Start 21/05/2002 Kirk Yetholm
Finish 06/06/2002 Edale
A knee injury in 2000, and the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in 2001 meant I would have to wait until 2002 for an opportunity to walk this route. It follows the central upland spine of England from the Scottish Borders to Edale in Derbyshire, just a short train journey from Sheffield, where I lived at the time. This was the first National Trail, formally opened in 1965, and seemed an obvious choice for my next long distance walk after completing Wainwright's Coast to Coast in 1999. It was a journey that would alter the course of my life...
An early morning train to Berwick-Upon-Tweed and two bus rides later, I arrived at Kirk Yetholm for a lunchtime pint before setting off for the Mountain Refuge Hut where I would spend the first night. The first few days were incident-free. Then, towards the end of the fourth day, as I headed West along Hadrian's Wall, one of my Achilles tendons became sore. Not so bad that I couldn't continue, but by the following morning, the swelling was such that I simply couldn't put my boot on.
In those days, I carried a pair of running shoes to wear in the evenings, so was able to reach Alston for a scheduled rest day and see how it was from there. Apart from the need for a sturdy toe box, I found walking in my Merrells a revelation. I was lighter on my feet and could feel the ground underfoot, something I hadn't experienced through the thick unforgiving soles of my boots. By the time I departed Middleton-In-Teesdale a few days later, my second pair of runners were in my rucksack and the boots were in the post back to Sheffield. Since then, I have only worn my boots on a few occasions, opting instead for walking shoes with a protective toe box and an aggressive but more flexible sole.
It had been an enjoyable walk. I loved spending the time outdoors and wasn't looking forward to returning to work, attending to paperwork in the office, analysing samples in the lab or lending a hand to the production team in the warehouse, because it was indoors. So as I sat there on the final day, soaking up the scenery of the Peak District, the decision was made. Hand in my notice, gain a Mountain Leader qualification, and pursue a more fulfilling working life.
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