A Puddleduck Sunday

Sunday 23rd September 2012

20.12 miles. Those doing the whole thing are given commemorative medals, which note both year and distance.

The Ensleigh House checkpoint provides walkers with indoor shelter and hot beverages. There is talk of ‘haven’ and ‘respite’ among those arriving in a drip of anorak, a slipstream of waterproofs: lean fathers and their polite offspring; a woman with long strides and short-haired terrier; a bearded fellow honouring his mother, who died six years ago today.

Four runners finish their circuit here: men with athletic shins, stopwatches, and green bibs. Hormonal is their need to make puns on orienteering and orientation.

The rain has saved up several weeks of pocket money. Gusts of wind accompany its dash from outlet to outlet, in a spending spree of splash and spray. This is a day when hands weld to mugs of hot chocolate; when the sky is one long cloud of colourless grey; when autumn starts its leafleting campaign on behalf of winter.

At Bathampton, the checkpoint is a pagoda tent on a patch of grass between pub car park and river. Mud ascends ankles. You can see some walkers’ weariness in wan smiles and swollen socks.

“We had 470 sign up, but numbers will be down in view of the weather.”

The annual Circuit of Bath Walk is in aid of Julian House, which provides services to single homeless men and women in Bath and North East Somerset. Little is known of the life of the 14th century Julian of Norwich, but T S Eliot liked to borrow from her writings and few would deny the wisdom of:

‘To love a human being is to accept them as they are. If you wait for them to change you are living an idea.’

There are moorings and moorhens on the short stretch of the Somerset Coal Canal, restored during the 1980s. Jovial men from the Lions Club attach red checkpoint stickers to damp forms, confirming another leg completed on damp legs.

Restored by tea or teacake from towpath café, the walkers set off once more, passing quietly under old trees into the dusk of a puddleduck Sunday.






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