Monday, 31 August 2015

31/08/15 - Chinnor Up!

Distance - 16.2 Miles
Distance on Ridgeway - 7 Miles
Geocaches - 10
Start on Ridgeway - Lewnor
End on Ridgeway - Princes Risborough
Pub - Shepherd's Crook,  Crowell, Timothy Taylor Landlord

When you have a plan, you have to stick with it.  I was always going to use the extra day off this weekend to knock off the next leg of the Ridgeway.

The alarm goes at 5:45.  A mere 15 minutes after offspring number 1 has got in from a nightclub.   I awake to the sound of the rain drumming on the conservatory roof.  Sonia questions my logic.  I question my logic.

At least the motorway is quiet.

Park up at Lewknor and after a short crossing under the M40, I am back on the Ridgeway at a place called Cuckoo Pen.

The worst thing about the rain is that it makes all the photos look dismal.

Still, this stage of the Ridgeway requires a camera man of David Bailey proportions to make it look anything but dismal.

Its just a wide track through woods, offering limited views.

The Ridgeway
A rare gap in the trees for a "View"
There are some geocaches as I make my way through the Clay Pits on either side of the path.  With the weather as it is, I will look for a couple of minutes but I am not wading into the damp undergrowth for a smiley.

Leave the trees behind at Thickthorne Wood and the Ridgeway opens out into agricultural land, offering something else to look at.

The Ridgeway
Out of Thickthorne Wood

Nothing more to say.  Nothing happens.  Nothing to photograph.  I leave the Ridgeway behind at Shootacre Lane and consider it's former glories back in Wiltshire.

Saunderton is the turning back point and the route I plot back is reasonable.  A large part of it is on various "Ways" (Chiltern, Midshires), which means that I have chosen quality paths.

Bledlow is the first village that I walk through and the pub, the Lions of Bledlow, looks exceptional.

A shame it's only 11:30am.

The Lions of Bledlow
The Lions of Bledlow

I see the occasional puff of smoke and hear the odd toot of a whistle, which means I am approching Chinnor.  Film location for Midsummer's Murders (more of a Bergerac man myself), it also has a Heritage Railway line, with a Steam train plodding backwards and forwards to Princes Risborough.

A double disappointment, I am too wet to stop at any of the pubs in town - not wanting to de-boot, and de-goretex - only to have to put it all back on again.

And I missed the Beer Festival by two days.

Too Late for the Festival
Two Days Too Late
The rain comes down again and by the time I reach Crowell, I cannot deny myself a cheer up.

The Shepherd's Crook it is.  A fine choice, as there are five real ales on - and the stone floors mean I don't have to disrobe. I go safe with a classic Timothy Taylor Landlord.

I'm too wet to sit inside, so I take my pint and sit in the beer garden.  Some may think this is odd, but there really is only so wet you can get.

The Shepherd's Crook
Just me, a sheep and upturned Wellies
Timothy Taylor
That's Better

Positively cheered up, I head back onto the trail.  Some fine churches at Kingston Blount (11th Century) and Aston Rowant - I cannot help but think I am walking in England's History.

Around the Cricket Pitch, past the Stud Farm, back under the M40 and the walk is over.

Five hours later, I think I have finally dried out.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

29/08/15 - Brown Clee Hill

Distance - 6 Miles
Geocaches - All previously found
Walk Inspiration - Country Walking Magazine
Pub - The Kings Arms, Cleobury Mortimer - Hobsons Old Prickly

Having knocked off it's slightly smaller twin Titterstone, its time for Brown Clee Hill and the opportunity to become the highest people in Shropshire.

There are no new Geocaches since my last visit in 2011, so this a walk purely for walking sake - a chance for fresh air, far reaching views and hopefully, a post walk pint.

Sonia's has not been in the best of training.  She's spent the last week lounging around on sunbeds in Portugal, leaving me in charge of towel rotation and the mysteries of the washing machine.  Her lack of conditioning shows, as I make it to the top first, whilst I hear cries of "Wait for me".  It's unusual, she usually leaves me in her wake.

Our route takes us to the highest part first, Abdon Burf.  Ruined quarry buildings provide a decent shelter for the sheep.

Quarry Works
Abandoned Quarry Works - Home for Sheep
The Clee hills have a reputation as an aircraft graveyard.  It's rumoured to be responsible for more crashes in World War 2 than any other hill in Britain.  To protect modern day aeroplanes, Brown Clee hill has a huge air traffic mast at the summit toposcope.

