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Ancient Feet: 12 - A Hydrophilic Laminate Liner

...Reunited for the first time since we left St Bees, all six of us walked on together, now approaching the boundary of the first of the three National Parks through which we would travel, the mountains of the Lake District almost within touching distance.

'It's strange that it should be called the Lake District,' I said 'considering that there is only one lake.'

'But there are lots of lakes,' Andy responded, ready for an argument...

When six fellahs go walking from one side of England to the other. you're in for some lively conversation.

Alan Nolan continues his highly entertaining account of a Coast to Coast walk.

To purchase a copy of Ancient Feet visit

Signed copies of the book are available from Alan http://apn.thelea@yahoo.co.uk

Moor Row and Cleator have nothing much to recommend them but, like all the villages in this area, there is a curious mix of small new developments and property which has seen better days. The contrast between the new houses, with the smart new cars parked outside, and the older properties could not be more marked. This area depends very heavily on the nuclear plant at Sellafield and, whatever people may think about the rights and wrongs of nuclear power, there is no doubt that the region would be economically devastated by the closure of the plant. Currently, it employs twelve thousand people, eight thousand directly and with four thousand contractors.

Reunited for the first time since we left St Bees, all six of us walked on together, now approaching the boundary of the first of the three National Parks through which we would travel, the mountains of the Lake District almost within touching distance.

'It's strange that it should be called the Lake District,' I said 'considering that there is only one lake.'

'But there are lots of lakes,' Andy responded, ready for an argument.

'No, there's only one. Bassenthwaite Lake is the only lake. All the others are either 'meres' such as Windermere, Thirlmere and Buttermere or 'waters' such as Coniston Water, Ullswater, Derwentwater and Ennerdale Water. This is something you might want to remember for pub quizzes.'

It was clear that Andy wanted to argue and he was in deep thought for a while as he tried desperately to come up with another lake that didn't end with mere or water. After a short time, Tom, Don and I stopped near the almost derelict farmhouse of Black How for a drink and a sandwich. The other three walked on, entering Blackhow Wood for the ascent of Dent whilst we rested on a grassy bank. It was a relief to remove the heavy weight from our backs, if only for a few minutes, but Don had so much in his pack that he seemed to be having great difficulty in locating his provisions. After rooting in it for ages, he produced the largest box of Ryvita biscuits I had ever seen.

'Bloody hell, Don, couldn't you find a larger box than that?' asked Tom, sardonically.

'They don't weigh much,' answered Don.

'But they take up a lot of space,' I said.

A moment later, he produced the most enormous carton of cheese spread from his pack, as well as a table knife.

'Hell, Don, I didn't realise they made them that size,' I said. 'No wonder you're struggling with your pack if you've got the largest size of everything. Surely, you'd have been better buying those DairyLea slices and just bringing enough for a few days. You could buy some more somewhere along the way, if you run out.'

'Oh, I didn't want to think about having to stock up and, anyway, it's cheaper to buy in bulk.'

'But it's only cheaper if you eat it all, and you've got enough there for a month.'

'For three men,' added Tom.

He proceeded to apply the spread to his Ryvita biscuits and then, to our astonishment, delved into his pack again and produced the most humongous onion and a Swiss army knife, which he used to cut off a couple of slices of onion and added them to his Ryvita and cheese spread.

'You must be mental,' said Tom 'that onion must weigh over half a pound.'

'Yeah, even if cheese spread and sliced onion on Ryvita is your favourite snack, surely you could have done without the onion rather than carry the extra weight,' I added.

'Oh, it's not that much extra,' Don countered.

Tom wasn't finished. 'An extra pound here and half a pound

...And a golf umbrella over there,' I muttered.

'...and you're soon up to an extra stone of weight that you'll
have to carry for the next twelve days. Didn't you read that list I sent you?'

'But the weight will reduce as I eat the stuff,' he argued 'and that's another reason for walking east to west. The toughest days are through the Lake District and they are at the end if you walk east to west, and that's when your pack is lightest.'

'No, Don, your pack would be just as light at the beginning if you didn't have the entire fuckin' contents of your local supermarket in there,'Tom reasoned.

With that, Don went off for a closer inspection of the derelict farm buildings and I took the opportunity to find out more about his obsession with walking east to west.

'Why does Don have such a bee in his bonnet about doing the walk the other way?' I asked Tom.

'Jealousy,' Tom replied firmly. 'The first time I did the Coast to Coast about fifteen years ago, I wanted to do it by myself. Although I'd done plenty of walking, I hadn't ever walked such long distances day after day, so wasn't sure how I'd go on and didn't want anyone else there if I couldn't manage it. And anyway, it was more of an adventure to do it on my own.'

'So you kept it a secret?'

'No, not exactly, but I didn't tell many people,' he continued. 'What happened with Don was that he happened to phone me on the Friday before I set off on the Saturday and it came out during the conversation and I couldn't get him off the phone. 'Why didn't you tell me before? It's been an ambition of mine to do the Coast to Coast for years. I would have come with you.'All that stuff. He went on and on.

