Just two weeks to go now, and our final ‘big walk’, to get a few more miles under our feet, and more specifically, to do some night walking. Arundel to Portsmouth, not by the most direct route, but by picking up the Monarch’s Way, a long-distance footpath that approximates the escape route taken by King Charles II in 1651 after being defeated in the Battle of Worcester, which runs from Worcester via Bristol and Yeovil to Brighton. Hoping for around 30 miles overnight, following as best as we can the route shown on OS maps. Well, that was the theory…
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“In a forest of a hundred thousand trees, no two leaves are alike. And no two journeys along the same path are alike.”
[Paulo Coelho: “Aleph”]
Things you learn…
1. Night walking is not as straightforward as you might think. Reading a map in the middle of a forest with a head torch whilst looking for nonexistent landmarks is one of those skills that doesn’t come naturally, particularly when sleep deprived.
2. The sounds of the forest convey a different message under cover of darkness. Each snapping twig, each call of the wild sets the imagination racing. What made that noise? Where did it come from? What does it mean?
3. Every mile feels like an eternity when the view remains the same.
…and then you emerge from the woodland and follow a path that leads you through a wheat field to a transit van parked at the entrance to the field. The engine starts up as you get closer and the driver opens the door, saying ‘are you alright lads, can I help you?’….and you mumble that you’re just out walking, which at 2 in the morning, is probably not the answer he was expecting.
You start to wonder what nefarious activity he was conducting at such an un-Godly hour, as you start to walk away, oblivious to the fact that 3 men with head torches are probably going to provoke a similar response from ‘white van man’; yes, the van was white….
And half an hour later you meet him again in the road, and he stops, and you wonder, and he looks at you, and you at him…and he drives off. By which time you start to realise that you’ve somehow missed your next pathway and have ended up too far south. Will you cut corners by taking the short cut to Chichester, or will stubbornness prevail and drive you (metaphorically, not literally) to take the road back north?
We favour the Kerouac approach…
‘Sal, we gotta go and never stop going ’till we get there.’ ‘Where we going, man?’ ‘I don’t know but we gotta go’
…but only just.
So, some 14 hours and 31 miles later, we got there man….