Update

Just a quick update from the town of Moycullen in County Galway as the first day of the walk nears an end. We’ve had some excellent views of Irish mist today and I can assure you that Irish rain is as wet as anywhere else.
Excellent hospitality at the pub close to where we are staying – my idea of heaven, good Guinness, good company and three different football matches on Sky.
Will try to add a photo or two this evening. Now, be honest did you visit the Genesis site like I asked you to do?

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Back into the West!

 

Do you remember this image that was taken in Dublin on St Patrick’s Day 2011? We were just about to start a long-distance walk from Dublin Bay to Galway Bay hoping to raise money for a charity very close to my heart (well close to my chest actually) known as the Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention Appeal. Thanks to your kindness we were able to raise almost £7000 and, perhaps of equal importance, we were able to raise awareness that breast cancer can be prevented. Now, don’t stop reading! This is not a request for you to provide more money but simply a request for you to remind yourselves that breast cancer can be prevented if you follow the guidelines that the lovely people of Genesis have spent a great deal of time researching. And especially don’t stop reading if you are a man. If you think it can’t happen to you because men don’t have breasts, they have chests, you are so wrong.

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So Rosie and I and Rebecca Wilkin (an exceedingly expert photographer and thoroughly good egg) are off on another walk. We are going to start walking on Monday February 20th in Galway and are going to stop walking when we reach the Atlantic Ocean at the town of Clifden. I’ll tell you why I’m doing it – I’m doing it because I can. In the last few years I have had two doses of cancer and it would have been very easy to give up and sit waiting for death. Those of you who have followed my blogs will know that in that time I have visited a dozen countries, I have been into the Sahara Desert and have walked in the Atlas Mountains. I have also crossed the Tibetan Plateau and reached Everest Base Camp and walked in the Annapurna Sanctuary. If a shrimp like me can do these things, so can you. God forbid that any of you ever get a dose of cancer, but if you do, keep strong and you will beat it.

Here are are three images to keep you going until we start the walk on Monday.

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We will be passing through the region known as Connemara and I have to say it is probably the best place I have ever been. By the time we reach the beach in the bottom image we will have walked over 50 miles and our complete walk (from Dublin Bay to the Atlantic Ocean) will have approached almost 200 miles. Looking at the weather forecast for next week, we will probably get soaked on most days but hey ho!

Two things for you to do in the next few days. Firstly please go and visit the Genesis web-site. They have absolutely dozens of fund raising activities that you can get involved in and each one is guaranteed to make you laugh. They provide opportunities to do all the usual things such as sponsored runs but you can get involved in parachute jumping, crossing rivers on zip wires and all sorts of things that you haven’t even thought of yet! So please go and visit their website. It costs nothing to visit and look at ways you might help them. At the very least you could buy a raffle ticket for their Easter raffle and look forward to eating the largest Easter egg I’ve ever seen.       http://www.genesisuk.org/events/million-miles

Maybe you could also share this blog with you Facebook friends and re-tweet it if you have a twitter account. It’ll take you a few seconds, but you will be helping to publicise the work of a charity whose sole aim is to make “… one in ten, none in ten …”. Not a lot to ask is it?

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Off to the Canary Islands

One of the smaller Canary Islands is La Palma. They say that it is always spring on the island – never too hot and with no particular rainy season. So it seemed like a good place to visit for a burst of sunshine in early summer, especially as the summer was a little reluctant to return to Kendal (what’s new?).

We did three walks during the week we were there, two short ones and one a little longer. I have got to say that you would not be disappointed by a trip to this island. It is largely unspoilt by tourist development and it has a pace that is in direct contrast to its near neighbours such as Tenerife. It has spectacular scenery, amazing flowers which seem to bloom all year round and wild life that seems to live in total harmony with the human population of the island.

It is one of Europe’s most volcanically unstable areas sitting slap bang on top of a junction of two major tectonic plates. The last volcanic eruption on the island was in the 1970s and we were able to walk through the lava fields and actually walk across the crater of one of the island’s volcanoes. They say that the ground is still warmer than it should be because the lava is not far below the surface. In the thirty-ish years since the last eruption, there has been little recolonisation by vegetation, but where it does occur the contrast between the vivid colours of the flowers and the grey-blackness of the volcanic dust and rock is quite remarkable.

