29 April

29 April

Dear Humphrey

Having collected you from your kennel this morning and caused such huge excitement, I need now to explain my absence.

We had a wonderful week with friends in Connemara and Mum had a very happy birthday. The weather was great. Lots of sun, a fair amount of rain but it never got in the way. We did some walking, golfing , a little boating and lots of eating. So much so that I managed to put back on what I had lost in my three weeks walk across England.

Now I am at Portsmouth harbour and about to board the overnight ferry to St Malo. It is as cold down here as it was when I left you in Norfolk. I have to say leaving home and you all was not easy. I am going to miss you all but I am sure the time will fly by and I know Mum is going to be very busy with all the wedding plans and her history group.

I am a bit nervous about taking on this adventure. I have no idea where I will be staying for the next few nights. My guide indicates only camping sites in a number of places where the recommended day’s travel ends and so with no tent and no sleeping bag I might need a few tips from you on how to sleep on the ground and stay warm! I am going to miss my lovely bed.

Geoff Probert is joining me for a week on day three and I know he has been researching accommodation very wisely!

I am overwhelmed however with the support I am being given on social media for the cause and by the hugely generous donations. Big thanks to my friends at Ryston Park Golf Club, whom you know well and who are laying on some charity days in support.. no doubt delighted we are not cluttering up the course! Big thanks too to many others. They are all spurring me on and hopefully provide you with a good reason for letting me go.

So here’s hoping the sun shines,  the legs, knees and tendons behave themselves and a warm wind blows gently on my back!

‘A bientot’ my friend.

your friend and master

 

22 April

22 April

Dear Humphrey

I thought you might like a letter from our holiday in Connemara. I know you will be having a wonderful time yourself with all your friends in the kennels but   a short description of where your ‘mum’ and I are spending a week with our friends might appeal.

We are halfway through our time here at Currarevagh House. The first team of friends including your ‘sister’ Tocky and her fiancé George with whom we have just spent a wonderful three days have departed and the next team are about to appear.

The Currarevagh House is owned and run by the lovely Henry and Lucy Hodgson and it is utter paradise and the best place in the world to spend time with friends. Milly (see attached) is always there to greet one 

The hospitality is unmatched. Everyone rushes home for the teas. Lucy’s dinners are Michelin star. The rooms and beds are home home from home. Breakfasts usually last until about 10.30 before everyone has decided what they are going to do for the day whether boating, walking, sightseeing, or golf. And if you thought it always rained on the West Coast well it does sometimes but take a look at this 

Mum and I found this yesterday. And I was able to broadcast my latest report for the blog by way of contrast to earlier ones from muddy England

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We went shopping in Oughterard this morning and Mum was looking for a shop which sold tweed which others in the party had found yesterday. So she asked a lady where is the shop which sells tweed. The lady responded by telling her that the pub over the road are very welcoming and they have lots of toilets there! Which then leads on the conversation we had on the great walk up the hill which followed the shopping expedition. Mum was telling me that Owen and Jane Jonathan who have been staying here with us had been out in Ireland a long time ago and they had come on a camping holiday in Owen’s Spitfire   She said ‘Oh I had no idea he had a licence’ to which Jane said ‘Oh yes of course’ and she continued to believe in Owen’s prowess as a pilot until I suggested it might have been a 🚗!

Such is life here in Ireland. Lots of fun and friends and a great respite before I head off next week to France and recommence the pilgrimage.

Milly sincerely hopes you will be able to join us next year.

Meantime be a good boy and see you very soon.

with love

from your friend and master.

15 April

15 April

Dear Humphrey

Well you might see me before you get this. Never mind as you might like to read about it all anyway.

At about 5.30 yesterday afternoon Michael Gurney and I arrived on the beach by Weymouth. What a welcome sight that was but I need to keep reminding myself that I have a long way to go. So far I have walked for 18 days, been through 11 counties and covered 287 miles. That’s nearly 11 marathons!

My friends and family have been a huge support, accompanying me (Michael did all the map reading and gate opening yesterday… one time up to his ankles in slurry trying to undo a Gordian knot as clearly the unfriendly farmer did not welcome ramblers) .. ferrying to and from their lovely homes, feeding me and encouraging. Loved seeing Alec and Vivi Armitage on our final dinner hosted by Nigel HP in his local and wonderful pub.  I fear life may not be as easy in France.

The last two days through Dorset have been very beautiful with the exception of a couple of incidents. The first happened having walked quite a way through waterlogged fields then to be confronted with a river of slurry which needed to be forged. Having examined all the available options including calling for helicopter support we decided there was nothing else for it but to wade through. After that nothing was going to stop us. The second I have mentioned trying to undo knots ankle deep in the stuff.

