Saturday, 30 May 2015

30/05/15 - Moving Students

Distance - 5 Miles
Geocaches - 8
Walk Inspiration - Country Walking Magazine June 1999 Walk 29

My daughter's placement year comes to its conclusion, so once again, we are heading up country to do the two car job that is moving her out of shared accommodation and back to the bosom of the family home.  For the next three months, until we take her back.

It provides an excellent opportunity to explore another part of the country.  A search through my extensive walking resources indicates that Skelmersdale may be prettier than it sounds and only 3 miles away from the house that needs evacuation.

Looks promising as we park at Beacon Country park, with some fine views stretching from Snowdonia to the left, to the Lakes to the right and Anglezarke Hill behind.

Skelmersdale - View
Views from the Beacon
The walk drops us down a muddy and overgrown path through where we meet a couple of other walkers with a Labradoodle.  Sonia asks whether its a boy whilst unnecessarily peering below at it's under-carriage.   A lone man asks me the way to the Beacon and I can tell him and he heads off.  We dive into the bushes for a geocache and he comes back, walking in the opposite direction to the beacon.

Path toward Anglezarke Hill
The path delivers us to Roby Mill... a hamlet that has a pub.  After a long journey, we are gasping for a drink but despite some furious door rattling, its apparent it's not open at 11:30am.  No choice but to press on, but not before Sonia makes a new friend.

Sonia, meet Anthony
Fields around the back of Roby Mill
Roby Mill is a two pub sort of place and we do find the Star Inn open for lemonades at 11:50. Refreshed, we head off for some road walking.  Every house is having an "Open Garden" day for charity, so someone sat on a deckchair attempts to lure us into their abode to look at the daffs.

We don't have time for this, not when there are caches to find on the great path to Ashurst Beacon.  Fine walking, to be rewarded with great views.

Skelmersdale - Beacon
Ashurst Beacon - and a handy guide to the views

All that remains of the walk is to follow the golf course to the car.  Then its off to pick up Ellie, who's been texting us to find out when we are taking her to lunch.  1:45pm is the answer, but the real surprise for her is she's paying.

I've gone to Lancashire and forgot my wallet.

Monday, 25 May 2015

25/05/15 - Berkswell No More

Distance - 4.5 Miles
Geocaches -10
Walk Inspiration - Stage 24 of the Millennium Way

Over the last two years, I have come to love the Millennium Way, as it has taken me from Pershore to England's centre in Meriden.  However, for the last four months, I seem to be stuck Berkswell.

Not that there is anything wrong with being stuck in Berkswell.  Nice church, some fine paths and a pub, that despite having been close to 3 times, has not been frequented.  Something has to give.

I know where to park.  I know which paths to go on.  This gives me the chance to attempt a cache that was previously guarded by frisky bulls, who we indulging is some sort of homoerotic orgy.  Not wanting to get caught up in Solihull Scandal, I left them to their mountings last time but today, they seemed more restrained.  So I made a grab.

Then I get boxed in by them.  Then one starts to nibble on the sleeve of my walking top.  Lowe Alpine guarantee wicking and UV protection but they are sadly lacking when it comes to Bull saliva.

I did not hang around long enough to put the date on the log, but a hastily scribbled "Mappiman" and the taking of a TB proves I was there.

The Guardians of the Cache
GZ Ring of Bull.
Following the same paths as Stage 21 gives me the chance to find a previous DNF at Ram Hall.  I swear I looked there last time.  Its here where I make my way on new paths, heading South through the fields.

Out from Ram Hall
Into the Yellow
The Yellow rapeseed looks inviting but it has overgrown the footpath.  With a lack of a machete, there is no choice but to try and force my way through.  I succeed but am covered in yellow dust as I emerge for a cache that was the only DNF of the day.  Too many stingers :-(

On the way here, I passed a 4x4 with a bumper sticker saying "I LLove LLamas".  I now know where he lives.

LLove LLamas
LLoving LLamas.  More than Bulls.
The railway line leads me to Truggist Hill Farm, where the footpath signs are replaced with signs saying "No Exit - Private Property".

Does this mean cars? Does this mean walkers?

I have a GPS and follow the line of the path up a driveway.  I know I am close to the lane when a window opens and someone shouts at me that this is private property.  I reply and say that on the Map it shows as a footpath.  He tells me I have the wrong map.

