Tuesday, 28 April 2015

28/04/15 - Chirpy Chirpy Beep Beep

Distance - 4.5 Miles
Geocaches - 20
First Cache

There is no point me walking in the Cotswolds again, as a Geocaching Round has shown me the most beautiful part and introduced to a new cache type - the Chirp.

These are the views you have to look forward to at Cache 5.

HKMHill, the CO, thinks of everything and directs you to a Parking Area at Stumps Cross.

Stumps Cross
Stumps Cross - Does what it says on the tin
Straightaway, you are out onto the Cotswold Way and you don't get much more glorious than that.

On our Way
Evening Sunshine
Caches 1-4 whet the appetite for the main event for me, the Chirp.  This is a beacon that emits a signal and I now its within range of a monument on the trail.  For me to receive the signal, I had to work out how to upgrade the firmware on my aging Oregon 400t GPS.  This device is only normally used abroad but it was my only unit capable of receiving the Chirp signal.

On arrival at the monument, I turn on "Chirp Receiving Mode" in the Setup and wave the device around like a 1990's salesman trying to get a signal on a Nokia 6110 north of Watford Gap.

Chirp Monument
The Chirpy Monument
After a few seconds the device beeps to indicate it's picked up the chirp and reveals the information that I need - the GPS Co-ordinates of the Cache.  Now, if only I had brought my glasses and I could see them.  Jot down a fair approximation and enter them into my UK caching device - bingo - looks good for the route.

I can concentrate on the views now.

And they are damn fine
Share the paths with the sheep until arrival at Didbrook where there is a multi cache for number 11.

Didbrook Church
Didbrook Church - Pay Attention for the Multicache Clues through the village
This involves collecting information along the highstreet - along with a few micros to keep your dexterity of jotting down information and finding regulars at the same time.

As discussed, the CO thinks of everything, including a handy bench to do the maths and programme into your GPS at the last clue.

Handy Calculation Point
Co-ords look good and true enough, I make a find.  Pay careful attention future cachers - along this stretch its possible to discover a trackable if you look carefully enough.  It did make me chuckle.

Now its just a case of plodding back up the hill to the start.  It's back on the Cotswold Way, so great paths and if you're tired, just look behind at the views.

Cotswold Way on the Return
The Only Way is Cotswolds
I'm that impressed with the views and the round that I take a seat at the penultimate cache and compose a tweet to the CO.  Alas, the signal means that it doesn't actually get sent until I get back on Wi-Fi.  I think they need to replace 3G with Chirp.

All that remains to look for the bonus from the Chirp.  Delighted to make a find.

The reply to my tweet states that the next Cotswold Trail is in progress.  It's gonna have to go some to beat this one!

Thanks so much for the trail, HKMHill.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

25/04/15 - Wish Fulfillment

Distance - 5.25 Miles
Geocaches - 3
Walk Inspiration - Pub Walks in Derbyshire

A fine walk ends with a visit to an historically important Inn and the fulfillment of a promise made to myself 9 years ago.

So we are off to Leeds to meet friends for a weekend of fine Yorkshire beer and meat based Spanish food served on many small plates. Worcestershire to Leeds is a long old drive, so I consult the walking books to find a suitable ramble near to the M1 to break up the journey.

For the 2nd time in a decade, I pick on Hardwick Hall.  In 2006, I stopped off and hauled my hungover frame around the grounds, stumbling on the Hardwick Inn.  Although not in the mood for food on that day, I noticed a rather impressive mixed grill and vowed to come back.  Its taken me nine years.

We park up at the inn at 10:05, calibrate sat navs and head down the road to Great Pond, where less savvy walkers pay to park.  Meeting Sonia's 1st criteria for a walk, there are toilet facilities.

Great Pond - Hardwick Hall
Great Pond - Below Hardwick Hall

Our route follows the Oak Trail, gently uphill through the Oak Trees.  If you exclude the M1, there are some fine views over the Peak District.

