Archive for May, 2012


I was hoping to write my blog posts for the coast to coast walk as I went along. I knew that I wouldn’t get signal every day but I thought that I would be able to at least write up what had happened each day and then post it when possible. The best laid plans of mice and men, and all that. As it turns out my mobile app for uploading posts really needs to have an amazingly good quick connection otherwise it times out. So this meant that only big cities have enough wireless capacity for an upload with pictures. Coupled with this how tired I was to get throughout this trip, I really couldn’t be bothered with writing in the evenings. That is why they are all so late in being posted. I apologise.

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image:15 a.m. my alarm has just gone off and I am out of bed like a shot for once. Today is one if those days where you just don’t have time to mess around. I had set my alarm as late as I dare so that I could at least get some sleep. I had my bags packed and waiting by the front door and after quickly getting dressed and a glass of water I was gone. Everyone else was asleep so there was mo one to say goodbye, I just left (of course when I sat this I hadn’t just left, everyone knew what was happening).

It was quite a cold morning, not much cloud in the dark skies, but no stars either. I was glad I had wrapped up warm before I left, as I hurried to the station. I met jonny on the bridge over the railway and we waited for the train there. Pretty soon we were on the first of three trains to take us to St. Bees, going to london. This was fairly uneventful with the exception of a woman who stared at us both a lot.

imageA short walk across from St Pancras and we boarded train #2 bound for Carlisle at Euston. It was a much nicer train, a new, modern, clean train that was quiet and comfortable and, unlike the previous train, didn’t sound like it was powered by three men with lawn mowers on the roof. This section of the trip was even less eventful than the first, what did you expect me to say? Although saying that we did have the map out when we were going though Shap and we were able to point out which footbridge we would be going over in a few days time.

We arrived in Carlisle at just gone 10 a.m. and caught the final train from there to St. Bees. It was a slow train that was very loud and which I forgot to take a photo of. There was nothing impressive about the train at all, but the sea views were great. From the window we could look across the sea and see both Scotland and the Isle of Man.

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A quick look around and then we walked from the station to out campsite, only half a mile. We checked in and pitched up quickly, putting to bed my worries that Jonny was going to supply a tent that leaked like a sieve. It turned out to be a very good tent for our purposes, sorry I doubted you Jonny! The campsite was nice, clean and quiet and we were the only campers. There were fields of sheep next door and swallows swoop low through the camping field. Now all we had to do was wait for tomorrow do we could set off.

imageBored we went for a walk along the sea front. We then had some lunch, an apaulling packet of noodles, but what was I expecting for 11p? To take away the taste we went for tea and scones at the sea front cafe, which wasted a few minutes. After which we went for another walk and, inevitably, wound up in a pub.

imageThe weather has been variable but has really warmed up now. Deciding that it probably wasn’t a good idea to get completely clattered before our first days walking we left the pub after just one drink.

We sat around looking out to sea for most of the early evening just sitting on a sea wall. We watched as a RNLI training mission was launched from there, quite a site to see a tractor reverse so far into the sea that the boat it was towing floated off of its trailer. Me and Jonny joked about who comes to rescue the tractor when that gets stuck out in a stormy sea at night. Although I’m sure they have that all figured out.

As the night began to draw in and the air began to get a slight chill we went to the hotel across from the camp site. We had a few pints in here, a couple of games of pool, fish and chips and listened to a local lady with an acoustic guitar massacre some Beatles classics. I have always been a fan of pubs putting on live music to bring in the crowds, I would like to say that this is only the case when the person can actually sing. I was even more shocked when I saw a poster saying that the lady in question was on the bill twice a week. This can’t be good for getting repeat customers, can it?

Just as the last of the of the sun was fading behind the Irish sea Jonny and myself decided to turn in for the night and get  good nights kip for the morning. Tomorrow was going to be the start of the big walk.

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I woke up this morning at just gone 10, I looked at the clock, noted the time and rolled back over. Then the date registered. I thought for a second, what day was it we were going? Tuesday? Was that the 14th or 15th? Have I got another day or is this it? Today is the final day before we set off on our Coast to Coast trip, we being myself and Jonny, who is best described as old school mate and drinking buddy.

I got out of bed and got dressed, no messing around. I need to make sure I have everything for tomorrow, and if not I’ve got until tonight to get it. So into the loft I go and get down my trusty rucksack that has seen me through bronze, silver and gold Duke of Edinburgh awards as well as several camping trips with friends and the occasional music festival. Last time I went camping I made sure that I had put all of my equipment inside the bag so when I needed it again I would know where it was, the sensible thing to do. However, and you’ve guessed it, all of the equipment that I was hoping to just tick off has gone walk about. Great.

