Day 91, 92,93,94,95,96, 97,98,99,100,101
Met Kev and Alex his son, outside the mess and we headed to iron bridge on a lovely scenic walk! Upon arrival at the lovely Maws craft shops we met Anne, the fabulous RAF mum that I had met earlier that week.
We walked around to a pub on the river for breakfast but unfortunately it was closed for a few weeks. We found a little cafe instead, situated in the centre of Ironbridge and enjoyed a suitable breakfast for walking as well as great conversation. We then mosied off down river, taking full advantage of some wonderful scenery and a little history.
There were some huge industrial cooling towers that loomed over the river. I’m sure in their time they have witnessed some history on that river.
We looped around and headed in a different direction. It was lovely chatting with Anne and finding out more about this inspirational woman. It was wonderful to share the walk with her, and meet another RAF mum, just like Debbie, Clare, Jane, Judy and Lesley.
A recurring theme of this walk for me, seems to be cake. True to form, we stopped later in the afternoon for a lovely piece of cake at a little hidden tea shop.
Having eaten breakfast a bit to quickly, and forgetting that I’m used to eating little and often, I didn’t feel right well, and my stomach was cramping badly. However, I wasn’t going to let that stop me eating cake. So a delicious chocolate brownie and cream was ordered.
It was a really great day and it was amazing to walk with such lovely people.
After saying goodbye to Anne, Kev dropped me off at Rich’s house where I was staying with him and his lovely wife Rebekah. I was shattered, so after a BBQ and conversation until the early evening, I headed to bed.
Monday, I was collected by Brian and we went to the engagement hub. He worked really hard to facilitate my trip, which I appreciated beyond belief. So much so, I got bit emotional. The support and help from him and his team really meant a great deal.
On Tuesday Rebekah and I headed off on a walk to Shifnal with Merrie their dog.
We walked along back roads and on A roads. It was a nice comfortable walk that gave us plenty of chance to chat and for me to find out more regarding life as an RAF partner. We also chatted about plenty of girlie things. Funnily enough, we ended up in the pub.
Once home, we had the most enormous fish and chips. I was stuffed again, seems I never learn. Another early night was in store. Tiredness is definitely catching up with me now.
The following morning I was due to walk with a few of the team to the official arrival at Cosford. It was a really pleasant walk in the cool sun, around the country lanes of Shropshire.
On our travels, we came across an awesome 1940s vintage tearoom. Decorated in the period vintage style, whilst playing music from the era. All the china and crockery were also from the 40s.
It was situated in the grounds of Boscobel House and you can find them on Facebook as The 1940s Tearoom! We stopped very briefly to have a drink and use the facilities before setting off once again.
Wandering down the long lanes in the sun, I chatted to the adorable Shiv, about family and charity work. It wasn't long before we were almost at RAF Cosford.
I was greeted at the main gate by the rafalo and media and coms officer.
We had photos with fab photographer Paul Oldfield, after rushing back to collect rucksack (which we then subsequently left at the engagement hub.) I think these particular station photographs are the first ones I actually like. Perhaps it was because he listened to my "tits up" request, or he's just an awesome photographer! Either way, I was very pleasantly surprised.
Over lunch, Brian and I spoke to contacts at Valley and MoD Stafford regarding my trip going forward.
After a long day, I was dropped back at my nights digs, and it wasn’t until after I had eaten dinner and began to relax for the evening that I realised I didn’t have my rucksack! It was still locked in the engagement hub! However, this also meant that I had no clothes!
It was arranged that Shiv would drop it off to me in the morning so I could change to go to MoD Stafford. Unfortunately, this didn’t account for the fact that I was to go out for another walk with Rebekah in the morning. For the first time on this entire trip, I had to go commando!
That evening I was talking to my dad about the charity work he used to do. He was telling me about a particular event he had done previously for the soldiers with the "googelies"!
I asked him to repeat that! He again said "the soldiers with the googelies"
I replied that that word may possibly not be the right one.
He said "oh, you know the googeries! The ones with the knives!"
Laughing I said "Do you mean the Gurkhas?"
