Monday, 26 August 2013

Day 48; Dad

No alarms set. Just woke once the adrenaline got too high and the excitement set in. Today was the day we had been dreaming about for 7 weeks; the day it ended and we achieved what many thought would be impossible. Most excitingly for me, it was the day I get to see my family and hug my mum.

We packed our rucksacks and took our tent down for the last time. Showered. Grabbed breakfast and set off. With only 4.4 miles to walk to the finish line today would literally feel like a Sunday stroll. We could see our finish point from our campsite with the lighthouse in the distance. With butterflies in my stomach we walked on.

Half a mile to go- time for hair wax application. 200 meters to go- we could see our families in the distance, we had our picture taken just before entering the gates to 'Lands End'. 100m to go- our families were waiting at the finish line with a banner for us to walk through, ballons tied to them and we could here them cheering us in. Kate and I waving back at them. And we crossed the line; smiling and proud. 1100 miles, self supported, in 48 days. What an incredible moment. Hugging my mum, we didn't want to let go. After many congratulations from our families and my good friends Amanda and Josh who both made the journey down to watch me cross the line- thank you! We walked the final 100m to the sign post, for the official finishing point. Kate and I proudly stood under our sign before asking all of our family to join us.

After the millionth photo we all headed to the 'First mile Inn' a pub famous for pinning all of the End to Enders t-shirts on their pub ceiling. Kate and I wrote on our t-shirts, an adventure summed up as '48 days, 63 blisters and one massive achievement'. Kate and her parents shortly left as they headed to a spa on the East coast of Cornwall for a little luxury. My family stayed sitting in the sunshine enjoying Cornish Rattler and champagne. After a short stagger back to our 'surf shack' we spent the rest of the day in celebration. I was a little worse for ware by 10pm and was gratefully put to bed. 

 What an amazing day. An incredible journey. All in memory of my dad, Carl. Dad you were my inspiration. My family were my motivation. Thank you to everyone who helped Kate and I achieve the goal we set ourselves one year ago; from your daily messages and visits along our trip to sponsorship to our chosen charities. It's been a heart warming experience and I'm touched by all of you who helped us. Thank you.

P.S. I will write my final blog in 7 days as a following up in reflection of our journey.
Thank you to everyone for following the blog for the past two months.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Day 47; Champagne

It was strange to wake up on our second to last day. This was our last day of 'long distance' walking- tomorrow was designed just to be fun- so it was the last day of challenging moments. I felt almost empty yet filled with adrenaline... but excited too knowing that all of my family were on their way to Lands End ready for tomorrow- I can't wait to see them! Anywhoo, with 18 miles to walk we left St Ives and were heading for Sennen. 

We walked along barren footpaths surrounded by absolutely nothing. Just marsh land, rock and of course, cows. The sea was calm as the air pressure was high and the cloud cover was low so we were often walking amongst the white shadows that covered the hill tops. 
We stopped in a pub at lunchtime; treating ourselves to a half pt. of Cornish Rattler, I was merry as anything afterwards. (I'm going to be a fresher all over again once we return to Uni). Bouncing along the coastal path we made it to St. Just, the last town of our entire journey. Kate and I decided to treat ourselves to a bottle of champagne and some of our favourite delights for dinner. 

Finishing the last three miles along Land's End airport, we finally had our finish line in sight. The famous lighthouse was flashing and we smiled gleamingly, knowing we only had 5 miles left. 
Once our tent was pitched I got to work on being 'Chef' for the night, sitting outside with the sun setting over the Atlantic sea and Land's End in view, Kate and I talked about our favourite times and what we had learnt throughout the trip, while our sausages gently cooked. 

We ate our picnic/feast in our tent, drinking champagne from juice bottles. We were both so excited to cross the finish line tomorrow and see our families. Finally, one day to go!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Day 46; Memories

Almost done with eating cooked breakfasts by now we ate our last one of the trip and headed on our way to St. Ives. The skies were already blue and the wind was soft- today was going to be a good day! 

We walked along the coastal path after crossing the River Hayle; everything around us was beautiful from the corn fields, to the white sandy beaches that stretched for miles. The sunshine made you feel as though you were in the Mediterranean somewhere- perfect, this meant we could top up those dodgy tan lines just before the end. 

