Ex-rayray LeJog 2019-2021

I wanted to do some walking after I retired and, what may turn out to be a mad moment, thought it would be a good idea to walk from Lands End to John O’Groats (LeJog).  This is a well known charity walk, often done on roads (e.g. by Ian Botham).  There are a number of books and blogs that describe the walk cross country which increases the distance from 874 miles to 1100 or more depending on the route. The route can be done, of course, from South to North or North to South (becoming JogLe!).  The advantages of LeJog include walking with the prevailing wind and (rain!) coming from behind the walker, hopefully I will be fitter by the time I get to the Pennine Way and the Highlands and a new walking route between Inverness and John O’Groats should be complete in 2020 (currently most walkers use the A9).

Unlike recognised long distance paths like the Pennine Way, there is no fixed route for Le Jog. Most walkers do the walk continuously but for me, I think this is unrealistic.  I therefore set myself the challenge as follows:

  • To walk the route in stages, usually of 2 weeks duration, each stage to start exactly where the last finished
  • To avoid road walking as much as possible
  • To use B and B as much as possible rather than camp
  • To include the Southernmost point (the Lizard) and the Northernmost point (Dunnet head) of the mainland.
  • To include, where possible, areas of the country that I particularly like, or where I have wanted to walk, that lie on a sensible route.

My plan is to start after I retire at the beginning of June and to do the following stages this year:

  • The Lizard to Bodmin on the South West Coast path walking via Lands End then along the North coast to Padstow, then using the Camelford cycle trail to Bodmin
  • Bodmin to Bath via Bodmin Moor; the 2 Castles way to Okehampton; then turning North to just east of Barnstaple where I will pick up the Macmillan Way West.  This then crosses Exmoor and the main Quantock ridge before descending to the Somerset levels to reach Castle Cary. I will then turn North to reach Bath.
  • Bath to Edale via the southern half of the Cotswold way, then turning North-west to cross the Malvern Hills. I will then head around the west side of Birmingham and Wolverhampton, hopefully calling in to see my son before turning North-east on the Peak district to Edale

In 2020 I will have to choose between the Pennine Way or whether to go west through the Forest of Bowland and Howgill Fells to reach the Scottish border.  It seems most walkers then cross the Southern Uplands to reach the West side of Edinburgh. Most then head North-west along canals to reach the West Highland Way. Others go north to cross the Cairngorms. My preference at present is to cross the Cairngorms and pick up some Munros en route, but this will involve a lot of camping and the need to carry provisions across remote parts of Scotland; with all the increase in weight etc.  I will see. 

In 2021 I should reach the west side of Inverness.  The last leg, at present, is usually a slog up the A9 but a new route is in development hugging the coast off road, called the John O’Groats way.

Using this plan the distance is going to be between 1100 and 1200 miles.

When I told friends, most thought this was a good project. Others though I was mad, not having done any long distance walking for years. Some then asked me whether I was doing it for charity.  I had not thought of this and, at first, I was not keen because I am not sure I will be able to complete the trek and I was primarily doing the walk as my own challenge.  However, after further reflection, I think it a good idea to try to raise money for a charitable cause and, because of the work I did during my career I would like to support cystic fibrosis.

Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is a common genetic condition where the body’s normal secretions (mucus) is thicker than normal.  This affects many organ systems but particularly the lung and digestive tract.  This is a life-long disorder usually starting in early childhood with recurrent chest infections requiring repeated hospital admissions. More than 10 000 people have this condition in the UK and most children born with CF will now reach adulthood. For more information see cysticfibrosis.org.uk.

 I want to raise money for a condition that I was involved in helping treat during my career. I was an Interventional Radiologist at a hospital in the North of England. This speciality treats a wide variety of conditions by using X-Rays to guide needles or catheters to the part of the body requiring treatment. The adult CF unit was based in my hospital.

Interventional Radiology is involved in two main areas of cystic fibrosis care:

Patients looked after in the adult CF unit often have problems with getting access for intravenous drugs for their patients as their veins may become blocked following multiple use for intravenous antibiotics during childhood. Interventional Radiology (IR) helped access by implanting central venous access devices (ports).  By placing these under ultrasound and fluoroscopic (X-Ray) imaging the complications associated with the procedure (arterial puncture and collapsed lung) are reduced and, if the central veins became blocked, metal scaffolds called stents can be used to restore patency. One of our Radiographers places central catheters (PICC lines) under imaging control

One of the common causes of death in these patients is bleeding into the lungs. The bleeding comes from arteries that do not take part in gas exchange (one of the functions of the lungs) and we can puncture an artery in the groin and direct a thin tube called a catheter into the abnormal vessels. Small pieces of plastic can be injected to block these arteries thereby stopping the bleeding.  Unfortunately, recurrence is common and this often needs to be repeated.

Thirty years ago, it was rare for these patients to live into their 40s. With improvements in drug treatment, some patients are living into their 60s but many still die at a young age.  Their life is complicated by recurrent chest infections and problems with nutrition and diabetes because of pancreatic failure amongst others.  They require repeated admissions to hospital because of these problems and need rigorous daily physiotherapy to maintain their lung function. A significant number end up on the lung transplant list and many of these patients will die because of lack of donors.

Promising genetic therapies are being developed  At present, there is a bid by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust to get some new therapies accepted by NICE, one new drug treatment (Vertex) is the cause of much controversy as It is not currently available in England as NHS England argue over the price of the drug being asked by the company.

Despite all these problems these young men and women are very resilient.  With support from their employers most can work. Many will go through higher education. There are some of our patients who have undergone lung transplantation and have competed at the transplant Games.

I want to do the first stage of the walk to prove to myself it is possible to complete.  I will therefore open a facebook account and webpage so you can check my progress.  If all goes well, I will open a “just giving” page in the Autumn.

Please follow me on my Facebook page or blog.

For those of you living outside the North West of England, you may prefer to donate to your local CF unit.  You can find out where this is from your local Paediatric unit or by visiting the cystic fibrosis trust website.  Alternatively, you can donate to Manchester or the CF trust.

Useful links:

Manchester cystic fibrosis centre:               https://www.facebook.com/macfc.uhsm

Cystic Fibrosis Trust:                                 https://www.cysticfibrosis.org.uk

British Society of Interventional Radiology: https://www.bsir.org