Matt Boyce - out for a walk – the blog
December 3rd - December 12th
Right up until the very last moments of my journey my navigational skills were being questioned. As I came round the corner and up over a cliff, near lands end, I saw a little white building on the precipice and immediately thought the figure next to it was my dad. I was getting a bit emotional walking to what I thought was the finish. It was only when I got closer that I realised that it wasn't my dad, but in fact it was a telescope with its cover on flapping in the wind!! I turned round to see my dad, mum and Rose waving at me from a little further along the cliff!! Whoops! That night was spent in a lovely hotel in Newquay. I must thank Ali Prosser and the professional cricketers association who had put champagne in my room and also paid for dinner. It made the occasion very special for us. After walking for 66 days and losing 6 kg the champagne went straight to my head and it definitely helped ease the pain of my feet and body!!
In the last 10 days of the walk I was yet again challenged by the weather. One pub I stayed in near Crediton had its office flooded overnight, even though they had placed sandbags everywhere. I'm not sure the owners were too happy with their parrot at this stage as the only words he knew were "hello captain" Not very helpful now the pub was more like a floating ship! (the irony!) He found himself locked in a cupboard!
I know this has been a common theme throughout my blogs but everyday has thrown up a new challenge. Just when I think I'm home and dry (ish!) something crops up that drags me back out of my comfort zone! The day I was going to meet my uncle in Indian queens (before staying in padstow with him and my auntie) I was greeted by a path that could only be described as a hallway of brambles! My walking poles came in very handy as I hacked my way through, tearing my waterproofs along the way! Fortunately it was only one kilometre of this before normality (for me anyway) took over again and I strolled to once again be well looked after by family.
I've enjoyed staying in some lovely places. But one place I'll remember for a long time was at the foot of Bodmin moor near st. Brewerd. I won't remember the room or fantastic views but rather the dinner and conversation I had with the lady who owned it. We spoke for hours about her own experiences with depression, and also revealed how her family saved her life. I felt humbled that she could speak to me about these things knowing that I haven't suffered myself. Breaking the stigma of mental health issues being a taboo subject was a major part of why I chose to do this challenge, and to have someone I just met open up like that made me feel that I was making a difference. No matter how small the difference is, it made it a lot easier to wake up and walk the next day.
Some final thoughts to follow soon...
DAY 66 - REACHED LAND'S END
November 13 – November 23
The last 10 days have flown by in a blur. It seems like only yesterday I was in the Cotswolds and now I've reached Devon! So much has happened in between that though..
My aunt and her scout troop from Swindon joined me (and some friends from London) for 10 miles on our way from Stroud to Dursley along the Cotswold way. A mile into the walk we befriended some horses who fancied joining us on our trip..! On a narrowish field path, the horses suddenly charged... Knocking one scout down the hill whilst everyone else parted like the Red Sea to leave my aunt, who was knocked over by the first horse with the second running over her... There was a moment of silence and genuine fear, after which Theresa got up laughing and saying "lucky I had my backpack on"! A collective sigh of relief followed!!
I have realised that when people join me it's like a rest day for me. I get dragged along by an invisible rope, and before you know it the day is over. It helps when they take your rucksack for you as well! In one weekend I had walked with my aunt and her scouts, four University friends who had travelled from London and another friend from London who joined me on Sunday. It felt like a weekend where I didn't walk, but rather caught up with people I hadn't seen for a while.
In the past week or so I've swapped B & B's for the hospitality of family, some of whom I met for the first time! From staying with my Aunt and Uncle in Worcester, to my first cousin (once removed) in Taunton! I've been fortunate enough to take refuge in houses belonging to two other first cousins (once removed) and a first cousin too. Confused?? So am I! It has been great meeting and catching up with people that I hadn't seen for a long while or even at all! To be so well looked after makes me feel very humbled.
My first cousin Mandy is a historian and has done lots of research into my Dad's side of the family tree. Little did I know that I had actually walked through the church graveyard where my Great Great Gandad and other ancestors were buried! (in Chipping Sodbury in Gloucestershire) What a coincidence! Also, unbeknown to me, the family has an incredibly strong connection with Cornwall... So it's like I'm walking home.. ish!
It's a journey within a journey for me. If I wasn't doing this walk I might never have met "our Rob" (who i stayed 2 nights with near bath) or found out so much about my family history from Mandy. I wouldn't have met other generations of Boyces through Chris and Linn who I shared a night with near Bristol. The walk that has taken much from me, like the skin off my feet!, has also given me so much.
