Tuesday, 14 August 2012


Last week, it took three days to pass the 65 mile mark on our walk. This morning it took me 80 minutes to cover the same distance, but I have to thank Mercedes, a turbo-charged engine and a hefty right foot (which still feels a little sore) that hurtled me so effortlessly up the A3 to the office.

It was a drive of landmarks that previously had been mere patches of flashing green. The rainbow arch of the bridge connecting Havant to Portsmouth had a lone pedestrian on it and I knew he would be getting a little breathless on an incline I had not noticed before. Through the South Downs, I could glimpse the steep path climbing up the chalk escarpment that gives walkers their first view of the distant sea.

The signs to Petersfield, Liss and Milford delivered fond recollections of kindness, characters and generosity, while the sign to Guildford gave me a cold chill. It was good that my route to Windsor had me turning off before the receding city and the pain of trying to get there vanished in my fast moving rear view mirror. It felt like I was getting my own back.

I remembered the lovely group of Mums who we met near Hindhead asking where we were heading to in the evening. “Liss” we said and the response made us smile. “Not too far then” they said. Well no, in a 3 litre Range Rover, it’s just 20 minutes down the road. But by foot, it was another five hours of muscle burning slog.

Tonight as I drive home and just before I hurtle in to the darkness of the Hindhead tunnel, I’ll look up at the pine clad slopes which gave us such a short, sharp workout and look at the gap in the trees where we stared down at an incredible feat of engineering. At the time, we stood and waved our top hats at the passing traffic slicing down the valley of the new road but no one waved, flashed their light or hooted their horns. I doubt if anyone will be there, but I’ll be keeping a lookout, just in case.

Yesterday I went back to the Dickens Fellowship Conference and the lecture theatre we tried to enter on Thursday night was now properly open. I was there to chair a talk given by Martin Jennings on the making of his fine statue of Charles Dickens. You could have heard a pin drop as he shared his insight, motivation and approach to the commission and the thought and attention to detail that has gone in to four months of creativity was impressive. Some Dickens fans have been against the idea of a statue because they believe it goes against the wording of Dickens’s Will but afterwards, a steady queue of academics had clearly been won round and are now convinced that this is an important project to support.

We thought so too, which is why we got off our backsides and slogged our guts out for five days. My goal had always been to create a catalyst that would be picked up by others and the media coverage we generated can only have helped. But in terms of unlocking funds through our efforts, it’s been a bit if a disappointment. The current combined total for the Statue Fund and the National Literacy Trust stands at just under £4,000 – way short of our £10,000 personal target.

We are incredibly grateful to all those who made donations, either through the links here or out on the road. The first contribution as we walked was a £1 coin given to us on the first day in Chelsea and it will play its part in allowing the foundry to buy another bronze ingot as they prepare for the statue to be cast. 

If you have been following us but have yet to pledge your support, the lines are, unsurprisingly, still open and will remain so until all the funds are secured. If you click on the statue link at the top of this blog, don’t be surprised that it takes you to the Portsmouth City Council web site. They are enthusiastic supporters of the project and their finance department has created the ability to make a contribution that will be handed over to the statue fund. Click on ‘Miscellaneous’ on the first page and you will see Dickens Statue as an option. Simply follow directions from there.

Getting a rich benefactor to write a cheque for £60,000 is, I guess, a bit like driving to Liss in a Range Rover. If you have one, then it's dead easy and you do it without a moments thought. But if you don't, then the long slog with a firm eye on the goal is the only option open to us.

We are desperately eager to achieve - driven, infact.



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