The Warminster leg is complete – some 65 miles in, but the bulk of the walking lies ahead of us.
I have been surprised how quickly the miles have gone by, principally because I have been so well accompanied at every stage. The conversations vary of course – Childhood in South Africa, the challenges of the teaching profession, the innovation behind social prescribing, partnership and engagement after bereavement, dealing with the worst news and recovery, Military life in Germany, the rules of upper league refereeing, appropriateness of walking shoes and soulfulness of gardening. You could not make up that list, even if one tried. We all had our views and the debate continued whilst we purposefully placed one foot in front of the other.
The routine has settled in. Up at 06.00, breakfast normally a bacon bap, preparation of lunch – which I now have to a fine art – two tiger rolls, filled with a slice of ham, some cheese (two types hard and soft) and some tomato – the juice of which seeps into the roll, making it delicious to eat by 12.30. A random packet of crisps, I close my eyes and choose, 2 x mars bars in case an energy surge is required, a resupply of dog biscuits and water for us both.
Packed, with the pink day glow Dorothy House panel in place, I wake Myrtle, who with one eye looking at me, the other tucked under her ear, pretends to be asleep, but her body rhythm tells me differently. She emerges stretching legs in front of her body, as I apply KT tape to my ankles and calves and consume more Ibuprofen. It’s still dark, but we have a little routine we both have to wake up and just prepare for the day.
I know we have to be at the start point by 08.30, if the day is to run to schedule (assuming I can maintain 3 mph), which is a very doable pace, unless one falls behind, in which case a jog is required to get back on time. This has only happened once!! The gathering at the start is full of laughter, a cup of tea and an impatience to get off. A photo is a must as is the debate over the route. I have decided that the road option is often the worse. There are so many cars and I included, we all drive too fast. There is at times no differentiation in terms of traffic density between red, yellow and brown roads – so we opt for the best cross country route. On the one hand that has great attraction Stantonbury Hill – outside Keynsham, has great attractions – autumn leaves, silence and maize to provide cover for the pheasants…pheasants, Myrtle is now fully awake and engaging with the walk. The farmer removed the stiles which meant exiting the historic fort was interesting, Yeoman Quarry , just North of Cranmore, presented images from another planet, dark and deep, where the largest of vehicles look like dinky toys, but that choice (a loop into Asham Wood) and then into Nunney, prior to Frome involved an extra hour of walking. It matters not other than I turned my ankle, much cursing and jumping on one foot, we regained a purposeful stride.
Then there are the people you meet on the way: fellow walkers, fellow dog walkers, the Green King Publican who bought us a drink and then proceeded to write and post about us on the Greene King corporate web site, the Mayors of Midsomer Norton and Frome along with tea and cakes or simply beer. The violinist and piano player and the cake makers who gave their cakes away for free. Frome friends who catered for an army, who have a stated preference for Egg sandwiches – brown or white bread and more cakes. One day we had six cups of tea, time has no measure when tea is offered. Another jog another timeline met.
Radio interviews are coming through thick and fast, not national and mainly local, that is the very point of the walk, to meet and engage with our local population… the challenge is a signal and battery power, so I have bought one of these juice bricks, which seem to work. The theme is the same, why are you walking and how is Myrtle, I hope I am doing you all the credit you deserve and we seek as much air time as they will give.
I am only into day five, but the thrill of selling the Hospice never diminishes, we do such fantastic work and it’s easy to talk about it. Enjoy the photos and I will blog again on Wednesday. Thank you to all of you have been patient with my stories and for giving me the opportunity to get to know you all better, a real treat.