Brown Clee Hill Trigpoint and Mast
Toposcope and Air Traffic Control Tower

As you would expect from the highest point in Shropshire, the views are superb.  The Malvern Hills, Birmingham and most of Mid Wales stretch out before us.

Brown Clee Hill Trig Point
Items of Interest

Camera on the Toposcope
Easy walking South on the Shropshire Way takes us to Boyne Water - the family name who own most of this hill.  Supposedly, the engines of two crashed Wellington Bombers were dumped here during the cleanup,  Easier than getting them off the hill, I suppose.

Boyne Water
Boyne Water
The height previously gained is soon lost as we drop off the hill, and then have a two mile walk along paved paths, northwards, back to the car.

Concrete Walkway Home
Road North Home
Exactly 2 hours to walk 6 miles.  Shows how much Geocaching normally slows us down.

Choice of post walk pub is limited.  We could have stopped at the Fighting Cocks in Stottesdon, but Sonia claimed that one good sneeze would bring the ramshackle building down to the ground.

So we head for Cleobury Mortimer, knowing that there are a choice of options.  Having used the Kings Arms after my last Cleobury Walk, I aim to try an alternative.

Walk into the Bell.  An overpowering smell of beer is also met with the bad news that they don't do food.  The landlord confirms that the Red Lion over the road also doesn't do food.  I have suspicions that this could have been a marketing trick to avoid losing potential punters.

So up into town, where the handsome looking Fountain Inn is closed.  All may not be lost, as there is a "Sold" Sign on the outside.  As long as it's not to Tesco Express.

Back to the Kings Arms it is.

Hobsons Old Prickly
No hardship - get to try Hobsons Old Prickly

Sunday, 23 August 2015

22/08/15 - Digbeth Pub Crawl

Distance - Negligible
Geocaches - 1
Pubs - 4 - The White Swan, The Fountain, The Spotted Dog, The Anchor
Inspiration - Doghouse Magazine

The Walk from the City to Bournville proved both uninspiring and lacking refreshment.  A Quaker town is not the place to indulge in a bit of Archaeological pub ramblings, so taking inspiration from the finest magazine about pubs in the land, I ask the driver of the 61 bus to whisk me off to Digbeth.

In the Shadow of Selfridges
I vaguely know Digbeth from seeing indie bands at the Irish Centre in the late 80s and early 90s.

Feel a touch of 21st Century research is required, so type Digbeth into Twitter.

I click on the Photo Link.  That's one of today's pubs.

Still, that was two days ago.  Its bound to have been resolved by now.

Head down Bradford Street and see the Anchor.  The fact that "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is blaring out of what must be speakers on the outside of the pub, remind of the area's Indie credentials.  I decide to save this one for later.

So its the White Swan that the first of the Day.  A wonderful piece of red brick Victoriana, where the inside is most definitely at odds with the outside - all hand car washes and waste ground.

The White Swan
The White Swan
In an Old School Pub, it has to be an old school pint - so Banks Bitter it is.

Banks Bitter
My Heritage Indeed
The pub has one other punter - which means that we he goes to the gents, I get to take a photo of the impressive bar.

The White Swan
The Bradford Street Academy of Fine Traditional Ales
They have an advert for "Camra's Heritage Pubs" - which they are of course included.  I remind myself to buy a copy only to determine I have already done this when I get home.  More inspiration for future days out if I ever needed it.

Without doubt, the highlight of the crawl.

At the other end of the scale, but no less charming, is the Fountain.  There's a great quote in Doghouse Magazine;

The average Joe would probably stalk past the the Fountain every day of their life, glancing through the door to merely re-inforce their own conceited prejudice about the place"
Well, what would you do?

The Fountain
Dare to Enter?
Well I do.  An eclectic crowd of old men and young lads, where there is plenty of conversation and everyone, with the exception of me, is known by name.

Still, the glowing endorsement from Pauline Quirke on the wall makes me feel welcome.

Under Pauline's Watchful Gaze
Birds of a Feather
I'm instantly given a pint of Mild.  Surprised, I tell the bar man that I haven't actually ordered yet - he looks a touch confused until he finds it's rightful home.  This gives me time to look at what's on offer - and now I am a little surprised at there being no real ale.

