Chapter 13: The Wayfarer's Walk With One Kidney (Part 1)

“Got no time to for spreadin' roots, The time has come to be gone.
And to' our health we drank a thousand times, it's time to Ramble On.”
Robert Plant

The Wayfarer’s Walk rambles on for seventy-one miles through the most glorious Hampshire landscapes. It starts at Inkpen Beacon in North Hampshire and meanders through picturesque countryside, chocolate box villages and delightful old towns until it reaches the final coastal path to Emsworth, at the Northern end of Hayling Island. As a family we often enjoy a nice walk on a Sunday and we frequently go with our friends Lorraine and Anthony and their kids. Rather than the normal convenient circular walks, this year Lorraine has suggested a slightly more ambitious stroll along the entire length of the Wayfarer’s Walk.

Seventy-one miles in one go is however a little too ambitious for a bunch of ambling old farts like us, and indeed many others. The walk has therefore been sympathetically spliced into ten separate legs ranging from just over five to just over nine miles. Apart from the bother of not having the car at the right end of the hike, this all seems very doable. Perhaps in fact it’s a little too easy and I’m almost glad that I am attempting it with the slight handicap of only having the one kidney in order to make it a bit more of an interesting challenge.

As we tick off the first couple of miles it appears that my solitary kidney is not an especially taxing disability when it comes to completing long walks. To be honest, having one kidney doesn’t really seem to present any handicap at all. I never feel as if I need to stop for a while and filter a bit more blood to combat my sluggish urine production rate. My one remaining kidney seems perfectly happy to shoulder the full responsibility on its own. So much so in fact that I now regard the extravagant usage of two kidneys as ever so slightly decadent.

Tori & Crispian on the first leg of the Wayfarer's Walk
It’s been three months now since my operation and whilst the lack of a kidney is posing me no discernable complications there is still a not inconsiderable residue of discomfort still lingering from the operation itself. I’m confident however that I can walk it off. We pass across the top of Walbury Hill and descend to a small road which we need to cross. Opportunely, several Marshalls in high visibility jackets have assembled and neatly stationed themselves along the road to form a cordon and assist our safe crossing. Having been securely ushered to the other side of the road by our highway guardians we head along the edge of the ridge alongside Pilot Hill. A few hundred metres further down however we have to stand aside as a bobbing legion of joggers race past us. The flow of joggers shows no sign of stemming so we walk along the bumpy furrows on the edge of the path as the joggers continue to hare past us, clearly in far more of a hurry than we are.

After a mile or so along the jogger-infested windswept ridge we descend again towards the busy A34 and sea of paper cups littering the bottom edge of the field flanking the dual carriageway. More Marshalls are handing out cups of water to the thirsty joggers who snatch at the out-held cups as they hurtle by without the basic decency to stop and say thank you or briefly discuss this rather delightful early April weather. No refreshments are alas proffered in our general direction. Surely if they knew I was attempting a daring assault on the Wayfarer’s Walk whilst deficient in the kidney department to the tune of one, they would shower me with refreshing beverages and encouragement. Instead they seem to consider me and my walking party as a bit of an obstacle to their silly race.

A few weeks later we attack the second leg from Litchfield to North Oakley and regroup back outside Litchfield village church, the finishing post for the first leg. We follow the towering overhead power lines up the hill and away from the raucous A34. We stride purposefully through woods and muddy tracks until we eventually find ourselves on Watership Down. Watership Down has many special memories for me, it was the first time I had read the book before seeing the film and learnt the bitter life lesson that the films are never as good and miss loads of bits out. I can’t stand here and look out over the fields and down to Nuthanger Farm without visualising Keehar attempting a clumsy take off or Fiver exclaiming to Hazel that he can see the whole world from here. There’s one other thing I like about Watership Down and that’s the fact that there is always an ice cream van in the car park at the end of the track after the horse racetrack. It’s a hot May day and after a seven-mile trek with just the one kidney and a ham and cheese sandwich, I’m rather parched.

Crispian and Lorraine on the 2nd leg of the Wayfarer's Walk
Should I have a white chocolate Magnum or a mango and passion fruit Solero? I ponder this critical quandary as we march the final mile down to the car park. I quite fancy the Magnum, but the Solero would be more refreshing. Or how about a Calippo, they’re really refreshing. It’s a really tough decision. Maybe I could have a Magnum and a Calippo afterwards to quench my first? That might work, except what if the Calippo melts by the time I’ve eaten my Magnum. I know, how about a white chocolate Magnum and a can of Lilt, that’ll work. Having settled the matter I consult the family on what they want. Tori wants a cup of tea as usual but I don’t suppose they’ll do those, so after further debate she settles for a milk chocolate Magnum. My son isn’t quite sure what he wants and decides to consult the adverting board outside the ice cream van before ultimately committing himself to a definitive decision. With our refreshment rewards mainly settled upon we pick up the pace and the dry dirt on the dusty track kicks up into small clouds as we descend down the last stretch of path to the main road. We cross the road and make our way into the car park. The car park is rammed with the cars of Sunday ramblers, but as those familiar with my writing style will have already guessed, there is no ice cream van.

Work and rambling have occupied most of time of late and it’s now been five months since my operation. Although neither my work nor my rambling has been compromised by my lack of kidney I still can’t shake off the remaining post-op pain. In fact, I think the pain may have been getting slightly worse over the last few weeks.

“It takes a long time to fully heal”, people keep assuring me, “you’ve had a major operation, you have to be patient”. Despite this constant reassurance I am still starting to become a little concerned that the cancer may have come back. I’ve just about managed to persuade myself that the abdominal pain I’m still feeling is probably just due to some severed nerves starting to get their act back together again. I visit my local GP for some more reassurance. “It takes a long time to fully heal” she assures me, “you’ve had a major operation”. She has a bit of a prod about and listens to my chest “When is your next CT scan scheduled?” she asks. It’s another three months away yet.

Another all-clear at my second CT scan and I think I really might just be able to start believing that things are going to be OK and I’ve just had one of those “cancer scares” that cause people to reassess the value of salad in their diet. I have actually been eating more salads and less red meat recently, but I suspect the horse has not only bolted but is in fact several fields away by the the time I’ve closed the stable door. I boast to my GP about my new salad whim, doctors are always going on about healthy diets. She doesn’t seem especially enthralled by new found love of leaves though, she clearly thinks the horse is several miles away by now and I might just as well just have a greasy fry-up. Having completed her inspection of me my GP sees no major cause for concern with my reported symptoms and I’m instructed to wait for the next scan or come back again in a few weeks if I’m still worried and things are not getting any better.

We spend the next few weeks progressing further along the Wayfarers Walk. We pass through Dummer and Totford and by early June we have made it as far a New Arlesford. The Wayfareres walk with one kidney, as it turns out, is a piece of piss, but this bloody abdominal pain is not walking off.

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