dreams, a different state of consciousness or more awake? Waking up?

And the whole thing, re-walking long ago walked paths? 20 years ago on Offaís Dyke. Not sure about it because Iím finding I remember so little and memories donít tally or only vaguely and comparisons and expectations.

Finding I just need to walk it now, for the first time, be here and stop searching to relive past glowing moments.

 
Along beside Grwyn Fawr reservoir.

I was heading for the Grwyne Fawr bothy. I had peeped into it those 2 years before and thought ooh yes, a night in a bothy might make a change. Good decision as it turned out . Windy and wet and I was cosy. No company though.

It was there however in the fading light after Chilly Chorizo and Apricot Polenta Supreme, that at last music did find itís way in (out).

Harmonica. (Lee Oskar B flat diatonic), Iíd been carrying. Get it out  and entertain myself.

Danny Boy.

And continued self indulgence with The Foundations;

Why do you build me up

Buttercup baby just to let me down.

Mess me around and then worst off all (worst of all)

You never call baby when you say you will

But I love you stillÖÖ

Much fun and guaranteed to lift spirits with suck blow oxygen flooding the brain. (on my own in a bothy somehow more lonely than the tent)

The next morning off the square edge of Hey Bluff, rich Bilberry and I was building my repertoire. All kinds of excitement I was going to have with this.

Hay on Wye, a day off and catching a cold but also beginning to think/believe that I had left them behind !(:o:)! Ooch had taken their leave and decided really all this was not for them. Sedentary types actually and if itís all the same to you weíll say goodbye now and have a nice life. Peter the other day suggested an article for The Lancet.  

 

Diary entry. Thursday 19 May.

Hay on Wye

4 weeks and a day out, been walking for a month. BEEN WALKING FOR A MONTH!

I walked here, how can that be? How has it been?

Blimey.

The experience of each day being different, stacking one on top of the other.

Where is it in my legs? What have I of it? Where has it gone.

Text from Nick:

ďEasy Lad it will all go very quickly, donít rush but well done!Ē

Am I rushing? Plan was to cruise up through Offaís Dyke; can I do that?

What am I doing?

What does it feel like Iím doing?

Doing the walking thing, trying to find something, the connection with what?

The world the sky the earth the the. Wanting to be in it and of it. Is this the way?

How am I getting on with that?

The delight though; finding I can do it. Hey look Iím doing it, proving it! The system works.

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Nearly there now. Finding the inclination to put pen to paper. Perhaps do It like this; tell a story.


Hergest Ridge night spot.

Sat 21 May. Hergest Ridge.

Imagine the delight, youíve found a spot on the top of a hill. A big round hill just over from the top, taking shelter offered by some low Gorse.

You got up there around 5.30-6.00. Itís been a day full of weather, clouds lumbering over threatening rain and delivering around lunch time. In a saturated hay barn through a long heavy shower that sat on top for over an hour. Changing the colour of the day but moving away to allow the grass to dry by late afternoon.

So on top of this hill, 423 meters, sun in and out of towering storm clouds. Round grassy hills and lumpy mountains in all directions. Big views. Yeah! Clear air. Hill sides lit up in late sunshine.

Tent up super-duper organised and into warm evening gear. Exploring and gazing about and standing on top of the trig point for singing and dancing, stretch and shake and loosen up tight shoulders, breath and celebrate. Proclaiming youíre territory Saturday night, no one else around, all yours.

Chilly wind though and possibly more rain coming up from the south east. Itís currently dumping on that there lumpy mountain you walked over the day before yesterday.

So action. You need to get cooking, get on with it before that rain arrives.

Into the food bags and the stove, pots and pans and chopping and frying. Concentrate with a job to do. Half an hour and there you are, sitting with a mug of fennel tea and big (waiting to cool) pot of Cheesy Chilly Chorizo and Apricot Pollenta De-lux.

Sitting with sunset and rainbow and yeah.

Another half an hour itís raining but youíre well fed and super-duper organised inside your tent. Washing up done even. (Grassy mossy hand-full, very nice scourer).

And the realisation dawns:

Yup. This is why I came and why I carry all this stuff. Haul it all along across these hills. Urgh, aching back and flat feet being driven into the ground, to be able to do it like this. Do it in style. Cross the landscape, wind across the face of the earth like this. Be out here and in it.

