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Charity Walk in Aid of Chapel Road School, Attleborough

In 1986 I rather stupidly agreed to undertake a charity walk from London to Wymondham - a distance of over 100 miles in aid of Chapel Road School at Attleborough.

The brains, or should it be brawn, behind this idea was Les King of Wymondham. Les is one of those people that is known by everybody and who has been a great supporter of a number of good causes over many years.

After the walk, Les put together a booklet about the journey. When rummaging around in the loft recently I came across a few copies of this and am delighted to reprint below Les' words of wisdom along with my own personal diary entries from the walk. At the time of the walk I was sports editor of the Norwich Mercury series of weekly newspapers.

I start with the booklet.

Peter Steward September 2007

 

Les' Booklet

 

The four intrepid walkers were:

Les King, a well-known local businessman and all-round sportsman; Alan Farrow, a keen boxing fan and long-time friend of Les; Peter Steward, sports editor of the Mercury and enthusiastic marathon runner; Bernard Daynes, a policeman, whose son is a pupil at Chapel Road Special School in Attleborough.

The idea came when Les, Alan and Bernard were having a drink in the ex-servicemen's club one Saturday evening. Les, who has participated in many events for charity, was wondering what they could do next, wehn Alan suggested a walk from London to Wymondham. Chapel Road School seemed the obvious beneficiary. Not only has Les supported them on several previous occasions but Bernard's son was a pupil there. No sooner had the idea been suggested than Stewart Perkins, Bob Howes and Barney Howes each offered to sponsor them for 100. A few drinks later, the suggestion became a firm commitment - the walk was on!

Next came the hard part - the training. Throughout January and February, despite the freezing weather, all four walked regularly, averaging 30 miles per week. Peter walked to work from Hethersett to Norwich, as well as walking round the ring road. Bernard, Alan and Les walked to Barnham Broom Golf and Country Club several times each week, and also managed a weekly walk to Carrow Road to see their friend Duncan Forbes* for a cup of tea before walking back again. Another walk took them from Wymondham to Sam's cockle stall on Norwich Market, where they were rewarded with a welcome dish of seafood. When Radio Broadland wanted to interview them about the forthcoming walk, Les and Alan walked there too! As well as walking, the four also had to decide on clothing, shoes - and ointment for blisters. Success depended on such attention to detail.

Even the route itself was carefully considered. Les, Alan and Gary Champion went to London twice to reconnoitre the most promising roads where there were paths, not too much heavy traffic and cafes for refreshments. They even calculated the best time to approach Wymondham on the A11 in order to avoid the rush hours. After much thought they decided the 101 mile walk would begin at Woodford High Street in London, going through Epping Forest, Harlow, Bishop's Stortford, Stanstead, Ugley, Quendon, Newport, Littlebury and Great Chesterton. Thence to Four Wentways roundabout, Six Mile Bottom, Newmarket town centre, Freckenham, Barton Mills, Elvedon and Thetford. From Thetford they decided to go past Kilverstone Wildlife Park to Brettenham, through Bridgham to East Harling, round the back of Snetterton race track to Eccles Road, through Hargham Woods to Breckland Lodge, then Attleborough and Besthorpe, ending at the ex-servicemen's club in Wymondham.

The target was to raise 1,500 and with the kind help of Christine Cunningham (Norwich Mercury Newspapers), Tim Cowens (Diss Express) and Radions Norfolk and Broadland, the event was well advertised and sponsor money began to come in from a generous public.

Finally, after consulting David Brooks, weather-man for Anglia TV, they decided to start the walk on Friday March 7th.

THE LONG LONDON WALK

Day 1 - Friday March 7th

The alarm work me at 3 a.m. After eight weeks of training, walking 30 miles a week, the day had come. Now it was for real. My first job was to pick up my friend Alan (Buster) Farrow at Wymondham, then Peter Steward at Hethersett, Bernard Daynes at Attleborough and finally John Rapley who had kindly offered to drive our back-up car. All aboard, we headed for London, stopping at Frettenham Red Lodge en route for a breakfast of eggs and bacon at 5 a.m. One and a half hours later we arrived at Woodford, our starting point. On went the foot powder and walking shoes, we found a witness (a Mr Walker!!!) to sign our log book, then we were off.

