Wednesday 24th October

Great to have a day off together, lots of chat, relaxing and gentle strolls.

After breakfast with the Gordon’s we went to Strathblane and had a lovely day with Fiona’s Uncle Douglas, Auntie Maggie and cousin Gordon. A tour of their farm and soon to be ready Roundhouse (slight Glamping envy from Fiona…), then walk over the moors admiring the newly planted 100 acres of woodland.

Stunning Roundhouse, ready for romantic getaways
View from our room, amazing autumn colours

Fabulous views over the Campsie fells from our bedroom, too much G&T for Fiona and great chat…

Day 31 – Start of the West Highland Way

Wednesday 23rd October – mostly on my own

12.69 miles … 951′ ascent … 28,789 steps … 1,614 calories … 3 hours 55 minutes

In order to fit in with our plans to meet up with friends along the way, today was really a half day. It did mean we could enjoy breakfast with David and Heather and make a start from Milngavie at 9.30am. Fiona walked the first couple of kilometers with me, through some very picturesque woodlands, before returning to the coffee shop and laptop!

My journey included a few glimpses of the spectacular views I anticipate further along, but for much of this stage it was relatively tame, rather like a canal walk without the benefits of the canal, the bridges (for squatting), or the changing scenery.

I reached our destination in Drymen before Fiona (lots of work today… and the odd charity shop), then we treated ourselves to coffee and a scone for me!

Far too much litter, especially plastic and glass drinks bottles…

Our early finish enables us to visit Fiona’s Uncle Bill in Bearsden, who has had poor health through his diabetes in recent years. We were really glad to have the opportunity to catch up and pray with Bill.

Conclusion of a shorter day

We are also looking forward to an evening with David and Heather and a day off tomorrow, visiting Fiona’s other Uncle. My feet are enjoying the recovery time before an assault on the Highlands … and I can have some quality time with my wife!

Day 30 – Stonehouse to Milngavie(Glasgow)

Tuesday 22nd October – on my own

27.87 miles … 1,447′ ascent … 3,375 calories … 54, 157 steps … 8 hours 1 minute

It was till quite dark first thing this morning when Fiona dropped me off at Stonehouse Library. I decided to blast across Glasgow, rather than go the longer and more scenic route via the Clyde and Kelvinside Walkways. The first couple of kilometers were not ideal, in busy rush hour traffic, on an ‘A’ road (a large badger was by the roadside having been hit by a vehicle, thank you for those of you who pray for my safety!). The roads were quieter by Chapelton. More traffic again on the ‘A’ road through East Kilbride, but the outskirts of Glasgow had good pavements and, after today, the walk will be mainly on footpaths.

Glasgow’s streets did not lend themselves to a 30 year old camper van, so I was grateful for a coffee and toilet stop at The Meeting Place run by Stonelaw Church. The very kind staff were closing, but stayed open just for me… in fact they gave me free coffee and a donation to IJM!!

I followed the nice woman on Google Maps to negotiate the streets of Glasgow, where the temperatures did get up to 10 degrees today. I’m hoping my Strava details do load up, but it was a 27 mile walk today in over 8 hours, punctuated by squats at the traffic lights, as there were not so many bridges today! It does generate some curiosity with passing drivers and pedestrians though.

I concluded the day in Milngavie, the start of the West Highland Way, which I will be chipping away at over the next few days, as we head to Fort William.

It is great to be hosted by David and Heather Gordon tonight, David was our Pastor at Broadway Baptist Church and spoke at our wedding a few years ago… (29 – Ed!). We see them when they are back on the Island, but it was great to visit them at their lovely home.

Day 29 – Biggar to Stonehouse with Zoe ❤️

Monday 21st October – with Zoe

26.2 miles … 1,788′ ascent … 53,901 steps … 2,224 calories … 7 hours 44 minutes

Early one morning
Beautiful morning

Zoe was my companion today, so Oriel kindly gave us a lift back to Biggar and we set off in the dark at 7.30am. A very cold, but beautiful morning and definitely wooly hat and gloves weather. Quiet roads meant we were able to have good conversations without the noise of traffic.

