Sunday, 26 January 2014

25/1/14 - Plane Spotting

Distance - 7.3 Miles
Geocaches - 4
Start - Marston Green Station
Finish - Solihull Station

The Brummie Ring Phase 9

Brummie Ring Phase 9 at EveryTrail

Sonia is working in Birmingham today.  Seems the perfect excuse to share her rail commute and continue on to Solihull for Phase 9 of the Brummie Ring.

I need to get to Marston Green and careful planning with TravelInfoDirect shows that the 71 bus goes from Coach Stand G, directly outside Solihull Station.  Oh I do love plotting my adventures.  Bang on 9:20, the bus turns up for my 30 minute trip.  Sat Nav Turned on so I know where to get off.

Minor drama at the destination, the Police are moving a stolen Mondeo, carelessly abandoned in my bus stop.  I watch the ensuing drama (well, a repmobile being winched onto a flat loader) with a handy sausage sandwich and cup of tea from the Cafe that was closed at the end of Stage 8.

Once refreshed, move on to the walk.  And it is a boster, possibly the best yet on the BrummieRing.

Straight from the station, I am in Sheldon Park, which allows me to skirt three parts of the airport perimeter.

Off on their all inclusive Hols
A man comes up to me and asks if I saw the previous plane.  I replied in the negative and he rambles on about how he couldn't tell if it was a 777 or a 747 but it was unusual as it was in all gray camoflage.  I have to cut him off in mid flow before he thinks I am a fellow plane spotter.  I reply that I have only just worked out how the 71 bus works.

The walking is great, with the added drama of an inbound or outbound flight.  I just have to follow the fence.

Stalag Walking
There is a lonely remnant of the abandoned Solihull Way.  It is still marked on my OS map, but the signage has nearly all disappeared.

Remains of the Solihull Way
Abandoned LDP
Sheldon Park turns into a Golf Course but has turned into a total slosh pit.  The way is totally flooded.  I wonder how I will get through but when I see two joggers just jump on in, I know it should be OK for a man in goretex everything.  They have seriously misjudged  the depth, it is knee high.  Still, their screams and frolics keep me entertained.

Exit the airport, over a road and along some alleys and I am delivered into the next highlight, Elmdon Park.  The council bought this land in the 40's.  It was a former stately home.  Its high elevation provide some fine walking and views across the Midlands. 

Beacon - Cache 1
Beacon and First Cache Location
Elmdon Park
Pool in the Park
Drop down and the next few caches are available.  The next is 4m up in a tree.  I can see it.  I am not going to climb it.  Especially when there are so many families around.  The next few are along a series of alleys that skirt the perimeter of the Land Rover Factory.  Most are found.  One isn't.

Land Rover
Land Rover
After a short length of road walking, I pick up the Grand Union Canal.  Have it all to myself, save for a couple of canoeists who paddle on by.  One more cache and one more DNF.

Grand Union Canal
All the way to London
The peace and solitude is only broken up by a series of texts telling me that Sonia will be later than expected from work.  No problem to me, I am nearly in Solihull and I am sure that there will be some way of entertaining myself.  I have a book and £20.

Its nice to have the freedom of a couple of unexpected hours in a strange town.  Hostelries await.

The first pub is a little too posh for me but I do take advantage of their outdoor astroturf and seating area to de-gaiter.  And it looks like Solhull, poshest part of Birmingham, is also suffering from the credit crunch.

Credit Crunch Solihull
But what sort of Real Ale for they have?
De-gaiter and decide I am probably not the sort of punter they are after.
Choice of pubs.  I have done my homework and the Sadlers Arms is the best rated.  Presumably by people who think that the neck is the perfect place for a tattoo.  Nice enough inside and the landlord comes round with a tray of Monkey Brain cocktails that he has knocked up.  I stop counting as he reveals the fourth alcoholic ingredient.

Pub Number 1
The Monkey Brains are on Me
Move on to the town centre proper and pop into the Masons Arms for lunch.  Its going to be Scampi.  I am asked whether I want to supersize it, and I think why not, I have plenty of time, a score and have worked up an appetite.

Solihull and Pub Number 2
Historic Solihull - left of TouchWood
In exactly the length of time it takes me to walk back to my table (plus 30 seconds) my meal is delivered.  I am told where the cutlery and condiments are, without the offer of them being fetched and count my deep fried shrimps.  There are eight of them.

Thank god I supersized.

Decide that I will catch the 14:17 back to Kidderminster and meet Sonia there.  The train goes through an incredible thunder and lightening storm, with massive hail stones.  In January. 

A spectacular end to the possibly my favourite part of the Brummie Ring.

