Walk 2012

28th July, Portland, Dorset

Smells of sun-cream and the sea; glittering light on the water; expectation, excitement and goofy hats.

28th July, Welcome to Portland!

Memories of perfect ice-cream from the day before (Rossi’s); talking to BBC Solent; taking to the hills in a sociable, laughing, friendly group.

28th July, Weymouth seafront

Hills! Aching limbs; incredible, thirst-quenching wonder of water; the surprising way that the sound of surf can travel all the way up to the cliff path from the water; seagulls and crickets; feelings of triumph all round.

28th July, Durdle Door

Our first night in the tent; the hoarse and noisy exuberance of a rookery above us; beanfeast and boiled potato dinner; oat so simple breakfast; Mark’s little camping stove roaring; all the nylony swooshy sounds of turning over in the night in a tent.

28th July, campsite at Durdle Door

Scrunchy pebbles underfoot; scrutinising the ground for a pretty piece of sea-glass.

29th July, Lulworth Cove

The Jurassic Coast! Walking where dinosaurs walked; remnants of ancient forests.

29th July, The Jurassic Coast

Shaking legs; laboured breath; collective victory; the most delicious rocky bar I’ve ever eaten (thanks, Helena); and a well-earned view.

29th July, The top of the killer hill at Lulworth

Walking along the Purbeck Ridgeway; vistas of sea and sky replaced with the wide, swooping curves of arable land; a patchwork of greens and yellows; the occasional blush of a field full of blooming poppies; the happy chatter of relatives and buddies.

29th July, Grange Arch, The Purbeck Ridgeway, Wendy, John and Milly

Corfe Castle looming spectacularly into view over the horizon; lost lamb bleating on the pathway; the promise of a Dorset Cream Tea in the near future; white noise of crickets in the grass.

29th July, Corfe Castle

Childhood memories of exploring this castle; a well-deserved scone smothered in clotted cream and strawberry jam.

29th July, Corfe Castle

Walking through sun-dappled woodlands; coolness of leaves; twisting branches and insects hovering like dust in slim, golden slants of light; the soft tread of mud underfoot, barely audible.

29th July, the way to Wareham

Dog-tired at Wareham; putting up the tent and showering; blissful change into sandals and thick, woollen socks.

29th July, Poppy and Hodge’s rucksack at Wareham

Best bowl of Penne Arrabiatta I’ve ever eaten; the particular hunger that follows walking 18 miles in a day with a rucksack on your back; a haze of tramadol; sweet soft clinking of the masts of the boats moored along the river; stars and moonlight on the wander home from the village.

30th July, La Trottolina, Wareham

Lunching at Woolsbury Hillfort; a surprise slab of bread pudding for Mark; finest West Country Ham for Poppy; lying on the ground for all of us; a beautiful view from the hill; Poppy throwing herself on the ground; many types of grasses.

30th July, Mark relaxing at Woolsbury Hillfort

30th July, Hodge and Poppy at Woolsbury Hillfort

Miles of anonymous, winding pathways framed with wildflowers and crops; wading through razor-sharp fields of dried and brittle rape; enjoying the shimmering effect of wind sifting through barley; becoming too tired to be bothered about nettle stings on bare legs; feeling too strong to stop walking or to care too much about how much further it is to bed; becoming quiet and settling into the timespace and headspace of The Walk.

30th July, walking to Wimborne

30th July, the way to Wimborne

The dead-straight trail where the Castleman Railway Line used to run; excitement of a newsagent selling sweets; creating alphabets from items espied on foot; surreality of wandering into Ringwood and contemplating the world of The Supermarket vs. the world of The Walk; winding little streams and pathways leading out of Ringwood; the beauty of the first silken wild pony arse espied in the bracken and the gorse; the pleasures of a Spotted Dick and Custard at Red Shoot; a rosy glow from one illicit beer.

31st July, ponies in the New Forest

The roar of the little camping stove; the fun of sharing beans, bacon, bread and fried potatoes out of a few pots; the way food tastes when you are famished; the ache of a body remaking itself in the presence of an unfamiliar exercise pattern; the lovely promise of a day full of ponies and laughter.

