Saturday, 31 October 2015

31/10/15 - Millennium Waterways

Walk Inspiration
Distance - 5 Miles
Geocaches - 8
Pub 1 - The Millwright Arms, Tribute
Pub 2 - The Roebuck, Warwick, Deuchars IPA

Leamington Spa attained it's Royal Prefix following a visit by Queen Victoria in 1838.  I am hoping that when Queen Elizabeth II takes her mobility scooter down the cut in 2018, sees the amount of dog poo, there is a right royal revoking.

It's everywhere.  Bad enough when it is left on footpaths but it really gets my goat when its wrapped up in bags and tied to trees.  At cache locations.  I'd like to say its as bad as I have ever seen but I have been to Telford.

Only the prospect of the oldest pub in Warwick and a Top 10 County walk can save this walk.

And it does.

It's the monthly trip on the Millennium way and only just squeezed into October on All Hallows day.  29 legs completed, 15 to go.

Park up in Leamington - a place that will be explored more in Leg 30.  Pick up the Grand Union Canal, the first waterway of the day.  It will take us into Warwick.

Grand Union Canal
Grand Union Dog Poo Alley
There are a number of caches along this stretch but my heart is not in it for the reasons explained.

And wonder how such a genteel place can have such irresponsible dog owners.

So I get a march on, only for my walking partner to shout - no need to go so fast, the pub won't be open.

But she doesn't know the Millwright Arms, sneaking into the charts at number 10 in the top pubs in Warwickshire.

Millwright Arms
Open All Hours
It's 11:43am and packed to the rafters with gentlemen of leisure, perusing the racing papers.  I take my choice of the four real ales on offer and enquire what time they are open, having never seen such a busy pub before midday.

11am is the reply, but these buggers have been here since 10:30am.

Flexibility must have been one of the reasons it made the charts.  That and a sign that says "Please keep your dog off the seats".

Tribute outside the Millwright Arms
Warm Enough to sit Outside
Sitting outside, we notice that there is a genuine Portuguese cafe next door but one.  Custard Tarts and Cornish Ale and its not even PM.

We move on, actually walking past another Top 10 pub (the Oak) to arrive at Warwick's Oldest.  This is visited for its heritage and the fact my walking partner had analysed Trip Advisor for the best place to eat (Portuguese Cafe's aside).

Roebuck, Warwick
Warwick's Oldest
Deuchars in the Roebuck
Scottish Ale in Warwickshire

It's Ok for a lunch stop - a touch "chainy" but decent enough food.  The preparations for Halloween have not stopped at putting cobwebs up on the wall.  There is an aged zombie, with trousers that don't meet his ankles, on his 2nd whisky of the morning.

With too many options for refreshment, it's time to move on - taking in a couple of the Warwick's sights.

Near the North Gate, at the Butts
Warwick Castle
Bloody ducks have ruined the symmetry of the Castle 

Simple task of picking up the River Avon to lead us back into Leamington Spa - which I am looking forward to exploring in November.
Gentle Walking back to Leamington

Sunday, 18 October 2015

17/10/15 - London's Greatest Walk

Distance - 11.5 Miles
Geocaches - 6
Walk Inspiration - Country Walking Magazine June 2011
Start - Finsbury Park
End - Euston
Highlights - Parkway, Highgate, Hampstead, Parliament Hill, Primrose Hill

I can stop going to London now.  I have found it's greatest walk.

A bold claim, I know - and there's plenty to be said for the historical interest that a jaunt along the South Bank from Westminster to Tower Bridge can provide, but for pure walking pleasure - this cannot be beaten.

The first leg doesn't look that interesting - cutting a swathe from Finsbury Park to Highgate - until you actually get to ground zero and realise it's along a disused railway line.  The only noise is the pants (breathing, not attire) of a hundred joggers and the occasional expletive shouted at some bearded hipster on a fixed gear bike who is not slowing down.

Its also the chance for me to revisit a stretch of the Capital Ring, walked 2 years ago.

Finsbury Park
Finsbury Park - The Start of this Walk
Crouch Hill Station - on Parkway
Parkland Walk - Remains of Crouch Hill Station

No new caches since I was last here - so unadulterated walking pleasure all the way to Highgate - where the Boogaloo Pub offers inspiration for a fitting epitaph for my tombstone.

Fitting Epitaph
Not the Phil Lynott one - the other one
Highgate has a village feel to it and so typical of London, every building seems to have a story to tell.  I could spend a lifetime plodding the streets and never get close to knowing all it's tales.

