mental health, Walking, wellbeing, Writing

Roy’s Ramble – Week 6

2021 arrived and I decided to take on a huge challenge. Walk from Lands End to John O’Groats (LEJOG). This is Week 6.

DAYS 36-42

DAY 36
(5th Feb 2021)
Pink flowers
White flowers – snowdrops?
I enjoyed taking this one of the shadows. Had to get the sun behind them so you weren’t blinded.
Dappled clouds. That’s the official term (maybe not!)
I liked this shot but it was quite dark because it was into what sun was left. The lone figure intrigued me and I hope he doesn’t mind me taking a shot of his back. He stood there for some time lost in thought. Hope he’s OK.
Another dark shot but I liked that the left hand upright had more ivy on than the right hand one.

If anybody knows how we’ve managed to get to week six already, please say. We had a damp morning. No rain, just damp. Even inside the house there was a noise that wouldn’t go away and highly annoying – like a broken whistle that someone was still trying to blow. I opened the window thinking it must be something outside, and it was. A long-tailed tit. What a racket. He was very quickly joined by a song thrush and a robin which did help to balance it out.

Today, I was hoping to get another interview in, however, the difficulty we seem to be having is that either organisations have such reduced staffing capacities or are simply closed down that it’s really difficult to book people in. I’ll persevere as I think it’s important. It is sad though that in these times when support is needed, services that were already under pressure are even more so feeling the strain. Instead, a little treat for you.

After a little knockback the other day, I directed the negative energy inside me towards something positive, so I wrote a poem and recorded it this morning (see video).

Today also consisted of some tidying. We’ve got in a bit of a state around here recently but the result is we’ve sort of reached that ‘got to get worse before it gets better’ position. Tomorrow it will therefore be better, we hope.

I went for a walk. A really nice one actually, and although it was only around two local parks I criss-crossed them a bit rather than taking the usual route. I did struggle a bit though. So many people not observing social distancing. Even in open spaces. I don’t get it. This is the sort of thing that’s going to make it harder and harder to complete the challenge, not the actual extra miles I’ve got to put in.

I did afford myself the chance to focus on nature more though, and in particular I liked how the shadows were falling. I remember what my friend William from Shot at an Angle photography says ‘Plan, Shoot, Review’ and so I tried to, even if it was only planning the photograph for a few seconds. It made all the difference I feel and I’m quite pleased with my results.

I’ve just seen that Ringwood, on the outskirts of the New Forest, is home to Liberty’s Owl, Raptor, and Reptile Centre. As the name conjures, they play host to a vast array of birds of prey, as well creepy crawlies. You can handle the birds, sponsor them, and they even do displays. It all looks very impressive.

The road opens out past an industrial estate on the right, and as I continue up the road, I suddenly realise I’m into the next county on my route – Hampshire.

The Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve is ahead. From above, you can see that the area is almost like a visitor centre in the middle of a series of small lakes (or oversized ponds depending on whether you’re half empty or half full). The best time to visit is the winter apparently with ‘huge flocks of overwintering birds [flying] onto the lakes to roost’. Looks like I’m walking at the right time of year after all. I wouldn’t have seen that if I’d have waited for ‘the right time’. Never put things off!

What we find out is the reason for these lakes existing is because their former life was as gravel pits. They seem to like them around here. Must be something in the water. Well, there is now anyway. An array of birds and wildlife which can be seen from one of the six bird hides. Visit in the spring and you could see a starling murmuration. I’ve never been lucky enough to see this magnificent sight. Maybe one day.

As the road opens up further, the rolling fields spread either side once more and it does feel as though we’re in the heart of the New Forest – if only we were.

I stay overnight in a place called Upper Burgate, a small hamlet, where I’m into getting the tent out again.

Loved seeing some friends I’ve not seen for a year pop up at the door today. Made a huge difference being able to have a long-distance chat.

DAY 37
(6th Feb 2021)

A very lazy day today so I don’t think I’ll have a lot to write. It’s foggy here, quite thick fog. I’ve a few tech things to sort with the computer and the way the day looks, the walk is likely to be an evening/dead of night type again.

