Stilt walking John O'Groats to Lands End

Raising Awareness about the condition of Epilepsy


Strone to Blarmachfoldach

I'd had a lot of trouble sleeping the last night, cold sweats and a high quality of strange dreams so I presumed I was coming down with something. Long distance stilt walking waits for no man though so after a qiuck snap of some of the local equines I bounced of towards Fort William. I was still trying to work out if the mountain I'd seen yesterday was Ben Nevis or not.

Fist view of Ben Nevis image

I'd planned to meet Kergun and Shelly at Inverlochy Castle but as they drove past it I had to wander a bit further down the road into Fort William itself. The sun was out in full force by now so it was good to unstrap for a bit and after a lovely pint of Dark Orkney ale we decided to stock up on essentials before getting onto the West Highland Way.

I managed to get some time on the internet to send a few emails then got a blow when Kegun told me that due to ill heath he was going to have to pull out. Speechless doesn't quite describe it. I suppose my first thoughts were " I'ts all over"

Then I thought about everyone who'd helped me get to here so far from sponsors to people like Steve Crossland the man who'd fitted the van out who was still making calls on my behalf. Well where there is a will there's a way. All my money is now tied up in the support vehicle so the only thing I can do is do a days stilt walking, get public transport or hitch back to the van then drive to where I stopped walking. This effectively means I now have to do my route three times. What a mess.

I'm not getting any further moping though, so i thought I'd at least get up the hill out of Fort William and assess the situation again in the morning. There's a single track road leading off the A82 after the West Highland Museum that leads up to Blar a' Chaorainn where I could pick up thje West Highland Way again. My heart wasn't really in walking today now though so when I got to the view point at Blarmachfoldach and saw The Ben on one side and a view down over Fort William on the other it was time to down tools again and clear my head.

Ben Nevis image

It's amazing what beautiful scenery can do to put everything in perspective Problems only seems big if you look at them all at once. Break anything into small stages and deal with them one at a time and eveything is possible. I'd had a really good talk with Steve and felt really motivated again. Bring it on. Cover me in scenery and can achieve anything.

Fort William at night image

Blarmachfoldach to Kinlochleven

I'd been looking forward to the West Highland Way since long before my journey started. It's got to be some of the most evocative scenery in the world and I couldn't wait to get my stilt's on. I'd had a really bad nights sleep and the shivers again but a bit of porridge sorted that out.

View south of Blarmachfoldach image

The view up ahead was teasing me to catch up with it, so I tried to oblige and put my best stilt forward. The road here undulates past little drives to houses all with there own names. Do they have house numbers or just names? So few people individualise their homes in England this way, I'ts great to see.

However do I keep forgetting that when I talk to people over their hedges that they are'nt used to seeing eight foot tall strangers wandering past their property. After explaining I wasn't riding a very tall bicicle I got some good advice on the trail and headed for the West Highland Way.

West highland way image

This is the first part of my walk where I've really noticed the midges during the day time. Rule number one is DON'T STOP, thinking about it this rule should really be BUY ENDLESS SUPPLIES OF MIDGE SPRAY. I'm not quite sure I'ts a good idea to cover yourself in a product that warns you it may discolour leather but say good bye to the midges blues.,

I started getting a bit tired after about three hours as walking over the stone tracks on stilts is like running on sand. As I came over the last rise and looked down over the town of Kinlochleven I met a great bloke a trials bike who gave me a bit more info on what the paths were like ahead.

view over Kinlochleven image

It was a really hard walk down into Kinlochleven and I was staggering a bit when I finally reached the van. Unfortunatlly Kergun had a bit of bad news as the floor pan on the drivers side had a big hole over the wheel arch that needed some serious welding.It was too late to do anything about it then so we had a quick pint at the ice climbing centre, a nice carbonnara for tea and went to bed.

Kinlochleven to Altnafeadh

I can't believe how sick and twisted I feel this morning. My head is spinning and the world seems to be turning the wrong way. I've given a stilt lesson to a young couple I've just met but I couldn't walk on them myself for toffee. I decided to join Kergun on his drive to Ballachulish to get the welding done rather than risk going over the mountains in this state.

When I started off this trip I really chaffed at loosing a day but I'm really learning to take the rough with the smooth. I can't say I'm missing out as any direction you go in this part of the world is a treat and Glen Coe is no exception.

