LOOKING BACK ON 30 YEARS OF LONG-DISTANCE WALKING
Robin Moore author of many books has recently completed his anniversary walk which replicates his first walk from Cornwall to Oundle in 1992. See more later marked Spring Walk Diary.
Having walked nearly 35,000 miles around the world on fundraising walks and pilgrimages including WW1 battlefields, cricket tours with the Barmy Army and expeditions and power walks for charitable organisations.
His main interests with publishing lie within the spectrum of War History, Poetry, Art, Fundraising and Leisure and Tourism.
See latest book titles below.
NEW BOOK TITLES
The St Day Feast Walk
A walk around one of the most prolific mining region which gives an historical insight into one of the best-knownTraditional Cornish Festivals.
THE OUNDLE PILGRIMAGE
ROUTE 2 – The Historic Village and Church Trail (Part of The Oundle Pilgrimage Route)
This pilgrimage takes in idyllic Nene-dominated countryside which has been largely shaped by its strong rural identity, ancient villages and prominent churches.
It potentially provides a journey of upto 18 miles although there are shorter options between Fotheringhay and Oundle. Please use our website for a complete overview and GPX Maps for all pilgrim routes:
WALKING DOWNUNDER NZ – AUCKLAND CITY CENTRE TO MOUNT MAUNGANUI
Walking a 200-mile Route Supporting Melanoma NZ, the journey appears a mere stroll compared to previous expeditions throughout the Continent. However, it transpires to be an epic culminating at the lively fun loving resort and cricket venue of Mt Maunganui – an iconic landmark that I’ll never forget.
A PILGRIMAGE TO SANTIAGO
Less substantial than the traditional routes, the trail which is known as the Camino Ingles, runs for 120km from the Galician coast at Ferrol to the iconic Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
Read how this journey takes shape along this ancient route used by the early Irish Saints/English monks. Although less publicized, it remains popular with modern day pilgrims who travel here from all corners of the globe
A SHORT WALK TO THE END OF THE WORLD
This little walk takes in the iconic region of Santiago de Compostela walking the very last section to Finisterre which the ancient pilgrims deemed ‘ The Edge of the World’. It’s a massively captivating journey with diverse landscape finishing by the Atlantic waves. On completion it offers an opportunity to explore Santiago where the presence of its cathedral evokes the joy of life, celebrated throughout the streets in tapas bars, mini arcades with nomadic buskers and souvenir shops where the flavour of different cultures make its own special recipe for fun.
FUNDRAISING IN THE NENE VALLEY
OUNDLE PILGRIMAGE WALK – The Ancient Village and Church Route Supporting Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall.
This year’s Pilgrimage weekend is on:
Saturday 13th August, beginning from St Peter’s Church at 9am.
You can obtain a walking guide and register for this charity walk at Oundle Volunteers, Oundle Town Council, Glapthorn Road, Oundle. Books about local walks and the Oundle Pilgrimage Routes can be downloaded from EBOOKS at www.robin-moore.co.uk
For further reading and GPX Routes visit:
LOOKING BACK TO THE START OF MY WALKS
The recent Spring Walk reflects on 30 years of charity walks covering nearly 35,000 miles around the world. The walk from Cornwall to Oundle follows the same course as my first effort back in 1992 and the diary below follows my day-to-day progress as I head back towards the Nene Valley.
SPRING WALK DIARY – Celebrating 30 years on the road – Land’s End to Oundle in the Nene Valley.
Day 1 – Land’s End to St Ives – 20 miles
Starting at Land’s End is not so unusual for me as I’ve been there on many walks but today I didn’t think I’d even get there! The bus doors kept flying open causing the driver to stop to do running repairs, and it seemed like hours later when we finally chugged into the iconic destination.
Once at the sign post I posed for a photo which largely focused on my pilgrimage history rather than the imminent task of walking over 400 miles to Oundle in the Nene Valley. I founded a pilgrimage in Oundle in 2010 which we walk each year for Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall, and in the same year to the month, I also created a more extensive Cornish Pilgrimage (200 miles) for Cornwall Hospice Care. A group of us walk this every year too. More significantly however, the two places are linked through an earlier event which was in fact my first charity expedition in 1992. Back then I walked from Launceston to Oundle in a week traversing 8 counties, and the landlord of the Ship Inn at that time, Frank Langridge, doubled my meager sponsorship so I could have a cheque presentation for the Imperial Cancer Research Fund. They were all so full of praise and encouragement that I decided to carry on walking and dedicate at least one big expedition per year to a cancer-related charity. After a decade of this I decided to endure a similar but more extensive walk from Land’s End and again it was for the same charity, now rebranded Cancer Research UK. This present occasion marks 30 years of walking for charity which totals 33,000 miles of long distance pilgrimages mostly exceeding 1000km per event. The tally includes walks around the British Isles with 3 end-to-end treks: John O’Groats to Land’s End in 1995 and a 4-month marathon around Great Britain starting and finishing at Land’s End in 1997.
The late arrival by bus at Land’s End leaves me feeling a bit ‘wrung out’ and immediately aware that I may have to change my route so I can actually make it back to St Ives on this first day! It’s not an easy situation as I have a bad knee after slipping over on a wet drive at Christmas – I think the inner left ligament has not healed properly.
Anyway, off we go again – deep heat, bandages and all – little seems to have changed over the last few decades! Nor the wind too which blows ever fierce between Land’s End and Penzance where headwear needs to be chosen carefully or at best not at all. A bandana will suffice this time – it’s unlikely a stiff breeze will shift that: instead the inexorable traffic flow tops all other incumbents with this year’s tourist season now well underway. It’s a repetitive procedure of crossing to avoid sharp bends but a 2-hour power-march finally brings it to a close on the outskirts of Penzance where there is at least a pavement to walk safely on.
