Thursday, 23 April 2009

Shilito Wood (circular) – White Peak District – (Derbyshire) – 22/04/09 – 8 Miles – Helen.

Once Helen had parked at the official Shilito Wood car park and I had got out, my first thought was ‘damn I wish I had brought my body warmer’. In the event however it turned out to be unnecessary, as once moving the temperature began to match the sunshine.

So after setting off along Hewetts bank we found there was quite a variety of birdsong floating in the air. Despite being no expert I managed to identify a Cuckoo (is there no beginning to my talent ?) and Helen was also able to pick out a Curlew. It wasn’t all happening above us either as we also came across a small snake on the path (the second one for me whilst out walking in the same number of weeks). Having decided that Grass Snakes aren’t brown, we then surmised that it my or may not be an Adder (although the fact that neither of us are well up on snake names, may have influenced our guess). So after working our way through Smeekly Wood and down a descending path, we then picked up Milthorpe Brook and a small Bluebell trail (which was one of the objectives of the walk). Various pictures were taken, the best of which is seen below.
By this time I was getting hungry and after working out where was the best place to share our lunch with the assorted midges in the air we settled for a grassy bank. With lunch finished, the lady of the map decided that our trail was just above where we were eating. So we had a combination of off road and country lane walking as we made our way to and through Horsleygate, Cordwell and Cartledge. Upon reaching the bottom of Milthorpe Lane, in the direction of Cartledge, we stopped for a drink whereby I noticed a memorial (put up in 2005) dedicated to a RAF pilot who crashed his plane near this spot some 50 years back.

It was around this sort of time, having just come through a caravan site, that a little bit of confusion started to reign with the map lady. There was a little bit of back and forth walking through a field past some horses, other fields where expected stiles didn’t appear, and another field where the wrong choice of two grass paths merely allowed us to circumnavigate the field’s perimeter. However after a few false starts and the inevitable passing of time, we eventually found ourselves further along Milthorpe Lane (it’s easy to be clever when you’re not doing the navigating). A large descent followed where we could see Sheffield’s twin towers (alright some flats then) in the distance.

Passing through Highlightley Farm we eventually came to a crossroads and proceeded to climb up Johnnygate Lane. This being a metallic road (er Derbyshire thing apparently, but looked concrete to me ?) that eventually became a mud track, that is not meant for vehicles. Well that is unless you have a trials bike, the rider of which was becoming a bit of a trial for us, as he continually rode past us in opposite directions (why couldn’t he do this somewhere else – Beachy Head for instance). Having stopped for another break, where I shared my last Kit Kat with Helen, we then picked up the road we had drove along earlier to head back to the car at Shilito Wood (with one eye out for the model aeroplane that was looking to pick up where the trials bike had left off). On the O.S map it says the word Cross where the wood is, and passing through we discovered a concrete Celtic cross type monument. So could that be why they …….. ?

Anyway it was an excellent afternoons walking, in perfect conditions, which turned out to be about a mile further than planned. So overall the map lady did good.
Walks since last blog entry (3 x Four milers). Note one of these was a Rucksack walk. However due to reasons of hurting my back and making me start to walk slower, the rucksack (excess weight carrying) experiment is now at an end.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Eastbourne to Seaford – (East Sussex) – 13/04/09 – 13 miles – IVC

Typical isn’t it, you wait ages for a coastal walk to come along, and then suddenly two come along at once. So following on from the one I did less than a fortnight ago, IVC’s Bank Holiday outing was a walk I did twice last year, only this time in the opposite direction. Not only that, but a rarity for me anyway, it was a second long walk in two days.

Like the previous day it was a misty sort of start as we climbed up towards Beachy Head from Eastbourne. At one point I couldn’t work out what was it I was looking at floating in the air. Well in fact it was a boat so difficult was to see where the Sea ended and the Sky began. Now regular readers of this blog will know how I like to attack a climb (one reason being it hurts my knees to do them too slowly). Thus by this point I was already getting very irritated with the speed our leader was going uphill, yet not wanting to break the etiquette of going past him. However once near the top by the Beachy Head pub, I noticed he had led us past the toilets that I had promised myself I was going to pay a call at when I couldn’t find any at Eastbourne station. Thus I told to group to carry on as I walked about 400 yards in the opposite direction, and so kept my promise. Once things were sorted there I noticed the Sun was now out and it was turning into a lovely day. So it was bodywarmer off, and rucksack back on as I set off to catch the group back up, which I did just past the Belle Tout Lighthouse.

Lunch came round very soon from there at Birling Gap where the group fragmented into those who had bought sandwiches and those who wanted something local. I went for the fish and chips in the café, which when they turned up were more than reasonable for £7.95. The trouble is they took half an hour to turn up, and about another ten minutes to consume. Thus given the heat of the day I also wanted a pint of Cider before carrying on. However in the event this turned out to be no bad thing, as it gave me a legitimate excuse to tell the group to set off (again) without me, so I didn’t have to force the pint down quickly. In reality what I really wanted was for the rest of them to open up a large gap, so that I could attack the sisters at my pace and not at the group’s snails pace.

