The Long Walk

Reviewed by PJS

 


It seems a long time ago now but back at the beginning of July the adventure began! Tina dropped off Milo and myself in the centre of Windsor fully intending to get a nice photo outside the Masonic centre.
A zealous traffic warden soon put paid to that idea and Tina only managed a quick snap by the car near the Town Hall!! I tried a 'selfie'
outside the Masonic Hall which finished up looking a bit odd!
Anyway after that inauspicious start we set off to walk to Sindlesham via Wokingham. After a dull start weather wise it soon warmed up we (dog pulling dad) made good progress in westerly direction.
As Milo much prefers the grassy track with the interesting smells we rather zigzagged our way across East Berkshire rather than 'as the pidgeon' might fly!
At Moss End we took on some liquid refreshment at a hostelry (water) and again at Binfield (beer) and made good time at Wokingham where we were made very welcome by Tim Dummer & co.
There we were also presented with cheques & cash and after a brief rest headed off once more. Our arrival at Sindlesham at about 4.30pm was a private affair and after 6 hours walking a cup of tea with our feet up beaconed rather strongly (well I assume for Milo too) and we went home.

The first leg completed!

The next leg from Sindlesham to Newbury we knew would be a challenge (well I did Milo didn't know what to expect). At 24/25 miles it was not only a long way but the hot spell of weather was it seemed getting hotter! We made an early start and taking our life in our own hands ran along Mill Lane towards Lower Earley, that was probably the most dangerous part of the whole walk!!
Having cut through Lower Earley as quickly and directly as possible we joined the Kennet and Avon canal which would take us right into the centre of Newbury.
Having covered those first four miles in just under an hour Milo decided to keep up that pace because although warm to very warm he had a ready made cooling off method ...a dip in the river Kennet!! Dad was not so lucky but soldiered on ... The aim was to make the' Row Barge' at Woolhampton by lunch time, we made it at 1.15 pm (18 miles in 4 and 1/4 hours ) One of us was starting to ache!! The Pub was full of people supporting a Rotary Duck Derby which had just finished so service was very slow! However after a pint and a sausage (some went to Milo) and over an hour's rest we were back on the tow path to Newbury.
There was a brass band to welcome us into Victoria park in the town centre (not sure Milo quite as keen) and we made it to the Masonic centre just before 5 pm.
The reception committee of four would have given us a cup of tea but the kettle didn't work - John Gilbert drove off with it to get it fixed and we didn't see him again! After taking a few photos Paul Wilding very kindly gave us a lift back to Sindlesham to collect our car, Milo must have been tired as he dropped off to sleep on the way back! Still one has to remember that with all the running ahead and then back he probably covered more like 35 miles!

Second leg completed (the longest!)

Another warm Sunday heralded the third leg from Newbury to Wantage. Not quite as far but definitely not flat! Again concentrating on footpaths and bridle ways we made our way over the beautiful rolling Berkshire Downs it was so warm we ran out of water and were rescued by a very kind resident on route who must get many requests in warm weather.
After joining the Ridgeway for a short distance and being 'buzzed ' by four Biplanes off to some show we made our final approach to Wantage. That last 2/3 miles was baking hot with no cover so when we reached the first shade we dived in and cooled down. A short trek through the town and we were there at the centre.
What a reception -lots of people - well 6/8 and High Tea provided by Peter and Angie Rushton. Perhaps they wondered who was mad enough to walk all that way in the heat ! Seriously it was a great reception even Milo thought he was special.

Third leg over and that was all the longest parts completed


After a two week break we took on Wantage to Wallingford. The weather had decided to change and the forecast was wet with the remnants of a hurricane passing through!!! On arriving at the start I was delighted to be joined by Ian Hopgood who was going to walk with us to Wallingford. We started well but I soon got into animated conversation (remember I had no one to talk to for 60 miles) the consequence was that I forgot to look at the map!! We deviated from the planned route and I have to confess got lost finishing up walking back towards our starting point. Ian told me to stop a young lady on a bicycle to find out where we were on the OS sheet. She very kindly put us straight and we retraced our steps having wasted over an hour going the wrong way!!! The end of the hurricane finally caught up with us and it tipped down, I think Ian having just shorts and a waterproof top found his shoes and socks filling up! A couple of short sharp showers later and we were approaching the onlyPeters Walk.jpgwatering hole on the route so we had a pit stop for Ian to change his socks!
Ian had to go off to play five-a-side (must be mad) so he got picked up at South Moreton. My lack of direction meant we had covered the distance but not in the right order and so he ran out of time! Milo and myself pressed on joining a small stream flowing towards Wallingford. We had a slight hold up when 30 or so cows blocked the way and Milo refused to challenge them on the basis that they were a lot bigger than him! Dad had to first move the cows, not I confess my top skill, and make sure they were far enough away!! We made it and because we were over an hour late there was quite a party going on with the large reception group (nothing to do with the bar being open) Tea and hotdogs awaited (most appropriate I thought). Frank Hames who ferried us to Wantage in the morning spoilt Milo with Sausage Duck Pate etc --he didn't want to leave!!

A bit more tired than we should have been that was leg four done

The next leg from Wallingford to Pangbourne followed the Thames Path and I was accompanied by Alan Miles. We had both left our cars at Pangbourne and been ferried back to Wallingford by Frank Hames (ever ready to help - so nothing changes there). Off we went on what I thought was to be a dry walk until Iain Ross on our departure said it's going to rain at 11am weirdly it did so we got wet again! Milo didn't care. We did, sort of, dry out and after a picturesque walk made it to Pangbourne over the nearly repaired Whitchurch toll bridge and were greeted by Alan Spearman with a very welcome cup of tea and some dog biscuits.

With Alan's help 5th leg was overLong Walk - Final Leg.jpg

The last leg to Caversham also followed the Thames path and was nearer 8 miles than 6! It also meant that we had to skirt the Reading Festival which was on the same weekend. When we passed them they seemed to be making their way to Breakfast!! Milo enjoyed some snacking on remnants of sausage and bacon on the way. We tried to avert our gaze from most but not all of the weird sights on offer and struggling through the crowds we cleared Caversham bridge and made it to the centre albeit slightly later than planned.

A warm welcome awaited with tea and cake . Wow we had done it

Did we (I) enjoy it.

Well yes in a way it was a challenge but also good fun.

I have to say that John Cooley who supplied me with the excellent OS sheets was a great help with the planning . Thank you John.

Did Milo enjoy it - yes I think he'd do if all again!! But he is only 3!!

My sincere thanks also go to all those who sponsored, met, fed, watered, ferried, walked etc.

Peter Sands