Sunday, 23 November 2008

Bayford Circular – (Hertfordshire) – 23/11/08 – 9 Miles approx – IVC

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 !

Monday, 17 November 2008

Osterley to Greenford Station (The Capital Ring) – (Middlesex) – 16/11/08 – 6.5 Miles – 0kg – Helen

After a four mile walk round the outskirts of Osterley Park with Helen a couple of days previous, I decided that my newish £11 boot insoles were in no condition to carry on with. Therefore I started this walk with just two gel type heel inserts I had bought for £6 two days back. However after a half a mile I decided they were also a problem, and continued on with just the bare insides of the boots. In the event this proved the best course of action with the boots not giving me any problems during the walk, although I have to qualify that by saying I wasn’t carrying any weight in my rucksack, and I also had on some new £12 walking sock’s (as opposed to my usual 12 socks for a £1 footwear from Primark). So you can now consider yourselves up to date on my shopping.
Anyway the Capital Ring, and if you recall (or click here ) me and Helen began this back in July with stage 6 from Wimbledon Park tube finishing some two thirds into stage 7 by coming off the Grand Union Canal onto the Great West Road. Well on this occasion we rejoined it at exactly the same place on the canal (which cut out the official joining link for stage 8 at Boston Manor tube). Our destination would be Greenford tube on the Central Line and the official end of stage 8.

This section of the Grand Union Canal is becoming oh so familiar to us these days, however once we turned off at the bottom Hanwell Lock (there are six) to go alongside the Brent River, we were in unexplored territory. Following the path we soon reached Hanwell Bridge (which dates back to 1762 apparently) but instead of going under it, the deepish mud forced us to cross on the upper road. However once we were in the field opposite, the Wharncliffe Viaduct came into view. This being an impressive structure that was a regular sight during my childhood, when I would be out walking my aunties’s and uncle’s dog when they lived in Hanwell. As we went under it we were greeted by two cyclists who we had seen earlier on the canal, and who said they were also doing the Capital Ring (funny I thought it was for walkers). Presently we ended up in Brent Lodge Park where Helen decided to explore her inner child at the small zoo. However with time cracking on and the light and weather not looking to improve I managed to keep her out of the adjoining maze. Once back en-route we snaked round the edge of the park as instructed by the ‘Walk London’ instructions, and nearly became a trophy killing for one of those bull terrier type canines, but fortunately the owner was responsible enough to keep the aggressive mutt on a lead.


The weather had been spitting on and off from the start of the walk but as we crossed a section of Brent Valley Golf course and then went along the edge of Bittens Field (a reclaimed landfill site) it was raining heavily enough that my waterproofs were now being kept permanently on. Helen for her part didn’t seem to have too much in the way of waterproofs but did have a rather fetching pink umbrella (as pictured). From there we crossed into Perivale Park turning right at the bowling green and ‘half left at the tennis courts. Then it was over the A40 via the footbridge, round the perimeter of another sports field and another couple of turnings, before going under two bridges (one for the railway and one for the tube) and reaching the stage 8 finishing point at Greenford Station. So overall a very nice mix of the urban, footpath’s and park life. Well maybe not so much park life as the weather seemed to be keeping people indoors (but obviously not hardy types like us).

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Somersall to Chander Hill circular – (Derbyshire) – 04/11/08 – 5 miles approx – Helen (Luther and Molly)

Squelch, this was a muddy one as Helen took me and Labradors Luther and Molly across assorted fields. This was terrain where you needed to make sure your boots were tightly laced, less the mud ended up sucking them completely off your feet. The drizzly day did nothing to help conditions underfoot either, but for once I was fully kitted in my Berghaus waterproofs, and remained relatively dry.

Highlights along the way included being shown the river which Helen used to play in as a little girl, her former tennis club, the primary school she used to attend, and the site of a former cotton mill where she may or may not have once worked. The lowlight was seeing Helen slip on some steps, but thankfully have the softest landing possible in the circumstances. None of this was of interest to the two dogs however, who had agendas of their own, especially Luther who appears to eat tree trunks for a hobby. After a long climb up a muddy hill and a slightly hairy walk along a maximum speed limit road (minus pavement), we were soon home. Once there the dogs got a thorough scrubbing and rub down, whilst I was left to fend for myself.

Now to change tack and return to my last post and walk on 26th October. I was very disappointed to discover at the start of this day, the result of carrying 9kg in my backpack that day, was that yet another small hole had been ground into the heel of one of my boot’s brand new foot inserts. Thus to wear these boots again (and for all I know any boots) whilst carrying such weight will mean another episode of freshly skinned foot, and another week of hobbling about. Also the two midweek 4 mile urban walks (not on this blog) that I did since then but only in trainers, and which I carried up to 15.5kg, have left me with an aching lower back and knees. Now the bottom line is this walking whilst carrying weight caper is a very good exercise. However one of the things I am having to accept with age, and that has been proved in the last few years with Running and Karate, is that any exercise that keeps leaving you injured is not exercise at all, but merely another way to damage ones ageing body.

Therefore the new policy is I am abandoning the 4 mile midweek urban walks (and upping the cycling mileage again), and I will only be carrying the 9kg maximum additional weight, when I am doing a double figure mileage walk on my own, and wearing trainers (which have proved they can cope with the extra weight). Given my current circumstances that is only likely to be once or twice a month.