Saturday, 26 July 2014

26/07/14 - Drinking with the Daleks

Distance - 13.5 Miles
Walk Inspiration - Made up Circular Walk from Aldbourne to take in Stage 4 of Ridgeway
Distance on the Ridgeway - 4 Miles
Caches - 32 Found, 1 DNF

The rain on May's monthly jaunt on the Ridgeway did not put me off in June. I simply did not have enough time. So I am back in July, with a self made long stretch that takes in the village of Aldbourne. I am also going solo. My student daughter has come back home for the weekend, which means my usual caching partner wants to take her shopping. Not that Mrs Mappiman would have been up for an 13 miler.

So what does it mean when your 20 year old visits for the weekend.  Here are her highlights;
  • Get home at 7:30pm
  • Wolf down a sandwich
  • Do hair
  • Ask for a lift to the pub at 8:15pm
  • Help yourself to a twenty out of Dad's Wallet.
    • Shout "Don't Worry, there are others left, when mild exasperation raised by fleeced father
  • Offer no guarantees about coming in quietly because robbed father's alarm is going off at 5:30am
  • Come in at 1:30am and ask your mother to help with the "little accident on the stairs"
  • Laugh heartily, take selfies, upload to Instagram
I am sure there was nothing about how to deal with this behaviour in Dr Spock's child rearing manual.

Still, no problems for me getting up and down to Aldbourne at the crack of dawn.  Park up in the centre.

This will come in Handy Later
Parking Spot - I am sure it will come in handy later
The start of the walk is along the road I drove in on.  The caches also start more or less straight away.  When I do head out onto the byways, there is one of the few muggles I see of the day, letting her dogs get some exercise by chasing deer.

The walking is stunning, as I climb to the Ridgeway.  Blues Skies, Golden Fields.  If it wasn't so beautiful it would be boring.

Most of the Walk is like this
Typical Vista on my way to the Ridgeway
Work my way up to the Upham Court.  Chance for a selfie.  I have less Instagram followers than a student.

Sefie at Upham Court
Mappiman in Front, Upham Court Behind
I have got 9 caches (and 1 DNF) by the time I reach the pylon where I left the Ridgeway on Stage 3.

Back on the Ridgeway
Back on the Ridgeway
Being around 2 hours in, I vow to stop at the first bench for breakfast.  This soon comes up and not only does it have a Geocache underneath, once I sit down, it also has a queue of disgruntled cyclists who wanted to sit there.

Malt loaf and a water bottle from the freezer.  Bliss.
The Ridgeway offers more of the same sort of views, only this time from on high.  I meet a woman walking a dog that looks likes Molly, my erstwhile elderly pooch.  I ask if its a Labradoodle but get told its a Giant Schnauzer.  We then spend 5 minutes discussing routes and when she determines I started from her home village, she tells me all the live entertainment that is on tonight.

More of the Same
Schnauzer Chat on the Ridgeway
Not long before the 4 miles on the Ridgeway is done.  I spy parking spaces at Fox Hill for Stage 5.  I also see what I think is a useful post walk watering hole, only to find its now an Indian.

When is a pub not a pub?
Still, I quite like Cobra
The end of the Ridgeway reminds me of how far I have walked.  The path down Hilton Downs is not really different, so I still have good walking to get back.  And a new cache trail starts up to keep me entertained.

Distance travelled
All this effort, and I have only done 15.75 Miles
Caching all the way down.  A stop for lunch on a big circular thing that has a cache and a great cryptic clue and then down to the M4, with only the fruits of a joyriders labour to ruin the beautiful countryside.

Joyriders to break up the caching
Ford Fiesta?
Water runs out.  Heat increases.  I am still finding plenty of caches but I am seriously looking forward to my post walk refreshment.  As I reach the outskirts of Aldbourne, I can see they have suitable entertainment for me tomorrow.

Come on - I've found around 30 today
To be fair, had enough treasure hunting today.  Wiltshire is cache laden
Hit Aldbourne at the village square.  I have done my research and I know it has been used in many films and TV programmes as the quintessential English Village - incluing an episode of Dr Who called "The Daemons".  No, I haven't seen it either.

It certainly is a pretty place and I arrive at the village green epicentre.

Aldbourne Square
Village Square
It could have been you
Pub Number 1 - if I stopped here, I may not have started back up
So I pass behind the Blue Boar (singer songwiter on tonight according to Mrs Schnauzer) and make my way to the place I first saw at the start of the walk.

Enter in and some decent real ales on but I need something cold.  I go for a Peroni.  When the barmaid retrieves the ceremonial chalice from the freezer, I know I have struck gold.

