I began my own personal battle against MS, one of the most insidious enemies of the present day, with a 1000 mile sponsored walk following the route my father, Rifleman J. F. Monk (Fred), on the left in the photos, took through England, Belgium, Holland, and Germany during WWII, thus recalling what was one of the finest fighting formations in the field, namely 7th Battalion The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) 52nd Lowland Division. Thanks to some tremendous sponsorship nearly eleven thousand pounds was raised for research.
The help, inspiration, kindness, good wishes, and support I received stayed with me all the way to Bremen and back. It gives me much pleasure and continued hope and optimism to recount here the events that took place, and furthermore, much bonheur to remember everyone I met on the journey.
The walk proved to be 1000 amazing miles, a journey I will never forget. So many things happened, and there were so many extraordinary encounters, both joyful and sad, with some exceptional people, many of whom were totally comitted to furthering MS research, in many instances due to their own empathy with the effects that this devastating neurological disorder has on all who are touched by it. You see, the reality is there are so many people whos lives have been tragically affected by MS.
Walking 1000 miles in just under six weeks with a heavy backpack (the same weight as my father would have carried in the army) and with only two days break, was really one of the most physically demanding things that I have ever done, especially so during the first and the last few days.
A few days into the walk I realised that the months I had spent training beforehand were sadly inadequate. I'd done a great deal of walking but mainly short distances, for a few hours at a time. As I racked up the miles though, it also became apparent that this wouldn't matter beyond those first few days. The feet soon hardened and the blisters disappeared altogether within the week. A gift of a pair of '1000 Mile Socks' which I received from Councillor Nora Dolphin, who walked with my son Greg and I for a while in Holmes Chapel, stood me in good stead for the rest of the journey.
During the last few days, heading for Bremen, a different and unexpected problem occurred when the quadriceps muscles (above the knees) started to burn, and consequently it took a little longer each day to reach my destination. By the time I arrived in the 1200 year old, free Hanseatic city of Bremen, I felt as though I could sleep for a similar number of years. At the same time I was feeling regretful that this walk had ended, but I was also looking forward to planning the next.
It took months of research
to determine the route that I needed to take. I already had copies of
extracts from War Diaries relevant to D Company, which my father's lifelong
friend Jack Rafferty, whom he met during his time with the Cameronians,
had given to him; these were indespensable and I was able to map out most
of the journey with them. To try and plan the rest of the journey I visited
the Cameronians Museum in Hamilton, and the Department Of Printed Books
at the Imperial War Museum in London, but neither could offer any relevant
information. In the end the power of the internet completed it for me,
I joined WWII forums and the information came flooding in, along with
many a story about relatives of the people I was chatting with on the
forums who had been in the same Battalion as my father. Hans Houterman
from Middleburg, Holland, also kindly emailed me copies of the relevant
section from Brigadier C N Barclay's "The History of the Cameronians".
Sunday 18th April 2004
Bury to Bucklow Hill, through Manchester, Stretford, Sale, and Bowden. 20 miles
This week is MS week, and today is Yom Ha'shoah, two reasons I chose to set off today. The Mayor of Bury, Wilf Davison, had already given me his best wishes for the journey the day before, but the Town Hall steps were filled with family and friends. Eve Hart of BBC GMR Big Yellow Bus fame was there too, to record the send off, and also to walk the first few miles with me, along with several family and friends.
By the time we reached the outkirts of Manchester most of the company had departed. It was now just second son Greg and myself from here to Wolves. Greg's friends had split in Whitefield, as did Eve, still sang-froid in her cool pink Ms Dynamite shoes. Youngest son Sean and friend Danielle left us near Victoria station, NB for GMR here - nope, we were never tempted to jump on the train at Victoria so that we could get to Altrincham faster than planned!
Our intention today was to make Altrincham by 5.15pm to meet up with Knutsford Lions who had arranged accommodation for Greg and I with Lion Andrew and his parents. By 7pm we were still a few miles from Altrincham, but we eventually met up and were swiftly chaufeurred to our lovely accommodation and a hearty welcome from our charming hosts, along with a cheque for one hundred pounds in sponsorship.
|Feedback from the website - Andy, my Uncle was in the same 7th Battalion and I am sure this was the route he took, as he ended in the area of Bremen. Would be so interested in this walk. My brother still lives in Bury, family now in Rawtenstall, but all originally from Rochdale. Looking forward to getting back over soon. JeanneP. Jea|
Monday 19th April
Bucklow Hill to Stone, through Kbutsford, Holmes Chapel, Newcastle-under-Lyme. 36 miles
We set off early this morning, after a photo call with the Lions in the centre of town, and we made steady progress in the sunshine to Holmes Chapel, or Church Hulme as it is also known, derived from Hulm, meaning rising ground, and that rising ground doesn't half make your legs ache when you're walking up it at speed. We arrived at the library just slightly later than our scheduled 11.30am meet with Councillor Nora Dolphin, Leader of Cheshire County Council, who had travelled to Holmes Chapel to give her support and walk with us for a short distance.
On arrival Councillor Dolphin presented me with two donations for the Myelin Project, and a very thoughtful gift of a pair of 1000 mile socks, and we were photographed for an article in the local paper.
Sheila Kane, the Librarian, told me of a friend of hers who was struggling to cope with the effects of MS, and as she was telling me I could see that she too was struggling to deal with the way the MS was affecting her friend, as I recognised the same anguish in her eyes that I had felt myself on countless occasions whilst witnessing the ferociousness of the way MS has lashed out at Gwen.
We were scheduled to be in the town offices, Newcastle-under-Lyme, at 4.30pm today but didn't arrive until six. Mayor Raymond Slater and Mayoress Christine very kindly waited for us and offered us tea and sandwiches, and showed us the splendid civic regalia in the Mayors Parlour; two silver maces dating back to 1680 are still used at every Borough Council meeting. The Mayor presented me with a very fine ashtray, on which, in Gold foil, is the Boroughs crest and the words "The Loyal And Ancient Borough Of Newcastle-under-Lyme". The Borough dates back almost one thousand years.
Newcastle was named after a new castle, funnily enough, that was built in the twelfth century to defend the area against attacks from the Welsh borders, and to protect Royal lands from claims to the throne. The main road through the centre of Newcastle was the scene of massive troops movements during WWII.
After the tour we were escorted in comfort and style in the Mayoral car to our accommodation, the Peacock Hay Guest House, close to where we finished the days walk.