What a fantastic 12 days of walking!

We did it!

In all I reckon there was around 50 different walkers who took park in the opening walk. Ages ranged from 8 years old to over 70. Women massively outnumbered the men, which I think proves what a hottie I am 😉

At the official starting point of The Games Way opening walk

At the official starting point of The Games Way opening walk

Most of the walkers did one or two days, which was brilliant. Having done the whole walk in one go I am certain that the best way to enjoy the walk is to do it in bite size chunks – a day or a weekend at a time. It is much easier on the feet and you can spend more time looking around and enjoying the incredible scenery on show.

On our way to Durdle Door

On our way to Durdle Door

Anyone “lucky” enough to walk with me on days 5-9 might have sensed the occasional hint of discomfort I was getting from my feet, or more likely a prolonged barrage of expletives! Sorry about that, but take it as a salutory lesson on making sure you are in well-proven boots before embarking on a long walk. One of the bigger blisters got infected, swollen and very painful – at which point compeed plasters become a hindrance rather than a help. Many thanks to Felix for saving the day with brilliant dressing skills, and to Paul (who I’d only met that day) for donating some of his first aid kit to the cause.

Me and the donkeys, Plaitford common

Me and the donkeys, Plaitford common

Felix remains the best walking partner I could ever have – nearly always in good humour and keeping the whole walk a fun and enjoyable experience. However, her position came under intense competition on this walk from a scruffy but beautiful little dog called Poppy who stole all our hearts.

Felix taking the weight off her feet, New Forest

Felix taking the weight off her feet, New Forest

Poppy and Hodge walked nearly all of the walk with us apart from a couple of days where they left us for a big family celebration. They are an incredible team and fantastic company, both lean, fit and with bulletproof feet. Hodge is a wonderful man who really loves the outdoors and walking, and was truly in his element on this walk. It was great to be able to show him new parts of the country outside his stamping ground of Oxfordshire.

Hodge v cows

Hodge v cows - will the tent dry out or be eaten first?

One of the peculiarities of organising a walk online and using social media is that you don’t really know who is going to support your ideas or turn up for the walk. I have always been amused for example at the number of knitters who have taken an interest, and they were well represented in the walk by Helena and Liz. Helena walked the first 2 days with us and then cycled to meet us on the last day. Liz walked with us for 3 and a half days and arrived at Winchester with a brilliant hand-printed Walk2012 T-shirt for me!!

Liz leading the way across the Itchen

Liz leading the way across the Itchen

I have always hoped that the idea of the walk would inspire a few non-walkers to take to the hills, including my own boys who run shrieking from the room to the comfort of their X-box at any suggestion of going out for a walk! I am delighted that Jack joined us in Romsey and Sam in Guildford, and once they got over the vision of their dad walking like a battered tramp I think they were quite proud of what we were doing. Felix’s family also joined for a day near Alton and are now planning to do other stages of the walk too.

Gangsta paradise, under the M25

Gangsta paradise, under the M25

However the prize for new walker has to go to Liz from Devon who rocked up on day 1 having never walked before, and then walked the toughest 5 days with a full pack and tent, at which point she had more blisters than toes and had to stop. We were heartbroken to see her go and so it was a massive lift to our spirits when she returned for the last 2 days, still smiling.

Liz in Richmond Park

Liz wondering why on earth she decided to come back for more!

Of course the walk attracted seasoned walkers too and I was delighted with the support in Hants from Team AOG, the Andover Outdoor Group. In particular I am indebted to Jan for her formidible skills in arranging for the local press to meet us in Winchester, and the effervescent Janet for helping out so much, particularly at the Puttenham Eco Camping Barn. It was brilliant to finally meet Phil (of SocialHiking fame) on the first day, and to walk with a work colleague and fellow walker Glenn on the way to Bentley.

Janet doing Olympic Gymnastics: the beam

Janet doing Olympic Gymnastics: the beam

I am really pleased that so many of our friends turned up to join in with the walk – I promise to start talking about something else now! I am grateful to Anne, Chris and Greg who ended up taking our bags from the finishing point to the pub whilst Felix, Hodge, Liz, Liz and I watched the athletics for a couple of hours.