By early afternoon I’ve done about half of my steps around the house which is a bonus. It’s surprising what you can achieve even inside when you set your mind to it. I’ve thrown quite a bit out today. My youth club has had some major changes recently and there are a few bits here that need to go to the building so a small pile is forming.

I’m on the road to Salisbury, and that’s the next major destination as I follow the River Avon north. There’s a place called Downton ahead, not to be confused with the famous abbey-based TV programme.

It’s a short walk tonight after all. I’m not feeling 100% health-wise which I think has been creeping up most of the day. It’s a drizzly night too. We’re expecting snow again by the morning apparently. I’ll have to try and get a few more steps in at home if I’m to keep on target. I’ve received a couple more cheques through the post so when they’re clear, I can add them to the total too, which is wonderful. I’ve raised double the target in a quarter of the time I’ve allowed. This is really excellent. Thank you all so much.

There really isn’t a lot else to be reported about the route at this stage. I attempt an evening walk but I’m not feeling a hundred per cent so I’m not out for long. As I’m behind on the miles, I end up taking a lighter approach walking on the spot whilst drinking hot chocolate and watching the TV. I mean, every step counts, right? By bedtime, the snow is falling and we’re expecting it to settle, so tomorrow could be fun again. I feel grateful to not have to pitch the tent again as the good folk at Britford Community Hall put me up for the night. It’s a small hall but big enough for me to settle down on the floor for the night. I wonder how deep the snow will be in the morning.

Salisbury Cathedral (Pixabay)
DAY 38
(7th Feb 2021)

Well, we woke to sunshine and no snow so that’s a blessing. It’s a lazy morning feel but in reality, somebody on the walking app Facebook group yesterday suggested some low impact exercise you can do indoors to get the step count up – I really enjoyed it, so if you are after something low-impact with a beat, check out the link to the left.

I take breakfast in Salisbury and am officially a quarter of the way through the journey. As I cross the River Avon I notice on the right a Sea Cadets headquarters. It often seems a bit strange to have this organisation inland, away from the sea, but they do so much more than paddle about, which is of course possible on the river. They offer creative activities too, providing an all round experience helping young people ‘grow into the person they want to be’. Their modern looking building perches on the edge of Churchill Gardens, an area with a vast array of vegetation, notably shrubs.

We may not have the snow, but the wind is particularly strong. I can hear it whistling around the house this morning. Thankfully, being in the middle of Salisbury, surrounded by the buildings, I should be a bit sheltered.

Salisbury is a cathedral city, a third the population of Oxford. You may have noted I previously walked into Hampshire. I should qualify that by saying ‘passed through’ because we’re now in Wiltshire. All those lovely counties in the south and south east I’m afraid you get missed, but this is a walk up the country and not around it.

On the left is Old George Mall, a shopping centre comprising 40 independent and mainstream stores. Standing proudly alongside, Salisbury Cathedral. Dating back to the 1200’s, it is deemed as one of the finest examples of English Gothic architecture. It has Britain’s tallest spire, standing at 404 feet high, and is home to the Magna Carta, the book of royal rights.

The cathedral is steeped in history and does a lot of outreach work, providing schools with rich learning opportunities on topics such as the history and heritage of the building, as well as music, arts and images, and even social responsibility.

I cross the River Avon and walk up the Maltings, a narrow area lined with streets. The buildings they are housed in look a bit like malt houses of old. I presume that’s where the name’s from. I’m happy to stand corrected.

My walk continues to follow the River Avon northwards and it’s a pleasant walk, all leaf-lined. Where else could you ask to be on a lazy Sunday afternoon? Crossing the river once more, I pass Salisbury Athletic and Running Club, an organisation that nurtures the athletic capabilities of children right through to adulthood. Fitness is so important, especially at the moment. We need to sometimes drag ourselves up and out, don’t we? But we must otherwise, we’ll end up stuck in one place and never see anything exciting or interesting outside our front (or back) door.

The Avon Valley Nature Reserve is on my left and isn’t as huge as some I’ve passed, but still offers a substantial insight into wildlife conservation, and even has a fairy trail. I know my friend Magical Mel who is trying to catch me up on this walk would love that!

