Day 13: Today 19.40 miles (Total 169.00 miles).
Donations to UK Solidarity Fund today: £3,230.00 (Total: £6,401.38)
It was a great start to the day with news from Anna Reaich at the British Red Cross that a number of donations had been received from my parliamentary colleagues in the House of Lords. I would like to give them a huge ‘shout out’ for their generosity in support of the UK Solidarity Fund and our walk, so here it goes:
Lord Young of Cookham; Lord Dobbs; Baroness O’Cathain; Baroness Evans of Bowes Park; Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach; Lord Jopling; Lord Best; Lord Taylor of Holbeach; Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood; Lord Glendonbrook; Earl Howe; Lord Cope; Baroness Wilcox; Lord Leigh plus colleagues from the House of Commons: Dame Caroline Spelman MP; Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP.
I realise, as I am a recipient also, that they all receive scores of requests for support of worthy causes. It is a huge encouragement that so many have chosen to support this cause and this initiative. It also means that our total with almost a third of the walk complete is now £6401. It certainly put a spring in our step this morning as we recommenced the walk in Bristol.
The highlights of the day were:
I thoroughly enjoyed my walk out through Horfield which has a Bohemian ( a French term meaning unconventional) feel about it, a bit like Camden Town or Notting Hill in London. I loved the unusual shops and especially the second hand book shops–I could happily spend hours in such places. There was also a better class of graffiti on the pavement in north Bristol!
I then walked up through Filton and past the Airbus factory on the same site where Concorde was manufactured in the 1970s. Concorde was the most futuristic aircraft that has ever been built–the fact that it still looks magnificent and futuristic 14 years after it was retired from service is testament to that. Today it still manufacturers wings for Airbus and employs 4500 people. In case someone was worried about the future of Airbus post Brexit simply needs to visit the site which is currently undergoing a massive expansion creating a new Airbus Wing Integration Centre which will create hundreds of new jobs. British manufacturing is performing extremely strongly now after losing its competitiveness in the seventies and eighties.
An unexpected treat was waiting at the Aztec Business Park at Patchway– the most interesting Starbucks Coffee shop I have seen housed in a building like a country inn, in fact it was a former farm house of Hempton Farms who went out of business when the M5 was built through their dairy farm. I stopped again for a Grande Skinny Latte.
I arrived into Almondsbury on the A38 and caught my first glimpse of the Severn Road Bridge–it was much further away that I had anticipated. I missed my turning and ended up walking down The Scop and Lower Court Road to get back onto Tockington Lane. In Tockington there was a surprise waiting in the shape of four very energetic young Red Cross fundraisers (Mark James, Sania Ali, Mitch Jones and Kern Routly) whom Xuelin had met asking for directions. They were such impressive young people working from 12 noon to 8pm each day to raise funds for the Red Cross. We found an instant comradeship in our respective endeavours for the same cause.
Finding my way through Olveston and onto the Severn Bridge was a huge challenge with several wrong turns. When I eventually got onto the bridge it was quite thrilling having low railings, high winds gusting up the estuary from the Atlantic and a large drop to the River Severn below. I tried a Facebook ‘Livestream’ and promptly dropped my iPhone. I am not sure whether anyone watched. Half way across the mile-long bridge I saw a familiar figure, Xuelin, walking towards me it was like that shimmering scene out of Lawrence of Arabia We walked back together across the Severn and the Wye and eventually into Wales.
We are staying in Chepstow preparing for our walk down to Cardiff tomorrow. On the tv were recordings of the services to mark 100 years since the Battle of Passchendaele–a battle of the First World War known for its brutality and tragic waste of human life; in three months there had been over 500,000 casualties. By chance one of the songs that was played was The Farm’s song ‘All together Now’ about the Christmas Truce of 1914.
It was a poignant reminder of the ‘pity of war’ in the words of Wilfred Owen. As the dignitaries stood before the thousands of neat Portland stone headstones in the Tyne Cot cemetery I hope to the fore of their mind were the words of King George V when he opened the cemetery on 11 May 1922:
We can truly say that the whole circuit of the Earth is girdled with the graves of our dead. In the course of my pilgrimage, I have many times asked myself whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon Earth through the years to come, than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war.
As sabres are once again being rattled around the world it is timely leaders should reflect on the catastrophic events in those Belgian fields 100 years ago and take heed of the messages of the ‘silent witnesses’ to the desolation of war.