Cows before Hardwick Hall
Cows guard the top of the Oak Trail
On the flat, there is easy walking towards Ault Hucknell.  No relation to Mick, this is the country's smallest village with three houses and the rather impressive St John the Baptists Church.

Ault Hucknall
Easy Walking to Britains Smallest Village
Ault Hucknall Church
St John the Baptist

Great paths lead us to the bluebell carpeted Norwood Woods.  April looks like being the best time of year for this walk.  I remember it being a mud fest in December 2006.  And no Bluebells.

Fields under ominous skies
Threatened to Shower - but rain hardly materialised
Norwood Bluebells
Bluebell Norwood
Fields of Yellow
Fields of Yellow Rapeseed
Lady Spencer's walk through the woods has the added excitement of children's activity installations. Sonia make a brave attempt on the rope netting over a fallen tree but bottles it before I can take a triumphant photo of her astride it.  I claim she was scared but she claims that people were coming. And one of those walkers is noshing on an ice-cream, which is the 2nd factor for a Sonia great walk.

I buy her one from the National Trust shop before the magnificent Hardwick Hall.  Built in the late 1500s by a lady, Bess of Hardwick, whose wealth was only beaten by Queen Elizabeth.  She was that rich, that we actually get two Halls, an olden one fallen into ruin and the new one with her initials proudly displayed on the roof.

Hardwick Hall
New Hall - large Windows and "E S" shouting from the roof tops 
The Old Hall
The Old Hall

We use the exit drive from the Hall to make our way to the pub, making a couple of friends along the way.

Friendly Sheep
Hardwick Inn Below
On the Way to the Pub

It's 12:03 on our arrival at the pub and I head inside for the menus.  The Mixed Grill is still on and I surprise my walking partner by ordering it.  Not solely because I am a greedy git but because I am fulfilling a promise made to myself.

Hardwick Inn
Waiting Patiently for it to arrive
It is delivered on a tray by a teenage girl struggling to carry it.  The contents;
  • Steak
  • Gammon
  • Pork Chop
  • Lamb Chop
  • Two Sausages
  • Liver
  • Kidneys
  • Fried Egg
  • Three mushrooms
  • Two Onion Rings
  • Home made chips
  • Salad
  • Vegetables

Its the first time ever, I have not finished a meal out.  The teenager offers me a doggie bag, but I am not sure that the Leeds Travelodge has a fridge, so politely decline.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

19/04/15 - Duty Bound

Walk Inspiration - Stage 23 of the Millennium Way
Distance - 4.5 Miles
Geocaches - 6

The Millennium Way seems to get a little confused on its short walks around the middle of the Long Distance Path.  This is the third successive time I am taken to Berkswell.  There's no doubt its a lovely village but quite why its so frequently visited, I am unsure.  This route shares most of the paths with Stage 22, although is not as lengthy.

So I am in for a bit of Groundhog day walking.  At least it will enable me to get the caches that I missed last time through either a) muggles or b) being hopeless at geocaching.

Today, I attempt to park up at Lavender Hall Lane car park, but its overflowing.  Probably to do with the Church Service that I walk past, on the now all too familiar Berkswell Paths.

Berkswell Bimble #3 was missed last time due to the high muggle content coming over the boardwalks.  Today was similar, but I spotted it instantly and made a hasty retrieve, sign and replace.

The repeat of this section enables me to see how the vegetation has grown in the last 6 weeks.  I am looking for something to entertain me.

6 Weeks Difference
An uncanny ability to photo from the same spot - Left - The Start of March - The Right - The Middle of April.

Into the Fields
And into the Rapeseed
BB #4, previously guarded by a grandfather and grandson was quickly found.  However, the minute I drop off track to make a find, a doggle comes from nowhere and asks me if I am lost.  Never lost, only looking for caches.