I’ve moved slightly away from the River Avon but am still walking perpendicular to it. It’s mainly fields although every so often I pass a few houses, the back of an estate, that sort of thing. Little Durnford Manor pops up out of nowhere, a large grade II listed building with extensive grounds.

I’ve mostly been walking around the house today (self-care day) although spent some time at the youth club again this evening. As part of our reopening, and thanks to grants, we’ve been able to do some reconfiguring which I think will really aid the young people’s mental health and enjoyment of the facilities we provide.

It continues up until bedtime to be a lovely peaceful walk that meanders in the general direction of the Avon still, rolling fields either side, punctuated every so often by a large detached house or cluster of them. The hedgerow eventually rises so I can’t see the fields. I pitch the tent in the corner of a field and bed down for the night. I’m on the edge of a village and very peaceful it is too. It’s been a slow day today but it’s been needed.

DAY 39
(8th Feb 2021)
Stonehenge (Pixabay)
I took this picture the other day on my walk, but today there’s snow so I wanted an alternative shot.

There’s snow! Not a lot, but there’s snow and it looks set to stay, even if it doesn’t settle. Wasn’t a bad sleep in the tent but took forever to get off. I ended up having to write in a bid to send me off to sleep.

Nevertheless, I woke with a mission to get those steps in earlier today so followed another video online that pushed me to get a quarter of my steps done before breakfast.

As the weather wasn’t great I didn’t manage to get out much. I’ve misplaced my gloves and I was bitterly cold. It’s been a weird day. I started well, dipped a little with the mental health, received a lovely testimonial from a young person I’m working with, and then by the evening I seem to have crashed a bit.

That’s a real shame because I’ve visited some lovely places today on the route, including making it to Stonehenge at lunchtime.

Stonehenge is somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for a long time and it’s still on the bucket list for when we can start getting out again. The site itself is part of English Heritage and despite many pictures of people walking close to them, this is very rare. In the main they are surrounded by a barrier and you have to attend during special access times. Probably one of the most famous occasions that the stones are ‘open’ is for the summer solstice – a celebration that occurs on the longest day of the year. The stones are an ancient monument with various tales of how they got there. Either way there is a vast draw for people each year.

For some time there has been controversy though as there are plans to build a bypass, but this results in a large proportion of the land being dug up. Again, where is all of our wildlife going to? Where are they getting pushed out to when all of these works take place?

According to the route I’m going to take the A303 now. This is one road that I avoid at all costs. It’s ability to magically double to a dual carriageway and then halve to a single carriageway within seconds is unnerving and has been the scene of many an accident. We pass the large roundabout at Countess and continue on our way. We’re hurtling along on our motorised feet towards the A34.

In reality I made it my mission to stop and take photos on my walk today and height/length seemed to be what was striking me today, so I hope you enjoy the few photos I’ve taken to show this.

Not far from where I’m walking (virtually) is Bulford Barracks. The military camp is nearly 125 years old and has had a lot of use and been developed greatly over the years to the point that it’s spread across two sites with a main road through the middle. Despite mutiny’s happening early on the sites life, today even the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police reside here. Being so close to Salisbury Plain, regular training exercises occur here with a specific training area marked, the largest in the UK. Of course, one must take care walking the area as there could be some nasties under the grass ready to give you a bit of a surprise.

The Plain itself is chalk and is rich in history and has a wide and varied ecology, this is mainly thanks to the Ministry of Defence taking over much of the area. By now allowing public access, many species have been able to thrive where they otherwise perhaps wouldn’t with the general public traipsing over them.

Further along the road, but on the other side and set back is a burial ground. I find these fascinating. The first one I found was in Oxfordshire some years ago, purely by chance. These are places where you can be buried and a tree planted in memory, something that your standard cemetery, already overcrowded, does not usually allow. They’re very peaceful and quite beautiful, although as somebody not keen on thinking about this point in their life, I’ve not pondered it too much, although the idea that when you have ‘moved on’ to pastures new, you could do something that continues to help our planet breathe does fill me with happiness.