Pressing on through Madron, I stop for a brief snack comprised of the remnants of last nights Chinese washed down with a drop of soda water. Stepping back to the task, I take a side lane down to the Long Boat Inn where I bear left towards Gulval. I am familiar with this little place having passed through it several times on journeys to Land’s End, and our Cornish Pilgrimage trail (The St Michael’s Way), takes in the neighboring community of Ludgvan which we walk through annually en route to St Michael’s Mount.
Soon after passing Gulval I am treated to all round panoramic views of St Michael’s Mount with sunshine shimmering across the sea. Beyond the village, the sign post tells me I am only 7 miles from St Ives so I opt to stay on the road rather branching off to join the St Michael’s Way. I have now in fact walked all the routes between Lands End and St Ives: The Coast path: coast road; A30; The Cornish Way; The St Michael’s Way and Tinner’s Way between Zennor and St Ives. Not too shabby, though I am very wary of these narrow country roads and it’s not long before I am clipped by a car leaving a driveway. They didn’t even stop to say sorry – different set of rules out in these rural parts I guess!
Passing Nancledra makes me think there’s some good old Celtic names too in the basement of Cornwall where at times I struggle to get my tongue around the pronunciation. The region also evokes interesting history, fuelled by great lore and legend which have been rife here for centuries.
Feeling a bit dry by the time I reach Halestown, I stop briefly for refreshment at the local inn where I phone Tobi from the St Ives News. With my photo/interview arranged, I tick off the remaining couple of miles in the late afternoon sunshine which is hotter than initially forecasted.
Not a bad first day despite feeling some discomfort in my knee but I will soldier on as there have not yet been any charity walks where I have been free of pain. Looking back, I find it somewhat miraculous how I ever got through them all!
I guess walking for charity was all the motivation I needed and from that perspective it’s just ‘Another day another dollar’.
Day 2 – St Ives to Carharrack -24 miles
Starting the day in glorious sunshine that so often sets St Ives apart from other seaside towns, I grab a breakfast in The Hain Bar before heading off up the hill in search of the cycle route. St Ives is without doubt a jewel in Cornwall’s crown and has become the new capital of tourism which is reflected in a lot of post Coronavirus and Brexit tariffs. Many Continental beers are now £2 more than they were a year ago and now local brewers are imposing stiff prices too. Maybe it is more expensive buying ingredients from Europe?
I’m not quite sure what ordinary people were voting for back in 2016!
Continuing steadily through Carbis Bay and Lelant, allows my body to ease into the day which I feel will become more demanding in the latter stages.
High tide has swelled around the estuary leaving no land for wading birds and cockle pickers, and before long I am walking into Hayle where I stop at the Gallery Cafe owned by my friend ‘Bunny’. There is a local lady inside who is also a keen walker and on hearing of my quest, sponsors £5 to my Cornish Hospice Charity. We chat a while about books and walking – sore knees too which we’ve all endured. It was a lovely interval with a treat of coffee cake too and after to bidding farewell I trek on through the town. The place is lively with business sprawling endlessly along its extensive thoroughfare. It’s not as prolific as St Ives in terms of popularity though I always enjoy my visits here.
Taking the Portreath exit, I walk on to Gwithian and Godrevy observing the comings and goings at campsites which substantially cater for the influx of holidaymakers. After passing the church at Gwithian, I take a beach path through the park where I am able to take some video and photographic footage of this panoramic stretch of coastline. In the distance lies Godrevy Lighthouse looking sublimely picturesque perched on a rocky foreshore. The National Trust car parks are full by now as many visitors gather for a closer look at the spectacle. Some are enjoying the clifftop views whilst others bask on the popular beach that stretches 3 miles back to Hayle Estuary.
Stopping briefly at Hells Mouth, I enjoy a coffee and 10-minute break as I prepare to walk the coast path to Portreath.
The coast route is fairly flat though there is some pronounced undulation around Basset Cove. The path has been modernized and tapered in from the cliff edge where there are signs of erosion.
Even cyclists are enjoying the trail and I make way for the occasional jogger too.
At Portreath I collect a bottle of soda water and rest by the beach in the sun for awhile. I am surprised at how quiet it is given school holiday period and Easter break which normally signals the start of the tourist season.
Beyond the harbour I join the Portreath Tramroad and continue my off-road experience: first passing Bridge and later Cambrose. There’s a cycle hire/cafe at Elm Farm and generally it’s an easy walk. The wooded sections of the tramway evoke a sense of quietness broken only by passing cyclists, and before long I am crossing the A30 bridge into Scorrier.
Scorrier is more of a drive-through village where primary routes converge on the way into Redruth. There’s a couple of pubs, a garage/shop and bakeries, though the place itself is better known for the William’s Estate and local mining traditions which thrived as a result of the Portreath Tramroad. The Tramroad was originated at the height of the Industrial Revolution as a horse drawn railway serving the inland mines as far as Crofthandy. Today’s journey does not extend to this location: instead, after a further mile of walking the Tramroad, I make a detour along the St Day Trail via Pink Moors. The slim track passes through a wooded section and later descends along a sealed byway which eventually leads to Pink Moors and Vogue.
Reaching the Star Inn at Vogue, I cross to Tolcarne Road where I am able to follow the cycle route for the last mile to my home in Carharrack. What a day – full pelt for most of it and although I feel tired, there is time enough to do washing, cooking and plan the route for tomorrow’s journey through Roseland via Heligan Gardens.
