08.03.2020 Moorfields Eye to Eye walk + 6 miles on South Bank
So Walk 3 had an added focus this time. As well as being a 20 mile walk for my twenty twenty challenge, it incorporated the Moorfields Eye Hospital Charity Walk; 14 miles around London starting at Moorfields Eye Hospital and finishing at the London Eye.
The Genetics Team at Moorfields monitor the progression of my Macular Dystrophy as well as reviewing my DNA profile for the genetic flaw. They also supported my sister when she was younger, for treatment of her congenital cataracts, and therefore they are an organisation that have been important to our family and I was keen to give them my support. Joining the Eye to Eye walk enabled me to raise some funds for them as well as my wider challenge for the Macular Society.
An early alarm call for me as I was catching the 7am train to enable me to get to Moorfields in time for my 8.30am start time. It was tight timings, but I arrived with 10 minutes to spare – emerging from Old Street tube at 8.15 and following the familiar green line to the door of Moorfields to sign in.
I was tackling this 14 mile walk without my usual company, however, there were plenty of others donning the distinctive blue T shirts and raising money for Moorfields. The waiting area was filled with people; young and old, some severely visually impaired and a number of dogs too – both assistance dogs and family pets. Every person had a personal connection to this hospital and the range of their work is incredible. You can find out more about them at : www.moorfieldseyecharity.org.uk
The walk was on open streets, meaning that we were not on a closed event course. We had to follow the route map, guided by signage and navigate the usual ‘traffic’ of runners, cyclists and people just enjoying a sunny Sunday morning.
The route took us out to Angel and Islington then along the Regents Canal through Kings Cross and Camden. Its such a great oasis of calm through London and really well used even early on a Sunday morning. We left the canal towpath at Camden and headed out into the North London streets
Now we were heading up, and it definitely was up, to Parliament Hill, Hampstead Heath and Primrose Hill. Following the orange arrows that kept us on the right route. I wasn’t expecting the hills, but it did provide some great views – tantalising glimpses of the London Eye on the horizon, and the BT Tower which would be just after the half way point. It was hard walking through these areas as the sun was shining and the coffee shops were filled with people having a relaxed Sunday brunch and read of the papers. It was so tempting to grab a break but I was still only 5 miles into the walk and had to keep moving.
Around Regents Park, several of the walkers around me were stopping to take photos of the 7 mile marker. I was confused at first – and then I realised that for these people this was their half way point. Its a natural photo opportunity.
The route now brought us back into West London, and a familiar area for me. I worked in Baker Street for many years so Marylebone High Street and the side streets around here were an old haunt and whilst lots had changed, there were many buildings (and bars) that I still recognised .
We had a slight route change now, as the event was no longer allowed to walk through Hyde Park and we had to walk around it from Marble Arch, down Park Lane and on to Hyde Park Corner. My half way marker (10 miles) should have been right in the middle of Hyde Park surrounded by green with daffodils bobbing around it in the sunshine. However, it was now attached (a bit wonkily) to a lamppost in Park Lane. Hey – it was still a milestone and I wasn’t complaining as the sun was shining!
I now knew I had just 4 miles (around an hour) left before I finished the Eye to Eye walk and met up with my walking buddies for the final ‘freestyle’ 6 miles. It was around 11.15 so I was making good time, and I was already on Constitution Hill heading towards Buckingham Palace. It was VERY busy – of course it was, I’d managed to arrive right in the middle of Changing of the Guard. The time when every tourist in London heads there and holds their ground. It wasn’t easy getting through the crowd , but once I did, I managed to breakthrough onto the Mall and walk straight down the centre – pretty much having it to myself!
Now I was in tourist heaven, ticking off key sights in the next two miles: Buckingham Palace; Trafalgar Square; The Savoy Hotel; Houses of Parliament and of course the finish point the London Eye.
It was now almost 12.30 and I was at the finish line for Eye to Eye. I had some admin to do – get signed in so the organisers knew I had completed the course safely and collect my finishers medal. This meant a trip up to the fourth floor of County Hall where the organisers were offering me hot drinks, massages and food – they seemed rather confused when I said- I’d love to but I’m actually completing a 20 mile walk today for The Macular Society so I need to carry on for another 6 miles..
I did find this a bit difficult as everything up to this point had been focused on 14 miles – and everyone around was now celebrating the finish – I’d literally crossed a finishing line, been given a medal, but hadn’t really finished!
I had told my husband Neil, and friend Nicola, that I should be at the London Eye between 12.30 & 1. So the plan was we would meet there and complete a further 6 miles. They had had some travel challenges (weekend rail works meaning no trains for them) and were heading in by tube from North Greenwich. When I called them they were on their way to the London Eye from Waterloo tube station and what should have been a simple meet up became a bit of a comedy. We kept missing each other, which my walking App’s map shows quite well!
We eventually managed to meet and the new plan, given the train situation, was to now walk back to Greenwich where Neil had left the car. This was part of Nicola’s running routes and so we knew it would definitely get me to the full 20 miles. However, just as we met up, the heavens opened and quickly went from a shower to a real deluge. We took refuge in the British Film Institute Cafe so I could grab a quick coffee and switch Charity T shirts.
The rain stopped and we stood up to head off along the South Bank. I realised very quickly I had forgotten something. This was my third 20 mile walk in 18 days , and these long walks do put some strain on the body so it is essential that when you stop, you stretch to stop things seizing up. In the excitement of the downpour I’d just thrown myself onto the seat without the crucial stretch.
My right hip flexor was moaning – it was very happy sitting down thank you very much, and really not keen to join in for another 6 miles. I did try to stretch it out but it was a bit late – it gave me a wonky gait and some discomfort for the rest of the walk. Even the sights of the Tower of London, St Pauls and Tower bridge couldn’t distract me.
Now we were following the Thames Eastwards and the familiar rhythm of walking with friends, dogs and inane chatter. In the above video clip we were talking about little known gems hidden across London, and Nicola is encouraging me to go and visit the ‘Cathedral of Sewage’.. No I didn’t know about it either , but its now on the must see list.
I’d like to say these last miles flew by, but I was feeling the miles in my hip and my companions were on very fresh legs. The cobbles of Shad Thames were pretty but not very welcome and I was pleased to get back on standard pavement again.
Around 3pm my 20 mile marker sounded on my phone. We were still over 2 miles from Greenwich and the clouds were picking up again and ahead of us we could see the ‘stop’ for the Thames Clipper that could whizz us the short distance down the river to central Greenwich – it got my vote!
We had just missed the 3.18 boat (typical!) so had a 20 minute wait to take in the impressive view that you get from this part of the river and , importantly for me, an opportunity to get stretching some more. We were back in Greenwich grabbing a late Brunch before 4pm, the sunshine and showers giving us an impressive rainbow. Seemed like a fitting end to the day.
Walk Three definitely had been a bit of a stretch. Although, ironically, this was probably because there had been no stretching….