Wednesday, 31 December 2014

31/12/14 - Missing the Target

Walk Inspiration - Stage 19 of the Millennium Way
Geocaches - 17 Found, 3xDNF
Distance - 7 Miles
Post Walk Refreshment - London Pride at the Black Boy, Heronfield

New Year's Eve is always a time to reflect on the attainment of goals - some were hit with aplomb;

  • Completing the Brummie Ring 
  • Starting the Ridgeway
  • Doing a monthly trip to the Smoke for the London Loop
  • Joining CAMRA
  • Being nice to Sonia
Unfortunately, there has been one notable exception.  I really wanted to get to 1000 caches in a calendar year.  Before today's (admittedly cache laden) walk, these are the scores on the doors.

Best Year Ever - But not going to get 49 Today

I'll console myself with another achievement - a monthly walk on the Millennium Way.  This is stage 19.

Millennium Way
Back on the Millennium Way
Park up at a pub (the on-line guides are ace) and pick up a cold and icy Grand Union Canal.

Grand Union Canal
Brr.  At least the mud is hard
I was made aware of the Millennium Way 19 months ago when cache publication notices came through.  This stretch is being advertised through the power of caching and there are 20 on route.

Not going to go through them all, but you can get a glimpse as to why I didn't get the number, when the GZ for the 2nd of the day has been turned into sawdust.

GZ - Chopped Down
Who Stole the ICT?

The walk today is functional.  The caches are a little tough but I soon get into the rhythm after a couple of genuine early DNFs.  Leave the canal and head through typical midlands countryside, picking up the Heart of England Way (future goal) for some decent walking.

Accompanied by the constant roar of planes taking off from Birmingham Airport.  The only genuine item of interest is Temple Balsall, but we must be saving this for the next leg, as we turn off before getting into photo range.

I'll let the photos do the talking for this stage.

Frosty Start
Into the Frosty Fields
Frosty Start
Picking up the Heart of England Way at a GZ (Guess where)
Bird of Prey
Hurrah - Nature Captured at the 3rd Attempt.  Some Bird of Prey on a Branch

Last cache of the day contains a TB.  One to carry into 2015.  All that remains is to check out the pub.

Black Boy
The Black Boy - Dunno who Rigby is but it was built in 1793
London Pride
London Pride

Goals for 2015.  Ooh, I think I'll have another crack at 1000 caches.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

30/12/14 - Straight Outta Compton

Walk Inspiration - Adventurous Pub Walks in Warwickshire
Distance - 7.5 Miles
Geocaches - 5
Refreshments - Cotswold Way at the Red Lion, Long Compton

2014 has seen a lot of neolithic based walking - Avebury, Stonehenge, Kennet Long Barrow, Wayland's Smithy to name the ones I can remember.  It seems kind of fitting that a couple more are added to the year's penultimate walk.

After a trip to the BMW dealership to determine exactly what AdBlue is, I head off to park right next to the walk highlight - The Rollright Stones.  I try desperately to remember if I have been here before.  If I had, it was in pre-blogging days.

Start with a look at the King's Stone - isolated away from its Oxfordshire neighbours in Warwickshire and then to check out the Whispering Knights.  I will save the King's Men for the return.

Rollrights - King Stone
Not originally like this - chipped away by centuries of tourists for luck
Rollrights - Long Compton Views
Views over Long Compton from the King Stone
Rollrights - Whispering Knights
Easel does it - Into Oxfordshire for the Whispering Knights
Rollrights - Whispering Knights
5000 Years Old - Pre-dating Stonehenge

Having got my historical fill, I can head off on the walk proper.  And its a stunner.  Words will not do it justice, but this is classic Cotswolds - dropping down into the Valley and back up again, along great paths with superb views.  Not a chance of me getting walking fatigue in this hectic Xmas walking period.

I would not want to be in any other Country
Rollrights - Path to Long Compoton
Approach to Long Compton

The late start has meant that time is clicking on.  Its 2pm and I haven't lunched.  Long Compton must offer some refreshment.

Rollrights - Long Compton Stores
Strike Lucky Once - Jumbo Sausage Roll from a tiny shopkeeper for a quid.

Rollrights - Long Compton
Strike Lucky Twice - A Classic Cotswold Pub
Rollrights - Cotswold Way
Top pint of Cotswold Way - Free Delivery from their Website
With Long Compton done (although I did miss out on the unusual Lynch Gate by the Church), I head up the McMillan Way.  It's a slog directly into the sun with 4 of today's 5 caches to break up the puffing and panting.

