WHAT better way to celebrate your 70th birthday than to set out on a 1,250 mile trek - armed only with a small backpack and camping every night in the wild. Lesley Tate reports.

A MAN from near Settle who set out on an epic 1,250 mile backpacking journey to celebrate his 70th birthday is inviting more adventurers to follow in his footsteps with the publication of his diaries and photographs.

Cape to Cape by John Sutcliffe celebrates its official release this week.

In the book, John shares his diary and photographs from the 90-day walk, which he planned as an alternative to the more standard - and 380 miles shorter - John O’Groats to Land’s End end-to-end of Britain.

He actually carried out the walk in 2014, and in the meantime, while waiting for his book to be published, he he has kept himself busy by completing the first half on a similarly long trek across Spain.

John's alternative trek takes in some of the wildest and remote parts of the country along the route from Cape Cornwall to Cape Wrath on the North Westerly tip of Scotland.

Spending most of the trip wild camping - with just the occasional night of luxury in a Bed and Breakfast for a comfortable bed and hot water – John carried everything he needed in his backpack. The book chronicles his experiences of the kindness of strangers, as well as the unforgiving nature of the British weather.

“I wanted to set myself a challenge ahead of my 70th birthday, and as a geologist by trade, was keen to explore some of the most interesting – and challenging – terrain in the country," he said.

"The idea for the walk evolved during a conversation over 40 years ago, and it took a huge amount of preparation and planning – finding the right kit and plotting the route in fine detail before I left home."

He added: “I would love to think that my experience can inspire others – young or old – to explore the wild, unspoiled parts of our country, spending a night or two under canvas in the company of rustling creatures of the night – it is an eye-opening experience."

It took John four times as long to write the book as it did to complete the walk, referring to his three notebooks and Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking data, listening through hours of recordings from the digital Dictaphone that he used to record his thoughts along the way, and selecting the best photographs from the 1,750 taken along the route to illustrate his trip.

These were then supplemented with customised maps, and beautiful pen and ink drawings of key locations along the route, created by John’s daughter, Amanda.

The completed book, Cape to Cape, can be read cover-to-cover as a fascinating insight into John’s experiences during the three-month trek, or used as a guidebook to explore specific parts of the country. The route followed by John is also detailed on his website: johnsutcliffe.net, where those looking to recreate parts of the trek can download GPX files which show exactly which paths and trails John followed.

He’s also included a full list of the 40 pounds-plus of trekking gear and supplies he carried on his back, over moors, and mountains.

John details many of the people he encountered along the way, some friendly, and some not so.

On one day in Cornwall, on his way from Porth Reservoir to Boscarne Junction, a distance of 16 miles, he explains how he tied red flagging tape on his walking poles so motorists on the narrow roads would get a better view of him.

"I tied red flagging tape on my walking poles and shook them at the worst offenders, raising the occasional rude gesture from the driver," he writes in the book.

On the same day, he came across an old gentleman sitting on a walking frame, and looking out over fields.

"Gordon Furken was 83, and just about every day his good lady brought him to this crossroads, to look out over the fields that he had once farmed," writes John.

"Asking who farmed the land now, he replied, ‘My son-in-law.’

‘Is he any good?’ I asked.

‘No, bloody useless. Look what an old farmer could do back then boy, ’ee could shear a sheep, lamb an ewe, break an ’orse, plough a field, build a mow, make a gate, cut ’n lay ’edges. I cut ’n laid ’em all’, he said waving to the hedges opposite."

Another day sees him on top of the Cheviots, along the Pennine Way.

"I was on top of the Cheviots with my feet in two countries, and savouring every mile," he writes in his book.

Then, there is his encounter in Somerset with a man annoyed about him setting up camp for the night.

Despite describing how he was on his way to Scotland, and would be gone early in the morning, the man was having none of it, and ordered him on his way.

"This was the one and only time I encountered a problem wild camping during the walk, ironically at the only camping spot recommended by a local. It occurred to me later that I should have told him I was leaving now, but would return later in the evening, and leave him waiting for me in the bushes."

An exploration geologist by training, John spent his professional life managing exploration programmes for major precious metals mining companies and later his own start-up companies. His job took him from the Andean highlands of South America, to the Zagros mountains of south-east Iran, where trekking through unfamiliar and challenging terrain was part and parcel of the role.

Cape to Cape can be ordered from Vertebrate Publishing, and will be available from selected bookshops and internet retailers, including Amazon.co.uk priced at £17.99. The book is published by award-winning publisher of outdoor books, guidebooks Sheffield-based Vertebate Publishing.