A good walk to finish 2015. With rain forecast at 5pm I felt I had to leave at least five hours to get in a decent distance and so I left the house in sunshine at 11:20am. I often just make decisions on direction ‘on the fly’ and I felt I hadn’t been up to Knowle Village for a while so I turned into the Deviation Line woods near the top of Highlands Road. There were a few puddles and squelchy bits but nothing on a Cumbrian scale and I mused over the worst feeling a walker can have, namely wet socks and wet feet. Neither of those applied at this stage.
Approaching from the south side by the railway line, Knowle Village was its usual hive of inactivity and I counted precisely eight people, one dog and one moving car before I reached the village green. Given that total of those people included a couple with two children, walking their dog, that should tell you how quiet it was. Not that that really surprised me, given experience from past walks, though I was amazed at the number of cars and the lack of any obvious parking space – fortunately I was on foot so it was only of note rather than of irritation.
There seemed a greater flow of traffic here and there along Knowle Road toward the A32 where I encountered a decent breeze while walking toward Fareham, passing The Golden Lion and where Edwins was situated (where I once had two Christmas meals on consecutive days while I was shared between two separate work areas, to the confusion and bemusion, nay, bemusement of staff – though I prefer ‘bemusion’ as a word). A stop for coffee, and disaster, they’d run out of caramel, apart from the sugar-free stuff (don’t get me started on this one), so I had something completely different and more calorific – Black Forest Hot Chocolate – and I could feel the calories clocking up with every mouthful.
I’ve spoken before about the role a walk can have in soothing and easing a troubled mind, but I did have things on my mind that were difficult to shift, and that’s four days before I go back to work. Can’t say I’m looking forward that much to Monday, since it will be a decent slog for two or three months. No doubt many of my friendly friends and colleagues will help. I think also that images on the news bulletins in Cumbria and Dumfries of places I passed through on my walk have stuck with me, knowing that good people and friendly hosts are finding it hard to do anything, let alone be fortunate as me to be able to moan about relatively trivial things.
So just five or six miles left and I was pleased with myself, feeling as fit as I’ve done for a little while, on my way to a 16 mile total. It looked like I was on for a 4:30 finish but I could see the sky greying and clouds billowing in the direction of travel. A few spots of rain came at about 3:45 and a light to steady shower at around 4 o’clock. I was less than a mile from home where I encountered hail and driving rain, the wind throwing it into my face, for around 5 minutes (though it felt like about 20). I did have my waterproof jacket but no matter how much protection you have, weather that extreme will always find some way of penetrating footwear, even a few drops of water making feet very uncomfortable. But soon I was home bang on 4:30 to dry off.
So that was walking over for 2015, unless I fancy a quick ten miler tonight but, er, I don’t. I reckon today was the heaviest rain I have suffered all year. I don’t keep a tally of the total number of miles walked but it is probably in the region of 1,300, so nowhere near as many as in 2014, of course. But I did walk the furthest in one walk that I have, breaking my personal best with a 30 mile walk from home through Cosham to Fratton Park and back, even though that was blighted by listening to a dismal defeat away to AFC Wimbledon. The Wight Challenge saw that extended to 50 miles, with the last 10 of those the most painful as I tried to shake off worsening back pain in the wind and showers along the east Wight coast. For enjoyment, I loved the walk in Guernsey with Pammy through flowery woods and along clifftops. The most difficult were those closely following my mother’s passing and her funeral but they did help to get my thoughts in order.
Looking forward, 2016 holds the promise of the ultra-challenge of London to Brighton in May and the planning of Offa’s Dyke Walk, a likely two week challenge in the spring of 2017. I feel that one challenge per year is sufficient to keep me motivated. The ultimately unsuccessful Wight Challenge is acting as tremendous motivation for the L2B, that’s for sure.
Finally, a couple of amusing asides. The blog is such that I don’t expect many, if any, viewers on days when I haven’t posted for at least two days. Out of the blue, I had five viewers on 25 December. I hope that those five had very nice Christmases and weren’t looking at my blog out of boredom! The other aside was to learn that there is someone who has printed out every entry from this blog and keeps them in a folder as a record – I won’t disclose their identity but I am half flattered and half embarrassed, and half amused as well, except that adds up to one and a half so I’ll rethink those proportions. Happy New Year, thank you for reading and I hope to provide you with some interesting material on my thoughts and experiences.