At the top, its a bit of road walking back to say hello to all the King's Men.

Rollrights - Kings Men
2014 and another Stone Circle Ticked Off the List

Monday, 29 December 2014

29/12/14 - Middle Earth

Walk Inspiration - Historic Walks in Birmingham
Distance - 3 Miles
Geocaches - 3 out of 4

Time to set my walking goals for 2015.  One of them is to discover more of my City of birth - Birmingham.  I have already created The Brummie Ring and I intend to discover more of it's boroughs within the City Limits.

Having a spare day over Xmas, I might as well start a touch early.  I can also combine it with another list ticking exercise - Birmingham's Top 10 Pubs.  A double score for today's entertainment.

In honour of the fact that the only book my 16 year old son has read is (half of) the Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, we head out to the land that provided the inspiration for Middle Earth - Moseley Bog.

Sonia wants to bring the dog.  I am worried if its too Boggy, we might not be allowed into the pub.  I am outvoted 2-1.

Park up at a place that takes Sonia all of 2 seconds to use her anagram skills.

Moseley - Sarehole Mill
She didn't waste those skills on The Millstream Way
Head off south following the River Cole.  A winter wonderland.  If I had been quicker with the camera, I could have got a festive Robin on a frozen log.  I will file that with the owl from yesterday.

Off into the Frozen Winterland
First cache of the day is on an Elder Tree.  Despite googling it before I set off, we fail to make the find.  Next cache found is opposite the Prefab Houses on the outskirts of Moseley, before skirting the edge of the pool in Swanhurst Park.

Moseley - Prefab
Dog gets to go some places
Moseley - Swanhurst Park
Swanhurst Park

A short bit of road walking leads us to Moseley Bog.  It's quite a place, an oasis of countryside completely surrounded by the City.  I also didn't need to worry about the Bog, as the terrain is navigated via duckboards.  Which make a fine place to hide a cache.

Moseley - Bog
Moseley Bog across the Frozen Wastelands
Moseley - Bog
Onto the Duckboards
Moseley - Bog
And into Middle Earth

Quite an experience and over far to quickly.  We emerge in a council estate before getting to the old part of Sarehole and finding Tolkien's childhood home from 1896.

Moseley - Tolkein's House
We demand a Blue Plaque
The walk takes us down country lanes and to a genuine ford, before returning to the Mill.

The Path Back to Sarehole
An interesting and short walk.  Time for the pub.  Its a short drive to the Prince of Wales on the Alcester Road.  6 Real Ales, Dog Friendly but no food.  And to top it all, we were served by a barman decked out as a Peaky Blinder.

Moseley - Prince of Wales
Just before Rush Hour
Moseley - Prince of Wales
Sonia is Googling "Dog Friendly Moseley Pubs that do Food"

For the drive home, we put on Radio 6.  The DJ starts up a phone in for people "that have visited places that are used in works of literary fiction".

You can guess what we did?

Sunday, 28 December 2014

28/12/14 - Welsh Rarebit

Walk Inspiration - Walk 1317 from Walking World
Distance - 7 Miles
Geocaches - 2

As traditional as Turkey on the 25th and a huge credit card bill in January, I head down to Tintern for my annual Christmas Walk.  This is the tenth Xmas walk on the bounce in this area, with the route selection this year from my perennial favourite resource,

Sonia digs out her gloves and my scarf and accompanies me after the chilliest night this Winter.  It has to go some to beat 2010 when there were iceflows coming down the Wye.

Park up at the Anchor Inn pub, after I realise I get my parking money back if I spend money at the bar, post walk.  There is a reasonable chance that this could happen, so worth the risk.

Sonia with a Frozen Grimace.  And my work scarf.
Over the road and a stiff climb up the Wye Valley Walk Path, which is the bed of an old stream.  Sonia is distracted by an emergency phone call regarding a 91 year old's toes.  A woman's work is never done.

Wye Valley Walk - An Old River Bed
We are on our way to the isolated Penterry Church.  First, we have to negotiate a field of bulls.  They are ok but do follow us, bellowing menaces.

This is our Field
Penterry Church - Middle of Nowhere

After checking if we can look inside the Church (we can't - no faith anymore), we head on up to the Weather monitoring pylons.  We walked these fields a couple of years ago and it was like the Somme.  We are most happy with the frozen ground.

The views from the top of Gaer Hill are extraordinary but unfortunately into the sun.  Look closely at the picture and you can pick out the Severn Bridge.

Weather Station
View into the Sun towards the Severn Bridge

The walking back is wonderful although the dense Fedw Woods offer no photo opportunities.  Shame I wasn't quicker on the draw as we missed an owl and a deer on our journey.  The 1091ft ascent becomes apparent on a never ending drop down through the woods.

The chance of a geocache warrants a slight diversion from the route and the road brings us back into Tintern.  Its 11:40am and we decide to hang on for the pub by finding another cache (great hide and a TB) and taking a few photos.

The River Wye - Downstream
Tintern - Devil's Pulpit
Santa - Below the Devil's Pulpit

We de-gaiter and change footwear before entering the Anchor Inn.  It's a wonderful pub - endorsed by the 2014 Pub Guide for good reason.  Unfortunately, they are only doing Sunday Lunches.  Surely the world has had enough of these by this stage of the holiday period.

Tintern - Anchor Inn
Liquid Lunch?
We are saved from starvation by the White Monk Cafe over the road.  The cooked breakfasts in these parts come with Welsh Rarebit and believe me, as a culinary experience, it works.

I'll be back for another in 2015.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

27/12/14 - The Letcombe Letdown

Distance - 11.5 Miles
Distance on Ridgeway - 5.1 Miles
Inspiration - Self Created for Stage 7 of the Ridgeway
Geocaches - 5 Found, 2xDNF
2014 has been the year of the Ridgeway.  In March, I made a start of a series of Circular Walks to get me from Wiltshire to Buckinghamshire on this most ancient of walkways.  This is Stage 7.  I am making progress and enjoying the walking.

As I get further along, its taking me longer to drive.  Today was 90 minutes, turning off at Ashbury Hill to drive in the shadow of the Uffington White Horse.  I caught sight of one leg.

Park up at Sparsholt Firs.  Glorious Day and a good job it wasn't 24 Hours earlier by the looks of the puddles.

Icy Puddles at Sparsholt Firs
I know what to expect and the path has no need to make apologies for repetition of such stunning views.

More of the Same Please
A good couple of miles unbroken walking before a pause for the first geocaches of the day.  This stretch is not quite as laden.  The archaeological highlight of the walk is Segsbury Hillfort but there really isnt much to see at ground level.  It looks more impressive on the OS Map.

After 5 glorious miles, its time to say goodbye for 2014 to the Ridgeway.  I turn off, heading downhill at Middlehill Down.  I'll be back in 2015 to resume from here.  Get the best views so far of the Didcot Power Plant.

Ridgeway - Didcot Power Station
Didcot Power Plant
The Drop Down from the Ridgeway
Navigate my way around some more horse training tracks and head back west along a green lane towards Furzewick Farm.

Now, if you told me that when I set off this morning, I would see a man in a Deerstalker hat, I would have called you a liar.  Imagine my surprise when I saw two?

Did they phone each other up and ask what they are wearing for today's walk?
They are either massive Sherlock Holmes Fans or there is a 2 for 1 sale in a Gentlemen's Country Outfitters in Swindon.  Whichever way, after I exchanged my hellos, I heard one ask his female partner "if he looked daft in his new hat."

Now, I know quite a lot about daft hats.  But I kept my opinions to myself.

After a bit of road walking, my mind, as always in these situations, turns to refreshments.  I am coming into the village of Letcombe Regis.  What will I be rewarded with?

Ridgeway - Letcombe Regis
Cyrille's less famous Brother

Pub - Dead
I have found what I'm looking for.
It's 11:45am and not open.  I spend the 15 minutes I have fruitlessly looking for a geocache at the village pump and admiring the ancient buildings - whilst simultaneously tutting at the overbearing and totally out of place new builds.

Ridgeway - Old House
The Old House
Ridgeway - Old House
Told You
Better than your average Netto
Dead Centre of Letcombe Regis

Head back to the pub.  It's 12:10pm.  The curtains are still drawn.  A lady comes past on her horse and I enquire about my very important pint.  With regret, she informs me that the pub has been closed for a couple of years.

I am aghast.  I ask if I can come back for a drink at her stables.  She engages her mount in what I am guessing is a "fast canter".

I am left thirsty and tired and can only contemplate where the new build executives are going to go for a Tuesday night quiz.

What a let down.  I don't know if this affects my mood but I pass a Deer Reserve with No Deer in it, it starts to sleet and I have a 1 mile pull uphill back to the car.

Geowagon in the Shadow of the Pylon
Lutcombe Regis....You had so much going for you three years ago.

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