1st August, breakfast at Red Shoot

Walking through the New Forest; cathedrals of trees; the quiet presence of animals.

1st August, walking through the New Forest

1st August, walking through the New Forest to Romsey

A quick hug at Romsey train station; the banter of new walking buddies; the sadness of losing a co-walker temporarily; blisters; Tramadol; shin-splints; the excitement of being on the way to Winchester; the change in ambience with a change of crew.

2nd August, a sad goodbye to Liz at Romsey train station

A deer poised silently in the deep green of the forest.

2nd August, deer glimpsed between the trees on the way to Winchester

Our first sight of the beautiful River Itchen.

2nd August, The River Itchen

More friends turning up; talking to the press; stealing sausages for the dog at breakfast; feeling perfectly rested after the clean white sheets of a hotel; St. Swithun’s Way.

3rd August, Winchester Cathedral

Curious cows with their eyelashes; snack-bars; talking; the cool flow of the winding, wide, glossy River Itchen.

3rd August, curious cows by the Winchester

3rd August, The River Itchen

3rd August, The River Itchen

The Ship Inn, Bishop’s Sutton; chips, fish, and pies; tap-water and diet coke.

3rd August, Andover Outdoor Group by the Ship Inn, Bishop’s Sutton

A wee walk through woodland and barley to find our beds; comfortable camping pods at Two Hoots Campsite; a delicious sleep; leopard-print bedding; the sad bleating of ewes whose ram-lambs have all gone for meat; the patter of rain on the wooden camping pod; and the luxury of hot chocolate and a microwave to use for our breakfast.

4th August, a rainy morning at Two Hoots Campsite, Bishop’s Sutton


4th August, Walk 2012 sheep

On the way to Bentley; FAMILY and BEER! A lot of laughing; catch-up; and cake at Chawton.

4th August, The Railway Arms, Alton

4th August, buddies, family, Mark and I enjoying a refreshing ale

The glorious gold medal wins of Jessica Ennis, Mo Faragh and Greg Rutherford; elation in The Star Inn, Bentley; Blue cheese and slow-roasted tomato tart; dizzy legs; blisters; shin-splints; the heavy drone of rain on the outside of the tent; coffee made in the titanium pot and drunk stood up; and the long walk to Farnham; another sad goodbye after a stunning breakfast.

5th August – brunch then train home for Liz at Farnham

The strange timing of walks; the age it seems to take to get to Puttenham; utilitarian comfort at the eco-barn; a decent nights’ sleep; the opportunity to cook our own dinner and wash some socks.

6th August, Puttenham Camping Barn

A deep, rumbling storm as we walked the Wey Navigation; raindrops like golf-balls; soaking skin; the sensation of everything being wet and clingy; a snake wriggling across the top of the water. RAIN.

6th August, a storm on the Wey Navigation

A shift in the atmosphere of the landscape as we near London; an increased sense of density; industrial buildings; the roar of traffic; the looming spectre of the Capital City; the official visual language of The Olympics infiltrating on every level.

7th August, Hampton Court Palace

A completely different kind of terrain; concrete and crowds.

7th August, urban sprawl at the fringes of London

Stealing sausages from the breakfast buffet for the dog; sleeping in a hotel before the last stretch; the sudden sense of stress, busyness, and excitement instigated by the city.

8th August, Putney – Liz & Liz have both returned!

The cheer of friends; the growth of our small group; the approach of the end; the last ask of battered legs and blistered feet; the final stretch.

8th August, Sharon and Monkl cheering on Walk 2012 near Victoria Park

Hammered feet and shins; stronger shoulders; a sense of achievement; the bewildering realisation that I just travelled 187 miles on foot; RESPECT for my feet; the glow of pride; and the inspiration of watching the athletics inside the Olympics Stadium.

8th August, Olympic Park gate, Stratford

And since then? Quite a bit of resting. Thanks to everyone who joined us on the walk; to Mark for designing and organising the walk; and everyone who has supported the project online! Mark has done a lovely write up of the Walk here, and if you are especially interested in what Poppy the dog had to say about the walk you can read her diary of events here!

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