Tuesday, 27 July 2010

The Roaches – (Staffordshire) – 24/07/10 – 8.5 Miles – Helen (Luther and Molly)

This walk was a little bit further out then we normally venture, but given how Helen had never been to the Roaches (me neither), it was well worth the hour’s drive. Our template for this one being ‘route cut out No 12’ from the Spring 2008 issue of Country Walking.

Naturally enough for us we started off on the wrong path, heading up towards the very exclusive looking Roaches Hotel. We weren’t unduly concerned however as we knew we were coming round the back of Hen Cloud. In fact we were even able to pick out Jodrell Bank (or someones overachieving Sky dish) in the distance. However by the time we came round the side of Hen Cloud, facing towards the Roaches, we went into usual confusion mode, deciding not to visit the top but instead make a straight line for the Roaches themselves. This involved smashing and stumbling our way through a field of heather, all the whilst disturbing the feathered wildlife in the process. Not our finest moment, especially after later reading a notice on the gate requesting that you don’t do things like that. Anyway as if to have its revenge, a tangle of bramble wrapped itself around my leg and ripped it up as best it could.

So finally we began our climb onto the roaches, with a large group of lunching walkers who were sitting on the first part of the rocks staring down at us, and suggesting that we weren’t going to have the place to ourselves. However the Roaches is really a haven for the rock climbing fraternity, and there were plenty of them up there, clanking away with all their metal hooks attached. We decided we were going to have lunch as soon as we were near the summit (giving us an excellent view), whilst Molly and a dog belonging to some nearby climbers (also eating) tried to work out their differences as only dogs can. Luther for his part seemed fairly non-plussed.

Moving off again we made our way to the top and followed the path along, being passed by one guy who Helen described as being ‘dressed like he was on the way to the office’. The weather was closing in a bit at this point which meant for the second time in two days, Helen hogging my £8 National Trust umbrella. Not that I minded as having made our way past the trig point and then down from the Roaches on a perfectly laid out path, she bought me an ice cream (which in truth had been promised 24 hours back), from the cleverly parked van at the bottom.

We then crossed through the stile and headed off, initially taking the path to Danesbridge, before taking a right turn at a fingerpost pointing to Gradbach. In the process of which Luther managed to spook a Japanese girl sitting on the edge of a precipice having her photo taken, and in conjunction with Molly charm another little girl who was leading a party of adults coming in the opposite direction. What was slightly disturbing was in the process of this section of the walk, we came across two dead sheep, as well as assorted lumps of wool scattered about. We didn’t dwell on that too long however, and instead found our way to the entrance of Luds Church. Now ‘Lud's Church (sometimes written as Ludchurch) is a deep chasm penetrating the Millstone Grit bedrock created by a massive landslip on the hillside above Gradbach’ (well rather I meant to say all that, but instead just copied and pasted it from Wikipedia). Anyway the four of us ventured down and along it, wondering why we couldn’t find any altars or crosses. There was also a slight sea air smell within the chasm.

Retracing our steps out of it, we began a long and gradual climb, all the while looking out for a stream that we needed to cross. When we eventually saw the stile and ice cream van we came through earlier, we decided to stop and finish off what was left of our sandwiches (well in my case a sausage roll). There Luther and Molly proceeded to show us up, by a disgraceful piece of bullying of a smaller dog coming the other way. However in best Helen tradition, she pointed out to its owners that it was really their fault, because their dog was on a lead.

So after resisting the request to buy me another ice cream from the van, Helen, myself, and dogs in disgrace, climbed back up to the top of the Roaches. In this case it literally was the top, as we discovered we had passed the path we had taken up from the lower level earlier, and had to retrace our steps to find it. All the while along here I found myself being victimised by some sort of wasp making circles around me, which Helen incorrectly pointed out was all in my imagination. This return part of the walk along the Roaches went very quickly and we soon found ourselves heading down from there and facing Hen Cloud. The route cut out suggests you extend the walk by heading up to the top of it, but having been round the side of it already, we passed on that one. However having come to the bottom, we couldn’t decide should we do a right at the gate, or go through that and take a right at the next gate. I was overruled on this one, but although we found a path down to the layby, the gate there to get out onto the road was locked (guess my choice was the right one after all). Anyway I somersalted over the gate, whilst Helen and dogs took a diversion through some nettles to come out further along. Thus having made our way back to the car, Luther for his part was near out on his feet and had to be assisted with his leap into the back. Poor old boy, no such tiredness however, with me, Helen and Molly (right !).