The car drove away to our first stopping place. It felt strange to see the car disappear and realise 101 miles of walking lay ahead of us. As we started along Woodford High Street, we looked to to see airliners heading for Heathrow - not jet travel for us! Bernard gave the order "no smoking" - out came the glucose tablets instead.

We could see Epping Forest in the distance and it seemed a long trek through the forest into Epping itself. We had in fact been walking for two hours and it was getting sunny. An hour later we reached the cafe where our car was waiting. A quick break for another breakfast, the flasks were filled with coffee, put into the car which then departed, and we were on our way again, heading towards Harlow. We noticed some aeroplanes and the traffic was building up; luckily we were walking on paths.

After Harlow came Bishop's Stortford. We all seemed to be going well. Midday found us heading for Stansted where a large airliner was circling in preparation for landing. At Stansted we were met by our car and a welcome "cuppa" from the flasks before continuing to Ugley. By then it was nearly mid-afternoon and we decided to call a halt at Quendon - eight hours and 32 miles from London.

Our log book was signed by a tramp who had lived in a tent in the woods at Quendon for over 20 years. He was delighted when I offered him a mars bar for his troubles!

We all agreed that our first day had seemed quite easy, as we tumbled into the Mercedes to return home for the night. This was our first mistake. It would have been much wiser to have booked into a hotel or pub for a bath, followed by a meal, but we felt that if people had been kind enough to sponsor us we should not waste their money by having nights out, so we went home each night, returning the following day to the exact spot where we had finished the previous evening. When we arrived home we were all stiff; our legs felt like blocks of cement. By the time I had dropped everyone off, I could hardly walk. I had a few lagers to refresh my feet, then it was off to a well earned rest.

Day 2 - Saturday March 8th

Once again the alarm woke me at 3 a.m. I felt tired, but after a cup of tea I was on my way to pick up the lads. We all had breakfast at 5 a.m at Frettenham before heading for Quendon where we got out the foot powder and put on our walking shoes. It was now 6.30 a.m. Our friendly tramp must have been asleep still in his tent, as the flap was drawn and hsi dog lay asleep outside.

After arranging to meet our car at Stump Cross, 10 miles further on, we set off once again on the second stage of our walk. Alan strode ahead, while I chatted to Peter who told me how interesting he found his job reporting on sport. We discussed Wymondham Town's chances of a win at Holt that day. Alan picked Hagler to win his fight; Bernard handed round the glucose tablets again!

As we walked through Newport and across a river, we looked over the bridge. Peter suggested we should look for pike --- but alas, we had no golf clubs with us!!!+

We all seemed to be going well. Little did we know that this would be a hard day for us all, possibly the worst day of the whole walk. The weather was sunny and we had a lovely view of Audley End House. All the ducks and wild geese there made us determined to visit it at a later date. Our troubles began as we headed for Stump Cross. Bernard's calf muscles were tightening up and he fell a few hundred yards behind. I was the next to struggle: talking to Peter about golf, I kicked a drain top. The pain shot up to my knee, which immediately started to swell up like a balloon.

Meanwhile Alan was striding ahead - sneaking a crafty smoke now that Bernard had fallen behind! Peter waited for Bernard, while I caught up with Alan. The car was a welcome sight: we needed a coffee break.

For the next 10 miles we had to face the traffic, walking on the road for the first time, so after our quick break we put on our Eastern Daily Press orange jackets. As we set off, with buses, lorries and cars flying past about a yard away, I realised that this was going to be the hardest part - avoiding being hit by a vehicle. It was extremely dangerous and I would not advise anyone to try this. Alan was tucked in behind me saying we must be crazy; Bernard and Peter were about half a mile back. To make things worse, Norwich City were playing at Wimbledon, so we met all the buses and cars heading towards London. We walked steadily on towards Six Mile Bottom and quite roads again. Then we had a much-needed bit of encouragement - Duncan Forbes, at the front of the Club Canary bus en route for Wimbledon, gave us a clenched fist salute. You feel a bit better with encouragement from Duncan.

It seemed as though we would never reach Six MIle Bottom. Alan was thirsty, I was hungry, the walk was becoming boring and we seemed to be getting nowhere. Then at last we tuned off for Six Mile Bottom. At that moment Alan fell over, cutting his hand which bled quite badly. He complained of feeling weak, We got a bowl of cold water from a man cleaning his windows and we fixed Alan's hand. After a drink he was alright, but he then said something very strange. He told me he had "died" and then come back to life. He's the first man I have known to experience this, but knowing him it could have happened - he never gives up.

