Often while walking alongside the Thames you come across many of these Second World War built concrete guard posts-popularly known as Pill Boxes, but yesterday between Lechlade-on-Thames and Radcot, they literally seemed to be everywhere. I think I came across about 7 or even 8 just in that short 8 mile stretch.
The narrow slots in the concrete are of course gun slots through which to fire weapons. Thinking, however, about their supposed role in the second World war, it was so Dad’s Army it was untrue. They were supposed to be manned by the Home Guard, who for the most part were too old to fight, and which as everyone knows didn’t actually have enough guns in the first place to even train with, ( My Great Granddad served in the home guard and would typically use a broom to mimic a gun ), so the prospect of actually placing a gun inside each of these concrete bunkers was never going to happen. Still they stand today silhouetted magnificently against the skyline as a silent tribute to a different time.
I’ve been wanting to complete a marathon for quite some time, but it had to be the right one, so after about a year of exploring different options, I finally signed up to the Cotswold Way Mighty Hike, containing a section of the National Trail starting from Wotton-under-Edge in Gloucestershire where the route then followed the Cotswold Way escarpment before finally descending to the World Heritage Site of Bath and finishing in front of Bath’s famous Royal Crescent 26 miles later.
I had spent the previous 3 months diligently training for the event, culminating in a least two 23 mile training sessions on the final week, and was quietly confident of being successful when I arrived at the starting location on a cold, misty morning just before 7am for registration to commence. Being one of the first people to arrive I was given a yellow wristband which placed me in the first pen. After a brief warm up session involving a laughably bad attempt from me at Zumba, there was a countdown, before the ribbon holding us into the pen was pulled free and finally on Saturday 23rd July at about 8am I started out on my first ever marathon.
It was a really well organised event, with volunteers from both Action challenge and Macmillan themselves marshalling and accompanying us on the walk itself.
Despite, a worrying episode towards the end, where I was having dizzy spells, and had to sit down for nearly 40 minutes just after the 25th mile, to rehydrate and get some rest, I finished 182nd out of 376 finishers (At least 50 dropped out during the event ) with a time of 10 hrs 43 minutes and 55 seconds, while at the same time, managed to raise a total of £332.50 for Macmillan Cancer Support
Volunteers were busy cutting back some of the hedgerow along the Thames Path this morning which meant a delayed start, but once I was over the railway bridge at Bourne End, the walk very quickly settled down to an attractive mixture of riverside, and isolated wooded walks, passing through the village of Cookham (the home of the artist Stanley Spencer), then into the increasing suburbia of Maidenhead which incidentally contains a railway bridge designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, through the attractive Boulters Lock, the villages of Bray, & Eton Wick before the final stretch leading to Windsor which contains fantastic views of the castle.
On the approach to Windsor, I could hear the sound of someone speaking into a loudspeaker. Students apparently were having a race on the Eton College Rowing Lake, which you could occasionally see glimpses of, through the trees. No matter what your views on their sense of entitlement and privilege are from attending such a World famous institution-just knowing that 19 Prime Ministers have been educated at this school, does set it apart as being very special. On hearing all the boys cheering as their scores were announced, I did wonder whether one of the voices would yet prove to be the 20th or 21st?
One of my favourite views during the day, was under the M4 bridge-yes, it surprised me too! It was the perfect symmetry I found attractive. Beauty it seems really can be found anywhere.
Yeeesssss! ( Arms aloft like a winning goalscorer with a particularly special overhead kick on FA cup final day) After a whole year-Yes, a whole year, finally finished the 87 mile Ridgeway! Drum roll please….thud, thud, thud, tshhh, BOOM! Feels good. smile emoticon Now, just the small matter of walking 10.5 miles back to the car. Hmm, that bit doesn’t feel quite so good!
Something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while was to walk the whole country widthways. The place to do it, apparently, is along the Hadrian’s Wall Path, which stretches a mere 84 miles across the country and which crucially, runs close to it being at its most narrow point.
Last week, taking a full 6 days, me and a friend walked from Wallsend on the East Coast, all the way to the West Coast of Bowness-On-Solway. Apart from the monsoon in Newcastle on the Monday, my car breaking down repeatedly, and the severe leg cramps that followed, great fun!
Drove to Winsheilds Farm camp site at Bardon Mill, Hexham to check in. Then drove to Cawfields and walked the 10 miles back to Brocolitia.
Magnificent scenery, shifting gear through an ever increasing set of vistas culminating in the highest point, Green Slack (345m). It seems this section was easily the most popular part of the entire walk judging by the amount of hikers we came across. At times there was literally a traffic jam of people bunched up together wanting to ascend or descend a particular path, especially when an American woman had a full-on vertigo attack and nobody could get past her.
In the evening, set up my slightly lop-sided Coleman Cobra tent-without realising fully the consequences of a camp site being entirely on a slope, resulting in me constantly sliding down to the bottom of the tent and then having to pull myself back up, throughout the night! Maybe, I should have attached some industrial strength velcro to the floor? On top of the continuous sliding, it was so windy, I didn’t dare interfere with the orientation of the tent in case it billowed out like a parachute and took off, leaving me pinned against the hill.
Anyway, due to the general discomfort, couldn’t sleep for more then a couple of hours. The daylight couldn’t come soon enough. 47 miles walked so far. 37 to go.
The recent gales unfortunately put a stop to me visiting the RSPB reserve at Ramsey Island, so instead I spent a few days walking along the magnificent coastline in Pembrokeshire.