At some point I'll fill this
page out into a more coherent account of my walk in 2002. Here are just
a few notes for the time being, before I go off into fairyland towards
the end of this page. A few facts about my walk:
- I did a lot of
planning. The route wasn't just researched - I'd actually walked a lot
of it beforehand, in bits. I knew where I could stay - B&Bs,
hostels, campsites, possible wild camping spots. I knew where a
lot of the good pubs were.
- I trained hard before I
set off. I'd done a lot of walking in the previous year, and in the
three months before setting off I did a 30-mile walk each weekend (i.e.
30 miles in one day, which meant setting off at dawn - we're talking
about January and February here). This meant I could walk long days
from the start, which I needed to do.
- I managed to get the
time off from my job without taking any unpaid leave. I did this
by carrying over some of the previous year's holidays and borrowing
most of the following year's holiday. This meant I had a tight
schedule - I had to be finished and back to work in 9 weeks.
- I set off wearing a
pair of very lightweight Lowa boots that I bought specifically for the
walk, and broke in beforehand. Unfortunately the stitching started
falling to bits before I'd left Cornwall.
- I met up with my family
in Hay-on-Wye, where they had a week in a holiday cottage. I took
two rest days here, collected the next load of maps, and switched to a
replacement pair of boots, again made by Lowa, and again already broken
in. These, however were heavier 3-season boots.
- I met up with my family
again at Dunford Bridge, when the Stanhope Arms was still open, and
again the following day at the Old Silent Inn near Haworth. Home
is in Cheshire, so this was a day trip for them to meet up with me.
Again I changed my set of maps over.
- On the way into Keld I
started to have some pain in my shins. This gradually got worse over
the next few days, and by the time I got to Twice Brewed youth hostel
on Hadrian's Wall the pain was so great I had to stop walking. I got a
telephone diagnosis from a neighbour who is a physiotherapist, who said
it was probably tenosynovitis - inflammation of the tendon sheath. Shin
splints is another name for this. It looks like I was trying to walk
too far per day for such a heavy pair of boots, and had damaged my legs
by this. Fitness clearly isn't everything! One of the doctors at the
surgery we attend specialises in sports injuries, and he told my wife
that ibuprofin was about all that would help. He prescribed some
horse-strength iboprofin (600mg tablets), and Nicola posted them to me,
along with a pair of old running shoes. At this point I couldn't stand
anything touching the front of my shins, so I couldn't wear boots at
- I set off walking again
after resting up for a day and a half, dosed up with iboprofin tablets,
smeared with iboprofin gel, walking slowly in a pair of running shoes with
no laces in. It still hurt quite a bit, but I got to Bellingham that
- The next day I posted my boots home from Bellingham, and walked on to Byrness. Again it was painful, but I got there.
- The next day I climbed
up into the Cheviots, walking in a pair of trainers without laces. And
no, I didn't keep my feet dry. At one point, not looking properly where
I was going, I went into the peat up to my thighs. Miraculously I
managed to get my feet out again with trainers still on the end of
them. If I'd lost a trainer I'd have had to walk the rest of the day
barefoot - I had nothing else to wear.
- Taking each day at a
time, the pain gradually reduced, and my trainers gradually became one
with the soil. I arrived in Peebles on a Sunday morning, but there was
an outdoor shop open, and once they'd adjusted to the state of my
current footwear they sold me a pair of Brasher Supalite boots, with an
offer of free socks. I walked out of that shop in a pair of brand new
boots (unlaced naturally) and then walked 20 miles a day in them all
the way to John O'Groats without a blister. Needless to say I've sworn
by Supalites ever since. The trainers went in a rubbish bin in Falkirk,
and the last twinges from my shins came the day I walked to Kilsyth
along the Forth and Clyde Canal.
- I met up with the
family again at the Kingshouse at the head of Glencoe, then in Glen
Garry, where they had another week's holiday in a cottage. I had one
rest day here.
- I reached John O'Groats
on schedule, having planned only two rest days, taking four, and making
up the time by walking some very long days (by my standards). I got
back to work on time.
- I walked all the way. I
didn't run any of it, I didn't get in a car or a bus to get to anywhere
and retrace the journey next day. I got off the bus at Land's End, then
got on another at John O'Groats - everything else was walking. Mind you
that made it a bit difficult in the middle of Falkirk where the only
public toilets I could find were up escalators. I left Falkirk in a
Is my razor just for shaving? Yes sir
The heading is from an old
Western Swing song by Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies. It's not
got much to do with this bit of the website apart from the reference to
a razor, but it's my website so I'm leaving it in anyway. The key
question here is "Should you carry a razor on a Land's End to John
Let me make it clear I'll be evaluating this question from a male point
of view. This isn't due to any bias or prejudice, but purely because
I'm not really qualified to judge this one from a female perspective.
- If you shave regularly,
you will look smarter, and be more generally acceptable to the people
you meet. Well let's squash this one immediately. If you're on a long
walk you're going to look a mess anyway, and anyone who's going to be
put off by an unshaven face should be shunned. It's their problem
- If you meet very young
children who know you but aren't used to you with whiskers you can
easily terrify them. If you don't like kids this could be an advantage
of not shaving, but my younger daughter was under two years old when I
was doing my E2E, so for this reason (and this reason alone) I carried
a razor on my walk, and shaved before I met up with my family.
- You save the weight of all those whiskers.
So assuming you're not
worried about scaring the kids, it all boils down to whether a razor is
heavier than a beard. Or, rather, half a beard. Remember you'll start
out with no beard at all. which weighs nothing. So if we assume a
two-month walk, we need compare one month of beard against a razor.
Let's start with the razor. A disposable razor weighs about 5 grams.
They work OK for me, and that's pretty light. Now for the beard...
- You have to carry the
razor. That's extra weight that is, so you'll have Chris Townsend and
Ray Jardine breathing down your neck.
The average human head has about 100,000 hair follicles (according to
that infallible source of knowledge, a Google trawl). Let's assume that
10% of those are in the beard area, i.e. we're talking about 10,000
hairs. Well I've never counted what ends up in the sink when I have a
shave, but that sounds reasonable to me. Now the diameter of a human
hair is 18 to 180 micrometers. Beard hairs are about as bristly as they
come so let's assume the average beard hair is 150 micrometers in
diameter, i.e. 0.15 mm.
Now the average human hair growth rate is about 11 cm per year, or
about 1 cm per month. This means you're growing 10,000 cm, or 100
metres of hair on your chin in a month. So how much does this weigh?
We can work out the volume: length times the cross-section area,
or 100 metres x pi x 0.15/2 mm x 0.15/2 mm. This gives a volume
of 0.00175 litres. So what does this weigh? Well hair must weigh at
least as much as water, since hairs sink gradually in water. A litre of
water weighs 1 kilogram. So half a beard weighs at least 1.75 grams.
But...that would be if your beard were dry. Will it be dry? Not
if my walk was anything to go by. It will hold water - either sweat or
rain - in a way that a shaved face doesn't. Let's assume that on
average your beard will hold its own weight in water. This means the
gross weight of half a beard is about 3.5 grams, therefore it's not
worth taking the razor. QED. I'll let others ponder on whether
the balance might be tipped by shaving legs etc as well - I don't think
I'm going there.
Page last updated 26 August 2008