Saturday, 26 September 2015

26/09/15 - Edinburgh Seaside

Distance - 5 Miles
Geocaches - 2
Walk From - 25 Walks in Edinburgh and Lothian

Last Night
A chance to show the Student what Edinburgh Night Life can be like.  So where else to take him but Rose Street?  We walk the length, passing the pissed, the desperate, the buskers and the hen parties.

Unexpectedly, we grab the last table in Dirty Dicks.  Rejoicing our joy, I go to the bar to order drinks only to have an excitable chef come running over to question the age of our Student.  Its OK I say, it's 7:30pm, he is 17 and drinking coke and we are all eating.

Edinburgh, once again, maintains the honour of the only City where I have been ejected from a pub.  This time two years ago, it was the Guildford Arms for the exact same reason. We are sent elsewhere, where we check their web site and laugh long and hard at their "Child Friendly Claim".

Today's Walk
Edinburgh, once again, throws up unexpected surprises.

I'm out the flat at 8am and driving the short distance to Cramond.  I know its by the sea - nestling on the shore of the Firth of Forth.  I was not expecting it to resemble a Cornish fishing village.

It's lovely.

Unexpected Edinburgh - Crammond
This is a walk of thirds.

The first third is along the River Almond - all rock strewn, with the occasional weir to add to the drama.

River Almond
River Almond
At Cramond Old Bridge, I head in land - walking through what must be Edinburgh's millionaire's row.  No two properties are the same in style by all undoubtedly share a high price tag.

Cramond Bridge
Cramond Old Bridge
The final third is a drop down Silverknowes golf course to pick up the promenade.  A proper seaside feel with kids with ice-creams and the smell of seaweed in the air.

Edinburgh Seaside
Edinburgh Seaside
Soon back at the car to reflect on how I can only be 15 minutes out of the City and walk in a completely different experience.

Edinburgh, unfriendly family licencing apart, is a wonderful and varied City that throws up constant surprises.

Friday, 25 September 2015

25/09/15 - Pentland High

Distance - 8 Miles
Geocaches - 3
Walk Inspiration
Pub - Flotterstone Inn, Edinburgh Gold

Another University Open Day.  At 303 miles, this one wins the longest distance from home by a country mile but we don't mind ferrying our talented offspring when it means returning to our favourite City.

Edinburgh is becoming a home from home.  We have rented the same apartment that we used two years ago.  We must be due a tech refresh as both my mini laptop and Sonia's phone connected the Wi-Fi without prompting for a password.

The plan for today is for me to drop the Student and Sonia off at Heriot Watt University and then head off to the other side of the Pentland Hills to start a walk from Flotterstone.

And if I am going to walk the Pentland Hills for the first time, I may as well aim for the highest part - Scald Law.

The start of the walk couldn't be easier.  Walk around the edge of Glencorse and Loganlea reservoirs, very gently gaining height.  A few dog walkers, joggers and fly fishermen in boats to say hello to.

Glencourse Reservoir
Glencorse Reservoir
At the far Western end of Loganlea, the heavy lifting starts.  A steep climb to a gap between Scald Law and Carnethy hill.

Scald Hill is going to be a detour - but its worth it for the views over the rest of the range, the Firth of Forth and a geocache.

Astride Scald Law
Astride Scald Law
Range Views
Then its drop back down to where I was before - finding a lovely spot out the wind for lunch, before climbing back to the top of Carnethy Hill.

In some respects, this walk is like the Malverns - albeit on a grander scale.  Once on the ridge, its fine walking dropping and re-climbing between the various peaks.

Views on the Descent
Another cache at an unnamed hill past White Craig Heads and then its down, down, down.  This route certainly tackles the hills in the correct order as its very steep.  Knees Hurting, ears popping, at least I am not going the other way like some hardy souls.

I tell them that if they follow me, they will get to the pub.  Their motivation is strong, as they carry on going up - if anything, slightly faster than they were before.

Back at the car park - all that remains is my first pint in Scotland for 12 months.  A very, very cold Edinburgh Gold.

