Thank you, David Bowie

David Bowie was…

I can’t believe I’m having to write ‘was’.  Like so many people, it feels like he was part of my life.

David Bowie was, is, my one and only real idol.  Like so many before and after me, I came across him when I was a teenager.  Up to then I’d been listening to the usual young teenager’s chirpy, easy to digest tunes.  It was the early eighties, so the first Bowie songs I heard were Let’s Dance, China Girl and Modern Love.  But I must’ve liked what I heard so much that over the next few years I bought all his albums – on cassette tape, of course.  (Except Pin Ups, which for some reason I couldn’t bear to buy – I didn’t want to have bought everything.  I still haven’t downloaded Pin Ups even today).  I read books about him, magazine articles, watched his films and soaked up all I could find.  And in listening to all his work, which even in the 80s spanned several previous decades, of course I heard such an amazingly wide variety of music.

When I sat my A levels, it was at a time when we all had to do a ‘General Studies’ A level.  I don’t know if that’s still in existence. It covered a bit of everything – culture, science, humanities, etc.  I think it was meant to ensure we had a rounded general knowledge.  (Our teacher told us that we needed to do General Studies in order to help us when we got to university – so that we would be able to make conversation with students who’d been to public school!  What a thing to say!)  Anyway, in the exam I had to do 3 essay questions.  I vaguely remember one was arts based, one science, and one history.  Anyway, the essay title was irrelevant to me.  It was the height of my passion and fascination in Bowie.  So I wrote 3 essays about him, and not a word about science or anything I should have written about.

I got an O grade.  Which is basically a fail.  I have always been quite proud of that.

I’ve been lucky enough to see him twice in concert.  The first time was when I was 17, and I was studying in Italy for a few months.  I saw him in a football stadium outside Florence.  I was miles away from the stage, but it was a thrilling experience.

The second time was in the ‘90s, in Glasgow. It was a much smaller affair, maybe about 12,000 people or less.  I was very near the stage.  It was amazing; he was absolutely mesmeric.  Incredible.

What I love about David Bowie is his bravery.  He had the courage to try new things, to change direction, to be prepared to fail.  He could so easily have toured the world for years, spinning out the same songs again and again.  But he wasn’t interested in that. He wanted to explore, to live his life on his on terms.  I really admire that.  How fantastic to have lived a life so rich and full.  To have made the most of the precious gift of life.

And I love how he seemed to grow and mature in the last decade or so.  He seemed to me to be such a family man, and to be so humble and dignified.  So many people I’ve heard on the radio today, people who met him or worked with him, have talked about what a kind man he was.  They say how generous and how courteous he was.  Never mind the music and everything, for me, when we die, if people remember us as kind, I think that’s really as good as it gets.

From my teenage years, to now, David Bowie made me think.  He’ll continue to make me think.  This time it is about life, and death, and kindness, and love.  Thank you David.

The sea!

27th February Eskdale to Ravenglass 8.5 miles

After a quick march down the Esk valley and through the grounds of Muncaster Castle, I reached the top of a hill, and all of a sudden, there was the sea.  What a super place to pop out of the Lake District and reach the coast. Dunes and sandy beaches lay in front of me, sea sparking in the sun. Yes, sunshine again. Two days in a row!  

I met Ian in the village of Ravenglass, posed for photos, and that was it. The Coast to Coast journey is complete.  We jumped in the truck and are now buzzing down the motorway, en route for home.  

I feel very different to the day when I reached John O Groats, 18 months ago.  Back then I tried to make my final day last as long as possible. And I was full of joy and emotion on finishing. Today I rushed through my final stage of walking, eager to reach the coast and finish.  I’ve enjoyed the walk a lot, and I think simply because it’s nowhere near as far as 1,200 miles, it seems quite straightforward a thing to do.  I’m really pleased to have done it though. 

It’s taken me 21 days of walking, and the route is 222 miles long. Of course it could normally easily be done in 2 weeks. I took my time so as to ease back into fitness. In that respect it is mission accomplished. I feel loads better than when I started, and have regained confidence in my body.  

