After a few (but not enough) practice walks, it was time for me and Jackie to tackle 20 miles of beautiful Oxfordshire countryside to complete the Pink Ribbon Walk for Breast Cancer Care.
Accommodation was courtesy of The Bell Inn (more to follow on that) in Charlbury which was only 10 minutes from the start and finish which was in the stunning grounds of Blenheim Palace. It is steeped in history. It is privately owned by the Duke of Marlborough and it is where Winston Churchill was born.
The Bell Inn, a 17th century coaching inn, had recently been taken over by a new owner. We named him Toby and he named us “guys” or “Room 2 & Co – the walkers”. He had previously run a restaurant in London and was obviously new to hotel management. He desperately needed a visit from Alex Politzi, the Hotel Inspector, or a slot on Four in a Bed. On the surface everything looked fine on arrival. Jon and I had a modernish refurbed room over the bar with a huge modern bathroom. No bath though which does not help with the post walk achy leg situation. Jackie and Trevor had a quaint room in the roof space of the Inn. Again no bath and the added complication of three flights of stairs. Both Trevor and Jon offered a piggy back to Jackie if the legs were not up to it on Saturday evening or Sunday morning but both offers were not surprisingly declined. There were a few minor things with our room. A light fitting hanging loose in the bathroom, the toilet leaked at the back and the sink was slow to empty so obviously blocked but nothing that was too dreadful.
All was looking good until we asked about breakfast. It started at 8am and we needed to be registering for our walk at that time. After first being told by Toby that we could take some cereals and “yohoogert” to our room that evening (as he wouldn’t be up!), it was then decided that the lady who did the breakfasts was always in early so we could come down and help ourselves to cereals, toast and coffee but it would be a bit early for cooked food. Not a problem, or so we thought. We came down at 7.30am to find the breakfast room in complete darkness and, even worse, we were locked in. That’s when “Operation Breakfast and Escape” kicked in. Jon managed to get the doors unlocked and we all raided the pub kitchen for bread, butter, milk, orange juice and did a DIY version. Over breakfast, we heard the stories from Jackie and Trevor of showers not working, no heating, cold bedroom, no lights on the stairs, etc. Being true Brits they soldiered on without a fuss.
Trevor and Jon said their goodbyes to us after the warm up.
Despite the trusted BBC forecast of no rain, it rained for the first hour or so then a few more half hour sessions along the way. Nothing could dampen our spirits though and we can natter and people watch through any conditions. The rest stops were most welcome although the volunteers at rest stop 2 had decided that it was too cold and wet to stand out so they were off the road in a garage with a patio heater. Shame on you!!
Jon and Trevor managed to track our progress and meet up with us where possible. The walk was fabulous and, for me, the scenery and route were better than Leeds Castle last year. The only thing lacking was an atmosphere – not so many chatty, happy, fundraisers but Jackie and I more than made up for their attitude. Thankfully, at the end we did not get a microphone shoved in our faces. After a cup of tea and some pasta – we were ready to head to the Inn.
Thankfully Jackie had hot water but at the price of the toilet not flushing. You can’t have it all. Toby did not leap into action and get it resolved so Trevor saved the day by filling up the bin with water and flushing the toilet that way. Maybe they are still thinking it is 17th century and use chamber pots (or bins!)
We enjoyed a lovely meal at the Duke of Marlborough. Weirdly a hospital bed complete with a teddy bear patient arrived (and that was before the Presecco!) Evidently it was another charity event or he was just a strange hitch hiker.
On Sunday morning, the lights were on in the breakfast room, we had a reserved table and the breakfast was very good – although I think the DIY one was much more fun! We spent the morning in Woodstock which is a beautiful village, had coffee, people watched a bit more and then headed home.
It was such a lovely weekend. Special thanks to my lovely friend Jackie for asking me to join her and who patiently listens to all my silly whoops, songs and family news. Can’t wait to 2016 and another venue and a few new team members (Sarah and Tabitha please note)……….