There is no such thing as bad weather, only insufficient clothing. Thus having been forewarned by the weathermen (and women too) that this was going to be a cold one, I was taking no chances. So starting from the bottom up that meant: two pairs of socks, trousers plus rainproof overtrousers, t-shirt, long sleeved shirt, long sleeved thick jumper, body warmer, and to start off the walk my Berghaus waterproof jacket. Just as well then as when we got off the train in Bayford, we were met by a mixture of hail and sleet (not nearly as nice as the dusting of snow I saw out of the kitchen window when I first got up). That said the rain soon disappeared along with the need for the rain jacket. Thereafter the sun came out, and I was comfortably warm as toast for the entire walk (the moral being don’t blame the weather for your lack of sufficient clothing).
So our seven man and one woman group started off from Bayford station with a slight illegal trespass through the grounds of some motoring organisation’s headquarters, before heading down some muddy bridleways. Now this was actually the first time I had done anything walking related with IVC since my involuntary curtailment of the Stour Valley weekend. So with two people from that weekend along on this walk, it was useful to be able to clear up any misunderstanding of why I couldn’t continue on that particular weekend. Anyway after a couple of miles of bridleways our leader brought to the group’s attention the historic/heritage moment he had obviously been saving up. Namely the old bit of track we had just turned onto was none other than Ermine Street. Yes that one, no really the very same. Oh alright then I hadn’t heard of it either, but apparently it is (and I have just checked this on Wikipedia) Click, a Roman road that ran from London to York (via Lincoln). So what can I say other than………. well let’s just say its no Hadrians Wall. Anyway we reached The Huntsman pub in Goose Green (no not the Falkland’s one silly) around 12.30 with our leader telling us we had covered five miles. This however was being ever so slightly optimistic, with it requiring a large leap of imagination and a strong tailwind to believe we had covered anything more than three.
After a certain amount of soul searching outside, and a half hearted undoing of laces, we decided to chance wearing our muddy boots inside, which in the event was not too much of problem as most of the pub was a stone floor apart from …… ahem cough, …….. well apart from the bit where we sitting down to eat. So anyway eyeing up the specials I decided to have the Cornish Pasty and chips, as did another member of our group. Thus having got his order in first (even though he saw it after me) he was told there was only one Pasty left. So after much sulking on my part, along the lines of: “I don’t mind really, but I did see it first” it was agreed that I could have it. Good choice as this was one of the best, and most reasonably priced pub meals I have had in a long time. As Gordon Ramsey would say ‘simple and rustic’, which was of course washed down with my usual pint of Strongbow. Despite the very full plate that had been set before me, that was obviously not going to be enough to keep me going so I was able to settle my stomach afterwards with a nice chocolate sponge pudding covered in cream. Meanwhile those in the pub eating around us appeared to get ever quieter and quieter, as our discussion of the merits or otherwise of bendy buses got ever louder and louder.
The second half of the walk which would take us back to Bayford station was far more interesting, challenging and longer. It was also far more muddy. Thus for the most part it consisted of a series of climbs through Hoddeson Park Wood. Although there was a considerable gloop factor involved, not exactly helped by going uphill this was more than compensated by the sun setting through the trees, and at one point an incredible light decending that one could only achieve in photographs by use of a filter. Eventually we were back on the bridleways and encountered two sets of two horses (+ riders) along the way. Then as we were a few hundred yards from Bayford station, the married section of our group decided they could make the 1616 train back to Kings X, whilst the rest of us stopped off for coffee in a nearby pub, and instead settled to catch the 1646.
So enough of all that, as I am sure what you all really want to know is how I am getting on with my boots ? Well lets just say last weeks decision to dispense with all foot inserts/insoles and heel supports has proved to be the right one, as they gave me no trouble whatsoever. It is also worth noting that as I started/finished the day with an overall additional 3 miles to Boston Manor underground my true mileage was actually 12 miles. Also wearing two pairs of socks (in the Winter anyway) seems to be a good idea for the additional protection they provide. In fact it might be time to start doing some long walks again carrying the additional weight in my rucksack, only with the boots back on instead of trainers. This of course being what I want to do, but we will see !