Sunday, 31 January 2016

31/01/16 - Railway Lines, Dead and Future

Walk Inspiration - Stage 32 of the Millennium Way
Distance - 6.8 Miles
Geocaches - 3 Found, 1xDNF
Pub - The Stag at Offchurch, Hooky.

The last stage of the Millennium Way teased me with Offchurch.  I dropped into the village and saw the Stag Inn, a fine looking thatched pub.  I'm rather pleased that Stage 32 starts in the Stag's "Walkers Welcome" pub car park.

And for extra value, it's also a Top 10 County Pub in Warwickshire.

The Stag at Offchurch
Today's Start - the guide insisted

It's a dreary, miserable day and a question of how much rain and mud I am going to encounter.  Unsure whether to wear gaiters, Berghaus Deluge over trousers or both.  Decide to goretex up top and bottom half and make my way through the village to the building that provided it's name.

Offchurch Church
Offa's Church
Into the fields and I am crossing the former Rugby to Leamington railway line, another Beeching Act Victim, turned into a walkway.

Railway Line
Lacking in Public Transport but fine walking
The irony of the Beeching Act is not lost as I walk over the Fosse Way and onto the Medieval drovers road - the Welsh Road.  This is Warwickshire countryside at its finest and look what is coming.

Can't they recycle
Pick up Ridgeway Lane and fight my way through the mud, which has been par for the course this Winter.

Ridgeway Lane
Ridgeway Lane
First potential Geocache of the day is when we cross the former railway line for the 2nd time (must be on my way back).  It should have been easy, even if it did involve blindly putting my arm into a recess on the bridge.  All I came up with was an arm full of spider's web and a question of my own sanity.

Bridge over the Railway Line
Failing at Caching, high above the Railway Line.
A collection of buildings make up Hunningham and I am back out into the mud and fields, to work my way down to the River Leam.

Into the Countryside
There's a collection of geocaches down by the River Leam.  Only one small problem, its burst its banks.  Makes for some fun hunting and some interesting re-use of farm equipment to navigate the terrain.  I get 3 out of 4, the elusive one under slightly too much water.

Bridge - Fashioned from a Gate
Using a gate as a bridge on the burst River Leam
The mile back to Offchurch is a repeat of a Section of Stage 31.  I am excited for what's on offer at the Stag and make myself presentable before entering through the door.

There's a sign behind the bar saying "Pork Pies and Mustard - £2".  I only have a fiver with me, so whether I get lunch or not depends on the price of my pint.

Out of the 4 ales on offer, I go for a pint of Hook Norton Hooky.  It's superb but comes in at £3.70.

Stag Reward
Fortunately found 4x20p in the bottom of my caching bag

Sunday, 24 January 2016

24/01/16 - Caching with the Cows

Caches - 16 Found, 2 Muggled, 6xDNF
Distance - 4 Miles
First Cache

The search for a monthly geocaching round is taking me further from home.  I think I am off to Shropshire.  On arrival at Orslow, I determine that I am in fact in Staffordshire.

Park up at 52.73407, -2.28848 and turn on the GPS to determine that I have failed to load the GPX into Cachemate.  This means I am truly caching solo - no company from Mrs Mappiman, none of the previous 5 logs to give me an always required hint.

Still, I hope to find plenty of these.

Cache Trail
Cache of the Day
My first cache along the lane is interrupted.  I can see the cow man herding his charges in Orslow Farm.  He is looking at me looking at him.  I am not looking for geocaches when being observed from afar.

Instead, I pick up the footpath and head into the saturated fields, where the gate is opened and out are released the cows.  The field quickly fills up with bovines.

Cows for Company
First DNF at number 6, and I make my way to Bromstead Farm.  Underfoot is tough going and I am not completely sure its only mud that is coming half way up my legs.

