Monday, 27 August 2012

27/08/12 - Down by the River

Distance - 9.5 Miles
Inspiration - Julie Royle's Worcestershire Walks (I know its in Gloucestershire!)
Caches - 100%.  There was one on the trail.

Bank Holiday, so it was bound to rain.  Checked out the forecasts and its due to start at 10am, so if I set the alarm for the same time as Saturday, I should get round this 10 miler without a soaking. 

The early start confuses the dog, who doesn't even attempt to hide.  Even though this breaks my daughter's imposed 8 mile limit, I am lonely.  So she is coming.  End of.

Drive down in 42 minutes and park up by the church.  Head down to the river for the first stretch of this walk and realise that I could have communted down by nicking a boat from my home town.

Nice Stretch of the Severn - Weir
The walking is all fields.  Grass.  Wheat.  Wheat.  Sheep. Wheat.  Bull.

Our first sign of danger is when we meet this fellow on a narrow stretch of the path at Ashleworth Quay.

Eyes Right
Despite a bellow, he lets us over his style.  We reach the pub and then turn inland past the impressive Tithe Barn.  Built in 1481, Its the size and staure of a cathedral.

Probably the best barn on the route
Julie takes us on a bit of detour around the southern slopes of Barrow Hill.  Probably wants me to meet the other bulls in this field.  These do get a bit frisky and start following us down hill.  A shout of "Getoutofit!!" enables us to make safety.

Then through the village.  They like a lie in on their bank hols, there isn't a soul around.  

Centre of Ashleworth
But we do have a sneaking feeling that we are being watched.  And then soon enough, our tail reveals himself as a friendly hound.

Let the wooing commence
Not wanting to end up with any scoobiedoodles, I break off the courtship and he scampers off to whence he came.

We continue through the village, taking the no through road to Longridge and climbing the bank at the footpath.  Great views over the vale of Gloucester and we can see the rain sweeping in like a sandstorm.  Halfway up, we get the only cache of the day.

The cache - its not always about the numbers
Reach the ridge top on Over Old Road and have a strange detour around Woolridge.  I wouldn't have bothered with the detour, as it seemed unnecessary to the walk but I thought I would check out the big blue cup of joy on the map.  Even if it was 9am.  Never actually found the pub anyway, but I am sure it is there.

Do they do Moobs on the NHS?
Some really excellent walking downhill (always a favourite) through wheat and sheep fields.  There are great views of Gloucester ahead.  The aforementioned rain closes in and I have to take 5 mins to get the waterproof.  Whilst this is happening, we are stealthily approached by the gang of four.

On the lookout
Back at Maisemore and we skirt the court and get a closer look at the church.

Return to the car at 10:10am and we have the rest of the day to ourselves.  What else can you do on a rainy bank holiday?

I'll check the map for a closer big blue cup of joy.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

25/8/12 - Capital Ring 10 and 11 - Two Stages in One Go

Distance - 11.4 Miles
Geocaches - 5 Found, 1 DNF
Start - South Kenton
End - Highgate

Capital Ring 10 and 11

Fear and panic, the like of which has not been seen since millenium bug debacle, has closed London for business during the Olympics.  This means that my opportunities of continuing this epic journey whilst staying down for business have been curtailed by an event that has had people cheering for sports they don't even know the rules to.  At least the ceremonies were good.  Apart from Muse.

So to meet my plans of completing 5 stages per BST year, I head down to London on a Saturday, making the most of my time there and completing two stages in one day.

Bargain tickets can be booked, provided you don't mind an early start and I am on the 7am from Birmingham International.  As soon as I leave the station, I am up at the shop for a wake me up cup of coffee.  The bloke behind is buying a can of Stella.  It truly is compulsory to drink on a train, regardless of the time.

And he is not the only one.  Two Polish fellas get on at Rugby and noisily get stuck into jumbo bottles of Heineken.  They then annoy the carriage by playing Belgian trance music dead loud and shouting at each other.  I am googling the Polish for "Excuse me gents, but could you keep it down" when the ticket inspector comes.

