Day 18: 23.00 miles (Total 247.30 miles).
Donations to UK Solidarity Fund today: £0.00 + ¥12,672.00 (Total: £6,633.38 + ¥32,483.66)
Inspired by the fact that Xuelin had booked us a fantastic B&B on a perfect route for Worcester I set off up Pope’s Hill at 6:30AM with half a thought that I could make Worcester, 31 miles away, by evening.
I was walking through a beautiful area of the Forest of Dean and the Malvern Hills. This meant that the roads were more like a roller coaster with steep hills, sharp twists and turns, and ankle breaking steep declines.
If this were Day 1 rather than Day 18 of the walk then I would change mind and back onto the long but flat route of the A48 along the River Severn. I often make in of the fact that I am so out of shape and old but I am still able to walk further than when I was aged 14 and failed to complete a 16 mile sponsored walk. On days like this I realise that my growing age and growing stomach are catching up with me faster than I can walk.
I did walk through some beautiful villages on the way–Blaisdon was a gem but the first large town I travelled through was Newent. Newent Has an amazing Market House in the square. It records that King Henry III in 1223 gave permission for a weekly market their. I was thinking why on earth would you need the King’s permission to have a weekly market? Buying and selling goods is so instinctive.
As I looked into it I found that it was more of a coordinating mechanism to ensure that neighbouring towns didn’t hold markets on the same day. 1223 was just 8 years after the great Magna Carta was signed in 1215 establishing certain rules governing the relationship between the king and the barons (Lords). One of these rules, Clause 35 to be precise, was to agree a national set of weights and measures and therefore official markets would be required to abide by these rules, so consumer protection in its early form.
Whilst in Newent I popped into a very busy café called The Italian Kitchen. It was across the road from the church and it seemed that everyone, including the vicar and the organist, came in for a tea and a bacon sandwich before church–I like the church already. It didn’t take long for them to spot the stranger in the midst and enquire about my t-shirt and my walk. What a friendly place Newent is. Xuelin and I have often talked about having somewhere in the country we could escape to for relaxation away from London–Newent is now certainly on that list.
I met up with Xuelin in Redmarley D’Abitot at lunch. Redmarly was the place of a famous battle in the English Civil War in 1644. Today things are a little quieter round here, there was a flower festival. Xuelin shoed me pictures she had taken in the beautiful English garden of Blakemore where we had stayed the night before. I love flowers, blue hyacinth are my favourites. Someone said ‘flowers are the earths laughter. They are also the most elaborate of nature’s market places as flowers evolve spectacular booms and scents to attract pollinators especially bees.
Also happening was a tea and cake stall in the village hall–no surprises where I ended up. The whole effort was to raise funds for the Redmarley Church Heritage Society which is seeking to raise funds for urgent repairs to the village church of St Bartholomews. A worthy cause as it is a beautiful parish church. Of course like the flowers and markets their value is not just in the activity but in the social pollination (metaphorically speaking!) that take place around them.
Xuelin was concerned whether I was able to walk any further when she saw me. The Redmarley fruit cake certainly helped to stiffen my resolve and I said I would try and make it to Welland. In fact I went past there and finished in Hanley Swan. No since Day 2 of the walk from Westminster to Windsor have I been so utterly exhausted at the end of the day. Also because I was travelling down backroads and small villages on a Sunday there were no shops open at all in the afternoon to buy water let alone top up supplies of Ibuprofen.
We had planned to take the longer flatter route around to Tewksbury and booked accommodation there. It looked like an amazing town with many historic buildings, and great places to eat but I was so utterly exhausted we went to rest and recover at our accommodation–picking up 4 ice cold bottle of lucozade on the way.
As I lay motionless next to Xuelin watching the movie ‘Dirty Dancing’ on Channel 5 one of Xuelin and my all time favourites I joked that I would recreate the famous ‘Time of my life’ Patrick Swayze/Jennifer Grey ‘lift scene’ hen we finish in Edinburgh, but quietly I began to have real doubts as to whether I could make it to Manchester never mind Edinburgh.