The scenery again was spectacular and we were constantly entertained by skeins of Canadian Geese moving in a V formation (known as a wedge apparently!).

There were wind turbines scattered across the landscape as we passed through Thankerton and Carmichael before a picnic lunch with Fiona. There are very few villages, pubs or Cafes in this part of Scotland … and those there were are closed!

Four Scotch Rams

Four more miles to the village with the unfortunate name of Boghead, before finishing at Stonehouse. Zoe remained with us for supper, back at Sue’s in Symington, before returning to Edinburgh.

That knife looks sharp Fiona…. love is…

Looking ahead there is no sign of temperatures over 10 degrees and there is the threat of snow, something I was hoping to avoid! All should be well for the wander through Glasgow tomorrow though…

Day 28 – Record mileage and two of IJM’s youngest supporters

Sunday 20th October – with Oriel O’Loughlin and Roddy & Struan Kennedy

34.01 miles … 2,014′ ascent … 3,035 calories … 66,280 steps … 9 hours 8 minutes

Oriel and I started walking 5 miles south of Moffat at 7am and walked back to our B&B for a big breakfast at 8.30am. We said farewell to Tom and I continued on the long road to Biggar. It turned out to be my longest mileage thus far … 34 miles, which for Manx followers equates to a Parish Walk journey to Peel! I must be getting fitter as my marathon time today was 7 hours, not 8 hours.

Although the A701 is not the busiest ‘A’ road, cars do travel quickly on it, so I needed to keep my wits about me. The scenery in this part of Scotland is stunning and thankfully it remained dry and clear throughout, albeit with a north wind blowing towards me.

When I reached a place called Ericstone, I was struck by a display board entitled ‘An Eternal Friendship’… I took a photo of it, so do read it. It explains how in 1306 Robert the Bruce (one of Fiona’s ancestors), became lifelong friends with a young James Douglas. It made me ponder that maybe the highlight of this amazing trip has been reconnecting with friends some of whom we haven’t met for many years. Despite the fact that we haven’t seen each other, we remain lifelong friends. The title ‘An Eternal Friendship’ takes this idea to another level. That must be the ultimate goal, that the friendships that we have extend beyond this short life of three score years and ten (or perhaps a little linger if all goes well) to knowing that we will continue that friendship into eternity. I am quietly confident where I am going after this life (although I definitely don’t deserve it…), but please make sure that you are heading that way too!

It was a late lunch in Bablu with Fiona and Oriel, who had been to Church in Moffat, having some good conversations with the folk there about IJM.

I pushed on knowing we were meeting up with two important supporters later in the day. I continued up the A701 to Broughton and then took a quieter ‘B’ road towards Biggar. Oriel and her friend Sue (our host for tonight), accompanied me initially, then we were joined by Roddy and Struan Kennedy, aged 10 and 8 years respectively.

These two boys are ‘gutterbloods’, which basically means they were born and brought up in Peebles. Even more significantly, Roddy has been raising money for IJM for 3 years and is a passionate supporter of the charity. They have sold lemonade outside their house and made paper fans. They are now planning their next venture – a talent show. What a privilege it was for me to walk a mile or two with these boys. Appropriately their school motto is ‘Deeds not Words’, they are inspirational examples of that motto in action.

Another feast…

The day ended with a long, cold bath and another feast, this time at Sue Murphy’s home in Symington. As a special treat we were joined by our daughter Zoe, who started this walk with me on 20th September, a month ago! I am very grateful for my family, especially on the day that would have been my Mum’s 90th birthday. She would have enjoyed this walk!

Day 27 – Rugby, children and a great friend…

Saturday 19th October – with Tom and Oriel

20.53 miles … 1,772′ ascent … 1,900 calories … 42, 300 steps … 5 hours 47 minutes

Margaret treated us to a delicious Cumbrian farmhouse breakfast at half time during the England v Australia rugby world cup match, quarter final. So we had a late start at 11.30am with Tom as my sherpa and companion, resplendent in his new, multi-coloured, high tech, Paramo jacket! Amy and Tom slept in Bablu last night after driving down from the Highlands.

