Workhorses and Workhouses

It’s Movember and in addition to growing a ‘stache in aid of Prostate Cancer research I’ve been busy fine-tuning my route and dealing with LEJOGistics … who says guys can’t multitask?  This blog update is a long one so here goes …

Maps update
A big thank you goes out to those of you who’ve left comments or emailed regarding my maps dilemma. Your offers of help are greatly appreciated. Yesterday I was contacted by a generous fellow walker who has volunteered to forward a parcel to me somewhere along my route. Thank you Brian!

I can now concentrate on reducing the weight of my 44 maps from 5kg to 2.5kg or less. I made the difficult decision to trim my maps but the ends do justify the means, despite the fact that my great-grandfather, Walter Cunningham, a former Ordnance Survey foreman might be turning in his grave! To date I’ve reduced a handful of OS Explorer maps from 120 grams to 40 grams each. The plan is to trim only some of my maps, namely those covering Land’s End to Barnstaple and Loch Lomand to John O’Groats.

Route update
I’ve reduced the number of walking days from 72 to 71 by eliminating a small section of Hadrian’s Wall. I’ve walked this section a couple of times in the past and so I’ve opted for a shortcut through Haltwhislte. My Route page now includes links to individual Google Maps. I’ll now begin work on a single Google Map covering my entire route. It appears stitching together my 71 individual Google maps needs to be done manually as I’ve found no easy way of concatenating them.

Training update
I’ve completed a couple of 17-mile walks since my last update. At this point my goal is to maintain my conditioning levels until I leave. My feet are in good shape although my knees and hips are not always as happy. As I get closer to leaving I will add some steep hill climbs to the mix but for now my long plods to the peninsula will have to do.

R&R (Rest and Research)
I’ve also started looking at places I might like to visit on my rest days. I’m especially interested in towns and villages associated with my family over the years. Cullompton in Devon is a candidate as it was the birthplace of my Lewis ancestors in the early 19th century. It looks as though I can catch a train from Barnstable to Tiverton Junction and then walk the 3 miles to Cullompton.

A day off in Gloucester is also a possibility but finding the exact birthplace of my great-great-great Grandfather, William Henry Clifford, is proving difficult. Alternatively I might carry on to Bridgnorth and take a day off to visit the Acton Scott Historic Working Farm. Most family trees include many ‘Ag Labs’ (agricultural labourers) and mine is no exception. As a result I find myself drawn to places where I can get a feel for what life would have been like for them. I confess I’m also addicted to the Victorian Farm television series that is currently being aired here in British Columbia.

While life was difficult on the farm it was no easier for some of my ancestors who moved to London in the middle of the 19th century. Some of my relatives were gardeners and domestic servants who struggled to survive and were, on occasion, forced to take refuge in a workhouse. Until recently my understanding of workhouses was limited to their portrayal in Dicken’s novels and so I’ve made a point of reading more about the workhouse experience. Grim reading indeed. I’m thinking of making a special trip to the National Trust Workhouse at Southwell. If anyone has visited the Workhouse or Acton Scott I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts.

Beyond Belfast
So here I was thinking that combining a long walk with genealogy research might be somewhat unique when my girlfriend tells me there’s a guy on the news talking about his latest book, Beyond Belfast. Will Ferguson’s new book about walking the Ulster Way while uncovering family secrets now sits atop my ‘in progress’ stack of must-reads. The similarities are somewhat eerie: 1) he’s Canadian, 2) he’s the descendant of a Barnardo Boy and most amazing of all, 3) he’s the nephew of an energetic and very funny woman who I had the pleasure of leading on two walking holidays in England.

Home Children
Gordon Brown’s statement early last week that his government will issue an apology to Home Children resulted in a flurry of news coverage in Canada. As I alluded to in the previous paragraph I too am a descendant of a Barnardo boy. My great-grandfather Herbert Clifford (whom I’m dedicating my LEJOG walk to) was sent to Canada in 1904 and worked on a variety of farms in southern Ontario. My intention has always been to weave his story into my LEJOG blog and in light of recent events I feel even more compelled to do so.

Over 100,000 children were sent to Canada in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. An estimated 11% of Canadians, that’s more than 3,000,000 people, have descended from these children. Most Canadians are unaware of their home child lineage as it was often covered up by families due to the negative attitudes of the day. I only discovered that I was one myself earlier this year and only after a couple of years of relentless digging for the truth.

I’m not a big fan of belated apologies, especially when they are a century overdue and judged by a society that has little understanding of what life was really like in those days. That said if those home children who are still with us today feel an apology is due then so be it. In Herbert’s case I feel had he not been taken in by Barnardo’s he may not have survived. And I know for fact that he was grateful for the fresh start that the orphanage afforded him. Most of the news agencies have jumped on the apology bandwagon however an editorial in our local paper provided a more thoughtful response, notwithstanding it’s rather stinging conclusion:

When British Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologizes for the children his country sent away, he might also apologize for those who were not given the chance to get out.

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