But we have also enjoyed some glorious moments, as would you no doubt!  Happy Conversations with shepherds and others on the route,  gambling lambs on green escarpments on the Downs, and disturbing a cock pheasant enjoying a sunny afternoon with two girlfriends… one of the girlfriends headed off on a short flight in to a field of rape with the cock in hot pursuit with rape in mind when another cock alerted to the approach leapt high in to the air to defend his territory. We were not able to observe the outcome. We came upon a particularly beautiful church in Compton Vallence and spent a few minutes there in quiet reflection enjoying the birds song outside. Could easily have stayed there for a while longer. We met Alan on our way through Frome St Quentin. He was stood by a little stream, apparently the source of the river Frome and there by the pool of water was a little brush hung on a post which he had placed for walkers to clean their boots, which of course we did thinking we had a clear run through to Nigel HP our next host. How wrong we were!

Other highlights were the coffee shop in Sherbourne were we met a small group of cheerful retirees (men) who meet there everyday. I suggested they looked to me like the Dorset equivalent of  ‘Last of the summer wine’ which they took in good heart but there was no sign of Nora Batty!

Its been a great couple of weeks. Challenging but rewarding. Little rain amazingly but just managing the aftermath. Time for a rest to sort out the physical niggles.

Stay with me till the next episode. Might write to tell you about The holiday in Ireland.

Be good

from your friend and master

12 April

12 April

Dear Humphrey

Just finished a long day from Mere to Sanford Orcas just north of Sherbourne. The weather has been good but the going underfoot very challenging. They produce a lot of milk and cheese round here and the reason is obvious as there is a lot of grass and water.  Having squelched ones way across a waterlogged field one is then presented with the challenge of opening a gate through which a herd of cows have already spent some time creating an unholy quagmire or climbing a dodgy stile!

Scanning the map I have been looking for alternative routes. One looked ‘quite’ promising as it called itself a ‘lane’ albeit ‘Hangman’s Lane’. It lived up to its name!

I have been following the Monarchs Way which is allegedly the route which Charles 11 took when escaping after the Battle of Worcester. Well you would not expect it to follow a straight line, would you? More like an escape and evasion exercise!

All sounds a bit bleak but I have been staying with some wonderful friends. Sister Rozzie has been nursing me notwithstanding it is she who has the new hip. Antony and Julia Wells ferried wined dined and A with Puzzle the spaniel accompanied me off the Plain and towards the Dairy quagmire which he successfully managed to avoid by leaving at just the right moment! Also been hosted by Wendy and Chris Braithwaite who suffered with great generosity the muddy boots and dishevelled Pilgrim.

Three others who are much more worthy of note.

One man whom Antony and I met steaming towards us with great intent armed with two poles, a head bandana and covered in mud from head to toe. He was striving to be the first man to do the Monarchs Way in one go.. all 500 miles of it in 12 days.. unbelievable given any conditions let alone these. He had time to impart some advice to help with sore achilles which I have taken on board but it has yet to work.

My nephew-in-law Neil Jeffers who is the senior pilot with the London Air Ambulance who is now most of way through the Marathon Des Sables. Doing brilliantly raising money for the Ambulance

Finally Antony Wells tells me of a friend who is guiding a blind man from Lands End to John O’G . It’s branded  ‘ Blindmanwalking ‘ in aid of a charity. It all has to be done on roads and if you have walked any distance on a busy road you will begin to understand what a frightening and dangerous challenge that will be. Talk about unpaid Carer!

Losing brother Tom from the walk was a bit of blow for lots of reasons but especially for his precision when it came to navigation. However Navigating has become easier since minutes after leaving Tom I bumped into a team of once year trekkers ( one being Tom Sheldon) who immediately bought me a pint and introduced me to View Finder an app which tells you where you are and which way you are walking which comes in particularly handy towards end of day when frankly I could not tell you whether I am walking uphill or down!

Finally excitement on Salisbury Plain. I had planned a route across but when I looked more closely took me right through the Larkhill Artillery Range. Even as I tried to circumnavigate I could hear the heavy thump of high explosive getting ever nearer . I tried unsuccessfully to video a war correspondents report but sadly for sound effect purposes they had redirected their fire elsewhere. I thought that might have been worth a bob or two.

Hope All is well at home. Coco is behaving himself and Mum coping with her sore back after her first yoga lesson.

Tomorrow Friday 13th I head off with Michael Gurney to meet up with Nigel and Bumble HP. Some who know Michael from army days might say that is not a propitious move.  He has come armed with all the necessary maps and his usual unbounded enthusiasm. I will however be sure to cross bridges before he gets there! More seriously it is lovely to have him with me.

Lots of love for now. Two more days to the coast and then I take a rest for it is Tor’s  birthday and we love to spend it on West Coast of Ireland. Time for repair of right Achilles’ tendon and left hip. Then off to conquer France and Spain.

your friend and master

 

9th April.. Day 12

9th April.. Day 12

Dear Humphrey

Oh dear it is a little while since I last wrote. Time flies ‘when you are enjoying (?) yourself. We have covered another 85 miles since Tring and I am now staying very comfortably with Rozzie and Jonny (my sister and brother-in-law). Very sadly my companion, pace maker and navigator Tom has had to head home. His lovely housekeeper Julia succumbed to the dreaded C and as her executor there were things he has to attend to which proved too difficult from here. So I am on my own which I need to get used to anyway.

