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#SwanseaWalk4EU – Day 15 – Hayes

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Edmund Sides

Day 15 – Maidenhead to Hayes

After my host Jo departed early to catch a train to London, I had breakfast with her husband Ian and sons Charles and Evan, experiencing once again the organised morning chaos of a family with young children who were participating in various school and after-school activities.  Around twenty past eight Chloe, another Maidenhead supporter turned up to give me a lift to Maidenhead bridge where I was due to continue my walk.  I waited there a while until nine o’clock in case anyone else turned up to walk with me; however, no one did so shortly after nine I set off east following the A4 on my own again for the first stretch of today’s walk.  It was a cold morning with a grey overcast sky and a slight wind, so I put on my waterproof jacket in order to feel a bit warmer.

I crossed the bridge to enter South Buckinghamshire, and to say goodbye to the River Thames for a while.  The first couple of kilometres were alongside the busy A4, however, it was more pleasant walking than some of the previous A-roads which I have followed in my journey so far.  In this case, most of the road was in a 40mph speed zone (respected by all but a few isolated motorists), with pavements on one or both sides of the road, such that I did not feel threatened by the traffic whilst walking.  The driving population here seemed to be more reserved than in south Wales and the west of England with no hooting horns and only the occasional shout from a passing motorist; the only one which I heard distinctively being the familiar call of “it’s democracy”, presumably yet again alluding to the fact that some consider that the result of a single referendum is sacrosanct and sensible people are not allowed to change their minds about something that will have a critical impact on their future and the future of their children and grandchildren.

Passing Taplow station, I took a brief detour into a shopping centre to go to an outdoor clothing store to look for the final Ordnance Survey map that I need along my route, only to find that they did not open until ten o’clock so I decided to give it a miss.  The area I was passing through now was starting to become quite built up, and I had the impression that I was starting to enter the ‘outer shell’ of the Greater London area.  As I entered Slough, there was a hint of a pale sun trying to shine through the clouds, but unfortunately, this did not materialise and it remained cloudy, but dry, for the rest of the day.  Shortly after ten o’clock, I had a short call with the People’s Vote press office who indicated that, with the approach of Saturday’s People’s Vote March, there was some media interest in my action and some media outlets might wish to contact me in the coming days.

Passing a sign for a hand car wash, I reflected on whether this is an example of the problem whereby we are all tempted to go for things that are offered at a cheap price without thinking too much about the overall consequences.  Whilst this operation may have been perfectly legal and above board, I do wonder whether all such activities pay tax and national insurance contributions on behalf of their employees.  If we make use of low-cost services that employ foreign workers who may not always be working in line with expected employment conditions, then we should not complain about foreign workers coming to take jobs away from British workers.

Further along, I stopped to talk with a postman who was working on his daily delivery round.  I wanted to compare notes on how much walking he did per day, compared with what I have been walking in the past fortnight.  He said that he also uses his van but reckoned that he spent about two hours per day walking, compared with the five to six hours which I have generally been doing since I started this walk.  On the Brexit issue, he gave the opinion that most politicians are hypocritical and that whatever happens they are unlikely to be personally affected too much.  He also considered that the leadership of the two main parties were not up to tackling the problem which they were faced with.  Just as I was saying goodbye to him, Ian, a supporter of Berkshire for Europe who lives close to Reading, who had been trying to meet up with me since Monday, turned up on his bicycle to accompany me for the next stretch of the walk.  As we walked through Slough, discussing various issues, we noted several information points with maps of the vicinity and information on interesting facts about Slough.  A few key points that I noted from these include:

  • In 1845, the electronic telegraph was first used to catch a murderer, one John Tawell who had killed his mistress in Slough and fled on the train to London.  The police at Paddington were advised by telegraph and arrested him on his arrival there; he was subsequently found guilty and hanged.
  • The first motor car, which was imported from France in 1895, was driven on the coaching roads around Slough by one Evelyn Ellis.
  • Slough was once famous for the surrounding brickfields and apparently, 2.5 million handmade bricks were used to build nearby Eton College in the 1440s
  • The Cox’s Orange Pippin apple was first grown in ColnBrook in 1825 by Richard Cox a retired brewer.

Shortly before midday, we arrived at Slough Railway Station where we stopped to have a coffee and snack.  Whilst we were sitting outside the station, we were joined by Matthew, the chair of the local Slough for Europe group who was going to join me for the next stretch of the walk.  After taking the obligatory photographs for social media, I said goodbye to Ian and proceeded on my way with Matthew as company.  A short distance north of the railway station, we turned off the road to join the towpath alongside the Slough branch of the Grand Union Canal.  The remainder of the day’s walking was alongside the canal following a path which was generally in good condition but rutted in parts.  It was pleasant walking with only the occasional other walkers, runners or cyclists for company.  There was quite a bit of birdlife on the canal, including swans, ducks, coots, two herons and one cormorant.  The natural beauty was marred only by the presence of a lot of rubbish both floating in the canal and deposited alongside the path.  Signs posted along the way indicated that there are active volunteer campaigns to try to deal with this problem.  Alongside the canal, I noted several industrial premises, including one which Matthew said was the old ICI Dulux paint factory which was being closed down. 