It would appear as they have only London Midland Tickets... invalid for a Virgin Train. 

There is probably a German word for the descent of silence that hits a carriage when its apparent that an almighty row is going to break out between angry commuters and an officious inspector.  Great entertainment and after they had paid their £47 each fines, they were less inclined to rock out to technotronic.

I arrive at Euston, having gone through South Kenton Station, needing to get a chug-a-long back up the line.

Saturday - Early - Consfused
This train is full of sweary northerners who are down for the Rugby between Leeds and Warrington.  Come back my jiggy poles, all is forgiven.

Arrive at 9am and have a walk through houses and Preston Park.  Stop to pick up a bacon sarnie at Preston Road tube station and eat it walking down the street, climbing the hill in the first bit of countryside at Barn Hill.

From certain angles, I am ace at hide and seek
 Get to the top and I am rewarded with an unexpected trig point and great views over the home of our profane egg chasers.

Take a small detour to get the first cache of the day and am rewarded with a TB.  Drop mine off in its place.  Then its out into Fryent Country Park.  For the first time on this extended walk, the green signs let me down and I take a circuitous route to the top of the hill.

A small amount of road walking and I am on the eastern shore of Brent Reservoir.  Nice walking and manage to get a micro cache inbetween the muggle dog walkers.

Cross the M1 and I have some lengthy road walking in the Jewish part of London.  The Synagogue is marked on the map, and because it is Sabbath, everyone is on their way there.

Despite a decent enough stretch down by a stream and through the nice houses of Hampstead Garden Suburb, this is dull walking.  I've also been at it for three hours and the 2 litres of rubbery tasting water from the camelpak is not as good as a nice pint.

HGS is lovely, but seems to be a dry village.  I even have a look up the main streets, but can only find furniture shops.  Then, like a mirage, the White Lion appears around the corner from East Finchley Station.

Despite the shoulder tube, I am dryer than Ghandi's flip flop
Suitably refreshed, I am off again, getting two caches and hitting the superior walking of Highgate and Queens Woods.  Exceptional walking area and I am just getting  the final cache of the day when the forecasted storm starts off.  Oh well, the trees offer some cover and to be fair, it was meant to be like this all the way around.

Before the Rain
At 2pm, the walk is comes to an end at Highgate Tube station.  I am starving and decide to scale the heights to see if there is a pub close by.  Even better than that, there's one at the top and its got the football on.  The menu offers a chop.  Lord Lucan only ever ate chops and if its good enough for him, then its good enough for me.

So, after two years and assuming I don't get the sunlight to do another stage, I am 11/15 of the way through.  Back in 2013.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

18/08/12 - Roman Roaming

Distance - 11 Miles
Geocaches - 8 Found, 1 DNF
Previous Walk in Alcester
Walk from - CW Magazine - May 10 - Walk 8


Sonia needs to work in Alcester today.... asking tourists what they think of the town.  I offer to do my walk from here, leaving the dog behind as it breaks the 6 mile rule of what she is now capable of.

Park up for free in Bleachfield Street after a 40 minute journey.  We get the last parking space and then look for the machine to pay.  There isn't one... no wonder the car park is so full.  Just to check, I ask the fella who is painting the roof of his camper van and he says "Yes, its free", I reply with a "how unusual" and he responds with a "Weclome to Alcester".

Leave Sonia to her work and head out on the Monarch's Way up Seggs Lane.  This long distance path has been a companion on the last 3 or so walks, from the bottom of Gloucestershire into Shropshire.  Either this country is too small or the Monarch in question had one hell of an escape.

The lane towards the A435 is quiet but despite the signs, a fella walking his dog on a motorised scooter (fella, not the dog) allows his animal to poop without the scoop.

Molly unwelcome, even if we are good dog citizens
As I get to the trunk road, I pass a gardener who is singing a lovely song about a girl who "wears red feathers and a huly-huly skirt".  What a jolly fella.

