In other medical news: I am spending this weekend trying to grow a scab. Forced off Isaac’s Tea Trail not by coronavirus but by a blister on my ankle bone, I have no option but to give my my right foot time to repair the damage.

It’s a hazard of having a bulbous ankle bone following a spiral fracture and two operations. Buying new boots is a nightmare. I can do dozens of circuits of the shop wearing a prospective purchase but it doesn’t replicate conditions on a walk and I have to take a gamble.

I wore my last pair of boots until the soles were coming away, dreading the trip to the outdoor shop the way other people dread going to the dentist. But then the deed was done and my new footwear was introduced to a Northumberland beach. Taking social-distancing precautions to avoid the virus was easy with the stunning expanses of empty sand.


Half way through the walk I felt a familiar pressure on my ankle bone and stopped to apply a plaster. The rest of the walk felt fine and I congratulated myself on catching the problem before the skin was broken. But no. Peeling off the plaster later there was an accusatory blood stain.

With coronavirus cancelling most activities, and advice that fresh air, sunshine and outdoor exercise (while social distancing) were still ok I couldn’t resist getting out for more walks. It’s unusual to meet many other walkers in the North Pennines so a section of Isaac’s Tea Trail was a good bet for avoiding germs while exercising a visiting Border Collie.


Again, at the end of the day the plaster told a tale of an angry ankle. I debated whether the mental and physical benefits of getting out into the countryside outweighed the ongoing aggravation of the blister …… and they did.

An essential trip to Keswick couldn’t be wasted, so I did a walk below Walla Crag to Ashness Bridge and back along the lake shore. It was utterly utterly wonderful.


Encounters with other walkers on the path all followed the same pattern: we kept our distance while chatting about how essential the countryside is to our wellbeing. Not to the wellbeing of my ankle, however, and the peeling of the plaster showed it still hadn’t healed.

I had one more try with a short walk along the South Tyne Trail near Haltwhistle. It’s a former railway line so the surface is even and the gradients imperceptible. Surely good conditions for a wonky ankle to move smoothly and without undue pressure? I should have seen the dark cloud as an omen.


Once more the peeled-off plaster carried a medical message. At this rate I’d be buying more packets of plasters than the shop could restock in these troubled times. So I have given my ankle two days to form a proper scab. It has complete freedom from shoes and even the minor pressure of socks and I hope it’s healing.

It will be protected with a plaster for my next walk, and if that plaster comes off clean the hills will be alive with the sound of celebrations.

There’s more information about Isaac’s Tea Trail at and at




  1. Hi Les – yes I do remember you! Sorry I’ve taken a while to reply but I haven’t been blogging during the lockdown. Happy to send you my email, but not on here. Are you on Twitter? If you follow me @isaacsfootsteps I can DM you.


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