Sunday, 30 June 2013

29/06/13 - Castle, Chapel and a Shed Full of Caravans

Distance - 7.5
Walk from Country Walking May 2013
Geocaches - 4

Acton Burnell

We need to be in Church Stretton to look at Caravans.  Not any old caravans mind, but super funky Tab Caravans, specially imported from Germany to a Shropshire Shed.

Is this going to fit on the Drive?  Is it going to lead to more adventures on Foot?
So to maximise the day, we look for a walk in the superb area that promises so much.  We are of course spoilt by choice.... it could be Pole Bank via light hollow spout, it could be Caer Caradoc or Ragleth Hill but instead of tromping over old ground, there is a new walk in May Country Walking Magazine that I have only this week got around to reading.

It promises a couple of archaeological highlights and the first one is right at the start of the walk.

Surely everyone likes a nice castle
Acton Burnell Castle was built in 1283 by Bishop Burnell, Edward I's lord chancellor.  It was also the site of England's first Parliament.  You can now rack up and eat your sandwiches in the middle of the structure.  We don't quite have the place to ourselves, as there is a family also enjoying their dip into history.

There's not many geocaches on route today, so I have brought a 10 year old sat nav out with me for nostalgic reasons.  I once worked with a man who played a football manager game on his Atari ST.  He paid a fortune for a top keeper but played his reserve as he felt that "he could do with a run out".  They lost the game 10-0.  My ancient sat nav provides a similar experience.  The satellites must have moved since its last use, as it takes an age to get a signal and then it bounces around for an eternity before settling down.  The start of the walk takes a while and a bit of walking around in circles to get going.

After a bit of road walking there is a chance of a diversion and a geocache at Langley Chapel.  This is another highlight. 

Langley Chapel
Standing all alone
This was built in 1601 and has remained untouched inside since.  It was linked with a nearby hall, but that fell into ruin and the church just stood in a field until it was one of the first buildings taken over by the State and externally renovated in the 20th Century.

I creep up for further investigation, wondering if I am allowed in.

Are we allowed in?
Key in the door - looking promising
Elizabethan Prayer - Protestant Style
Preaching Geocaching
Preaching the gospel of geocaching
Return back to the road at Ruckley and head towards Frodesley across fields.  This is starting to sound like an excerpt from the Hobbit but these are middle england place names.

Fordesley Ahead

The views are exceptional - we have Wrekin in one direction and to the North, the impressive Lawley and Caer Caradoc hills.

The Lawley and Caer Caradoc
Sometimes its nice to look at the hills from this angle

The Wrekin
Or even this angle

Exit Frodesley and head down a lane past Rowe Farm.  There is strange drumming and chanting coming from the fields but the high hedgerows stop us from seeing what is going on.  I've seen the Whicker Man and more recently, the Kill List and I am not 100% happy on bursting into a strange religious gathering wearing my walking cap.  Fortunately we don't see them but every so often, we catch their incantations on the wind.

Geoaches pick up and there are a series of three micros between Rowe Farm and Picthford.  Sat Nav is behaving now, so we manage to find all three - although the one in front of the newly shorn sheep took a bit of time.

From Pitchford, its more road walking back down to the car and then into Church Stretton for Sarnies and a look a some fine German Engineering in a huge old farm shed.  Choice of three models, all very funky.

Next Year perhaps?

Saturday, 22 June 2013

22/06/13 - West Side Story

Walk From - Julie Royle's 50 Worcestershire Walks
Distance - 11 Miles
Geocaches - 7 Found, 1 surrounded by Nettles, 1 at human toilet, 1 guarded by OAP Muggles

West Worcester

The problem with me setting walking goals is that I always get distracted by newer goals.  I was meant to be completing one walk a month in order from Julie's lovely manual for life.  Last time I looked at the book was Christmas.  I think I was put off by the fact that the next in the list was an 11 miler from Worcester.

My usual 5 mile tops walking companion has gone to work.  The dog is not allowed such a distance since she turned 70, and I swear she smiled at me as I left her on her bed.  The weather is not looking great.  Still, I head off, solo, having the next four hours to ponder the universe.

Hit Worcester at 8:00.  Think of parking at Pitchcroft, then the Swan theatre and then think "hang on - its free road parking for 3 hours from 8:30am".  The big question is can I do an 11 miler in 3 and half hours?  Some quick maths, where I recently did a 6 miler in 1 hour 45 minutes make me think its possible.  I leave the geowagon at the mercy of the Parking Police.

Over the racecourse to cross the river at Sabrina Bridge.  The footpath is closed for maintenance, so I head up on the road.  This enables me to get a cache that I otherwise would have by passed.

Where I should have been
Glimpse of the Severn
Cut through an estate and pick up a footpath between houses that finally delivers me to the countryside.  Two weeks ago I did a round of caches near here and this was my first time in the area.  Strange that I should be back taking in the same views of Malvern so soon.

Pass Eastbury Manor and arrive at the Knoll, which is pleasantly grassy on approach.  Views back to the unusual church spire at Hallow.

Church in focus - Mappiman not
Hallow in focus, in the distance.  Mappiman a bit blurred.

The walking on from here takes in the same places as the recent cache round.  I have a chance to get a previous DNF (bloke in his garden stopped me looking) but this time I am thwarted by the OAP neighbourhood watch who actually follow me to see why I have popped into the undergrowth.

I quickly abandon the search and outrun the law across Broadheath Common.  Make up for this disappointment by taking in the Elgar offset multi cache which I left alone last time as it took me in a different direction.  Glad to have found this, especially as it has a TB.

The predicted rain starts - out of my caching bag comes my Montane Atom raincoat.  This doesn't help with the fact that the undergrowth is more like overgrowth.  Mainly nettles but some other plants that could be triffids a waist height.  Its not long before my lower half is soaked through.  Its a relief when I make it into the sheep field, where at least they have eaten the vegetation. 

Not too impressed
Decidedly Unimpressed in damp pants
The knock on effect of the rain is that it is obscuring the view of the Malverns.  Lower Howsden should have been more impressive.

Malvern Disappearing
Nicer in the Summertime
Having met the sheep in one field, I meet the Rams in their private enclosure.  Whilst the women are out in the elements, looking after the kids, the two Rams get to lord it up.  They even have their own shelter from the rain.  Inequality running through the Animal Kingdom.

Two mates with their own hut, having left the women looking after the kids
I remember Julie saying that refreshments could usually be had at a snack van at Bransford Bridge.  Sure enough he is there and there is a sign saying that he has hot pork rolls on a Sunday.  Damn, one day too early.  I am starving but unsure if my 3 and half hours can include a sandwich break.  As there is a queue, I move on.

I am now walking back eastwards along the River Teme.  There is a cache series here and the first one that I come to is at a kissing gate.  There is a likely place for it be, on a massive tree.  On one side, the a likely hole is full of energy drinks cans.  Decide not to look through there.  Go around the otherside and someone, presumably Mr Hi NRG, has used GZ as a toilet.  And not for number ones either.

Some people ask me why I cache.  Next week, they can ask me why I have suddenly taken up golf.

Leave this place behind.  The next cache is guarded by 6ft stingers, so again, I move on quickly.

The walking along the Teme is not great.  You cannot see the river and again, the paths are very overgrown.  Relief to get to Upper Wick, where there is a cache that has a nice story about this being the former residence of the Bishop of Worcester.

Next bit of history is at Powick Bridge.  In 1642, this was the site of the first cavalry battle of the English Civil War.  The Bridge reminds me of the one at Pershore.  Stop and look at how the mill has been converted into swanky apartments.

Powick Bridge
Mappiman's Dad bringing up the rear
Continue along the Teme and start to be able to pick up the caches again.  At the stiles, there is an unusual way marker, which continues on every post back into Worcester.

Young Offenders
I'm off to Jail
The Daily Mail has already been filling my head with tales of how prisons are full of people watching DVDs, with Sky Sports and a choice of different meals from an extensive menu.  Now I find out that they get to work outdoors in the beautiful British Countryside.

I complete the remainder of the walk singing "Daddy was a bank robber" to myself.

Our next history site is the field where the Battle of 1651 took place.  This was the final battle of the English Civil war, causing Charles II to leg it.  See the top marker on the above post - he took a circuitous route to France but left a decent Long Distance Path behind him.

We also get the first views of the Cathedral.  Check the time.  Oh no, Parking Pataywo will be licking the nib of his pen as it's 11:25.

First Views of Cathedral
Close, but I'm not going to get back in my allotted time.
Reach the Severn, where the Teme empties into it and head upstream.  Nice views from the locks.  Pick up a previous DNF here.

Plain sailing all the way back into Worcester - with some impressive views of the Cathedral from the other side of the water.

Cathedral from Bridge
From Worcester Bridge
It's midday.  I know this, as all the bells are clanging.  Turn round the corner to the car, looking to see if it has a big yellow ticket.  After the rain, undergrowth, nettles and dirty red bull drinkers - its still my lucky day.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

11/06/13 - Mappiman in Mapledurwell

Distance - 3.5 Miles
Geocaches - 2
Walk From

I find myself leaving Hampshire at 17:45 and needing to get to Hatfield for an 8am start tomorrow.  I know the M25 is going to be a nightmare at this time of day, so I have come prepared with a small walk to break up the journey and to give me a clear nocturnal run at my favourite motorway.

The walk is looking good.  Parking is at a pub, and I will check it out for post walk refreshment.

Not a bad place to start

Mapledurwell is tiny.  I'll try to tell you something interesting about it - it means Maple Tree Spring in old English.  And I needed to use Wikipedia to find that out.

Maple Tree Spring
Out the pub car park and down the roads.  The church is the only architectural thing of interest, with an interesting wooden roof.

Building of Interest
From the Churchyard

The footpath takes me past it and a bit of limbo dancing under a fence and I am out on the Tunworth Road.  Not much to report.

Then I am into fields.  Even less to report, although it does set my hayfever off.

Nice Views - No photos of Mappimn, he is snot bound
The two geocaches appear on the footpath to Five Lanes End.  This breaks up the walking and sneezing a little.  They are part of a massive series - but only two are on my route.

Five Lanes End is where five lanes all meet up.  I need to pick up the right lane to take me back to the village.

Having used the Game Keepers arms car park, I think its only fair that I should go in an use the facilities.  I was all up for eating here but on entering and seeing all the tablecloths and wine glasses, I can tell its too posh for a weary traveller that wants a real ale and a packet of scratchings.

I find alternative refreshments more suited for a man in mud splattered walking shoes.  The chef and brewer up the road.

And the M25 at 8pm?  I sailed around.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

08/06/13 - Mappiman's Favourite Place

Distance - 6.27 Miles
Caches - 2 found, 1 DNF
Walk from - Reader's Digest "Most Amazing places to Walk in Britain"

Bredon Hill from Overbury

I have a new pair of walking trousers, top of the range Paramo Maui II adventure trousers.  They were half price with my ludicrously impressive 12 pocket adventure jacket.  Amongst the mass of features are the promise of quick drying action, super lightweight material, protection against mosquitoes and UV protection to 50+ SPF. 

Decided to give them a run out to my favourite walking destination.  To Wainwright, it was Cat Bells.  To Mappiman, it is the Bredon Hills.  I don't know whether its the gentle climb followed by a broad expanse of superb views of the Evesham Vale or the way it has all the hallmarks of the Cotswolds but hasn't quite been invited to the party.  But I love it.

Today's route is from Overbury.  A place so picturesque, you could put it on the cover of a chocolate box.  Park up and Sonia spies her next abode, whilst trying to find a convenient dog poo bin.  Of course there's one here.  It's lemon scented.

She wants to live here
She also wants a tiny caravan, but that is another story
All the climbing, and wonderfully gentle it is too, is in the early part of the walk.  I get a march on and get into my stride only for me to get a holler that we are meant to be walking together.  I slow my pace and she catches up.  "Are those new walking trousers?", says she.  Before I can respond with the outstanding technical details, she continues with "Cause they don't half make your arse look fat".

Now, many parts of my body may indeed look fat but after 10 years walking, I will not have this criticism leveled at my aris.  I am mortified.

If anyone wants a pair of technical explorer trousers, they are now residing in Stourport Oxfam.

Take my mind of things by taking in the views.

British Countryside
Sunglasses and a soft shell?
This part of the country is so genteel.  Even the signs are pleasant.
This is how they say "Keep off my Land" in the near Cotswolds
All the walking is soon done and we take a seat at the a convenient bench.  Too early for the sarnies but try telling this to a labradoodle.  After drinking in the views, we move on - all on flat ground - picking up the Wychavon way.  Soon delivered at the first cache of the day and first team photo opportunity.