By now my knee was slowing me down. Bernard and Peter were gamely keeping pace behind us. Newmarket seemed beyond our reach, but by 2 p.m we were walking through the town centre. Looking into the shops made things easier and we all felt better as we headed towards Frettenham to face the traffic again.

This was the hardest part of the day. We were very tired, there were no paths and the traffic hurtled past. We had not seen our car for hours and were almost completely exhausted by the time the Red Lodge cafe came into view. First priority was a cup of tea (if it had cost 5 I would have paid it!) as we waited for Bernard and Peter who were some way behind but determined not to give up.

The ride home in the car was painful - our legs again felt like cement and we all had something wrong either with legs or feet. I dropped the lads off as usual, then soaked in the luxury of a hot bath, before dressing my blisters and putting an ice pack on my knee.

We covered 33 miles that day, which meant that in two days we had walked 65 miles - we were winning!

Day 3 - Sunday March 9th

I had a bit of a lie-in - the alarm went off at 4.30 a.m! After a cup of tea, I picked up the lads and we breakfasted at the Red Lodge before setting off yet again on our walk at the more civilised hour of 7 a.m. Roger Hansbury, the Cambridge goalkeeper, joined us and our spirits were further boosted by Wymondham Town's 6-0 win over Holt the previous day. Bernard made us envious relling us about the large T-bone steak he had for tea; Alan said he had finished the stew he had prepared before we started the walk!

We were all happy as we headed for Barton Mills roundabout where we would have to face the traffic again, there being no paths until Elevedon. At this point I would like to make it clear that walking on the road was crazy, with the traffic almost bowling us over. When Ian Botham did his walk, he had an escort van in front and behind. We didn't and now we realised the hardest part of this walk was not getting knocked over. Roger accompanied us to Elvedon then left us to return home. Peter's leg was giving him some trouble; it was so stiff that he could not bend it, but Bernard helped to keep him going until we reached Elvedon and the safety of a path to Thetford.

We now began noticing all the wildlife that had been killed by traffic. There was a hare, a fox, several pheasants, rabbits, small birds and even a dog. We passed deer roaming freely in the fields and, as we got bored we began counting the hares we could see. They were starting to mate, as were the pheasants we saw as we neared Thetford, and even the rooks were builiding their nests. The jets roard overhead as they headed for Lakenheath and we arrived at Thetford. After walking through the town, it was a great relief to turn into the quiet road that went past Kilverstone Wildlife Park. It seemed a different world - so nice and peaceful with no traffic and plenty of wildlife to see. It was a long walk from Kilverstone to Brettenham and hence to Bridgham which must be one of the longest villages in Norfolk to walk through, and on the left was the biggest field I'd ever come across. Alan reckoned that if we were chopping out sugar beet, it would take us a whole day to do a single row.

The weather was still nice (David Brooks had been right with his forecast) and by mid-afternoon East Harling Church came into view - our stopping point for day three. Alan was tired and my ankles were swelling with the extra weight they had to carry! Bernard and Peter were struggling too, but even so we were all looking forward to the final day, confident that the hardest part was behind us.

Day 4 - Monday March 10th

It was breakfast at 8 a.m at the Poachers' Cafe before being dropped off at East Harling to start the last stretch. Apart from Peter, whose leg was still stuff, we seemed to be getting fitter now. We kept together, discussing the walk, how much harder it had been than we expected. Peter had run marathons but said this walk was much tougher.

The traffic was more dangerous than expected but it was nice and quiet on the back road as we passed the rear of Snetterton race track heading for Eccles Road railway crossing.

We had scheduled to pass Attleborough at 11 a.m and as we approached we could see the children and staff from the school lining the route with banners, flags and even a small band. What a welcome! It really made us pleased that we had done this walk. Peter was overwhelmed by his first meeting with the children from the school. Bernard's wife was there as well as his daughter Selina who was going to walk the last six miles with us. My parents were there too. The photographers took pictures as we set off on the last stage of the walk. As we left Attleborough, a kind little lady gave us 50p from her purse and then Vernon George's mum rode up on her moped to give us 10. Gestures like this made the walk worthwhile, even though Peter could not band his right leg at all.

