mental health, Walking, wellbeing, Writing

Roy’s Ramble – Week 7

2021 arrived and I decided to take on a huge challenge. Walk from Lands End to John O’Groats (LEJOG). This is Week 7.

DAYS 43-49

DAY 43
(12th Feb 2021)
Highclere Castle or Downton Abbey (Pixabay)

Week 7 already?! The worst bit is my brother is at home. That’s not to say I don’t love him to pieces but I think it’s Saturday. This feeling remains throughout the whole day. I am so confused. As a result I’m really out of sorts. All the jobs on my list may as well not have existed. I’ve done very little of them. Rarely do things like this throw me but they have and I can’t understand it.

I’ve yet again struggled for interviews this week and then I remembered, and you probably remembered before I did, that my friend Nicky, who is such a positive soul for this world, signed up a day or two after I did for this walk and decided she wanted to try and catch me up. She’s so close so we’ve made an arrangement to have a chat tomorrow. I’ll aim to get the video up as soon as I can. I’ve made contact with Stephanie, the head of Oxfordshire Recovery College, who interviewed me in the podcast above, and we’re aiming to walk the Oxford stretch of the route in ‘real’ time next week (or as close as we can make it). That’s quite an exciting prospect.

I was due to meet up with my friend who was unable to make it yesterday for hot chocolate but in the end we both realised that it was for the best if we rearranged to next week. He was busy and I was busy and things weren’t quite working out. The free resource packs to help children’s wellbeing over the half term break that I created have been popular.

Whilst difficult to focus, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to set plans in motion for my youth club. Our young people (in general across the country) are struggling for the support they so need. We as a club are able to meet but there are a lot of hoops to jump through in a pandemic. Today, although it wasn’t the plan, was a time when I decided to actually sit down and start brainstorming what we could do to help them more than we already are.

By the time we should have been settling down for dinner we realised that no walking had been done, so we set off at great speed to get an evening walk in before the takeaway turned up. I’d been sent a cheque donation in the post from a friend from ages past who I’ve not seen in years. Sadly I couldn’t bank it so had to ask her to rewrite it. It was lovely to catch up with her on the doorstep, especially so with our older generation who for many have even more limited contact than previously. I’m glad to hear she’s had her jab.

The A34 is one of the roads a bit like the A303 that seems to go on for ever, but there moments where there are things of note. Not far up the road after I set off I arrive at Highclere Castle. It was originally built in 1679 and does look as though it’s stepped straight out of Downton Abbey, and for good reason – because it was filmed here. It stands proud in the vast 5,000 acre site, and in normal times is open to the public. They have a book club and their own gin for those so inclined, which comes in a sapphire blue bottle.

On the opposite side of the A34, the London side, is the village of Sydmonton which is where the musical master Andrew Lloyd Webber resides in his own version of Downton. The site size is the same apparently and it’s here that he tinkles his ivories and creates new masterpieces that get showcased in the theatre in his garden (that’s right, he has a theatre in his garden, in a converted church – lucky so-and-so).

The next village north, albeit on the southbound side of the dual carriageway, is Burghclere. It has a small population but is thriving with various amenities. You may remember back in Cornwall I noted about certain train lines. I wouldn’t say I’m a train spotter by any means, but I do like to understand the development of things like the train lines. I think it’s interesting at least on a basic level to see where they have come and gone. In quite a few cases a lot have gone. Oh Dr Beeching! Burghclere used to have its own station on the Didcot, Newbury, and Southampton line, quite busy on all accounts until the 1960’s when it closed down, and today, you can walk the old line as part of a nature walk. The actual station was closer to Sydmonton.

I continue along the A34 for a short distance before bedding down in a field on the outskirts of Enborne Row.

I’ve finally learned how to add a title cover. Do you like it?
DAY 44
(13th Feb 2021)
Picture – Nicky Tew
Picture – Nicky Tew
Picture – Nicky Tew
Picture – Nicky Tew
Picture – Nicky Tew
Picture – Nicky Tew
Picture – Nicky Tew
Picture – Nicky Tew
Picture – Nicky Tew
The back of my brother in the back of beyond
New housing estate on the bypass.

Started the morning off trying to find the room. Gave up.

