On Saturday, after a fairly leisurely morning, Shelli and I jumped into the car and headed down to Salisbury – “why Salisbury?” I hear you ask. Simple answer: a very long walk.
As part of this year’s challenge Shelli and I signed up to take part in Help for Heroes’ Spire to Spire Trek, a 26 miles walk from Winchester Cathedral to Salisbury Cathedral along the Clarendon Way on Sunday 16th September.
There were a number of options for getting to the start of the walk on Sunday morning, but after careful consideration we both felt that getting up around 4am to drive to Winchester for a full day’s walking probably wasn’t the best plan. So, we chose to stay over in Salisbury Saturday night so that we could get picked up at Salisbury station early Sunday morning; Help for Heroes putting on a coach to get everyone to the start line on time, walking back to pick up the car at the end of the day for the drive home.
That decision made I looked around for hotels, finally deciding on Milford Hall Hotel, getting the room without breakfast for a reasonable £85, it being a four star hotel and all that. It was a short walk from the station – the pick-up point Sunday morning – and just as close to the town centre.
So, we drove down shortly after lunchtime Saturday and checked into the hotel. The room was great. It was clean, well decorated, was really big, and had a good bathroom too. I’ve had shoe-box-sized rooms in the past for more than we paid for that room!
Unpacked and walking kit stashed in the room we headed out to see what Salisbury had to offer, taking a walk round the town centre, the cathedral and, feeling a little thirsty, on to the Winchester Gate pub for a few pints of rather splendid ale. After that we headed to Wagamamas for dinner and another drink, and having a long day’s walking ahead, we made our way back to the room to put our feet up and chill out in front of the TV.
It was an early start Sunday regardless of the fact that we were in Salisbury already. We were up and out the door by 6:15am, making our way to the station to get the coach to the start of the walk at Winchester Cathedral. All of the paperwork said quite clearly that the coach would be leaving at 6:30am promptly and not waiting for anyone. Funny that as we ended up waiting around until nearly 7am waiting, getting to Winchester a lot later than planned.
It wasn’t really a problem as signing in was pretty painless and after a little pep talk by a girl from Help for Heroes and a few photos we set off at 8:20am out of Winchester.
The first check point and water/rest stop along the route was at 6 miles and Shelli, James and I made it in pretty good time, arriving at 10:00am. Unfortunately, after spending a week in Morocco without any problems with her feet at all, Shelli’s feet were already beginning to play up. She got one looked at and patched up before we headed off at 10:15am towards King’s Somborne on the way to Broughton and the lunch stop at mile 13.
A little way out from Broughton Shelli asked how much further we had to go and, assuming the next check point was at mile 12 I said it was about a mile away. Clearly I’d gotten this wrong as Broughton was 13 miles in so when she asked again a little while later – and me having realised my mistake – I told her again about a mile. As you can imaging this news didn’t go down well but we couldn’t help but have a laugh about it.
Now, just outside Broughton a girl from Help for Heroes was encouraging all the walkers and – bless her – as we walked by she said all cheery like “lunch in about a mile”. Shelli didn’t take this well unfortunately but James and I couldn’t help but laugh!
Even though Shelli’s feet were hurting we made pretty good time and got to the lunch stop in the village hall at Broughton at 12:35pm.
Although there weren’t enough seats for everyone to rest their aching feet/legs, the set-up at the village hall was fantastic. Sandwiches, crisps, fruit, muffins and sweets were all laid on for free, with squash, tea and coffee on tap too. We took a reasonable break – Shelli taking care of her poor feet again – and headed off at 1:10pm towards Middle Winterslow and the next check point, around the 18/19 mile mark.
We made it to the check point in Middle Winterslow at 2:50pm, again making pretty good time considering we were all beginning to feel the miles by this point, having a few nasty uphill moments to get ourselves up.
This was the last water/snack stop before the end so while Shelli checked her feet out – changing her socks to clean ones – I filled our water bladders up (Shelli’s was completely empty by this point and mine was beginning to dwindle) and grabbed some extra snack bars to make sure we had some food reserves in case any of us needed a little energy boost to get us through.
All sorted we headed off on the final stretch of the day’s course at 3:05pm.
The final leg was a tough one for the three of us. Shelli’s feet were pretty much agony by now, James was beginning to hurt and, even though I’d strapped them up properly, my left knee decided to make a pain of itself. I guess I must have twisted it a bit on some of the rough terrain or something, but it wasn’t happy that was for sure and being sensible [for a change] I got my walking poles out to help take some of the weight off it for the last few miles.
The spire of Salisbury cathedral was a sight for sore eyes when it came into view as we neared the outskirts of the city, again making jokes about it only being “a mile to go” – our spirits were quite high considering the amount of discomfort we were all in.
The final bit of the walk through the city centre to the cathedral seemed to drag on forever, and stopping for the traffic to cross the roads wasn’t helping with the aches and pains at all! Still, it wasn’t long before we were on the finishing straight and, as is customary, I ran the final stretch.
Unbeknownst to me, as Shelli had been doing the slow jog trick to ease the pains in her feet, much like she did along the Thames Path that day, both she and James ran in behind me – a fantastic effort from both of them!
We finished the walk at 5:35pm, covering the 26 miles in a total time of 9 hours and 15 minutes, 8 hours and 5 minutes of which were actually walking. Not bad considering the terrain and Shelli’s poor feet.
Even though we were hurting it was a great achievement and I was so very proud of Shelli having walked all that way with her feet in a terrible state. Tough old thing she is!
Having spoken to the girls we grabbed a lift near to the hotel and jumped in the car. I drove as it was clear that Shelli’s feet really weren’t up for driving, dropping James off at home on our way.
If you’re interested at all you can see the Spire to Spire Trek route I’ve plotted online.
I’m not sure I’d do the event again but it really was a great weekend and the weather was just about perfect for the walk.
As ever, I had my camera with me – my point-and-click to save weight during the day – so you can log in and see the photos from the day if you so desire.
Also, here are a couple of photos taken by the Help for Heroes bods, including one of me running to the finish line 🙂