I walked 72 miles from Durham to Scotland: Here’s the side of it that Instagram never saw

A real and raw depiction of how a Durham student survived the trek


If I didn’t already promote it shamelessly enough on Instagram, I’ll say it again. In November 2023 I walked from Durham to Gretna Green in Scotland completely alone, with no change of clothes and no medical or navigational supplies, in aid of The Oddballs Foundation.

Just myself, a CCAFC kit, a coat and the long road ahead.

This gruelling journey lasted 72 miles and 69 hours, 40 minutes and 23 seconds. It’s the toughest thing I’ve ever done. The likes of summative season, 9am seminars while hungover and getting knocked out in front of over 1,000 people don’t even come close. It’s also by far my proudest achievement in life to date. I doubt I’ll ever top it.

Setting off from Colpitts at 6:30PM on a chilly Saturday evening, I felt a bizarre sense of optimism, unaware of the barbaric levels of pain I was about to put my body and mind through.

With donations rolling in early on (God bless the bank of mum & dad), spirits were high as I reached the town of Consett within the first four hours. In this time, I had scranned one of the best Chinese takeaway’s of my life; seriously, if for some strange reason you ever find yourself in Lanchester, it would be an insult to not visit The Golden Dragon. X

Consett is where things really changed. Knowing that it was one of only two towns over this 72 mile stretch with a population greater than 5000, it would have been wise to use it as a place to restock resources and seek some shelter for the night. Instead, of course, I chose to sit in Spoons for an hour, managing to cling on to my temporary sobriety and enjoy a Cherry Pepsi Max.

Upon leaving Spoons, I set out to find my way out of the somewhat large Consett, only to find myself lost down a deep cul-de-sac. This was a greatly fortunate moment as when doubling back on myself, I met a local man named Richard, who was absolutely off his face from a long session at his favourite watering hole.

Initially reluctant to talk to this unknown and seemingly battered man, I should not have judged a book by its cover. Richard gave me some absolutely brilliant advice and really exemplified the famous northern friendliness us southerners are constantly reminded of.

However, I was now alone and out of any genuine civilisation for a 12 mile stretch, as the clock turned midnight. I quickly realised that of all the things I did not pack, a proper torch was by far the most foolish as I made the most of what my iPhone had to offer while trudging through empty country settings.

After about two hours on foot, I was finally approaching the promised land of the A68. It was at this point I made my greatest mistake, turning left thirty metres too early and eventually stumbling upon a large farmhouse. Assuming that the path through simply led to the A68 at this point, I carried on my business unbeknownst to the borderline cardiac arrest I was about to be put into by the incessant barking of what one can only assume to be a particularly loyal set of dogs, who did not at all sound like they were inside the house.

I’ll be real, at this point I thought I was completely f*cked. It didn’t help that the route I had taken backed onto a reservoir which I had to take a 45 minute detour to walk round or else face a very angry and sleep-deprived farmer. I was not just in the countryside, I was in the middle of absolutely nowhere. The laws of the jungle and the court of local opinion. That period of time in which I navigated my way back onto a suitable route was the most anxiety-provoking hour of my life as I found myself permanently paranoid by every light and vehicle in a distant proximity.

Conversely, the next five hours of my life were rather uneventful as I set off down the never-ending A68 in pursuit of Corbridge. This allowed my heart rate to settle down a little as I took in the genuinely beautiful sunrise and views the north-east had to offer. Surprisingly, considering I was chronically on Instagram throughout the 69 hours, I have almost no meaningful photographic evidence to demonstrate this. I’m not sure what’s worse, the fact that I clearly can’t multitask or that I had never before considered exploring the north-east during my time at Durham, despite its undeniable beauty.

After recharging my phone in the Corbridge Co-op, I got back on the road, determined to complete the mission by midnight. Oh, how naïve. Despite a fairly successful nine mile trek through the tricky terrains of northern central England, in which I was able to visit my long-deceased great-grandfather’s home town of Hexham for the first time, the tide started to turn at a dangerous rate of ferocity.

A few miles away from the halfway point, my right knee completely gave out. I must thank the gods of football for blessing me a sledgehammer of a left foot or else my college career would have been in tatters, afterwards. It took me about an hour and a half to walk just over a mile to the nearest-by conurbation of Haydon Bridge and as much as it hurt my pride, I had to resign myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be able to walk the remaining five miles to the next town without seriously aggravating my injury.

