Saturday, 24 May 2014

If Lewis Hamilton is allowed a couple of pit stops... then I’m having some of that action as well! (or... 27 miles, 4 sizeable blisters, 2 cups of coffee and 1 boxing legend armed with a marker pen!) – 17th May 2014 – Dunstable to Flamstead, via Markyate, Redbourn, St Albans & Harpenden

This particular Saturday morning was a good one.

I was up in a fashion reasonably painless, a cup of coffee swiftly poured down my neck and a bellyful of muesli under my belt. Super Wife had checked out the weather forecast and it was looking like the day was going to be a hot one – far too hot for a coat or even a hoody – so I pulled on the bright orange MS Society t-shirt, donned my trusty flat cap, tightened my belt another notch and set off into... the light!
It was 5am... and it was light. 
I’ve left around 5am on most of my weekend walks in pretty much complete darkness; but this morning it was light... not starting to get light... light. And truth be told, already pretty warm. It was freaky. The good thing is that in forty odd days when I start the actual challenge I’m going to have the option of starting out at 4am or thereabouts and finishing at 10pm – if I want to factor in some serious restful pit stops along the way.
Which leads me nicely on to the next thing that was different about the morning’s trek... I needed to factor in a meeting with Billy Schwer over in Harpenden around 10am. I still hadn’t resolved the “lack of a decent map“ issue that I had experienced last week – lazy – so I needed to attempt to remember parts of the map that I had never actually ventured into on the ground. No worries, I thought to myself as I trundled off towards Great Northern Road.
Despite the fact that it was already pretty warm, a strange and eerie looking mist clung to the air just above the paddock at the bottom of Blows Downs.
As I scuttled along the footpath that runs past Downs Road I couldn’t help but suffer a bout of paranoia that I was about to become the victim in my own dodgy B movie as the mist appeared to quicken it’s pace behind me!
In an attempt to actually prove that I am out in the fields putting in those hard training miles I attempted this morning to take a couple of pictures on a timer thus immersing my rotund frame into the splendour of my emerald surroundings. It was a course of action that was pretty successful. One thing to note however... as a knackered fat man waddling through the British countryside you get pretty tired the further along the walk you get. So... having to run back to a fence post or stile to balance a wobbly camera, hit a button and then sprint a short distance away to be captured “in action” is only going to achieve two things. First... some fabulous pictures! Ha! And second, an increasingly knackered fat man!
I cut across the Downside estate (which was equally eerily quite – almost like something out of 28 Days Later!) and was out onto the main High Street within half an hour of leaving the house.
I followed the A5 in the general direction of St Albans. I was walking aimlessly this morning. I wanted to hit Harpenden by about 10am so I couldn’t walk directly there as I’d be there too early, so I resolved to plod to St Albans City Centre, perhaps stop for a coffee at chambers, before turning on my heels and heading back westwards past Harpenden.
As I didn’t have a particular route set I had the freedom to tell the grey, never-ending, smoggy, foot destroying, narrow tarmac paths of the A5 to jog on! Seriously... that road seems to just run on and on forever!
A couple of miles feel like five on that road. The only sound you hear for most of the way is the thud, thud, thud of your boots on the pavement, interrupted by the occasional scream of an engine struggling to maintain a speed well above the legal limit for the road.
As I plodded along past the Packhorse, the temperature slowly began to simmer up the thermometer despite having not even passing 6am yet.
Do you know what? As much as I love Bedfordshire I bloody hate the A5! I know I'm becoming more of a Victor Meldrew with each post but I mean it!
Trucks sail past at speeds that seem far in excess of their advertised limited engines, grit gets kicked up into your eyes leaving you weeping like a baby as you walk, your feet absolutely cane as a result of the unforgiving tarmac underfoot... I swear if you were to look directly upwards there would be buzzards circling overhead.
So when the opportunity arises to break away from this soul destroying asphalt behemoth... you bloody well take it! As I approached Cell Park, the sunlight began to illuminate the leaves on the trees that flanked either side of the road on the approach to Markyate, the sight of which couldn’t help but lift your spirits.
So much so in fact, that I began to sing to myself again... loud enough to be embarrassing, but not quite loud enough to awaken the villagers of Markyate.
I felt no sense shame at all as I belted out some cheesy 80s and 90s classics whilst walking through the subway that emerges out from under the A5 into the almost picture perfect Hovis advert that is that splendid little village.
