Saturday, 12 May 2018

12/05/18 - London Countryway Stage 4 - Sevenoaks to Oxted

Distance - 14.8 Miles
Start - Sevenoaks
Finish - Oxted
Geocaches - 17
Pubs - 3 (all GBG ticks)
Previous Stages - Stage 1Stage 2, Stage 3


Stage 4 of the London Countryway and I make my first border crossing - from Kent into Surrey.  The walk is getting into its stride now and although the terrain is quite similar today, the walking is superb.

It could be described as a walk of two halves.

The first section sees me escape Sevenoaks through a series of alleyways and private roads to be delivered into Mill Bank Woodlands.  Fine Forest rides and some perfect Geocaches to hunt for, not too difficult and high in volume.

Mill Bank Woods
Got some logging to do, but not this much
For the second part of the walk, I pick up the Greensands Way and follow to today's destination, Oxted.  It follows the high ridge of the Sevenoaks Weald, through National Trust owned land of Ide and Toy Hill and offers never ending views to the South Downs Way.  There are a lot of photos, but they are all similar and usually containing Bough Beech Reservoir.

Sevenoaks Weald Views
First of he days views to South Downs Way
Bough Beach Reservoir
Bough Beech Reservoir

There's a myriad paths, that makes some routefinding difficult.  As well as following the original guide to the LDN Countryway, I have a couple of blog resources available.  Des De Moor stopped for lunch at this picnic table back in 2009.   Its still there, even if I was lunchless.

Ide Hill
National Trust Land, providing good paths
Route Finding Issues
Occasionally, too many paths 
Picnic Set in the Weald
Deep in the Woods Picnic Stopping Point

Pub wise, it's could be a marathon over the 14 miles.   First met is Ide Hill's Cock Inn.  Despite missing the opportunity to ask a bemused local how far the Cock Inn is, I decide to delay gratification.  This is nothing to do with it being a Greene King, but the fact that time is precious.

Running out of water means that I cannot ignore the Carpenters Arms at Limpsfield Chart.  A gastro pub in the truest sense of the word, with an extension built on to squeeze in extra tables.  Its also a Westerham Brewery house - not one I am aware off but LocALE from Kent.  The 1965 was in superb condition and the staff called me Sir, even if I was in a damp raincoat.  I was quite content.  Even more content when I get home, check the bible and determine I've accidently gained another tick.

Carpenters, Limpsfield Chart
Gastro, Gastro, Gastro
1965 at the Carpenters
With decent Westerham Ales

I forget to ask for a water refill, but there is nothing to fear.  Old Oxted is about another hours walk and in a High street that can't be more than 150 metres long - there are four pubs.  Old Bell is handsome, the George Inn looked closed down and the Wheatsheaf looked estate.  I have taken a 1 mile detour to get a Good Beer Guide Tick at the Crown Inn.

The Crown, Old Oxted
Note the Entrance Sign - It's on the first floor
Four real ales on and I played safe by taking an average London Pride to a nice Chesterfield sofa in a different room to where the diners and their screaming kids were.  Really nothing much to write home about but it was infinitely superior to my final GBG tick of the day in new Oxted.

Positioned strategically next to the Station is the Oxted Inn.  It's appearance matches its near industrial estate address of Units 1-4, Hoskins Walk.

In a long list of crimes against landlord-ery that I won't bore you with here, the beer was terrible.  My first request of an Oakham JHB died a third into pouring.  The replacement Windsor and Eton Windsor Knott was hazy and lifeless.

There's a reason for this - in a packed pub of people, many of whom have obviously been here since 9am, I am the only person drinking a real ale.  Everyone else is on lager, with the exception of one bar hanging dandy on the sauvignon blanc.

When I am king, I am banning JDW from future Good Beer Guides.

Oxted Inn, New Oxted
Mama told me not to come.  Good Beer Guide insisted.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

10/05/18 - Heart of England Way - Stage 14 - Berkswell

Distance - 6 Miles
Geocaches - 1
Previous Stages - Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3Stage 4Stage 5Stage 6Stage 7Stage 8Stage 9Stage 10Stage 11Stage 12, Stage 13


8 hours in an Office based Workshop and the unenviable prospect of the M42 at 6pm rush hour.

I know a way I can improve the day.  The Heart of England Way is now dangerously close to my place of work, so a beautiful late spring evening is the perfect moment to tick off the latest monthly leg.

I've made it to Berkswell - a place that needs no introduction if you have completed the Millennium Way.  I kind of got bogged down, with four of the Circular walks starting from here.

So I'm used to this Domesday mentioned village, with its impressive church and er... Well.

Berkswell Church
Berkswell
The Well
The 16ft Well.  The Dots are flies - the place is infested.

The walk is agricultural West Midlands at its finest.  The mud has dried, the colours are abundant.  The paths may look dull to those who don't walk but I couldn't be happier.

Farmland Loveliness
Bliss
We reach the Queens Head, fine refreshment stop at the end of the last leg, and investigate Church Farm.   Some Heart of England branding teaches me that the Way is also part of the European E2 Long Distance Path - running from Galway to the French Mediterranean.  Options for an extension to this walk for when I reach Bourton on the Water.