Angel - Highgate
A seemingly handsome enough boozer

Graham Chapman
Has it's own tale to tell

Bisect Highgate Cemetery by dropping down Swains Lane.  One day, I am going to pay to go and have a look at Karl Marx's tomb - today, I make do with the occasional glimpse through gates and fences.

Highgate Cemetary
Found the Resident Fox
Only a short urban section before I am back into the wilds - this time on Hampstead - climbing to Parliament Hill to get the views over the City.  What a treasure of a place for Londoner's to enjoy.

Parliament Hill
Information - but of course, you know all the landmarks
Parliament Hill
Zoomed in for the Eye, BT Tower, Crystal Palace Mast and obligatory crane

A handful of caches to attempt and a walk between the ponds - formed by the damming of the River Fleet - the source of which is near Kenwood House.  Work is being completed on one of the ponds, where the water is being drained to reveal a clue on how cockerney's do their recycling.

Hampstead Ponds
Fishing in the Bathing Pond
Drained Hampstead Pond
Very Sinister

Kenwood House
Working my way to Kenwood House and the source of the Fleet
The main reason for choosing this walk was a desire to return to the Spaniard's Inn.  It must be 10 years since I last added my name to its list of patrons that includes Keats, Byron, Dickens and Bram Stoker.

There's just a small problem of how to exit Hampstead Heath to get to it.  I make a direct byline to the big blue cup of joy on the map, only to be met by a 6ft wooden fence.  The prize of a pint of London Pride means that I clamber over it, much to the amusement of the people in traffic stuck at the Toll House.

430 Years of Literary Boozing
Made of London

An eclectic group of visitors - today's favourite had to be the Micheal Winner Lookalike, who had a cravat with matching handkerchief in breast pocket.  he warmed up for his pint of Harvey's with a double rum - downed in one.

What a way to live.

Move on to West Hampstead, with a couple more caches.  Autumn is the time to complete this walk.

West Hampstead
Cache GZ
I've planned the route to drop me down around the back of Hampstead.  There's a great reason for this - the Holly Bush.  What a gem of a pub, tucked away down a little alley amongst some of the most amazing residential architecture in the City.  Should I ever do the lottery and win.

Holly Bush - Hampstead
One of my many favourites
Holly Bush - Hampstead
One of my many favourites

Can't make up my mind about my favourite punter here.  It could be the American who asked for Almonds to go with his pint and was met with the response "we've got dry roasted" but I'll probably settle on the man who was older than me carrying a jazzy cycle helmet and the little scooter he had travelled in on.

Drag myself away for the beauty of Hampstead High Street.  What a place.  People queuing around the block at mobile crepery.  A butchers doing a roaring trade in hot sausage rolls.  I'll leave you to guess where my £3.75 went.

Belsize Park provides a cut through to Primrose Hill.  This is the way to walk to Primrose Hill, as there is only a minor climb.  The view is even better than Parliament Hill.

Primrose Hill
I'd picnic here too, if I was a Londoner
Seriously spoilt for choice in Camden for the last watering hole and I settle on a re-visit to one of the four nationalistic pubs designed to segregate the victorian navvies.  I go for the Edinboro Castle but it could have just as easily been the Dublin Castle.

Edinboro Castle
Edinboro Castle
Edinboro Castle
Last London Pride in London

There are no favourite punters here.  Just students, hipsters and student hipsters.

Just a short trip down Mornington Crescent and back to Euston - 11.5 miles that had sadly come to an end and confirmation that London is the greatest city in the world.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

09/10/15 - Yes

Walk Inspiration
Distance - 6.5 Miles
Geocaches - 8

This is the first time I have had to check if the MOD are out playing army before completing a walk.

Everything came together - I am heading down to Tavistock to meet fast pint arm Bob and see a Kate Bush tribute act.  Day booked off work, sun shining and no military manoeuvres to stop me from becoming the highest man in Devon.

Find an online route that looks just the ticket - starting off a car park next to Meldon Reservoir - complete with a proper old school dam.

Meldon Damn
GZ of Cache Number 1 of the Day
A blast up Longstone Hill, asking the cows politely if they will move out of the way and into the restricted zone, guarded by a line of red and white poles.

If there are flags on them, you are not allowed in.  There's also a sign saying that if you pick up any strange objects, there is a chance you will be blown up.

Going to put an edge on the Geocaching today.

MOD Firing Range
Danger - High Explosives
Yes Tor is soon bagged - along with a couple of caches.  The second of which takes an incredible amount of time to locate but I so didn't want to leave a cache behind at a special location.  Scrambling and frustrated hunting eventually paid off.