"Yes, that’s it, they’re the ones with the knives that have a special name!"
Honestly, I couldn’t stop laughing. It literally made my day. I’ll never be able to think of them in the same way ever again!
The following morning Rebekah and I walked a further 5 miles which would helpfully take off a bit of the distance for tomorrow. Every little helps as Tesco would say!
Rucksack retrieved and wearing fresh clean clothes Shiv and I headed to MoD Stafford
Part way we met two others from Cosford who were joining the walk for the day
We were also met a mile or so up the road by two personnel from TSW, who walked in with us.
It was raining, the fine drizzly rain that gets you soaked through in minutes. Would typically be the day I had no waterproofs with me. On arrival, after booking in at the guardroom we hid under harrier to see if the rain would ease off.
There was no photographer due, I’m not sure why, however Craig from TSW was going to take the pictures on his phone. Shiv disappeared taking a phonecall. As it happened, it was a photographer friend of his, who had seen him walk onto camp and wanted to know what business brought him there. Shiv told him about the walk and persuaded him to come over and take photos.
The official photos were very brief because of the weather, and we all then bundled into cars to head to somewhere warm for tea and biscuits... Or in my case hot chocolate.
Brian had (with his dry sense of humour) previously warned Craig that I was a "fussy bitch!" and Craig had kindly gone out and bought some hot chocolate for me. Bearing in mind, Brian was absolutely right, I am a fussy bitch, and I was sat right opposite him when he said this, I found it hilarious!
Outside TSW we had more quick photos with a Wessex helicopter before hurrying back inside where it was warm, to eat all the biscuits.
The hot chocolate was delicious as we’re the lovely biscuits. They even gifted me some to bring home.
The way home involved a long conversation with Shiv. I’m so glad I got to meet him and get to know him. I will really miss him.
Next day, unsurprisingly was more walking. I was due to arrive at RAF Shawbury around midday. The plan was to meet in a car park several miles out and walk into Shawbury. At the car park we met Scott and Elliot from Shawbury who were joining the walk, along with Eve, from Walkers are Welcome and Martin who had been following the journey on social media.
As a team of 8 it's difficult to talk to everyone when you're walking single file along busy roads, but I did my best to speak to everyone along the way.
I've managed to get all this way without getting a stone in my boot, but today was that day and I had to stop and tip it out of my boot!
Walking along there were many cars, tractors and trucks that went past. However, we were all surprised to see a bonnie lady truck driver in one of them, it made a very pleasant change!
I enjoyed talking to Carrie, who is one of Brian's team. She rides horses, which I used to do and love very much, so it was great to talk about the memories of working with horses, riding, competitions and the whole equine life.
Finally arriving at RAF Shawbury, our team was met by the Shawbury team. Typical station photos were taken and then we said farewell to Martin, as the rest of the emalgamated group hunted out some food.
Brian and Andy collected my rucksack which was in the back of Andys car. Watching Andy try to repack my bergen was quite amusing. I’m sure in his role in the RAF Regiment he was not used to packing travel straighteners and chocolate biscuits. However, there a just some things a girl cannot compromise on, even if the straighteners are shit! I said goodbye to Brian and Andy, as I was whisked away across the station to see my friend of 22 years from University that was stationed at Shawbury working in ATC.
I had a quick lesson in air traffic control, which to my brain was a bit mind boggling. Then I went up to the control tower to see Matt. It had been many years since I had seen him, although we had spoken occasionally over the last few years. He had been a huge help to my son as he went through the recruitment process and training. Having someone on the "inside" to give advice and support was invaluable and for that, I can’t thank him enough.
The following day was a day to wander around Shrewsbury to break in my new boots. It was an eclectic day of sights and sounds.
My host, Gary, and I wandered into the historic town along the river, and across the bridge towards the birth place of the renowned Charles Darwin.
There's not a great deal there bar a few plaques on the wall as the estate is now used for other things but it was certainly an impressive building and helped you to imagine what the Shrewsbury of Darwins day would have been like.
