Pennine Way Challenge

Pennine Way

I have wanted to walk the Pennine Way ever since I knew it existed. That would have been 2013 or possibly before.

2013 was the year that my son Ross and I walked the West Highland Way. We both loved our time there hugely. We did several other walks together, Hadrian’s Wall Path (or Hadrian’s Way as it is in Newcastle) and the South Downs Way were favourites. I had even hatched a plan to walk it back in the day, but the Pennine Way needed some planning and it was not to be. At least not back then.

Fast forward to last year, (2023) and my wife suggested that I do the walk this year, ’well you’ll be sixty and you should do it whilst you still can’. Thanks!

The walk is 256 miles long, so it can’t be fitted into a weekend. It begins in the Peak District, passes through the South Pennines and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. I am looking forward to crossing Hadrian’s Wall Path so I can say, ’I’ve been here before’ and then pushing on to Scotland and Kirkby Yentholme.

Having walked the West Highland Way, I expect the terrain to be similar in many ways, some of it will be extremely challenging and quite steep in places, whilst other places will be more open. I hope to keep up an average of ten miles a day. Sometimes more, sometimes less, with room for a day or two off if needs be.

Previous walks have always been more enjoyable after the second day which is always the hardest. I think on day one you’re fairly fresh, day two your muscles are saying ‘really’, but it’s on the third day that you begin to find your rhythm and settle into that wake, eat, break camp, walk, make camp, eat, sleep rhythm that defines your life as a hiker. For me it’s a very pure existence that connects you to mother earth and the place we were designed to be a part of.

I‘m sure much of it will be spectacular too.

Pennine Way Challenge

I have to admit that, on its own, the walk is exciting. However, when the passion for so much of what I do is to support the work done on positive MIND health and the choices we can make to support it, it was a no brainer to look to raise the profile of the work that is being done and thus raise funds to enable the work done to be better resourced and funded.

It was shortly after I made that decision, that a colleague was telling me about a project he had been involved in at work. He works for Thomas Lyte Silversmiths, they had designed and built ‘the Baton of Hope’. A one metre long ‘trophy’ that symbolises the successful battle against depression and suicide that properly supported people can make.

There are over 6000 completed suicides a year in England and Wales and research shows with proper awareness, care and support they are all preventable. That’s a big number that is rising at approximately 6% a year.

I emailed Mike McCarthy, co-founder of the Baton of Hope Charity and asked him if the Baton could be a part of my walk.  He said, ‘yes, we think it’s a great idea’. There were several discussions about how it would work, the Baton is big, heavy and worth approximately 30K, but a plan was hatched.

The Baton will be present on the first and the last day physically and symbolically in between. I will be wild camping for much of the way and do not want to have the responsibility for it whilst living out of a tent.

Walking in association with the Baton gives me extra credibility.

I then met a gentleman and together we began to plan what came to be Slow the Mind CIC. I am the managing director of said CIC, a not-for-profit Community Interest Company. Our mission is to ‘help you make positive choices for MIND health’.

All profits raised from the Pennine Way walk will be split 50/50 between the two organisations. The target is £30K and we need all the help we can get to raise that.

I need to make sure that I get to the end.

Pennine Way Challenge

There are four boys in our family, my son, Ross, as well as Lloyd, Troy and Dale, my wife’s lads. They are all coming for the second week. Gives me a week to settle in and, I imagine whilst I’ve had their company for the second week, will be glad of the peace when they return to the ‘civilised’ world.

We’ve been doing some shakedown walks through the year which have been enlightening in two ways. For them, to grasp the realities of living out of a pack and the intricacies required to make this manageable. Adjusting and reducing weight wherever possible, carrying water and food for several days at a time. None of them had erected their tent before they began walking, one discovered there were no poles in it, one had no idea how to erect it and another was trying to put the flysheet on the inside.

Personally, I had forgotten so much, most of it quickly came flooding back, however I made some schoolboy errors. For example, I had forgotten that if you don’t put all of your waterproofs on when it rains, then you will still get wet. On one trip, the rain wasn’t heavy, so I just put my anorak on. The rain ran off my coat and down my legs, combine that with the water coming off the long grass I was walking though, and it didn’t matter how waterproof my walking boots were, they are not designed to keep water out that’s running down my legs. My feet were sodden.

At least I chose to smile and celebrate the benefits of a shakedown walk.

Just to add to the challenge I was recently diagnosed with torn ligaments in my knees.  My knees have never been good and that was one of the factors on my mind when doing the shakedown walks. What could I do? What was realistic and was out of the question?

I know I can do ten miles a day, I can do fifteen if I have to. I can do fairly steep hills too. Styles are a challenge, but steps are not too bad. Whilst I’m sure it’s small in comparison to the hills on the Pennine Way, the Devil’s Kneading Trough in the Wye Valley was far less of a challenge than I was expecting. I also have my fathers walking pole.

There are those who have suggested I should postpone, however, I was going before I knew what was wrong with my knees, so I’m still going. I will have What3Words on my phone at the request of the younger members of the family.

Maybe it’s a bit more of a challenge, but I’m not inexperienced and I know the risks. I need this. The train’s begun rolling and I’m not getting off.

You catch up the reports of thew shakedown walks on my website and donate to the cause using the link

Thank you for any support you can give.

Blog Author: Simon Pollard