Saturday, 30 August 2014

30/08/14 - How much are Taxis in Hertfordshire?

Distance - 12.5 Miles
Geocaches 6
Start - Moor Park Underground
Finish - Elstree

My overriding memory of Stage 10 of the London Loop will be woodland, posh houses and the thwack of golf balls. A pleasant enough walk, but a walk lacking in items of interest, views and most importantly, pubs.

Firstly, eagle eyed blogfans will notice that this is my 2nd, once a month visit to the London Loop in August.  I could argue that this is because there are five weekends in August 2014, but the reality is that I simply don't have any free weekends left in September.

Next week's blog is taking a different tack - a Kate Bush live review.

But how to get back down to Moor Park Underground, when once again, the Metropolitan line is not functioning.  I work out a convoluted route on public transport that involves 2 trains, a bus and a tube.  Then I look on Google Maps and work out its only 4.5 miles from Watford Junction.

I will treat myself and avoid the complexity of the original plan.

Despite having a ticket to Bushey, I mange to escape out through the barriers at Watford Junction and into the delights of a manky toyota with stained seats.

The driver is friendly and on hearing my adventures asks if I am in a competition.  Only with myself, I reply.  He then distracts me from the fact that he doesn't seem to have a meter by telling me that legally he doesn't need to wear a seat belt because he is driving a hackney carriage and you can't put seat belts on horses.

This gem of knowledge costs me £12.60.  For an 11 minute journey.

I am possibly in the wrong job.

But at least I am here.  What to say about the walking? Woodland and Golf courses to start before I am delivered to the road into the Private Housing Estate that I spied from the back of ancient Toyota.

Posh, yet strange housing estate
Private Estate
Oxhey Woods and the first couple of caches of the day, before emerging into the fields around the rather nice Pinnerwood Farm.  Whilst taking photos of our national sporting arena in the distance, I get overtaken by another couple of loopers.

Fellow Loopers
Loopers Ahead - how did they get here?
Unexpected views of Wembley.  After Albion's performance today, the closest I will get.
A couple more caches near and over the railway line and more golf courses before arriving at Grimm's Ditch.  This is the most interesting artefact on route.  A mound of earth that stretches from Harrow Weald to Bushey Heath.  There is an impressive house (now a hotel) that used to be owned by Gilbert, of Opera Fame.

Grimms Ditch
Cache at the Dyke.  And the most amateur signage on the Loop.
I say hello to the cows within Bentley Priory and go off piste for a couple of caches.  One is completely out in the open.

Nice Easy Find
Hid, Better than found.

10.5 miles into the walk and you know what my mind has been thinking of for at least the last 4 miles.  And then it comes into view - an oasis offering the weary traveller sustenance.

At Last, A pub
Guess What - I've been here before.  Evening meal when on a training course
As tempting as it seems, I cannot stay all day.  I just need to circumvent Aldenham Resevoir and cross a few fields and I will be in Elstree for my train back to the City.

Aldenham Resevoir

Fields to Elstree
Fields to Elstree
End of the Line - Back in October 2014

Sunday, 24 August 2014

24/08/14 - A Third of the Way Through

Walk Inspiration
Distance - 5.5 Miles
Geocaches - 4

Once a month, I head out on a new leg of the Millennium Length.  After 15 months, I am a third of the way through.  It's all working out rather beautifully, as once again, I am taken on new paths in the glorious British countryside.

And for the first time in a walk from Henley-in-Arden, it's not raining.

Park up at the free public car park and work our way through the alleys to Milestone Cottage - proudly pronouncing how far it is to London, Birmingham and Stratford.

Two churches in close proximity mark the start of the walk before a short lung busting climb up Beudesert Mount for the views.

Church Two
Sonia on the Hill
Sonia on the Summit
The walk takes us on good lanes.  You would expect this, as its both the Millennium Way and the Heart of England Way - on the to do list for future inspiration.  Good views over the orchards below as we follow the ridgeline.

Cache 1 is a micro but believe me when I say this, I manage to squeeze a trackable in it.

Follow the Millennium Way past posh converted farm houses on paths that no longer match the OS map. We say our goodbyes until September at Ireland's Farm.

Fields of Wheat
Wheat gently cracking in the sunshine
Pass a quartet of elderly ramblers and make a resolution to join the Ramblers when I retire.  Caches 2, 3 and 4 come in quick succession as we work our way down through farmland and lanes.

Pass the isolated Preston Bagot Church, lonely on its hill top.  See that the Farm at the bottom of the hill has fallen on hard times.

