She made it! After walking more than 150 miles in just 8 days to raise funds for the restoration of the Wellington Monument, Nancy Powell-Brace finally arrived back in the town on Sunday 23 September.
A large group of friends, supporters (many from Wellington Arts Association), members of her family and Wellington Mayor Gary James and his wife Bee greeted her with a rousing fanfare and songs outside St John’s Church. The National Trust’s Community Fundraising and Engagement Officer, Emma Jones, presented her with a bouquet before Nancy, the Mayor and the whole ensemble headed for the final leg of the walk from the town to the Monument.
Just before 12.30pm Nancy took the final steps up the steep path through the woods below the Monument at a commendable pace. And, as clouds moved away over the Blackdowns, the sun shone on her and her fellow walkers.
Asked how she felt she said, “Brilliant! It’s great. The best bit is here, seeing the Monument today. It’s made me feel quite emotional!”
Nancy has raised just under £5,000 – ‘at the moment’ but donations can still be made at Odette’s Tea Room in Wellington High Street which she co-owns with her business partner Victoria Osborne. Local businesses and companies have provided sponsorship in the form of equipment and paid for overnight accommodation during her walk.
At the Monument the Mayor presented her with a bottle of Radox Muscle Soak before opening a bottle of champagne to celebrate her remarkable journey which linked the country’s two three-sided obelisks – Cleopatra’s Needle on the banks of the Thames and Wellington Monument, the latter holding the record as the tallest in the world.
In her daily account of her walk Nancy has acknowledged the help, encouragement and sponsorship she has received along the way but, moments after she reached the end of her journey, she said, “I’d like to thank Victoria for her unwavering support and all the friends and members of my family who have helped me. I’d also like to thank people I’ve never met before who have put me up and given me advice. They’ve all been great!”
Nancy will be featured on BBC Somerset on Monday 24 September when her story will reach a wider audience.
And now Nancy has the last word(s):
There is so much to say on this final day I doubt I will remember it all in one post, so you can read any others that come – or not.
After a day of rest my sister Natalie and I were all set and ready to go from Taunton this morning in the pouring rain. How very lucky I’ve been to manage 8 dry days for the walk in September, excluding the horizontal showers of Friday. I’ve ben blessed – but not this morning. Waterproofed and umbrella’d, we set off at a cracking pace through the rain and spray from the lorries hurtling past us at 8.30 am on a Sunday morning! Where the heck were they off too?
Despite stops for water and a chocolate bar we arrived at the Wellington sign ahead of schedule. The pace of walking is definitely faster than before! So I was stalled for a bit by brother.
It was, to my delight and warm fuzzy feelings, inevitable that Victoria was going to organise some sort of welcoming committee and I was fairly sure it would involve her trumpet! As soon as I felt I could arrive on the dot of eleven I made my way in to the town.
What is there to say? As I rounded the bend, the Nanfare began! Trumpet, clarinets and big bass drum heralding my arrival. What a treat! A delightful, heartwarming, bonkers welcome. There must have been 50 people on the grass outside St John’s church. So many more than I had ever expected. Faces from the tearoom, from the Arts Association, family and dear friends, and even a few faces I did not know. All out to greet me in the, by now, nearly blue skies! There was a second treat after the Nanfare. David Duthie had rewritten again the words to the opening song of this year’s pantomime and they chorussed up and belted it across the road.
Good Morning Wellington! Nancy’s walked right from London Town! Stop that statue from falling down. Make this monument world renowned! Fabtastic.
Obviously it was hard to speak to everyone and anyway, we were not there yet. There was still the final leg up to the monument.
It has to be said not everyone made the walk but a lot more than I ever expected yet again. I reckon there must have been 20 or 25 of us stomping through the town and heading UP!
And up, and up, and up……
It is a beautiful walk up to the Monument from the town and it was lovely to chat with the Mayor, family, friends and fellow walkers but we soon became divided into groups. It did remind me of the long distance runners/cyclists and how they get separated during on long races. I fluctuated between middle and rear! No speedy ascent for me!
But people were kind and as we arrived at the bottom of the final stepped ascent they had waited for me. It is a punishing climb but, there above us, surrounded by the bluest skies and the whitest clouds, was the beautiful monument that this has all been about.
As I came up the final steps (to be greeted by those who had come up the easy way) I was struck for the first time by the emotion of what I have done. The Monument really is very beautiful, majestic and noble. And it cannot be allowed to fall down!
There was fizz and sausage rolls and cake and good company at the top. Such wonderful people who walked the last leg for no other reason than in support of me and the cause. What a bloody great town Wellington is!
So. There we go. I walked from London to Wellington. Yep, I really did!
I know at the awards’ ceremonies they say there are too many people to thank but there are. Each and every person who donated, who supported the walk, who made it possible, whom I met along the way, who walked with me, who stood in the rain to meet me, who made me feel this was important, I thank you. I thank you so, so much.
What has been learned? Nothing deeply philosophical I’m afraid.
Walking: walking is what our bodies are designed for. During the walk I did not do any of the things one is supposed to do if one walks a long way. Didn’t cream my feet, didn’t wear two pairs of socks all the time, did wear a new pair of trainers. And do you know what? I don’t have a single blister. Walking is about being sensible and doing what is right for you. I know that now and so I don’t have to walk anywhere again!
I have learned the difference between a narrow boat and a barge. I have learned that the most vulnerable person on the road has the right of way. I have learned that I truly am as bloody minded, determined and stubborn as I thought I was.
I am totally and completely determined that we shall not lose Wellington Monument. I don’t know what else I can do other than support the efforts and speak out at every given opportunity, but it must not be lost. I do know that if the tallest three sided obelisk in the world was in London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Dublin…..any city, this conversation would not be necessary because it would have been rescued decades ago.
But it is in Somerset, beautiful, glorious Somerset, sitting high on the Blackdown Hills as a marker for all those travelling south to tell them they have arrived. They have arrived in one of the most beautiful parts of our green and pleasant land. My point to all this was/is that it is OUR monument. WE must invest our time and energy in saving it. Let that be our legacy.
Lastly, for now, I have learned the truth of what I have always believed and can now say without fear of contradiction: the south-west is downhill. All locks from Reading go downwards!
You really can do ANYTHING you set your mind too. The only barrier to achievement is your own doubt. I tried for 32 years to instil this belief in the young people whom I taught. I think many of them would say I did a good job. This was a public demonstration of a mind set. At 59 years old, significantly overweight (still) I have just walked across England. If there is something in your life that you want to achieve but are scared of failure, ridicule or full of self-doubt, cast all that aside, get off your backside and make it happen. I know you can do it!