Thursday, 31 December 2009

The Best Walk Awards - 2009

Also known as my favourite walks of the year, in three seperate categories. So:

Well there was quite a few good ones, and a few so so ones as well. I did particularly enjoy the Bank Holiday walk from Eastbourne to Seaford back in April (which was the opposite way to how I have otherwise done it). Also the walk we did the previous day from Leigh to Tunbridge Wells was also a cracker. In fact coming to think of it, the expedition from Brighton to Newhaven which I criticised at the time, seems to have hung long in the memory. However the winner in this category is: Arundel to Amberley – (West Sussex) – 27/09/09 – 10 Miles – IVC. which was a perfect late Summer's day walk.

Nowadays the majority of my walks are on my own (an expanded innovation from 2008), which means because they are repeated often they now only feature as a footnote on this blog (unless it is a new walk). So despite some late competition from my Leith Hill Circular walk, the clear winner is: Sidmouth to Exmouth – (East Devon) – 01/04/09 – 10 miles – N/Trust W/Hol. – Myself. which was a continuation of a coastal walk I began five years prior (which itself was my introduction to Country Walking). What made this extra special (besides the fact that it was a coastal walk which I love) was that it was a fantastic seventy degree Summer's day, on the 1st of April.

Some very strong contenders here especially: the walk over Mam Tor (slightly spoiled by the people and flies at the beginning), and the Upper Derwent Reservoirs circular (this time slightly spoiled by the road walking on the last third of it). So basically it came down to two walks (or more to the point two climbs). Now by rights our walk over Skiddaw and Little Man should really be the winner, as it basically had everything going for it, and unlike the winner it didn't involve me having to watch my footing coming downhill. Nevertheless I have chosen as the winner: Haystacks Circular (including Buttermere Lake) – (Lake District – Day 6) – (Cumbria) – 11/09/09 – 8.5 Miles – Helen (luther & Molly) because as well as a great ascent and descent of Haystacks in perfect conditions, it also included a complete circuit of Buttermere Lake (which unlike Skiddaw, didn't require us to go straight into a climb after stepping out of the car).

No need to dwell on what occured on 15th May (as those people who should know do already), save that it would be wrong not to at least make some sort of footnote of it.

Other than that I wish all my readers GOOD WALKING IN 2010.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Leith Hill Circular – (Surrey) – 15/12/09 – 9.5 Miles – Myself (N/Trust working holiday)

For the day off on my working holiday at Gatton Park – Reigate for the National Trust (which incorporated Scrub Bash 2009), I decided to follow a route plan from Country Walking magazine, that started right outside the Henman Basecamp. Given that there was only 5 other people on the holiday, 3 of whom who wanted to spend the day off in the basecamp (yawn), I was on my own for this one. Now on the Country Walking map/instructions (Feb 2009 issue) the walk starts at Holmwood Station, however I was picking it up just past point 4 on the Greensand Way by Broadmoor.

The day itself was bright but crispy cold, but with thankfully no wind chill factor and after asking a lady and dog, whether the bridlepath outside the basecamp was what I thought it was (I had only seen it in the dark), I was on my way. My first point of reference (where the walk loops back) was the rather small Coldharbour cricket pitch. From there it was a steep descent, before hitting the road and turning left at the public house. Having negotiated that I found myself dissecting Antiebury Farm, then partaking of a wooded descent and finally crossing over three fields where the ‘careful of livestock’ signs proved unnecessary. I then became slightly confused with the instructions (not for the first time during the walk), before quickly getting back on track, and arriving at Holmwood railway station (the walk’s official start). As things had proceeded relatively easy thus far, and it was only quarter to eleven (I had set off at nine thirty), I decided coffee and biscuits were in order on the station platform.

However after setting off again things became slightly more confusing. Part of the problem was the instruction to go past Moorhurst, when there was no sign or marking to say what on earth that actually was. Just when I had convinced myself I was officially lost a stile appeared on my right where one had been vaguely promised. However when the next stile supposedly to be found by hogging the left side of the second next field didn’t appear (it should have said walk across it diagonally) I temporarily started to feel slightly queasy. However once that stile was located (with more coffee/biscuits consumed as well to settle my stomach), I began the climb that took me across Antiebury Farm again, this time from the other side.