In the strangest twist though, in a role I would never undertake, hats off to them, I’ve been given permission to have a bed in a barrack room tonight. I have to admit, I wouldn’t have normally accepted. I’ve got the tent and I’m hoping I’m not going to get a rude awakening in the morning by being tipped out of the metal frame (I’ve seen the films), but I will admit that I am grateful to have received the offer, as pitching the tent on the MOD land for tonight doesn’t sound particularly appealing, especially as it’s sub-zero. The temperature has dropped to -3 celsius. Well, seeing as the offer of a room with a heater is there, I’ll reluctantly accept.

I’ve taken my own hot chocolate so have that, and have enjoyed a packet of orange doritos and a Mr Kipling fancy for supper. It made a nice change, even if it was naughty.

I have managed to get the miles under 800 left. Still a way to go. I’m about 18 behind the pacer.

Judi’s story
DAY 40
(12th Feb 2021)
Frozen pond at the local park
Another frozen pond at the local park
A wall of many colours
Thruxton War Memorial Hall (Google earth)
Picture on front of a card sent to me with donation inside
Picture on front of a card sent to me with donation inside

The sprinkling of snow lies on the ground still. There’s some cat prints outside the window so our friendly local neighbourhood ball of fluff has paid a visit. No doubt he’ll be looking longingly through the window soon wanting to savour the delights of central heating.

Woke up in unfamiliar surroundings. Thankfully, despite being offered the barracks overnight, they didn’t wake me up early.

Following the morning’s exercise, I plough on with work. There’s a lot in the diary. New ideas mainly and I spend a lot of the morning designing new resources, posting on Facebook (and preparing posts), prepping classes, and liaising with other coaches. It’s a busy time. I’m at a point where my brain has lots of thoughts and it all needs to come out but I’m struggling a bit to make the time to throw them on a page…or to be precise, I’m throwing them on a page but not finding time to then action then. On the theme of snow, things are snowballing a bit this week.

I did manage a walk though and I have found gloves. Not my normal ones but what does that matter when you have cold hands at the best of times? It’s really lovely out and I had the intention in mind to go out and photograph things that were red in nature. That didn’t happen because I couldn’t find anything on the route so took some shots of things that interested me. Always be ready to change your plans if you need to.

If I’d have walked a few more steps up the road yesterday, there would have been no need to even set foot in the barracks. There’s a rather pleasant looking hostel just up the road with ‘bright dorms and a relaxed restaurant’ – hope that doesn’t mean you have to cook it yourself.

By lunchtime, I’m making good progress. It’s a bit droll just walking the A303 and there’s not much more I can add to what I said previously, however, I soon stumble upon the Thruxton Aerodrome.

The aerodrome, opened in 1942, was originally an RAF base, but can now be used for private aeroplanes, and is also partly a racing track now (for cars, not planes, although the thought is fun). The original RAF Thruxton was not only used as an RAF base during the second world war but was a base for the United States Army Air Forces too. It was mainly a combat fighter airfield. The site was closed in 1946 but reopened a short while later to be used a training base for pilots.

You’ll be pleased to know (you might not be) that I’ve found another village hall. This one, the Thruxton War Memorial Hall, is a grand looking Grade II listed building, of which I can’t find much out about. Inside it has been refurbished and looks extremely smart. Well, the village was designated Best Small Hampshire Village 2019.

I really wish there was more I could tell you about the route, and if were mapping my own, there would be lots I’m sure, but it’s pre-determined and I have to walk the dual carriageway at this point. It feels a bit risky, but hey, live a little (I really don’t promote this to you. Honestly don’t do it. Ever!). This brings me back to my previous points though. It’s what you make it and there will be times when life drags and feels dull, but equally there will be moments in the dullness and the darkness that will shine through.

Take for example today. It has been a rollercoaster of emotions and at time monotony of work as I try desperately to lay firmer plans with some of the creative ventures I have in mind. The light relief was dropping off items to young people in my youth club ready for our online session tomorrow. It allowed a few minutes to talk (socially distanced) with a few of them and their families, and just like with mental health, many are struggling. They’re not alone. Those snippets of conversation, two minutes here, two minutes there, are all connections that we so desperately need right now. One of the hardest things can be to be the first person to reach out. It’s all too easy to sit and wait for others to make the first move, but if we always do that, then nobody will ever do anything.