The weather had deteriorated and it was raining as we passed through Besthorpe towards our final two miles of dangerous walking - back on the A11 without any paths. There was plenty of traffic but the only way we were not going to finish this walk now was if we got knocked down!

At last Wymondham Abbey came into view - we were nearly home. A few people took photos as we walked up Damgate Street, then we stopped for a few pictures near the Market Cross. Dave Bedson, the Town football manager, and Leo Parke, the Town captain, walked the last few hundred yards with us to the Ex-Servicemen's club.

As we arrived at the club, several ladies, including Mrs Brenda Ford, the Town Mayor, and Christine Cunningham, the newspaper reporter, plus club members cheered us as we entered the building. The champagne, kindly donated by the Ex-Servicemen's club, was on the bar. Norman Garwood di the honours with the toast, then it was a welcome sit down for a few more pictures ----- mainly of our feet this time!

The walk had been a great team effort, with Bernard, Peter and Alan all doing so well. I certainly would not have doen it on my own; it would have been too tiring - and boring.

Mrs Ford kindly gave us a cheque; Christine Cunningham wanted a report for her paper. As we sipped champagne in the place where the ides of the walk was born, we realised it was all over. Off came our shoes. Someone took mine, but what did it matter - I wouldn't be needing them now!

We said we would never do anything like this again, so tiring and dengerous. Still, it had all been well worthwhile.

 

Excerpts from Peter's Own Diary

Thursday March 6th

Tomorrow is the start of a four day adventure - our walk from London to Wymondham for mentally handicapped children at Attleborough. It's quite a challenge and starts at 4 a.m!!

Friday March 7th

The walk started today - and by the end we had covered 33 miles and were as stiff as boards. Got up when the alarm went off at 3.30 a.m. Had an extremely early breakfast and got ready and at 4 a.m was picked up by Les King. There are four of us on the walk - myslef, Les, Alan Farrow and Bernard Daynes. Bernard is a police officer from Attleborough.

We picked them up and drove as far as a cafe at Freckenham Red Lodge. There we had quite a substantial breakfast. Then drove on to Woodford in London. We started the walk at 6.30 a.m, ahead of schedule. It was tough going along Epping Forest and then on to Harlow and at 10 a.m we stopped at another cafe and I had another big meal. Then we walked on and on and on and on getting more weary and with a number of stops at lay-bys for tea from the following car. We ended up doing 33 miles and getting to Quendon. The last hour or so was hell and by the end we had slowed down to almost a crawl and perhaps did a little too much.

We were all glad to get back to the car and were very stiff when we got there. I arrived home at 5 p.m...... i had a bath to get rid of some of the stiffness. Went to bed early at 9 p.m not looking forward to the prospect of getting up and doing it all over again tomorrow.

Saturday March 8th

The walk got harder today. Getting up at 4.30 a.m was not particular problem. Had a quick breakfast and then got ready and was picked up by Les King at 5 a.m. We picked up all the others and drove to the cafe at Freckinham. This time I could only face a couple of rounds of toast and a cup of tea. We then drove on to Quendon.

Started walking at 6.45 a.m and it was a hell of a day. Walking through the Essex villages for the first 10 miles was okay, but then myself and Bernard had a great deal of trouble from the Stump Cross roundabout. The other two went on ahead. Our only real stop was at a hamburger stall in a ley-by. We struggled on to Newmarket while the others reached Freckenham. We eventually caught them up but I was feeling very tired, very stiff and very sore. I actually fell asleep in the car.

Once home had a hot bath and eased the stiffness and during the evening actually felt quite chirpy. Anne and myself went to the King's Head for a meal and drinks. Was home and in bed by 10 p.m.

Sunday March 9th

Today was bloody difficult. The walk became one long pain and struggle. I will really be glad when it's all over. Got up a little later - at 5.30 a.m and was picked up at 6 a.m. We drove out to Freckenham Red Lodge and had breakfast and then set off to walk. It was very difficult as I had leg pain from the start. Roger Hansbury - the ex-Norwich goalkeeper - walked with us for the first hour or so. Eventually myself and Bernard got tailed off. We walked together.

