Sunday, 10 April 2011

Billericay to Brentwood – (Essex) – 10/04/11 – 10.2 Miles – IVC

So yet another glorious Summer’s day, and it’s still only 10th April. Perhaps the weather gods are serving up some recompense for that awful snow and ice we had a few months ago.

Anyway there was 12 of us for this one with our leader winding everyone up at the start by suggesting perhaps we could turn this into a 16 mile walk to Chelmsford. The reply en-masse was something along the lines of: perhaps we could stick with the walk you advertised in the program instead. So with that resolved we set off through the boring suburban streets of Billericay, but in due course got out into open countryside. Here we found ourselves in green and gorgeous rolling hills, all enhanced by the glorious sunshine. Below us at one point was a small aerodrome where a combination of cessna’s and hang gliders rose up to meet us, and all around us there were fields of yellow oil seed rape. There was also a shimmering river of cars far away in the distance, which apparently is where Ford test and/or store them (sorry can’t be more exact on that location, but a free packet of Fishermans Friends awaits anyone who can enlighten me). This of course is half the problem with walks led by other people, namely they jealously guard their map, whilst you wonder in vain where you actually are. Although full credit to this leader who is a fountain of knowledge on just about everything around you, if you can hear what he is actually saying.

Now we were told to bring some food provisions with us on the basis that we wouldn’t be at the pub till around three, at which point they would have stopped serving food. In the event however we arrived at the Green Man in Herongate at around one thirty. Only three of us went inside to eat whilst the others decided to have their sandwiches out on the grass in the blazing sunshine. After the barmaid had checked out my Hamsters t-shirt, I ordered the fish and chips and a pint of Strongbow. Periodically as we were eating one couldn’t help noting a growing collection of biker types at the other end of the bar. When we went outside again, it was apparent that there was a lot more of them outside having some sort of Harley Davidson convention, mixed in with a barbecue in the pub garden (good job then that a certain person I know wasn’t along for this walk, otherwise she have run off with one of them).

The second half of the walk was almost exclusively within the grounds of Thorndon Country Park. This in the main was mainly wooded, which gave a welcome respite from the main heat of the day. In due course we came to Thorndon Hall which caused me to double take for a moment given its close resemblance to Osterley House (this country seat apparently is split into private residential flats). A little further on and we decided we had earned a tea stop at the park’s visitor centre. Well not me actually, as I decided an ice cream was more in order.

So after eventually leaving the park we were back in boring suburbia again, only Brentwood this time, for about a mile before making the station two minutes before the Liverpool Street train pulled in. So overall a good walk, except for the suburban bits that bookended it. I made sure I had my hat on all day, but noticed when I got home I had a very red neck and nose.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Hartingdon (Circular) – (White Peak District) – (Derbyshire) – 02/04/11 – 5.8 Miles – Helen (Luther & Molly)

Having parked at Hartingdon in the car park at a shop where Helen had just bought some pots, we were stopped in our tracks by a young woman who wanted to know how far we were walking. This threw both of us a bit, mainly because the tone of her voice suggested that she wanted to come along with us. Seconds later her boyfriend came out of the public convenience there and they disappeared in another direction - strange !

Anyway off we set across some lovely Spring rolling fields, before eventually picking up a small stream which the dogs could dip in and out of. Despite scoffing my cob in the car park, I was still anxious for some liquid refreshment, and so we stopped not long after for coffee and cake. Well this was where the true value of my evil employer’s freebie thermos coffee mug was revealed (i.e. the coffee was nearly stone cold). The good thing though, is now that I know they were merely dumping a load of rubbish on their insubordinates that they couldn’t get rid of elsewhere, the natural order in the universe has been restored, and I feel much more secure in my job again.

Being a bit of a thicko, I always thought Dale was shorthand for rolling fields. However Helen explained that it is another name for a valley, and thus our walk was somewhat circular in nature around said valleys. Or for those of you who are itching to rush to your maps right now, we circumnavigated: Beresford Dale, Wolfscote Dale, and Biggin (hope I’ve spelt that right) Dale.

There was quite a few people about in this picturesque setting, (unsurprising given it was a Saturday), as well as a fair smattering of dogs. One couple who always seemed just a little bit ahead of us, also had a black Labrador called Cooper (probably called Mini Cooper when he was a puppy), whom Molly and Luther were busy swapping doggie notes with. Luther for his part was having a good day, after Helen had fretted on whether he would be up for another walk following his previous day’s exertions. Molly was her usual manic self. Having previously been all pally with Cooper, when we eventually got round them, and then ourselves stopped for some refreshments, she decided to start growling at him when they caught us up again.