I have loved the route. Within the 222 miles the variety has been fantastic: the big sky country of Holderness, the rolling Yorkshire Wolds, the flat Vale of York, the pretty market towns, the hills and valleys of the Yorkshire Dales, and then the craggy Lake District.  It shows that a linear walk from one’s own house is easy to plan – we are so lucky to have a country that is criss crossed with footpaths.  

If you live in Holderness and fancy doing this walk, I’ll be doing another blog post with route details and gpx files. I’d recommend starting from Hornsea (rather than my house). 

This morning I pondered about my favourite part of this walk. I’d have to say it was the Yorkshire Dales. I liked walking over 2 of the famous 3 Peaks, I enjoyed the quiet villages and small country towns, and the landscape changes constantly from one valley to the next.  

Whilst February seems an odd time to do a UK long distance walk, actually that was also a big plus factor for me. Apart from on Ingleborough and Whernside, or on a dog walking route, I hardly saw a person. Certainly no one else doing a long walk. I like that. The people I did meet en route and in B&Bs were always keen to chat and not rushed off their feet, as can be the case in the summer months. It was cold and a bit wild, weather wise, at times. But amazingly I only experienced about 5 hours of proper driving rain in total. That’s not bad at all for a winter walk. 

Thank you for reading, commenting, and encouraging. I always feel boosted along my way by knowing that friends are vicariously enjoying my walks too. 

The end is in sight 

26th February Coniston to Eskdale 12 miles

What a day. A superb walk. The most ascending of any day so far. I have enjoyed the hilly days the most.  Mountains make my spirits soar. Even little mountains. 

It tipped it down last night.  Yet more rain to add to the deluges of the last few days. So today’s walk has also been exceedingly wet underfoot. Many paths simply had to be waded along. 

A few years ago my dear friend Bob and I sat looking at a sea chart of the Baltic Sea off the coast of Finland. Planning our route, we felt intimidated by the complexity of navigation due to the sheer number of islands. Bob exclaimed “Goodness Flora, there’s more land than sea!”  Today, if all the flooded streams, bogs, fields, and engorged rivers had been marked on my Ordance Survey map, I’d have said “Lordy me, there’s more water than land!”  That’s how it seemed today. 

At one point I needed to cross the River Duddon at a place where stepping stones were marked on the map.  But this was a foolish idea. The stepping stones were submerged under a couple of feet of water. And the current was rushing, angrily, so strong. A river in spate is not something to be taken lightly. Especially on ones own, with no rope. People drown in surprisingly shallow rivers. In fact, they are one of the biggest hazards for hillgoers.   So I looked at my map and figured out a longer way around. 

My route today took me up out of Coniston village, and over the shoulder of Coniston Old Man, on the track called ‘Walna Scar Road’. 

Just before I reached the highest point of the path, 620 metres, I stopped to batten down all the hatches – mittens, buff pulled over my face like a balaclava, jacket fully zipped, wrapped in all 3 hoods of my various layers. Boy was I glad of these precautions.  All of a sudden the skies grew dark and the strong wind accelerated to gale force, hail hitting me in the face. I descended as quickly as I could into the Duddon Valley, where my river in spate awaited me. 

I made my little detour and started another ascent, this time up the side of Harter Fell. Treat of treats, the skies cleared and all of a sudden it was nothing but pure blue above. It was wonderful to see. Sunshine! 

Finally I could see green Eskdale far below. A steep rush downhill and I was on smooth tarmac. Fifteen minutes later, I was esconsed in the Woolpack Inn.  And an hour later, I spied a blue pickup truck, and there was Ian.  It’s great to see him. 

Last day tomorrow! 

blue sky at last!!!


Monday 23rd February Sedburgh to Burneside 14.5 miles 

Brrrr this has been such a cold day! I set off at 7:30am, which has given me the advantage of finishing my walk by 2pm, and thus plenty of time to wash muddy socks and rest up.

I found this stage the hardest so far, purely due to the weather. A bit of a struggle, truth be told. For the first time I wore every one of my layers of clothing. Hail and then icy rain kept me moving at a pace. I had one break to drink hot roobois tea from my flask. It’s tricky staying warm and dry enough during a tea break. I found a tiny bushy copse of un thinned conifers, and climbed a fence so that I could hide inside, somewhat sheltered from the bouncing hail and chilling gale.

No major hills today. I was passing from the Pennines over to the Lake District. This land between the two great hill ranges has a confusing topography. It’s a bit like a choppy sea – small angry waves coming from all directions.

