This chapter of my wild-camping adventure from Land’s End to John O’Groats takes me from Wigan to the border of Cumbria and the beginnings of a low food crisis. You can read the previous chapter here, or the adventure from the start here. My rough route plan and gear list is here.
Day 35: Saturday 23rd March 2019
A dry start with no wind, so yet again my tent was soaked with condensation. The foot of my sleeping bag was wet too, as I’d forgotten to put my jacket over it. I had to remove a number of slugs in the night, and I must remember to check the map more carefully before camping 100 metres or so away from a mainline railway.
At 2.30am a canal boat came past playing loud music and singing – a happy lot!
I needed to find a shop urgently as I was out of coffee – a seriously bad situation. It’s lovely to have something warm in the mornings as it’s dropping to about 4 degrees at the moment. I find it makes a huge difference to my mood.
The walk this morning was by the canal, which was quiet at this time of year. There were a few canal boats moored up and lived in, and the usual dog walkers and runners. I stopped at about 11am to dry the tent and eat a Pasta Pot to keep me going.
Two and a half miles on the road then followed, to get to the Walmer Bridge pub for lunch. I found a socket to charge my phone, but it was a special size so I couldn’t plug it in. They must have seen me coming!
I needed to make some route decisions while I was enjoying my second pint. I was struggling with the route to the Lancaster Canal: if I head for the River Ribble to camp, I would be there a couple of hours before dark, and I don’t like sitting about. However, if I followed the roads to Preston to join the canal tonight, I would be in the city at about 5.30pm and it is so stressful finding a camping spot in the dark.
By the end of that second pint, I’d decided to walk the road route into Preston. I made it to the city but it nearly killed me – I could hardly walk through the city and I half-expected an ambulance that went past to stop and see if I needed help!
I managed to find a food shop, and then a camping spot about four miles out of Preston. Now I had re-stocked my coffee supplies, I could cope with anything!
Day 36: Sunday 24th March
I’d found a good camping spot last night, but I did wake up cold a couple of times in the night and ended up putting my down jacket on. At 5am I woke to find my tent completely frozen – the forecast had been a minimum of 4 degrees. It was a beautiful clear morning as I made my coffee, thanking God I’d bought some yesterday.
The canal path was grassy and often muddy on this stretch, and there were very few people or boats. I walked nearly 8 miles and came across a pub, Owd Nell’s Tavern, open at 10.30am. My feet had been hurting badly for a while, even though I had stopped and sat down earlier in the morning to eat a pasta meal. I was hugely glad to find the pub, a gorgeous thatched building and already busy.
After my stop here, I walked another load of miles to arrive at Garstang at 1.30pm. I needed to stop here as there wasn’t much ahead for the rest of the day. The walk here along the canal was easy going but not that interesting, so I had my head down and iPod in for most of the way.
Once in the pub at Garstang, I ordered a meal and a pint, and said I would pay for it now so I wouldn’t forget and walk out without paying. I gave her £20, only to be given £10, £5 and some change back. We were chatting and I didn’t notice or think quickly enough what to say. The food was delicious but I felt a bit guilty, so I had another pint while my phone charged. I went to the bar on leaving to enquire, and they said thank you very much, goodbye! Am I looking that rough now that people feel sorry for me?
My left foot continued to hurt in the afternoon, so I stopped at 5pm and put the tent up to dry. I sat on a nearby bench to sort all my stuff out. I felt really smug about my decision to stop as when I got into the tent at 6pm to sort out my sore feet, it started to rain – a very lucky move. My left toe is now really blistered and swollen, and most toes look quite red and sore underneath.
Day 37: Monday 25th March 2019
It was quite a windy night so I expected a dry tent when I woke this morning, but no. It was dead still and everything was covered with frost, which had soaked the inside of the tent.
Still, it was a lovely start to the day with sunshine to accompany me along the Lancaster Canal. I had taped my little toe which helped with the pain, and the going was easy. It was a good walk, often in trees, and mostly very quiet and peaceful. The wind started to get up about 10am, and it was a head wind too, which has been rare on this walk. Usually it has been on my back, helping me along!
Walking the Lancaster Canal has been a god decision. I’m enjoying the regular pubs and shops, which means I haven’t had to carry much food – just 2 litres (2kg) of water as there aren’t many places to filter it here.
I reached Lancaster and needed to stock up on meths, so called in to B&Q and realised just how overpriced it is after Wales!
I made up for this by having an impressive Wetherspoon’s breakfast which included all the coffee I could drink…I love a challenge. I had actually broken my rule by stopping here as they had socket covers on all the plugs, but I couldn’t refuse £6.50 for a large breakfast. At 3 coffees and counting I was wondering what the record was, and if they would actually throw me out…
It was an easy walk though Lancaster on cycle route 6 towards Kendal. All being well, I should make the turn into the Lakes for Scafell Pike tomorrow afternoon. The downside of this is that there will be fewer shops, so I will have to carry more food from now until the end. I got my first view of Cumbria and the mountains from a rest stop at Bolton-le-Sands, but this felt a bit depressing as it looked a very long way still.
At Tewitfield, the navigable part of the canal ended, cut off by a road across it. However, the path and canal carried on the other side and this section was very quiet. It did cross the motorway a few times, though, and I struggled to find a camping spot at the right time. I should have stopped sooner or carried on longer, but I ran out of daylight. I ended up camping right on the towpath which I don’t like doing. As soon as I’d got my tent up, three people came past – even though I hadn’t seen anyone for hours!
Day 38: Tuesday 26th March 2019
I woke this morning to an overcast day and was off by 6am as usual. I followed the canal to Sellet Hall, and they are currently working on the canal to extend it further past this point.
Just as the sun came out, I found a bench where I could air my gear and have a coffee and a nibble. My toes were hurting again too, so I taped them up again.
It was a nice walk through fields to Leven’s Bridge, but the hills were a bit of a shock to my legs after all this canal walking! It was then a two-mile stretch on a quiet road to Sampool Bridge, where the pub opened at 11am and gave me a chance to rest. I’m trying to conserve some energy for the Scafell Pike climb.
Reflections on my boots while in the pub: these Inov-8 boots are impressive – the wear rate is much better than I expected. At worst, the tread is half worn down (centre of forefoot and heel) but I still have good grip everywhere and I’m not concerned about the Scafell Pike climb. The wear on the mesh is worse, but not too bad – if the boots were cleaned they would still look OK. They have now covered 600+ miles and are still not a worry, so they have performed far better than I thought they would from my experience of the Roclite 325s. The Roclite 345s are definitely good value for money.
I was low on food leaving the pub. I had some emergency chewy bars that I don’t like that much that I could do with eating to get rid of them, but I will be extremely light on food by the time I reach Keswick. At least I had enough coffee!
I walked – or should I say limped- another five or six miles to camp in some woods by the river. I couldn’t make the extra miles to the shop, so I had a serious food shortage. It was a great camping spot though – you win some, you lose some! I took advantage of the nearby river and washed my clothes. I was also surprised to get a phone signal here, so I could call home and speak to my family.
Next target – the Lakes and Scafell Pike! You can read chapter 11 of my adventure here.