It’s Not all About Work – Principal Heritage Consultant Duncan Coe on completing Trailwalker 2017

Being an archaeologist is not all about work, working for a company means there are lots of opportunities to do things together outside the work environment, some of them social and some of them more challenging.

Four teams from Cotswold Archaeology sighed up to undertake the Trailwalker challenge ( walking a 100km (60 mile) section of the South Downs from  near Petersfield to Brighton in under 30 hours.  The intention to raise money for The Gurkha Welfare Trust and Oxfam. Two of the teams were formed from staff at our Andover office, one from our Kemble office, and one from our Milton Keynes office. There were many hours of training and many discussions (and speculations) about how we might get on, but the reality hit home on the early evening of Friday 28th July when we arrived at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park to register. There was no going back now.

Our start time was set for 8am on Saturday 29th July and we set off under grey, but dry, skies. The heavy overnight rain had made the path a bit slippery and muddy in places, and we knew very quickly that things were going to be tough.

The South Downs is a great place for an archaeologist to go walking. There are plenty of archaeological sites to see and enjoy (one of the support crews manged to visit Bignor Roma Villa in a gap between checkpoints), but on this occasion we had to focus on the task in hand. The rain arrived as predicted at around 1pm, and although not heavy continued until late into the evening.

Our team from Andover were making good progress, getting to the 60km point in about 11 hours 30 minutes, but the fast progress was having an impact with one member of the team suffering from some bad blisters. Walking through the night at times in heavy rain was difficult, and the site and sounds of the checkpoints, with their welcome food and a chance to sit down for a few minutes, was always a pleasure.

We hit 90Km in under 24 hours, but unfortunately one member of our team was by now suffering with leg pains and had to withdraw. The final 10km, which included one quite steep hill, were slow and Brighton Racecourse seemed to take a long time to arrive, but in the end was in sight. We arrived at the finish line (100km) in 27 hours, tired, sore, but very proud.