Sore shins in Somerset

Having to take another break was a tough decision but it seems to have paid off.

After visiting Exeter City last Friday I thought I would make headway to Yeovil before the predicted bad weather on Sunday, that meant I pushed hard 11 miles to Ottery St Mary which in the end turned out to be a mistake.

A mile outside Ottery my left leg started to get shooting pains in the shin, that fact was made worse by my having to walk around the town trying to find accommodation, but there wasn’t any to be found. I was told by one Landlord the village green was public land so off I went to set up the tent there and once it was all up I settled down to relax and listen to the radio. I also checked my phone email and one had just come in from a Plymouth Trust Board member called John, his parents lived in Ottery and he had mailed to say I could stay there and to meet him in the Kings Arms at 9pm.

So, after some thought I packed up the tent and went to the Pub, well you would, wouldn’t you. After a few pints and a good nights sleep I woke to a very swollen left shin. Eventually I was persuaded to get it checked out, ending up in Honiton hospital, where I was seen quickly and the Doctor diagnosed Shin Splints straight away, the only cure rest and anti-inflammatory pills. It made more sense to jump on a train back to Pompey than sit in a B&B for 3 nights, keeping an eye on my money is crucial.

Back to Exeter and last week, them being a Fan owned club was of great interest to me being involved in the Pompey Trust so when I met Roger and Jay from the Trust I was full of questions about their experience. I could have spent hours there but sadly after about 90 mins of chat and a tour of the club they had to leave. I thank the Exeter Trust for their excellent hospitality.

So after my enforced lay up, I headed straight to Yeovil Town on Tuesday. Unfortunately and also out of character I was a couple of hours late, I missed my connection at Salisbury and also decided when I arrived in Yeovil to secure digs before I headed to the club so I missed the Media chap who had gone with the Yeovil players to a Go-Carting afternoon. Being a football player is a charmed life, even at League One level it seems!

I returned this morning and met Adrian who showed me around Yeovil Town and I hope to return next Tuesday because Pompey will be playing there and Yeovil have said they could do some promotion during the game to raise money. Fingers crossed I can make it.

I write this latest entry on the way to Swindon, I walked 12 miles and have had no reaction from the shin splints so I am keeping my fingers crossed the next few days walking will be the same, it is made much easier by the flatter land in Somerset compared to the tortuous hills of the previous 150 miles.

After Swindon its onto Bristol and South Wales and that will be Leg 1 done, 450 miles and 12 clubs. It has been an amazing experience so far I am determined for it to continue and raise more money for Prostate Cancer UK. If you see me at Yeovil, please say hello.

Herding lairy sheep

I walked across Dartmoor.

A year ago I would never have believed you if you told me that I would walk all the way across one of the most famous parts of Britain, on my own and with a dirty great pack on my back.

I’m sure this walk will present me with personal milestones and challenges to complete that will test me, certainly I was daunted by the prospect of crossing the Moor intially but I needn’t have worried, it was one of the most enjoyable parts of the Walk so far. There are those dreaded hills of course, but once you make the climbs the scenery is absolutely breathtaking, I was again lucky with the weather which allowed me to see as far as I could when I was on top of some of the peaks.

It was a great experience.

On Monday I had a very enjoyable day at Plymouth Argyle, Ed from the Trust met me at the club and showed me around and we got some good pics inside the ground. I like Home Park, it has a lot of potential if the club can work its way back up the divisions. We walked across the bare terracing left when the club had to remove the temporary seating and it looks perfect for the “safe standing” system that has been demonstrated at a few clubs in England. It would be an ideal place for a trial if the Legal issues can be solved.

When I left Plymouth on Tuesday morning I used the old Plym railway walking path and it was a lovely way to make my way up to the Moor, you can see info on it here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/devon/outdoors/cycling/plym_valley.shtml You can actually walk through an old rail tunnel, which is a very weird experience.

