An early 5am alarm call wasn’t a pleasant surprise, but the time was needed for ablutions, foot prep and breakfast. On the coach for 6.30am and we were off.
07.28 saw us gathered at the Lochnager Crater, 101 years to the hour when 60,000 Ibs of ammonal were detonated under a German trench system. A quick blessing from one of the three padres travelling with us saw us on our way.
The first stop was the Welsh Memorial at Mametz Wood, commemorating more than 4000 of the Welsh Division who fell during 4 days of fighting to take the wood from the Germans. Alongside it is Flatiron Copse cemetery with over 1500 burials.
The promised rain then arrived, mainly as a constant drizzle that soaked you to the skin. Waterproofs were the order of the day.
The mighty Thiepval memorial was our destination for lunch. This marked the 12 mile point, and much needed sugar and carbs were ingested.
The rain got worse as we trekked to Beamont-Hamel, the site of the Newfoundland Memorial Park. The serene caribou overlooks the battlefield where the Newfoundlanders lost so many.
Thankfully the chill wind drove the rain away, and the afternoon brightened up considerably. We paused at the iconic Sunken Lane, and chills ran up our spines as we listened to the testimonial of a Lancashire Fusilier who was in the Sunken Lane on the 1st July 1916.
A steady 3mph pace took us via the Sheffield Memorial Park to the coach waiting at Hebuterne.
So, first day done. 2 minor blisters for Ceri, just over 22 miles walked in a little over 7 hours. Same again tomorrow!