Walk 6

The Virtual One : Tunbridge Wells to Tonbridge

Ever regret committing to something well in advance? Find yourself painted into a corner through your own actions? I’ve always prided myself as being a great contingency planner – despite having to, ahem, “leave” the Girl Guides (that’s a story for another time..), I’m sure my friends, family and colleagues would say I’m someone that personifies the “be prepared’ slogan.

Yet, when I announced in December that I was committing to complete 20, 20 mile walks for The Macular Society during 2020, a pandemic lockdown was not a scenario I considered: bad weather; injury ; apathy ; work priorities ; family dramas – all had been considered, and there was always a way I could see of still completing the walks.

This is however, just an extra ratchet to the challenge. In hindsight, planning 20, 20 miles walks then completing them with friends and family was fairly straightforward. The new challenge is creating events that fulfill the brief of a 20 mile walk without breaching the lockdown restrictions. So far , under lockdown, I’ve completed Walk 4 by walking within the confines of my garden and neighbours’ field and Walk 5 was a community walk where friends and family donated a mile (or more) from their permitted daily exercise. To stay on track for completion in the timeframe – a Walk needs to happen roughly every 2 weeks.

I had already planned a number of Walks – all carefully mapped out on the Ordnance Survey App, and it was becoming disheartening to feel these were not going to happen. So I started to scan social media for ideas. How were people that walk for a living managing at the moment – and that led me to discover @Blitzwalker on Twitter and @look_uplondon on Instagram. Both usually guide Walking Tours around London and have brought their tours onto social media. They run as ‘Live’ events or for posts to be revisited when time allows.

So a plan was formed – I had a local route planned and I knew a number of landmarks along the way (with a bit of tweaking to pass them), so I set about creating the Virtual Walk.

Just borrowing images of these landmarks from the internet didn’t seem enough somehow. I’m conscious that fundraising through a challenge should actually involve a fair amount of effort – however tempting a shortcut is. Why else would people donate to support me?

This collation of sights along the route was also something I had set out to do as part of each of my walks. Capturing photos and creating a blog to record the journey is a key element to this – so you can all see what I’m doing and that I am actually doing it!

Its also a challenge in itself, as my blind spot in my vision can make capturing photos difficult – often the image I end up with is not the one I thought I’d taken, as my brain struggles to adapt to different light or perspectives.

My macular condition is still relatively mild, and the impact on my vision is at the ‘irritating’ level. Here’s a good representation using a photo of our Spaniel Ruby. The first is the actual photo, and the second is how this appears to me.

Ruby
Ruby – early stage Macular Pattern Dystrophy impact

You can see the impact of my blind spot and how it mists part of my visual field. It varies in noticeability depending on how well my brain is managing to cope with filling in missing visual signals. Changes in light, tiredness, motion, and too much glare can all have an impact and my vision is impacted and can lead to flashing lights that progress to an aura and an ocular migraine.

Capturing views and images that I love is really important to me now, and its something that members of the macular society community talk about – creating vision memories.

So this Virtual Walk was making me think hard about the vision memories on the route. These would be the landmarks I would use for the ‘event’ itself. I realised that I actually only had a headline knowledge about these places, despite having lived in the area for 30 years. If I was going to demonstrate some effort in this particular challenge, then I should do some research and try and find some ‘well I never knew that facts’ to throw in.

So that’s what I did – research the landmarks and gather some information to share in each post. Research and writing the ‘journey’ took several hours over the weekend but gave me a framework so I could post the Walk with a sense of flow as if actually moving from one place to the next. I started posting at 11.30am and then every 15 minutes right through til 5pm. Almost as long as doing the walk for real (Ordnance Survey says it would take 7 hours).

You can find the walk on my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts and I have also created a separate Route blog for this one, so you can read at leisure.

Thank you for those who popped in and out of the walk throughout the day, joining in the conversation and sharing their own memories or interesting facts. It helped keep me going.

I do plan to actually go and do the Walk for real when restrictions are lifted , and take photos to match those that I borrowed from the internet.. Hopefully a few of you would like to join me and you can test how much of the facts I can remember!

Thanks again for all your support, encouragement and donations. Now to think about Walk 7..

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