I really don't know why, but it has taken me ages to get around to writing this blog, the tales of our epic adventure – walking the length of the Kennet and Avon – Bristol Temple Meads where the canal leaves the River Avon behind, to Reading, where it teams up with the River Thames. So, true to form, unable to sleep, I find myself sat at the computer, and maybe this time what I write I will publish! I seem to have a fit of the fidgets – unlike Tim who was asleep the second his head hit the pillow. But it wasn't his snoring which has kept me awake, I was in bed just before 10:00 tonight feeling absolutely shattered, but sleep has seemed elusive! My first draft of this blog was split in to the days – starting off a Day zero, the night before! But thinking back over those epic 5 days following the bends and curves of the K&A, one day has seemed to merge in to another, and at times Wendy and I felt like we were caught in a bit of a Groundhog Day experience! So instead, this is a work in progress blog, split more in to subject matter, and will probably end as about 5 or 6 blogs over the next few days.
The idea for the walk was all Wendy's, not mine – sadly. Wendy and I have known each other a relatively short space of time, having got to know each other through joining a local book club. Our book club meetings about every 6-7 weeks tend to focus on lots of lively chit chat, and about 15 minutes discussing the book we have read for that month! Not to do discredit to the authors of the books we're reading – its just that our particular club has some lively characters, and the ebbs and flows of the conversations going round the table can be rather entertaining and not necessarily printable! I had been talking about walking the Jurassic Coast to raise money for The Cure Parkinson's Trust, through an organised event, which was going to cost a pretty penny before we actually started to collect any sponsorship. It was about this time that we were reviewing my suggestion for 2010, Tom Isaacs book “Shake well before use”. It turned out to be an inspired choice, as not only did some of my fellow book clubbers begin to understand what life is like for a Parkie and the challenges faced each and every day, but it also totally inspired Wendy, and she suggested we walk the K&A. By so doing, we would keep our costs to a minimum and be able to return home to our own beds most nights. An inspired choice!
Having also talked about her idea at home to her husband and their two sons, Wendy's elder son Spencer registered interest in keeping us company. Wendy and Spencer were to walk to raise money for Diabetes UK, as Wendy's husband (aka Dad or Paul) and younger son (Ryan) are both diabetic. I must admit, I had my reservations about Spencer joining us – but that was before I met him. My reservations were wholly to do with the fact that he is 15 and if my experiences with my elder daughter, Elise, were anything to go by, he would be complaining and generally playing up within half an hour of setting off. Having thought about taking Elise, I am so glad I didn't. The short distances she did cover with us during the 5 days were not especially happy ones for her. Elise is not a walker, but Antonia on the other hand is, but too young to do 86 miles as she is only 6. Antonia has managed an 8 mile walk before, but I felt I would be expecting too much of her! Give her another few years, and I feel she will be more than able to do it.
Having done the walk and done it in the 5 day target we had set ourselves, in spite of an incredible heat-wave in April, I have had time to reflect on our achievements, and have come to the conclusion that Wendy and I would not have fared so well if Spencer had not been with us. He is a natural born leader, and he took on that role on the second day, like a duck takes to water. Wendy, bless her, is not the best at following directions, and believe it not not we had managed to get lost on the very first day! I know, I know, how on earth could we have got lost on a canal? The answer is, I really don't know, apart from the fact that I was probably to blame here as our ceaseless chatter had meant that we weren't concentrating and hadn't noticed that the tow path split at a railway bridge – we were supposed to go right to follow the canal, and instead turned left and only realised about a mile and a half later when we reached a village on a very busy road! Enough said. We obtained directions from a friendly native, and eventually got back on track, but the mistake had cost us and we were two hours behind schedule before we got to our first stop point at Batheaston, where we had arranged to meet up with Paul's uncle, Mike. On reaching our destination, which so happened to be at a rather nice public house, I was sorely tempted to drift in, order a pint of cider and down it in one before collapsing in a sweaty heap on the floor, but I thought that might seem a bit inhospitable to our hosts for the night so resisted.
Next up Food and Public Houses.