BB #7 was a genuine DNF last time, and the first recorded on this cache by anyone.  I have no idea why I made such hard work of it last time, as it was an instant find today.  Maybe the best thing to do is to leave caches you are struggling with and just come back another day.

Into the gravel pits that caused me so much grief last time and at BB #11, I am at last on new, previously unexplored, paths.  This one is a multi and unfortunately for me, a car has broken down at GZ and being serviced by the RAC.  This does not stop me from getting the co-ords, doing the maths, plotting and making the find.  All under the gaze of a distinctly uncurious car mechanic and disgruntled looking driver.

The Path Ahead
Path taking me to BB #12
The final part of the route brings me to paths shared with the Heart of England Way.  There are some fine views over to Birmingham, way beyond the range of a 14-45mm lens.

Birmingham Views
Birmingham - far, far away
Back to the start. passing BB #1 on the way to the car.

I look forward to May's leg of the Millennium Way.  It starts in Berkswell.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

18/04/15 - Parlour Games

Walk Inspiration - www.walkingworld.com
Distance - 6 Miles
Caches - 2

This is a nice simple walk. We are here mainly because of an article in the wonderful DogHouse Magazine, discussing one of the last "Parlour Pubs" in the land.  A quick bit of research and I determine that it is also in the finest walking country that North Herefordshire has to offer.

A suitable route quickly found from www.walkingworld.com and we are off.  Beautiful blue skies are a welcome bonus.

The Romans knew something about town planning and Leintwardine, sitting deep in the Teme Valley, was a Roman outpost known as Branogenivm.  We start our walk in the town, gaining height to walk in a circle around the hills that surround it.

Only Sheep for Company
On Fine Paths
For the second week running, we pass a group of Duke of Edinburgh Students who are taking the usual pose, lying down in the sunshine having a moan.  We leave them in our wake, wanting to get to the summit for the views.

Caer Caradoc
To Caer Caradoc in one Direction
Clee Hills
And the Clee Hills to the Other

Damn fine walking, even the choices of path intersection with 6 choices can not throw us off our stride as we make our way around.  Conversation soon turns to lunch and from our vantage point, I can show where we will be having it.

Leintwardine Below
Down there, somewhere
Teme Valley
In the Teme Valley

We drop down off the hills and into the Town.  I tell Sonia all about the Sun Inn.

Its a CAMRA Heritage pub and one of only a handful of "Parlour Pubs" left running in the UK.  Basically, these are pubs in people's houses - in this case, Flossies.  When Florence Lane died in 2009 at the grand old age of 94, she was the UK's oldest publican - opening the doors of her little cottage to the great unwashed for the last 74 years.  Before being taken over as a community pub on her passing, it had no bar or cellar.  A recent extension into the garden has made it a touch more commercial, but the front rooms have been left exactly as Flossie would have liked it.

Sun Inn - Leintwardine
Sonia, keen to check out the Sarnies
Sun Inn - Leintwardine
Tribute to Flossie
Sun Inn - Leintwardine
Making myself at Home
Sun Inn - Leintwardine
In the Pub where time stood still
Sun Inn - Leintwardine
But it's too nice to sit inside
I rather like it when my hobbies come together.

Monday, 13 April 2015

11/04/15 - And I'm off to Amberley

Distance - 14.4 Miles
Geocaches - 12
Start - Tottington YHA
Finish - Amberley Station
Day 3 of the South Downs Way (Other SDW Blogs - Day 1, Day 2)
Highlights - Chanctonbury Ring Fort, Amberley Mount

Last Night
My weary legs that have carried me 20 miles just need to get me up the stairs to the YHA reception.  I am 45 but from the masses huddled in the communal area, I would appear to be the 3rd youngest.  Tarquin and Georgia beat me to the youngest person award by being 8 and 6 respectively.  They appear to be enjoying scrabble.

The rules are explained to me (not of scrabble, I know them - hostelling).  I only need to do one job and that is to strip my bed in the morning.  I can manage that.  Food situation is explained but I have dined at the Devils Dyke pub so more interested in the Bar situation.  They do a nice bottle of Merlot for a tenner.

