Tuesday, 27 December 2011

27/12/11 - Shifty caching in Shifnal

Caches - 20
Distance - 4.4 Miles


Last walk of the year and the December geocache numbers are looking very poor indeed.  Look for a local geotrail and I am getting further afield to find the numbers.  Shifnal has only been previously known to me as a traffic avoidance detour when the M6 is at its usual standstill.  I have wondered why there are so many pubs and restaurants and the cache descriptions have explained it's history as a coaching spot on the London to Holyhead road.  That makes sense.

There a number of cache trails from the town and surrounding villages, so I work some into a nice walk around the Manor house, returning to do some urban caches in the town.  All done on a glorious day and back for 11:45 for the last of the turkey.

Park up at the imposing Church, heading west on the A4169 for a couple of hundred yards before turning south down a footpath that runs past the manor house, and less impressively, the sewage works.  The caches are probably as close together as the rules allow and come very thick and fast.

The best part of the walk is under Lodge Hill, where mankind has used their influence on Wesley Brook.

Climb up Lodge Hill for some decent views over Shifnal.

Lodge Hill - Camera on a cache
Nice blue sky - better than yesterday
Once around Lodgehill farm, its a case of going into the town to try and find any remainders.  Bit of urban caching around industrial estates and alongside railway embankments.  From the cache containers, I can tell they have all be laid by the same team.

So that's it for 2011.  88 Blogged walks and 101 trips on Everytrail.  Looking forward to next year's walks already.

Happy new year.

Monday, 26 December 2011

26/12/11 - Xmas in Tintern

Distance - 5.6 Miles
Caches - 2
Refreshments - Tea and Turkey Sandwiches
Walk Inspiration


Every year I visit Tintern at Xmas time.  Part of my OCD.  Up early, when you consider the amount of Port that was consumed at an impromtu cheese party at the Readings last night.  First sign of festive over indulgence is that the belt needs to be loosed ever so slightly on my walking trousers.

1 hr 15 minute drive down the M50 and park up at the Abbey.  Despite checking all the weather reports, there is a miasma of mist which is that really fine rain that soaks you through.  It also spoils the exceptional views that I have promised Sonia from Eagle's Nest.

Tintern Abbey

Cross the road and follow the cobbled lane up hill to the ruined church and cache number 1.  I've never noticed this ruin from the times been here before.

Abandoned Church
Uphill all the way through the lush woods, working our way to Penterry Farm.

Get in the photo, dog.
The higher we get, the further into the clouds we get.  Cross the farmland where Sonia almost loses her footwear.

Trench Foot
Get across this hurdle, with the farmer laughing at us from his tractor and across some greener fields to St Mary's Church, Penterry.  There is a multi cache here, but the rain and mist are down pretty low, so I can't be bothered to work out the complexities.

Instead, we plough on to the top of the hill where the signal masts are.  Nothing to look at all, so drop down via some road walking to Lower Wyndcliff Woods.  This is good walking on the Wye Valley Way, but there are no views to be had from Eagle's nest today.  I brought my big camera and everything.  Not to worry, we will have to come back in the summer and I do get the cache at the top.

Through Black Cliff woods.  Great walking country.  Across a field with problems with drainage and into Limekiln woods along a path that was a stream bed back to Tintern.

Tintern End of Wye Valley Way
The dog has ruined all the good work during her christmas bath, so this limits where we can go for post walk refreshments.  Its mild enough to sit outside the Team Rooms.

Had enough beer yesterday
Whilst purchasing the tea, the dog makes good her escape.  I know that she will do anything to avoid walking, but we felt joy riding a farmer's land rover was taking it too far.

I don't want to go walking tomorrow.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

17/12/11 - Walking in a Kinver Wonderland

Miles - 4.7
Caches - 5/9 (Not the best return from a days caching)
Inspiration From - Les Lumsdon and his simply superb Staffordshire Walks


Christmas is upon us, so walking has to be limited to local locations, as I have the choice of parties and xmas drinks to partake in today.  Look through some local walking books and Les is bigging up Staffordshire.  He has a route from Kinver that does not take you to the Edge, but eastwards out to Gibbet Wood.  There are a number of caches out this way, and as my December total stands at a pathetic 3, it doesn't take me long to pick this one.

