This weekend was going to be epic.
Mileage to the max plus a curry with Rach.
We ticked the curry off no bother, which just left the miles to deal with themselves. The plan was for Lynn to drop me close to the start of the Grantham canal which happens to be in Nottingham, she’d then drive off, spend an extremely long day with her mother and wait for me to pop out 33 miles later at the Grantham end.
I set off in fairly good spirits, a little hungover and a bit intimidated by the wiggly, windy road ahead but mostly #upforit.
I might have mentioned previously (here or here for example) that I haven’t been much taken with the concept of walking but the long distance trail really does appeal to me. Cutting swathes across the countryside leaving a breadcrumb or GPS trail that would actually show up an aerial shot of the UK is rather satisfying.
The Grantham canal seems to be a lesser spotted variety of long distance trail. There was a tiny stretch where I was assailed by manic dogs and a couple of joggers but mostly I was alone, admiring the birds and longing, longingly for a bench to appear. It deserves to be more popular and I recommend it to anyone in search of a peaceful walk/bike/run through the lush lincolnshire countryside.
The pubs are a little sparse though and I missed the planned stop at Hose where I was supposed to meet my folks for a burger and Stella shandy. Hose has the greatest concentration of Grantham canal ale houses but it has an inconsequential bridge (n0 39) that is easy to pass, make a note of it if you want to complete the route in style as you’ll need to exit the towpath and head right in search of the Rose and Crown.
This map from the Grantham Canal Society is worth reviewing.
I did meet my mum and dad and they ferried me off for a cup a tea, a bacon butty and supplied me with emergency plasters for a pair of evil blisters starting to burn on both of my heels. They then joined me for a short stroll, timed to perfection with a peculiar hailstorm.
The blisters started at mile 8 so the moment I found a bench I whipped off my socks and changed them for my spare pair which unfortunately felt like a sisal door mat. I was limping by lunchtime, then the plasters offered some relief for a few miles.
From mile 18 onwards I was completely taken over by the pain from my blisters. It is amazing how crippling an inch long bubble of tissue fluid can be. I tried everything available to me – switching socks again, having another fruit sherbert, re-applying plasters, walking barefoot and then I laid down. That was marvellously effective. It was so warm and peaceful and I could have stayed there all afternoon. I very nearly had to as well, it was a complete bugger to get back up again and my poles are no use under 16 stone (+) pressure – they just concertina back to packed size.
I did make it back to vertical without pitching myself into the canal and the hobbling continued, one bench to the next.
Despite all the support from the facebook sidelines I decided at 22 miles that I ought to save the crippling heroics for the big London2Brighton day and so called for my carriage home.
It had felt quite important to get this 30-miler under my belt. I’ve been incredibly concerned about my ability to complete the 100k route and this half distance trek would have given me a psychological boost. I still feel fairly positive though. My feet let me down but I was mentally strong and the rest of the body is willing.
I need to go away, reassess footwear, buy lining socks, compeed, heavy duty zinc tape and embark on a twice daily application of surgical spirit. I might even consider some Nightgear Military Magnum boots to go with my military twin layer socks.
It’s easily going to be the hardest challenge I’ve ever set myself. Driving back to London last night after a warm bath and a roast chicken dinner I was aware that if I were doing the 100k I would still be walking – barely half way to Brighton, easing my painful feet into bed at midnight I would still be walking and when the darn cat woke me at 7 am, I’d still be walking/crawling into Brighton.
If any of you would like to donate to the Samaritans on the back of my painful London2Brighton attempt I’d be very grateful – here’s the link.
GPX of the full canal available here.