Settle down with the paper on the comfy sofa.  But this is not etiquette.   Two elderly gents leave their wives playing bridge and sit opposite me.  90 minutes of comparing walking war stories and I am now an honorary member of the Bedfordshire Ramblers Society.

They retire to bed at 10:25, seemingly knowing something that I don't.  I start the Daily Mail.  At 10:30, the lights are turned out.

I would not hesitate to go hostelling again.

The Walk
Its been raining in the night.  Biblically according to the Hostellers that are camping in the YHA garden.  It's grim when I head off with some serious wind but at least its dry.

Start of the Day
Straight On It
Early walking is continuing the easy series of caches, which take me down to the River Ahur and up through Annington onto Annington Hill.  This is where for the first time in my 8 year caching career, a storm stops play.  Initially, I am kind of glad that there is inclement weather as it has justified me bringing overtrousers, rain coat and a dry bag to stash all my valuables, including my camera.  There are 45 minutes of the SDW which will not be recorded.  It's abysmal.

The rain comes in at right angles actually stinging my ears through my hood.  Above the Steyning Valley, I meet a couple of ladies who are less prepared than me, who are in shorts and jumpers.  We acknowledge each other with smiles that suggest we are all mental being out in this, but at least I am a prepared mentalist.

Then in 45 Minutes its over.  And the benefit of the wind is that is clears to gorgeous blues skies and takes away the smoggy pollution.

5 Minutes After the Storm
5 Minutes after the rain stops and camera is retrieved
10 Minutes after the Storm
And 10 minutes later, all is good with the world.
So I'm off again with a spring in my step and a mood that is further improved when a whole herd of deer come charging over the horizon.  Never seen so many together and too awestruck to get a decent photo.

Chanctonbury Ring hillfort soon comes along, offering more great views.

Chanctonbury Ring fort
Approaching the Hill Fort
Views from Chanctonbury
For Smog Free Views

Home straight now.  Despite some weary legs and the identification of where my collar bones are through the gentle reminder provided by my rucksack, I am saddened by the count down of the miles. In three days on the South Downs Way, I would suggest this is the most beautiful to date.

Baby Cow
Although the Baby Cow just wants to sleep.
And when I think it cannot get any better, Amberley comes into view.  Amazing views over the plains and a very large (and unexpected) castle down below.

Best Views So Far?
With a stonking great castle

Drop down off the hill and say goodbye, for now, to my last SDW way marker.

End of the SDW (for now)
Village Stores, Right - Pub, Left.
It's two hours until the 16:17 to Victoria - so I reflect on my three days over lunch.

I'm already looking forward to completing the SDW later in the year.

Cheers to  making it half way

Sunday, 12 April 2015

10/04/15 - Youth Hostelling with Mappiman

Distance - 20 Miles
Geocaches - 24
Start - Southease Station
Finish - Tottington YHA
Day 2 of the South Downs Way (Other SDW Blogs - Day 1, Day 3)
Highlights - Cricketing Bottom, Ditchling Beacon, Devil's Dyke

Last Night
Mr M opens the door to the B&B and shows me around.  It is without doubt the cleanest house I have ever been to.  There is no dust.  Not even above shoulder height.  The house is over four stories and I have the 2nd floor to myself.  It does mean the owners are above me and I will have to plan any night time excursions to the lavvy with military precision.  No-one needs to see Mappiman in his anti-chaffing walking pants.

Having established the ground rules and been provided with a key to get back in, I head off to see what Lewes has to offer.  In no particular order, The Brewers Arms, The Lewes Arms, The Rights of Man, The Black Horse Inn and the Packham Arms.  Harvey's best is a new found favourite.  It wasn't all pubs, I also got to see Virginia Woolf's House (bought by her for £300, last sold for £800K), the Castle and where Thomas Paine wrote the Rights of Man (both his house, and the Pub).

