Saturday, 31 May 2014

31/05/15 - Guiting Power Rangers

Distance - 6 Miles
Walks From - Town and Country Walks in the Cotswolds
Geocaches - 10

Guiting Power at EveryTrail

The only downside to this walk is that we had to drive on through Winchcombe, my favourite place to walk, without stopping.  We have already walked from there this year.

Guiting Power sits around 5 miles out the other side.  I have programmed the Sat Nav on the new Geowagon incorrectly, so we decide to park in the centre of the village.  Nice big car park at the village hall and the added bonus of the walk ending at a location with two pubs to choose from.

Quick look around the picture perfect village before heading out on the Warden's Way.

Guiting Centre
Memorial in Village Centre
Most of this walk is alongside water.  Molly has always loved a water bourne frolic but in her old age, she seems to just jump in because it is expected of her.  You can tell her heart is not really in it anymore.

The Steam
Done out of Habit
There are a series of caches along this path.  The first one, as usual, is the hardest hunt of the day but our persistence pays off.  Next couple of easily found and the 3rd has the added bonus of a TB to move on.  I am walking tomorrow, so will take it to Buckinghamshire.

On plotting the route, I noticed that a lot of the walk was along roads.  There was nothing to fear - to call them tracks would be bigging them up.  They even have "Unsuitable for Motor Vehicles" signs on them.  Makes for good walking.

Path of the Day
Our Path - Winding into the Ominous Clouds
The paths deliver to Kineton.  They have a pub.  Sonia hopes they have a cake shop.  Her mantra has become to "take advantage of all facilities" on our walks.  A fine ideology.  However, there are three caches on the paths that circle the village, so we head off for those.  As well as the caches, there are two fine old fords for the dog to pretend to enjoy.

Fords at Kineton
Clapper Bridges - Better than Cake
Head back, past Castlett Farm and towards Barton.  It's getting close to lunch time and all thoughts are on what to have.

Lunch Ahoy
Lunch - 1 Mile in the direction the Dog is looking towards
We are soon back in the village.  We decide on the Farmer's Arms.  It is part of the Donnington Brewery and this is a fine Cotwoldian brewer of ales.  It also has a lovely beer garden.

Choice of Two
What's for Lunch?
An extensive menu - but all written on the blackboard inside.  As Sonia lounges in the sunshine, I have to remember everything on it to see what she wants.  I successfully manage this and place the order.

On choosing my pint, I am convinced to try the celebration ale.  Two weeks ago, the Son of the Donnigton Brewery owner was married and they produced a one off special in his honour.  This was my only chance for a pint of....

Life Sentance
.... Life Sentance
Lunch arrives and is duely demolished.  The light bites mean there is room for a pudding and we spotted a fine old Bakers and Cake Shop across the Road.  I am sent in and despite walking around the shop several times, I can see only one type of cake - a cake stand of small Bakewell Tarts.  I take them out to the memorial bench, felling like I have visited the shop in Royston Vasey.

Disappointing Cake Shop
Who would have thought the Traditional Cake of the Cotswolds is a Bakewell Tart?
Back at the Car Park and I want to investigate the 12th Century church for two reasons.  Reason 1 - The windows were sold to the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York in 1809 for the princely sum of £5.  Reason 2 - there is a final cache.

Guiting Church
I will go and see the originals next month

Monday, 26 May 2014

26/05/14 - Post Wedding Bimble

Distance - 2.5 Miles
Geocaches - 5 Found, 3 Not Found

Shatterford at EveryTrail

Normally, a 2.5 mile walk to grab a few caches would not be worthy of a blog.  However, there are two things that justify it.

First to say "Congratulations" to Mark and Gwyn on their marriage and ensuing family social event of the decade.  The wedding had it all.  Hotel sleepovers.... Big Lunch.... Continental Lager.... Rearranging furniture to make the most of the Sunshine...   Non Stop dancing to the a band that had stolen my hits of the late seventies/early 80s cd.... Speeches...  Hit parade pop stars with jaunty hats.... Midnight bacon sarnies.  And most of all catching up with family.  Thank you for a great day.