As many will have seen on the news, there has been some incredibly wet weather across the country with the South west coming off worst! On Wednesday I met with Gemma, who writes for Spin Cricket Magazine, who had agreed to do a few miles while interviewing me! However within a few hundred yards of walking the dictaphone was broken! After a couple of very wet miles we were confronted with a torrent of water coming towards us on a lane. Instead of risking being waist deep we hastily backtracked and found another route! Although I felt sorry for her to be joining me on such a horrific day, I was also kind of glad, in a sadistic way, that someone was there to see what I was having to go through! Walking into the heaviest rainfall in one day for fifty years in Somerset was made more difficult because I was having to keep to lanes and roads as fields and paths were flooded. This would have been ok, but even some roads were impassable! Trees were down, cars were stuck and there was a serious panic! Fortunately I worked my way down country lanes safely enough. Unfortunately I've had to stick to the roads, in the main, the past couple of days as the river path I was meant to be following can't be seen!
I've walked through the clean up operation as well. Power lines and trees that had come down were being cleared. Drains were being unblocked, the canal path that had suffered a mudslide and had collapsed was being sorted, gutters were being refitted, I could go on. The saying nature always wins springs to mind! But I'd rather think that it's the human spirit in recovery that's the real winner!
I cannot believe that I set out walking in September!! It doesn't seem that long ago! Someone asked me how I manage to do it day after day and in truth I just get up and say to myself "I think ill go for a walk today" and so it doesn't seem like a chore, or something I have to do. But rather it's something I choosing to do and it makes it easier to commit!
The cliche that I'm taking it one day at a time still rings true, although I'd be forgiven for looking at the finishing line that seems almost within touching distance!.. Providing the floods hold off...
There was a danger that we wouldn't even get out of the house at Stephen and Fleur's (who I stayed with near Taunton) The driveway was completely flooded as was one of the roads outside the house. Stephen was up and down like a yoyo in the night opening the "flood" gates and fortunately by morning we could get out... Just another example of family and friends helping me out, literally!
5th November - 12th November
When I set out on this adventure more than 6 weeks ago I really didn't know what to expect! The great thing is that each day I still don't really know what to expect, it keeps it fresh and exciting for me. One thing's for certain though, this experience has been as much about the people I've met on the journey (whether they be old friends, teammates, family, B & B owners, or simply a passer by who nods his head!) as the things I've seen.
The last day on the Pennine Way proved to be my favourite day so far, probably because I knew the Pennine way was behind me!! But it was a crisp Autumn day with a bit of frost. Perfect for walking on as you don't sink into the bog!! The views were stunning looking over the dales. However I found myself a little off course and bumped into a chap called Ed who directed me back on track and better still walked the last 2 hours with me to Edale! He was trying to avoid the calls from his nagging wife about fireworks, so think he appreciated the distraction! This epitomise's what I was saying in my opening paragraph. Yes the walk was full of intrigue and the scenery was special, but the memory I'll take from that day is the person I met on the hill.
The same thing rings true of the next few days as well. I met mark Shardlow, the BBC East Midlands today sports reporter, who very kindly bought my lunch! But then got his boots on and followed me with a camera for 3 miles, as did kirsty the next day when my teammates from Leicester joined me!
I think it was paul Nixon who asked me the very simple question.. "what have you been thinking when you've been walking?"... And I didn't have an answer for him! I put this down to the fact that most of the time I had been concentrating so hard on not losing my boot in a bog, not getting lost, etc, that I hadn't really been thinking about anything other than the next step! And as he told me, whilst carrying my bag.. "that's the lesson then, staying in the present!" It was great that my teammates joined me for ten miles and shared the duty of carrying my bag, and boots, but sadly not me!
I'm now walking down the Severn way near Worcestershire and have even more company for the journey (Tim Boon and Ted Garret) and I know I've said it before but I really am appreciative of the support I've been getting. From Monica at BBC radio Leicester (for allowing me on her show every week!) to my brother-in-law Chris for updating this website every week! (and everyone inbetween!) The response to the BBC East Midlands feature has been incredible as well. I hope people can relate to the issues I was trying to get across.
The biggest thing I've learnt so far is not to take the little things for granted. It's amazing how much nicer a hot shower feels after walking 15 miles in the rain!! But also with people joining me and making remarks like "look at the colours on the trees" or saying how beautiful a view is. (things i probably take for granted 40 odd days in!) It reminds me that, even though its a steep challenge, I'm privileged to be able to see the country the way I am.