A month out ďIíve been walking for a monthĒ feels good to say, to myself and anyone else I can foist it onto.

ďIíve walked up from Landís End, yeah all the way, not for charity no, just pure self indulgenceĒ.

But enjoying the feeling of achieving something here. Getting my teeth into this and now somehow feeling that itís not so difficult. Hey you know this isnít so difficult, not so hard not so difficult no no.

And you know this is a groovy tent. I can sit inside it reclining and relaxed on Thermarest seat, sleeping bag wrapped over my legs. Fly sheet zipped up with a little flap open to peer out through. Gone 9 Oíclock, dark coming on, 49.8į.

Plink and rattle of rain, gentle flapping. Iím here dry and more or less warm, feet only cold really. Super confident Iíll be cosy through the night.

And to avoid staggering out into the rain and cold at 3 in the morning? Logical and considered, use 1 litre water bottle to pee in. Just a faint ammonia kind of tang the next day  thatís all. Just get into what you have to, itís a life style choice.

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The next three days Kington, Knighton and the Clun hills. Stormy wet and carrying a cold. A bit of a struggle, enjoying the green green rolling-ness, the kind of country Iíd like to live but very tired and with a growing focus on an approaching break. Not the gentle stroll through the hills that Iíd anticipated. Feverish small hours dark flapping tent brews of fennel tea with ginger to help down paracetamol.


Night spot No 33 south of Knighton.

Monday May 23

Lunchtime shelter from biting wind in a hilltop barn.

Out today on Offaís Dyke this morning following a fine high slowly twisting section of the dyke out across wide open hills in the wind and squally rain fast moving weather in from the west. Iím walking along behind the dyke to find shelter. Look right; gorse in bloom and small bunches of low conifers behind fences, look left; the grassy bank of the dyke and open pasture beyond. Look up; clouds racing east in the blue sky. Look down and arms and legs and stick in right hand and straps Gortex and boots back and forth in the grass; body working there it is doing itís thing and with this the landscape changing from moment to moment slowly moving past and the actual sensation is not like but is actually having all this on the top of my shoulders. There is nothing on top of my shoulders but what is out there all around is right here and what is right here is everything all around.

Distance and difference is dissolved, the curve of the horizon is no closer or further from me than the squint and sting of runny eyes in the wind. Through some kind of strange mechanism I have the power to throw it all around at will. I can lift a left arm and point at a far off tree and in the same way I can disappear the tree, send it sliding off to the left or turn it upside down.


Out across ????


Clun Hills above Hergan.

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Tues 24 May

Choosing the night spot. Another True Story,

The thing about deciding where and when to stop. No set destination but 4 basic possibilities:

Wild camp, camp site, farm camp, bed.

The bed might be a BnB or a Youth Hostel. Iím 5 weeks in and I havenít done a Youth Hostel yet. Iíve got this thing going on about beds though, a macho thing.  Iím carrying all this stuff and whatís the point of doing that if I just check in. Beat myself up, got to do it properly. ďYou camping?Ē ďOh yesĒ.

So judging by that Iím my hero so far. (whoís judging).

34 nights 23 in the tent.

I can find a campsite. Lots of those along the Cornish coast but more intermittent since then. They have to be in the right zone, around 15 miles at 5 or 6 oíclock ish. Itís great to have a shower but what I should (oh dear that word) be doing is the wild thing. Cheeky and independent and strong outlaw vagabond wild man. The earth belongs to me I camp where I like.

Second best I guess is the knock on the farmerís door option. This might be a great spot anyway and I donít have to worry about water, messing around in a stream with tabs and strange green tastes.  Knock on a barn door and ask if thereís a corner of a field. Almost always there is a welcome and often a cup of tea as well. Chatting in the yard, whatís going on, silage and gangs steeling quad bikes.

So this evening Iím trodding along, down out of the Clun Hills and across the lovely rich rolling plain past Montgomery. Feeling good around 5 but with this cold and knowing I need to stop soon. Where when what?

Is this delightful freedom or worry and doubt?

No campsites marked on the map but often along Offaís Dyke you find signs by the path; farms offering camping to walkers.

Too dense agriculture for a wild spot. I donít want to annoy anyone just plonking down.

Get this trusting attitude: itíll be fine, something always turns up.

The beasts of the field and the birds of the air.

Strolling and checking out the fields and the farms.

