Adding some images of Stage 4 (final stage) to give me time to write this last post. One day on I’m still feeling pretty tired, through pleased the journey is completed and I am still in one piece (just!)
It’s taken me several days to vaguely recuperate and be able to feel rested enough both physically and emotionally to continue writing this post. It’s been a strange feeling to be back in the buzz of the city and to see people after being largely on my own in the countryside and caught up in my own thoughts for the best part of the week.
The last stage of the run last Thursday 1st February began from the Queen’s Head pub in Littlebury, near Audley End, where I had stayed the night before. I had been told by one of the marketing people at Anglia Ruskin University that ITV Anglia were going to turn up to film me setting off. I couldn’t remember the time they had said they would arrive and eager to set off at my prescribed time of 10am, I decided not to wait around when they had not turned up by then. I’m not terribly comfortable with media attention, especially at the time of setting off, when I need to be in a very particular kind of head-space. I was quite anxious about this route, as even though this last section should have been the shortest, having not previously tested it out, it was also unpredictable so anything could happen. However, the weather was cool and sunny, ideal conditions for running in.
I found a little detour on a minor road that would take me right beside the railway and a crossing, before joining the B1383 road to Great Chesterford, which also followed the railway on one side and the River Cam on the other. Crossing back over the railway took me onto a smaller road and into the pretty ‘chocolate-box’ village of Ickleton. One thing that has been remarkable about making this journey is the discovery of these small places that I would otherwise not have encountered. Although not strickly on the rail route, Ickleton is one of these places that due to the particularity of the landscape around it (in the waterways and small tributaries that separate it from the railway), I found myself detouring into as a means of navigating through. I would never have seen it otherwise.
The same could almost be said for the Wetlands Nature Reserve, also the site of the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus. I had spotted the footpath through it when trying to formulate a navigable route using Google Earth Pro prior to starting this stage and I was particularly drawn to it as an off road route close to the rail track, but I couldn’t tell quite how far it would take me or if I would get caught out by a waterway I would be unable to cross. As it was, it proved perfectly negotiable and a welcome retreat into nature. This place was set up to ‘provide a range of habitats for local plant and animal species’ and also acts as a ‘natural flood relief mechanism’. What’s more, it is a conservation resource that anyone can enjoy for free. The sunny weather by contrast to the previous day made it all the more special.
A bonus to this route, was the chance encounter at the end of a ‘permissive footpath’, which took me further along the trajectory of the River Cam, instead of along the road through the village of Hinxton that I had planned to take. Not only was it nearer to the path of the railway, but it allowed me to continue my foray into nature and to have a more solitary, (albeit muddy) experience. I had never come across a ‘permissive’ footpath before and assumed it was another kind of public footpath, until I came across a notice that told me otherwise. Apparently, ‘only persons who have a permanent place of residence in the Parish of Hinxton and their bona fide invitees, who shall at all times be accompanied by a Hinxton resident, are allowed to use this permissive footpath.’ I found this rather baffling: apart from discovering this notice some way along the footpath, I wondered quite how this ruling could be policed. I carried on until I reached the Hinxton road at the path’s end.
Turning left, this would take me back across to the other side of the railway into Duxford, a strange place that on the one hand is steeped in history and is perhaps better known as being the home of RAF Duxford (and the 2nd site of the Imperial War Museum) and which on the other hand houses two large industrial units / factories and a sewage treatment plant. The existence of the latter close to the railway meant quite a wide detour using the main road through the village, coming out at Whittelesford and then Whittlesford Parkway startion, where I crossed back over the line…
From there, again to avoid the myriad of tributaries from the River Cam and the likelihood of getting stuck the otherside of a stretch of water I would be unable to cross, I took a busy section of the A505 to join the A1301. This was a long straight road into Shelford, that followed the path of the river and would at times also run close to the side of the railway. An initial useful cycle/walking path diverted further out towards Sawston so I decided not to take it and to keep going on the A1301. This road was not made for pedestrians of any kind: although the grass verges were wide, they were unkempt, lumpy and hard. Trying to run on them was like running in thick, heavy sand, only worse and I risked twisting my ankle. I walked for the most part; the busy road with constantly oncoming traffic meant that I couldn’t easy divert onto it, but I did where I could, until the next car came along. It wasn’t much fun and I was pleased when I finally arrived on the edge of Great Shelford, where I could also see a cycle route sign that told me there were only 4 miles to Cambridge.
I knew that from here, not far from the Shelford railway crossing, that there is a path that aligns the railway as far as the new development at Addenbrookes, where you have to cross over to join the path alongside the guided bus route that takes you to Cambridge Rail Station. I see this every time I take the train from London to Cambridge and I have longed to run along it. Now was my chance and although I was beginning to feel the effects of the past 4 days, I was determined to find a last burst of energy that would see me through along the home strait. This last stretch was quite an effort but I felt strangely exhilarated by the knowledge that the end of this run was almost in sight and somehow I managed to pick up and run at a slightly faster pace.
I arrived at Cambridge Station shortly before 2pm, earlier than anticipated, although, at just short of 15 miles, this had been the shortest stage of the run. I knew that I was supposed to make a ‘grand entrance’ into the exhibition drinks reception at around 5.30, so I had some time to kill. I made my way to the AMT coffee stall and combined waiting room on the station platform, a suitable place to recuperate for a bit and to have some much needed sustenance. After about an hour and a half I felt that I had outstayed my welcome so moved on to the coffee lounge at the Ibis. Another coffee, bottle of water and a portuguese custard tart kept me going for another hour and a half before it was time to get going to make my entrance at the Ruskin Gallery. Feeling replete and rested, the short run was a breeze in the dark, spoiled only by the recent onset of wind and rain. As I entered the gallery, speeches were being made and there was a brief pause for a grand applause. I felt slightly overwhelmed and embarrassed by the attention and when asked if I wanted to say anything, couldn’t find the breath or words to speak. It didn’t matter, as my colleague smiled and handed me a bottle of Prosecco to congratulate me… It was good to have finally arrived.