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A Week in the Life……Sun, sea, sand (and blisters), by Richard Wotton

Richard and Vicky Wotton - hosted my daughter Georgie and me last week, and walked many miles, together with their sons Dan and Nick, and our friend Ian Mathieson. Thank you!

And what a week it was; peppered with a strong St Helena theme of friends and family striding confidently (most of the time!) across Hampshire as close to the coast as we could get, finally crossing the border into Dorset (still no visa required). Laurence was leading the way with OS map(s) in hand, occasional Google Maps and the trusty Strava, just to make sure that our stats were up to the mark (faster, faster!).

Last century in St Helena a group of us, including Laurence and Melitta, used to undertake intrepid walks every Sunday (if we were still able to walk after playing cricket/football/tennis on the Saturday). What drove us on down and then back up the steep valleys of St Helena was the prospect of tea and Evie’s chocolate cake (and the odd beer or two) at the end of a hot day.

St Helena, 1989, just after a treasure hunt organized by Melitta (second from right in second row, with glasses). Richard is in the front, bearded, with Vicky right behind him. Evie, of chocolate cake fame, is on Vicky's right, holding her son. Ian is in the centre at the back, with the dark beard.

I’m pleased to report that we did our best to continue that tradition this week. Evie’s chocolate cake recipe is still a favourite around these parts, but nowadays when the beer runs out we progress onto Pimms and wine – such is progress in the 21st century.

For the whole week we were blessed with 100% blistering sunshine, but my mind couldn’t help wandering forward to the days when it will be windy, wet and cold (the 3,500 miles is around England and Wales after all), which will necessitate a slightly different approach to the daily malarkey, currently comprising a bottle of sun tan cream and not much else! But then again maybe it’s going to be sunny for the whole of the next year - England are in the semi-finals after all, so the pigs must be flying…….

Georgie, Richard, Dan and Nick setting off at a good pace! (The tips of the trainers at the bottom are because I was lying on the ground to take the picture.)

So what were the highlights of the week? There were many! We swapped the valleys of St Helena for the chines of the Hampshire coast; successfully dodged cars, bikes and sunbathers all week; found an unmarked nature reserve on a beach (“entry forbidden”) and scrambled up hill and down dale to get around it; were serenaded by a gentleman who just wanted to “sing us the blues” amongst the salt marches of Lymington; conquered Hengistbury Head, traversed the whole of Bournemouth’s beautiful 7 miles of beach, found the “Welcome to Poole” sign at Sandbanks and learned that it (and so much else) was manufactured by the Carter Tile Manufactory and Poole Pottery (founded by Jesse Carter in 1873); discovered the plethora of pubs in Poole Harbour – and the list goes on.

Mind the gap...

Keeping the show moving relentlessly along the road day-by-day was quite a logistical exercise. This comprised a combination of Laurence’s battle bus (with two as yet unused bikes strapped to the back), cars, taxis and trains to make sure that the team was in the right place at the right time (including of course for the tea, cake and beer at the end of each day). I have a feeling that the bikes will come into their own later on.

It wasn't just Picasso who had a blue period...

Of course the most important piece of the logistics’ jigsaw was to ensure that last Saturday’s walk ended at the appropriate time with ring-side seats in a pub where we could have something to eat, a beer and watch the England Quarter Final. I’m very happy to report that it was job done on all counts!

Bangers and mash to get ready for the England-Sweden match.

And did I mention the blisters?? To be continued………..


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