Today we finally got into the groove. Days 1 and 2 were a bit stoppy-starty, but today we had no time for delay. 18 miles planned, so after stoking ourselves up with a magnificent full English breakfast at Ivy Cottage (Greensted Green) we departed promptly at 8.15am.
Last night I had woken several times to the sound of torrential rain, so had been suitably apprehensive about what kind of day would greet us, but we set out under clear blue rainwashed skies, and the first few hours of walking were a sheer joy.
The film crew also got into their groove today – largely thanks to Mary, an American student at the University of Essex and an unofficial addition to our core team. She had had to drop out of walking after Day 1 due to an old sporting injury. But for the rest of us this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Last night she carefully plotted out our route, and figured out places where our film crew car could intercept our walk. Repeatedly today we would round a corner to be greeted by the sight of a bright orange Marmot jacket on the far side of a field, camera pointed in our direction. We were able to forge on without frequent phone calls between the two halves of our team trying to arrange rendezvous points.
[Note: the carbon emissions of the camera car are being offset by Carbon Foresight, as are our ferry journeys across the North Sea to the Hook of Holland.]
But the mellow late autumn weather of the morning did not last. Gradually the clouds gathered and by lunchtime we had our heads down and hoods up, battling through torrential rain and hail, our boots growing heavy with accumulated mud. I started counting paces, just as I count strokes on the ocean when the going gets tough. The difference this time was having the rest of a team around me. When the going gets tough, it’s great to have partners in grime!
Luckily we had a welcome refuge to look forward to. Some good friends live in a house rejoicing in the name of Fridays, which lay directly on our route if we took a shortcut by diverging from the Essex Way. At 1pm, just as the rain stopped, we reached the home of the Cherrys. We were able to dry ourselves out in front of their Aga stove, and gorge ourselves on hot coffee and chocolate cake. After a blissful 30 minutes in their kitchen we hit the road again feeling restored, dry, and happy, leaving little evidence of our visit but a pile of cake crumbs and a few dollops of mud.
More good news – Jane our navigator discovered that 1 mile of the route repeated itself on the other side of the map, so what had looked like 5 miles turned out to be closer to 4. Happy days! So after a shorter than expected time we entered Chatham Green and saw a sign saying “Windmill Inn 100 yds”.
So we all had to eat our words. The last couple of days we had been getting tired and looking forward to reaching our destination, and had been reassured by our esteemed navigator that we had just one more mile to go. 20 minutes later, it would appear that we STILL had one more mile to go. And et cetera. So we had started to joke that there are statute miles, nautical miles, country miles, and Jane miles.
But today we were set up to expect 18 miles, and the final tally after the Fridays shortcut and the overlap mile between one side of the map and the other was a mere (!) 16 miles, or 31,648 steps.
Just goes to show, when you aim really high, to achieve even a little less is a major achievement.
We passed through another verb-ish sounding town today: Chipping Ongar. We thought of several possible meanings for Chipping:
a) to feel chipper, cheerful
b) to chip away at a long journey, one step or one mile at a time
c) to eat lots of chips to restore carbohydrates after a long day’s walking
d) to walk briskly in an attempt to keep up with the turbo-charged Jane.
So we have now Wapped, Epped and Chipped our way through East London and Essex. Oh, and walked a bit too. About 45 miles down, 205ish to go. But when you’re having as much fun as we are, who’s counting?!
Nora, our American filmmaker, left us this evening after dinner. She has to go back to the US for a few days to work on another project, but plans to return by Dec 1 at the latest. She recorded our dinnertime conversation tonight as we discussed sustainability, energy security, environmental messaging, politics, business, and financial strategies for a greener – and more prosperous – future. And the great thing was that the conversation was not at all contrived. These are just the things we care about and talk about in a genuine exchange of ideas and a search for solutions.
Team BB2B is putting the world to rights, one idea and one mile at a time!