August was yet another busy month at work including two weekends working. I knew I had committed to a monthly micro adventure but as the month wore on I began to convince myself that perhaps it wasn't going to happen.
I had three days off after a working weekend at the end of the month. In my mind I had committed to walking the first half of the Ridgeway. But as the month went on and I started to feel more tired I began to look for all the excuses not to do it. A rail strike was due so perhaps I wouldn't be able to get to my start point at Avebury. The weather was starting to look a bit dodgy etc.
In hindsight that was all about the fact that I was tired and when you get like that your instinct is to seek 'rest'. The reality of that of course is that you end up sitting on the sofa watching television doing nothing. So, I am glad that at the beginning of the year I committed to an adventure a month because that meant that in the back of my mind I knew that whatever happened I had to go.
The country's long distance paths are a great source of micro adventures, they give a structure and a purpose to a trip out and of course they are usually set in beautiful countryside. I also like the fact that there is a beginning and an end which ultimately gives a sense of achievement. So, on Bank Holiday Monday (just meeting the August deadline!) I set off.
Public transport is a great start to a micro adventure as all the worries of where to leave your car etc. are irrelevant. You also start to slow down to the pace dictated by circumstances rather than the accelerator pedal of your car. I took the train from Maidenhead through Reading to Avebury.
Bank holiday Monday was slightly busier than usual thanks to festival goers leaving Reading. I felt slightly out of place with my rucksack given that I was probably 30 years older than everybody else with rucksacks!
A bus from Swindon to Avebury Completed my pre-adventure phase and by lunchtime on Monday I was at the beginning of the trial.
On previous walks I have worn heavy boots. Given the fact that I was likely to be walking on a well-established path I thought I would lighten the load and wear a pair of lightweight trainers.
They say that time spent in preparation is always useful and I wish I had done some preparation around the weather forecast and thinking what the rain that had been falling for some time would actually mean. Within a few minutes I realised what it meant as I was skipping from puddle to puddle in deep mud created by the 4x4 vehicles that use the western end of the Ridgeway.
It didn't take long before I managed to fall over and as well as covering my legs in mud I got my feet very wet. Thankfully my "comedy moment " was not witnessed and I was able to crack on but now with wet feet on a wet day I was storing up a few issues for the future.
The views of the Ridgeway and the surrounding Marlborough Downs Were heavily curtailed by the rain but after 10 miles with occasional vistas of prettiness I arrived at Ogbourne St George where I was going to spend the night.
I had rung a local horse stable who had agreed that I could sleep on the corner of the field for the night. I am glad I did as my wet feet were now starting to get sore and a guaranteed place to kip took one concern away from me. I also had access to enough water to get the worst of the mud off ! Based on previous experience I had decided to rely on local pubs for main meals and so I was able to spend the evening drying off with a pie and a pint which was nice.
Day two dawned much brighter. however I was faced with a bit of a dilemma. I had one pair of dry socks and one pair of socks still wet from yesterday. My shoes were still very wet and I was aware that the grass on the track would also be quite damp. My feet were going to end up very sore if I kept them wet. I then hit on a great idea of putting my dry socks in plastic bags inside my wet shoes. Whilst cutting a slightly bizarre figure as I walked along this helped keep my feet relatively comfortable whilst my shoes slowly dried out on what was becoming a fairly warm day. By mid morning I was able to remove the plastic bags and avoid the odd glances from the occasional passerby.
My walk that day from Ogbourne St George to Sparsholt was beautiful. Magnificent views across the downs and numerous ancient hill forts marking the way and setting a real context to a walk that people had obviously done for millennia. I am not sure however if they had to cope with the concept of inappropriate footwear. After 17 miles my feet, despite my best efforts were feeling very sore thanks to the lack of cushioning in the shoes that I was wearing.
So I was glad to pitch up at a mates house who lives just of the Ridgeway and was able to spend the evening in fine company with a few beers and a small stock of plasters.
My friend dropped me off at the beginning of the path rather than having to walk a mile to it which was a good morale boost to the start of the day. Her big morale boost was to photograph me and then put a joke post on Facebook about giving a hobo a bed for the night. Worryingly some of her friends believed it!
The final day was 17 miles from Sparsholt to Goring. I am glad I set off early as it gave me plenty of time to rest every now and again as by this point my feet really did hurt! However, knowing that this was my last day I was able to crack on knowing that I was nearly done.
I arrived in Goring in the late afternoon and caught a train within minutes of my arrival so there was no real time to bask in the satisfaction of having completed three days and with that the whole of the Ridgeway path.
However 10 days on, now that I found the time to write this up I do feel a real sense of satisfaction. Not only have I completed my first long distance path I have also got a renewed sense of energy. Sometimes it's only when you take time out and do something which makes you focus on the basics (like keeping moving even though your feet hurt) do you realise what's important. Before my three day microadventure I was tired. A few days away and I am rejuvenated, and thats the point.