Monday, 22 December 2008

Wimbledon Park to Osterley – (Surrey) – 22/12/08 – 11 miles approx – 9kg – Myself.

This being the fourth time this year I have done this walk. Well okay maybe not quite, as the last time I did it back in September severe blisters on my heels forced me to curtail some seven miles in at Richmond. Still I’ve solved the heel blister problem haven’t I ? Well yes but today I had a different foot problem emerge in its place. The problem seems to be around the ball of my right foot. Thus although a big blister had formed on that by the time I got home, I actually think it is more of an oversuse problem supporting weight there, which was a periodic issue going as far back as my jogging days. Thus rightly or wrongly carrying 9kg over 11 miles today, 13.5kg over 6 miles yesterday, and 18kg over 4 miles two days prior to that, probably constitutes overuse for me. So what started off as a minor irritation by the time I had reached Wimbledon Common, and what seemed to feel every stone sticking up out of the ground, found me walking with a very pronounced and painful limp by the time I had reached Syon Park. Still musn’t grumble !

Having become acclimatised to the cold when out walking lately, the jump in temperature over the last few days caught me out dresswise, which meant I was wearing one layer too many, and with a bag full of water ballast, it meant I had no storage option to remove a layer. After all this is supposed to be Christmas time, you know snow and cold and all that. And just in case one forgot what time of year it is there was a Christmas tree in Wimbledon Common to remind one. So by the time I had reached the windmill in Wimbledon Common I was sweating buckets and decided that I needed a break, stopping at the tearoom there. Needless to say a hot chocolate and a slice of Coffee and Walnut cake didn’t leave much change out of a fiver. Still the supermodel that served me was most impressive.

Richmond Park found me messing around with my camera trying to set the timer, and take the definitive Mike walking photo. Needless to say nothing came out right, apart from the more arty one you can see here, that has me heading in the direction of Spankers Hill Wood. Still I persisted, but with only one of my Mister Potato Head pictures (as seen) not looking like a wanted poster.

Now I am meant to be leading IVC on this walk in a couple of weeks, and the Dysart Arms that is opposite the exit at Petersham gate is slated to be our lunch stop. However a closer inspection outside did not see any food advertised. Alright yes I should have gone in and asked, but as I wasn’t planning to eat, I didn’t want to get an affirmitive answer and then just walk out again. Therefore I decided to do a left (rather than right) to see if there was any other local food serving pubs. Thus five minutes off route and I found one, only it seemed to specialise in Thai food so I decided that wasn’t going to be a runner (incidentally a search on the web when I got home revealed the Dysart does do food, but for reasons of price and loud Sunday lunchtime music, it is not going to be suitable either). Anyway that is all a problem for another day.

Coming out of Petersham Meadows I could hear a youngish couple chattering and coming up rapidly behind me. Thus it was immediately obvious that they were quickening their pace in order to overtake me. At which point I went into naughty mode and decided to keep increasing my pace so that they couldn’t get round. This went on for about 100 yards with them barely half a pace behind me, and me virtually panting now in order to stay ahead. They had the last laugh however as when we reached the gate that links up with the towpath, I tried to go through the wrong bit losing a valuable yard and my lead. The guy then held the correct part of the gate upon for me and graciously asked me would I like to go first (bastard). Thus feeling a bit of a twit now I conceeded that they were quicker than me, and let them through in front. All that effort however meant I had to stop and have a swig from my bottle, and when I looked up again, they were some fifty yards out in front.

Along the towpath by Richmond bridge I recceed various other places to eat for next time. However my right foot was now getting very painful, although I had no intention of curtailing this walk at Richmond station, as the pain wasn’t in the same league as the last time along here. Over Twickenham footbridge along some roads and the river and I had reached Syon Park, by which time the light had dropped considerably. After leaving there I joined the Grand Union Canal at Brentford. The original plan today was to continue along there all the way to Boston Manor station and finish at the point I am planning to do with IVC. However given how painfully I was limping that seemed pointless and I came off at my usual point at the Great West Road, and headed back for Osterley.

Limping aside, today constitutes one of my ‘exercise walks’ and I am sure it fulfilled that function. One thing I have tended to do during Christmas over previous years is to give myself the week off exercise wise. However considering that one usually eats three times more than normal during this period it has always been a mistake which I am determined not to repeat this year. What I decided last week however, is that as much as I want to do my Country ‘weight carrying exercise’ Walking, three times a week as my sole exercise regime, a combination of my shift patern and propensity to get ill or injured just doesn’t allow that (today being a case in point that will probably affect the rest of the week). Therefore I am having to remix it in again with my Urban Cycling workouts (not on this blog).

Monday, 15 December 2008

Otford Circular – (Kent) – 14/12/08 – 7 miles approx – IVC + Helen.

Thankfully the rain that had blanketed most of the country the previous day was not in evidence for this walk, that also doubled as the IVC walking group’s Christmas party. Also along for the occasion was Helen whom I partially managed to convince, that this was an integral part of our Christmas themed weekend, that had been running since the Thursday evening.

