Sat. 1st Oct. 2011:South Haven Point, Studland Bay

Friday, 7 October 2011

Reflections on a long run.

"There was a time when meadow, grove and stream,
The earth and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and freshness of a dream".

Like a good Coast Path runner, I tripped over this quotation a few days before travelling down from Camberley to Minehead. It's from Wordsworth's "Ode on Intimations of Immortality" and in many ways it seems to capture the essence, the heart and soul of the forbidding Coast Path, particularly during periods of benign weather! It touches upon the wonder of the place and could probably serve as an anthem for St Ives with its "artists' light".Hence the attraction for me combined with the more prosaic challenge of the soaring, undulating cliffs, the fields, the beaches, the fishing villages and the skies, whatever their mood.

But although I was going to be prancing around the cliff tops like some demented idiot, all the while, uppermost in my mind, was the funding we might raise to help alleviate the stricken conditions of  Great Ormond Street's Sick Children. And linked to this was the vital umbilical communication cord (courtesy of  Nokia and Orange) twixt Pat and me to keep us on the not-always-straight-and-sometimes-very-narrow.

The highs and lows of the enterprise were many and varied but although we thought we had planned meticulously for every contingency there were two which knocked us for six, i.e., weather and  injuries. And I mean the kind of injury which could easily have jeopardised the whole project.Our early days were severely hit by the tail-end of hurricane Irene; we had thunderstorms to contend with over Port Isaac (where someone must have upset Doc Martin again) and then there was the sea mist and fog over Peak Hill at Sidmouth. I couldn't see the path, I couldn't see the cliff edge. How scary was that? When I got my compass out even the sheep were asking for a bearing! As for running down the stepped paths, I had to forget it. They were as deadly as gin-traps. Every stride had to be carefully calibrated and every blast of wind anticipated. Yes, wind AND fog at the same time. Work that one out!

As for the injuries, you are probably as much acquainted with them as me, if you've been following the blog, and you can see how they gobbled up so much time (a) by their impact and (b) by the need to transport them across Cornwall and Devon to the physios who had no trouble in diagnosing the dreaded medical condition known technically as Achilles Knackeritis. How about the degree of difficulty for running the Coast Path? In crude terms, compared with a standard city marathon and being assisted by a back-up team of only one person, you could probably increase the difficulty and time by a factor of at least 50% to 75%.

On the positive side, when the sun had his hat on it was as if we were on a different planet, running to a new zippy rhythm (try spelling that at 11pm without a dictionary!) which put a spring in my step. The contrast between the gun metal grey, doom-laden skies and the dazzling, electrifying turquoise of the sunshine waves was astonishing.   Out came the local dog-walkers and after a few minutes discourse, out came the wallets too, for spontaneous giving. There were as many notes as there were autumn leaves. The  small, isolated  fishing villages of rugged Cornwall were so picturesque as to seem unreal but then some of the ports like megabusy Mevagissey and Portdoc Martin looked as though they had been hijacked by the militant wing of the local Tourist Board! Then there were the jolly ferrymen who took me across the high seas free, gratis and for nothing and the even jollier inn-keepers who took sufficient pity on a weary traveller as to provide me with their finest Coast Path ales, at no cost. So you see, it's worthwhile training for a year and running 630 miles for a charity!

Then there were the many colourful characters I met all along the length of the Path who drew  long-lasting inspiration from their surroundings or simply enjoyed the relaxation of a leisurely stroll. They were from all walks of life (pun intended) and only too happy to immerse themselves  in a landscape of ever-changing shades and hues and to empathise with the prime purpose of my run and support the cause for Great Ormond Street Hospital with the most generous of donations.

But let's bear in mind the fact that this path, the longest national trail in the UK, does not look after itself. We are extremely grateful to the South West Coast Path Association for all the work that their volunteers do to ensure that fortunate people like us, who are in good health, can enjoy the experience of walking/running this outstanding Path. To pursue your interest in the Path please log on to: who can provide you with more information than you could throw a stick at. There's geography, geology,history,ornthology, omnibusology, B&B-ology, souvenirology.....and more! The annnual guide is an absolute jewel packed with relevant and entertaining advice and is a must for serious walkers/runners. Join up today!