I’ve met with Nicky Tew, a fellow Relax Kids Coach, today (virtually) and the interview is above. It’s mostly been a computer based morning again, and once more, not doing what I had planned. That’s OK though. I do think you need to go with the flow. Sometimes thoughts and ideas come to you and you need to roll with it, so that’s what I’ve done. This has resulted in further planning for youth club, sorting a few house matters, and having a laugh at a few Youtube videos. At the moment, I’m particularly fascinated with the Jackie Weaver situation. Who would have thought that a year ago I’d be sat here in 2021 watching a video about a parish council miles away and laughing at all these people screaming and shouting at each other. It’s embarrassing but downright hilarious when you realise that this is not an anomaly. These sorts of meeting are taking place up and down the country, have done for years, and will for a long time to come, usually because individuals think they are better than others, have been promoted to roles they cannot manage, or have self-promoted themselves to a role (often that they cannot manage!). There are so many parodies of it now, and even Andrew Lloyd Webber, he of Sydmonton fame, has become involved by writing a musical song about it.

I know I’m going to have fallen way behind this weekend on steps but it’s simply how things have been. I have to keep reminding myself that there really is no pressure. 10th May is the date that I’ve set on myself and actually, if it gets too much, pushing back by a day or two isn’t the end of the world. As you know, I’m a big advocate for mental health and if I can’t take time to focus on me and instead worry too much about getting equal amounts of miles in each day that’s when things will go wrong.

As dinner time approaches we realise we’ve not made any plans. We could have a pasta bake, which is a bit of a favourite, but I decide to ‘spice it up’ a bit with some minced beef. Really was a nice meal. As The Masked Singer final approaches, I have a choice, sit and watch or get out and walk. I’d like to see the final. I rarely watch these sorts of programmes but you know what, it’s TV. It’s not important really, and I can watch it on a playback later on. More important is getting some air into my lungs today, otherwise I’m just using up the same stale old air from inside the house, so off I go. Best wrap up. It’s brass monkey’s out there.

I skirt past Newbury on the part of the A34 known as the Newbury bypass. Previously, one would have had to travel through the town but in early 1996 a vast swathe of land including the destruction of woodland resulted in this road that most now don’t give a second thought. Protestors at the time did – it was one of the largest scale protests of its time with more than 7000 protestors – that was larger than those who descended on London 12 years later as part of the Extinction Rebellion protests. Despite the protests, a lot of work was done to protect the surrounding land and there are now more than 200,000 mature trees lining the road and in the area.

Newbury is in Berkshire, so we have now travelled into our next county – that’s five, and I’ve just realised we missed Somerset. That’s a shame as it got some great places to visit like Weston-Super-Mare, Bristol, and Cheddar Gorge, but we simply cannot visit everywhere. Newbury is probably most well known for the racecourse, and has been in operation since 1805. World War One saw it have a change of use to a prisoner of war camp for any captured Germans. Various bands have played here, and despite a loss in turnover due to closure during the pandemic, it has reopened recently as a mass vaccination centre. When we think about it there’s so much that can be done with spaces if we think outside the box.

As with many places, Newbury is steeped in history, including having been bombed during the second world war, with more than 265 dwellings destroyed, but we’re only skirting past the town, so let’s press on.

To the north west is Donnington Castle, another property owned by English Heritage. Whilst little remains, what there is is quite imposing. It’s 14th Century and has great views of the surrounding countryside.

I continue on the A34 to Chieveley and whilst this isn’t where I need to be to keep up with the mileage, it’s where I’m stopping for tonight. My chilly walk has helped keep me on par with where I need to be roughly and I can’t walk right through until midnight. It’s been a busy day and it’s important that we make time to switch off in the evening. I had a ‘sleep’ tea which is an infusion of spiced apple, vanilla, camomile, and passionflowers. Vanilla is proven to be calming to the system and good for the heart, camomile lowers blood sugar and is for aiding sleep, and passionflowers, well, maybe they make you passionate, who knows? They are good for anxiety though, and that is always a bonus before bedtime.

