comments iconDay 9: Marlborough to Chippenham


Today walked: 21.20 miles

Total walk: 125.40 miles

Today raised: £ 413.88

Total raised fund: £ 3071.38


We were staying at The Bear which was a very friendly pub right in the centre of the impressive English market town of Marlborough and serves the most amazing full English cooked breakfast. The Karaoke went on late into the evening so we were delighted when it was announced that ‘Angels’ by Robbie Williams was going to be the last song of the night. Karaoke is not an activity to entered in sober. The activity becomes progressively more melodic the more alcohol that is consumed.

It was an early start down the very long high street at the far end of which is the famous Marlborough College one of England’s top Independent (private) boarding schools. I would suggest that education is certainly one of our greatest exports. Our private and public schools rival those of Switzerland in giving young men and women a fantastic start in life for those who can afford the £30,000 to £40,000 fees.

Private schools can be the source of vigorous debate. Critics point to the number of senior judges, civil servants, politicians and even Olympians attend such schools. I suppose it is one of those defining political identity questions. My view despite never having the chance of such an incredible education myself or being able to afford to provide it for my children I am a huge fan of schools because they are good, in fact very good at what they do.

In my view you will never grow if you seek to close down brilliance, rather it should be celebrated and then emulated. I could no more be against elite education than I could be against elite sport, elite arts or elite business. Elite performance gives all something to aim at. Moreover, today these schools have a very different make up from a century ago. There are far more children from poorer families been given scholarships to study there and there is huge competition for fee paying places from Asian children who know that we have some of the best schools in the world.

Sorry that is a slow start and there is a lot to pack in as today has been eventful. My route along the A4 took me past Avebury home to the famous Stone Circle. I visited The Sanctuary which is on the Ridgeway Footpath. It is quite something to thing at our Stone Age ancestors were constructing these places of worship 4500 years ago. I then was so inspired by Silbury Hill, a huge man-made Neolithic burial mound and got so carried away I tried to climb it forgetting I was 56 not 26 and then slipped and hurt my back. Anyway I would have loved to have talked to them to ask them what they thought they were doing and why?

I also wonder what sites built today might attract streams of visitors in 4500 years from now. I think places of worship will still be a draw–Durham Cathedral, York Minster, Westminster Abbey. Castles like Windsor and Edinburgh. I think our sporting venues will be popular–Olympic Stadium, Wembley Stadium, Wimbledon, Twickenham and of course St James Park (home of Newcastle United Football Club). But my guess is most will still be showing up to visit Stone Henge and the Stone Circle at Avebury. Not unless we want to build something else in our times that will capture the imagination and communicate through the ages with future times, but what would that be?

Xuelin is shuttling back and forth in the car making sure I have water and of course that I am still walking. We have done six of these walks together–almost 8000 miles, through 23 countries and about 500 days and nights on the road together. Though I say it myself, we are a great team in other words we do far more together than either of would be capable of individually. Xuelin strengths are my weaknesses and visa versa (though don’t tell her that).

Xuelin spotted that there was a Red Cross shop in Chippenham where we were going to finish today and suggested we visit but that would mean getting there by 5pm when it closed. I was in Calne about six miles out so two hours, it was 3PM so at 3mph I should make it just. I pushed myself to try and up my pace to 3.5 mph but then I found my back injury from Silbury Hill getting worse and worse. I was limping and leaning to my on my right side. I then took a wrong turn at the Pewsham roundabout instead of going straight on I followed the signs marked ‘Town Centre’ which was the bypass for traffic. Still I managed to struggle to reach the town centre and got there at 5:10pm–the shop manager Jan Lloyd had very kindly stayed back to welcome me.

It was then to the hotel (The Angel) which was right in the centre and a hot bath, all the time hoping that my excess of Day 9 would not have consequences for Day 10 or longer.