what a week – and a list of thank you’s

I’ve done it! I’ve completed my walk from Bath to Cardiff.
Also, I’ve exceeded my target.
Unfortunately I hadn’t achieved this last Friday when I finished the walk in James Street – but after a few phone-calls on Monday I was delighted to see I’ve now raised the money.
I have heaps of people to thank, so I thought I’d write a blog post to show how grateful I am for everybody’s support.
Firstly, I’d like to say thank you to Gary and Jane Brown from Llandudno.
After being told by someone I didn’t need to do any training, and if I just stood up for longer periods everything would be fine)thank goodness I ignored this ridiculous advice) Gary and Jane took me on some wonderful training walks in North Wales.
They even texted me on the last day of my walk from abroad to say how proud they were of me.
Also, a massive thank you to Pete Warren from the long distance walkers South Wales group who took me on some longer and varied walks in and around the Cardiff area.
He accompanied me on two days of the walk and has given me some brilliant advice about clothes, footwear and food.
Carol is an utterly delightful, fun and caring lady who volunteers for the Cardiff fundraising branch for guide dogs. We had some training walks together – and she brought Mum, Chelly and James to The Hayes to walk the last mile with us.
I’d ask any GDO in Cardiff to support Carol and her team by helping with store collections.
It seems to be the same people which help out time and time again, and we could all do our bit.

The Cardiff institute for the blind are an amazing organisation, and if anyone wants to volunteer/support them I’d urge you to do so.
Teresa and Michelle together with lovely local guide dog owner Sian organised and held a tea party to raise money for my name a puppy fund.
Many volunteers from CIB came, a lot of them on their days off, to make sandwiches and set things up.
As well as Sian, I’ve had a lot of support from Hilary Lester, who accompanied us on one of the days.
I met Trish and Mike with their two adorable dogs, puppy Morris and retired guide dog Rio.
They very kindly held a collection at Chepstow garden centre on my behalf, which was incredibly unexpected and thoughtful.
Andrew, a local Bristol guide dog owner helped us on Monday, and his knowledge of the area meant we could walk on some safer pavements.
I was very touched by the amount of people who turned out to walk with me.
It was an incredibly difficult walk at times, and I’d had no training along any part of the routes (which was no fault of any of my training partners).
Dennis from my church came on the first day and walked 15 miles from Bath to Bristol, which was brilliant!
Don, one of the LDWA walkers who’d walked three days with me on my last long distance adventure came from London just to walk across the old Severn bridge with me.
It was great seeing him again and meeting his lovely partner Jane.
I met lots of people from the long distance walkers groups in Bath, Bristol and South Wales, thank you so much for your support.
I can’t name everyone individually who’s donated, but I’d like to give a special thank you to the following groups of people.
The Calvary church friends, the members of the bridge clubs in North Wales, Queens Road church Llandudno and the very generous lions club in Llandudno.
My local Llandudno friends for standing on the prom (even on a really wet day) as part of a collection.
Simon and the staff at the Plumtree pub in Canton.
Phil and Cindy for holding two quizzes and raffles.
They’re an incredibly warm and friendly couple, who do so much for others.
Many people took sponsor forms to fill up on my behalf, and I’d like to thank Kate, Michael, Aunty Ann and Ruth.
Dave and Wendy from Designs and Signs in Canton produced and donated the T-shirts for the walk.
Many thanks and apologies for the relentless posts and updates to the twitter and Facebook friends. It paid off though, you and your friends are incredibly supportive.
Thanks to guide dogs Cymru and the people who drove us to and from the various points.
Lastly, and by no means least, the biggest thank you has to go to my Mum.
I did the walk to name a guide dog after my Dad John who died in 2012.
Mum and Dad have been my continued inspiration for everything I’ve done.
They’ve believed in me when others didn’t.
Mum came all the way from the other end of the country to help me.
She made all the meals, looked after the dogs and generally went above and beyond her motherly duties!
Thanks Mum, you’re the best!
So, have I forgotten anyone?
Chelsea and James of course!
I could have done a “Normal walk” but because of them I went the extra distance to do something entirely original.
Thank you little pupkins – I love you both very much!

 

 

day 5 – almost there!