Climbing a low hill and over a stile and up there on the right thereís an old farm house with lush meadow below. 4 or 5 acres swooping down to the Dyke itself.

Not a farm but not a garden garden.

So I wandered up said hello and here I am. I have a nice spot under a big old Oak that is just coming out all fresh and green. Itís even home to a Rookery, an extra bonus. Iím huddled in my tent now while they conduct their twilight tooís and froís, sorting out loads of important stuff, deciding whether or not to take up my offer and come with me.

A cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit from Mr and Mrs in the house, fantastic. Chat about dreadful London parking and how Mr had walked to Knighton with his son in one day a couple of years ago. That was welcome and cosy, feeling a little starved of human contact and conversation.

Having a cold. Should I be in bed and resting? Should I give in to it or ignore it and walk it off? Inclined to do the latter. Will it go onto my chest and pneumonia in my tent? But I can do the fluids thing. We have the capability.

Cold and shivery and making extra special that moment each morning when I have to crawl out of my bag and put on my everyday walking tee shirt still damp and clammy smelly from yesterday and a week. Lovely.

And the joy of Gaiters: take the time to strap them on, fiddle with the zip gunged up and stuck with peaty mud and then invincible. Leap and stride out through bogs and brambles and allow them to flop down to add a jaunty aspect to my passage through the wetlands. Also made the mistake of listening to The Best Of Bruce Springsteen on my day off with Jane and Julian. So (SUI) all the way it seemed through Wales;

Workin neeth the sun

Liable to get your back burned

Working neeth the wheel

Better get your  facts learned

Baby I got my facts learned real good right nowÖ

Poor man wanna be rich

Rich man wanna be kingÖÖ
 

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Next day Wednesday 26 May, over Beacon hill, round the hill fort and down into the Severn valley. Meeting that river again. A frustrating day, pushing along to get a pub lunch when I had food enough in my pack. Losing focus with chips and beer getting into my head and being unsatisfied with the idea of cheese and oat cakes.

Finding the pub was closed so walking myself into the ground along the Canal (Shropshire Union) tow path 2 miles on to reach another pub before 2 oíclock, didnít make it and eventually stopped for cheese and oatcakes anyway and slept for an hour in the sun by a lock gate at Pool Quay. A low point, up tight exhausted actually.

5 days off!

Thursday morning on the bus from Four Crosses to Shrewsbury and the train back down to Leominster.

5 days with Vivienne and my Mother and Father. Really needing to rest and with a different feeling to the Bristol stop 4 weeks earlier.

I stepped out and the walk was gone.

No longer me out there, some other bloke. Not anxious to get going again, feeling more confident with all that distance achieved and relaxed I think resting.

Monday 13 May, a lift back with my Mother and Father to Four Crosses in the late afternoon. Round on the Shropshire Union Canal to Llanyminych, past a father and son who proudly showed me an enormous pike they had just caught and past also a busy scene of sheep penned up in the corner of a field being shorn behind a Land rover. Seasons moving on and making neat and naked some of those very straggly ewes Iíd been meeting out on the hills; looking and sounding (and behaving) like Betty Davis in Whoís Afraid Of Baby Jane.

Llanyminych for a Chinese take away and up to camp on the beautiful little limestone Llanyminych Hill.

Up above the Severn valley perched on a ledge looking south with a carpet of yellow nodding floppy rock roses.

Dismay the next day at feeling even more exhausted with the pack outrageously heavy. No spring in my step, too clean and detached from the path.

A long day preoccupied with tiredness and out of rhythm. Having to push on also in the evening up and over Chirk Castle. Farmer he say sorry no camping on National Trust land. Eventually finding a BnB at  Froncysyllte, tent up in the garden and sharing supper with rabbits and a hungry macaw after my supper but with no taste for raw onion.


Company.

Energy about to change again though.

Diary Entry. Wed 1 June.

Eglwyseg Mountain

Days go in different ways, this is how this one went.

Alarm set for 7.30, Breakfast in the house at 8.00. Itís been a good day. Now snuggled in tent at 5.30. 1 June 2005 have a piece of chocolate, celebrate 6 weeks today from Landís End.

I had the idea a week or so ago (Hergest Ridge), to tell the story of days, every now and then when it moves me and that would be a way into keeping this diary.  I guess thatís what a diary is.

