Long Walk to School Fundraiser – 70 mile Diary

Hiking 70 miles Ramsbury to Windsor Castle

Our family – with a little help from our friends have completed the longest walk to school ever – starting from home we took 4.5 days to help Boy trek back to school after the halfterm break. It turned out to be 68 miles (that’s nearly 110kms!) through a beautiful English autumn to reach our destination of St Georges Chapel, Windsor Castle. Boy and Girl raised just over £2500 – busting their target of £1000 – in aid of several charities close to their hearts:

Their friend is determined to beat her leukaemia so we’re determined to raise some cash for more research to help anyone suffering this terrible illness.

CLIC Sargent are there for children with cancer and their families too, responding to their individual needs and caring through treatment and beyond. (registered Charity 1107328) .

Like many families, we’ve also been touched by dementia so we want to raise as much as we can for the Alzheimer’s Society who fund research into the cause, cure, care and prevention of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, to improve treatment for people today.(registered Charity No. 296645)

Our local church, has a broken bell (the second in 2 years!) and we’d like to help Friends of Holy Cross (registered charity No. 1164366) pay for the repairs

Our son wants to help other boys find their singing voice – so we want to support St Georges Choir with their outreach activities such as ‘Be a Chorister For a Day’. It is not the financial responsibility of the State, the Church or the Crown so the choir relies on donations to support the medieval tradition of English choral music.

Day 1. Great walking weather – mild, dry and overcast. stunning route along Kennet & Avon Canal with beautiful autumn colours. Feeling keen on the first day so we pushed on past Newbury to Greenham Common – nearly 30km! May well regret that in the morning… Fundraising total now over £1600 – thanks to everyone who’s supported us, especially @stgboarding and @ramsburybrewery. Tomorrow we’re ticking off the Cold War by way of Greenham Common and Aldermaston, and the 2nd century at Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester). High point of the day – autumn leaves. Low point – Josie going splat off the path – fortunately onto the road, not into the canal!

Day 2. Started across Greenham Common – early morning mists made Rebel Base (the old missile silos, as more recently seen in the new Star Wars film) look particularly atmospheric. We saw mosaic puffballs, grey cows and black Labradors. Lots of very picturesque spider webs in the bushes. A morning coffee stop with grandparents and goats – very entertaining. We lost our route somewhere in a new plantation and had to bash our way through the bush – impenetrable undergrowth and raging torrents. Well, almost – Ray Mears would still be proud of us. Ripe red apples off wild trees made up for it. After lunch at the Ship Inn, Girl and grandparents went off for some culture at the Sandham Memorial Chapel with its Stanley Spencer murals. The rest of us pushed on to Aldermaston and Tadley (suburban but we did find a house at no 11 called “Undecim” – Mr Onions will be delighted!) and we all rendezvoused at the Imp Stone – an ancient (Roman?) boundary marker between Berks and Hants. Final stop for the day was the car park at Calleva. We’re ready to explore the Roman ruins first thing tomorrow. 15 miles today so we’re just over half way.

Day 3. We started at the Roman ruins of Calleva at Silchester and, to be honest, it doesn’t get much better than that: blue skies, stunning views and amazing history.

The Devil’s Highway (the old Roman road heading towards London) was a bit of a let down on account of the prodigious quantities of flytipping.

We crossed the A33 on a slender pedestrian bridge feeling a bit like Indiana Jones traversing a ravine on a rope bridge! Indy never gets to eat lunch at the Crown in Swallowfield, though.   Good bangers and mash.

Then our path wiggled its way through some lovely parkland and woods before hitting the main road to Wokingham. After 10 minutes of trudging along pavements, Boy mutinied and insisted on a detour back to the byways and bridleways – that made it a bit longer, but much quieter and definitely worth it. We finally got to our finishing point a bit late, but not even the most desperate commuter has ever been as pleased to see Wokingham station as we were this evening! We’ve still got a fair bit to cover tomorrow but the end’s in sight and our tails are up!

Day 4. Big shout out today to our support crew – thanks Granny and Papa for all the driving. And also big congrats to team member Tom for putting up with our funny family ways!   We did a final push of 16 miles from Wokingham to the edge of Windsor Great Park. Highlights include stuffing our pockets with sweet chestnuts to take home and roast – and spotting (but not touching) shaggy ink caps among the autumn leaves.Berkshire stock gates were very exciting and anyway everything felt so much better after lunch at the Shepherds House at Tickleback Row – what a great name! The last few miles melted away and we finished up in fine form at the car park near Cranbourne Tower.

Well we did it! Bit longer than expected – we should rename the campaign the “Long 70 Mile Walk to School”. Boy walked every step of the way, with Girl coming in close at 45 miles.

We had a nice leisurely pub breakfast (and enjoyed the extra hour’s lie-in) before heading over to Runnymede for some Magna-Carta-related sightseeing. Then back up to Forest Lodge at the top of the Great Park for the final push to the Castle.   A picnic lunch at the Village Post Office and then off we went. Sunday was so foggy we couldn’t actually see very much – halfway down the Long Walk we lost both the Copper Horse (at one end) and Windsor Castle (at the other) – but the postcards assure us they make a splendid sight most other days. It was indeed a Long Walk (very appropriate in the circumstances) but also a walk in the park (quite literally) compared to previous days. Deer and horseriders, then more and more dogwalkers as we got nearer to town.

We celebrated with a ginger beer or two at the Horse & Groom, just outside the Henry VIII Gate, before heading in to Evensong and touching the Chapel door to complete the trip.

Thanks to everyone who’s supported us, cheered us on, tweeted us, walked with us or just stopped to chat. It’s been hard work but great fun. The total raised is looking to be just over £2500 – we couldn’t have done it without you!