Islands of Glen Coe image

We pulled into Ballachulish and arrived at the Lochside garage. My friendly mechanic had a look at the van floor and you could tell he was wishing he hadn't said he would help. I tried to clean the area as well as I could and angled grinded the metal clean so he had a decent surface to weld on.

He couldn't do any work until after hours so we pulled up the road and I got all my kit into a decent state of repair and had a spring clean. It must have taken him a couple of hours to fix but he ended up doing it for nothing to help the cause.

One thing I've had re-affirmed on this journey is people are always willing to help as long as they see you are giving every effort. Anyone needing repaires in the Ballachulish area go to the...

Lochside garage image

Steve's work back home paid off today as we got a call from Calender news who wanted to do a story on us. It's interesting that nobody wants to know about me stilt walking 1200 miles for charity but as soon as disaster strikes everyone is all ears.

Calender sent a great local camera man called Alan Thompson who did some shooting back at Kinlochleven then said he'd meet me at Altnafeadh on the other side of the mountains to film me coming down the Devils Staircase.

view onto Kinlochleven from south image

It's a really steep climb up the West Highland Way south from Kinlochleven and I was really feeling my few days of illness. I kept meeting wonderful people along the way though so it kept me stilt walking higher and higher.

The midges are really bad around here so I had to keep moving and the climb was really long. The path goes up to one peak and then dips and rises to the top of another, covering about six miles. As I came to the second peak that leads to the Devils Staircase the rain came in really hard and it was getting difficult to see.

The main reason I don't like rain isn't because you get wet but because of how hot you become in a waterproof. I use so much more energy on stilts than walking and it's never more apparant then when you're wrapped in plastic. It was raining so hard descending that Alan or Kergun couldn't see me so he arranged to come back the next day and continue filming then.

The filming couldn't have gone better and we ended up with 5 minutes on a nights major news program which seemed to set the tone really well. We later found out it also went out on Grampian telly as well so a big thumbs up on the awareness front.

After saying thanks to Alan we drove to a hotel up the road and after buying a couple of take outs we parked Arthur up and invited in a couple of soaked walkers to get dry. They were taking a week off work to do the West Highland Way and hopefully I should catch up with them when I get to Edinburgh.

It's time to stop stilt walking here for a few days as I'm driving to North Yorkshire to A motorbike festival I work every year ( The Farmyard Party at Helmsley, North Yorkshire). They have been kind enough to let us take a bucket round so it should be worth the detour.

Altnafeadh to Tydrum

The Farmyard Party image

Its taken a full week to get back to this point as apart from Helmsley taking a few days ( We raised £300-00 incidently) I lost my phone. Normally this would'nt bother me but as my computer had crashed earlier on in the journey I lost my back-up of all my numbers.

Orange were good enough to courier me out another phone on my insurance but it meant being sat in one place for another two days whilst it arrived. While we were down south we picked up a friend of Kegun's called Cassie who has been an absolute angel keeping Kegun going.

Cassie in Arthur image

It's a good job she is here as Kegun has said this morning he will only be able to be the support until the 1st July 2007. At least I know where I stand now but It's a bit daunting knowing I will have to stilt walk and drive the van. I can't sit around worrying though so I set of across Glen Coe heading towards Loch Lomond.

View from Devils Staircase image

It's so annoying missing out an amazing scenery because I'm too worried about how I can keep going without support. There is no way I'm giving up but I can't see a clear path ahead. Once I've had a few hours too let everything setle in my head I'll be ok, Until then I'm missing out on Ranoch Moor a spectacular piece of countryside.

I got so cheered up by meeting a middle aged couple who always come to this area bird watching as she has epilepsy so badly thast she doesn't like public places. The look on her face when I said I was doing this for an epilepsy charity will stay with me forever.

I've had a few hours to mull things over and the best thing seems to be, get my head down and clock up the miles whilst I do have a driver. This means a change of plan and instead of going around Loch Lomond which will be slow going I'm off down the A85 instead and aiming for Stirling.

I managed to rack up 17 miles and ended up on the hill above Tyndrum. There place called the Green Welly Stop there which I thought we could try our first street collection at in the morning.

Sunset at Tyndrum image

Tyndrum to Ledcharrie

As planned I strolled down to the Green Welly stop where we had a chat with the owners who were very good enough to let us collect on the forecourt for two hours. This really meant a lot as they explained that they never let people collect but they could see I was putting every effort into the cause.

collecting outside the Green Welly stop image

This was probably the hardest thing I have done so far. I have never liked someone putting a collection bucket in my face, and now here I am preparing to do the same thing to other people. All I can hope is that at least people can see that I am putting a lot of energy into this myself and I really believe in the charity.