I hunker down in a Premier Inn at Weyhill. Ah, a blissful bedtime.

DAY 41
(10th Feb 2021)
Completed puzzle
Some of the remains of Andover canal (Google earth)
A bedroom window sunset

I’ve done what you shouldn’t really do – others may disagree. I’ve woken and started work on the computer. Always force yourself up and have your shower and breakfast. It gets you going. The trouble with going straight onto the computer is that when you properly wake up and realise the time, it’s 3pm and you’re still in your dressing gown. Having said that, I did have a slow morning doing a puzzle during breakfast which we had been leant. It was one of the Wasgij ones where you have to guess the image.

Since working from home more I’ve actively made the point to get up and dress as I would if I were going to work outside the house. No lounging in trackie bottoms. It really is the best way to be. Force yourself into that routine.

After a morning of work – I’m creating worksheets at the moment – it’s time for lunch and then preparing for my daily walk. I have to go to Headington today. Before that, let’s join the anxiety attack train.

I’m writing this in real time now (13:45) because I am experiencing a mild anxiety attack. How can I be writing? Anxiety attacks do not always present themselves as they sometimes have for me, rolling around on the floor, crying, thinking the end of the world is here. This anxiety has trundled in from absolutely nowhere and I mean nowhere. I’ve not been doing anything to make me anxious. I’ve actually had a pretty good morning, or average, normal, you know. Sat at the desk. However for about half an hour now this anxiety attack has grown. They do that. It started with horrendous pain in the right hand chest then subsided and has steadily increased in waves. At one point whilst I made lunch I even felt dizzy. Eating lunch was almost like an out of body experience. I was still able to hold a conversation. I have absolutely no reason to be anxious though. There was no trigger that comes to mind and I don’t look too hard for them because otherwise you overthink things. My current state of play (13:51 now) is the pain comes and goes, my left leg is jittering like it wants to do the can can and my hands aren’t quite able to get the message from my brain to type. I’m really thinking I should have put my phone in my pocket. I’d have done all my steps the way the legs going. Humour often helps distract. At the same time I’m messaging my friend on Facebook who is always there if I need her (and we’ll speak if I really can’t cope). She knows not to fuss and for that I’m grateful. She’ll ask how I am every so often for an update, but otherwise she’ll wait to know what I need. 13:55 I have basically been grinding my teeth for the past two minutes on top of everything else. As a rule anxiety attacks last about half an hour with the peak of them, the really horrible stuff, being about 10 minutes. That might not seem a lot, but if your brain is playing tricks, your body is convulsing whichever way it wants and you’re working hard to get out of it and get the chemical imbalance back to normal, it is exhausting and often a rest is needed after. Previous attacks I could easily clock up a mile trying to escape it. I even walked once at 10pm as something triggered me, and you’d think I was on a route march. I’ve no real idea where I walked but I zoomed out of the house at such a speed and just had to walk and walk and walk to escape it. Today, I’m sitting. I’m going to beat it. It won’t beat me. I’ve tried deep breathing now, my go to trick. 14:02 my leg is slowing, I’m still doing deep breathing, and I have music on. It’s been proven that if you listen to music that is 60bpm or less, it slows the heart rate to 60bpm or less to match which helps get it in to a much calmer state. Now, if you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking I’ve written loads and I’m making this all up as I can’t possibly type at the same time as dealing with an anxiety attack. Trust me, I’m not. Five years ago, no way. I’d have been hiding under a blanket crying. I’ve come far because I’ve a life to lead and this isn’t going to stop me. This is actually a major distraction technique to prevent me from spinning the worry over and over in my head thus spiralling down.

I’m almost back in the land of the living as it were (14:08). The sun is shining and I’ve stopped long enough to see the clouds moving gracefully beyond the trees. They have white tops and grey bellies today. I wonder if rain is on the way. We’ve still had dainty snowflakes drift down.

My walk was unadventurous, which is the way I like them. Still people who don’t understand that six foot means if I can touch you you’re too close, but there we are. I’m having to live with it, although I did see a news report about night walking. Lots of people are getting into it. Perhaps I should seriously consider that but it’s bitterly cold.