This means that my plan of just walking round to Tesco and getting some food has gone sailing out of the window. I knew there were a few things that would be missing but these were all little things which I thought I could do without, but now I don’t even have a roll mat. Things could get a bit serious. I thought I’d go to Tesco and get my food anyway, while there I got a text from Jonny. He had already planned to go into town and buy his last minute supplies today and so for him it was no extra panic. I replied to Jonny, saying that I’d meet him at the station.

Jonny and I went round town, looking in all of the cheaper shops to find the bits and bobs that we needed. I found a roll mat in a 99p shop, this could be an error but I’m willing to give it a bash. While in there we both decided some cutlery would be good, so we didn’t have to eat like animals with out bear hands. Jonny found a reasonably priced hydration bladder in Sports Direct and while we were in there I found a new hat which, Jonny reliably informs me, makes me look like a complete berk. A final quick check in Blacks to make sure there was nothing that we were forgetting and we went back home. A quick stop in Tesco to get the food and we parted ways.

Also on our way back from town we decided to pick up the train tickets. These had been bought in advance to save as much money as humanly possible. Our tickets cost us £20 each. I looked up today to see what it would normally cost and I am pleased to say we have saved more that £90 per  person, just getting there. Jonny told me he had used the service before and it is a doddle, all you do is put your card in the machine and it spits out tickets. What he didn’t tell me was you also need a booking number, which is in the email they send you confirming the payment. By the time I’d got the email up on my phone the machine had timed out and I had to start again. The second time I hit the wrong button because the machines touch screen is badly aligned. Third attempt, the email has two different reference numbers quoted, obviously I chose the wrong one and therefore had to start again. On the fourth try,  it finally spat out the tickets. Well thank god for that.

While on the subject if train tickets, can I also make it known that we are leaving from one local station, going all the way to London, walking across London because the tube isn’t open at that time in the morning, and then getting another train which is going to go through another station not 10 miles from our start point. When I queried about starting at this station I was told the fair would be three times more! For a shorter journey! I have no idea how that works but can I just say if you are planning a long journey by train it really does pay to try all the search options.

All I now had was the unenviable task of packing everything into my rucksack. It didn’t really take very long and despite the fact that it is full of tins the pack isn’t very heavy. I still have to add to this my share of the tent, which Jonny is bringing, and currently all my bottles and hydration bladders are empty but that shouldn’t be a problem.

On other blogs about walking the coast to coast it is usually this post where the writer talks about the contents of their pack, so here goes:

Most of the clothes I am taking are everyday run of the mill clothes, similar to what I wear every other day of the year. I have replaced my usual jeans with black cotton trousers, which were £7 a pair from Primark. I have bought two pairs with me. Lightweight jackets and fleeces which I already own will be protected from the rain, where necessary, by waterproof poncho’s and a crushable pair of waterproof trousers. This should keep me, and hopefully my pack, dryish.

I have, however, splashed out on a pair of Hi-gear men’s trekker gaiters. I will not be wearing these on the train because after buying them online and seeing what arrived in to post I am not sure that the strap which goes under the shoe will survive the concrete London streets. Only time will tell if they will survive at all, but at least they were quite cheap and even with the bottom strap gone, they should still provide some protection.

A new pair of walking boots. These were the Hi-Tec Scarfell walking boots. They have been bought some time now and I have been using them when ever I can to make sure they are well and truly broken in. I have been on several long walks in them so far in and around home, only one time did I get any blisters, but that was a truly long walk and they did get wet inside, from water coming over the top. These boots so far have kept their waterproof abilities in all but water being soaked by my socks in long grass. The gaiters should stop this problem.

Other little bits and bobs which I have splashed out on include a walking pole, a new hat (wide brimmed to protect both face and neck), a solar panelled mobile phone charger (which should keep me in contact with the outside world, ever when we are staying at hostels with no electricity) and a new hydration bladder.

Other things I’m taking include the Harvey strip maps of the entire route. This has been printed on PVC sheets so it is completely impervious to the rain. The entire route is on just two maps as well, this means that  I haven’t got to carry lots of ordinance survey maps. As well as all the essentials for just-in-case survival (first aid kit, whistle, compass etc.) I have also upgraded my mobile phone with a battery which has a much longer life. This means I can use the GPS function on it much more freely without the battery running down. Included on the phone I have the viewranger app, which I will hopefully be using to track the progress made each day, this app shows where, how fast, altitude, when and many other useful features which can be plotted on graphs. GPS essentials is another app which is better for real time tracking of data, with a head up screen showing all the current GPS data in an easy way. It also has an interface with the camera to help lead the way if you tell it where you are trying to get to. Grid Reference is probably the most simple app, and is likely to be the most useful in navigating. Using the GPS it converts the Long. and Lat. co-ordinates into a UK grid reference, which can be checked against a map. This will help tell us exactly where we are when we, inevitably, lose our way. A final app which I have got, which although not strictly relevant, to survival and map reading, is Mountain Navigator. Simply pointing the camera at the horizon should in theory tell you exactly what the mountain you are looking at is called. We shall see.

