Last year I had the great privilege of supporting humanitarian operations in the Caribbean following Hurricane Irma. I was there as the Royal Air Force’s deployed head of strategic communications, a role that involved a lot of hard work liaising with UK and international media and, from time to time, escorting journalists through some of the worst-hit areas. I was lucky enough to be working with a truly superb RAF photographer, Jimmy – but I could also turn to my own skills to turn out news photography when the situation called for it. It’s a job I still think back on with huge pride – and one that still leaves me feeling more than a little shaken.
In April I completed the Pennine Way – a 16-day adventure (and ordeal), and an outstanding opportunity to take time to make landscape photographs. Below I’ve reproduced part of my travel journal covering the final day of the walk – one of the toughest days of my life.
Thu 27 Apr: Byrness to Kirk Yetholm
The final leg of the Pennine Way – from Byrness to Kirk Yetholm – takes in more than a mile of ascent and 26-plus miles of walking – nearly a tenth of the entire trail, making it possibly the longest day walk I am ever likely to attempt. [My walking partner] Adam and I set off before 0600, almost immediately ascending nearly 200 metres steeply to the bare, windblown summit of Byrness Hill. We set off for the Cheviots through intermittent sunshine and screaming winds. Appropriately enough, some of the features of the route bear names that suit the conditions: Windy Crag, Windy Gyle, Plea Knowe, Foul Step, Windy Rig, Murder Cleugh (times two!). Let’s not talk about Randy’s Gap.
Mercifully, much of the final stage of the Pennine Way is paved or marked. Here and there, slabs are entirely submerged in boggy water, as though to remind walkers of earlier boot-sucking slogs across Ickornshaw Moor, Saddleworth or Blenkinsopp Common. Principally, though, the route is challenging because of the constant climbs and descents – by this point my knees were in blazing pain whenever I walked downhill.Read More