Very Cold Edinburgh Gold
Very Cold Edinburgh Gold

Sunday, 20 September 2015

20/09/15 - Shaken not Stirred

Distance - 5 Miles
Geocaches Found - 17
Geocaches Not So Found - 8
Pint - Otter at the Fox and Hounds, Lulsley

With a free day on the weekend and the sun shining, I decide to entertain Mrs Mappiman by taking her on a new, local geocaching trail. 26 James Bond Themed caches in a 5 mile amble around countryside that I know reasonably well.

What could possibly go wrong?

Park up at the village hall and head down to the Church.  They is a chance to get a church micro but it is fiercely guarded by an aging labrador with a gruff bark.  We decide to leave him alone and collect the clues for #1 - a multi.  I wonder if the church Gardener can understand why there is a such an interest in his bench?

Alfrick Church
Alfrick Church - Dutch Windows and a Sun Dial

#2 is the first find and confirms that we are not the only cachers out today.

By #3, Mrs Mappiman is complaining that I am not letting her have a fair go, so get her to Gz, provide the clue and she makes mincemeat of a sneaky hide.  She's been picking up caching skills over the years, even if I am not completely convinced she is enjoying herself.

#4 - we give up on.  We are looking at the thing that everyone says that it isn't hidden on.  First DNF broken and knowing that I am not getting a clean sweep.  Pressure off, we limit the hunts and concentrate on the walking.  Which is damn fine.

Fields of Gold
Fields of Gold

#5 becomes a can't search, as there is a man with dogs.  I don't know if he has previously shot the birds but he whistles, they run into the coppice and come back with a bird in their mouths.  Maybe they are just ultra efficient hunters.  As the route loops around, I do get chance to come back to this.

Nice walking around the pond, after a hopeless search for a MTT in a copse full of MTTs.

Pond near Ravenshill
Ravenshill Pond

2nd Part of the multi found on the lane and a couple of finds before finding a classic container.  I do like it when a multi comes together.

Two more DNFs and then Mrs Mappiman decides to give me some Geocaching advice.  "Walk slowly towards me and stop when the arrow says you are at GZ", she advises.  I thank her kindly for showing so much interest but #11 remains elusive - although we do have the co-ords for #10 multi.

#12 has a clue - Base of Tree.  I proclaim that if we cannot find this, I will retire from the game.  10 minutes later, I am sweating that I may well have to until the Mrs Mappiman approach is adopted and we make a find.

Enjoy the dingle walking along Red Cliff and Hayley Dingle - despite the mud.  We do OK to #19 (only one more DNF) and I am most grateful for the detailed walking instructions where it would have been very easy to get lost forever in the land that time forgot.

Mappiman Loving the Dingles
We meet a family with a dog, who is enjoying the swimming.  They may have been cachers, as the caches are now signed with a new name.  They must have a time machine, as they are dated tomorrow.

In trouble at #21 where I cannot find the correct Base of Post and muggled at #22.  #23 found and then on the Map, I spy the "Big Blue Cup of Joy".

Its time for a pint.

Except it isn't.  The building looks like a pub, but the small sign says "The Old Swan Inn".  It's been converted into private residence.  Sometimes, it's just not your day.

After a lot of DNFs and no immediate sign of beer, we abort the mission.

I am off to phone Q and ask him to develop a better geocaching device.

Back to a car and a couple of miles to Lulsley, where we drown our sorrows at the Fox and Hounds.

Otter at the Fox and Hounds, Lulsley
Fox and Hounds Otter.
Mrs Mappiman announces that she would come Geocaching next week, but the bathroom needs regrouting.

Thanks to Thejenks7 for a great walk and a much harder than usual trail.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

19/09/15 - Nervous G&T

Distance - 7 Miles
Geocaches - 9
Walk Inspiration - Stage 28 of the Millennium Way
Pint - Wye Valley Butty Bach at the Anchor Inn, Leek Wootton

A busy September means that this is the only weekend I can complete my monthly soujurn on the Millennium Way. It's good to be out walking, even if there is little to document on this, Stage 28 out of 44.
Park up at a layby where there is a "camper van" with very steamed up windows.  I am sure its a precaution too far, but the iPod is locked away in the glove box.  I've lost one this year and I want to finish off Sonic Youth's Goo on the way home.

Security arranged its out into the fields.  A warning sign tells me to keep my dog on a lead because of the high maize.

