18th July 2012


A rose-tinted nostalgia is already setting in as I remember the walk I did on just a few days ago. Though really it was on the whole surprisingly better than I feared it might be.

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The day began at some unearthly hour for a Saturday, and I tried to pack far too much into a slim body bag. Porridge was eaten mostly standing up and walking around as I gathered my few bits and pieces, then put on my fluorescent jacket, picked up my waterproofs and stepped out the door at 7am. To my delight there were a few people from St John’s congregation to see me set out. After a few photos, clutching my map and copious directions, I was off. Not too fast, I was thinking, a steady pace, time to warm up the muscles and find a sustainable pace.

I had divided the walk into five sections, plus the home straight back to St John’s. The first section was the longest, so I thought, once I’ve done this, the other sections are all ‘manageable’ – about 4 miles each. Weather was cloudy and coolish – good conditions for walking. Along the way we had positioned about 10 or so publicity points at parishioners’ houses and the 3 church buildings. “Hilary’s Hike passing here soon” said the posters, accompanied by balloons and sponsor forms. It was really heartening to come across these markers. Sometimes the householders came out to see how I was doing. I waved through the windows at a few bemused parishioners having their breakfast, as I passed by their houses. A few friendly cars and their passengers peeped me a greeting.

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Every now and again, churchwarden Margaret would pop up with her camera to snatch a quick photo, and make sure I was OK. Sections one and two done, I began the walk through one of the more recent housing developments in the parish. I was making quite good time, even after I got a little bit lost and retraced my steps a few times, trying to find a connecting alley way. I discovered a whole range of alleys and pathways between roads that I never knew were there. It was beginning to rain a bit more heavily by lunchtime. I called on husband David and he brought me lunch, and I happily munched away as I continued to walk – it was rather too soggy to stop, plus I was concerned that if I stopped for too long, I would find it very difficult to start again! Though I did have brief pauses in between sections – and took my boots and socks off a couple of times, as advised!

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The rain didn’t last for too long, and I was glad that the section across the fields to Hampton Poyle wasn’t impassable – a bit muddy, but OK.

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Then back to the final section, through North Kidlington. The skies cleared, the sun came out, and I wasn’t in the best state of mind and body to fully appreciate it – I’d slowed down quite a bit and my legs were struggling. David came to supply emergency cereal bar rations, and lighten my load by taking my waterproof coat. Finally, I only had the home straight to walk – about one and quarter miles down the Banbury/Oxford Road.

It was so lovely to turn the final corner and wonderful to see a welcoming party in the church car park. I had done it! 25 miles in 9 hours 40 minutes. Gifts of soothing and energising bath bubbles were very gratefully received, and I staggered home to bathe my feet. Which were in pretty good condition – no blisters!

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Even better news came a day or so later, as it became clear that the walk will raise over £1000 for St John’s Renovation Project.

So what now? Well, I’m still enjoying the more relaxing aftermath of not preparing for Hilary’s Hike, of not feeling I need to spend most of my days walking, of not worrying about whether I will make it or not. It’s a good feeling – and better for gratefully being aware of the many different people who were part of the effort, who had helped me in a variety of ways, including keeping me in their thoughts, and for knowing that ‘just’ putting one foot in front of another will hopefully make a difference to a good cause.

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