What were my constraints?
The good thing about the “LEJOG” journey is that there are no rules, except that you must visit “LE” and “JOG”, which are at the most south-westerly and north easterly points of mainland UK and the two points in mainland Britain that are the furthest apart from each other. You can travel by any route you like, take any length of time you like, break the journey as often as you like, and use any mode of transport that you like.
So that gave me plenty of flexibility.
I’d already done a charity cycle ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats in 2005 and wanted to do something different this time. I wrote up my experiences on that expedition in a short report which you can read here:LE2JOG 2005 bike ride report
So my first rule was that I’d walk the route, all the way from Land’s End to John O’Groats, this time.
As I’m a bit of purist, I decided that I wouldn’t just walk, but that I would walk every inch of the way.
So my second rule was that I wouldn’t take ferries or other mechanised “shortcuts” to make the route easier. That meant a lengthy 24 hour detour up the Camel estuary to cover the 400 direct yards from Padstow to Rock, but did mean that I could cut off the Severn estuary by walking across the suspension bridge.
Sticking with the purist theme, my third rule was that I would walk to every place that I slept for the night. Lots of well-meaning people offered to pick me up from my route, take me to comfortable accommodation some distance away from the path, then deliver me back to the exact same place I’d been picked up from. I declined them all. In fact I only went in a car twice on my hike – once from the campsite to a chipshop in the evening, and once from my campsite to a scout hut to give a talk to a scout group near Flint. Obsessive application of this rule also meant that I didn’t allow myself to take the lift to my room on the top floor of the high rise hotel I was staying in in Glasgow.
And I thought that I might as well do the walk properly, seeing as I would be so close to the most southerly and northerly points of the mainland UK. So my fourth rule was that, as well as visiting “LE” and “JOG”, I would start the walk at the Lizard peninsula, at 49.9591° N, 5.2151° W and finish at Dunnet Head, at 58.6725° N, 3.3753° W.
To make life a bit harder, I’d read several accounts of LEJOG walkers who’d set off to camp as they walked, only to give up camping after a couple of weeks, and take the easier (and a lot more expensive) option of Bed and Breakfast. So my fifth rule was that I wouldn’t take this “easy” option. rather, I would carry a tent with me the whole way, and spend as many nights in it as I could.
That was almost it, until I decided that there should be another rule as well. And this one was actually the hardest of all to follow. So my sixth rule was that, as well as visiting the extremities of the country, I should also visit the highest points. This meant climbing the highest mountains in Wales (Snowdon), England (Scafell Pike) and Scotland (Ben Nevis). And of course my other rules meant that I had to carry my full rucksack with me to the top of each summit. Even though, in the case of Ben Nevis, I returned from the ascent to pretty much the same point that I had set off from.
This last rule certainly made my hike a bit different to most “LEJOG” expeditions but it did mean a massive detour from the “direct” route to get to Snowdon. But the plus side was that it gave me a chance to have a good look round Wales and visit places I’d ever seen before.
But apart from these six, there were no other rules. Freedom at last!