I promise him I will never come here again.  This only half placates him.

On emergence at the lane I try and find the footpath signs and they show an indistinct path  alongside his property that was not apparent from the signage at the other end.

Here's an idea - rather than shouting at confused ramblers out your window, why not invest in some direction signs that say more than "No Exit".

Not much else to report on paths through Carol Green (never met her) and Benton Green (never met him).  Kind of fine, yet unspectacular walking with a number of caches to hunt for.

Path to Berkswell
Paths Like This

After four consecutive months of Berkswell visits, I check out the pub.

A pint of Shropshire's finest Town Crier.

The Bear - Berkswell
Follow the Bear
Hobsons Town Crier at the Bear
Shropshire's Finest

Saturday, 23 May 2015

23/05/15 - All Around The Wrekin

Distance - 5 Miles
Geocaches - 5
Walk from - Country Walking Magazine - March 2015

There's two ways of telling that you are near Telford.

Number 1.  The caches are invariably in socks.

Geocache - in a Sock
Cache in a Sock

Number 2. The dog walkers like nothing better than to bag their dog poop.  So far, so community spirited.  Then they leave them, usually at the base of a tree (often the hint for a geocache), sometimes thrown down a bank.  Where they can lie, non degradable in the countryside, for all eternity.  Some even have non-standard jolly coloured bags to stand out from the more pedestrian black standard issue.

Are they completely dumb?

I will be a happy man in one person seeing this blog thinks "Hey, I was brain-dead but now I have seen the light and I will put it in a bin or at worse, flick it into the undergrowth".

We are at the Wrekin in Shropshire.  Mainly, as the weather promised wall to wall sunshine and I thought the views would be spectacular.  It was more misty than expected.

Park up at the reservoir at the foot of the Ercall.  Country Walking Magazine want to take us on a there and back excursion to this hill, but it looks a bit dull retracing your steps, so we head off on good paths along the southern side of the Wrekin.

There are a good number of caches, but Sonia isn't feeling the GeoLove and leaves me hunting solo.

Get to cache 4 and I get the first DNF of the day.  This throws me so off kilter that I take the wrong path, where another 10 remain to be found on a different day.

Sonia is secretly pleased.

The Wrekin
Only one cache left to find.

Cache of the Day - at the foot of Little Hill
In my walking career, I have knocked off around countless Nuttalls, an impressive amount of Marilyns, 50ish Wainwrights and 1 Munro but none of these compare to the 1500ft of ascent up the Eastern side of the Wrekin.  It's steepness can be best described as "really needing a Ski Lift".  It's even got a false summit of Little Hill, which you gainfully pant up - only to drop back down, before the main event of the Wrekin.

And the clouds haven't lifted to provide the wonderful views that this amount of climbing surely deserves.

The Wrekin
Nearly at the Top
The trig point is surrounded by people waiting for some daredevil paragliders to make a move.  They have all the gear, but seemingly little idea, as they disappoint the huddled masses by not actually doing anything.

The Wrekin
The Masses shout "Jump, Jump, Jump"  and then think poorly of themselves

The Wrekin
The Wrekin's Aerial Summit
It's a short walk from here back to the car.  Unexpectedly, a tea shop presents itself but the 80p mug of tea is kind of ruined by the amount of flies bothering us.  After a couple of sips, the tea is disposed off and we half walk, half slide our way down to the car in search of finer refreshments.

I was half thinking of heading to Much Wenlock and knocking of a Top 10 county pub but we really couldn't ignore advertising that was made for us at Little Wenlock.

Huntsman - Little Wenlock
The Huntsman, Little Wenlock
Huntsman - Little Wenlock
Lunch is Served

Saturday, 16 May 2015

16/05/15 - I'm Not Lost

Distance - 5.82 Miles
Geocaches - 4
Walk from - Discover the Cotswolds - Walk 13

Painswick is at the halfway point of the Cotswold Way, so it seems rather apt that this is our first path, as we climb away from the town to Painswick Beacon.

The Cotswold Way
Molly, our 12 year old Labradoodle, took us by surprise by actually wanting to come today.  As its only a 5 miler, we decide to take her along.  Not content to have one dog, we are also being followed.  As we move across the golf course to the summit of the Beacon, a large Black Labrador is tailing us, keeping a slight distance but present for half a mile.