Shortly after one o’clock, we left the built-up area to enter the last stretch of greenbelt before reaching the Greater London conurbation.  After crossing this area, we reached the M25 which the canal went under and I then had a real feeling that I was approaching my destination now that I was inside the M25 ring of cars!  A short distance further on we noted a strange smell from a storm drain next to the canal; my map indicated that we were adjacent to a sewage works, hopefully, there is not some contamination of the canal waters.  Next, we crossed the first of two viaducts where the canal crossed over Colne Brook river which marked the official border of the Greater London ceremonial county.  A short distance past this we noted a strange granite obelisk on the footpath.  Searching on the internet Matthew indicated that this a coal duty obelisk, which appears to indicate where in former times a duty had to be paid on coal being imported into London by canal.

Shortly before meeting the main branch of the canal, we passed two fishermen sitting on the canal bank who I had a short discussion with.  Both were ‘leave’ voters who thought we would be better off out of the EU, one of them citing the fact that they thought that immigrants got priority in the housing lists.  They both said that they thought that the politicians were not doing a very good job and that they should have had a clear plan before they started.  After joining the main branch of the canal, we started to pass frequent canal boats moored on the canal bank, as well as a sizeable marina located at the junction of the Slough branch with the main canal.  Matthew left me where the canal passed by West Drayton train station as he needed to return to Slough.  Continuing on my own, I had a brief discussion with a couple out with their young daughter.  I noted that the man was wearing a WRU jersey and it turned out that he was indeed from Wales and had a strong Welsh accent (I forgot to ask what part).  The couple both favoured remaining in Europe, citing easier trade with Europe, the benefits of EU infrastructure funding to Wales and the fact that the public had been told lies during the referendum campaign as some of their reasons.

Continuing on my way, I had to detour away from the canal for a stretch due to a footpath closure.  Whilst following this detour, I spotted my first two Londondouble-deckerr buses.  Passing through a business park, I stopped to take a photograph of an unusual iron sculpture outside the office of a pharmaceutical company and was approached by the security guard who wanted to check what I was up to.  He turned out to be an ex-Gurkha from Nepal and said that he had not had a vote in the referendum and preferred not to comment on the current situation.  Shortly after that, I rejoined the canal and kept up a fairly brisk pace for the rest of the afternoon, pausing only for a brief refreshment stop shortly after four o’clock.  This stretch seemed fairly isolated, despite being in the midst of a built-up area, with only the occasional solitary walker, runner or cyclist for company.  Passing under one bridge, I had a brief conversation with two men of Asian extraction who were amazed when they heard that I had walked all the way from Swansea.  Neither had voted in the referendum, one from choice and the other because he was out of the country at the time.  They told me that Boris Johnson is their MP and they thought that he considered it all a political game and reckoned that he would be all right financially whatever happened. They would both support remaining if there was another referendum.

Approaching the bridge at Hayes, I had a brief conversation with a canal boat owner and resident in order to confirm that I was in fact nearing my destination.  He confirmed that this was the case.  With respect to Brexit, he said that he was disillusioned with politics and said that he did not vote and didn’t care provided that it did not affect him.  I was disappointed to meet yet another person who is not politically engaged with the most important issue that the country has had to deal with for a generation.  I completed the final stretch to arrive at the bridge at five o’clock, to be joined a few minutes later by my wife Rhiannon, who had arrived at the nearby hotel where we were to stay tonight a short while earlier.  After taking the end of day photograph, I packed up my banner and we both headed for the hotel which was a few minutes’ walk away, to catch up on the events of the past few days.

My walk from Maidenhead to Hayes covered 14.9 miles (23.9 km), starting from Maidenhead Bridge at 9:05 and finishing at the bridge over the Grand Union Canal in Hayes at 17:00. 

Supporting my nominated charities

In one of my earlier blogs I mentioned that, in addition to supporting Wales for Europe’s campaign for a People’s Vote, I was also asking people who support what I am doing to donate to one of my two nominated charities, namely:

  • The Big Issue:  which helps homeless people turn their lives around by selling the Big Issue magazine
  • The Woodcraft Folk: a youth organisation which promotes co-operation between young children,

If you would consider donating and are interested in finding out more about the two charities, please click on the link below: