39 million steps

A very, very, very long walk.

[Note: this blog is now a year old, and we're afraid some of the links don't work any more (specifically the ones to the external website that was made for us). Sorry! The blog's all still here though. ]

Welcome, lady and/or gentleman! If you're wondering what this is all about, click here to go to our lovely new website that explains what it's all about. Then you could look at the archive (down there on the left) to see how things progressed, and come back to the front page to see the latest developments. Thank you!

Also please feel free to leave comments by clicking the link below each post

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Ewan & Gill

We have a winner!

The contest is finally over.

Last night, at 10:45pm in The Knavesmire, the moment everyone had been waiting for arrived at last.

Are you ready?

The number of steps it took us to walk from South Bank, York, to City Chambers, Edinburgh, was:

FOUR HUNDRED AND NINETY THOUSAND,
ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY FIVE.


and the winner, with a spectacularly close guess of 490,000, was:

PAUL M


(we've no idea who you are, Paul, but we'll be contacting you shortly with prizes galore)

and, through our contest, we raised a grand total of:

THREE HUNDRED AND THIRTY THREE POUNDS
AND FIFTY SEVEN PENCE.


So now you know.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Ewan & Gill

Final bets, please, ladies and gentlemen!

It's nearly all over.

You have twenty minutes in which to place any final web-bets, and about six hours in which to either run to York and place a bet with us in person, or run to York and place a bet in the Knavesmire pub.

Soon, ever so soon, the answer (and the winner) will be revealed.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Ewan & Gill

The closing date has finaly been determined!

It's a little weird, this. Now that we've actually completed our walk, ended centuries of transnational animosity and brought delight and good cheer to the masses, you'd think it'd all be over. Collect the contest entries, announce the winner, bish bash bosh, job's a good'un.

But no.

Firstly, we've had four more competition entries today. It's definitely a much more entertaining experience now that we actually know the answer.

Secondly, we're going to be collecting more guesses at the Knavesmire pub this Friday evening (29th September) and then finally announcing the winner at the end of the night. We weren't planning anything like that, but the ever-wonderful Tony the landlord offered, so who were we to refuse?

And thirdly, we're still appearing in random newspapers around the world. Today we heard about this one, from the student newspaper of the University of Northern Iowa. It's rather entertaingly got the wrong end of the stick:

OK, HERE THEY COME ... READY ... AIM ... FIRE!

Under an ancient British by-law still on the books, it is legal for citizens of York, England, to shoot Scotsmen with a bow and arrow within the city limits. Two Scotsmen are coming to York this month to ask that the law be repealed.

Marvellous.

Anyway, the key thing is that we can now officially tell you that the contest closes on Friday evening. We'll accept any web-based bets until 5pm on Friday - latecomers will have to come to the Knavesmire or find us in person.

So, you've got 4 days to make your final estimates. Good luck!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Ewan & Gill

The Final Push

Apologies for the late update - we'd planned to wait until today in case the Evening News article had come out, but it hasn't. Soz.

On the offchance that our photos did not make it clear, we can now confirm that...



we've done it.

Our final two miles went in a relatively uncomplicated fashion, and we arrived in time to squeeze in a quick but very fantastic burger (no, really, it was marvellous), before being on time to meet Ms Lesley Hinds, Lord Provost of Edinburgh. She, on the other hand, was about nine minute late for our appointment. Honestly. We had to walk 240 miles; she only had to walk down the stairs. You'd have thought someone in her position would have people to organise these things.

It has to be said, though, that she was very friendly and really quite interested (although we're not quite certain that she fully perceived the solemn gravitas of the occasion). And she did indeed accept the pledge with good grace, even mentioning the possibility of getting it
framed on the wall in City Chambers.

So, to those of you who have signed the pledge - you know who you are; we can't quite remember - it's all over. You must now consider youselves honour bound to decommission your Scot-centred weaponry. If we hear of any secret northward-pointing arsenals, at any state of
readniess, be it 45 minutes or 45 days, we shall be most displeased.

And the question you've all been wondering about: yes, we do now know how many steps.

But we don't want you thinking the fun's over yet. Oh no. For administrative reasons it's going to take us a while to sort out the competition details, so the bets can still come in. Having second
thoughts about your guess, or maybe you've not even entered yet? Well it's not too late! You can bet over the internet, from the link on this page, or from Alley Cats or the Knavesmire pub in York (if the betting sheets are still there, and if you're not reading this after we've collected them).

So go on, our pretties, get betting and we'll be back with you all soon!*

*the only applies to our York-based pretties.




Thursday, September 21, 2006

Ewan & Gill

Two miles and two hours to go...

Last night we fell in to Gorebridge, which on reflection is a marvellous place to have fallen. Our B&B was amazingly comfortable, and hospitatlity reached a new extreme this morning when the host sat down with us at breakfast and drew us a detailed map, including all traffic lights and pretty landmarks, of this morning's walk. We were even given vegetarian haggis for breakfast, and told, on departure, to "take care of each other!".

