Monday, 30 May 2011

Monsal Head (circular) - (White Peak District) - (Derbyshire) - 28/05/11 - 5.25 Miles - Helen (Molly)

Four pounds for four hours at the Monsal Head car park, certainly made me glad that this was a five mile walk and not a ten mile one. Anyway this was a repeat of the one we had attempted from Country Walking magazine last November. Only on that occasion we had been forced to do a different walk after the high water levels meant we couldn't walk along the Limestone Walls at Water-cum-Jolly (just like Julia Bradbury). Then we had to later retrace our steps to recover Helen's hat.

So anyway having descended down from Monsal Head to pick up the Monsal Trail, our first surprise was the amount of cyclist's going up and down necessitating Molly having to be on a lead (Luther wasn't able to make it on this occasion). By the time we got to the point overlooking Cressbrook Mill our second surprise was that the tunnel there was now open.

In fact this was something of a special weekend for the Monsail Trail, as four tunnels that run from Bakewell to the edge of Buxton had been opened a few days prior, for the first time since they were sealed by the former Midland Railway's in 1968. All part of a large scale enginnering project to make this part of the trail more accesslble for walkers and cyclists. Oh yes cyclists, as apparently their numbers were explained not just by the special occasion, but also by the fact that two hire centres had been set up on the trail to take advantage of this opportunity.

Naturally being the sort of people who never hesitate to seize the moment, we got off the trail as our route cut out instructed and headed down to Water-Cum Jolly. Helen for her part was displaying what I thought was a 'Hungry and Homeless' placard, but actually turned out to be an OS map. Anyway no problems this time (like high water levels, or potentially drowned doggies), as we made our way along, passing rock climbers and leaping fish. Eventually however we left the track and after passing by Litton Mill we began another climb which eventually and briefly took us back onto the Monsal Trail, before beginning the steepest of climbs with magnificent views of Millers Dale behind us. We made a point of continually stopping to look as well as take pictures (nothing to do with gasping for air and waiting for the lactic acid to clear out of our legs).

Eventually we reached a crossroads (following some unneccesarry intimidation from my bovine friends), and then after passing some farm we carried on a long track which was slightly less scenic than all that had gone before. The weather was starting to close in at this point requiring jackets to be put on.

The scenery picked up somewhat as we started to make a descent with Monsal Head in the distance. Thus after a steep and stony descent we found ourselves on Monsal viaduct facing another of the newly opened tunnel's. That is to be left for another day however, and so after a swift stepped climb, we were back at the car park.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Arundel (Circular) – (West Sussex) – 20/05/11 – 7.88 Miles – Helen

Having visited Arundel Castle and its gardens the previous day, the power that be decided that we should go back again, to do one of Country Walking Magazine’s cut out walks for the vicinity. So leaving the car park opposite the castle, we began our walk along the river Arun.

As you wind your way along the river the view of the castle, which you actually have to keep looking back at, is constantly changing. However despite numerous attempts by me to get the definitive picture, the one shown is about the best of the bunch (no doubt Helen’s pictures will be a lot better). Now this was a day where I decided to crack the shorts out again, yet the weather never really decided for the duration if it was going to be a scorcher, or eventually chuck it down. No matter as by the time we had got to the one and a quarter mile point, it was time for lunch at the Black Rabbit pub.

Wow, this was a perfect location for a pub, as it sat alongside the river with a view of the castle way off in the distance. Naturally with all that on offer I wanted to sit indoors, but Helen found a compromise by getting us a table outside, but under cover by the entrance. Given the size of the car park, and the amount of people there for a Friday lunchtime, word about this place has obviously got round. Anyway for the record I had the gourmet burger + fries (with cider) whilst Helen had the Chicken Tikka Massala.

Back on the move again we continued along the River Arun, with the castle no longer in sight, before turning off by the Saxon Church at the hamlet of South Stoke. Well actually this one passed me by somewhat giving as it was hidden by houses once off the river. My more observant other half however had already recorded it all on her camera. As we made our way through a path between two walls we found the way nearly blocked by a couple of marquees, although we were told beer would be available if we came back the next day.

From there we walked up and into a wooded area, whilst never entirely 100% sure about how far along we were (although the deer fence to our left gave us some reassurance). We eventually got our bearings however at the entrance of Arundel Park (see picture). Then it was a sharp left through the gate and a long wooded climb, which eventually opened up into fantastic views towards (as Helen pointed out) Amberley, where we had walked on the Monday.

Having reached a gate at the top of the climb (as the cut out instructed) I insisted we stop for a brief refreshment break, as the wind began to pick up. Pushing on upwards however it turned out the instructions were a tad ambiguous with me insisiting that we had to walk through a wooded area, whilst Helen insisted we had to walk round it (guess who was right).

