how to be an End-to-Ender

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A Harrier Jump Jet whizzed from Land's End to John O'Groats in 49 minutes, which is hardly fair competition. On the ground, the journey across Britain from north to south, or vice-versa, has been travelled by eccentric transport - a penny-farthing, a motorised bath-tub and scores of old bikes - while an endless procession of walkers follows in the footsteps of Dr Barbara Moore, who endlessly tramped across Britain. Today's End-to-Enders have an extra achievement in mind - raising cash. Ian Botham did it on a grand scale, raising pounds 800,000 for leukaemia research.

The End-to-Enders Association isn't fussy about the transport you choose, but the chairman, Roy Walker, will want to know that you did the journey for charity. He and his Tesco team raised an unbeatable pounds 2m for Great Ormond Street Hospital in 1988.

He will also insist on a continuous journey, without cheating. "One guy alleged that he did it in a motorised supermarket trolley, but we discovered that he put it in the back of a car and got it out in certain places." On the other hand, someone did ride the whole journey in a JCB digger, and Peter Crampton rode an 1886 penny-farthing. "If you are travelling the backbone of Britain," says Walker, "doing it at seven or eight miles an hour, five feet high, is a pretty good way."

So how does anyone begin? Seek sponsors, choose transport and consult the masters of the tailor-made, itemised routes. Confusingly, both are called Colin (one is Jones; the other Jordan) and are neighbours in Worcester.

That pair's first successful joint trip was by bicycle in August 1984, accompanied by two colleagues who drove a support vehicle loaded with food and drink, and who pitched the tents and supplied first aid. "We managed to establish a record for the shortest possible distance between the two extremes using roads and cycle paths - 822.3 miles - although the Guinness Book of Records refused to recognise this, saying they had enough cycle records already," complains Jones.

Computers have come to his rescue, or to be precise Microsoft's AutoRoute Express software. With high-tech expertise, the Colins' team can now work out any route from maximum use of motorways to scenic diversions passing any of 33,000 places on 100,000 miles of roads. But what is missing is data on public footpaths and bridlepaths. "To have those included would be a dream come true," says Jones.

This has been a bumper year for the association, and not just for the 2,000 plus who have completed the journey. "We easily reached the magic million pounds raised for charity but the final figure will be more phenomenal, and is anyone's guess," says Cairns Boston, who is chairman and managing director of Land's End and John O'Groats Co Ltd.

He reckons top fundraiser of the 1995 vintage will be a 59-year-old ex- Gurkha, Michael Willis, of Baldock in Hertfordshire, whose 12-day cycle ride should clock up more than pounds 100,000 for the Gurkha Welfare Trust and Burma Star Association.

Winter is planning time for End-to-Enders. Only well prepared and genuine travellers will win their spurs in 1996, and will have a right to clock into the hotel at either end to sign the End-to-Enders book, and buy a certificate to confirm their credentials.

Then they may join the exclusive Land's End-John O'Groats Association, which at last count had 378 current members. With due notice, the hotels will give special deals to arrivals, but there's no free champagne.

Record-breakers of the future may tie the four corners of Britain, east and west, north and south, or go continental to the toe of Italy.

Information: 01736 871501