Just found a cache
Paramo make your rear look big, sadly doing little for the front
As usual, Sonia takes her 4th call of the day right as we reach the top of the hill.  I leave her to it.  I was last up here 1001 days ago and worked out the co-ordinates of a multi cache, using information from the toposcope.  I didn't get it that day, as the bounty was back the way I had come.  But I did keep a note of the reference and today, I trundle down the hill to find the treasure and drop off a TB.  I may get a prize for longest time between working it out and retrieval. 

Whilst all this is going on, Sonia has started on the sarnies.  I wait for mine until we reach the tower.  This present a wonderful place for lunch and couple of photos.

The last ladies in the Mapp House
That dog wants my cheese and pickle
Broadway Tower
The Tower
Sonia has been worrying about where the dog will drink from on this hot day.  I tell her not to worry as we always find something suitable.  She's not convinced and fashions a bowl out of the tin foil sandwich wrapper and nicks my water supply to fill it.  "That will never work", I tell her.

The dog finishes the rest of my water.

We then leave the picnic spot and head off for the third and final cache of the day which is in a Hawthorne Bush.  We cannot find it.

Move on, walking downhill past Sundial Farm.  There is an elderly rambler who appears to have brought with him a deck chair, a radio, a flask and a pair of binoculars.  Looks like he is claiming that spot as his for the day.

The drop down through Overbury Manor grounds is superb.  One section has sheep but also has a pool for the dog to have a wonderful cool down.

Give her a stick and a pool and the sheep will not be bothered
We are delivered back to the car, looking at all the fine buildings and noticing they don't have a pub.  Oh well, we couldn't afford to live here anyway.  But a walk is not a walk without the post walk pint, so a short drive into Conderton for the necessary refreshments.

His and Hers
His and Hers.  She regretted only having a Half.
Beer O'Clock
Dog has disowned us at the Yew Tree
The reader's Digest got this walk right - its fully deserving of being included as one of the most amazing places to walk in Britain.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

02/06/13 - On Familiar Ground in Quatt

Distance - 4.5 Miles
Geocaches - 13 Found.  1 DNL.  1 DNF.
Previous Walk that was very Similar

I have been here before.  In fact, I start the round at Dunmaston overflow car park with a DNF, just as I did nearly two years ago.  I have even bought a Geocaching chum out to help but still no joy.  The clue is magnetic.  I am sure its wooden.

Never mind, we are off to cache two of the day, where I have also previously struggled.  The cache comes with a warning that you may get your feet wet.  I climb down and soon have the cache in hand, but as I clamber back up, lose my footing.  There is a moment where I realise I that I could be falling backwards into the drink.  Panic crosses my face and instead of helping, Mrs Mappiman tries desperately to hold in her laughter.  I balance, clamber up and by the time I have regained composure, tears of suppressed mirth are falling.  There is always some entertainment on a caching trip, even if is is watching your husband fall into streams.

We move on and reach the first cache of the trail that has brought us here.  First we need to navigate Boo, the world's least scary guard dog.  She even has a sign warning you of her potent threat.

Boo - The friendly Guard Dog
Touch my cache and I'll bite your face off.
Cache one found and down the lane to cache two, which Mrs Mappiman finds, whilst I am running my hands through cobwebs.  There is something about bus stops, bridges and kissing gates that always has me looking in the wrong spot.

Cache 3 is next to an ice cream shop.  I make promises that we will return.  We do not look for it, as we are in a field of horses and regular blog fans will know that the only reason I watch the grand national is to see them erect the tents.  God has yet to create a more evil animal.  And I included scorpions in that.

Cache 4 is at a kissing gate.  Again, Mrs Mappiman does the work.  Cache 5 is in a field of horses.  This is why I get the horrors.  I have just written the day of the month when a huge one comes along and starts nudging me with its nose.  My caching partners leave me to it and for a minute, its nudging me around the oak tree whilst I try and finish signing the log.  The nudges get more insistent.  How do you tell a horse that my caching bag contains nothing more than a camera, spare pens and absolutely no apples or sugar lumps?

Catch up with my caching chums at number 6.  We are zig zagging our way down to the river.  The views are impressive enough over to the Clee Hills and the paths are in fine condition.  Cache 7 presents a hunt but is found.

Photo Opp at Cache 8, where I guess correctly the CO intentions.

You will get an ice cream
Cache 9 is at the water works.  I have walked around this area many times but never been to this bit. Are the isolated gaggle of house tied to the processing plant?  Cache 10 takes a while and then we are at the final cache of the trail, 11. 