So after walking round the wooded area, we began a very scenic descent with the haunted (apparently) Hiorne Tower far away to our left. Once at the absolute bottom of this eventually very steep descent, we began another steep ascent with Swanbourne Lake below us, before eventually taking a very sharp right. We then had a short steep climb, going across a gallops, only to emerge with the Hiorne Tower now right in front of us. The only problem for me now was that somewhere along the way, it had managed to cross our path from our faraway left to our immediate right (so that’s what they must mean by haunted – a walking tower).

After some confusion about getting out of the park without going into the private estate, we emerged back into Arundel town centre passing the cathedral church, the priory inn and the castle itself. After stopping for afternoon tea, coffee and cake in a local shop, the walk came to an indeterminate end whilst Helen shopped around for presents/souveniers.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Cocking (Circular) – (West Sussex) – 18/05/11 – 9.75 Miles – Helen

Having parked at the small (and easily missed) car park at the top of Cocking Hill, we began with a very steep ascent up the South Downs way (hope none of that sounds rude). Still the climb served to warm us up, which was just as well, as the weather was slightly duller and chillier than it had been on our previous walk. Our initial landmark, or place to stop for a breather, was the first of a number of two-metre diameter chalk stones by the sculptor Andy Goldsworthy. Any number of these (meaning I don’t know exactly how many) were to be found throughout the first half of the walk.

After traversing Newfarm plantation, we then turned into West Dean Woods, which seems to be part of the (private) West Dean estate, and is managed by the Sussex Wildlife Trust. When we eventually came out of that, we turned uphill (passing the edge of a former Roman Road) before stopping for lunch at the exact moment my GPS came in at 3 miles. As on our previous walk, me and Helen diverged on what constituted the seating arrangements, before settling down to scoff our lunch.

Back on the move again, we passed under some power lines and then walked along a very long avenue of trees, before eventually climbing up off of that into a wooded area again. However when we eventually descended out of that by the entrance to West Dean Gardens, we were faced with a horrendous road walk all the way to Singleton. Alright there was a narrow pavement but the traffic came hurtling past us at roadkill speed for nearly a mile, before we were able to turn off from it. Somewhat relieved to still be in one piece, we sat down on the seat by the duckpond, to have afternoon tea.

On our way again we did a sharp left at a footpath sign by a school and made our way up towards Levin Down. The views behind us were fantastic, causing us both to waste any number of pixels trying to capture it. Also we could hear the sounds of the Goodwood Racecourse meeting blowing towards us.

We then descended back down into a beautiful valley before eventually entering a section between Singleton Forest and Charlton Forest. This was slightly monoculture in tree terms and went on for a long but gentle climb, before we eventually emerged onto the crossroads of the South Downs Way. Here we were accosted by three walkers wanting to know where we had come from ourselves (which proved to be a difficult question for me anyway). So deciding to avoid walking with them, and more difficult questions, we stopped here for our final tea break. Once on my feet again, I realised I had suddenly become rather sore in a place best not discussed. However a nice descent along the South Downs Way, where Helen made friends with a cow, eased me back to the car park.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Amberley (Circular) – (West Sussex) – 16/05/11 – 8.1 Miles – Helen

The first walk of our West Sussex vacation (oh alright then, week in a caravan at Bognor Regis) was taken from one of those Country Walking magazine’s cut outs that I do so enjoy (when I am not usually getting lost with them). So for those of you who would like to retrace our steps (yea right), it was taken from the June 2010 edition.

Anyway things didn’t start well when the (limited) free car parking at Amberley station didn’t have any spare places. So a parking diversion to a road called High Titten found us adding to the walk length. Still no problem and after retracing back to the station and then crossing the River Arun on a very narrow bridge, we made a gentle start walking on the top of a floodbank.

It wasn’t long however before we began climbing up towards the South Downs, and where Helen was the first one of us to pick up the sound of a Cuckoo. Thus having passed some old boy with parked bicycle admiring the view, we decided to do likewise and have our lunch. Helen expressed a preference for sitting on grass for this, whilst I preferred the dryer and firmer chalky bits (you pays your money and you takes your choice). Thus with the rolling landscape in front of us, she was then able to spot Arundel castle in the very far distance. Anyway my scotch egg and sausage roll went down nicely with the other crispy stuff.

Back on our way again and after a certain amount of confusion over how many bars constitute a six bar gate, we noticed some gliders being towed up by a propellor driven plane. I then subsequently made a pit stop behind a bush (which is not to be confused with me posing as a flower, or me just posing for a photograph in general), which was no doubt caused by the hazy view of the sea behind and to the left of us. So saying no more about the photography incident we found our way to a Tumulus, with a fantastic view to the far off North Downs, and gave us a vantage point that I had previously visited with IVC. Suddenly and out of nowhere a yellow prop driven plane buzzed over us (presumably on his way to pick up another glider). Yet if that wasn’t enough we then had some sort of feathery bird thing picking up on the theme, and also looking to buzz us (presumably it thought we were out to grab one of its chicks).