Initially, we lose him as I hunt a geocache and Sonia takes Panoramic photos on her iPhone.

Painswick Beacon
Superb Views from the Beacon

Another couple of walkers are concerned about the Labrador, who has appeared at one of the hill fort ramparts.  They ask if he is with us and I explain that he has been following us.

Using all my dog whispering skills I manage to get him to come over and look at his ID.  There is no tag, but stenciled on the collar is the motif "I am not lost".

The dog obviously has the freedom of Painswick.

Relieved, we continue with our walk.

Painswick Beacon
My Old Ladies
Having soaked up the views, we continue along the Cotswold Way, sharing the route with the Golfers.  If you are going to waste you time hitting a small ball down a little hole, there can be few finer places to do it than here.

At Kites Hill, we get the 2nd cache of the day, cross the Cheltenham road and head steeply downhill to Cocknells Court.

I am a 1 in 8

Cocknells Court
Cocknells Court
Wonderful walking along the valley floor, where the route is only shared with sheep and the odd isolated farmhouse.

Gorgeous Walking
We meet up with the Cheltenham Road again and follow it into Painswick.  A couple of things remain to make the day perfect.

I have read about the Church and its 99 Yew Trees and ancient table top tombs in the walk guide.

Painswick Church and Tombs
Painswick Maidens shall be true, till there grows the hundredth yew
And no walk is complete without lunch.  The Royal Oak provides.

Royal Oak Painswick
The Royal Oak
Royal Oak Painswick
Wickwar Gold

Sunday, 10 May 2015

09/05/15 - Escape to the Country

Distance - 11.5 Miles
Geocaches - 19
Inspiration - TFL Country Walks Book 2

A step back in time, following a route in a 1973 Guidebook encouraging Cockneys to get some fresh air.

London Loop
The Beauty of EBay

Today's walk is from Book 2 and starts in a town that I have never previously had cause to visit, Leatherhead.

Station Appropach
Leatherhead Station
Out of the station, over the new road bridge, leave the last bit of civilisation behind at the leisure centre and climb Hawks Hill on decent paths.

Leafy Surrey
Can see why its called Leafy Surrey
Always a pleasure when a random walk turns out to be cache laden.  Plenty along Admiral's Road, as I pass the wonderfully named Roaringhouse Farm.

Admirals Road
The Admiral's Road
Admiral's Road turns into Connicut Lane, a lovely green lane where the overhanging trees shield me from one of the two showers we have today.  Goretex can remain in the backpack and I can concentrate on the route finding through the bluebell laden Freehold Wood.

Freehold Wood
Freehold Wood tracks
I skirt the edge of the grounds of Polesden Lacey - A National Trust property that I don't quite get close enough to see.  The public footpaths taken skirt the edges and deliver me to Chapel Lane, a bit of road walking into the hamlet of Westhumble.

12th Century Chapel
That's why its called Chapel Lane - 12th Century Ruin
Onto the North Downs Way.  I know this, as just like the South Downs way that I started last month, there are scores of Duke of Edinboroughers, some walking, most sitting around in the Bluebells.

The North Downs Way gets itself added onto my wishlist with a stiff climb up Boxhill, the 2nd best thing about this walk.  I am yet to reach the pubs.

A puff and a pant up the steep hillside and the reward of some stunning views over Dorking.

Box Hill Views
Mr Country Walking - 1995
Apologies, I got dressed in the Dark this morning
Views drunk in, I have some fine walking through the Boxhill Woodland, exiting at Broadwood's Tower - built by a piano maker.  With a tree growing through the centre of it, he should have stuck to Pianos.

Box Hill Tower
Broadwood's Tower
Box Hill Tower
From the Inside
Downhill to Juniper Hall
Path down to Juniper Hall, where Broadwood Lived

After all that exercise, its time for a reward.  I've been looking forward to Mickleham, since I plotted the walk and saw that it had a big blue cup of joy on the OS Map.

And it doesn't disappoint.  Its the sort of place that is that posh that the 16th Century pub has more than one equine in it's name.

Running Horses - Mickleham
More than one Running Horse
My guidebook states that the Church opposite is famous for the marriage venue of Fanny Burney.  I don't know now who she is either, but as I attempt to spark up google on my smartphone, its obvious that another wedding is taking place today.