So hereís today: Breakfast in BnB after camping in the garden. Yup, nice people, human connection. ďI donít know how much to charge, what do you usually pay?Ē

Away by 9.45, slow start down the hill to re-acquaint with the Shropshire Union Canal and along in the drizzle to the ??? aqueduct.

Watching narrow boats sliding across, strangely incongruous is boats floating on water high up in the air.

Wobble across to Pontcysyllte with interesting shapes of sewerage works from above and then away along the rocky river Dee. Drizzly rain but warm and enjoying the wet green Welsh-ness of it. I was feeling tired yesterday, first full day after the break. Disappointed at feeling tired, lured into expectation of energy boost after resting.

Anyway aiming at a short 10 mile day today. Slowly up through the trees leaving the river and Trevor behind. Up up and round towards Castle Dinas, ruins in the mist on top of a pointy hill. Sinister, must come back and visit, a groovy place to spend the night.

Along under the crags of Eglwyseg Mountain. Fantastic walk under cliffs and across skree slopes. A revelation actually, especially with the drama of low mist and rain sweeping across, opening up occasionally to show hills piling off to the west.

Arriving at Worlds End at about 3.00.  I was thinking yup, stop early, do 10 miles and have a short day. Find a spot up on top, collect water first (donít know if there will be any up there), then up the hill and out of the wind.

Worlds End, where the road winds through a steep little ravine and the water just comes a bubbling out of the ground. You can hear it rushing through down below tunnels. Limestone must be.

So 6.22 now thinking about food. Resting through the afternoon. Getting into massaging my feet to energise and try and relieve bruised soles. The main and only complaint I have at the moment bruised soles; after lying down for any length of time, ouch it hurts to walk. Luckily this wears off after a few minutes hobbling around, creaky old geezer out of tent trying to wake up this body in the morning.

The experience of being up here alone. 480meters 57į, windy damp and foggy, not so cold. Lonely desolate but very beautiful. This is where Iíve chosen to be on June 1st. (Grim weather actually June 1st).

Putting myself in this position. I have seekered out a wild and lonely place.

It would be nice to get indoors and have a bath but Iíve got everything I need. Warm enough dry and safe, trusting of my tent and gear and everything. Mountain Safety Research.

Edge of doubt but reassuring myself, Everything is cool.

Iíve put myself here looking for something. Some kind of experience, reality, ideal, romantic assumption expectation.

The something about being in these places. Out here I am, chasing something, to reach out and connect with the planet.

Take me back to the

Mother

Mother

Mother

Mother

Mother ship

 

Ravens circling and groak in the fog and a buzzard soaring out of the valley and shooting across the top of the hill.

Sitting writing but actually I must get out of the tent and watch it all for a while.

Eat first though....

Now 10 Oíclock. Tucked up for bed, weather unchanged, perhaps a little less windy.

I ate a pre-pack dehydrated meal and a hot chocolate with flap jack mixed in pudding.

Wavering at times; between delight out here on my own, then into glimpses of some heavy doubt. Frustration with thick cloud on my head and teasing blue sky windows.

Larks and grouse and I think an out hunting hen harrier quartering the hillside.

Sitting with all my clothes on and staring and listening to the radio for a time, Wagner but too busy.

Also a long excited electric telephone talk with Mark.

Mark way back college friend, actually who was due to meet me to walk on that 1982 Cornish coastal path. On the Cliffs east of Fowey we hung around waiting and calling for each other on a summer evening but never connected. So we walked on to Plymouth each on our own a few hours apart.  

Very good to hear his enthusiasm and how he understands why Iím a doing this.

I need that to re-enforce it for myself and feel strong. Yeah Iím doing something fantastic, just open your eyes and relax. Gonna work on him to come and join me and do that bit of walking together that we never managed back then. (when the world was young).

It feels very normal now in the tent, Super-Duper organised.

Getting dark, breakfast muesli soaking.

With the help of the harmonica and the wondrous 4 on the floor pulse of the walking life (and inspirational hills), the seeds of songs are starting to emerge, actually just a few repeated lines, no real tune more for chanting to entertain me.

Actually my mind just telling me stories, giving me a running commentary on whatís going down.

Actually conversations between the various entities now inhabiting my head. (No Head).

Habit taking these and setting them to a fucked up bluesy Drum and Base kind of backing track.

Also providing the appropriate vocalist of my choice. The whole pantheon is at my disposal free of charge.