Anyway, it must have festered away inside him all the next week, thinking about me walking in the fresh air, doing the walk he wanted to do, while he was stuck in his office. By the Friday, he was so wound up that he decided to drop everything and do it himself, but he couldn't start until the Monday because they were going somewhere over the weekend. Of course, by that time, I was well over halfway and there was no way he could catch up, so he decided to start at Robin Hood's Bay. That way, at least he would see me as we passed and be able to thumb his nose at me. His idea was to surprise me but, after the first day, he realised how easy it would be to miss me, so he phoned home and asked Jane to phone Pam so she could tell me to look out for him on the Wednesday. We met on the Cleveland Hills and it was a good job I'd been warned because the weather was poor and we could easily have missed each other in the mist. It was a bit pointless really, because we only spent about half an hour together, having a sandwich and a natter.'

'That still doesn't explain -why he thinks east to west is better,' I pointed out.

'He doesn't really,'Tom replied,'he just won't forgive me for going without him and it's his way of needling me.'

Don returned from his inspection tour just as Tom chose to go and check whether anything needed watering, and I decided to hear his version of the History of Coast to Coast Walks.

'Don, you know you're always telling us that the east to west crossing is better? What made you decide to do it that way in the first place?'

'It was fortuitous really,' he replied. 'We have some friends in Yorkshire and we had a long standing commitment to go to their daughter's Christening. I'd always wanted to do the Coast to Coast Walk, so it was a good opportunity for me to combine the two things. We stayed at their house on the Sunday night and Jane drove me to Robin Hood's Bay the next morning. It was only about a twenty minute drive, so it was ideal.'

'But didn't you meet Tom along the way?' I asked.

'Oh, yes,' he said with a chuckle. 'That was funny. He phoned me about ten days before I was due to go and, when he heard what I was doing, he was so envious you wouldn't believe. He wanted to come with me but he was going away somewhere during the second week. Anyway, he must have been so irritated that he decided to do it on his own and set off that weekend. He only did it west to east so that he would bump into me towards the end and be able to say that he'd nearly finished.'

After Tom and Don had spent another twenty minutes indulging in their favourite pastime of discussing exactly how they would go about converting the farm buildings into the most desirable property in the North West or, alternatively, how they could transport all the stone to Cheshire or Norfolk and rebuild the farmhouse to their own design, we prepared to move on but Don had to repack all the belongings he had removed from his rucksack when searching for his food.

'That's a smart looking waterproof, Don,' Tom said as Don stuffed what was clearly a brand new jacket into his ancient pack.

'Yes, I thought it was time to treat myself and get a modern jacket. The fabrics they use now are much better and they look good too. Even though this is waterproof, it's really lightweight and has a super-soft feel; it's breathable and really comfortable. It's made from polyamide with a hydrophilic laminate liner.'

'You sound like a bleedin' advert, Don.'

By the time we were ready to move on, Tom and Don had decided that they would find a path round Dent, rather than go up and over, which made me wonder again about their fitness. It was obvious that Don was struggling, whether just because of the weight of his pack, it was impossible to say, although I was beginning to ¦wonder about his general fitness. As for Tom, it was not like him to take the easy option. However, there was no point in asking whether he was suffering with his knees or had any other problem as he would see it as a sign of weakness to admit to any discomfort. I would have to wait and see whether his creaking limbs would last the distance.
As for myself, I was in my prime; at the pinnacle of fitness, having read with great interest Care International's tips on preparing for their Challenge, which I found very helpful, if not frightening. Although the Coast to Coast Walk was rather different to the 24 Peaks Challenge, I had convinced myself that, by following their preparation regime, I would be in perfect shape by the time we set off. Indeed, the first three or four days of the Coast to Coast are through the Lake District and involve scaling three of the 24 peaks on Care's route, so their literature was ideal. Mind you, some of the language could have deterred a lesser man.

A suitable level of fitness is crucial. It would be very dangerous to suddenly begin climbing a number of mountains, when your body is expecting a normal weekend as a couch potato (crucial, dangerous — this sounds serious stuff, I thought). It will not be necessary to run (thank goodness for that) unless of course you wish to do so (I don't think so). A rhythmic pace, especially uphill, (you mean resting every five paces then?) will lead to much better progress than wildly charging at it (don't worry, I'm not one for wildly charging). We strongly recommend that you make use of our Exercise Programme and begin training at least ten weeks prior to the event (ten weeks! They don't train that long for the Olympics, do they?) The 24 Peaks event is physically more demanding than our other challenge events so participants should follow the adjusted exercise programme which includes an extra two weeks of activity. (What? Another two weeks? One of the 24 Peaks must be Everest!)