Once I had come past the public house again and begun the climb up towards the Coldharbour cricket pitch once more, I found myself facing about four different choices of direction where none was supposed to be. So suitably flummoxed I decided to stop there and have lunch. This however didn’t take long as it was getting distinctly nippy. So assuming that the left hand fork meant straight on, I followed the bridleway until I eventually reached the signs for Leith Hill. Now it was obvious to any fool, that this meant continuing uphill, and the sign in front of me pointed uphill. However what the instructions said was that having reached the sign I should: ‘Follow waymarked route downhill to R to junction, then L uphill to tower’. So down I went, reaching the road and carrying on yet further down hill, until I suddenly thought ‘waida minnite’………….
Anyway so back up I went finding Leith Hill tower in the process, which apparently is the highest point in Surrey, that gives views to the capital and the sea. No such views on show this day however as beyond the immediate canopy, all one could see was mist. Also following ‘the clear path signed to Starveall car park’ turned out not to be all that clear either, as this soon fragmented into multiple paths. When I did eventually find the bridleway on my right, this turned into more confusion when the instructions telling me to ‘turn left at the path crossroads’ didn’t actually mean the first crossroads one came to, but rather the one with the wooden signs further on. So basically I found myself looping back into the car park on two further occasions.

Once I eventually broke free from this, I then located the right part of the road, only to have a DHL delivery driver ask me for directions (I pointed the innocent fool, to the nearest sideroad I could see). So having left Wotton Common, I was now able to pick up the bridleway (alongside the stream) through Abinger Bottom, eventually coming out at the Stephan Langton Inn, which would be the logical lunch point if I lead this walk for IVC. Following one final confusion through the woods at Broadmoor, where I wasn’t sure whether the instruction ‘L at next junction’ applied to either the path or the road, I was soon back on the Greensand Way and ultimately the Henman basecamp.

So overall a very good walk, but one to be enjoyed far more the second time once one knows where one is actually going. Given the amount of retracing steps that I did on this one however, I would say the true distance I walked was probably nearer 11 miles.

Walks since last blog entry:

(Run) Walks
1 x 6 miles – Grand Union Canal / Osterley Park .
1 x 6 miles – Osterley Park / Grand Union Canal.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Longshaw Circular – (White/Dark) Peak District – (Derbyshire) – 01/12/09 – 6 Miles – Helen (luther & Molly)

With one of our objectives for the walk being an ascent over Carl Wark, we were most perturbed to find the nearby car park only took credit cards (thus discriminating against people who just carry currency on walks). So that required a swift of change of route/plan by the map lady, which nonetheless produced an excellent walk (with Carl Wark excluded).

So with a new parking place at the top of Padley Gorge, we descended down into the Longshaw Estate, where ‘the red grouse calls’ (often mistaken by locals for pheasant). The weather was bright and crispy cold, with a fair smattering of thin ice on top of the puddles. None of this bothered superdogs Luther and Molly however who were of course in their element, and basically didn’t bother us either as there was no wind chill about to test our resilience. Thus we proceeded in a downwardly direction on the gorge, with a stream far below us to our left, and moss covered rocks and trees to our right, that conceal carefully disguised monsters (see photo). Presently we found a footpath to take us onto higher ground, passing a small dwelling as we did. There then followed a small amount of confusion as to how we were going to climb higher still onto the rocky outcrops around us. Whilst we were faffing about on this, all four of us were suddenly startled by an unkempt man and even more shaggy Old English Sheepdog running past us, and up onto the rocks. They turned out to be one half of a shepherding team rounding up the sheep far above us. The other half of the team shouted down for us not to follow them up with the dogs (like we could climb up there anyway). However there was no need as we discovered we were on the right path as it was.

So we continued on in what turned out to be Bolehill Quarry admiring the many millstones that are scattered about in these parts (again see photo), before eventually crossing the A625 onto Millstone Edge in the direction of Higger Tor. Lunch soon followed, which was in this instance fairly modest given the much larger meal planned for that evening. Also the fact that one could get fairly chilled fairly quickly when not moving, meant that neither of us insisted on our statutory hour.

When we reached Higger Tor, this involved a steep climb up some rocks which threw Luther into a momentarily panic, before he worked out the best way to get up. Following which we continued down to Upper Burbage Bridge crossing the two streams underneath (aka Burbage Brook), as I admired the strange coloured and smelling water, which Helen of course insisted was au naturelle for the area. As we continued along with Burbage Rocks to our left we spotted a guy running along the edge carrying some sort of strange rucksack (or something) on his back. Having dispensed with his load he then proceeded to scale the face of the rocks unassisted (save for his fingers and boots – most impressive). The light was starting to go by now and we continued on as Luther made the most of the brown moss all around, and I speculated on whether some of the more elaborately shaped boulders were really concealing alien spacecraft (just wait till there is a lightning storm round these parts).

Anyway we eventually crossed over the A625 again and into Longshaw Park, where I reacquainted myself with the wooden sheep that I met here with IVC M&M back in May 2008 (looking slightly the worse for wear). Helen for her part reacquainted herself with the pond that she used to go iceskating on as a girl, and we also noted the problems ducks have trying to contend with half frozen water. Not before time then given the failing light, we were back at the car ready to undertake our next adventure later that afternoon, which involved a game of hide and seek with a key.