Fed and watered (beered) after our first gruelling stint we dragged ourselves from the sanctity of the Royal Exchange and set off for The White Star in glorious August sunshine, which within half a mile had again turned to rain.
Note: The dog did walk by the way and wasn’t carried ALL the time, it was the only way to get her to sit still in the pictures…
Looking ahead was our longest stint of the walk, Stone to Stoke On Trent, storm clouds were gathering like the scene from Lord Of The Rings, where the Hobbits looked ahead to Mount Doom.. An ominous faint rumble of thunder could be heard in the distance, coming from the direction we were now heading..
“England I do love you, but your Bank Holiday weather, putting it mildly, is a stinky bitch!”
This for me was the worst part of the day, after the initial leg we were all in various stages knackered-ness and we were also behind schedule so the pace had to be upped.
At least the footpaths had improved from the muddy bog which made the going a little easier, but we had to cover a good distance on a route where often we had no recognisable reference points being on the canal side. After what seemed to be hours though I spotted something familiar, it was the Wedgwood factory at Barlaston. Now I’ve driven to Barlaston on many occasions and it’s never seemed far, walking though was a different kettle of fish as the march continued ever onwards. By this time I was personally just about done in.
Landmarks came and went, signs teased at how close Stoke was but it just never seemed to get any closer, I was even glad to see the Britannia Stadium come in to view at one point, which for a Newcastle fan is rare…
Throughout this stretch I had remained pretty firmly middle of the pack keeping up a reasonable pace, as these last few exhausting miles crept on and on though I was flagging, all but one person suddenly caught up and seemingly effortlessly strode ahead and out of sight.
It was at this point though that the effervescent energy levels of my wonderful dog Maggie came to the fore and to my aid. The thing is Maggie hates to be behind anyone, she’s bright and inquisitive, always wanting to be at the front as any of my fellow walkers will testify.
The problem was she wasn’t and I couldn’t catch up no matter how much I tried, normally if the dog pulls at her lead I’d correct her but to my shame and to her credit I let myself be tugged along, all fifteen stone plus of me by a muscly little Jack Russell Terrier.
But get me there she did and wearily we both trudged into the The White Star, me to a foaming glass of Darkstar HopHead and Maggie to a well deserved bowl of chicken fillets and rice.
I was and still am extremely proud of our little dogs efforts that day and some serious spoiling was done later I can assure you and in the days since..
We had a short break here to refresh, reorganise and refuel. Repairs were made to blistered feet, sodden clothing was replaced where possible with dry thanks to the close proximity of a local sports shop.
We had broken it’s back though, the worst two legs were behind us and as we posed for our group photograph at the White Star with stinging feet and aching joints, we did so with a feeling of lifted spirits. Only around five miles to my local, The Bulls Head.
Here for once I was on the front (painful) foot, I was heading into familiar territory after all we’d be passing home (which was I assure you a struggle), on paths where I normally walk with Maggie anyway and for some reason it helped. The walk went quickly and we were soon on local ground, things don’t seem so bad when you can see home and the pub in view.
Proudly then we marched into the Bulls Head, somehow ignoring the aches and pains for a while, there was a mini beer festival in full flow that weekend and twelve top real ales to try. I opted for an old favourite, Holdens Golden Glow, a beer I used to drink regularly on Friday works pub lunches at the Great Western in Wolverhampton, it didn’t let me down.
Chris on the other hand had three!
I hate Chris, look at him all smug and thin as a bloody rake. (Only kidding Chris) This wasn’t a one off though annoyingly, incredibly he did this at all three stops on the way and on arrival. If I’d done that I’d have put on a stone, gone up a shorts size and no doubt fell asleep! 😉
For Maggie though it was all too much, after two more meals of chicken and rice and a beef burger from the BBQ, her eyes were heavy, so tired cold and damp she promptly fell asleep wrapped in her towel.
As we posed for our last group photograph before making the final push I had my doubts she would make it. When we left I decided that enough was enough, we only had just over three miles to go but it was almost all very steeply uphill, Maggie was still walking but didn’t look comfortable and so I sent her home with Rach for a warm bath and a rest. It wasn’t fair to the poor lass and besides she had more than completed the mileage running back and forth like a crazy thing on the first two legs.
We pushed on then for home, walking again past home (just to take the piss again) down the long decline to Longport under the busy A500 and up the north face of the Eiger, or Porthill Bank as it is known locally…
This final stretch was the straw that broke the camels back, we were whacked. Every kerb felt like it was double height, the slightest pebble under foot pressed inexplicably accurately into boot clad blisters, it was AGONY…
That agony then manifested itself into selfish rudeness, cars stopped abruptly as we stepped out in front of them without care for safety, not wanting to stop for fear of not starting again. In a final twist of fate a nurse stopped us about a quarter of a mile from home asking directions, without a pause I shouted “if you want to talk to me, KEEP DRIVING“, so she did and amusingly we had our conversation through her car window as she crawled along the road beside us.
We turned the last corner and we’d done it, there it was The Greyhound. From nowhere Chris sprinted past us through the door, determined to beat us to it and almost knocking out an unsuspecting lady drinker in the doorway in the process. Crazy fool 🙂
So, from a 9:30 AM start we finally walked through the Greyhounds door at 7:00 PM, roughly an hour head of schedule (although one or two of the hardened walkers had done it in less) It was Dark Star again for me with a couple of pints of Espresso, hoping the caffeine would give me a much needed lift, Lee had provided a cracking buffet too which went down a treat.
If you’ve read this far, you may think that I’ve been over dramatic in my recounting of events, people run marathons and undertake much more arduous challenges than this after all, but believe me it’s written from the heart. We raised a good amount of cash for a great charity and we well and truly earned it..
The just giving page is still open and will be for a while so please spare a few Pounds, Dollars, Shekels, Euros etc if you can. If none of what you’ve read compels you to dip into your pocket, do it for Maggie!
A Just Giving page has been set up for the walk. It can be accessed online at http://www.justgiving.com/titanicgreyhound. Alternatively, donations can be made in person at the Greyhound or by phone – text GHTB67 followed by £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10 (eg. GHTB67 £3) to 70070.
P.S. In case you were wondering, the music by The Music that inspired the title to these posts: