We could not have woken early morning to a better day – glorious sunshine and not a cloud in the sky – for the trip across the Pennines to meet up with Sir Ian Botham on the first day on his 2010 Forget Me Not Walk in Manchester.
The morning weather was befitting of the day to follow.
An easy trip across the M62 (how often can you say that!) left enough time for the family travelling from separate locations to gather for communal breakfast in Manchester city centre before heading to Marks and Spencer to meet with Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research walk organisers for my brief on how the cheque presentation to Sir Ian was going to work.
Outside M&S was a hive of activity with street charity collectors being briefed, walk organisers directing and police patrolling on horseback and motorbikes and the almost surreal sight of a dozen or so Pontin’s bluecoats!
My brief was simple – be in place at the press photocall area 15 minutes before Sir Ian was due to arrive and amongst other fundraisers with sizeable cheques of their own I would be ushered in for a handshake, hello and photoshoot – and to top it off we could do one with family as well!
So with instructions sorted and a few minutes to spare we had a good opportunity for some more relaxed fun family photos and time to chat with other fundraisers.
With a crowd gathering excitement grew as first the Sky news van team arrived shortly followed by Sir Ian’s support van and crew.
Within minutes Sir Ian arrived in amongst a hustle of photographers and TV crews then calmly and openly worked though his on-the-spot interviews and swiftly into the photoshoot.
The Mayor of Manchester and Pontins bluecoats headed up the cast followed by the star young fundraisers and then we were on!
A smiley Sir Ian greeted me, congratulated me on the amount raised so far as I explained my Pennine Way Challenge and turned to be ‘papped’, swiftly joined by Fiona, the girls, Mum and long time friend and marathon running supporter Jayne whom were all walking Beefy’s Manchester Heaton Park walk with me.
With photo’s completed Sir Ian then headed to the start line and with a loud countdown from onlookers started his 12 miles for the day and 10 days of walking.
With the ‘pizzaz’ done it was a leisurely return to the cars for the drive to Heaton Park where we would join the rest of the Manchester walkers for the final 4 miles with Sir Ian.
With the sun still beaming (yes – even in Manchester the home of rain!) we were met at Heaton Park by Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research banners, gazebo’s and booming music from the Pontins promo team entertaining the kids.
There was a real summer feel for the first time this year – shorts, t-shirts and picnics were the order of the day whilst watching a junior cricket practice and croquet whilst we awaited Sir Ian’s arrival!
As news of Sir Ian’s imminent arrival came in the 150 or so public walkers gathered to cheer him into the park and swiftly (and for some of us not so swiftly!) follow him on the marked route around the park.
It was a fab walk on an undulating course. I have never been to Heaton Park before and have to say I was impressed. The sheer size helps with the house centrally located with woodland walk areas, acres of green grass to chill out on, a large boating lake and whilst we were there a travelling funfair.
The route meant we had to keep criss-crossing paths which was great as you would see Sir Ian leading the way back up the hill you were heading down or turning a corner in the distance with a trail of walkers behind and creating a white (due to the T-shirts) snake of people trekking around the park.
With the walk completed and fun had by all it was chance again to catch up with Sir Ian (both on foot and in person!) for another chat and to get my copy of his autobiography signed which has been on my bookcase since 1994!
A fantastic day had by all with collectively thousands of pounds raised, which at the end of the day is what it is all about!