Monday, 22 February 2010

Ashover (Circular) – Peak District (Derbyshire) – 21/02/10 – 5 Miles – Helen (Luther & Molly)

A short write up for a fairly shortish walk, which nonetheless had some steady old climbs as well as some impressive views. In fact the views were rather Christmassy card in nature, which means of course that the white stuff had made a come back. Anyway we parked and set off at Ashover Village Hall, and after negotiating our way around an assortment of kids, parents and their dog, we made our climb up onto a ridge and began a circular walk round, before descending at something called Devils Bottom, or Behind (or something like that – ask Helen).

Anyway the snow was crunchy as well as being reel pweety (sic). Unfortunately my energy and enthusiasm levels were severly muted due to some virus or other I had been trying to shake off for several days. Thus I was firing on only one of my normal three cylinders. So when after about ninety odd minutes Helen told me we had only done half of it, my heart did begin to sink (although that may also have been because I realised the perfectly round snowball I had been working on for twenty minutes or so, would probably have to be disposed of before I got back to the car). Luther and Molly seemed to be thoroughly enjoying it all though (including trying to catch my flying snowballs). Whilst Helen tried to keep my enthusiasm going with a guided tour of: assorted mines, quarries, and her former property portfolio. As if by some sort of Karma her efforts were eventually rewarded when a passing female walker (+ partner and dog) made all sorts of complimentary remarks about Luther. This of course caused Helen to near burst with pride (as it would with any proud mother).

So overall a good little walk on a really excellent and picturesque day. Unfortunately I wasn’t on sufficient form to appreciate it, although I am sure getting outdoors and making the effort, no doubt did me some good.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Otford (Circular) – (Kent) – 14/02/10 – 8 Miles – IVC

Mud, mud, glorious mud, nothing quite like it for ……….. (well whatever). So if ever a walk had a theme to it, then that was the story of this one. The Gators that Helen had bought me last week really came into their own today, although the new boots (which were totally caked in the stuff) proved far from grippy, especially when it came to getting over muddy stiles.

Anyway seven of us assembled at the allotted time at Otford station, only to be told by our walk leader that there was another female member still travelling on the train. However after some half an hour of standing about in the drizzle, most of us were getting a teeny bit cheesed off waiting for this person to show up. Therefore our walk leader decided to stay and wait for her to arrive, while the leader of all leaders would instead lead us up to the lunch stop where we would all rendevous.

So straight out of the station then and we were met with an enormous partly stepped climb that had us all slipping left right and centre as we climbed up onto the Downs. However after descending into a valley (pictured) we began to realise what slippy was, as first our leader of all leaders fell face down on the ascent, and as I tried to go to his assistance, I fell and slid face down as well, as if I was caught up in a landslip (amazingly I managed to avoid getting caked in mud).

Needless to say by the time we reached our lunch stop at the Fox and Hounds, my new boots were two muddy stumps. Thoughtfully the pub provides a boot rack outside, but no means for getting from the rack to inside the front door (where I eventually left mine) without getting your feet wet. Anyway with my gators ripped off, at least my trousers were the height of respectability. We had speculated earlier as being Valentines day, maybe we wouldn’t be able to get a table at the pub, but there was certainly enough room at the inn; not just for us either as two other walking groups soon piled in. For my part I had the Sunday roast which was: half a roast chicken, bacon strip, roast potatoes, and green peas (all of which I ate), and yorkshire pudding and cauliflower (which I didn’t). So with lunch consumed, our original leader + straggler then showed up, and we all waited while they ordered and ate.

Once off and out the door again in the mizzle, we couldn’t seem to detach ourselves from Bromley Ramblers, all the way down to the golf course. Only the severest and yet again muddiest of climbs seemed to put pay to them. What goes up however will of course come down, only in this case I decided to tackle the slippy descent with the aid of a large stick, which seemed to work quite well for me (so if anyone is lost for present ideas …… !).

