It actually started out as a seriously hot and sunny day, not a cloud in the sky. As we left the Haytop campsite we decided to change into shorts. The walk to Belper was slow and painful with my knee acting up.
Lloyd’s pharmacy didn’t even have blister plasters when we got there, let alone knee supports. Fortunately I noticed a Boots pharmacy off the main road, so we went in. As I found blister plasters (on special offer) and a decent knee support, I saw Robert only just entering the shop, friendly waving farewell to some old dude in a neck-brace. Weird, I thought, he was only thirty seconds behind me, yet a relationship had clearly been formed.
We bought the items and the staff at the counter started the customary inquiries: “stocking up for a big walk?” We told them the situation and the guy was keen to sponsor us, so we gave him the “just giving” page details and left to put the plasters in our packs and the knee support on my knee. Robert noticed the woman come out of the shop, and a few minutes later another girl came out and said that since we were doing this for charity she didn’t think we should have to pay for our purchases. She obtained our receipt (around £17.50) and returned with the cash and a couple of bottle of water for us (later we donated the cash to 500 Miles).
We continued on our way, knee supported and spirits soaring. After a long stretch we walked into the Derby City limits, and an hour later we got to the actual city centre. We went to the first establishment in the city centre that looked reasonable (a Frankie & Benny’s doing a lunch offer). The girl doing all the service gave us a window seat so we could stare at the wild variety of city folk passing by. This was our first major city, and after nearly three weeks of walking it was strange. It occurred to me that fat and disabled people didn’t really make it into the countryside. Neither were there very many multi-ethnic people roaming the moors and hiking the Pennines. We also hadn’t seen very many attractive women in the last nineteen days.
After our milkshakes and food we headed out. We let our food go down as we look for highlighters and stare at maps. We sat near a big block that also functioned as a shower for the local Goths (some of whom jumped off the top into the square below). We had no idea how to escape the city centre, and an old guy in a wheelchair, eating a sausage roll, is no help; he just keeps repeating that we’re in Derby City centre and asking where we want to go. We did tell him Leicester, but he keeps on going with the same line of questioning.
We eventually figure it out and leave Derby behind. Things are looking good: it’s 3pm, only seven miles to go and we’re not even lost, just a straight road to follow. It’s at this point we get through to the campsite and they tell us to be there by 5pm, as that’s when they close up. We tell James and Euan (who aren’t even at the Derby City limits yet) and beast the last seven miles, getting in with ten minutes to spare. Luckily I had that Boots water, as it was boiling hot and I was running low on liquids.
We get in and pitch our tent under a small willow tree, and go for a shower. The marina is stunning; it’s dry, sunny and all the boats docked create pleasing angles and lines with their masts. We decide to try out a local renowned pub, the Old Crown. We swagger into Leicestershire to check it out, but it doesn’t serve food on a Monday for some obscure reason. It did look wonderful, however, very quaint with a great selection of beers. We got the Navigator instead, which turned out to be very nice, even if they’d run out of Hobgoblin. Just as the food’s appearing, so does James. He runs out and drags in Euan, they cheated and got a bus.
We get back to the campsite just as it starts to rain exceedingly hard. James and Euan are squabbling in their leaky tent because James had run away and found them a caravan to crash in, they’re bailing to it now. Apparently James had run into the bar toilets, ringing out his clothes in a urinal, and some guy had offered them shelter for the night.
Meanwhile, in the compression chamber, Robert silently snoozes and the hammering of raindrops shakes our canvas. One pack sits between us like a third, obese member, forcing us both to lie against the sides of the decreasingly waterproof tent. The other pack is at out feet, forcing us both into a cramped, foetal position. What have I learned? One should always arrive late and unannounced, and couch surf off generous, middle class people. Being prepared = preparing for mediocrity.