Sunday, 30 March 2014

30/03/14 - BST

Distance - 4 Miles
Geocaches - 1
Inspiration - July 2009 Country Walking Malvern at EveryTrail

My favourite weekend of the year.  It's like coming out of hibernation, knowing that after 6 months of dark evenings, I can increase my outdoor activities by taking in mid week adventures.  There is only one way to celebrate and that is to pick another County Top 10 pub walk.

The pub is easy to choose.  The Nag's Head in Malvern is a ten real ale classic of a pub.  A suitable walk is found from a five year old Country Walking Magazine. 

We park up at the pub and head for the hills.

And its all uphill.  We skirt our way around the back of the clock tower and have the steep climb at the back of the quarries and resevoirs.  Sonia leaves me for dead.  The winter spent eating pork pies everytime I make a cup of tea has left me hill unfit.  Sonia shouts diet plans from her elevated position.  The dog looks confused, wondering whether to keep up with her mistress or "stop to check the map" with her master.

As with all hill climbs, the views of worth it when we make it to North Hill.

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Hazy views from a welcome bench
That's all the heavy work completed as we make our way past Table hill towards Sugarloaf.  There is the one cache I need to find up there, so I leave Sonia on a bench as I go and retrieve.  She spends her free time fighting off the attentions of gentlemen ramblers whose tongues are as silver as their hair. 

Only a man of a certain age would even attempt to address a woman with the line "Do you come here often?".

One of them doesn't give up his wooing on my return and for a time we think he will follow us to Beacon Hill.  However, the lure of St Anne's Well cafe means we go our separate ways.

We pick up the track with a sulky looking teenager whose dad has made him come for a mother's day ramble.  At least they got him out.  Ours is at home "revising".

P1040895
Highest Point In Worcestershire
We drop down looking for the excellent paths on the Eastern side of the hills.  There is another micro to look for but not knowing the difference between a Bilbury and a Gorse Bush, I have little chance of making a find.

P1040896
Sonia has no 3G, so our botany research cannot go on line
The walk back has everything going for it.  Good paths, great views and importantly, all down hill.  We soon make our way to one of the best 10 pubs in the County - The Nag's Head.

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Nestling in the Shadow of the Hills
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Sign
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Beer Garden
It is a superb pub.  The only problem is knowing what to have.  They are doing a roaring trade in Mother's day Sunday Lunches but a meal of that size seems a bit heavy.  Especially for an out of condition hill walker.  So how about a compromise of a Hot Beef Sandwich, with two roast potatoes and a little pot of gravy?

Next choice is even harder - which of the ten real ales to pick?

I promise to be back to celebrate the end of BST and try one of the remaining 9.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

22/03/14 - Looping into Surrey

Distance - 12.1
Geocaches - 9
Start - Hayes (Kent)
Finish - Upper Warlingham (Surrey)

London Loop Stage 4 at EveryTrail

This is the walk that should have been done in February.  Gales, landslips and a full cancellation of all South East Trains put pay to that.  So I am a month late on the next installment of the London Loop.

The forecasters put the symbols that mean every type of weather is possible today.  Rain, Hail, Wintery Showers are all promised.  In reality, it was perfect walking weather.

Usual 6:40am bargain train and arrive bleary eyed at Hayes station at 9am, retracing my steps to the pollarded oaks of West Wickham Common.  Some alley walking before hitting the first architectural point of interest, Wickham Court.  Dating from Tudor Times, it has strong links with the Boleyn Family.  And my book for the journey down?  The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory.

My life is the Matrix.

Memorial to WWII Firemen
WWII Firefighters Memorial in Wickham Churchyard
Downhill walking to Spring Park where entry onto the loop is stopped by floods.

Loop Under Water
Underwater Loop
The detour allows me to get the first cache of the day, in-between the joggers and the dog walkers.

Proper route is picked up in Threehalfpenny Woods.  This is the motif of today's walk.  There is not a huge amount of interest, we pass only one pub, but the walking is superb in a series of woodlands.  Perfect hiking country.