Secondly, the walk was rather beautiful.

Fine Place to Start
View from our Parking Space - The Clee Hills
This walk turned out to be fantastic for our needs.  A quick blast of fresh air and a bit of exercise to sweat out the last of the Belgian Super brew.

There is a cache right at the start, but as there is a lady sat with a poodle and a pair of binoculars - we have to wait for our return.  Next cache is not much better for us.  Sonia says to ignore the lady staring at us from her conservatory but I prefer to cache by stealth.  Those two can remain until we get back.

The Muddy Descent
All downhill to start
The next caches have "Muddy" in their title but we are not quite prepared for how muddy.  We make our first find of the day just before I hear a cry from Sonia that she is stuck and in danger of losing a boot.  I can offer little support, as I am having mud up to my kneecaps issues of my own.  2nd cache is a DNF but we are glad to be on terra firma as we reach the road.

Next cache is inside a bus stop - where there is a full on party going on over the road in a marquee.  Tough find but listening to the laughter from the party spurs us onto success.

Downhill, past Arley Stables and across fields for our third find.

Arley Stables
Some very pleasant walking as we have an adventurous cache that requires a climb, pick up a stream and then the Worcestershire Way.  This takes us uphill through the woods and to return to have a crack at the first two caches.

The conservatory dwelling lady has come out to trim her hedge, making a find even more impossible.  At least the lady with the poodle has gone so we can end with a find.

A perfect little walk for our needs.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

24/5/14 - Hot Chilli on the Rainy Ridgeway

Distance - 10.2 Miles
Geocaches - 31
Distance on Ridgeway - 6 Miles
Start Point on Ridgeway - Barbury Castle
End Point on Ridgeway - A Crossroads near a huge Pylon
Walk Inspiration

I cannot let the weather get in the way of my plans.  I cannot afford to take a week off walking and today represents my last chance in May to add my monthly circular walk on the Ridgeway.

Yesterday, whilst making the choice of which Mr Piggery Sausage Roll to take on my journey, I checked the weather and it promised a 90% chance of heavy rain.  The damn weather men are nothing if not accurate.

So I head off at 6am, working out where the wipers are on my new geowagon.  An uneventful journey until I reach the last couple of miles before Barbury Castle.  I can see a fleet of emergency vehicles with blue lights flashing and true enough, the road is blocked by a Policevan.  A long diversion brings me out on the familiar ground of Piper's Way, Swindon and I am driving past one of my previous workplaces - Nationwide.  Nothing like a work reminder to set you off on your way but it does present the chance to attack Barbury Castle from a different angle.

Unsurprisingly, given the weather and the time, I am the only fool at the car park.  I dress in Goretex Trousers, Goretex Jacket and place my electricals in their Aquapack case.  I should be bombproof, if not slightly unfashionable.

Head out and look for directions.  They are soon in hand.

Ridgeway is this Way
Which way to the Ridgeway?
The start is along Smeathe's Ridge and an unexpected bonus with this leg is the amount of caches.  They are densely spaced along the path but at places where there is a view to either side of the ridge.  Mappiman's May smileys increase dramatically.

Hitting the Caches
Typical Cache - Great Views
Damp Mappiman
Told you I was Goretexed up
I reach the outskirts of Ogbourne St George.  My route from would have me heading through the village and picking up the old railway line.  However, I want to take in more of the Ridgeway, so I keep on following it around the village.  The downside to this is that I don't actually get to see the place but I vow to drive in after the walk.  They may have a pub.  Or a chipper.

Another handful of quality caches before they suddenly stop at Hallam.  This is quite nice, as it gives me some time to enjoy the way without my head in a GPS.

Thatched Cottages
Thatched Cottages at Hallam
The Ridgeway heads through the railway line and then a long gentle climb back up to the top of the hill.

