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Walking Land's End to John o'Groats with Mark Moxon

Tiverton to Taunton

The start of the Great Western Canal
The start of the Great Western Canal

Towards the end of every long day's walk your mind starts to focus on the carrot at the end of the stick. No matter how fit you are, your feet start feeling tired, your energy levels start to droop, and the one thing that keeps you going through the last few miles is the thought of that gorgeous pint of beer that's already standing on the bar, your name clearly visible in the condensation down the side. Or perhaps the beer can wait, and the thing that really motivates you to keep trudging through the mud is the 16oz pepper steak and chips that you can practically smell wafting over from a nice, warm restaurant. Or it could be the thought of a long, hot bath, the bubbles soaking into your worn-out feet, massaging your muscles back to life while all the mud and sweat swims off down the plug hole, leaving you baby soft and as pink as a baboon's bottom, ready to plunge under the goose-down duvet for a seriously long sleep.

Along the Grand Western

The Great Western Canal
The Great Western Canal

The walk from Tiverton to Taunton is a long one. According to my measurements, there are only two days on my planned route that are this kind of distance, and both are in Scotland: Kilsyth to Drymen is 23.5 miles and Inverness to Alness is 25 miles, and right now they're so distant that I'm not exactly worried. Days this long are generally an indication that the going is easy, and the Tiverton-Taunton stretch is no exception.

A swan on the Great Western Canal
A swan on the Great Western Canal
The Great Western Canal
The Great Western Canal
The Great Western Canal
The Great Western Canal
Strange growths in the Great Western Canal
Strange growths in the Great Western Canal

Slow Decay

The former Great Western Canal
The former Great Western Canal

After 11.5 miles and some beautiful little canalside villages, the Grand Western stops, abruptly. One minute it's there and the next it's not, cut off by a road that also cuts off the water. From here the route meanders through all sorts of terrain, from farmers' fields to copses, but apart from a short detour along country lanes after Nynehead, it's never too far from the remains of the canal.

Halberton from the Great Western Canal
Halberton from the Great Western Canal
A family of swans in Sampford Peverell
A family of swans in Sampford Peverell
Sampford Peverell
Sampford Peverell

Run for the Pub

Sampford Peverell
Sampford Peverell

Soon after taking a shortcut along the pleasantly named Bughole Lane, I met two blokes on the side of the road. It turned out they were doing the Two Counties Way, the proper name for the Taunton-Tiverton walk, but in the opposite direction to me. We chatted idly, we swapped tips, they mistook me for an Australian, and they handed me a vital piece of information. In five miles, in the village of Bradford-on-Tone, was a lovely little pub. Mmm, that sounded good.

An old boat lift near Nynehead
An old boat lift near Nynehead

Rubbing Me Up the Wrong Way

Ayshford Court, Great Western Canal
Ayshford Court

Because I'd already drunk the pint with my name on, I had to obsess about something else on the way to Taunton, and my body, being the kind soul it is, didn't just give me one thing to obsess about, it gave me two.

Sampford Peverell
Sampford Peverell

Disgruntled from Everywhere

A sign saying 'SCAT'
A bizarre sign in Taunton; I always thought 'scat' meant something else...

Yet again I managed to pick a good B&B in Taunton, and after a quick visit to the chemist, some huge sighs of relief and a lesson learned, I hit the pub.

My wife and I are both great Wetherspoon enthusiasts, but feel compelled to draw your attention to one aspect which is becoming increasingly difficult for us to ignore.

Never trust people who use far more words than they need; they're building up to something scary.

I am referring to...

Go on! The tension's unbearable.

...swearing and general bad language...

Marvellous. Here we go...

...which is particularly embarrassing to us when taking friends and visitors, who are quite often being introduced to the Wetherspoon establishments for the first time.

Do tell us more...

Unfortunately it is not confined to the 'non-dining' areas or regrettably even the male gender!

Good heavens! You mean there are women swearing? The fairer sex? Surely there must be some mistake.

We are not prudes...

Never trust anyone who starts a sentence with 'I'm no racist...' or 'We are not prudes...' because somewhere along the line there's going to be a 'but' which flies in the face of this claim.

...and are quite used to 'working men's language'...

Never trust anyone who uses too many quotation marks either, particularly if they accompany it with finger gestures.

...but...

Uh-huh...

...suggest a gentle reminder, perhaps incorporated into your tabletop promotional material, might 'prick a few consciences.'

Funny, I was going to use that word too.

I suspect that the situation becomes worse towards closing time, but we visit pubs mostly at lunchtime or early evening. An alternative might be to create a 'non-swearing' or 'please moderate your language' zone, or even a 'swearing allowed' area!

Ye gods, this man is serious!

I think that it is worth a try... In any case, it is only a matter of time before a new European law is passed (without our being consulted, probably) regarding this issue!

What a letter! It's hard to know how to improve it; it has sexism, class bigotry, Euro-scepticism and exceptional over-use of exclamation and quotation marks, all rolled into one patronising mass. It quite made my evening, and I sat there soaking up every single word of that letters page and trying not to laugh out loud.