Tomorrow, the adventure begins…

Camden Crawl – Day 2

I woke up on day two of the Camden Crawl with a bit of a hangover. By no means the worst hangover I have ever had but worse than I was expecting. Fidgeting to find my phone to tell me the time I realise that its way too early for breakfast yet and I get a little more sleep. When it is about half past nine I decide to go downstairs to catch the end of breakfast. When the man who checked me into the hostel said that breakfast “wasn’t much” I didn’t realise quite how little he meant. A table in the corner had on it drinks, cornflakes and toast making equipment. A glass of water and some toast was really all that I wanted though with this hangover. I sat by myself and scoured through the timetable for today to see what I was going to see.

After making that plan I went for a shower. It was now, after getting my bag out of the expensive lockers that I realised that in my haste to leave yesterday that I had not packed any underwear or socks, or shower gel, or shampoo, or conditioner, or soap. So I had a quick shower stealing  what I could from the bottles people had left in the toilet areas, no one seamed to notice. After this quite filthy affair I went out into the streets of Camden once more. “First things first” I said to myself, “Get rid of this hangover”. I thought to myself how much stronger those Brewdog beers must have been for me to feel this bad. I found a cheap shop which was selling two bottles of “rejuvenating juice drink”, in other words apple and grape juice. One word for this stuff – foul, and I had bought two bottles of the stuff. I sat by the side of the canal, forcing it down, because it may taste like the back end of a Ford Transit but as fruit juice it should be doing some good (what your saying you have never licked a van before?).

Anyway, first band of the day was “Never a hero“. While they were on stage in their ridiculous masks (clearly trying to do something along the lines of slipknot but failing) they said that they are on all the major rock TV channels Kerrang! and Scuzz etc.. This I can believe. They have just charisma to get away with the local acts when they were starting out and just enough talent to make it big on the rock TV stations. I don’t think that they will be bothering any of the big guns, radio 1, NME, Q, any time soon though, all of their qualities seemed to be enough to scrape them through this far but I doubt it will send them much higher in popular music. Just the way that the front man said thank you to the crowd at the end of a song while holding up one thumb to me seemed to be a bit, well, unprofessional.

Following them were “Hill Valley High“. A bit more indie rock than some of the other bands which generally get to perform on the Red Bull stage and boy were they arrogant. The music was completely overshadowed by the front man trying to tell the crowd that none of us were “too cool” to stand at the front. You just want to shout at him “its only mid day, most of us are hung over, we need something more sedate for this hour and we don’t appreciate being told what to do by an upstart like you, now shut up, sing your songs and be grateful we haven’t all walked off”. On a lighter note the songs themselves were OK and I could see them going somewhere. It’s always the arseholes that make it!

Third act outside in the Camden Gardens and its starting to get a bit cold. “Throwing up” were a girl fronted punk band who were pretty good, made me laugh a few times. Punk isn’t usually my cup of tea but I stuck around to hear their set, even as the wind started to pick up because I did like them a lot. It wasn’t just me who liked them three, how to put this nicely, less youthful members of the audience, with an amazing fashion sense were having a whale of a time listening to them. These three were also at the Red Bull stage last year and they were dad dancing like there was no tomorrow. I managed to take a few snaps (right).

I moved into the warmth of Heros bar to see “Matthew and me“, an Indie band from Totnes. Really excellent. There not so easy to pin down in a category but well worth a listen. I really hope an album is coming out from these guys very soon because I do want some of this in on my iPod. The only downside was the bar has a projector behind it showing the film; secretary, on loop. If you haven’t seen it there is a lot of graphic female masturbation and sex in it which can be slightly distracting.

Now I hate to be negative about anyone but when Kellie Lloyd said she has come all the way from Australia to perform this one show, I really do think she should have saved the air fare. I’m not saying that she was bad, the songs were well written country/rock songs which I probably would have liked but what with the porno-film distractions behind the bar, the loud chatter of no one particularly paying any attention to her, the rather echo-y room and the fact that she was OK but not brilliant, its not gonna sell any records from that performance. Perhaps she thinks that the gimmick of having some flexi-discs for sale was going to entice us. I didn’t see anyone approach her after her set.

