The “Holiday” – Back-to-Back Walks

Day 1

One of the most difficult challenges I will face on the walk is getting up the day after a long trek and doing another one immediately.

For the Easter weekend I went on holiday with my family, in some small huts, in the middle of nowhere. It was a perfect place to test out the back-to-back walking.

On the Saturday I plotted a small route around the surrounding villages and towns, to meet up in Long Itchington at the pub, a good as stopping point as any.

On route there were plenty of different path types to get my feet in shape, from country roads, to dusty trails, knobbly mud paths, and routes through farmer’s fields.

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I arrived first in Ufton, a rather small village on a main road, with a quaint church on the top of the hill. A brief rest at a bench, and it was off again from the country roads and through a fields and a path that ran through a small wood, filled with bluebells.

The next town was Southam, and it really was a town, rather large and the magic of English countryside lost to the all too familiar high street chains.

Not much further it was Long Itchington, which stretched from the canal (where one can take in a nice beer at the Two Boats, a small, traditional pub, with a range of ales and other drinks) to the centre of town where a modern gastro-pub (full of expensive, but very nice foreign lagers and the usual ciders) sits opposite a more local country pub, filled with locals of course (a more traditional fare of familiar chain ales and lagers, but a nice and comfy pub nonetheless).

The men and the women of the family split up at this point, as we were coaxed into another local pub, for another drink, before we ambled home, following a small river, but missing our turning back to the site. We were left with three options: circle back round to the bridge, press on following the river to a main road, or attempting to cross the river. My uncle and younger brother decided the latter was for them, as the group split once more, we believed our journey would be longer, but a little less wet. To our surprise, we ended up being back at the lodgings first, and only through video footage, and seeing the two return covered head-to-toe in water, did we find out that the river crossing was a little more fraught than they anticipated, with my uncle falling head-over-heels into the river.

My uncle, Neil, by the way, lives in Lincoln, and I will be staying with him, and attempting not to be led astray whilst he treks the first day of the walk with me.

From the route below, you can see that I racked up a rather hefty walk, still shy of the actual days of the walk itself, but climbing steadily.

Holiday - Day 1

Day 2

The second day was a little less action-packed than the first, and I was accompanied for the whole walk with the family. It was circuit of sorts that went through the small, and lovely villages just north of where were staying. However, the distinct lack of pubs up this way meant that we went to the Red Lion in Hunningham twice en route. A modern take on countryside pubs, it wasn’t quite a gastro-pub. It did serve a lot of local beers and ciders and was a warm and comfortable place with friendly staff. It was only a shame that the rain set in on the second day, as it was situated next to a river and the outside seating looked rather nice.

We struggled back after our second stop in the pub and to home. Another day, of similar length to the first, and I am starting to feel a lot more confidence in my feet. With no blisters, but a little soreness in my bones, it feels as though keeping my feet in decent shape will be the key for surviving the whole ordeal.

Holiday - Day 2

Another week of rest, and it’s time to put some serious mileage in next weekend.

Day Beta – The Endurance Test

As the weeks tick by, and the first day of the walk draws nearer, it was time to put my body and mind to the test. The plan was to walk The Brampton Valley Way from Northampton to Market Harborough. Around 6 hours of walking, comparable to my last two days on the walk itself.

It was a sunny Saturday, perfect conditions for walking, and I set off from home. Although a short detour via work was necessary, as I had left some things there. As you may come to find out, I am rather forgetful, and so triple checks are going to become vital if I’m going to make it.

The Brampton Valley Way was constructed on the path of an old railway, now dismantled, so the path has very little elevation to it.

I found myself walking behind some young adults with very little clothing on, they were loud, but enjoying themselves. The only thing that irked me about them, was that they were going to get mightily sunburnt.

Close to the Northampton start point, the route follows what looked to be a newly built railway, although there were no active trains at this point. I later discovered that is the Northampton and Lamport Railway, a heritage railway that runs throughout the summer. It was certainly a lovely recreation, with carefully maintained signal-boxes, and the remnants of once glorious carriages adorning the tracks, later down the line.

After the railway, the route was pretty much beautiful view, after beautiful view, as it snaked through the Northamptonshire countryside.

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One thing that stood out to me, and something I hadn’t considered, was the substantial amount of benches, put along the path in memory of others. One notable bench was placed in honour of “Big John”, and invited you to sit and enjoy his favourite view, which I duly obliged. It’s interesting that on this path, there are hidden little pockets of viewing, which hold such meaning and significance to other people, and that sitting at these benches lets you sit in the mind of somebody else, if only for a moment, and see the world as they do. I don’t have a favourite view, maybe I haven’t travelled enough, seen enough views to consider one my own, or I’ve never been in the frame of mind to consider it in such depth. The closest I got was having a favourite tree, but it doesn’t exist anymore, torn down to make way for a Marina. Perhaps one day I’ll be lucky enough to have another favourite tree, or a view of my own. For that moment though, I was content in borrowing Big John’s.

Mentally, I felt like I had what it took for the journey. I was making good speed and enjoying the scenery, egged on by some music. For this walk, the one album that stood out was Birdy – by Birdy. It was recommended to me by James Legg, a person I work with, and is a beautiful album. It is mainly a lot of songs written by others, but it’s her voice that stands out and gives something pure, a different perspective to the original lyrics.

Unfortunately, around the 10 miles mark, my feet started to become painful, and the dreaded blisters were upon me. I don’t think my feet have ever had a test this stern before and at the point of a footbridge, that looked as rusted as my feet felt, I made my way off the Brampton Valley Way and called it a day at Maidwell. As you can see from the image below, it was still a distance, and half of what my biggest days on the walk will be.

Maidwell Walk

For now, it’s time to rest up and let the feet recover, ready to do some more walking next weekend.

Day Alpha – Test day

After acquiring new gear for the trip, it was time to put it all to the test. With new boots/backpack/lightweight clothes donned, I took a quick walk around Delapre Abbey and to one of the Eleanor Crosses, in Northampton, that lives just down the road from where I am.

 

It was a good test of the gear, with a quick 1 hour walk, new boots felt comfortable and the camel-pack worked a delight.

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Along the walk I came upon a couple with several dogs, some of which were a little belligerent, and as I passed, heard cries of “Chanel” towards the Chihuahua-like creatures. I didn’t stick around long enough to hear the shouts for Tiffany and Calvin.

The selfie action is new to me, and will have to be perfected, as the walk is mainly a solo one.

Next week, I’m hoping to do a more intensive walk, to really put things to the test and get everything ready for the big trek.