A couple of months ago we printed a piece from Retford resident, Alan Petrie, who was planning to walk 50 of the 60 miles of the Macmillan Way West from Castle Cary to Minehead between the 5th and 12th September to raise money for Cancer Research UK. He successfully completed the walk and has sent us this:
“I managed to do it – and no blisters!
“The walk starts outside Douglas Macmillan’s former home in Castle Cary which we (my Spaniel and I) left on a bright and breezy Monday morning to begin to cross the Levels. We walked about five miles before meeting my wife for a lunch stop. Afterwards she dropped us in a small village a few miles further on. We walked down the village street for about 100 yards before the dog decided she’d had enough and returned to the car – with more haste than she’d left it! This happened again next morning so I continued on my own from then on.
“I had planned to have a ‘day off’ part way through the week as my knees are not as strong as they were. I looked at the weather forecast and decided that Thursday was going to be the wettest day. This proved to be a major mistake, though.
“On Friday I set off to cross the Eastern edge of Exmoor, ending the walk in Minehead itself, hoping for fish and chips as a reward. Climbing the slopes onto the Moor the weather was not encouraging. The wind was strong and gusting in my face and the heavy showers were constant and merging into one another, far worse than the previous day. Surprisingly, as I walked along the trail I saw no one else on it as the rain was increasing in intensity. Walking alongside some woodland it became torrential, so heavy that I decided to take shelter under the trees, only for it to pour through them as well.
“Saturday was glorious, bright, sunny and mild with clear blue skies and, as I got to the highest point on the Quantocks, superb views opened up in all direction. The climb up to the summit ridge, though, was long and arduous and took a real toll on my knees, despite the knee-braces I had sensibly bought (well, my wife told me to) before we set off from home. But it was the descent which was to prove the most difficult part of the whole week.
“The Quantocks are ‘whaleback’ hills so the descent starts gently before getting steeper as you go down. As I descended it became more and more overgrown with bracken and as there was no underbrush, the soil / leaf mulch ground cover, sodden from the previous day’s rain, made footing treacherous.
“Needless to say, my legs went from under me and I slid, rather inelegantly, about 5 yards on my behind. This posed me a problem as my dodgy knees (knee-braces and all) are too weak for me to get up without something to get hold of – and there wasn’t anything. Eventually, I managed to stop sliding further and turn myself to face into the slope and, with an effort of will (and a lot of unprintable words), staggered to my feet. I made my way gently down the next 20 or 30 feet to a fence from where I was able to find a lengthy, but much easier, zigzag detour to get down the last 50 or so feet to the car park. This had been the hardest walking I had done for about 15 years – and I felt it that evening.
“The final two days were uneventful but successful.
“Ten days after we got home we received the devastating news that my daughter’s cancer is inoperable and terminal. She is in the last weeks of her life and will leave a husband and three children. If ever I had reason to question my making this walk to raise money for cancer research, this overwhelming blow is that motivation.
“Thank you to those of you who have already donated to my ‘Just Giving’ page (Alan’s Walk for Cancer) on Facebook. I had hoped to raise £500 for the charity but so far, rather disappointingly, have managed £345. Please give anything you can spare in these very difficult financial times – every little will help towards saving others in the future from facing this sort of news.”