So having passed Shoreham station crossing a road, our leader suggested that this was a potential drop out point for anyone (duh), but everyone was happy to slip and slide on regardless. What we did have to look out for however was flying golf balls, as one way or another we always seemed to be crossing, or walking alongside one course or another. Eventually however we found ourselves navigating along the Darent Valley, (and as we came upon some houses) the Darent River. From there a brief road walk took us back to Otford station, and of course home, tea, and lashings of ginger beer.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Leith Hill (Circular) – (Surrey) – 06/02/10 – 9.5 Miles – Helen

Now is the Winter of our discontent; or to put it another way, what a shit month January was then. Thus my singular walk of last month was on the 8th which you will have already all read about in this blog (you did all read it didn’t you ?). So what went wrong then Mike, I hear you ask ? Well, the problems started with the snow and ice, which made even the tinest stroll over to Tesco’s a potential limb breaking tumble, and turned the rail network into little more than a mirage. But hey I don’t need to tell any of you that, because you were all there in one way or another with the snow yourselves. So what else happened then ? Well, one of the parents went into hospital, which has taken up substantial amounts of time. Then just to round the month off nicely, I developed a particularly nasty stomach bug, the violent effects of which only lasted a day, but the lethargic (watch it buster I might easily strike you again) after effects went on for well over a week. So as I said, just the one walk (of any sort) for January then.

In other news however, I did finally commit to buying a new pair of walking boots. A fabric (I am so not sure about this) pair of North Face ones, coming in at a outrageous (for me anyway) £110. Although as such price wasn’t really the sticking point here, but rather the time lag necessary into getting my head round the (now) indisputable fact, that I am currently increasing in shoe size every two years. So part of this walk was about trying said fabric boots out, as well as a snazzy pair of gaters that Helen had just bought for me (to solve the usual muddy disgrace that is the bottom of my trousers). Anyway this was a repeat of the Leith Hill circular I did on my own on my working holiday in December, based on the February 2009 cut out from Country Walking magazine. Only in this instance I/we would be starting at the official start at Holmwood station, rather than half way round.

So after having messed about for ten minutes on the station platform adjusting my gators, we were on our way and within a matter of minutes managed to cake my brand new boots in mud along the narrowest of lanes. The day itself had a drop in temperature from the previous one, with a mist on the horizon that would not disappear, but apart from that gave us perfect walking conditions. So after a quick traverse across some fields taking us up to Anstiebury Farm, and a small section on the road, we had reached Coldharbour and our lunch stop at The Plough Inn. Thus it was 12.10 and including gator adjustment time, we had been going all of 40 minutes. Anyway The Plough Inn turned out to be very walker friendly, given the amount of them (+ dogs) that came in after us, with a reasonably priced menu (I had the gammon steak, with egg, veg and chips, and Helen had some sort of fish soup).

So with lunch over it was the start of a long climb, passing Coldharbour cricket pitch and assorted mountain bikers, which eventually led us all the way up to Leith Hill Tower. Unlike the the last time I was here (in midweek) the tower was open to visitors. So after Helen flashed her National trust membership card at the kiosk ladies, we were able to climb the (sometimes dark) winding staircase to the very top, whilst stopping off to see the info boards, and trying to keep away from the brat toddlers that always seem to inhabit these sort of places. Unfortunately however having reached the summit all the promised views to: St Pauls, the Sea, etc., were hidden behind the impenetrable mist that just wouldn’t lift despite the occasional glimpse of sunlight.

So with that amusement finished, we were back walking along various bridleways that took us through Wooton Common and Abinger Bottom. Eventually passing the Stephen Langton Inn, which is a potential lunch stop on this walk, but would have been far too late in the day for us. I did at this point start to get slightly concerned that it was now approaching three o clock, and we only seemed to have just made the half way point. However once we had picked up the Greensand Way at Broadmoor, passing the Henman Basecamp from my working holiday, I felt relaxed once more about the available daylight. Of less concern, but a definite curiousity, was why my new gators weren’t getting splattered in mud in the same way my trousers usually do (perhaps they are Teflon non-stick). Anyway once we had walked through a fallen tree on the path, we made it back round to Coldharbour cricket pitch again and stopped for assorted refreshments.

From there we were back on the home straight, passing through Coldharbour again, and this time taking a different route on a lane around Anstiebury Farm, and also around a horse that was doing his best to block it. Not the only wildlife on view here either, as at the bottom of our descent, three young deer flashed across the path we were heading towards. So with one more ascent along the hedgeline of four fields we soon found ourselves back at Holmwood station. Well that would actually either be too soon or too late, as having arrived at 1638, we then had a chilly wait for the 1719 train to Victoria in a windowless waiting room. Oh by the way I forgot to mention how I got on with the new boots, which in itself must be a good sign.

Walks since last blog entry:
(Run) Walks1 x 6 miles – Osterley Park / Grand Union Canal.