Needless to say, I saw no other walkers. In fact, the only human I saw was a cheery lady farmer, who commented on the foulness of the weather, as I slopped muddily past.


24th February Burneside to Bowness on Windermere 9 miles

It was slightly warmer today. There were still frequent hail storms and rain showers, and a tough gusting wind, but I never felt as chilled to the bone as yesterday.  Again, I marched through the rumpled scenery of southern Lakeland. With all the rain of the last few days, most footpaths have turned into little streams.  Every now and then I glimpsed the higher fells, gleaming white in the rare shafts of sunlight.  

It felt like a milestone reached, to finally look down on the shores of lake Windermere. Then I descended into the town, and felt a bit out of place in all the bustle of this busy tourist town.  Even midweek on a cold February day, the streets seemed jammed full of visitors. 

I’ve been loosley following the Dales Way footpath since Sedburgh.  It’s time to say goodbye to it now, as it terminates in Bowness on Windermere. Seems a strange ending point to me – I prefer the idea of going on to the sea.  

25th February Bowness on Windermere to Coniston 9 miles 

A treat. The wind has temporarily dropped. It didn’t rain or hail either. Well, apart from a little drizzle in my last half mile. But mainly this has been a peaceful, mild seeming day. Quite relaxing.  And whilst it’s another short day, I feel a bit of that cumulative heavy leggedness that comes and goes on a long walk.  

But this has been an enjoyable day, punctuated at start and finish with ferry rides. In the morning I got the chain ferry across Windermere, and in the afternoon I caught the little launch that putters around Coniston. In between that I walked through Grizedale forest.  Pleasant walking, with lots of different types of woodland, and enjoyably challenging navigation. Very very wet underfoot again.  

Crossing Yorkshire


Friday 20th
Settle to Chapel le Dale 13.6 miles

No rain for me today. A chilly wind kept me wrapped up, but it was great to have views. It was of walk of two halves. During the morning I hiked uphill, back into the fells. Lumpy, bumpy limestone country, with grey dry stone walls snaking this way and that. A highlight was winding along this ancient path that connected two villages.

Just think of all the people have strode along this track over the centuries. I’m sure famous trails like the Appalacian Way in the USA are fantastic, but the pleasure of glimpsing our forbears’ way of life makes walking in the UK a very special experience.

The afternoon segment was the hike over Ingleborough – the middle of Yorkshire’s 3 Peaks. I went up from Clapham, through the dramatic limestone gorge.

I’d hoped for snow on the top. It wasn’t to be, and nor were the views, as the summit was cosseted in clouds a day. But there was some frosty rhime, giving you a clue, dear reader, as to the wind chill up there. It was bloomin cold.


Trying to warm up, I skipped rapidly down the side of the hill, to Chapel le Dale, and my next BandB.

A couple of other little moments from the day. After my previous sightings of the boots and milk – random objects with a story to tell, I decided to leave my own. I was given two very green bananas as part of a packed lunch this morning. So I left them laid out neatly on the bridge in Settle. Hopefully there is someone in Settle who loves green bananas.


Second, isn’t this green wall simply beautiful?


Tomorrow I will cross out of Yorkshire and into Cumbria. People who don’t live in Yorkshire often have no idea what a huge county it is. I’ve now tramped right across the county; 160 miles of walking.

Saturday 21st
Chapel le Dale to Helmside (near Dent) 11 miles

What a treat. A blue sky day. These were the views as I strode out of Chapel le Dale:



IMG_3341Shy Ingleborough, wrapped in a cosy scarf of cloud.

I stopped to chat with a bubbly farmer, who was out catching moles. He was delighted with his haul, and he fished a couple of the little chaps out of a bucket for me to inspect. Their spade like front paws are incredible. I stroked their fur. So soft.

It may seem harsh to cull moles, but there’s plenty to go round, and they inhibit grass growth, reduce the quality of silage, and damage grass cutting machinery.

I reached the whaleback crest of Whernside, and strode along the snowy ridge to the summit – the highest point in all of Yorkshire. I could see the Lake District hills for the first time, and the sea in Morcambe Bay. I’m finding it hard to choose the photos to include in this blog post. I took loads.