Thoughts of his serenading keep me going as I fail dismally to get the first cache of the day.  The previous fella didn't find it either, so I don't feel so bad.  Eventually muggled by a couple of dog walkers and move on.

Nice walking through Cold Comfort Woods and I do find the second cache of the day (thanks Delta68). 

Its all gently uphill into Cladswell, which is a collection of houses and a church. There is a mystery cache here, but I had a look last night and it all looked rather complicated, so I give it a miss.

Vista opens up for nice views and our first real photo opp.

Forgot my hat

Work my way south to Knighton.  The quality of the paths is dreadful, overgrown again with stingers and then sometimes completely boggy.  My new Italian mountain boots are not designed for this amount of gloop.  At this point of the walk, I admit that I am not massively impressed.

Get to Knighton and its the end of the overgrown paths, although the boggy ones are still prevalent.  The cache density increases massively and I bag another four before Morton Spirit Farm.  I admit to being impressed by their warning sign.

He doesn't look all that
The next field contains bulls, so I hoike myself over the fence and give them a wide birth.  One of them is only a baby and the daddy just lies there, looking hard with his piercings.

The walk improves dramatically.  Climb through Weethley Woods and then emerge into a wheat field with a great path through the middle.  Disturb two deer - but don't get the camera out in time.

Nice walk up to Church Farm and emerge at the interesting buildings.  The antithesis of Huly-Huly boy is tending his garden - he meets my hello with a grunt.  Both ends of the gardening spectrum are on display today.

Once crossing the road, I am rewarded with some OMG views, which take my mind of the fact that not all the cows are with udders.  Some have nose rings and something else on their undercarriages.

Matador Pose
Another couple of good caches on the way down, one with a completely clean log book.  Will need to check if I am a FTF.

Its then a straightforward return to the town.  See Sonia bothering strangers and we head off to take advantage of the Turks Head "exceptional garden".  My emergency tenner stretches to a couple of pints but it looked touch and go for a baguette.

A walk of two halves from a lovely town.  Enjoyed the drive home, listening to the opening game of the premiership - the first time that the Baggies have managed a win on this day. 

Sunday, 12 August 2012

12/08/12 - Keep Ryton

Distance - 7.5 Miles
First Cache on Trail
First Cache of the Day

Kemberton - Ryton

Been a while since I have completed a larger cache trail and need to get the August numbers up.  At Xmas time, I did a round from Shifnal and knew there were other trails in the area.... and a recent publishing of 50 caches in Telford had me looking at this area.... I'll save this one for another day.

Head off at 8am and park up in the centre of Kemberton, near the church.  The OS map has a footpath through the houses but I can't find it on the ground and start the day by walking up and down the street.... Not a great start, if I can't even find the paths!  Eventually find another way around and pick up the first cache of the day in a newly trimmed hay field.  There are 5 or 6 caches not on the trail that can be found before the first one at Kemberton Mill.

Not yet on the trail
Despite the first one of the round being huge, I still manage a DNF.... doubly annoying as its the only one on the route that has a trackable in it.  There's too many caches to blog about but there is a huge variety of containers and sizes.... lots of work but in by nozi parkerz & younggunz:-), so thanks for that.  I have no idea where you would have got hold of the recepticle for my particular favourite....

It is Brucie, isn't it?

Enjoy the walk down Wesley Brook... great paths and I have it absolutely to myself.   The area reminds by of Rindleford near Bridgnorth, where you follow water to hidden houses and hamlets.

From Grindleforge, we take a permissive path that isn't marked on the map.  This is great walking that I would never had of found if it wasn't for caching.

Grindle Forge

Soon come into Ryton.  Lots of big houses, a church but alas, no pub.  I won't be moving there anytime soon.

Start heading back north along another great bridleway.  As per every other walk that I have completed this summer, the heavens open again.  Get a royal soaking and the appeal of diving into bushes and getting water dripping down your neck starts to have me losing the appeal of caching.  The flies and stingers aren't helping much either.