Two to go.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

18/1/14 - Hopes, Dreams and Goldfish

Distance - 9.8 Miles
Geocaches - 7
Start - Petts Wood
Finish - Hayes

London Loop - Stage 3 at EveryTrail

London Loop Time.  How the months are clicking on.  Tickets booked in advance at the end of 2013 to take advantage of ridiculously low prices.  How can a longer journey be 1/10th of the price that I paid on Tuesday's visit to the smoke?  Still, not complaining as I am paying for this one.

5:45am alarm, sneak out of the house and catch the 7am from Birmingham International.  Coffee, Super Furry Animals on the iPod and a near empty carriage.  If only all commuting was like this.

You do have to be careful on Virgin Trains though.  Twice I have gone to use the space age loo and found a girl sat screaming at me to close the door.  The only way to do this is to go in and press the second button, below the one to close the door.  And that would have me in DLT territory.

So I enter, press to close the door and press again to lock it.  A tannoy list of things that should not be flushed down the loo is read out.  It starts simple enough with Nappies, Newspapers, Chewing Gum etc. but then ends with "your hope, your dreams and your goldfish".  Cheeky Richard Branson has a sense of humour to match his book in advance, dead cheap and comfortable travel system.

If only the tube was as well organised.  There is another tannoy announcement saying the Charing Cross branch of the Northern Line is closed.  No Problem, I'll get the Bank Branch line to London Bridge and pick up my train there.  It stops at Angel, where there is an announcement that all Bank Branch Trains will terminate at Angel.  So the whole train has to get off, cross the platform and go back North to Euston to venture south on the Victoria Line.

Once at London Bridge, it's 25 Minutes to be dropped off at Pett's Wood and to get the walking started.  Disembark the train and there is man dressed identically to me - softshell, gaiters, rucksack. He strides on before seeing me.

Heading out of Pett's Wood
Opposite the Celebration Haunt of Stage 2
Despite the gray skies, the rain holds off but the evidence of our foul January is evident in Jubilee Park.  It's a complete mud pit.  I thank the lord I brought my gaiters with me.  I need to be clean for my investigations in central London later.

Jubilee Park
Jubilee Park
The Park holds one cache for me to find and then a nice little micro outside a Church.  At first I think its in the bus stop.  This is most embarrassing, as a bus pulls up, the door opens and the driver asks me if I am getting on.

A short walk through an estate to get to Crofton Heath, part of the Bromley Countryside.  This is even muddier than Jubilee Park and the path has turned into a stream.  I can see my doppleganger ahead in the trees and was going to take a photo but he stops for a cup of tea.  We exchange pleasantries about the unpleasantness of the conditions.

We are in London
More estate walking and then through sportsfields.  The kids are running around with no tops on.  It is January.  A quick cache before hitting the first village, Farnborough.

Old Coaching Village
There are proud of their heritage here and there are lots of notice boards detailing the history.  It used to be the first stop off point on the road to Hastings.  They have celebrated this by converting the coaching pub into houses.

Not my sort of place at all, but they do have a pretty church at the top of a hill.

Farnborough Church
Would have been too early for the Coaching Pub anyway.
I then have a marvel at all the different trees in High Elms Country Park.  Lots of families out walking doing the same.  Quick diversion for a cache.

Another quick cache in the green lane called Bogey Lane.

Snot to be sneezed at
Snot to be sniffed at
From the guide book, I know the highlight of this stretch will be Holwood House and the Wilberforce Oak.  A lovely little bit of history about how Wilberforce and Pitt the Younger sat under an oak, looking at the views of the Vale of Keston and formed the idea on how to do away with slavery.

Can't imagine Cameron and Clegg doing the same when they came up with the Bedroom Tax.

Holwood House
Holwood House - Where Pitt the Younger Lived

Vale of Keston
The Oak and the Views
Commenerative Bench
There is a cache here, behind the wooden bench.  As I taking photos a young couple sit on it to have their sandwiches.  I have to join them and wait for them to leave before making a fruitless search.  My DNF of the day.

Still, at least I made some new friends.

The walking remains first class and very wild, as I make my way around the ponds of Keston Common.

Keston Common Lakes
Keston Ponds
The only thing that I am missing is a pint.  As I get to Keston, there is a choice of two.  I look down at my somme-like gaiters and realise that it's not going to happen.

With a thirst, I plod on through the outskirts of Hayes Common.  Its elevated position would have offered great views but the fences and houses block them off.  I make do with a last couple of caches before dropping down Station Hill into Hayes.

Hayes tells me its Beer O'Clock
Hayes doesn't appear to have much to offer.  The New Inn looks like a huge restaurant.  A quick peep down the main street shows no alternative, with the exception of Costa.

So I de-gaiter, have a snooze on the train back into London and check out the Harp in Chandos place.  Winner of the National Camra pub of the Year, 2010.  I cannot believe I have not been there before.