Had Times at Church Farm
No Hens.  No Eggs.
It may have been the 11 miles I walked yesterday, but this 5.5 miles seems to be taking an eternity.  Its with some relief when we reach the mount again and take our pick from the myriad choices of refreshment that the town offers.

And just to keep blogfans on their toes, we go for unexpected post walk refreshment.

Tea Time Theme Time
Man cannot live on beer alone.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

23/08/14 - Hounds, Ghosts, Pop Music

Distance - 11.3 Miles
Geocaches - 100%.  Or Both of them.
Walk from - Country Walking Magazine - May 2001

This promised to be and probably will be Walk of the Year 2014.  Hergest Ridge is a hill to the west of Kington.  Kington has a Herefordshire Top 10 County Pub.  And plenty of ghostly tales.

Hergest Ridge the Musical
The first I had heard of this place was the follow up album to Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield.  I have never listened to either albums but I know of its popularity, with the artist one of the few to knock himself of the number 1 spot in the charts.  So I download a copy of Hergest Ridge to get me in the mood.  This is not a pop music blog but thank god that punk came along and killed off artists that could have entire albums that comprise of two 18 minute songs.

I'll see if I can squeeze in another pop reference before the end of the blog.

Parking at the Pub
The walk is a classic from Julie in Country Walking magazine.  I extend it so that I can start off my walk parking outside my chosen pub - Ye Olde Tavern.  I was only reading about this in Doghouse magazine two weeks ago.  It will be my post walk refreshment today.

Top 10 Country Pub
See you at opening time
Black Vaughan and Ella the Terrible
Leaving the pub behind, I pick up the Mortimer Way that runs behind the houses, parallel with the main street.  I want to save the town till my return.  Eventually, I am delivered at St Mary's Church - up on the hill.

St Mary's Church
St Mary's
This is the scene of my first ghost story - containing the tomb of Black Vaughan - killed at the Battle of Banbury - 1420 and known to haunt the town.  And his wife, Ellla the Terrible - who dressed as a man to take part in an Archery competition to shoot the man who killed her brother.

I had googled this before heading to town and really wanted to this the impressive alabaster tomb.  Unfortunately, the doors were locked.  But fear not blog fans, for I have lifted a photo from tinternet.

BlackVaughan and Ella the Terrible
Our tomb will be for Pasty Mappiman and Sonia the Holidaypiner 
Hergest Ridge - The Place
Leave the churchyard and head up the road, steadily climbing until it delivers me to the hillside.  Cache 1 of the day at the entrance - a nice little hide.  Then out into the countryside for some superb walking.  A broad path on Offa's Dyke - with extensive views in all directions.  Just me, the sheep and some wild ponies for company.

Soon, I spy a collection of Monkey puzzle trees - totally at odds with their surroundings - and a bench to breakfast like a king on malt loaf.

Monkey Tree Breakfast Spot
A Spot for Breakfast
Breakfast Selfie
Monkey Puzzle Selfie
Move on from here to the trig point where there is the 2nd and last cache of the day.

More addictive than crack
Disagree - its rather addictive
The walking continues to be superb.  There are no end of photos that I could use but I'll leave you with this one of the gang.

Hergest Ridge Views
Mappiman's Mates
Black Dog
The walk takes me along the ridge and then down to Gladestry.  I miss the village and turn back on myself to climb half back up the hill until I drop down to Lower Hergest.  Its here where I meet the location of the second ghost story.  This one concerns a big black dog roaming the countryside near Hergest Court.  Sound familiar?  There are many that think that Conan Doyle based his "hounds of the baskervilles" story on this legend.

Hergest Manor
Hergest Court - Home of the Hound of Hell Story
Back on the flat, I head through some wonderful wheat fields and along the river Arrow to make my way back to town.

Fields of Gold
Through Golden Fields
The Museum
I love a walk that brings me back to a town.  I feel like a returning hero.  I emerge at the Cricket Ground.

Arriving back in Town

Bunting for Mappiman
And the Bunting is Out for Mappiman's Return
Check the clock and its 11:45am.  Slightly too early for the pub but will Kington offer alternative entertainment.

How about a Museum?  There's one and the entry price is spot on.  FOC.

After checking out some elephant bones (a circus came to town and the Elephant died) I move to the pop music section.

The Music
Mike Oldfied and Hergest Ridge
Ellie Goulding
She lived here - Nice photo on the wall.
Less popular musicians
No idea - but you could buy one of their T-Shirts
It's now 11:48.  Pub should be open by the time I make it back.

