Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Dudswell (Circular) – (Hertfordshire) – 26/01/11 – 9.25 Miles – Myself

Today’s mission was to come up with a new walk to lead IVC on in March, as my other options have been screwed by rail engineering works, or by stations that are not open on a Sunday. So lets hope cometh the hour London Midland don’t let me down for this one. Anyway ever inventive as I am, this route came straight from the September 2009 pages of Country Walking magazine. So as is the norm by now I was armed with a little ‘cut out’ of written instructions/map (remembering this time to write the OS grid references on it) and of course my GPS.

Once off the train at Tring, I was met with a sheet of drizzle, necessitating me putting my waterproof overtrousers on. Just as well in this case, as I noticed when I got up this morning that my favourite pair of walking trousers, have now split in an area where things can definitely spill out (hopefully someone in one of the Derbyshire sewing circles can help me out with this).

Anyway having turned left out of the station, I was able to pick up the Grand Union Canal. Not for long however as I was soon leaving that, in the process of which I passed a group of ramblers hanging around there, whilst I made my way over a railway bridge and through two farms. Once across the road I joined a muddy bridleway quagmire and squelched my way along that. Eventually I made a hard left with a golf course on my left. However given the misty mizzle around I could not see the Bridgewater Monument ahead that the instructions said I should have been able to (no problem as I got to see it later).

Following the muddy way to its logical conclusion I eventually reached a lane, where I turned right (against the continuation of the route) to find the Greyhound Inn in Aldbury for lunch. Given the state of my boots, I didn’t wait to be asked, and left them in the entrance (the mud splattered waterproofs were also discreetly filed in my rucksack). Now the gammon steak, eggs, chips, peas and cider, were just what one would want on a day like this, and they also had a nice fire going. However its suitability for a Sunday walking lunch spot, was somewhat tempered when the landlady told me that they liked to do two sittings on a Sunday (12.30 and 14.30), and that we would have to book a table before the day, and phone to confirm actual numbers on the day. Well excuse me but that all sounded a little bit involved, so once I had finished up there I tried to find the other pub in the village to see what they do on a Sunday, but unfortunately couldn’t.

Back on the route and skirting diagonally across a field with some ponies, I was then faced with a monstrous and muddy climb. Thus I was hanging onto bits of branchs and the like to stop me slipping and then rolling all the way back down it again. However once that was conquered I was able to roll on through the wood before taking the suggested diversion off to see the Bridgewater Monument (erected in 1832 to the Duke of Bridgewater). This area all being part of the National Trust’s Ashridge estate. What really caught my eye however was the National Trust cafĂ© opposite, who confirmed to me that they were open Sundays, and thus could provide our group with an excellent alternative lunch stop ? So pleased was I with myself at this point, that I stupidly forgot to check to see whether there were actually toilet facilities there, which are of course a lunch stop essential.

I continued on the main track downhill, taking the relevant turns suggested on the marker posts, passing through Aldbury Common, and across the Chiltern Way. Eventually I came to grief at the entrance to Norcott Hall farm. Here the instructions stopped making sense, and I didn’t fancy doing a recce in a field with two very skittish ponies. However because I was so near to where I was meant to be, the GPS wasn’t any help for me either. After wasting a fair amount of time cursing these route cut outs, I retraced my steps to one of the earlier marker posts (oh they meant follow the other blue arrow on it then), and correctly came out of the wood with Northchurch Common on my left.

I made a quick skirt back into the wood again before coming out onto a lane that I followed all the way down past Norcott Hall, over the main railway line, before eventually picking up the Grand Union Canal again. Now I certainly knew I was a long way from my bit in Osterley when the sign said ‘Braunston 58 miles’. Anyway I continued along this for about two miles, briefly intoxicated by the smell of real coal smoke from one of the barges, and briefly made nervous by one of the owners walking his status dog in the path ahead of me. Other than that however the canal was deserted. Eventually I reached road bridge 135, which was my point to come off the canal, and head for Tring station. Just as well as by this time it was getting seriously gloomy for 1540 in the afternoon.

So overall a good day, if just a tad wet, muddy, dark and miserable. The cut out said the walk was supposed to be 7.75 miles, however the GPS came in at 9.25. That sounded more like it, given the amount of times I had to retrace my steps when I took the wrong path, plus the diversions into Albury and up to the Bridgewater Monument. Anyway a good days work, with this walk in the bank to be withdrawn at a future date.

Walks since last blog entry:

1 x 4 mile – Osterley Park.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Oxted (Loop) – (Surrey) – 16/01/11 – 9 Miles – IVC

What with one thing and another, it has been some three months since I have had the opportunity of walking with IVC. Well actually that’s not strictly true as there were a couple of opportunities in December, but they were put paid to by the snow and ice.