Day 3 – Carharrack to Pentewan – 30 miles
Starting around 9.30am, I head off into Poldice Valley following the remnants of the Redruth/Chasewater Railway track towards Twelveheads and Bissoe. The railway was built in 1823 to serve the local mines and form a wagon way to Devoran Quay where mining produce was often shipped overseas. The Portreath Tramroad, built in 1809 was possibly the world’s first railway and the two mineral trails form a coast-to-coast cycle route: the second half of which I hope to complete this morning.
My mindset is good as the journey turns into a brisk power-march across a flat landscape of gaunt mine-stacks and lagoons, where I pause only to admire the views of Carnon Viaduct.
My body feels good with no pain in my knee – if anything the other one has started to hurt now! It hardly bothers me – in fact I’m too pumped up to notice, and gripped with enthusiasm I walk to Devoran rather than the shorter journey to Carnon Downs.
I march uphill to reconnect with the proposed route and cross the road bridge to walk the back lanes to Trelissick Gardens and King Harry Ferry.
It’s relatively quiet with very little traffic and I notice plenty of folk out tending the gardens and dealing with other Spring chores.
The last downhill stretch finally concludes at the banks of the Fal as I complete my second coast-to-coast walk of the tour so far. Before long I am aboard and have time for some lunch comprised of mackerel and pasta.
Once on the far bank I begin my ascent towards Philleigh and some of the smaller rural settlements in Roseland.
It’s certainly hard work – a bit like walking
St Day Hill all the time but I make good progress and it is only 1.30pm by the time I reach the main road at Ruan High Lanes.
Sadly the main road offers little solace with speeding traffic on narrow bends though I stop for a drink at a service station next to the Veryan Junction.
I should really have joined this byway here to be away from all this madness but in the absence of signposts I kick on and hope for the best. I tick off a few small settlements and see no more directions until reaching Tregony.
I’m rather shocked to be out this way as it’s more Truro than the coast which is where I need to go.
Then after another half a mile blast up ‘St Day Hill’ I actually find a signpost! It’s says St Austell which is a lot better than Truro and it means the seaside is not too far away. Another treat awaiting me is Heligan Gardens which requires a few more hill climbs: my knees feel marvelous now but my Gluteous Maximus is crying out in pain on each ascent!
Thirty years ago, Heligan’s historic gardens were unheard of as if lost in the thickets of time when once-dedicated gardeners had sped off to join the Great War. Today, the site has been restored to former glory boasting some of the finest gardens in the Kingdom. They are a welcome respite from wind and traffic (and those bloody hills!), and after taking a few pictures I follow the path through the campsite and out towards the coast.
One track spurs off to Mevagissey and perhaps I should have followed that one as the other almost reaches St Austell before I can pick up the trail I need to Pentewan. It was a mile out towards
St Austell then another mile backtrack to the seaside village.
Feeling relieved to get there, I then have to walk another half mile to the campsite reception to pay for a pitch and walk back again to set up. I can’t believe it’s only 5pm and I have no problem getting a meal at the Ship Inn. Early start in the morning – hopefully I’ll reach Bodmin at a reasonable hour, and will then have a day to prepare for the greater journey which begins with a ‘TAB’ across Bodmin Moor.
Day 4 Pentewan Campsite to Bodmin Parkway – 20 miles
Waking with the larks, I dismantle my tent and get ready for the day ahead. It’s very dull but peaceful during the early steps along the Pentewan River where there’s barely a soul in sight. Nearing St Austell a jogger stops to chat – he is in amazing condition running 10 miles a day at the age of nearly 70. Top man!
After wishing each other well, I continue into
St Austell, where I decide to stop at McDonalds for a fast breakfast and coffee – it’s great!
Once refueled I am on my way again, walking uphill past the train station in search of a sign for Luxulyan.
The town is still waking up and I am soon beyond the railway station as I make every effort to follow the cycle route. Eventually the road leads to a familiar track which I’ve used in the past to reach the Eden Project.
It comes out near a car park where a sign post reads Luxulyan 2 miles and I cross to join the waymarked trail. After a mile of walking the dirt track, it rejoins the road where another sign reads Luxulyan 2.5 miles. Hmm – feeling a bit bemused, I continue uphill and connect to a narrow byway which a mile or so later cross-sections the Saints Way Footpath. After walking a further mile, it joins an even more diminutive trail. This time it says Luxulyan 2.25 miles!
And so the journey goes on weaving in and out of the woods on its narrow course through Luxulyan Valley. There’s a railway line down here too and I’m impressed to see the Treffry Viaduct which is a resounding feat of Victorian engineering!
There is some flooding further on and with no sign of Luxulyan Village I decide to walk to Lanlivery instead!
Lanlivery is on the Saints Way Trail and also provides a route to Lanhydrock and Bodmin. After a spot of refreshment at the Crown Inn and confirmation of my course to Bodmin, I set off for the remaining few miles of Phase 1. It seems straightforward with barely any traffic on this tiny little road but ultimately it joins a busy intersection between Bodmin and Lostwithiel.
It soon becomes a laboured effort against speeding traffic but at the last roundabout where traffic is slowed by roadworks, I turn right and follow the cycle route through Lanhydrock. It is fairly quiet today, though I have seen many cyclists and joggers along Route 3 which illustrates its popularity. Eventually the path veers off towards the woodlands making a delightful conclusion on descent to Bodmin Parkway.
Soon I will have an opportunity to rest and gather fresh supplies for the greater journey which will start back here on Monday and continue for a further 10 days. Like the first time I walked it, I think it will be something of an epic!
Day 5 Bodmin Parkway to Tregadillet – 28 miles
So it’s back to the grind stone once again as I set off along a hazardous A38 trunk road that serves Bodmin and Liskeard. Neither of those destinations are on my itinerary today but I need to follow the road for 4-5 miles in order to pick up a side lane up to Bodmin Moor: from there I can progress to St Neot and Minions as I make my way to the border of Devon.
