At 7:43am on Saturday 20th January, you were probably tucked up in bed. At Newcastle Railway Station however, a rare phenomenon was occuring.
No less than twenty-three people had opted to climb out of their beds early, and head to platform two (most armed with hot beverages and breakfast rolls), ready to tackle an 18 mile walk. This may not seem an impressive feat - but there are a few hedgehogs who certainly like to make use of the lab's flexible working allowances to get that extra half hour in bed.
The group, formed in the main of hedgehog lab staff, but also capably propped up by some friends and family, were heading north to be a part of the first ever company walk, as part of the newly-formed hedgehog walking club.
The first challenge of the day was not related to the walk, though. In fact, it came when Head of Strategic Accounts Kevin Robson found he had nowhere to put his bicycle, with access to our offices off-limits. Thankfully Kev put his natural charm to work, smooth-talking his way into getting the bike on the train, before kind Alnmouth station staff allowed him to store it there for the day. As you can see, this didn't stop him from sourcing other means of transport throughout the day.
Following a swift walk to the coast, hedgehogs hit the Alnmouth coastline to begin heading north, and were treated to some stunning views, aided no end by the virtue of our early start meaning we enjoyed the sunrise through the early stages of our walk.
The trip to Craster was actually relatively painless. All 23 completed the journey with relative ease, arriving 45 minutes ahead of schedule. Conditions were perfect en-route. Muddy terrain had frozen over from the previous evening, wind was at a low and all agreed the temperature pretty much spot on for the duration. It meant that the walk to Craster was without worry, leaving hedgehogs with the perfect opportunity to mingle.
The journey to Craster may have been of relative ease to most, and packed full of stunning views like that above, but it's fair to say it didn't make the end sight any less pleasing. The route took the team right around the edge of Craster, ending directly in the beer garden of The Jolly Fisherman Inn, where all enjoyed a well-earned beverage along with a tasty lunch.
Whilst in Craster, the team took part in an unconventional photoshoot, with Lead Designer Michael Hutchinson piloting his drone to take a number of snaps and videos of the group. It was a bit of kit which bamboozled some of the locals, drawing a few long, confused stares.
After the impromptu group photo and a surprise visit from Chief Technical Officer Alan Morris, his wife Amy and their son Joshua, the group were treated to the addition of two more participants. Project Manager Louise Whittaker arrived via bus, swearing that her alarm clock mysteriously didn't go off. Thankfully Lou went a long way to making amends by bringing her dog Maggie in tow.
After some grabbed another coffee to take away, the way back wasn't quite as easy as the way there. The sunshine that the group enjoyed a couple of hours earlier had came back to haunt them, melting muddy hills and causing an issue for a few of the less well-prepared members of the pack. Thankfully, no one completely decked it, but as Designer Scott Smith will vouch for, there were a few close calls.
Despite the hilarity of the near slip-ups, the main talking point of the walk amongst the group, both there and back, was undoubtedly the beauty of Scott's upper attire. Originally debuted in the lab at Christmas, it came as a pleasant surprise to the group that it was being sported once more - a real nod to how on-trend hedgehog lab is.
The conditions didn't stop the group from smashing it once more on the way back, with most back in Alnmouth an hour ahead of schedule. That pace was probably helped by a race against a tide which was becoming increasingly higher, and a reluctance to join those who were brave enough to be swimming in it as we passed by.
After a quick refreshment for most, the hedgehogs wandered back to Alnmouth station, retreived Kev's bike and boarded the train home for a well-earned rest. Michael very kindly spent his Sunday editing the drone footage he'd captured through the day, to create a fantastic video, wonderfully capturing the day.
hedgehog lab's first walking club event was held in memory of Robert Gibson, who sadly passed away in December 2017. The team opted to use its first walk as an opportunity to raise funds in aid of mental health charity Mind, and has so far raised an incredible £1250 for the charity, thanks to the amazing generosity of Rob's friends and family.
All involved in the walking club are hugely grateful for the support for an incredible cause, and wish Rob's loved ones our very best wishes. If you'd like to make a contribution, donations are still open over on our Virgin Money Giving page.