Monday, 26 July 2010

Matlock (Circular) – (Derbyshire) – 23/07/10 – 5.5 Miles – Helen (Luther and Molly)

Having parked at Matlock Bridge and started climbing up a steep gradient to pick up the Limestone Way, we were met by a bare chested man (+ partner) coming towards us, who claimed to be carrying his red shirt so as not to provoke a nearbye bull. In the event the bull had clearly come from his own mouth, as the livestock in the nearby vicinity were of the docile cow variety. That said with young calves around, I for one was prepared to disown Luther and Molly if there were any problems.

Anyway onwards and upwards we went, and what do you know it started to ever so slightly drizzle. Being the gallant chap I am however I did not hesitate to lend Helen my £8 National Trust umbrella, but only because (unlike Dorset) I happened to have my waterproofs with me.

In due course we found our way into the village of Bonsall, where we enjoyed looking at a replica carving of “T” Owd Man, as well as letting the dogs drink from one of wells being prepared for the following week’s Well Dressing (all the while supervised by a young boy and his Mother). However having gone through the village Helen’s route planning went a little askew as we first climbed up and then climbed down, as well as going to the gates of a churchyard and turning back from it again. The running order was soon restored however as we skirted round a quarry, as well as skirted round some more cows just prior, before eventually making our way up to the Heights of Abraham. There we partially saw the cable cars that serve Matlock Bath as well as Riber Castle in the distance. None of this information being brought to us by an idiotic talking telescope that shut up after a couple of minutes, and which neither of us could properly see through (there are better ways to spend 50p). From there we made our way through Masson Leas Farm, picking up the Limestone way again before eventually retracing our steps back to Matlock

What I found strange about this walk (which was a Helen creation) was that from the off we seemed constantly to be going upwards, but it seemed to end with the shortest of descents back to the car. Anyway Helen later used the scientific OS map and a bit of string method, to determine that we had done 5 ½ miles, and you can’t get more precise than that.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Langton Matravers (Circular) – (Dorset) – 16/07/10 – 5.75 Miles – Helen (Luther and Molly)

The last day of our week long Dorset caper and we decided it was time for a bit more of the coast. Again we took our guidance from one of the Country Walking ‘route cut outs’ (December 2008), which again was backed up with OL15.

Well this was a windy day to start with (check out Helen’s new hairstyle). In fact sitting in the car at the start I was more than a little concerned to see other couples setting off in full rainjacket/fleece mode, whilst I was protected by no more than two t-shirts. Nevertheless despite the gales, they proved more than
adequate once one got going.

So after a tractor driver had taken mercy on us by deciding not to mow us and the dogs down on a narrow lane, a few twists and turns later we were heading down to the edge of the cliff to look over at Dancing Ledge. The wind was still giving it some at this point, but fortunately blowing us away from the edge and a watery oblivion. We thus continued on the coastal path, stopping briefly for Helen to have one of her cliff top snoozes. Once again the doggies were in their element going back and forth, with Molly covering three times the distance we were doing, and Luther covering double.

Eventually we turned inland by the disused quarries at Winspit (which lies between the hills of East Man and West Man) and which Wikipedia reveals was used in WWII for both naval and air defences, as well as being used more recently as a TV film set for Blakes Seven and Doctor Who. One flight of stairs, and a couple of fields later, we found ourselves on a long driveway heading up to the small village of Worth Matravers (not before the canine drinking facilities left outside by one thoughtful householder was taken advantage of). Oh and by this time the wind had now become the faintest of memories.

