Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Richmond Park outer and inner loop – (Surrey) – 21/09/08 – 10.5 miles approx – 0kg - Helen

At last summer returned (for the weekend at least), which found Richmond Park packed with people enjoying what may be one of the last decent days this year. For my part having taken all of the skin off of my heels a mere ten days ago, I wasn’t taking any chances this time out. That meant no carrying excess weight (for this walk anyway), trainers instead of boots, and both heels protected with thick plasters.
The more I see of Richmond Park the more I like it, and on this occasion I decided we should go round in the opposite direction to how I would normally do it on a bike. However first things first, and having arrived at the park around 11.40 (bus diversions in Richmond), it wasn’t long before we decided to stop for lunch. This section from Richmond gate to Robin Hood gate turned out to be the busiest with a never ending procession of cyclists and joggers doing their thing (not to mention the kite-boarders in the distance).
Having done three quarters of the outer loop by chance we ended up on an unintended, and far superior to my normal, path running from Kingston to Richmond gate that doesn’t run alongside the road. Thus the outer loop was completed on this section at our start point at the Dysart Arms. Then for the second time we did the steep climb which takes one up to Petersham Lodge where we had a cup of tea/coffee only. From there it was round the inner loop, finally coming out at Ham gate, and catching an overcrowded 65 bus home.
For my money Richmond Park is the nearest London has to New York’s Central Park in terms of being a democratic open space. What’s that about Hyde Park you say ? Well the fact is that area wise Richmond Park could swallow Hyde Park (including the next door Kensington Gardens) at least six times over. Thus with a vital green lung like this in the heart of (West) London, you cannot expect it to be anything but popular. This therefore may be a problem for the walking purist, as may well be the gravel pathways that navigate a route for you through the flora and fauna. For my money though the multiple users furnish one with a sense of security and belonging, whilst the paths mean you can concentrate on your walking and not on consulting maps and a compass. Not for everyone sure, but as a walker you would have to fairly blinkered not to at least appreciate the beauty of the setting.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Wimbledon Park to Richmond – (Surrey) – 10/09/08 – 7.5 miles - 9kg – Myself

Okay I will start today's post with some consumer advice. Namely never buy anything from Millets, and never buy any boots made by Peter Storm. Still if you are a regular walker, you probably know that already. Why magazines such as 'Country Walking' or 'Trail' can't spell out simple tips like that I don't know. Actually whilst I am on the subject, don't buy Fuji Finepix cameras (specifically the F45-fd or F40-fd).
So anyway today's walk was intended to be a repeat of the one I did with Helen in July, from Wimbledon Park to Osterley. Regular readers will remember however that two walks back, my Peter Storm boots had started to disentegrate in their inner soles, causing massive blisters on the soles of my feet. Last time out, I wore trainers, however for today's jaunt I had filled in the holes with chewing gum and then put two new cushion inner soles in them. The result being an even larger chunk of skin taken off both heels, and the neccessity of having to curtail the walk at Richmond Station.
Whether this was an omen or not I don't know, but the headline on the front of The Metro on my journey to the start read something like: 'On your own in a park, then you are a pervert'. So without getting too much into the logic of that one, I decided I had better not hang around in Wimbledon Park for too long. I was there long enough to see across the boating lake, the builders hard at work at The All England Tennis Club. Yet even as I had got to the exit of Wimbledon Park, immediately I knew the boots were going to give me problems.

Anyway into Wimbledon Common past the Windmill, which seemed to be getting a makeover, and the boots were getting worse. Maybe by this time the pain had put a strange look on my face, as all the lone women in the common out walking their dogs, seemed to give me the impression they were avid Metro readers. Anyway by the time I had got to the bridge that crosses the A3 and takes one into Richmond Park, I was officially in agony, felt like I was walking on fire, and just wanted to quit. Unfortunately that is a point of the course where there are no quit options, so I had no choice but to make my way across Richmond Park. However having hobbled to the exit by Petersham, I decided not to quit out there, but instead carry on for another mile and a quarter to Richmond Station, which meant I would have at least completed the official Capital Ring section from Wimbledon Park to Richmond at seven and a half miles.
Ultimately I cannot say anything positive about this walk as it was just an exercise in living with excruciating pain. Needless to say when I finally got home and got the boots off, all the skin was off both heels as well, with the insoles a scrunched up bloody mess (so for another week I am going to be unable to walk). Now okay this problem has come about once I started carrying about 9kg of ballast in my backpack. However last time out my trainers had proved able to cope with that, on the same route that the Peter Storm boots first gave me this problem, therefore the problem is the boots. Shit, why don't I make more of a point of keeping receipts.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Grand Union Canal - Out and Back - (middlesex) - 02/09/08 - 10 Miles - 9kg - Helen

An exact repeat of my walk 7 days ago, only this time with Helen in tow. The idea being to get a quick door to door ten miler in, as we both had time constraints to contend with. As such the BBC tried to put us off the whole idea before we even started with a severe weather warning. In the event however we had to contend with about 10 minutes drizzle at the start and that was it. In fact by the time we were on the last couple of miles the Sun had even started to put in an appearance.

So with brollies down and waterproofs off it was like last week, out to the '88 mile marker to Braunston' and then back. Having made it to the 88 mile marker (just before Bulls Bridge and the Paddington Branch of the Grand Union canal), we decided to stop off for a cup of coffee at a local pub. Basically because one or both of us were in desperate need for either: the loo, or to sit down and rest for a few minutes. The pub itself being slightly seedy, but at £1.20 for two cups of coffee, who's complaining.

Helen had commented on one or two unsavoury types or hoodies we passed (or tried to avoid) on the way, and you will note from my write up last week that I myself had to pass through what to all accounts seemed like a drug deal in the offing. So suffice to say, that as you pass along the canal in the general Southall to Hayes region, it does pay to keep your eyes open and wits about you. Yet don't let that put you off as it is a pleasant and undemanding walk, and along the way we were able to admire (or look at anyway) the many barges and houseboats (in differing states of repair) that are moored along the canal, as well as the various locks that the more seaworthy ones have to navigate. Also during our travels we encountered a variety of: Dogs, Ducks, Swans and three Herons (or the same Heron viewed in three different locations).

Now regular readers to this column will remember that last week I set off with 9kg of additional ballast in my rucksack (aka 9 litres of water), for exercise purposes doncha know. Well the immediate result of that was severe blisters on both feet, two holes ground into the heels of my walking boots, and the neccessity of having to go to work on my bike all week. The jury is most definately out on the future of the walking boots (this was done in trainers). However the exercise value of carrying this additional weight is beyond doubt, as a rucksack that seems to start off as easy, becomes more of a challenge as each mile passes. The next challenge for me with this system therefore, is to tackle a route with a lot more gradients. However although last week I stated that I want to be carrying 15kg in total, that realistically is a longer term objective that can be staged up, as hopefully (isn't it always) my own body weight comes down.
The picture by the way is courtesy of Helen and her superior (to mine anyway) Fuji Finepix camera.