August Distance: 149.5km
August Floors: 226
Rating: Pretty poor

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THE PREPARATION … monthly posts until 1 March 2018 when the walk proper begins. Then it’ll be a post a day!

It’s almost 6 months to the day when I’ll be taking my first tentative steps of the journey from Land’s End in England to John o’Groats in Scotland. Tentative had better change to strident pretty sharpish as the walk is 2000kms long and will take me 90 days. I’m doing the walk to raise funds for two mental health charities: The Black Dog Institute Australia and SANE’s Black Dog Campaign UK. Click on their names above to learn more.

I’m doing the lion’s share of my training for the walk in Sydney, as this is where I live most of the time. Swapping Sydney summer for the UK’s late winter will be a bit of a shock to the system! However, the last month here’s been pretty windy .. we even lost a tree in the garden and a kayak took itself off for a private tour of the Harbour .. but there have also been plenty of bluebird days for my walks.

Sunny day at Balmoral

Walking The Black Dog next year, I’ll be doing a drawing each day, of something I’ve seen along the way. Usually a landscape but sometimes a bird or flowers growing in the hedgerow. I did the same for the Thames Trail and to get back into the groove I’m doing pen drawings of Sydney and posting them once a month. The first one is a view of the Harbour Bridge from Cremorne .. a nearby and favourite walk of ours.

Tall ship passing by the Opera House

At the beginning of August I drew up a walking schedule for myself. And now at the end of the month I see I’ve done a magnificent job of not sticking to it. My idea was to walk three days for 10km and once a week for a lot longer. Walking The Black Dog will involve average days of 20ks, with some longer ones of about 30 and very occasionally a short 15k, when there’s something special to see along the way .. or I figure I’m going to be completely knackered after a particularly arduous stretch. My walks so far in Sydney have been a bit of a jumble. Sporadic to say the least. (In my defence I was away for 10 days of the month). Over the weekend I did two 20k stretches but the week before that I barely walked to the postbox. I did climb a lot of stairs around Balmoral and walked across the Harbour Bridge a fair few times but clearly I am going to have to get my act together. September WILL be a lot better! Promise ..

A cooler, wetter day in Sydney

I’ve already booked the 90 places where I’ll put down my head for the night in UK .. a wide range of B&Bs, pubs, hotels and the homes of several generous friends. It’s a bit of a gamble booking everything in advance. Each day the allotted distance for walking will have to be achieved, otherwise I’ll be wild camping  … very wild, as in camping without a tent or sleeping bag. I know some people could think of nothing finer .. but it’s not at all appealing to me. I’ll be needing a hot bath and a glass of white wine at the end of each day!

Of course the one area that has not been neglected is my equipment! Please be impressed by my very beautiful, very comfortable La Sportiva walking boots! I wore shoes of the same brand when I walked the length of the Thames last year and they were magnificent in not giving me a single blister. I should love to have continued with them but wading around in the burst banks of the river totally shot the goretex in them. And anyway I think ankle support is going to be a whole lot more important when climbing the Cornish coastal steps and tramping along the Pennine Way, than it was meandering along the river bank.

My super new Core High Woman GTX boots

My other favourite items of equipment are my poles .. note, I didn’t say sticks! They are super light, super collapsable and super strong .. thank you to my lovely husband for such a fabulous, uber-practical present. And on Friday I was able to pick up my flag from the lovely people at Trophy Land. It peeks out of my Osprey rucksack and lets everyone know that I’m doing this walk for the two Black Dog charities and hopefully it’ll prompt some good chats.

New flag using Atlas & I’s great logo

I hope to see some of you Sydney-sider readers out and about when I’m walking. There’ll be another post in a month .. more about my hopes and fears for the journey. I’ll have stuck a bit better to the itinerary hopefully and not be puffing quite so much at the top of all those steps!

Black Dog Tails
Ah! But before I sign off I need to introduce you to Treo. Since Winston Churchill (and actually much earlier than him), black dogs have very often been a metaphor for depression. While I totally get the idea and have been hounded by my own dark pooch, I’m also a huge fan of real black dogs. I thought it would be kind of cool to redress the balance a bit and feature a hero black dog on each post. So, here we go. This is Treo. He was a bomb detector dog with his Brit master in Afghanistan. When Treo died his owner Sgt David Heyhoe used his ashes to tattoo his pawprint on his arm. To read more about the gorgeous black lab click on the link in the pic.