Smells of sun-cream and the sea; glittering light on the water; expectation, excitement and goofy hats.
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.
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.
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.
Scrunchy pebbles underfoot; scrutinising the ground for a pretty piece of sea-glass.
The Jurassic Coast! Walking where dinosaurs walked; remnants of ancient forests.
Shaking legs; laboured breath; collective victory; the most delicious rocky bar I’ve ever eaten (thanks, Helena); and a well-earned view.
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.
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.
Childhood memories of exploring this castle; a well-deserved scone smothered in clotted cream and strawberry jam.
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.
Dog-tired at Wareham; putting up the tent and showering; blissful change into sandals and thick, woollen socks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Walking through the New Forest; cathedrals of trees; the quiet presence of animals.
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.
A deer poised silently in the deep green of the forest.
Our first sight of the beautiful 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.
Curious cows with their eyelashes; snack-bars; talking; the cool flow of the winding, wide, glossy River Itchen.
The Ship Inn, Bishop’s Sutton; chips, fish, and pies; tap-water and diet coke.
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.
On the way to Bentley; FAMILY and BEER! A lot of laughing; catch-up; and cake at Chawton.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A completely different kind of terrain; concrete and crowds.
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.
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.
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.
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!