Meander through the crazy traffic calming that is Kinver high street and park up for free in the Shopper's car park.  Walk back through town and go for the first cache, at a pub with a unique proposition.  Can't imagine they have too many laughs in there.
Molly won't look at the Well of Misery
Down the lane for the cache, over the canal and then along a track called "Gibraltar".  Gain some height and have some nice views over the canal and to the Church that overlooks the village.

At Dunsley house, we have a number of fields to cross, all with their dog friendly stiles that make it easy for Molly to navigate.  No hoiking her over unceremonously today.  You can develop pancreatic cancer by doing that.

Fields, just outside of Kinver
Cross the A449 and work out that Severn Trent Water have moved all the footpaths to make a poo farm.  This goes someway of explaining why the route and caches didn't match the OS map.

A couple of caches up alongside the woods.  These are part of a Battlestar Galactica themed trail, but I am only picking up a couple on my route.

Not long before leaving the foods, taking a new path alongside STW's farm and working my way back to the A449 at the Whittington pub.  The footpath is throught the pub carpark and leads to one of those little hamlets that are off the beaten path and splendid for their isolation.

We've all lived there.
Meet the canal, for an easy return to Kinver.  This is a nice stretch of walking, although I have no joy with any of the caches along here.  Too many people, too vague a clue for me.

Nicest lock keepers cottage in Staffs
Come back into Kinver.  The pub near the car park has a group of 6 men drinking on the table out front, and my temptation to join is stopped in its tracks by the fact that they haven't yet opened.  These hardy fellows are drinking out of carrier bags.  It's that time of year.

I get back home and like Santa, arrive with Potatoe based delights for all the family that mean any indescretions from my afternoon in the pub should instantly be forgiven.

Monday, 12 December 2011

12/12/11 - Ramble from Mamble

Distance - 5.7 Miles
Inspiration - Peter Kerr's "Worcestershire Walks"


All the self help advice books say that the key to a happy life is to set yourself goals.  Today, I have ticked off two from my bucket list, going to Bayton and watching "It's a wonderful life".

I feel that I may have overdid it on the "don't make them too strecthing" advice.

After a 315 mile, 5hr 20 minute drive back from Scotland yesterday, today had to be somewhere close.  This means no caches are available, as I have the majority in the vicinity.  Instead, I gain inspiration from one of the first walking books that I bought. 

Park up at a picnic area opposite the Sun and Slipper pub, disturbing two workers having a gypsies up the hedge.  Cross over the road and pick up the footpath between houses.

Instantly two things are apparent - we will be rewarded with stunning views of the Clee hills and the weather is perfect for walking - beautiful blues skies.  Some nice scenery pictures on the Everytrail site.

After heading north and crossing a couple of fields, we briefly touch Wissett's wood before heading east to Cross the River Rea.

Bridge on the River Rea
Pick up the road for a short stretch before turning onto fields.  We are rewarded with our first views of Bayton Church and a stiff climb up a muddy field, where our boots end up with a mudcakes the size of  dinner plates.

Not going on your stupid blog
Molly attacks a plastic drum
Walking alongside the church, we are rewarded with the best views of the day.

Panoramic Clee Hill
With People (and dog) in
Extend the walk from the guide to include a circuit of Bayton.  I was kind of interested in what was there.  We found evidence of it being a dry village (no pub) but a highly effecient neighbourhood watch system.

Who's got George?
We have a long road stretch west, past Mayberries Farm and when the road turns to a track, Shakenhurst House comes into view.  Last year, it was sold for the first time in its 1000 year history.  You may have to wait a long time for it to come on the market again, but at least it will give you plenty of time to save the required £12m.

My house x48

Drop south into Wissett's woods, which is all a bit overgrown but makes a nice change from the stunning views and stately homes.