Highest in Devon
Approaching the highest Point in Devon and expected glorious views

Yes Tor
Yes Tor - Complete with its odd lightening conducter
Yes Tor
Another County Top ticked off
The height gained, it's a flat walk to the High Willhays - a top that really doesn't have a great deal going for it - with the exception of a few caches to grab and the fact its slightly higher than Yes Tor.

High Willhays Descent
View from High Willhays
Drop down to Black Tor - where a 73 year old man asks me if I am looking for boxes.  I didn't notice his garmin around his neck.  He's not a geocacher but a letterboxer - which I understand originated in Dartmoor.  Sod's law that this is my only DNF of the day - giving my new pensioner friend something to chuckle at as he made his ascent.

The West Okement River is the natural hand rail to lead me back to the reservoir and the car.  Its a stunning river - full of boulders, waterfalls and pools.

West Okement River
River provides easy navigation
Meldon Reservoir
Provides fine views of the Reservoir

Back at the car and I have a missed call from Bob.  He's waiting for me in the Pub in Tavistock.  No time for a post walk pint but as expected, I make up for it with a few Jail Ales to the delightful refrains of a pseudo Kate Bush.

All round good day.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

03/10/15 - Bish, Bash, Bosh

Geocaches Found - 26
Geocaches Not Found - 2
Geocaches Muggled at Gz - 2
First Geocache
Distance Walked - 6.8 Miles
Pub Visited - Boot - Flyford Flavell, London Pride

Back in August, a couple of local Geocaching rounds were published.  I saved the one near Alfrick in Worcestershire until September and found it that tricky with plenty of DNF.  I wondered how long it would take me to attempt this one in Bishampton.

But this is a different kettle of fish.  In my opinion, when you lay a trail of 30 caches, you need them to be relatively easy with decent clues.  The Alfrick round had people logging hunts of up to 60 minutes.  I mean, who - apart from the recently retired - has that much time?

I don't, I need to be back for the Albion on TV at 12:45.

A misty, Autumnal start to the day means there are few photo opportunities.  Everything is grey and damp.

On arrival at the suggested parking, I realise that my planning has been particularly poor for this.  Not only have I failed to bring water with me (wondered why my geocaching pack was light), I have also failed to load the GPX into Cachemate.  I will not be relying on other people's previous logs or cache descriptions on this round.  At least I have the caches plotted.

The route takes me down footpaths with trouser damping long grass and I have no issues finding caches 1-9.  10 becomes a DNF, although I wouldn't mind another go.  I also wouldn't mind knowing what the acronym NHA on a couple of caches means.

With the DNF out the way, I can concentrate on the walking, which improves as we take on the Wychavon Way around Craycombe Coppice.  The mist even begins to lift.

Misty in Worcestershire
Wychavon Way Views
I also enjoy the extended walk through the massive orchard - even if I am the wrong side of the stream for the best cache of the day at number 16.  Bet I am not the first to have to retrace their steps.  Loved the first big box of the day and the intricate puzzle.  The TB was a bonus.

Orchard Walking
Reasonable walking northwards to the Vale Country Club, where there is further evidence that we are approaching the end of another year.

Santa's Little Helpers
Real Reindeer Ready for Xmas
Time clicking on, the hunting is stopped by 2 dog walking cachers and another that I just cannot find.  At least I get the last of the day - which is labelled as easy.

Thanks to zargos2012  or a great cache trail on some excellent new paths for me.  Oh, and for making me climb a tree.  At 46 :-)

There's potentially 20 minutes spare before kick off, so I check out the Dolphin in Bishampton.  No idea why a pub in landlocked Worcestershire is named after a sea mammal.  And I will never find out.  It was closed up at 11:57.

Didn't look too inspiring anyway, so I head off to Flyford Flavell and a return visit to the excellent Boot Inn.  Last visited in the Millennium Way in December 2013.

The Boot - Flyford Flavell
Pub of the Year - but not this year.
Its about 12:05 and I am the first punter in, arriving at an empty bar.  I take inspiration from the art work.

True That
He certainly does
Eventually a young lady comes to serve me.  She tells me her mind is all over the place, as she is moving to Berkshire on Monday.

I reply that she must be mad to leave Worcestershire's Pub of the Year Behind.

She confirms that it's not Pub of the Year, this year.

OK - off to Berkshire it is.

London Pride
Super pint of Chiswick's Finest
Quick pint and timing is perfect.  I am in the door, just as the teams are walking on the pitch.

I seriously wish I hadn't bothered.