But Mr James Brown does sing in the style of The Funky President:

                                                            (Backing vocalist response in brackets)

Organised      (Organised)

You gotta be Super-Duper

Organised      (Organised)

You know you gotta be Super-Duper.

 

This to accompany the wondrous task of putting up tent, and sorting contents of pack ready for the evening. Every eventuality must be prepared for Ė Lazy-ness is sure to result in disaster. Unforeseen shower soaking sleeping bag, I donít know, anything could happen out here flash flood.  

Step 1. Locate the area, somewhere just up along here I shall spend the night. Pack off and find that extra bit of energy, just get on and do all this quickly then I can relax.

Step 2. Find the actual oblong tent location which must be just so: sheltered; level; flat; soft; dry, with a narrow end pointing into the apparent wind direction. Candidates are auditioned by first positioning inflated sleeping mat and lying down; thatís fine. Kick away any offending stones or sticks or thorny twigs that might puncture the tent and mat.

Step 3. Tent up.

Step 4. Get Super-Duper organised: Un pack rucksack and everything into tent that will be there for the night, clothes and sleeping bag and books and personal admin bags. In to the fly sheet lobby area; cooking stuff and food and empty rucksack.

Step 5. Boots off and change into evening gear according to weather conditions but generally out of sweaty damp walking all day gear.

Hallelujah dayís work done. Although now need to start thinking about cooking and going off to collect water if I havenít done that already.

Fri 3 June

You know what?

Ah hu?

Today has been the biggest surprise

 

Did you get it?

Do you get it?

Ah hu

Surprises today. Discovering the Dee Estuary and the Wirral coast. Sitting here in Thurstaton on the south coast of the Wirral peninsula. 8.30, tide now covering what was wide mud and channels when I arrived. Looking south back across to Wales. To the southeast the ridge of hills I came down from yesterday.  Sun sinking into the open estuary mouth to my right.

Tanskey Rocks and Dawpool Bank.

Walked out of Connerís Quay this morning after a big cafť fry up, expecting an ordinary stretch through suburbia on the way over to Liverpool.

Across the river Dee, round and through the out of the blue perfectly preserved but not precious little village of Shotwick (ďShotickĒ) Hearing there all about itís history from a farmer who was sadly about to sell up and go, exhausted and disappointed that his sonís were not interested in taking on the farm. From there on to Lunch in Burton and then down onto the coastal path. I could see it would be open and salt-marshy  from the map but not expecting such a wild and reedy soft and rustling the afternoon warming up and the estuary opening out.

Steel mills, power stations and the pointed exclamation of the road bridge reseeding east behind me. Wales across there and summer sunshine.

It all came together very nicely, 18 miles yesterday and still a spring in my step. Could almost call it a Mendip kind of day. Eyes wide open again and eating it up. Out of Wales and hey whatís next? bring it on. Yesterday a pushing on kind of day through tangled villages and ragged farmland, the hardest country for navigating I think. Roads and twisty paths that disappeared into thickets and stinging nettle swamps.


Scraggy farmland on the way out of Wales.

Wild Wales drifting into urban north west. Strange encounter with a long haired old hippy looking guy on crutches, standing at his gate with his pit bull and apparently dismayed by my lack of dog.

Barked ďall these walks and with no dogĒ Why walk if you have no dog? Angry somehow but not knowing about my Rookery sweeping round across the field behind his house.

Lunch in Trueddin, then Buckley for the next food parcel,  heading for a campsite on the map in Connahís Quay. Arriving there and it was a leap into the next phase. Half term and the campsite full (full!) with Liverpool families. Swing ball and the starkest change of accents to send my head reeling . Wales no more.

That was yesterday. Today, feeling very out here. Having the sense that this was my best expectation, this kind of excitement and energy. Wandering and covering ground, never been up in these parts , bumping into it and finding it lovely.


River Dee.

Iím just drifting along, I can stop and camp where I like, all on my back. See the world and feel of another incremental step. Key moments of building confidence and sense of achievement. Looking back at that day out of Padstow and Cow Castle and the Mendips and across the Severn Bridge. Iím doing this.

And see the path just like this:


Dee Estuary salt marsh.