How Far?
How far have we come
As usual when I am 2 hours into a walk, thoughts turn to lunch.  Not that there is too much off it today.  Half of my lovingly prepared and wrapped malt loaf disappeared last night, as Sonia was hungry.  But I do have the king of the Savoury snacks - a Mr Piggery Sausage Roll.  I just can't remember which of the many flavours I chose at the Co-Op deli counter.

Sausage Roll at the Pylon
I vow to find out when I reach the Pylon
One bite in and its confirmed as Chilli.  The warm sensation on my lips is a stark contrast to my wet through Goretex ensemble.  I am not convinced this wonder technology works, as I always end up sodden through.

Drop down from the ridge and a very dangerous but mercifully short stretch along the A346 brings me back to the railway line, picking up my official route again.

The caches start again in earnest along the sunken path.  In the gaps, I am rewarded with a view of my outbound stretch of the Ridgeway from below.

The Ridgeway from Below
A final climb, where I am with fellow travellers for the first time today.  Three off road bikers bomb past me and I catch up with them for a brief chat when the worst of the weather today hits.  You know you are in trouble when the raindrops are hurting your head.

Very Damp Mappiman
How damp are Mappiman's Pants?
On arriving at the top of the hill, I find my last cache of the day at a memorial.  Top day's caching, with 100%.  Not bad at all for me.

Memporial at last Cache
Cache at Memorial
Last View over Swindon
One last look from the Ridgeway until June.  When the sun will shine.
Back at the car and I de-goretex.  Bottom half is not too bad but top half is damp through.  Seat heaters on to try and dry out and sat nav programmed to check out the highlights of the metropolis that is Osbourne St George.

Alas, i never get there.  The road is still closed by the Policevan.  Must have been a hell of an accident.

So a detour through the highlights of Swindon.  Who the hell came up with the Magic Roundabout?

Saturday, 17 May 2014

17/05/14 - She came of her own accord

Distance - 11 Miles
Start - Banstead
Finish - Kingston
Caches - 2

London Loop Stage 6 at EveryTrail

Striking lucky with the weather again on the London Loop.  A glorious summer day, where suntan cream was liberally applied to the back of my neck and the peak of my Rohan adventure cap got on most of my Autographer camera pictures.

First the train journey.  Excitement at passing Wembley, on this, Cup Final Day.  The joy of seeing very early Hull Fans with their misplace optimism on the tube.  Kick off only 9 hours away, boys.

Then Victoria Station.  Breakfast and a chance to see Micheal Portillo striding purposely across the concourse.  Presumably on a great Train Journey somewhere.

Then the train to Banstead.  It takes as long as the train from Birmingham International to London.  You cannot relax, as the tannoy reads off every station that it is going to stop at.  I could recount them for you now.  They are etched on my brain.

Alight.  Normally I am a solo London Looper but I do have Sonia with me.  She was interested in Kingston.  Less so on the 11 miles that we have to walk today.  And there are more, a solo lady looper - who sets a mean pace and we follow for most of the journey and another looper couple who walk so slowly that they are probably still out there now.

We stride off across the golf course with me able to regale Sonia with my tales of how I actually had to run across this very terrain to try and catch the hourly Banstead Train last time.  I failed, both in keeping my dignity and getting the train.

We are welcomed into Ewell with a suitably impressive sign.

Looks Promising
Before we get into Ewell town centre, we have our brush with Tudor History.  Today, we are visiting the site of Nonsuch Palace.  Henry VIII built it but it was mainly used by Elizabeth I.  Not much left apart from a bunch of cockerneys walking their dogs.  Sonia laughs loud at what she calls "their Gavin and Stacey" accents.

Nonsuch Park
Nonsuch Park
All that remains
Only architectural remains
There are a number of numbered marker stones in the park.  I cannot help but think they were trying to tell a story.  I will have a google later, kick myself on missing out on something and have to plan a return.