Undeterred we then began a descent from the Downs with some gorgeous views in front of us, until we made our way into Amberley village. There we found a lovely little tea shop, staffed by two rescue dogs (amongst others), and where I enjoyed a hot chocolate with marshmallows and slice of sponge cake (Helen had something similar, but slightly more sensible). Having finished that we carried on through the village admiring the chocolate box cottages, and quaint little church, before finding ourselves facing the walls of what is apparently a 900 year old castle (or hotel).

Crossing the railway line we were once again on top of the floodbank of the river Arun with views of the Downs where we had previously come down from. However wouldn’t you know it, someone had been letting cows loose in the countryside again, and as it their usual trick, they had to be hanging around the stile where we had no option but to go straight through them. Fortunately I was on hand to protect Helen should they give us any bother, which on this occasion they thought better of. From there it was through a mobile home site, past the station and back to High Titten and the car. A perfect day’s walking in perfect walking weather.

Walks since last blog entry:

1 x 7 miles – Osterley Park/Grand Union

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Godalming (Circular) – (Surrey) – 08/05/11 – 10.5 Miles – IVC

Having been toasted by the Sun all week on the Isle of Wight, today was a little more in line with what you might expect in May, namely moderate temperatures and slightly overcast. So with ten of the usual suspects making up our party, I wasted no time in making sure that everyone knew I had been away. Obviously I wasn’t the only one in IVC who has had the HF holiday experience, as more than one person wanted to know was I the youngest one there, and one particular female member (who admittedly has never been on one herself) said that HF is known to stand for Husband Finder. Anyway, whatever the faults of the HF experience the walks were first class, which became very apparent when compared to this below average excursion.

So suffice to say most of the first half was spent walking between enclosed nettly hedgerows, and along various side roads. There was a brief view of the Hogs Back before more roads and hedgerows, until we made it to our lunch stop at Compton: a 16th century alehouse known as the Withies Inn. I partook of the Cumberland sausage and mash, and a pint of cloudy cider. Suffice to say both were simple and rustic (as Gordon Ramsey would say) and were ideal for a walkers pub lunch. This was all enjoyed in the garden, where there were some impressive wooden tables. Not quite up to the Alice in Wonderland standard me and Helen encountered in that pub in Dorset last year, but interesting and original all the same.

Our second half began in fairly much the same way as the first, which included some walking through Loseley Park. However things improved considerably when we picked up the River Wey Navigation for the last three and a half miles of the walk. Here we encountered a smorgasboard of users including: joggers, cyclists, dog walkers, a group of woman doing some sort of charity walk for MacMillan, as well as river users paddling in assorted dinghys, and barges navigating the locks. We also came across the obligatory World War 2 pill box guarding the river from the Germans.

To round off this pleasant section we then had afternoon tea in Hectors Boathouse (café) by the river. I enjoyed some coffee and chocolate cake, and also found myself perplexed by the unisex cubicle toilets. However the staff were a tad on the strange side. Firstly we had some guy eating his pudding on a table directly in front of the counter so that one had to pay for ones order directly across and over him. Then the female of the establishment (I assume the proprietor) came round serving us a load of empty cups/mugs, who was then followed by her husband (assuming again here) who tried to serve both pieces of chocolate cake to one of our party after I had told him one slice was for me, and then got very sarcastic with another member of our party when she enquired about the whereabouts of her carrot cake. I have tended to notice with quite a few establishments on these walks, that they often see walking groups as a passing nuisance rather than customers, and are really only interested in serving their locals. Anyway that’s their problem and future bankruptcy.

So with that all done we had about a mile walk back to Godalming station and the train home. So overall two thirds of this walk was basically dullsville, however that was offset by the nice pub lunch, and the last third on the towpath of the River wey Navigation.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Freshwater (circular) via Yarmouth and the Needles – (Isle of Wight) – 06/05/11 – 12.3 Miles – HF Holidays

For our final day on the Isle of Wight we would be doing a door to door walk from Freshwater House, with our hard walking group now up into double figures. Clearly some people were starting the holiday walks on an easy basis and working up to the final long one. Temperature wise this was also going to be the hottest day of the week (not that the others were chilly), with the strong winds on day one and two having disappeared.

So starting at Freshwater Bay we picked up the trail along the River Yar, heading towards Yarmouth. It wasn’t long however before we had come across yet another ‘fascinating’ church (All Saints – Freshwater) that everyone had to stop and explore (what is it with churches and walking groups ?). Having absolved our sins we carried on and it wasn’t long before we had made it into Yarmouth. There we sat on the seafront enjoying our elevenses, and watching the Whitelink ferries head back and forth across the Solent to Lymington Pier on the mainland.

