Doing this walk has chucked up a few surprising things along the way in regards scenery. Just the other day I walked towards a village which had a familiar name but looked innocuous on the map, it wasnt a place I had ever imagined visitng but there it was, accidentally on my route. Its not a particularly exciting place either, unless you are a mad keen equestrian.
It was Badminton House, a place I had seen on telly many times but never thought I would ever just saunter past it without even knowing it was approaching. That went for the Haynes Motor Museum as well, they of the manuals that allow you to take your car apart and then hopefully put it back together again, Porn for Car Mechanics if you will.
Probably most poignant of the villages on the route to Swindon was walking through Royal Wootton Bassett which is next to RAF Lyneham and is the village that all returning casualties of the recent Afghan conflict are paraded through when they are repatriated. When i was there it was a bustling Saturday shopping crowd with no hint of any sombreness but I did stop at the small cenotaph in the centre and spared a thought for all those that didn’t pass through the village in the same way I did.
The previous night I had stopped at a campsite just outside Calne and spent a nice evening enjoing the first days play of the Ryder Cup on the TV in a local pub, it looked as if Europe would struggle all weekend to me, how wrong I was on that!
On the Saturday I had a visit from a lovely friend from London called Cathy who had booked us into a relatively cheap night in a top Hotel which was very kind of her. Now, I mean no disrespect to Swindon at all and I may have missed some of the more salubrious areas on my Walk through, but when conversation turned to what we might do in the evening, my first impression left with a desire to find something out of town. A quick look at the guide revealed that Swindon had a Greyhound track and I love an evening at the dogs so we spent a happy few hours trying to outwit the bookies, but inevitably of course the bookies won. I wasnt visiting Swindon until Monday morning so I had a free day on Sunday, we enjoyed a country drive to Marlborough and a roast dinner in the town, the perfect way to recharge my batteries for the walk to Bristol.
Swindon Town are a club on the up, since appointing Paolo Di Canio as Manager they have managed to win Promotion to League one via a playoff win last season and by the looks of the ground which I hadn’t been to for a long time, they are well placed to go up to the Championship and to be able to compete there. The ground is very tidy with the possibilty to build a new ground right next to it in the coming years, and whoever you speak to the reverence that is given to Di Canio is palpable, if they hang onto him he will bring success to Swindon Town I am sure. They gave me a good tour and made me feel very welcome so thanks to the backroom staff at Swindon and I wish them every success.
And now for the highlight of this part of the walk. Whilst in Bristol I am being hosted by a friend, Tony Hardy and what a wonderful host he is being. Not only is he looking after me he also agreed to pick me up from Chipping Sodbury on Tuesday night and take me back to Yeovil to see Pompey play them. We were also joined by another friend Andy “Urbs” Morris from Tewkesbury and the three of us drove down to Yeovil to stand on a cold, wet and windy terrace and we absolutely bloody loved it.
Pompey were fresh from a home win against Scunthorpe and that seemed to have bred confidence because the eventual winning scoreline of 2-1 to the away side flattered Yeovil. Pompey were deserved winners and should have won far more convincingly missing a hatful of chances in both halves, but hard work won the match with the team making it difficult for Yeovil to settle on the ball at any time.
On the terraces it was great to some familiar faces and old friends and the banter of the 1200 fans crammed together was hilarious at times, it really was old school football supporting which most of the fans there had been brought up on. What is pleasing though is that the many kids and teenagers who were there embraced the conditions and were loving just as much as all us old timers.
I really hope I get to see the occasional Pompey match on my Walk, I am a football fan and will watch any game I can, whoever is playing, but watching Pompey is just very special and it would mean I get to spend a few hours with many good friends which very often is the only joy you get from a match day.
Today I have completed Part One of my Bristol visit with a great afternoon at Ashton Gate, their supporter liaison officer David Lloyd suggested I come down during the press call and meet a few players and the Manager Derek McInnes. The staff were great and I had a few pics taken with 3 players and Derek signed my flag on behalf of the club, I also got a quick Radio Interview in for the BBC which I’d like to thank the reporter Geoff for, hopefully it will get me a few donations at the weekend.
David also invited me down to the Bristol City Supporters Trust meeting tonight, so I’m heading to a pub near to the ground later to meet with them and talk Trust stuff, it will be interesting to see how they are getting on and seeing what issues they have as a Trust and compare notes.
Then its on to Bristol Rovers tomorrow and over the Bridge to Wales! Blimey!