More Woods
Perfect Country Walking
Pass the meridian marker stone but photographic evidence is impossible, as there are a group of dog walkers having a chat.  I plod on to the next highlight, Addington Hill.

There are a couple of caches to find before being rewarded with a stunning view of the City.  I can make out all the landmarks up to the arch of Wembley Stadium.

Stunning Views
View from a Hill
Leave this set of woods by crossing an unexpected tram line and enter the next set, Littleheath.  A father and daughter are flying a kite perilously close to electric power lines.  Did they not watch the 70s public safety films?

The London Loop shares a stretch with the Vanguard Way, which runs from Croydon to Newhaven.  Inspiration for another adventure?  Maybe.

Vanguard Way
More Woods
Couple more caches in Selsdon Woods, where I am followed by a man in a most unsuitable bike.  He is on rutted woodland tracks on a racer.  I walk much faster than his wheelspinning manages.

More Woods
You get the picture.  Lots of Woods.
A decision needs to be made at Hamsey Green.  This is the end of the official leg of the route, but does mean catching a bus into Croydon to get home.  I have already spied that another mile and a half will get me into Upper Warlingham for a train back to Victoria.

I decide to add in a small amount of the next leg's loop section to get here.

End of the Walk
The Pub at the end of the walk has been knocked down
We Enter Surrey
Entering Dirty Surrey

After 12 miles, I am gasping for a pint.  A nice pink pub in the town greets me but it's camp decor belies the angriest set of punters I have observed.  Its packed with football fans and I can only assume from their demeanor that they are Arsenal Fans.

Pink belies it's scariness
Rougher than a Badger's Backside
I move on, and save myself for a more civilised pint back at the Albert in Victoria, catching the end of the game.  Chelsea 6-0 Arsenal.



Sunday, 16 March 2014

16/03/14 - Saving £29.80

Distance - 7.3 Miles
Walk Inspiration
Caches - 5

Stonehenge at EveryTrail


Another beautiful day.  The sun streams into our room at the Old Mill in Salisbury.  A full English Breakfast to build up the strength for today's walk and a short ten mile drive to Amesbury.

The Parking is town is free on a Sunday.  Right next to the impressive church.

Amesbury Church
Another pretty church
The start of the walk is a bit disappointing, as it is all roads.  There is good news and bad news.  This is where the only caches for the day are located.  But we are being followed by four muggles and a dog.  I get what I can on the way out and save the rest for the way back.

We say goodbye to our stalkers as they turn down a path marked for Stonehenge that is not shown on the OS Map.  We continue up to the A303 and turn down the path at Stonehenge Cottages for a pleasant walk next to the Old and New King Barrows.  Sonia shouts at me to look left for my first glimpse.

First sight of Stone Henge
Stonehenge - Not Small, Far Away
Its an easy circuit of the perimeter.  Eyes are constantly drawn to the Stone Circle.  Occasional notice boards tell you more about the history - including the Cursus - a man made 3km earthworks that is our handrail towards the main attraction.

Walking the Curcus
Cursus to the Left
Eventually we get to the stones.  We see the carts dragging in far eastern and American tourists.  We wonder how close we can get.  The sign says that it is £14.90 to enter.  Each.

Fortunately, there is a permissive path that gets you almost as close to the stones.  We are canny tourists.  Armed with a map, a GPS, short arms and deep pockets.

Stonehenge
Rich suckers on the other side of the fence
Retrace our steps and back to cross the busy A303.  This really is taking your life in your owns hands.  Real life frogger.

The paths back to Amesbury are fine.  All chalk and flint, with the promise of some interesting diversions.

We are unsure
We were almost tempted to leave our planned route and investigate

Saying bye to the henge
A last goodbye to the Henge
The county-side gives way to a road.  Wiltshire is making a claim for the prettiest county.

West Amesbury
Just a street in West Amesbury
Snaffle up the caches that I had to avoid on my way out and we return to the village.  We cannot make our mind up between the cakeshop and the pub. 