There were pages and pages of this stuff and I was tired out just reading it. And that was before I reached the Exercise Programme itself. There is no point training for a sprint (good, my sprinting days ended when they stopped making buses with open platforms and I looked rather foolish jumping against a closed door) but at the same time you don't need to run any marathons (not even one?). The pace required is a steady walk (I can cope -with steady). This is especially relevant to the 24 Peaks event (oh, good). The qualities required are firstly determination and commitment (is that all?) but you will also need a level of physical fitness (any particular level?). That is aerobic fitness, or to put it another way, a fit heart and lungs (my heart and lungs do fit, especially since I filled out a bit). By this time, I was worn out and I had only just reached the week by week programme. Week 1. Try a brisk forty minute walk (I should be able to manage that) and, in this first week, you should be aiming to do between three and five sessions (what, in a week?). You should have enough breath to talk (gee, thanks), but not enough to sing or whistle (that's all right — I had no ambition to sing or whistle for forty minutes three to five times a 'week).

I ploughed on and found that by Week 5. You should be walking for one hour at least five to six times a week. Walk to work (eleven miles wearing a suit? I don't think so. Anyway, I need the car for work — I sometimes do a bit of shopping on the way home).

Week 11. This week, slow down (that sounds more like it) to 3-4 sessions of about forty minutes each (that still sounds a lot).

Week 12. Exercise should be further reduced with only one or two light 20-30 minute sessions at the beginning of the week, followed by three to four days of complete rest and plenty of sleep prior to the event (complete rest and plenty of sleep. That sounds the ideal prepara¬tion for a sixty year old).

Remember to read the Nutritional Advice in the following section. By following this and resting in the days before the event (so it's all down to resting and nutrition then? That sounds better), you will find that you are ready for the challenge (after all that rest, I'm sure I will be).

Worn out, I turned to the Nutritional Advice, which talked about eating the right kinds of foods and referred to a process called carbo-loading. Apparently, this involves consuming enormous amounts of carbohydrates. Eat plenty of bread, potatoes and pasta (pasta? Bloody pasta? It doesn't seem to have given the Italians a reputation for staying power, now does it? Must be a misprint. Perhaps they mean pasty. Wonder whether that includes pies. This sounds much better — bread, potatoes, pasties and pies — I've lived on those for the last sixty years. No wonder I'm so naturally fit. Bloody hell, I was carbo-loading for over fifty years before they even invented the idea. Forget the exercise, I'll concentrate on loading the carbs).

Not having to bother with Care's exercise regime was a great relief and I decided that I would just drive up to the Lakes whenever I could and spend five or six hours on the fells each time. It seemed to make sense to practice under the exact conditions we would experience during the first few days of the Coast to Coast. The big drawback was that it was over a hundred and twenty miles to the Lakes, or over a two hour drive on a good day, so I visited the Long Mynd in Shropshire from time to time as that is only an hour's drive away. I took Tom along with me one day because he needed to get in trim for the Coast to Coast as well, and it was his first experience of walking there. He was clearly impressed.

'I didn't realise there was such good walking country round here.'

'Yes, I think it's very like the Lake District, but on a much smaller scale of course. It's ideal for practicing for walking up there.'

'I see what you mean, but there aren't any actual mountains, are there? Just hills,' he said, a bit churlishly, I thought.

'Well, yes.'

'And there are no lakes either, are there?'

'Well, if you want to be picky.'

'So, what you mean is it's just like the Lake District, but with no lakes and no proper mountains.'

'I suppose so.'

'In fact, it's nothing like the Lake District then.'

'If you have to put it like that, no.'

We completed our training that day with a couple of pints before making our way home, but the journey took rather longer than it should. We got a puncture. It had been years since either of us had changed a wheel, so I had to consult the manual even to find out where the spare was hidden. After emptying the boot, which turned out to have a false bottom beneath which the spare wheel had been buried by a mischievous car assembly worker, I was horrified by the extent of his mischief. The Jaguar SType has enormous wheels, with tyres about twelve inches wide but he must have thought it would be great fun to substitute the proper spare with a wheel for a moped! We searched through the manual and found that, apparently, this was not a mistake but that Jaguar now provide a 'get you home' tyre for emergency use. To add insult to injury, the instructions added that speed must not exceed forty miles an hour with this wheel in place. By the time we had fitted the toy wheel, we were regretting the final part of our training regime as we both needed a pee, and it must have been the discomfort that put me in grumpy mood on the delayed journey home.

'This is bloody stupid. Firstly, I'm having to drive a car with
three wheels and a stabiliser on the fourth corner. It's like a child
learning to ride a bike. Secondly, I'm having to keep down to forty
miles an hour. If I'd wanted to drive at forty miles an hour, I
would have bought an entire bloody moped, not just one wheel.
Thirdly, driving at forty miles an hour means that it will take us
twice as long to get home, so there's twice as long for people to
see me driving a Jaguar with a stabiliser. And fourthly...'

'Yes, and fourthly?'

'And fourthly...I'm sure there must be a fourthly but I can't
just think of it at the moment.'


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