Once in the village however, Helen tried to start her now usual game of “we didn’t come along the right path” confusion (which to be fair is often correct), but got short shrift from me this time, especially when the duck pond landmark was exactly where it was meant to be. So having stopped there for a few minutes we did as recommended and made our way to the Square and Compass (passing the stone egg – as pictured), where we enjoyed half a cider each, and half a pasty each. Helen in this instance did the honours reporting back that there was a mind boggling choice of ciders drink wise, and exactly one type of pasty food wise, to choose from. In the event both were scrumptious, but the real reason to visit this pub is the beer garden, which has to be seen to be believed. My best attempt at a description being that it is furnished in wood and stone in the best traditions of the ‘Mad Hatters Tea Party’.

Moving on and avoiding getting drawn onto one of Helen’s short cuts, we descended twice into two valleys with both the Sea and the Strip Lynchets on our right in the distance, before going almost back on ourselves with a steady climb (albeit with the beginning of it guarded by some black cows – doncha luv em). Once at the top we turned right onto Priests Way and carried on for half a mile, before crossing into ‘Toms Field’ (sign set in stone, not a mate of mine) and headed back to the car. Now normally I tend to take the view that a walk is not of great significance unless it is of the ten mile + variety, however as short walks go this was definitely one of the most enjoyable I have ever done.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Shitterton (Bere Regis) – (Circular) – (Dorset) – 14/07/10 – 4.5 Miles – Helen (Luther and Molly)

A brief mention for a brief afternoon walk, following our early morning excursion to the Tank Museum at Bovington.

So starting at Shitterton, we walked up Black Hill, before picking up the Jubilee Way all the way to Turners Puddle. We then continued along by Kite Hill Plantation, carrying on through Piddle Wood, and finally back along the Jubilee Trail to Shitterton.

This is worth mentioning also for the fact that in various smaller forms, elements of this walk (especially the boardwalk start) constituted the daily doggie exercise constitutional for our week in Dorset.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Lulworth Cove (Circular) – (Dorset) – 12/07/10 – 10 Miles – Helen (Luther and Molly)

Having parked at Ringstead Bay, we set off on what turned out to be a glorious Summers day. Once again this was a suggested walk from Country Walking magazine (June 2008), however unlike the recent Chequers fiasco, this time we were armed with the relevant OS map (Explorer OL15). However seeing as both of us are currently having problems with our glasses, we were soon getting into difficulties. Basically the instructions told us to follow a broad ridgetop track. However as it didn’t say anything about doing a hard left, I insisited we needed to keep going straight, despite the ‘private driveway’(or something like that) sign. Yet having got to a dead end, blocked by a badly parked cottage, we were then forced to retrace our steps, and try out Helens interpretation instead. This naturally was the correct one, and we were soon walking along the ridgetop with the Sea in the distance on our right, and a pair of obelisk’s either side of us.

Having reached the sign to Newlands Farm, we were once again going partially wrong trying to negotiate/find a path along Scratchy Bottom. One way or another we got through after first ascending where I assumed we were supposed to be descending, and ended up at the foot of Durdle Door caravan site, where we were meant to meet that on the linking road. Anyway at this point Lab dogs Luther and Molly both seemed set to give up the ghost for a few minutes. Helen had delegated me the task of carrying two litres of water for them in my rucksack, and they virtually drank the whole lot there and then. Suitably refreshed (oh and I had a sip of Lemon Barley water) they were off again, but not before we had to hunt round the caravan site for a tap to refill the bottle for them.

Once past the caravan site we found a place to sit facing the wrong side of Durdle Door (correct pronunciation - Doodle Duh), and had our sandwiches (or Scotch eggs/sausage rolls). Helen for reasons best known to herself wanted to start the return journey here, rather than continue the mile and a bit on to Lulworth Cove. However after some frantic waving of my Country Walking Cut Out in her face, she was eventually persuaded to stick with the program. Having arrived at Lulworth Cove after a ‘long downhill stretch’, we stopped being walkers for a bit and became your bog standard day trippers instead. This involved some shopping in the gift shop, an ice cream each, and finally a trip down to the beach on the cove itself, for a bit of paddling by Helen and the dogs.