After an excruciating climb up what seemed like a wall and not a road I emerged onto the Moor and made my way to the first village where my best mate Jim met me and we had lunch in a pub, it was nice to see him and a familiar face after 2 weeks on the road. Walking the roads is a solitary experience and contact with friends in any way is a nice boost to your morale, hopefully other friends will visit me on the long trip round the country.

Crossing the Moor was also fun due to the wildlife, the lairy sheep in particular. When you passed them grazing they just stood and stared, mid chew, eyeing you up and daring you to go nearer. Dartmoor is a national park, so the cattle and sheep roam free and walk and lie where they like and pay no attention to any cars that have to pick, their way round them. However they do stir when someone walks near to them but for me that caused a bit of a problem because these daft sheep ran out into the road or up it headlong into the path of cars. So, to avoid unintentional sheep genocide whenever I approached any sheep I tried to herd them before they shot off down the road!

So I definitely helped save some lairy sheep to live to chew another day.

I am now in Exeter and will visit St James Park on Friday morning, another ground I havn’t been too so I’m looking forward to the promised tour and talking to the Trust, their success may soon be emulated by the Pompey Supporters Trust and we should learn from how Exeter City have coped being entirely fan run.

Do a lot of walking do you?

“Do a lot of walking do you?”

Believe it or not these were the words uttered to me at the Plymouth branch of Go Outdoors today as I stood at the checkout waiting to pay for my new walking boots. As smalltalk goes this has to be one of the most absurd things I’ve ever heard.

I was stood, pack on back, dressed head to toe in outdoor gear and sporting my new boots which I had already told him “Don’t box them, I’ll wear them.”

My reply was delivered with a puzzled chuckle “Yes, a bit. I’m walking the country for charity”. After paying the chap he then refused to push his brain into gear and asked if I’d like the box? “Not really” says I. “Perhaps I could make a hat out of it?” and with that I flashed a smile, grabbed my card and receipt and strode out of the store.

Honestly, there wasn’t a hint of irony!

I would like to thank Louise at the same store though, she patiently helped me pick out a new pair of boots that will hopefully last me several hundred miles or more. If I’m crippled its all her fault! Only kidding, thanks.

Its been a funny couple of days, after leaving Paignton I ended up in the village of Avonwick and the Avon Inn that kindly let me camp in their paddock. The following day the Paddock was to be used for a Strongest Man competition, exactly like the ones that seem to be scheduled for broadcast every Christmas. So I camped amongst a giant Tyre and barrels of different sizes. My thanks go to Gary and his wife for letting me stay and buy a few pints of Guinness.

Before I got to Avonwick though I passed through Totnes, a lovely town and my thanks go to Sally the landlady of the Lord Nelson for her donation and enthusiasm. As for Totnes itself it had a very odd hippy element, lots of glam older ladies looking like Edina out of Ab Fab and a whole host of mystical shops. Funny thing is, asking the locals no-one has so far explained why Totnes feels so out of place for a Devon town. Answers to walkthe92project@gmail.com please.

The following day was equally as eventful, for lunch I struggled up a hill at a village Ermington and fell into a pub called the Crooked Spire. I ordered a coke and was charged 3 quid! I then asked the landlord, who had a scottish accent, if they did food “No, not any more, we used to”. I was a bit pissed off for having climbed a hill for an expensive coke and no lunch, but as I took a seat the landlord spied my Pompey top and said “Pompey Fan then? So am I”

Those magic words.

There then followed a great 90 minutes of chat between Gary and myself about Pompey and my Walk, he even nipped upstairs to make me a ham sandwich and gave me a delicious home made pie to take with me. Cheers Gary! I know you’re reading. Top bloke.

But for every Ying there’s Yang. The campsite I was heading for was in a village called Brixton and when I arrived the Warden was wandering around in a bloody Saints shirt! One minute I’m happily chatting to a Pompey Fan and the next i’m faced with the enemy. Some good natured banter ensued though and he did let me pitch up for nothing, so well done Steve the scummer!