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The lava fields below the volcano Teneguia

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The island is also blessed with some remarkable coastal scenery, the best of which is created where the lava flows entered the sea and cooled rapidly.

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And if that’s not enough for such a small island, it also boasts the world’s largest volcanic crater. We did a couple of short walks in and around the caldera. The first had us walking down a precipitous path just far enough to remember that we had to climb back up it in the baking sun!

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Yes! That is the path, but …

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… that’s the view!

Our last walk was the shortest but what do you make of views such as these?

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Add to all of this the amazing wild life and quite astonishing sunsets and I think you’ll agree that La Palma was quite a find.

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What’s going on?

When Rosie and I finished the cross-Ireland walk for the Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention Appeal you could be excused for thinking that we were unlikely to do anything like that again. However, there was a curious dissatisfaction that accompanied our journey back to England and the germ of an idea grew in Rosie’s mind that we could have extended the trip so as to finish on the Atlantic Coast near the town of Clifden. Clifden is particularly significant in that this was the town that her father grew up close to in the 1920s.

Let’s face it, there is no easy way of walking fifty miles but Rosie has managed to discover that the two ends of our proposed journey, Galway and Cliden, are connected by a railway line that is no longer in use. Now, railway trains do not like hills so the assumption can be made that if it is possible to walk along the track of the old railway then the fifty miles might not be all that difficult. All I can say is never make assumptions!

What we have discovered is that much of the route is walkable, but there are sections where the track has been “privatised” by farmers, or is blocked by vegetation, or is impassable because bridges have been removed. Seems like a good set of reasons to shelve the idea, but Rosie is made of sterner stuff and so we are setting off on February 20th to “walk the line”.

We’ve not been idle since last March and I’d like to tell you about some of the walks we have completed during the past twelve months. Some have been long distance and others have been shorter. We have revisited old favourites, have ventured to completely new parts of the country and have completed a shortish walk across the volcanic landscapes of La Palma in the Canary Islands. To start you off I’ll tell you about a walk we did just after returning from Ireland in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds.

The rolling landscape where Gloucestershire shades into Oxfordshire is thickly woven with footpaths and studded with villages of mellow gold stone. In this north-east corner of these delectable hills you can walk in classic Cotswold countryside, but without those camera-clicking Cotswold crowds.

So, on a brilliant day of blue sky and early summer weather, Rosie and I set out to explore this overlooked corner of the Cotswolds. From Stonesfield, a tiny village way off the beaten track, our route took us up among big yellow fields of oilseed rape whilst an invisible lark poured out song like the trickle of a brook. Views were big and broad, with a heat haze softening the dark green of spinneys and windbreak woods.

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The start of the walk at Stonesfield Church

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Down in the valley of the River Evenlode, swallows skimmed under bridges and along cowslip-lined lanes The farmland here is environmentally friendly and all around lay evidence of a countryside loved and cared for, its wildflowers and birds given the elbow-room they’re so often denied in more intensively farmed regions.

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The River Evenlode

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Hedges of cow-slip

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Environmentally friendly farming

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At North Leigh we went into St Mary’s Church to admire the north chapel with its fan vaulting and richly carved 15th-century alabaster tomb of Sir William Wilcote and his wife Elizabeth.

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Over the chancel arch hung a splendid medieval Doom painting. I’ve never seen one before so this was a real bonus on a walk that was full of its own interest. The panels showed the Saved and the Damned, naked and prayerful, with a coal-black Devil and his red-faced acolytes jeering the Damned into eternal fire.

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Outside, all seemed a dream of peace – horses cropping the meadows and the smooth gurgle of the Evenlode round its meandering bends, as we made our way back up the old cart track to Stonesfield.

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Conclusion? The Oxfordshire Cotswolds really are beautiful country.

Next time we are going to La Palma in the Canary Islands to walk across a volcanic moon-scape and to peer into one of Europe’s largest calderas.

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We’re on the road again

I hope you remember the cross-Ireland walk that we did for the Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention Appeal last year. Through your kindness, we raised a total of almost £7000. The walk was from Dublin Bay to Galway Bay and Rosie has suggested that we add an extra fifty miles to our journey and connect Galway and Clifden, thus making the walk Irish Sea to Atlantic Ocean (nearly!). So we are on the road again!