Not the blair witch
After emerging into fields, we head east towards Westwood Farm.  Manage to get past the first two guardians, as there is a thin wire fence between us and having to do soft shelled Matador impressions.

We can take two on
However, when we get to the next fence, there are six of the beasts - including one with a nose ring and possible tattoos, who is guarding the entrance to the field.  Its frustrating, as we are within 150 yards of the car but decide not to risk it and have a 3/4 mile extension to the walk, taking in some of the outgoing paths.

Penultimate question of the day is where to go for refreshments - we are quite muddy, but not too bad, so decide to go and sit outside the cafe in Bewdley.  On arrival, and seeing the Mug House's roaring fire and remembering that they have stone floors - we take lunch there.  Timothy Taylor over tea all day.

View from a pub
Get home and spend the afternoon with James Stewart.  Most enjoyable, but left me with the question "Was Bedford Falls better with or without George Bailey?".  I have to say, it looked a fun night out in the "without" scene.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

03/12/11 - Beat the clock

Distance - 10.1 Miles
Geocaches - 0
Walk Familiaity - High


First weekend of a special month.... there is the patter of tiny 17 year old feet in the rush to open the advent calendar, no car journey is complete without the sound of Micheal Bubbles christmas album and family Mapp have had many healthy debates on why £200 Dr Dre headphones are vital for seasonal cheer.

Its also time for me to review Julie Royals Worcestershire walks for inspiration.  Give Upton a miss, as I have already done this walk this year and find myself on the old familiar.  Hope the miles will make up for the lack of caches.

Park up by the river and decide whether to go for three hours for £2.10 or longer for £4.30.  No way I am paying the latter (I have headphones to save up for), so I am up against the clock on this ten miler.  There's also a rather nice cafe and two fine pubs that could have been of interest.

Head north along the river, past Dowles Brook, where the pillars are all that is left of the old railway line.

Dowles Brook
Fine walking, with the river to the right and grazing land to the left, bordered by the edge of the forest.

Onwards Molly
When we turn the corner at Folley's point we head into the forest at Seckley's wood for the first time.  There are myriad paths to choose from but we need to head west, looking for Pound Green and the common.  This is an odd place, a small hamlet with a smattering of smallholdings and cottages.

This leads to Buttonoak.  If I hadn't let the promise of a full english breakfast and/or Timothy Taylor Landlord cloud my judgement, I could have parked here for nothing.

Cross the road and head into the woods, starting up the firebreak path before heading south down Longdon Orchard.

Fire Break
This brings us down to Dowles Brook, where we are starting our return eastwards to civilisation.

Which Way?
Todays Times (oh the joys of Saturdays) has an article on our topsey turvey weather in 2011.  It has been the driest year in the Midlands since records began.  Nowhere is this more evident than at Dowles Brook.  In 2006, this bridge was washed away in floods.  It has since been rebuilt and I have been here many times, where the doodle takes time to play in the water.

Dowles Brook - Knee high to a doodle
That ruins her fun for now, but rest assured, water based exitement is to follow.

Contiinue down well known paths and then drama..... the path is closed with a sign saying "due to erosion, the path is closed".  There is no alternative to get home and remember that I am on mission - beer, sausages and a ticket from the nasty parking man could either happen or not happen.  I decide to assess the risk and plough on regardless.

Erosion?  More like the end of "A Bridge too far"
I get across by balancing on the struts.  Molly takes a more direct route.

After this minor diversion, we have a sprint back to the finish, meeting the river severn at Dowles brook and the short walk back to town.  The dog is black, so I look for a suitable spot to get her to have a dunk in the river.

Now, I think that I have misjudged the current.  I throw a stick in the river and she leaps in to retrieve.  She then tries to swim back upstream but the current is that strong, that she is just remaining in the same spot - all four legs going like the clappers.  Its a real heart in the mouth moment.  Not so worried about the dog, just having my photo taken and appearing in the Daily Mail, like the woman accused of hoiking her dogs into the sea this week.