The initial journey along the moorland road becomes another one of those 2-mile staircase climbs to St Neot, and my Gluteus Maximus is cursing every step! I chose this route on the last 10-year anniversary and don’t recall it being this demanding and it takes until 1pm to reach
the place. Feeling overwhelmed by the euphoria of actually getting there, I am through the village before I know it! I had intended to break for lunch but instead carry on a couple more miles until finding an idyllic location beside a shallow stream. There are roadworks ahead which is great as it means a lull in traffic flow, though the rural journey remains an exacting one. There are mile after mile of steep winding roads throughout but I make it to Minions without any issues.
Stopping a while, I drink a bottle of water and change my sodden kit before confirming with the shopkeeper the best possible way to continue into Launceston.
Either road will take me there but I opt for the scenic route once again and commit myself to more hills and bends. It goes on to eternity though I am confident of my navigation skills and by late afternoon I am joining the B3254 just shy of Bathpool. And what a transition it is too! Speeding traffic on narrow roads – been there before many times, though the experience never really ameliorates. It seems ages before I find the appropriate lanes to the outskirts of Launceston which I normally use as my Cornish Pilgrimage Route for this area. Finally, after passing the turn offs for Lanwenick and South Petherwith, I reach the road to Kennards House. Leaving only a modest 2 miles to walk, the din of the A30 marks the end of a long day. There is a welcoming feel entering the village of Tregadillet which I walk through each year, and by 7.30pm I am finished for the day at the campsite beyond the Eliot Arms. Thank the lord for that! Before dusk I am back at the local pub ordering food and winding down amid a lively atmosphere which evokes memories of the genesis of my walking life.
Day 6 Tregadillet to North Tawton – 31 miles
I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening starting with an excellent meal at the Eliot Arms where I met an interesting couple who are familiar with a lot of my haunts in this part of the world.
They often frequent The King’s Head at Five Lanes but as it doesn’t open on Mondays they come here for their evening meal instead.
We spent an hour or so putting the world to rights and at the end of the evening they paid for my meal and drinks! What a lovely kind gesture!
Rising in brilliant sunshine at the farm campsite where I was also allowed a free stay by the kind landlady, I pack away my camping gear realising I won’t need to wear so much clothing today. That’s more weight to carry but I hardly notice the difference as I plod into Launceston against the constant din of the A30. There are a few side lanes to negotiate in lieu of the busy highway which take a little longer but soon the iconic castle ruin comes into view.
Once there, I take photos of the authentic old county town which as a gateway to Cornwall still retains its antiquity and slower pace of life.
The castle relic dates back to Norman times and there are other attractions such as the Launceston Narrow Gauge Steam Railway which runs to Newmills Farm. After coffee and cake at Costa, and cap placed firmly on my head I’m away again through the gated exit and onto Devon.
Joining the old A30, I march past the rugby ground at Polson and then cross the Tamar bridge which separates Cornwall and Devon, the river being the natural border. Fortunately the old road harbours less traffic and more stops which I make the most of initially. After Lifton I decide to roll up my sleaves a bit and get stuck into some hard work. The hills are less pronounced but the breathtaking green belt views add a spring to my step as I criss-cross the road to avoid speeding traffic on bends. I remember my first outing on May Bank Holiday Saturday 1992, when the traffic was unrelenting. I recall a cycle event taking place too and the efforts made to keep every one safe. This road would be unimaginable today as back then there was no concept of dual carriageway until joining the latter part by the Little Chef – 2-mile from the entry into Okehampton.
I chat awhile to different people: one I meet is a cyclist from Wirral called Mark: he is staying in Okehampton tonight before returning home on the train having cycled the distance down here.
The remainder of my stint to Okehampton becomes an entity of footslogging as I work through pain barriers and traffic until my fitness shines through. The last few miles are endured on the real A30 and that’s bloody scary I can tell you as I fear for my life every second!
Even walking the slip road into
Okehampton (2 miles) is quite deleterious.
Once in town I’m saddened to hear there is no accommodation nor campsites for miles. Typical! Anyway I stop for a steak at Whetherspoons (probably the only hotel in town), then head off in the direction of Crediton.
The road is narrow but quiet and still retains its
B status. It sadly bypasses the train station which I had hoped to visit, though I get a glimpse of the railway from a bridge overlooking the new platform at Samford. Little else has altered here as I recall my journey from 30 years ago as if it was yesterday. I am walking well but the light is fading and at the point of dusk, I take a detour into the village of North Tawton which to my astonishment is abundant in facilities – well all except accommodation.
I stop a couple who are walking through a park and ask them where I can camp. They tell me to pitch here in the park behind the trees – hopefully no one will trash the tent: however I can hear voices in the near distance. I take a gamble and bivy up: then nip into town to get more food at the local chip shop. This walking certainly gives one an appetite! Once sorted it’s a brief visit to the Fountain Inn before heading back to my campsite – just hope all is ok!
Day 7 North Tawton to Fisherman’s Cot, Tiverton
– 20 miles
Well I survived a night in the park – even sat and ate fish & chips before retiring. After some partial sleep, (the morning chorus put pay to any lie-in), I sort out my equipment and head off back to the Crediton Road. What a nightmare that is!
I actually believed there would be no traffic about at this time of day. These rural parts however, have markets to attend and farmland that requires cultivation, as I pass wagon after juggernaut throughout the morning. I don’t recall this sort of activity 30 years ago but the process of change and ingenuity has cultivated an era of faster/ larger motors. Most cars these days are too big for these primitive A roads and their owners are all Grand Prix drivers, labeling my job as practically insane! The sensible ones hover behind me as it’s too risky to overtake on byways that are no longer offer comfortable width for safe passage.
