Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Day 45. The Longest Day
Septimus met me off the ship at Portsmouth so that he could walk the first two English sections with me. What a day he picked!
It was very hot – 30 degrees I was told later. The estimate for Portsmouth to Kilmeston was 30 kms. We walked almost due north through the streets of Portsmouth (we had not left the city when a kind lady at a bus-stop, after we asked the way, gave me a £5 donation for Pancreatic Cancer UK) until we met the Wayfarers Walk, which we were to stay on for the rest of the day. This route, like many long distance footpaths, swings east and west, in some cases heads south again, and we had found the distance difficult to estimate. We bought one of those electronic gadgets which you run over the map and which comes up with the answer. I now loathe this device.
We passed through few habitations, which to me represent the possibility of a coffee stop. When we reached Hambledon, which is where cricket was invented, we enquired of a lady whether there was a café in town. She said yes but it is closed because it is Monday but I will take you home for a cup of tea. She then drove us in her BMW back up the lanes down which Septimus and I had just walked. She produced a full lunch on the farmhouse table. I wasn’t hungry and restricted myself to the cup of tea. Septimus was quite restrained also. She then drove us back to he spot where she had found us. Her husband hadn’t turned a hair at two waifs and strays being brought into the house.
The walk dragged on and on. The trail was very up and down, overgrown in many places, badly signed in others, nonexistent at a couple of points. At one stage the track crossed a very large field. At the entrance to the field was a sign warning of bulls. The field was so big, and the track across it so steep, that if a bull had approached us in the middle, we would have been completely helpless. Fortunately, all bovine life-forms were cowering from the heat in the shade of a wood at the edge of the field.
Eventually we arrived at the rendezvous point in Kilmeston after six in the evening. This was the longest walk I have ever done. It was 43 kms, longer than a marathon. Although there were no big climbs, the total of the many minor climbs was 1861 metres, the most of any day on this trip. Although we met and talked to several people, all of them kind and friendly, we did not see another walker.
The distance measurer is so unreliable, the estimate so far from reality, that we now have to completely replan and reschedule all the walking between here and Oxford – it is easy to estimate distance for the canal walking. We shall be arriving in Reading 1 day late. I suspect that for the rest of the trip we will be two days behind. There is plenty of slack later in the walk, but the rescheduling will affect all the arrangements we have made for people to meet us and walk with me for a stage or so.