I attempted to get across ‘the fields’ – we’ve all got those haven’t we? That space near where we live that people just call ‘the fields’ or ‘the woods’ and you instantly know where I mean. Well, I tried to get across there again. This is roughly where that flooded footpath was the other day with the ditch. The water has drained well but it’s icy and still a bit deep in places. I turned back. I’ve good boots but I’d rather not risk it. Instead I walked around by the playground and outdoor sports pitch and it was joy to actually see young people out enjoying themselves. It’s how it should be. They have gone through such dark times in all of this, that these moments in the stark cold but sunny days when they are out laughing makes you realise and remember that despite what the media will have us believe, not all ‘whippersnappers’ are bad – in fact, as with all of us, it’s usually because of the environment we’re in. Give us a loving, nurturing environment and the world is our oyster.

I forgot photos whilst I was out today which is a shame as I was really enjoying the shadow length again. Is it me or does the A303 really drag on? Being here I’ve passed back into Hampshire. Andover’s origins are believed to lie with the Celts and it has a lot of history including the baptism of the Viking king called Olaf – I’m presuming he wasn’t made of snow. I may have mentioned before, and I honestly can’t remember as I’ve written a lot, that I do love our canals. Andover used to have a canal system that stretched to Southampton. It wasn’t popular and closed 70 years after opening. Apparently, when the canal closed, the train line was built on the canal bed – I take it the water was drained by this point else it would have been a very wet ride. Today, the railway line that was laid in its place is also defunct. Maybe too many trains were submerged.

Fun fact. I like that in 1836 Andover’s first ever police force consisted of two officers and a gailor. I wonder what happened if one was off ill. Presumably it was a fairly quiet place. Today, the Ministry of Defence is the largest employer in the area.

Rooksbury Nature Reserve used to be a local fishery, privately owned, and used for trout fishing (the fishing of trout not trout sitting there with rods), but 20 years ago was turned into the reserve it is today. There are two lakes fed by the River Anton. As I progress along the route it feels like I’m back in Cornwall with the name of Picket Twenty, a suburb of Andover, coming into view.

I’m nearly at the end of the A303 stretch. From here I shall head north. I’m on the A34 but there’s plenty of places along the way that I’ll be able to write about, I’m sure. Not far from the junction with the A34 is a Travelodge. I’ll stop here for today. Highlight of today…an amazing virtual youth club session. It was lovely seeing the young people smile and laugh. I’ve also got some new equipment for work too. It’s a chilly night tonight again. I’m aiming to get to bed a little earlier although there’s a fascinating documentary on the TV. Breakfast looks like the Little Chef may be an option.

DAY 42
(11th Feb 2021)

Woke up to breakfast at the onsite Little Chef. Having had cereals, I’m actually wishing I’d had the Olympic breakfast as a sort of homage. I remember us spending many a holiday getting up early and heading out in order that we had breakfast en route.

Founded in 1958, I would imagine Little Chef has been frequented by most people at some point. The inspiration for the roadside cafes was American diners. The first one was opened just up the road in Reading. As they expanded their small square brick built design with familiar logo became synonymous with virtually any journey on an A-road. At the turn of the century, more than 400 of these roadside eateries were in existence. Today, about 70 remain. It’s a shame but despite an attempted overhaul by the chef Heston Blumenthal, an attempt to save the brand was not possible, to the point that it appeared all Little Chefs would be lost, however, a few have clung on. There’s a lot of interesting history online and I will admit to having read a lot of it before, partly because I find the design and locations interesting – why have some closed in certain areas, while others remain? I think my interest is also spiked due to memories of visiting when I was younger. I still like to drive along the road and see former Little Chef’s and what they’ve become (some converted to Starbucks for example). In many cases their existence is no more.

The day was due to be a busy one but it ended up being a BUSY one. You can often tell things are bigger or more serious when written or said in capitals. You can actually tell when people speak in capitals can’t you? Is that just me?

