homecoming to classicweather, the end is a beginning
28th July 2013
miles completed: 1058
miles to go: 0 — Finished!
Three miles to go, a simple morning stroll. In fact, given the weather forecast, perhaps we should have walked across at eight and had breakfast in. However, that was not the plan.
and I had spent the night at the in , and at various points between nine and eleven, several people joined us for breakfast … some closer to eleven: , and joined us first and then later and brought and , having negotiated confusing roadworks in and then , which includes going the wrong way round a roundabout.
At eleven I went down to theand was there to walk the last day with me as he had walked the first. And the rain started. By the time the rest had joined us, after packing cars and finishing breakfasts, we were already a slightly dripping crew sheltering under the canopy at the pier head. There were eight of us as and were not walking, but were going to drive round and meet us in .
So the final three miles started in classicweather; the rain poured.
We made our way overup stairs, then along terraces, with occasional views of the sea or of ahead, all in surprisingly good spirits given the rain soaked every inch of our bodies, finding ways to sneak through unsuspecting gaps in waterproofs, or simply swamp them with its volume.
I was wearing my hat for this last day, but, worn and bedraggled I felt rain gradually dribbling down through the top onto my head, and starting to fill up above the seal between brim and head.
After a short while the path drops down towards the marina, whereand , who had popped ahead to find a shop, were waiting.
There is an imposing building, which, I guess, used to be the port office and is now a restaurant, the marina with a waterbus just arriving and then the expanse of the barrage stretching out ahead.
I was trying to take some photographs, sheltering the camera from the worst of the rain, but had to give up. I must go back sometime, as I had never seen the barrage up close before, and the engineering is impressive, first a bridge and lock, although I did not spend a lot of time examining its mechanism, as I normally would, then what I think is a large adjustable weir to control the level of water in the, and finally, after that, two large sail-like structures, huddles of sodden people sheltering in their lee, where the barrage becomes more of an earthy causeway.
Although the forecast had been for rain, and the previous day had rained, the majority of people were in summer clothes, whether in the perpetual state of British summer optimism, or simply not having adjusted to the break in the heat wave. Although, the British are never totally unprepared for the weather, and there were many umbrellas over dripping summer tops.
I recall the first term I went to university in. On the dry east coast it rained about twice. I had a six week break and planned to do some repairs to the back door of ‘s kitchen over the break. I had forgotten weather. It of course rained every day of the entire six week break.
I had expected days of rain like this during the last few months, to have to walk when the rain went on continuously from morning to night; this is. Instead I have had amazing weather with only six days of proper rain and then no day that was utterly unremitting, some days, as when I walked to , starting with heavy rain and then easing in the afternoon, some days, like to , starting bright and then turning to rain later, some, like going over and the northern , with horizontal hail, but then alternating with bright and clear periods.
However, the weather decided I needed reminding that indeed this isand to boot, and so upped my rainy days quota by 33% in the final two days of walking.
Part way across there was a useful public toilet, of which those who had had serious amounts of coffee at breakfast availed themselves, while the rest gained what shelter they could against its walls, and then the final walk past the newexhibition, where, just in time to let me photograph the by the waterbus stop, the rain broke and the blue skies that seemed to be to either side, but not over us, did eventually catch us up.
The last half mile was, well not in absolutely glorious sunshine, but bright and, compared with the hose-pipe-like torrential downpour as we crossed the exposed barrage, dry.
But we were early, as we got to theit was only twenty past twelve. The three miles on the official mileage charts feel as if they are definitely rounded up, and, with heads down and few stops to take photographs, we walked quickly. We didn’t want to get to too early as and were meeting us there and also had said she was coming, and we had tweeted 12:30 to 1pm. We didn’t want someone who had come to meet me miss me arriving.
So, for a few minutes, we dawdled near the, built for sailors on their visits to the docks, and and I took a look at the , that once was moored in the channel to guide ships into the ports of the , but is now permanently moored, and, if I recall, is some sort of centre. Near it is a tea, coffee and sausage van, but having had a very big breakfast at , I resisted the temptation.
and had been sheltering under the huge canopy of the and took photos as we approached, and then more photos, and we opened two bottles of champagne at the memorial.
wasn’t there, but it turned out was at the ; she had been at the end some time around twelve thirty, and then came along the barrage in the opposite direction, I’m guessing missing us when I was looking at the lightship, so for the third time we managed to miss each other along the path. She had completed the coast path only a few days earlier up at and then drove here on her way back down to the (of ).
It is odd, for three and a half months I have been ‘the man who is walking round‘, and that has become who I am. It feels odd to shift from being ‘ ‘ to simply ‘ ‘. Of course that is part of the point, although I end up where I began, things have changed, the location is the same, but I am not the same.
For 102 days the future has been to some extent mapped out, where I would be, and approximately when I would be there. However, that presages a time of more openness. I know some things that will happen in coming months, not least catching up on my work for book on , and lots of data curation and writing relating to the walk. But there will be more, everyone asks ‘what next’, and the question will hang there awaiting an answer; at the risk of nearly quoting , the future feels more open than it did when I started., including working on the online course for a fresh autumn run, completing the