As you'll (with any luck) see from the photos below, we have had a brief pledge-test this morning. We decided that having travelled so far we ought to check that it was still in full working order, and who better to try it out on than a geniune, certified, bona-fide, Scottish granny. All seemed to be in working order, and no pillaging or weapon-throwing ensued, so we're assuming it's all fine to present to the Lord Provost later on with minmal harm to all involved.

Well actually, we have a confession to make. Now don't go panicking. All you step-betters have nothing to get worried about. Our confession involves no infringements of the Long Walk Rules (see a previous post for details). But it does involve the aforementioned Scottish granny. We can exclusively reveal that the granny is the granny of none other than our very own Ewan. Yes, Ewan has a Scottish granny, a Scottish father, and was in fact born in Scotland himself. Please be assured, however, that this has not been allowed to prejudice any part of our undertaking. In short, there's been no funny business.

So, we're now a mere two miles from our destination, and a mere less than two hours until a historic moment that will change the lives of the Scottish forever. So far there's been a distinct lack of people lining the streets waving flags, celebrity receptions, or tell-tale signs of quickly hidden gifts awaiting us on our arrival. We can only assume this situation will be remedied imminently.

Now, all we need to do is (a) find out where the Edinburgh City Chambers are anyway; (b) think of what we might say or do when we get there, and (c) walk the final two historic miles. The third one should be easy enough, but the first two... Well, we're starting to think we should maybe have given this a bit more thought beforehand. It's all rather nervewracking.

Here goes.


Ewan & Gill

Fifty miles in two days

As you'll have noticed from our last couple of posts, yesterday and the day before were the most extreme, in terms of distance, of our voyage. In two days alone, we not only travelled 50 miles, but encoutered bright sun, pouring rain, terrifyingly strong wind, A-roads, B-roads, non-existent country tracks, farmland, collapsed bridges, closed villages, enormous piles of manure, tractors, cattle and juggernauts.

But it hasn't all been bad. As you'll see from the photos we've been sending, we've also encountered enough prettiness to fill three-quarters of a magical land of fairies.
- Several rainbows
- A Christmas tree farm
- Wild raspberries
- Friendly butterflies and sociable bees
- A mountain stream adorned with forget-me-nots
- A policeman who gave us a thumbs-up
- A very pretty bakery window
- A road sign to Edinburgh showing a surprisingly small number of miles
- And two macaroni pies.

For most of the days in question we were too exhausted, too confused or too covered in rain to write very much. But we hope the pictures gave a reasonable overview.

Ewan & Gill

21-09-06_1150.jpg


21-09-06_1150.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

21-09-06_1143.jpg


21-09-06_1143.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Ewan & Gill

20-09-06_1701.jpg


20-09-06_1701.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

20-09-06_1651.jpg


20-09-06_1651.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

20-09-06_1554.jpg


20-09-06_1554.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

20-09-06_1455.jpg


20-09-06_1455.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

20-09-06_1442.jpg


20-09-06_1442.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

20-09-06_1438.jpg


20-09-06_1438.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

Stow

We've done about 8 miles so far, mostly along the A7. It's still raining. And the only village on our route (Stow) turns out to have nowhere to stop or shelter.

And it's still raining. Did we mention that?

Ewan & Gill

20-09-06_0954.jpg


20-09-06_0954.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

Things are starting to get painful

When we planned this event, we assumed that, by the time the final few days came around, we'd be more fit and able to tackle longer distances.

Well we aren't.

Yesterday was 26 miles and it was darned awful. We're now about to leave Galashiels, with at least 24 miles ahead, and it's raining.

Those Scots had better be grateful for this.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ewan & Gill

Bonchester Bridge

After yesterday's posting, we are pleased to announce that we reached our highest ever altitude, at 1,447 feet above sea level. Impressive indeed. And as if that wasn't impressive enough, we made spectacularly good time and arrived at our destination (the Horse and Hound inn) about 2 minutes after the 4:30 photo was taken.

And as if THAT wasn't impressive enough, wait until you hear about the Horse and Hound. Or, specifically, wait until you hear about its food. Or, specifically, the vegetarian option. thi9s is how it worked: you could either have one of the two items on the menu, or you could have anything else you wanted! Just name it, and they'd cook it for you. How brilliant is that? So impressed were we that we decided to show our appreciation by, well, just ordering one of the things on the menu (piles of cheesy pasta).

And don't get us started on the banoffee pie. Mmmm... Banoffee pie...

But enough of that. In fact, purely as a challenge to ourselves, we promise not to mention food at all in our posts tomorrow.