Church Farm, Meriden
Church Peeping at Church Farm
HOEW
HOEW - Note the E2 logo bottom right

More of the same on the way back.  All the Geocaches found when doing the Millennium Way, apart from 1.

Farmland Loveliness
More of the Same - No Compaints
Berkswell has an ancient boozer, the Bear.  Its been run as a Chef and Brewer, so you now its mainly catering for diners.  However, amongst the Greene King IPAs and other associated dull beers was a Theakstons Old Peculiar - table served to my garden patio, as my Eastern European bartender declared it "Rather Lively".

It was as gorgeous as the walk.

The Bear, Berkswell
The Bear - Chef and Brewer delivering Old Peculiar 

Monday, 7 May 2018

07/05/18 - All around the Wolds from Andoversford

Distance - 11.5 Miles
Geocaches - 2
Walk Inspiration - Trail Magazine Route
Pub - Royal Oak, Andoversford, Otter Bitter


Would you believe it?  A bank holiday Monday and the weather is beyond gorgeous.  Having burnt my neck on yesterday's geocaching trip in Warwickshire, I am forced to wear protection in the Cotswolds.

Flaps Down
Flaps Down in the Cotswolds
Its OK though.  No one knows me in Andoversford.  I've not even heard of Andoversford before and I thought I knew the Cotswolds like the back of my hand.  This is a tiny village on the outskirts of Cheltenham that's self sufficient.  It has a pub.

I head west, making steady progress through very boggy horse fields to make a climb of Kilkenny Hill.  Sounds more Irish than Gloucester, but fine views are available of the county capital.

Ascending Kilkenny Hill
Marching up Kilkenny
Early Views to Gloucester
Gloucester in the really far distance

This walk provides a circuit of the Coln Valley.  The walk is evenly split - when you've had enough of the amazing views, you drop into Withington Woods for some bluebell infused shade.  You cannot help but smile when you're sharing the route with squirrels, deer herds, the odd rabbit and unidentified birds of prey circling overhead.  Out for four hours and I see a grand total of two walkers and three horse riders.

For the Views
Oh... and Sheep of course
Withington Woods
Bluebell Woods of Withington

Time the walk correctly and you could have a two pub walk.  Withington Village is handsome, containing some fine buildings - including an impressive church and one of the most idyllic pubs I've stumbled upon.  I can see this being a base for a future walk.

P1020768
Withington Church
The Mill Inn, Withington
The Mill Inn, Withington

Out of Withington and a climb from the beautiful Coln valley floor.

Coln Valley
Coln Valley Floor

Water reserves expire a mile from Andoversford, which means I burst into the bar of the Royal Oak in a fashion not observed since Alex Guinness in Ice Cold in Alex.  The Oak has not been in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide for at least a couple of years but it looks like they used to have a good relationship.

Royal Oak, Andoversford
North Cotswolds CAMRA POTY - 2016
Royal Oak, Andoversford
Classic Cotswold Boozer

In another pub, lunch would have been a fish finger sandwich but here, it was Cod Goujons, with a choice of ciabatta or brioche bun.  I might of been out of my depth with the cuisine but I know my way around the bar.  An Otter Bitter could only be improved on a day like this with a water chaser.

An Otter with a Water Chaser
Two Drinks Mappiman

Saturday, 5 May 2018

05/05/18 - Worcesershire Beacon and the Wyche Inn

Distance - 4 Miles
Walk Inspiration - Pub Walks in the Malvern


The sort of day designed for the Malverns, with the reward of a CAMRA Good Beer Guide tick for post walk refreshment.  What could be nicer than getting up high for minimal effort and being rewarded with 360 degree views in the sunshine?

This couldn't be easier - park up at Beacon Road and make your own decision as to whether to pay £4.20 towards the upkeep of the Malverns or annoy the locals and park outside their cottages.

Head up Shire Ditch.  Look left for views across to Wales.  Look right for views over the Cotswolds and the Midlands.  Take a selfie when you are the highest people in Worcestershire.  Optional stop for tea and cake at St Anne's Well.  Work your way back to the pub for a CAMRA Tick.

Malvern Views
Middle Sections of the Malverns, Looking South
Highest in Worcestershire
Highest people in Worcestershire
Eastern Walk
Working our way back on the Eastern Flanks

The Wyche Inn is strategically close to the end of the walk.  11am Opening are a boon but the locals know all about it.  By 11:45am, we have the last outside table to soak up the sunshine in the way god intended.

Wyche Inn
Another day, another tick
Wye Valley HPA
Perfect HPA

All the action is outside but the blogging purposes, an internal explore is necessary.   Long thin interior.  Down the bottom is a twin pool table games room.  Middle section offers tables set for dining.  Rather too many signs telling me off for uncommitted crimes for my liking.   On the list of things I didn't plan on doing were;

  1. Bringing a wet dog into a areas that wasn't the games room
  2. Wearing muddy boots
  3. Consuming my own food or drinks 

Beer, as the picture shows was excellent.  Ploughman's lunch came with an unexpected boiled egg.

