Sunday, 21 September 2014

21/09/14 - Follow the Pig

Distance - 8.75 Miles
Distance on Ridgeway - 4 Miles
Geocaches - 6 Found, 4 Not Found
Walk Inspiration - Pub Walks Along the Ridgeway

With an eye on the weather reports, we wait to Sunday to start the next stage of the Ridgeway. It may be the first day of Autumn, but we have wonderful blue skies to walk under.

Still, its a bit nippy when we alight the car.  Sonia was OK in her Softshell but all I had against they elements was my Lowe Alpine walking top.  For the start of the walk, the shirt contained two protrusions the size of monkey's thumbs.

Head up from Fox Hill, straight on the Ridgeway.

Starters for 10
Views like this bring us to the Ridgeway
Easy walking.  The route has been adapted from "Pub Walks Along the Ridgeway", which recommends that we stop in Bishopstone at the Royal Oak.  This suggestion is reinforced by some in-ridgeway advertising.

First Sign of the Pig
Sonia Comments that the Photo of Helen is not too flattering
Not long before we meet the Pigs.  On the North Side are the adults - and we hear them through the trees, noshing at their swill.  But on the South Side, there is a sight even more delightful.  A field full of piglets.

I try and get close to get a good photo but spook them.  They all leg it - apart from little Oinker, who tries unsuccessfully to hide in the grass.  He is at the front of the Photo.

The Pigs
Quick Hide - Geocachers are coming
Say goodbye to our porcine friends.

A series of six caches in rapid succession provides some entertainment for about a mile.  We find 4 out of 6.  Sonia is not impressed that most of the clues pertain to being in a tree.  There are a lot of trees.

We don't quite make it to Wayland's Smithy - the next highlight of the Ridgeway - there is a path that takes us towards the villages and back to our car.  Next time Wayland.

And the path - which looks good on the Map - is superb in execution.  The whole of the Wiltshire Plain below us and a lovely sunken valley to walk down.  Swindon has never looked so good.

Going Down
Wonderful sunken path
Descend through Kingston Coombes
Our route back to the car takes in some lovely flat walking across fields, through a series of hamlets and villages.

Ashbury, leads to Idstone which leads to Bishopstone - home of refreshments.  Each is more pretty than the next with a collection of thatched cottages and classic British charm.

Pig Sign
Pig says the Pub is Close
Breakfast, for the one who selfishly had some, seems a long time ago.  We discuss long and hard about whether to eat at the Royal Oak.  Two things make up our mind to decline - 1) its two miles uphill to get back to the car and 2) the beef sunday lunch is £18 per person.

Enough People were having to suggest it was worth it
Wiltshire Gold
We settled on Wiltshire Gold
Make it to the equally delightful Hinton Parva and turn left up onto the Coombes for a superb ascent back to the car.
Ascend the Coombes
Up the Coombes
Three more caches to round off the day.  I fail at the first two (just not feeling the caching love today) but make a successful find and TB drop off for the final one.

Lunch is taken in the village of Wanborough.  The only complexity was choosing which of the three pubs should have our custom.  The first choice, the Harrow, was the right choice.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

20/09/14 - I'm not a Cider Drinker

Distance - 6.5 Miles
Walk from - 1001 Great Family Walks
Inspiration - Doghouse Magazine Issue 1
Geocaches - 1 On my approach to Tenbury Wells, I am greeted with the advertisements for "AppleFest 2014".  Should have taken this as a warning.

Park up and head out of town.  On a grey day, it looks more tired than usual.  The town centre pubs all seem to be up for sale but things improve on the way out, with a couple of gems.

Not for Sale 1
King's Head - Not for Sale
Was for Sale in the 17th Century
Pembroke House - A blue Plaque says it was for sale in C17th
A lot of pub references for a walking blog.  But its a pub magazine that has provided the inspiration for today's excursion.  Doghouse Magazine has a superb knack of finding the rapidly disappearing gems of public houses.  I need to move quickly to visit them, as they will not be here for ever.

