Saturday, 27 April 2013

27/04/13 - Graceless Fields

Distance - 7.3 Miles
Walk from - Jarrold Shakespeare Country
Geocaches - 3 Found, 2 appear lost


There's a reason to be in this are today - St George's day marks the start of Asparagus season (2nd best veg after the majestic corn on the cob) and they take this very seriously in this part of the world.

Stuff your Glastonbury - we are off to Asparafest
There is another bonus reason to be in the area.  Not just a Top 10 County Pub, but the best in the county - The Fleece at Bretforton.  I  look through my books for a suitable walk and in the main, the Jarrold series does not disappoint.

Until today.

We park up, a little too far from the pub, but we do get the to walk through the village and look at the properties that we will never be able to afford.  The pub is on a little square, with perfect thatched cottages and an impressive church.  You could not get a better slice of little England.

Start of the Walk
At the end of this road, we turn left and enter what will haunt me for a long, long time.  Fields.
That's all this walk has to offer.... Green Field, Green Field, Brown Field, Green Field, Field full of Sheep, Green Field, Brown Field, Roped off field full of cabbages.  There's not even a contour line to break up the monotony.
Sonia says that surely Jarrold should have told us.  On our return, I checked the walk instructions and indeed it did say "Don't bother with this, unless you like fields."
We plod on.  Get to Stoneford Bard on the map and get to cross the road, into some more fields.  Even the Farm is called Willersley Fields Farm.

At this point, we have the unbridled excitement of an old railway line to break up the tedium.  There are meant to be three caches along here but two appear missing and none have been found for nealy a year.  Geocachers need more excitement than fields can offer.

The detour to get the caches means we have a short amount of nasty road walking.  The farmer has bigger problems, as he is trying to get his sheep from his farm out across the road.

We are pleased to see the footpath sigh - but it leads us into a great big dirty brown field.

Some fields are worse than other fields
We are being brought out to Honeybourne.  This, at least, offers some respite.  We get a cache on entering and exiting the village.  We also think long and hard about stopping for refreshments.  There is no tea shop, but an interesting looking pub.  We need to save out pennies for the County #1.

Pottery, but no Tea Pots
On any other day, a 13th Century Thatched Pub would have been perfect
We make a mistake, as the heaven's open if the form of a hailstorm.  Shelter with the sheep under some branches.  Mercifully, it doesn't last long.

The walk is nearly done and our stomachs are rumbling.  The fields deteriorate to the point where we have a roped off cabbage field that we cannot even enter.  This leads to more road walking....  at least the road takes us to the pub.

Uniquely owned by the National Trust
The Fleece Inn is a rambling old pub, converted from a 17th Century Barn.  It was left to the National Trust in 1977 and lost its thatched roof in a fire in 2004.  Its also very busy.

Doesn't matter, as we can sit outside and enjoy our sandwiches and (my) pint of Pig's Ear.

1/4 of a pint cannot erase the misery
And we never even saw a field full of asparagus.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

21/04/13 - Atonement

Distance - 10.3
geocaches - 6
Inspiration - Country Walking Magazine, March 2013

Stokesay Castle

I would recommend reading Ian McEwan's book and watching Joe Wright's film.  If you complete this walk by Julie Royle, you can also just about see the film location.

After the 7.5 miler yesterday, no-one is up for joining me.  Sonia at least takes a cup of tea, whereas the dog keeps a distinctly low profile.  Just me then, with the new Depeche Mode album for company on the 40 minute drive.

Get into the thick of things quickly.  There is a geocache at the layby where I park and then I am immediately at architectural highlight 1 of the walk - Stokesay Castle.  The finest example of a 13th Century fortified manor house in England.  And I love it.

Stokesay Castle
Repels the Welsh Raiders.... plus geocachers in Berghaus
Stop for a few photos and then grab the cache in the church grounds.  Pick up the Shropshire Way for the first climb of the day, as I make my way up to View Edge.  This is one of those walks where you can take breathers by getting the camera out.... views at all times, in every direction.

The Shropshire Way turns into the Marches Way - without you really noticing.  The woodland is replaced by farmland as I work my way to my favourite stretch of the walk - Brandhill Gutter.

This is really the valley that time forgot.  It's all downhill on tight little paths next to a stream.  The further we get down, the less accesible the homesteads are and it allows you to ponder the questions such as "where do they go for milk", "what time does the paper boy get here" and "just how scary is it down here at night".  It does make for fine walking.

Brandhill Gutter
There are houses down the Gutter
Brandhill Gutter turns into Aldon Gutter.  Meet my first human of the day - a two dogged walker.  She says nothing but her dogs at least bark acknowledgement of my presence.

As it opens out, I can just about pick out Stokesay Manor, hoping to get a glimpse of Keira Knightly coming out of the fountain.  The trees are mature and the drive at the front is curved.  The super rich certainly like their privacy - so no decent photos.  And this pile was built by a Glove Manufacturer.  He must have sold a hell of a lot of gloves to get a house like that.

On the road, I meet a hoarde of OAP ramblers coming the other way.  Ask them if I can join their gang when I grow up.  Arrive at Onibury and having driven across the bridge many times, I walk it for the first time.

Station to Station
Onibury the Lonely
Quick cache at the bus shelter and pass an interesting looking pub that I have never noticed before - The Apple Tree.  You can tell it is untouched by time, as the window carries a large etched advertisement for "Players Please".  A newer pub would have "No smoking, thank you".

A short climb up onto farm land for more superb views and arrive at the foot of Whettleton Hill for the forth cache of the day. 

Farm Land
Have a couple of flat fields - there's a big hill coming up
Julie then does me.... I thought I had all the climbing out the way but she wants me to huff and puff my way up to steepest bits of the day, 7 miles into the walk.  There is the enticement of an Iron Age Hillfort to keep me going.

Sweat poring out of me, we circle Norton Camp Hill fort and emerge out the trees for more special views.  If I had any breath left, it would have been taken away.

Clee Hill
All downhill and the walk just misses off Craven Arms, by looping around the back of the Shropshire Secret Hills Experience Centre.  Not sure what is so secret about it, as there is a sign on the main road.

Its open access land, so I cross the River Omney to get a couple of final cache of the day.  Muggles at one cache, so I pretend to want to take a photo.   Might as well pop it up.

River Omny
Hoodwinking Muggles
Get the final cache of the day - the rains are just coming.  Loved the walk, but I have to say the Geowagon was a sight for sore legs.

Wheels in front of previously conquered hill

Saturday, 20 April 2013

20/04/13 - Britain in Bloom - 2002

Distance - 7.5 Miles
Geocaches - 10 Found, 2 not so found
Walk From - Country Walking Magazine - Feb 1999

North from Bridgnorth

All set for a 10 miler today.  In the pub last night, Sonia decides that the weather is going to be lovely but she doesn't want a marathon.  She wants a nice walk that delivers her to a town, where she can indulge in post walk ice-cream.

A midnight re-planning session, hunt through old magazines and a walk from CW Mag all the way back in 1999 hits the spot.  The walk writer is Julie Meech.  I am sure this is Julie Royle.  And I have my eye on when she retires and a vacancy comes up at CW towers.

Bridgnorth has a lot going for it.  Two towns and one of the them was the winner of the Britain in Bloom - 2002.  They bang on about this, when in reality, they could be celebrating the Britain's only inland cliff railway.  We park up near the remains of a 13th Century Franciscan Abbey on the West Side of the River.  The river is our friend for the first mile or so.

Start of the Walk
West Side
High Rock
High Rock
The walking is easy.  We soon hit the golf course, walking along the edge of it.  There has been no geocaches to hunt for, but I notice on the map there is a disused railway line which contains two.  Worth the diversion from Julie's easy to follow instructions.

We are rewarded with a long and straight path that goes on forever.  Overtaken by cyclists and runners.  Find the two caches with no problems, dropping off a TB.

Straight and Narrow
When it's Impossible to get lost, it makes the dog happy
At Chestnut Coppice we turn left and up hill, walking through the cool and shady woodlands.   Get muggled by a jogging lady as I hunt cache 3.  She doesnt seem to notice.  Over a field and we meet our next hobbyist - The Fishermen.
Pond Life
Escaping Wife and Kids
These worm-danglers have taken their art form to new heights, by filling tiny pools with large moby dick sized fish.  Every one of them is reeling in a monster from the depths.  We arrive just as the uniformed inspector is going around, checking that none of them are Eastern European and taking their bounty home for tea.

Astley Abbotts next and a collection of impressive houses and a 12th Century Church.  No pub, so I'm not moving there.

Astley Abotts
Vicar's House
Cross the road at Cross Lane Head.  Sonia is just getting to the point where she wants her frozen dairy produce.  Fortunately, we can see Bridgnorth in the distance.    We drop down to the Hook Dingle for the best walking of the day.  This is a hidden stream with garlic bound paths and a number of geocaches to find.  Super walking.

Field of Garlic
The 99 is imminent
The Dingle brings us back to the edge of town and we work our way through the estates until we meet High Town.  With its North Gate and Market Hall its always been impressive.  The sun has brought the black country hoardes out and it is slow going battling our way through the browsers to find a pub that has a beer garden.  The Swan provides just what we are after.

Drive Through the Arches
After our break - we head off looking for a a geocache that proves impossible to retrieve with so many muggles around.  We take a look at the Cliff Railway.