Anyway things got off to a flyer at Victoria station, when (unlike last time I did this walk) the clerk had actually heard of Oxted, and didn’t try to insist that I buy a ticket for Oxford instead. So with the time I saved not arguing there I was able to get stuck into some pre-walk refreshments. I am eager this year to try and break out of this habit/rut of always having a cappacino and chocolate twist before boarding trains in London, so this morning I opted for a hot chocolate and jam doughnut instead. Very nice too although given the fact that the doughnut cost £1.15 (which is about how much four cost from Greggs) it placed just a slight cloud over my munchings.

So with about ten of the usual suspects assembling at Oxted station we set off on what was in the main the Greensand way. At times there was a little too much skirting past civilisation for my liking, although away from that there was also opportunities to see if the gloopy mud sections could actually suck ones boots straight off ones feet. Stupidly I had actually believed the weathermen when they said it would be about 12 degrees, however the wind chill eventually forced me to put another layer on.

So finally some five and a bit miles in, we arrived at the Hare and Hounds in Godstone for lunch. Unfortunately given the state of our boots, there was no way we could bluff our way in without taking them off first and leaving them outside. In the course of which a bottle of coke that was in a side pocket of my bag, fell out and rolled under some guys Saab (and sadly that was the last I saw of that). Undeterred I ordered a pint of Strongbow and the Gammon, Egg and chips. The price was on the inside mark of a tenner, so was reasonable enough in that respect, although (chips aside) I have tasted better.

Having left the pub I suddenly found myself being asphyxiated by someones car exhaust, putting me in a brief coughing fit. Being ever helpful our leader of all leaders offered me a cough sweet, which turned out to be an appalling sticky thing that was near impossible to get out of its wrapper. With my hands now having the adhesive properties of some type of stick insect, I put it on my mouth only for the leader of all leaders to then tell me he had had the sweet for some time. Well thanks awfully.

Anyway the second half continued pretty much in the same way as the first, glooping along the Greensand Way, until the loop ended and we then retraced our steps back to Oxted station, with my GPS confirming we had convered 9.03 miles. Unusually for us we only had something like a five minute wait for the hourly train back to Victoria, where I was able to round the day off with a family pack of Revels from WH Smith. (incidentally sorry about the lack of decent photos, as most of the time I forgot I was carrying the camera, although in fairness to me, there was a distinct lack of big country panoramas to snap away at)

Walks since last blog entry:

1 x 2 mile – Linacre Reservoir – Helen (Luther & Molly)
1 x 7 mile – Osterley Park/Grand Union.
1 x 6.5 mile – Osterley Park.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Birchen Edge (Circular) – (White Peak District) – (Derbyshire) – 08/01/11 – 6.3 Miles – Helen (Luther & Molly)

With the previous day's snow having melted things were guaranteed to be muddy and wet underfoot, for this proposed 4.5 miles walk from May 2009 Country Walking magazine. It was also biting cold, although it did warm up slightly as the day went on. So parking at the Robin Hood Inn, we climbed up on a stepped path, only for me to notice that I hadn't written the OS grid numbers on my cut out map/instructions. At the time I hoped that it wouldn't matter, in the event however it did as without them I couldn't get much sense out of my GPS when we eventually needed it.

Anyway we continued on and soon found ourselves up on Birchen Edge facing Nelson's monument and three ships (pictured). After the usual round of posing for the camera and passing the trig point, we then continued on a very boggy descent which proved that my (back up) conservation boots (that have done many a good walk) are no longer waterproof. Luther and Molly didn't seem to be having any problems with their footwear, although like me Helen was having water seep into her boots as well. Finally we reached a road junction, where we made a brief climb alongside the traffic before picking up some open moorland. There we had the shortest of tea stops, following which we headed towards Wellingtons Monument, which I recognised from a previous walk we had done, all the while keeping out of the way of the nearby highland cattle and their long horns.
After this unfortunately we started to go wrong with the ambigous instructions. We were instructed to turn left to pick up a path between a wall and trees, by an old sign. Well there was a sign of sorts and certainly trees and a wall, but some OS reference points on my map may have been useful here. Thus if we were still on the right path, we were far to distracted by some curious pigs to stay on it. So a long descent later we eventually sussed we had gone wrong. Helen eventually got our bearings using her OS map, and after a short walk up the A621, we were able to pick up the route again by some cottages.
Here however things went more astray with the instructions, with fences on the other side than stated, far more than two gaps in the wall which we were supposed to head through, and no gate to aim for. However skirting past the end of Gardoms Edge we tried to make a descent (which we assumed was the correct one) to get us onto the A619. However once at the bottom we couldn't find any unlocked gate or stile to get us (and more importantly the dogs) back onto the road. This meant a very steep and boggy ascent all the way back up to the top of Gardoms edge, to find the correct path back to the car.
So overall a nice walk, if we knew where we were going. However the instructions were at times ambigous and at other times plain incorrect, which spoiled it somewhat for me. Grid references on the cut out (my mistake) should have kept us out of difficulties with my GPS, but lacking these we ended up walking 6.3 miles instead of the stated 4.5.