Take it out and sit next to my new mate.

Frozen Peroni
Back of the Net
They play on their Dr Who heritage.

Aldbourne Bin
It's actually a recently repainted bid.
As if the afternoon could not have been any more English, Inspector Morse turns up for a pint and parks directly in front of me.

Morse's Wheels
Morse's Wheels.  Mappiman's Rucksack
The only way I could have enjoyed my pint more would have been to make like a 20 year old Student, stay the night, enjoy the live music and then go on a Sunday Treasure Hunt.

Till Next Month....
Cheers - All hail the ale with your flaps down

Saturday, 19 July 2014

19/07/14 - Weather to Go?

Distance - 5.5 Miles
Geocaches - 6
Walk Inspiration - Stage 14 of Millennium Way

I am dog tired.  Thursday Night's Thunderstorm took us by surprise and we tried to sleep through the thunder claps and the lightning that illuminated the bedroom.

Friday night, I expressed more interested.  When awakened by the dog crying at 3am (turns out she doesn't like it) I spent an hour tracking the lighting bolts on a web site on my tablet.  Amazing what you can do with technology.

So it came to this weekend's walking.  We looked all around the area and Warwickshire was saying merely cloudy between 10am and 2pm.  Should we risk a leg on the Millennium way?

We went for it - driving through some terrible weather that stopped once we got within 5 miles of Henley-In-Arden.  Once again, I am amazed by weather predicting/viewing technology.

Park up at the Prince Harry car park and down the high street before heading through the Spa to get into the open countryside.  We are doing the walk in reverse, to ensure that we pass the pubs on our re-entry into Henley.

All Dry at this Point
No Jacket Required at this Point
The caches are in the early part of this route.  Part of a longer trail but we are only looking for 6 of them today.  Sonia gets the tricky ones.

Caching makes up for the lack of views and items of interest.  The only thing that seemed to interest Sonia was the size of a Ram's Doo-Dahs, which she made me photograph and share with the world.

Sonia made me put this on
Swing Low
Then the weathermen let us down.  The heaven's open.  Thankfully free of a thunderstorm but the prediction of clouds tell only half the story.  These are cloud's dumping their contents on us.

Waiting for a Gap in the Rain
At First, we hide out in a barn
After 10 minutes waiting to see if it will improve, there is nothing for it and we get the goretex jackets out the rucksack.

I a starting to lose my faith in high end waterproof kit.  Once again, we are out for a couple of hours and despite goretex everything - we are soaked through to the skin and empty water out of our boots.  Should have just gone in a cagoule.

The walk is lacking variety - fields out.  A road section.  Fields back.  It kind of looks like this.

Mostly, the Walk is like this
Saving you the effort
After the road, we head back to town - picking up this circular walk's leg of the Millennium Way.

Follow the (Four) Arrows
Millennium Way - One of four to follow
If anything, the way back is worse.  Not only is the rain heavier but we have the dog unfriendly stiles that prompted us to leave the scaredy cat dog at home. We also have waist wet crops to deal with.

Still - you can only get so damp.

More of the Same
Heading Back through the Crops
To keep spirits up, we talk about what refreshment we will choose when we hit the town.  We had problems the last time we came walking in Henley.  The White Swan has a proud sign saying that "it has been serving Henley for over 650 Years".  Last time we came, we were told they were not doing food at lunch time as they were expecting a big party in.

16 Months later we enter, sit down and look at the menu.  The barman rushes over.  He more or less asks me what I am doing in his fine pub.  When I say, "I might have lunch" he replies in a surly manner - "well you better hurry up, as we have a big party coming in".

Serving Henley for 650 years.  But not in a particularly pleasant way.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

12/07/14 - Words I have waited 20 years to hear

Distance - 11.7 Miles
Geocaches - 8 - Not bad from a muggletastic stretch
Walk Inspiration - Stage 8 of the London Loop
Start - Hatton Cross
Finish - Uxbridge

London Loop Stage 8 at EveryTrail

This stage of the London Loop - Stage 8 - has managed to do exactly the same as the corresponding stage of the Capital Ring.  The endless canals have bored me.

Still, the pre-planning excitement was all there.  Apparel was laid out last night - including my rescued hat blogfans.  I had everything except my anti-chaffing pants, which were sorely missed on a near 12miler in 21 degree heat.  I won't be making that mistake again.

I am down early and need to get the walk done.  I have a rendezvous with my daughter at the Doric Arch at 3pm.  How nice to be phoned up and asked to go for a drink.

So, down to Green Park via Euston and admire the pranks that TFL are playing on the tourist.  All the Piccadilly trains labelled "Uxbridge" are going to "Heathrow" and vice-versa.  I need to the Heathrow one to get to Hatton Cross.  I try and help out my suitcase carrying travellers but they just don't get how a train can be labelled incorrectly.

I know I am in the right place as soon as I come up the stairs at the station.

Da Plane - Da Plane
The roar of landing planes starts us on our way
Road walking is mercifully short, as I head past the hangers and car parks and enter Crane Valley Park.

Into the Wilderness
Relative Peace and Quiet
This short stretch of country ideal brings me to Cranford.  This is place that I know relatively well, having stayed down at one of it's hotels when working at Marks and Spencer.  It had nothing to excite the mid week business traveler and little to offer the weekend adventurer.

Even Cranford Country Park is dull.  And endless vista of knee length golden grass bringing me to the only architectural highlight of Cranford Church.

Cranford Church
Look at that Shoddy Extension - C15th Flint with a Brick Lid
Under the M4, follow the Hillingdon Trail and then try and work out how to drop down to the canal.  Looks like the London Loop has been diverted from my map to go along the A312 and down a seemingly never ending set of ramps.

I've really gone off Canal Walking.  I spent most of this walk completing a survey in my head on what the most popular lager is by adding up the discarded cans.  Heineken put in a brave effort, but Tyskie - you are the tramp juice of choice.

Not much to look at either.

Next Week's Blog - The Lake District
On the plus side, there is a high number of caches.  After making a mess of #1 and recording a DNF, I get into my groove and get most of the rest - apart from where there were too many muggles.  One was even big enough for me to get a couple of TB's in.

We leave the canal at Stockley Park for the London Loop to show me my old Marks and Spencer office.  I never noticed there was a decent path through a golf course whilst there.  Should have paid more attention.

This drops me out at a wasteland of identikit office blocks and business units, before picking the canal back up.

Pub number 1 on route
With one pub, not yet open, to offer respite
Plod along the canal, with just the ding of the bells of over-aged mountain bikers to keep me company.  I found one thing to admire.

My favourite Boat
Complete with a sign saying it had broken down
I think I am saying goodbye to the Grand Union Canal as enter the wetlands of Colne Valley.  But no, my left turn is along another Spur.

By Canal - till next time
More Canals
Once finally leaving the Colne Valley, the walking improves. The OS Map is lit up blue with a bewildering array of different sized lakes and the River Colne itself.

River Colne
Use the Map to find your way through
I ran out of water many miles ago and despite the shade that the Colne Valley offers, its getting hotter.  Relief is provided at the General Elliott - a canalside pub (yes, I am back on the Grand Union) with plenty of outdoor seating.  My drink was done in two massive gulps and I was there for all of 5 minutes.  Hence the lack of photos.

Hit Uxbridge and the Tube Station.  Metropolitan trains, how I love your Air Conditioning.  I am on course to meet with Ellie at the allotted time and true enough, I get a call as I am changing trains at Baker Street.

The conversation is music to my ears - going something like this;

"Hi Dad, I'm nearly at the pub"
"I'll be there in 10 minutes"
"Ok - would you like me to get you a pint?"

This throws me into a flap.  Could it be the day has arrived when one of my children buy me a drink?  We are entering uncharted, but welcome territory here BlogFans.  I can hardly get my words out.

"Thanks, I'll have a pint of ESB please"

The two stops from Baker Street is too long... I race out the platform, across Euston concourse and delightedly see my daughter sat at my favourite table.

But something is amiss.... there is only one glass on the table.

"Sorry Dad - they have run out of ESB and I didn't know what else to get you".

Coins found from within my rucksack and as I order my London Pride, I reflect.  Its just been that sort of day.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

05/07/14 - Mappiman - Where's your Trousers?

Distance - 7.3 Miles
Caches - 6
Walk From - Walk Britain, Great Views

Clifton at EveryTrail

My walking ideas are plentiful.  The only constraint is time.  Last year, I watched the History of the Britains on Sky Atlantic and this gave the inspiration for a series of walks that have taken in Norman Architecture, Trees where Royals hid and a "madame's house".  I got the the episode where there discussed the great Victorian Engineers and planned to do a walk that took in Brunel's Suspension Bridge in Bristol.  It's taken me about a year to get around to it.

The good news is that now I have walked it, I can knock off another two episodes from the Planner.  Sonia and Alex cannot wait for the next episode.

The drive down is in bad rain but BBC weather have promised that it will be gone by 9am.  They are more or less right, although I start the walk in light drizzle until the sun comes out for a glorious day.

Park up at the Observatory, from where, you can observe the Bridge.  The highlight of the walk is done before I have even got going.