Crossing back over the Hinnington Road, I disturb two motorcyclist that have stopped for an impromptu toilet break.  Makes a change for me to muggle someone else.  Wouldn't mind, but this was at another GZ but decide not to look for this one.

Then its all roads back through Evelith, stopping caching when I reach the final one, number 35, even though there are some that are on the start of a new trail.

There is a rule for calculating walking time - which is three miles per hour, with 1 minute for every 10 mins of ascent and 1 minute for every 20 metres of descent.  I think I am going to add caching into this formula, as I have been out for 4 hours and 8 mins for a 7.5 mile walk, missing the start if the traditional curtain raiser for the new football season!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

08/08/12 - Pilgrimage

Distance - 3.7 Miles
Geocaching - A disastrous 4 out of 12.  But we did see 2 more.
First Cache

Tanworth in Arden

There was a reason for being here.  I have been looking at the greatest albums of each year and Nick Drake's 1969 debut release of "5 Leaves Left" came out in 2nd place, behind Abbey Road.  Abbey Road is rubbish... too much McCartney and Ringo and not enough Lennon.  Maxwell's Silver Hammer is enough to make you turn it off.  So, I have been listening to this stoner classic that sold only 5000 copies on release and investigated the man.  Any artist who dies young, in a suspected suicide, is going to gain notoriety and public interest has increased over the years.  My research led me to find out he lived, died and is buried in Tanworth in Arden - only 16 miles away.

Its also my birthday, where traditionally family Mappiman are forced to come on a walk.  Whether they like it or not.  I looked in my pub walks in Warwickshire and found a likely route, but then also spied a cache trail that starts and ends here.  But oh, how I wish I researched it more.

The Caches and Walk
The cache trail is called "Interesting Places" and made up of 11 caches.  The details say to expect a challenge, but having four of us (five with dog) made me more confident.  From the pretty village green we head down paths to Cache 1.  Well hidden but soon found.  Then the first problems are encountered - the path to the next cache is completely overgrown with stingers and thorny bushes.  I plowed through to find cache 2 solo, but it took the stragglers a long time to catch up... with Alex deciding to make his own path.

But he needed his mom to get him back over

A brave attempt by the boy at Cache three, where he made it to the first landing zone and then bottled it and I had a go at cache four, but needed wellies.  How tantalisingly close it is to see them but not be mad enough to go and get them!

Nice bit of lane walking, where we picked up a non trail related cache that revealed a "Geocaching Makes You Happy" TB.  Gave it to Ellie to remind her why she is here.

We are at the turning point to go back to the village - again on a badly overgrown path.  We skirted round where we could.  We did not find any more caches until back in the village, although the family liked my attempt at the one with the clue that was only "Tarzan".  Lets just say a nearly 43 man should not be hanging off the vines of a tree next to a watery ditch.

With failing light, the need for a boat and the pub beckoning, we made our way home..... waiting for Ellie to catch up as she battled the stingers.

Ellie is a long way back....

An entertaining series but too much for us!  Thanks to the mwahppets and we heeded their advice that just cause a cache is there, you don't need to go for it!

Dog is scared of the Dark

The Pilgrimage
The cache trail took me to where I wanted to go.  We passed the house where Nick Drake lived and died.  Alex wants to know if we can live around here, but I guess I'd need to start saving for a very big mortgage.

Outside Chez Drake
Arrive in the village (hoiking to boy up for the last cache) and the rest of the cachers say they have no interest in the churchyard.  I leave them in the car and soon find the final resting place, nicely understated with just a couple of music related memorials.

My best find of the day
The family are not just in it for my pleasure.  Ellie has not looked into the caches or the music but she has found a decent looking pub close by - the Warwickshire Lad.  Sonia's suggestions were equally good, but unfortunately not in the same county.

We arrived at 8:10pm and were able to sit on a nice patio facing west to see the sunset.  The service and food were excellent, with the landlady making a real fuss of the dog.  The dog was more interested in my meal.