She eventually gets out after an heroic battle.... as clean as a whistle.

Dog based water adventures and closed bridges have all taken there toll on the time.  I had to forsake the refreshments, but got my moneys worth out of the ticket.

Who says I am tight?
Home for blogging to the sounds of ladies arguing about the tree decorations and "santa is coming to town" on the iPod.  Think I will go and listen to the Albion on the radio.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

27/11/11 - Easy, like sunday morning

Distance - 4 Miles
Geocaches - 17

Rowney Green

Usual Saturday morning walking has been interrupted by a chance of a new career, having spent yesterday marking football pitches with the little paint machine.  Next stop is the Hawthorns.  Delayed my weekend walk by 24 hours, so I have a nice little geocaching round in the sunshine.  To compare our mild winter, on this day last year, I was doing a snowy round in the Lenches.

The hardest part of this walk is working out how to get there.... there is nominated parking under the M42, somewhere around J2.  Sat Nav wants to take me to J3.  End up having a tour of lanes that wind under and over the motorway to get parked up.

Walk heads west down a bridal lane to Seecham Farm and Equestrian Centre.  Think that I am going to have a problem with an alsatian, who is patrolling the grounds.  He watches us walk through his front garden and then has a token barking session as we look for cache two when we are the other side of the fence.  10/10 for scary looks, 1/10 for effectiveness, if he has to wait for a curly labradoodle to move through before making a fuss.

We are now leaving the noise of the m42 behind and are being rewarded with some excellent scenery.  All farmland, rolling hills and plenty of sunshine.

Bright Lights
Reach Rowney Green Lane and have Cache 4 interrupted by horse riders, cyclists, dog walkers and finally joggers.

Onto another bridal lane, with great views out towards Longbridge and the Lickey Hills.  Left hand turn to head south east and climb up Newbourne Hill.

Newbourne Hill, to be climbed
At the top, with Longbridge behind
This has been the best part of the walk, coming into some woodland at the top of the hill.  They have signs that provide instructions for any cachers that are doing the round on their hands.

Do not feed what.... the trees?
This brings us out into the village of Rowney Green.  An unexpected memorial to 5 members of a candian flight crew who crashed here in 1943.
Turn right, heading down the other side of the hill into more countryside.  Great views.  At the bottom, I find a place to try and clean the dog (she had a bath yesterday).

a bridge that would disappoint any troll.
The caches have all come thick and fast.  At 16, I have to navigate my way through a field of bullocks (plenty of shouting "get out of it") and then their friends provide help in locating the cache.

They know where it is
One more cache heading through the geese and back towards the noise of the motorway.

I went for the caches and was impressed by the countryside.  This would make a great introduction round to any newbies.  Thanks to  TheCheesyPeas for bringing me here.

Monday, 21 November 2011

21/11/11 - Play misty for me

Distance - 6 Miles
Geocaches - 31/34
First Cache


The weekend that keeps giving enters it final day.  Use http://www.geocachetrails.com/ to find a red round, which denotes more than 30 caches in a trail and the nearest one not completed is over towards Bishops Castle, promising fantastic views over Long Mynd.  Maybe, I should have saved it for spring, as it has been a real pea souper today out on the hills. 

Have the familar drive up towards Church Stretton, going through Cleobury, past Ludlow, actually giving way to a train at Onibury level crossing and turning left at Craven Arms.  Not sure where to park up - cache 1 looks like its next to a pub but this will be suspicious at 9am, so I park in the village.  Room for a couple of cars at the Church on a Monday Morning.  We'll come back through the church later.

Head east along the road to Long Mynd View - not for me it isn't, I can just about find the caches.  There are three along this northbound stretch behind the village (starting at 28 for me).  29 Shows how sneaky they can be... I struggle to find even the clue but eventually find it to be rewarded with FTF like moment (even if I am the 75th finder), as it has a new log. 

Despite the fog, I feel the need for some photo evidence that I am out and about.