Brunel's Bridge
Brunel's 19th Century Bridge
The Observatory
I read up on the Observatory - you can go in and drop down to caves, which presumably bring you out to the yellow viewing platform on the top photo.  I was in half a mind to do this, but the place is up for sale and it looked shut.

I made do with finding the two caches in the park before crossing the Bridge.  Strangely reminiscent of crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on last week's holidays.

Long Way Down
Sign on entrance to Bridge
The guide book instructions have me crossing over and the walking to a viewpoint within Leigh Woods for another perspective of the Bridge.  It would have been better without the trees in the way.

View from the Other Side
The Bridge from Leigh Woods
The route shows that I need to retrace my steps to find a way down to the Avon.  There is a faint path dropping straight down the cliff face, so in the spirit of adventure - and shaving off 3/4 of a mile, I drop down.  Harder than it looked after the rain, but I safely make to the bottom and walk under the bridge.

The route is taking me into the city, viewing its industrial past and tourist present.  Stop to take a photo of the bridge behind, after grabbing a smiley from a decidedly less impressive bridge back over the Avon.

Mappiman - with his strides
Notice the Sartorial Elegance of Mappiman, Blogfans
Crossing over, I am in a bleak industrial landscape - old warehouses, deserted railway lines and a fine footpath along the Avon.  I plod on, getting into the walking without the distraction of photos and caches.

Avon Walking
Industrial Walking - and maybe the odd photo
I should have paid attention to the route description, as if I wanted to see SS Great Britain - and who wouldn't want to see the one time fasted vessel across the Atlantic - then I need to cross over the railway line via a footbridge.  I only realise this when I see the sign for the ship.  The bridge is 1/4 mile behind me.... do I really want an extra 15 minutes unnecessary walking?

Using the spirit of how I got out of Leigh Woods, I realise that the first four foot spikey fence can be climbed over by using a strategically placed signpost.   But how to get over the 6ft spikey fence on the other side? Going to be a problem until I notice a gap where someone has bent the bars - just wide enough for a 45 year old cacher who has spent 11 days eating in America to squeeze through.

I go for it.

I am up on the first fence - feet positioned between spikes to avoid screaming like Alan Partridge, I leap to the track below.

Disaster - Left trouser leg has got caught on the spike and there is a loud tearing noise, which leaves one half of my strides waving like a flag from a pole and me in a heap on the floor.

Fortunately, I have zip off trousers - so I can make the right leg look like the left leg.  I plod on as though I meant to come out like this.

Post Fence Disaster
Slightly less stylish, but it could have been a whole lot worse
Get back to my walking.  There is just too much to enjoy.  This part of the river walking is a pleasure - with boats of all sizes and a steam engine (presumably going to run over my trouser remains) shunting people around.  Far too many photos are taken.

Views by the River
This one being my favourite
Once on the other side of the river, I have the cathedral and Cabot Tower to photograph.

I do like a nice Cathedral
Cabot Tower
With a Puff and a Pant to the cache at Cabot Tower
I like this book.  At the end of the route description it has advice for refreshments and says that "Beer Lovers should not miss the opportunity to visit the Bag O'Nails pub".

I never ignore the instructions in a guide book.  Unless they are pedantic about using bridges, rather than leaping fences.

Find the pub and admire the sign in the window.

Bag O' Nails
I am allowed in - I am an idiot alone
Small problem in that it is not open - and a quick text home reveals its a Midday opener.  I have 13 minutes to hang around before the landlord opens the door, inviting the magic to begin.

I am the only punter and the landlord is tidying up and getting the chairs down.  He recommends a fine pint of Dark Star and leaves me to be entertained by his cats and the additional rules written on the post inside the pub.

Pint with Stufa
Stufa the Cat
My Gaff, My Rules
My Gaff - My Rules - Including comprehensive instructions not to change a record until it has played out.
The conversation between me and Stufa wains a touch, so I look through the photos.   Here's a quiz for you blogfans - notice what is different between the pre-tumble and post-tumble Mappiman?

Yes - my Titfer has gone missing.  I even touch my head to see if it is there - nope, just my lush babyhair.  I wouldn't mind, but this is a very expensive three mode walking hat, including detachable neck screening barrier and I don't want to lose it.  I can only surmise that it went during the spill.

I drink up rather quickly and head out to see if there is a nearby bridge.

SS Great Britain from the other side
No Bridge - but fine views of SS Great Britain
Head back for the car - walking uphill through streets that remind me at various points of the seaside (hilly) Tobermoray (differently painted houses) and Edinburgh (layout of the streets).  Get to the car and plot a course to tumbledown.

Tune in next week to see what I am wearing on my bonce.