Markyate – with its union flags fluttering from the front of the Swan pub; with the sound of a cockerel belting out its morning call... and with a big, beardy, tramp in an luminous orange t-shirt and a flat cap belting out “You’re the Best” from the formative teenage feel-good classic, The Karate Kid (no... no... not the new one with Jackie Chan teaching one of the Smith clan how to do a spinning bird kick sporting Timberland boots and cane row... the other one... the better one with the legend that was Pat Morita teaching a gangly Ralph Macchio how to kick some serious Cobra arse and win the hand of fair maiden in exchange for some harmless child slave labour. AND starring Elizabeth Shue... god I love Elizabeth Shue).
I turned up a narrow, hilly street marked with a sign that read Berkhamsted, with the intention of joining a faintly recalled footpath (I’m not Rain Man, more’s the pity) that would lead me to Flamstead. More importantly, it would keep me away from that poxy A5.
As I did so I managed to turn the shade of a beetroot having come face to face with a Postie on a bicycle whilst being midway through a quite stunning key change during a hearty rendition of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin, which... I’m sure you’ll agree... just doesn’t get enough airtime these days... ahem!
It wasn’t long though before I was cutting my way through a gap between two houses, along a narrow dirt path and out into the luscious green fields between Markyate and Flamstead.

It’s amazing how much of an energy boost you get from simply getting off of the harsh, unforgiving surface of the tarmac, surrounded by buildings, and into the countryside - the soft paths, the wide open space (cue Mansun’s indie triumph) and the ability to see your next town or village poking out on the horizon.
The green soon turned to a sea of subdued yellow. Rapeseed fields have a strange quality. They are bright in the sense that their colour is stark against the usual greens and umbers; but in the early light they seem to glow but in a rather dull way. It’s hard to explain without sounding as though I have slipped into a strange sort of melancholy. I actually really like them but I can, for the first time, having walked through miles of yellow, see how some experts describe it as a colour that can lead to bouts of depression.
In keeping with my now well established grumpy old man credentials, I should also state that not all county paths are soft on the feet, and this particular track, well established and clearly respected by the landowner as it was, still appeared the locale of choice for a whole array of large rocks, stones and bits of broken brick, hell bent on causing you to roll an ankle if you lost your concentration when walking by, for arguments sake, you had put your all into hitting the high notes of Living on a Prayer. Damn you Bon Jovi, you mulletted purveyor of guilty pleasure... damn you.
Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough to get a picture of the hares that I observed belting across the copse as I approached the tremendously monikered Friendless Lane, but sporting my flat cap and a tousled beard (which is fast outgrowing the size of the head to which it is attached) I felt a bout of Guy Ritchie’s Snatch quotes coming on, which I’m happy to say kept me thoroughly entertained right up to the Three Blackbird’s public house in the heart of Flamstead.
I wandered through the empty village streets, passing the Flamstead parish church, the Spotted Dog public house, the village stores... it was brightening up, it was warming up, and it was absolutely delightful.
Time for another potentially embarrassing admission...
I’m only approaching 32 years of age. I love rugby and boxing. I enjoy Jameson Irish Whiskey and drunken renditions of Irish rebel songs. I participate in banter and I don’t mind getting involved in a bit of hard labour. I’m a man... a bloke... a geezer and... a family history geek. Oh yes my friends! Genealogy is not just the preserve of elderly, middle class, former civil servants with double barrelled names who enjoy a cheeky glass of merlot and the occasional cheeseboard of an evening. Oh no! Family history is the chosen pass time of many a man’s man... shut up... it is!
Why do I bring up my nerdy hobby?
My paternal grandmother’s family have resided in the local area for quite literally hundreds of years. The Dyers of Berkhamsted, Pepsal End and Pepperstock, the Bachelors and the Crawleys of Great Gaddesdon, the Deamers of Redbourn, the Hawkins of Albury, and the Parsons of Trowley Bottom and Flamstead are all part of my direct ancestral heritage. So although I am fiercely proud of my Irish ancestry, it is also fair to say that a large part of my genetic make up stems from the villages and hamlets of the Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire borders. 
As I have been wandering around the local area, I must admit as a family history dweeb, I’ve honestly had some goose bump inducing moments of introspection where it has dawned on me that I’m walking the same exact paths as my own ancestors centuries before me, through the same churchyards, sitting by the same pubs.