Running from side to side to avoid the nasty bends is my best hope of survival and eventually I pick up a side lane via Coleford which cuts off the intensity of traffic for a while.
The lovely thatch buildings of Coleford have a calming effect and before rejoining the main road a local guy tells of another good byway that snips off Crediton and sets me on course for Tiverton.
This chance meeting serves me well and before long I am joining the A396 to Tiverton.
The countryside is magnificent but the columns of farm vehicles and freight continue to blight the journey and I stop for respite at the first grocer store I come too – in the middle of nowhere too!
I chat a while with the lady who is so laid back I had to fetch her out the garden to serve me!
She tells me to be careful on the road (it’s not hard to see why!) but goes on to say how beautiful it all is. There’s more steep hills amid the stunning patchwork landscape which reveals only a few scattered communities.
Beyond Cadbury the road improves slightly with less steep climbs and after the Bickleigh turn off there is a beautiful bridge and water scene with a heron waiting patiently on the shallow ground to snare a catch.
A bit further on I stop at a large pub to obtain some water: the pub is under restoration but the owner runs off to find a glass while I chat to his partner. She has a friend called Daisy who recently became a victim of cancer and was interested in sponsoring my walk. She is also kind enough to phone a few places in Tiverton to book accommodation for me. They are all full – no surprise there but luckily she knows the management at the Fisherman’s Cot. After a chat to the proprietor, she leads me round and makes a booking for me and to my amazement pays the tariff too. It is a very kind thing to do and after camping the last few days I’m grateful to have a bit of time out to wind down, have a proper shower and enjoy a deeper sleep – like a log in fact!
Day 8 The Fisherman’s Cot to Taunton – 27 miles
Waking with branches sprouting out of the bed I at least feel mighty fine – as if reborn!
The Fisherman’s Cot was the best night stop so far and my hosts were excellent throughout and also giving good advice for the first stage of my journey today. This is all thanks to a kind lady who wanted to help because of a sick friend who has been diagnosed with cancer. Let’s hope that the new innovations we’ve all worked towards over many hard years will shine through and give her a positive outcome for the rest of her life.
After crossing the bridge by the Fisherman’s Cot, I visit the Railway Museum and take a few photos before locating my route.
Leaving via Bickleigh Mill, I head off along the riverside pass through the wooded glades that make up the trail called the Exe Way,
Normally it is muddy at this time of year but the prolonged dry spell has made the route an effective alternative to the ‘truckers road’ and it bypasses most of the town.
The path brings me out on the exit of town so all I have to do is keep walking towards the M5 – but not too close!
At the third roundabout I cross onto Brundle Road and walk past the local school: then a mile or so later I join the Uplowman road which runs a further 2 miles to the village itself. As traffic speeds past on the motorway with only a hedge to separate my initial steps, I can be thankful for this safer route and the solitude that this lovely country walk eventually brings. Stopping a while at Uplowman village, I eat some fruit and check my route again before setting off in the direction of Holcombe Rogus. There’s not much too break up the journey along these narrow lanes and passing through all the villages en route, I see no shops and only dead pubs. Occasionally I have to ask for directions as there are few signposts. The post man is helpful and I flag a guy down for confirmation that I am still on course for Wellington.
It’s a bit different to last time (10 years ago) when I walked the Grand Western Canal which seemed to take ages: it dried up half way through and I had to find a track back to the A38! It was good fun though a bit counter-productive but better than my very first effort when through naivety I walked up the A road via Stamford Peverell which is not only highly dangerous but possibly a third of the distance longer too! So I guess I am content with my little journey which remains sedate until passing the byway to Westleigh Quarry, where after the road is dominated by high speed truckers. There’s no respite on the A38 either but at least there is enough space to walk – I guess I was a lot braver back in 1992.
Any way cars have grown since then and so have many of the places: Wellington has evolved beyond recognition. The one memory I do recall was the old bench going into town when on several journeys I would stop and rest. On two occasions Roy Sumner from Oundle had seen me when on his way to Tiverton to visit his daughter Susan. Once his son stopped and bought me some lunch and we chatted about Oundle and the people we both knew. Fond memories of great folk.
Soldiering on through teatime traffic I am grateful to have a path to walk on, though a little disappointed not to have done any video commentary earlier as now it is too manic to even try.
By early evening I am in town and decide to book into a hotel as I may not have this option again for a while with Bank Holiday Weekend drawing ever near. At least I can get a decent rest before enduring what is likely to be one of the tougher walks tomorrow and possibly several more nights under canvas.
Day 9 Taunton to Wells – 34 miles
Setting off from the Corner House Hotel, I continue walking through the city which appears to have changed considerably since my last visit. It soon turns out to be a dreadful start, and after traipsing through endless roadworks I finally make my passage via the back lanes, firstly reaching a little village called Ruiston. From here I continue to Creech St Michael where amazingly I stumble across the Taunton and Bridgwater Canal. What a delight! Not only am I now walking off-road but can also link up with the A361 a bit further on.
This lovely waterway in the south-west opened in 1827, linking the River Tone to the River Parrett.
Once busy with boats plying their trade to and from Bridgwater Docks, it now skirts its way in a uniquely tranquil isolation which attracts the likes of me and other leisure enthusiasts too.
