So far, my walking adventures have left me pretty much free of injuries. Unfortunately, over recent months I’ve been having problems with my toenails, which keep getting bruised – not so much from walking per se, but from walking in trail shoes that were first too small and then too big. This was not down to carelessness on my part. I’ve meticulously followed foot measuring guides when ordering on-line and when that failed, I had my feet measured in two specialist shops – but to no avail. A small heap of discarded shoes lurks by our front door and Paul has started calling me Imelda Marcos.
Sadly, this put a bit of a damper on last weekend’s training. Caralyn and I had to cut short our Sunday walk to a mere 11 miles. It’s astonishing how a tiny toenail can cause so much pain. Still, on the Saturday we had succeeded in a third attempt of the Sandstone Trail and despite the pain, it was a fantastic day. Here are some of my enduring memories.
Starting off in the cool sunshine of a Spring morning... as we climbed up through the woods, the air was filled with birdsong and clumps of yellow gorse shone gold in the sun. It was magical. We were serenaded by birds throughout the day, from the persistent drumming of woodpeckers to the haunting call of a cuckoo.
Number 2 (appropriately)
Crossing a field covered in a layer of thick manure. As the sun beat down, waves of fragrance pulsed up from the ground; our feet sank through the crusty surface and squidged through the slime below. It was a big field and took an age to cross.
We didn’t get lost! Not once!
Stopping for coffee at the Cheshire Workshops Candle factory. Seriously, there is nothing quite like this place. It’s in the middle of nowhere. After hours of walking through fields, up hill and down dale, you come across a car park and mini shopping centre, with toilets, a cafe and all the candle-making opportunities you could wish for. It was absolute bliss to take the weight off our feet, the packs off our backs and to sit in the sun with cups of coffee.
The cows! Yes – I seem to be getting less anxious about cattle. All those behaviour therapy textbooks were true: exposure works! This time, I walked through several herds without any signs of terror whatsoever, even when they were just a few feet away. I have to admit to being a little wobbly a couple of times, like when they showed an interest and began to walk towards us, but I think it’s safe to say that I can now deal with stationary cows.
The pigs. If you’ve read my last post, you will know that the route crosses a field of pigs. Last time we avoided the field. This time it looked empty. “Shall we go through it?”, asked Caralyn, as we approached. She raised her foot to climb the stile, declaring confidently “I see no pigs”. At that very moment, I let out a squeal of alarm, thus alerting her to the two enormous pigs lying in wait beneath the stile – lurking in the very place she was about to put her feet. “I see no pigs” is going to be one of those phrases that lives on and on.
Reaching the 56th stile. Stiles are tiring at the best of times. After a whole day of walking, when your muscles have seized up, they are implements of torture. This time, we counted the stiles and reached a grand total of 56. This is me, traversing the last one. I know it looks as though I’m smiling but I think it was actually a grimace of pain.
Reaching the end and finishing the day with a mug of tea, a plate of coq au vin, some actual vin and then bed. After a day of walking, bed is the most wonderful thing in the world.
Thus ended our final training weekend. The next time Caralyn and I meet will be for the first of our challenges: The London to Brighton will be well underway 4 weeks from today on May 23rd. Till then, I’m hoping for three things:
- for my toenails to recover
- to find and break in some good shoes
- for a miraculous period of drought so that we don’t have to wade through rivers of mud like last year.
I’ll keep you posted!