Monday, 31 May 2010

Chatsworth (Circular) – (Derbyshire) – 30/05/10 – 6 Miles – Helen (Luther & Molly)

Those of you looking for glorious pictures of Chatsworth House can forget it; I didn’t get to see it on this walk so neither do you. Which basically means this walk was in the grounds of Chatsworth and beyond, but with the house just that tantalising way out of sight (ask Helen she planned it). What wasn’t out of sight of the car park however was a group of some 40 to 50 Muslim youngsters (many in traditional dress + flags and banners) doing some sort of aerobic warm up. We thus speculated on whether they were a walking group or not, before they eventually disappeared in the direction of some sort of flower show at the house. Whilst one isn’t always pleased to encounter large groups of walkers or anyone for that matter, there is a school of thought that says ethnic minorities are under-represented in the countryside, and that it shouldn’t be just the preserve of the white middle class. However this tiny and humble blog is not the place for such a debate (just highlighting the issue doncha know).

Anyway our walk began with a long and steady climb, with the signs on gateposts telling us (for that part anyway) to keep Molly and Luther on a lead. The weather was bright and sunny, however there was a chilly and gusty breeze which at one point blew my hat off. When we finally reached the summit we found ourselves crossing the must luscious field of new grass (not readily apparent until one looked backwards). Thus the silver tips of each blade appeared to both flow and ripple down the gradient, as lab dogs Luther and Molly frequently disappeared in it. It is views like this that really makes Country Walking such a special activity. The picture of me above is at that exact spot (but without the movement of the grass, it loses much of its effect).

Having made a circular pass round some water we then came into a wood, where we stopped for some brief provisions among the bluebells. There was then a long descent through the wood, within earshot of some sort of dog show (didn’t have the time to enter Luther and Molly), before we picked up the Monsail Trail. Unfortunately you can’t completely follow the disused railway track, as most of the tunnels are sealed up, although the way to circumnavigate them is of course marked.

As we began our descent we spotted a Chicken in the hedgerow wearing a large elastic band round its middle. Meanwhile I managed to get one of the most vicious set of stings on my hand from some nettles, that I have ever had in my life (they really blistered up and fizzed away for the rest of the evening). Yet being the hero that I am I soldered on regardless. Having come onto the road my hero status was soon deflated when we had to come through a gate of a tunnel that was being blocked by three enormous cows. Now me and Helen will have to agree to differ on how much room and respect to give these creatures (the dogs don’t appear to like them much either). So lets just say I wisely hung onto Molly, not so much for protection, but rather to prevent Helen from buggering off and leaving me whilst I worked out a safe passage. To be fair she did come back to retrieve me (at least I hope it was for me).

From there it was back alongside the river and eventually the green wide open spaces of the grounds of Chatsworth, before finally relocating the car. So the cow issue aside this was a rather splendid little walk on yet another excellent Spring day.

Lathkill Dale (Circular) – (Derbyshire) – 28/05/10 – 6 Miles – Helen (Luther & Molly)

Firstly this little walk is straight out of Country Walking Magazine’s Spring 2009 edition (for those of you who fancy trying it for yourselves). So as luck would have it we had a perfect and sunny spring day that wasn’t too hot, given what the weather had been a few days prior. Anyway having parked at Over Haddon, and enjoyed watching (?) some grotesque guy make a near full change of clothes in the car park (after his walk), we picked up the river Lathkill and made our way past a variety of weirs and caves before reaching our first landmark: Batemans House. This being part ruin and part disused mineshaft. So having taken turns to make our way down the steps, read the signs and turn the mineshaft lighting handle we were off again.

Our next landmark was apparently Carters Mill (as it sounds). However even with the help of a pair of portly walkers (who probably said the same about me) we somehow missed the fact that it was actually a line of bricks in the riverbed. Helen by now was keen to try out her new camera, so a fair amount of time was spent faffing about on that, whilst throwing assorted dogs into the river (my photography as always, was of course sharp, concise and to the point). Thus when we finally reached the 2.25 mile point where the wooden bridge crosses the river, we seemed to have been going for an awfully long time. By this time however more photography and faffing about was in order, which I seemed to suspect was the reason why the two couples sitting there thinking they had a quiet spot, choose to move off.

Our next task was to climb a very long flight of stone steps (as if the mineshaft wasn’t enough) before passing through a couple of fields in the direction of some farm buildings. From there we continued into Low Moor Wood before emerging into another large and clear field. There we encountered a group of young community walkers who made a fuss of Luther and Molly. Yet although we started to leave them behind, they soon caught us up again when Luther started panicking about the best way to get over a stile. However with their encouragement he finally did it.
We then continued down a road before picking up a signpost on our left to head us back towards Over Haddon via a local farm. Unfortunately we had to pass through a field of cows who seem to be becoming a real nuisance presence in the countryside these days (or is just me?). Anyway we passed them without incident, went through a field, and then headed downwards via a twisty wooded path. There we encountered the river again, and some curious dogs peering out of a car window, before we embarked on the final short but steep road climb back to the car.