The other thing we wanted to tell you about the Horse and Hound, other than its general excellentness, is its Residents' Lounge. What a brilliant room! It contained, among other things, an antique typewriter, a grandfather clock, a wind-up gramophone, a table with a chessboard set out on it, a collection of encyclopaedias - you get the idea. We tried to photograph more of it for you but, due to the Victorian-esque lighting, most of the pictures didn't come out. But there should be a couple.

Ewan & Gill

19-09-06_1638.jpg


19-09-06_1638.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

19-09-06_1401.jpg


19-09-06_1401.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

19-09-06_1232.jpg


19-09-06_1232.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

19-09-06_0938.jpg


19-09-06_0938.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Ewan & Gill

The border has been breached!

As you will see from the pictures below, we have now succeeded in reaching Scotland. At 11:55am on Monday 18th September 2006, we crossed the border from Northumberland into the Scottish Borders at 55.26898 degrees north, 2.62604 degrees west, and 935 feet above sea level.

There wasn't anyone about other than us, lots of pine trees and some wildfowl, but nonetheless we thought we should do things properly. So, stood at the border facing the great Scottish nation, read (in unison) the proclamation ending centuries of enmity between two great powers, ate a celebratory Double Decker (each) and continued on our merry way.

We're now 8.9 miles from Bonchester Bridge (our first genuine interaction with real live Scotsmen) and making good progress.

Ewan & Gill

18-09-06_1204.jpg


18-09-06_1204.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

18-09-06_1201.jpg


18-09-06_1201.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

18-09-06_1155.jpg


18-09-06_1155.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

17-09-06_1726.jpg


17-09-06_1726.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

17-09-06_1524.jpg


17-09-06_1524.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

17-09-06_1221.jpg


17-09-06_1221.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

17-09-06_1141.jpg


17-09-06_1141.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

Kielder. Or Butteryhaugh. It's hard to tell.

We hope today to be able to send you a photo taken on our arrival here yesterday which may go some way towards illustrating the oddness that is Kielder.

Following our walk alongside the lake, we arrived in a small village of houses, all painted in different yet tasteful colours, some with children's toys lying on the front lawn, all completely silent and devoid of any sign of life and activity. At all. For the whole of the time we walked through it. At one point a raven cawed (we think. Although it might not be ravens that caw. In any case, the raven made whatever noise it is that ravens make, and it was sinister). We have never on our walk so far feared so much that we might be captured and eaten by locals lying in wait. It seems to be what rural regeneration projects do to a place.

However, we passed through the estate safely and found our youth hostel (gratefully this was the only night we had to sink to such lowly accomodation, and there were no dormatories involved). Despite the advertising having rather oversold the place (we missed Spooks. It's not fair to say you've got a TV if it doesn't WORK!), it's been a pleasant surprise in its cleanliness and relative comfort. We also found a very lovely little pub which gave us a mighty dinner of chip baguette next to vegetable lasagne and beer, with toffee ice cream sundays to follow. And yes, we have noticed our obsession with describing our food to you this holiday. And no, we're not ashamed. We've got some excellent newly discovered sweet foodstuffs to tell you about at some point, but we'll save that for another time as we really need to get going soon.

A quick note on pictures: we do have a collection from yesterday including our usual 4:30 photo, but have had no mobile reception to send them. They'll be arriving at some point, hopefully today.

Ewan & Gill

The rain of terror

[Good morning from Kielder! We're just about to set off and cross the Scottish border - more of that in an update later - but it's just come to our attention that a post that we sent on Friday never got through. Blame a combination of poor mobile reception and a very large amount of rain, as explained below. So, although the message has now been superceded we wanted you to see it anyway, as it describes the moment when that photo at the top of the blog was taken.]

At about 3:30pm we left Blanchland. And then the rain started.

No, really: it really rained. A lot. For hours. Sitting here now, the following day, in the sun-drenched market town of Hexham, you wouldn't credit quite how wet we were for most of yesterday afternoon and evening. 'Sodden' doesn't cover it. In fact, our room has an en-suite shower, and the time at which each of us was wettest over the last 24 hours was not while using it.

To be fair, though, there were upsides to it. For example, in terms of sheer over-drama, walking along a road on the top of a hill in dense fog and a thunderstorm while listening to the Bonnie Tyler classic 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' takes some beating. (Oddly enough, yesterday was the second time in 16 months that we've done exactly that.)

But really, that was some rain. Perhaps yesterday's 4:30pm photo gave you some idea; well, please be assured, it got heavier after that.

To make matters worse, on five occasions motorists stopped to offer us lifts to wherever we wanted to go. Lifts which, on each occasion, we were of course obliged to turn down for the sake of you, our contest-entering, step-wagering public.

No, but really, that was some rain.


Ewan & Gill

How do you solve a problem? With a pizza!

(Written on Sunday afternoon in a forest. Apologies if it appears on the internet very late - we've had no signal for more than a day now.)