Sun in and out of hazy clouds through reeds straight along the edge of the salt marsh. Single file path three feet wide stretching on ahead. Compact earth and roots, dry with reeds crowding in to brush against my legs. Reeds with wavy tops rising to head height on my right waist height on my left, out several hundred yards to the edge of the water. Kestrel stooping and hovering low along there. 

Wirral country  park; all very pretty and looked after. I was heading again for a campsite on the map which turned out to have been closed down just last year.

I spoke with a man unloading into his caravan for the weekend. He gave me water and told of how he used to camp there as a child but things were getting too rowdy, ďsmoke-insĒ. Shocking.

So Iím tucked away and waiting for dark before I put the tent up. Sense of needing to stay out of sight here. Wild party, young men driving cars coming across feller lying snoring vulnerable in his tent at 2.30am kind of fears, keep me paranoid awake. The sun still has a way to go yet and itís getting chilly so I might have to stomp around a bit.

Packing up and loading into my rucksack (the rucksack). Ahh packing it all in as follows:

First into the main inner compartment at the bottom of the canoe bag goes a plastic bag with all maps not currently in use, books and diaries, then the sleeping bag, tight in itís stuff sack out of the way not needed all day. On top of this slightly more accessible goes the clothes stuff sack to be fastened up tight safe and dry. These have to go in first; if I fill the side pockets first itís a struggle to get them in.

In the lower zip up compartment go the fuel bottles in their stuff sack and all the food. This will be divided between 2 stuff sacks and the 1 litre Tupper Ware type plastic container. A tight squeeze after a parcel pick up and for a few days the excess will go into the top of the central compartment.

Into the left hand side pocket looking from behind (although tell me which is the front and which is the back of a rucksack?) goes the stove in itís bag and the cook pots in their bag, chopping board and wooden spoon slid in flat down the side and then room for the rucksack rain cover in itís bag (cos everything has itís own little bag) and hat no 2.

Every morning packing it all away, a sacred task sometimes rushed and breathless in the anticipation of getting going, struggling with zips and forgetting something and having to open it all up again. Outside in the morning sun dry grass fresh breeze after breakfast or job of work squashed inside the tent in the rain. Wet mornings everything zipped and ship shape and waterproofs on then out and tent down and stowed sharpish with extra weight of water.

In the right hand side pocket goes the toiletries bag (the toiletries bag? my toiletries bag? All these things are they mine) and the 1 litre water bottle and the rubbish. All rubbish collected in a p plastic c carrier bag, smelly sardine tins till next bin.

In the front central outside pocket (what else to call it?) goes personal admin bag number 1, head torch, sun block and soap wrapped in a plastic bag.

In the top internal zippy pocket goes all money and cheque book and papers in a thick plastic stay dry underwater type holder. In the outside top zippy pocket goes personal admin bag number 2 and maps and books that might be needed today in another thick plastic stay dry underwater type holder. Clock/thermometer into little zippy pocket on right of waist belt, camera in itís bag if it isnít raining is Velcro strapped to a strap on the left waist belt.

Before clipping and strapping all down, the camelback water container goes down inside the main inside compartment with itís tube fed out through the hole on the right hand side marked H2O and along the right hand shoulder strap through elastic loops.

Tent, sleeping mat, seat contraption, gaiters and dirty clothes all go in a large stuff sack that is strapped to the outside of the rucksack at the bottom. Waterproof coat and trousers are rolled up into a tight sausage and strapped onto the outside of the rucksack through bungee cords. Anything wet is looped through straps or bungee cords or dangle and dry. Sandals also velcroed together and strapped on the outside.

Strap sack

Clipped

Zipped

Stuffed, everything in a bag of some kind, nothing left to roam loose around inside.

Up onto shoulders a-humph, lean forward at the waist and clip and tighten up waist belt jiggle around to get the weight at the right spot on my hips and fasten strap between shoulder straps. The current map in itís holder is folded and slotted at my side under the rucksack right shoulder strap as it comes down to itís lower attachment. Hard to describe that but it works; sits there nicely rarely falls out and if it does it is caught on the cord that is fastened round the strap that pulls the 2 shoulder straps together across my chest. Blimey, technical manual see diagram 2b.

Requisite hat or no hat on head, if not in use sun/rain hat is stuffed under a side strap at my right waist (Ah haa !).

Collect walking stick and scan camp spot to check for anything left behind in the grass. Flattened oblong. Say thank you and goodbye and lift up eyes to the hills
 

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