Having got my sums wrong (again), I was delighted when, at last, the viaduct which takes the Bitton railway over the river Avon, came into sight. I was still six minutes ahead of the schedule I had set myself and so, if my new sums were right, would reach the finishing line, the pub at Hanham Weir, shortly before the Mrs and Joshua arrived at two thirty. So I walked down from the railway line towards the path by the river. Uh Oh...thick squelchy mud, I couldn'r go over it, I could go round it I had to go through it. Squelch, squerch, Apologies to the Bear Hunt for that.
The first photo is of looking up at the viaduct. The second is of the Fry's chocolate factory at Keynsham and the last is of the pub, the finishing line. What I had not calculated for was the mud which was everywhere. Twice I almost slipped and fell into it, somehow rebalancing and avoiding a wet bottom. But it was a sapping last few miles and I was jolly glad to reach the finishing line about ten minutes after the arrival of the Mrs.
My trousers were caked with mud as were my boots. as i opened my kagool the wind blew onto a sweatshirt soaked in sweat and suddenly I felt very cold. Heading out in that weather when I had a chest cold already was not the smartest move but I am determined that this year, on May 25, I will not hold Lucian, Dan and the other merry band of rogue bloggers back as we walk 33 miles for Woodlarks. So I am training very seriously indeed.
Woodlarks needs your support. I was not the only rogue blogger out walking this weekend. Please make a donation HERE
Refreshed by a cup of warm tea and a slice of banana bread at Lucian's breakfast cafe, the half way point of my 16 mile training walk, as I gear up for the 33 mile rogue bloggers for Woodlarks trek on May 25, I strode on, along the line of the old Bristol Bath railway line towards Bitton.
It is an easy, almost flat, stretch and though I felt a bit miffed as two ladies, who must have been well into their sixties, caught up with, and then quickly overtook. me, I continued, mentally trying to work out at what time I would reach my next landmark.
It is about a mile before Bitton that you actually start walking alongside rail tracks.
The main depot of this small private railway is at Bitton. Most of its services are diesel trains from the British Rail era of the sixties and seventies but some weekends it also runs steam trains. As you can see below, it being winter there were no trains running.
At this point, I calculated that I was only about half a mile from leaving the old railway and heading down to the fields and along the Avon and back towards Bristol. This thought cheered me greatly as, by now, the wind was fairly ferocious and it was starting to rain pretty heavily. Being alongside the line on top of a steep embankment I was fully exposed to the elements.
Naturally I had got my sums completely wrong.
If you enjoy the thought of my suffering or perhaps if you consider how last year Woodlarks scraped by on £115,000 with the rogue bloggers raising £32,000 of that, why not make a donation to this year's event HERE
It is now less than four weeks until myself and Brokerman Dan try to walk from Horse Hill to Woodlarks to raise money for this charity which I have backed for 16 years and which does amazing work as you can see HERE. Dan is far fitter than I am and sent late night texts on Friday saying that he had managed a 21 mile walk but was a wreck and needed a lighter rucksack. I know it is hot up in Manchester what with all those fires on the Moors but I think he is kidding me. It is all psychology. My plan was to do 26 miles on Sunday.
I set an alarm for 4.30 AM and hoped to be walking by 5.15. But the bed was jolly comfortable and when I did rouse myself I looked on my computer to approve Sunday articles for ShareProphets. I procrastinated but, looking at the donations page HERE, I was struck by how generous so many folks had been and determined not to let them down I called a cab. At 6.23 AM I started walking on the Bristol Bath Railway walk – along the old line – from its start near Temple Meads in the City Centre.
It was the route I had taken a week earlier with my friend Lucian Miers but with no-one to talk to as a distraction and almost no cyclo-nazis to dodge I made cracking time. By just after eight I had managed seven miles in record speed and despite being on a gradual climb and I was at the (not yet open) cafe where eight days earlier Lucian and I had stopped for a a 10.30 AM break and, in his case, a bacon sarnie and a fag.
My rucksack was heavier than last week, containing my laptop in case I fancied a spot of blogging, some bread and two litres of water. It was time for my first drink. Despite being double socked my left foot had started to rub and that pain grew as I headed on past Bitton where steam trains were running on the private railway, something Joshua would have loved. I crossed the Avon three times and by 11 AM had reached almost thirteen and a half miles. My foot was hurting and I fear – wrongly as it turned out – that a blister would result. It was – according to my phone 30 degrees and I was my backpack grew steadily lighter as I took on fluids.
I really did think, several times as I headed back from near bath towards Bristol, that I might call the Mrs and get a lift home but I just set myself a target of the next stop to reconsider. It was hard going and my pace slowed such that I was frequently overtaken by 70 year old joggers and three year olds on cycles. But slowly I retraced my route. The three bridges over the Avon, the start of the steam railway tracks, Bitton, the end of the railway tracks and then Lucian’s cafe.
At that point, still seven miles out I did feel a bit feint. As a diabetic I should have hat my testing kit but did not but just to be sure I bought a sugary snack and a coke and refiled one of my two empty water bottles. Like an idiot I then left that full bottle at the cafe; something I realised only as I finished the coke, five miles away from the line. But the snack gave me a whole new lease of life, the pace picked up and the last few miles were, very gently, downhill. I raced ahead and despite missing water in the last stretch finished the course in nine hours and thirty one minutes. If I add in 400 yards at the start from where V cars dropped me off at the wrong place, two detours to answer a call of nature and a wander around Bitton station looking at the trains, I managed, near as damn it, 27 miles.
I could have gone on. I am in no doubt that, given another two hours, I could have made it to 32 miles. But there was no need, doing a marathon in this heat was good enough. By the time the taxi dropped me off at home I was stiff as a board and last night I slept like a log. But today? I am fully recovered. I could walk again but shall not as 75 year old coach Brian Basham says I must rest my muscles. None the less my recovery times are improving as e very week goes by. So my next session is a short mid week walk, six miles on Tuesday, most of it gradient work at the gym.
I cannot help but feel a bit smug. Two weeks ago I struggled badly to do 15 miles. Last week I struggled to do 24. This week 27 was less of a struggle. Slowly but surely I am getting there. But gosh it is painful. The determination is partly one of pride but also not to let down all those folks who have sponsored myself and Dan. We have now raised £9,849.16 ( or £11,740.21 with gift aid) which will make a massive difference to a charity which had an income last year of just £126,000 and does truly amazing work.
If you have sponsored us already we both thank you. If not please would you donate now. Just a tenner from everyone who reads this piece would get us well over our £20,000 target so please take a few minutes and donate now HERE.
PS. Completing this trek and managing type 2 diabetes shows that it can be done and makes me all the more angry when folks like Diane Abbott use the condition as an excuse for their manifest failings.