Walks since last blog entry:

1 x 7 mile Osterley Park loops.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Richmond Park Outer and Inner Loops – (via Richmond Station) – (Surrey) – 10/05/10 – 12.5 Miles – Myself

Is there anywhere more glorious to walk than Richmond Park on a sunny Spring day? Well of course there isn’t, I know that, you know that, stupid question really. Anyway there was a slight change to how I normally do this one, in so much as I started the walk from Richmond Station, and reached the Park via: Richmond Green, The Thames Towpath, Petersham Meadows, and finally entering the park via the gate by the Dysart Arms.

So nothing new to add here from my previous write ups around these parts. Lot’s of trees, lots of grass, lots of deer, and lots of other people out walking, cycling, pushing prams, and walking dogs. One of the things about this walk is that despite the popularity of the park, there are plenty of areas where you find yourself completely on your own (well certainly on a weekday). Lunch was again at the cafĂ© next to the golf club, consisting of a sausage baquette and a bottle of orange juice (and yes that’s right there was no cake involved – are you listening Chesterfield ?).

Now there is a world of difference between walking at full throttle (as I was doing here), and the pace I am normally forced to go at with my walking group (bless em). In fact for a short period there was a (albeit elderly) jogger in front of me, who was unable to open up any sort of gap. This of course made me start to walk even faster, as I started to have visions of overtaking him, and then giving him a mouthful of verbal abuse just because I was faster (ha – only joking on that one). Anyway he turned off, so I was denied that small victory. However by the time I was back at Richmond Station, every muscle ached from the waist down, and I felt slightly ill, and borderline depressed (the way I used to feel in the good old days after a Half Marathon). Plus I had three small blisters to pop when I got home.

Anyway a great days walking, with the Sun out and the weather not resembling anything near chilly, that the weather-morons said it would be on the telly. By late afternoon it did eventually become overcast, but I still remained fully committed to my floppy hat.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Dorking (Circular) – (Surrey) – 03/05/10 – 11 Miles – IVC + Helen

There was a fairly impressive turn out for this Bank Holiday Monday walk, with around 17 (or 18) people including Helen. The weather for its part served up some bright sunshine, but there was a fairly chilly and random breeze, which was interspersed with the occasional quick shower.

After some brief road walking from Dorking station we found ourselves walking through some beautiful rolling vineyards, which as you looked at them in the distance, betrayed a purple tint. Having eventually left those we made our way up onto the North Downs, and I was fairly certain I recognised the view below, which I would have seen from Gatton Park in Reigate where my last National Trust holiday was. That said we were walking in the opposite direction. However one of our party produced a pair of binoculars and we were able to spot Leith Hill tower far away in the distance. There was also an abundance of bluebells around, virtually everywhere we went. Eventually we began the descent from the Downs with more impressive scenery including spotting a World War 2 pillar box (currently unmanned), and some white belted cows in a valley below a chuch.

Time was moving on however and we were all getting hungry, so it was with some relief when we arrived at our projected lunch stop, The Wotton Hatch, at about 1325pm. Unfortunately this hadn’t been checked out beforehand and was completely unsuitable for a walking group, as it turned out to be a very upmarket gastropub. Basically they pounced on us as soon as we tried to sit down telling us we needed to have booked a table, and there wouldn’t be any food for at least an hour. The fact that it was now raining and there didn’t appear to be any better options meant we had to try and make the best of it with a pint and some poncey type crisps. Actually this is only the second time in three years walking with IVC where we have failed to buy any lunch. Unfortunately for Helen, a lady who likes her lunch, they happen to be the last two times she has been walking with us. Anyway there was some type of sustenance offered by some ladies fate taking place next door, who sold me three highly impressive cakes for £2.40. Thus with a pint, a bag of crisps, and thanks to those nice ladies, a slice of coffee walnut cake, suddenly I had something resembling a proper meal.

Much of the second half of the walk involved walking along the Greensand Way, and included more bluebells, as well as passing the a field full of the distinctince yellow of oil seed rape. Unfortunately however, as can often happen on a lot of these type of walks, the post lunch second half of the walk was nowhere near as good as the first. A lot of the time we did seem to be walking along lanes and roads, with civilisation a little too close to think of matters as pure country walking (some of these roads were actually the Greensand Way itself). This ended with a long urban trail through the town of Dorking before we reached the station. So for my money I believe this should have been a straight out and back walk, (with obviously a better lunch stop). However for a club that is run by volunteers, everyone does their best, and one has to be grateful that people are willing to put themselves out and take the responsibility to lead walks in the first place.

Walks since last blog entry:

1 x 7.5 mile Grand Union Canal / Osterley Park.
1 x 6 mile Osterley Park loops.