When The Outdoor Guide was asked if we would organise a ramble for Children In Need, my brain sprang into frenzied overdrive and ideas began to bounce around TOG HQ.
Giddy with excitement, I spurted out my wish list, “I want it to be totally inclusive,” I told Gina, “It has to be a ramble that will be ideal for any type of wheelchair, where families can come together… old and young, whatever their ability…I want fun… lots of laughter… Pudsey Bear… oh, and I want a marching band!“
“Slow down,” said Gina. “It’s 8.30am, and I haven’t had a coffee yet!“
But before the caffeine had the chance to touch her lips, the route of the ramble had been agreed. We had decided upon Windsor. We already knew the Windsor walk well, as TOG has affectionate links with The Queen’s Walkway, having been instrumental in its creation with the former The Outdoor Trust (now known as The Commonwealth Walkway).
In celebration of Queen Elizabeth II becoming the UK and Commonwealth’s longest-reigning monarch, The Outdoor Trust established the new Walkway around her home at Windsor in Berkshire. The route is a symbolic 6.321km long representing the 63 years and 210 days of her reign. It’s been designed to link 63 of the town’s best attractions, parks, features and views.
We travelled over to Windsor in September to create a wheel-friendly version of the original walk. Our route, which now avoided the stepped sections of the town trail, still encompassed the 63 attractions and so, having wheeled the four-mile route, we left feeling very satisfied with our plans for our Children in Need Ramble on the 5th October. Then the registrations for the walk began to flood into TOG HQ and by Ramble Eve we had over 60 folk signed up for the walk.
Though we were thrilled with the number of people who wanted to join us for the Children in Need ramble, I regressed into my impersonation of Lance Corporal Jones of Dad’s Army fame and whizzed around in circles, (for I had only engaged the brakes on one wheel of my chair), calling out “Don’t panic! Don’t panic!” to anyone who cared to listen. There was no way I could lead such large group of people around the historic market town of Windsor, for I had neither an umbrella nor a flag on a stick to act as a guide.
Having calmed me down with a chamomile tea, and a swift slap to quell the hysteria, it was agreed that we should revisit our walk and devise a different wheel-friendly ramble which avoided not only the steps but the extremely busy shopping arcades and tourist attractions. The last thing I wanted to do was to lose a rambler or two along the way!
So, by Saturday 5th October, I was happy, relaxed and ready to meet our ramblers at the Henry VIIl gates of the majestic Windsor Castle (armed with a flag and an umbrella – just in case).
People began to arrive by 10.30am. It was so easy to spot our walkers as they donned their yellow and blue Pudsey Bear bobble hats. We caused quite a stir as we gathered to watch the changing of the guard before heading away from the castle down towards the River Thames.
It was such good fun as we strolled along the banks of the river and on towards Alexandra Gardens. Gina, (now affectionately called Aunty G by the hordes of children who looked longingly at the ice cream kiosk, and then even more longingly at Aunty G), treated everyone to a frozen delight. She bought bird food so that we could feed the swans, though Finley much preferred to feed the pigeons.
Once through the park and past the bandstand, we re-created the famous scene from the ‘Sound of Music’ when the musical von Trapp family skipped around the park in Salzburg, Austria. It was nearly a mirror image, except for the fact our song and dance routine was created by a group of ramblers singing “Doe A Deer” as we marched around the Jubilee Fountain in Goswell Road.
Eventually, we arrived at entrance to The Long Walk – a 2.5-mile driveway, which leads from the George IV gate of Windsor Castle to the Copper Horse standing atop Snow Hill. The avenue, which is lined on both sides by many trees, including horse chestnut, is an amazing sight and a delight for everyone who lives in, or visits, Windsor. It’s a very popular family spot.
Away from traffic and the crowds, it’s a great place where the children were safe to run around the park, collecting conkers and enjoying this wonderful open green space which sits amidst the very busy and bustling town. When we thought our walk could not get better our friend, Pudsey Bear, made a special appearance and joined us for our last section of our ramble through the boulevard of trees. The cameras came out and the photographs were taken. Pudsey was the star of the show! It was a fantastic finale to a great and memorable walk.
Our ramble was over.
Pudsey Bear had gone home.
It was time to reflect on our wonderful day.
We had fun and we had lots of laughter.
We had families who joined us. We had young folk and old folk and prams and wheelchairs.
We hopefully raised a lot of money for Children in Need.
Many thanks to the Cotswold Outdoor Store in Windsor for your support
And yes… I did.
I got my marching band.