Between Cache 29 and 30
Cross the road for another sneaky cache at 31.  Can't believe noone has had a DNF, as it took me a while to find something of this size, hidden so well.  There should have been great views here, as we have a valley to descend and ascend on the other side.

Nothing to see here.

Drop my way down.  There is a new build house here that doesn't show on the OS Map.  Couldn't get number 33 as the man who lives in this house is chasing sheep on his quad bike.  Its hardly one man and his dog.

Think long and hard about stocking up on supplies from the shop, but decide to pass as looking at the map, I haven't actually left Wentnor yet and I seem to have been at it for an hour.  Enter the caravan park and then have the stiff climb up the other side of the valley, taking in 6 caches until I reach the road at the top.  The fog is obviously worse, the higher you get, and I just have eerie sheep and a quarry to look at.  Good job the caches increased in size to ammo box containers!

There are evil stiles along this section - tested the labradoodles ability for some and then my ability to hoik her over on others.  Gets more challenging in the horses fields later on, where they add electric fences to the stiles as well.
I am the quarry
After a loop west and south, taking in 4 more caches, I am heading on a long stretch of road walking.  It doesn't really matter, as there is zero traffic.

Get into Norbury and looking at the map now, I can see that there is the beautiful blue symbol of a pub.  I never noticed it all, must have been because I have my only genuine DNF of the round here, spending a while looking for anything unusual on a traffic sign.  Must have been because it was number 13.  Happy to take a hint of where this one was!

Head back eastbound on the road, aiming towards Whitcot.  Not a lot here but a mill and I do manage to fall off a small bridge at cache 22.  Its OK, noone could see apart from Molly the dog and she's increasingly used to me getting in odd positions retrieving caches.

North East up hill (seems to have been a lot of up hills on this round) until returning into the grounds of the Church at Wentnor.  The caches point out an upside down face in the corner of the Church and a tomb inside to a family killed by a hurricane in 1772.  And we think we get freaky weather now.  Find the face, but don't enter for the tomb.

Face is on the Right Hand Corner
Third Stone Up.
And there's the car, all safe and sound.  In normal weather, I am sure this would have provided some amazing views.  Today, I will have to thank the shropshire seekers  for a well maintained round and the clue about the bonus, which if I would have checked mail on the round, I could have found.

Friday, 18 November 2011

18/11/11 - Walk like a Victorian

Distance - 3.5 Miles
Geocaches - 2
Walk from - Pub Walks in Malvern
Post Walk Faggot Emporium - The Nags Head

North Malvern

The end of year joys of having some leave that needs to be taken.  A long weekend is in order, so that I get some relaxation before hitting the high spots of Nottingham.

Country Walking Magazine has an article on the best walkers pubs in the country and the Nags Head is featured.  Rocket has also been there and keeps banging on about why hasn't Stourport got an equally good pub.  There is only one way for me to find out if it deserves this reputation.

After waving the kids off to school (how do they like those apples?) we head off and park outside the pub.   A quick walk to Tank Quarry for one of the 2 geocaches on route and after a false start trying to find another, we have a very energetic climb up behind the clock tower.  Pain before Pleasure.  Sonia chunters on about how she hopes no old people have been fooled into thinking this short walk from a pub guide is an easy walk.

Breathing Point
We continue our way up, dissecting End Hills and North Hill.  Don't actually need to actually bag any of these hills, as the paths skirt the outside of the tops once the climb is made.  Having had great views to the East, we soon have great views to the west.

You can see Wales from here.
Having come near full circle around Table Hill, we pick up the gentle Lady Howard De Walden Drive.  Nice path - named after one of the Victorians who used to enthuse about the heath benefits of the Malverns.  We are in agreement now that we are gently zig zaging our way down the hills on this path, thinking ourselves lucky that we don't have to climb to the Beacon.

Avoiding the high spot today.

Far too quickly, we are back at the pub.  Its 11:50 and our slight concerns about having to queue up like tramps outside a wetherspoons are soon dispelled, as we see it opens ay 11am.

Banished to the tent, as Molly would have attacked the house dog.

