The only, rather tenuous, connection between this subject and local history is that the 2,000-mile walk was undertaken by the society’s chairman, who subsequently spoke about his travels at one of the meetings.
Two experiences from many are perhaps worth relating. In the far north-east of Scotland, Sutherland, there were blizzards. On one day I had struggled through drifts up to waist-deep and, at the end of a weary afternoon, descended from the hill. The sky was deep blue, the whiteness of Quinaig pristine in the sun’s last rays. Walking round a low mound I came face to face with about 200 deer, many of them richly-antlered stags. Each one was absolutely still and looking at me as I moved slowly alongside the herd. I knew that if I stopped to take a photograph they would be off, so I continued my crawl, staring at them, mesmerised, as their eyes followed mine. The landscape belonged to them; I was the trespasser.
Months later, in E. France, having travelled the length of Britain and Belgium, I came upon a wood where fighting had taken place during the First World War. The sites of German and French trenches were still evident, ditches in an area left untouched for more than eighty years, trees and shrubs left to grow from the mud of the battlefield. Again, I felt humbled, as I reflected on the thousands of young men who had killed each other near where I was standing on a summer morning at the end of the same century.
The illustration shows the tiny harbour at Broadstairs, Kent, where I spent childhood holidays during the fifties and early sixties, and where I completed the first section of the walk. I had travelled nearly 900 miles, and claim to have become the first person to walk the NW – SE diagonal across the British mainland, from Cape Wrath to the Kentish coast. The building in the background is Bleak House, setting for Charles Dickens’s novel.