Full Circle

Yesterday, my mum and I somehow managed the entire Circle line – all 21.7 miles of it, even the extra bit out to Hammersmith. In 10 hours we covered the best part of 23 miles, including stoppages and slightly getting lost, and we made it to the end damp, utterly knackered but in excellent spirits.

We arrived at Paddington at about 9.15am and set off round the circle. We’d decided to do the circular bit first so that we could decide whether or not to continue on the extra leg, and we wanted to come up Queensway at the end of the circle, so we hit Edgware Road next.

This is a genuinely fantastic walk – going through central London and past some amazing landmarks. Walking from Kings Cross to Farringdon is the longest stretch in the first half, and probably the most boring, except for one moment when you crest a slight hill and suddenly see St Paul’s and the Shard on the skyline in the distance.

Everything went fairly well until we decided to cut through Liverpool Street Station from the back entrance by the enormous bronze sculpture. We came out the front and went left instead of straight on, and ended up doing two sides of a triangle and walking past Aldgate from the wrong direction.

We were amazingly lucky with the weather for the most part. One intense downpour hit just as we were eating sausage and bacon sandwiches in the Embankment Cafe, but apart from that we made it round to Paddington only slightly showered upon.

We weren’t quite so lucky after we decided to carry on. We had a half pint in the Dickens Tavern before we took on the last 5.7 miles from Paddington to Hammersmith. I’m glad we did, because I didn’t feel like I’d really pushed myself when we got round the circle – but goodness me the last three miles were extremely hard work.

We had to hide in a florist near Ladbroke Grove, and when another really intense downpour struck we were in the wide open near Shepherd’s Bush. We ended up huddled under a bus shelter, and I was seriously considering packing it in. But thankfully the rain held off and the sun came out a little as we did the final stretch.

Infuriatingly, we went past at least 5 stations that weren’t on the Circle Line and therefore didn’t count. For the record, I’ve walked past Shepherd’s Bush, Regents Park, Aldgate East, Euston and Marylebone, and probably at least a couple of others. Big day. All that for 35 stations – 32 of them new, putting me over 50 stations for the first time.

If I was doing it again, I’d definitely reverse the order and do the extra 6 miles first – Hammersmith to Paddington is definitely the least interesting part of the walk, and I think it’d be much easier and more morale-boosting to be completing the circle at the end.

I hadn’t realised till I started properly planning this walk that the Hammersmith and City line follows the exact same path as the Circle line around this stretch, and only has a (relatively) small branch that splits off to go north-east. So I’ve decided to count yesterday’s walk as 2/3 of the Hammersmith and City line as well. Because it’s my crazy plan so I can. So there.

Thank you to everyone who’s donated so far – and most of all thank you to my mum, without whom I would never have gotten to Hammersmith.

Jubilation – and a circular challenge

May was not a good month for walking. I had two stretches of the Jubilee line planned, but was sadly thwarted twice – once by a stomach bug, and once by planned engineering works, which I should probably have checked out beforehand.

But June has been better, thankfully – last Saturday I managed 15.1 miles of the line, going from Stanmore to Green Park. 16 stations in total (though I’d already passed Green Park once), in glorious sunshine for the most part.

Starting at Stanmore is a really pleasant walk, passing through leafy suburbs and quiet streets for a fair few miles before you start to get into London proper. The walk out to Wembley is just beautiful, as it passes through a nature reserve that I didn’t know existed, and although it’s unpleasantly hilly for a little while the green grass and meadow more than make up for the incline.

I took a short pause at West Hammersmith for a sly half pint at the Railway pub (it seemed appropriate), and though I’d planned to only go as far as Bond Street, by the time I got there I still top rated online generic pharmacy felt like I had a few miles left in me. But as I hit Green Park the rain started to fall in big fat drops, and I took the executive decision to head home before I got drenched.

It was a really great day – much more relaxed than the last one because I knew I could do it, and because there wasn’t the pressure to finish the whole thing completely that I’d felt with the Victoria Line.

This coming weekend I’m going to be walking again – this time with company. My mum is coming from Birmingham on Friday evening to spend the whole of Saturday walking the Circle Line. At this point we’re not sure how far we’ll get. We’re starting at Paddington and planning to walk at least the whole way round the circle – 27 stations, 16 miles, so with a couple of stops that should be fine.

Whether or not we do the extra leg to Hammersmith as well – another 9 stations and 5.7 miles – remains to be seen. Wish us luck – and if you can, please sponsor us!

Go go gadget legs!

Mirrored signs

I made it. Yesterday I walked 15 miles across London, visiting every station from Walthamstow Central to Brixton along the Victoria Line.

Well, I say 15 miles. It was probably closer to 16 in reality, because I got mixed up and walked the wrong way at Seven Sisters for a while, and then got totally confused by Kings Cross St Pancras and ended up turning round three times before I finally managed to find Euston. I have the natural sense of direction of a concussed duck.

Anyway! Batteries held out, food was good – pretty certain that bulla bread is basically the same as the elven waybread the hobbits ate in Lord of the Rings – and thanks to the decent pair of trainers I picked up when I started this whole mad thing, no blisters to speak of. Legs ache in a good way, and I seem to have developed unexpected thigh muscles overnight. And I can cross 16 more stations off my list.

When I was 14 I was desperately unwell. I almost passed out while trying to run the 800 metres in a PE lesson – I remember the grass under my feet swimming, and for a while it felt like I was trying to run across the sky. I was eating perhaps half the calories I needed a day, because I was convinced I didn’t deserve to eat; looking back, it’s clear I was underweight. And I was often shaking or sick from shock, because of how badly and how often I was hurting myself.

Yesterday I walked more than 15 miles.

Achievement unlocked: Go Go Gadget Legs!

I got worse before I got better. Much worse. But I did get better, and Mind were a big part of that. Without their services I would have fallen through the cracks in NHS mental healthcare provision more than once – and so would many other people I love.

One of Mind’s ongoing campaigns is to stamp out the stigma against mental illness that exists in the UK today. I’m still frightened of speaking about it – this blog post is pretty scary to write – but it’s part of supporting their work. I shouldn’t have anything to fear from talking about my problems, and neither should anyone else. And I’m living proof that with the right kind of help and a lot of fighting, it can get better.

Between 1 in 6 and 1 in 4 adults in the UK suffer mental illness at any one time. If you or anyone you know (hi!) has benefited from the services Mind offers, please donate to support them. I’m plotting a few things I can do to say thank you for donations – but if you’ve any ideas, please share them.

Waterloo & City – done!

One down, 11 to go.

Or, to put it more into perspective, 2 down, 266 to go.

Grant did the walk with me, as it was such a short one – the route we walked came in at 1.9 miles, from Bank station past St Paul’s Cathedral, over the Millennium Bridge, and past the Tate Modern before hitting Waterloo station.

It was a nice, leisurely stroll, and a great, non-threatening way to get started. Now, just another few hundred miles of walking, and I’ll be done…

The next walk is planned for either next Saturday or Sunday, and will be end-to-end along the Victoria line, coming in at about 15 miles in total. If you can sponsor me, please do – I desperately need the morale boost, and Mind need the money. And if you already have, then thank you enormously.