A Little Hiccup LEJoG .. Re-Route to JoG

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Thought I would have a look at the bus timetables for my mad idea and trust me I’m glad I did because the new summer timetables have happened and because I started planning my journey when probably the winter timetables were in place I have found a couple of changes have happened so time to fine tune AGAIN!!! the Cornwall leg was okay no changes there, it was at the opposite end of the country where the hiccup was ..

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So looking at Day 3 on the image above my original timings involved a train to  Thurso  to connect in with a bus to John o Groats with a 20 minute wait and connection time but the bus company have altered their timetables and if I stuck to the original journey I would  not be able to make my train connection later in the day, so question is what do I do??? heads spinning thinking I wont be able to complete LEJoG but a bit of research kicks in and from what I thought would have been an early start in Wick and another long day changed in the space of 20 minutes ….

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Originally I would have had to get a train from Wick to Thurso at the mega early hour of 0618 to Thurso then wait 1 hour and 17 minutes for a bus to John o Groats changing buses to get to John o Groats for about 0915, get my pictures and officially complete the journey before starting the long trek home. I checked the route that the 77 bus did from Arkangill and found it was on the same route as Wick and because I am stopping in Wick the night before the thought came that I might as well cancel the train leg of the journey, what was the point of going to Thurso to find out the bus I would be on to get to John o Groats actually comes from Wick so there it was an extra 2 hours sleep plus actually getting breakfast and a short walk to Wick Bus Terminal for a 0840 journey to my final destination taking 35 minutes to get there and giving me the answer I thought I wouldn’t have and that’s getting my train connection at 1306 to Inverness. 50 minutes in the most “northern” point in the UK and a bus back to Thurso 19 minutes earlier than my original bus but a lot better for my connection back to Inverness by train.

Headache solved thinking 8 months of planning would have to be totally thrown out of the window but now i know I can complete the journey .. no more headaches (hopefully).

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Above is the updated mileage and stats sheet plus my sponsorship as of 27th April which is either promised (to be collected after completion) or donated already, only £324 to go towards my original target and anything else will be a bonus.

18 days to go hopefully this will be my last panic that something will go wrong .. the trains will be okay I have requested it with him upstairs, it wont rain and will be sunny all the time .. I will get another dream happen and that’s to see the Northern Lights (Wick is the place).

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The Stresses & Pains of planning LEJoG

So 8 months ago I started planning a mad idea for travelling from Lands End to John o Groats by bus and train, a different way of doing the “end to end”, most people cycle,walk or drive, I wanted something different so here it was ..

First thought was where do I start so needed to find out the furthest south I could travel by train and when would I travel .. would it be the day before or same day and go for it and get as far north as possible in one day. First brick wall I wouldn’t be able to get to Lands End and to Carlisle in one day so I would have to travel down the day before and stay overnight before starting LEJoG, Penzance it is then and a bus on Day 1 to Lands End after a good sleep. Meeting my colleagues at Wolverhampton Train Station for a few pics as proof of my journey (see below why)on the Sunday morning before setting off via Birmingham New Street

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Day 1 would be the earliest start and most probably the longest, I wondered how far I could get by bus and train in as long a day as possible, National Rail and Bus Timetables come into play, I knew I would have to do a lot of juggling to fine tune the trip with as little as possible transport and connections as I could. I would have to catch a bus to Lands End because Penzance was the furthest I could get by train .. next step where would I do my changes and how far could I get to finish each day at reasonable times.

Day 1 would finish in Carlisle just before the step over the border to Scotland on the second day, hopefully meeting up with a few of my Virgin Trains colleagues in Carlisle for photos because what I have found out is that to be classed as a true “end to ender” which is the term for somebody that as travelled LEJoG or JoGLE, you must have proof of your trip so diaries, photos, train & bus tickets among some of the stuff you have to keep.

Next step Day 2 how far could I go and I knew this would be the hardest bit to plan because I wanted to get as near John o Groats as possible because Day 3 would be the day I completed LEJoG. Leaving Carlisle early again I wanted to get to Inverness at least so that was the journey breakdown I would look at, 3 trains and about 5 hours of travelling to get there, crossing the border into Scotland I would have to change at Carstairs and Haymarket to make my connection to Inverness with minimum change time between trains so this would be key to the day, Plan B would be backup plan just in case. Could I get to either Thurso or Wick in the same day from Inverness as early as possible? .. that’s what I looked at next and if Plan A failed is there a Plan B, hopefully I would only need Plan A. I would have a 2 hour wait in Inverness before my scenic Far North Line trip to Wick through sparse and scenic places where I would probably see more deer and sheep than humans. Dinner and chill before the last leg on Day 2 arriving hopefully in Wick at 1822, and maybe once dark I could tick the Northern Lights off my bucket list too.

