Ipswich to Raydon
Hello readers – Thanks so much for all the lovely feedback on yesterday’s update.
I’ll try and be a bit pithier tonight (Heather’s voice: “Fat chance of that happening!”).
Day 2’s inspiration came in the form of a person.
I met my good friend Adam Greethurst 32 years ago in the summer of 1987 when I started my first “proper” job. You could not meet a more interesting, or more interested, man.
Adam and his family moved to Catalunya in northern Spain 16 years ago and it’s a real measure of his commitment to friends that he travelled to the UK to walk with me today.
We met up at the Holiday Inn, after a perfectly functional breakfast, and moved towards the iconic Orwell Bridge, the longest pre-stressed concrete span in use when it was built in 1982.
Come on Richard, it’s a bridge – really? Consider this: 60,000 vehicles a day use this A14 crossing of the River Orwell, many going to or from the UK’s biggest port (Felixstowe). Whenever we buy something made in China or elsewhere overseas (we all do), there’s a strongly likelihood it will have crossed this bridge. Whatever the future holds for Britain, this major economic artery remains a key part of our ability to trade with the wider world.
If you’ve seen Jamie & Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast on Channel 4, you might recognise the old barn restaurant at Jimmy’s Farm where we stopped for a spot o’ lunch. You can see the start of my big map rolled out here – more about that later this week.
Much arable land was evident after Capel St. Mary with fields and fields of wheat and barley nearly ready for harvesting.
And we enjoyed ancient Suffolk villages, like Great Wenham, where houses look like this:
Our incessant chatter meant we went wrong a few times – but that’s a good thing, right?
Excitement mounted towards the end of the day. On the 52°N walk, I’ll be crossing six degrees of longitude, from 1°E to 5°W. We passed the first of these intersections (52°N, 1°E) today. Luckily Adam’s as nutty about this sort of thing as me, so was happy to wait and watch me wade across a potato field to find exactly the right spot (he even messaged his wife in Spain to tell her about it – see, it’s not just me!).
After Raydon, and a swift pint, Adam got the bus back to Ipswich as he’s off early in the morning to meet friends in London.
It was an honour to spend a day in such charming, chatty and committed company. Thank you so much for making the journey, Adam – it made the day.
A final word about overnight accommodation. One of the key elements of planning 52, has been finding a string of inexpensive B&Bs, every 12 or so miles, in a straight line across the UK. That’s quite a big ask, even for Google.
Tonight there wasn’t anything inexpensive for miles around, so I had to go upmarket. It feels a bit wrong, but not having had a romantic break for over five years, I thought: what the heck.
I booked the smallest, and cheapest, Loft room at the The Marquis in Upper Layham, but on arrival Rose said they’d upgraded me, so I have a ridiculously lovely room, overlooking the Brett valley, and something in the ensuite bathroom that every walker wants to see.
I had a moment this evening – a real mix of emotions. I must be the luckiest man alive to have the chance to walk across beautiful countryside, with friends, and in fine weather.
But coming to a lovely place like this makes it even more apparent that my pal isn’t here to share it with. I’m sure there’ll be more reflections on love & loss here as the walk goes on.
For now, though, thanks very much for persevering to the end (Heather’s voice: “Told you”). Final Suffolk day tomorrow, crossing into Essex in the evening – can’t wait!