I knew this area well as I came here a lot with my family as a kid, it was strange to now be choosing to walk the same footpath ten years later, but now by my own choice. We made it to St. Ives by 1.30 where we got a Cornish ice cream and pasty. 

St. Ives has a quaint harbour surrounded by ice cream parlours, restaurants and small surfey type shops, however it I also one of the biggest tourist attraction towns in the while of Cornwall. It was heaving. Chris, Kate and I left the buzzingness of the town to pitch our tent and say goodbye to Chris (until the finish line in two days time). It was so lovely to have him here and to share the experience with him, thank you Chris! 

I headed back to St. Ives on the local bus leaving Kate to 'wash her hair'. I met Cheryl and Jc there which was really lovely as it meant we could properly catch up- with an ice cream. Once Kate joined us we all went for a drink on the harbours edge before Kate and I went for dinner. 

Dinner was gorgeous! Local mussels caught that morning. The moon was amazing this evening, it was enormous and sat right on the horizon central to the harbour; it glowed bright orange as the sun reflected off of it. 
One we got back to our campsite Cheryl and Jc had decorated our tent with fairy lights and spelt out 'home' in the grass with twinkle lights. The cutest thing- thank you! 
Just two days to go.

Day 45; Surprise

After the biggest breakfast (yet delicious) that I ever wish to eat, we left heading for Gwithian. The coastal path made our walk jaw droppingly gorgeous- the sun was hot, hot, hot, and the bays of the west coast of Cornwall didn't disappoint with turquoise waters, rocky cliff edges with delicate purple and yellow heather smothering them. 

We could see seal's basking in the sun while Chris told us stories from when he grew up in the local area. It was amazing. Shame about the pain in my feet, but with three days to go I can't complain. 

We arrived at our B&B by 5.30 with tea and cake ready for us in the garden. Once we were completely relaxed and clean we went for dinner in the local village, kindly booked by out B&B owner. The atmosphere was great, food was yummy, company was wonderful and it was about to get even better! 

Cheryl and Jc came up behind me at the table- I couldn't believe it! They were on a road trip round Cornwall and just by chance had ended up in the same restaurant at the same time as us- craziness! But I was so thrilled- my family was here- now, happy happy happy! (even if it was just for a 20 minute conversation- thank you for finding me!)

Day 44; Ice-cream

After a late night of high alert spider watching, we set off after breakfast at 9am. A kind lady from our B&B sponsored us twenty pounds which was really sweet. Chris was set to go with his new pole bottoms, and Kate and I were excited to be meeting our good friend Surya from Uni at the five mile mark. 

Passing beautiful sandy beaches including Fistral Bay in Newquay while the sun was shining made the scenery stunning. Seeing Surya for the first time in two months was just amazing- I was so happy to see her, and time apart meant only one thing- there was lots of catching up to do. What better way to do it than over 12 miles!? 

Chris meanwhile was questioning when lunchtime was; we stopped on the roadside at 9 miles where I had my personally selected salad bowl from Morrisons- treating ourselves here in Cornwall! We finished at Peranporth by 3 o'clock which was speedy timing so Chris decided we deserved a Cornish ice-cream as our reward. Surya and I went on a search, mint choc chip and banana split flavour, then we headed to the beach for some chill out time. 

After taking off my walking boots we strolled along the busy sandy beach and my toes felt as though they had landed in toe heaven. This was perfect- girly chit chat time, on the seaside, eating icecream with the sunshine trying to peek out. With three hours until Surya's bus came we found ourselves enough time to make it to the pub (standard Surya influences). 

It was sad to say goodbye but it had been so so lovely to see her- thank you Bear for making such an effort to make it down to see us. 
Julie, our B&B owner picked up Kate, Chris and I at 6 and took us to her country style home in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Julie had booked us in to a recommended restaurant and offered to be our 'taxi' for the night, as her support to Kate and I. Dinner was delicious! What a wonderful day. Happy times.

Day 43; Miles

Today was an unusual day... we woke at 7.30 by the sunlight and then decided to wait for Kate's dad (Chris) to arrive so that we could let the tent dry before packing it away. This meant a lie in, so at 9.15 we finally got out of our sleeping bags and starting organising ourselves. It felt like a day off, that was until Chris arrived and then left again and we then had to motivate ourselves to start. 