I’m stopping at the services at Chievely for tonight which is good because it’s bitterly cold again outside. The eatery has all the hallmarks of a Little Chef (remember my fascination from before?) but alas, this one here has had to be converted. Never mind, Oh, I had one of those little chocolate pots with the breadsticks tonight. Haven’t had one for ages. They’ve changed. The chocolate’s the same but the breadstick have been on a diet. They’re tiny! It’s two degrees outside. Glad I’m not in the tent.

Nicky kindly sent me some of her photos from her walk today to include so I hope you like them.

DAY 45
(14th Feb 2021)
Part of the woods we walked today. Never been here before. Look at those log piles!
I liked the perspective of height and depth in this photo
We found running water!
I was fascinated by the colours on the tree bark. I couldn’t capture them overly well but I think they were clearer due to the rain that had hit it.
A yellow plant. No idea what it is I’m afraid. Let me know if you do.

It’s Valentines Day and if you haven’t anyone else to love, then may I send you all some from me. Remember, always love yourself first so take some time today to remember what makes you the wonderful person you are.

I’d like to say that’s what I was doing when I finally roused at 10am, but I started getting pulled out of a dream and refused to let go so fell asleep again. All I know is it involved going clothes shopping and I was still wearing my slippers.

Having checked a few emails I’ve got to prepare a few things for youth club this week (which may involve a walk) and needed to clear my head. I could do both on a ‘prep’ walk so I went into some woods I’ve never visited despite only living a few miles away. It was really lovely. Busy based on the cars in the area but I only saw a few people who were excellent at social distancing. Thank you!

This was one of those walks that gave chance for me and my brother to offload a bit, put the world to rights, reminisce, make plans, and so on. I’m sure you’ve had one of those walks where every possible thing you could talk about gets said. It was really enjoyable. Yes, it was muddy, I put myself on ice and went a few inches down, but who cares? It’s all part of the fun. You can always wash mud off.

Thankfully, despite waking up at 10am, I was at home, which meant I wasn’t being pressured to vacate my room, and the breakfast room was still open too. The stay in the hotel/motel on the A34 was fine. The route continues north. It’s not especially cold out but it is overcast and there’s a few spots of rain at time. A slight diversion on the route sees The Living Rainforest. It’s an attraction that is exactly what it says. Situated inside an oversized greenhouse (by quite a margin), it’s ‘an ecological centre, educational centre and visitor attraction consisting of three glasshouses, operated and run by the Trust for Sustainable Living’ (Tripadvisor). There’s a chance to see rare animals, as well as hands on experiences, and plenty of activities for children. For many of us, this is the closest thing we will ever experience to the rainforest. Sadly closed during the current lockdown, let’s hope they open again soon.

For the remainder of the day I’m locked to the computer (not physically you understand). There’s a reason. I’ve a lot of writing projects that have sadly fallen by the wayside recently and some deadlines for these coming up. I decide to therefore focus on those and allow myself another ‘off day’ where the walking is concerned. I’ll catch up. I know I will. With having to pop to the shop to get resources for the youth club I manage to clock up a few more steps (although I did drive there tonight), and I do a bit of around the house walking before bedtime so this does mean a bit more progress along the route. I’ve realised that I’ve actually worked pretty solidly every day for about a week or so now. This is not healthy in anyone’s books, so although this week is due to be a busy one again, I’m determined either during the week or at the weekend to take the time for me. It’s likely I’ll have to book that, but sometimes it’s a case of needs must.

I reach East Ilsley, a small village stuck to the edge of the A34 and is typical ‘clustered’ design where the properties are centred around a village green, pub, or other local focal point. It looks like a quaint place to visit and whilst only a few miles from I hail from, I don’t think I’ve ever visited. There is somewhere I do know well though and that’s the garage further up the road, mainly because in the year who knows what, my brother, two friends, and I had set off from Oxford on holiday to the south coast. We’d only got as far as the petrol forecourt of the garage on the outskirts of East Ilsley before realising there was something wrong, my brother crawling around under the car in an attempt to fix it, and the remainder of the journey being done on held breaths, stifled giggles, and a prayer or two that we’d survive.

