Stilt walking John O'Groats to Lands End

Raising Awareness about the condition of Epilepsy


Stilts for Charity

John O'Groats to Keiss

As we hadn't got up to Dunnets Head until 3.00 am we decided to have a late start and as long as we ended up 10 miles down the road at the end of the day all would be well.

We pulled up at the signpost at John O'Groats at about 14.00 and met a great bloke called John Carter who runs the photo business at the signpost. We backed the van around then it was official photo time before we set off. I should say official photos as we had to take them for each of our sponsors.

Pete_Thornett_at_John O'Groats _signpost_image

John said he'd come and meet us four days later and take a few photos for the paper which was really nice of him, so we swapped numbers and got ready for the off.

Kergun said he'd drive a few miles out of John O'Groats and pull into a lay-bye off the A98 and wait to see how I was getting along. I pulled on my Axminster stilts then set off just as the rain started and the wind came up.

My calves were crippled after a couple of days in the van and by the time I reached Kergun and looked back at John O'Groats I was happy to sit down, take off my stilts, have a brew and stretch my legs.

When i started off again I put on my Pro jump stilts and soon had the biggest cheese eating grin on my face. I had started the day lying in bed wondering what on earth I thought I was doing trying a 1200 mile stilt walk, now I knew. Cos I'ts great fun.

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This last photo was taken by John the owner of the signpost at John O'Groats as he passed me by in his car on his way home from work. He very kindly put the kettle on and told me where I could get a replacement charger for my camera. After telling me a good place to camp for the night I took to the road again and met up with Kergun and the van ( Arthur) just outside Keiss.

As the clock on the van said we'd done twelve miles I was more than happy for my first day on stilts. We pulled down to the old Harbour and I'm typing away in Arthur whilst Kergun cooks tea. I reckon I'm up for an early night tonight then get off to Wick to get a new charger and hopefully load this page onto my website.

Keiss_Harbour_image

Keiss to Whaligoe Steps

Got up not feeling too pleased with myself as the distance clock in the van is set in kilometres not miles which explains how quick my first day went. Well I'm going to have to make up for it today so tried to get out of Keiss as soon as I could. I passed the castle heading back up to the main road then turned left onto the A99 towards Wick

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The weather is on and off raining today, but I got a chance to try out Mongolian throat chanting at some Highland cattle. I don't really know how to do it properly but the cows didn't seem to mind so I gave them an encore.

The main thing that's giving me problems at the moment is there is no verge at the side of the roads on bends. This means I'm having to wait until I can't hear any traffic then leg it as fast as I can around the bend. I know when I join the A9 this is going to get worse so I'm going to have to start travelling at 5.00 am then leave it untill tea time.

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Kergun was waiting for me in a carpark in Wick where we met a lovely couple of people who gave us our first donations on the road. I don't know how to feel about asking for donations because I know that I hate having buckets thrust in my face. The best thing seems to be to say what I am doing the walk for and leave it at that. Most people already have a charity they sponsor so I don't want to pressure anyone. It was really good getting some positive vibes of them so I had my big grin back on again.

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The vehicle of the future has arrived, Tractor powered stilts, I'ts almost too simple. The people of Wick get all the fun.

Starting off my last leg of the day it started raining really hard so I switched back to my Axminster Stilts for I bit of traction. This last section is really killing me as I've got big blisters coming up on my feet. I can't get hold of Kergun and I know he's still 6 miles further on so I'm just going to hope they don't burst.

I HAVE SEEN THE RAINBOW OF ULBSTER. I've forgot about my feet for a bit as I'm sat in front of the most beautiful rainbow. The camera on my phone isn't doing it justice unfortunatly, It seems to be covering most of the sky and I'm in heaven. The rains slacking off so I'm going for the last stint.

I can't find Kergun anywhere, I'm ranging between wanting to kill him to being pleased I've gone further. Had a great chat to a farmer and I've rounded a bend around a hill to find Arthur parked up. WOO HOO.