It’s a great journey along the towpath interspersed with the occasional fishermen and later I meet some canoeists heading upstream in search of a cafe. The Train line runs close by and I count half a dozen engines race past whilst walking this course. Before long I have to give up my little excursion and head back to the serious job of road walking with its turmoil of mainstream traffic. Old road but same old nightmare as I continually cross over to avoid the bends. I spend hours walking without a break, bench or drink until finally I stop a chap in his garden who kindly fetches some cool water. After the refreshment I kick on for another stint as far as Street where I stop to attend to a blister: shortly after I take a refreshment break at MacDonalds. After a meal and tea, I hose myself down in the bathroom and head off into Glastonbury where the tankers keep on chugging by. Camper vans have joined the circus too as the Bank Holiday is revving up with scores of motorists heading west.
By the time I reach the top of Glastonbury I’ve earn’t my drink of soda and a small rest at a bench as I contemplate doing some overtime along the Wells Road. There’s no chance of getting accommodation or camping here, and when I enquire at the Pilgrim Hotel the smallest room remaining costs £180 per night! Catastrophic!
And so it goes on, as my day spills into evening along the A39 which at least starts with a pavement. As the traffic builds, the path disappears and I’m back to dodging corners again. The old roadside pubs I had frequented in the past have gone now and seem unlikely to return. The first, which was once a lively restaurant is now nothing but a gaunt shell with little sign of restoration: the other one which I camped at 10 years ago (a little further on) is an Indian restaurant and take away: at least it is still a hot destination for many even if it equates to a Vindaloo!
Then before I know it the pavement has returned and I am walking into the City of Wells – unexpected really as I had not planned to be this far – especially after the debacle of this morning!
It’s still light so I enquire about places to stay. Obviously everywhere is fully booked but one proprietor who is very helpful tells me where to camp and how to get there. After thanking her I follow the instructions as far as the Premier Inn and then ask the receptionist there for confirmation about camping in this area. She agreed that the idea is sound and this way I can at least get a meal and a few hours rest. It beats walking through the night and furthermore, I’m only 20 miles from Bath!
Day 10 City of Wells to Box – 26 miles
I can’t believe the weather – it’s been so warm I slept in today – not waking until 6.50am. I’m soon up and ready, even managing a breakfast at the Premier Inn before setting off to visit the cathedral, and then it’s on towards Bath. I pick up the road 200 yards uphill from the cathedral: it’s a village route rather than the Great West Road (A39) and is paved for most of the 22-mile distance.
Feeling hotter than normal, I soon strip down to shorts and T-shirt. At least I have plenty of water and stride on steadily as I get used to the blistered feet incurred by yesterday’s marathon. As the pain subsides my momentum builds and soon I am in the zone.
Reaching Radstock-on-Avon brings back memories of yesteryear including a visit to the chemist to obtain more plasters and pain-killing remedies. Then it’s time to ascend that great hill on the old Bath road – gosh it seems to go on for eternity. At least it is paved and I slow up to endure the challenge but the overall section to Bath is only 8 miles and soon I am descending to the Kennet and Avon Canal. This is my passage beyond the city and part of my course into Wiltshire.
The canal is very popular and frequented by locals and visitors alike but I am more amazed about the riverside community who are partying all the way down to Bathampton. Barges line the waterway for mile after mile as fires are lit by families celebrating the Bank Holiday with food and ale. Leaving the canal at the George Inn, I follow a lane down to the mainline railway crossing, then take the footpath across the field up to the A4. From here I cross into Wiltshire and continue towards Box. Trains scream past every few minutes reminding me that I’m close to the iconic tunnel built by I K Brunel. Reaching the local pub there is a vegan night set up with live music and beyond the beer garden a park where I set up camp for the night. Here I chat with locals about the best area to do this as it has changed considerably since my last visit, and one kind lady called Jo sponsors me £10 and wishes me well for the rest of my journey.
Returning to the pub it seems busy outside where most are listening to the band. I just need food – it’s now 8pm and I’m starving! I dash to the shop for some sandwiches then relax at a table where I am able to write up my day and plan for tomorrow which promises a wet start.
Day 11 Box to Wootton Basset – 22 miles
Hearing the rain creep in about 4am is a little disconcerting but I guess it is overdue. A couple of hours later I pack my kit away inside the tent as best I can, then saddle up for a wet day on the road.
Walking up the park I stop and talk to an ex-paratrooper who fought at Goose Green in the Falklands War (2para). We spoke of changes in our society and worldwide generally living within this modern age of technology where every one’s life is stored in the ‘cloud’. Then, after pressing on to Box Tunnel, I stop again to take pictures of this great industrial landmark which is over 3 miles long and took nearly 5 years to build. Toiling with marlin spike and shovel back then, around 100 lives were lost during its construction making it almost a spiritual icon. Fewer trains today as it is Bank Holiday Sunday which usually has infrequent services and may also be subject to track maintenance.
The journey continues out of Box and onto Corsham where at least the old Bath Road is still paved for most of the way. Occasionally a ‘would-be hero’ attempts to splash me but it makes little difference as I am walking in shorts and already wet. I pass a solitary pub and endless sheep fields but generally it’s a good early start. Arriving on the outskirts of Chippenham I stop for breakfast at 9.30 enjoying an egg/bacon muffin with coffee, followed by a refreshing wash and shave in the Gents.
Leaving here I require a few directions and two ladies point me onto the Langley Road (B3490) which I notice has closure notices. Assuming that just means traffic, I boot on into the unknown believing it to be a straightforward job. Traffic flow intensifies and there isn’t always a path on this narrow section. I see only small communities and all the main signs are for Lynham. I had hoped to avoid Lynham and use a track beside the motorway but some how I miss the turn off. Before long I have reached the Lynham signpost only to realize there is no road across! It is completely fenced off and marked extremely dangerous owing to serious erosion. I crawl under the fence and advance a further few meters to find what appears to be an earthquake! There’s great layers of tarmac strewn around everywhere as though a bomb had landed. Maybe it had – the military is only down the road! Carefully stepping over the ravine of debris and climbing a few awkward sections of rubble, I arrive at another set of metal gates. This time I can walk round them and ironically there’s a car showroom next to the rubble! There is signs of a community ahead and so I know I am able to continue along partially cracked tarmac. Soon the road returns and I continue through Lynham, where I notice an old pub I passed 30 years ago – then in its prime but now lies sad and abandoned forsaken by time.
