I noticed on the way back into Tamworth that the A5 seemed to be missing a lot of footpaths on the way so I popped into the local library to have a look at the Warwickshire street atlas. I noticed that the Coventry Canal ran, in a roundabouts way, from Tamworth to Nuneaton so decided that this would be the safer option. I had left my ruck sack at Brad's house for the day to give my shoulders a day to heal so had hopes of a nice relaxing day, so to speak!
As I got on the canal I got talking to somebody on a barge so that I could make sure that I was going the right way and she informed me that it was only about 11 miles to Nuneaton - brilliant, I thought! She was wrong though - it was actually about 19 miles! I only know as I checked on Google when I got back as it took me four and a half hours and killed my feet. Still, at least I had a day off from the ruck sack and this seemed to do the trick as my shoulders have actually coped much better since then.
That evening I went to watch a football match between Shilton and The Fox (Nuneaton) - this is the team that Brad is managing this season. I was pleasantly surprised to be treated to a really good game of football - very often in the Sunday league circles you find a 'hit and hope' mentality with a lot of long balls. This was totally different as both sides got the ball down and passed it around and there was a lot of nice movement. The game finished 3-2 to Shilton but I think a draw probably would have been a fairer result.
The following morning Brad treated me to a breakfast batch from down the road before I headed off for the day's walking. The plan on this day was to reach a town called Kilsby which I think was about 22 miles away or so. Things went pretty well at first and I was making good time but then I started to get into more rural areas and things became more difficult. First of all the paths disappeared - this wasn't so bad as I could walk on the grass verge for a couple of miles. Then the grass verge disappeared and I was given the choice of either 2 foot nettles, the road (which wasn't very wide and had a lot of HGVs driving along it) or a farmer's field. I chose the farmer's field!
After this I was treated to a section of a few miles of road that had a bike lane up each side so I was able to walk on this and, despite there being some mammoth hills along the way, it was a fairly pleasant hour or so. I found a little roadside cafe about half way up one of these hills so stopped for a tea and a 10 minute break. I had covered a lot of ground and it was not quite lunchtime yet! Then things went wrong again - a couple of miles up the road all of the paths, bike lanes and grass verges disappeared and I was left with very narrow, windy roads with thorny bushes on either side. I decided as soon as I saw this that there was no way I could safely walk this section of road so tried thumbing a lift.
I stood there for about 45 minutes and not one person stopped. I was outside a business farm type building so decided to pop my head in and chance my arm. As it turned out I had been stood only yards from a cafe all along and hadn't realised! In fact, when I first popped my head round I thought it was someone's back garden and they were just eating their lunch outside! Luckily, there was a bloke called Ron who was just finishing up and was on a half day so offered to take me up the road until it got a little safer.
We ended up travelling about 5 miles down the road before the road became safe again and I am very glad that I decided to get a lift as some sections of the road would surely have seen me killed. It is really winding me up how many sections of road don't have any footpath whatsoever - so much so that I am considering writing a letter to Gordon Brown to tell him so (not that it would do any good, of course).
I arrived into Kilsby fairly early that day and immediately found the local pub. The only problem was that it was shut for the afternoon and didn't reopen until 5.30pm. I sat in the beer garden to wait for them to reopen - I asked permission first of course! Once it reopened I was straight in there and was delighted to see that they sold Kopparberg pear cider - I fell in love with the place immediately! The pub was called The George and it is just off the A5 at Kilsby. It really is an excellent place and I would recommend it to anyone in the area.
I had a quiet word with the bar maid there, Victoria, as to whether I would be able to put up a poster about what I am doing and also to see if there would be any way that I could pitch a tent in their beer garden. She fetched the boss, Maggie, and I was delighted to find that she was a very kind lady who agreed immediately. I ate there and contemplated getting a fairly early night but then I realised there was an open mic night - they're normally entertaining so I thought I would have a look.
After about 6 or 7 bottles I was considering turning in for the night - I think it would have been about 11pm by this point. Then I got chatting to a few of the locals and the ciders really started flowing. Before I knew it I was on my way to McDonald's in Rugby with another of the barmaids, Doreena, and a regular in the pub, Pelham! I think I got to sleep at about 5am and knew immediately that it was a bit of a mistake.
I woke up at about 10am and remembered that some more of the locals, Jo and Dave, had offered me a breakfast if I wanted one. I decided to head down there for a fry up and to recount on the night before. We had all had a cracking night and I had managed to make a few friends in Kilsby. I found everyone there to be really genuinely nice people and everybody was really friendly. After we had eaten some breakfast Dave offered me a lift a few miles up the road as he informed me there was another dangerous section of road just outside of Kilsby.
Once we left I saw what he meant and was glad that he had offered and that I had accepted. Once we parted company I set about walking to Stony Stratford. I don't know why but I had visions of Stony Stratford being another sleepy village - I couldn't have been more wrong! It was a fairly decent sized town just outside of Milton Keynes. I couldn't find anywhere to pitch my tent and was becoming a little exasperated due to extremely painful feet - my blisters are alright but I have some fairly bad bruising on the soles of my feet that is really causing problems and my ankle is also extremely sore every time I take a step.
I decided to get a room at one of the pubs in the town and try and barter an evening meal and breakfast into the price. The pub I found at was The Old George in Stony Stratford and the landlord let me have everything for £40. I had to get my parents to phone and book with a debit card as I couldn't afford to pay that much out of what I have left to get out of the country. I have left money at home with them so they can just take the money from there.
I decided not to stay in the bar once I had eaten as I wanted to try and tend to my feet a bit. I had been to Boot's and bought some cream to try and relieve the bruising and also some padding for my feet and the bottom of my back - the steel support in the ruck sack has now started to rub against the base of my spine so this is also quite sore. These things seem to have helped a little but I am still in a lot of pain and finding walking pretty difficult.
I am happy with the weight in the ruck sack and feel physically fine to be doing this but the pain I am in as a result of my feet is really quite bad. I am wincing with every step at the pain in my left ankle and if I step on an uneven piece of ground or a stone with my right foot. I will not be beaten though despite the pain but I am hoping that I might be able to get an old work colleague to put me up for a couple of days in Bromley if I reschedule my rest days slightly. I think that if I carry on for many more days then I am going to be in really bad pain and this will only hinder my progress.
Despite the problems I am having I am still enjoying myself but it is really hard going at times. Today I have been travelling from Stony Stratford to Dunstable - my dad managed to find a camp site just down the road from the main town so I will be trying to get in there tonight. I hope they have space for me as I don't fancy having to walk around looking for places to stay the way my feet are right now! I will update my photos soon, probably when I get to London on Tuesday.