Sat down to take my stilts off and the farmer comes round the corner carrying a 2m length of sink pipe. I can't stop laughing as I'd just told him I was looking for some to help me walk, what a star.

I'ts time for a quick chilli vodka as the sun goes down then to bed for an earlier start. Good night

Whaligoe Steps to Dunbeath

Disaster for my website struck about now as my computer has blue screened, this is all written about 10 days later as I've gone past Loch Ness and I'm parked up with some big blisters at the end of Loch Oich. I've managed to get my hands on another windows disk but my memory of what the route was like here is already blurred, so my appologies about this section.

I've only been on the go a couple of weeks but I've seen so much scenery it's crazy. The main thing I can remember is joining the A9 as this seemed my first real Landmark. John the owner of the John O'Groats signpost had warned me that this was where the road started to get a bit dangerous for walkers, and this would last for the next 100 miles.

Dunbeath to Helmsdale

This was definatly the most challenging part of my route so far. "Attention all long distance stilt walkers" the A9 has no road verges, blind bends and plenty of road kill to remind you of what happens if you put a stilt wrong. My new best friend is Terry the big stick Kergun found me on the journey up. He got the name terry because the van's called Arther Dailey and terry is my minder. Those not in the know look up an old BBC series called minder i'ts a cracker.

I'd been warned about the hill at Berriedale all the way from John O'Groats and I wasnt dissapointed. Big windy hills became my new description of Scotland and wow are they windy. Berriedale itself is et in a gorgeous valley with the Berriedale water running through it into the sea. We met a couple of reporters here and got ourselves into the Caledonian Times which later was re-printed in the Press and Journal.

This is also where I wore out my first set of stilt feet ( at 50 miles) and not the best place for it to happen. It was a real slog going up the far side of the hill and this was where the winds really kicked in. On the top is one of the clearance villages Badbea so called after the Duke of Sutherland removed all his tenants from the Glen's in favour of sheep farming. The poor souls who ended up living on this bit of coastline used to have to tether their children and livestock to the hill to stop them blowing over the cliff.

As i came down offf the tops I started to go down to the village of Helmsdale. This ended up beind my first 16 mile day of the journey and I can't tell you how pleased I was. The only problem I was having at this point was the skin under my right knee was really starting to get worn away quite badly and no amount of bandaging or plasters seems to be helping.

Helmsdale to Dunrobin Castle

My feet are still hurting a lot this morning as is my knee but the weather is glorious and I've really got a sense of travelling distance. The landscape has flattened out and with really clear skies I can see for miles.

We pulled into the town of Brora to try to get a new charger for my camera again but unfortunatly missed the shop so I decided to carry on down the road to Golspie. As I was leaving we met a few kids who told us there was a recycling place called Greans in Golspie which would have some tyres I could use to make stilt feet.I'd probably only gone another couple of miles when my blisters popped and walking on my heels as you do in stilts was getting harder and harder.. For the first time I had to call up Kergun and ask him to come and get me, but as he seemed to only be a half mile up the road I thought I'd take it slowly and catch up.

I was really glad I did as true to form he had found another beautiful spot next to a 2000 year old Broch ( an old defensive post).

We decided it was probably best to stop here for the night and go into Golspie in the morning to get supplies and to try and find Greans to get some new stilt feet.

First thing in the morning we pulled into the cap park in the centre of Golspie and had a quick wash in the public toilets. Ive got to say here that the public toilets in Scotland are second to none. Apart from actually being always open unlike their English counterparts they are clean and graphiti free. Absolutions done we met a fantastic woman eho invited us into the local play group to explain what we were doing and why.

This was the first time I had a good talk with a mum who's daughter had been diagnosed with epilepsy and It really reminded me of all the reasons I had for doing this. I'd say 3 out of 10 people so far knew someone who had epilepsy and thats a large percentage of the population. The mums in the group also very kindly gave a large donation to the charities.

After the play group we had a wander down to Greans and there met Tom who sourced us some bike tyres that were in for recycling and it was a good feeling to be re-using the rubber on another form of transport.