Feeling weary and foot sore, the journey drags on along the Swindon road and it seems ages before I reach Wootton Basset where I stop for a meal at 3pm. Once I have eaten I cross the road and book into The Angel Hotel for the night. Then it’s a much-needed bath to sort out my aching body and rid myself of the stench of the road. Right now I’d give ‘Rufus Roughcut’ a good run for his money and would certainly stand out among some of the best-known tramps!
Day 12 Wootton Basset to Chipping Norton – 36 miles
Setting off around 10pm in dull conditions I face a complicated morning navigating an intricate course around the outskirts of Swindon as far as Highworth. First I visit Purton which I am at least familiar having followed the road to Cricklade on many past expeditions. Then, after joining the old Cricklade road I walk a further 4 miles to the Swindon and Cricklade Railway. What a delight that is as I’ve never visited the centre before!
Pressing on, I pass a modern gated-village called Todpole which does not appeal to me at all but eventually after much hard work I find the correct road to Highworth.
Traffic is on my case all the time – no respite and absolute maximum concentration is required: I even receive a rollocking for walking on the wrong side of the road when crossing to avoid bends!
At Highworth I stop long enough for a foot inspection, sock change and a drink: then with the time approaching 1.30pm, it’s on to Lechlade. More traffic and no chance of joining the Thames footpath but on reaching the town around 3.30pm, I am treated to some expansive riverside views. It’s manic here – people and coronavirus everywhere, though I manage another sock change on a bench near the church.
Now the fun begins as the Burford Road is at its busiest like all other popular tourist destinations on this delightful Spring Bank Holiday Monday.
Also the same signposts from 30 years ago are still there which read ‘Burford 6 miles’ every 2 miles!
Eventually I do get there – not bad time too as it is only 6pm but I still have another 11 miles to reach Chipping Norton.
As I leave the tourist furore of Burford behind, I can’t help noticing how quiet the road has become. Same old road from 3 decades ago with scarcely a patch of resurface in sight, yet now there is hardly any traffic. This pattern continues as I tick off the very small communities en route the largest drive through place was near the Lamb Inn where I stayed on my last anniversary walk 10 years ago.
Darkness begins to fall and I employ the use of a torch for oncoming traffic. I suffer the Burford issue when signposts continually read: Chipping Norton 3 miles for about an hour. Then all of a sudden I am in town. The first pub I enquire at is about to close but a local patron called Colin offers to put me up. He is an ex-serviceman of over 34 years with the RAF spending time in Gibraltar and postings at some of my old drafts in Scotland. He works for the NHS now as an engineer and has an early start tomorrow- that’s good for me too, as I hope to reach the border of Northamptonshire by midday and kick on from there.
Day 13 Chipping Norton to Towcester – 33 miles
Feeling footsore and tired, I head off after 6am on the A361 which is now a minefield as far as traffic goes. I face a difficult morning though it’s hardly a step out into the unknown as I have walked this section several times before. The Bank Holiday had stemmed the tide of rolling trucks but today they are back with a vengeance. More worrying, as a consequence of yesterday’s epic performance, my feet are too sore to be mobile enough to criss-cross the bendy road so I grit it out on the corners and hope for the best. On one occasion I climb a tree just to let a lorry past: some people here are just plain mad! I watch a skip hire truck race by at a crazy speed but for what!? Another guy totally ignores the 30 mile speed limit entering a drive through community bends and all. I’ll be glad to be away from this collective insanity!
Eventually I reach the perimeter of Banbury and make my way into town along the cycle route.
By noon I’m tucking into a steak at a Wetherspoons inn before crossing the border into Northamptonshire with still at least another 16 miles to walk.
In the past I have left the town via the railway bridge which on this occasion appears to have eluded me.
Leaving Banbury amid industrial buildings and complex road junctions turns into a nightmare when beyond the town I face motorway traffic and no significant signposts for direction. All in all I waste an hour just getting onto the right course and even when I reach Northamptonshire I am dealt another hand of manic traffic along the B4525.
It’s late afternoon before I join the old Towcester Road and on reaching Sulgrave at 5.30pm, I stop and rest on a bench opposite the post office. It’s good to see the little grocer shop still trading and I sit a while to lake stock of my effort so far.
Returning to the task is tough-going and my right heel is very sore making it uncomfortable to land my foot. I focus on each village – the 3 remaining ones, Heldon, Wappingham and Abthorpe are no more than 3 miles apart. Each place has the appeal and charm of idyllic countryside which I find good for morale. Little has changed since my first outing as I observe with delight an interesting landscape of old railway bridges where trains once passed, and beautiful stone-built cottages that identify strongly with this predominantly rural county situated in the heart of England.
By 8pm I am entering the town of Towcester and before long I have booked into the Sarascon’s Head. Its a bit expensive for my budget but I am absolutely shattered and can barely string a sentence together. The receptionist is helpful and reduces my tariffs which includes breakfast: then after a drink and a sandwich, I am asleep before even completing my diary!
