THEY were given a heroes’ welcome.
More than 200 people greeted the great-great-grandchildren of Charles Dickens as they took the final steps of their novel fundraising walk in Guildhall Square.
Ian and Gerald Dickens followed the same London to Portsmouth route as Nicholas Nickleby did in their ancestor’s famous novel.
The challenge, which took five days to complete, was to raise cash for a statue of Portsmouth-born Charles Dickens to be placed in Guildhall Square.
Ian’s stand-out moment was reaching the Devil’s Punchbowl in Hindhead – a spot Nicholas Nickleby and sidekick Smike visit in their journey.
He said: ‘We did 75 miles but all the footpaths and wrong turns made it 94 miles in total. It meant we did 42 hours of exercise in five days and I haven’t done that in decades!
‘It was a poignant journey. Up on the Devil’s Punchbowl, we saw the stone that marks the murder of a sailor in the 1700s, and Nicholas walks past it and reads the story to Smike.
‘We walked past the stone and Gerry read it to me. Dickens writes about it so descriptively that he might have been there as well.
‘It was Dickensian in its journey. You meet some unfriendly people who keep themselves to themselves, but others are really gregarious.’
Gerald added: ‘We passed through some fantastic countryside and met some wonderful people – I’m sad it’s all over now. We just need to get over this last hurdle and get the statue.’
Gerald added he was trying to convince his brother to follow the Old Curiosity Shop walk from London to Shropshire – but Ian is turning a blind eye to the suggestion.
They were greeted by members of the International Dickens Fellowship, which held its bicentenary conference at Portsmouth Guildhall following their arrival.
Dickens fan Dorothy Dudley travelled from Boston to welcome the brothers finish their challenge, and attend the Dickens Fellowship Convention.
She said: ‘We’ve been in town seven hours and are huge Dickens fans.
‘We like the humility, the characters and the humour in his stories.’