Anyone who read my previous blog, please ignore as I blogged the whole march on it. Like the Darlo Mums – the men are quiet too 😉
After months of planning with Leeds Keep Our NHS Public, we had pre-walked routes, liaised with the police, councils and many others. We arrived in Harrogate night of 21st and listened to some amazing speakers in a church in Harrogate.
The next morning it was my turn – to lead the march from Harrogate to Leeds which was a long stretch – 18+ miles because we had to go through sections of countryside. I think the original Jarrow marchers could probably have walked down the A61 but not in the 21st century due to traffic. We assembled on Harrogate Common also known as The Stray, where people used to graze animals. After being asked a hundred times about whether they could use the toilet before we started, we finally managed to gather everyone in one place and we were ready to move off. I was so busy sorting things and answering questions and talking on phones and walkie talkies that I picked up the megaphone and it wasn’t until Craig told me that I had it the wrong way round that we finally got moving…
Still being asked about toilet stops after about a mile of setting off. Also had to keep slowing down as my idea of getting to Leeds on time in the evening and the marching abilities of others did not exactly synchronise. Great views of the Yorkshire dales and even a moor in the distance. Morning break as we arrived in small village – Kirkby Overblow – which Leeds KONP had decorated with bunting and banners. One of the residents said it was the most exciting thing to happen to the village since the coronation !
When I had pre-walked some of the fields I was advised that there might be a bull in one of the fields. But not a bull in sight. We could see a group of bullocks in the field next to us and carried on…to where the fence ended and we were suddenly in the bullock field with them and our stile on the other side of the field. Most of us made it over the fence in time but a few got a bit close and personal – although it was all curiosity, playfulness and friendliness from the bullocks and some mild panic from a few marchers.
As one of the marchers put it – didn’t expect to be kettled by bullocks! This is when it hits home that there’s so much going on beside tiring marches to raise awareness and encourage others to add their voices in support of reinstating the NHS. Some people hadn’t walked in the countryside for years, scared of larger animals but were up for doing it again. We had a similar experience later on when walking through a pitch black old railway tunnel, en route to Northampton I think. We held the hands of people who were scared of the dark and got them involved with lots of chanting and whistling. Everyone came through in one piece all the better for it hopefully.
But onwards and next an artistic surprise for the marchers. There’s a sculptor who works in a barn in one of the fields. I had met him on a previous test walk and mentioned that I might be walking past with lots of marchers soon. And fortunately for us he was there and we had a pitstop which was a nice change for the marchers who had started from Jarrow.
We had to change the next bit of routes due to lost time – so no diverting to the Emmerdale set at lunchtime. Still being asked about toilets.
The march section from Leeds outer ring road into the centre of Leeds is about 6 / 7 miles and at this point a few people starting to tire but we had fantastic support from Leeds residents all the way in. It took forever but we finally made it into Leeds about 2 hours later than planned and roared into Victoria gardens by the Town Hall. And a bonus from Bradford – one campaigner had brought flapjack for all of us. Yorkshire friendliness throughout every step !