We have choices on how to complete the walk but the most obvious is down to the river and back along the fine walking that is Long Covert.

Huckleberry Finn is operating his raft today.  We speculate as to why people use it when there is a pub on either river bank.  Why else would you risk drowning?

Huckleberry Finn's Raft
2013 - and there is a hand pulled Ferry still in operation
Walk along the river.  Ponder the age of an Oak that is nearly as impressive as the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest that I recently visited.

A Major Oak
I am going for 900 Years.
Then we cut up to Long Covert. Always nice when you find a cache that you previously failed on.  There are no more until we get into Dunmaston Hall Grounds.  Some special walking along the stream and through the trees.  The last of the day is bagged under the noses of the muggle multitudes who are on a day out at the National Trust Property.

Back to the car.  A last hard look for that damned magnetic micro.  I would tell you if I had joy. 

And then a stop off at Quatt Farm shop for ice creams.

Thanks to spekey for bringing me back here.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

01/06/13 - Start of a New Challenge

Distance - 9.2 Miles
Caches - 2 found, 2 not found
Walk Inspiration

Norfolk has been conquered, so I need to find a new challenge.  I noticed from my newly published geocache emails that the Millennium Way, a 100 mile long distance path through the heart of the country, has been divided into 44 circular short walks.  This looks perfect for walking inspiration.. if I do one on the first weekend of the month, it will take me to the start of 2017 before I am finished.  Someone said goals need to be strecthing.

And its not as if there aren't other walking goals on the go.  The Capital Ring, Top 10 County Pubs and my Julie Royle walks are all still progressing.  I think this shows that I am a man with more ideas than time.

I also didn't need an excuse to be walking back from Pershore - which has always been a fine destination.  Park up at the usual old bridge picnic area, reminding myself again of the civil war story that took place here.

Old Bridge
They tried to knock it down in the Civil War.  Fell in.  Drowned.
Some new signs to follow
New Signs to Follow
Pershore Bridge
Hoping the 10 year old doodle makes it to the end.
Start of the walk is very familiar to me, having been down this route a few times.  Not a great place for hayfever sufferers, as the grass is knee high.  One huge geocache up by the allotments and then onwards along the river.

Cut in and head through Tyddesley Wood.  This is the only place the way markers let me down, as I take a couple of wrong turns.  Even with the GPS.  Emerge onto farmland for a figure of 8 loop around Besford.

I am rewarded with stunning views of Bredon Hill and the Malvern Hills.  But the real highlight is when a deer bolts out the hedgerow right in front of us.  Molly gives chase in only the way that only a Septuagenarian dog can.  I am too slow with the camera but do find a more sedate target.

Oh England, My lionheart
Mappiman is not as quick as a deer.
This section of the walk takes me off the Millennium - till next time my friend - and takes me around Besford School.  The local fete has been organised by sinister kidnappers, classically advertising their demands through cut up newspapers.

Kidnappers organise a fete
Entry money to be paid in unmarked fivers.  Drop it around the back of the bins.
The school is impressive.  Has there ever been a better location to play football?

Proper football pitch
If I was in goal, I would have been distracted by the hills.
Point F of the walk tells me to cross the field boundaries across a small plank. Which someone has nicked. Take life into own hands with a three foot water jump that could have left me in the drink, but manage to get a foothold and scramble up the opposite bank.  Get my breath back with a photo.

Malverns Calling
At Besford Bridge, there is a cache, but I stuggle to find it. Decide to move on. We then enjoy the shade of a the orchard as it leads us uphill and back to Pershore. More glorious views. In a 360 maneuver, I can choose to look at either Bredon, Malvern or Abberley Hills. All under gorgeous blue skies. It's heaven, but I am down on water and the promise of a pint back in Pershore is more compelling. Into the town centre and another unfound caches under a street sign. People are looking at me funny, so I move on to the the one at the Abbey, where I am rewarded with a find and drop off a TB.

Pershore Abbey
Enough to make you want to be a monk.
Then I am delivered into the high street and a choice of hostelries.  Once again, I go for the Brandy Cask, as they have a nice garden.

Rather Looked forward to this
Mediterranean weather calls for Mediterranean Drinks
1 Stage down, 43 to go. It will have to go some to beat this one.