2013 Walk - The Heart of England Way
Well, we're all back after a memorable five days!! Very many thanks to all of you - walkers, backup team, and of course sponsors. Both the Youth Hostel and the hotel were amongst the best we've been to. And even the weather was well up to St Luke's standard!
Now it's time to tackle our sponsors, and don't forget to tick the Gift Aid box.
Brian and Sue Monk have been quick off the mark with an excellent diary of the walk:
Sue and I volunteered to walk for St Luke's several months ago. Back then it all seemed a long way off, and we were very relaxed about doing it. After all we were keen, regular walkers, so what could be so hard? We were encouraged to go on the training walks so we cleared our diaries from early February, little suspecting that the first few months of 2013 were to be the coldest for many years! 180 muddy, wet, cold and snowy miles later and we were prepared for anything.
A really good benefit of the training walks was that we got to know a lot of the regular walkers before the event. Although we had been walking in the Chilterns for years, we discovered new areas to walk which we will revisit in the months ahead.
Eventually the big day came, with a very early start at Kenton Grange. Some hours of coach travel later we arrived at the start of the Heart of England Way near Stafford with seventy or so fellow walkers, armbands on and ready to go. And off we went at a good pace, although it turns out that this was one of the slower days! The first checkpoint soon arrived with a drink, a word of encouragement and a handful of Jelly Babies.
We walked through the lovely Cannock Chase, an area of pine forest and sandy tracks, to the finish at the Drill Inn. Beer has never tasted so good. Then back on the buses for a long drive back to Stratford Youth Hostel. This was once a very grand house. The rooms, though adequate and even en-suite, were not at all palatial, definitely not enough room to swing a cat! Never mind, the food was basic and plentiful and there was even a bar.
Another early start on Friday, when we were awakened by a knock on our door with the cry "any foot problems?". Fortunately none for us. A slap-up breakfast, then off we went on the coach and arrived at what was supposed to be the start, only it wasn't. Turns out that there were two places called Church End within a couple of miles of each other. Eventually we found the right one and set off walking. Tricky route finding and lots and lots of fields over 18 miles. Bluebell woods and stately homes and over the M6 with views of Birmingham in the distance. Eventually arrived, not too worn out, at the Navigation Inn for another well earned pint (bit of a theme here).
The next day (Saturday) started from where we left off the previous day, initially along the canal. Another 18 or so miles through more interesting country - more woods and hills, again finishing at pub. This was the only day on which it rained, but not too much thank goodness.
The Sunday route was a leisurely(!) 14 miles into the Cotswolds, finishing in the lovely village of Chipping Campden. In the evening we all gathered at the hotel for the last night dinner. An evening of fun and good company. Some very amusing performances and quite a late evening.
Suddenly it was the last day. No major problems with feet or legs so we were able to enjoy the walk in bright sunshine. Arrival at the finish in Bourton-on-the-Water was tremendous - great camaraderie and a sense of achievement (even a medal), and yet another well-earned pint.
What a great experience! As first timers we were made to feel welcome and were well looked after. We met some great characters and we are missing people already. We are fitter than we have ever been. Now all we need to do is gather the sponsorship money from our very generous sponsors.
Brian and Sue Monk
So that you can see what a lovely walk it was, our team wrote descriptions of each of the five days. For the first day, click here. This will come up in another window. Each day's page has links to the other days.
Reports on the Training Walks are on the Training Walks web page. Many thanks to our volunteer leaders.
All walkers were saddened to hear of Bryan's sudden death. He was one of the most active supporters of the annual walks, and will be hard to replace. Many attended the memorial service at St Mary's Church, Harrow Hill. A memorial walk will be arranged later, probably following one of the routes along the Grand Union Canal that Bryan planned and often led in the geologically interesting Colne Valley.