Two beardos in the rain

Thankfully the rain petered out after an hour, and we were walking along quiet roads having great chats with my boy. We met Fiona and Amy at lunch time for a cosy meal in Bablu.

We made good progress over the Southern Uplands, through forestry, beech woods and open moorland on empty wide roads with the odd sheep on.

Our top wildlife sightings of the day were; a red squirrel, a heron and of course, the red headed son!

We were rejuvenated by the arrival of Oriel, a great friend of ours who was at St Andrews with Fiona and visits us every year. She came armed with energy balls and fruit cake… Oriel and Fiona walked the last few miles, then Oriel treated us to a night in Hazel Bank B&B in Moffat – of course with an ice bath thrown in! Delicious meal at the Stag Hotel, loved the ‘fesh & cheps’, and the great Scottish accents.

Scotland doing well for the environment
Typical scene from today
Lovely B&B Hazel bank

Off to bed now at 8.45pm … we know how to have a good time. Oriel may nip out to Stringfellows Nightclub, distressed by her companions lack of staying power.. maybe just too much of the complimentary sherry the Editor imbibed…

Day 26 – Over the Border!

Friday 18th October – on my own…

27.14 miles … 2,270′ ascent … 2,786 calories … 53, 443 steps … 7 hours 36 minutes

After a lovely evening in Bowness, we headed back to Corby Hill and started walking by 8.15am. It had rained a lot over night but thankfully it soon brightened up and I felt good heading into the day…. the body performing well and quieter roads to walk on.

Circumnavigating Carlisle airport and crossing Hadrians Wall was on the agenda today… but this experience was totally spoilt by evidence of fly-tipping on the landscape.

I had a quick bite and sit down in Hethergill before striding towards the Scottish border. Fiona reached me after a busy morning catching up on business work from home in a very nice Cafe.

This made Fiona feel at home on the A6071!

My walk was further enhanced by listening to 5 podcasts in the morning. Thanks to Euan MacRae, Steven Dallimore, Adrian Porter, Ariana Walker … and Matt Rees for your talks on REVIVAL… they were great and helped to both encourage and revive me!

I enjoyed a road side picnic with Fiona before we took the final strides in England and ventured into new territory in Scotland … I am looking forward to it … especially the autumnal colours and spectacular scenery.

I had a good chat to two schoolboys in Canonbie (Scottish school’s half term), before pushing on towards Langholm and some beautiful moorland.

Fiona and I ‘treated’ ourselves to a dip in the river where we finished for the day, so need for the traditional cold bath! Not far to travel back to spend the night with Andrew and Margaret Smith at their fantastic dairy farm, Cotehill Farm. Fiona was on a Rural Leadership Course in 2017 with Andrew, so good to catch up again. We were spoilt with a delicious meal and tea by the fireside, now off for a comfy nights sleep. Tom and Amy are driving down for the Highlands so Bablu is made up ready for their late arrival.

Day 25 – Walking with the Godmothers!

Thursday 17th October, with Coralie Stangroom and Valerie Bruce

25.63 miles … 2,480 calories … 52, 978 steps … 1,998′ ascent … 7 hours 33 minutes

We find all sorts ….

Another fine day in the Lake District! Walked from Askham, just south of Penrith to Corby Hill, just east of Carlisle. Great to spend the day with Coralie (Zoe’s God mother), who I did teacher training with in Ambleside in 1992.

Coralie and I set off at 6:30 am and reached Askham by about 8am to restart the walk  – leaving Coralie‘s car there (Fiona joined us later with the campervan later, after picking Valerie up), so a genuine lie in for Fiona (til 7.30am…)! We met Valerie and Jim in St Andrews when Zoe and Maddie were toddlers, they have 4 children almost exactly the same as ours, so great to reconnect. They are also Amy’s godparents. The last few years have been too busy…

We made good progress on B roads in fine weather to Penrith and walked through the town on the main A road. Again, it was difficult to communicate with Fiona (she forgot to turn roaming on… sack the support team – Ed), with no signal, but we eventually met up north of Lazonby at Kirk Oswald.

