Katy, whose efforts over the last couple of years have raised £3,000 towards our work, recounts their adventure, with dodgy directions and not the best weather more than compensated for by the kindness of strangers and the overall experience.
"Our first challenge was getting to Ipswich - Stan’s first train journey and we were all a little apprehensive. To begin with Stan didn’t like to sound of the closing doors. However he soon adjusted and was a good little boy! After two hours we arrived in Ipswich and walked to our hotel (luckily not too far from the station!) and got settled in for our first night."
Day 1 - not the best start…
"Day 1 – we woke up at 6:30am and after calling a taxi had to rush frantically to strap our feet up ready for the day ahead. After having no breakfast and a bit of a problem with the taxis we arrived at what we thought was the start point… soon to find out it wasn’t."
"An hour of wandering, being sent in different directions by helpful fellow dog walkers and close to where we were dropped off we eventually found the start of the walk and were on our way. Mum had the map and I was in charge of a little book with descriptive directions, although it was tough instructions such as “go through the gap in the hedge”, “walk past the bungalow” and so it went on!"
"Once on the designated route the going was good; through some fields, up bridleways, down footpaths, along a few roads and beside a creek and 15k on we’d arrived in Woodbridge. There was a nice café on the river bank, we debated stopping for lunch but both agreed we would rather get a large chunk of the day behind us before settling down for lunch. Also, psychologically, the rest would be easier. However, this turned out to be a poor decision as there was nowhere else open for food the whole 40k!"
"Our little book mentioned a picnic spot so we thought we’d push on to find some food (and water as we were running out at this point). However we got to this delightful spot, around 26k in, and there was nothing… everything was boarded up! We filled up Stan’s water from an outside tap and hoped to see a shop soon. Luckily we stumbled upon a campsite shop not far from here and managed to get some water and a Mars bar (not great nutrition but the only option we had)."
"Moving on we were presented with a sign saying “strictly no entry” due to coppicing, with the Sandlings arrow pointing in the direction of the coppicing work, so back to the map to find an alternative route and get back on to the walk. This meant some road walking, which resulted in a very tired Kate and Stan."
"We were ecstatic on finding a pub, but our hopes were soon dashed to see it was closed until 6pm (this was around 4pm) so we decided to head to the next village. Another 5k on road later and we found a second pub, only to find it opened 12-2! This is where we decided to call it a day and hail a taxi to our overnight accommodation and return to the start point the next morning."
What a day!
"We even had issues with this, with no signal on either of our phones and very few people passing by. I managed to log on to the pub wifi and messaged a friend from home who called us a taxi… What a day!"
"It was lovely to get to our accommodation, attached to The Ship Inn pub in Blaxhall, where they really looked after us. We chatted about what we were doing, why we were walking and that we hadn’t eaten all day – whilst I tucked into lovely sausage and chips and Mum had steak (again, probably not the best nutrition but at this point we didn’t care!)"
"They treated us so well. When we woke up in the morning and went down for breakfast we asked the waitress if she could book us a taxi to our start point, she came back to say that her boss said he’d give us a lift. This was the same boss who had donated £50 to our walk the day before (which was more than enough of a kind gesture!)."
"We then went to our room to get ready and when we got back to the bar he was ready for us with two packed lunches, so we didn’t go hungry on day two, and dropped us back to our start point. During this journey we found out his sister had meningitis as a baby and although she survived, she is living with the after-effects daily."
Day 2 – chucking it down
"So Day 2 – chucking it down with rain we plodded along hoping the day and distance would go quickly! We passed lots of pig fields, cows and crops and saw very little civilisation! But we were heading in the right direction as we found more signs and in prominent positions. We made sure that every 5k we had a quick stretch and some fluid and food, as my body was moaning from the lack of food the day before! Due to previous knee problems, Mum broke off a stick and I had some additional support when walking – this must have looked a bit strange but by this point I wasn’t bothered!"
"We reached a café for lunch, which didn’t allow dogs, so we sat outside in the freezing cold eating our toasties as quickly as possible so we could get walking again. Stan wasn’t very happy at this point but he spent lunchtime under an emergency blanket to keep warm and was more than happy to resume as soon as we were ready!"
"We navigated to our second accommodation to see, once again, that the pub, The Lion Inn, was closed until 6pm – arriving at 4:30pm, soaking wet and shattered we rang the doorbell, a kindly chef came down and let us in to our cabin. Once again, the pub was lovely – amazing food and the landlord was discussing the walk with us, saying his friend had been affected by meningitis and is recovering now. He let us display a stack of symptom cards on the bar and said he would post it on his Facebook page to spread the message. "
"After giving Stan a shower, as he was covered in mud, and keeping him warm the three of us got into bed for another early night – ready to take on the final day."
Day 3 – mentally prepared
"Day 3 – Mentally we were prepared for the day as it was only 20k, in comparison to the two 40k days prior. We nearly lost our way again trying to get back to the Sandlings official path but found yet another pub, again another helpful landlord who pointed us in the right direction and donated £20 in our collection tin – so it was worth getting lost!"
"Meeting us at Dunwich, around 10k away, was Dad, who was going to buy us breakfast and take our rucksacks so the final leg would be easier. However, that was a very long 10k!"
"By the time we got to Dad the temptation for him to take us the rest of the way in the truck was becoming hard to resist – but we were so close we knew it wasn’t long to the end."
"We said goodbye to Dad and the spaniels and set off on our way, playing some of The Greatest Showman playlist to motivate us. We were well on our way. It was lovely walking along the sand dunes and being able to see our finish line in sight!"
Cards on display – and more donations
"To get across to Southwold we got on a little ferry boat (a man rowing a boat) and with our 100k hats on fellow passengers questioned us on our trip. We explained the walk had taken us from Ipswich to Southwold, our finish line! After some congratulations and some symptom cards handed out, they went on to tell us their next door neighbour’s son had sadly just passed from meningitis."
"After meeting my dad and boyfriend, we went home had a nice relaxing bath then headed to the pub for some dinner and drinks. Mum popped to the pharmacy in Southwold and the owner again donated £10 to the walk and told mum to bring some symptom cards in the next day, which he’d display in the pharmacy."
"Both Mum and I agreed that throughout the walk we met so many lovely people along the way who donated, took a symptoms card and wished us luck that it really restored our faith in humanity!"
"So, although we were happy to be at the end, it was a lovely experience to share with both mum and Stan. We raised over £1,000 and handed many symptom cards out along the way so it felt like a good job jobbed!"
Indeed, a good job jobbed Katy. Well done, and thank you, to you, Sue and Stan.