My own second great grandparents are buried in a little grave yard, just as you are heading out of Flamstead, called God’s Acre. In the bright morning sunshine, despite being a little macabre, the acre was truly beautiful and I had to stop to take a picture. My second great grandfather was called Frederick Henry Dyer. He had a varied life, working as a farm labourer, a kilnsman in the brickfield, and finally a farmer in his own right. His wife, Mary Jane Parsons, was a bonnet sewer from Trowley Bottom. Together they raised 14 children and seemingly never set foot outside of a 5 mile radius of Flamsead in their entire lives. Unlike their son Joshua, the older brother of my own great grandfather Bertram, who lost his life heroically, tragically, and no doubt unnecessarily, in the First World War in 1916. His headstone still stands proudly in God’s Acre.
But enough of this family history! It surely must equate to the reading equivalent of having to sit down and endure someone else's holiday slides where the only thing in the pictures are their own ugly mugs with just a hint of the Cheddar Gorge or the Tower of London poking out from behind them! Back on with the walking!
From Singlets Lane I turned away from Chequers Hill and up  a track through some heavy foliage entirely unsure whether I was even on the right path.
Emerging from the woodlands I came out onto a wide expanse of crops with a narrow, barely perceivable track through them, littered with rocks and stones, in the direction of Norringtonend Farm.
When I reached the next tree line I was drenched from the mid-thigh down but squelched on through a footpath which essentially cut through someone’s back garden, then up along Norrington End and over the bridge above the roaring traffic of the M1. As I felt the edge of the bridge pulling me towards it - my fear of heights coming to the fore - I sped up considerably pausing to take a picture, achieved only by distracting myself with the nervous humming of Jerusalem through clenched teeth and pursed lips.
Then it was a short slightly downhill wander down Redding Lane which runs around the back fence line of the Herts County Showground. By the time I came to Dunstable Road I had managed to inhale a banana and an entire Jordans Fruesli bar (as a side note: Jordans Fruesli bars are nowhere near as satisfying as the 9bars, when you’re eating them it literally feels like you’re chomping down on a plain rice cake – but – unlike a 9bar it goes down easy and doesn’t leave your mouth feeling gunky - important factors to consider when contemplating which food is worth the weight in carrying it, and which is not!)
From there I strolled down the Dunstable Road through Redbourn, a road that is essentially a ghost road with all the main flow of traffic taking the Redbourn Bypass. As a result of this lack of traffic a local motorbike school regularly use it for training and lessons. It was the same this morning and as I ambled by, I thought to myself that I would love to take a test for a motorcycle licence. Maybe I’ve been watching too much Easy Rider but the idea of a road trip, trundling along on two wheels, is very appealing.
I walked down the High Street, pausing in the middle of the street to take a picture (much to the chagrin of a passing cyclist despite the fact that I wasn't impeding him in any way), before realising that I was way behind schedule! I had arranged to meet Billy at around 10am and had expected to get to St Albans city centre by 8:30am but it was 8ish now and St Albans was still around 4-5 miles away. So I text the champ with an apology and asked him if we could push our meet back to 11-11:30am – but he’s a busy guy, so I wasn’t going to hold my breath.
A mahoosive blister had started to form on the ball of my right foot, that tends to happen when your boots are falling apart and you deliberately pick up the pace when walking on pavement. Cursing my own stupidity and lack of patience I past the stairs that lead up to the Nickey Line, a footpath that runs along an old rail line from somewhere down in Hemel Hempstead to Harpenden, a route I intended to use on my return journey.
I walked across the roundabout by the old dairy and onto Redbourn Road, past the Chequers pub and along my second stretch of mind numbing tarmac – this one about 3 miles in length – but at least this time there was a beautiful view of the River Ver.
Unfortunately, even the beauty of the view just over the hedge was not enough to distract me from the arduous task ahead.
Around the time I got to Punch Bowl Lane I started to feel a little odd.
Then it dawned on me... it was this exact spot at which I had my embarrassing moment behind a hedge when suffering with a bout of flu several weeks before. I felt like a shady character returning to the scene of a crime and, although there was not a soul around, I noticeably sped up and didn’t raise my gaze from the pavement ahead of me.
I was relieved to see the roundabout at Bluehouse Hill and Batchwood Drive in the distance because to be honest by the time I got near to it, which incidentally was around the time I had reached the final verse of Seven Drunken Nights by the Dubliners, I was flagging and was sick of that road. Lord knows how I’m going to keep myself mentally stimulated during my first 80 miles of the main walk spent making my way mile by mile down the A99 from John O’Groats!