Once back in walking mode however we decided we didn’t like the look of what I previously described as a ‘long downhill stretch’, when it now meant doing it the other way. So smart people as we are, we decided we could outflank it instead. The result being that we ended up having to do an even steeper climb up a never ending set of rickety wooden steps, with the dogs now having a “you must be joking” look on their faces. Having reached the top, low on Oxygen but high on Lactic Acid, we found ourselves on the wrong side of the fence, all the while wondering why no one else had taken the smart route like us. Undeterred we continued on our way, and soon found ourselves looking down on the correct side of Durdle Door (big rock in the Sea with a hole in it), using the moment to water the dogs again, and waste tens of thousands of pixels trying to capture ourselves and the hole for posteriety.

However given the danger that Cliff Richard might turn up at any moment singing ‘Saviours Day’ it was soon time to move on. We thus found ourselves on some spectacular ascents and descents along the coastal path, which are more challenging than anything the Seven Sisters has to offer. Luther and Molly were both back in full flow now, but had to be watched lest one or both of them disappeared over the edge of the cliff. These steep ascents/descents looked however as if it was taking its toll on Helen, not least as it was a seriously warm day. So having reached the lower obelisk after a particularly long ascent, she decided to sleep it off. Luther for his part was doing more panting than you get in your average porn movie, and thus took the opportunity to have a bit of a kip himself.

Once off again on the coastal path we soon ended up at the badly parked cottage. Now I wanted us to take the unofficial route, even if it did mean ploughing through some nettles, in order to take the straightest route back to the car. However Helen insisted that this time it was me who should stick to the program (namely the official route), and we stayed on the coastal path. By this time the day was starting to take its toll, with Helen getting tired and me getting grumpy. Thus after a moments uncertainty from Helen over whether the building below us was Holworth House or not, I insisited we retrace our steps all the way back to the badly parked cottage, and go that way instead. That of course got us back to the car, but served to make the walk that bit longer than if we had continued on for a bit more on the coastal path itself (which of course intercepted our path). Anyway we got there and back, wherever there and back is, and that is the main thing.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Richmond Park Outer and Inner Loops – (via Richmond Station) – (Surrey) – 03/07/10 – 12.5 Miles – Myself

Lake District ? I spit on the Lake District. Peak District ? Oh pleeze !

No if you are a real walker the only place to be is Richmond Park, and on a baking hot July Saturday afternoon, that’s where many walkers come. For that matter so do many: joggers, cyclists, dog walkers, courting couples, skateboarders, parents pushing buggies, small children etc. I would mention the Deer as well, but in their case they actually live there.

Anyway talking of baking hot, the cumulative effect of the two weeks of sweltering summer we are currently enjoying (depending on your point of view of course), was starting to take its toll on me. Thus not only was I breathing quite hard on certain sections, but on a few occasions I started to wonder could I do the distance. Of course being the hero that I am, I made sure I did the full mileage, but once or twice I did actually sit down for a bit.

Lunch was at the usual cafĂ© whose pricing policy seems to be to charge whatever it is they think you will stand for. In this case a sausage baqueete, a bottle of orange juice, and a caramel shortcake, came to £6.50. No doubt the cycling fraternity who were packing out the place, got their grub much cheaper. If that wasn’t bad enough later on in the afternoon the kiosk near Pembroke Lodge only had bourbons to go with my coffee. In that instance I definitely needed something more chocolatee, to mask the taste of the cardboard cup the drink was served in.

Interesting moment of the day was hearing the ground alive with insect life. Annoying moment of the day was some woman who was about 100 yards in front of me, dressed in a denim dress carrying some type of shoulder bag (i.e. she didn’t even look like a proper walker). Needless to say for the best part of two miles I couldn’t catch her up, let alone get past her (something I am used to doing to everyone else out walking there). I only managed to catch her when she had to wait to cross the road at Kingston Gate, and I then took an inside path to outflank her.

I also managed to buy a useful map of the park for 20p (suggested donation) at the Royal Parks shop. Thus seeing how Helen thinks my Outer and Inner loop route is the most boring walk in the world, perhaps I can come up with some new trails to tempt her back to Richmond Park. After all I love it there.