I hit the countryside - making my way across the 15 stiles that meant the hound was left at home.  As much as she pretends to like country rambles, she does not appreciate obstacle courses.

With grey skies and agricultural fields, there is not much to report.  There is only one Geocache on the entire route and its a night cache.  This means you can use Sat Navs but it is easier to shine a touch on the luminous pins that point the direction to the bounty.  I use a methodical process of elimination to record a single smiley.

Back to the fields and I am working my way west to Berrington Green.  Set off my first pack of hounds of the day, as I emerge at the farms in this tiny hamlet.  Little to report, apart from a graveyard with no associated church nearby.  This is a first.

Boneyard, no Church
Boneyard.  Where do they do the services?
Fields, turn into orchards - the source of AppleFest.

I'm a lonely Tree
Lonely Tree under Slate Grey skies
Applefest - a rare splash of Colour
Navigate a golf course that doesn't have a single golfer.  I am the solitary outdoor enthusiast.  The route wants to take me down to Berrington Mill, which is a little bit of an unnecessary diversion.  But I cannot put a tick against the walk unless I follow it to the letter - so I drop down.

My approach sets off the second pack of dogs.  This time a set of kennels containing half a dozen chocolate labradoodles.  The dogs go mad.  The lady comes out to quiet them.  Does she look impressed at the approaching rambler?  A scowl is all that is received, so I decide not to pursue a conversation about our common interest in hybrid dogs.

Back to the main round and into a huge garden centre that has a Hobson's beer delivery van in the car park.  That seems like a great idea.

Garden Centre
Needing that Hobsons
The garden centre gives way to a high ridge path, with the River Teme below.  Good, easy walking.  Delivers me to Tenbury Church before a hidden alley takes me back to the high street in search of refreshment.

Tenbury Church
Tenbury Church
With an unexpected amount of choice, I make my mind up to hit the Vaults.  This is the main feature of the magazine article.

The Vaults
1 of many Tenbury Pubs
I burst through the door to some proper Irish Fiddly-di-de music.  A little bit of the Emerald Isle in rural Worcestershire.  I am greeted by an Irish Landlord.  I scan his choice of libations.  A conversation ensues...

Mappiman - "Do you have any real ales?"
Barman - "Oh No, I love them myself but no-one round here drinks them.  I would buy a barrel but then I would have to drink it all myself"
Barman - "I do have three different types of Cider though".

Certainly is Applefest in this town.  The pub is busy.  To a man, they are all drinking Applejuice.  Personally, I would not use Cider to extinguish my shoes if they spontaneously combusted.

Mappiman - "You could get some Ale in bottles"
Barman - "Sure, that's a good idea, not thought of that".

I cannot tell whether he was genuine or reserving barman's humouring, honed after years of dealing with people that had drank too many apples.

I settle for the Black Stuff.  My first one since Cheltenham Races in March.

Officially Winter.
Summer Officially Over - I go Back to Black
I was thinking of planning a trip to Galway next year.  I can save the airfare and stick to Worcestershire.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

14/09/14 - TeePee

Walk Inspiration - Stage 16 on Millennium Way
Distance - 7.5 Miles
Geocaches - 3

Seems like a good day to do my monthly leg on the Millennium Way.  Weather is good for walking, in that in between place where you don't know if a fleece is required or not.

Head off to the Henley exit of the M40, never having turned left towards Hockley Heath before.  This is millionaire's row.  I have not seen such a gauche collection of houses since walking in Alderley Edge.

Park up at the Boot Inn, Lapworth - it looks promising and pick up the Stratford canal at the rear.

Stratford Canal
Not any canal, the Stratford Canal
I am not normally a massive fan of Canal Walking.  Usually they are full of tramps, empty cans and discarded shopping trolleys.  But this stretch is really rather special, as I make my way uphill through a series of locks.  Say hello to the owners of "Kinver", a narrowboat making its way through the locks.  Mr Kinver is doing all the precision work, steering, whilst Mrs Kinver is womanning the locks with her hand crank.

Really quite sad to say my goodbyes to the waterway, but I do with a micro cache at Lapworth Cricket Club followed by a gentle drop through fields towards the drone of the M42.

