Thursday, 10 October 2013

Final Thank you!

After finally rediscovering my login details; I am just writing my final blog for a summary/ thank you to you all. Thank you so much for your patience with this final blog- I do realise that it is now 5 weeks over due, sorry for that. I had better make it a good one; no pressure.

Okay so as many of you know my hectic lifestyle which I choose to lead does mean that I haven't actually taken more than a second to sit back and think about what this crazy challenge involved or means or why on earth I even set off on it in the first place.
I often get asked 'did you enjoy it'? Quite simply, no. If you read my blog throughout you would have followed a journey of emotion and pain; and more pain. It's a completely unrecommended experience- unless of course you have two months to kill, £3,000 to spend, and two feet which you do not overly love.
However, apart from this adventure being the most painful experience of my life, my golly am I glad I did it. I have learnt an awful lot about myself and the beautiful secrets of our country. I suspect this challenge will not really sink in until I am about 30 years old, when I take a chance to look at a map of Great Britain, or I finally get round to printing out the hundreds of photos taken and placing them in some kind of memorabilia to remind me of the great task Kate and I set out to do when we were on summer break at 21 years old. But, having taken it in or not, there is now a huge influence of this experience in my life. From knowing that I have no limits; even when I am ready to give up I know I can go on; to knowing how to efficiently pack my bag for a weekend away (a good sill to learn I'd say).

My family, friends and colleagues are still congratulating me on achieving the challenge of walking 1100 miles across the country. I haven't really got my head round what they are congratulating me on; yes I can walk for a really long time. The answer I am sure, will come in good time.
But what I would really like to do is thank those people that really helped me to complete this adventure; because without each of these individuals help in their own special way, I really wouldn't of been able to succeed (or at least not as easily anyway). Sorry if the list is extensive, but as you can appreciate it is important for me to do this.

Firstly, Thank you to Kate. Thank you for suggesting the idea of walking 1100 miles across the country. Next challenge, is my idea! Thank you for your amazing organisation skills that went in to this trip- you did an amazing job! Thank you for not screaming at me when I got us 7 miles lost- on two occasions! I'm convinced it was the maps fault though! Thank you supporting me, being patient with me and for believing in us. I couldn't of asked for a better pal to cross the country with. You did great babe, congrats!

Thank you to my mum- of course. A. for never questioning why I was doing this challenge; how I would do it; or whether I would complete it. But instead for just sitting back and believing in me that I would do it. B. for supporting me in a different way to how anyone else could- for being the reason I wanted to cross that line. You were the person I was most excited to see once crossing that line, and the only person I desperately couldn't wait to hug. Thank you mum!

Thank you to my oldest sister- Cheryl. My god you were a shining little angel for both Kate and I. I can remember calling you on day 6, crying, asking for you to become a doctor over night and cure my blisters and tell me what was wrong with them- without you having even seen a picture of them. You packed my bag for me before I set off- a draining 6 hours of it! You checked and double checked my packing list and then marched me round the shops when with only 24 hours to go before my flight took off I still only had 5 blister plasters. The four trips you took to visit Kate and I during the trip helped us through two of the hardest stretches of our entire walk- with 34 miles being covered on one of the days. You delivered us everything from pillows and dresses to Jager and homemade cake. You my darling were everything and more than I could of asked for! Thank you so so much.

Thank you to the most amazing man in my life- Steve. My caring Step dad. As always, you pulled it out of the bag. Organising all of my family to be there on the finish line on August the 24th- not only was it a bank holiday, but also 600+ miles from home. From booking the amazing surf shack for us all to stay in to preparing the champagne delivery for all of us at the finish line- exactly what the doctor had ordered! I am very lucky to have you in my life, and the support you showed me was very touching. Thank you.

Thank you to my youngest sister- Precious. Thank you for the video you made me of all of my family and some old school teachers wishing me good luck. Receiving this in week three made me smile from the inside and out. That was the nicest thing you've ever done for me- thank you!