We set off on February 20th and will take about a week to complete the walk. Don’t worry – this is not a request for more of your money! All I’m asking of you is that you remember that our previous walk had two aims. One was to raise money and the other was to raise awareness. Breast Cancer can be prevented and the Genesis Appeal aims to make breast cancer a thing of the past. So go and visit their website and see what they have been up to.

I hope you can find time to follow our progress again as we walk across some of the most desolate countryside in Europe. During our cross Ireland walk  almost 2000 visits were made to the blog site.

Our training is under way and in the next few days I’ll post some information about what we’ve been up to so far and I hope you can find time to follow our journey and maybe share it with your Facebook friends and, if appropriate, retweet it.

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Will the fund-raising ever stop?

Today I received a lovely letter from the daughter of a dear friend who died just before we undertook our walk. Ann McFeely was a wonderful lady who spread happiness every where she went. She was really interested in our walk but, alas, didn’t get to hear about the great fun we had walking across Ireland. The letter included cheques to the total of £600 that her family and friends had donated to the Genesis Appeal – the charity that our walk was to support. The total, therefore, has to be amended yet again! Just as I think we have finished, you wonderful people donate just a little more. We now have raised £6803 and, for that, I thank you all most wholeheartedly.

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The photos that weren’t published

At times the technology defeated me and I took the pictures but couldn’t remember how to upload them! So here is a selection and I hope you enjoy them.

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This is Sandymount Strand where the River Liffey runs into Dublin Bay. It was a beautiful sunny day and this is the point where our walk was to begin. We walked from here along the southern bank of the River Liffey until we arrived at the sea-lock that connects the river and the Irish Sea ………

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….. to the Grand Canal Basin.

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It was at the point where the Grand Canal Basin ran into the Grand Canal that our walk really started. We had decided to follow the canal for its entire length – about 90 miles – on the basis that it was flat and that you could hardly get lost could you?

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The charity that we were walking for had very kindly provided us with some useful walking gear i.e. a pink tutu, but to be fair, this being Dublin, I don’t think anybody noticed. It didn’t take long to realise what a fabulous asset this canal could be to the people of the city. It provides a beautiful way of crossing the city and even though we were close to the city centre, a sense of peace and tranquillity accompanied us along the tow path

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By early afternoon we had begun to leave the city behind and were into the rolling countryside to the west of the city, with the Dublin Hills away to the south. The canal was as straight as an arrow and dead flat – in fact there are only 36 locks along the entire 90 mile length of the canal.

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At times there were reminders of the past, but even the ruined buildings were an integral part of the landscape telling of a past that many modern Irishmen and women have little recollection of now. This was “The Pale” and we saw many ruined castles that had formerly served to keep the peace.

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At the same time many of the canal-side houses had been renovated and now provide an idyllic existence for a lover of canals!

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There are fewer settlements along the route of the canal than you might expect. It was always a relief to arrive in a settlement because there was always the chance of reviving aching feet by an internal application of Guinness

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After six days of following the canal through the heart of Ireland we reached the end and were forced away from our constant companion and found ourselves following quiet lanes for the remainder of the journey.

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We had chosen as straight a route as possible to our end point and just like the canal had been, the roads were also arrow straight for long distances. Some were very quiet and the walking was easy along flat roads flanked by hawthorn hedges.

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In places we were forced to walk along major roads such as this one – you can see how busy it was walking along the main road from Athlone to Galway!

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Some of the hotels we stopped at were a bit basic like the one above, but at least it boasted air conditioning which was a good thing because on every day that we were in Ireland it had been sunny and hot. Eventually, after ten days and about 140 miles we arrived at journey’s end – Galway Bay and were able to toast our success at a very handy restaurant and bar where friends and family had gathered to welcome us, and where even the Guinness glasses had to wear pink tutus.

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And then all that there was left to do was watch the sun go down on Galway Bay and begin to think about the next daft scheme…. Thank you very much for sticking with this blog, it has been really encouraging to know that some people have actually enjoyed it. Thank you also for contributing so magnificently to our fund-raising. I think that we will easily reach our original target of £5000 and that makes all our aches and pains worthwhile. So, until the next time …. goodbye.

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