Sunday, 23 August 2009

Good Times And Bad Times!

The last few days have been a bit up and down to be honest. I met up with my friend, Brad, and he let me stay at his for a couple of nights. He was a really good host - he cooked both nights and showed me around a few of the local pubs! It was an enjoyable couple of days and it was nice to have a bed again after my night in Telford Town Park. Brad picked me up from Tamworth and we headed back to his and he dropped me off in Tamworth again the following morning so that I could complete the walk to Nuneaton.

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.


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  2. Hiya Matt
    It's nice to hear people are taking you under their wing so to speak along the way :o)
    Well done and look after those feet, lol!