I know that I saw “native tongue” because I tweeted about them. But I can not for the life of me remember what they sound like. Clearly a memorable act with lots of catchy rifts that I’ll have stuck in my head for days! Perhaps I was watching the film again. It was very distracting in its more… visual scenes. I ran out of money at the bar and had to leave briefly. I walked out and up the road to where the bouncer had told me there was a Tesco with a cash point. It wasn’t far. Funds replenished I decided to go into the store and buy a sandwich, I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and it was late afternoon by now. Amazingly the self service till still needed a member of staff to check my ID, is ham and mustard now a prohibited item to the under 18s?

I ate my sandwich and got back in time for the next band “heathers“. These were a duo of Irish singers, both fantastically talented and with just one guitar they kept the audience in silence, which no other band in that venue could do all day, not completely at least. Still the porn behind the bar is unrelenting. This was followed by a band called Blast, my tweet was not complementary about them. Another non-memory I’m afraid.

After this the timetable switched from the daytime to the evening and things started to improve. The first act of the evening was an Irish guy called Toby Kaar, who for one bloke made a lot of noise which filled the room. It really suited the venue with his dance style. Really worth a listen if you are into a more modern approach to mixes, he is sort of a male Grimes.

Now, the reason which I had chosen to pick hero’s as where I was going to hang around all day, Lucy Rose. I have heard her music on the radio before and on a few TV adverts. She has a very nice voice and  I was looking forward to it. Unfortunately most of the other people in the venue had other ideas and had decided that they were going to talk very loudly and drown out her delicate voice. From where I was, near the back of the bar, I could hardly hear her at all and with the crowd as dense as it was, there was no chance of moving forward to get a better position on the speakers. After this I decided that it was better that I left. I crossed the road and went back to the Abbey Tavern, where I had seen François and the Atlas Mountains, yesterday.

The Abbey Tavern was a lot more packed out hat it had been yesterday. It took me a good ten minutes to get to the bar and by which time Liz Green had started her set. A drummer, a double bassist and herself with her voice and an acoustic guitar playing just lovely folk songs which weren’t too deep in their sentiment and weren’t all just about dancing about. A large group left half way through, Liz made a joke about how we, the ones who had stayed, were so much better than all of them. I would have to agree that it was good that they left because I managed to get one of their seats, turn it round and bag myself a front row seat in a standing crowd. I can’t say enough good things about this set, she interacted with the audience, was funny and a talented singer and musician. Along with her accompanying musicians who were also great at their respective crafts you can’t go wrong for a good time.

The night ended with a walk to Underworld, near the tube station. A second attempt to see Clock Opera. The underworld I find to be much more a ‘proper’ venue, scummy toilets, sticky floors, terrible beer but with a huge stage and a cloakroom it has everything you need to see a good band properly. This time I was sure that Clock Opera by account of the merch they had for sale by the side of the bar. The venue was fairly sparsely populated to my surprise, I thought that they were more popular than this. I hung around at the back of the main pit area with no one really in front of me, until the band came on and like locusts people scurried in from all over the place ll at once. I wondered for a moment where they had all come from, but then paid it no mind and concentrated on listening to the band play. Near the end of their set which was impressive and well worth the second visit, they asked if anyone came to see them yesterday at the Purple Turtle, to which they apologised for and explained that no one had told them that they were playing.

Clock Opera finished too soon (a good sign that you enjoyed the set) and I made my way back towards the hostel, Subway came calling again and I queued behind the chaviest of chavs,  asking for there sub to have “some lettuce, but not too much lettuce though because its got worms in it”. The man behind the counter clearly wanted to get rid of the chav and severed her from roll to extras and payment while I had to stand, wait and watch this offence to civilisation happen in front of my eyes. When he got back to me I asked for “a foot long…” “I’m sorry Sir he have no bread”. WHAT. The guy behind me blew up, saying “let me get this straight, this is a subway, where your main line of food is, lets face it, sandwiched, and you haven’t got any bread?!?!?” I was really a bit too surprised to say anything which would constructively add to what  the gentleman had already so successfully put. The man behind the bar explained that at this time of night they only bake more bread for another subway store down the road. The man in the queue told me to avoid that subway because they are “a bit grotty”. I took his advice and went to the kebab shop down the road instead.

After my burger from the kebab house, I went back to my room where another group quickly followed me back, turning on all of the lights, making a racket and generally doing everything you could to keep everyone else awake. Once they realised I was there, however, they were polite enough to pipe down. Unlike the next group who couldn’t give a rats arse. They blundered in a few hours after I had gone to bed and then blundered out again at about 6 in the morning, early enough so that you can get back to sleep but not early enough that it will be a long and rested sleep. In the end I got up quite early, had a quick slice of toast and walked back to St. Pancras from Camden via the toe path of the canal. It is amazing how you can be in the middle of such a vibrant and intensely noisy city like London and between two of the busist areas lies a route which is so calm and peaceful.

I got home in time to watch the Luton game at the Engine and Tender.