Mud - Hopefully
My Footprints - in what I hope is only mud
The lane walking to Walton Grange is a major relief - good to have something solid under my feet. Work my way south, stuggling with any cache that is attached to a metal gate.  Meet up with a couple of walkers coming in the opposite direction who announce themselves as cachers.  I can share my lack of caching skills with the CO responsible for 2,28% of my total finds and in Bronze Place in "Cache by Owner".  Got to love Project-GC.  Blokie-Bloke tells me that all the ones in the direction that he has come from are there to be found.  I increase my caching efforts, although the chicken wire one evades me.

Back at the car and out of gaiters and cow affected boots.  I spotted signs to the Red Lion in Great Chatwell on the way here.  This sounds better than any of the many pubs in Shifnall.

Its a universal truth that any village with Great in the title will turn out to be tiny and Chatwell is no expection.  There is the pub, a couple of house and presumably, every resident of the houses in the pub.

Watching Jeremy Kyle on the TV.

Decent pint of Banks Bitter at the bargain price of £2.80.

Banks Bitter
£2.80 worth of Joy
Red Lion, Great Chatwell
The Red Lion, Great Chatwell

Friday, 22 January 2016

20/01/16 - The Jubilee Walkway (Camden Loop)

Distance - 5 Miles
Geocaches - 2
Walk Inspiration
Pub - The Lamb, Lamb Conduit Street - Youngs Special

First trip to London in 2016 and a chance to continue with the Jubilee Walkway.  There are five legs on the TFL web site and I have to say they are getting very confusing.  There seems to be a lot of repetition between the stages.  In comparison to the Capital Ring and the London Loop, it has no goal or purpose.

Still, its better than looking at the inside of a hotel room.

Head to Holborn, up the American Werewolf escalators and spewed out into the hurly burly of Southampton Row.

Wait for a GPS signal behind the flower seller stall,

Around Lincoln Inn Fields for the first cache of the day and the relative calm of the back of the law courts.  Once again on the JW, walk past the Seven Stars on Carey Street.  There can be no repeat visit this time.

Seven Stars
2nd Jubilee Walkway Visit to the Seven Stars.
Chancery Lane leads to a crossing of High Holborn and Theobolds Road and into possibly my favourite London Street - Lamb Conduit Street.

Why do I like it so much?  It has a fine Italian restaurant next door to the Lamb.  Like all good London Pubs, Charles Dickens was meant to have drunk there.  I need to check out if the Victorian vanity screens are still in place above the bar and can gladly report that everything as remembered.

Youngs Special
Screens to Stop the bar staff from commenting who the gentlemen were entertaining
The Lamb
Prime Victorian London Boozer

Bloomsbury is probably the part of London that I know the best, so all the sights and streets are very familiar - even if I don't get down as often as I used to.

A circuit of the British Museum (in daylight, the walk recommends walking through the middle) and a final Virtual Geocache on Gower Street.

British Museum
British Museum (north side)
At Oxford Street, I am meant to head back to Holborn Tube but the night is young and the city is calling.

Once again, I head off to see if the Coach and Horses is still intact.  It is and it's as gloriously grim as ever.  I also forgot it was Wednesday and the painfully annoying knees up on the out of tune piano.

I leg it when they come with the collection.  I am not paying for the ambiance to be ruined.

Coach and Horses
Coach and Horses, Soho - Avoid Wednesdays
Can't take the bustle and the noise and the fact that there is no real ale on, so I head out to investigate a pub that I have been reading a lot of recently, the French House.

Even if they only serve halves.

No Dickens references here but I know that Dylan Thomas left a manuscript of Under Milk Wood in the bar.

French Hen
Flying Visit to the pub formerly known as the "York Minster"
Investigations made, I head back for the Piccadilly line at the Circus.

