Day 2: Chesham to Stoke Hammond
Going the extra mile (s)
You might think that a solo 400-mile walk would be rather lonely but Neil hasn't had chance to find out yet. He started off with a very supportive group of residents who would be impacted by a third runway, one of whom stayed with him for the whole first day. On day two he had the telephone and modern technology for company but he probably wished he hadn't.
Neil isn't a big user of modern gadgets (his chunky little "builders' Nokia" spattered with paint is a giveaway) however, he's been told they are essential to keep in touch with the media along the way. He wants people the length of the country to know why stopping Heathrow expansion is so important.
There seems to be more than enough things to keep Neil's mind occupied as he covers the miles. For example, when you think of it, every road and pathway for the next three weeks will be unknown territory. It must be pretty tiring always having to check that you are on the right track. It only takes one engrosing phone call to cause a loss of concentration and a wrong turn.
Oh yes, a distance walker's nightmare happened just that way today and Neil found he had walked an extra five miles before he met up with Uncle Ray and the van.
He wondered about his route and even asked a local for directions. Lesson One: Never rely on the geographical knowledge of someone you have just met on the street.
A look at the schedule shows that Neil was planning to walk from 8am until 3.30pm on Day 2. The unexpected detour meant he finished the last of the day's mileage in the dark, which is never good when you're living in a van and value every minute of natural daylight.
Neil intended to send back a video diary and had completed some filming on an expansion-related "Topic of the Day". We were looking forward to seeing it, particularly as he couldn't film anything at the end of the day due to insufficient light. Then Neil's laptop decided it didn't like the lower voltage of the van.
There has also been the discovery that different maps used to plot the route can be very different. Oops. Lesson Two: Before you set out, check that everyone has EXACTLY the same route. (Who knows the difference between Google maps and Google Earth for directions? Then add a sat nav into the mix!)
You see, this is not all about just putting one foot in front of the other. As if that wasn't tough enough.
We hope Neil gets a good night's sleep and doesn't wake up with aches and pains caused by another little extra exercise today - jumping up and down a high grass verge to avoid oncoming traffic! Better check that he packed his hard hat and hi-vis for tomorrow.
Harmondsworth and Sipson, two of the villages under threat, had their residents' association AGM on Wednesday night.
Everyone is wishing Neil and Ray a safe and successful journey.
Even though Grow Heathrow were taken to court this week and are under threat of eviction from their home of seven years in Sipson, a group came to offer the villages their continuing support.
Some residents have already made plans to travel up to Scotland to support Neil...
...and will be following his progress online...
...and supporting his family while he is away.