Unfortunately despite giving them all at least 15 minutes head start, by the fourth sister I had caught them all back up again. By which time most of the group were starting to leave our leader behind on the uphills, and waiting for him at each summit. On the way down from one of these sisters, a family who had been in our general vicinity for some time, pointed out a grass snake of sorts to us. Thus we all came to a halt to gaze and wonder, armed with our new found interest in snakes. The snake for its part seemed to be getting a bit pissed off at being the centre of attention and made a few threatening slivers in our directions. Therefore we all decided to leave it in peace to complete the Sisters in the opposite direction to us.

By the time we reached the estuary at Cuckmere Haven the day was at its sunniest best, with the temperatures easily into the Sixties. Thus after having come about a mile inland and now heading back towards the coast again at Exceat Bridge, our leader said he was stopping for a drink at the pub. However those who wanted to could make a dash for the hourly 17.55 train at Seaford. Now given that I had to be up at 0310 the next day, and that I was planning to go straight to bed as soon as I got in, an hour’s extra sleep was certainly worth shooting for. In the event only five of the group stayed behind at Exceat Bridge. However having done the route twice before I knew that an hour and a quarter to get to the station, was cutting it fine to say the least. Thus with no one seeming to have any great sense of urgency about them, I asked ‘did anyone mind if I pushed on’ and without waiting for the answer, split from the group for a third time. As I came near the end of the cliffs before Seaford I did a self portrait (seen here), with the camera on timer sitting on a bench. As it happened despite really pushing it I shouldn’t have even wasted time on that, as I made it into the station at 1748, with the train actually leaving at 1753. Congratulating myself on my pace and on making the train, I was maybe a little disappointed to see three of our group get off with me at Lewes (for the Victoria connection) having visibly hung onto my coattails to get to Seaford (no U.S. Marine ethic with me you understand).

Incidentally apologies for the lack of pictures, as despite extensively cleaning the camera lens last week, it seems the smudges on the camera from my holiday ten days back are inside the lens. Thus only a cut and paste overlay job with the sky made these two look respectable.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Leigh to Tunbridge Wells – (Kent) – 12/04/09 – 11 miles – IVC

My assumption when they said on Sky News that the weather was going to be 17 degrees, was that it was going to be a hot sunny day. In the event it was very misty when we began the walk from Leigh station, and never really lifted until mid afternoon. No sooner however had we left the station then we found ourselves in-country, walking down a very impressive boulevard of trees. As such it looked like a manufactured golfing fairway, with one of our party commenting that all it really needed was a stately home to go with it. Well in the event we soon found one, as we happened across Penshurst Place which apparently dates back to 1341. Unfortunately this was a walk so we didn’t have time to explore that or the historic nearby church. Instead the morning was spent traversing the Upper Medway Valley, and periodically skirting the river Medway itself. Yet again though it does seem that (German) invasion imminent is the order of the day, as one field had no less than three pillarboxes (no doubt built as protection against the Bizmark floating into Kent).

Lunch was at The Spotted Dog which dates back to the 15th century, and certainly the windows would seem to bear that out. By this time the Sun wasn’t out, but it was becoming quite muggy. So although I don’t normally like sitting outside to eat it was fine on this occasion. Also fine as it goes was the double egg, ham, salad and chips. However as the cider was apparently 7% proof, I decided it was prudent to stick with Fosters. Unfortunately I couldn’t make my mind up whether to go with the chocolate fudge pudding or not (some recent pub efforts have been less than impressive in this regard, yet always seem to cost a fiver). So as it was one thirty, and we weren’t going again until two, I decided to see what another one of our party’s chocolate pudding looked like before ordering. In the event hers never turned up until ten to the hour. So although I started to salivate at the sight of it, I had run out of time to order one myself (and on Easter Sunday as well – Hmmph !).

After lunch we found ourselves following the River Medway again (then again it might have been the Eden). We also found ourselves in a field with a number of lambs that could only have been a few days old (their fleece’s was white as snow). We were somewhat concerned for one little one, who was just laying sideways, whilst its Mother stood over it. Even when we passed nearby it didn’t move. However when we looked back further along, it had clambered to its feet.

As the walk wore on, parts of some of the fields we went through were suprizingly muddy. What was also very demanding was a very narrow hedged lane with an extremely steep descent somewhere past the 8 mile point, which must have gone down for something approaching 800 metres (half a mile in old money), flattened out for a bit and then continued on again for about another 200. Well I like a climb as much as the next man, but this was one to be grateful that you were going down on and not the other way. By this time we weren’t far away from Tunbridge Wells itself, and having finally got there our party split into those who wanted the earlier train, and four of us who went for Coffee and a Hot X Bun (in some geezers type ale house).
Overall a very green walk (you can see why Kent is called the garden of England) on a misty muggy sort of day.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Sunningdale to Windsor – (Berkshire) – 05/04/09 – 10 miles – IVC

This was one of those sort of walks where it was a case of see how I felt in the morning before committing to it (namely as I had just returned from holiday the previous day). In the event I felt quite chipper when the alarm went off. Apparently plenty of other people did as well, as this was one of the largest turn outs I have seen on an IVC walk.