Kila and Emily drove to us enroute and brought us our first Cornish pasties and homemade carrot cake- delicious! Thanks girlies! The sun was delightfully warm today and the walk was pleasant through small country lanes. Our latest lucky escape; on a public footpath we crossed a gate for a dairy cows farm with around 100 cows almost 150m away. Listening to my ipod in my own little world, Kate was ahead and suddenly she's turned and running. The cows obviously thought it was feeding time and were hurtling towards us- I pegged it! By the time I was over the gate the cows were within 10m away- that's a lot of running when there's no food at the other end. Made me and Kate giggle though.

My feet were painful today, but my knees were worse. They have been keeping me up at night recently, and now not even strong pain killers were touching the pain. Hobbling along feeling like the little man out of 'Aladdin' with the walking stick I was starting to feel sorry for myself. A good friend of mine had hoped to join us on our walk today, Miles. He is 67 and has been blind since he was 21; now a motivational speaker across the world due to the many life challenges he has undertaken. Unfortunately due to circumstance he was unable to make the trip down, however today I used him as my distraction and inspiration. If he could achieve running the death valley Sahara desert marathon then of course I could walk this final little leg. But doing it smiling, not so easy. So in spirit, thank you for your motivation today Miles! 

We reached Mwagan Porth by 6pm where we met Chris at our B&B- now shattered and really struggling to walk 'normally' I crawled up the stairs (quite literally) to shower before dinner. Dinner was in a local pub that served simply gorgeous food, and it was lovely to have Chris's company- it got me even more excited to see my parents at the weekend! 

Once we returned to our rooms I had one final shake up before bed; sitting there minding my own business, a spider drops on to the floor next to my bed. Absolutely enormous- and me being completly petrified of spiders I screamed and ran in to the bathroom where Kate was happily brushing her teeth. Thinking I had almost killed myself, Kate tried to work out what was wrong amongst all of my screaming, shaking, tears (again) and speechlessness. Chris knocked at the door wondering what had happened and I pegged it outside. Chris sorted the devilish monster and assured me it was safe to return to the comfort of my bed. Great- I was now 'one of those girls'... thats a life challenge for another day I think. Happy to say though just 5 days to go now.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Day 42; Confidence

After a night of talking our way through storms as we couldn't sleep, Kate and I were up for 7 excited so see our Uni friends, Emily and Kila, who were meeting us at 9 to join us on todays walk. And as you had guessed, it was still raining! To cheer us up what we didn't know was the girls had decided they were carrying our bags for the day- and although we refused and resisted these stubborn little ladies were out to win. So Kate and I spent the day smiling to ourselves with the happiness of being surrounded by such good friends. Thank you girls! 

With 18 miles to walk all I could ask for now was a little sunshine. We were heading for Wadebridge- Kila's home town- crossing a lot of footpaths along corn fields and dairy farms, and then along small windy roads with tall hedges and no paint to spoil their country look (only problem was the moments when one car met another car and we were in the middle of it- our rucksacks had to quickly become friends with the hedges). 

The hills were enormous today, and steep. Really steep. I was happy on the up hill, Emily wasn't really appreciating the extra load at these points, and then my knees kicked in on the downhills while Kate was enjoying the Achilles recovery moment. Kila just powered through all of it- she was a machine, and her pain free feet made me more jealous with every step. At a happy pace and enjoying the sunshine we had just a mile to go until lunch where we were heading for a local pub that Kila could happily recommend. 

Then without warning the heavens opened; Kila and I were ahead by some way, so I wrapped up while Kila insisted on doing it the Cornish way and just walking on as if it was a perfect summers day. We reached the pub, soaked. Kate and Emily arrived drenched. With only 6 miles to go we decided to have lunch here and enjoy the warmth. 

In our final stretch we crossed one particular dairy farm which had cows surrounding the entrance gate. Me being nervous (as always) cagily walked towards the field. Kila being the unbreakable woman that she is lead the way and just demanded to the cows to leave by waving her arms in the air and gesturing 'go away'. I was in awe. She showed such confidence and the cows left immediately; clearing the way for me to quickly follow Kila across the field- I was like her shadow, and refused to leave her side. Amazing! 