As we continued on we all took some snaps of Tudor Hurst Castle across the water on the mainland. Actually this is quite a fortified area as we took a toilet stop at Fort Victoria (which is now a converted arcade), and as we carried on we passed on our side of the water: the Cliff End Battery and Fort Albert. Carrying on we actually got down onto the beach by Linstone Chine holiday
Park, and being the daredevil that I am I let some of the tide wash over my boots.

Our leader decided that we needed to climb up off the beach before having our lunch, on the approach to Alum Bay. However somewhere along this point, as we were passing along the road in Totland, we managed to acquire a small dog. Thus no matter how much we encouraged this small basset/beagle bitch (female dog, not an insult) we couldn’t get rid of it. When we settled on our lunch stop at Headon Warren it stayed with us, but not to scrounge anyones sandwiches. Unfortunately my mobile wasn’t on me, and I couldn’t call the number on its collar, and no one else seemed to see this as important saying: “it must do this all the time”. Anyway once we set off again, along with us it came again. In fact all the way down to Alum Bay and to the car park at The Needles. However with the majority of the group making a pit stop at the public toilets there, it finally decided to go its own way again.

We then climbed up from Alum Bay admiring all the multicoloured sands on the cliff edge there (see picture), before finally making our way to the viewing point at The Needles for the obligatory photographs. The viewpoint was all well and good but of more concern to me was that our leader had encouraged us to forego an ice cream earlier for one at this location, but which no one then wanted to go and get, given the descent down to the National Trust café. Also of interest along here was some Cold War bunkers and the remains of the test sites for the British Black Hawk rocket programme.

From there it was back on to the coastal path again on what is the other bit of the Tennyson Trail which we didn’t do the previous day, until we eventually made our way up to Tennysons Monument. This is apparently 2722 miles away from the North Pole. From there it was a nice gentle descent, passing a lot of young student types, until we made our way back to Freshwater Bay.

My verdict on HF Holidays based on this one, is that although they might seem initially expensive, they do work out as good value for money. The food is fantastic, you have all coaches provided for, and instead of trying to work out walks yourselves, you get the best of the area by guides who have honed these walks long before you got there. The only downside for me was that the forty plus guests were mainly elderly, and were not interested in doing long walks. Thus if it hadn’t been for one other guest on this holiday (my nurse friend) being prepared to do them every day, I would have been doing a lot of walking on my own, and that would not have helped socially either. This I was assured was particular to the HF Isle of Wight experience (which is a shame given how lovely it is), and would not be a problem in the Lake District. However whilst that is a potential problem for the lone traveller, it is easily resolved if you travel with a partner or friend.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Tennyson Trail – (Isle of Wight) – 05/05/11 – 10.6 Miles – HF Holidays

The hard (?) walking group had picked up another member overnight, meaning we were now up to five (including our leader). This however was not the planned walk, which was slated to be around 13 miles, but rather one chosen by my original nurse friend, as her chest had been playing her up. Thus if I had held out for the 13 miler, then not only would she have gone for the medium walk but then so would the two others, meaning no long walk at all.

Now the first thing you need to know (which I haven’t mentioned before) is that poet laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson is very big on the Isle of Wight, given the fact that he spent the last years of his life at Freshwater. We would be beginning the trail at its official start at Carisbrooke Castle, but ending the day at Freshwater, whereas the trail continues on to The Needles (no worries as we would be doing that leg in the other direction the following day).

Now although we had seen Carisbrooke Castle in the distance as we were dropped off the coach, such was the haze that it was completely shrouded in the distance, as we made our way, after a steep climb, along Bowcombe Down. Eventually we picked our way through the trail as it wound its way through Brighstone Forest, periodically getting hassled by flies again, until our leader settled on a lunch stop in a field with a nice view below us. Unfortunately this field also belonged to an encroaching group of black bullocks who decided we shouldn’t be in it. No problem according to our leader however, as all we needed to do was move to the other side of a very small thicket that was dissecting the field. Well guess what, just as we didn’t have much problem stepping over it, than neither did the bullocks. At which point I decided lunch was going to be relocated over the gate and out of the field altogether, hastily followed by everyone else. As we then sat on the other side of the gate, the asbo bullocks stared us all out, inbetween trying to physically mount each other.

The second half of the walk found us clearing the edges of Brighstone forest before we eventually began to climb up Mottistone Down with the Sea far away on our left and some ancient burial mounds on our right. Here we came across a guy carrying his hang gliding gear up the hill, who enquired whether we were from the walking hotel (yes). As we sat in one of the mounds having our tea break he made one abortive attempt to get airborne, before packing all his gear up again.

We carried on towards Freshwater on what was now becoming the coastal path with both beautiful views of the bay and Freshwater house (far left in the picture) to guide us. Crossing both the golf course and eventually the military road, we made our way to the house, and the earliest finish of the week (around 1530).