First order of the day was to mail a package of clothes to Cambridge, which left me with the clothes I was wearing and one change. Plus I also sent off my other pair of shoes and a few bits and pieces. I can’t tell you how many hours of thought I put into every item in my bag, but after lugging it even a short way I found I could happily let quite a few things go. I imagine I am not alone in this experience.
Pub breakfast with my usual accompaniment of iPad and blogging.
Unfortunately when I got to the post office I realised that I still had my room key in my pocket, which meant walking back in the opposite direction. Less than half a kilometre, but still, I was annoyed at myself for getting off to a bad start.
However the weather was perfect and when I got to the monument that marks the beginning of The Way it was festooned in very new-looking banners. Someone has let them know I was coming, obviously;-). No brass band to send me off, which was disappointing, but one cannot have everything I suppose.
The very first bit out of town is a short, somewhat steep hill then there’s a walk through some lush fields, over stiles and very soon the town is out of sight. The very most unpleasant part of the day, terrain wise, was very early on. A series of cow-filled fields that smelled like the Bog of Eternal Stench, which only grew worse as the farm buildings loomed closer. I couldn’t believe the intensity of the odour as I passed between the buildings then had to navigate an actual bog for a few hundred metres, struggling to find grassy lumps to put my feet down on so I wouldn’t sink in up to the ankles.
It was all massively frustrating, primarily because I’ve never hit that sort of terrain in Australia and I also felt a bit worried about the cows in the field because another uk blogger I follow (www.coastalwalker.co.uk ) is always talking about the dangers of cows. Did you know they are the most deadly animal (bar humans I suppose) in the UK, and they kill people by knocking them down then crushing their victim’s ribs in by pressing with their heads? I’m not saying this happens on a daily basis, but knowing it happens at all when you’re standing with a few of the beasts in a spot where you can’t get up any speed… well, it didn’t leave me in the best head space.
Then I got out of the mire and walked up a hill where a bluebell Wood was just coming into flower. It was lovely so I stopped to take a photo.
Except I couldn’t find my phone. Then I thought maybe I’d put it in my shirt pocket and it had fallen out while climbing a stile and then I would have to go back through the cow field and I swear to god I nearly started crying and wondered what on earth I thought I was doing and maybe I shouldn’t even be here.
Of course I then found my phone in one of the hundred or so pockets that my backpack has. Which led me to have a good think about being resilient and why I reacted so strongly. I am not the sort of person who likes to step far from my known physical limits and I almost never take anything close to a risk. So to find that, after all my careful planning and thinking, I might have made a stupid and easily-avoided mistake, was upsetting. Still, the whole thing was a good reminder to just be thorough, don’t panic and always put precious things in the same, zip-up pocket rather than moving them around. During the day I developed a system of where to keep various items so they would be accessible and now I feel much better.
Anyhow! Apart from that blip things went very well. I met a Scottish woman while I was having a snack break and she stopped to chat for a while (you’re camping? My goodness!) it was nice to meet another solo female. Then I met a retired couple and walked with them for a couple of hours until they split off to find their accommodation.
This is the view I had pretty much all day.
I don’t really know what walker etiquette is in terms of how long you keep going with people you start chatting to… I guess people make it clear if they want to be alone. They were very friendly though and we had a good time and I didn’t feel he need to look at my map every five steps, which is what I do when I’m alone.
After that I didn’t see another soul. I decided to camp at a place called Birch Bank, about half a km from the trail. It was quite a remote spot and I’d called ahead to make sure there was room but only got their answering machine.
Not that it mattered – I was the only person there.
Having taken it very easy (I’d walked about 14km in 7 hours) , I arrived at about 4pm. I pitched out of the wind and in the sun and I had time to sit and read a bit of The Inimitable Jeeves before cooking a unique mix of two minute noodles and couscous, then donning every warm thing I owned and rolling into my sleeping bag. I think I was asleep before the sun set at 8:30.
A day well spent!
As I was walking I was wondering – what are other people’s must-have camping equipment? Do you take any luxury items? My pack feels so pared-down now that unless I ditched the jetboil and fuel I don’t think I could leave anything else out… and yet it is so heavy!