With hindsight I can’t believe how little preparation actually went into this walk. We talked about it for a few days, generally while doing our little “dog walks” around the local area, and plumped on the Herriot Way because of the location and the fact that we could finish it in four days, which was an important consideration because neither of us had much annual leave left.
I’d found the walk when I was browsing the Sherpa Van web site. During our discussions about the C2C we decided fairly early on that we really didn’t want to carry all our equipment on our backs and Sherpa just happened to be the first company we came across for baggage transfer. Although this was contrary to the Wainwright philosophy, we argued that Hillary did not carry his own bags to the top of Everest – he had a Sherpa for that – so why shouldn’t we?
The main reasoning behind doing the Herriot Way (or some other long distance walk) was to train for the C2C which we had scheduled for the following year. Realistically I think we both knew that it was as much about discovering whether we were compatible long-distance walking companions – or whether we would fall out on the first night and never speak to each other again. As it is, Rob snores like a road drill, has to sleep with the window open and gets up at least three times in the night for a pee. Other than that we got on just fine. Drinking copious amounts of beer and vodka before you go to sleep does help though (although this is probably why he’s up peeing all night).
I had some concerns about using Youth Hostels, but Rob assured me they were nothing like my impression of them (doing chores before bed time and making your own dinner etc.), they had moved on over the years and were more like B&B’s now. As it is, on the Herriot Way you have little choice but to use at least one hostel (that being in Keld where there is almost no other accommodation available). (2014 update note: The hostel in Keld is now run as a private hotel called Keld Lodge and there is only one other B&B’s available in the village, Butt House).
I dutifully joined the YHA and one afternoon when I was bored, I made all the bookings for the excursion. I found a B&B in Aysgarth where we could leave the car for the duration of the walk and then booked the hostels at Grinton, Keld and Hawes. Rob was a bit miffed that he hadn’t been able to contribute to this part of the planning process, but it really only took a couple of hours of effort.
A few weeks before we were due to walk, I began to suffer from really bad stomach pains. I had a fair idea it was a hernia that was the cause of the problem as I could feel a lump just above my belly button and if I pushed it, it disappeared. I decided that I had better do something about it now, as when the pain got bad I was completely debilitated for several hours and if that happened while I was walking, we could both be in serious trouble. Remarkably I got to see a consultant within a few weeks and pressed him hard for a quick resolution, perhaps overplaying how often the attacks were happening, but certainly not having to overplay how bloody painful they were when they hit. In the end I got a cancellation and went under the knife on the 17th August.
I was worried that I would have to cancel the walk. I would have 17 days from coming out of hospital to starting the walk. Although it’s not especially arduous, the Herriot Way is still 55 miles in four days with a high point of 2344 ft over Great Shunner Fell. I did no proper walking at all for 10 days after I got home from the hospital, although I was back at work after 4 days and feeling pretty good.
I have kept a record of all the walking I have done since May 2005, in my walking log, so I know that after that 10 day break I did a number of small walks gradually building the distance up, completing 36 miles in 6 different small walks. These gave me enough confidence to decide to go ahead with the HW, despite the misgivings of my wife. As it was I had no adverse effects at all during the walk and managed to keep pace with Rob all the way.