Steps for South Sudan - quick recap
If you missed our launch, we have teamed up with an experienced long-distance walker, Juliet Hill, to launch our new virtual Steps for South Sudan fundraising campaign. Juliet's latest plan, to walk from Mexico to Canada, has been postponed due to the pandemic, so Juliet has been working with us to map out the walk from Coventry in the UK (the Headquarters of Friends of Ibba Girls’ School) to Ibba in South Sudan (around 11,000 kilometres). The walk is, of course, completely virtual!
How does it work? We are asking our supporters to donate ‘trek kilometres’. So however many kilometres you walk per day, week or month, we are asking you to donate them to our trek. You can carry these out in your leisure time or part of your working day, you can get your family and friends to sponsor you, or you can simply make a donation for every kilometre you do. We suggest £1 per km (but don’t let me stop you if you are feeling more generous!). We need both your kilometres and your donations to get us to Ibba.
Donations up to a value of £20 are easy to make: just text 70470* with the word STEPS and the amount you want to donate (e.g. STEPS 5 will donate £5), or if you'd like to donate more than £20 (or would rather give online), you can make a donation here. You can either include details of how far you have travelled in the comments section on Virgin Giving or email us. That way, we can track your distance.
Update: Monday 1 June
What a long day
Distance travelled: 964km
We are nearly at the 1,000km mark (whaaat?!) and can't wait to celebrate. Thankfully we're in the right place to do so as we're in champagne country. The grapes may not be ripe yet, but the champagne bars have been allowed to reopen.
It felt quite eerie passing the national necropolis in Berry-au-Bac, where nearly 4,000 people are entombed, and we've seen some amazing churches. The huge Gothic Laon Cathedral was visible for miles, St Martin's in Martigny-Coupierre was entirely rebuilt after the first world war and boasts amazing art deco stained glass, and of course Reims Cathedral's famous rose window is part of what gives it its well-deserved UNESCO world heritage status. All this stained glass looks brilliant in the bright sunshine!
We have set up camp near Villers-Marmery, near an amazing stand of twisted beech trees called 'the Faux', and are heading off for a glass of fizz!
Update: Saturday 30 May
Some days I forget a few of us haven't showered in a week
Distance travelled: 787 km
Hi friends, me again!
Today we reached Trefcon after some lovely kilometres through mostly farmland. This meant we got to see lots of wonderful old farmhouses and different coloured and sized fields (just like one big patchwork quilt). We even saw a horse-drawn carriage as well as lots of horses gallivanting about.
There have been many little lakes and ponds appearing around us and have become the perfect place to have a sneaky afternoon dip. We are definitely very much into the rhythm of walking and have reached the point where our minds seem very quiet and aren’t constantly busy with the worries of everyday life (although we did have a very long conversation about our favourite biscuits and which were most appropriate for dunking – serious stuff you know)!
We are camping tonight (lucky us) – I really hope no one camps on a cowpat...
Update: Thursday 28 May
The further we walk, the bigger our smiles get
Distance travelled: 759 km
We’ll be staying near the small village of Bouchavesnes-Bergen tonight. We passed so many small villages today, all in the same typical French style but all with their own unique touches – so pretty. Despite all the beauty, we have been finding out lots of historical facts during our walk in this area. Most prominent are the stories of The Battle of the Somme in WW1. We’ve walked past many military cemeteries, French, British and German. It seems strange to remember all that happened here as the sun shines and the birds chirp happily.
We also walked through Arras and went to marvel at the belfry, it’s classified by UNESCO to be a World Heritage site and was absolutely stunning.
We’ve had lots of new walkers to the team so I just wanted to take the chance to welcome you all!
Update: Wednesday 27 May
‘Cows spend a lot of time on their feet. I bet they have great calves.’
Distance travelled: 641km
Today we (almost) made it to Amettes and will be camping. The stars are supposed to be especially good tonight so we will be doing some stargazing (that’s if we don’t fall asleep first).
We have been spotting lots of wells along the way today – they are super famous here – and we have to say the water does taste better. The heat has been quite trialling recently (but we’d rather that than rain!) so we have been very grateful for any spots of woodland to shelter in or even any rivers to take a sneaky dip in. That’s the great thing about swimming on trail when it’s hot, you can put your soaking clothes back on and they are dry almost immediately (plus it definitely counts as a shower right?)
