2021 arrived and I decided to take on a huge challenge. Walk from Lands End to John O’Groats (LEJOG). It’s 1083 miles using an app, and I want to do it by mid-May when Mental Health Awareness Week arrives. I’m also raising funds for Restore, a mental health charity in Oxford. Along the way, I want to discover about the places I ‘visit’ and share some mental health stories with you too. I hope you enjoy it.

CAN YOU HELP?
As I’m wanting to get real stories about the places I am visiting, especially if they promote mental health and wellbeing, I’d love to hear from you if you know the area or have visited the area and benefited from it.
PLEASE GET IN TOUCH.

796.5 miles

287.3 miles

3 trees planted

WHY WALK THE UK?
About Restore

PLEASE NOTE, WITH THE WAY LIFE IS NOW GETTING BUSIER, ADDING THE PHOTOS TO THIS PAGE AND LATER TRANSFERRING TO THE BLOG PAGE IS TAKING UP MORE TIME THAN I NOW HAVE AVAILABLE SO PHOTOS AND VIDEOS WILL BE ADDED TO THE BLOG PAGE EACH FRIDAY. PLEASE DO CHECK IT OUT.

Also, some photos I have taken from Pixabay, Wikipedia, and Google Earth. I have credited as such but if anybody is concerned about the image being on this diary, please do contact me and I will immediately remove it.

WEEK 15

DAY 99
(9th April 2021)

Friday, and the start of another week in virtual land. Woke and made some easy biscuits before cracking on with clearing yet more emails, sorting a few bits for work, and this mostly consisted of writing and rewriting notes and risk assessments in light of the recent lockdown easing guidelines. It’s never ending. Manage a few steps around the house.

Lunchtime we were all dealt a blow as history was made. His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, has passed away at the age of 99, and Her Majesty The Queen is now a widow. The news is flooded with his life story. It’s a big day. Momentous. We wonder what will happen now going forward. I sit and watch the rolling news for a while, and whilst it is sad, there is not a lot else that can be reported on, so I finish a bit of paperwork that needs doing today, and then take a walk.

I loved my walk today because it was in my local park but I linked up, socially distanced, with an elderly couple and we exchanged stories about the place and what a great park it is. They have an app that identifies the plants. I have one for birds, so we exchange details, and we walk a short distance, chattering excitedly.

I peel off and head up the hill, before getting caught in a cloudburst.

Soon enough, dinner time has arrived and I make a pasta bake, or I would if I’d had realised it’s a different sauce so the timings are wrong. Half-cooked pasta isn’t horrendous. Ha!

After dinner, I’m off to the youth club. We’ve some technical matters to sort out so we spend an hour or so trying to do them. Then it’s to the shop and home. Nowhere near the miles I should have done today, but I follow Eddleston Water past a quarry, and then onto Leadburn Community Woodland. The forestry plantation is owned by a charity whose aim is to ‘create a pleasant and varied space for the community’. A variety of native birds and plants have now been spotted and the volunteers have spent many hours created bog pits and updating paths. It’s a little further on on the outskirts of Howgate that I pitch the tent for the evening.

DAY 100
(10th April 2021)

Day 100. I’ve been walking 100 days…OR…I would have been if I’d have done walking. I woke up this morning feeling quite refreshed but as the day rolled on I felt really quite poorly and ended up not being able to manage to do a lot at all.

I sat at the computer trying to do my work but all I really managed was designing some posters. I felt weird all day. I was dragged out of the house in the evening and I managed to walk a couple of miles.

It feels a bit flat for a major milestone, however, I still manage to walk from Howgate and continue northwards. It’s another milestone as I’m under 300 miles to go now.

Having been walking through the countryside for quite some time, I’m soon in the suburbs of Edinburgh, the first part I reach being a large industrial estate. As I’ve not managed a lot of miles today I end up having to pitch up on the edge of the Edinburgh Bypass. I’m sure tomorrow will work better. I’m determined to get out even if I’m struggling. I will pull these miles back. Tomorrow also means I’ll be in Edinburgh itself, which is really exciting as I have been sent some photos to upload.

DAY 101
(11th April 2021)

I laid in this morning, for very good reason. After struggling to get to sleep, I was woken by a strange noise at 3.30am and it soon became apparent that one of the tent neighbours that had their rave a few weeks ago had clearly caught up with me and we were back to listening to the thump thump thump of it through the canvas, as well as their voices. I’d got my ipod plugged into my ears as well! Amazing they’re partying at all considering the lockdown restrictions, but who am I?