As bedtime beckons, I’m closing in on the village of Chilton which is cut in half by the dual carriageway. There’s far too much to be said about the area that I’ll leave that for the morning when I can explore in daylight. For now, with it on the horizon, I pitch my tent on the Ridgeway. It’s wet, 5oc, and the rain is due to be steady through the night. Much the same as at home. I’ll probably sleep with the window ajar again and listen to the rain again. Whether at home or in a tent, it’s one part of our weather that I really do enjoy.

DAY 46
(15th Feb 2021)
The Ridgeway (c)GoogleEarth

Good morning from The Ridgeway! A lovely start to the day and not much wind. Little overcast but I can deal with that. It soon brightens and we have sunshine.

I’ll add in here that it has been a mammoth of a day (not that I’ve seen any mammoths) but I’ve been so busy I’ve not had chance to type up my diary or even enter my miles into the app, so I’m actually sat at midnight trying to type up a few notes. I promised myself I wouldn’t because I wanted earlier nights and rest, but if I don’t do it, I’ll forget. Tomorrow, I have two evening appointments so I may actually take the morning off for a change. Why not? Self care needs to be prioritised.

This morning was busy because we trialed a youth club session where we met a few youngsters face to face. It worked well and they cooked pancakes in jam tart cases. Now that’s a challenge if anyone fancies one! It was all socially distanced and they were amazing. Following the clean down I had lunch, answered a couple of emails, a swift walk, a LIVE video on Facebook for the business, straight into a committee meeting, a visit to Tesco to get groceries for my next youth club session, and then a desperate edit on a short story that had to be submitted by 23:59. I submitted at 23:58 and 42 seconds. Talk about flying by the seat of your pants. There is something exhilarating about timelines sometimes though. Gives it a sense of adventure.

Talking about adventure, with the limited miles I’ve clocked up today, I’ve walked past Chilton and am settling down for the night in a field just outside Didcot. Chilton, a tiny little village, plays home to a massive institution. The Diamond Light Source is a supersize facility which produces intense beams for science research – I will admit I had to look that up and it still doesn’t mean a lot to me. It’s in stark contrast to the small village of Chilton on the other side of the road, however, it’s not the only one as two other centres reside a short distance away too.

Didcot seems to expand at a rapid rate. Probably most famous for its now extinct chimneys/cooling towers which were a beacon signalling home was close for many in the area, it’s a sprawling town with schools, shopping precincts, train stations, and almost every amenity going. On a youth work front I have to admit their youth service is pretty impressive too!

Didcot Railway Centre attracts many visitors each year and has been used in a plethora of films stretching back to the 1970’s. More recently, classics such as The Danish Girl were filmed here.

There have been signs of life here since Mesolithic times and the town, which is in Oxfordshire, was once a small village in Berkshire. Around these parts, county lines have changed a fair amount. Agriculture is still a big part of the area, the town being completely separate from any other town nearby and thus surrounded by farmer’s fields. As such, if you’re heading along the A34 it can be quite easy to miss it.

As before, one of the things I love is the Cornerstone Arts Centre, mainly because it has a theatre. I’ve only visited once but it was to the entirety of the place, and what a place it was. Modern but homely. I love it, and best of all, it’s slap bang in the middle of everything, not the forgotten friend of the town.

DAY 47
(16th Feb 2021)

Waking up this morning I’ve got to spend some time measuring out ingredients for a youth work cooking activity. It’s great because now youth work is classed as an essential service it means we can offer some sense of normality and structure to the young people. Consequently few steps were done by mid-afternoon, but I’ve managed to make a little progress. The next stop is Abingdon, and before I run a class this afternoon, I’m going to go and have a stroll. It’s quite overcast today but not bitterly cold so pleasant enough for a walk along the A34.

My walk was brisk but I managed, after getting the boots plastered in mud, to get through the woods and around the local park. Only once, but it was enough. Sometimes even taking a different pace changes your perspective. Although I have a lot of ground to cover, I’m often slower as I enjoy where I’m going and what I’m seeing. Today though, time was limited. It was lovely out and even more so seeing families together enjoying the great outdoors. This walk didn’t add a great deal to the overall mileage but it has helped and so the rest of the steps would happen later.

I had a bit of a setback with work in that the class had to be cancelled by the client. Now, I could have seen this as a negative, but instead, I turned it into a positive. I used the time to go Live on Facebook with a really random video about the classes that I run and the benefits to people’s wellbeing. It was quite good fun.

