It’s been lovely to catch up with so many friends and family over the last weeks. Thanks for hosting, calling, messaging, egging me on… To those I missed, sorry, there’s always next time.
But for now, back on the road…
Day 261 to 263
My walk kicked off again on Monday with a bracing stroll through London to the East End HQ of the Alzheimers Society (at the splendid address, 43 Crutched Friars) where I met dynamic Events Leader, Ellie, and her team.
Every 3 minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with dementia – and, incredibly, every 3 seconds across the world: a devastating statistic. My dear Mum lived with Alzheimers for years and I’m keen to raise as much as I can on my walk.
I arrived, soggy as a spaniel, at the AS HQ and was lucky to have a chance to powwow with Jack, an ex-BBC producer, whose Mum has Alzheimers. Jack is now using his story telling skills to help this great cause which does so much to support those living with Alzheimers and make them feel less isolated.
In September, many ‘memory walks’ in aid of AS are taking place across the UK. If you have a chance to join one, please do. So many of us know someone with dementia and taking part in a memory walk shows you care.
Talking of walks, we had a cheerful 5 mile fundraiser around Swanbourne on Saturday. Despite soggy weather, over 40 hardy hikers strode off through the cow pastures, in aid of the other great charities I’m walking for – the Puzzle Centre and Medical Detection Dogs.
Over the last weeks, what with fundraising walks, talks and radio interviews, the total raised between all the charities for the world walk has now been boosted to over £8,000. A whopping sum. Thanks so much for all your generosity since the start of my walk last September.
After my meeting at AS, a thorough soaking and a glitch with my GPS, I stopped Monday evening at St Paul’s Cathedral Youth Hostel, a coup at only £20.
My walk yesterday to Ealing took me through some of London’s best known landmarks – Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park, Acton Tube (joking) and finally a jolly, slap up lasagne with great friends Amar, Cath and their boys Amrik and Dorian.
Today a 21 miler to the village of Merstham en route to the south coast…Cheers all.
Day 263 to Day 265
With Cousin Paul – two ‘gilets jaunes’ (yellow vests) in the woods on the way to Brighton.
Paul is a true renaissance man, a hard working IT whizz, a mandolin maker, a dare devil snow boarder (as is his son, Dan), a surfer, musician, insect photographer, mad keen penny whistle player and all round good egg.
He’s also good on trivia – did you know all French drivers have to carry a gilet jaune in their car by law!
Paul and I marched through some leafy trails before cresting part of the South Downs Way and yomping south towards Brighton, marveling at the sea.
On reaching the Youth Hostel (one of the best) we decided to plunge into the ocean – amazingly we were the only swimmers on the whole stony beach. It was a bit parky but invigorating, and we sparked the bored life guard to life! A brilliant day.
Yesterday I walked 21 miles between Merstham and Cuckfield, where I was put up by old school mate, Geoff, and his wife, Shiona, after a soggy but pretty hike through Sussex. Their exam blasted children, Isobel and Alex, took a night off revision and joined the jolly chinwaging, as did fellow school mate, Jim.
The night before, after a 21 miler from Ealing, I arrived at dusk, drenched, at the home of Jim’s brother, John, and his wife, Diane, who kindly fed me, put me up and showed me some rare blue orchids and resident woodpeckers.
Another dear friend, Helen, rocked up near Horley, and joined me for a short stretch with her black lab, Mabel, and Australian terrier, Pebble (a perky, ginger, fox-faced fur ball).
Finished the evening meandering Brighton’s wacky, Lanes district, passing the famed, multi domed Pavillion where I spotted a sign urging us to ‘Be Kind’.
So many friends and family have shown me great kindness during my time in England, not only those mentioned in this post, but dozens more. Thank you all.
The legendary travel writer, Jan Morris, now nudging 90, after a lifetime on the road, wrote in a recent memoir just two words of advice: ‘Be Kind’. Spot on, Jan.
France beckons…A bientot!
Day 266 to 268
Sorry Koko, my faithful old hiking cart, I feel rotten ditching you for a younger model but this baby buggy is just the job for a world walk.
Well, I say ditching, I will still keep Koko, as she has been magnificent over the last 3,300 odd miles, but the new Koko is compact, sturdy and isn’t rigged up by enough elastic bungees to confound Admiral Nelson..
Out of loyalty, I have decided to call the new cart, Koko, too – and out of respect for George Foreman.
Foreman, the oldest heavy weight boxing champ ever (46), called all his five sons, George, and even one of his daughters, Georgette, so they all had something to bond them. Compared to all these Georges, two Kokos sounds positively understated.
I swapped the Kokos during the nine mile walk between Brighton and Newhaven, which included a statue of the Olympic runner, Steve Ovett, dramatic stony beaches and a sign to watch out for ‘groynes’ (ouch!).
My techi school friend, Sean, who has been a star helping with my kit and website, kindly delivered the new Koko during fierce rain.
Despite the soggy weather the new Koko is proving up to the task and caused much merriment with the ferry crew between Newhaven and Dieppe – ‘Congratulations on the triplets, mate’… ‘Your baby will get whiplash pushing like that!’….
Docked in France at 5am on Sunday, with thoughts of my grandfather (Mum’s side), who fought at Normandy, and also the 900 soldiers, mostly young Canadians and Brits, who were killed or wounded in a tragic, pre D-Day raid on Dieppe in the summer of 1942.
Tonight I’ve reached a park with bison and Canadian wolves galore, that are howling like fury as I write this (the fence looks pretty sturdy).
Xavier, a French Canadian, who has run the park for over 20 years, has let me sleep for free in one of the park’s basic but beautiful teepees. I have the whole place to myself.
What a kind gesture and lovely way to wrap up my first day walking in France.
Merci Xavier – and the Canadian wolves for providing a thrillingly alternative lullaby! Awwwruuu! Bonne nuit.
Many thanks to all ‘the fam’ (as my intrepid Kiwi daughter, Eliza, who is currently hiking The Camino, calls family), to Matt Todd and Nick Henderson, old school mates Jim Fry, Julia Thomas-Everard, Shiona and Geoff Goodman, Sean Franklin and Jules and Mary Cook. To Amar Grover, Cath and the boys, Paul Skone, Elisabeth Angier, Helen Cheales, Tom and Dan Finchett, Trish and Chris Clough, John and Diane Fry, Paul Fremantle, Bridget Wood, Rudolpho at the Betsey, Sarah Dolder, Jane Maycock, to Xavier and the gang at Reve de Bison and all those who have generously attended talks, walks or who have donated to any of the three brilliant charities:
Thanks so much and, wherever you are, Keep on Keeping On. Cheers!