And it is a good pub, frequented by posh people drinking whiskies at midday.  Well, if you have the money and the time.  First decision is which of the 10 or so real ales to have.  Bathams all the way.  Sonia has some Swedish Pear Cider that is a great way for getting your kids into the joys of alcohol.  Its tastes more like pop than pop and is highly recommended for early weaning. 

Food is great and to go with my black country pint, we have black country's only addition to cuisine, faggots.  Its far too early for the working classes to start on their selection of interesting whiskies.

Back home for blogging, logging and some French Cinema.  When I retire, all days will be like this.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

12/11/12 - The Venice of the Cotswolds

Distance - 10.7 Miles
Geocaches - Found 9 of 9
Villages Visited - Bourton on the Water, The Slaughters, Naunton
Walk Inspiration

Bourton on the Water

The web site where I found this walk from claim that it is the greatest walk in the Cotswolds.  This is high praise indeed but is it enough to convince the Labradoodle?

Regular blog fans will know that when I appear on a weekend in my soft shell suit, she makes a run for it upstairs whilst I am fetching my boots.  Well today, she met Sonia on the stairs and was shoo'ed back down and attempted another approach to getting out of the walk - pretending to be asleep.  One lazy but clever dog - you have to admire her front.

Next week, I'll play dead
Boot her up the backside and we get in the car and head out to Bourton on the Water.  I remember this place from visits to Birdland.  Due to the river running down the centre, it is known as the Cotswolds Venice.  An undeniably pretty place, that gets a lot of visitors and means that the council can try and charge a fiver for parking.  I need this money for my post walk refreshments, so find plenty of street parking along the Roman Way.

Start of the walk is back through the town and over the A429 to pick up the first of the three long distance paths that make up this walk, the Heart of England Way.  Head North west towards Lower Slaughter, picking up the first two caches of the day.  Learn that Slaughter is from the old saxon word meaning "muddy".  The paths are more paved in gold than London, due to the colour of the Cotswold stone and at this point are fine.

Lower Slaughter - Winner of Prettiest Cotswolds Village
Path continues around the back of the mill and museum along a stream in the same direction towards Upper Slaughter.  The residents will have to try a bit harder this year, if they want to wrestle the prize from the Lowers.

Path out of Upper Slaughter
Continue to Swiss Farm House and then a short amount of road walking before turning right onto the Wardens Way.  First off, we have two waves of migrating geese honking on overhead.  Its that time of the year

Fly By
I get to Cache number 4, which is next to a gate.  In the distance, I can see a hunting party approaching on horse back and they all think I have bowed down to a state of serfdom, as I hold the gate open for them, tugging my forelock.  I have never been met with a posher, or cheerier set of thankyous and hellos in my life.  Is there a more quintessentially English sight than a horseback hunting party? 

Close the gate and attempt my search, only for a straggler to be coming along in the distance.  Go through the whole process again, only this time to met with a doffed cap to along with "how kind" messages.  Feel that everything in the universe is alright.

Truth is, I need you to jog on so that I could find the cache
The Wardens Way takes me westbound to a nice pretty village of Naunton.  Looks like there is an absolutely cracking pub there, but its too early.

Can you guess where I am?
This is the turning point of the walk and we head south to pick up the Windrush Path - which is also the Gustav Holst Way and at times, the Donnington Ale Way.  It is a good path but worthy of three names?

This follows the River Windrush East back to Bourton.  The dog is getting into a bit of a state, so it gives her a couple of opportunities to get clean.  Notice how much water is gained from where we pick up the river first, to when we get to the end - a distance of around 3 miles.

A Shallow Dribble
A raging torrent
This is all very pleasant and carries me back to the hoardes of tourists milling around the village.  With the money that I have saved from the carpark, I can have a blow out at the Windrush Gardens Cafe.  It seems to be a homing place for several other walkers around.

No doubt a great walk but its a bold claim to say the best in the Cotswolds.  My money is on Belas Knapp and Cleeve Cloud.