Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Limestone Way Circular – (White) Peak District – Derbyshire – 24/03/09 – 8 miles – Helen.

Having thought it a good idea to have a cup of coffee in the car just before starting off on our walk, my flask decided to drip a fair trade measure of coffee onto the crotch of my trousers. So my first thought was I hope we don’t meet anyone coming the other way, who may not accept the explanation for my visible trousers embarrassment. Yet having set off uphill, past a local farm, and onto the Limestone Way, we immediately encountered an elderly walker (or village idiot), who was insistent that we retrace our steps in order to visit the ‘Hermits Cave’. Taking him at his word, and being grateful in my case that my trousers weren’t commented on, we did what he said and came across a minor indention in a rockface, with a pointless iron grilled railing across it. Having retraced our steps once more, he had thankfully pissed off before he could give us some more ‘interesting’ recommendations.

However whilst admiring the actually interesting Mockbeggars Hall rockface (also known as Robin Hoods Stride) at the same location, we then noticed we had been joined by a small dog whom we had seen earlier when we were climbing up onto the Limestone Way. He proceeded to both follow and alternately lead us for some while, until such times as we had reached a road. Thus with another walker about to retrace our steps, said dog shot off again in the opposite direction (no doubt looking to recommend the Hermits Cave to him as well, once he had turned back into human form).

We continued down the road (lane actually) admiring the four standing stones we could see in the distance, and for my part being ever more impressed by Helens local knowledge as she pointed out Stanton Moor (home to Bronze Age burial chambers) and Stanton in the Peak (home to Post Industrial Age sewing circles). As interesting as all that was however, I was far more interested in how long it would be before we stopped for lunch. In fact just like last time out with IVC the Sunday week before, I was feeling very heavy legged from the start and at a low energy ebb. The problem however was that we had to trek on for a bit in order to get some shelter from the biting wind, before eventually finding a good spot behind a wall. However once I had got my Derbyshire cob down my gob, along with crisps and orange juice, my energy levels picked up once more.

Presently we linked up with the River Bradford, which for the first part continued as part of the Limestone Way. More photography ensued, as well as Helen sharing with me how her dog Molly had once got her body stuck in a stile along here (and then forgetting to show me which one). At one point we came across an interesting little stone enclosed watery diversion, which Helen seemed to think was a type of sheep dip. However as my imagination is vastly superior to hers, I of course knew that it was actually a (still functioning) Roman bathouse. To be fair though I could afford to put more thought into this sort of thing, as I was not being burdened at the time with having to make sense of the map. So with it being decided that we ought to be still following the river, we actually ended up giving it the widest of berths, and instead had our final coffee break in a farm cum caravan site. Following which we had a very sharp climb, during which I had to reassure Helen that, despite the sign, there wasn’t any Bulls in the field for her to be afraid of (just checking you’re reading this sweetie).

From here on in it really was the Derbyshire version of the ‘Big Country’ as we walked through a series of sweeping panoramas, even if the light levels were quite poor at this point, skirting by Grattondale in the distance. Eventually though we had to rejoin the road by some horse troughs (and location of some famous Derbyshire photographs). We then took another diversion off that road and headed towards the small village of Elton, where we admired some very old gravestones and crossed through a field where the sign promised we would meet three pigs (we didn’t). That being virtually it, before we found our way back to where the car was parked. Thus although it was only 8 miles, it turned out to be quite a challenging little walk.

Rucksack walks since my last blog entry (2 x Four milers).

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Oxted Circular – (Surrey) – 15/03/09 – 11 miles – IVC.

Sitting nearly opposite from me on the train out from Victoria, were two guys in their mid-twenties discussing the day’s walk ahead (Hmm is there new blood in IVC I wondered ?). Thus once at Oxted station all these younger types of the same ilk started to alight from the train, all armed to the teeth with: walking poles, expeditionary rucksacks, sporty water bottles and the like. They quickly sussed however that our nine strong crumpled group was nothing to do with them, and sauntered off to do their own thing. Apparently that was the Time Out Sunday walking group (see the books for more details).
Anyway our crumpled group set off on a beautiful Spring day that soon had everyone taking off layers of clothing. Having done a 4 mile rucksack walk the previous day, I for one was feeling particularly heavy legged, but hoped that would pass. As we came into some woods this was where we picked up the Greensand Way (which if you do it in its entirety is apparently 105 miles long), and which made up the bulk of the day’s walk. However this first part of the walk did involve a fair amount of country roads, so initially I wasn’t overly impressed.