From the roundabout it’s a slow and gradual slog up Verulam Road, winding past the Mokoko restaurant, so far as the Clock Tower.
I reached the Clock Tower at 9:15am, and although I was running later than I had expected, around that time I also received a text from Billy saying it was no problem to push our meeting back to 11-11:30am.
I fancied a cup of coffee and to be truthful an opportunity to answer a call of nature. I also felt drawn towards St Albans Cathedral – I’ve walked through St Albans on training walks on several occasions now but I am yet to make a trip to the place in which I graduated from my law degree and started a new chapter of my life.
So instead of turning north up Market Place I turned down an alley that runs from High Street down to Sumpter Yard, hobbling a little bit as a result of that niggling blister on my right foot and sweating profusely through my two t-shirts.
The Cathedral looked magnificent set against the deep azure sky, looming above everything around it, and was definitely worth a little bit of a downhill deviation to lay eyes on more than just its bell tower poking out above the tiled rooftops from St Peters Street.
I emerged from Sumpter Yard opposite the White Hart pub and turned up Holywell Hill where the world had certainly come alive.
A short walk later and I was at St Albans Chambers, my place of work (to the degree that a criminal barrister can have a “place of work” that isn’t a courtroom or a conference room in the cells).
I was hot, I was bothered. I’d probably supped about 3 litres of water thus far, but what I really wanted, what my soul was really crying out for and what my skanky body desperately needed was a sweet cup of coffee.
Within seconds I was past the two locks, up the stairs, through the key coded door, bag off, kettle on and whistling rule Britannia whilst making my presence known in the little boys’ room. The phrase “like a police horse” comes to mind and by the time I had lessened my load, the kettle had popped, the coffee was poured and I was sat in a swivel chair, feet up, inhaling my second banana of the morning clutching a steaming mug of coffee, milk and four sugar lumps in one of my mitts!
I couldn’t hang about thought as it was now 9:45 and I had just below 5 miles to tackle before 11:30 at the latest. I downed a handful of Vitamin I with my last swig of caffeine and then, having refilled my water bottles, I set back off onto St Peters Street and amongst the hustle and bustle of a St Albans market day.
I walked up to the roundabout at Hatfield Road and past the Blacksmith Arms, which in the dazzling sunshine almost seemed to be beckoning me in to sample the delights of its quality beverages. Many an afternoon was spent in that establishment during my student days. Many fond memories of Bill Delve, Elaine Forman, Dave Frost, Seb Hunt, James Vick and Dean Cooper – good times.
From there it was up towards the old Cricketers pub, long since an Indian restaurant I think, passing St Peter’s church along the way.
Then turning to my left down Harpenden Road you come to an area called Bernards Heath, which although I have driven down the road many times, I had only ever walked down once. I was about 20 years old and I was accompanied by my younger sister. We had decided not to catch the bus but to instead walk back to our then home in Park Street, Luton. Suffice to say it was a darn sight longer than either of us had anticipated and walking that sort of distance in a pair of narrow Lonsdale trainers is not the one!
The road that runs through the woods near Bernards Heath was absolutely stunning in this weather... tall mature trees soaring into the sky and pretty much meeting far overhead above the two lanes of traffic below and in this weather providing much needed shade.
A little further along Harpenden Road on a section of uphill just past the junction with Batchwood Drive I came across an elderly gentleman carrying a bag in one hand, and using a handkerchief with the other, striding up the hill ahead of me. It was very hot by this time and we were both fully exposed to the sun with no possibility of shelter. As I went to pass him I said good morning... and that was it... the floodgates had opened and I was now engaged in conversation.
At the risk of sounding rude, at moments like that your heart sinks. I was running late, I was trying to pick up the pace if anything, but now I was obliged to slow my pace to his until the conversation met its natural end. That said, this gentleman was absolutely fantastic. He told me he was 73 in the next couple of weeks and yet here he was out in the sweltering heat having walked himself into St Albans and now back again, at a reasonable pace to be fair, carrying his own shopping bag. He asked me if I had far to go and looked at me disbelievingly when I said that I had started in Dunstable. He told me he had run his own half marathon back in 1983 for a cancer charity and that his son, a police officer based somewhere near Bradford, regularly got involved in marathons and the like for charities. In the end we had a really good chat and before I knew it we had almost reached the Old Albanians Rugby Club. Wishing him well, and after apologising for my doing so, I picked up the pace as time was ticking on.
