We caught our first glimpse of St Mary's long before we actually got to it through the rolling farmland. Standing proud upon the hillside above Colton Basset it's not immediately obvious that what you’re looking at is really little more than a shell. The church was gutted back in 1898 to make way for the new church of St John the Divine in the village itself. Maybe I've just got a soft spot for old buildings, but to let something that was built with such skill and care fall into ruin in order to build another half a mile away seems like a tragic waste. Fortunately, the site of St Mary's has been lovingly restored and it served as an excellent place for a spot of lunch whilst we poked around the ruins. It was upon entering the church itself that I suddenly became aware of deep humming noise. It appeared to be coming from the bell tower so I thought I'd put my sleuthing hat on and try to determine the source of the disturbance. This source became swiftly apparent when I tilted my eyes skyward inside the tower and beheld a veritable cloud of bees. Luckily, Rob was there to catch my hasty retreat on camera for all posterity. Cheers for the support matey!
I haven’t really got much to say about the last 3-4 miles from Vimmy Ridge to Rob and Vicky's flat except that it swiftly became an exercise in endurance. There were some pleasant distractions though, such as watching the little planes buzzing in and out of the local airfield as we trundled past and the sudden appearance of pine forest on the outskirts of the city made for a pleasant (if belated) change to the scenery. For the most part though I just kept my head down and plodded slowly towards my destination whilst at the same time feeling bad for holding up Rob who unencumbered by a portable home in a bag was clearly none the worse for wear from the days exertions. Still, "slow and steady wins the race" they say and we did of course eventually make it back to the flat, albeit with slightly less of a spring in our step than we left with.
I must admit that that evening I began to feel a little apprehensive about the 1200 mile walk I'm starting in two weeks time. We set out that morning with the aim of doing a 16-17 mile route and if that was the case then it was considerably harder on the knees than I had anticipated it was going to be. I was a bit confused though, as I've done that sort of distance in the past without too much complaint (notice how I've used the qualifier 'too much') and surely the training I've been doing up to now should make it easier rather than harder. Deciding that this merited closer investigation I dug out my map measurer from the bottom of my bag and set about getting an accurate mileage for the day. I'm pleased to say that our guestimation skills leave a lot to be desired, as our steady 16-17 mile day turned out in fact to be a 21 mile slog. This caused a hasty u-turn in my appraisal of the situation, as at 21 miles the walk was just half a mile short of longest day I've got planned all summer and if I could manage it now then by the time I've had a couple of months on the trail to toughen up, I should have no problems going that little bit further.
Well. That's the theory anyway.