Day 5 - Isham to Corby
Getting into his stride
Five days into the 400-mile walk and Neil is loving it. The weather has been glorious and Neil is striding out, enjoying the scenery and even getting a better grip on technology. Yesterday he even reported that, despite being a technophobe, he had used a tablet for his route. (If you're reading this online we'll assume you know what a tablet is. Neil only discovered how to use one on the night before he set off!)
Ray, who is 83, had never used a satnav before but is doing a sterling job getting to places on route to meet up with Neil. It has been a bit tricky sometimes as some of the distances and subsequent timings were based on car travel. Walking distances can add the odd mile.
Neil must be wary of asking for directions after his earlier bad experience but he has also had some good advice. Yesterday, a helpful policeman suggested an alternative route that took Neil near lakes rather than beside traffic. Alternative routes often add distance but Neil has found that Google walking routes lead to some busy roads. Although he did like the lovely red asphalt on the A road into Olney, which was a relief for tired legs.
Actually Neil has been doing well physically, so much so that he carried on beyond his accommodation in Wellingborough yesterday. Neil knew that the eleven or so miles that day were aimed to give him a rest but he's aware that the weather and terrain are good for walking at the moment. There will be tougher times to come, when 20 miles a day could be a struggle.
Ray had to drive Neil back to Wellingborough for the night but it was worth it. There was a big old Victorian roll-top bath waiting at a friend's house and a chance to wash and dry the kit. By the time all the facilities had been utilised it was 2am! It looks like the schedule will need to be more flexible with some of the stop-off points arranged only a couple of days ahead.
After a good night's sleep, Ray dropped Neil at St Peter's Church at Isham, where he had finished walking the day before. Then it was 4 miles on refreshed legs to Kettering, not forgetting the sunscreen.
In Kettering, Neil and Uncle Ray met Alan Heath from the Green Party and had a look round a low-impact regeneration project called The Yards. The buildings were originally a fire station and a garage but have been renovated and divided into quirky little craft units and a variety of shops selling things like gifts, toys, chocolate and even guitars.
It is hard to imagine such a project in the Heathrow Villages, where developers eye up every available piece of land or old building to make a profit - largely by getting permission to create something airport related like hotels or coach parks. While the villages are under threat there is virtually no prospect of investment in facilities or services for local people. This is a lesser-known impact of Heathrow's repeated demands for a runway that will never be built.
Villagers also live with air quality that fails EU regulations. One of the worst monitors, that is impacted by Heathrow traffic on the M4, is next to a primary school. While the limits are averaged at 40 micrograms of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) per cubic metre there are peaks and troughs in the readings. The monitor by the school has registered levels over 200 when traffic is heavy.
Air pollution is a major issue for the UK. In 2016, it was found that more than 90 per cent of the country’s population breathes highly polluted air on a daily basis, according to the World Health Organisation. Research has shown that children's lungs can be stunted by air pollution and the damage cannot be reversed. Our government considers that this is an acceptable price to pay to increase the profits of polluting businesses, such as foreign-owned Heathrow.
Any promise that suggest expansion can happen without increasing pollution is ridiculous. There would be at least 250,000 more flights with an inevitable increase in vehicles.
Alan told Neil that North Hants Green Party groups are putting polution monitors around the town and several in Northampton. Alan is very supportive of our efforts to stop Heathrow expansion and we appreciate him taking the time to meet Neil and Ray on their journey.