So, I’m now in Plymouth, I reached Home Park around 2pm. It was a struggle today, I had no legs in me for some reason, perhaps two nights with broken sleep under canvas. Hopefully 2 nights being hosted by Ed and his wife Barbara should get me up and going for a long walk across Dartmoor to Exeter. I’m a bit daunted by it to be honest but if I can get going early enough on Tuesday I should get well into the Moor by the evening.

I shall enjoy my visit to Home Park tomorrow, the Argyle Trust are good people and I am sure I’ll have a lot to thank them for.

See you on the other side of the Moor! I hope!

Devon ups and downs

Well I made it to the English Riviera and apart from the endless hills its really very nice.

Oh yes, did I mention the hills. Trying to lug several stone of backpack up and down some of these steep gradients is pretty bloody tough, its not like being on a bike where you can coast down the hill once you’ve climbed it, oh no. You have to tip toe and edge your way to stop yourself tumbling down or falling on your face once you’ve made the ascent.

But, I have been very lucky, I treated myself to a B&B stay in Exmouth in anticipation of being under canvas at Torquay as it had been impossible to contact any Torquay fans to arrange some digs for the night during my visit.

As i was climbing yet another bloody hill and sweating like a navvy I got an email from a chap called Russell who had seen my tweet about needing accommodation in Torquay and informed me that all I had to do was call a number and tell them I was arriving and they would put me up for a night for free.

How marvellously refreshing!

So, I’ve had a restful two nights at the Haldon Guest House in Beech Road, Paignton (I’m paying for night two) and I must thank Fee and her husband for their generous hospitality. If you are ever in the area then look them up, they make Tea in a proper pot with tealeaves which I havn’t seen in decades

I owe Russell a debt of thanks.

This morning I visited Torquay Utd and had a great couple of hours there, Tim Herbert and the staff at Plainmoor made me very welcome and gave me a tour of their revamped stadium, Mr Reading the groundsman showed me around. I should have hopped onto to the treatment table and asked the club doctor to look at my feet!

The rest of the day was spent enjoying the glorious late summer and this evening I spent some time on Paignton Pier reliving my childhood and teenage years as an almost total resident of the arcades of Southsea.

Its fair to say I am enjoying some great weather which is hard to walk in but fun to spend time in in such surroundings, the English Riviera is certainly a great place to be when the sun is beaming down.

Tomorrow I start a 3 day trek to Plymouth away from the coast, keep your fingers crossed the drivers of Devon give me a wide birth on the road.

Oh, and there’s not too many bloody hills.

Playing chicken on the A3052

As I write this I am preparing for my third night under canvas in a row. Its not something I have done before apart from the annual 4 day tour de force that is the Isle of Wight festival. The weather is wet but at the campsite I am at they have a TV room so I’m making good use of the electricity and taking the opportunity to sit down and get a blog out.

Camping on the road is a hard way to live, even with practise you spend an hour or more setting up and taking down your abode only then to have to lug the whole lot a few miles down the road, why I ever thought this would be fun I have no idea! Its a struggle to sleep, mainly because I have discovered I have very bony hips and they ache by the morning if I try and sleep on my side too much. Just one of the things I will “get used to” I guess.

Travelling our roads is also an eye opener, looking into the eyes of every on rushing car driver and willing them to give you a wide birth certainly holds your concentration whilst walking. Along the country lanes though the majority have been very polite and give you a wave and the odd offer of a lift, which I have so far declined despite on at least one occasion my feet were screaming for me to say Yes!

Despite all the grumbles above, this is proving to be just as stern a test as I imagined, but at times a very enjoyable one. Some of the Dorset coastline has been breathtaking and I have met some lovely people, none more so than the locals in the Nags Head in Lyme Regis.

I had made for the pub early in the afternoon on Sunday in order to catch the Pompey game on SKY and after sitting for a while on my own one of the locals called Graeme asked me about my Pompey top and huge backpack. I explained why I was there and what I was doing and he was so impressed he preceded to tell almost everyone in the pub about what I was up to.