I was so impressed with her completely fearless approach. Hey maybe I'll be like that next time (or not). After reaching our campsite where the girls were grateful to drop the bags, we pitched our tent and drove in to town for a drink where we found ourselves in enormous bean bags outside drinking Rattler cider, feeling completely relaxed. 

It was so lovely to have the girls here with us! We parted once we knew our clothes had finished washing and it was time to cook dinner. We crossed the 1000 mile line today... only 6 days to go now!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Day 41; Home

The kids woke us at 7.30 which was a surprisingly pleasant alarm- it makes a change to our usual dingalingaling. Next it was our turn to take parent roles and take the three girls to the bathroom for their morning ablutions- now, well out of my comfort zone, Kate was in her element- as they held her hand in a big sister kinda way. 

Breakfast was served, lunches prepared, then Tabitha joined us for the 12 mile coastal path hike. The heavens opened, and unfortunately didn't close again until the later hours of the evening. Although this made for dramatic scenery as the skies got darker and the waves got bigger; the three of us were soaked through. Again. What happened to our British summer!? 

As Tabitha kept our spirits high we trailed along up the steepest of hills- and of course back down them. Along sandy beaches- which was a first, and through small villages where the locals looked on as if we were mad... as I was still in shorts I couldn't really blame them. We reached our campsite by 4.30 pitched our tent in the pouring rain and then walked an extra 3 miles in to Boscastle as it was the nearest bus stop to send Tabitha back to Bude on. 

Boscastle is a beautiful small village, set down the middle of a cliff valley, filled with small tea shops and farmers pubs. Having been here after the land slide they experienced here eight years ago, it was amazing to see how they had restored it and managed to keep the traditional look of its countryside village. We sat down for hot chocolate & whipped cream, simply just for the heat. 

Once I stood, I left a small puddle on the chair from my dripping clothes. I needed to go in a tumble dryer. We enjoyed dinner together and then said goodbye to Tabitha once her bus arrived to take her back to her family (which only runs 4x a day!). Kate and I meandered back to our campsite via a cup of tea and another hot chocolate. Still freezing we could only hope for warm showers at the campsite. 

On our walk back up the 20% gradient hill which took us 35 minutes to climb, now shivering, all I could think about was home. And how much I missed it. It was all the small things that I missed, my pillow and teddy 'Dad', my Mum's cuddles, the comfort of a hoody and socks to walk around the house in. My best friends, and family. 

In just 7 days I get to see my mum as we cross the finish line and in just 10 days I get to go home. I've never been so excited to return back to 'normal' life, ever. It was a nice feeling knowing I had learnt to appreciate that though. Even if it had taken 1000 miles of walking across the country. P.s. incase you were wondering, Kate is still snoring next to me... some things never change.

Day 40; Seaside

Three words to describe today; challenging, painful but fun. 
After what we felt was a well-earned lie in we had breakfast and left for our 18 mile coastal path walk to Bude. And the sun was out, finally! We reached the sea and although tempted to jump straight in we had hills to climb, and lots of them. 

It was the first time we had seen the sea since Gretna in Scotland, and to me the seaside reminds me of my parents- they took us to the beach come rain or shine every weekend until I was 16, making this part of our trip special for me. 

We stopped for lunch 13 miles in next to a small sandy beach with two very large hills either side of us. Seeing holiday makers sunbathing made Kate and I quite jealous so we didn't stick around for long. Our next hill was one of the steepest yet, but for both of us it showed us how much fitter we were getting; we climbed it no problem, even in the gorgeous summer heat. 

However, as always, where there's an up there's a down. I now know what it feels like to be my 82 year old nan going down stairs, and I've decided getting old isn't going to be much fun. I snail-paced it as my knees were complaining- what I didn't know was things were about to get a lot worse. 

We looked across in to the distance and as Kate took in the glorious views, all I could see was three horses in our next field. As my stomach churned I continued on slowly trying to create any other possible pathway. I was out of luck, and by the time we had reached the gate the three horses were right there at the fence- waiting for us. 

Kate tried to calm me as she ran through step by step instructions of how to keep walking forwards, even when a horse is approaching you, tears starting rolling down my face in pure fear of my next challenge. I was gifted the smallest second where the horses turned their backs and you have never seen me run so fast in all my life (though considering the 22kg rucksack on my back, that's probably an exaggeration). 