Yesterday when he had problems I kept him going and today when I had problems he kept me going. The only stops we made were a couple of breaks at the following car for a cup of tea. We got a second wind at Thetford having negotiated the horrible Thetford straight. We then decdied to continue along to East Harling - at least we were back in Norfolk!

The last few miles along the country lanes was hell and after nine hourse of walking I was practically at a standstill. So we were glad to get to the car and drive home again. Had tea and a bath and again felt ridiculously stiff. Went to bed early again at 9.15 p.m.

Monday March 10th

The day when everything became worthwhile. We finished the walk and met the children for whom we had been walking, including Bernard's handicapped son.

We got going slightly later today. Got up at 6 a.m and got picked up at 6.45. Drove out to a very smart cafe at Attleborough and had breakfast and then got dropped at East Harling. I had a big problem as soon as we started the walk with my knees giving me hell. But I managed to get into a rhythm. First stop was back at the cafe for a cup of tea and a 20 minute break. Then made the short journey into Attleborough.

When we got to the high street the handicapped children were there along with Adrian Judd to take pictures - it makes a change to make the new rather than to write it! The kids' love and attitude to life made it all worthwhile including all the pain and problems.

We left Attleborough and I had to get into a rhythm again to walk to Wymondham and it seemed a surprisingly long distance. Eventually made it to the Ex-Servicemen's Club where there was a warm welcome and champagne. I stayed there for well over an hour because there were more pictures to be taken. I eventually got a lift home with Dave Bedson

Tuesday March 11th

Got up rather early. I was awake early - probably because of getting up over the past few days. I felt very stiff all day.

Wednesday March 12th

Still felt very stiff and my ankle played up this morning.

 

The Foreword to the Brochure written by Phil Thomas - Headmaster of Chapel Road School

There has been a school in Attleborough for mentally handicapped children for over a quarter of a century. The school opened in February 1960 with only two classrooms. By 1967 the numbers had increased and these early children being now adult needed a separate facility of their own. Thus came the Adult Training Centre in Station Road, where many of the school's young people still transfer at around their 19th birthday.

Nowadays the school has a new definition,  a "School for Children having Special Educational Needs." The variety of children now being taught is very wide. Many of these children are handicapped, some are in wheelchairs. The school has deaf as well as blind and partially sighted young people. Some are physically as well as mentally handicapped. Throughout all its life the school has striven to help parents make their young people as secure and as independent as possible. Lessons are taught in a very wide range of subjects in exactly the same way as in any school. Nearly all children develop literacy and numeracy skills. In any one class one child may be still learning to talk and walk whilst another could be developing computer skills, historical and geographical abilities. Many of the children demonstrate how capable they are. The fact that they are in a Special School does not mean they cannot achieve much, quite the reverse in fact.

The school has nine teachers and eight welfare staff. Classes are small so that each child can get individual attention. The school is run by the Norfolk Education Authority like any other school.

One of the features of schools such as this is the wide support it receives from the local community. Over many years the voluntary support has been magnificent, many volunteers having been with us for years. As you are aware Les King, who is the driving force behind this book, is a local businessman. What you probably don;t know is how much he has supported this school in fund-raising. Not so long ago he was also a fine Father Christmas. Most recently, the reason for this booklet, Les Walked from London along with Bernard Daynes, Alan Farrow and Peter Steward. We need the support from our friends and all of us at Chapel Road School, parents included, are most grateful for it.

So What Happened to the Walkers

Over 20 years on from the walk I decided to find out what had happened to the foursome.

As you will gather I'm still very much alive and kicking. I regularly go out walking - but only five or six miles at a time. I stopped being sports editor of the Norwich Mercury Series in February 1989 - just under three years after the walk. I then joined Norfolk Constabulary in a variety of Media, marketing and promotional roles before taking early retirement in 2006 to set up my own pr business and give myself more time for one of my passions in life - writing. Indeed I have in many ways gone full circle as I am back writing sport and news for the weekly Wymondham and Attleborough Mercury.

Les King is now in his early seventies and still a larger than life character around Wymondham - being president of numerous football and cricket clubs. He is still a great supporter of the local community and I see him virtually on a weekly basis in the swimming pool at the Park Farm leisure club in Hethersett.

I understand that Alan "Buster" Farrow died a number of years ago but Bernard Daynes still lives locally.