Thank you to Hayley, Matt, Jc and Cj. The rest of my siblings. Thank you for your daily support through phone calls to written cards to ice cream deliveries. The effort you put in to see me during my trip was amazing, and I will be forever grateful.

My immediate family raised £800 for British Heart Foundation- a charity very close to all of our hearts. Thank you to all of you.

Thank you to Melinda and Chris; Kate's very lovely parents. Melinda, spending five days with you in week three was fantastic. You should be very proud of yourself for walking 100 miles in four days, such a great effort. But thank you also for your kindness and generosity; the hotels and B&B's you booked for Kate and I were wonderful and the food Kate and I got to eat in this short stint of the challenge was some of the best in our whole trip. Thank you very much. Chris, spending three days with you in week 7 was just lovely. Your a kind hearted man and it was special for Kate and I to share that time with you. Thank you for showing us where you grew up and the stories that came with it. They were the perfect distraction from the fact we had just walked 1000 miles. To both of you; thank you for posting all 49 maps to Kate and I along our trip, with perfection at its best I now see where Kate gets her painfully organised ways from (don't worry, she taught me a thing or two), and for your generosity throughout our trip. Thank you very very much.

Thank you to Josh and Amanda; two very good friends of mine. For so kindly coming to meet me on the finishing line and then enduring three days with me and my crazy family. It was very special to me that you made it there- thank you very very much.

Thank you to my good friend Oliver. Who, very kindly endured hours (literally) of my phone calls throughout the trip. From discussing the scenes of British country side to the sight of my feet- I'm really not sure how you put up with me. However, quite often our phone calls kept my sanity and focus. So thank you for not hanging up on me!

Thank you to my personal training client- Adrian. Now this man sent Kate and I a message every single day of our trip, in the aim of lifting our spirits and encouraging us to keep going. He also visited us in Somerset for three days. Adrian, you put a smile on Kate and I's face every day when we read our little stories from you- thank you so much for your dedicated support to us.

A massive massive thank you to all of the ladies at Curves of Twickenham. These ladies have been unbelievably supportive from day one. My boss- Tabitha. Thank you for three months off work so that I could complete this challenge- I loved it, thank you! But to all of the ladies, from your advise, to your encouragement you were just amazing. I'm truly touched by the support you showed me. From reading my blog daily, to the thousands of pounds that you have collectively donated to the British Heart Foundation. I really can't say thank you enough.

Thank you to my very good friend, Miles. As you already know, your a massive inspiration in my life. As a blind 67 years young man, who has achieved more in the last 10 years of your life than most ever do- speaking to you over the phone and hearing your kind words but most amazingly your inspiring and motivating words were so often the great reason I carried on. Thank you so much for everything; your an amazing man, and I am honoured to call you a friend.

Thank you to my university; St Mary's University of Twickenham. They supported Kate and I from the start; placing us on their website to tweeting about us (not that I've really grasped what this is). But after being nominated by one of our lecturers, without Kate or I knowing; Kate and I won a scholarship for outstanding contribution to the university and community. To be recognised for something we have done outside of university by our university is actually a really good feeling. So thank you.

Now from the trip;

Thank you to Scot and Lindsay who we stayed in their B&B on our 7th day- the most painful day for me of the whole trip. You found me in an emotional heap at the end of your guest room and just looked after Kate and I like we were your own family. From getting us dinner to letting me soak in your bath. Taking us to A&E to fix our infected blisters to gifting us a second night in your beautiful home. Thank you so much. You were the loveliest people I met on the whole trip and I honestly don't know if my feet could of made it without your help and advise. Thank you so so much.

Thank you to the sweetest lady who gave Kate and I a cup of tea and a Kit Kat each on day 5 after walking 34 miles. For both Kate and I this was the most exhausting day; after 16 hours of walking. So thank you for your kindness.

Thank you to Carl and Bill who gave us a hitchhike 30 miles each on day three- you saved us from wild camping without us having to change our route or cut off any miles that we needed to walk, so thank you for picking up two crazy girls in the middle of the Scottish Highlands.