So we arrived in Bellingham and succeeded in pronouncing it correctly throughout our entire stay. Lyndale Guest House was a small but lovely place with a spiral staircase and a jacuzzi. (These details actually make it sound much grander than it was, but nonetheless we liked it.) This morning we ate breakfast around a table with all the other guests - a couple who were exploring Northumberland on a tandem, a retired couple from Florida and a woman who was in Bellingham to attend a course in "creative and shamanic therapies". We thought it diplomatic not to talk to her about that. But we're pleased to say that the chap from Florida not only said "Oh my!" when we told him about our walk but also suggested that we "Y'all have a good one" as we left. And his wife had giraffes on her top. We liked them.

But anyway, we're getting rather ahead of ourselves. You might remember last week's euphoria over the spectacular combined-Indian-restaurant-and-hotel extravaganza. Well, we have to inform you that it has been bettered: last night we found ourselves in a pub that also - and you'll like this - did takeaway pizza! And not only that, but they provided a very generous portion of curly fries to go on top. A splendid arrangement that allowed ample time to nip out at 7:45, have a leisurely drink, get the dinner in, and pop back in time to see...









[Those of you who do not yet know the result
of How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?
may wish to look away for a few seconds.]





...Connie beat Helena in a very tense closing round. And, by the way, thank you for the very kind responses to yesterday's plea.

So, we currently sit in Kielder Forest, next to Kielder Water (a large and spectacular man-made lake, and very nice too), about 5 miles from our next stop at Butteryhaugh.

And, in case you're wondering, it's pronounced "Buttery haff".

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Ewan & Gill

The second going

After a day of in Hexham, staying in what we can only describe as a hentel (based on the huge number of model hens the hoteliers seemed to feel it suitable to have in their premises), we have begun the second half, nay chapter, of our epic travels. Having passed our half way point in terms of both distance and time, having baken in the sun, soaked in the rain, and wandered helplessly throug the thickening fog, having applied and re-applied blister blasters, we now begin our next leg in a mood of optimistic complacency, assuming that we've probably already dealt with most of what Nature can throw at us.

And how appropriate it was that this latter segment of our perambulation should begin in the way it did: with a mile-long walk along the path of Hadrian's Wall. We say "the path of" because there wasn't actually any wall in evidence. A small elongated mound beside a very steep road: yes. A great ancient stone structure emblematic of Anglo-Scottish mistrust: no. Which was a shame, really, as we had been hoping to kick a few stones off the top of it as a symbolic gesture towards the cross-border unity that is one of the purposes of our walk. Still, never mind, eh?

So, we are now in Wark, only six miles from today's resting point of Bellingham. Bellingham. Now stop for a minute, and consider asking a friendly man you've just met in the pub for directions to Bellingham. You're there, enjoying your pint, maybe wondering whether to order one of those onion things to eat, and you decide to ask this chap the way to your next stop.

You've almost certainly just made the same terrible social faux pas as we did this very morning, and numerous times over the past weeks. In your hypothetical hostelry-based geographical interchange, we're willing to wager that you pronounced the word "Bellingham" as, well, 'Bellingham". But oh no. If you had, you'd be wrong. It emerges, you see, that the word must be pronounced "Bell-in-jum". We have been corrected in this matter twice already today.

They're weird up here.

But anyway, that's today's shandy finished so we'll continue towards the B-place. First, though, we must ask your help. And, sadly, this request only goes out to people who know us, as we don't really want to publish our mobile numbers for all and sundry to see. (We're assuming, you see, that we are now major celebrities whose every word is being hung on by not only all, but additionally sundry. We're not sure why; we're just assuming that.)

So, the request: Can anyone send us a text message with the start and end times of How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria this evening? Pioneers of mobile technology though we are, you see, we haven't succeeded in tracking down this vital information, and we need to get our Bellingham-based evening planned.

Please?

Thanks.

Ewan & Gill

16-09-06_1633.jpg


16-09-06_1633.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

16-09-06_1230.jpg


16-09-06_1230.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Ewan & Gill

Blanchland

Out on the winding, windy moors, we set off from Bee Cottage guest house and walked through hills and heather for some four-ish miles. Our effervescently benevolent bee-patrons of yesternight had even gone so far as to scan, print and assemble the apropriate maps for us. Really,they were lovely indeed.

Most of the morning was spent walking over the tops of hills shrouded in mist and the occasional splatter of rain. And then, just over the Northumberland border, we came to Blanchland.

As we descended the misty track, the indistinct shapes of a series of stone constructions began to emerge through the dense fog. Stone by stone and piece by piece, the objects gradually took form until it was evident that we had stumbled across a small, forgotten village, lost through the centuries, overlooking an oft-ignored corner of the Derwent Reservoir. The buildings seemed to speak a thousand volumes, and yet not a soul could be seen. A lone dog pawed listlessly at the cobbles of an unmarked courtyard. Somewhere, a solitary cockerel crowed. The wind began to blow a little harder.