Unfortunately, both a rucksack and a shoe broke today within about 20 minutes of each other. It’s nothing gaffa tape can’t fix but we might have to get some extra ones sent to us if they carry on being troublesome.
Update: Tuesday 26 May
Ahh, what a fine country France is! It seems so long ago that we were making our way through the UK. We woke up this morning to stunning views of the White Cliffs of Dover, glistening blue sea and sky with a perfect white haze sandwiched inbetween.
We continued on the Via Francigena today. The Via Francigena follows the footsteps of pilgrims who walked from the ‘British Islands’ (UK) to the ‘Eternal City’ (Rome) in a time before the year 1000 (that is definitely before any of us were born!) We have been following waymarkers (the symbol for this trail is a tiny pilgrim) and have decided to give each a name as we pass them.
Leaving the coast (and the smell of the sea) behind we headed into the Boulonnais hills (only to be surprised with even better panoramic views of the sea). Zsófia spotted a magnificent windmill on the horizon and another, and another, and before we knew it we had fully committed to a ‘who can spot the windmill the quickest’ competition. A special highlight was eating lunch around the ruins of St. Louis’ chapel in Guémy!
We stopped a little outside Tournehem-Sur-La-Hem today ready for long night's sleep and are looking forward to what France will bring us tomorrow.
Update: Monday 25 May
‘Bonjour et bienvenue en France!’
Distance travelled: 515km
We did it! We are well and truly on French ground and officially in country number 2. We left sleepy England early this morning as we knew we had a mammoth day ahead and wanted to be extra sure we would make our Dover-Calais ferry crossing. As we walked through the Kent Downs, we got to wander through numerous beautiful tiny villages, each with their pretty (and frankly not so tiny) churches and yet more beautiful green.
Arriving in Dover (luckily with time to spare) we had our tickets ready and were eager to get on board. Many chugs later (is that the technical term?) and after a group photo or two (some of the group did look distinctly green by this point), they announced we had arrived in France. Ruth practically squealed with glee but we all had to admit we were bonkers excited…
Now that we are in France, we will be following the ‘Via Francigena’. It is first and foremost a pilgrimage route from Canterbury to Rome, but more about that later.
Excuse us now whilst we inhale as much baguette, cheese and local seafood as possible (and maybe even some frogs' legs, although one of the group advised us that they are mainly eaten in the Dombes region, the bit near the Jura mountains) and bed-down in a slightly shabby (we’ll call it shabby chic) motel just outside Calais. We want to get some sleep so we can properly enjoy the view back to the Kent coast tomorrow as we walk along like the cliffs of Les Deux Caps tomorrow in this spectacular weather.
Update: Sunday 24 May
Just put one foot in front of the other and you’ll be amazed where you can find yourself
We walked another wonderful 53 km today. The wind was a welcome (and cooler) change to the heat, that was until we had hats flying off heads. Properly in Kent now, we found ourselves walking slightly north to cross the River Medway – Anna, coming from a small village said it was the biggest expanse of water she’d ever crossed (wait till we cross the channel!)
One thing that struck me today was how wonderful it’s been watching everyone share their skills so far in this trip. We’ve had lessons on map reading, tree identification, bird calls, stargazing, blister avoidance techniques and we have even informed on the best way to eat a Jaffa cake (chocolate first, cake next, then let the jelly sit on your tongue until you feel this air of happiness engulf you).
We are staying in a farmer friend’s field tonight in Hollingbourne and have been promised fresh eggs in the morning (that’s if we can manage to collect them ourselves).
We all hope you’ve had a great week, we certainly have.
Update: Friday 22 May
‘We’re walking on sunshine woah’
We’re in Otford, Kent (no, I didn’t just say Oxford with my mouth full of potato salad…)
Today we had a bit of a rest day; we continued walking along the North Downs Way for a short while, then we gave ourselves the afternoon off. After pitching our tents in a small woodland (which had lots of cool wild mushrooms growing out of crevices in the trees), some of us went for a wander around this picturesque village. We happened upon a lovely lady out selling fresh strawberries and cream (yummy!) so bought some and naturally devoured them within seconds.