After walking 15 miles yesterday I was a bit apprehensive as to how my legs and feet would feel the next day.
I rested, iced and everything else you’re supposed to do, and woke up feeling refreshed and ready for another 8 miles!
Today took us through Newport and into St Mellons.
Frank, my walking companion had found out all the songs which were number one on every one of my birthdays.
So, to make our walk more enjoyable he gave me clues to work out who was the band and title of the song for each year.
I got most of them right.
We were also joined again by Pete, who’d trained with me before the walk, and local guide dog owner Hilary and her guide dog Yalena.
Yalena and Hilary coped remarkably well, we had some pretty tough grassy patches and some very uneven pavements.
My feet were absolutely fine – and I thoroughly enjoyed today.
Tomorrow is the final leg!
I can’t believe that for the last five days I’ve walked almost 70 miles.
I keep thinking of why I’m doing it.
I’ll be so happy when I can finally meet John, the puppy I hope to name in Dad’s memory.
He’ll have no idea of the immense gratitude I have for everyone who has helped me – and neither will he appreciate how difficult it’s been at times.
But when I get home each night and see Chelsea and James, I know it’s all worth it.
They’re my inspiration – and the reason I’ve put myself through everything that’s happened over the past few months.
If you’d like to donate to my justgiving page, you can find it at:
http://www.justgiving.com/ChelseaTwoJames
or follow me on twitter at:
http://www.twitter.com/nickiandchelly

day 4 – mud, sweat and tears

I hate three things with a passion!
Olives, bad-mannered people, and as of yesterday, the A48 to Newport!
I did all the right things to make sure my foot and ankle would be OK for the next day’s walking.
I put ice on it, slept with it raised up.
But when I got up my foot was very sore.
Mum put a protective dressing on it, and I used one of my knee supports on my ankle.
We started off at the Chepstow garden centre – and for the first two or three miles my foot was fine, I didn’t feel much pain at all.
However when we got on to the A48 cycle path things became incredibly difficult.
It was incredibly overgrown, muddy, very uneven and quite narrow.
I mentioned in a previous post how psychologically draining it is to listen to instructions, try and think about where you’re walking plus coping with the endless streams of vehicles zooming by.
Yesterday I had that to cope with as well as my ankle, which was certainly telling me that what I was doing was stupid and I should stop now!!
Then, as if things weren’t irksome enough for me, I tripped over a bump in a road.
Now, I like to think I’m quite a strong feisty person who can cope with most things – but that was the thing which almost finished me off.
I stopped on the side of the road and gave way to the frustration and emotion I’d been trying to control.
After a little cry – and a whinge about the “Stupid roads!” I carried on.
Frank was an absolute star.
I felt quite embarrassed as we had two other walkers with us.
Rob, the treasurer of the long distance walkers association for South Wales, and Pete, who’d been training with me for the walk but they were all very kind and reassured me things would get better.
We stopped for lunch then carried on.
Towards the end of the day the sun came out and things became even tougher.
I remember thinking:
“I hope John’s owner knows how difficult today was, and just how much energy, both physical and mental I’d used on this day!”
I thought about Dad, who I am going to name a puppy after.
I cried again!
I watch marathon runners and sports people on TV and have never appreciated just how hard they have to push to finish a task.
Now I know I’m not that standard, but it’s very similar, you can’t just sit down on the side of the road and say:
“I’m not doing it anymore!”
Well, some might – but I didn’t.
I remember the lovely Len Goodman saying to a contestant on Strictly once:
“Winners never quit and quitters never win!”
When I got home – I had a delicious roast chicken dinner prepared by my Mum.
She’s been a total star, looking after the dogs, making all the meals and just being there!
The next two days are shorter, and I’m very glad to leave the A48 behind me!
Next stop Cardiff!!
If you’d like to donate to my justgiving page, you can visit it at:
http://www.justgiving.com/ChelseaTwoJames
or follow my adventures on twitter at:
http://www.twitter.com/nickiandchelly

Day 3 – crossing the border

Day three was the one I’d been dreading.
We had to cross the old Severn bridge.
Now, I’ve crossed many bridges in my time, I’ve even climbed the Sydney Harbour bridge which was really good fun.
I was also looking forward to this day for two other reasons.
Firstly it was a much shorter distance, almost 6 miles.
Secondly, we met one of the men who had walked the last three days of my Vale to Chelsea walk with me.
He came along with his partner for the bridge walk.
So, how did it go?
It was heaps better than I thought it would be.
We had the press officer for guide dogs Cymru with us as well, who took a lot of pictures.
I think the walkers with me found it particularly amusing when two lorries whooshed by in quick succession, causing the bridge to shake violently and me to look like a startled rabbit!
I’ve never been so happy to hear the words:
“Right Nicki, we’re over the boarder now into Wales!”
I said we ought to have brought a Welsh flag and planted it in the ground like people do when they climb Everest.
After a quick refreshment stop we carried on towards Chepstow.
The pavements became a bit uneven – and I turned my ankle on a difficult patch.
When we reached the finishing point at the Chepstow garden centre I was delighted to see a group of people from the local guide dogs branch had all turned up to welcome us.
It was especially lovely to meet a lady I’d been friends on Facebook with for a while, but had only met briefly.
There were also three adorable dogs to make a fuss of.
A 13 month old puppy who was just nearing the end of his training before going off to big school, a retired guide dog and my friend Hilary’s dog Yelena.
Frank treated us all to a well-earned cream tea, then we went back home.
Another reason frank wanted today to be shorter was because James made his first TV debut.
I appeared on make me an egghead – a TV quiz which is looking for someone to be on the prestigious Eggheads quiz team!!
When I introduced James he yawned.
He seemed quite pleased that I’d won my round of the show though – and was a huge hit on twitter.
However, towards the end of the evening my foot was incredibly sore.
I was anxious, would I be able to walk the next day?

