Friday, 11 May 2007

Reflections of the first few weeks

I thought it was time to stop & take stock of the first few weeks of this journey. When I first planned to do it, on paper, it didn't look impossible. Sophie was so keen to do it with me & at that stage that didn't seem impossible either. Sadly, for her, it was. I know though that she is always with me and my walking companions, every step of the way, otherwise I know I wouldn't have got this far, both mentally & physically.
Looking back, that first week in Cornwall was tough. Doing the coastal path on the first two days was back breaking. The weather was perfect though, and the scenery stunning. That and the relief of getting from A to B at the end of each day kept us going.
What we learnt in the first week:
1) Don't rely on footpaths. There's usually a sign at the start, but then they tend to disappear (Farmers choose to re-route them )
2)Whatever the mileage for the day is supposed to be it's always 12, according to the pedometer.
3)The average 2.5 miles per hour we'd predicted we'd achieve (in training) was way off the mark. Sometimes it was less than 1!
4)Don't plan the route ahead of time, look at the os map the night before.
5)Always take a packed lunch. We could walk all day & not pass a shop, cafe or pub.

Cornwall was a mixture of beautiful coasts & fishing villages & run down industrial areas. There was a sense of poverty, despite the extortionate house prices. We didn't meet many real Cornish people, I suppose they can't afford to live here anymore, the place has been taken over by the "Second Homers" To live here you'd have to work hard. An example of which was the St. Brewards Post Office/Internet Cafe where the young owner & his wife seemed to be running a very successful business.

What we learnt in the second week:
1)Take an extra pair of socks. So called Waterproof Boots cannot be relied upon
2)Whatever the mileage of the day is supposed to be, it's always 5.5 according to the pedometer
3)Talk less & read the map carefully, one wrong move & you could be way out, or going round in circles!
4)Plan the route in the morning before you leave, try to avoid hills, rivers & canals are easier to follow.

Devon was lovely in many ways.
Firstly it housed the Hartlands & their great hospitality & walking without the rucksack was a huge bonus.
The scenery changed & became so green & lush. Pretty little villages with thatched cottages set in rolling hills & fields. We had some pleasant walks by rivers & canals & the weather continued to be sunny & warm.
It's a lovely time of the year to walk with new born lambs, calves & ducklings. As it was so unseasonably warm the bluebells, wisteria & May blossom were all in bloom.
The locals were very friendly. In one village a couple were sitting on a bench outside their house & offered us iced water in glasses, filled up our bottles & even offered toilet facilities.

Things we learnt in the third week:
1)Plan your route as your walking, the famous "Monarch Way" is not so well known on every path.
2)Salisbury was a lot further away from walking points than I'd realised.
3)Rest Days are not very restful. Physically, yes, mentally, not. Hours spent at the computer in frustration at not really knowing how to use it.
4)Take Kenny's advice & throw the pedometer in the "Trash Can"

Somerset was similar to Devon in many ways, although there were not so many pretty villages, the thing I remember is the people. They bent over backwards to be friendly & helpful when we asked for directions. The Scouts came to our assistance in this county & how! Maybe it's because the tourists pass them by on their way through to the south west. I was sad to leave Jane's as this was now the end of the luxury of having a base for a whole week, it was time to move on to B & B hopping for a while.

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