We continued further into the village, underneath a medieval gatehouse, its crenellated majesty simultaneously protecting the hearts of the village's residents, while inspiring fear in anyone who may hope to penetrate the secrets that lay within - the secrets of Blanchland. To our right, the sign hanging on the wall of the Lord Crewe Arms Hotel creaked in the breeze. Through an unfastened shutter, the sconce-lit walls of this stone-clad hostelry seemed to glisten and beckon as we lonely itinerants passed wearily by. Further along, a large stone cross dominated the market square and drew the eye to the ominous churchyard gates; the two combining in a stone and iron testament to mortality in all its forms.

We crossed the square and approached an establishment known as The White Monk, in the hope of finding shelter and refreshment. Entering the outer door, we mustered all of our remaining physical strength and spitirual fortitude to lift the enormous cast-iron door handle. The studded oak door slowly swung open, and we crept timidly inward.

So, we sat down in the café and ordered a pot of tea, some gingerbread and some coffee and walnut cake. Very nice it was too. It turns out (as explained on various information boards on the café wall) that a large part of the village of Blanchland is a 12th-century abbey. The gatehouse is now a small art gallery, and the White Monk Tea Room is in a former church. It's really a beautiful little village, but the sensation of being in a deserted film set is almost overwhelming, especially in such dense fog. Technology allowing, somewhere below this post there should be small photo which might give you some idea, but it really doesn't do justice to the sheer mediaeviality of it. In fact, we wouldn't have been entirely surprised if a headless horseman had appeared out of the mist and galloped across the square.

(The last sentence isn't true. We would, of course, have been remarkably surprised if this had happened, and probably quite frightened, and would in all likelihood have had to consider some serious changes in direction in terms of life philosophy, religion, and possibly career. Or at least some form of treatment.)

So, Blanchland - well worth a quick glance if you're ever passing through on the way to deliver a pledge of peace to the Scots.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ewan & Gill

14-09-06_1631.jpg


14-09-06_1631.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

14-09-06_1530.jpg


14-09-06_1530.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

14-09-06_1445.jpg


14-09-06_1445.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

14-09-06_1358.jpg


14-09-06_1358.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

14-09-06_1037.jpg


14-09-06_1037.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

Bees, barracks and the neolithic era

After yesterday's update things got a little military for a while.

Our ordinance survey maps have helpfully marked several public footpaths which almost invariably fail to exist, mainly it seems because of beligerent farmers who don't see why they should let the public walk on their land. However things reached new heights yesterday when our path through the forest was abruptly curtailed by a huge army fence (barbed wire and concrete pillars pointing outwards) and several hand written signs stating things like "This is my land. Bugger off" (well actually, more like "private land, do not enter under any circumstances". But the use of capitals and style of writing made the message quite clear).

After several attempts at finding the footpath a friendly local caveman (this was the only conclusion we could come to based on his appearance and place of habitation) very kindly pointed us in the right direction for our B&B. Unfortunately this involved abandoning the public rights of way we'd been aiming for and going back quite a distance but, after a tour of more forest and several grass-covered concrete bunkers, we found it in the end.

Luckily, our B&B has been thouroughly wonderful. From the cup of tea they provided on our arrival to the laundry that they washed, dried and folded for us, we can thoroughly recommend the Bee Cottage Guest House, even if it is in the middle of bleedin' nowhere.

Today, then, will be an epic (22 miles or so) jaunt towards Hexham, where we will be staying for 2 - yes, two - nights. We aim to spend tomorrow walking as little as possible, drinking as much tea as possible, and maybe watching the odd film.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Ewan & Gill

On the environs, personages and indigenous phenomena of Weardale

September the thirteenth, in the year of our Lord 1806, circa 1400 hours.

Reporting today from the side of Tunstal Reservoir, just north of Wolsingham town. Supplies remain plentiful, and morale is high. Professor Ewanson just tucking in to delightful slice of coconut cake (a local delicacy), with Professor Gillson awaiting her apple slice.

After yesterday's missive we must report a further deterioration in the conditions before their subsequent improvement, however. A shaded country path seduced your weary correspondants into departing from the beaten track. Hamsterley Forest, which your authors had unwittingly entered, was not by any means without its charm: see below for Prof. Ewanson's sketch of some of the local flora. We also feasted on bilberries straight from the bush.

But the veneer soon spread thin when we found ourselves, lost and mapless, amidst nought but tree and tree and tree for miles around.

We became rather afraid.

We were able to discern a rudimentary communication system used by the locals, who in fact seemed rather bright, including colour coding and words for horse and bicycle. Alas, the primary purpose of this system seemed to be to retain the inhabitants and any unfortunate strangers happening upon the place within the bounds of the forest. We feared for our futures, for our safety, for our very selves. We considered sending a message using smoke, lest any kind hearted stranger may receive it. Just as we feared we had seen the last of civilisation, how delighted we were to chance upon the path out.