After another Live video an hour later, I headed out, not for a walk, but I still clocked up the steps. I had to visit the supermarket because I’d not been able to get everything for my youth club activity tomorrow night. I wasn’t in there long but you know how you can’t always find what you need? Well, it’s certainly good if you’re trying to get to John O’Groats. It felt like I was halfway there walking around Sainsbury’s. Then on to delivering. Lots of leaping in and out of cars, and once again, the excitement of doorstep deliveries and actually seeing and speaking to people. It does make a difference. This would not be possible had the Prime Minister not agreed that youth work is an essential service. It’s a lovely evening actually. I do like operating in the dark. Maybe I was a mole in a previous life.

The rest of my steps today are clocked up watching the kettle boil but that is fine. It pushes me on and I’ve found that as I do this, I can type up the blog – the laptop has to be on the metal grill on the hob to raise it enough though – plant that image in your mind if you will. It is a bit random, isn’t it? Me walking on a grey tiled floor whilst I tap away on a laptop perched on the hob. My mind is distracted enough not to realise that I’m clocking up a lot of steps. Sometimes that’s all we need to make progress. A distraction. Was anybody distracted by pancakes today too? I was. Yummy!

So where have I got to now? Excitingly, I’ve progressed past Abingdon. I said I would and this is great as I’m heading into home territory now. Abingdon, or Abingdon-on-Thames as it intermittently decides to be, was another location once part of Berkshire but one day felt a change was as good as anything else so drifted into Oxfordshire. I quite like Abingdon. It has the traditional market-town feel with its layout but has a lot of the modern shops and supermarkets too, all within easy reach of one another. The town has remains of the old Roman defences too, and it’s here in Abingdon that the debut of my play All at Sea was performed. It’s a gorgeous little theatre The Unicorn, and quirky in that the dressing room is the other side of a public footpath.

Abingdon used to have a railway line and the station was where Waitrose now stands – if it still existed you could have grabbed your groceries and gone. Express checkout they could call it. Whilst all the modern amenities exist today, Abingdon has a long history in wool and weaving, and at one point was a major player linking several cities through a canal, including areas like the Black Country. This was all but closed down and forgotten about but a group of volunteers are trying to restore it and that pleases me because I absolutely love the canals of this country. Again, another piece of our wonderful history.

One of my great memories of Abingdon was getting the bus from Oxford, stopping for a meal and shopping with parents, before getting a steamer boat back up the river to the city. For those of you of a musical nature, the band Radiohead was formed in this little town.

As we leave Abingdon, we pass between two familiar places. Boars Hill on the left and Kennington on the right. You can’t see either from the road I’m on but they are there and two places that mean a lot. Boars Hill has, in my opinion, one of the best views in Oxford. It also has some of the highest price tags for its houses – a five bedroom house for example is a snip at £3m. Reminiscent of our time in Sandbanks? I’ve spent many an hour up here. Not in any of the houses of course. That’s a pipe dream to even see inside one, but Boars Hill was a big part of growing up.

Youlbury is where I did a lot of my Scouting. It’s the oldest Scout campsite in the world, used at one point as the training centre for adult leaders, and I can recall so many wonderful weekends there. Baden-Powell, the Founder of Scouting, who I explained a lot of about when we reached Poole visited here and there’s even a path named after him. It used to have a marvellous museum which I was fond of, in part because I helped rejuvenate it. Sadly, a few years back, the powers that be decided because it didn’t bring in any money (it’s aim was to educate only) it had to go. More than 3,000 badges since Scouting began had to go, photographs, uniforms, and so much memorabilia handed down from generation to the next was gone. If only the powers that be could have seen the enjoyment so many leaders, families, and children had when they entered the building. Children would spend their ‘free time’ on camp with us – hours they could be there looking at the sorts of things their fathers enjoyed. Ah, memories.

