Celia Woolley pulls on her boots for two charities
It was on June 4th 2020, my 53rd birthday, when I first had a spark of the idea. I was walking along the bank of the Great Ouse at Paxton Pits Nature Reserve. The variety of colours of the trees lining the opposite side of the riverbank made lovely green rippling reflections in the river, and a long line of lily pads floated on the water. I was quite simply overwhelmed by a feeling of joy and tranquillity at the beautiful view of so many hues of green.
And then I spotted it - an Ouse Valley Way waymaker with an emblem of two swans. I thought how lovely it would be to walk the whole of the Ouse Valley Way along beautiful riverbanks like these. I decided there and then that I would do this, but I had no idea where it started or even finished! When I got home, after researching online, I discovered it was a 150-mile long-distance footpath starting at Syresham in Northamptonshire and ending at Kings Lynn in Norfolk. I also found there were no guidebooks for the walk and so I thought why not write one as I’m walking along? I told family and friends about my idea and so there was no going back – it had to be put into reality.
Just over a year later, on August 14th 2021, the day arrived for me to be dropped off at Syresham and walk to Buckingham. Little did I realise that within a couple of hours I would lose the footpath signs and get lost, walking around in a circle and nearly returning to where I had just started!
My journey so far along this famous long-distance footpath has been very varied in many unexpected ways, and I have had to amend my carefully planned daily schedule - overgrown footpaths, fallen trees and even cattle not letting me past, have all contributed to the challenges I have faced. But I have been blessed with perfect walking weather, with very little rain. And there have been many beautiful places along the walk to which I will return one day. The amazingly high Cosgrove Iron Trunk Aqueduct carrying the Grand Union Canal over the Great Ouse at Milton Keynes, the pretty Holy Well at Stevington, Bedfordshire, and Bury (Berry) Fen Nature Reserve at Earith, Cambridgeshire, are just three of my new favourites – thank you Ouse Valley Way! And I hope there are more to come …
Photograph by Laura Woolley
Celia contemplates the serenity of the Ouse Valley Way
Celia is raising funds for Progressive Supranuclear Palsy Association (PSPA) and the Great Ouse Valley Trust (GOVT). Visit her Just Giving page ‘Celia Walks the Ouse Valley Way’ and follow her on Instagram walking_the_river_great_ouse.
The Great Ouse Valley Trust promotes for public benefit the conservation, restoration and enjoyment of the landscape, wildlife and heritage of the Great Ouse Valley and environs in the county of Cambridgeshire. For more information about the Trust please visit www.greatousevalleytrust.org.uk