High Maize
Terrifying to Hounds
With Warwickshire golf course to my left, I head South.  The majority of the caches are along this section, which keeps my mind off the gunfire from the police training school to my right.  At least I now know what the danger signs on the OS map were referring to.

Leave the woodland onto fields at Woodloes Park.

Millennium Way
Millennium Way.  And Centenary Way.

Into the outskirts of Warwick, re-familiarising myself with the massive IBM Campus.  A pork-pie break at a BP Garage and then onto the Grand Union Canal.

Grand Union Canal
Grand Union Canal
The canal provides the next set of caches - all micros but all quite satisfying in their own way.  Must be the joy of retrieving them under muggle noses.

The walk back sums up the day really - decent bridle paths with absolutely nothing of interest to report upon - with the exception of the short repeat leg from Stage 27, where I pass the old Air Defence Base.  Not point prattling about last months experiences.

Back at the car and its a short drive into Leek Wootton and the pub.  8 chaps in identical egg shell blue suits are nervously milling around outside.  They are either auditioning for the next series of peaky blinders or attending a wedding.

The one with the largest flower and most nervous chuckle is identified as the groom.  What may be the best man returns with a tray full of Gin and Tonics.  I love man's inability to make up their own mind.  Presumably, the best man likes a G&T and everyone else blindly followed suit.

Butty Bach at Leek Wootton's Anchor Inn
With the exception of me.

Next stage on the MW looks far more interesting.  Another castle.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

11/09/15 - Middle Aged Shout Out

Distance - 10.8 Miles
Geocaches - 2
Wainwrights - Gray Crag, Thornthwaite Crag, The Knott, High Street, Rest Dodd, Brock Crags and Angletarn Pikes
Walk Inspiration - Trail Magazine July 2008

 When you are trying to knock off the 214 Wainwrights but only manage to get up to the Lakes once a year, it makes sense to find a route that knocks off several in one go.

In this case 7.

After a protracted period of organisation, three middle aged men get pass outs signed, accommodation booked and head up the M6 listening to Radio 6.  One of the number has texted Shaun Keaveny and we have our adventure read out as a Middle Aged Shout Out.

The indie kids of Great Britain know about our plans for a weekend of Real Ale and Rambling.

Fortune is on our side, as we squeeze into the last parking space at Cow Bridge.

Seeing Pink Sheep may indicate that we have already started on the Real Ale.

Pink Sheep
Normally, its Pink Elephants
Cow Bridge
Off and Running from Cow Bridge

The climbing starts on an old mine track that leads directly to Hayeswater.  Its a case of working out how to get to the first of today's Fells, Grey Crag.  I try and find the described feint path whilst the other two explorers head straight up the side.

They wait for me to catch up by having the first of several "pre-lunches".

Track From Hartsop
Mine Track - and the only time I was in front
At 698 metres, we have gained the majority of the height for today.  We can complete the walk with limited further exertion and admire the superb views.

Beacon at Thornthwaite Crag
Beacon at Thornthwaite Crag - Scene of more snackage
High Street is a broad track that leads to the impressively named Straits of Riggindale and the Knott and Rest Dodd.  My highlight of the day is Angle Tarn - a wonderful isolated lake that has a number of other visitors admiring the view and one person swimming in it.

Angle Tarn
Angle Tarn
Towards Place Fell
Place Fell - My First Wainwright but not climbed today

Boredale Hause marks the end of the walk and a long slow drop back to the car park.

Views over Patterdale
Views of Paterdale
Track Back
The Path back to the Car Park

Safely Down
Back down on Terra Firma
Accommodation for the night is the Ambleside YHA.  Is there a better placed YHA in the Country?  A couple of pints on their patio on the shore of Lake Windermere would suggest not.

And it's only a short walk to the fleshpots of Ambleside town, where we are entertained by an ever so slightly racist Reverend with an accordion in the Unicorn.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

06/09/15 - 13 Counties View

Distance - 6 Miles
Geocaches - 6
Pub - Horse and Hound, Broadway.  Old Hooky.

Sonia is working at Broadway Tower and the sun is shining.  I spy an opportunity to add in a walk on her travel expenses and be provided with a gentle re-introduction to walking after the heavy work of completing the South Downs Way this week.

I can be dropped off at the Tower, grab a few caches and work my way down the hill to be collected and taken to lunch.

