Nuthampstead to Baldock
Life is so uncertain and inexplicable.
Walking alone, down the beautiful Hertfordshire chalk escarpment, overlooking the Bedfordshire plain, and in perfect blue skied weather, there’s plenty of time to reflect.
However, I have no particular answers, or words of wisdom. Why do you think I’m doing a silly walk, for heaven’s sake? I think, generally, bereaved folk know not to give advice.
(These are all images, btw, of flowers I saw today – wild & cultivated: seemed appropriate)
Every death, and every reaction to it, is different. What I’ve found is that, even after five years, Heather’s absence can still be crushingly raw. How should you respond to that?
Over the past five years, I’ve probably read, thought and talked about bereavement way more than is healthy. The old linear idea of “moving on” is now seen as a little outdated by health professionals. The thinking’s now much more around a notion of continuing bonds.
Continuing bonds acknowledges that grief is ongoing and that it’s normal to stay connected with your loved one. But that’s so confusing. They’re clearly not here, so what exactly is the nature of the continuing bond?
One reality is that life here carries on. So, for me at least, honouring that ongoing connection has got something to do with trying to do my best in whatever time I’ve got left – to get and give value from life. Something that helps with that is trying not to worry too much, or hoping for the best. It’s why I’m talking about this walk across Britain “finding hope”.
If you came to Heather’s celebration event at Bearwood College, five years ago this month, you may remember me speaking about the three “coms” I felt she brought to life: commitment, compassion, and comedy. In short, whatever you do in life, do your best, do it with love, and for heaven’s sake, laugh!
I’m trying to do my best on this walk – saying something vaguely interesting and valuable on these daily updates. Re last night’s update, from what I’ve heard and read, Luke did his best, and it’s beyond cruel that he won’t have the chance to continue doing it.
In response to my request for advice on whether I should keep doing these updates, quite a few of you kindly messaged to say: yes, keep going. A couple said the sun will continue to rise.
For millennia, humans have seen the sun as a symbol of continuity and positivity. 52 draws on that idea, with the sun rising on the Suffolk coast (failed) and setting in Pembrokeshire. But even as it sets in Wales, it will rise again in Suffolk, hence the continuity.
Today, as I crossed the Greenwich Meridian, I found hope when I met with a lovely man to discuss how the sun provides yet another source of positivity in terms of our energy needs.
Early on in planning 52, I was incredibly excited to find that the exact intersection of 52°N with the Greenwich Meridian (or 0°W) lay right in the middle of Wisbridge Solar Park.
So I arranged to meet Gavin Bays, the Operations & Maintenance Manager who was involved with building the park in 2014 and is now in charge of keeping it operational.
Having completed the appropriate risk assessments, Gavin took me through into the gated solar park, and very kindly spent an hour or so walking me around the site.
I’m a complete layman so Gavin explained about the core components of modules (or panels), inverters and transformers to convert to alternating current for supply to the grid.
There is an annual cycle of maintenance, including panel cleaning. Plus thermal photographing of every panel (to ensure they are operating efficiently), carried out automatically by drones – how cool is that?
He explained that Wisbridge is a 9.5MW station, producing enough power to meet the needs of about 3,000 homes and, crucially, reducing carbon emissions by 4,000 tons.
Gavin’s team has some helpers in keeping the grass short:
And it is also a biodiverse site:
I was really excited by the site. Building solar parks is now viable without subsidy as long as the needs of investors, landowners, and National Grid (in terms of connection back to the grid) are aligned.
The visit inspired me to find out more about solar’s place in national energy policy.
And, of course, we had to go to 52°N, 0°W – only possible because I’d been given special access to the site. Here we are at that point, together with the GPS reading to prove it.
This was a really positive meeting, with buckets of hope.
After leaving Gavin, I crossed the Roman Ermine Street (now the A10), and walked on to Baldock, coming down the chalk escarpment as I mentioned at the top. Beautiful. Tonight’s accommodation is Templars Cross Lodge just north of Baldock.
Just before signing off, I wanted to say that there are loads of fascinating thoughts building up in my head, related to the walk, that I’d like to mention here.
I’ve realised I’ve only got 24 walking days left (25% done already), so I’ll try and say something on at least one of the headings below every day:
- Churches and churchyards
- Day Zeros
- Economic Development (and CaMkOx)
- Footpath Route
- Geology (need to cover this asap)
- Icknield Way
- Long Distance Paths
- Maintenance of Paths
- Nature Reserves
- Ordnance Survey
- Pink Triangle
- Step Count
- Tanning Issues (always walking west)
- Transport (trains & planes)
- Villages greens and signs
- You guys* (who, of course, I should have mentioned first).
* The support I’m receiving from so many people is wonderful.
That was a long one!
Oh P.S. The Week 1 Highlights Video is now available on the home page.