Tales from End to End
The Rambling Rector’s Tale
by her Husband
About ten years ago Nancy and I were walking in Wales when we suddenly came upon a magnificent climbing rose bush almost entirely covering the front wall of a small country cottage. ‘That’s glorious,’ we told the old man in the front garden, ‘what’s it called?’ ‘It’s a Rambling Rector’, he said. It was the sort of encounter you do not easily forget.
Walking from Land’s End to John o’Groats involves making numerous choices – do we go for the shortest, or the safest, or the most picturesque way; should it be the one with least tarmac, the one with the cheapest accommodation places, or the one with the best public transport links? Compromises are inevitable and the choices we make obviously influence the distance we have to travel.
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line and the shortest distance from Land’s End to John o’Groats goes over the Irish Sea; presumably this was the line taken by the record breaking Phantom jet in 1988 with a flight taking less than 47 minutes. For Nancy and me this was hardly a realistic option because ferries would have been needed across the Bristol Channel, Cardigan Bay, the Irish Sea and the Moray Firth.
Cyclists have a variety of possible routes they can use. However, the most direct lines are often along the motorways or busy main roads and so they will usually be avoided in favour of quieter lanes. This inevitably increases the distance but makes for a far pleasanter journey. According to some experts, the shortest possible LEJOG route – exclusively along roadsides – is currently 868 miles, even though the famous signpost at Land’s End states 874 miles.
When we were first considering LEJOG, we decided to take a rather circuitous route in order to visit our children and grandchildren in different parts of the country. At the same time we were thinking about where we might retire when Nancy finished her time as Vicar of Heslington. Flamborough was the favoured place. She had many delightful memories of childhood holidays spent there and I have equally happy recollections of annual School Geography field trips. How about planning the route so that it passed through our planned new home location?
Coincidentally, it just so happens that by Flamborough Lighthouse there is a toposcope with a map showing that the distance from Flamborough Head to Land’s End is exactly the same (362 miles) as the distance to John o’Groats. In other words, Flamborough is the mid-point between the two ends of Britain ‘as the crow flies’. This is assuming that crows always fly in straight lines and that they would wish to do a spectacular dog-leg journey via Flamborough in order to get from one end of the country to the other. So the fact that Flamborough would be half way (as the crooked crow flew) helped us to decide that it had to be along our route.
What later made this plan really astonishing was that after I had carefully mapped out the chosen route for our 1,280 miles journey, with all its twists and turns and deviations and diversions, we discovered that Flamborough Head was in fact only half a mile away from the mid-point of our painstakingly measured distance! Just a slight manipulation of the route was sufficient to make it our exact mid-point position. An inebriated crow, accompanying us on our walk and meandering from side to side of the straight line direction, would therefore still be exactly half-way through the trek when it reached Flamborough.
Shortly before she retired from Heslington, our Church put on a wonderful combined Centenary Birthday Party for Nancy (60 years) together with her Methodist colleague Rory (40 years old). As preparation for our LEJOG walk, they gave her a lovely gift of a Rambling Rector climbing rose bush, alluding, I hope, to her love of walking and not, I trust, to the character of her sermons. Hopefully, it will soon one day be decorating the front wall of a charming retirement cottage half-way between Land’s End and John o’Groats. I’d like to put up a huge name plaque displaying the fact that this is the Rambling Rector’s abode. But I suspect I’ll probably be over-ruled and told that we’re just going to let the rose bush tell its own Tale.