Unfortunatly rain stopped play after an hour but apart from collecting £50-00 I met an epileptic woman who was so behind what I was doing it gave me a buzz for the rest of the day.

Green Welly stop image

The road out of Tyndrum to Crianlarich was quite difficult as there was a lot of traffic and nowhere to get out of I'ts way. I may have right of way as a pedestrian but try telling that to some of the motorists on the road.

I had a good call from Bradford BBC Radio who want to do a weekly interview with me before I arrive at Bradford on the 8th of July at the Bradford Maile festival, which hopefully will drum up a bit of support.

I do miss going cross country and the rain is so hard today which doesn't help. At least after Crianlarich the road opened up and I could get a bit of speed up at last. Loch Lubart and Loch Lubhair were on my left as I stilted along, both of which are quite small but full of reeds and rushes so had a different feel to a lot of the rest of the Loch's.

After having another coffee with the gang I did the last leg of the day which ended up at the Luib Hotel where the ownersa bent over backwards to make us feel welcome. Apart from a donation we had our first proper lock in of the stilts trip. Judging by the side effects on the locals I can see why indoor smoking is banned in Scotland.

Ledcharrie to Strathyre

Woke up this morning with the mother of all hangovers. I can't even name half the things we were drinking last night. I had promised the Landlord the night before to get one of my costumes on to show his grandson. The last thing I felt like was putting a hot suit on in my state but one good turn deserves another.

werewolf at Luib hotel image

Anyone passing the Luib on the A85 should pop in and say hello, we really were made to feel like family by the owners and I can't recommend the place enough. We were packed off with a few crates of fresh water and It was hard to make myself leave.

Owners of Luib Hotel image

From the hotel it was heading east along the A85 until we came to the bottom of the hill at Glen Ogle. As I crested the top there was a cycle race coming up the other way. From the top of the hill you can follow the old train tracks which is now a cycle route doen to the start of Loch Earn.

Cycle path at Glen Ogle image

The path goes along the top right side of the Glen as you decend while the road follows the opposite side. It's a lovely view down into the vally and you can look down onto the top of the old railway viaduct.

I followed the path down onto the A84 and then joined the road down to Strathyre which was to be the stop for the night as I wanted to try and update this site as I am falling behind again.

Strathyre to Callander

We'd stopped in a lay-bye about a mile before Strathyre and I spent most of the morning importing photos onto my computer, resizing in photoshop and rabbiting on in these pages. Kergun had had a wander down into Strathyre infront of us and called to say there was a hotel with internet access in the village.

Munroe Inn Strathyre image

The hotel was called the Munroe Inn and not only did they not charge us for the internet but also gave us lunch on the house which was totally unexpected. I'm still surprised by how much time it takes to catch up with the website, check my emails and try to plan what comes next. It must have been four o'clock before I was done and able to get some stilt walking under my belt.

I popped into the Hotel as I went past to say thanks again and ended up having a couple of glasses of wine given to me by two young couples who'd been waterskiing on the nearbye Loch. Not only that but they donated to the charity as well. All hail the generous!

There is a really fast National Cycle Route which follows the west side of Loch Lubnaig and comes out at the Garbh Uisage Falls where it follows the river through some woods until it crosses the A821. After this it's sheep one one side and some luscious meadows on the other where I saw my first wild deer.

Cassie had arranged for an old friend of her's to pick her up from Callander so we thought send her off with a farewell drink. I had a stilt down to a pub in town so that I could hand a few flyers out whilst we were there. We found a great little Kaley bar where the local band Ian and Neil played a fantastic set. It did help they dedicated " I would walk one thousand miles to me", I couldn't stop laughing.

It was hard saying goodbye to Cassie Ive only known her a week but she leaves with my utmost respect. God bless you 'darlin.

Callander to Drip Hill

We started the morning in Callander with a walk down the main street handing out flyers and trying to work up a bit of awareness of both charities and their work.

Raising awareness in Callander image

After that Kergun came with me along the cycle path that leads through a small estate on the north side of town where a nice chap and his daughters had a good chin wag with us over Life The Universe and Everything.

Family in Callander image

The path then follows an old railway line until it skirts a caravan site where it emerges next to one of the largest chambered cairns in europe. The area seems to be dotted with cairns although you have to look closely to spot them.