I crossed into Cumbria and it was all downhill to the little cobbled village of Dent.


Finally a quick 2 miles along Dentdale valley took me to my lodgings. Which turned out to be a BandB with two of the kindest hosts I’ve met. They took such good care of me. Warm scones, straight from the oven, greeted me on arrival. Life doesn’t get much better. The Old Craft Barn definitely goes into my top 5 of UK BandBs. Thank you, Joe and Caroll.

Sunday 22nd
Rest day (inc 3 miles to Sedbergh)

Today I got in an hour’s short walk to Sedbergh, and then that was it for the day. I’d planned for today to be a rest day – I need one, and the weather forecast for today has been looking awful ever since midweek. It was grey and nippy but dry, during my stroll into Sedbergh. As soon I settled down with a cup of tea, on came the freezing sleety rain. It’s continued all day. It’s so dark and grey outside, it seems like dusk.



IMG_3406 Sedburgh

Perfect timing for a rest day.

Finally, I saw this sign the other day. Any guesses as to what it means?


Walking in my footsteps


17th February
Menston to Addingham Moorside 7.7 miles

Phew! A couple of days at home with Dr. Ian have done the trick. I’m off again.

I had a meeting in Bradford this morning, and then Ian and I had lunch in a strange cafe in Shipley, where I changed out of my businessy clothes and into my hiking outfit. I felt like Wonderwoman, emerging from the loo in trail shoes, soft shell trousers, and my cosy ninja windproof jacket.

Ian dropped me off in Menston, and off I strode, quickly reaching the open moorland and expansive views.

I walked along the northern edge of Ilkley Moor, with wonderful views of the Wharfe Valley below.

I’ve had a super afternoon’s walk. Probably the best so far. It’s lovely being in the hills at last.

My BandB is a really cosy farmhouse in a tiny hamlet. There’s no pub or anything so I’ve brought a supper picnic to eat in my room. My main course is sardines in a bread roll. Yum.

18th February
Addingham Moorside to Hetton 14.7 miles

My longest day so far! And hilliest. And most enjoyable. Whisper it softly, and cross your fingers, but it’s just possible I am starting to feel like myself again.

It’s been a grey, soft sort of day, with a fierce cold wind to start, but it lost its bite by the afternoon. And I was even bathed in sunshine for, um, 5 minutes. The light was lovely all day though – constantly changing and showing off the hills all around me in different guises.

This morning I had breakfast at the kitchen table with the lovely couple who ran the BandB. They had decided I’d feel a bit of an odd one out if I ate all by myself in the dining room. So I enjoyed a friendly breakfast, full of conversation. And good porridge.


Seeing the yellow bikes still makes me smile.




After a 7 mile tramp over a hill, I reached Skipton, in time for lunch. As always, it felt like sensory overload to suddenly be in a busy town, after a day and a half out in the peaceful countryside and quiet hamlets. The town was heaving: half term + market day = lots and lots of people.



My afternoon shift took me over Sharp Haw and Flasby Fell (love that name!), past my first lambs of the year, and finally to Hetton, with its rather nice pub and very comfy rooms. And a bath. Bliss!

Yesterday I saw a pair of boots, carefully placed in a scenic spot on some rocks. Some sort of memorial , perhaps? Today I spotted a more mundane object, but one that also left me wondering about its story:


19th February
Hetton to Settle, via Malham 13.5 miles, 2,300ft ascent

Splish splash. A wet day. But a good day. Very low cloud covered the moors in the morning. The walking was lovely though, and I soggily descended to Malham at midday with spirits high. There is something I enjoy about being out in the hills when most other walkers are nowhere to be seen. The honeypot of Malham was peaceful and almost devoid of visitors. For me it was special occasion – reaching Malham, and walking up to the Cove and climbing up to the beautiful high valley above it. It’s the point where I crossed over my own shadow from May 2013 on my Lands End to JohnO Groats Walk. What a place to pass east to west across my south to north line!

So dramatic limestone gorges and cliffs were the order of the afternoon. Including the impressive cliffs that are in a high valley, tucked out of sight way above Settle. I’d never seen this valley before. It was beautiful.

I finished the day with a steep descent down into Settle, entering the handsome grey town via tiny twisting cobbled lanes.