For the second walk of the year, the Ramblers re-convened in Banbury for a gig at the Mill, after which they walked along the canals to Leicester for the Big Session Festival, playing an assortment of pub gigs along the way.
JJ said: “It’s been amazing to be in the heart of England, surrounded by these huge urban conurbations and motorways in the Midlands, but you can’t see them – it’s like they’re not there. The countryside this time of year is wonderful. All the crops seem way ahead of themselves. We passed through a field of livestock and saw three hares – I’ve never seen that many hares in quite a long time. It’s good to see they’re still thriving in this part of world.”
A particular joy was the gig at the Admiral Nelson pub in Braunston: “Braunston was a great night – probably one of the highlights, because the weather was so good. We literally arrived at the Admiral Nelson and played a show right by the canal. It was idyllic; just as it should be. We played till the sun went down. Great crowd: some people who came in specially for the gig because they’d seen it in the papers, and others coming over off the boats just out of curiosity, but it was a really lovely atmosphere.”
The Rugby Roots gig at the Merchant’s Inn was another special night: “Thanks to Richard and everyone at Rugby Roots, not just for putting on a superb gig in a great venue, but if you if live in the Rugby area and read this, check out the Merchants Inn. It’s one of those pubs you give up hope sometimes of ever finding. Staff are great, the beer is wonderful, and the manager mixes live sport and live music in really lovely relaxed manner. The room we played in was superb, and the gig was sold out…I can’t believe this is the last day – it’s been an incredible journey. I’ll see you at the Big Session.”
After the festival, JJ reflected on the two walks of 2009: the Welsh borders to Nettlebed, and Banbury to the Big Session. “Well the first thing to say is – no matter how hard you try – you just cannot look cool in walking gear!! I would like to apologise for some of the hats in the photographs. Good thing is though everyone looks just as unkempt, sweaty, bedraggled …and they are always smiling. That’s the essence of walking – you enjoy feeling exhausted and looking rough without your make-up, even me. The second thing is how sociable and talkative walkers are..it was amazingly friendly, even with many people walking with us for the first time. In fact it was only by going into turbo-charge on a few occasion that I saved my voice for the gigs. The people walking and especially our amazing back-up, were all fantastic but the main star of the whole journey was the English and Welsh landscape, ever-changing,sometimes brooding and wild, then lush and verdant in that early summer light. A privilege to be out there and with some great people. 200 miles; 9 counties; 6 long distance paths; 11 different ciders; 13 different beers [not including Big Session], 5 canalside pubs, 11 village/town pubs…….and a great festival to finish. I hope this is just the start.“