Thank you to Anne Marie, and Jim for welcoming Kate and I to stay in your beautiful home. I will never forget how comfy those pillows were and how homely it was to have dressing gowns and slippers; and your generosity of giving us our next evening in a B&B instead of camping. You are a lovely couple, thank you. Thank you to Barbra and Willy also, for cooking us a delicious home cooked meal and for taking us on your stunning sailing yacht across Loch Lomand.

Thank you to Emily, Carole, Lilly, Kila and Surya for meeting us along the walk. It was lovely to share the adventure with our friends; and the planning it took you all to time your meetings with us, we really appreciated it. Thank you.


Thank you to everybody who so kindly donated to me and the British Heart Foundation.

As you all know, I did this trip in memory of my dad, Carl. My inspiration. Thank you to him for watching over us and for making me wake up every day with a smile. I can only hope I've made you proud.

But to all of you who sponsored me, every penny donated was hugely appreciated. The generosity you have shown towards such an amazing cause has been heart touching.

Thank you very very much.; and thank you for following my blog- now I think you all deserve a drink. Cheers.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Day 48; Dad

No alarms set. Just woke once the adrenaline got too high and the excitement set in. Today was the day we had been dreaming about for 7 weeks; the day it ended and we achieved what many thought would be impossible. Most excitingly for me, it was the day I get to see my family and hug my mum.

We packed our rucksacks and took our tent down for the last time. Showered. Grabbed breakfast and set off. With only 4.4 miles to walk to the finish line today would literally feel like a Sunday stroll. We could see our finish point from our campsite with the lighthouse in the distance. With butterflies in my stomach we walked on.

Half a mile to go- time for hair wax application. 200 meters to go- we could see our families in the distance, we had our picture taken just before entering the gates to 'Lands End'. 100m to go- our families were waiting at the finish line with a banner for us to walk through, ballons tied to them and we could here them cheering us in. Kate and I waving back at them. And we crossed the line; smiling and proud. 1100 miles, self supported, in 48 days. What an incredible moment. Hugging my mum, we didn't want to let go. After many congratulations from our families and my good friends Amanda and Josh who both made the journey down to watch me cross the line- thank you! We walked the final 100m to the sign post, for the official finishing point. Kate and I proudly stood under our sign before asking all of our family to join us.

After the millionth photo we all headed to the 'First mile Inn' a pub famous for pinning all of the End to Enders t-shirts on their pub ceiling. Kate and I wrote on our t-shirts, an adventure summed up as '48 days, 63 blisters and one massive achievement'. Kate and her parents shortly left as they headed to a spa on the East coast of Cornwall for a little luxury. My family stayed sitting in the sunshine enjoying Cornish Rattler and champagne. After a short stagger back to our 'surf shack' we spent the rest of the day in celebration. I was a little worse for ware by 10pm and was gratefully put to bed. 

 What an amazing day. An incredible journey. All in memory of my dad, Carl. Dad you were my inspiration. My family were my motivation. Thank you to everyone who helped Kate and I achieve the goal we set ourselves one year ago; from your daily messages and visits along our trip to sponsorship to our chosen charities. It's been a heart warming experience and I'm touched by all of you who helped us. Thank you.

P.S. I will write my final blog in 7 days as a following up in reflection of our journey.
Thank you to everyone for following the blog for the past two months.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Day 47; Champagne

It was strange to wake up on our second to last day. This was our last day of 'long distance' walking- tomorrow was designed just to be fun- so it was the last day of challenging moments. I felt almost empty yet filled with adrenaline... but excited too knowing that all of my family were on their way to Lands End ready for tomorrow- I can't wait to see them! Anywhoo, with 18 miles to walk we left St Ives and were heading for Sennen. 