Top 10 County Pub
Ye Olde Tavern - number 5 in the Top 10 for Herefordshire - has won Camra awards for its unspoiled interior.  I enter and go to the right.  All the punters, indicating that its been open for a while, are on the left.  Still, gives me an uninterrupted view of the award winning lounge.

In olden times, Health and Safety didn't care where you played darts
In the proper lounge and a choice of 4 real ales.  I go for the Otter.  A good choice.

My Golden Otter
Pub Selfie
Outdoor Pint Selfiie

Sunday, 17 August 2014

17/08/14 - Cache Trail

Distance - 6 Miles
Geocaches Found - 28
Geocaches Not Found - 4
First Cache
First time in a long time that I have been on a caching only walk.  But a local trail of 30 caches could not be ignored for long.

As expected, other hunters are out in force.

Will we meet?
I think I need one of these
Unusually, I have sat nav problems.  It takes an age to get a signal - ironically, whilst I am hanging around at Cache 1 GZ.  It then tells me on I am on the opposite side of the A448.

This is going to make searching for micros tough.

Make my way to Cache 2 GZ with little optimism but the views do put a smile on my face.  If the worst happens, I can always just enjoy the walk on some previously unexplored paths.

Unexpected Views
My weekly dose of Worcestershire Countryside
GPS settles down and I make a find at number 2.  I am in the game.

Paths are not the easiest to find but I know from the OS map I need to walk past a Trig Point.

Cache 3 is a work of caching Art.  Loved it.  Cache 4 becomes my first DNF.  Don't mind.  I am a solo cacher today, so it was unlikely to be a clean sweep.

Pick up a great path that takes me to Timberhonger - a place that sounds like it should be in deepest Africa, rather than Worcestershire.  I cache under the nose of the farmer cutting a swathe through the Golden fields with his combine.

Golden Glow
A rather beautiful scene of another DNF
Small amount of road walking where an elderly couple with a map come from another direction.  I don't think they were cachers - but they did stop for lunch pretty close to a GZ.  I got the cache from under their noses.

Into Cobbler's Coppice for a tree climb - thankfully my walking companions don't find me mid cache - and then out into sheep fields where the peace and tranquility is somewhat ruined by the scramblers going around and around the small hill.  They need to get a proper hobby.

Through Foxwalks Farm and back into the wheat fields for my favourite type of path.

Great Paths
Love It
Finally, at Cache 27, I meet up with a family of three paying rather too much attention to a road sign.  After establishing they are fellow cachers (what else could they be?) we make the find.  I warn them of the trickiness that they will find on the rest of the route - they tell me that the next three are all bigger than this one.

Cache 30 and the CO rewards us with the stunning views of where we have been walking.

Penultimate Cache
And with the Sat Nav fully operational - I get Cache 1 before getting to the car.

Not only a wonderful set of caches, a superb walk in its own right.  Thanks to the CO - Spunky Spider - for the smileys.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

09/08/14 - Birthday Bimble from Bourton

Distance - 7.72 Miles
Geocaches - 2
Walk from - Harry Hargreaves Cotswold Rambles Book 2

I was born, in a crossfire hurricane.  Well I exaggerate a touch but it was in a thunder storm.  And it was 45 years ago today.

How to celebrate - how about a walk and a pint?  Blogfans exclaim that its practically my birthday every week.

The route is chosen from a 1980's rambling book by Harry Hargreaves.  He wrote his last book when he was in his nineties.  I hope to still be walking then.

And its back to Bourton on the Water.  Venice of the Cotswolds.  Home of a model village and Birdland.  Home of the £5 car parks.  Unless you have been before and know where to park buckshee.

Last time I blogged from here, I walked North, so makes sense to walk South today.  The map has changed since Harry's day.  He shows fields, but 30 years on there is a Carp Farm.  The dyslexic in me had to read it twice, in case it was anything to do with Severn Trent.

They value their carp.  The lake is surrounded by high wired fencing which means there are few photo opps until we escape into the countryside.

On the Way to Little Rissington
Not just any countryside.  Cotswold Countryside
Off we go
Birthday Boy off the leash
We walk through fields of gold to meet the church at Little Rissington.  One of only two caches of the day.

Field of Gold
Sonia and her big bush
Mrs Mappiman and a massive bush
Cache 1 of 2
Its not about the numbers
Little Rissington is nice.  People out tending their gardens.  A help yourself box full of massive marrows.  No pub.

We have to move on to Great Rissington for that.  And what fine walking it is.

Tuck into that
Views.  Obscured by a 45 year old man.
Whisper it quietly, but for all its beauty, the walk gets a touch monotonous.  No features, hills or caches to break up the long straight paths.  We get to Great Rissington and road walk around the outskirts - 11am is too early for the pub.  The tranquility is broken only by me swearing at a fool in a volvo who drives too fast, too close to us - the only other road users.  I could have took him as well.  I am bound to have had age on my side.

