So I was sat at work one boring Wednesday morning thinking what I would do on my long weekend which was 2 days away, listening to the radio I heard something mentioned about Lands End to John o Groats, I can’t remember the exact conversation but something clicked and I thought my next Charity Challenge and something totally different to the 2 previous Darts Marathon Events I had organised in the last few years.
A few questions went through my head? How would I get from 1 end of the country to the other? Everybody that does the “end to end” either cycle, run, walk or even drive but I wanted to be different as that’s me as a person so I got googling like you do…. I entered “Lands End to John o Groats by public transport” in the search engine of which it came up with loads of reading material but 1 stood out “a 16 year old travelled between the 2 furthest points by bus and took just under 4 and a half days” back in 2014.
Well, my employer is Virgin Trains so immediately thought bus and train and again loads of questions went through my head, yes I could have done it by bus based on the young lads itinerary that was published in the newspaper but when I read it I thought what if I get lost and miss a bus because I don’t know where I’m going what would I do so because I know the railway pretty well and it was just a case of adding the bus trips in #letsdodisting.
Let the planning commence!!!!!!!!
first step plan the stages what will be the best time of year to do it, don’t want it too hot or too cold plus I was due to sort my 2017 holidays from work, I knew when I wanted days off so May 2017 it was going to be for the big adventure, Who do I want to raise funds for, well I’m involved with a Charity in Birmingham called Help Harry Help Others (HHHO) so that automatically was my first choice, my daughter lost her best friend a few years ago so that was my second charity .. SOBS–Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide and finally one of my friends is going through Prostate Cancer well Prostate Cancer UK was my final choice, some might think why 3 charities not just one .. each charity as some kind of meaning to me in some way and I want to raise awareness and as Georgie Moseley (Harry Moseley’s mom) says put the CAN into CANcer, spread the word about the charities and also raise much needed funds. I set up a fundraising page Donate Here LEJoG 2017 Check it out and donate a few quid, every penny helps
I decided I would travel as far south as possible the day before so I would be relaxed and hopefully prepared ( I am a good organiser). The furthest I could get in one day was Penzance which is an ideal base before the challenge started, travelling by train is about 6 hours from Birmingham and because I didn’t want to get there very late, Penzance was ideal, the next step was finding somewhere to stay as cheap and comfortable as possible just for 1 night well it wouldn’t even be that, the idea behind all this was to travel from end to end as cheap and quick as possible, working on the railway I get staff discounts on train tickets. For all accommodation I booked for all the 5 days I used laterooms.com and bookings.com, it wasn’t easy finding suitable places I wanted somewhere warm, clean and welcoming not just anywhere and I did book then cancel a few places after finding somewhere better and cheaper but also after reading Tripadvisor, now I’m not a believer in a lot of reviews I like to make my own mind up but looking back now I am glad I did cancel two of the hotels I booked.
So Travel day what time can I get to Penzance, 730pm well that’s a decent time to arrive, check in get sorted find somewhere to eat, Wetherspoons App you been good, cheap and cheerful just like the B&B .. get a decent nights sleep because day 1 is going to be the longest day ..early start to get to Lands End by bus (I’ll not go into full detail because Ill cover that in the Day by Day blog when I do the event)
Day 1 and the adventure begins, early start and bus to Lands End, now when I looked at the timetables it became obvious that the buses wont connect as one arrives one leaves which is no good for me so on arrival at Lands End I have 2 hours waiting round in the middle of nowhere but I will get loads of amazing pictures no doubt. The official Trek begins about 0940 and the idea is to get as far north as possible on the first day so when I was planning the route I had to think where do I want to stay overnight? Carlisle it was but how would I get there from Lands End, like I said earlier I have some knowledge of the railway which would play a big part of the journey, train from Penzance to Plymouth then up to Birmingham, now as most people know the railway can be temperamental I needed 2 plans A & B and maybe C,D & E. train times sorted with backup times too, at the present Im thinking backup buses too but if trains go down there’s always the good old rail replacement. When I get to Birmingham its a connection on to a Virgin Train to Carlisle for overnight stay, hopefully there will be a decent train crew on board and I may collect some donations, I will be wearing a different T Shirt for each Charity each day and it will be dedicated to people too. DAY 1 OVER SLEEEEEPPPPP
Day 2 yet another early start, 0650 from Carlisle to Inverness splitting the ticket costs at Carstairs & Haymarket and changing at Carstairs for ScotRail to Inverness, to some people that don’t know when travelling on the railway, splitting your ticket can sometimes mean cheaper tickets (splitticketing.co.uk). Nearly 6 hours on the train to Inverness and probably a numb bum too, again I have a backup plan for trains just in case I sleep in, so I either arrive at Inverness at 1158 or a later train arrives at 1329 but that’s leaving it close if things go wrong so my alarm clock better work. I have a 2 hour wait over at Inverness so Wetherspoons again for food, the next part of the journey to Wick is on the most northbound railway in the UK and is also Single Line for some part too, we pass through some of the most remote rail stations in the UK, one is Altnabreac which as a shed for waiting room and a bungalow behind it with no direct road to the station
Altnabreac Most Remote Station
To say this part of the journey will be the most scenic is an understatement, I cannot wait to do this challenge its one I can tick of my bucket list. Day 2 ends about 1820 in Wick where the B&B Im staying at as an amazing sea view of the harbour looking out across the miles towards Orkney. Day 2 done and probably the best one for scenery, again I will be blogging and keeping records of the days because to become a member of the Lands End to John o Groats Association you need proof, photos, travel documents, I will be getting a signature from somebody whether its bus drivers, rail station staff, hotel owners I stay at as proof of my journey.
Day 3 is the big day, it’s the day I complete LEJoG by arriving at John o Groats, decent start today not too early but a train to Thurso to connect in with a bus to John o Groats for a 45 minute stop over for pictures and stuff to say IVE DONE IT before a bus back to Thurso and dinner in Thurso before a train back down to Inverness for a stay over night and what will be a feeling of success, so food and a few beers to celebrate my accomplishment.
Day 4 is the journey back home and the realism of doing LEJoG by bus and train and hopefully reaching my base target of £1000 so again please have a look at my page Donate Here LEJoG 2017 and help me on my way.
I am so looking forward to this daft idea and yes its a challenge but that’s life in general, just want to say Thank You to Help Harry Help Others Jon Ford & Team Harry for your support
Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide for your support and supply of T-shirts and things, my daughter Emma and her friends for helping me raise funds in memory of Katie Burgess
Prostate Cancer UK for your help, advice and supply of T-shirts and things also Nick Roberts my friend who is battling Prostate Cancer and his great family.
Finally, my friends who think I’m mad but have supported me so far, time to get your money out now
ITS REALITY, ITS HAPPENING, MAY 15th to MAY 18th 2017, BRING IT ON