Almost immediately out of Otford station we were faced with quite a considerable climb that took us up onto the North Downs. From there however we seemed to be negotiating a series of one muddy and puddly lane after another, with one particularly deep puddle overspilling into my boot. It was not too long however before we found ourselves coming back down from the Downs and heading for The Bell pub in Kemsing where we had a function room set aside for our Christmas celebrations. After some confusion which I brought into the day about what was happening re: the food, I had the fish and chips whilst Helen had the soup. Following which everyone present circulated assorted Satsumas, Mince Pies, Chocolates and other Christmas fare, before lunch time was rounded off with an assortment of Carols.

After coming out of the pub we found ourselves in the car park across the road being advised by a ‘three sheets to the wind’ local that we were going the wrong way. The only way however was up and back onto the North Downs, during which one of our party decided the climb was worth doing a second time, in order to get up close and personal with three guard dogs. Whilst there was obviously some variation to the route that took us to the pub, we eventually began to retrace it. The final part being a muddy and slippy considerable descent (formally known as the considerable climb) which took us back to Otford station. Upon arrival there we discovered we had missed the intended train and would instead have to wait for the next Victoria train scheduled for 1631, which arrived at 1621 (well I was confused anyway). Incidentally there were no photos as I forgot my camera, but given the overall gloom and mist of the day, that was probably no bad thing.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Richmond Park Outer and Inner loop – (Surrey) – 03/12/08 – 11 miles approx – 9kg – Myself.

Every time I have ever gone round Richmond Park, whether as a runner back in the early Nineties during my brief membership of Ranelagh Harriers, as a cyclist, or more latterly as a walker, it has always been in an anti-clockwise direction. The only exception to this was the last time I walked it with Helen back on the 21/09/08 Thus I realised on that day that the clockwise direction is both more scenic and more challenging in terms of gradients. Ever since then I have been itching for an opportunity to do the clockwise outer and inner loop again, only this time carrying my 9kg ballast in the rucksack. A combination of no available free time and my well documented (in this blog anyway) problems with my feet and boots have prevented that up to now, however having at last appeared to have resolved the foot issues my chance finally came today.
The weathermen warned that it was going to be a cold one, and even when I arrived at Ham Gate Avenue (on this occasion both my start and finish point) at 11.45, temperatures hadn’t risen sufficiently to melt the ice in the puddles. Yet the fact that there was no real breeze, meant the wind chill factor was at a minimum and with sufficient layers on I remained as warm as toast throughout. There was a cold mistly look to the park as I made my way up from Ham Gate, past Pembroke Lodge and towards Richmond Gate. Yet from that point onwards the Sun came out bathing the Park in a beautiful light for the rest of the day. Having passed Roehampton Gate on the outer loop I decided a hot drink was in order and stopped at the café by the Cycle Hire shop, that me and Helen missed on a previous occasion. A shame really that I didn’t miss it on this occasion as well, as £3.90 for a cup of coffee (that tasted of plastic cup and soap suds) with a slice of fruit cake is really taking the piss. What goes in must also come out however, and I was grateful to be able to make a watery contribution in the toilets at Robin Hood Gate.

Having reached Ham Gate this basically marked the end of my outer loop, however I was still on the non-elevated section that I had only re-discovered with Helen the last time out (I should have remembered it was there however from 17 years ago, training with Ranelagh Harriers). So having traversed from there onto Petersham Gate this was the part of the day of that involved the steepest climb up onto the elevated section coming out at Pembroke Lodge/Henry VIII’s mound. This was where the 9kg in the backpack started to do its work, and combined with some muddy and slippy grass meant I was breathing somewhat faster than normal by the time I reached the top.

Following the road by Richmond Gate before making a right turn by the sports fields and up towards White Lodge meant I was now most definitely on the inner loop of the walk. It was also apparent that the Sun was setting in earnest and the clock was moving past the1500 mark. Thus having turned right again at the the mobile café area and starting the long walk up towards the Ham Gate exit, the low sun was now directly in my eyes, so much so that anyone coming towards me was no more than a silhouette. At one point I couldn’t make out one shape in front of me at all other than it wasn’t a tree and it wasn’t moving. Finally using my hand to shade the Sun I discovered I was just about to walk into a young Deer, who also had two of his mates in close proximity. Now this wasn’t the first time I had seen the Deer today, as evidenced by the first photo here, however as you can see in the second photo this was really a good time of year to be making themselves less visible.

By the time I had reached the 65 bus stop at the end of Ham Gate Avenue, and my official end point it was exactly four hours after I had started. So given that I believe I walk at a good 20 minute mile pace these days, and allowing twenty minutes for my coffee break, as well as other general photographic sodding about, I make that a good 11 miles. Now the 9kg in the rucksack turned out not to be quite the physical challenge over this course that I thought it might be, yet having said that I wouldn’t like to go round it again with even 1kg more on board. So perhaps that weight is about right. Also for most of the day there was a real absence of people and especially cyclists (which I think had really bothered Helen last time out). Thus this turned out to be one of the most enjoyable walks I have ever done, on a perfect day in a perfect place. Certainly it was up there with my first walk this year from Seaford to Eastbourne, which I also did on my own (shit what am I saying). Anyway if there is a Heaven, today gave a little glimpse
of it.