£1.20 Return - No Singles - Unsure if Dog Friendly
Instead of taking public transport for the last leg, we walk down the windy steps that pass the Theatre.  This is an adventure in itself. 
And at the bottom..... an ice cream stop.  She goes for Fudge.
Super walk - maybe tomorrow I'll do the 10 miler.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

14/04/13 - Its a numbers game

Caches - 27 out of 28
Distance - 5.1 Miles
First Cache

The Grafton Loop

There's been some top walks of late - managed to get in the coast, the mountains and the capital ring.  Last weeks walk may have been an epic, but it yielded a grand total of 1 cache.

Something needs to change.....

It was only a matter of time before I attempted this local loop.  Having already mined Grafton as recently as Feb 2013, there is now another 28 cache trail laid.

Try and round up a caching partner.  After last week's snow and mountains, Mrs Mappiman won't entertain the idea.  Ask a 14 year old.  He looks up from his iPad and snorts as though I have asked him to mow the lawns.  At least my 18 year old fun loving student daughter has contributed to the walk.  She has blinged up the dog.

Laverly bit of Tom
I'm so not dressed for this
Quick 23 minute drive and park up at the Church.  No other cars... yet.  I am not sure if I have parked on someone's drive, but it appears to be part of the church grounds - there is a tombstone leaning against the other side of the house. 

Head off for the cheekiest cache of the round.

Church - Start and/or End
Let's go caching
The walk starts by taking us around a lonely, unaccessible Trig Point.  I make a mistake at cache 4, having taken a footpath that avoided cache 3.  Bit of double backing.  TB swap over at Cache 4.
First highlight of the walk comes as we climb up to Hill Court.  This is what I describe as a "Bill Bryson" moment.  You are quite happily minding your own business, gathering up bits of tupperware in bushes, when you meet a late 16th Century Farm house... still inhabited.  Not quite as ancient as when Bill finds his Roman mosiac in Winchcombe but you still have to love the accessible history of this country.
Hill Court
500 Years of Farming
The views behind are quite impressive as well, taking in Bredon Hill and the Malverns. Get my only DNF of the round on the way up. As the last two cachers also didnt find it, and one of them is the cache machine Lime Candy, I guess it has gone.

Bredon Hill
In Front of my favourite place in Worcestershire
Can't hang around for too long in this delightful spot, as I have set the dogs at the farm off.  Continue through the fields until we reach the next highlight of the walk, Grafton Woods.  The cache info explains that this is the last remaining part of Feckenham Forest.

Whicker Man
Into the Woods
There are no caches actually in the woods - just strange chairs perched on top of ladders - but the CO has added some nice directional way points so that navigation is easy.

Work my way through and read the notice board on the other side of the woods, explaining how it is a sanctuary for butterflies.  I notice that the camera has a feature that takes a shot two seconds after it detects a face - so get it set up.  Smile at it.  It doesn't go off.  Get dead close to it and smile at it.  Bingo.  Then have to rush back into position.

Grafton Woods
Sony do not recognise Mappiman's Face as human
That's it for the walk - the church is ahead, with just a couple more to find. This has been a very nice walk. The paths are good, some excellent views, an architectural history lesson and a nice series of simple to find caches. Thanks to unowho67 for setting them up.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

06/04/13 - Make your own jokes, please

Distance - 6.8 Miles
Geocaches - 1 (when we got back to Hay-on-Wye)
Walk Inspiration

Lord Hereford's Knob

Regular blog fans will know that I have been waiting since Christmas for the type of day that justifies a walk from my "Britain's Best View" book.  Today, was that day and Sonia is up for coming along.  Until she finds out it's 10 miles.  So I hit to find a suitable alternative - and this one takes in the main place I want to go and comes in at less than 7.

We awake.  The dog gets excited.  I don't want to take her, as I know the walk will be sheep bound and its quite a long drive to spend on the lead.  Sonia talks me into taking her.  Then she goes on hides (dog, not Sonia).  I think she knew what we were in for.  Canine Premonition.

The drive is stunning, although Sat Nav wants to take us over a Toll Bridge.  Not sure if I have change, so we do the alternative and arrive at Hay for the obligatory toilet stop before picking up Gospel Pass to get to the walk start point.  We now know why it is so named.

