After the initial excitement back in 2005, there has recently been a lot of negativity and cynicism and about the London 2012 Olympic Games – whether it is the McDonald’s monopoly on chips, the failings of G4S, spiralling costs or restrictive social media policies. However, for the last two years, project manager Mark Stanley has been working on a fantastic positive project for normal people to get involved in the Olympic celebrations – The Games Way, a 184 mile long distance path between Weymouth (the location of some of the Olympic sailing events) and the Olympic Park in London. The route goes through some fantastic British countryside – the Jurassic Coast, the New Forest, the edge of the South Downs, the Surrey Hills and along the Thames, past ancient castles, over hills and through woodland and across fields. The opening walk leaves from Weymouth on Saturday 28th July – you can either walk (or run) the whole thing, or join in for different stages.
Since I first heard of Walk 2012 and The Games Way, I have been a massive fan of this project – unfortunately I am unable to walk the whole route, but I will be going along to the launch party (on the Friday evening) and walking the first day along the Jurassic Coast. Mark kindly took a break from his final preparations to have a chat with me about the project.
Mark worked for Hackney Council when it was announced on 6 July 2005 that London had won the bid for the Olympic Games 2012 (the day before the tragic bombing attacks in London). There was a lot of excitement – both in London and in Weymouth, where Mark grew up, which would be hosting the sailing events. A gem of an idea formed of organising a challenge, linking Weymouth and London, that would allow us non-athletes the chance to take part and experience this once in a lifetime event ourselves rather than just watching it on the TV like any other Olympics.
After an aborted attempt to walk The Ridge Way with ill fitting boots and carrying too much weight (we have all been there!), Mark’s first proper experience of walking and camping a long distance path was West Highland Way. This experience, and the challenge element of a long distance walk, led him to the decision to create The Games Way, that just about anyone could take part in during the Olympics that would suit campers and B&B-ers.
After an initial trial run to make sure the walk was feasible, Mark has spent the last two years walking and re-walking the proposed route to finalise the details (often with his partner Felix), and he has produced a brilliant downloadable guidebook which details each stage of the route as well as suitable accommodation, options for refreshments and public transport available. In fact finalising the route has taken up so much time that, other than a weekend away on Pembrokeshire Coast, all his hiking time has been spent walking parts of The Games Way route!
The route, which is listed as one of the 12 great walks for 2012 by Country Walking Magazine, is officially recognised by The Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA), and the name ‘The Games Way’ was agreed with the London Olympics Committee (as you can probably imagine anything with ‘London’, ‘2012’, ‘Olympics’ etc was off limits).
For more details on The Games Way visit http://walk2012.co.uk, follow @walk2012 on Twitter and ‘like’ their facebook page. The launch party is on Friday 28th July at The Ship Inn, Weymouth Harbour, and the first day starts on Saturday 28th July at 9.30am in Weymouth. Anyone can take part, and you can either walk all the route, or join in on any of the days. You can view the itinerary (including start times and locations for each day at http://walk2012.co.uk/blog/?p=1350)
The full route is:
Stage 1: Weymouth to Durdle Door (14 miles) [Sat 28th July]
Stage 2: Durdle Door to Wareham (15 miles) [Sun 29th July]
Stage 3: Wareham to Wimborne (18 miles) [Mon 30th July]
Stage 4: Wimborne to Linwood (17 miles) [Tue 31st July]
Stage 5: Linwood to Romsey (18 miles) [Wed 1st Aug]
Stage 6: Romsey to Winchester (14 miles) [Thurs 2nd Aug]
Stage 7: Winchester to Bishop’s Sutton (10 miles) [Fri 3rd Aug]
Stage 8: Bishop’s Sutton to Bentley (17 miles) [Sat 4th Aug]
Stage 9: Bentley to Puttenham (12 miles) [Sun 5th Aug]
Stage 10: Puttenham to Weybridge (17 miles) [Mon 6th Aug]
Stage 11: Weybridge to Putney Bridge (15 miles) [Tues 7th Aug]
Stage 12: Putney Bridge to Stratford (17 miles) [Weds 8th Aug]
I just about managed to get Mark tied down to a single choice for his favourite part of the route – the first stage on the Jurassic coast!