I eventually looked round to check Kate was still alive and now with my knees and hands shaking, I was sweating all over. Keen to reach the next fence I continued, now heading up a hill with 30m or so between me and Kate, I started having a panic attack. Trying to breathe was hard enough besides the fact I couldn't see with all the tears blocking my view. 

I finally reached the gate and feeling grateful that I had made it through alive I tried to calm myself down and catch my breath again. It was crazy, I have dived with sharks and not been that scared... and to think they are just a four legged animal with a long tail. 

Leaving that experience behind I obviously let myself relax too much as I found us lost, walking forests with no path, climbing barbed wire fences and crossing streams, all for 90 minutes, just in circles. But I loved it, to me this was what the adventure was about- and as Melinda would say, make your own path and follow your senses. 

We finally found our final destination where Tabitha (my boss) was meeting us with her family at our campsite. A BBQ was cooked and prosecco poured, it was a perfect end to a challenging but fun day. And so lovely to see a familiar face. Tabs even let us share her 6 man tent- Kate and I felt it was a treat to have a different home for the night, without mentioning the pillow! It had been a great day, and now with only 8 days to go the count down was on!

Friday, 16 August 2013

Day 39; Inspirational

Waking to our little treat to ourselves- hotel= pillows and dryness. Heaven. We had breakfast on our beds and then set off for Clovelly, leaving Exmoor behind into North Devon. We walked along the A39 for 18 miles today, its a long national speed limit road with no footpath- as you can imagine it was monotonous.  

We did finally see the sea though, having not seen it since Gretna- on the boarder of Scotland, three weeks ago, this made me very happy! We joined the West coastal path for the final stretch in to Clovelly. 

Clovelly is the only village in Britain where all the houses are owned by one family- and you can get donkey rides on the cobbled streets (if you would so desire). It's a beautiful quaint village where no cars are allowed, and you pay for the privilege of walking down it- unless like Kate and I you turn up at 6pm, then you get a free stroll. We checked in to our hotel/B&B and went for dinner across the road (literally). 

After calling home in the evening I got chatting (no shock there) to a handsome guy outside (dont panic he was on his honeymoon). After the 'small talk' stage, 90 minutes later, he had gone on to tell me how he had MS, and was disabled only three years ago but since has gone on to climb the three peaks of Britain. After talking about walking 1100 miles across the country I felt a little silly- this man was a true inspiration.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Day 38; Challenge

It's raining its pouring but for once Kate isn't snoring! Our tent once folded resembled something fresh out of a washing machine- that had missed the 'quick spin' stage. Everything was wet. We were heading for Barnstable, 22 miles South Westerly. 

We started our day in the bottom of a valley where the river flow was fast due to the recent showers; the first footpath we were supposed to take had a polite sign 'please do not use'. Feeling out of luck we carried on forwards in hope of an alternative route. Seven miles off course, in the middle of marsh land filled with mud, slugs, quick sand, and long grass/ ferns both Kate and I were soaked through.

We had been walking for 4 and a half hours and hadn't even made it to 3 miles on our map. Then with a track on the opposite side of the river, we decided to cross. Now so far past 'damp' I walked straight across the middle of the river; my boots sunk under the water flow and without a care in the world I crossed (its times like these I need my wellies!). 

Climbing 500m in half a mile our legs got a good morning wake up call until we finally reached our first town- now 5 hours in. We continued on, hoods up, feet squelching- now in the middle of absolutely nowhere with just the odd sheep bleep to keep us entertained. Kate joked how she could go to the bathroom and no one would know as she was that soaked through. 

With rain dripping off my hood on to my face, and unable to see more than 20m infront of me, I found myself wondering what on earth I was doing!? And then I thought about how this challenge wasn't just an 1100 mile walk with 22kg rucksacks. It was about facing any weather that the English summer threw at us, keeping the morale high when you're lost in no man's land, coping with no phone signal for 4 days, and best of all, learning to smile every step of the way through it. 

So smiling away to myself, enjoying the adventure Kate and I had embarked on 38 days ago, now with only 10 days to go- we felt it was time for a treat. We cancelled our planned camping night and spoilt ourselves to a plush hotel with pillows and white linen- and a bath! 

Feeling delighted with ourselves we drank afternoon tea in the lounge area and then booked dinner for a leisurely 8.30. Dinner brought cocktails and all of a sudden Kate had forgotten about the agony her shoulder was in and I had dismissed the blisters that were so selfishly taking over my feet, and we just enjoyed ourselves. Completely enjoyed ourselves. Cheers to that!

Day 37; Navigator

Kate and I treated ourselves to a lie in this morning, 7.50 alarm set, delightful- and I never get bored of waking up on a pillow; its such a treat in the camping world. After a homecooked English breakfast we departed heading for Simonsbath. 

The walk was much the same as yesterdays, lots of hills, beautiful scenery, but the best part was the minimal pain from my feet. 2 paracetamol and 2 ibuprofen before starting is the trick- and it meant I could smile all day. 

We got slightly off track on a couple of footpaths, resorting us to ask the farmers and other ramblers (I'm getting to know the walking lingo now) to confirm where we were on the map. 

13 miles in we stopped for a break in the village tea shop- all I needed now was my wellies and I could have been a farmer. We bought food for dinner and finished off the final stretch to our campsite. We had showered and pitched our tent by 8pm so Kate and I had a picnic/dinner in our cosy tent (that now smells of jelly belly air freshener- a treat to ourselves for the final leg). 

We wrote home and then slipped into our sleeping bags by 9pm- out of phone signal left to an early night. Having really enjoyed today and not hating my feet on every step made a huge difference and so for the first time in a few days, I'm looking forward to tomorrow. Where guess what!? I'll be walking.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Day 36; Swimming

After our package of our next lot of maps hadn't been delivered to our campsite we had to go via the Royal Mail delivery office. It made a change to our morning routine. We went for breakfast in Bridgwater before setting off for Roadwater- which is in Exmoor National nature park. 

The walk was beautiful, such stunning views, brilliant sunshine, and giant hills. 25% gradient up, 25% down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. The only very small downfall to this wonderful day was my feet. Again. The blisters made it feel like walking on glass, some of them were now bleeding too. A strong dose of paracetamol and ibuprofen saw me through the day, until we reached our home for the night. 

A beautiful farmhouse; Kate and I enjoyed tea and scones on the lawns outside before I went swimming in their outdoor heated pool- amazing! I am loving this! After an hour in the bath we were both relaxing in our dressing gowns writing home with the t.v. on. Small problem was we haven't had dinner or lunch- and there aren't any restaurants here... breakfast will be served soon.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Day 35; Blisters

We woke to our neighbour still snoring away... as he became the subject of topic we made for a polite departure. We met Adrian for breakfast at Cheddar Gorge and once finished Cheryl joined us for our first six miles. It went so quickly, the sun was glorious and although the roads didn't make for great conversation builders, we still saw some amazing things, including a snake! 

Hayley then swapped for her first six miles- and had been busy at the shops buying us all the treats we could have possibly dreamed of. We met Adrian in a pub (after Cheryl had dragged herself from Rich's Cider Farm) and then we said goodbye to him as he headed back to London. It had been so lovely to see him- thank you so much for visiting Adrian! 

Once we had completed 15 miles we stopped for lunch- a picnic on the grass that Hayley had prepared; amazing! We finished the day past Bridgwater, having enjoyed the sunshine that had been smiling all day and appreciating the breeze that came with it. 

However, the blisters on my feet were so large now that they were really starting to burn in my boots. Let's just say I was pleased to see our campsite! After pitching our tent we headed for dinner and although I won at rock paper scissors to pay the bill, Cheryl insisted on it being her treat- thankyou darling! 

We said goodbye to the girls, it had been so so lovely so see them both and get a chance to have girly chit chats and enjoy a corona or deseranno and coke every now and then. It was exciting to think that the next time I would see them both it would be on the finish line. Crazy!

In the darkness of the night in Somerset, I saw what I thought was a beautiful shooting star above me. Little did I know that it was the magical Perseids meteor shower, the shower of shooting stars which can be seen each year when the Earth passes through the debris of the Comet Swift-Tuttle. We're a little bit out of touch down here and away from all the news!

Day 34; Tourists

Making our way to the local bakery at 9am for breakfast to be circled by hungry wasps who wanted our sausage sandwiches was just the start of what would be a delightful rest day. 8 miles to walk, bright clear blue skies, and my two sisters here, what more could I ask for!? Maybe a pot of tea? Banana milkshake? Ice cream? Yes I'll take it all, thank you. 

Hayley walked with us in the morning, it flew by as all we did was talk at each other for 3 hours... ignoring that her choice of shorts left a lot to be desired! 

Cheryl met us at Cheddar where we pitched our tent, made good use of the washing machine facilities and headed in to Cheddar Gorge to be tourists for the day. We met Adrian there for lunch; all in a line resting our feet and soaking up the sunshine on our patchwork tans. 

Me and the girls headed back to camp to catch the last rays, although after long debates, Cheryl drove me to Weston Super Mare A&E to have my new blisters checked out- as some had got worryingly large and others were sore/ red and questionably infected again. Joys. A&E failed to be of any use so we headed back to be in time for dinner. Hayley and Kate were outside in their sleeping bags, looking cosy and warm.  

We headed for dinner with Adrian at 8, enjoyed a lovely meal to the delightful treat of Hayley- thank you sweetheart! For four girls we were impressively all in bed by 11.30 avoiding talking our way through the night. 

This was until we realised our neighbour was the loudest snorer in Somerset and therefore we continued to giggle across our tents and discuss different tactics to make the poor man shut up before one of us polity sent a cricket bat in his direction (not that I ever condone violence!) Managing to avoid any further action on the man we all put our heads under our pillows and attempted to sleep. 2 weeks of our adventure left to go now!

Day 33; Happiness

We woke at 7 and headed to the Costa at the services for breakfast- a pot of tea, yes please! Today was such an exciting day, Adrian (one of my personal training clients and good friend) was heading to Bristol to see me and Kate for two days, and my sisters Cheryl and Hayley were heading down in the evening. 

The local postman drove past us in the morning and questioning if I had conditioned myself I couldn't help but think he was gorgeous! I later confessed this to Kate and she confirmed she had also had similar thoughts; clearly the talent was hiding in the country lanes of the West Country. Or in the pubs, as later on a very handsome young chap brought me and Kate a drink to congratulate us on our challenge. We were starting to like Exmoor! The Bristol balloon festival was on this weekend, so as we were walking we got to see the Red Arrow display- I love them, and it was amazing to see them whilst surrounded by sheep on a big hill in the middle of what felt like was no where.

Me & Kate started walking along the River Severn; the fields were filled with horses and cows- today I have officially learnt that I don't like farm animals- from a distance and close up- if they are bigger than me, I want a barbed wire fence between me and it! But as Kate tried to calm me down through the acres of marsh fields, I could see it would be a 6 mile+ detour to avoid such obstacles. Darn it. 

Adrian met us at one where he so kindly took our heavy rucksacks and swapped them for the cutest little day rucksacks, filled with chocolate and orange juice- he had all the essentials covered! 

We continued on, crossing dual carriage ways, fighting through endless pathways overgrown with stinging nettles and brambles, finding tunnels under roads that were shared with sewage pipes to find they had no exit and having to turn back on ourselves (again), and walking along motorways (and there was us thinking that was illegal- but no, its allowed in the West Country). 

We met Adrian for a quick drink around 5, another pot of tea on order, and then ate lunch as we walked. We finally finished our day in Cleeve, pitched our tent, showed and then the three of us went for dinner at a meze restaurant. The food was gorgeous and it was lovely to have company over dinner again. 

My sisters arrived around 10pm, hugging Hayley made my stomach do sumersaults- I had missed her so much! Now laying in my sleeping bag, with a pillow that Adrian had so kindly brought for us, listening to Kate snore (again) I can't help but smile. 

I've been onto Facebook and my Justgiving page and I've seen all the support from everyone at home; its so heart warming and encouraging to know that people care so much. Thank you to everyone for all of your support so far through our adventure, it means so much. 15 days to go!

Friday, 9 August 2013

Day 32; Crossing

The alarm went off at 7, we followed our standard morning routine and set off for the River Severn crossing. Me and Kate had spoken about this day since day one. To us, crossing this bridge was the biggest milestone yet. We felt as though we were on the home straight once we were over it, and that we would practically be on a summer holiday from here on in (I think we were forgetting about the remaining 350 miles to walk). 