Too sunny for a Guinness, so I experience a continental drift and go for Stella.  This, and a packet of Scampi Fries, £3.10.  Is this why there are 20 times the number of punters than in the White Swan?

Stella at the Fountain
Reassuringly Inexpensive
 Move on, taking in the views of Birmingham, to Hostage Central.

Views of the City
Spotted Dog
The Spotted Dog

Another fine Irish Boozer.  This on has some lovely comfy sofas and the chance of something more substantial to eat - a choice of Pork Pies or Scotch Eggs.

There are Real Ales on, but I'm getting the taste for the continent and move from Belgium to Spain.

San Miguel and Lunch at the Spotted Dog
Fit for a King
Unlike the Fountain, there is only one punter in.  He's also a talker - so when I have listened to his conspiracy theories and expert opinion on everything from the weather to the psychotic components of marijuana, I head off to the last point of call.

Fortunately, the music has been turned down in the Anchor and its a touch more sedate than earlier.

It very much is the companion to the White Swan- built in the same style, by the same people.

The Anchor
Adds a bit of symmetry to the walk
The blackboard has a bewildering array of options.  Some of the bar pumps have two clips on them, making it impossible to know what is on.

Still, I've made a discovery today and check out if Holland is as good as Spain.

Amstel at the Anchor

22/08/15 - Bournville Boulevard

Distance - 6 Miles
Geocaches - 6
Walk Inspiration - Discovery Walks in Birmingham - Walk 3

Sonia is working in Birmingham, which means that I spy an opportunity to provide moral support and accompany her on the arduous train trip from Kidderminster.  Wanting to have a lift home following a proper drink is just a rumour circulated by today's wage slave.

Alight at Snow Hill Station.  The proper start of the walk is Gas Street Basin, so I have the chance to walk through Birmingham's financial district, saying hello to old friends (The Old Joint Stock, the Wellington) before taking a couple of photos of the City Centre landmarks.

Floozie.  Jacuzzi.
Floozie.  Jacuzzi.  Town Hall
Birmingham Library
War Memorial.  Library

Hard to tell which image in the above photo is the most sombre.  War Memorials always deserve respect and can make you a touch mournful, but what can you make of the white elephant that is the library.  Opened with great Civic Pride following £189m investment in 2013, we have to put up with the country's guffaws that met the news that they cannot afford to staff it, opening for just 6 hours on weekends.

And it gets worse.  A couple of months ago they put out an appeal for the public to donate books.

Still, it looks pretty.

In trying to match Hollywood, Broad Street offers a version of the "Walk of Stars", with our famous honoured in the pavements.  I gave up looking when I reached Nigel Mansell.

The canal is reached at Gas Street Basin - and I head off in a direction never attempted before - South - Towards Worcester - following in the footsteps of Julia Bradbury.

Gas Street
Regency Wharf offers a Design for Life
Gas Street
Worcester Birmingham Canal

It's just that I had forgotten something in my planning.  I really don't like canal walks.

I can put up with the monotony and the micro caches but it's those sanctimonious idiots on bikes that insist on dinging their bells at you really get my goat.  It's a small wonder a lycra clad speeding idiot didn't end up capturing an unexpected morning dunk on his Go-Pro.

When you are putting a picture of a tunnel on a blog, you know there has been little of interest.

Edgbaston Tower
Did have to Squeeze past two lady ramblers on the narrow path
See little of Edgbaston but the vista momentarily improves as I reach the University of Birmingham and a gap in the trees offers a glimpse of the Chamberlain Tower.

Impressive clock tower based on Siena's campanile, it did offer a Tuscan flavour to the walk.

Chamberlain Tower
Palazzo Pubblico, Brummie Style
The end of the canal walking comes at Bournville Station.  Strangely, I've never been here before.  This has nothing to do with it being a Quaker Town, where the altruistic Cadbury family invested in beautiful living spaces for their employees but no pubs.
Factory Glimpse
Bournville is very pretty for inner city suburbia.  I like the way the houses along Mary Vale road all had alphabetical names of towns as well as house numbers.  Although you would have to question how the planners managed to put "Knowle", alongside "Odessa" and consider yourself a little unlucky if you got "Dresden".

Get to see the front of the Cadbury Factory and then make my way across a couple of parks, where I pick up a bus on the Bristol Road.

As expected, no pubs encountered, so I tell the driver of the 61 to take me to Digbeth and don't spare the horses.