The cycle path on the other side of town that leads to Doune seems to be non-existant now so I had to follow the A84. This road is ideal for the Gentleman long distance stilt walker. I managed to get up a good pace and the traffic was pretty nonexistant.

Doune was the first stop and It's a gorgeous little town. Picturesque doesn't do it justice and there is a well preserved castle to the east side of the town.

As I left the village I could see a few faces at the window of a local hotel so I popped my head in to explain what I was doing. There was a really nice older group who I think were the vilage council. They extended me evey courtesy then also made a hefty donation. Thanks one and all.

The last seven miles of the A84 which stop at the M9 at Drip hill reminded me of a roman road. It was so straight and flat it hammered home to me that I was no longer in the highlands which does leave me with some regret.

Sunset on the A84 image

Drip Hill to Corbridge

This next entry is written nearly a month later at the start of Hadrians Wall when I've finally sourced a laptop to continue the saga. Due to form however after only having it two days the mouse has stopped working so back to the shop it goes. I'll try to encapsulate the last month here before its bye bye laptop.

The hardest thing for the first week was knowing Kergun could leave any day and no matter how eternally gratefull I will be to him it was really daunting facing doing this on my own. Someone must be smiling down on me however as a friend Laura from Hull came to the rescue as a new support driver.

This meant the most important thing now was to cover as much distance as quick as I could so there was only a small gap without support. With this in mind I started doing as much milage as I could each day.

From Drip Hill we passed through Stirling on the A611 then took the A905 through Grangemouth, Boness past the Forth Bridge to Edinburgh where Kergun took his leave of me and Arthur and went back to Sheffield whilst Laura arrived from Hull.

I'd managed to finish just past Edinburgh to give Laura a smaller road to start on so she didn't have to practice driving Arthur in a city. From Edinburgh we took the A199 heading towards Bewick-Upon-Tweed where we planned to follow the Northumbrian Coastline down to Newcastle.

First port of call was Dunbar which was the start of the coastal path which led past the powerstation at Skateraw to Cove a place we had to keep returning to whilst we where in the Berwick area. We met a lovely family at Skateraw called Stuart, Jemma and baby Jake who treated us like royalty and touched us so much when we woke up one morning an stuart had left a high visibility vest outside the van as he was worried about me travelling at dusk.

The most important thing that happened here for me was crossing the English border. So much was going through my head from having to split with Sylvie my girfriend as I left, to all the people I had met and helped me along the way. Just to make things even more emotional just before I crossed the border I met a blind lady Fiona who also had epilepsy and I was crying my eyes out as I left Scotland to become a real cross country stilt walker.

As I reached the border Fiona was there to meet me with her friend as Radio BBC Newcastle interviewed me, this is a photo of me Fiona and Lauran the daughter of the owner of the Burger Vav

Guess what? This is where things started going horribly wrong every day which is why it's taken a month to get past Newcastle. I've spent so much time this month fixing the PC, Arthur and my stilts it's amazing I've managed to get anywhere at all. Any spare time I have is taken calling newspapers and Radio stations trying to publicise the charity's.

Berwick started to become the eternal city as we seemed to be stuck around there for a couple of weeks. In this time to be fair we had a fundraiser in Newcastle where we were escorted through the city by one hundred Harley Davidson Motorbikes, got to say hello to the cast of Antiques roadshow, did a job in Stafford and fire breathed with custard powder for the National Geographic.

Problems notwithstanding we still pressed forwards taking the coastal road past Lindisfarne the Holy Island where I met Danny one of the biggest characters on my journey who also sells the most delicious strawberries. Anyone entering the Island has to pass by him so buy a punnit and say hello from me.

We then carried along the Northumbrian coastine past Bamburgh castle, which has to be one of the most amaing castles anywhere. The view as you arrrive from the B1342 is stunning. All the coastline down to Newcastle must be one of Englands best kept secrets. Miles of pristine beaches and rocky coves with hardly anyone around. Perfect!

After Druridge bay a great spot for any kite boarders out there. From here we started to cut Inland past Ashington and Morpeth then on the B6524 to Belsay. A day's jaunt past Ponteland led to the B6318 which is the old miltitary road that hugs Hadrians Wall. This takes me up to Corbridge which is where I stopped today.

The mission at the moment is to drive ahead of ourselves to Carlisle where I'll be on BBC Radio Carlisle in the morning to promote our arrival in a few days.

 

 

 

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