So we come to you today, dear reader, from beside this blessed lake, food aplenty and rested well. Last night we supped with glee upon a wide range of tapas dishes and an enchilada apiece.

Due to a navigational error, however, we find ouselves with only nine miles to cover today, which has afforded us the opportunity to conduct a brief linguistic survey of the residents of Wolsingham. We aim, given enough time and the appropriate support from the Royal Society, to publish the definitive work on the subject. A few snippets of our raw data follow:

From a middle-aged woman in a pub, to the man sat next to her: "Horses, mummy, horses!"

From the same woman: "What did they call that one with no fingers? Was it Nobby No-Fingers?"

Overheard during dinner in the delightful Café Poco: "And then the nuns came to talk to us. One of them said 'Can I come in?' and I said 'Yes, and bring your friends in. And by her friends, I meant the nuns.' "

As you can see, dear reader, the ways, customs and traditions of the people of these parts are as peculiar to us as ours, no doubt, are to them.

Nonetheless, we press on, headed for a small ex-farmhouse some miles south of Consett.

Ewan & Gill

13-09-06_1441.jpg


13-09-06_1441.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

13-09-06_1352.jpg


13-09-06_1352.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Ewan & Gill

12-09-06_1528.jpg


12-09-06_1528.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

The north of England is closed for business

Oh dear God, we are going to die soon.

But back to that in a minute - let's begin where we left off.

We left Catterick early yesterday morning and by 10:30am were buying sunscreen, after-sun spray, a sunhat (see yesterday's pictuure for details; it's a very effective hat but does look rather stupid, and has already been named The Pillock Hat), a rucksack, some bliister plasters, two scones, two cheese and onion pasties, two biscuits, two cups of tea, a razor, some shaving oil and some water in Richmond. Yes, Richmond served us very well.

If only the same could be said of the rest of North Yorkshire and, so far, County Durham.

Now, don't get us wrong - there have definitely been some highlights. We met a very nice local who we had a drink with in a hotel where we examined assorted murals from the 1940s. Our guest house in Barnard Castle was nothing short of spectacular - we were greeted with tea, coffee, biscuits and mini Swiss rolls, our room contained sherry, dressing gowns and a cafetiere, and our breakfast included fresh strawberries, fresh figs, croissants and flapjack. We also had our dinner in an Indian restaurant while a storm raged outside - all most excellent.

But that doesn't excuse the rest of this sorry region.

From the moment we left Richmond yesterday morning, we have been through village upon village which was, quite simply, closed. In the last twenty four hours, we have been to at least five alleged pubs (alleged by the Ordnance Survey map, that is), and where they existed at all, they were invariably and resolutely closed for business. To top it all off, today we have reached our highest altitude yet (currently coming to you from a roadside bench 1320 feet above sea level), having spent all morning climbing seven miles of the most hellishly mountainous B-road, spurred on only by the thought that there would be a nice sit down, a re-fill of water, and possibly even a shandy and some onion rings in one of the two pubs that were clearly indicated as existing at the top. But alas... Please see previous note re. pubs.

So now we've got another 11 milles to go with no prospect of shelter, comfort or any more than the 1.5 litres or so of water we have remaining.

And to think, only yesterday someone described this as "God's own country." He'd clearly either got the wrong god, the wrong country, or both.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Ewan & Gill

11-09-06_1703.jpg


11-09-06_1703.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Ewan & Gill

Catterick

It's ok - don't worry - the E's-in-Wold crisis is over. One of the staff - the same member of staff who was previously so marvellous - finally phoned back and didn't appear to have summoned any relevant authorities despite the red pills he found in our room. True to form, he apologised that he didn't have a car and therefore couldn't drive them to Thirsk himself there and then. Anyway, they're in the post and we look forward to a reunion in Hexham.

Let's say it one more time: Easingwold is marvellous.

So, after a delightful breakfast provided by Liz and Chas, a very long walk in some very hot sun, a much too close encounter with the A1 and a nice shandy, we are now safely garrisoned in Catterick. We haven't seen any soldiers yet, so we assume the boys are resting in the barracks. Anyway, we're off for a pizza now, so we'll let you know if we encounter any.

Ewan & Gill

10-09-06_1651.jpg


10-09-06_1651.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

10-09-06_1630.jpg


10-09-06_1630.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

part_02.jpe


part_02.jpe
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Ewan & Gill

Eat my Thirsk

After a satisfactory morning, things all got a bit too rural this afternoon.