23rd October - 4th November
Since crossing the border into England, I've been looking at the finish line too closely rather than concentrating on one day at a time! I had to remind myself that, although I've walked through one country, there was another one to conquer!! And I've had plenty of support along the way.
15th to 22nd October
6th to 14th October
29th September to 5th October
After having my first walking companion last week (rose) I was joined by my mother for a 9 mile stretch! Phrases like these "look at that river meandering, look at the colours of the leaves, ohhhhh a rockpool!" were replaced by this "how inconsiderate of them to put all these stiles up!" I am very grateful for the support I've been receiving.
My teammate Alex Wyatt joined me from keld to Malham. I became increasingly jealous of his 6 foot 7 inch frame as he lolloped over marshy bogs as I had to take running jumps!! He looked completely at home amongst the heather and the peat bogs... The swamp monster! Although we actually met the swamp monster in our communal room in the youth hostel... He snored so loudly we only got a couple of hours sleep! As I approached my halfway point we were greeted by my aunt and uncle, now there were four of us!! It gave me a real boost.
I had a particularly bad day the day after I had achieved crossing the halfway line! I was a bit sick, probably because I hadn't eaten or drunk enough! But Catherine and Andrew (aunt and uncle) were there to perk me up and get me through the next day!!
I've seen all kinds of weather, from a dusting of snow (which made trying to follow a path pretty taxing!!) to thunder and lightning, to ferocious winds with some hail thrown in, stinging the eyes! I've also seem the leaves on the trees change colour and then fall off! It's like I'm walking though seasons in a couple of weeks! I've also become more aware of the geology and wildlife around me... For example I now know that the difference between red grouse and black grouse is that ones red and the other black!
My dad keeps churning out superb accommodation in b & b's, all of which have shown me an enormous amount of hospitality and generosity and it really does make a big difference when doing a challenge like this! Many of them continue to sponsor me and send me on my way with hearty breakfasts!
Every day/ week throws up something that takes me out of my comfort zone. But that very same thing that would be taking me out of my comfort zone would become my comfort zone the day or the week after. Keep the challenges coming! And the sponsorship please!!
Cricketers and rain don't mix!! When it starts to rain in the summer we run for cover and take shelter in the pavilion for a cup of tea, and wait for the rain to abate!! Well this week I've seen my fair share of wet weather.
Although I don't have the luxury of ducking for cover, my waterproofs have stood the test thus far! Even so it is still not pleasant, especially when the canal path you are trying to walk down gets flooded!!! Most of the week I've mostly been walking down canal towpaths and cycle routes.
These are very flat and normally easy to walk, although one day I found myself in a tunnel about 1km long, on the union canal, I genuinely couldn't see where I was putting my feet, it was like being in a dungeon! I slipped and very nearly toppled into the canal!!
The hospitality in the b & b's I've stayed in has been terrific. Not that I'm devaluing what my dad did for me with the camper van! It's nice to have a warm bed and a full English/ Scottish everyday though!!
Some of the b & b owners have even sponsored me which is great. Also the Redesdale arms, where i'm staying at the moment, with my girlfriend rose, have been really generous with their hospitality and taken on my washing!
I'm not one to blow my own trumpet but crossing the border into England on Sunday I felt a real sense of pride. Not just the fact that I had now "walked" Scotland, but I realised that what I'm trying to achieve is actually quite special, especially considering my lack of hiking experience!
I was incredibly lucky that the only two hikers i saw that day were there to capture the moment i stepped into england on my camera phone!!
That same day i also had my first experience of the Pennine way and the enormous challenge I face with the boggy marshland that lies ahead!! I've had my first walking companion as well now. Rose joined me walking in the fog today (Monday) where we could literally not see more than 50 yards in front of us! That didn't stop her striding enthusiastically into the mist, so that I almost couldn't keep up!
But as I explained to her, as she was soaking her aching muscles in the bath, "it's a marathon not a sprint darling!!!!"
I have been asked a lot recently why I am supporting mind when I've never suffered with mental health issues myself. 1 in 4 people in Britain suffer with some kind of mental health problem, and I wonder how many of them don't seek help because of what the people around them might think (teammates, friends, family, etc.) So I am supporting mind to try and end the stigma that people who don't suffer can't empathise with the issues faced by individuals. I, personally, can't stand the thought of someone suffering in silence, and would see it as stronger for someone to admit they are struggling rather than victimising them. This is especially true of sports people who have to be seen to be macho and confident, so admitting they are struggling with mental health is difficult. But that's not to say it isn't difficult for people who aren't sports people! That's why I'm supporting mind who do great work supporting those who have mental health issues but also bringing the issues of depression into the light and ending stigmas.
