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 café 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.

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