It started with us finding a nice country path, which we should know by now is generally a mistake. Having walked along the road for a while we knew there was a public right of way on the left, so we tried to find it but instead seemed to become more and more surrounded by dogs, hay, and country-looking folks. Then we noticed that we appeare to be entering what seemed to be a very private farm, but by that stage we'd been spotted and therefore were too late to turn back.

Then the farmer drove up to us in his tractor, gesticulating wildly. Then he turned off the engine.

And we became scared.

Then he got out and very politely and friendlyly asked us if he could help, and got his wife, daughter, and son-in-law (who were, for your information, not all the same person despite the rurality) involved in an oft-times fiery discussion about where exactly we needed to go and what anatomical threats we should make to the next farmer along if he challenged our public right of way over his land. They even let us stroke their very pretty bear-dogs.

In the end, we fought our way through the undergrowth and now find ourselves, pied up and Stellad, in a nice Thirskian B&B. (We are in a place called Thirsk, for those wondering).

Ewan & Gill

An oversight


Hmm. We may have just discovered a small potential problem. It might be fine, but we think we should warn you in advance just in case it all starts to develop in alarming ways.

You see, Ewan takes antibiotics every day (nothing serious), which tends to entail them coming in a large bottle - a bottle too large to put in your bag when you're trying to pack for a heroic walk from York to Edinburgh. A simple problem to solve - just pour some of them into a plastic food bag and take that instead.

The problem comes when you then accidentally leave a clear plastic bag full of red pills in a hotel room.

OK, so we realised this about 3 hours ago. We deliberated over what to do, and in the end decided that, since they already have our name and address, phoning up and explaining couldn't possibly do any more harm than leaving things as they stood. So we phoned and explained. The trouble was, it was noisy and we're not at all certain they heard the explanation. They went to have a look, then there was a lot of discussion in a language we didn't understand, then after four or five minutes they said they'd phone back if they found anything.

They still haven't phoned back.

And then we became scared.

(again)

For now, we're trying to avoid thinking about the ways in which this could develop.

Ewan & Gill

Curry and favours

Hello from the Jolly Farmer, a delightful pub in the village of Dalton, about two thirds of the way between Easingwold and Thirsk. Just a brief posting while we wait for the chips (Yes. Chips. Mmmm.) to arrive.

You'll be aware, faithful readers, that we stayed last night in a combined hotel and Indian restaurant. Last night they were exceptionally friendly (they showed us a variety of bedrooms to choose from, and even described the relative qualities of the beds to aid our decision), but this morning surpassed even that.

When we came down for breakfast we were greeted with a plethora of apologies. In anticipation of our breakfast he had spent the previous evening driving around the area trying unsuccessfully to find some bread. He had then done so again this morning, and again failed to find anywhere open. He therefore laid our table with cereal, yoghurt and fruit juice, and when we arrived brought us a prepared us a fresh salad and a plate of toasted chapatis and butter (possibly the greatest ever breakfast food - we highly recommend it). Then, on remembering that we were vegetarian, he offered to cook us a vegetable curry there and then. (You'll be pleased to know, we declined.)

On our way out, we started talking to him about what we were doing. (We didn't go into the intricacies of the pledge, step-count and competition; the fact that we were walking to Edinburgh seemed enough.) He then reached into the fridge and gave us a litre of orange juice and a litre of mineral water to take with us.

Easingwold is marvellous.

Ewan & Gill

part_02.jpe


part_02.jpe
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

09-09-06_1145.jpg


09-09-06_1145.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Ewan & Gill

08-09-06_2032.jpg


08-09-06_2032.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

Easingwold


Two poppadoms with a plentiful pickle tray.
One special vegetable thali.
One portion of chana massala.
One tandoori roti.
One kulcha naan.
And some Carlsberg Export.

Yes, Easingwold is, so far, a marvellous place.

Our day - the first day of our epic and historic journey, started off relatively mundane. It's hard to feel the full gravitas of a task like this when it's interrupted by things like queueing in the bank to change money, or going into a new workplace to hand in a Criminal Records Bureau form. But this, indeed, is how it began.

Well, on the third attempt it began like that, anyway. The first two attempts were cut somewhat short by our returning hope to collect things that we'd forgotten to pack. Important things, like the documents that confirm we've paid for our accommodation, and the device that allows us to post messaages on our blog. So, residents of our neighbourhood will have seen us walk along the same stretch of street five times today, before we finally vanished.

(And before anyone asks: yes, all the steps were counted. If you consult the rules for our contest, you'll note that we do reserve the right to get lost of wander off unpredictably. This applies to exactly the same extent on our street as it does in the Cheviot foothills.)

So, we're now in Easingwold, having successfully arrived at a place that combines the two most important ingredients after you've walked from York: curry and a bed.

Two other points: Firstly, our congratulations go to Paul Herring of York Youth Service, for being the first person to accompany us on a section of our walk. It took place along a 50-yard stretch of concrete in Clifton, York. Excellent, excellent.