All was not lost to totalitarian signage.


Thursday, 3 May 2018

03/05/18 - Victor Hugo's St Peter Port

Distance - 2.5 Miles
Geocaches - 3
Walk Inspiration - Guernsey Tourist Board

Another beautiful evening in the Channel Islands.   With the supply of St Peter Port's Good Beer Guide pubs exhausted, it's time for alternative entertainment.

Fortunately, Guernsey Tourist Board offer a series of short walks on their web site.

I choose to follow in the footsteps of Les Miserables Author, Victor Hugo, who spent 15 years in exile on the Island.

This takes me around St Peter Port, climbing through Candie Park to the Tower and down all the way to Castle Cornet.  I tried to find his home in Hautville but struggled with the exact location.   Google Maps showed it to be directly opposite the Cock and Bull Pub but I'll be damned if I could find anything impressive on the ground.  Research shows its closed in 2018 but surely, they can't have moved it.

A few photos.

Winding Streets
Climbing the winding streets from my Hotel
Statue in Candie Gardens
The Man in Candie Park
Candie Gardens View
Sea Views from Candie Park
Victoria Tower
Victoria Tower- Geocache GZ and where he scratched his name into the Stone Work
Castle Cornet
Castle Cornet
Castle Cornet
Where the Pier leads to a Geocache that remains unfound
Castle Cornet
But provided some views
Town Church
Back to the Town Church

Good work from Guernsey Tourist Board - plenty of other walking options from there, should I be heading back.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

28/04/18 - Birmingham Canal Walk and Good Beer Guide Ticking

Distance - 6 Miles
Geocaches - 1
Pubs - 3
Walk Inspiration - Discovery Walks in BRM and the Black Country - Walk 2


I've failed at not mentioning in this blog the cliche that Birmingham has more miles of canals than Venice.  This may be a fact but I've been to both and Venice's are nicer.

Birmingham Canals
Nope it's a matter of fact
Not that this little urban safari is not without its grim aesthetic pleasures.

Birmingham Canals
Birmingham Canal's in its glory
It won't surprise you to know that I am here on a pub ticking mission.  Slowly, the 2nd City entries are getting filled up.  I'm here chiefly for the Barton Arms which opens at 12pm.  At 11pm, I am less than a mile away so pop into the Two Towers, Gunmakers Arms for a revisit and to talk to the early boozing Villa Fans making their way to the last regular home game of the season. 

I leave them at 11:45 and have a frankly terrifying walk up through Newtown.  I'm dressed as a full on rambler.  The gangs are dressed in regulation hoodies and are surely far too old to be "playing" street football.   It's times like these when looking an oddball has its benefits.  I am left alone.

And into the safety of the Barton Arms.  By god it doesn't disappoint.

Barton Arms
So So from the Outside
This is in the CAMRA Heritage pubs guide as an outstanding example of Fin-de-Siecle architecture.  What does this mean to my blogfans?  More than the normal amount of photos.

Barton Arms
The Opulent Staircase
Barton Arms
The Palace of Varieties
Barton Arms
The 1901 Stained Glass Window - surviving 117 Years in Newtown 
Barton Arms
Snob Screens not seen outside of London

A living, breathing museum that when you check in on Facebook, nominates itself as Birmingham's best kept secret.

It seems almost churlish to walk about their wares but it's an Oakham tied house that on this weekend had a beer festival offering 20+ gravity fed beers from a racking system.  I stuck to the hand pulled JHB.

The Thai menu looked amazing.   Simply no chance that I won't be returning - but next time, it will be by taxi and not on foot.

So, how you going to top that Architectural gem in Aston then Mappiman?  All I can bring you is a photo of the house where Ozzy Osbourne grew up and a look at Brum's skyline.

Ozzy Osbournes House
He has moved up in the world
Birmingham City Syline
Birmingham Skyline and the reassuring presence of a Police Helicopter

The walk back town is back along a different canal, picked up at Rocky Lane, Aston.  Emerge from a long tunnel to find another new pub tick, the Eagle and Ball.

Tunnel
More Canals
Not been (or indeed heard of) the Eagle and Ball.  Its from the 1840s, grade II listed, sympathetically incorporated into the Univeristy Buildings and suffers from pub tickers curse by being closed at 1:30pm on a Saturday afternoon.

Maybe the Students don't get up that early.

Eagle and Ball
Not sure what language this is in?  Belgian?

Eagle and Ball
I may return.  There was an offer on Pizza.

So this leaves the Woodman.  A pub in a neglected part of town that is surely going to see its fortunes change massively when HS2 rolls into Curzon Street opposite.

Invest now.

Woodman
The Woodman
Another Victorian classic in the Heritage Guide for pub interiors.

Woodman
I originally thought it was a golfer etched on the light fitting
Woodman
No Carling, Darling

Lovely pub but on today's visit, I have to pronounce that the food was much better than the beer.  The New York Burger for a bargain £6.50 easily top trumped my pedestrian Castle Rock Harvest Pale.