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…

In no particular order these are:

  • Is my body up to the physical challenge? Yes, I’ve lost weight. Yes, I’ve re-discovered several old pals in the wardrobe. But 40 minutes on the beach at lunchtime does not equal five days on the Pennine Way. Over the last ten years I’d conveniently forgotten the adductor muscle in my groin. It sent me a postcard on Saturday morning. Playing football with the dog I turned sharply. “Why is that man lying on the beach, Mummy?” I heard a child say.
  • Will I be able to keep up with Ben? He walks faster on his D of E expeditions with a gargantuan pack on his back than I walk on the beach with a phone in my pocket. Will it be like the time I went running with Jessica and she waited on the corner turning cartwheels until I caught up?
  • Will we still be friends? Ben and I have a great relationship. Some of my best moments as a Dad have been the long, rambling, philosophical conversations we’ve had as we’ve walked the dog. But five days for a teenage boy? One on one with his Dad? With his increasingly-knackered, possibly wet, probably bad-tempered Dad? As the nation’s sports pundits like to say, it’s a big ask…

And then there’s the cost. ‘I’ll do a bit of walking,’ I thought. ‘How expensive can that be?’

I’ve already recounted the uplifting conversation with the man in the shop. Spend anything less than £150 on boots and my feet will apparently be under water for five days.

Waterproof jacket. Waterproof trousers – those sexy ones you can unzip and turn into shorts, obviously. But I have far more to worry about than my trousers…

“You’ll need a hat, Dad.”

“What? I look like a knob in a hat.” I turned to my wife. “Tell him I don’t need a hat.”

“Your father’s right, Ben. By the end of day five he’ll be wearing a red t-shirt, those mustard shorts he bought because he knew they’d annoy me, blue socks and muddy boots. He won’t need a hat to look like a knob.”

“Protection from the sun, Dad. And mosquitoes,” my son added cheerfully. “And supposing we get lost? We could be roaming the Dales in search of human habitation.”

I doubted that. If I knew my son he wouldn’t be roaming far from breakfast, lunch and dinner. But better be on the safe side. “OK, you can be navigator. Or whatever walkers call it. I suppose that means we need a compass?”

The list of what we needed grow’d like Topsy. I could see the inevitable outcome all too clearly.

“I need an overdraft.”

“Certainly, sir. What for?”

“I’m going for a walk…”

Thanks for reading this post. If you enjoyed it – and you’d like something light and “very, very funny” to read – you can buy the ‘Best Dad I Can Be’ sample book with 27 of my favourite posts covering all the years I’ve been writing: it’s all of 99p on your Kindle. Alternatively the first chronological book, ‘Half Dad Half Fish’ which covers the time when the children were 9, 7 and 4 is available here


  1. Good luck to you both! I’m sure you will be fine. It should be an amazing experience. My husband and son are doing Ben Nevis in a couple of weeks, then plan to do the Three Peaks after GCSEs next year. We’ve had to invest in crampons for them both. New walking boots have come courtesy of the blog and my son has most of the other equipment thanks to Explorers/ DofE, but going a walk certainly isn’t cheap!

    • Absolutely right, Sarah. Been astonished at how much we’ll need – and that’s with someone transporting our bags from B&B to B&B. But it’ll all be worth it – at least that’s what I told myself as I hauled myself out of bed at 5’30 this morning to march round the sea front…

  2. So funny but honestly, you’ll do fine…..I think!

    However, you’re right. When did walking become so expensive? I remember as a kid going camping on a school trip. All we needed was a pair of trainers, a bunk bed, and a sandwich with an apple, which I remember, unsuspectingly rolling down a hill…!

    My 14 year old tween went on an overnight hike with the Boy Scouts of America on Saturday. Firstly, there was a “Shakedown” where their kit was inspected about a week prior, then there was a bring-an-extra-roll-of-toilet-paper, 3 pairs of socks, an “approved” water bottle, a raincoat, his normal coat, a folding chair, mosquito spray, a first aid kit, a torch, a knife, batteries, his Scout book, his phone, his battery adapter, and it was no wonder that he ended up with a bulging backpack for an overnight hike in the suburbs!

    One boy even came with an environmentally-friendly shopping bag filled with food! Just in case you know.

    Maybe, it’s because they’re American….!

    • Glad it’s not just in this country! Massive kit inspection before Ben did his practice DofE expedition. His waterproof coat was rejected for not being waterproof enough – but at least we were spared waterproof phone case. No phones allowed on DofE trips, apart from one for emergencies. Quite cool for the parents, as you get a weekend of uninterrupted peace…

      • In this case, it was a good thing he had his phone because they had finished “packing” 1 hour earlier than expected and somehow, he never got the memo….

        And just as I resolved to hop onto the train and drag myself to the other end of the city to pick up my darling son, he called to demand why I wasn’t there yet! The other parents live in the American part of town about 10 mins away. We live an hour and a bit away.

        With the Germans!

        In the end, we decided instead of a 1 hour wait and another 1.5 hour Sunday morning ride, he would come home on his own and I would hop back into bed!

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