DAY 71: St Ives to Lands End – 19.80 miles
So this is it… the final push. It honestly feels like I’ve been waking up and walking forever, and I can’t quite imagine not doing it anymore. For the first time this trip, I had decided to set my alarm this morning, just in case on this most important of days I suddenly overslept! I also wanted to wash my hair, write out a new backpack notice, finish off my emergency porridge rations for breakfast and ideally get going by 9am. The weather was neither this nor that as I stepped out of the hostel, but at least it wasn’t raining. Stopping to take photos on the way out of town, this included my first road sign signalling Lands End straight on, which I actually found quite emotional.
I had left myself quite a lot of ground to cover today – again dictated by where I could find cheap accommodation for my last night – so the coastal path was a big no-no. The most direct way to Lands End from St Ives was on A-roads via Penzance but that would be a horrible way to finish off this adventure. So I chose the slightly longer but much more relaxing and pretty B-road, which wound through small villages and patchwork fields, with the ocean a constant to my left. My girlfriends that were driving down to pick me up, were already well on their way so I knew I had to pick up the pace and another first today, I found myself actually trying to power walk (not very successfully I have to say). I also only took one short break today, at the The Gurnards Head where I was immediately given a cappachino on the house.
Even though by Cornish standards the ground was starting to level out, there were still some small ups and downs to walk, so I decided to pull out the big guns – my favourite energising pavement pounding tunes – in a bid to try speed up and get there quicker. My poor legs were not really reacting as much as I would have liked, but with the beeps from passing motorists also helping to spur me on, I finally walked past Lands End airport and joined the A30 for those last few surreal miles. With a sudden spurt of energy I walked over a slight brow and spied the LANDS END tourist centre sign in the distance… with more beeping from cars and camper vans I again felt rather emotional. Then just as I came alongside the Welcome to Lands End stone tablets, I also noticed a young lad with a big camera coming out from behind the landmark stone… snapping photos of me. And from out behind him, jumped my three girlfriends! Turns out an old work friend of ours, who has a holiday home down here, had arranged for young Josef the photographer to come and record my arrival… thank you Josef for taking the time and to Gordon for arranging this. With lots of whopping, hugs, kisses, balloons, banners, medals… we all continued through the now rather touristy end of the country with Josef taking the obligatory photos at each stop. Adrenaline pumping, it was all a little overwhelming to be honest… and the champagne (my first drop of alcohol in 255 days!) obviously added to the whole surreal situation.
The only small blight on the occasion is that I wasn’t able to get my photo taken right by the large official signpost (like I had been able to do at John O’Groats) because the area is roped off for official photos which you need to pay big bucks for. The guy there said I could have a discounted photo because I was doing this for charity, but I told him to forget it… we still took some at that spot from a distance, and then again once they had closed down for the night and replaced the main signpost by a smaller one. So it didn’t really matter in the end… but suppose its just the principal after walking 71 days and 1080 miles to get to this point! Anyway, I continued on to where the union jack flew over the actual end point and opened by bottle of bubbles to toast my achievement. We then headed into the visitors centre to sign the LEJOG book… noting that everyone in the book seemed to be a cyclist (and someone even put they were taking the bus?!) so I just added WALKER in large capitals 🙂
After saying goodbye and a big thank you to Josef, we piled everything – including me – into my friends car, and headed north for about an hour to the AirBnb we had booked for the night. Crazy to be driving away and seeing signposts off to the left of all the places I had walked through or stayed over the last 2-3 days. Our aptly named Church Cottage “Ramblers Retreat” in Camborne was the perfect cosy place for us to unwind, before we headed out to the local pub for dinner. Over the last 71 days I haven’t wanted to walk anywhere in the evenings with stiff ankles, conserving my energy for the daytime… but now I didn’t have that excuse. And I couldn’t drive either because I was now back drinking again… so it would seem, all too quickly life was already getting back to normal!
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