A Week I will never forget – by Ian Stephens

I have always been up for a challenge, so when I was asked if I would like to take part in this one, I didn’t have to think twice. I was also moved by the charity and how the Whittington hospital had given Steve and Kris’s son Charlie a start in life after being born prematurely. I just wanted to do it!!

What I didn’t realise was how tough it would prove to be.

Collectively, we all posted our messages during the journey from Farnham to Dover, but, I haven’t really been able to describe my feelings and emotions, and only now after divorcing myself away from our trip, have I been able to think about it and what it meant, not just to me but the three fantastic guys that I shared this epic experience with.

Each of us hit highs and lows during the course of the 5 days. We didn’t have to say anything to each other about how we were feeling when our bodies were hurting and we felt that we couldn’t do any more. The guys would just know. In return, they would encourage and make you feel better, and help you pull through. I had an instance on the final day when we were heading along the cliffs into Dover. I suffer terribly from heights and I started to panic as we were very close to the edge of the cliff, with just a foot of grass between us and an 800 foot drop. The wind was coming in off land hitting us as if it were trying to push us over. I panicked and totally lost my mind. The encouragement that I got from each of my companions was enough to get me through and beat my demons.

We will also never ever be able to describe the emotions of the 128 miles that we walked. The pain that Jacko suffered from day one to his toes, the foot problems that Ian had very early in the task and the unbelievable amount of blisters that Millsy amassed from day one.

In my book, Richard Jackson, Ian Smith and Steve Mills are  absolute heroes. I am also very proud to have got to know them all even better and to have made a new friend in Steve

We have now raised approximately £3,300 with the inclusion of gift aid, which is spectacular. It was worth every layer of skin lost, every muscle ache and every single step across muddy terrain, fields, gravel and climb.

We also had a lot of laughs along the way 🙂

Thank you fellas for a week I’ll never forget

WE DID IT!!

Ian

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The North Downs Way by Richard Jackson

Once it was agreed that indeed the North Downs Way was going to be the challenge,
I knew in my heart of hearts it was going to be tough….and after walking The South Downs Way
100 miles in 4 days that extra mileage would be so so hard.

What we never expected was the relentless ups and downs, the steep slippery slopes,
the winding climbs to the top, the slow gruelling descent’s into the valleys.
The forests of mud which slow your pace down from 2.9 miles per hour to sometimes as low
as 1 miles per hour.
This keeps you out for longer, as a quick map check makes you realise you still have
8 miles left and its 5 o clock 3 long hours left to go, was a real ball breaker but with
such fine men around the humour started pouring out the laughter started and as we moved off
forgetting what lay ahead each man slowly slipping into single file head down lost in their
own thoughts…..maybe their loved ones, a song, a favourite movie or for Miller chocolate.

Day 1

Anxious, excited, even a little dread to what lay ahead as this was no walk in the park.
The drive there made us realise we were going to have to walk all the way back and more.
With all smiles we prepared ourselves checking kit etc and then made the first step.
Someone once said every great journey starts with a single step.
We started on the wrong road for 100 yards and had to go back ha !!
We soon became aware the signs can be very confusing if not damn right wrong.
Some missing removed by some idiot who thought it might be funny sending many people
in the wrong direction.
By having the maps compass & GPS we were lucky only a few minor detours.
Finally we made it to our first stop the charming Surrey Village of West Humble.
After asking a few souls it weirdly turned out that no one knew of the Fairdene B & B
Turned out they was in fact not in West Humble at all but Dorking !!!
This crap happened again !! resulting in having to get a taxi to one of them.
The B & B was indeed rubbish with 1970’s rooms and bed sheets
a television the size of your hand and a room colder than the arctic circle.

Day 2

Breakfast was cold with nothing cooked….Its was fill the water bladders up and go.
My feet telling me not another day like yesterday please Mr Jackson.
Before long we were back on the Downs. Heads down and heading towards our next
stop.
Today was the big one a 30 miler
As we crested Box Hill and dived into the woods a lonely Police Man was standing on the
track in a large luminous green jacket with Police tape around a few trees.
On questioned as to why he replied ” I can’t really tell you much but human remains have been found
down there by an off duty Met Police Officer last night about 10.30pm”.
The miles seemed to last for ever…..each one seemed to go on and on.
The rain came fast a furious to make sure we suffered plenty that day.
We passed so many lovely house’s on the way till after nearly 14 hours
we arrived Otford.
After calling the B & B it turned out that in fact they were in Kensing up the road !!
We I quizzed the owner on this she replied ” my back gardens in Otford”?
Although UP The Downs was a nice place to stay with owner dropping us off
at the pub.

DAY 3

Breakfast early again was much better, a cooked one and very good.
Then it was bladders full into a taxi back to where we left off.
Once again the rain came which we could have done without.
My body was really struggling today I found that my feet would not stop hurting.
So several pain killers later I was on my way again.
Lunch again was the same a self heating ration pack which as always was
rather nice.
Everyone tucking in for the energy the food will provide.
Then a quick map check and back on the trail once more.
This time we all pulled out headphones except Ian Smith who didn’t bring any
to somehow take ourselves away from the constant mile after mile after mile.
Once again we arrive at our next stop the Styles House B&B in Boxley.
This time yet again there was only enough hot water for two baths !!!!!
Yes that’s right Ian Stephens and Steve Miller had to go without !!
If any of you reading this have a B&B and you can have 8 guests
but can only provide hot water for two guests I suggest you have a combination boiler
fitted. Breakfast was ok and it was back to the trail once more.