sensory overload

Two days done and dusted!
I feel fine physically – but I had no idea how psychologically draining walking through city centres would be without a guide dog.
When you have a dog – you can sort of relax, to a certain extent.
You obviously have to know where you’re going, but then the dog guides you round the obstacles, stops at the kerbs and crosses when advised to do so (if it’s safe)
The one thing it doesn’t do is talk!
Yesterday was another 15 mile day.
I had no pain or blisters at all – and was doing really well for the first 5 miles.
But what was difficult was having to listen to people telling me about every little thing, the crossings coming up, the lamp-posts, the gradient.
I don’t want to sound ungrateful or cross, because these things need to be pointed out, but if you imagine that, coupled with a noisy flow of traffic, you’ll appreciate how the brain just wants to shout: “Stop!!!”
I walked 190 miles along the canal tow paths 10 years ago to raise money for guide dogs. This was relatively easy – as it was quiet and straight for most of the walk. I could listen to the birds – and just relax.
There’s nothing to see either, which I think makes it harder as you get a total sensory overload when you’re in the cities.
There was no rest from the constant sounds – and I just had to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other.
At one point I thought:
“I have two choices! I could burst into tears and have a good cry – or, I could pray for strength and determination to carry on!”
I did the latter – and was so glad when I was able to complete my task.
We were joined yesterday by two extremely lovely people.
One was a local guide dog owner, who had immense knowledge of the local area and walked with us for the first couple of miles.
He was able to advise us of which paths were safest and which could potentially be more difficult later on in the day.
The second was Richard – another experienced man who had walked the paths many times before.
We also encountered some really kind people.
One man actually stopped in the middle of a road to ask what we were raising money for.
When we told him – he came over to our bucket and popped a note in!
Today is bridge day!
It’s a shorter day – but one I’ve been slightly terrified about.
However – I’m determined to tackle it with fervour and relish!
Plus, James makes his TV debut later on BBC2 at 6.30!
I’m really looking forward to that!
You can donate to my justgiving page at:
http://www.justgiving.com/ChelseaTwoJames
and follow my adventures at:
http://www.twitter.com/nickiandchelly

full steam ahead

After months of preparation, the first day of my 70 mile walk from Bath to Cardiff had arrived.
I was up ridiculously early, I was anxious about sleeping in so I got up at 5.30 to get everything ready.
You might think that all you need for a long distance walk is a good pair of shoes and a map!
Well, I had a good pair of trainers, map not applicable, a brand new pair of trousers, and of course my platypus!
Platypus? Why would you want to lug a monotreme 70 miles, I hear some of you ask!
Well, a platypus is one of a long distance walkers best companions.
Put simply it’s a plastic bag which you put water in, and it has a tube connected to it which you can clip on to your rucksack.
It saves faffing around with bottles of water.
Mum and Chelsea joined us on the first part of the walk, which was fantastic.
Chelly was the star of the show and trotted along with Dot, a withdrawn guide dog who came along with the rehoming officer for Guide dogs Cymru, Leslie.
Also with me was my walking companion and guide dogs community fundraiser Frank Greig, and one of my lovely friends from Calvary church.
We had a lot of fun – and the long distances I’d walked in the last few weeks as part of my training were very useful.
We saw a huge steam engine, part of the Avon Valley railway.
It was called Sappa and was pulled by six coaches.
The first class coaches were named Doris, Martha and Angela.
I love steam engines, especially the smell and sound they make.
It was also a poignant moment for me because we took Dad on a steam train in North Wales for his 80th birthday.
Today would have been his 86th birthday – the reason for starting the walk on this date.
We encountered loads of cyclists of varying degrees of politeness.
When I returned Mum had cooked a delicious meal of salmon and vegies, which I devoured!
After a bowl of rice pudding and a hot bath, I feel tired but happy.
Tomorrow we’re doing another fifteen miles from Bristol to the old Severn bridge.

If you’d like to donate to my justgiving page to name a guide dog after my Dad, please visit:
http://www.justgiving.com/ChelseaTwoJames

You can follow my adventures at:
http://www.twitter.com/nickiandchelly