Father, Son and the Pennine Way

Confident Dad, hopelessly confused son. Or the other way round…

They say that writing a book is the closest a man ever gets to giving birth. Well, after far too long in the delivery room, I’ve finally delivered the baby. Father, Son and the Pennine Way has now been published, and the e-book is available on the Kindle. Here’s the link to Amazon UK. For those of you that prefer something you can touch, hold and spill coffee on, the paperback will be along shortly.

The book is the story of the walk I did with Alex, my youngest son (and ‘Ben’ in the regular ‘Best Dad’ posts) in the summer of 2016. 5 days and 90 miles on the Pennine Way, the UK’s ‘toughest national trail.’

It’s the experiences we shared, what we learned about ourselves and each other – and the sorry tale of how I became perhaps the only person in the world to walk a mile of the Pennine Way in my underpants… [Read more…]

The Lost Samurai

The Lost Samurai

Ben’s plan for next year…

Flashback six months. Ben and I are walking past Malham Tarn. We’re a couple of miles into our 5 days/90 miles Pennine Way epic. And I’m feeling good.

“We should do this every year,” I say.

As I say, feeling good. At the time I hadn’t walked for eight hours soaked to the skin. I hadn’t been so exhausted that I couldn’t speak. I hadn’t slipped on the rocks and broken two fingers. I hadn’t fallen in a bog and had to walk a mile in my underpants to dry out.

“As long as you’re up to it, Dad.” Back in August I thought he was being considerate. Now I realise he had the gift of foresight.

“Where shall we go next year? Southern Ireland? Bologna to Florence?”

“Why don’t we walk across Japan?” [Read more…]

The Food Rant

Not good enough: needs a salad garnish...

Not good enough: needs a salad garnish…

It must have been all that fresh air on the Pennine Way. I started ranting about food on the first night and I haven’t stopped since.

“What’s on the menu?” I said to Ben. Jane had decanted us in Malham and we started walking in the morning. But first some delicious Yorkshire home cooking in the pub.

Or maybe not…

“Award winning Malhamdale sausages,” my son said.

“Awesome, I’ll have those. What about you?”

“Rabbit pie. And it says the rabbits were ‘locally shot by Dave Parker.’”

“Well let’s hope the vegetarian society doesn’t have its AGM in Malham. Dave’ll have to go into hiding.” [Read more…]

Things I Learned About my Dad on the Pennine Way

"He can't read a map..."

“He can’t read a map…”

“He can’t read a map.”

My wife raised her eyebrows. “Tell me something I don’t know. The only reason we’re still married is the invention of the SatNav. Do you remember that time in France?”

“You mean when he got lost in the supermarket car park and you had that enormous argument?”

I’d rather hoped Ben had been too young to remember that little incident. Clearly not. They spent a happy couple of minutes reminiscing about my failings. “What else?” Jane asked.

“Well…” [Read more…]

The Man who wasn’t Bear Grylls

A 200 yard climb up the longest waterfall in England...

A 200 yard climb up the longest waterfall in England…

To my son’s intense relief I’d put my shorts back on.

“So you’ve finally dried out?”

“Yep. Told you it would work. Dry as a bone. Let’s have a look at the map. What’s up next?”

Cauldron Snout was up next. A 200 yard climb up the longest waterfall in England. And then 8 0r 9 miles to the end of our Pennine Way journey and the loving embrace of my wife. Unless five days without me had given her a new perspective on the marriage…

We strolled along the banks of the Tees. Malhamdale, Ribblesdale, every other ‘dale’ we’d been through. But Teesdale was my favourite. The countryside was softer, gentler, more welcoming. I felt the sun on my face and knew we were nearly home. Nothing could go wrong now… [Read more…]

Walking the Pennine Way – in my Underpants…

The only way to dry out...

The only way to dry out…


“Can I walk in front of you, Dad?”

“In a minute. First you can stand there and take a picture of my bum.”

