Walk the Wight 2009

Dad, Laurie, Trish and a Gale Force Wind - Walk the Wight 2009

Dad, Laurie, Trish and a Gale Force Wind - Walk the Wight 2009

Yesterday, Laurie, Dad, Trish, myself and twelve thousand other intrepid souls braved gale force winds and driving rain to ‘Walk the Wight’ in order to raise money for the Isle of Wight’s Earl Mountbatten Hospice. The full route is 26 miles from the eastern to the western tip of the island. Some walk the full length but there are also options to walk the 12.5 miles from Bembridge in the east to Carisbrooke in the centre, or the 14 miles from Carisbrooke to Alum Bay in the west. This year a flat walk was introduced for wheelchair users and buggies using the eight mile long cycle track that runs from Newport to Sandown. The event has expanded rapidly since the original walk in the early nineties, where only a handful of people set out to raise cash. I don’t expect any of the original walkers could have predicted the interest their idea would spark in future years. The main route walks the chalk spine of the Wight. We chose the 14 miles to Alum Bay, which actually follows the island’s Tennyson Trail. It takes in some incredibly beautiful downland with stunning views of the mainland, the island and the sea.

We left Carisbrooke late morning. They were already many walkers finishing their trek from Bembridge, some stopping here, others carrying on with us. There was a lovely carnival atmosphere, folks in fancy dress, many already covered in mud from the morning downpour, spirits still high. It was hard not be lifted by the sense of community. The mass of humanity moving out across the countryside was a wonderful sight. I was touched by people’s willingness to brave the appallingly strong winds and the gathering rains to help keep our local hospice open.

The beginning of the route walked around the moat of Carisbrooke Castle, its steep banks covered in buttercups and valerian. Following the trail up onto the downs through tunnels of abundant hawthorn blossom and cow parsley, like a thick and endless line of ants, we began the long walk west. A seemingly inexhaustible thread of walkers stretched out beyond us and behind us; adults of all ages, children and dogs. As we entered Brighstone Forest the rain began. By the time we had emerged from the trees out onto the exposed chalk track that rises and falls in steep undulations westward to the Needles, the rain was heavy and the full impact of the gale force winds was battering us face on. The extreme winds turned the raindrops into sharp missiles that stung the skin. Luckily, we had each packed our waterproofs, head to foot coverage that inflated with the wind’s gusts.

At the Mottistone check point there were welcome hot drinks, and here the rain began to ease for a while, the wind fearsome enough to dry us and the ground quickly (not to mention blow my coffee out of my cup!). It is strange how soon one can adapt to extremes. Nicely cocooned in my waterproofs, I came to accept the constant struggle, adjusting to the added use of energy it took just to keep my body vertical. We walked for mile upon mile into an exhausting head wind that never once relented. I found that to think of the end goal was counterproductive; staying in the moment – opening to it and accepting it – helped enormously in keeping me positive and focused. The wind, at points, was alarming, with violent gusts and a constant strength that meant you could lean your full weight into it and remain supported. The sense of shared endurance was heartening and helped to keep us all going.

Gazing out to sea it became possible to predict the next down pour. Ahead could be a stretch of welcome blue sky but racing across the ocean towards us were rain heavy clouds, thick and murky, erasing the horizon and merging with the darkening water. Many folks were not dressed for rain and I was amazed at their determination to keep going no matter how uncomfortable they must have been.

The last arduous stretch up over Tennyson and West High Down towards the Needles was tough, the wind relentlessly in our faces. Behind us, we could see the long route we had walked stretching out along West Wight’s high places; thick black cloud in the east darkened even further by the sun in the west; patches of light sweeping across the land between the speeding cloud cover. Before us the broken cloud scattered spotlights of sun upon the ocean, dazzling circles of light on its grey surface. Beauty is always around us, even when we ourselves are struggling.

Making it across the finish line at Alum Bay was a welcome experience. We were all awarded with a medal, which actually felt well earned. I was so proud of our little group’s achievements but also of all the others who walked that day. Not only is it a touching community event for such a vital and worthy cause – a wonderful measure of what each of us can achieve for a common good – it also illustrates the strength of our inner resources, our ability to dig deep in order to pull through. I am looking forward to next year’s event – come rain or shine – but for now my stiff old bones are enjoying the rest!

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2 Comments

  1. Christine Croft said,

    June 9, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Congratulations on what sounds like a great day’s walking in wild weather.

  2. luckyloom1 said,

    June 10, 2009 at 12:28 am

    Hi Chris,

    Thank you! I am not sure my lower back has been the same since! We have all decided to walk it on a nice sunny, calm day – it’s a very beautiful walk – you must come do it with me some day soon. Take care my lovely! M XXX


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