We walked along barren footpaths surrounded by absolutely nothing. Just marsh land, rock and of course, cows. The sea was calm as the air pressure was high and the cloud cover was low so we were often walking amongst the white shadows that covered the hill tops. 
We stopped in a pub at lunchtime; treating ourselves to a half pt. of Cornish Rattler, I was merry as anything afterwards. (I'm going to be a fresher all over again once we return to Uni). Bouncing along the coastal path we made it to St. Just, the last town of our entire journey. Kate and I decided to treat ourselves to a bottle of champagne and some of our favourite delights for dinner. 

Finishing the last three miles along Land's End airport, we finally had our finish line in sight. The famous lighthouse was flashing and we smiled gleamingly, knowing we only had 5 miles left. 
Once our tent was pitched I got to work on being 'Chef' for the night, sitting outside with the sun setting over the Atlantic sea and Land's End in view, Kate and I talked about our favourite times and what we had learnt throughout the trip, while our sausages gently cooked. 

We ate our picnic/feast in our tent, drinking champagne from juice bottles. We were both so excited to cross the finish line tomorrow and see our families. Finally, one day to go!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Day 46; Memories

Almost done with eating cooked breakfasts by now we ate our last one of the trip and headed on our way to St. Ives. The skies were already blue and the wind was soft- today was going to be a good day! 

We walked along the coastal path after crossing the River Hayle; everything around us was beautiful from the corn fields, to the white sandy beaches that stretched for miles. The sunshine made you feel as though you were in the Mediterranean somewhere- perfect, this meant we could top up those dodgy tan lines just before the end. 

I knew this area well as I came here a lot with my family as a kid, it was strange to now be choosing to walk the same footpath ten years later, but now by my own choice. We made it to St. Ives by 1.30 where we got a Cornish ice cream and pasty. 

St. Ives has a quaint harbour surrounded by ice cream parlours, restaurants and small surfey type shops, however it I also one of the biggest tourist attraction towns in the while of Cornwall. It was heaving. Chris, Kate and I left the buzzingness of the town to pitch our tent and say goodbye to Chris (until the finish line in two days time). It was so lovely to have him here and to share the experience with him, thank you Chris! 

I headed back to St. Ives on the local bus leaving Kate to 'wash her hair'. I met Cheryl and Jc there which was really lovely as it meant we could properly catch up- with an ice cream. Once Kate joined us we all went for a drink on the harbours edge before Kate and I went for dinner. 

Dinner was gorgeous! Local mussels caught that morning. The moon was amazing this evening, it was enormous and sat right on the horizon central to the harbour; it glowed bright orange as the sun reflected off of it. 
One we got back to our campsite Cheryl and Jc had decorated our tent with fairy lights and spelt out 'home' in the grass with twinkle lights. The cutest thing- thank you! 
Just two days to go.

Day 45; Surprise

After the biggest breakfast (yet delicious) that I ever wish to eat, we left heading for Gwithian. The coastal path made our walk jaw droppingly gorgeous- the sun was hot, hot, hot, and the bays of the west coast of Cornwall didn't disappoint with turquoise waters, rocky cliff edges with delicate purple and yellow heather smothering them. 

We could see seal's basking in the sun while Chris told us stories from when he grew up in the local area. It was amazing. Shame about the pain in my feet, but with three days to go I can't complain. 

We arrived at our B&B by 5.30 with tea and cake ready for us in the garden. Once we were completely relaxed and clean we went for dinner in the local village, kindly booked by out B&B owner. The atmosphere was great, food was yummy, company was wonderful and it was about to get even better! 

Cheryl and Jc came up behind me at the table- I couldn't believe it! They were on a road trip round Cornwall and just by chance had ended up in the same restaurant at the same time as us- craziness! But I was so thrilled- my family was here- now, happy happy happy! (even if it was just for a 20 minute conversation- thank you for finding me!)

Day 44; Ice-cream

After a late night of high alert spider watching, we set off after breakfast at 9am. A kind lady from our B&B sponsored us twenty pounds which was really sweet. Chris was set to go with his new pole bottoms, and Kate and I were excited to be meeting our good friend Surya from Uni at the five mile mark. 