Have my pint and contemplate on the success of Stage 3.  Each leg seems to get better and better. 

Tickets for stage 4 booked for February.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

12/01/14 - Zero Caches

Distance - 4.84 Miles
Geocaches - 0
Walk Inspiration
Proper winter's morning, cars need scraping and I head off for Stage 8 of the Millennium Way, optimistic that the frozen ground will mean that I don't end up to my armpits in mud.

Both Stage 8 and Stage 9 start in Inkberrow.  Home of Radio 4's the Archers.  Home of two very decent looking pubs, with the Old Bull, the most spectacular.

I have checked out Stage 8 and can tell nothing is going to happen.  I have no company (Sonia's working), there are no caches and as I didn't bother with my CacheBag (tm), I have no money to buy a pint.  Full Inkberrow investigation and write up on Stage 9.

But I do have an enthusiastic Labradoodle.  She goes through her stretches as I get ready.  Whilst I'm outside defrosting the car, she is actually crying.

I am not convinced the boy took her out yesterday.

So park up at the church and take a few snaps of where I will be next time.

Old Bull
The Archers Pub
Old Bull
Pub Sign
Pub 2 - Bulls Head
An Alternative Option, should the Old Bull have run out of beer
So having chuckled at the lack of imagination that Inkberrowans have at naming their pubs, I head out through the estate looking for the countryside.  The everytrail load of my GPX shows that I make a few wrong turns.  Still, it is always nice to say hello to the locals.  Twice.

Eventually get out in the countryside.  Nice views of Malvern and Bredon Hills but not much to report.  Some sheep.  The paths are straightforward, the stiles are a challenge.  The ground is suitably frozen that we are not getting too filthy.

Walk through Little Inkberrow.  Its that small, I don't notice.  Follow a stream down to Dormston, where I pick up a lane that brings me to the familiar green signs of the Millennium Way.

Builder leave a gate
Temporary Gate - Green Millennium Sign
Only a short stretch through Broadclose Farm, a field of horses that make me get a wriggle on and then back to the outskirts of Inkberrow, where new builds are happening.

New Builds
New Inkberrow Houses
Back into the village, almost taking a tumble on some black ice.  There is one multi cache at the church, which is not strictly on the route.  As I am coming back next month, I decide to get the info required to Plot.  The service is in full swing, but I engage stealth mode to get the two numbers required from the board in the porch.

Inkberrow Church
Stealthily Enter the Porch
As expected, a walk of little note.  A filler, if you like, to move me onto the next stage.

Where I will bring company, have a pint and find this multicache.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

11/01/14 - Fidget Pie

Distance - 5.2 Miles
Geocaches - 4
Walk Inspiration

Cardington at EveryTrail

This is the first time that my wanderings have been inspired by a pastry based dish.  I read about Fidget Pies in a travel magazine and the mixture of pork, apple and cider made me want to investigate more.  They are the house specialty of the Royal Oak in Cardington.  This is prime Shropshire walking country and a quick search on provided a nice little 5 miler from their front door.

So the promise of a pie, pint and a decent walk was so alluring that Sonia donned her new boots and gaiter combo.  Closest the Mapp's get to La Perla these days.

Familiar drive up to Church Stretton, with the last few miles along increasingly narrow lanes.  Very occasionally, having a Fiat 500 is a bonus.  Park up at the pub, safe in the knowledge that we will be using their facilities later.

We walk through the streets of this Domesday Book mentioned village to get the walk started.

Ominous Start
Hopefully this lane takes us where we need to go
Consider making a purchase, but despite the advertising, there is no price.  Just an honesty bowl.

Eggs for Sale
How much would you pay for 1/2 a dozen?
The walk is not too strenuous, we tend to look at the Caradoc hills, rather than making any real climbs.  The weather is superb, gorgeous blue skies and in all honesty, we could fill the blog with photos.  There are stunning views in all directions.

Start is a touch muddy, as we leave the village on a green lane to get into the hills. 

Muddy Start
Muddy Start
Little Caradoc
Little Caradoc
The first cache of the day is found - nicely camouflaged but soon found.  The OS map has this stretch of land marked as "The Wilderness".  Its not that wild, just beautiful views, sheep and one would be fell runner. 

We work our way down to the abandoned Cwm's Cottage.  Nothing but a couple of walls, a window and cache.  It's also a convergence of paths and we are joined by other walkers coming from several directions.  Its easy to see what they had for Christmas.  Two are in goose downed puffer mountain jackets.  In the sunshine.

Caer Caradoc Behind the Tree
We can see that we have our first real climb of the day to get to the top of Willstone Hill.  It is not totally necessary, as we could work around it but there must be a reason.  Of course, more views.