As we entered Windsor Great Park the abundance of blooms left no doubt that Spring was here with a vengeance. This being most clearly illustrated as we passed through the colourful Valley Gardens area. Our leader however seemed a little more preoccupied trying to work our way along with a combination of a map and the parks signposts, but on a day like this and with scenery like this, there can be no such thing as a wrong turn. Lunch was at the Savill Gardens cafeteria where I had: Tomato soup and a roll, a bag of Mini Cheddars, a slice of chocolate cake, and a bottle of Orange juice. All these things are relative I know, but for £10.55 that didn’t seem too outrageous.

After lunch we walked through some of the more remote (read less parents and kiddies) areas of the park. Eventually we joined up with the Long Walk which takes one down to Windsor castle, at the other end of which stands the Copper Horse. Now this part of the park has special meaning for me as it is (going back to my running days) the last mile of the Windsor Gt. Park Half Marathon (a race I ran seven times between 1983 and 1993). In fact a picture of me in my running kit coming down the Long Walk still adorns my parents living room. But enough of all my yesterdays, for todays walk we continued all the way down to the gates of the castle itself accompanied by a horse drawn carriage going back and forth. The straight nature of the path did encourage some of us to pick up speed and we were getting somewhat strung out at this point. However once at the castle gates we regrouped, and hit the town centre for some afternoon coffee, and the train home. Hardly as demanding as the ten miler I did earlier in the week, but a nice walk and day all the same.

Sidmouth to Exmouth – (East Devon) – 01/04/09 – 10 miles – N/Trust W/Hol. – Myself.

Our 10 man and woman working holiday party had decided to go in six different directions on our day off, so this was a walk that I would have to do on my own. However before I had got to the basecamp and the start of the holiday I had already decided that I was going to do a coastal walk. You see there was a little bit of history for me here. As having stayed at the same Prattshayes Farm basecamp for the National Trust some six years prior, our group then had walked the coastal path from Seaton to Sidmouth on the day off (a walk that was basically responsible for me eventually making the transition from runner to walker). Well the plan for this one was to complete the journey and walk from Sidmouth back to the Exmouth basecamp.

What with one thing and another by the time I was dropped off at Sidmouth it was 10.50, by which time the Sun had started to break through with a vengeance (eventually rising to around 70 degrees). After faffing about for a bit on the pier I eventually located the actual coastal path and began the long grassy climb up towards Peak Hill. Occasionally tantalising glimpses of the Sea and cliffs at Sidmouth would appear but for the most part they stayed behind assorted bushes and trees. I was however joined at this point by a large bee, that seemed to accompany me for the rest of the day. The down hill section from here began to take me towards Ladram Bay and the incredible cliffs there (much appreciated by the local Seagull population). So distracted was I at this point that I failed to notice the continuation of the coastal path and instead ended up on the pebble beach (much to the bemusement of two senior citizens, who wondered why some moron was asking them whether the beach itself was the coastal path).

After Leaving Ladram Bay the view of the cliffs and sea became a lot less obstructed, even if I was walking away from the best views. The view on the opposite side of the Sea however was also an attraction in its own right. Climbing up again I passed a pig farm (obviously not an attraction in its own right) before reaching a shell of a building which turned out to be The Brandy Head WWII Observation hut. From there it was a underlating descent down to Budleigh Salterton.

Here one has to take about a mile diversion inland along the Otter Estuary Nature reserve before you can rejoin the path that takes you into Budleigh Salterton. There was a nice little café on the small promenade, and I spent about fifteen minutes there consuming a large cup of coffee and a sticky toffee pudding. When I came out of there the bee was waiting for me to continue the walk. The climb up out of Budleigh Salterton was something else entirely. The thing is it just went on and on and on. Not that I can really illustrate this with a load of stunning pictures as by this time the camera had managed to get a big fingerprint all over its lens (how stupid of it). Worse was soon to follow however as having decided to do a little movie making experiment, the camera’s battery conked out leaving me pictureless for the rest of the holiday.

By this time I was coming far too rapidly to the end of my walk (making me wish I had started it further out at Branscombe as originally planned). Thus once past the Marine firing range and caravan site that is just outside Exmouth I reached the turnstile that I had receed out the previous evening, saying ‘permissive path to Gore Lane’ and ultimately the basecamp. A fantastic and challenging day’s walking in perfect weather.

Rucksack walks since my last blog entry (1 x Six miler).