Too good a chance to miss.

To start the caching, there is a nice simple multi, collecting clues from around the famous tower.  The views, of 13 counties apparently, are spectacular.

Broadway Tower
How Many Round Windows?  How many Gargoyles?  Answers needed for a Cache
Views from Broadway Hill
Views over 13 Counties
Broadway Tower
Walking away from the Tower to the First Cache

Cache found (after a minor recalculation) and off to an Earth Cache and then a chance to find a previous DNF in the woods down and away from Fish Hill.  Glad to have righted that particular wrong.

The views are that good, that I get seduced from my planned route by a fine looking path downhill.  Forced to double back.

Views from Broadway Hill
Unsurprising that I was tempted
Views from Broadway Hill
Superb Walking

I'm working my way down to Saintbury - a previously unexplored hamlet in the Cotswolds.  It has the most wonderful church, which I may be incorrect in stating, is abandoned.  The Churchyard was very overgrown and despite it being a Sunday morning, there was no other human activity.

Saintbury Church
Saintbury Church
Onwards to Willersey, which has a lot more life.  Another fine looking church and two decent looking pubs.

Willersley Church
Oldest Tombstone spotted - 1792
My planned route to get out of Willersey is thwarted by a housing estate, where I cannot pick up the planned footpath.  I head on the road back to Broadway and get the call from Sonia to say she is finished and where should she meet me.

Never felt more like a hitchhiker in my life.

She whisks me away from the walking/caching and we find car parking at the back of the Horse and Hound in Broadway high street.

A fine ploughman's and Old Hooky for lunch.

Hook Norton in Horse and Hound
Old Hooky rounding off a fine day.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

05/09/15 - The South Downs Way Summary

Start - Eastbourne (09/04/15)
End - Winchester (04/09/15)
Distance - 99.7
Geocaches Found - 82

Back on the SDW
Follow the Signs
2015 has been the year of the South Downs Way.  Chosen as an easy Long Distance Path with good rail links, I completed it in six days, over two trips.

I followed the guidebook and walked East to West.  It would appear from that most people I met in accommodation were going in the opposite direction - which I would recommend.  The walking gets better the further you get away from Winchester.  It starts off merely beautiful and ends up jaw dropping.

Other advice / notes;

  1. Surprisingly wild.  A couple of days, no civilisation is passed.  Which means no supplies are available to purchase.  
  2. If there is a Tower Mast on a hill, you are probably walking up it. 
  3. There are a high number of geocaches
  4. You cross hemispheres.
  5. Accommodation is available at the end of each day.  Ranging from posh Gastropubs to a YHA.  None are prohibitively expensive. 

This is how I did it, with a link to a blog entry for each day.

Day 1 - Eastbourne to Southease Station - 15 Miles, staying in Lewes
Day 2 - Southease Station to Truleigh YHA, 20 Miles, staying in the YHA
Day 3 - Truleigh YHA to Amberley, 15 Miles, train home.
Day 4 - Amberley to Cocking, 12 Miles, staying at the Bluebell Inn, Cocking
Day 5 - Cocking to East Meon, 20 Miles, staying at Ye Olde George, East Meon
Day 6 - East Meon to Winchester, 19 Miles, train home

Many walking highlights along the way - Alfriston, Ditchling Beacon, Devil's Dyke, Chanctonbury Hill Fort, Harting Downs and Old Winchester Hill amongst them.

Lowlights - Day 5 had nowhere at all to stop for refreshments.  Couldn't even find a visitor centre at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park.  But worse was to follow on Day 6.  I was so looking forward to a pint at Milbury's Pub after 12 miles.  I was served a pint.  Of the most atrocious bilge water.  Made up for it, celebrating in Winchester!

A great starter Long Distance Path, especially when blessed with good weather - as I was.

My flickr photo album below.

South Downs Way

04/09/15 - Completing the South Downs Way

Distance - 19 Miles
Geocaches - 5
Start - East Meon
End - Winchester
Highlights - Old Winchester Hill

Last Night
Finally allowed into the Ye Olde George Inn at 6pm.  It was Ok - it gave me an hour to regain my strength after yesterday's 20 miles and someone had kindly left the Times in the Beer Garden.

