We did it!
Mum and I have completed our mega-walk from sunrise at 0752 until sunset at 1639 on 22 January in aid of Hampshire Search & Rescue Dogs and Pensions4Paws.
That’s a dog walk lasting eight hours and 47 minutes! Mum’s iPhone said she covered 15 miles and my FitBark showed my total as 38 miles! So one of us was slacking – and it wasn’t the one with four legs!
The weather the day before didn’t bode well with constant rain. While I don’t mind the rain at all, mum was firmly of the opinion that walking for nearly nine hours in the wet – even with waterproof kit – would not be the most joyful experience of the year.
As it turned out, we couldn’t have asked for better weather on the day itself. Mild, dry (although not underfoot) and with no wind, it really did make the walk a much more enjoyable experience.
We parked at a free car park in Wickham with a few minutes to spare, then mum donned her rucksack, got me out of my crate and off we set, taking a photo of the time on her watch to tweet to our followers.
After about 10 minutes, mum was fed up with the rucksack.
She also got a bit fed up with me charging up the banks along the Meon Valley Trail (MVT, an old railway line) and disappearing out of view. You’d have though my name was ‘Wilson, this way!’
I didn’t get the memo about it being a l-o-n-g walk and to pace my energy levels.
We settled into a rhythm and didn’t really see anyone other than a couple of other dog walkers for the first two hours. Perfect.
The trail has been upgraded by Hampshire County Council, making it less lumpy and boggy compared to when mum used to run it a few years ago. Mum preferred it before to be honest but it was quite nice not to be ankle deep in mud within minutes of starting.
We did encounter a few walkers along the way and as usual, mum kept me to one side in a sit while they passed (this is where the handle on the Ruffwear Webmaster comes into its own).
Now I don’t know about you, but if someone obviously keeps their dog out of your way while you pass by mum always acknowledges it by thanking them or smiling.
Not in Wickham they don’t (apart from one pleasant couple). One woman with a dog threw us a look like I’d just coughed up in her bag of treats, and two women with buggies just ambled by and totally ignored the fact that we’d been waiting patiently for them to pass for about two minutes.
I know, I know…if that’s all we have to worry about we’re not doing too badly – but really, a cheery ‘thank you’ doesn’t take any effort does it?
Our aim was to head along the trail, hike up Old Winchester Hill, meander through the countryside for a few miles before walking across Soberton Down and retracing our steps along the MVT back to the car.
However, it took us nearly three hours to reach Old Winchester Hill. A quick mental calculation indicated that we’d not have made it back to our start point at 1639 if we did the full route (well, I could have but mum was the weak link here).
Time for Plan B, which cut off a few miles and got us back on the MVT, from where we could divert for a wander around the Forest of Bere’s West Walk or Upperford Copse to ensure we got back to the car at sunset.
So, Old Winchester Hill. To say it was a bit muddy underfoot was an understatement.
Mum was tip-toeing along very gingerly to avoid ending up on her backside. Never mind George Orwell, it certainly wasn’t a case of ‘four legs good, two legs better’ as I ably demonstrated by skipping along like a spring lamb while she clutched wildly at the barbed wire fence to stay upright.
Near the top of the hill mum obeyed the signs and put me on a lead. There are sometimes sheep grazing and plenty of ground-nesting birds later in the season. We stopped to admire the view and get the obligatory photos, before heading down the other side.
Here we met the sheep. They eyed us up and I eyeballed them back but I remained reasonably calm (for me) as we wended our way along past the farmhouse at Stocks Lane Farm, up another hill and reached the point where we could cut short the original planned route and head back to the Meon Valley Trail.
And that’s where we’ll leave it for this post – part two next time!
We’ve smashed our fundraising target but our page is open until 31 January – we will be thanking all our sponsors on our next post, so if you want to join this exclusive gang you can visit our Just Giving page and sponsor us a few quid!
To find out more about the two wonderful charities we’re supporting, you can read this post.