Eventually we left the Dales and walked alongside (on our way back to Hartingdon) a number of enclosed fields full of sheep, and the first of this year’s new lambs (see I said it was Spring). One brief wrong left turn, and then some slight confusion over which town the church with the green top belonged to, and that was the last we saw of Cooper.

We then found ourselves being helped through a gate by a couple, literally moments before two quad bikes could have mowed us all down. Thus we carried on behind them, with behind being the approprite word here. Basically because the female half of said couple, had probably the fattest behind either of us had ever seen on another walker. One of us found ourselves appalled by what we were seeing, whilst the other one of us found ourselves hypnotised (but I am not saying which one of us was which). Eventually the spell was broken, when we broke off to allow Luther a drink from a trough that seemed to be just lying about.

Back in Hartingdon town centre we found ourselves negotiating a mobile female hen party, that was spilling out of a local pub. Skirting round them I headed for the local duck pond with Luther and Molly, whilst Helen diverted off to get us an ice cream. There we stared at a a shop that sells cheese, for which Hartingdon is famous for – apparently.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Beeley (Circular) – (White Peak District) – (Derbyshire) – 01/04/11 – 7.4 Miles – Helen (Luther & Molly)

Recently my evil employer, was kind enough to give us all one of those thermos type coffee mugs (an act so out of character, that I am expecting my P45 any day now). So anyway I decided that this was an occasion as good as any other to try it out. However having parked at Beeley I decided I couldn’t road test it long enough to even get out of the car, so drunk all my coffee there and then (all washed down with a slice of coffee and walnut cake that Helen had baked earlier).

Now this was probably Helens third choice walk, having rejected an edge one due to the wind, and another possibly as it was a bit far for Luther. So yes there was a bit of a chill in the air still and nowhere near the 19 degrees forecast (even if I did eventually take my top layer off).

Anyway we started off along Gibbet Moor on what would be a circular to take us back to Beeley. However due to the signs warning that there was nesting birds, for much of this section the dogs had to stay on the lead. Eventually we found ourselves walking along a ridged section, that ran parallel to the road all the while being looked down upon by a couple of goats (no problem as I am used to being looked down upon), before eventually making higher ground and finding a nice rock ledge to look out from (it’s alright the camera exaggerates ones weight).

From there we made our way into Chatsworth Park, eventually ending up at the Stand Tower, where we sat on one of the benches (overlooking Chatsworth House) and compared notes with two elderly chaps who were on a day out from Sheffield. To my surprise Helen still had a few provisions on her, but unlike the two elderly chaps I wasn’t sharing what I was given with either Luther and Molly. They on the other hand wanted to know did the dogs eat bread, which is a definite yes (especially in Luthers case, given that he also eats sheep droppings). From there we made our way up towards a pretty little waterfall, which is part of what feeds the whole fountain configuration in the gardens of Chatsworth.

Somewhat further on Luther had some problems with some side steps along a steep wall (after earlier doing a smaller version with no problem). Having eventually got to the summit he decided he definitely wasn’t using the same method going down, and basically leapt from the top (ouch). Surprisingly the younger Molly was also having problems with this wall, having decided to cut out the steps altogether and was instead trying to go over it in one leap. Some several attemps later she did manage it, but Helen decided it was prudent to let them both calm down a bit before we moved on again. You can’t keep a good dog down for long though and this picture was taken of Molly not long after, where if you look closely enough you will see that she is so manic, one of her eyes is yellow and the other green.

Anyway from there we made our way below a far off ridge, before eventually retracing our steps along Gibbet Moor back to Beeley. Our dogs were back on the lead for the nesting birds, but not so for everyone coming the other way. One couple’s dog came over to be friendly, but kept getting tangled between Luthers lead and legs, following which the male part of the twosome gave me the dirtiest of looks. However not being a full time doggie person like Helen, I probably misinterpreted that, so thought it best not to smack him in the mouth.

Walks since last blog entry:

1 x 9.25 miles – Putney to Osterley
2 x 7 miles – Osterley Park/Grand Union
1 x 7 miles – Grand Union/Osterley Park