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We walked (part of) The Bryson Line
The American's Daniel M Byway puts on his walking shoes and joins an amazing Anglo-American charity walk along the length of Great Britain
Click here for information on The Bryson Line, or to donate to 5 good causes
When I first signed up to walk one leg of The Bryson Line, I didn't give much thought to my involvement. The Bryson Line team – the core of which includes Alex Eichhorn, Kate Hedges, and navigation expert Roger Saller – would be walking 569 miles between Cape Wrath in Scotland and Bognor Regis in the UK. My small participation would be less than 20 miles between Shakespeare's birthplace, Stratford upon Avon, and a small rural English village called Cherington, in Warwickshire. 20 miles didn't sound like that much at first. Turns out that my short involvement gave me a whole new appreciation for what The Bryson Line is all about, and an unforgettable insight into some of the incredible Americans and Brits who are taking part.
Our section of the walk took place on Saturday, June 30th. An almost cloudless sky awaited, and it was hot, but the English countryside was looking at its picturesque best. The first few miles flew by. There were 20 walkers on this particular stretch, including the bright and breezy team from US Tax experts Frank Hirth, who livened up the walk with great conversation (and a Stars and Stripes skirt!). We were also joined by a range of other walkers keen to support the cause – but it wasn't until a few miles in that one of the many amazing stories woven through the fabric of The Bryson Line revealed itself.
Kate Hedges, one of the core trio walking the entire distance, is an American who's lived in the UK for years and who specializes in marketing communications, including working for Tanager Wealth Management (the company which has been organizing The Bryson Line walk). In 2016, she was diagnosed with cancer. Facing that horrible choice for any American living abroad – whether to return to the States for treatment or to stay in the UK – the eventual decision was made and she found herself under the care of Mr Simon Jordan, a Surgeon at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London. Only a year or so later, after surgery, Kate was completing the 2017 LA Marathon, and now she's walking across the UK spreading happiness, spirit, and raising money for the Royal Brompton and other charities as part of The Bryson Line. Even cooler – Simon Jordan was walking with us to help raise money too. I felt like I was in the plot of one of the most heartwarming movies imaginable – Surgeon and Patient walking alongside each other with smiles on their faces, planning ahead for Thanksgiving and raising money for great causes.
Did I mention the weather was blisteringly hot (literally)? Along the way, we were fortunate enough to be able to pay a visit to the home of Sir Andrew Watson, President of the Warwickshire chapter of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), another charity being supported by The Bryson Line walk. The CPRE laid on some great refreshments (Pimms and cake, very British!), and Sir Andrew then joined us for part of the walk. After having been put to shame by Sir Andrew's energy, and inspired by his clear love of walking and the countryside, it's hard not to agree with the CPRE's main goal, which is to protect the English countryside to allow Brits, Americans and all people visiting the UK to enjoy it. Bill Bryson, the long-term US expat whose writing inspired The Bryson Line, was a former CPRE President, and I would encourage any American in the UK to get out into the British countryside to see for themselves what a treasure trove of walks this island offers.
This is the point at which I make a confession. I didn't quite make it to the Cherington finish line – I didn't take enough water and my energy levels gave out around half a mile from the finish. Spending most of my life either sat behind a desk, or driving along the A303 (past Stonehenge!), some of my get-up-and-go has obviously got-up-and-gone. I underestimated just what a challenge this would be – but in some respects, I wouldn't have had the day go any other way. During the last few miles, which were really rough for me, I started to better understand that The Bryson Line isn't just a charitable campaign slogan, it's a representation of something bigger, embodied by the people who are walking and the stories they have to tell. I'm so thankful to those on the walk, including from Frank Hirth, who shared water and raised spirits in some of those dramatic moments of utter exhaustion. I'm also grateful to those who offered me inspiring words and got me through as much of the walk as I could. Alex, Roger, Kate, the Tanager Wealth Management team, the walkers during our journey, and all those who have participated, are the living embodiment of the Special Relationship. That Special Relationship isn't just shown through diplomatic ceremonies, US-UK flags lapel pins, or even free trade deals and the like. During The Bryson Line, a group of Americans and Brits decided to do something amazing to show support for charity, and to do something that was good on a human level.
I think US expats in Britain can be proud of what The Bryson Line says – that Americans in the UK are valued members of the wider community who contribute a great deal to the UK. And to Alex, Roger, Kate and the whole team, I say thank you for offering a timely reminder that human kindness, a good work ethic, and community spirit will always get us to the finish line. Or in my case, as near to the finish line as my legs could take me!