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Day 3 and completion of LEJoG before the long trip back home, latest start of the 3 days for me with a short 20 mile trip to Thurso for a bus connection to John o Groats and a 45 minute wait there so pictures and a celebratory beer and hopefully my target hit (£1000 is the aim .. LEJoG donate here 

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Day 3 would finish back in Inverness for an overnight stay before the final leg back to Wolverhampton the following day, again planning this little bit was key because once past Inverness trains are limited back south, so I would have a 1 hour 34 minute wait in Thurso before the nearly 4 hour trip back down the Far North Line but at least once back in Inverness my earliest finish but still a 9 hour day of travelling I could relax and look back on my accomplishments.

Over the trip I will be blogging and maybe vlogging during the day but will upload everything at the end of the day when I can get decent wi-fi signals, I will be very limited during the train travel but will try to update the best I can as the day goes on, best thing about the blogging now is it’s the real story of the trip not the “perfect trip” blog like I did earlier on these pages (check out the post links on the right hand side of the main page)

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The above picture shows a breakdown of the trip with an idea of the distances I will cover and tickets I will have to buy to get the cheapest and best way of A to B. That picture is the main planning for my adventure, I do have a plan B and C but hopefully I wont need them because for 4 days the railway will behave itself (I hope).

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Day 4 is a later start for me from Inverness to Edinburgh via Perth before connecting in with my train back home to Wolverhampton and a few more pictures for the records then a celebration beer or three with my wife and friends to celebrate my achievement.

All my accommodation I have booked on the booking.com or hotels.com websites as early and cheap as possible on basis off book now pay on arrival with the chance of cancelling if something happened. I will be staying in Penzance, Carlisle, Wick and Inverness.

I also sought sponsorship of some kind, my specially designed T Shirt and polo shirt were made by my mate Henry Clarke by his company Thimbles Embroidery (Thimbles Embroidery)

Franks Thimbles

I am still looking for sponsorship too and will be having a charity day on 22nd April at one of my local’s including me doing a 12 hour Darts Marathon plus other things happening during the day to raise funds for my three charities plus a local charity Substance Matters.

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Anybody that wants to do a trip like this best advice I can give is don’t just think about it the day before the logistics are not that straight forward as I have found out and I think anybody doing this by cycling or driving or even walking the logistics would be even bigger challenge.

The “Perfect” Day 3 & 4 – Mission Done

The day as arrived, day 3 is the day I reach my goal JOHN o GROATS, after 18 hours 32 minutes of travelling plus waiting time my final journeys start. Mid morning start 0802 from Wick to Thurso a short 20 mile hop followed by a 20 minute wait for the Number 80 bus along the coastline to John o Groats and completion of my trek. Only 45 minutes here so usual pictures and a fridge magnet bought as a souvenir before the bus back to Thurso.

So after completing my End to End journey its time for a 96 minute wait in Thurso for my journey back home with an overnight stop in Inverness, the journey back down the Far North Line starts at 1306 and even though it doesn’t look a long journey on paper actually takes just under 4 hours, no doubt extreme tiredness will have hit me by now but the satisfaction of completing something that started planning in September 2016 will be  far_north_map

worth it. Arrive in Inverness at my earliest finish just after 1700, find my BnB for the night, get sorted then find a Wetherspoons “The Kings Highway” for something to eat, a couple of celebration beers and complete the real journey blog, I will be compiling day by day in a book then just uploading to this blog so you can compare the “PERFECT” journey to what actually happened (guarantee something will go wrong at some point).

Day 4 I actually have a sleep in, my train doesn’t leave til 0845 down to Edinburgh with a change at Perth for a connecting service, I could get an earlier service but really want to get this one for something different. The journey down from Inverness passes through the mountains of Aviemore then Kingussie and Pitlochry before arriving at Perth, wont have time to see much here though 7 minute connection for my  trip to Edinburgh arriving at 1222 passing through Kirkcaldy, Inverkeithing and Haymarket for a 30 minute wait for my final train back home to Wolverhampton, hopefully will have time for another Wetherspoons ticked off my list “The Booking Office” on Waverley Bridge.

