comments iconDay 8: Newbury to Marlborough


Today Walked:  22.40 miles 

Total walk:  104.20 miles 

Today raised: £ 100.00

Total raised fund: £ 2657.5

This was a day to remind us why were are doing this walk:

The newspapers were full of coverage of the funeral yesterday of eight year old Saffie Roussos, the youngest victim of the terrorist attack at the Manchester Arena, and the final of the 22 victims to be laid to rest. As is the utter tragedy of this loss were not enough the funeral had to be delayed because her mother was also severely wounded in the attack and had been in hospital in a coma. This was the first day she was able to leave hospital since 22 May and it was to attend her beautiful daughter’s funeral.

There was such dignity and courage as Saffie’s mother stood with crutches to watch Saffie’s coffin pass into Manchester Cathedral. The exact human qualities which were so absent in the person who carried out the attack. I understand war and that some men get find a glory in it which eludes them in peace but this wasn’t an act of war. It was a despicable crime.

To detonate a bomb with metal bolts in it next to a little girls coming out of a pop concert carrying nothing but a carton of popcorn and happy memories leads to question what have we become as a society when someone can be as sick as to even think of such an evil act never mind carry it out.

We wanted to stand in solidarity with them and the other victims of terrorism hence our support for the UK Solidarity Fund through which the British Red Cross is seeking to bring some help and comfort to the victims.

For these reasons that it was a sober start to the day as I set off from Newbury–I confess to feeling depressed and angry. I walked out of Newbury along the Bath Road and A4. The weather was cool and showery, perfect conditions for walking. Not long into the walk I came across a small village with a strange name ‘Halfway’. I discovered that the name was given because of the Halfway Inn which was halfway between London and Bristol for coaches.

The coach service between London and Bristol was started by John Palmer a theatre owner in 1784, and it was a transport revolution, the high-speed rail of its day. It cut the journey time down from 38 hours for the 120 miles journey to 16 hours.  The coach and four horses left Bristol at 4AM and arrived into London at 8PM. The horse drawn coaches expanded rapidly not just between London and Bristol but new routes soon opened up to Norwich, Liverpool, Portsmouth and even Edinburgh. The four horses were averaging 7.5 miles per hour, I was averaging 3 mph but it will take me over a week to make Bristol.

It is one of the reasons why I have always believed that infrastructure is the best investment you can make as it opens up trade and development. No government has ever regretted investing in infrastructure; High Speed Rail, Cross Rail, bridges, roads, public transport systems once they are in place we all wonder how we managed without them. It also provides a staggering return on investment as China will realise in generations to come with its investment in high speed rail and road. By 2016 China had constructed 12,000 km of high speed rail, in the UK we have 108km linking the Channel Tunnel to London so we really need to get a move on with HS2 connecting Birmingham/Manchester and Leeds to London.

Next stop was Hungerford which I arrived at around lunchtime and met up with Xuelin. There was a Red Cross shop in the town so we paid them a visit and I was offered a cup of tea and a seat by manger, Inger May and volunteer, Helen Doyle. It was a great to meet people doing great work for the local community. Helen is a teacher and uses all her holidays to volunteer in the Red Cross shop, I joked “You’ll never read about that in the papers!” she smiled but she realised that great truth that it is more blessed to give than to receive. The more we give, the more we receive, not in the same ways but often in more meaningful and enduring ways.

There was more rain in the afternoon creating vast pools with which I would be regularly sprayed as I walked along but rather than mention the drivers who seemed to take some joy in soaking a road walked let me give a ‘shout-out’ to two large Waitrose lorries who held up the traffic behind to let me walk around some of the roadside pools. In life we have a choice as to what we focus on and it makes all the difference:

Tonight I want to focus on the incredible courage of Lisa Roussos (Saffie’s mum) the amazing voluntary service of Helen and Inger at the Red Cross  shop in Hungerford and the Kindness of the two truck drivers from Waitrose.