Anyway, I could probably write a book on Youlbury and my memories of the place, but there’s not enough space here. Let me touch briefly on Kennington, a long, sprawling village the other side of the road. It’s where I am the Youth Leader and where so much happens. If you want a village club to join, they seem to do it. If anybody ever complains about the ‘yoof of today’ send them my way because I’ll happily talk to them about the amazing young people we have, many of whom have overcome and battled adversities and difficulties, and still speak up for each other. I’m also good at arm twisting so be prepared to volunteer.

I think it’s a good time to bed down. I could camp at Youlbury or stop in the youth building for the night. It’s 8 degrees outside. Positively sweltering. Maybe not quite, but a tent on the edge of the field is probably the best option. Rise with the sunrise, and around here, the sounds of the deer, foxes, and owls. I absolutely love the area. Goodnight. (Oh, I should tell you about Jarn Mound tomorrow. Remind me when we wake up.)

Gill’s story
DAY 48
(17th Feb 2021)
Roy and Stephanie

Good morning and what a lovely one it is. We had rain overnight so the tent is wet again, but that’s no big issue. That can dry and air whilst I make breakfast. Great view over Oxford. My home. That’s where I’m going to walk today. I’m actually going to meet with Stephanie who is the head of the Oxfordshire Recovery College, one of the parts of Restore that got me back on my feet, and we’re going to walk a couple of miles of the actual route together ‘in real time’. I’ve got to do a few miles before we meet in order to reach it though.

Before all of that though, I said I’d mention Jarn Mound (pronounced Yarn, like the wool). Growing up, Jarn Mound was a mountain to climb. As I get older it feels like a mountain to climb still but in a slightly different way.

Arthur Evans, who lived here and owned a lot of the land, including that which the Scout campsite sits on, and had the mound built (by hand!) in order that he could have uninterrupted vistas all around the area. When I was small, climbing up there as a Cub Scout, the views went on for miles. Sadly, the trees have grown and the the steps up to the top of the mound are in a state of disrepair, although still accessible for the fit and able. At the bottom of the fifty foot high mound is a nature garden, which often gets overlooked by people visiting but, although small in size, offers a lovely little circular walk.

I continue towards Oxford via Donnington Bridge. I’ve been this way many times before and although the bridge crosses the River Thames, at one point there wasn’t even a bridge. It’s relatively modern, completed in 1962. Heading down the Iffley Road, one of the main roads into the city, I’m on my way to Magdalen Bridge. It was originally called Henley Road as it used to be the main road to Henley-on-Thames. Two of the most notables place on the Iffley Road, both of which I have visited are Greyfriars, and the Iffley Road Track. The former, a Catholics Priory. When I worked for the primary school, pre-lockdown, we visited every week. There is a real reverence here. It’s a beautiful venue. On the opposite side of the road the track is where Sir Roger Bannister ran the four minute mile in 1954. I ran the track myself in way over four minutes but there’s something special about being able to say I’ve lightly jogged in his footsteps. The facilities inside are amazing.

Today, I walked the most I’ve walked in one day, and at one time, since I started. I met Stephanie, the inspiriting Head of the Recovery College. We wanted to meet up to walk and it just so happened that when we met on Magdalen Bridge, we ended up walking the route ‘in real time’ which was a great feeling. It rained throughout, but we didn’t care. We had a lovely time talking about anything and everything we could think of. Stephanie is the lady who interviewed me for the podcast that appeared at the start of the week.

Magdalen Bridge is iconic as it leads into the High Street and spans the river. It was opened in 790 but the one standing there today is not the original. Today it’s a rather grand stone one, but it’s original construction is believed to have been wooden trestle in design. This brings to mind the idea of a painters table for me. Fascinating how design moves on though. In some ways we’re glad because at the beginning of the bridge, the Plain Roundabout used to be a graveyard, and I’m not sure I’d have wanted to have been stood there today.

Under normal circumstances, the bridge is synonymous with May Morning celebrations. Previously people would have jumped into the river although a series of awful accidents have made that an obsolete activity – people don’t realise how shallow the water is here. The May Morning celebrations are usually well attended and the Magdalen College choir sing out from the top of Magdalen College tower.

Stephanie and I stroll around Longwall, which follows the remains of the city wall, and head into Saville Road. This is a bit of an odd diversion and according to the app there’s a small square of grass to walk around. There isn’t. It’s all locked up. From Google Earth it actually appears to be part of New College School but I’m not sure, and I don’t know the reason for the diversion either.