The pub is lovely and unusually stocks Badger Beer.  I've previously only seen this on cans of shandy (made with real Badger Beer) and at the St Stephens Tavern in London - one of my favourite pubs.  I try the First Call, which is even better than Tanglefoot.

I continue to read Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods".  In a moment of serendipity, Country Walking magazine put on facebook the chance of winning tickets to the UK premier of the film - to be released next week.  I upload a photo of my pint and my book, exclaiming "What are the chances?".

I then blog till my battery dies (really, the charger wouldn't have added that much weight) and then read some more.  Get to the chapter where Bill rips into people taking technology onto the trail and says that "Exactly no-one is interested in reading your daily updates".

Sheepishly put the dead laptop back in my rucksack and check out the second pub in the Village, the Izaak Walton.  More down to earth than the George, it as a thriving darts team (I had to move) and a decent pint of Ringwood Best Bitter.

The Walk

Day 6 and the last day on the South Downs Way.  I catch myself in the full length mirror whilst dressing.  Not only are my Sub anti-chaffing pants ridiculously tight but I also have welt marks on my shoulders from my rucksack.  Maybe I was right not to get too loaded with the laptop charger.

Legs need a bit of encouragement to get going and I stock up on snacks and mints at the village stores before getting going.  I have a treat in store today, as there is civilisation on route.  Exton may be too soon to stop for a drink but at 12 miles, there is a wonderful big blue cup of joy on the OS map at Milbury's.

I am so looking forward to that.

Pleasant walking through Whitewoold fisheries, watching proper fly fishermen do their stuff and then the first climb of the day up Old Winchester Hill.  17 miles from Winchester.

The views are outstanding and I also like the car park.

Easy Going - South Downs Way
Easy Going if you drive up it
Old Winchester Hill
Southern Views from the Hill Fort
Old Winchester
Northern Views

Downhill all the way to Exton, an exceedingly pretty little village.  I meet another SDW'er going in the opposite direction and he is spending the night here, having set off from Winchester at 9am.  He is lucky, but it's not even lunch time.  Surely, he could have got some more miles in?  Still, its not a race.

Cattle at Exton
Cattle at Exton
Exton Church
Exton Church

From my fellow walker, I know that I have about 3.5 hours of walking to go.  My legs are grateful for that news, especially as I have Beacon Hill to summit.

Surely, this is the last of the hills?

Beacon Hill
Beacon Hill
1pm and I arrive at Milbury's.  I am delighted to break up the walk with a pint.  The pub is a hotbed of South Down Way activity, with several other walkers making use of the facilities.  One even has a shell on the back of her rucksack.  Is this for the SDW or a remnant of the El Camino de Santiago?  Either way, my rucksack looks bereft in comparison.

Licking my lips, I enter the pub and see there are three real ales on.  I go for the "Ale of Wight".

And I know things are going bad when the barman does a three glass pouring trick, trying to get a pint out of all the froth.  "Don't worry, he tells me, it'll be fine when it settles".

I am and it isn't.

What a let down.  Cloudy bilgewater with bits floating in it.

Terrible pint at Milbury's
Still, I have paid for it
I chuck the last third away in the flowerbeds and try a Kronenbourg.  No-one can get kegged lager wrong can they?  Milbury's can.

Any future SDW'ers reading this blog - see if they do bottles.

Gutted, I rucksack up and head off for Winchester.  I'll be able to get a decent pint there, as I know the City.

The last couple of miles of the SDW are not massively inspiring.  I appear to be using my hands to help my legs move, so I am grateful when Winchester comes into view to provide the motivation needed to get me over the line.

Winchester Ahead
Winchester Ahead
I think long and hard about taking another break but I keep on plodding.  Over the M3 and into the town.

There doesn't appear to be a natural end to the SDW.  The guidebook indicates it is the Youth Hostel, other people I have spoken with suggest either the last marker or King Alfred.

For me, its my pint at the wonderfully located Bishop on the Bridge.

Start - or End?
Not the End
Not the End

River Itchen and Pub
The Wonderful Bishop on the Bridge - River Itchin

Fuller's ESB to End
Toasting the SDW with an ESB
Winchester is a fitting end to 100 miles of walking over 6 days.

The South Downs Way is over and I'll look for next year's challenge.