But the greatest joy for me was the final "sprint" along sunlit Studland Beach to be met by the running skallywag granddaughters, Maddie, 9 and Lucy, 8 (who immediately tried to coerce me into building sand- castles) and the kernel of close friends and relatives who, like all the bloggers and supporters who shared the North Downs training schedules and the Coastal Path with us, contributed so much in both material ways and in affection. I am also heavily indebted to those who supplied us with regular comments. When you're trying to run through a force 8 gale, and the wind is clawing at your clothing on the cliff tops, horizontal rain almost blinding and you've lost your way in the fog and mist, it's so comforting and reassuring when you know that someone actually cares! It seemed to be a journey shared and appreciated by all of us and for that we will always be so grateful to everyone, especially my fellow members of the Arena Leisure Centre, Camberley and all those who so selflessly provided us with accommodation for the duration. "We're all in this together", springs to mind!

But if you will excuse us, the front page photographer for the "Camberley News" now beckons together with the 5th local radio interview. Vanity? Well, yes. But anything to swell the coffers of G.O.S.H.  And, for the last time............ so to bed!

PS (from Pat)
We've now raised over £4000 for GOSH. This far exceeds our expectations and is just fantastic. Our enormous thanks to everyone who has helped in any way.  We'll post final amounts on the just giving website after a few more weeks.

Some more photos, just click the link!

PS  A mystery! Could the delightful couple (from Plymouth) who so generously offered to accommodate us for a night or two, please get in touch privately by email, as we have mislaid their contact number.Many thanks,

Monday, 3 October 2011

Day 30: Sat. 1st Oct. Swanage to South Haven Point, Studland Bay.

Sprint finish!
The end is nigh with just one more hill to climb over Old Harry Rocks.. Looking west from the summit I could see the sweep of Swanage Bay way down below me, for all the world like closing a door on the past 29 days, days of isolated splendour mixed with days of  harrowing even horrifying danger atop dizzy vertiginous cliffs and their vain quest to defend themselves from the interminable erosion of the wild Atlantic swells.

Meanwhile, looking East through the warmest October heat haze for some 30 years, the beckoning golden sands of Studland Bay were full of the promise of a fun-loving reunion with family and friends, with 2 scallywag grandaughters determined that my reception should go with a big splash! And so it did. Emotions were on a high as I breasted the improvised finishing tape (to come first and last in the event!), picnics and drinks abounded under an astonishigly cloudless blue sky. Here also were the stalwarts who had given us such tremeandous support throughout the month and who had travelled long distances to give us the warmest of welcomes and made every inch of the Great Journey absolutely worth all the effort. What a moment to savour; what a moment to remember.Our sincere thanks and gratitude go out to everyone who "brought us home" and to all those who contributed so generously to Great Ormond Street Hospital's endless funding quest.

PS  Although this was the last of our daily blogs, I intend writing a summary in the next day or two so, for the moment, there is no escape! (we'll also add a few more photos).

Friday, 30 September 2011

Day 29 Fri 30th Sept Lulworth to Swanage

A break at Kimmeridge
And as the mini heatwave continues to burn us all to a frazzle, September exits stage right with the guiltiest of expressions, having  wrecked havoc amongst South West weather forecasters throughout the month. But the morning had an element of spice injected into it when Radio Solent shocked the nation with a live interview of Jack and his mad- cap ideas.

But, not to be undone, the intrepid duo continued their progress eastwardly from Lulworth, hotly pursued by exploding shells and bullets until we were in sight of the final citadel of Swanage. With only 7.6 miles left until we cross the finishing line (in front of the Royal Box), it was time to call it a day and reflect  on the ups and downs of the last four weeks.

Roger and Joan produced the most enormous pasta, capable of awakening the dead and certain to account for a few more minutes off the final of Jack's dashes. The euphoria of completion is certain to be tinged by elements of sadness and wistfulness but this will be the subject of tomorrow's  illuminating blog. And so to bed.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Day 28: Thurs 29th Sept Langton Herring to Lulworth

Portland Bill
Heat haze over Chesil Bank
 On yet another magnificent Mediterranean-type morning I was able to set off with a spring in my step whilst dragging the other step behind me in a show of petulent non co-operation. The quads injury (of week 1) had now returned to haunt me with a vengance and grew in intensity the further I tried to walk or run.

