In contrast to the UK’s official National Trails, the Land’s End to John o’Groats Walk does not have a single recognised and designated route – it is left to walkers to choose their own preferred route. That, apart from the distance and the fact of joining up both ends of the kingdom, is what makes LEJOG so interesting.
The original reason for thinking about the walk was that we wanted to seize the opportunity of Nancy retiring from her role as Vicar of Heslington and to take a ‘year out’ during which we could relax (?walking a thousand miles?) and try to decide how we should then spend the rest of our retirement. So what were the criteria we used in deciding our route?
It had to be enjoyable and so, where feasible, we would walk through attractive countryside and avoid large urban areas. We thought that we ought to avoid mountainous or hilly terrain, just in case we found we couldn’t cope and had to wimp out before we had finished, and so we opted for what is generally a low-level route.
Our offspring live in different parts of the country and we felt that, as responsible parents, we ought to use the opportunity to visit them, so that meant going through the East Midlands. The fact that we intend to use their homes for hospitality and accommodation is, of course, entirely coincidental.
We wanted to choose a route that stayed off-road as much as possible, for aesthetic as well as for safety reasons. However, because we would need to use bus transport to return us to our bases, we would sometimes need to make minor diversions in order to gain access to a road with a convenient bus service. Our preferred practice is to drive in our car to the start of the walk, complete the walk, then catch a bus back to our car. This has meant very careful scrutiny of the ‘Traveline’ website in order to work out bus routes and timetables.
Wherever possible we would use a fixed base for a number of days walking, rather than back-pack from point to point. A fixed base gives much greater flexibility than back-packing. Plans for the day can be changed at the last minute if bad weather, sickness or some other unforeseen circumstances make walking that day difficult. On the other hand if the weather forecast is good for a particular day, there is no need to carry extra clothing. Setting off early in the morning is not a problem if you are self-catering, although it can be sometimes with bed and breakfast arrangements.
Moreover, a fixed base allows us to take extra luggage, such as the maps and guide books for the whole walk, that we could not possibly carry for the whole journey. In addition, it allows us to take a computer with us. We can leave the computer at the house and update the blog at regular intervals without taking the risk of carrying it with us on the walk.