We had a quick bite of lunch, before Coralie, Valerie and I set off. Yours truly, very ungallantly, left the girls behind… but they were talking! I pushed onwards in idyllic weather conditions, seeing the autumnal Lake District at its best. I finally finish the day at 5pm in Corby Hill, roughly parallel with Carlisle. We are edging closer to Scotland and should cross the border tomorrow.

Back down to Windermere in the rain, after a lovely dry walking day, to stay with Valerie and Jim and have a lovely evening.

DAY OFF – Resting in Kirby in Furness, bliss!

Wednesday 16th October at Blue Stones, Kirby with the Stangrooms.

Not many steps, but lots of chat…

Just chilling…

We were really in need of a rest day today, so had a lie in til 8am!! Then just pottered about, reading, drinking coffee, chatting to Coralie and catching up on too many years missed with the busyness of teenagers.

Coralie in her beautiful garden

Our dear friends Jim and Valerie Bruce (Amy’s godparents), joined us for lunch and we did some more chatting and drinking coffee all afternoon. We did manage to walk down to the bus station to remove a dead chicken for Merryn (our God-daughter…), maybe the most noble, Godfatherly thing John has done so far in Merryn’s life!

Valerie & Jim

What a treat to spend a day with two of our favourite life time friends, who we have not spent enough time with for too long. Our tanks are full ❤️

Day 24 – Kendal to Askham, over Gatesgarth Pass

Tuesday 15th October – with Debbie Jessett

24.9 miles … 53,073 steps … 2,644′ ascent … 3,200 calories … 8 hours 19 minutes

Debbie guided me up Longsleddale

It made a pleasant change to just walk out of the front door of Mike and Debbie‘s house in Kendal and restart the walk, it also meant Fiona could have a lie in (she didn’t!). Debbie, and her dog Harmony, accompanied me and their local geographical knowledge took us well into sheep country, to the Gatesgarth pass. Debbie patiently accepted that I would take a picture of every breed of sheep on the way out of the valley!

The local farmers were gathering sheep ready for ‘tupping’ season and the rams were obviously keeping an eye on the calendar for the day they could join the girls…

Fiona met us at 10 am, Debbie and Harmony returned to Kendal with Fiona and I had a boot change for the climb through the pass. A group of mountain bikers were following the same route initially… and satisfyingly for me they had to get off and push their bikes up the wide, cobbly, but steep path. They went off on another trail higher up and their journey would have been very different from mine there after.

It made me think how we have the freedom to make choices every day of our lives – as opposed to the victims of slavery who we are trying to help through IJM. Our life is full of choices, I have chosen to take two months away from my day-to-day life to do this walk. Some choices are made for you, the rest you make. You cannot choose to be born, but you can choose how to live. You’re not free to select your DNA, but you can choose to pursue an MBA…. all of us the choices we make shape the life we will live.
In the Bible, Joshua made a choice for him and his household that they would serve the Lord. Everybody is serving something or somebody… Who are you choosing to serve today?

Well… that was my thought for the day… I chose the wider path on this occasion, climbed over to Haweswater reservoir and change back into trainers for the walk along the top road, as less painful on the feet!

There will be no visitation from Fiona for a while, as although she had rescued Bablu, the campervan (with new windscreen wipers), she then put diesel in the tank, rather than petrol…. she had a totally frustrating day … having never done this in 40 years of driving, she also put petrol in the diesel courtesy car! Thankfully she realised before she set off on the M6, but she was very cross with herself. We did eventually meet up, although not very easy without a signal on the phone. I walked another 3 1/2 miles to Askham, which hasn’t been recorded on Strava as my phone didn’t do its job… But you’re just have to believe me that I did it!

So we finished today just south of Penrith, two consecutive dry days, And what I’m most excited about for my feet… a day off tomorrow! What a treat to have a lie in until 8am, and to do less than 1,000 steps! We are staying with some good friends near Ulverston tonight (where Zoe was born), great to catch up and have quality time together.

Craig, Coralie, Merryn and me – a feast!
A beautiful blessing Craig adapted for John