The next cache makes me laugh, presenting me with the problem of where to sign the log.  Keep heading through fields before picking up some cycle infested lanes.

The Mappster in Tapster
The Mappster in Tapster
Walking is going fine, as I pick up the green lanes that we took on Stage 15.  The harvest has been collected.

British Countryside
Beautiful British Countryside
Start to head back, walking with Bush Wood to my right and expanses of farmland to my left.  The hum of the M42 increases in volume and pick the canal back up.

By the time I reach the Basin at the Grand Union Junction, I see my old friends on the Kinver again.  This is why you will never catch me on a Narrowboat holiday.  In the time I have walked 6 miles, they have covered just a half.

I have to say something about their slow progress.  Mr Kinver cheerfully agrees with my analysis of their progress.  Mrs Kinver scowls a bit and cranks her handle with increased fury.

This way to the Grand Union
Happy Holidays aboard the Kinver
Pleased to back along the canal and take a small diversion for the last of the caches.  I know the pub is close.  I didn't know how good the pub was.

Should have registered this domain name
The Domain Name I should have Registered
All Pubs Should have One
Available for Parties
All the way from Cornwall

A new experience - drinking in a TeePee.  It came with a firepit, some lovely sofas and blankets for when it gets cold.

A memorable end to an excellent leg of the Millennium Way.


Saturday, 13 September 2014

13/09/14 - Dead Composers' Society

Distance - 5.13 Miles
Walk from - AA Walks through History
Caches - 2.  And the Co-ords for a Multi

So, how to treat you wife on her Birthday?  Only one thing to do, take her to see a dead Composer's Grave.

She wanted to do a walk with height but not too much effort.  The Malverns sound just the ticket.  Find a walk, which on execution, may well be the finest day walk in an area blessed with many superb walks.

With further proof that you cannot do anything in our one horse town without someone seeing you, we get texted by someone spotting us doing breakfast at a roadside van on the way to Malvern.  I am spoiling my woman today.

Head down and we can see that the hills are covered in mist. Will we get the views today?

Having blown cash on sausage sarnies, we make our savings by parking at a side road by the Malvern Hills hotel.  Head north.

Misty Start
Misty Start
After a slight pull uphill, we are downhill all the way.  Sonia knows what is coming.  We are soon at Elgar's Grave.  A nice bit of Symmetry, as my walking has also taken me to his birthplace at Broadheath.

Elgar's Grave
Composer's Grave
There is a reason I am here.  I am not totally ghoulish.  The grave next to this one holds the clues to a two stage multi.  Work out the clues and realise it's back the way we have just come.  One to be saved for another day.

Exit the churchyard, with a couple of photos and the offer from the Vicar for a look inside.  We decline, having walking to do.

The walking is OK, as we head south past Tinker's Hill and have a chat with a farmer about dead sheep.  The highlights of this walk are to come, as first we reach Gullet Quarry.

Gullet Quarry
The Quarry
We used to bring Molly here for a swim.  Health and safety have been to town and fenced it off with instructions for no human, and presumably canine, swimming.

Head up to pick up the Worcestershire on fine walking.  First cache of the day found in a tree.

Cache GZ
Cache GZ
Steadily head uphill, with complaints from behind that this has not quite met the low exertion parameters.  But we are rewarded with perhaps the best views in Malvern.  Truly breathtaking.

Clutter's Cave
Messing around in Clutter's Cave
Best view of the Malverns?
Best View f the Malverns?
Reservoir Views
British Camp Reservoir 
Simply superb walking.  I could fill the blog with photos.

Just one more cache to get - one that I have had my eye on for a while as it has a Difficulty 4/ Terrain 5 rating.  I disappear over the edge, down a steep hill and make a quick find.  Just got to work a way back up to the top.

Back at the car and no birthday is complete without a pint and a snack.  Take the opportunity to go back to the Nag's Head.

Possibly the best pub in the land.

Sound advice at the Nag's Head
Public Service Announcements
This is the best pint of Bathams ever experienced.