Day 14 Towcester to Islip – 30 miles
Leaving around 9.30am after a Salmon breakfast, I walk steadily out of town on the Tifford Road. Like at Banbury, I experience difficulty avoiding the highways and a kind man from the industrial estate shows me a footpath into the village. It involves crossing the A43 but I manage this in stages when the traffic lanes empty. From here I walk a quiet country road as far as Blisworth where I stop to photograph the village and it’s improvised library.
Passing under the railway tunnel links me to the route from Roades which I walked on my first walk here in 1992: in 2010 I came in from the Blisworth Arm so I must of walked a different way each time. One thing I do remember is the Northampton sign and like before I take a “selfie”.
Pressing on into town, I see a Robot advancing towards me. It’s not Dalek-like – instead small and compact: we analyze each other and I deduce that it’s a meals on wheels delivery service! A few moments later, an off duty Kentucky Chicken waiter returning home from his shift on a scooter issues me with a meal. What’s on here I think – maybe I look in need of a meal. Once at the centre I visit a bank and then acquire information from a road worker about my route to Wellingborough. It’s been a long morning as I slowly restart my journey: on the way out of town I meet another robot patrolling the outskirts and later stop for a coffee at Abington.
The A4500 is a well-paved route and referred to on a few of thr signposts as the old Wellingborough Road, taking in Western Favel, Billings and Earls Barton. By the time I reach the latter I’m in the midst of a storm. I can’t hear the thunder due to the roar of traffic but within 10 minutes the road has transformed into a stream most of which has now engulfed the pavement leaving me ankle deep in water. The only thing that surprises me is the speed people are maintaining despite these appalling conditions. What’s the hurry – some clearly have a pressing appointment with death!
Soldiering on, wet and drenched through despite waterproofs, I make it to Wilby and then continue into Wellingborough where I stop for tea at Wetherspoons.
After acquiring some instructions on how to reach the riverside, I continue out of town and locate the Nene Way Footpath. What a welcome transition – no traffic – just its fading din as the River bank opens up into a delightful walk.
In the distance a railway bridge catches my gaze as a train cruises in towards the town. I pass weirs, cross several bridges and hear the cuckoo as the journey advances on this lovely Spring evening.
Approaching Rushden, I hit a few problems: first missing a turn but once remedied I run out of signposts. I ask a lady for help and am told to cross the busy intersection, then take a road through the gypsy encampment. All of that seems a daunting prospect – especially crossing the road. I have the A6 northbound, A14 and then another major road to contend with. I’m wondering whether it is quicker just too stay on the cycle route. Then as I arrive at the huge bridge by the encampment I can see the old Nene Valley Railway below. Great stuff! Now all I have to do is follow the road through the gypsy site which says No Through Road! I walk through anyway and no one here even flinches as I continue to the old track bed. From here I have a straight run through Stanwick Lakes and Leisure Park where there seems to be a high concentration of insects. I feel that I am under siege at times, especially around the lakes. Beyond here I see a few cyclists as I follow the track into total darkness. Using a torch I navigate my way as far as Islip and take the footpath past the sports ground to the Woolpack Inn. Two guys sponsor me before I even get inside the pub and to my amazement, a friend called Matt greets me from the bar. I am ready to set to camp on the sports field but he only lives up the road and kindly offers to put me up. After a quick thirst-quenching beer, I march up the hill to where he lives. It happens to be near the Rose and Crown Inn where I had once camped when walking the Oundle Pilgrimage, so at least on the right course for tomorrow. What an epic day – bath and bed to finish – can’t beat that -just 10 miles tomorrow to complete the task.
Day 15 Islip to Oundle – 10 miles
I manage to sleep for a few hours, though this moment has been eagerly anticipated and by 8am I’m back on the Nene Way Trail. Passing through the Rose & Crown garden, I enter the paddock at the bottom and continue diagonally towards the lakes. I’m soon surrounded by water and meet a dog which seems terrified of my backpack. It takes a while for it’s owner to entice it past with a treat or two. Finally it plucks up enough courage to race by, echoing a brave bark in the distance and soon it is peaceful once again.
Entering Aldwinkle I photograph the church and take a break at the shop where the proprietors are interested in my quest. I navigate my way through the sandwich aisle whilst explaining the geographical elements of my quest and then settle on the bench outside to enjoy my meal.
Moving on, I take in the final steps of the journey through Stoke Doyle and then pausing briefly at the cemetery, I pay respects to lost relatives. Whilst there I am visited by a young deer which later runs a lap around the cemetery. From here I press on into town towards the Ship Inn which is where I finished my first walk from Cornwall 30 years ago almost to the day. After lugging nearly four stone of equipment about for the last fortnight, I’m just looking forward to tasting that first beer – a steak won’t hurt too!
I’d like thank those who supported my efforts and donating to Cancer Research UK. The justgiving page is still open and I welcome more donations after this epic walk.
To support Robin’s Walk for Cancer Research UK, please use the justgiving link below:
The Cornish Pilgrimage will be arranged later this year (September) and will be in honour of Cornwall Hospice Care. To find out more about the project/route please visit:
NEW WALKING GUIDE
The Gwennap Walking Guide which will be available in May, provides an interesting overview of this once prolific region of Cornwall, highlighting many interesting landmarks and sites.
ART GALLERY (future project)
Walking gives me inspiration for many things and more recently, I partially illustrated a Great War Poem booklet with some poignant and spiritual art. Most new publications will also contain artwork: some prints of fine art will soon be available (for a small fee) at my online gallery. Exhibitions of original work will be advertised via seasonal newsletters and social media updates.
New titles of EBOOKS will soon be published each month: these include Pilgrim routes and local walks. Expeditions will be categorized by Continent, country or region. Proceeds from all creative work will help fund walks and other valuable charity work.
To find out more about ‘Moore’ please visit:
Robin Moore on YouTube
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