A tale deserving of its own blog.

Friday, 21 August 2015

20/08/15 - Jubilee Walkway - The Jubilee Loop

Distance - 4.7 Miles
Geocaches - 3
Walk Inspiration - The Jubilee Loop
Pub - Coach and Horses, Soho - Chiswick Bitter

A trip to the smoke for work cannot be complete unless I indulge in a touch of Bleisure - the combination of Business and Leisure.  Rather than catching the tube straight back to Euston, I grab a couple of "south of the water" caches, cross the River, complete stage 3/5 of the Jubilee Way and ensure the gentrification of Soho is not totally complete.

Three micro caches to grab - one guarded by an ice-cream man at Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park, one on Westminster Bridge Road and the final one in the shadow of the London Eye.

Over the river at Westminster to pick up the Jubilee Loop on a fairly pointless circle of St James Park.  Still, a fair few sights to take in - so I'll let the photos tell the story.

London Eye from Westminster Bridge
London Eye from Westminster Bridge
Den of Thieves
House of Parliament
Birdcage Walk
Follow Birdcage Walk along the Southern Edge of St James Park
Queen's Gaff
To Buckingham Palace at Western End
Admiralty Arch
Through Admiralty Arch at the Eastern End
Nelson's Column
Into Trafalgar Square
National Gallery
To the National Gallery

Then it's onto refreshment.  In response the news reports of the "Gentrification" of Soho, I have been reading Daniel Farson's "Soho in the Fifties".  One place that has always avoided any sort of cleaning up is the Coach and Horses at the corner of Romilly Street and Greek Street.

I discovered it when I was reading a lot of Derek Raymond books - all set in a fictional police station in nearby Poland Street.  This pub was his local.  Along with other legendary boozers such as Peter O'Toole and Jeffry Bernard.

Quiet in the early afternoon and pleased to say its as gloriously grim as always.

Some business people came in and ordered a bottle of red wine - only to be told that "A corkscrew could not be found".  They headed off elsewhere.

Norman Balon - the legendary previous owner and self named "Rudest Landlord in Britain" - would have been proud.

Coach and Horses
Reserved for O'Toole, Bernard and Raymond

Sunday, 16 August 2015

16/08/15 - Queen and Castle

Distance - 6.88 Miles
Geocaches - 7
Walk Inspiration - Stage 27 of the Millennium Way
Pub - Queen and Castle, UBU Purity

This leg of the Millennium Way is the Poster Boy Route for the entire trail.  Can there be a finer starting place for a walk than Kenilworth Castle?

Kenilworth Castle
Kenilworth Castle
The route has me circling the walls of this impressive ruin, offering occasional glimpses of what is inside.  A few micro caches mean that the walk takes a while to get going.

But get going it does.  There's not a huge amount to say about the walk - its simply a classic countryside ramble on fine paths.
Kenilworth Castle
Fine Paths like these
Warwickshire Countryside
Fine countryside like this

The last of the caches (for now) is near Fernhill Farm and i can concentrate on the walking.  At one point, I join the Warwickshire Ramblers - as I catch up with and then overtake about 20 elderly walkers.  Its not the fact that they are aged that means I easily overtake them - its the amount of stuff they are carrying.  I wonder why every last one of them has at least a 35l rucksack, fully packed.

They must be having a much better lunch than me.

The wildlife is a touch more exotic than expected at Gospel Oak Farm.  These are protected by a dog that is best described a pseudo St Bernard, who is fine with me until I take a photo and then comes galloping over, barking his head off.

Exotic Wildlife
Have their own Guard Dog
There's usually a surprise on my rambles and today's is at the next cache location.  The information board reveals that this was a WWII Anti Aircraft placement.  Quite apt really, as the only noise on this walk is the planes that are coming in to land at Birmingham International.

Anti Aircraft Position
WWII Anti Aircraft Site

The locals have a sense of humour as well, but I don't take them up on their kind offer.

Sound Advice
Free Dog Poo Bags - Nice Touch!

The Millennium Way shares the return path with the Centenary Way - a Long Distance Path to celebrate 100 years of Warwickshire County Council.

Way back to Kenilworth
Centenary Way and Millennium Way
In no time at all, I am back at the castle - sharing the paths with rather more tourists than at the start.

The Queen and Castle is handily placed directly opposite for the post walk pint.  Quite a fine looking pub with a rather beautiful beer garden.

