After a weekend in Birmingham, it was time for three of us (glamorous Susanna, Bev and myself) to take part in the Birmingham Canal Canter 26-mile walk operated by the Heart of England LDWA.
We had a short twenty minute drive from the upmarket delights of the Ibis Budget in Birmingham city centre, and we were ready to roll (not literally). I won’t dwell on food so early on in this post, but I did make time for a very large breakfast at the Ibis Budget in the morning, making a substantial dent in their cheese stocks…..
The signing-in process was efficient and well managed and the tally card was all ready for me, with a number that I couldn’t quite read. I was full of confidence at this stage, planning how I could take part in next year’s 100. Fortunately, reality always soon bites on these walks.
This isn’t a great photo as it doesn’t really show much, other than the first checkpoint had toast, jams, marmite and porridge available. I didn’t bother with all that rubbish and had half a pack of biscuits instead, which were far more nutritious. It’s a very generous spread for a first checkpoint though, so my first impressions of the food were positive.
Another entrant at the event told us that we’d be likely to see numerous herons along the route, and this transpired to be the case. We were also fortunate to see a heron flying above the river and Bev told us that this was a sign. She didn’t know a sign of what, so I wasn’t sure that this was the sensationally exciting omen that we might have wanted.
Bob Holness and Blockbusters…..
Checkpoint two was under Spaghetti Junction, but the barren surroundings added somewhat to the whole atmosphere. There was fruit here such as nectarines, pineapples and bananas, although I tried not to fill up on these as there were also jelly babies. And in addition, there were also bottles of Lucozade available. I know that these aren’t quite the glucose treat that walkers need since the sugar tax has made them take out the good tasting bit, but I found them useful and I think it’s a marvellous idea from the Heart of England group.
I took a lot of photos during the day, more I think than on any other challenge walk that I’ve taken part in. I’ve only uploaded a fraction of them here, but the very nature of the walk means that there were a lot of canal photos. I never really got bored of walking along the canal as the scenery changed so much, it proved to be an interesting day.
There were a lot of runners taking part in the event and they always made their presence known, because otherwise we’d have been in danger of stepping sideways and knocking them into the canal by mistake. When Bev got a bit emotional she also discovered that running along shouting “runner, make way, runner, move along” was effective at getting people out of the way. Until she remembered she can’t run.
This was though my favourite canal scene of the day, nicely atmospheric.
One of the highlights of the day for me (other than the food) was the section when we walked through Birmingham city centre, which was primarily between checkpoints three and four, although there had been a little between checkpoints two and three.
A train crossing a bridge just before checkpoint three. We found the stretch between checkpoints two and three to be interesting terrain, but the time seemed to drag just a little. Perhaps it was slight tiredness, but also perhaps it was the excitement of arriving at the next checkpoint for lunch.
Checkpoint three and this is the lunch stop, which had a BBQ. This is no insignificant turn of events, this is inspired thinking from the Heart of England LDWA, and it certainly set me thinking of what little BBQ arrangement Norfolk & Suffolk group could come up with…… By “set me thinking”, I really mean browsing hundreds of on-line shops looking at BBQs.
I must admit that I feared that the quality of the sausages and burgers might be a little on the low side, because this was not an expensive event to enter. Fortunately, I shouldn’t have had any concerns, the professional of the Heart of England showed through and the quality was just fine.
It was at this point that we then retraced our route for around 1.5 miles, which was a deliberate part of the route and wasn’t any bad planning on our behalf. But this meant we were able to see how many people were behind us on the course. We soon discovered that there were nearly no people behind us….. But, such is life.
This is checkpoint four and the cake competition, with the carrot cake being my favourite. I liked the jelly babies as well, but they unfortunately weren’t included in the voting for the cake competition.
I had a niggling issue with the heel of my foot which was slowly developing a blister, something which I rarely get now. In a bid to head that off I put a blister plaster on, although unfortunately I didn’t do a great job as it fell off thirty minutes later. This required an ad hoc stop by the canal to bandage around my entire foot. I was very brave and frankly it’s clear that I’m a loss to medical science given just how professional my bandaging was.
I wondered why I kept thinking about chocolate….
Checkpoint five was the final stopping point on the walk and was a collection of tables located by the canal, meaning we didn’t have to go off route. There were jelly babies, crisps, peanuts and all manner of other healthy products available here, as well as Lucozade. I was also very impressed at the marshal’s taste in food and drink, since there was a Greggs cup on the table….
A final stretch of woodland before the end. As usual, by this stage of the walk I’m just glad to get back as 26 miles of walking felt sufficient for the day. The weather during the day was pretty good and wasn’t too hot, although it did rain for short periods. Overall, I was entirely happy with the temperature though, especially as there was often a breeze by the canal.
At this stage I started to speed up a little bit, managing to overtake a few other walkers. My intention wasn’t to deliberately overtake walkers, but just to get back to the hall so that I could start on my final meal. By final meal, I mean of the event, not ever, as my foot wasn’t that bad.
And the end of the walk…… This the hall and most of the other entrants had finished and gone home by the time that we got there. However, it’s not about the time taken, it’s about the journey and the experience. Although perhaps one day it’d be nice to have a faster journey and experience, but for the moment, just finishing is good enough.
The finish food, which was a healthy bowl of jelly babies, a chocolate dessert, a bowl of chorizo & bean stew and some tiger bread. And half a banana, although I was full and decided to put that back. There were also jacket potatoes and other toppings, but I was more than content with the stew and this was of an excellent quality.
And, evidence that I finished…. The J White seemed a little unusual, but perhaps they got bored of writing first names on the certificates. Personally I’m fortunate that Norfolk & Suffolk type them, it means less writing for me…. Anyway, Susanna and Bev also finished and were equally, well, worn out.
Leaving the rugby club the weather took a turn for the worse and I felt sorry for the walkers still on the course. Although I then remembered that there weren’t any left out there, so I felt less concerned for them….
This event cost me £10 to enter, and that proved to be something of a bargain and a reminder (not that I need one) of what good value the LDWA is. Given all of the food and drink provided, I more than felt that I get my £10 worth of value from the event. All of the marshals along the route were well humoured and friendly, so I’d like to think that everyone enjoyed themselves on the event.
All told, this was a really professionally run challenge event and everything seemed to go to plan. Or at least, if it didn’t go to plan then I didn’t notice anything. The feedback for the event from others that I’ve seen also seems to have been really positive, so perhaps I’ll be back another year to walk the route again….