We follow the route back past the Natural History Museum and stop at our friends, the Horsebox Coffee Company. Delicious again. The walk takes us up into North Oxford, past Keble College. This is the college with the very distinctive brickwork, neo-gothic in design of red, white, and blue bricks. The interior differs from the norm with rooms leading off of corridors rather than designed around staircases.

Onto North Oxford we pass some of the expensive houses here and then double back slightly to do a loop of the University Parks. It was a very wet walk of about seven miles, but lovely nonetheless, and I was soon home drying out. Then it was onto preparing for youth club (cookalong this evening), doing a Live video, editing the one above, and finally an hour long video call with my friend, and we always put the world to rights.

It’s a shame the app hasn’t taken us through the centre of Oxford. There is so much I could say. The filming locations of Inspector Morse, Lewis, and Endeavour, as well as Harry Potter; the tale of Alice from Alice in Wonderland that was dreamt up here; and all the history of Oxford Castle and Prison. I could also have walked you through the new Westgate Shopping Centre which has caused much controversy. Then there’s everything about Oxford University, which isn’t one entity as it were but a series of 38 different colleges. I used to have a friend who could list them all without looking.

I’ve done a lot of talking today and my throat hurts. My chest also feels a little tight and I could have pulled a muscle, but in true anxiety form with me, my brain has zoomed straight to ‘you’ve got Covid’ because that’s what the brain likes to do. If we didn’t have this virus it would think it’s something else. It will spend some time trying to pinpoint what else it could be now.

I had a quick walk to the shops tonight and by the end of the day had done about 25,000 steps, or 10.7 miles. This total has thus taken me past the lovely area of Summertown which is largely a parade of shops, some independent and some larger brands. I’ve gone past BBC Radio Oxford, over the Cutteslowe Roundabout (where the beautiful Cutteslowe Park with their miniature railway exists).

I’ve skirted around the village of Kidlington, which at the rate it’s expanding will soon have to be called a town. Locals keep resisting this though, hence it is one of the largest ‘villages’ by name in the country. It is believed to have history from at least Roman times. Five years ago, the strangest story to come out of Oxford was masses of tourists descending on a street in the area to take photographs. It made the local news and turns out that the tourists were being charged a high price to visit the nearby Blenheim Palace. Those that didn’t want to or couldn’t pay, were dropped off en route, and far enough away, that they couldn’t walk to the palace but could still enjoy a sense of ‘quintessential’ England. The village has a wide variety of shops and amenities, and is soon to expand further with more housing. The tents still wet from last night having been packed up in my bag which hasn’t gotten wetter and wetter today so I call on The Bell at Hampton Poyle who put me up for the night.

Again, I’ve a few photos and bits to add, but I’ll do that when time permits. We’re over £1000 now. I can go to bed happy.

DAY 49
(18th Feb 2021)

For some reason this diary entry had managed to be deleted so I’m writing it out again on 22nd February. In all honesty, there’s not a lot to tell. My new laptop broke and I spent a very heated day on the phone to Dell who decided that an engineer was my best bet despite not really wishing to try anything in advance. What it meant was cancelling clients, which is an awful thing to do. I felt extremely angry after a day on the phone and it’s not like me to get like that.

I’d woken up at The Bell at Hampton Poyle as well! Not a huge amount of miles today thanks to having to stay in but thankfully a walk in the evening cooled me off and saw me make progress up the A34 again, past another defunct Little Chef, and then North on the M40. On the news there was talk about electric cars becoming the norm and I wonder whether some of these roadside diners will have to reopen, especially if it takes 15 minutes to recharge the cars. People are going to be glad of somewhere to sit.

Set back in the village of Weston-on-the Green are two important features. The first is The Manor, an 11th century house in wonderful landscaped gardens. I’ve only visited once when I was playing taxi. I did get to go inside. The grade II listed building with Tudor decoration offering a fine afternoon tea is a far cry from the other notable place opposite, The Milk Shed, where I’m more accustomed to being, and you can pick up a jolly fine ice cream made in house.

As the evening draws in, I stayed on the edge of the M40. I can think of quieter places.

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