After a 6 mile incline over one of Wales beautiful hilltops we could see the bridge- it would be the only day we could see our finish line for that day from almost the start line. Excitement was rising! To add to a great day, finally the sunshine had made an appearance. 

There was one downfall of the day; both of our feet were in pain, and I felt as though I was slipping back in to what week 1 felt like- nothing that a double dose of paracetamol and hobbling can't sort (experience teaches you that). 

We paused in a small village on our way to Chapstow, where a pleasant geologist villager offered us tea and biscuits in the comfort of his living room; keen to push on we declined, but smiling, as we remembered all the people who had been so lovely and kind to us along our journey. 

We had planned to stop for lunch before the bridge but as restaurants seemed non existent here we ended up not stopping at all until we had 'reached our finally destination'. The bridge is a mile and three quarters long, so there was plenty of opportunity for photo shoots midway across and absorbing the moment and all the achievement that came with crossing it. 

We finished our day at 3.45- feeling happy with ourselves we booked in to our Travelodge and enjoyed a quick afternoon nap in the sunshine. One of Kate's friends from home, Lily, had driven to Bristol to meet us for dinner- such a sweetheart! 

We went to a quirky tapas bar in Bristol town centre and treated ourselves to a cocktail in celebration. It was so nice to have company where we talked about everything other than walking- both I and Kate were able to forget about the challenges that the next 16 days ahead held for us, and instead just acted as though we were 'normal' students again.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Day 31; Birthdays

We rose at 7am and begun our journey in the hazed sunshine; over 350m inclines over the hills, down through more beautiful valleys and today, across rather fast flowing/deep streams. Walking through the Brecon Beacon National Park, the sights were stunning. 

We paused in a small village (which I won't even begin to attempt to pronounce) which was like stepping back in time. They had plaques up on the stoned walls for the toll that were once used in the 15th century. The streets were cobbled and filled with small boutique type shops and bakeries. We stopped in a quaint little pub (dont panic, just for a cola!) and we met a lady celebrating her 90th Birthday. She was so sweet, she sponsored us. 

We finished out walk at Pont Kemies, pitched our tent and walked a mile to the nearest restaurant (making our day 28 miles by the end). Our dinner was really delicious and the owners kindly sponsored both I and Kate £10 online. 

We both called home on our 25 minute walk back to our tent which as always, was lovely. Shame to come home to 2 new blisters though. Never mind. Tomorrow is a big milestone day so I was off to bed before I could worry about it.

Day 30; Sprint

We woke at 7 as a 30 mile day loomed on us. 

Breakfast was super yummy, and with our bags packed we were ready to go. Cheryl started the day with us, walking 7 miles to Everjobb. Then it was Precious's turn; the scenery was beautiful, bold green hills and long stretches of barley layered the bottoms of valleys. 

What Precious wasn't so keen on was 'Mount Everest's sister' as she named it. The 350m incline that brought us to a stunning view point across Herefordshire and Powey (good job she didn't join us in Scotland for the highlands). 

We had our first break at 13 miles, Cheryl had brought us homemade cake/cheesecake as our treat- perfect! Cheryl then swapped back again with Precious for an 8 mile stint across the Herefordshire National Walkway. 

We met Walter the Whitney Bridge Troll and were bowled over by the generosity of the lady who keeps the bridge who sponsored us £50, amazing, thank you so much! 

We finally stopped for lunch after 21 miles (it was now 6pm) on someone's roadside lawn. Thank you! Still in good spirits Cheryl headed off with us again, and went on to walk with us until the end of our day, having completed 23 miles- congrats! 

The sunset was beautiful tonight and as I stopped to take a quick snap Kate had continued on. This is the moment I decided it would be a good idea to ask Cheryl to a race to Kate (now about 120m away). Although I was hobbling it was actually nice to do something other than walk for once, and it was nice to beat Cheryl in a sprint after walking 700 miles in a month!  

Once we were finished we went to a recommended Mexican restaurant. The food was exactly what we all needed. Finally we drove to our campsite and pitched our tent in the dark (10.30pm) and as keen tent putter uppers we were finished in record time. 

We said goodbye to my sisters and got ready for bed with anticipation for our next marathon tomorrow. It had been so lovely with Cheryl and Precious here, I didnt want them to leave!

Don't forget you can sponsor me at - every little helps!