Whilst Lands End to John O’Groats or LEJOG has become a popular route for cyclists, there have been numerous other modes of transport that have also completed the LEJOG route, notably and more interestingly by a supermarket trolley, scooter, horse drawn carriage, pushing a wheelbarrow, unicycle and the fastest of all, a Phantom jet Fighter. But another mode that can be added is to simply walk the route, and that is exactly what Mark Moxon did in 2003. In 1998 Mark returned from a three-year trip through around the globe and embarked on a series of walks which, apart from LEJOG, walked the length of the London Underground.
Background to Mark and his journey
Back in 2003 I walked from Land’s End to John o’Groats, built a website about it, published a book on the subject and watched as more and more people discovered for themselves that walking across a kingdom is a life-changing experience. When I did my walk there was just one web page on the subject and one route book, but now, nearly ten years later, the LEJOG community is positively bouncing along.
If you’re interested, check out www.landsendjohnogroats.info, where you can find enough to while away at least one rainy afternoon.
What was your first long-distance walk and how old were you?
I was a bit of a late starter when it came to long-distance walking, but when I got into it, I got into it big. My first proper long-distance walk was in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia when I was 25; I’d met a park ranger while exploring the Pinnacles Desert just north of Perth, and impressed that I’d chosen to explore the desert on foot instead of four-wheel-drive, he invited me on a walk he was planning for a month later, deep in the outback. He didn’t manage to find anyone else to join us, so my first long-distance walk was a week-long romp through the most amazing Australian outback, in the company of an experienced park ranger. No wonder I got hooked; I’ve never looked back.
How many times have you completed the famous end to end?
Just the once – unlike cyclists, most LEJOG walkers (myself included) find that once is enough. That said, there are a few intrepid walkers who have done it both ways – LEJOG and JOGLE – and even if you follow the same route, apparently it feels quite different, as you’re looking the other way the second time round. Still, that’s not quite enough to make me want to tackle the 1111-mile return journey just yet…
How much training do you do before setting off or are you THAT good to not bother with any?!
Ha! No, I always train a bit, but with a walk as long as LEJOG, the best way to get fit enough to do it is to do it. Just don’t bite off more than you can chew in the first few weeks, or it’ll hurt!
For my LEJOG, I walked the London Loop with 4 litres of water in my day pack. That seemed to do the job…
Do you have a preferred route to take?
Having only done the walk once, I’m an expert on a thin strip of land from Land’s End to John o’Groats, but I have no idea what most of the rest of the country is like, so having an opinion on alternative routes is rather difficult. That said, every LEJOG walker will have opinions on what (s)he liked or disliked on their walk, so for me I’d probably ditch the Cotswold Way in favour of the Severn Way, I’d probably skip a lot of the Pennine Way and head via the Lake District instead, and I’d head straight north from Edinburgh to Inverness rather than taking the long route via Glasgow, the West Highland Way and the Great Glen Way. Not that I didn’t like the route I took, but there’s always room for improvement.
Roughly how many injuries have you had?
If you include blisters, countless. On the last day into John o’Groats, after 90 days on the road, I was still getting new blisters; I’m just unlucky, I guess. However, back in Devon I damaged my heel and had to rest up for 3 or 4 days in Okehampton while the swelling went down. I can highly recommend a few pints of Cornish Knocker as the best antidote to walking injuries. It’s a miracle cure-all. 🙂
Most scenic part of the LEJOG trip?
For me, I loved the River Severn, but I’ve always loved river-walking. I know Scotland and the Pennines are classic British beauties, but give me rolling fields and gentle rivers every time.
What’s the hardest part of the trip
The mental challenge of getting up every morning for three months straight, and having to keep on putting one foot in front of the other. Walking is a delight, but even the cheeriest person has off days, and the only way to get through it is to put your head down and get on with it. Then again, it wouldn’t be a challenge if it wasn’t a challenge, so don’t think I’m complaining!
Any recommendations on places to stay along the route?
B&Bs. I started off by camping whenever I could, but after my injury in Devon I ditched the camping equipment and stuck with B&Bs, and apart from a couple, they were all absolutely excellent. Pubs are often a bit crusty and hostels are obviously pretty basic, but B&Bs are brilliant, and those cooked breakfasts were absolutely key in getting me across the country. I hadn’t really used many B&Bs before my walk, and I’m a convert.
Any favourite stop-overs?
My favourite was a small village in Pattingham, where the locals in the pub insisted I join them for too many beers. I narrowly escaped being dragged along to an all-night party, which would have scuppered my plans for the next day’s walking, but even so I managed to cause a neighbourhood watch alert as me and my scraggly hair stomped back to my isolated B&B in the dark. It resulted in the locals searching the nearby barns for a drunk tramp whom they’d seen trespassing in the area, while all the time it was me. I felt quite flattered to be the centre of attention…
Apart from your walking boots, what other must have essential piece of equipment can you not live without when completing lejog?
Walking poles. My knees aren’t the strongest in the world, but walking poles are a brilliant remedy. Yes, they make you look like a bit of a plonker, and I did get a bit tired of the good-natured jokes I’d get in the towns and villages about being a bit far off-piste, but without them i’m not sure my knees would have made it to John o’Groats, so I’m grateful.