A sunny Sunday morning
It was one of those jewels of a day that sometimes grace our autumns, more like a May day than October. What a great day for a walk! This was very fortunate, as I had agreed to meet Jos Smith, who was walking his way from London towards Birmingham along the proposed route of HS2. The plan was to meet Jos at the southern edge of Cubbington Parish and accompany him for some of the way. This would give me the opportunity to show Jos the damage that HS2 would do to the countryside around the Leam Valley and South Cubbington Wood.
Introducing Jos Smith
Jos is a researcher at the University of Exeter; he is also a freelance writer and editor. Although he lives in north Dorset, he says that he “feels personally affected by the government’s plans for HS2”. Jos describes himself as a “keen walker”, which is fortunate for someone attempting the feat of walking the length of the Phase 1 HS2 route – hardly a stroll in the park!
Jos explains his motivation in a blog that has been posted on the Stop HS2 website. In this blog he reflects on the impacts that a period of austerity has had on the people of this country. He sees HS2 as an “extravagant idea even for times of wealth and good fortune”. He describes the hike – excuse the pun – in costs that was announced in July this year and the emerging evidence of “how incompetent and politically motivated the work on the budget had been” as “the last straw”, stimulating him to demonstrate his opposition with his feet – literally.
The long walk and my part in it
Jos began his walk at Euston Station towards the end of July. After four days he had reached Quainton in Buckinghamshire, but had to call a halt due to a pulled tendon in his foot. Now recovered, he had picked up where he left off, continuing his journey into Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire, and had now reached our home county of Warwickshire.
I arrived at the footbridge across the River Leam at the appointed time on Sunday morning and Jos was already waiting for me. He had spent the night at Bascote Heath, and so it had only been, for him, a short stroll to the River Leam crossing. One look at this fit 33 year old told me that my very unfit and overweight 65 year old frame could be in serious trouble keeping up with him, even though Jos was encumbered with a large rucksack full of camping gear. I pleaded with him to “be gentle with me”, and I am pleased to report that he showed great patience in keeping to my pace.
As we walked up the hill towards South Cubbington Wood I recited, rather breathlessly, my well-rehearsed script of what HS2 would mean to the countryside around us and, when he could get a word in edgewise, Jos told me about some of his experiences on his walk.
I left Jos at the Rugby Road, having pointed him to the footpath that heads off towards Stoneleigh via the northern tip of North Cubbington Wood. I am pleased to report that he was able to find his way, because I met up with him again the same evening at Balsall Common where I was attending a campaign meeting. Jos was about to catch a train, as he was heading back to Dorset owing to work commitments the next day. Hopefully, he will return soon to complete the last few miles into Birmingham.