We arrive at Ewell.  This is a joy, even if its hard work crossing any of the traffic bound roads.  Seems a very pretty little village, with a few pubs and a very pleasant stretch through Bourne Hall grounds.

Bourne Hall Park
If I had an arch, I too would stick a big dog on top of it
Bourne Hall
Sonia instructs a 15 year old on the art of Chicken Defrosting from the Loop

Playing at Soldiers
Army Games in the Grounds.
Its here that we pick up the Hogsmill River.  This crystal clear stream takes is all the way to Kingston.  Sonia admires the quality of the walking, even if there is little to take photos off.

But where are the Geocaches in this Story, I hear the regular blogfans cry?  Well, its all very disappointing.  Cache number one on a trail is meant to be at the sit of a bridge that runs under another bridge.

Bridge under a Bridge.  No cache
Russian Doll Bridge Making
But it is not there.  Three previous DNF and mine to be added.  This sets the theme for the day.  Obviously Surrey Cachers do not take their maintenance obligations with the same zeal as the rest of the country.  In a 11 mile walk, I find two.  A pot with a log book and a church micro.

So with no caches, its back to the walking.  Its an effort.  I suggest we break up the journey and stop at a rather nice looking Toby Carvery.  Sonia wasn't having it.  She said if she stopped, she would never get going again.  I notice that she starts spending too much time looking at the information on bus stops.

We spy our lady looper several times but lose here.  She has sent a mean pace but in true tortoise and the hare style, we find her collapsed on a bench on the outskirts of Kingston.  Eat our dust, we will be the first to a Kingston Bar.

Coming into Kingston
Getting Close to Kingston
With legs that can hardly carry us any further we arrive in Kingston.  It's not Jamaica but its pleasant enough. At least it will be when its finished.  The town square is very impressive but is fenced off with an army of builders laying a new cobbled floor.

We look around for a suitable hostelry and the river is an obvious choice.  Too obvious, every one else has the same idea and its packed.

No room at any of the Inns.  Just a photo of the bridge.

We venture back into town and hit the Druids Head.  A great decision - superb food and very quick service.  Just what we needed.

Best Pub Found
Lure me in with your signage
Dinner Order
Time for a facebook checkin
Just enough strength in our legs to make it to the Station. Stage 7 may be back to solo walking but I have been promised that it is the best leg.

Hope to be there in June.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

10/05/14 - Nine Minutes Early

Walk Inspiration
Distance - 10.3 Miles
Geocaches - 7
Start - Droitwich
Finish - Worcester Foregate Street

Droitwich Canal at EveryTrail

This morning, Sonia has discovered another one of my secrets.  I have been ordering specialist magazines from the Internet.

Today's walk was always in jeopardy.  The weather did not look great.  A look on BBC weather indicated that there would be a gap between downpours, as long as I am finished by midday.  As Sonia is off to work, this means I can take in a walk that had zero appeal to her a month ago and tie it in a visit to the eighth of the Top 10 pubs in Worcestershire.  First, I check out on Twitter about the Plough Inn, Worcester and determine that there is a review of it in issue number 4 of Dog House magazine.

And Why Wouldn't I buy it?
I quickly leap out of bed and find my copy and start to check out what is in store for me as a reward for this walk.  The Spanish Inquisition starts as to where I got said publication from.  Like all my walking ideas, I found it on the Internet.

As I get goretexed up, I leave her reading the magazine.

Today's walk is sourced from  I noticed it a couple of months ago and have kept it in mind.  After walking a lot of canals when creating the Brummie Ring, I failed to interest Sonia in a 10 mile linear walk along another canal.  So it has been saved for a day when I am alone.

Park up at Droitwich Station and then meet the canal.

Walk Starts Here
Keep it to your left and keep on walking
There are a few caches for me at the beginning of the walk and I break up the plod by diving into various bushes for a hunt.  The caches run out at Salwarpe Church, the first architectural object on interest so far.

