Sunday, July 07, 2019

Before I Grow Too Old - A walk from John O'Groats to Land's End

For years I have been talking about wanting to walk the length of Great Britain, from the tip of Cornwall to the top of Scotland. Knowing this, my daughter Sarah lent me a book she read by Pat Jilks, who did just that, except the reverse, taking a couple of months to walk from John O'Groats in Scotland to Land's End in Cornwall.

Before I Grow Too Old - A walk from John O'Groats to Land's End is not your typical book--no chapters but rather a collection of diary entries, without dates, in which Pat chronicles the path she took, where she slept, ate, had tea, took refuge from the rain.

I couldn't do what Pat did--I don't mean the actual walk, that I can and will do--but the lack of structure to her journey. She did map out her route, with alternatives, but she wanted maximum flexibility and so didn't book any B&Bs or hostels ahead of time, which meant that on occasion she was forced to sleep rough or find shelter in barns, hay lofts, woods, parking lots, etc. Many of her days were spent trying to figure out where to rest that night, where to eat, and where she was. She did get lost a fair amount, and at one point her precious maps blew away. She often relied on her compass to get her back on track.

One of the things I learned about the north-south trek, unlike the Hadrian's Wall Path trek that I started exactly two years ago tomorrow, is that there isn't a set or preferred or marked or even suggested route. Pat ended up walking along fairly major roads more than I would  feel comfortable doing, and it's easy to see how she got turned around and missed critical turnoffs.

Apart from reading about her experience with the actual walk, I really enjoyed Pat's offbeat sense of humor. She has a light, bright way of looking at obstacles, and she often mentions chatting with people she met along the road as well as having friends join her for portions of the walk. She seems to have a gift for making friends, and much as she loves and depends on solitude to regain her energy (true introvert), she is such a social, interesting person.

I took my time reading this memoir--probably reading it at the same pace she walked it--and found it a very pleasant way to end my day, reading a few pages before I went to sleep at night.

For my own Land's End to John O'Groats walk, I need to do more research and planning but this memoir was a lovely way to start my really thinking about the walk.


BTW, I had to employ the hated approval on comments because I was hit on July 4 with some idiot who added a viagra comment to virtually every post on my blog. It took a fair amount of time to cleanse my site and I don't want to have to do that again. Please let me know at janetgs05-at-gmail-dot-com, if you are unable to post comments now.


  1. I got spammed by idiotic comments on my blog last week, too. :P
    I love the sound of this memoir, but even more I love the idea of walking England from Cornwall to Scotland! What an awesome trip that would be. I hope you get to do it soonly. :D

  2. Such a walk is a very impressive thing to complete. I also would want to really plan it out myself. I guess today’s electronic maps might make it a tad easier.

  3. I got hit, too. Same idiot.

    Nonetheless....I love this idea -- walking from North to South or South to North. I would probably like reading this, although your more structured idea sounds like something I would prefer (for myself); however, I have to admit: winging it could also be rather adventurous.

  4. I got hit too with the same spammer. I haven't had my blog as long as you have so it didn't take too long to clean them up.

    This book is so perfect for you! I love that you read it in the same time it would have taken her to complete the walk. I'm like you, I would prefer the comfort of knowing where I will sleep at night!

  5. It's a bit too bad there isn't a suggested or marked route from south to north or vice versa. Remind me how long did it take you to walk Hadrian's Wall.

    1. We did the full Hadrian's Wall in 11 days, one of which was a layover day.

    2. Thanks Jane. I still think we have it on our bucket list .... Hadrian's Wall

  6. I think I got hit by the same spammer on my blog! It took forever to delete them all.