For 3 hours I was treated like one of the locals and I had a great time, especially as the game went very much Pompeys way due to Mr Deadman and the many cards he waved at Crawley players.

So, I’m still on course for Torquay on Thursday if my little toes don’t fall off in the meantime.

No brown envelopes in sight

Wednesday was a glorious day to get my walk back on track. It was boiling hot again as it was on the 19th August but today myself and with my walking buddy we made for the coastal routes and it led to a fantastic day.

I am sure that the majority of the walk will not be like this at all, great scenery, great weather and great company.

My friend Steve Lee came with me on my return walk and his insistence that we head for the coastal routes was a masterstroke even if it meant walking much further.

I even went for a swim at one point which was welcome relief from the heat and the freezing cold water really invigorated my tired muscles, I’m not about to try taking ice baths though, I’ll leave that to the likes of Mr Izzard.

When I got to Bournemouth I was met by a friend who was putting me up for the night so much thanks goes to Matt Brown for his help and a superb curry for tea.

On Thursday morning I headed to AFC Bournemouth and the new Goldsands stadium, I had not been to the revamped stadium and it looked clean and sharp in the late summer sun. Club photographer Mick Cunningham gave me the tour which included the Champagne Lounge but sadly it was locked so I wasn’t able to pimp it up.

From there I headed along the West beaches of Bournemouth and Poole and then taking the chain ferry from Sandbanks. Now for anyone that hasn’t been to most expensive real estate in the world I have to say it is fairly unremarkable as an area, it seems the thing that the money buys you is the breathtaking scenery around you. The properties that I saw were not what you would expect to see at a millionaires playground, yeah they were nice but I’ve seen much better in London suburbs. Apologies to Harry and Rosie, not that he cares one bit I suspect.

I struggled up some hills on the other side which brought some tired grumbles from me, but when I saw some of the scenery looking out north across Poole harbour it was well worth it, I can recommend visiting it yourself if you havn’t. The Isle of Purbeck is simply stunning.

I camped at a place called Burnbake, near Corfe Castle and that’s where I set out from today, heading north to Wareham and then to head West from there. I ran into a bit of trouble on this road, walking on busy A roads with no pavement is a pretty scary thing, as each car hurtles towards you it is human nature to think it might wing you or worse. On this road I had a couple of very near misses which shook my confidence, so I took the bus the 3 miles to Wareham and I make no apologies for that, my safety is very important. Getting myself maimed or killed helps no-one.

Lunch in a friendly Pub in Wool called the Bear set me up for a long stretch to Dorchester, which after a long search for a B&B with a cabbie helping led me to the only room available in Dorchester! Yes, I know I said I would camp where possible but campsites are thin on the ground this far inland as I found out and I badly needed a long soak in a bath, so I finally found a place that had a room. It was the Thomas Hardy four poster suite in the Wessex Royale and after me sweet talking the manageress she let me have it cheap! Well I say cheap, but it was a lot less than full price and my battered, bruised and blistered body will appreciate it.

Next Blog when I get to Torquay, wish me luck.

Walkthe92 Take Two!

Sometimes in life you need to take a step back to go forward.

The blow of having to stop my walk so soon allowed me to rethink a few things and prepare better for the task ahead. Knowing the limits of your body is a valuable lesson to learn when trying to do a Walk like this and its fair to say that i wasnt completely prepared for it.

The toe that blew is mending nicely and I’ve bought some additional footwear for when the weather is good enough to not wear the boot. The pack is lighter (well, a bit) and i’ve bought a lighter but bigger tent.

So, on Weds 5th September I will head off to resume my walk in Lymington where I had to stop. I’ll be on the beach at Bournemouth by the evening and back on track.

I have to thank people for all the support I have received encouraging me to carry on, of course I had plenty of people taking the piss out of me but life wouldn’t be the same without friends giving you stick would it.

Walkthe92 take two! places please…….