Salwarpe Church
Quite liked these three identical graves
I've got to be honest, the walk is a bit of a plod.  There is nothing to break it up.  Usually, you will find a pub alongside a canal, but it is as though they forgot to add any to this one.  The Teetotal Cut.  Where did our thirsty mariners imbibe?

Once the caches run out, all I can do is count down the bridges until I reach the River Severn.

Bridge Countdown
Two to Go
It hasn't helped that I have forgotten my water for this walk.  Sonia kindly points this out by sending me a text.  I wasn't thirsty until I received this.

Under the A449
Under the A449 - Getting Close to the River
Frist lock on the Droitwich Canal
Last lock before the River
Pick up the River but I still have some miles to go.  The sat nav is saying that I have completed 6.75 miles. The Plough seems no closer.

This is familiar walking to me and pleasant enough.  Horses, Cows, Rowers and Weirs.

Bever Island
Bevere Island
At last, I reach a place for refreshment - the Pump House in Worcester.  I know my destination is not too far away but a)  i need a drink and b) its still a bit early.

Not Always Beer on a Mappiman Adventure
Not Always Beer for Mappiman
Thirst quenched, I head into Worcester - grabbing a quick cache.  I reach the pub at 11:51.

The Plough
Nestled in the Shadow of the Cathedral
It doesn't open until 12pm.

Nothing else for it, I head off to get a cache outside the Guild Hall.  Muggle Central and I actually sign a petition before I sign the log.

Get back to the pub and its still closed.  Another season ticket holder of life's bountious bus of booze is queuing up as well.  He disappears, presumably to find a cache and I lurk around until the landlord comes with his jangling keys.

I don't want to seem too keen, so I give him all of a minute before making my entrance.  I comment that I deserve a prize for being the first in, and that prize is a pint of Malvern Hills Black Pear.  Very decent it is too.

History Today - How have I never been here before?
The pub is a simple place, with two rooms.  Probably hasn't changed in 100 years.  It slowly fills up - first off with Worcester Rugby Fans and then my early doors colleague comes back.

Turns out, he is some sort of journalist, interviewing Worcester's answer to Martin Scorsese.  I'll keep my eyes open for a film that is a cross between Munich, Eastern Promises and Get Carter.  I can only hope Jean Claude Van Damme is busy, as I am not sure he will add much.

Had to leave before eavesdropping on the other pitches - train to catch back to Droitwich at 12:51.

Monday, 5 May 2014

05/05/14 - At it for 12 Months

Walk Inspiration
Geocaches - 11 Found
Distance - 6.5 Miles

As this is walk 12 on the Millennium Way, it can only mean that I have been at it for a calendar year.  I had my doubts that the dog would make it for all 44 monthly walks and I am pleased to say that she is still going strong.  Strong enough to make up her own mind that she didn't fancy it today.  We find her gently snoring on the sofa on our return.

The drive along the A422 is now getting so familiar that I could do it with my eyes closed.  As we move further into the West Midlands, I am hoping for some M42 alternatives.  And I never thought I would hear myself say that.

Park up at the Throckmorton Arms.  Don't worry landlord, we have every intention on checking out your wares on our return.  We are not the only people with this idea, as we see a couple in their early 50s doing exactly the same thing.  They could be our older siblings.

Now I am going to be honest with you blogfans and whisper this very quietly.  Today's walk has been a little on the dull side.  All the ingredients were there, fine footpaths, nice countryside, a lot of geocaches but on my return, I see that I have only a handful of Photographs.  Maybe this is because all of the highlights, such as Coughton Court, the churches and the ford, were captured on the last leg of the Millennium Way.

We head back down the mainroad and turn left onto the Millennium Way and Arden Way, with only sheep to keep us company.  Through several fields.

A double LDP path
For the last handful of walks, I have taken to wearing an Autographer Camera.  This device clips onto your shirt (or geocaching utility bag strap in my case) and takes random photos over the course of the day.  On review of today's caching, it has picked up some candid snaps.