The first task was to fight off the colossal biblical-like swarms of daddy long-legs that were hi-jacking every thing that moved around the Chesil Beach banks, man or beast. There were thousands of them forming huge dust clouds and determined to take no prisoners. No way were they a threat but they didn't half make you run /limp fast to avoid them.

The September sun now really had his hat on and Portland was beginning to look like a Bank Holiday centre for geriatrics as they, too, came out in their thousands to swarm all over the "island". Again I made good progress but this time I carried no rucksack as Pat was able to supply all my survival needs from the car. Sad to relate however that the progress gradually ground to a near halt as the forces of evil, in the shape of the aforementioned quads muscle,took over the control of my right knee. However, the new product on the market, "Son of Paracetamol", waded in to provide pain relief until I was able to see yet another physiotherapist (my fourth of the campaign) back on the mainland.

Once again, my continuation in the project appeared to be very much in the hands of Fifi la Fizz and it wasn't long before she slapped and tickled me through the pain barrier. Thanks to her intervention, I was soon reconstructed and very much looking forward to tomorrow, the penultimate day of the whole exercise.

Our last 'home' on this adventure is now with Roger and Joan, so many thanks due to them.
Tune in to dashing Jack's blog and discover for yourself whether the spoils of the victor will be delivered to moi or whether the injury vodoo will strike again..............And so to bed.

ps from Pat
Delighted to see anyone on Saturday who is able to turn up for his Lordships return.  South Haven Point, the official end of the South West Coastal Path, is right by the Studland end of the Sandbanks to South Haven Ferry. There is an NT car park and we'll grab a spot on the beach nearby. Hope he'll finish between 12 and 1pm so bring a picnic.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Day 27: Wed. 28th Sept Lyme Regis to Langton Herring

3 lovely supporters - Burton Bradstock
What a difference a day makes!Gone were the mist and fog. Gone were the low temperatures and gone were the grey, grey skies and seas. In their place summer had returned with an astonishing array  of clear horizons, balmy breezes and dazzling turquoise seas .

For me, the weather was perfect and much progress was made as I galloped along the Path at breathtaking speed from Lyme to Langton, conquering the mighty Golden Cap en route. Hands up all those who have read the book, "Moonfleet", a classic tale of smugglers' nefarious deeds located in the heart of Chesil Beach country. It was compulsive reading when I was at school a thousand years ago. Mind you, they never had exploits extending to cliff-top runners and their mad sport.

Once more, there were other fresh air fanatics on the Path only too pleased to learn about G.O.S.H and only too ready to donate there and then to the hospital funds. We were also united again with our very close buddies, Margaret and Jill who scoured the summit of Golden Cap amazed by the enormous dust cloud being generated by dashing Jack shortly after crossing the Devon/Dorset border. All now seems set for Saturday's final fling when I hope to spring across the burning sands of Studland beach around 1 pm, weather and injuries permitting. And so to bed.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Day 26 Tues 27th Sept Budleigh Salterton to Lyme Regis

Blymey Regis. Non-dashing Jack surveys the fog-bound scene in despondent mood.
Well that's Devon done and dusted. It turned out to be only marginally better than Cornwall in so far as running is concerned, i.e., hills not quite so severe and the weather showed a very good improvement.....for a few days, because now we are truly in the doldrums with nothing but but dense mist and fog all around us,from the hill summits to the ocean depths. At one stage I was completely disorientated,lost my way and had to drag myself backwards underneath a barbed wire fence. This event is turning more into an obstacle course or cross-country event but at least we have now done 545 miles in total with ONLY another 85 miles to go until the finish on Saturday. YES!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Pat was busy decanting all our supplies again as we are now moving on to Pat's cousins Les and Vera to stay in their home near Lyme Regis for a couple of nights. Oh the joy of having family members resident near the Path.

Also, hot from the press,my Achilles tendon has responded miraculously (again) to the treatment from
my personal masseuse, Fifi la blonde, and if anyone would care for an appointment I must warn you that the price has just gone up!  And so to bed.