This week has thrown up different challenges every day! I've swapped the busy roads for the long distance footpaths. The great glen way threw up some incredible views over loch ness and fortunately I had the weather to match! I also met my first hikers... 2 older ladies who left me with the immortal words "may your boots stand the test" 4 miles further along the route i bumped into a german cyclist going the opposite way, he asked me whether he was going the right way to inverness..."i bloody hope so"! The great glen way was a little pre cursor for the hills that would follow later in the week on the west highland way!
My first day on the west highland way was a 23 mile slog up and down mountains! Although the sun did shine to reveal Ben Nevis in the distance. About 3 hours in I checked the map and thought I was making great time... Unfortunately the forest I thought I had come out of the map a few miles back had been chopped down! To my dismay I looked around to see these little stumps popping out of the heather! Oh c**p I'm still in the forest!! I had to make up time, which was difficult on rocky terrain going up and down mountains. (rolled my ankle a couple of times- not badly!!) In the end I jogged the last couple of miles to make sure I made it just before sunset! It is after that day that I think I should have done some training other than duke of Edinburgh silver ten years ago!
The rains came at the end of the week making walking down loch lomond a pretty soggy affair! It turns out that my boots are waterproof (inside out)! they let the water in but once it's in it stays in!! I've also managed to slip down a couple of waterfalls as the path was pretty unmanageable in places!!
I'm now in the suburbs of Glasgow making my way south east to edinburgh and this time next week I would have crossed the border into England! I'm also flying solo this week as my dad has had to go back to work... Lucky sod! I'm sad to see him go as he's looked after me so well, I can't say the same for the camper van though.
If I hadn’t been aware of what I had let myself in for then I did a mile down the road, after leaving the John O’groats “seaview hotel” , as a car rushed past me through a puddle and drenched me!! It was a perfect welcoming gift as I believed things could only get better after that!
Unfortunately much of the first weeks walking, has been on a busy main road, due to a lack of usable footpaths. But in between dodging the traffic on the A9, I have made my way down some deserted country lanes with only farm animals for company! On the second day, I bumped into a sheep that had escaped the neighbouring field. It promptly urinated and legged it up the lane looking for a way back into the comfort of the field, “Charming!” unfortunately it couldn’t find one so every 500 yards the same thing happened... Pee, then run... Eventually it turned looked at me and ran straight back in my direction. With nowhere to go I was getting ready to slog sweep it with my walking poles, but it side stepped round me... and I was left with a waft of the smell of urine!!
Walking has been quite tough, but only the one blister so far on my little toe. Long may that continue! I have also been blessed with the weather thus far. With the exception of the first day, when it was very windy, it has been very pleasant and when I have had the chance to stop the surrounding scenery is stunning... The problem is that when I next stop I’m looking at the same mountain or firth!! There has been the occasional time when I just whack the ipod on and put my head down, desperate for the day to finish! But in the main the walking hasn’t been any trouble.
When each day does come to an end I have my dad waiting patiently in the camper van! He has been terrific at looking after me so far. Cooking my meals, washing bottles, etc. And it’s going to be tough when he goes at the end of next week. But at least I may get a proper night’s sleep, as contrary to what he believes, he snores for England! The heating in the van packed up after 4 days along with other things, so had a very cold nights sleep!! But in between snoring, Dad has fixed or sorted everything out that needed to be fixed or sorted!
I have now walked down past Inverness and started the Great Glen way, and am currently having the luxury of a hotel for the evening in Drumnadrochit, which is on Loch Ness. For the next few days I’ll be continue on the Great Glen way until Fort William. The views are going to get even better, but the walking tougher! Hopefully this time next week I’ll still only have the one blister! I may be even bump into my teammate Rob Taylor who is cycling up the other way for SOBS.
Please look at some of the photos that are hopefully up on here to give you an idea of where i have been walking etc. There have already been some challenges and there are plenty more on the horizon... but i’m relishing them! Thank you to those who have sponsored and if you haven’t please look at the link on this website!!!
Until next week...
15th to 22nd October
6th to 14th October
29th September to 5th October