Some three and a bit miles in however and we had got to our pub lunch stop. Now having got a free meal last week on the Capital Ring walk with Helen, one couldn’t expect this sort of thing again, surely ? Well I had the chicken and mushroom pie (with mash and peas) which was on the specials board for £7.50. I also ordered a pint of Carlsberg, and was then charged in total £6.50. I always have a policy of highlighting (usually in bakers shop’s) their mistake to them once, and if they don’t catch on then I don’t argue the point. Anyway the guy looked at me as if I was a bit mental and said I could pay more if I wanted, so I left it at that.
The second part of the walk which was a good 8 miles (if not further) was far better than the start, involving traipses through woodland, and walking across some lovely lush fields and valleys, all highlighted by the wonderful day, and eventually the just slightly dipping afternoon sun. The second part also involved an awful lot of climbing. We eventually retraced the not so scenic first three miles back to Oxted station, but by that time we had plenty of highlights to call it an excellent days walking.

Back at Oxted station I wouldn’t say I was totally out on my feet, but physically I had certainly had enough for the weekend, following the previous day’s rucksack walk as well. Meanwhile as we waited for the 1717 back to Victoria, the Time Out group began to join us on the platform, still fully equipped for every contingency.

Rucksack walks since my last blog entry (2 x Four milers).

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Greenford to South Kenton (The Capital Ring stage 9) – (Middlesex/Greater London) – 06/03/09 – 5.5 miles – Helen.

Well lets face it, February was hardly a vintage walking month for me, especially as regards this blog. A combination of: dental and plumbing appointments (cancelled and actual), the early month’s snowfall which was followed for me by a bout of flu, and then finally a recognition that I cannot totally ignore cycling as a means of exercise, meant that since my last blog entry on 27/01/09, I have managed just 5 rucksack walks (2 x Four milers and 3 x Six milers).

Anyway following my umpteenth (and Helen’s second) traverse over stages 6 & 7 of the Capital Ring in January, me and Helen finally moved onto stage 9. So what happened to stage 8 I hear you ask ? The answer of course is that we completed that stage some three and a bit months back in November. Now this walk was meant to include stage 10 as well as 9 (catching up you see), but for reasons to be explained later, that was postponed for another day.

So after assorted tube, bus and coffee interconnections we set off from the Greenford start point on a sunny, but with occasional chilly gusts, day. A quick skirt round the edge of Paradise Fields Wetlands and we soon found ourselves on the Paddington branch of the Grand Union Canal. Very nice too, as apart from the occasional duck there was nothing to disturb us as we carried along there for about a mile. Having come off at Ballot Box Bridge we gradually began the long climb up to the top of Horsenden Hill. The steepness of which was a little unexpected, and proves that walking in London isn’t as flat as one might assume. Thus having reached the summit we were able to take in the view, which according to the information boards scanned: Surrey, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire. I must admit that to me, the view seemed little more than looking down on a series of industrial estates and houses. However we did have some additional entertainment with a particularly small and yappy dog, and a jogger who couldn’t seem to decide whether he was going up hill or down.

Back down through Horsenden Wood (part ancient), we found ourselves listening to some Woodpeckers communicating with each other, over the sounds of some nearby builders. However we then found ourselves back out on the roads, and actually passing the café at Sudbury Hill where we had our coffee an hour and a bit earlier. Thus apart from a small off road track that took us part of the way up Sudbury Hill, this was where the green and country part of this walk started to all but disappear. Helen however was able to get a bit more from this urban part of the walk then me, as we passed by where one of her oldest friends used to live.

Following the main roads our next main reference point was to be Harrow (public) school. However a slightly ambiguous part of the written instructions, meant I took us both off the correct route and downhill on a very narrow lane. However after ten minutes or so of head scratching we retraced out steps and got back on track again towards Harrow school. Following the instructions precisely this time, we were allowed to go through the actual playing/sports grounds of the school. Wembley Stadium which had been popping up at various points on the walk, was very close at this point. Thus nearing the end of the stage we then passed along and/or through Northwick Park: hospital, golf course and park, (encountering a young fox briefly coming towards us) before reaching the stage 9 Capital Ring finish which is the subway of South Kenton station.

With the time nearing one thirty, the idea was to get lunch in the Capital Ring marked pub, and then set back off again on stage 10. However the pub was basically empty, and they told us they didn’t do food. However they did point us in the direction of one that did that was just down the road (in the event a good mile). So having finally found that we were cheered somewhat (well I was anyway as I was buying lunch) to see you could have fish and chips twice for a mere seven quid. All well and good except for the fact that 50 minutes later there was still no sign of it turning up. Helen went off to retrieve the situation with the manager, who to her credit both gave us our money back and a few moments later the fish and chips as well. However by the time we had polished that off, it was now three o clock and given the long trek home required on the tube, we decided to save stage 10 for another day.

Returning now to my opening paragraph from here on in, I think it will be a useful stat to list any rucksack walks I have done since each previous blog entry. So running from the start of the year it reads as:

Rucksack walks (not on this blog) from the start of the year up to my last blog entry (3 x Four milers and 2 x Six milers).

Rucksack walks since my last blog entry (2 x Four milers and 3 x Six milers).