I decide to go local - with a Purity UBU.

Queen and Castle
Queen and Castle
UBU Purity
UBU Purity

Stage 27 out of 44 of the Millennium Way - and at the moment, its winning the prize as the best section.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

15/08/15 - Oldswinford Pubs

Distance - 6 Miles
Geocaches - 5
Walk Inspiration - Pub Walks in the Black Country
Pubs - Labour in Vain (Bountiful), Seven Stars (Seven Stars), King and Castle (Bathams)

After two superbly bucolic walks in the Cotswolds, it seems fitting to do a walk that's a touch more urban.

I'm walking in Stourbridge.

Don't stop reading... the walk looks OK on the OS Map and the benefit of town walking is that I will have a choice of refreshment stops.

I'm even going on the train.  My walking partner bails on me, having more important stuff to do (I can't imagine either) - so I am dropped off at the station with the warning "not to go mad".  I'm only going for a couple of pints - its not as if I will be doing whisky chasers.  Unless they have a nice Cragganmore.  And thinking about it, its been a long time since I have had a Talisker.

Pay my £3.10 and alight at Stourbridge Junction.  I await a signal on the GPS.  A youth on the opposite side of the road is blaring out music that must be "Grime".

I'm not in Kansas now, Toto.

Signal received, sausage roll purchased and uphill to Mary Stevens Park.  Happy to report that the signage is just as good as the countryside.

Walk this Way
Let's see what's in Wollescote
And I am delighted to say there is a story.  English Civil War, 1643 and the Battle of Stourbridge.  To think, it was worth fighting over.  Prince Rupert - cousin of Charles I - loses the battle and like any good commander with Royal Blood, legs it and hides in a well.  Runs in the family, his Cousin lost the battle of Worcester, legged it and hid in a tree.

I know all this how?  Wikipedia - you say?  Yes, in part but there is a geocache at a rather nice memorial to the yellow bellied blue blooded Prince.

Wollescote Memorial
Cache GZ and History Lesson
Move through the park, across terrain that can be best described as a "Dingle" and then through a council estate to get back into the countryside at Wychbury Hill Fort.  Surprisingly good walking.

This is Stourbridge
This is Stourbridge
Wychbury Hill
Obelisk on Wychbury Hill

Drop down off the hill and collect some micro caches around Pedmore.

Navigate the golf course and reach the outskirts of town, ready to party like I haven't got to drive home.

First pub of the day is the Crown.  Lovely looking garden, hidden behind a locked gate.  It's 12.20pm, so I think "maybe they haven't opened up yet".  Round the front and it's my sad duty to report that this is one of the 31 a week that have closed down.

Dead Pub - The Crown
Another Dead Pub
Shed a tear and move on, going through the ancient churchyard of Oldswinford.  Play my usual game of finding the oldest gravestone and I gave up at 1765, declaring this the winner.

Oldswinford Church
Probably also contains some Cavaliers who didn't leg it like the boss

The road leads me to the second pub of the day - a grand old building which I enter, feeling that I have stumbled on a little bit of Las Vegas.  12:42pm on a Saturday afternoon and a full on game of poker, with green baize, counting chips and lashings of Pork Scratchings is in full flow.

I stop for a quick pint of Wychwold Bountiful before the lack of understanding about "I was looking for a one eyed jack on the river" left my head spinning.

Labour In Vain
Might have been dreaming as I recollect a politically incorrect signage on this Pub
A few doors up is the Seven Sisters Pub - which I make my next stop.  And its a fine old pub, with a central bar and spaced out TVs showing two different football games and the golf.  They even sell their own branded Real Ale - so I give that a go.

Seven Sisters
Seven Stars
Seven Sisters
And their Eponymous Ale

Think long and hard about looking at their top shelf exports from North of Border but instead realise there is a train back in the next 5 minutes.  This does not stop a last sidetracked Geocache before boarding with 20 seconds to spare.

Get back to Kiddy station and attempt to catch the bus.  No wonder only old people use them.  They have had a lifetime to understand the timetable.

There is one bus back home - the number 3.  According to the sign, this only runs on Sundays.

Thinking that cannot be correct, I retire to the King and Castle to ponder how to get home.

Sonia, as always, comes to my unrequested rescue - texting me to see if I need a lift..  Just as Mary Quant and two of the Sgt Peppers band come in.

60's weekend on the Severn Valley.