Passing beautiful sandy beaches including Fistral Bay in Newquay while the sun was shining made the scenery stunning. Seeing Surya for the first time in two months was just amazing- I was so happy to see her, and time apart meant only one thing- there was lots of catching up to do. What better way to do it than over 12 miles!? 

Chris meanwhile was questioning when lunchtime was; we stopped on the roadside at 9 miles where I had my personally selected salad bowl from Morrisons- treating ourselves here in Cornwall! We finished at Peranporth by 3 o'clock which was speedy timing so Chris decided we deserved a Cornish ice-cream as our reward. Surya and I went on a search, mint choc chip and banana split flavour, then we headed to the beach for some chill out time. 

After taking off my walking boots we strolled along the busy sandy beach and my toes felt as though they had landed in toe heaven. This was perfect- girly chit chat time, on the seaside, eating icecream with the sunshine trying to peek out. With three hours until Surya's bus came we found ourselves enough time to make it to the pub (standard Surya influences). 

It was sad to say goodbye but it had been so so lovely to see her- thank you Bear for making such an effort to make it down to see us. 
Julie, our B&B owner picked up Kate, Chris and I at 6 and took us to her country style home in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Julie had booked us in to a recommended restaurant and offered to be our 'taxi' for the night, as her support to Kate and I. Dinner was delicious! What a wonderful day. Happy times.

Day 43; Miles

Today was an unusual day... we woke at 7.30 by the sunlight and then decided to wait for Kate's dad (Chris) to arrive so that we could let the tent dry before packing it away. This meant a lie in, so at 9.15 we finally got out of our sleeping bags and starting organising ourselves. It felt like a day off, that was until Chris arrived and then left again and we then had to motivate ourselves to start. 

Kila and Emily drove to us enroute and brought us our first Cornish pasties and homemade carrot cake- delicious! Thanks girlies! The sun was delightfully warm today and the walk was pleasant through small country lanes. Our latest lucky escape; on a public footpath we crossed a gate for a dairy cows farm with around 100 cows almost 150m away. Listening to my ipod in my own little world, Kate was ahead and suddenly she's turned and running. The cows obviously thought it was feeding time and were hurtling towards us- I pegged it! By the time I was over the gate the cows were within 10m away- that's a lot of running when there's no food at the other end. Made me and Kate giggle though.

My feet were painful today, but my knees were worse. They have been keeping me up at night recently, and now not even strong pain killers were touching the pain. Hobbling along feeling like the little man out of 'Aladdin' with the walking stick I was starting to feel sorry for myself. A good friend of mine had hoped to join us on our walk today, Miles. He is 67 and has been blind since he was 21; now a motivational speaker across the world due to the many life challenges he has undertaken. Unfortunately due to circumstance he was unable to make the trip down, however today I used him as my distraction and inspiration. If he could achieve running the death valley Sahara desert marathon then of course I could walk this final little leg. But doing it smiling, not so easy. So in spirit, thank you for your motivation today Miles! 

We reached Mwagan Porth by 6pm where we met Chris at our B&B- now shattered and really struggling to walk 'normally' I crawled up the stairs (quite literally) to shower before dinner. Dinner was in a local pub that served simply gorgeous food, and it was lovely to have Chris's company- it got me even more excited to see my parents at the weekend! 

Once we returned to our rooms I had one final shake up before bed; sitting there minding my own business, a spider drops on to the floor next to my bed. Absolutely enormous- and me being completly petrified of spiders I screamed and ran in to the bathroom where Kate was happily brushing her teeth. Thinking I had almost killed myself, Kate tried to work out what was wrong amongst all of my screaming, shaking, tears (again) and speechlessness. Chris knocked at the door wondering what had happened and I pegged it outside. Chris sorted the devilish monster and assured me it was safe to return to the comfort of my bed. Great- I was now 'one of those girls'... thats a life challenge for another day I think. Happy to say though just 5 days to go now.