Walking Britain End to End
When I Walk, I Bounce: Walking from Land’s End to John o’Groats
Mark Moxon, self published, 2014
Softcover, 236 pages
For me, the best way to ruin a great hike is to put a heavy pack on my back. I’m good carrying about 7kg, but after that I get grumpy. As a result, I look for long-distance hikes that involve walking from town to town or from hut to hut. That way, I needn’t carry a tent, stove, sleeping bag and other bulky items.
Given my preference, what better route than walking Britain end to end? With thoughts of completing that island’s 1,800-kilometre (1100-mile) route from Land’s End in the southern tip of England to John o’Groats in northern Scotland, I thought I’d read Mark Moxon’s day-by-day account of his 2003 through hike.
Given my aversion to carrying the contents of a house on my back, it was with some dismay that in the first chapter, Moxon mentions the 17kg pack that is weighing him down. Fortunately, not long into walking Britain end to end, and after searing stories of blisters, Moxon ships half of his gear home. He makes the rest of the journey with a 7.5kg backpack. Okay I thought, this suits me better. It meant Moxon stayed in B&Bs or youth hostels. This required some extra planning, but also meant he had a bed and hot shower each night, which suits me (and Moxon as it turns out) just fine.
The deeper I got into Moxon’s account, however, the more distressed I became. His complaints about blisters mounted as he wandered down Cornwall’s lanes, which irritated him because the hedgerows impaired his view. His description of his first encounter with a dog made me laugh, but his repeated canine stories grew repetitive. He grumped continuously about the weather, and was seldom happy with the beer on draft in pubs that were seldom up to his standards. He took exception to the route because it wandered, failing to follow a direct line from Land’s End to John o’Groats.
It seems I should have read the reviews before I leaped into Moxon’s book. On the Goodreads site, Beth wrote, “I tried; I really did. I wanted to finish this [book]. But when I’d rather stab out my eyes than force them to slog through another do-nothing-at-all chapter, I decided to save myself.” Not everyone hated it though. Hannah wrote, “Get’s a little repetitive over the Pennines, but otherwise wonderful.”
I wasn’t so much turned off by the idea of walking Britain end to end. It was Moxon’s incessant grumbling that grated. It seemed he walked the route so he could say he’d done it, which seemed a lot like Donald Trump’s reason for becoming president of the United States.
Moxon completes the challenging route walking much of the time on blistered feet and with inflamed tendons. Despite his less-than-glowing experience, he’s generous with his day-by-day descriptions. His book helped me understand what I might expect if I decide to spend three months walking Britain end to end (an average of over 20k per day). Moxon also has a useful website for End-to-End walkers (http://www.landsendjohnogroats.info/walking_tips/links.htmlf). But my word, if I had had to endure one more complaint about crossing moors, I might have tossed When I Walk I Bounce into the sea.
Moxon hates the 164k Cotswold Way, one of England’s premier walking trails, which makes up part of the End-to-End. He detests the “bloody” 244k Pennine Way in Northern England, but reserves his greatest criticism for any and all moors, of which there are many. He doesn’t like walking by farms much and is bothered by the cold, the heat, the wind and, if I remember correctly, the calm.
Fortunately, he likes southern Scotland (despite its insipit beer) and enjoys following canals. In summary, Moxon writes of his experience walking Britain end to end:, “I think you could say it was worth it.”
Having ploughed through When I Walk, I Bounce, I actually feel compelled to prove to myself that it can’t be as bad as Moxon makes out.
For info visit (http://www.landsendjohnogroats.info/walking_tips/links.html)