To be brutally honest, I was devastated to check into The Anchor Hotel and really thought that the dream was over. Having not slept for about 30 hours, I was exhausted as well as frustrated and had it not been for me falling asleep at 3pm as soon as my head hit the pillow, I believe I would’ve experienced a significant breakdown.

With donations starting to hit a stalling point, watching Charlton Athletic vs Cray Valley as I tried to force myself back to sleep was a pretty depressing and bleak affair. While I was more determined than ever to overcome the setbacks I was facing, the eternally positive and resolute picture I presented of myself online was far from honest and realistic.

The morning afterwards quite literally signalled a new dawn, and with my knee now somewhat recovered I gave the A69 absolute hell as I marched on to the next large town of Haltwhistle. My outlook on this challenge really changed on this 15 mile stretch as the donations started to roll in, perhaps related to my offer to get a buzz cut at the nearest barber’s when £600 was reached.

This seemed to spark some interest amongst the public and completely rejuvenated me, giving me incentive to keep believing as delusion took over and I tried to convince myself that I wouldn’t look too bad with a buzzcut. Owing to my first year football captain landing himself a big boy job in the city, it did not take long until the £600 threshold was met. The words “hope there’s a barbers nearby, Greeno” still haunt me to this day. Cheers, Rory.

Taking a break to face the buzz cut and indulge in some fish and chips, my mind managed to revert itself to its naturally silly, delusional and chaotic state as the finish line began to look within genuine reach. Sanity had been restored.

Unfortunately, the few hours I had spent pissing about in Haltwhistle meant that I faced a 13 mile walk to Brampton, the final town of any considerable size and my destination for the night in the total dark. Unlike my previous encounters with the dark, my phone was now precariously low on charge and the fairly large motorway was horrifically lit.

Most of the challenges I faced throughout this test were individual, standalone obstacles to be overcome in a short timeframe. This was different. This 13 mile stretch tested my mental resilience to extent to which I have never pushed it before and hope to never push it again. You have no idea how close I was to turning off my SnapMaps and Ubering the final four miles from the Shell petrol garage.

Playing dangerously with 6 per cent left on my phone, the fairly minor distance of four miles seemed as if it would never come to an end. While bending over to tie my shoelace with about half an hour to go, I collapsed on to the floor and broke down entirely. 48 hours of persistence had taken me prisoner as the tears all came out at once on the bridge over the River Castle Beck.

I wish I could tell you how I made it to Brampton, but I honestly don’t have a clue how I pushed through that last half an hour. Moments like that were completely and utterly absent from my online representation of my journey; looking back, I massively regret not providing a more real and raw depiction.

I probably felt more emotion when arriving at the Howard Arms Hotel on that troublesome night than I did at the finish line the following day. I really have to thank my dad on this one for not only providing me with a pretty flair hotel for the night, but also for turning a blind eye to the Moretti’s that increased the bill by a fair sum. Once again, this is an aspect of the journey that I never posted and only told a few close friends, given that I had previously been resolute on staying sober throughout my Fight Night training which took place around the time of the hike.

Compared to the tumultuous emotional state I had experienced in the prior 36 hours, waking up on the final morning honestly felt pretty special. By this stage, my shameless self-promotion online had clearly seemed to work as The Oddballs Foundation began to repost my efforts and people I hadn’t spoken to in months messaged me kind words of support.

My final stop of the trip came at the border town of Longtown, where I fuelled myself up on more protein than an angry Eddie Abbew in preparation for my final assault on Scotland.

The final four mile stretch to Gretna Green felt like some bizarre and distorted form of a victory march. That little blue dot on Apple Maps which I had followed so intently for almost three full days was close enough that I no longer needed to zoom out in order to see it. I probably walked that final 5k quicker than I’ll ever run a 5k in my life. Admittedly, that isn’t much of an achievement, but it’s the small things, after all.

Was the livestream at the border a bit too much of a self-nom? Probably, but to be honest, I could not have cared less at that point. If I could do it all over again, I would. I learnt a lot about my strengths and my weaknesses in the three days I spent completely to myself with extremely minimal social interaction, and I became all the better for it, raising £822 in the process.

I can only wish that I had been more open about my genuine experience throughout rather than presenting an idealised vision of it to my audience.

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