Over 3 days, 4 local unfit businessmen undertook walking the 101 miles of the South Downs way. This blister inducing feet normally takes 9 days, so why do it in 3? The reason was to raise funds and awareness for Extra Cover.
The 4 fools were; Sean Maginnis (owner of The Lock Centre in Bognor Regis) Dave Parsons (business manager at Nat West Bank in Chichester) Carl Lamerton (Fireplough graphic design) and Matthew Hansford (Hansfords Menswear, Chichester) who also runs the charity.
We set off from Winchester at 6am on the Saturday on what turned out to be a perfect day for walking, cool and breezy but no rain. The deluge of the day before would have certainly put paid to the venture. Our first stop was in Exton for breakfast, a beautiful place, especially walking down into the village and then on top of Old Winchester hill. 4 hours later, having walked over Butser Hill, our next stop was at Buriton. It was here after 24 miles of walking that we all started feeling discomfort, all of us had some small blisters, but already Sean had some real beauties! Luckily Jill Misselbrook (my lovely wife, and a local Physio from Felpham) was on hand to tend to our woes! The last 10 miles were a real struggle, feet and legs aching, getting tired, but with the help of a few friends we made it to Cocking by 7pm (13 hours walking 35 miles with only about 40 minutes rest), plenty of time for some refreshments at the Anglesey arms on the way home.
The next day we had to be up at 4am to dress our feet (poor Jill!!), have breakfast and get driven out to Devils Dyke by 6am (we decided to do the walk in stages, leaving the middle section till last so people could join us at the end). It was freezing and blowing a gale, not a great start! But the scenery soon cheered us up and when the sun arrived the stunning views kept us thinking how lucky we were to be out walking. 9.30am and Jill was waiting with Breakfast and plasters near Lewis and then it was off to Alfriston, we were all now understanding what a challenge this walk was, Carl and Sean’s feet were in a bad way, both were in real pain. The unevenness of the paths (especially the flints and chalk) were taking their toll on all our legs and causing friction on parts of our feet that were becoming raw and very sensitive. But we all managed the long trek to lunch, which we all desperately needed. We had taken some advice about nutrition and were drinking and eating all the right things, but we also managed to eat vast amounts of delicious cake (thanks Sally) so although we were all tired we seemed to have plenty of energy. We set off from Alfiston at about 3.30 knowing we had the challenge of 7 sisters to come. And did they come!! After arriving at the stunning Cuckmere river mouth we ascended up onto the cliffs, what an awe inspiring site, the sun was perfect and you could see for ever….. and that was the problem, the end just didn’t seem in site! My calculations had gone badly wrong, I had thought we had about 4 miles to go, it was closer to 7, and they were 7 of the longest miles we have ever walked. Carl and Dave were happy at a faster pace so marched on in front, Sean and I took a more conservative (very slow)pace and spent time enjoying the view…. well that’s a lie, Sean’s feet were in a real mess, his years of smoking also telling (he gave up a few years ago, but it seemed too late) and my feet felt very odd too so we had no choice but to crawl along. The rolling hills of the sisters were a real challenge, not only the steep up slopes, but it seemed the downslopes hurt even more, thighs were burning, calves cramping. Just as it was getting dark at 8pm, we staggered down the steepest hill of all to the official end point of the South Downs way on Eastbourne promenade. After 14 hours we couldn’t even manage a beer. Blisters were now a real problem as plasters/tape/compede etc. had fused together with our skin, and yes…when you took them off, off came the skin. The thought of walking another day with no skin on either heal was not that appealing!! 37 miles today in 14 hours.
Up again very early, trying to find some way of strapping up bare flesh and out to Cocking for a 6.30 start. The first 7 miles to Bignor hill was horrible, a couple of nasty hills, really bad paths and the thought that every step was like having a pin driven into your foot! We arrived for breakfast in pretty poor humour, but after a few minutes of Jill and Sally feeding us and the realisation that we could feel the finish line we set off over Bignor hill towards Amberly and our next stop, Washington. It is worth mentioning at this point how vital it was and had been to have friends join us for sections of the walk; Simon, Trevor, Ben, Sally and Father Robert all put in at least a 4 hour stint, with Trevor managing over 1/2 of the walk. They really did add something to the whole event, especially when things got tough, they made us laugh, gave encouragement and stopped the 4 of us from throttling each other as we bored each other by repeating ourselves time and time again! We arrived at Washington and had quite a party at the side of the A24, filled ourselves with cake, and moved on quickly before we seized up. I took my shoes off and noticed a toe nail hanging off, happy days!! The next few hours were all a bit of a blur, a brief stop at Upper beeding and then on to the home straight. At this point the nutrition plan went out the window and serious measures were needed, Sloe Gin works well as a pain killer, port and brandy weren’t bad either! At 6.30pm we came over the hill to Devils Dyke and were met by friends and family at the end of what had been a real epic journey, only 12 hours walking today, 29 miles covered.
We then retired to the Shepherd and Dog at Fulking for a few well deserved beers.
What will our memories be?
- Don’t ever do that again!! I think we lost 7 toenails between us, lived in sandals for 2 weeks. Sean needed hospital treatment!
- It was an amazing achievement. It was much tougher than we thought, the terrain made it awkward, never a flat surface and although we all had worn in our shoes/boots for months, after the first day it all went badly wrong. For Sean this was incredible achievement, most didn’t expect him to make it, sheer will power and determination got him through.
- The South Downs way is stunning. Almost in our back yard and have never visited before. There are some stunning spots, ones that stood out were: Exton, Old Winchester Hill and Fort, Harting Down, Devils Dyke, Kingston, Cuckmere river mouth, The Seven Sisters, but to be honest there were virtually no dull spots, it was all beautiful.
- Raising over £9000 for Extra Cover which is enough money to feed 250 hungry children every school day for a year!! It would be great to get to our target of 10K, so please visit the website for ways to add a few £’s.
There are many thankyou’s I would like to make:
- Sean, Dave and Carl; for taking this on with me, it would have been very lonely on my own, we made it and had a great experience, thanks boys.
- Jill; what a Star, not only did she put up with some very manky feet, but she supported and fed us superbly .She also had to put up with me dis-appearing for endless walks all summer!
- Sally; – Cake!!
- Trevor,Simon,Robert and Ben; your walking support was fantastic, we really needed it.
- Tig; for his excellent advise on what and when to eat and drink (sorry about the booze Tig, don’t think that was in the plan!), we seemed to have plenty of energy if nothing else!
- Andrew; – for getting us to the start and picking us up on Sunday, taking pictures and being generally being a trooper!
- Anne, Martin, Mary, Jane amongst others for being there, offering support and helping us get there in the end.
- All those who dipped into their pocket to support us, knowing how generous you had been really made us grin and bare it in those times of doubt.
- And lastly Sean’s 8 year old son Charlie – for the best comment of the walk……. you will have to ask Sean!!!!
Cheers, until next time!!