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 😉
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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.