“Not all who wander are lost” By James Vaughton
The words of JRR Tolkien and for the most part they are true of our wander through Wiltshire over 18-19 May. Steve Dewar, Dan Webb and I completed our 60-mile (100km) challenge to walk from Malmesbury Abbey to Salisbury Cathedral.
We took on this challenge because we think young people are worth it and we believe they are loved and valued by Jesus. The walk was planned to help us in the ongoing task of fundraising for the work delivered by Wiltshire Youth for Christ. That motivation was important at times during Walk Wiltshire 2018!
Our journey took us through the beautiful and varied countryside of the county of Wiltshire from the relatively flat farmland south west of Malmesbury into the southern Cotswolds around Castle Combe, with its winding river and valleys. We stopped briefly in Box and then climbed out of the village to be greeted by a wonderful view across the farmland and on towards the Plain; which we would tackle the following day. We reached South Wraxall and then it was on to the picturesque Bradford on Avon and along the canal to Seend for the end of day one. It had been a tough day and Dan was suffering having had very little sleep for a couple of nights before. He seemed to have exhaustion as he collapsed into the car, managed a bath with mustard powder (my mother’s secret ingredient), a little food and went to bed. It would be fair to say that we all, including Dan, wondered if he would be carrying on the next day.
Some sleep, the morning sunshine and the smell of bacon butties and coffee got us all up and back on the canal tow path. Dan was a different person and at least up for getting as far as possible on day 2. We re-joined the path where we had left it the night before and headed along the Canal. From near Devizes we headed cross country past fields and farms with the Salisbury Plain ridge looming ahead. Market Lavington provided a good pitstop and Steve managed to get £10 of sponsorship from a couple in St. Arbuck’s Café. Up onto the plain and we were thrilled there were no red flags and so began the long march across the dusty, hot and chalky rolling plateau of the plain for about 7 miles to Shrewton. Thankfully there was some shade along the way for brief breaks and we conquered the Plain. Unperturbed by the rather scary signs we kept going with the promise of picking up an ice-cream in Shrewton spurring us on.
The approach to Shrewton and the couple of miles after the village was Steve’s ‘wall’. Steve’s knee was feeling the pain and every downhill step was hard and painful. At times he resorted to walking backwards down hills, which provoked amusement for any passers-by. We met a friendly local at this point who provided some helpful navigation advice, although he also informed us that there were cows and couple of bulls in the field we now had to cross. We hesitantly passed around the side of the cows and were almost at the fence when Steve, who was a little further back and prone to talking to man and beast, shouted and started running. Dan and I made for the gate, Steve caught us up and we were over. I have since been told (why didn’t I look this up?) that we should have chased the cows, made lots of noise and waved our sticks.
Unscathed but with adrenaline pumping we headed up hill, across the A303 and continued southwards through more farmland. Still high up but flat our pace picked up, turning east we crossed the A360 and then hit the final downhill off the plain. Steve hobbled down bravely and we entered the Woodfords, just north of Salisbury. We were on the road for a couple of miles before heading onto a path running parallel to the River Avon. With Old Sarum looming on our left we marched, determined to finish before 9pm. The spire of the Cathedral loomed larger as we walked and, resisting the temptation for a cool-off swim in the refreshing looking ribbon of water that accompanied our final miles, we headed towards our goal.
As we entered the outskirts of Salisbury, Steve as he had along the walk, talked to people we passed even allowing a gentleman to try his walking sticks. We approached the centre of the ancient city of Salisbury and turning our final corner together, the three of us headed under the arch at the entrance to the Cathedral grounds to be greeted by some familiar faces and a round of applause. We walked the final metres to the church steps, thanked God we had made it and posed for photos. All three of us had just walked Wiltshire!
Thank you to you for supporting and sponsoring us. It was tough at times but worth every step.