Here's me using my Geocaching Tool to great success

Same Tool - Less success.  And before I am accused of wilful damage, we have all found them here, right Cachers?
The walks takes us up to Spernall and around St Giles Farm.  Find nothing to photograph until we hit a field of yellow rapeseed.

Path Narrows later.  The yellow pollen doesn't half stick to your clothes

Through New End, past Windmillhill Barn, around the back of Coughton Court and we are delivered back to the pub.  We need to pay our parking dues.

Sonia's Favourite Part of the Walk.  Fishfinger sandwich today, would you believe
Mappiman's Favourite Part of the Walk.  Cotswold Lion today.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

03/05/14 - The Source

Distance - 7.2 Miles
Geocaches - 7
Walk Inspiration - Pub Walks in the Black Country

There was a poll on a West Bromwich Albion Page to ask "What was the best moment of the 2013-14 Season".  After a sacking, a quenelle, a striker on Hippy Crack and a fight, my answer was easily determined.

"When they started selling Bathams at the ground"

Today's walk is a quest to find the Source of Bathams  in Brierley Hill - A pub so good it has two names - The Vine or The Bull and Bladder, dependent on your age or locale.  It's talked about with reverence by friends that I know who have been.  They talk in hushed tones about the quality of the beer and the homemade pork pies.

I am genuinely excited.

But first, I need to raid my walking wardrobe and find an outfit that matches those of my Guides.

Do you want to be in my gang?
Park up at the pub, which is located in a road with plenty of good company.  As we walk down to the canal, we pass our pub, The Black Horse, The Dock and Iron and the Tenth Lock.  All look worthy of a stop but in true highlander style, there can be only one.

Our Spiritual Home
We will be back
The canal has our first cache of the day.  In the bushes.  I dive in and come out with a lurpak box.  It is not the cache.  Probably a day to concentrate on the weather and the beer.

Head right and follow the Delph Locks up hill.  There are meant to be 9, with the pub called the 10th Lock.  There are in fact only 8.  Black country arithmetic at it finest.  Fine stretch to walk.

Picking up the Canal
First of the 8.  Like the overspill at the side of the lock.
We don't expect too much from the walking to be honest.  Inner city canals are not usually the best.  This first stretch is perfectly pleasant enough.  We soon hit Merry Hill Centre and a plot hatches for future shopping trips.

I can be at the Vine in 15 minutes now I know the shortcut.

Merry Hill
I never have to stay here again
The Waterfront area is also very pleasant.  Full of bars and restaurants.  We see our first freedom fighter against the teetotal Taliban having his 10am pint in front of the Wetherspoons.

We leave behind the Dudley canal for the Pensnett Canal and find our first cache on the Bridge over the top.  Now, you can tell from the fashions on my guide book that its a little on aged side.  And the Pensnett Canal is no longer fit for traffic of boat or foot kind.  Some quick re-planning through an estate is required.

Canal no More
Canal no More
We are soon on our scheduled route and spy some Black Country Humour and some dodgy Black Country Advertising.

Black Country Humour
This time next year, they will be millionaires 
Black Country Directions
Going to be disappointed if you wanted to be in Brum
Glad we have cleared this up
But we are glad we have cleared up the price of the Van
A surprising bit of countryside at Fenn Pools.

Fenn's Pool
Fenn Pools.  Big enough for a Swan.  And a Horse.
It back to the canals and the caches. Not possible to get all of them. Lots of fishermen around and we are following a barge. I prove that you can walk faster, as we leave it behind, only for it to catch us up when we are signing logs. The walking is fairly uninspired and monotonous. A hunting heron provides a respite.

Hunting in Stourbridge
We are back to the scene of our first DNF and know the pub is close.  We head in.  All nooks and crannies and with a large beer garden to keep us happy with the dog.  But what about the produce?

Our Reward
Tastes even better at the Source
Next Time, I am going to buy a T-Shirt.