Jeff proclaimed it his best day yet, as the sun shone on a beautiful waterside route around the Trent Valley, taking Jeff and his faithful followers to the halfway point of his epic journey, from Derby to Nottingham via Burton. A Hartlepool win, a lively Paul Merson and a brace of footballing and Olympic legends made the going all the more enjoyable.
From: Derby County To: Notts County
Distance walked: 27 miles Total marchers: 60+
8am The sun was shining in a brilliant blue sky over Derby County’s Pride Park, putting everybody in a good mood for Day 5, including former England international Paul Merson. At a countdown from the tannoy, a crowd cheered us out and Paul went off like a shot into the distance with Russ Green, who’s made a habit of starting fast, while Jeff confesses to being a slow starter in the morning. And who can blame him in this glorious weather?
10am Following the Derwent for a short stretch, we soon found ourselves dodging bikes from both directions over the next few miles of cycle paths. The former Scottish football skipper and Nottingham Forest hero, Archie Gemmill, took on the noble duty of calling out ‘bike!’ at regular intervals to save several marchers’ skins. A captain’s leadership instinct never leaves you, it seems.
11am We turned west along the Burton canal, where the surrounding Trent Valley countryside was beautiful. The sun was still so resplendent that a support walker was dispatched to a nearby Aldi to buy emergency suntan lotion for everyone. Having switched his boots for comfier trainers with his eyes safely shielded behind his wrap-round shades, Jeff was in his element.
1pm Marching in single file along the narrowing towpath, we waved to passing narrowboats before finally turning into Burton Albion’s Pirelli stadium, where manager Nigel Clough was waiting to give Jeff a spirited welcome. Always cheered by any footballing professional who turns out to support him, Jeff was equally impressed by the massive Burton fan turnout, who dug deep to fill our collection buckets. Many thanks, you Brewers!
2:30pm A half-hour van ride took us to Trent Lock, 14 miles southwest of Nottingham, but the van was too big for the approach road and blocked off a number of other befuddled drivers. You could say we were jamming in the name of the cause, or something.
3pm Strolling the sunny banks of the River Trent, Jeff had a chance to chat to a host of his fellow marchers. One man, called Chris, described living on ‘active surveillance’ with his prostate cancer in case it should spread, while Julie explained her husband was about to begin chemotherapy for his prostate. Susie Hall, a urologist at the Royal Derby Hospital, was raising money for the patients she sees with the disease every day, and her husband, Morris, was supporting her in any way he could.
4pm Ignoring the lovely scenery, Russ and Jeff were glued to their mobile phones listening to the score updates of the Hartlepool and York City matches that could be crucial in the battle to avoid relegation from League Two. Despite being such lovely hosts on Day 2, Russ let out a massive cheer when Hartlepool held onto their 1-0 lead to go 11 points clear of York. All's fair in love and football...
5:30pm British Paralympian canoeist, Rob Oliver, and Olympic speedskater, Jack Wellbourne, sprang from nowhere to shepherd us for the last half-hour up the Trent to the Nottingham Forest ground, where another Forest legend, John McGovern, greeted Jeff briefly before hurrying us over the river to march straight onto the pitch of Notts County’s Meadow Lane stadium. With such awesome company, great weather and Hartlepool winning, Jeff hailed it as his best day of the March yet. A fitting way to mark the halfway point of this epic 10-day adventure.
Overheard on the hoof: “Paul showed more pace at the start of today’s walk than he did in his entire playing career.” (Jeff about Paul Merson blistering set-off from Pride Park.)
Celebs spotted: Paul Merson, Nigel Clough, Russ Green, Archie Gemmill, John McGovern, Rob Oliver, Jack Whelbourne, Mayor of Broxtowe.
Marcher of the day: Susie Hall, urologist at the Royal Derby Hospital. “I see men every day who have had symptoms for a while but haven't said anything because they're too embarrassed.”
Please donate to Jeff's gargantuan fundraising effort and help us smash our £300k target.
On a landmark day for the March, Jeff and his fellow walkers sailed past the £200k fundraising mark. So it was just as well they had a brass band in tow to help them celebrate, as well as another huge array of local residents and well-known faces to spur them on from Rotherham to Chesterfield via Sheffield.