Secondly, if all has gone to plan, you should be able to see below a photo of us standing in front of a motorway sign. This is the first in what will become a regular feature known as "The 4:30 photograph". Coming to you whatever the weather, location, mood or conditions, for the duration of our journey. (If there's no mobile reception wherever we are at 4:30, we'll send it on later.)

Ewan & Gill

08-09-06_1631.jpg


08-09-06_1631.jpg
Originally uploaded by mr_e_main.

Ewan & Gill

Ladies and gentlemen...








































We're setting off.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Ewan & Gill

The most glamorous prize we've had donated

Actually, we stopped actively seeking prizes a little while ago, as there's such an impressive array already. But now and then, somebody spontaneously donates one. And, as spontaneously-donated prizes go, you can't get much better than the one that came in last night:

A round of golf with Kevin in Malton.

Now, we don't even know who Kevin is. (He left us a message in Alley Cats, one of the two pubs that are being so helpful to us.) But Kevin, we thank you. Prizes don't get much better than this.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Ewan & Gill

The boundaries of nations

It's been an intriguing process, this. We have to admit, there are two newspapers that we contacted in the first place - the York Press and the Edinburgh Evening News. And, might we say, both have been extremely helpful.

But the thing we hadn't expected at all was the degree to which all news services get their stories just by reading other news services. It's therefore possible to be written about in numerous places without ever knowing about it. So, to date, we seem to have appeared in the York Press, the Northern Echo, the Edinburgh Evening News, the Scottish edition of Metro, All America News, Ananova, an Austrian press agency, IOL (the South African newspaper from The Independent) and a newspaper in Germany.

And that's just the ones we've heard about.

In other developments: it's now 4 days until we leave, and we've got about 60 signatures on our pledge. People of York, it's not too late to have your name added to our list! Just email pledge@39millionsteps.co.uk and tell us your name and the area of York you're from.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Ewan & Gill

Pinnacles

After the previous posting, time for some celebratory news:

We have a new website!

Eagle-eyed viewers might notice that we've actually had it for a few days now, but the time seems right to give it a proper announcement.

The way it happened was this: Phil Brighton, of Pinnacle Web Design, saw our article in the York Press the other week, and spontaneously got in touch to offer to make us a website free of charge. Then, in the space of about 4 days, he had! So, we've now got a lovely new site (click on "Pinnacles" above) where people can find out what we're doing, enter our contest or send us a message. Because, let's be honest, anyone stumbling across this blog would be entitled to give a confused grunt and then wander straight back to MySpace.

So, yes, a brilliant job by Phil - our thanks to you, not only for the work but also for being so easygoing about our endless list of requirements and alterations. Cheers!

Ewan

First refusal

Sadly, I must now announce that the exciting looking envelope turned out to be our first ever written refusal:

Dear Mr and Mrs Main

SPONSORSHIP PROPOSAL

Thank you for your recent proposal to sponsor your walk from York to Edinburgh. We have considered your proposal carefully but unfortunately our sponsorship programme for this year has been decidde with budgets and resources already allocated.

I am sorry that we can't help you on this occasion. Can I wish you every success with your holiday.


Now, this raises two issues. Firstly, we didn't want them to sponsor us! We don't want anyone to! We hate people doing sponsored things as much as, if not more than, the next person! You see, sponsorship involves saying to all your friends and colleagues "We're going on holiday. Please therefore give us some money, a large proportion of which we will use to pay for our holiday." An entirely different proposition from "We're holding an enormous contest. Would you be interested in donating a prize and/or entering it?"

And the other issue: surely if the resources etc had already been allocated, there would have been no need to consider our proposal carefully? Ha - try and escape from that one!

But there's no need to go further with this churlishness. It was genuinely nice of them at least to take the trouble to write back.

Oh well.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Gill

Sock idol

We have just received this mighty suggestion (for the M&S voucher, of course). Please keep them coming!

Gill / Ewan,


Sod the popcorn, there is now a half price sale on and you could get 10 pairs of scalloped heart socks!!
Or five pairs of Ruffle Trim socks...

http://www.marksandspencer.com/IWCatSectionView.process?IWAction=Load&Merchant_Id=1&Section_Id=10006&Page_Count=1&RestartFlow=t

(I am ignoring the half price Truly You Spot Mesh Garter on the same page).

I'm also waiting patiently at home for Ewan to return from a leaving do at work, so that we can open the rather exciting looking envelope that arrived this morning. I think we may have more prize news tomorrow....

Ewan & Gill

The M&S Factor - update

Well, we've had a few comments and can now confirm that the £10 Marks and Spencer voucher will be used to buy prizes, rather than just being added in its current paper state. So far, we've had agreement on one prize, which will be...

Chocolate popcorn.

But we reckon there'll certainly be some voucher left over after that, so we need more suggestions! This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, open to all competition entrants: choose your prize!