Greg and Sharon walked with Hodge, Liz, Me, Felix and Liz  to the Olympic Park

Greg and Sharon walked with Hodge, Liz, Me, Felix and Liz to the Olympic Park

Sharon, who is one of Felix’s friends from Ireland walked the last few miles with us and told our story to the people at the ticket office. Sharon is an amazing, irrepressible positive force of nature and somehow she got the ticket folk to make a few phone calls and magic us 5 tickets for the athletic stadium. So a massive thank you to Sharon and the lovely ticket pixies for providing us with an incredible end to an amazing adventure!!

Sharon and Felix

The amazing Sharon greets us at Tower Bridge

For more photos of the walk, please check the album on our facebook page.

Thank you all so much for your support, for joining in and for making this such a fun project to do. I am delighted that so many people turned up for the opening walk, that someone else is walking it in reverse, and that The Games Way is an established long distance path and in the LDWA database. You can continue to download the walking guide free of charge here.

Outside the Olympic Stadium

Outside the Olympic Stadium

Several people asked me whether I have plans to get the walk waymarked. I think it is a brilliant idea, but not something I have the energy to see through. If you would like to take it on then you have my blessing and if I can help then I will do my best.

Why have you stopped walking?

Why have you stopped walking?

Coming soon: Poppy’s diary of the walk…

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8 Responses to What a fantastic 12 days of walking!

  1. Knit Nurse says:

    Thanks for this lovely write-up, and what a great ending to the walk! I just assumed you’d been incredibly organised and lucky to have tickets for that evening’s events!! Sharon is a star to get you such a great reward for your efforts, which you thoroughly deserved. I enjoyed my two days immensely, meeting new people, all so incredibly different and yet so welcoming and friendly, and walking in such glorious countryside even up the massive hills was a true priviledge. I am itching to try some more parts of the walk (itching for the Itchen I think!) and look forward to following in your footsteps very soon, although hopefully with fewer blisters!

  2. Paul says:

    Many Congratulations Mark, you did it! I had some insight into the planning and preparation that you put into this. You had fantastic Weather as well! You will certainly never forget London2012!

  3. Fergus Ford says:

    Amaaazing!! Well done Mark – I know how hard this whole process has been, and we are both very proud of you all for the MASSIVE achievement :)

    Sorry your feet got so knackered, but glad Zincy was their to nurse the wounds, and what a touch that you got into the stadium on the last day. Personally, I think you should have been awarded a medal yourself for your tireless efforts anyway, but some free tickets are nearly as good 😉

    Well done again and love to all x

  4. admin says:

    Ah, thank you all so much for your lovely comments – it is ALWAYS a treat to get comments on the blog, and I really appreciate them right now as the post-adventure slump looms near!

    Helena, I am sure you will love the Itchen. If you want to focus solely on the Itchen you could tweak the walk a little by getting the train to Shawford, and walking along the Itchen through Winchester and out to New Arlesford (stopping at the Bush at Ovington and/or the Cricketers in New Arlesford, both en route), and then get a bus back to Winchester for the train home.

    Paul – you are absolutely right – I don’t think any of us who took part in the walk will forget London2012, but especially the 5 of us who were there at the end and allowed into the stadium. It is such a massive jolt when for most of the 12 days you quietly plod along barely meeting a soul out walking, and then suddenly find yourself in a cauldron with tens of thousands of cheering and clapping people.

    Ferg – thanks very much for the congratulations – your sister is a star xxx

  5. colleen says:

    Congratulations to everyone! Sorry I couldn’t get back in time to join you on the last day.

  6. admin says:

    Thanks Colleen!

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  8. jeannette says:

    i’ve done the trifecta, reading felix’s and poppy’s and now your account of the trek. please don’t stop doing them and documenting them, for those of us who want to see these byways. the pic on the way to durdle door is one to dream of, thanks so much.

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