I did it!

On Saturday I managed the walk from Rocester to Abbots Bromley, that I wrote about in my previous post. It took all day – a slow pace was maintained and several stops to rest. No ill effects other than sunburn on my forearms (I have very fair skin – there’s ginger in the family) and sore feet.

We started with morning prayer in church live on Facebook so that the pilgrims’ friends could join in. click here to watch it. Then after everyone had been to the loo we assembled outside for a photo and a sharing with each other our names and any needs we might have for the others to be aware of. I said I hoped I wouldn’t slow them down and that it might be a bit of a struggle due to arthritis in my left knee and general unfitness.

The pilgrims assemble before departure.

The two young ladies in the front (Beth and Ivana) plus the gentleman third from right (Hugh) are the pilgrims. The rest of us joining in are: the bishop of Lichfield (Michael Ipgrave), his wife (Julia) and their friend (Ann), the vicar from Abbots Bromley (Simon Davis), a member of my congregation (Richard), my curate (Garry) and me.

We made our way round the church, past JCB Academy and onto The Staffordshire Way footpath by Rocester Bridge, across fields, through Abbotsholme School playing field, by the river Dove and down to Uttoxeter where we paused for some of us to go into Waitrose for a coffee and the loo. I took the opportunity to sit on the steps outside the store as my knee hurts when standing still, but is OK walking.

Just before Uttoxeter we diverted onto the old Dove Bridge on the A50. Fortunately the footpath took us under the new road – we would be all day waiting for a gap to cross the road. Eventually we stopped for lunch under a tree just the other side of Uttoxeter, by Field Head Farm.

lunch under the shade of the tree

A welcome addition to lunch was a small cake made by Garry’s daughter. We set off again, heading southward. There were many stiles, some of which were a bit high for my short legs but at least they were all passable. Some of the fields were quite muddy. And one field in particular had been used by lots of cows, had lots of rain with extremely poor drainage. The sloppy mud (plus cow poo) went over the top of my boots…. yuk!!! Most of the route though was through pleasant countryside.

Unfortunately the weather turned hot. Too hot for me. I don’t like the heat and do not manage very well in it so I began to struggle. I think I managed to drink enough water to prevent dehydration but I got very tired. At the 8 mile point I felt like giving up. But obviously I couldn’t. I had no choice but to continue. It became a bit of a slog. But my companions were very good at encouraging me and keeping me going, including Bethany and Ivana singing some songs. Richard joined in a bit too but I couldn’t spare the breath.

We eventually made it to Abbots Bromley where I was very pleased to see a bench. I sat on it declaring I could go no further till I’d rested. My feet were aching, but my legs were OK.

We’ve arrived!

You will notice that I am wearing gloves. They are not the leather ones that stained my hands the previous week, but some new cycling gloves. They worked well at preventing chafing from the poles. And my hands were not too hot in them either.

We made our way to the church – St Nicholas – where the vicar led us in a short time of prayer. We were also treated to some extremely delicious brownies that Garry’s wife had made that day (thank you Carol!)

Thank you Carol – very tasty

Carol had kindly driven the short (by car) distance to pick us up and when I got home it was a definite case of showering and putting my feet up. A massage helped, plus a welcome cup of tea.

It was then that I noticed how pink my arms were. I had caught the sun. Perhaps I should have accepted the kind offer of sun block. My face hadn’t burnt though. It had got red because of the heat of walking, but fortunately as I cooled down, so my face returned to its natural colour. And this morning (Monday) I noticed some bruising on my left shin. No doubt that was from one or more stiles.

But I have survived very well. No great stiffness of legs or joints – at least no more than I often have. I am very pleased I did it, despite the discomfort of the last 4 miles.

I am also very pleased at the amount of money raised for Alzheimer’s Society. The total so far on my Just Giving page is £206. Of that £111 was given in cash at two of my churches by various members of the congregations. People are very generous.

Our Reader, Sue, also spoke about the pilgrimage in her daily reflection on Facebook on the Saturday. Click here to see it. She spoke about pilgrims walking and being open to God’s presence. I wasn’t particularly aware of his presence at the time. However, on reflection I am aware that he was with me in his people’s love shown for each other and in our conversations along the way.

Sue ended her reflection with this prayer:

God of the guiding star, the bush that blazes
Show us your way.
God of the stormy seas, the bread that nourishes
Teach us your truth.
God of the still, small voice, the wind that blows where it chooses
Fill us with life.
God of the elements, of our inward and outward journeys
Set out feet on your road today
May God bless us.
May the angels and saints be with us.
May we live this day in peace and joy.

Oh – I nearly forgot. Here’s the Strava record of the day. The moving time was 5.32 hours, but the actual time taken was 7.33 hours.

The Staffordshire Way – a bit of information if you are interested. More on the website.

The Staffordshire Way is a long distance footpath which has been established by
Staffordshire County Council. It spans the length of the County for 92 miles from
Mow Cop to Kinver Edge. The route is based wholly on public rights of way or
paths on which access has been granted. The Way is not one of the national long
distance routes designated by the Countryside Commission, but has been created
by the County Council to respond to a recognised demand for access to the
countryside. The route explores some of Staffordshire’s loveliest scenery and
several of its most interesting towns and villages, as well as linking country parks
and picnic places.

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