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  • Writer's pictureJane Smith

South Downs Way day zero - in Winchester

For the last three years, when I've embarked on the long distance walks that I've done during the summers, I've been almost overwhelmed with anxiety before setting off. Generally that anxiety attaches itself to a real or imagined physical ailment, often my back, but always giving me the feeling that my body will in some way let me down, or that I won't be able to rely on it. This year I've had no anxiety of that sort, even though the lack of training for the walk ahead should realistically and plausibly cause me concern. Instead I've been having to cope with such a challenging psychological event, which I suppose has given my mind no time to consider any other stresses.

This blog is not the forum for what I've had to deal with over the last couple of months, but the result of it is that I am having to manage a complex emotional situation, and am dealing with profound grief unconnected to a bereavement. It means that I'm embarking on this walk with a different mindset to before. More confidence in my physical abilities, in that I'm assuming I'll be fine, and far less in my psychological ones, in that I'm assuming I won't be fine. So, although this walk is 'only' 100 miles, I think it will be a huge achievement if I manage to complete it, and even more if I can use it to help my recovery. I am very keen to not feel so sad anymore.

David drove me to Winchester, with me doing my usual audit of all the things I might have forgotten on the way, feeling cocky that I'd got everything. Only to realise with a sinking feeling that my trusty battered thermos had been left behind. Fortunately two good friends are joining me for a while on Thursday afternoon, and have promised to bring it with them. So those followers who have previously enjoyed the al fresco cups of tea descriptions will only miss out on two days worth. I bet those people who have just signed up to the blog are beginning to wonder how to unsubscribe....

Winchester is a beautiful little city. The Celts and then the Romans hung out there and it was later the Saxon capital of England. And then in 1066 the town surrendered to William the Conqueror. His name crops up on various buildings off the high street, as stones from his palace are incorporated in them. But the heart of the city, as far as I could see, is the Cathedral. It's the longest medieval cathedral in the world, built, extended and rebuilt over a period of 450 years. That sort of statistic astonishes me. To imagine how many architects, to say nothing of the stone masons, wood carvers and labourers, that would be involved in this project, and for it to be finished looking like it all belongs together is amazing. David and I have just come back from Spain. The cathedral in Cádiz ended up being built in at least two distinct architectural styles and using various types of stone because the first type was too expensive. No such feeling here in Winchester.

The other thing that was breathtaking was the cost to get in. Because we only had a little while, the volunteer on the door very kindly let us in for free for a minute or two so that we could glimpse just how glorious the interior is. I think I might pop in there again before starting the walk tomorrow. It's not at the official beginning of the trail, but it feels like the iconic place to start, and that sort of beauty can't help but buoy me up.

So I write this after David has gone home, and I'm surveying my waterproofs, boots and poles in my hotel room, reminding myself of how to use my various bits of tech, feeling surprised and cautiously pleased that the forecast has improved. And I catch myself feeling excited about tomorrow, and for the first time in weeks feeling maybe a bit more like myself. I know many wouldn't see the idea of walking for miles on their own in the wet as a recipe for healing, but I'm feeling little shoots of hope that maybe for me it's just what I need.

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valbaty
Apr 04

I was pleased to see 'Jane's Big Walk' back in amongst my emails. I'm looking forward to reading about your adventures.

I find being immersed in nature and walking freely in the countryside healing, and I'm pretty sure it will heal you too, Jane.

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sophie.holroyd67
Apr 03

Breathe deeply in, dear Jane, and let the rhythm of solo walking give you some meditative peace. There will be plenty to look at and delight, and all the people to meet, fleetingly, on the path.

The construction of the cathedrals truly is a remarkable phenomenon. Today we can’t even build HS2!

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jlburn
Apr 02

"You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think" xxx

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Jane Smith
Jane Smith
Apr 03
Replying to

And you are so lovely. ❤️❤️❤️

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dianeholden15
Apr 02

Wasn't it Winchester Cathedral that was being built in the Ken Follett book we read for when he came to book group? It was such an amazing vision to have and to be able to achieve. Walking in nature is so good for healing and I hope you find it so at the end of this journey. Just put one foot in front of the other until you feel better.

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Jane Smith
Jane Smith
Apr 03
Replying to

We are people who know people…..🤣🤣🤣

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debbijstevenson
Apr 02

Walking is good for the soul. Give yourself time to think, or not, cry and stamp your foot and then you can reconstruct. Really hope the weather isn't too challenging

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Jane Smith
Jane Smith
Apr 03
Replying to

Yes, walking seems to be the thing that fixes me better than anything. Thanks.

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