Wick to Thurso via John o Groats by bus (not my trip)

Final journey starts on the 1252 Virgin Trains service to London Euston but I’m only going as far as Wolverhampton for journey end, passing through a city I stayed in at the end of Day 1, Carlisle then the Lake District town of Penrith down back into the Industrial North West towns of Preston, Wigan North Western, Warrington and Crewe I finally arrive back home, tired, happy and well proud of my achievement of travelling from one end of Britain to the other in Scotland.

24 hours 48 minutes on the actual LEJoG and  22 hours 45 minutes of build up and travelling to Penzance and back from Thurso, my little storybook and pictures and all my connections and hotels all signed as proof its 

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

The blogs so far are not the real thing just a view of what would be perfection, the REAL JOURNEY blog will come in May when I do the actual trip.

I have been promised or donated £369 so far .. check out my page uk.virginmoneyraising.com/lejogbybusandtrain

“Perfect” Day 2 LEJoG

So Day 1 completed 501.31 miles (see picture below for breakdown of trip) and arrived in Carlisle safely and as this is a blog on the perfect journey (hopefully) on time.

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Day 2 is another early start for the long trek north and crossing the borders of England & Scotland.screenshot-1

Day 2 is the most complicated journey for me because apart from travelling Carlisle to Gretna and to Edinburgh, this will be the furthest North I have been in Scotland so entering the unknown and once I get to Inverness hope the trains are okay because there are limited services to where I need to be on Day 2, but this is “THE PERFECT JOURNEY” so I can dream everything will be okay and on time.

Only 3 changes of train today but 11 hours 30 minutes of travel with Trans Pennine Express and Scot Rail leaving Carlisle at 0652 to Carstairs before the first change-up to Haymarket. Quick 9 minute wait before the long journey to Inverness, passing through Kirkcaldy, Perth and the mountains of Aviemore hopefully still snow topped even though it’s May arriving just before noon in Inverness.

Hopefully the journey to Inverness will be pretty scenic and I know for definite the journey past Inverness to Wick will be amazing.

I have a 2 hours 22 minutes wait for my last train of the day to Wick, so lunch in Inverness in “The Kings Highway”, another Wetherspoons ticked off the list.

Back to Inverness Station for my train to my day 2 end in Wick, the penultimate night before journey’s end at John o Groats, its 4 hours 22 minutes on the aptly named Far North Line which is a mixture of single and double track railway through some of the most remote areas of Scotland, I’m expecting to see trees, trees, mountains, sheep (lots of them) and wildlife but not a lot of civilisation once we pass Dingwall. A more detailed story of the journey to the most northern railway station of Thurso and Wick is described by David Ross who wrote a book of his adventures (see link). My story will happen when I do the proper LEJoG in May.

David Ross Story of the Far North Line

A few interesting facts I have googled about the FNL ..

only 4 out of the 25 stations are manned by rail staff Inverness, Dingwall, Thurso and Wick ….

 The FNL is 168 miles long

Altnabreac only had 93 passengers either leave or travel in 2015 making it the 8th least used station in Britain

Thurso is the most northern terminus station in Britain ..

See the YouTube link for a eye view of the Far North Line by train

A Trip on the Far North Line Video

So 452.52 miles later after leaving Carlisle at 0652 and arriving in Wick at 1822, time to freshen up after checking in at my BnB for the night, its food time again at the most northern Wetherspoons “The Alexander Bain” where I’ll compile my real journey blog and compile notes and stuff before retiring for an early night ready for the Main Event and my arrival at John o Groats.

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DON’T FORGET YOU CAN DONATE AT    LEJoG DONATION LINK

for Help Harry Help Others, Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide and Prostate Cancer UK

I have been promised £282 in donations so far still a long way off my target but a few weeks to go yet.

Day 2 complete .. more to follow on Day 3 and Journeys End next week

LEJoG by Bus & Train 2017

wp-1487049935389.jpgSo 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.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/10947507/Its-a-record-four-days-by-bus-from-Lands-End-to-John-OGroats.html

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 .. SOBSSurvivors 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

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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 nowcropped-lejog-logo1.jpg

ITS REALITY, ITS HAPPENING, MAY 15th to MAY 18th 2017, BRING IT ON