Day 9 – Trowbridge to Melksham

Posted by Jenny Steele, on October 26 2018 in: One Man And His Dog

Day nine complete Trowbridge to Melksham – 79 miles completed,  I have just had the time of my life, walking for a cause I love so deeply, with colleagues who I have just got to know better – how lucky am I.

Over the last few evenings I have promised myself an early “lights out” no torch under the bedclothes reading late into the night, but instead I sit at the kitchen table sharing, I hope in an enlightened way my day.  For the last few hours I have cooked spaghetti bolognaise, no idea of the recipe, and sat with a large gin in front of a blazing open fire, simply reflecting in a form of mindfulness the experience of the day.  I was once told it’s ok to leave the room, be distracted and on return, reflect and that’s how I feel this evening.  Content and very fortunate, life is both kind and good and we need to appreciate the highs and mange the lows. I suppose that’s what end of life care is all about.

This morning we gathered at Silver St Trowbridge –  Cath Knight a volunteer, in all things but specifically in driving and Hannah Rudd, one of our new cohort of millenniums and a ninja at writing trust applications. I learnt today as we walked side by side the passion and sincerity that drives them, they really do care about the planet, life, us in a selfless way. Every time I made a comment  I felt guilty – I drive a diesel, my recycling is rubbish, I fly to much, I eat meat!! No that’s not fair, I apologise, but do I have the sense of ownership/consequences of my individual actions and realise how much people care about the planet in which we live.


The walk was delayed, I thought I Had sussed radio interviews over the mobile phone. But Bluetooth, Radio Wiltshire and mobile react in a direct response to each other making the  in car system – very confusing and uncontrollable.  What do I speak into, what if I lose the signal….so I managed to disconnect blue tooth and sanity returned. The radio blared discussions on Stourhead, beautiful gold and ivy green combining with a misty landscape, who would not want to be there, whilst I sat on a cold concrete ledge outside our resorting centre, confirming I had at least three bars of reception. What was I going to talk about, its breakfast time, it’s supposed to be fun, its light entertainment and I talk too much, they do not want to hear about Brexit they want to hear about Myrtle and Dorothy House, what a cue. So I breathe and then engage.

The walk is attracting attention from every front…well, nearly, as we avoid the million cars and seek cross country routes. We have realised the power of the media, in particular radio, it accesses your life anywhere and everywhere, one adopts a relationship with the presenter and the genre. DH also has a strong, committed, talented, Communications Team, who anticipate and brief me accurately and as a result the Hospice is receiving the publicity it deserves. Across all the airways.  After BBC Wiltshire – British Forces Broadcasting Services (BFBS), dived in and generously allowed us airtime. If you have not served in far flung places like the Falklands, Iraq, Afghanistan, Germany, Hong Kong, you would not understand the comfort and solace of BFBS, it’s home to so many families – it’s the Archers, Persil washing powder, baked beans and cricket, it’s homesickness and friendships, it’s a community and that’s what we are trying to do too, build communities across all our patch, to tell them we are there for them when it matters most, for as long as it takes, for the patient their family and their carers.

An ordnance survey mapped, folded and refolded, is a wonderful aid, it’s a piece of paper that tells a story, it’s a landscape,  a journey, a route home,  so Cath, Hannah and I – Myrtle has no influence at this point…agree the journey. North out of Trowbridge to the Canal Marina, over the bridge onto the tow path. Head East for Semington, North to Whaddon and the River Avon, then east to Melksham.  It must be holiday or early stag weekends, but the canal was full – ducks on the water, Myrtle in the water, Ducks in the air – how stupid, surely she should realise that her speed across water, her spitting out of water consumed in the initial dive in and the drag of ears, in no way threatens the ducks. Indignant Myrtle turns to follow their flight path, taunting her to catch up, the ducks land twenty metres further down…”Go get them we roar”” a spurt, the paws rotate furiously, but little impact. The barges continue apace, no let up, with a deftly pull up with her front paws she rejoins us on the tow path, shakes to share her dampness with us and the ducks continue their swim, the barge team dressed in coats and hats have another Doom Bar, raise a gloved hand and life returns to normal.

There are no major navigation errors, if there are it’s Hannah’s fault or the farmer for having removed every single trace of a footpath replacing the style with barbed wire, overgrown nettles and strategically placed herds of cattle or flocks of sheep. But we followed undaunted our compass bearing, the ground dry and firm underfoot, which means we can make good time.  Cath is always searching for the obvious gap with Hannah checking her fitbit, the only thing it does not do is make a cup of coffee.

We reached the river Avon, the sky vibrant and clear, the sun sharp, but there was a keen wind and for the first time we all felt a chill.  On reaching the banks of the Avon you would never believe its the same river that flows through the city of Bath, we stopped, coffee from my traditional flask and a Mars a day for everyone, what a delight –  what a moment.

We arrived at Melksham to be hosted by the Melksham rotary club in their vibrant Arthouse Cafe 31a Market Place, they have always been generous and kind towards DH, but they themselves are experiencing change, so over coffee and cake we hatch a plan for the future that would see us working together in an open and more effective manner, we will be so much more powerful together if we can embrace our efforts in a symbiotic way.

An hour later we walked the stretch of road that took us to Melksham Clothes and a window display of marzipan, cakes, sausage rolls A welcome of such effort and sensitivity we are all emotional.  Emma Brooks – the manger, has personally made a cake in the image of Myrtle, how awesome is that?

The volunteers are there , Rachel Clark, Area manager, is beaming with pride and so she should.  I cannot describe how Cath, Hannah and I felt around the generosity and effort behind this welcome and the sense of pride of being associated to this team,  thank you so very much.  We spent over an hour enjoying tea and cake, customers joined us – how can there be laughter coming from a hospice shop, you are so wrong ….laughter and celebrations are at the heart of what we do and to experience it in the raw, is magical.

Hugh and Dan across the way in our furniture shop our swamped by late customers, Dan is busily polishing a wonderful oak dresser, strategically positioned at the front entrance, Hugh is lining up another sale. We exit the shop for seconds, for the regulatory photo and say thank you and goodbye. It can be easy to ignore the effort and commitment required to deliver such an event and capturing success and the team on camera is a significant statement around self and team confidence.

No evening calls other than my neighbour, but we have been given another rare opportunity to focus on our future and the community we serve. Tomorrow is Devizes and another day.