Forget Fanny and Watch the Human Drama
The cars turning up are incredible - Aston Martin's, Bentleys, Ferraris.  Two teenagers pull up alongside in what I originally think is a vintage Porsche.  As it pulls away, I realise my mistake and the fact that its a Vauxhall Chevette is even more impressive.

As the groom comes into the pub for a pre-match livener, I head off.  I have a gentle walk along the River Mole to take me back to town.  The sun comes out and I can take off my mid 1990s fleece to soak up the rays.

River Mole
River Mole is the handrail back to Leatherhead
Leatherhead is far more working class than Mickleham - their pub has one less horse and a lot more Geordie builders who have finished their Saturday morning overtime.

Running Horse - Leatherhead
Less Horses, more Builders

Surrey Hills at the Running Horse
11.5 Miles is a two pint kind of walk
It's reassuring to know that a 40 year old walking guide still holds true.  The paths are as described, the Surrey splendor undiminished and the same church is still hosting marriages - with the same pre-wedding nerves being kept under control in the same water holes.

Monday, 4 May 2015

04/05/15 - Hooray Henley

Distance - 10 Miles
Geocaches - 5
Walk Inspiration - Time Out Country Walks

The first walk from Time Out Country Walks book is a boster but the chance of refreshment is cruelly curtailed by a state of the nation symptom.

I am going to like this book a lot.  It offers 52 Walks within easy reach of London.  For the socially minded walker, it even shows which weekend and which train you should catch to meet up with like minded ramblers.  If I wasn't coming down from the Midlands via car, I should have been doing this on 3/01/15 to make new friends.

I don't need to worry, I have Sonia with me today.  I optimistically told her it was an 8 miler and have a plan of fighting off any weariness with cake.

We park up at the Station and head through the impressive town to pick up the river.

Henley-on-Thames - Bridge
Over the River to Head North
Superb walking along the tow path, heading North on the Berkshire side.  The town is preparing for the Regatta, with a canvas city being erected bankside.  Plenty of wonderful houses to admire, with Remenham on one side and Fawley Court on the other.

Henley-on-Thames - Towpath
Henleys Version of an Infinity Pool
Henley-on-Thames - Fawley Court
Fawley Court

Right from the start of the walk we can see Temple Island.  To keep Sonia's spirits up, I ask her what is called, telling her that everything she needs to give me an answer can be seen in front of her.

Henley-on-Thames - Temple Island
We stop playing when she answers "Goose Island"
We are crossing the river at Mill End, where there is a 250 metre footbridge snaking its way across the river.  It makes for a spectacular crossing point.

Hembleden Lock
Crossing the Lock
Hambleden Lock
250 Metres of Walkway
Hambleden Lock
At its spectacular best

Having navigated the lock we enter the grounds of Hambleden Estate to walk to the village, under the watchful gaze of the red kites that dominate the area.

The village is special.  You can tell by the amount of tourists hanging around the tea shop/cafe.  Its been four miles and too early for the pub, so we sit on the bench outside the church to eat freshly purchased Eccles Cakes and drink Ribena.

Hambleden Church
Hambleden's Church - My only Photo
Whilst catching our breath, I comment that this must have been used for film locations.  A quick google confirms it - Sleepy Hollow, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Band of Brothers were all filmed here.

I should have used the camera more.

Full of vim from our North Western snacks, we climb uphill through Great Wood on impressive tracks, with the occasional fine view through gaps in the trees

Great Wood
Great Wood - Does what it says on the Tin
Views.  The Black Blobs are Kites

Conversation turns to lunch and I know from the guidebook that the Walnut Tree in Fawley is coming up.  I see the sign and my heart sinks.

Pub Formerly Known as the Walnut Tree
Another Sad Victim of the Declining Pub Trade

I have to say that Sonia takes this unexpected setback rather well.

It must be the promise of the 5 quick caches in Henley Park - a deer park - with the Oxfordshire Way running through the centre of it.

Henley Park
Just Sheep Today

The Oxfordshire Way delivers us back into town, which is teeming with people.  There is little chance of getting quick service in any of the fine looking riverside pubs - but I have a plan.

My research has shown that Number 4 in the top 10 list of Oxfordshire pubs is just a short distance out of town.

Henley - Bird in Hand
Unassuming from the Outside

Henley - Bird in Hand
Perfect in the Beer Garden