Hike Southbound through Britain with Daryl May
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The First and Last Inn in Sennen; Sennen Cove; and the famous sign at Land's End
DS65 First and last inn
DS65 Sennen Cove
DS65 LE sign
Days S53 - S65                                                             English West Country
Day S65 - Penzance to Land's End
Day S64                    From sea to shining sea         Northbound Home
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Scottish Highlands
Central Scotland
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North of England
English Midlands
    English West Country

Northbound Home
Tuesday, April 29,  2008

Time of departure: 7.45 am
Time of arrival: 11.00 am
Place departed: Penzance, Cornwall
Place arrived: Land's End, Cornwall

Miles: 11
Cum miles: 971.2
Percent complete: 100.0

Bed sign Longboat Hotel, Penzance **
Cost (for bed only): 20 ($40)
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DS65 Author at Land's End sign
DS65 LE guest book
I left my backpack at the Longboat Hotel in Penzance, since I planned to return there by bus in the afternoon. With my usual bellypack, and this time with a small drawstring daypack, I launched into the drizzle with a couple of self-made cheese sandwiches for lunch.

The drizzle lasted until I was approaching Land's End. The wet wasn't at all comfortable, and I had noticed cold water running down the small of my back. For once I didn't let it affect me. In fact, the weather was good for progress in dissuading me against rest stops.

I also probably walked faster with a light load and a light heart. In any event, I surprised myself with my early Land's End arrival. 

On my arrival at Land's End, I immediately called Jennifer so she knew I'd completed the walk - before she left for work, so she didn't need to wait until she got home. Then I took some photos, signed the guestbook at the Land's End Hotel - and learned to my horror that there was no free beer for a finishing end-to-ender - at least not from the folks I asked.

With the help of my friend, John Gilbert, my estimated mileage is about 970. This is less than I expected, and must arise from dropping Offa's Dyke and heading more directly south from Shrewsbury.

My boots are nearly worn-out now, with misshapen heels and thin soles. My socks have holes. My hiking stick is wobbly, and liable to split apart at its joints, and a whole set of its own rubber boots has worn away. My gloves are abraded and tacky. My backpack has been repaired at some of its major stress points, and an unforeseen failure might occur at any time - and, besides, its outside is filthy.

The condition of the equipment surpasses the condition of its owner.

On reaching Land's End today, I celebrate not just getting there - but a temporary end to sweaty clothes, daily hand-laundering, drying of boots, blister protection, decrepit accommodation, a "sack-of-potatoes" backpack loading my shoulders and hips and rubbing on my back, bandaged feet and ankles - and a fast-dwindling bank account. Unfortunately, I also relinquish a life of ever-changing vistas, some great friendships with the nicest people, constantly new experiences - and the fresh smell of the great outdoors.

To all who have supported me over the lonely miles, a heartfelt and humble thank you. Many of you have accepted me almost as family, though you knew me only from the cantankerous musings in my journal. I will not name you now, but your names are inscribed where it matters more - in the unwritten annals of the fraternity of long distance hikers - and in the larger fraternity of people who make friends out of strangers, and brothers out of friends.

When we complete an end-to-end walk, we get an overwhelming feeling for the entire country - the vastness of it, its geographical diversity, and its wonderful people. Our feelings and our perspiration bind us to the land. Our reward is that we get to emotionally connect with the entire nation for a while - not just whilst hiking, but also later. Until, eventually, as with losing a much-loved book, our memories fade.

And what about walking the end-to-end twice? Do our feelings change?  In my youth I visited Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa. It's a place where two oceans meet, the Indian and Atlantic, and it's not known for serenity. Ocean mist and a stiff breeze greeted me, but that's not what gave it atmosphere. Rather, it was the sense, as I stood with my back to the ocean, that all of Africa lay in front of me, and none behind. The human masses of Cairo, the jungles of the Congo, the valleys of Kenya, the sands of the Sahara, the misery and the ecstasy and all the feelings in between - of several hundred million people, expressing themselves in a hundred tongues combining to a thunderous din - and all of this then, in the past, and on to an indefinite future.

Those people were oblivious of me, but I wasn't oblivious of them. And, in a way, that's what I felt when I completed the second end-to-end. From the hills of the West Country, through the Midlands, and on to the north of England, the Scottish uplands and mountains and lochs and the northeast coast - with all the wonderful people that I met throughout . . . I could visualize it all like a rainbow of  blazing impressions, and I felt specially privileged for having done the hike twice - and, who knows, binding myself to this great country and people for the rest of my days.

A reason to hasten my walk was the ill health of my father-in-law, When I returned to Penzance, I heard he had died today. I was able to return to support Jennifer with the hike completed, rather than adjourn it.
Bus back to Penzance
DS65 Bus back to Penzance
Day S64                                          2007 and 2008 Daryl May                         Northbound Home