Another minor gripe if I may... joggers! Why do some joggers appear to believe that they have priority over all other path users expecting you to leap onto a verge so that they can maintain their line of travel and then not even thanking or acknowledging you when you do accommodate them. I can feel my blood boiling every time some eejit dressed in pro running attire and moving at a speed barely above walking pace almost bangs into me and I genuinely suspect that at least half of those I see have barely done two miles when they look at me pityingly, as if I am a remedial fatty doing what little exercise I can, when in reality I’ve already clocked 16 or 17 miles. Rant over!
From the Rugby Club it was more tarmac pounding as I made my way past Childwickbury – although to be fair the day was so glorious that, despite being a little sweaty, it was splendid to behold.
I literally stopped dead in my tracks to take a picture of a tree – yes I am becoming that strange after hours of isolated exercise – because I just couldn’t believe the colours I was seeing and I reckoned it would make a lovely painting when I had the time... or at the very least, a decent screensaver!
Soon I was on the outskirts of Harpenden, or more precisely West Common and the Harpenden Common Golf Course, passing Walker’s Road and then the Silver Cup public house.
I wandered through Harpenden feeling every bit the vagrant and highly suspecting that I may well have been guided to the edge of the parish by way of enforced escort if it were not for the bright orange livery that I wore so proudly. Feet hurting and experiencing a little bit of muscle ache in the left bum cheek (I’m not proud) I found my step livened yet again at the prospect of yet another imminent coffee and the chance to have a chat with one of my boyhood heroes Billy Schwer.
There he was sitting in the sun, chatting away to a lovely couple who run the local amateur boxing club and who, upon my arrival, showered me with kind words of support for my future endeavour which Billy had told them all about. I know that I’m a fan anyway, but he really is a whirlwind of positivity and encouragement! It is quite inspiring and uplifting just spending a few minutes in his company but on this particular lunch time we spent a good hour chatting away.
Billy even generously signed a boxing glove so that it could be auctioned later in the year at our planned Big Dave’s Little Stroll finale fundraiser evening... AND he posed with a #GoBigDave sign for me to post up on the blog. Hopefully, I’ll be accompanying him on his next trip up to visit our injured servicemen at DMRC Headley Court which I would be honoured to attend. Those men and women truly are heroic on a daily basis and an inspiration to us all.  
As I was sitting chatting away to Billy in the bright sunshine outside this café in Harpenden I must have been talking quite loudly as when I went to get up to get back on with my training walk, a cracking bloke named Peter Bardell, who had overheard our discussions about the walk from John O'Groats to Lands End, stopped me and made a donation! A complete stranger and an absolute legend in his own right! You can see him sitting behind Billy in his #GoBigDave picture.
I said my goodbyes and trundled off up Luton Road, my feet in surprisingly good shape considering I was now at the 19 mile mark.  I had taken another handful of Ibuprofen and consumed another cup of filter coffee so I knew I’d be good to go pain wise for at least another hour. Soon I was at the bridge over which is carried the Nickey Line – my direct route back to Redbourn.
Relieved that I had located this cycle path without a map I set out along the gravelled track with a suprising spring in my step and dishing out “hello”s and “alright”s to anyone who shot past on a bike.
The track wound its way through some fantastic countryside and woodland. It really did feel as though you were cutting through the landscape at a cracking pace, passing disused signals and platforms along the way, soaking up the beautiful woodland colours as you went.
I followed the Nickey Line track for just over two miles and compared with walking the footpaths next to an A road it was delightful. The effects of the painkillers lasted a little less than I was expecting however and at about 21.5 miles another blister made itself known on the heel of my left foot. A strange thing about blister pain... as soon as a new one appears the pain of the old one, which up until that point had been aggravating in the least, almost seems to magically evaporate entirely.
I broke away from the Nickey Line a little earlier than planned with the sign-posted promise that my new selected path would have me emerge a little further up Redbourn High Street by way of the enchantingly named Waterend. I was not disappointed to find a shallow ford across the River Ver where game vehicles could simply drive through to get to properties hidden away from the usual thoroughfare.
I made my way back up Dunstable Road out of Redbourn and onto the main stretch that leads down towards the motorway past the front of the Herts County Showground which was littered with yellow tin signs in preparation for the Hertfordshire County Show next weekend.
