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  • Chris Jones

Thank you Scotland, it’s been emotional.

The only apprehension I had before I started this challenge in January, was to how I would cope with the solitude and the severe ruggedness of the West Coast of Scotland. How long would I have to cope without a phone signal or WiFi, how many days would I be walking between shops so how much food would I need to carry and how easy would I be able source water. All of the above were serious considerations because just a brief look at a map showed just how remote this coastline was going to be. Like any challenge each of us face, it turned out that the thinking and worrying about it was far worse than actually doing it. A bit of planning, getting seriously organised with my kit and a lot of support from complete strangers and Freemasons on route ensured that I not only survived the brutality of this exposed and dangerous stretch of coastline but on the most part, I actually enjoyed the experience. My longest stretch without a shower was only four days so wet wipe rub downs at night had to surfice, I ran out of drinking water in my 2.5 litre bladder twice but managed a refill within a couple of hours and my ageing, aching body managed to adjust to climbing in and out of my tent and not sleeping in a bed for over six weeks on one stretch. They were of course all of the controllables, all of the things I could manage by continually preparing and planning. The uncontrollables were however a very different prospect and were more of a mental challenge which at times really tested me. The rain, the wind and the wild life... midges, clegs and ticks were all expected but at times, when some or all of them ganged up on me at the same time, it was as tough as anything I've ever experienced. Walking for days and weeks on roads rather than on tracks and grass was not only dangerous but it battered my body more than I needed or wanted, every day since I have needed to do a series of stretches and excercises or I simply can't walk when I rise from my slumber !!! I fear I may need to continue with this regime for some time to come and I'll have to put up with the constant pain I have from the soles of my 'slabs of meat'.

None of this is meant as a moan, just the reality of walking over 1500 miles of the Scottish coastline. The positives I've experienced on my journey far outweigh all of this and now I was done and about to cross the border back into England, I felt I needed to return to Edinburgh to pay my respects and thank The Grand Master Mason personally for the overwhelming support I'd received from the Freemasons of Scotland.

It was lovely to see Dawn again, Dawn is the Homes and Charities Manager at Freemasons Hall and we met back in February when I visited Edinburgh to seek permission to visit the Lodges on my route. Dawn kept in touch throughout my journey offering support and guidance and helped to arrange this opportunity for me to meet the Grand Master Mason, Ramsay McGhee and The Grand Secretary William Semple. I wasnt surprised to be welcomed with such warmth, for over six months I'd received nothing but warmth and support from Scottish Freemasons and to now be received into the very heart of Scottish Freemasonry by the boss himself was an incredible experience. We had a good chat over coffee and homemade shortbread and I was presented with a bottle of 'Grand Master Masons Choise', single malt Whiskey. (I've had that sent home to Lincolnshire to be saved for the end of the walk). 😉 I said my goodbyes and left Grand Lodge but before I returned to the train station I nipped next door to the pub to meet Fred for a quick pint, I'd met Fred when I visited a lodge in Edinburgh back in February and he's followed my journey ever since, we had a quick pint, Fred made a generous donation to my MCF fund and it was time to be away, I had another special visit to make.

I jumped on a train to Newark, my son Lewis picked me up from Grantham and we gatecrashed my granddaughters 10th birthday party back in Woodhall Spa. I hadn't even told Michelle I was coming back so when I FaceTime messaged to say Happy Birthday to Ava while standing outside her front door ringing the door bell, it all got a bit emotional... 😍

It was a great party and I'd have been gutted to have been lying in my tent somewhere in Scotland and missed it. Ava is growing up so fast and is becoming a beautiful young lady, she's definitely my favourite, 10 year granddaughter but I'm a very lucky granddad as I've also got Niamh who's my favourite 2 year old granddaughter and Reggie who is without any doubt my favourite grandson... Little rascals when they are together but as any grandparent will attest, the most pleasurable thing in the world, to watch and try to influence them as they as they grow up. It's tough being away from my family for so long but it was great to be with them all for a couple of days before I needed to get back up to Scotland to walk across that border back into England.

Back in February I was joined for a weekend in Rosyth by my good friend Peter who lives in Lincolnshire and his brother who lives in Aberdeen. Both Scottish guys and being Masons we visited the lodge in Rosyth for the lecture about Robert Burns. I had received a message a few days ago from Peter to say that he was having a break with his wife in the borders and he had invited me to join them at their cottage for a night. What I didn't know was that we had also been invited to Social evening at a Lodge in Peebles so I caught a train to Galashiels and Peter picked me up. Peter has been a big supporter of my challenge and has been very generous from the beginning, it was lovely to spend a few days with him and his wife, we also had a cracking night at the Social evening and with thanks to the generosity of the folk there, I was presented with the proceeds of the raffle, another £150 for the cause.

The following morning Peter drove me down to Gretna and dropped me off but before he left

to return to his holiday he walked those last few steps with me up onto Sark Bridge and over the Sark river back into England. We were met my Neil, The Provincial Communications Officer from The Province of Cumberland and Westmorland who welcomed us into the Province and back into England. I was feeling great, I was back on home soil, grateful for my time in Scotland but eager to get cracking down the west coast of England.

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