Setting out in the howls of Storm Katie, Jeff and his intrepid followers were soon rewarded with sunny country lanes and welcoming hostelries on their route to Milton Keynes from Northampton, which took them past the 200-mile point of the March.
From: Northampton Town To: MK Dons
Distance walked: 22 miles Total marchers: 45+
8:30am Storm Katie was still blowing a ferocious gale across the pitch at Sixfields Stadium. But the howling winds and torrential rain hadn’t put off former Olympian Derek Redmond from joining us with his wife, Maria, for our march to Milton Keynes. After a quick pep talk from Jeff, Northampton Town’s Clarence the Dragon led us off the starting line, spirits high, into the squall.
10am After Katie’s overnight drenching, the footpaths leaving Northampton were a squishy, slippery, muddy mess, and we walked with hooded heads bent against the driving rain. So when we reached our first pit-stop at the Royal Oak in Blisworth, we were bowled over by the spread of hot cross buns, cakes and hot chocolate the lovely staff had laid on for us. Fantastic!
11am The Oak’s roaring fire was hard to prize ourselves away from, but a break in the weather drew us back out onto the trail, where Northants’ tranquil country lanes and canal towpaths were looking mighty fine in the bright sunshine. Storm Katie was becoming a distant memory with every splendid mile.
12:45pm Lunch at the Coffee Pot Tavern in Yardley Gobion – done up from floor to ceiling in Prostate Cancer UK banners and posters – was another terrific oasis of pub hospitality. Applauded in by Bank Holiday drinkers, Jeff got a surprise from his long-time Sky Sports colleague, John Gwynne, who boomed an impromptu bit of commentary from behind some regulars at the bar. The sprightly 70-year-old handed over a cheque for £250 and joined us with his walking stick for the remainder of the route.
2:30pm After his regular TalkSport phone call and live Sky link up, Jeff enjoyed the picturesque canals and parkland approaching the Ouse Valley. As he went, he listened to the moving prostate cancer stories of his fellow marchers, including Stephen Hukin, who had advanced prostate cancer and was accompanied by his uncle and daughter, and a lady walking on her own called Jules, whose husband had died from the disease. Making up the bulk of the group, though, were 25 staff from the nearby Carlsberg brewery, who were sporting their own specially-branded green polo shirts and continuing their employer’s long-standing support of Prostate Cancer UK.
3:30pm On the outskirts of Milton Keynes, we made our final drinks stop at the Galleon pub, where as well as attracting the attentions of an affectionate black Labrador, Jeff was met by MK Dons manager Karl Robinson and his coaching staff Richie Barker MK Dons to escort us the final miles to Stadium mk.
4:45pm Word spread that Hartlepool had beaten Leyton Orient 2-0 at odds of 5/1, taking Jeff’s SkyBet total to £2,480 for the week. It was just the pick-me-up he and Russ needed as we battled through overgrown bushes and puddles under bridges and flyovers approaching the ground. At this point, Clarence the Dragon’s earlier enthusiasm caught up with him and while he still had plenty of puff, he was forced to retire with excruciating blisters. If only he could’ve flapped those furry yellow wings of his.
5pm Our reception at Stadium mk was as warm as any we’d had so far, with plenty of people there to cheer us in who then gave generously into our collection buckets. MK Don’s chair, Pete Wilkeman, gave us a heart-felt speech on the pitch about how proud he was of our efforts, which felt all the more pleasing when Jeff reminded us we’d passed the 200-mile mark on today’s leg of the March. Suddenly Wembley doesn’t feel all that far away.
Overheard on the hoof: “If Carlsberg did walks, they probably wouldn’t have chosen today!” (Jeff at his morning talk).
Celebs spotted: Derek Redmond, Karl Robinson, Richie Barker, Clarence the Dragon, Pete and Sarah Winkelman, Andrew Cullen.
Marcher of the day: Carlsberg's team of 25 marchers. "As soon as we heard about Jeff’s March, we were keen to show our support."
Please donate to Jeff's gargantuan fundraising effort and help us smash our £300k target.
Hartlepool United gave Jeff Stelling a gobsmacking Easter surprise on a largely sunny leg from Coventry to Leicester, with Hangus the Monkey ensuring everybody was kept entertained as the marchers finally said goodbye to the Midlands and move on to the South.