DAY 4

This for me was by far the hardest. It was up and down many hills as we marched through some
delightful Kent villages Detling and Hollingbourne which had a great pub called the The Dirty Habit
nice play of words there. We stopped here for lunch and allowed our feet a chance to feel the fresh
air as we all chose to get flip flops on.
Lunch here was lovely as we all enjoyed a marvellous meal consisting of various sandwiches washed down with
a diet coke then boots on and off we go.
Again the hills were tough, we seemed to descend deep into a valley go along 100 yards then all the way
back up again.
By now my body had had enough my right shin was very sore and both little toes were blistered so bad.
I stopped and strapped my feet up again and put plasters round me little toes.
But later on we arrived at our last B&B. The Mulberry in Wye.
Now this was a treat a 15 century house with bags of charm and a great owner called Angela.
We had ample hot water and good rooms with comfy beds.
With a great breakfast cooked to perfection.
Angela even made a £30 donation which was a lovely gesture.

Day 5

I struggled to get my boots on, as my feet had swollen and my little toes were very sore.
I took four pain killers that morning hoping this would do the trick but they didn’t.
A left knee ache started to become worse by 10 o clock which was from a injury I sustained as a young lad garden hopping. This was to become a real burden as every single step was pain. The miles dragged on as we climbed once more over Tolsford Hill
through the Military training areas I played on as a young army cadet whilst staying at St Martins plain
camp. Over the back on the Channel Tunnel Terminal which looked like a massive train set from high
above.
The views from the top were stunning as we walked over the white cliffs leaving Folkestone behind and headed
for Dover.
We stopped on a WW11 bunker system to have our lunch. Our last self heating ration, a quick rest
then off again this time all the way to the Dover

END

May I take this opportunity to thank each and everyone of you who made a donation, your messages
and wishes helped us on.

And the guys who shared this adventure with me

Ian Smith, Ian Stephens and Stephen Miller

Thank you

Our final day by Ian Smith

5.30am and I can smell breakfast downstairs being cooked and my thoughts go to the day ahead – 26 miles from Wye to Dover.

After a fantastic evening the night before and a lovely meal paid for by Steve, my mind quickly goes over the gruelling 101 miles we have gone through and the pain.

Up I say to myself and we all soon meet for breakfast and we thank our host Angela from the Mullbery B&B, Wye, for her kind donation to the cause.

6.30am and we are off for the final day and a big push is needed.

We soon start to cover the usual hills and fantastic views of Kent.

4 hours 30 mins in and we rest looking down on Folkestone and the rest is brilliant.  It is a fine day with the sun unlike the other days.

I take a moment to reflect and look at my colleagues Steve, Ian and Richard and my thoughts are you guys are amazing and how this has been a privilege to have undertaken such a mammoth task with such fine chaps.

The next few hours are gruelling but YESSSS Dover is in sight!!!

2.30pm and we are on top of a WW2 pillar box and we stop for a bit to eat.

Richard is off exploring the inside of this pillar box and was quite some time!

Off we go and we now know we only have a few miles to go.

As per usual the walk is still hard and of course more lovely hills!

Now on our final descent take a pew, enjoy the view we have done the Downs I shout!

The last few signs for the North Downs soon fade away and we reach our final destination and cross the line.

Ian gets a couple to take the photo of us all and the feeling is great!

All of us sit down on the benches and take off the evil boots and rest for a while looking out at sea.

An elderly couple offer us a few quid maybe to go away as our feet and we stink.

Only joking it was for our cause but we thanked them.

I get second wind and seek out a nice bar for us and I am soon joined by the others where the pints are waiting.

Steve then goes off and come back from the bar with a cracking bottle of cold Champagne -Cheers mate.

The toasts are done and we all settle down for a well deserverd few beers.

Truly amazing and Whittington Hospital we thank you  for the great work you do and baby Charlie this was a true honour!

Day 4 – the pain still cometh

I woke up this morning to the harmonious sound of Millsy’s weasing to the tune of ‘spurs are on their way to Wembley’ as he slept. He was either suffering or he’d swallowed a whistle. He was actually suffering as he has asthma. fair play to him for taking on such a challenge as it can’t have been easy.
Anyway, after breakfast which consisted of the thickest bread that I have ever seen, we strapped, packed and started our walk.
It started in good spirit and the banter was good. After the first mile, the mood changed as we proceeded to climb and descend the worst hills that I had ever seen. This went on for four hours. We struggled like you wouldn’t believe and we were becoming more and more deflated as we went. It turned out that the first four hours brought us only seven miles. We were well behind schedule. By lunch time we reached a village called Hollingbourne where we decided to stop at a pub called The Bad Habit (try it out if you are ever in Hollingbourne). We ditched our self heating meals for the luxury of a pub lunch and a soft drink. It worked wonders and revitalised each if us. We took off and marched through the torrential rain for another four hours (we had promised ourselves an Indian this evening as it was our last stay), catching up on our schedule reaching the village of Rye in good time. We checked into The Mulbery B&B (another plug but stay there if ever you are in that neck of the woods. The place is fantastic and the land lady Angela is lovely). We managed to have a couple of pints in the village pub before devouring our Indian. Millsy, bless him insisted on paying for the meal to say thank you for our help in taking part in his charity. If I’d known that before we ordered, I’d gone for a starter too!!
Anyway, once we had consumed our meal, we went back to our digs and took to bed.
One more day boys!!

– From Ian, Millsy, Jacko and Smithy