Once again, it ended up being one of those days where you go through it in a bit of a daze. It’s my cousin’s partner’s birthday today, so when we finally had the energy to make a move, we drove over, through the countryside (and peace and quiet), to their house to drop off a card. It was lovely being able to see the children who were full of excited chatter. Of course, we still can’t go in people’s houses but seeing them outside the house in the sunshine felt good. We returned via the supermarket for a few groceries, before arriving home.

I spent the afternoon reading and editing my novel. It’s one bonus I suppose. I’ve reached quite a crucial point in it and never been entirely sure it works but by bedtime I feel I’ve got it right. Then, because I really need something to boost morale, I baked a ginger and elderflower cake. I hadn’t intended to, but that’s what happens when you put any old thing in. It’s become a favourite.

Another evening stroll to get a breath of air and break up the monotony of feeling rough and it’s time for much needed rest.

Having woken from the sounds of the bypass – that’s right, we were there virtually so perhaps I’ll pretend I was kept up by that instead – I continue north through the suburbs of Edinburgh. the webcams show it’s a beautifully sunny day, and in particular, the view of Queensferry looks pretty. I should reach there at some point within the next day or so. If I’d have been able to keep up with the pacer I would have.

The Pentland Hills have been left behind. I only passed by them so didn’t really mention them but it is a regional park of various hills and reservoirs, with the land part publicly-owned and part privately (for sports and leisure activities).

I pass St Katherine’s Park on the right, an area which up until 15 years ago was mainly trees and grass. In 2006, redevelopment began and today is quite a hub of activity, with football goals and wildflower areas. Despite being quite built up at first glance, there are numerous parks here. The next one a short hop up the road on the left – Liberton Park, open since the 1930’s.

Off the main track and north east from where I am is a marker for the Innocent Railway Tunnel and Bridge. Now a walking trail, they are famous for being the first railway tunnel and bridge in Scotland. Why Innocent? Because it was drawn by horse and carriage. Simple explanation really. The steam powered engines were felt to be dangerous and the horse was trusted, albeit a tad slower of course. Much of the line has now been built on but as parts of it have been restored and make up some of the national cycle network, it is possible to still explore where the tracks would have run.

Every so often as I cross a road, I can glimpse to my right Holyrood Park and the Salisbury Crags. Most famously known perhaps for Arthur’s Seat, which is the highest point, this is the remains of a volcano. You can climb up it and see all of Edinburgh from up here, and for those who read the Ian Rankin Rebus novels, it will be a familiar location. If you want to climb it, it’s about an hour each way so a good morning or afternoon activity. Nobody ever seems to plan things over lunch do they? We always seem to speak in morning or afternoon terms for activities and meetups. Maybe lunch is precious to us.

I pass through the University of Edinburgh campus. It’s huge, and perched next door is the Anatomical Musuem. The University is one of the top ones in the world, founded in 1583, and their former Chancellor was HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. There is a strange feeling passing through this city so soon after the man died. It appears he did a lot of good for the University and they have courses in everything from Accountancy to Biomed Sciences, Middle Eastern Studies to Veterinary Medicine.

The Writers’ Museum, a little way up the road, celebrates Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson, with all manor of artefacts on show.

Edinburgh is rich in heritage and culture, so much I really don’t think I can fit it all in. It’s no wonder it’s the capital of Scotland. Edinburgh Castle, for example, allows you to walk in the footsteps of the many soldiers and kings who have passed that way before. Today, it’s one of the most popular attractions in the city, offering tours, a chance to see the one o’clock gun salute (once used by ships to set their time to), and learn about prisoners of war as well. It’s here, in the grounds of the castle, that the military Tattoo takes place annually, an astonishing display of military creativity with bands and cannons bringing together a totally immersive experience.

I pass some rather grand hotels and restaurants, as well as the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, before bedding down in the Leonardo Royal Hotel for the night. The centre of Edinburgh! The view from the window is great and at the time of crawling into bed, it certainly seems like I could be in for a good night’s sleep.

DAY 102
(12th April 2021)

DAY 103
(13th April 2021)

DAY 104
(14th April 2021)

DAY 105
(15th April 2021)