Then its back to town along the Donnington Way.  A long distance path that is sponsored by a brewery.  It really is my birthday.

The Way Home
The Way Home
We reach the town and I find a footpath that affords a view of Birdland.  It would appear that people have paid to go in and look at a goose.

Exotic Wildfowl
We are soon back with the hoards.  You can see what it is popular.  The low bridges over the shallow water - just right for kids and labradoodles to have a paddle.  The ice cream parlours.  The Pubs.  Its got the lot.

Advice - the Old New Inn is not only stupidly named but does not do cooked food.  The Kingsbridge does and is packed to the rafters but the staff are ultra efficient.

Bourton on the Water
Bridge goes to the Old New Inn
Happy Birthday
But hot food is at the Kingsbridge
I have 45 years to fit in Harry's walks from Bourton that go East and West.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

02/08/14 - Rail Replacement and Other Ills

Walk Inspiration - Stage 9 of the London Loop
Start - Uxbridge
Finish - Moor Park
Distance - 11 Miles
Geocaches - 12
London Loop Stage 9 at EveryTrail

The good intel is that I knew that this was the only weekend in August that the West Coast Main line was operating.  It had to be this weekend.

The bad intel is that I have been to London 4 times in the last two weeks (£680 worth of Standard Class tickets, as opposed to my paltry £15 for today's trip.  On the same train).  Another visit to London feels like a day at work.

Fast Pint Arm Bob is also back in town.  And there was another party for a 16 year old family friend that I could have attended.  I turned down a two centre drinkathon to get up at 5:45am.

Rain was predicted.

And to top it all, the Metropolitan Line to Uxbridge is also having Rail Replacement Services.  It's well documented how confusing I find buses.

The tickets are paid for, so its off I go.  Enough of this griping.

And to be fair, it all works out fine.  The Central Line whisked me to West Ruislip, where the U1 bus took 15 minutes to get me to my destination.  And the rain held off.

A casual observer might think this is just another pub shot.

Histroric Pub
History Today
Thanks to my guidebook, I know this is an old Coaching House that was used by Charles I to negotiate with Parliamentary forces for 20 days in 1645.  Thanks to Wikipedia, I know that the original wood paneling was purchased and installed in the Empire State Building.  Before being gifted back for Elizabeth II Coronation.

Only in London.

I pick up the canal for a cache laden walk along it.

Canal Dreams
There are many micro caches at the minimum distance that geocaching rules allow them to be placed.  I don't attempt all of them, as I am on a strict timeline and can't spend minutes ferreting around in bushes.

The map is interesting to look at, with swathes of blue water.  At one stage, the towpath has is a delicately thin line, with the canal to the left and the expanse of Denham Quarry to the other.

Denham Quarry
Denham Quarry
The London Loop takes me around Denham Marina, where there is an ominous sign of things to come.

Say No to HS2
Just What is the Point
I travel to Birmingham from London all the time.  Is it worth the disruption to the countryside and people's lives plus the billions of pounds to whisk me back to Birmingham 20 minutes quicker?  Considering I slept all the way back today, I would say no.

My thoughts of taking to the streets with placards are only disrupted by the local wildlife.

Local Wildlife
Only an Arm remains
After four miles of Canals, I say my goodbyes.  At a pub.  As stated, the timetable doesn't allow multiple pub stops, so I walk on by.

End of the Canal
End of the Canals for the London Loop?
The walking gets interesting.  For the first time in a long time on the Loop, I am in real countryside.  With farms and cows and stiles and stuff.

The is London (Part 1)
This is London
I am now 8 miles into the walk and its time for a pint.  Rose and Crown, Rickmansworth, will suffice.

What joys do they provide for my £4.60?

Hot Weather, Italian Lager
Italian Lager in Ceremonial Glasses
The farmland gives way to the wilds of Bishop's Woods.

This is London (Part 2)
Still in London
The path leads to Northwood.  Another pub initially looks worthy of inspection.

Nice looking pub
Flint walled Pub.  Enticing Red Door
With Entertainment
With Lapdancers.  Ramblers just need to remove their boots
Alas, I cannot spare the time to investigate what is presumably the only Strip Joint for people with shoes as dirty as their minds.

The loop takes me through a private estate and then what must be a unique approach to a London tube station, as I find it on exiting more woods.

Unusual Tube Approach
I will be back 20/9/14 - Engineering Works Permitting