Gospel Pass
Say you prayers Mappiman
It really is butt clenching time.  The snow is banked up 3ft on either side and we drive most of the 5 miles to Capel-Y-ffin, fishtailing with the parking sensors screaming.  Thank the lord we don't meet anything coming the other way.
It's a relief to park up and get out.  We head up the dead end road, with the monastic ruins to our left, spy a frozen dead sheep that's too gruesome for the blog and arrive in the valley.
Setting Off
All Smiles
This stretch is stunning walking.  We are gaining height but all very gently, following a stream to our left before we arrive at the escarpement.  Jaw dropping views in all directions
The Edge
We turn right to reach the summit.  Sonia gets a reception so she can check in and tell the world that she is "proudly positioned on Lord Hereford's Knob".  Terry the reluctant dogger loads up his Fiat Punto with his oversized meercats to meet us. 
Impressive Cairn on the Knob
Stretches out before us
This could catch on
We have gained all the height, and we have what should be a straightforward walk back along Darren Lwyd path on the high ground.
Unfortunately, this is under a lot of snow.  The path has disappeared.  We head off but about a mile in, its very tough going, with us disappearing up to my calves and Sonia's knees at an alarming rate.  Sometimes, the snow will just about take your weight.  Then you hear the crack and you are back sunk.
Very tiring and slow going, but we plough on - with no alternative escape route.
I know at the end, we will have a very steep drop.  But first, we take the exceptional views - which are even better at this end.
Valley Views
Sonia is too angry with me to appear on this photo
Valley Views
This makes it all worth it
The path down is incredibly steep.  You are meant to snake you way down gradually, but my fun loving walking colleague just plops on her backside and slides her way down.  This is the first time in the walk that she is actually in front of me.
Terra Firmer
Sonia's Bum Scoot Hill
At Capel-Y-Ffin we see two fellow walkers eating their lunch sat on the back of a hay wain.  Sonia remarks that she has never been so happy to get back to the car.
I'm not so keen.  I know that we have to tackle gospel pass again.
We survive, although at one point Sonia asks if "I am actually in control of this car".  We make it back to Hay-on-Wye.... a fine pub, a castle, plenty of book shops and one geocache on the other side of the river. 
Crossing the River to get the cache
Far less dramatic than Gospel Pass in the snow.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

03/04/13 - Capital Ring Phase 12 - Stokey!

Distance - 5.5 Miles
Geocaches - 7 Found, 2 DNF
Start - Highgate
End - Stoke Newington

Capital Ring Phase 12

Hurrah for British Summer Time... Although you would not know it when you are out and about and blast of the easterly hits you.  The day after this walk, I was in a snowstorm in Central London.  But we do have light evenings and I can resume my 3 year plan of completing the Capital Ring.

Highgate station is only a few stops up from where I am located and if you look at the Everytrail Map closely, you can see that I am having a lot of trouble actually getting going on the right track.  There are green arrows to get me on my way, but somehow, I manage to loop around on myself.

The start of this section is the disused Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace railway line, which ran from 1867 to 1970.  The Capital Ring guide book suggests that it is a haven for wild life... in reality, its a haven for muggles with dog walkers, joggers and cyclists getting in my way.  Hanging around here waiting for a find made me feel like a cross between a rent boy and a drug dealer.  Alas, an unsuccessful one as I wasn't propositioned for anything.

This is the Parkland Walk - your friend for the next three miles
There are 8 Geocaches down this stretch.  A couple had recent DNF recorded against them, so I didn't look too hard.  They were all quite straightforward but did require clambering up banks, sticking my hands in places I didnt really want to and lying of the floor at times.  And man, muggles on bikes don't half come at you fast. Only one was too wet to sign, so I took a photo as evidence.

Soggy Loggy
Disappointingly - and despite there being a cache named after it - I missed the Parkland Walk Spriggan.  Do a "Google Image" on it.  I must spend more time with my eyes open for things other than tupperware.  Quite apt as a cache custodian, mind.
We reach the end of the railway line at Finsbury Park.  The hoodies are merely keep fit fanatics - so I didn't need to hold my geopen ninja style.  We cross this to reach a great piece of advertising - "The New River".  What is it with Cockney's bigging everything up?  It's a canal.
New River my Aris
New River, My Aris
Follow this on a dodgy Towpath, which is no doubt called "an aquatic walkway", looping around the East and West Reservoirs - with good views over Central London in the distance.

City in the Distance
Stokey Church in foreground - The Shard in the distance
Picking up Green Lanes at Clissold Park is the start of civilisation.  There is a castle, a too poncey for words pub and the evidence of urban crime and red tape.
Reasonably Sinister - in fact a climbing centre
I mean really - is anyone going to claim a no wheeled, no seated bike?
There is also a very busy Capital Ring sign, that shows me that the quest is nearly coming to an end.
Info Overload
13.5 Miles to get back to the start.....
Clissold Park is rather pretty and brings me out to the foot of the spired church and into Church Street, Stoke Newington. There is an ambundance of eateries, pubs and too trendy for words outlets. With darkness falling (and a locked cemetary gate stopping a final cache), there is only one place to go.
Fine Place to End a Walk
Best Irish Pub, outside of Ireland