I thought I’d do a shorter exercise routine this morning as I was due to meet a friend for a socially distanced drink in town at lunch time. All very nice. Before we got to the midday point, I had audio recordings to do, emails to answer and send, and a telephone appointment with Restore. I spoke to Miranda, the Fundraising Coordinator, and she’s had some lovely feedback, which is always good to receive. She’s as amazed as I am at how much has been raised. We speak for ages as though we’ve been friends for years, and this is what I was saying last week in my poem about you gain new friends at Restore. Miranda is a new contact for me there but instantly I’m put at ease each time I talk to her. She’s so supportive and doesn’t push me to be on TV or anything crazily big. I love the fact that they check in regularly with me and aren’t just a charity who collect a cheque at the end. Today, the podcast interview they did a week or so back has gone live. I’ll share the link so you can listen to it (probably tomorrow). I’m getting used to all of this now.

So time slipped on and my new laptop had a hissy fit and all that usual sort of stuff that’s set to annoy us. It transpired that my friend was behind time with things too so we made the agreement to not meet today. It reminds me of that thing they say about saying no to people to protect your mental health. It’s good to meet up, to do things, but if you really can’t face it, say no. If your friends are good friends and understanding, they’ll respect it.

The afternoon plodded on, and I mean plodded. I had a class to teach this afternoon which boosted the spirits but you know those days where it feels as though you’re walking through treacle and tasks will never get finished? It was like that, but, as I type, I can reflect on what ended up being quite a productive day. Sure there were obstacles, but I’ve made new contacts, sent out resources to support mental health and wellbeing, actually ran a class, had a video call with my God-daughter to wish her Happy Birthday (she had a badge and chocolate cake don’t you know?!).

Walking today has got done but apart from a chilly evening walk around the streets, putting the world to rights – it really is the best time for it before bedtime, gets it out – all my steps are indoors. In fact, as I type this last bit of entry for today, I’m sipping a hot chocolate whilst I march on the spot in the kitchen, laptop perched on the hob. Very quickly, if you are engaged in something else, you can clock these miles up.

Virtually, you’ll be pleased to know, we’re off the blasted A303. We are on the A34 which is probably a bit more familiar to the masses as it’s a main route through the centre of the country. It’s still going to be pretty soulless for a few miles and as I’ve said before, if I didn’t follow the app and were doing this in reality I’d be crossing fields already well-trod by generations past, skitting along bridleways where horseriders and cyclists are permitted to travel, and generally take the more scenic route. I hope you’re keeping up though.

One of the first things we come across as we join the A34 is the Tidbury Ring Hill Fort, an ancient Iron Age fort largely destroyed now and hidden by the shrubbery on the dual carriageway. On the right is Whitchurch. It’s a small town designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the large amount of wildlife on the River Test which runs through it. Again, around from the Iron Age, the town has seen various key developments, including the ban of high-caffeine drinks to under 16’s and the introduction of a Potato Day. It’s still going strong. It’s not yet had it’s chips. Sorry, had to get that in somewhere.

More rolling fields either side, these are becoming more and more familiar. It’s the route back home from the south coast for me where many a family holiday has been spent. On the left, again hidden, is Lord Carnarvon’s Grave. He as a British Archaeologist, born just down the road from where he is buried, who is most notable for his involvement in the excavation of Tutakahmun’s tomb. Who would have realised there was such a link between a small village in Hampshire and Egypt?

For bed, I’m going to camp in the shadow of the grave, although maybe just down the hill a way, on the bit called Beacon Hill. Should be a good view in the morning.

2 thoughts on “Roy’s Ramble – Week 6”

  1. How did you devise your route Roy? It seems a strange route from Lands end to John o Groats? Can we have a map so its clearer where you will be next (virtually speaking)?

    1. Hello Rosemary. The route is devised by an app so I didn’t get a say in it. It’s a bit tricky to post an image of it because it would be very small to see but primarily it follows main roads. As a rough plan though…

      After Oxford (which is where I’m nearly up to), I head towards Bicester and then northbound on the M40. At Baynards Green it then kicks off through Banbury, to Stratford, Coventry, Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Bradford, over the Yorkshire Dales towards Carlisle, then onto Edinburgh, up to the Cairngorms, Inverness, and ending in John O Groats.

      I hope that helps. I can post a picture of a bit of the route if that helps but it is tricky to get it all on screen at once in a way that you can still see it.

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