Celebrate.... With a Crisp related starter.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

04/08/12 - Royal Connections

Distance - 10.1 Miles
Caches - 6
Walk Inspiration - Jarrold - More Walks in the Cotswolds, Walk 27


Three weeks without blogging.  Not that I haven't been walking, exploring and geocaching... it's just that internet access was prohibitively expensive from the middle of the mediterranean and post holiday blogging sounded too much like showing off.

When I am abroad, sweltering in the heat, I do fantasise about the British countryside. First walk back and I aim for the Cotswolds, an area that rarely disappoints.

Original plans were to do the start of the Cotswolds way near Chipping Campden, but when researching a walk, I spied one from Tetbury.  This is an undiscovered area for me - so rather than do what I know, I head out for the unfamiliar.

In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have bothered.  The walking was dull and Tetbury was not up to much.  Yes, it has it's tourists and chocolate box style buildings (every other one an antique shop) but there is something lacking.  A poor man's Broadway is the best way to describe it.

Whilst on Holiday, I made a deal with Ellie that the dog no longer had to come with me on walks greater than 6 miles.  She is an old lady now, although she has developed an art of hiding that is so cunning you could brush your teeth with it.  Good job that I am solo walking, as Tetbury doesn't like dogs.

In case the dog catches something from a golfer

Drive down and arrive at 8:45am.  Park in the long stay parking car parking.  You can either park for an hour for £1 or until next Monday for £3.40. 

The first royal connection of the walk is the Monarch's Way, which I follow south west for around 3 miles.  A second long distance path, the Macmillan Way, soon gets added to the same path.  Two LDP's for the price of one.

Collecting Badges
The walking is uninspiring along roads at first (first cache soon found on the outskirts) and then agricultural land.  As with every other walk that I have completed this summer, the heaven's open for a good drenching.  Monotonous.

Another soaking

Along this strecth, we do walk past Prince Charles' family house - Highgrove House.  The only way I know this that it is marked on the map.  There are no views through the trees, so I have no idea just how grand his abode is.

Skirt the edges of Westonbirt Arboretum.  At least the trees break up the views a bit.  The sun comes out. 

Don't trust the clouds enough to remove jacket

Westonbirt is a pretty street.  There is one cottage for sale - a snip at £395K for two bedrooms.  The street leads onto the golf course where the footpaths get confusing.

Farmers seem to think its OK to stretch electric fences every 100 yards to keep their prize cows and horses in check.  Makes an interesting climb over.  If I am really, really careful, I can just about keep my testicles off the wires.

Arrive at Shipton Moyne.  I like this even more than Westonbirt for two reasons.  1) it has a pub, which must be uniquely named and 2) there are a number of caches on the trail back into town.

Like it
The cache trail takes me through the grounds of Eastcourt Park, providing some interest on a walk that has been devoid of views, hills or anything of interest apart from an amusingly named pub.

Tetbury Ahoy.
Tetbury Spire comes into view, so I know where I am heading.  Start seeing some other walkers, inlcuding a party of 4 very posh youngsters who for a moment I think could include William and Kate.  They are not - they just liked wellies, green quilted jackets and flat hats.

Back into Tetbury.  Look for somewhere to have a post walk pint.  The Crown is an imposing looking pub but all boarded up.  This is not a good sign.  The main street - Long Street - is a never ending collection of Antique Shops.  Get all the way to the end, when I see the Greyhound Pub.  Enter and at 1pm, I am the only punter.  Another bad sign.  Don't even bother to ask if they do sandwiches but do see they have one of my favourite pints on.  After two weeks of drinking refreshing continental fizz, I am looking forward to some real ale.

We're Doombarred
Like the walk, the pint is deceptively disappointing.  Probably the 1st to be pulled of the day and tastes of vinegar.  Get halfway down and realise that bits are floating around at the bottom.  The rest of it gets flung on garden and I am away from this dark, dark place.