• Our trepid explorers at the rendezvous point outside East Grinstead railway station.

As you may already be aware, the Connaught Club has this year chosen to raise funds for Veterans Aid. One of several fundraising exercises we’ve planned was our charity walk. At the time it seemed like a good idea, and truthfully, it was.

That doesn’t mean it was plain sailing though. There were quite a few wobbles along the way. In fact, I started out on the wrong foot from the very beginning. I first realised I had a problem with my choice of footwear at Victoria Station whilst waiting for Bro. John Lam to arrive in order to catch our train to the rendezvous point. Having been a really hot summer so far, I had arrived at the conclusion the ground would be rock solid and therefore I’d get away with wearing my running trainers. Quite frankly, this is one of the poorest decisions I have ever made. I was getting hot spots before I had even started. Yes, the others would be joining me in my predicament but it wasn’t fun to be the first one. Nevertheless, we arrived at the starting point outside East Grinstead railway station and commenced our “yomp” in high spirits. It was hard not to, especially with our mascot Bracken the Wonder Dog at our sides. The pace did actually catch me off guard, it was surprisingly quick. I did my best to slow it down by looking for a shop to purchase a toothbrush. Then before I knew it, we had ticked off a few miles and we were sitting down to enjoy a nice pub lunch. The first of a few watering holes on our route. A route I may add, that was well thought up by Bro. Anthony Muirhead a local/committee member who was “conveniently” overseeing the logistics rather than taking part in walking. I jest. Upon arrival at our first campsite, our tent had been erected and there were some cold beers waiting for us. Truly welcome after our first day. We couldn’t have asked for a nicer campsite either. The owner of Little Bohemia, Nutfield had discovered we were walking for a charitable cause and therefore made a goulash to feed a small army. So much in fact, that even the other campers got to enjoy a free dinner. We sat on long benches chowing down just like school dinners. Great fun.

The night wasn’t over though, we had more fuel in the tank. After a quick call to a local minicab company, we found ourselves in another pub, meeting up with the final member of our tribe. Brother Emmanouil Bitzaros, who had recently joined the club, was yet to meet those participating in the walk but was keen to jump in feet first. It must have been strange for him waiting in a pub for over an hour for the arrival of some strangers to take him away to a tent in the middle of nowhere. Funnily enough, I’ve just been looking through my emails and seen his completed Walk Sign Up form. Under “what equipment will you need to borrow?” he had written “Sleeping bag, Roll mat”. I guess that one slipped through the net because he didn’t get either and had to sleep in his coat. To compensate, we made sure he got extra bacon in the morning. Actually, we all had ridiculous amounts of bacon. I’ve never had so much bacon in all my life – it just kept coming.

The second day was the big day. The first was a nice intro of 15 miles to get us into the swing of things but the second was when we really had to cover some distance. As you know my feet were already torn to shreds but I put on a brave face and set out with the rest of the gang with a tinge of apprehensiveness. This was soon forgotten though, Surrey’s rolling countryside soon saw to that and Bro. Mungo Walls, our dedicated “Twitterer”, kept us abreast of our social media exploits and alerted us to donations on our Virgin Giving page. Our target was to reach the rugby pitches of Dulwich Prep School, and over the course of the day, we covered over 26 miles getting there. We were pooped, and after a takeaway pizza each, we crashed out.

Another morning, more bacon.

The third, and final day was a cinch. We really thought it would be harder, but I guess we were just eager to get this done and dusted, plus all of friends and family would be waiting for us at the finish line. We only had to cover 9.1 miles and we could enjoy the Club’s BBQ. After the obligatory photo outside Freemasons’ Hall to symbolise our achievement, we moseyed over to Lincoln’s Inn Fields to enjoy some burgers and sausages. A slight snag though, there was a London wide ban on all BBQs – we didn’t foresee that one. Yet our spirits we not to be dampened, a swift trip to a nearby supermarket solved our troubles and we all tucked into a picnic platter.

For those that participated in the walk, I think it’s safe to say we all had a great time. Yes, there aches and blisters etc. but we still muddled through it. Half of us had no serious walking experience at all and in fact, given the opportunity, I’m sure we’d do it all again. Although, I doubt we’d be so keen if Bro. Rob Morgan wasn’t involved. He navigated the Ordnance Survey map with compass in hand so skilfully that I still lay in bed at night thanking my lucky stars that he came along. (My Google Maps print-outs were woefully inadequate, and the expedition could have quite easily descended into farce!)

So far, our little excursion has raised £1,018.75 – and counting…

If you’d like to donate please visit our fund’s page – http://bit.ly/ccwalk18