Creep back into my B&B and sleep like a log, before I awake at the pre-arranged time for Mr M to make me my breakfast, whilst I sit at the breakfast bar.

Sonia asked me "Didn't it feel weird".  And the answer is "Yes".

The Walk

Today's the big one.  On plotting the route, I realise there is no accommodation easily achievable along this section, until I notice a tiny Red Triangle on the OS Map denoting a Youth Hostel at 20 miles.  Fortified with Harvey's, I'm sure I can make these easily in a long day.

Something to knock off my bucket list at the decidedly unyouthful 45 Years of Age.

The train takes me back to Southease.  I am not the only fella alighting - as a bloke with a bike and another man with a rucksack are hitting the trails.  The bike rider leaves us for dead and the bloke with the Rucksacks disappears into a bush.  He's not geocaching, as I disappear into different bushes.

Cross the second river on the SDW - The River Ouse.  I could have sailed down from Lewes.

River Ouse
Lewes - Upstream
Southease Church
Southease Church - 1 of only 3 in the Sussex to have a round tower

Once out of Southease, I have the delightful Cricketing Bottom to walk.  The SDW is turning out to be exceptional.

Cricketing Bottom
Could walk this for at least another 19 miles.
Once the height is regained a navigational oddity occurs as I cross from the Eastern to Western Hemispheres.  I've noticed this once before walking at Greenwich, when the sat nav jumps from E to W with a shake of the hand.  There is a geocache positioned here.  And a Way Marker incorrectly positioned several metres off.

East meets West
Foot in both Hemispheres
A good seven or so miles are conquered.  Photos were taken but the smog is worse than yesterday.  Geocaches were found.  Many, many Duke of Edinborough cadets were met, most of them lying down chatting.

My thirst increases to the point where I crack jokes with anyone coming the other way to ask if they have seen a pub.  I am mostly met with nervous laughter but this could have something to do with my hat.  Sonia has insisted that I wear it flaps down, as I ignored her advice yesterday and burnt my neck.

Eventually I can see Ditchling Beacon in the distance and the amount of cars means tourists.  And tourists mean refreshments.
I'd have killed for a pint
He Didn't Sell Harvey's out of his van

Mappiman at Ditchling Beacon
Walk solo dressed like this if you enjoy peace and tranquility
Partially refreshed, I continue the walk.  I know Haresdean has a pub and its three miles away.  I can walk with the taste of Mr Whippy for that distance.

Another Hill to Climb
Paths like these make it easy
Alas, on arrival, the pub is on the other side of a nasty dual carriageway, which I have crossed further along.  The pub remains tantalisingly out of reach.

Now I know that women complain about childbirth, but on a long walk - nothing compares with the agony of badly fitting pants.  Even when they are Under Armour Anti Chaffers.  16 miles in and I can take no more and am forced to dive into my rucksack for an impromptu change.

The SDW was thankfully quiet today.

This gives me the impetuous to climb West Hill, drop down again and then climb Devil's Dyke, and the eponymous pub.  18 miles since Mr M's breakfast and just as I have the last slurp of water from my camel pack.

Devil's Dyke
Devil's Dyke.  Pub at the Top.

At Last!
Stella Starter, Steak Main, Stella Pudding.  With a side of Stella.
A sit down for an hour and the promise of some very densely packed caches gives me the energy to get back out for the last two miles to the YHA.

Thankfully, the walking is beyond gorgeous and it is a delightful evening.

Evening Joggers
Jogger setting the pace into the Sun
Sussex Safari
To take me on a Sussex Safari
YHA is up that Hill
Just need to get to those Radio Masts
L not a C
And around Fulking Escarpment
20 miles in and feet beginning to hurt, I pronounce that I am glad that it is Fulking over, as I arrive at the YHA.  Quickly check out rules before I break my hostelling virginity.

But just who lives in a place like this?

YHA Rules
For Young People of Limited Means