Walking back around through he park there was a huge parade celebrating celebrating the recovery off those who had previously been substance abusers. It was incredibly noisy with a purple theme running through the clothes of those taking part. There were random colours everywhere and bands and stilt walkers amongst the many on parade.
In an attempt to get away from the loud din of the parade, we walked up to a remembrance garden in honour of Percy thrower, the legendary Blue Peter gardener.
Amongst the beautiful flowers planted in the garden were extraordinary sculptures including one of the man himself.
Within the park, there was also an amazing Monument to shoemakers. "The Gateway of the Shoemakers Arbour."
If you look closely, you can see details such as the little shoes, the hammer and the nails.
Following the trail back round, we passed St Chad's Church. Residing in its churchyard is the headstone of Ebenezer Scrooge.
Although, Ebenezer is a literary character from the novel of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens it seemed to unique an opportunity to miss out on. The stone was originally blank and was discovered by the production team of the 1984 film of the same name. They asked permission to have it inscribed and it was left in place after shooting.
After a lovely lunch and delicious cake we saw the Darwin statue situated outside what was the main school.
Opposite is the castle but there was a wedding on, so unfortunately there wasn’t a chance to go in.
There was also some statues of the town crier, who also works as a "Hagrid" impersonator and also the famous World War 1 poet Wilfred Owen.
Another local walking group had been in touch, and wanted to join the walk, so it meant an early start in the morning. Brian was to collect me and drive me to the start point, to meet everyone. It was a long, arduous walk in the Shropshire hills but the company made it all worthwhile.
I was absolutely shattered and had an early night as we were due to set off for RAF Valley in the morning.
Bleary eyed, and still quite tired, I galvanised myself to get dressed and ready. At Cosford, Brian and I met with Andy who was to join us for the two days and we set off to Valley.
As part of the journey was dangerous on foot, down major A roads, we drove part of the way.
We were then met by the fab Fabio, and Gareth from Valley who walked the rest of the way with us.
We had a very blustery walk along the Anglesey Coast path, but the views were stunning.
It really would be a lovely place to live.
That evening, we were all side swiped by the sea air but couldn't resist a drink or two in the Mess. It is entirely possible that Belfast Bombers were involved and that I had more than one or two. I drank 3 pints of water before bed just to make sure I was relatively hangover free the next day!
Next morning was the official arrival at RAF Valley. We met Fabio again and headed off on a distinctly dodgy path.... I still wonder if they were hoping to lose me in the boggy sand dunes!
It was very precarious, the path ran next to a very steep descent and as clumsy as I know I am, I was a tad perturbed, and there were one or two squeals.
Finally onto a beach, I thought I was relatively safe, how wrong I was.
The station photographer had come down to take "action shots" and had requested we stayed next to the waters edge. Walking next to Fabio, my line of sight was blocked from the oncoming wave that quickly crashed over my lower legs, drowning my feet and swamping my boots, which had now become two great swimming pools. They felt awful. Really cold, squishy and uncomfortable. We still had a few miles to go. Internally moaning all the way to the coffee shop where we all sat to have a drink and relax. Official photos weren't til later, so we had time to technically put our feet up.
Coffee over, it was time to say farewell to Brian and Andy as they headed back to Cosford. For the first three months of this trip, I had been alone. Plotting and organising everything from routes, food, accomodation and fixing as best I could any unexpected changes. Then three weeks ago, Brian and his team became involved, effectively taking away that huge responsibility, helping to communicate with necessary personnel from the inside to facilitate my journey. It made such a difference, knowing that there was someone who I could ask advice from and who would be able to point me in all the right directions. Also the fact that someone cared beyond their area of responsibility meant so much. I am very much looking forward to being able to repay that help, by helping the engagement team when they go into schools, talking to students and parents, telling them about my own experience with the RAF, as a mum and on this incredible journey.
Later on, for the official photos, the Station Commander, The SWO and the Media and Comms officer came out for the occasion. As always I hate the official photos as I look like Gemma Collins,
but it’s all part of the story.
It was then off to 202 Squadron to see the Jupiter Helicopter which was quite fascinating.
All in all it was a very long and busy day and I'm now looking forward to an early night and to see what new adventures await tomorrow.