Sunday, 29 June 2008

Ashdown Forest Circular – (Sussex) – 29/06/08 – 13.1 miles exact – IVC

The day started with the slight inconvenience of Osterley station being closed for refurbishment. So rather than bookmarking todays walk with an additional 2 miles walking each way to Boston Manor underground, I decided the best course of action was to cycle there. It was proving however not to be a good day for stations as I was forced to queue up twice for my train ticket at Victoria, with the clerk claiming there was no such place as Ashurst. A quick check with enquiries proved there was, only for the second booking office clerk to come up with the same line again. A slight loss of temper later and she somehow managed to find the station after all (apparently I wasn’t the only one in our group to have this problem).

However having all got there in the end the walk started along the Wealdway on what was an overcast but muggy day. Needless to say there was plenty of nettles (see picture), and just like last time out I was fully kitted out in my shorts. One moment of interest before lunch was passing two reasonably adjacent pillar boxes overlooking the weald. However with the threat of a German invasion having passed, they no longer appear to be manned.

Lunch was at the Anchor pub in Hartfield, where they had a nice collection of cigarette cards in a frame next to where I was seating, featuring characters from Dickens. Anyway I had the (so so) Cod and Chips and a pint of Cider (no change there then). Unfortunately the desert menu didn’t seem all that coherent (chocolate and peppermint mouse anyone ?), so three of us ended up buying Mars bars instead.

The afternoon found us deep in the Five Hundred Acre Wood (where Christopher Robin Played), heading for Pooh Bridge. Having finally got there, we found the approach was actually covered in Pooh (of the horse variety), which I can’t remember Diane Louise Jordan having to cope with, when she was there with Countryfile. Anyway there was a few half hearted attempts at Pooh Sticks by some of our number, before it was given up as a bad job and everyone moved on.

A few small climbs later and we were then retracing our steps back to Ashurst station, which gave us short’s wearers a chance to get reacquainted with the nettles we had come through earlier. Thus by the time we reached the station, our proud owner of a satellite GPS was able to tell everyone that we had come exactly 13.1 miles (that being 1.1 miles further than advertised). Certainly that extra 1.1 mile didn’t spoil the day for me. Oh no I had to wait till later in the day when I got back to Boston Manor underground station, and found my £700 bike stolen, in order to do that.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Stonegate to Robertsbridge – (East Sussex) – 08/06/08 – 10 miles approx – IVC.

With the temperature forecast to be 24 degrees, I decided that this was a good day to break out the shorts again. In the event not a good idea as around a third of this walk was spent ploughing through nettles of one sort or another.

The weather as promised was perfect, and the shortish first half of the walk was spent going through sunny open fields. Hadrians Wall of course came up in the conversation, with our regular couple intending to do an 8 day holiday along it, and another guy on the walk having done it as well (there goes my exclusive bragging rights then).

After three miles we had already reached our lunch stop at the small village of Burwash. The woman in the pub at first appeared overwhelmed by our numbers (17), but then conceded that as long as we didn’t want the roast (already booked) they would do us lunch. So for a nice change I decided to have the cod and chips. Deciding not to wait for desert giving their one o clock rush (?), me and another guy wandered off to a (quaint Forties throwback) tea room in order to get some cake. However mindful of my weight I decided to forego the chocolate sponge and stick with the coffee and walnut cake instead. Once back at our pre arranged meeting spot, we were caught up by two of our regulars, who had missed the train at Orpington by a couple of minutes.

The second half was fairly non-descript and unexciting, involving trawling along and through miles of overgrown woodland path. Thus there was no ravishing scenary or sexy landmarks, just endless nettles and bushes irritating your legs and whacking you in the face. One of our party had thoughtfully brought along a small pair of hand clippers, however several machetes would probably have been more appropriate. This is apparently known as the remote Weald. I had brought my new camera along, intending to come back with a host of stunning pictures. However the harsh high contrast sunlight and shade, and the lack of things to take anyway, meant that this was not a good day for photography. We did pass (what turned out to be) Kipling’s house Bateman’s in the afternoon, however as is my wont, that was the moment I forgot I had a camera on me.

What the second half of the the walk did have was a series of fairly steep climbs. This however was becoming far too much for one (non regular and) slightly overweight member of our party. Thus he started to become in more and more trouble with each successive gradient. Depite various others giving him water and carrying his rucksack, he was literally collapsing on the grass every time we stopped for a break. In the end the two leaders decided a combination of the final climb being likely to prove too much for him, and the need to get the 1751 hourly train (as he was slowing us all down), meant they lopped a couple of miles off the route (intention was 12 miles). Therefore we finished the last section along some country lane until we reached Robertsbridge station.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Kingston to Hatton X – (Surrey) – 01/06/08 – 8.5 miles – Walk London.

This being the second day of Walk London’s – Spring into Summer series of walks. Whereas yesterday’s walk was part of the Capital Ring, this one was a section of the 150 mile London Loop.

A small group of 9 walkers (including the two leaders) met at Kingston Station, at 10.00am on a muggy and overcast morning. Our first objective was Bushey Park (which turned out to be a lot bigger than I thought), and which like yesterday featured some very young deer (in my picture taking a swim). There was also the very attractive and manicured Waterhouse Woodland Gardens to please the eye.

The next highlight of sorts was crossing Fulwell Golf Course, and shortly after we found ourselves in Whitton’s Crane Park. The discovery here was a very tall listed building known as the Shot Tower (pictured). At one time this was a centre of the gunpowder industry employing some 320 people, with its products being shipped down river along the River Crane. It finally closed in 1926, but not before having some 50 + accidents (some being heard in East London, and another apparently blowing out every window in Twickenham). The sole member of staff opened it up early so that we could climb the 87 steps to the top (only to have the view blocked by the leafy canopy), and also let us browse around the museum section at the base.
Then it was onto Hounslow Heath which turned out to be a lot bigger than I assumed it was (seeing as I am fairly local). However it is also fairly non-descript, and somewhere you could easily find yourself getting lost. We then picked up the River Crane again, coming off briefly for a drink in a not too friendly local pub, before picking up the same river on the way to the Hatton X finish. On this last bit we came across some large mounds of earth designed to shield from gunpowder blasts at a site where the (Shot Tower’s) gunpowder was stored and dried.

All of the above described made for an interesting and physically undemanding walk. What does spoil this particular section of the London Loop however is the sheer amount of time one has to spend walking on main roads connecting the better and greener parts. Thus for those parts one could not help feeling a bit of a wally in rucksack and boots, effectively walking along the pavement. Also unlike yesterdays Capital Ring, the signage here was virtually non-existent, and to be frank there are parts of this walk I would not feel safe walking alone (and we did pass one or two unsavoury characters). That said Walk London (and those who fund them) have to be applauded for the amount of work, literature and walk leaders they are putting into opening up hidden parts of London, and for the weekend in general. For more information about this and all their walks click