As with many pubs in this area, the pub sold cake.

Everyone has been a winner.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

15/03/14 - I Started Something

Distance - 7 Miles
Geocaches - 4
Walk Inspiration
Ridgeway Start - Overton Hill
Ridgeway End - Overton Downs
Distance on Ridgeway - 1.67 Miles


 The long weekend that keeps on giving continues.  We can blame Baldrick for this one.  On Tony Robinson's "Walking Through History", he had a programme on Avebury, Silbury Hill and the Ridgeway and I thought that would make a good adventure.

Can I turn the length of the Ridgeway into a series of day walks?  I will have a go.

The first leg is easy.  www.walkingworld.com provides the inspiration and we head off to Avebury.  This is a village inside of a stone circle.  The road takes you straight through the middle and on arrival, Sonia asks "Now we have seen it, can we go to the pub?".

It is a pretty pub but there is more to explore.

Park up at the National Trust car park and over the road onto a good path along the stream.  Silbury Hill, straight ahead.

Silbury Hill
Mappiman knows how to treat a lady
Quite how a lady cannot get excited at the largest man made mound in Europe, I do not know.

There is a cache at a little bridge.  Mrs Mappiman obviously needs more excitement, so I send her over to retrieve.  This cheers her up no end.

Geocache GZ
Happy now she has made a find

The next place of interest soon comes into view.  A visit to Kennet Long Barrow, a Neolithic burial chamber, high on a chalk ridge.

Inside Kennet Long Barrow
I explore where the 36 bodies were found
One top of the Barrow
Sonia sits on top

We retrace our steps down the hill and get the walk going.  There are a couple of Geocaches to find but nothing to distract us until we come to East Kennet village and admire the thatched cottages and church.

East Kennet Church
Pity about the scaffolding

Next thing is the Ridgeway itself.  On approach, we see a van and a number of people hanging around.  We hope against hope that it is a tea van but no joy.  Simply new age gentlemen of the road.

Record the start of this new adventure in the only way we know how.

Kicking off the Ridgeway
Ridgeway this way

She says its a bit boring
Sonia described it as a "dead straight cow track"  It is the first road in Britain
We follow this path for a mile and a half, stopping for lunch on a boulder big enough for two.

It then a path called Green Street which takes us back to Avebury.

Turn onto Green Street
Turn Back To Avebury
We can see the size of the Stone Circle on approach.

Avebury Circle
Avebury Stone Circle
Standing Stones
With a Geocacher
I am genuinely saddened that the walk is over. With the weather and the history we did not seem to be out long enough.
Pub
However, I soon got over it.

Friday, 14 March 2014

14/03/14 - Titter Ye Not

Walk From - Country Walking Magazine Jan 2014
Distance - 5 Miles
Geocaches - 2

Titterstone Clee Hill at EveryTrail


All turning out rather nice. 

I have taken a couple of days from work.  Yesterday, was the annual Jolly Boys outing to Cheltenham Racing and it would have been rude not to make a long weekend of it.

We wake to a heavy blanket of fog but a check on the weather websites, suggests that the Shropshire Hills may be clear.  I noticed a walk up Titterstone Clee Hill in a recent CW Mag, so quickly plotted a route and headed out.  Once in Shropshire, the fog lifted and we had glorious blue skies.

I could not have planned it better if I had tried.

We park up at an abandoned quarry site and we have the place to ourselves, with the exception of a man who has brought his dog all the way here to just throw a ball for it.

The route takes us eastbound over some tussocky grasslands.  Cache 1 of the day is found in the boulders - never the easiest location.  Spot on Co-Ords make for an easy find.

Head towards a strange Totem Pole looking tree at the oddly named Random Farm.

Totem
Random Farm in the background
The walking is good - not too muddy and we follow the diverted footpath into Cleeton St Mary.  Sonia hopes for a tea shop but the closest we get is a mobile shop in the back of a van.

They don't do tea.