Last stop in town was to the local chemist where we stocked up on essential medication and recieved some more sponsorship in the form of some free tuba-grips to stop some of the rubbing on my knees as well as some more money to the charities. Thank you ladies.

Dunrobin Castle to Edderton

It was a nice gentle run down into Golspie, but as I came out of the other side of the village it started to hail really hard which curbed my fun a bit. It didn't take long to clear however and I continued running on my way to Mound Rock one of the noticable landmarks in the area.

mound rock image

Kergun had pulled up here so we had a coffee, admired the view then arranged to meet at the garage at the junction af the A9 and the A949 into Dornoch.

It was a bit down the A9 from mound rock that I met Gavin again and managed to give him some roadside stilt lessons while I waited for the rain to calm a bit. It ended up being the last time I saw him, though not for want of trying on both our parts.

After meeting a bit down at the mouth Kergun we decided to Go into Dornoch for a break and catch up with a bit of emailing at the library. It's possible at any library to join as a temporary member for the day and this allows nyou to use 'tinternet as we say in Yorkshire.

The last leg of the day was along the bridge over the Dornoch Firth where I decided to leave the A9 and the cars for a bit a nd head north along the Firth on the A836.

I only managed about another 3 miles which took us up to Edderton, where we nearly managed to watch the sun go down on the eternal day of the Highlands in spring.

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Edderton to Achandunie

We started the morning with a visit to the only caravan supplies in the area to buy Arthur a few treats. There were so many little thing's I'd either not had the time to get before we'd left or had become a necessity along the way.

Ar Edderton I left the A836 and turned left onto a single track road that leads up the side of Struie Hill. I can remember thinking if I had gone mad at this point then having a good old laugh. It's quite bleak moorland underneath Struie Hill and i'ts easy to wonder if this is proper stilt territory.

Moorland under Struie Hill image

Kergun was waiting on the B9176 for me and we had an early lunch whilst looking back at the bridge over the Dornoch Firth.

From Altunamain Inn Down to Sittenham I'ts very much pine forests, something that should have been a pleasant change but was spoilt by my first fall. What gives you the urge to show off? It must be genetic and most of the time ends up hurting.

It's almost like Heidi land round this area, there is a decidedly alpine feel to it and places around here won't come cheap. I stopped for the night at Achandunie, but after looking at the map decided to drive up past Black Rock Gorge to camp and have our first fire in the Hills.

Achandunie to Tore

I was feeling really strong this morning and wanted to push myself a bit. For the first time I managed to do 7 miles in one hour which I was so pleased at. The weather was just right, not too hot and still dry underfoot so I could get good compression on my springs.

The first stop was just before the bridge over the Cromarty Firth. We didn't know what it would be like going over so Kergun said he'd meet me at the start of the bridge and we'd take it from there. I was so close to waving him over the bridge in front of me when the weather turned and as I started to cross the bridge 20 mile an hour winds and rains came up.

The bridge is a mile long and there is no footpath. The only way we could cross was for Kergun to drive in crawler gear next to me to try and shelter me from the worst of the wind. You get a fantastic sense of focus when the safety barrier of a 100 metre high bridger only comes to your knee and if I went left there was nothing to stop me dropping into the water.

I can remember half way over Kergun looking out of the door and saying, " I've just realised that your life is in my hands" I told him I knew but that this really wasn't the time to be talking about it. The rush when I got to the other side and could stop focusing was incredible and I couldn't stop laughing for ages.

The fun stopped however on the last section which was a 5 mile drag up hill to the roundabout at Tore on the Black Isle. The weathewr was miserable and I was soacked to the skin and couldn't walk in a straight line by the time I reached Arthur. There was no way I could go further tonight I just needed hot food and the best part of a bottle of red wine

Due to problems with my computer this diary continue's at Section 3 sorry for any inconvenience, Pete

Tel Pete 00 44 (0) 7966 689 628 Email: pete@dangerous-stiltwalkers.co.uk

http://www.justgiving.com/peterthornett