Sunday, 30 August 2009

Teynham to Faversham – (Kent) – 30/08/09 – 9 Miles – IVC

So after meeting at Teynham station at 11.45, and subsequently setting off, within half an hour we had got to the pub where we were having lunch. Now obviously this is not the natural order of things timewise, either walking with IVC or anyone else. In the event however the walk leader was correct to do this, as there was nowhere else we could have stopped from there on in. Anyway we were pre-warned to bring our own sandwiches, but the last time I did this, everyone ended up ordering food. So this time round I brought nothing and everyone else did, with me being the only one who ordered anything from the bar menu. For the record a toasted ham sandwich, which was £3.75 for two slimcia slices with a smidgen of ham inbetween, and 50p on top of that to have it toasted. Whilst I couldn’t work out why everyone was content to sit ouside, the fact that two massive Rottweillers were sprawled all over the floor of the bar, meant I was happy to stay out in the cold with them.

Anyway the bulk of this walk was along the Saxon Shore Way, which was originally created by the Romans (Italian types who liked to fight and travel a lot) as a series of defense fortifications some time around the 3rd century AD. Not that anything Roman was in evidence along our bit, although their was a series of concrete emplacements in various states of decay, which suggested something defensive circa the 1940’s (see picture). Basically however this was a walk where there was a not a lot to see, beyond the estuary on one side of you, and the North Kent Marshes on the other. Thus the seawater and freshwater streams/rivers were separated by a grass embankment which serves as the walking trail. As such everything is pancake flat with a horizon consisting of 70% sky, and which reminded me of another walk I did a couple of years ago along the Thames Estuary (or perhaps for another comparison think of The Fens). Anyway walkers more knowledgeable than me, were able to point out the Isle of Sheppy across the water, if you want a reference point.

After some six miles along the Saxon Shore way we came across a boatyard, noticeable for a series of bells being rung by the breeze and then eventually out onto the road heading towards Faversham. Whilst what went before may have been a bit samey, it was at least tranquil with a rhythm of its own. Walking along the main road into town for nearly two miles however was boring, which not even some of the olde worlde building’s we found in the town could compensate for. Finally we finished off at a Wetherspoons pub for afternoon tea/coffee/alcohol etc. and then caught the train back to Victoria. So overall an acceptable day, however a similar long stretch along the Saxon Shore Way in the 1st half as well as a decent pub lunch might have made the walk more of an event.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Mam Tor – Circular – (Dark) Peak District – (Derbyshire) – 22/08/09 – 6 Miles – Helen (luther & Molly)

If the Dark Peak was a rock group, as opposed to an area whose geology is mostly comprised of gritstone rock, then Mam Tor would definitely be one for the greatest hits album. Certainly there was no doubting its popularity on a sunny Saturday afternoon, as the vicinity was swarming with walkers as we arrived (obviously encouraged by Mam Tor being the main feature on the current issue of Country Walking magazine). Even more irritating than the crowds however were the swarms of red legged flying insects, that were literally clogging the air, and giving one a sense of what it must be like to live in a swamp type region (never seen anything like it to be truthful). Anyway me, Helen, and Labradors Luther and Molly, set off on our trek with the day already approaching lunchtime.

Now Mam Tor has apparently been inhabitated since Bronze Age times, and the plaques (haven’t they lasted well) suggest that at different periods the area was in use for both hillforts and burial mounds. On the footpath on the way up to Mam Tor there is also the occasional embedded bronze image of settlements, pottery and other tools. Anyway we are hard core walkers and don’t have time for such nonsense, although Luther did give one a bit of a sniff. Mam Tor is also at the western end of the Great Ridge, which separates the vales of Edale and Castleton and is roughly paved for most of the walk to prevent erosion (see Wikipedia).

Having easily conquered the ascent of Mam Tor, along with all the other people around us plus flies, we were soon trying to spy out a flying insect free zone where we could have our sandwiches. No such area that pest free existed however and we ended up sitting and eating slightly over the grass verge before the ascent to Hollins Cross. Helen kindly gave me her jacket to sit on, and in return I shared some of my Lemon Barley water with the heavily panting Luther.

The next ascent was then up to Hollins Cross, which according to Helen gets its name due to the cross paths diverging from the West and East of it. Wikipedia claim however (which of course may not be accurate) that it gets its name due to a cross once being raised here that apparently disappeared in 1905. Anyway our next ascent was the steepest one of the day up to Back Tor, where a single tree sits at the top, and then finally up to Lose Hill. Now it’s fair to say that the views on this beautiful sunny day were spectacular, which I hope my photos give some small impression of. However it is also human nature to self-edit somewhat, and therefore you are unlikely to hear anyone give much of a mention to the cement works that are your constant companion to your right, as you walk from Mam Tor to Lose Hill. Nothing but the truth on this blog however, so enjoy the photo. Anyway by the time we had reached the summit of Lose Hill both the crowds and the flying insects had thinned out.

So having: consulted the map, expressed disappointment that the official distance we had covered wasn’t exactly two miles, had our photos taken, and worried a few sheep, we began our descent from Lose Hill down towards Castleton. Both of us found the steep descent hard going on the legs, not helped by the uneven surface and having a dog tugging away on one side of you. There was also a little circumnavigating to do to avoid walking through some bulls, that was making Helen a little nervous. Having reached the bottom we came across about a dozen lads all loaded down with copious amounts of alcohol, and in one case kitted out in full lederhosen. Having passed some type of Rugby match and then some sort of training college, our next mission was to get an ice cream. We eventually found a shop selling the famous (isn’t it always) Bradwell ice cream, once Luther and Molly had enjoyed a refreshing drink from a stream flowing with orange coloured water.
We then briefly skirted through the town of Castleton, which mainly consists of gift shops selling the expensive Blue John, and which is exclusively mined at the nearby cavern. Crossing the road to find the OS mapped footpath, we found ourselves heading back towards Mam Tor. There hadn’t been many occasions where we could let the dogs off the leads, but this gave them a chance to have a good runabout. As we began to ascend, Helen who looked on her last legs at this point (I wasn’t much more lively myself in truth) thoroughly did her best to confuse me as to whether we were walking up to the summit, or on the road, or a combination of both, or neither. However after a series of stops and starts, and looking at the entrance to assorted caves and caverns, we eventually ended up walking along the A625 Sheffield to Chapel en le Frith road. How boring you must now be thinking, well no actually as this is really the remains of a road that has been progressively destroyed by falling shale from Mam Tor (due to its other name as the Shivering Mountain), and which finally closed in 1979. Anyway the photo should give you the idea.

So apart from Luther making some new friends (with Molly choosing to do the opposite) whilst Helen consulted the map, and also having to circumnavigate a flybitten screaming child and her family, that was basically that and we were soon back at Helens car. So overall a nice walk on a perfectly sunny day. The climbs weren’t excessive and neither was the distance, so it is hard to explain why we both felt so done in afterwards.

Walks since last blog entry: (1 x eleven miler – Wimbledon Park to Osterley) + (1 x eight miler – Putney to Osterley) + (1 x seven and a half miler – Grand Union Canal / Osterley Park).