Cleeton St Mary
Impressive Church
Some road walking, dodging all the land rovers that are racing around the countryside and then out into the wilds again.  The walk is meant to take us around the hill, but there is a cache on the top and I want to see the Trig Point.

The Shropshire Way up to the top does not look too steep but is deceptive.  Sonia's C25K training pays off and she goads me for being more "Hill Fit" than me.

As with all hills - it is well worth it when we reach the top.  Especially on a day like this.

Up on Top
We can see for Miles
Trigg Point
Third Highest Man in Shropshire
The second cache of the day is soon found and logged.  All that remains is just to get back to the car.  We were rather surprised at how much higher than the car park we were.

My Car at the Quarry Floor
My Fiat 500 (L) is down there somewhere
Just time to play hide and seek with a labradoodle in the old mine buildings before de-gaitering at the car.

Molly Playing Hide and Seek
She isn't the greatest at this game
The plan was to stop off at the Kremlin in Clee hill on the way back.  We parked up and thought taht it was was quiet.  It opens at 5pm on weekdays.

Kremlin is not open during weekdays
Make do with the Crown at Hopton Wafers
A perfect warm up to the weekend walking that I am now planning.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

09/03/14 - Throw Those Curtains Wide

Distance - 5 Miles
Geocaches - 10 found, 2 DNF
Walk Inspiration


The day starts by checking Twitter.  Country Walking Magazine have tweeted the lyric to Elbow's Song, "One Day Like This".  A fitting ditty to name a blog after.

They were bang on the money.  Even at 8:30am, its a gorgeous day.  Blue Skies, Birds Singing, Mappiman's Gaiters on.

I decide to complete the next monthly stage of the Millennium Way.  Only meant to be 3.5 miles but last months was such a mud fest in miserable drizzle that we canned it early.  And went to the pub.  What a difference a month makes.  I will add these miles onto todays, where it will be a pleasure.

I park up at the Neville Arms.  This will come in handy later, I am sure.

All walks need to start somewhere
All Walks need to start Somewhere
There is a new cache trail laid around here and some of it matches my walk on the Millennium Way.  That will add some spice - not that I really need it on a day like this.

To start though, I have to find my path.  There is some confusion, as I walk past a couple of beautiful thatched cottages.  When I say past, I mean in their garden, past their kitchen window.  And as the day is so nice, their stable door is open and they are leaning outside.  I can see where the path is marked on my sat nav but at GZ it is very confusing and probably been re-routed.  A friendly chat with one owner reveals that people are always getting lost down here.  I re-arrange my plans and double back to attempt the first couple of caches.

They are not easy.  First one is a protracted search and find but the 2nd is equally as protracted and a DNF.  I move on - there are a lot of caches and I am not spending all day hunting tupperware.

Not when there are frogs around to be hunted.

Frogger
I thought for a moment, the Labradoodle would eat it.
We walk on.  Cacher's eye well in as we move through the finds on yet another stretch of the Monarch's way.  Not much to report as the fields turn into lanes and we navigate the hamlet of Cladswell.  This could be a descriptor for the mud, which is not as bad as last month but very sticky on the boots.

Its been all gently uphill but worth it.  After crossing the Evesham Road I hit some beautiful woodland and the start of another small cache series.

A Labs Walk
Walking Improves
Once out of the woods, there is a cache that has been planted to encourage the walker to stop a while and admire the view.

Wow - Views
Best Stretch of the Millennium Way for a While
The walking in this section is simply superb.  I work my way down and around for a mile, seeing another couple who I follow back to the pub at a distance.  I wonder if they were the other cachers out today?  Some of the logs were signed.

Back to the pub, soft shoes on and around to their beer garden.  Would it be cheeky to use their hose pipe to clean a very dirty Labradoodle?

I work on the theory that the customer is always right.

I then sit, softshell hoody off, and enjoy my pint.  The tranquility is interrupted by two very stressed parents with their three under five year olds - the youngest twins.  Oh how glad I am to have grown up kids.  In the space of one Peroni, there are three footkicking tantrums, several wangs of handfuls of bark and the three utterances, and subsequent reporting by the shocked victims, of the F word.

The parents gently weep into their beers.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

08/03/14 - Perfect Day. Almost.

Distance - 6 Miles
Geocaches - 1 new find

Winchcombe at EveryTrail


Sometimes the planets align just enough to trick you into thinking that it is your day. 

I have been looking forward to a walk in Winchcombe since I read Bill Bryson's Book - "Notes from a Small Island".  He talked about leaving a quintessential English town on foot and making an amazing discovery.  I had already made that discovery, but his text made me want to come back.

Joy Number 1 - After taking the mickey out of Sonia because an article in the Times had her classed as "Chronically Angry", we miss our turn off the M5.  This works out fine, as we come in from Cheltenham and get the last parking space in the street outside the Corner Cupboard pub.  "She who must be enraged" research had suggested that this might be the only pub in this perfect part of Gloucestershire that would have the Albion on at 12.45.

My New Home
A great place to start a walk
We head off.  Soon on familiar ground as we past Sudeley Castle.  I ask the question about which one of Henry VIII's wives spent her final years here.  Sonia was close with "Anne Parr", but it may have been a random guess.

Sudeley Castle
Katherine Parr's former Home
This level of historical walking cannot fail to put a smile on my face.  The real reason I am here is even more historical. 

The only thing that surprises me is that I reviewed at least 10 walks from my collection of Country Walking and various books and not one of them takes me here.  Its like it is a secret that no-one wants you to know about.

The location itself is in strange contrast to the rest of the Cotswolds.  Instead of the gorgeous vistas and the honey stone buildings, we are in a damp wood, with very green ferns.  There is a ramshackle pile of bricks that could be an old farmhouse but is something more ancient.

Break at the Villa
Not your usual Cotswolds walk
There is a small building with a tin roof that hides away a tarpaulin held down with stones.  You are quite welcome to remove the cover and underneath is a 2000 year old mosaic from the floor of a former Roman villa.

Roman Mosaic
Closest I will be to an archaeologist
Quite how it has survived the ravages of time and delinquents with nothing better to do is beyond me.  But it is a stunning stop off.

To further improve our mood, the sun come out just as we get to the top of the hill.  There are some caches around here but I have found them previously, apart from one.  Sonia asks me if there is any treasure and I comment on the missing one, just as we approach GZ.  I was here nearly five years ago and recorded a DNF.  Sonias exclaims that she can "Bloody well see it from the Path".  I can only blame ancient Sat Navs.

Easy Cache
The clue is "Stump".  I am a poor cacher.
We now have downhill walking and can see Winchcombe in the distance.  Sonia is convinced it is Cheltenham as it looks a fair way away.  The walking could not be finer, as we pick up the Windrush Way.

This LDP leads us to an old Watermill that is in a state of gorgeous decrepitude.

Unexpected Watermill
Watermill
A look at my Sat Nav shows that we are 45 minutes from kick off so we get a wriggle on as fast as we can through the particularly gloopy Cotswold Mud to deliver us back to the castle.

Back at the Start
Back at the Beginning
Joy Number 2 comes when we take a different way into the town.  There is always one walk a year when you know that we can say goodbye to Winter and say hello to Spring.  And today is that day.

I declare Spring Open
First Lambs of 2014
I am positively beaming at this joyous discovery.  And to top it all, we are back in town at 12:30.  We degaiter and deboot but need to confirm that the Corner Cupboard has the football on.

Joy number 3 is displayed in the Window.

Looking Promising
Either way, its a fine looking pub

Deal Done
Oh Yes - a Sign
Perfect.  We enter.  We ask if they have the game on.  They say yes.  We get a prime seat in front of a 50" inch HD TV.  They have Timothy Taylor Landlord.  They will do my Liver and Bacon with Chips. 

I think long and hard about investing in a lucky dip lottery ticket.

The Albion lose 0-3.