“Do I have to?”

“Sorry. You have to suffer for my art.”

Twenty minutes earlier Ben and I had realised we were lost.

Day five of our Pennine Way expedition. We’d walked through rain, hail, gales, hill fog, low cloud, more ‘marshy ground’ than the Everglades and here we were. In the middle of a field.

75 miles behind us, 12 to go and for the first time we were lost. Somewhere between Pasture Foot and Cauldron Snout we’d gone wrong.

“Look,” I said in desperation. “We know the river’s down there.”

“And there’s a road up there.”

“I can’t walk up to the road. I can’t wade through any more long grass. And supposing someone offers us a lift? I’m too knackered to resist.”

“But we can’t stay here…” [Read more…]

21 Days to the Pennine Way

Not quite that far: not this morning...

17 miles to Whitby: maybe not this morning…

It was the end of February. Can you come downstairs I texted to Ben. I want to put an idea to you. The idea was a walk in the Dales. Five days, 80 miles on the Pennine Way.

“Sure,” he said. “Why not?” And the die was cast.

…For the beginning of August. Five months to get fit. Five months of planning and preparation. A deadline which – like Christmas to a six year old – would never arrive.

Except it has.

My appointment with hills, more hills and my seven league boots is less than three weeks away. I’ve been training since March. I’d like to tell you that I’m as brown as the proverbial nut. But where our athletes have been for warming up for Rio by sloping off to the Pyrenees, I’ve been on the Cleveland Way. In the fog.

And yes, perilously close to the edge a few times… [Read more…]

Boots on the Ground

"Come on, Dad..."

“Come on, Dad…”

I’ve gone through my whole life without being remotely interested in footwear with brand names like ‘Mountain Goat’ or ‘Crag Climber.’  

But this walking lark has changed everything.

With the Pennine Way now just an ominous seven weeks away my thoughts have turned to my feet. And the simple fact that I’ll need something more than my trainers to march up Pen-y-Ghent and pals.

The same goes for Ben. He finished his Duke of Edinburgh practice expedition with his feet inside plastic bags. His boots took a week to dry out. So they’ll shortly be on first name terms with a skip.

He needs new boots. I need new boots. But ‘this walking lark’ is not cheap… [Read more…]

The Pennine Way: The Die is Cast…

It's lovely: but it's not the Pennine Way...

It’s lovely: but it’s not the Pennine Way…

That’s it, then. No backing out now. Exactly three months from today Jane will decant Ben and I at the River House Hotel in Malham. We’ll eat a hearty evening meal, an even heartier breakfast and then we’ll start walking.

Five days and 80 miles later she’ll collect a bedraggled husband and a what-was-all-the-fuss-about teenager from Dufton – 13 miles outside Penrith and the end of our five days on the Pennine Way.

I’ve booked all the B&Bs. I’ve paid the deposits. So there’s no backing out. Especially as my son tells me he’s “looking forward to it, Dad.”

As I wrote a few weeks ago, I want to do a physical challenge ‘before my left knee decides the only thing it’s good for is a waiting list.’ There’s the small matter of some father/son time before Ben goes to university next year.

But there’s also the rather larger matter of my own fears… [Read more…]

Scouting for Dads

"Stay alive," I said to my wife. "I will find you..."

“Stay alive,” I said to my wife. “I will find you…”

One part holiday: one part scouting mission for the Pennine Way expedition. My beloved and I were in the Dales for two days, the house – and the continued survival of the pets – left confidently with Jessica and Ben.

Everything’s fine. Stop worrying, they texted.

Sadly, the scouting wasn’t going as well.

“Where’s the OS map?” Jane asked as we said a damp goodbye to Hardraw Force  and headed further into the wilds.

Oh. That’s why I’d had a nagging, something-left-behind feeling all morning…

“In the bedroom.”

“You’ve left it behind?”

“As it’s not currently hanging round my neck, yes.” [Read more…]