We joined the FolkTrail walkers on May 6th, to follow the Trail from Ilam Hall in Derbyshire to Alston in Northumberland.
This was their first rest day since setting out from Lands End on April 1st, and all five core walkers (Clare, Naomi, Moira, Chris and Cara the dog) were in high spirits, having enjoyed the driest and warmest April for many a year.
During the fortnight that we followed the trail we met friends old and new who came to walk and/or share the evening sessions, where we were made very welcome by everyone we met... guitar-toting walkers (Ilam), massed Morris (Standedge), a singing chef (Tan Hill), storytellers, rock and blues musicians (Bacup), romany singers (Hardraw), the old and the young (from a 2-year-old super-star-to-be to octagenarians).
Most days, after the long day's walk, the FolkTrailers had a limited time to pitch the tent, wash, change and eat before heading off to the evening's session, where the music and recording could go on into the wee small hours.
Having just come along to give some background support, we wonder how the walkers found the energy to do all that (especially Moira, who had the tedious task of transferring the sound and video files to the hard drive after each session).
We returned home with some quirky and inspiring memories of the Trail, like ...
... when Clare lost her 'phone, and someone suggested calling her number so we could listen for it ringing - yes, everyone heard it, but still no-one could find it... in the pocket of the jacket she was wearing.
... when one of the guest walkers had a tough time finishing the day's walk Chris stayed behind to help her, arriving at the campsite a couple of hours after the main group - hungry but calm and unruffled.
... at Bacup the Premier Pie and mushy peas were something else - and don't forget the mint sauce!
... the tail-end of the song festival at the Green Dragon at Hardraw was especially memorable, sitting beside Mic and Susie Darling - the romany couple who sang songs of the 'honest people'.
... at the end of a long day supper is always welcome, and Jenny enjoyed preparing some for the walkers - one in a youth hostel, to celebrate her birthday, others in our camper van, at the roadside - it's always fun to get eight or more people packed into a van (and especially when there's food on the go)!
... some days, although the walkers had just a leisurely 9 or 20 mile stroll (ha ha!) the drivers amongst us (Jenny drove the support vehicle some days, while I drove our camper van) were doomed to a 40 - 50 mile journey just to get to the other side of the hill. I bet Jenny's language was colourful as she told the GPS what she thought of 'his' route suggestions through farmyards etc.
... at the Tan Hill Inn we had to push the two pet sheep away from the door before we could get in, and were disconcerted when the 'barman' seemed not to know 'what was what' - no wonder: he, like us, was just there for the evening! The landlady said "if you want a pint you'll have to get it yourself". The singing chef prepared for us some wonderful XL yorkshire puddings, then entertained us afterwards too with several self-penned songs.
It was a privilege to be part of the FolkTrail for a while - thankyou all for making a mad idea come true. We'll be thinking of you every step of the way to John O'Groats!