Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Pennine Way - Conclusions & Reflections

"Let us have this through route to health and happiness for this and succeeding generations who may thus make acquaintance with some of the finest scenery in the land. Whatever the cost, it would be a worthy and enduring testimony bringing health and pleasure beyond computation, for none could walk the Pennine Way without being improved in mind and body, inspired and invigorated and filled with the desire to explore every corner of this lovely island."
- Tom Stephenson, June 1935, the man whose idea the PW was.

The Pennine Way is without doubt the hardest challenge I've ever done.

Afterwards, Mum and Dad sent me a card in which Dad had written a very touching message basically saying he was proud of me. That meant a lot.

And Roddy, the guy I met in The Border Hotel the night before the start, was true to his word and I got my certificate in the post shortly after emailing him to tell him I'd finished.
Really the crux of the PW is that it is many days of long walks over tough terrain. If you do it like I did, you are carrying a heavy pack too. The difficulty comes in stringing the days together. It seems like a long time since I started this daily blog about it! In hindsight, the things that made it possible for me were that I didn't plan it all out and book ahead, and Compeed. I really couldn't have done it without that stuff on my feet. I don't understand still why the pain in my knee came and then went just as suddenly, but I guess I will thank a few lunchtime pints for that (not!). Meeting Mum and Dad and Ciska along the way was important too as it provided some mental mileposts. When I met Mum and Dad in Keld I really couldn't contemplate the whole remainder of the walk. It was only when I got to Mankinholes that I could do that. Before that I was just looking one day ahead.

Route-wise, the famously horrid boggy bits (Featherbed Moss, Black Hill, etc.) are all paved now so they're actually quite easy and almost tedious - views notwithstanding, but there are a lot of miles of squelch, a lot of them at relatively low level which comes as a bit of a surprise. There is not a great deal of easy enjoyable walking. Probably the best day in that respect was the day over Cross Fell.

On balance I think I was pretty lucky with the weather. If I'd have done it this year on the same days, it would have been a nightmare! I did get rained on quite a bit, but when it really mattered, like on The Cheviot or on Cross Fell, it was nice weather. If every time I'd gone up high I'd gone into cloud and drizzle or worse, morale would have been really bad. The wettest I got was on the day from Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Malham where I didn't see anything over Fountains Fell except rain in my eyes. Second place was probably the day from Lothersdale to Mankinholes.
Summary of each day's numbers and totals.
As I said, not booking ahead was crucial for me. If I hadn't carried my tent and camping stuff I would only have really come unstuck at Lothersdale and Crowden. At Lothersdale I could conceivably have pushed on to Cowling and tried to find a B&B there. At Crowden I'm not sure what the alternatives are. The YHA there is one of the ones where it's been converted into an outdoor pursuits centre and I don't think you can just stay there as a member. Having said that I haven't actually checked now so it would be worth phoning them if you're reading this and planning the walk.

Anyway, the conclusion is that I'm so, so glad I did the Pennine Way, especially now with the accident and everything. It taught me a lot about myself and helped me remember some other things that maybe I'd forgotten. It made me remember that I can push my body a long way and it will go with me; that your mind is actually very important in that respect too. It spurred me on to other challenges, especially in cycling and mountain biking. Ultimately it is probably the reason why I know that I'll recover from what's happening to me right now.

And Tom Stephenson was right.

We will meet again one day, PW.

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Genius will not. Education will not. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."

- Calvin Coolidge

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed reading this. Thank you and well done. Just walked it too. Never to be forgotten!