By Tom Winnifrith | Sunday 29 July 2018
The 33 mile walk from Horse Hill to Woodlarks was actually a bit longer for myself and super-fit Dan Levi, Brokerman Dan. At about fifteen miles Dan and Lucian were striding ahead and myself and Andrew Bell were somewhat lagging. We came to a junction and the sign clearly said head left, downhill. And so we did that. Worrying that we might have made the wrong decision I called Lucian who assured us that it was okay to follow the sign at the gate. He said Dan and he would wait.
After about 400 yards there was no sign of our leaders and so Andrew and I sat on a bench and made another call. Pretty soon Dan bounded up as would have Tigger. As a normal man would have flagged he was still full of beans and duly bounded back up the hill as Andrew and I retraced our steps.
I pay real tribute to my friend, Joshua's Godfather, Lucian Miers who was our pathfinder always at the front urging us on and also a faultless planner of the route and map readers. Without Lucian we would have failed. At the end he claimed to be tired but I d not believe him, he is a true hero of the walking world.
Dan is one hell of a fit old coot. But he would selflessly drop back to make sure that the laggards were okay and to spur us on with talk of blockchain and how great Jeremy Corbyn will be for Britain.
For the first 18 miles my near constant companion as a laggard was Andrew Bell although sometimes, as I found a few blackberries to scoff, he got ahead and I was not man enough to catch up. For a 60+ year old who had done virtually no training to manage 18 miles without complaint was truly heroic. Next year Andrew says he will train and do the whole course.
So from 18 miles to 27 miles I lagged by myself although now and again Dan dropped back and he and Lucian would wait for me every little while so as not to allow me to get utterly lost.
I was so glad that Aidan Earley joined us at 27 miles. Aidan says he is out of condition so happily lagged along with me at the back. Though the countryside remained stunning as it got a bit darker I did not appreciate that, instead chatting to Aidan and dreaming of the finish. Aidan got me over that line for which I am very grateful indeed.
A mile out, as you can see below, Dan took off his shorts and walked until shortly before Woodlarks, in his underwear. He did not care who saw him he was happy that this gimmick helped us raise more cash.
Finally at 8.10, just over 14 hours after we set off, we arrived at the start of the drive up to Woodlarks. It is a gentle slope but felt like Everest. I was happy that Nick from Woodlarks was there to meet us and walked those last few hundred yards at my side.
All the way along I had been dreaming of meeting Nick, his lovely partner Sarah, the Mrs, Joshua and Lucian’s wife at the end, thinking of the sums raised (so far £31,000 with gift aid and a final bonus pledge from my 75 year old coach Brian Basham). But what I saw just melted my heart.
There was a camp at Woodlarks so the final approach was lined by campers, teenagers, and by the real heroes the volunteers, mainly teenagers, who look after them. And they cheered and applauded us up the hill to a finishing line they had made which we crossed together, myself, Lucian, Dan and Aidan. Hugs all round, a bottle of champagne and a burger.
My feet are in agony, I am sore in places a Gentleman does not discuss, I walk with a hobble but those last few yards yesterday will stay with me for a long time. I know that Lucian and Dan feel the same way and so there will be a next year for which we can start planning and, indeed, are planning.
It will be bigger and raise even more money. My daughter Olaf will join us, Andrew Bell will do all 33 miles, I shall be approaching other folks to join us and so will Lucian and Andrew. I will not start fund raising for that for many months.
To all those who have supported this walk I thank you. To my fave PR bird Kate Tzouliadis who drafted and go our press releases out, to Darren for uploading all the photos and organising the website, to Lucian, Dan, Andrew and Aidan, my fellow Rogue Bloggers who made this possible, to the stars of Woodlarks who gave us something to walk for and to all who donated I say thank you.