Church Sretton
Church Stretton
Having said hello to the sheep and admired the views of the Wrekin, Clee Hills. Long Mynd and of course, the pub at Cardington, we work our way down.

All downhill from here
All downhill to the Pie Shop
Making it to the bottom
The penultimate cache of the day is at the Sharpstones.  This is a rocky outcrop of stones in a field.  Kids would love it.  Find the cache and drop off a TB.

Sun Shining Over the Rocks
The Sharpstones
The official route has us making a small climb onto Hill End.  Its 13:15 and the pub stops doing food at 14:00.  An executive decision has never been so easy and we take the road back to the village.

Back to the pub
Into the Village
First Building - From 1574
The Royal Oak
Next Building is the Pub
There is a cache outside the pub, but Sonia is shouting me from the car.  She is desperate to de-gaiter, change footwear and get pied up.  I get the cache after placing our order.

Taking the cache to the pub
A First - Cache taken for a pint.  Sonia steals the Wi-Fi.
The Pie that inspired a walk
And the Money Shot - Fidget Pie
I know what you are thinking - that's not a pie, balancing puff pastry on the filling makes it a lie.  I am with you, blogfans.  But it was damn tasty and well worth the adventure.

Next time I am in this neck of the woods - to find Miles Hunt's local. 

We are never short of inspiration.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

04/01/14 - Les 4 Clint

Distance - 6.1 Miles
Geocaches - 4
Start - Coleshill Parkway
Finish - Marston Green Station

Brummie Ring Phase 8

Brummie Ring Phase 8 at EveryTrail

Happy New Year Blogfans.  Plans have been made but before I get started on new adventures, I've got to finish off what I committed to last year.

The first walk of 2014 will be Phase 8 of the Brummie Ring.  3 to go after this stage.  Despite the remnants of the worst storm of 20 years still hanging around, Sonia wants to come as well.

So we head off for Marston Green Station.  Free parking for rail users, but I have completed my Internet based homework and I know that a single to Coleshill Parkway (5ish miles away) is £7.50.  Each.

We think about getting a Cab, but despite Sonia's iPhone saying there is a cab firm in Station Road, it seems to be well hiddden.

Train it is.  Not to worry, the train change over provides opportunity for a coffee and a sausage sarnie at New Street.

I knew the walking at first would be a bit dodgy.  We have to get out of the business park that has sprung up since the OS Map was produced.  These means that some of the footpaths have disappeared but we do manage to get out to the countryside at the A446 / M42.

Tight Fit
Once squeezed through the checkpoint, all paths are in order
Anyone wanting to follow in our footsteps on the Brummie Ring is going to need to get a wriggle on.  For the first time in my walking career, I have found evidence of how the HS2 rail line will affect footpaths.

HS2 is Coming
Didn't have time to digest it all, but assume its bad news for this path
And these laminated signs are not the only information that is provided on route.  It took me a while to get what the message was, as the L and I were a touch close together.  And either our graffiti artist is a gent or it was Les the Lady doing the vandalism.

Love is...
Love Is - declarations on trees
This section of land is marked as the Belt on the OS Map.  It is sandwiched directly between the M42 and the M6, so the experience of walking the excellent paths is marred by the droning vehicles.

After crossing the M6, and another dual carriageway, we pick up what is marked on the OS Map as the Solihull Way.  It is still marked with the badges of three Long Distance Paths, but the Solihull Way is no longer maintained.

Weird LDP
Strange LDPs
Sandwiched between a dual carriageway and tower blocks, this wins my prize as strangest LDP found. 

I drop down the bank for my first cache of 2014 whilst Sonia uses Google Maps to determine when she can expect to get out of the rain.  Back up the bank and along the roads to the Cole Bank Nature Reserve.

Into the Nature Reserve
Cache 2 just the other side of this fence.
During the plotting of the walk last night, I knew that a section would be alongside the River Cole. 

River Cole doesn't know where to end
Yesterday's Fears Confirmed
Normally, it would have been fine walking.  Today, its a slosh pit.  I am OK as my boots are watertight and I have gaiters.  At time of writing, Sonia has neither but I am taking her to Go Outdoors tomorrow.  Its amazing how high she can get mud up the inside of her legs.  She insists its because she is closer to the ground.

A couple of enforced detours because of the conditions, but we more or less follow the planned route along Kinghurst Brook, finding Chelmsley Wood and a last couple of caches.

Youths with chips pass us and Sonia, who didn't want sausage based snacks on the train, is reminded of her hunger.

There is a cafe at Marston Green Station.  Closed on a Saturday.  We head into the small town and the only pub available.

44, Great Big Menu and she orders a Fish Finger Sandwich