As to where I am, I have now got to the end of the Ridgeway at Avebury and the next challenge is Salisbury Plain. Memories of army exercises coming flooding back desperately trying to find the one feature on the stark landscape known as the ‘lonely pine’. I wonder whether it is still there!

Back to the trail so far, most of the Ridgeway ..at least from Goring has been great walking. You would have loved it.. miles and miles of grass land and gallops … just your scene! However the first day out of Tring was horrendous. The morning was a pleasant walk along a canal but by lunch it had started to rain and the conditions underfoot appalling. We were fighting our way across one field when we noticed signs warning us that if we strayed across a line of markers we would be prosecuted under the Serious Crimes Act which I thought was a little over the top until I noticed a sign to Chequers! No invitation to tea and cakes ring forthcoming and  Having waded through mud ankle deep for 5 hours we made Chinnor and were gathered up by Ki and Bobby Wylie with whom we spent two nights. On the second afternoon Ki collected us from our finish point in North Stoke in his beautiful convertible Bentley with cream interior. As we were climbing in covered in mud we were embarrassed to encounter a passing fellow trekker, who appeared very unimpressed.

Other wonderful hosts along the route have been Alexander and Kathryn Matheson and Heneage Legge Bourke . We have been so blessed with such long suffering ( mud!) and generous hosts.

There have bee quite a lot of other walkers, mostly day trippers. The usual question is where are you heading and ‘Spain’ quite often gives rise to the response ‘So not far then!’ .. or ‘ you going in the wrong direction’  or on one occasion..’So can’t afford the flight?!’

Flora and fauna wise..(and I know you would be more interested in the latter, Humphrey)  spring is still around the corner. Still pretty bare but signs of greening up. Partridges paired up. Pheasants and ducks nesting. Mum tells me the Egyptian geese at home have appeared with a large brood of little ones. In some of  muddiest woods there will be glorious acres of blue bells. Saw a sparrow hawk nail a field mouse or something of that type.. you would have been most impressed. Also lots of red kites down here.

Yesterday on the gallops on the Marlborough Downs I was able to measure my paces against the furlong markers. Now remembering there 8 to one mile, I calculated I take 2500 paces for every mile. That’s something like 3.5 million steps to Compostela. That must be worth something for those unsung unseen unpaid carers. see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQ6tk0LR41w&sns=em

Enough for now. Send a big pat to your hairy peke friend Coco.

Your friend and master

 

4th April

4th April

Dear Humphrey

Well we are now a week in to this journey and in surprisingly good shape. The joints only really ache in bed when they can quite painful. Once one gets going all is fine. No blisters and the knee which was originally a bit of a worry is holding up well. Let’s hope I am not speaking too soon but at least I am spared the ultimate embarrassment of falling at the first fence as we have now covered the first of ‘15’ hundreds! i.e 100 miles.

Today we head out from Tring and along the Ridgeway to somewhere south of Chinor. Since I last wrote from Ely we made Granchester on the Saturday staying very comfortably with Richard and Helen Pemberton and Easter Day we spent with Richard navigating us brilliantly around Royston to Clothall near Baldock. His skills were much missed the following day when we tried to find our way out of Baldock. Interestingly we spent so much time trying to do so that I was able to count 8 barber shops in the High St. Little wonder or perhaps surprising that it is called Bald ..ock!

Heading through the conurbations of Letchworth, around Luton and Dunstable we have had to walk along some unpleasant stretches of road leaping in to verges to avoid thundering lorries and white van men . All verges and hedgerows are covered mile after mile in piles of litter,. At one point I was nearly physically sick at the sight of it. It is utterly shameful and it is by no means confined to the big towns as we have seen it all the way along the route. We were supposed to be following the Icknield way but it is not easy either being poorly marked or exceedingly muddy.

We spent Monday night in Luton with Vinod and Jamaina Tailor and their lovely family. Vinod is just about to end his Shrievalty year in Bedfordshire. Their son had brewed his first barrel of beer which was delicious as was the curry he had prepared.  Tom and I slept ‘cosily’ in the same bed as had slept the Dalai Lama!

At the moment we are with Adrian and Mary Rose Cole and after two huge whiskies and some delicious red wine and a sumptuous dinner and in separate rooms I have slept very well!

We have been blessed with little or no rain, thanks to Bishop Stephen’s prayers,  and  friends’ wonderful hospitality. Meanwhile ‘back at the ranch’ Chrissy Lloyd Owen, Anna Kasket, Shelley Corfield have been managing the web site, the social media out put and plotting where I have been. Huge thanks to them for their generosity. Will you give them ‘a lick’ from me when you see them, Humphrey ?

i hear you have not been so well yourself. Your Mistress tells me you must have found something pretty horrible to eat. Do be careful what you pick up.

Enough for now. Onwards down the Ridgeway which we are hoping will be more scenic and drier under foot. Wishful thinking as far as the latter is concerned I fear.

Lots of love

Your friend and master.