So let’s have a summary of where we’re up to. As I write, I’m ten days into the adventure and, for these first weeks at least, I’m taking it easy. I don’t want to fill my feet with blisters and then spend a week laid up, unable to walk. That’s a way of saying that I’ve only done 160 kilometres so far, but that has also included two days off to let hot feet cool down.
I started from the southern end of the Isle of Man on the 1st April and walked to the capital, Douglas, and its ferry terminal. These first 22 kilometres were done under beautiful, sunny skies, a weather that wasn’t set to continue much longer.
Once landed at Heysham I marched through the little city of Lancaster and had a look at its priory and pretty Ashton Memorial that overlooks the town. This hill is also believed to be the final resting place of the Pendle witches. Well, when I say resting, I really mean hanging.
I then headed into the bleakly stunning and stunningly bleak Trough of Bowland. I hadn’t reckoned on there being so few shops where I could refill my portable larder. How many shops? you ask. None whatsoever.
I wasn’t carrying much food – every Jammy Dodger is one more thing to lug about – and if it wasn’t for an oddly located roadside burger van, then it’s entirely possible I would have flaked out before I made it to the other end. But these lessons are best learnt early on.
Onward I continued to attractive Clitheroe and less attractive Blackburn. I’m allowed to say this as it was my home town until I was 25 years old. That said, it’s managed to prettify itself in recent years, but it’s still got a long way to go. Imagine giving Quasimodo some Brylcreem and you’ll get the picture.
In Blackburn I met up with the family I still have there and took a day off, wallowing in comfy furniture for the first time since leaving. It’s amazing how a few days in a tent or sitting on cold stone walls makes you appreciate a bed or sofa.
Then, from Blackburn, I walked over the hills and beside the demonic-sounding A666 to Bolton. Here I met up with an old friend, Dave, who arrived by train especially to see me. He wanted to treat me to some beer and so a visit to Wetherspoons was in order. I don’t care much for Tim Martin’s politics, but it does seem to be the only business in Britian not robbing you at every turn. My daily budget wouldn’t buy me a pint an’ half in most UK pubs.
The next day Dave and I continued on to this trip’s first big city, Manchester, and it is here I currently am, getting ready to leave.
In the next days or, depending on how slow I continue, weeks I’ll see Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester and Birmingham. But it’s not all urban sprawl. There will be plenty of countryside in between. I’ll just have to make sure I’m carrying enough food this time around.