Walking along that monotonous stretch of road, if you manage to pause and peer through the hedgerows then you can glimpse sight of some astounding views of the Hertfordshire countryside on a day as golden as today – even if you are sucking down a vintage combination of exhaust fumes, grit and dust.
Once under the M1, I dashed across the lanes of the A5, together with a hurdled central reservation, to go back to an opening in the tree line at the end of the slip road, before you get to the Harvester on the corner. Once through that gated entry - well signposted as “no parking or stopping ever” – you discover the Chiltern Way, a footpath uphill that cuts across a farmer’s crop and is no more a footpath than a stony furrow between plants.
From the fields it is then a reasonably short walk through a patch of woodland next to the fenced of rear gardens of some grand properties on the edge of Flamstead.
I had decided to push onto Flamstead from Redbourn despite having bagged 23 miles as to wait for the 34 bus from there would have meant hanging around for near on 40 minutes. Decent mileage or not, sore feet or not, I was out to train... so train I would. Now as I approached Flamstead I was assessing whether or not to walk on to Markyate. I was feeling fine. Markyate wasn’t really that much further, but I decided that if the bus was any less than 15 minutes away I would pick it up from there as I didn’t fancy hanging around in Markyate for an hour, nor doing another 6 miles back to my mum’s from there if I missed it.
As I strolled up towards the bus stop outside the Three Blackbirds I first came face to face with a small  horse with a buggy attached stood on the path tied up to the signpost of the Spotted Dog. I must admit I did at first panic that I might be hallucinating – surely it was a dog tied up to the post – this isn’t the Wild West! But no; it was in fact a friggin’ horse – stood bold as brass on the pavement.
Sidestepping this equine obstruction, and the group of well lubricated owners sitting on the benches outside, I then looked at the bus timetable, saw that a bus was due within 4 minutes and sat down on the wall next to the bust stop.
The 34 appeared a short time later – but was already indicating to turn right as it came up the road towards me. The driver wasn’t even looking where he was going but just staring out of his driver’s side window and it became clear pretty quickly that this pillock had no intention of stopping. I waved my arm about frantically and as he drew level – still not stopping – I basically ran into the side of the bus. Gormless then opened the doors. “You nearly missed me there mate” I said in my most friendly voice possible – although to be fair I was miffed and knackered from just doing nearly 25 miles – “You need to make yourself seen” came the reply. I’m sorry mate – a 6ft, 19.5 stone, bearded guy in a luminous orange t-shirt, jumping up and down and waving his arms about, stood next to a designated bus stop for your particular route – and you didn’t see me! Are you sure you should be driving a bus you moron! Bring back lovely Michelle I say!
A short while later, I was hopping off the bus at Meadway, where I spent the first 50 paces from the bus top in absolute agony and walking like a baby giraffe, blood rushing back into my extremities, or  more specifically into the areas around my impressive blister collection.
Soon after that I was trundling along Drovers Way, spurred on by the promise of a mug of sweet tea and cuddles with the little monkey face – aka Niamh Persephone Lorna Jane Redmond – aged 1 and a quarter.

I arrived at my mum’s in reasonably good nick and in even better spirits. It was a gorgeous day and the mileage had been decent. I’d had a cracking meeting with the champ and a day of rest ahead of me. Sure, I had a few blisters and a sore Achilles tendon but those kind of minor irritations have become par for the course by now. I wasn’t as stiff as a board and it was only about 2:45pm – on the walk itself I would have at least another 7 hours of day light to set up camp, stretch out and relax – possibly with a well earned pint of Guinness if I was anywhere near civilisation. Satisfyingly, I would have also have banked another 5 miles over and above the required quota for the day... a reserve that is handy to have if I go through a rough patch.
Two bottles of cold water later – that wakes you up after 8-9 hours of walking I can tell you – and I was sat inside, after having a quick wash, happily chugging down a sugary brew whilst getting cuddles from my little monster.
A short while later I pushed Niamhy the 2 miles home in her buggy, stopping off for an iced drink in Costa along the way, and by the time I had finally put my feet up for the day I’d bagged a comfortable 27.2 training miles. Not a bad effort. Those four pit stops were definitely well worth including – although I doubt I’ll come across a Costa on the top of the Pennine Way! (A Starbucks on the other hand... those corporate purveyors of java gold get everywhere!)

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