Unfortunately, we had some nasty cases of sunburn on a couple of people today (always remember the sun cream, kids) so we will have to keep an eye on that and hope it heals quickly.
That’s all from me for now, hope you’ve had a good week, and let's hope we cross the channel this weekend!
Update: Thursday 21 May
If in doubt, have the extra spoonful of peanut butter…
We are now a few hundred kilometres in and our bodies are beginning to get used to all this walking. Walking such long distances each day can take a toll on your body but as long as you fuel it well (I have eaten so much peanut butter I wouldn’t be surprised if I looked down and my hands had turned into peanuts) and take things at a sensible pace we know we will be alright. Plus is there anything that can’t be remedied by singing the ‘Sound of Music’ at the top of your lungs?!
We arrived in Caterham this afternoon after an action-packed day on the North Downs Way National Trail. We passed Windsor Castle hoping to be invited in for a spot of tea with the Queen, sadly to no avail, she must have been out walking the corgis or something. The Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Beauty was well, outstanding, and the green rolling hills and the bluest of all skies made us start to think about all the different types of environments we will walk through.
With our bodies and minds strong and excitement at an all-time high, we are ready to face whatever the trail may throw at us!
Update: Wednesday 20 May
‘The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step’ – Lao Tzu
53 kilometres later and another day is in the bag. Starting the day in Oxford we happily trundled down the Thames Path with the Thames River by our side. The countryside seemed to be alive today, with little lambs hopping about and swallows flying low over wildflower meadows filled with colour. Now, as you read this we are a few km outside Reading in a lovely village called Pangbourne. It was thought to be the inspiration for the book ‘Wind in the Willows’ by Kenneth Grahame so we have been especially eagle-eyed and tried to spot our very own Frog and Toad.
We also met a lovely farmer, Bill, who invited us to camp in his field for the night. Feeling like this deserved a proper 'camp-out'; we enjoyed baked potatoes, beans and hot chocolate around a campfire. The marshmallows were toasted (and fingers burnt by those a little impatient for them to cool) and we might even throw in some ghost stories for good measure before we snuggle into our sleeping bags and do it all again tomorrow.
We can’t wait!
Update: Tuesday 19 May
One step, two step, three step, four step
What busy walkers we have been! Today we completed the Oxford Canal Path (wowzers!) and continued our journey south on the Wey Navigation Path for a short while. In our virtual world, pubs are still open, so we can take a slight breather at the Trout at Wolvercote, a favourite of Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse, before we bed down for the night in a nearby Youth Hostel.
Our wonderful day was spent winding in and out of beautiful North Oxfordshire fields and woodlands on the approach to Oxford, enjoying the view of spires as we crossed Port Meadow.
We mustn’t forget the new friends we met on the way, including Ig and Nic on their canal boat in trendy Jericho, and many dog walkers. They couldn’t believe we were walking all the way to South Sudan and wished us the best of luck!
Update: Monday 18 May
Let’s start at the very beginning; it’s a very good place to start...
Hello, Juliet here. And we’re off! Our walk to Ibba has started! We have managed to walk 30km so far, putting us near Rugby. We left FIGS HQ in the SE of the city and after walking into the city centre continued along the Coventry Canal path and then on to the Oxford Canal Walk; our first official trail (how exciting!).
The last few days have been lovely; the sun has been shining, the birds are singing, and the smell of spring is in the air.
Thank you to everybody who has walked and donated so far! Please spread the campaign between your friends, family, work colleagues and local communities – anybody who you think you would be up for going on a walk/run (even a stroll around the block helps us) and donating some money! You can give as much or as little as you like, one-off, regularly, or whenever you go for a walk. We really need your support in order to support the students of Ibba Girls’ School!
* Texts cost the exact amount you donate plus one standard rate message and you’ll be opting in to hear more about our work and fundraising via telephone and SMS. If you’d like to give but do not wish to receive marketing communications, text STEPSINFO [and the amount you'd like to give here, eg. 3] to 70470. Please note, the maximum donation per text is £20 with a daily limit of £30.