Shaftesbury Avenue
Down Shaftesbury Avenue 
Piccadilly Circus
To Piccadilly Circus
Regent Street Bend
A last look at Regent Street before disappearing underground

One final leg of the Jubilee Walkway.  I will complete it, simply to say that I have.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

16/01/16 - Camra National Pub of the Year

Distance - 8.2 Miles
Walk Inspiration - Country Walking Magazine July 2015 - Walk 5
Geocaches - 5
Pub - The Salutation - Ham - Butcombe

I've been waiting for good weather to combine my pleasures.  Although the promised wall to wall sunshine didn't quite materialise, the hard frost did wonders for the mud.

I am off to combine a visit to the Camra National Pub of the Year, 2014, with a decent looking 8 mile walk from Country Walking Magazine.

The Salutation at Ham, Gloucestershire, gathered a lot of praise on its prize winning feat. Vicariously, I read about how the landlord quit his job in London, followed his love of good beer and rescued the free-house in his childhood village.  In a year, they went from being novices to running the best pub in the land.

Before Xmas, our local real ale free-house had a sign asking "would you like to run this pub?"  Inspired by the Salutation, I asked Mrs Mappiman.  She simply said I would just drink the profits.

A slight modification and we can start the route directly from our place of worship.

Salutation, Ham
A quick Geocache in the village and we are out into Berkeley Deer Park, getting shouted at by the many signs.

Berkeley Deer Park
Basically, it's all pack that in and don't think of doing that
The public footpath dissects the deer park and runs arrow straight along a ridge.  Fine views are offered to the Cotswold escarpment to the left and the Severn Estuary to the right.  And of course, the odd glimpse of the deer herds in the distance.

Berkeley Deer Park
Cotswolds Behind

Berkeley Deer Park
A rare recent sighting of the Sun
We meet the only other walkers on today's route.  I am fairly sure they are on the same guide, which they follow to the letter, whilst we take a detour to take in country lanes.  The sun is melting the mud and its no fun traipsing across farmer's fields.  We bump into them twice later, once from the comfort of Berkeley Coffee shop, out of bounds to their mud spattered bottom halves.

The lanes take us to the Severn Estuary.  In the shadows of a dismantled nuclear power station, it's every bit as bleak as it sounds.  However, the embankment offers firm walking and there are exceptional views of what I can only describe as "Big Skies".

Severn Estuary
Unusually, loving the concrete
Severn Estuary
Nuclear Power Station Ahead
The route cuts inland at the Power Station.  Berkeley comes into view, offering a chance for refreshments and a warm up.  We simply need to follow the Little River Avon.

Views of Berkeley
Refreshments Ahoy
Berkeley has an impressive history.  A Saxon town, it was once the largest parish in Gloucestershire.  It feels ancient, as we walk through the high street, looking for a suitable place to lunch and settling on a coffee shop.

Berkeley Church
Berkeley Church
Berkeley Castle
Next to Berkeley Castle

A short half a mile and a couple of geocaches and we are back at the Salutation to investigate further.

Entering through the front door, we have a choice of moving left or right.  We go right, into the front room to be met by a most welcome log burner, some very friendly locals and a choice of 5 real ales for me and eight ciders for Sonia.  She declines the various scrumpies and goes safe, as do I with a pint of Butcombe.  Oh, and a home made pork pie.

Salutation, Ham
Two part Lunch
There's a lot to be said for combining hobbies.  If you are going to do a real ale walk, make it a lengthy one from a prize winner on a crisp winter day.

Salutation, Ham
Happy with my day's work

Sunday, 10 January 2016

09/01/16 - The Surrey Hills have Eyes

Distance - 11 Miles
Geocaches - 15
Route Inspiration - TFL Country Walks Book 3

The New Year is ushered in, the resolutions are made and the stats for #Walk1000Miles are reset to zero.  This year, a new community on facebook has been created by Country Walking Magazine.  Within 10 days, it has 500 members - all upbeat, motivated and sharing inspirational walks.

Time for me to press on with the first proper walk of the year and get some serious miles under my belt.

The mission - to determine how the landscape has changed since Transport for London produced a guide to country walks in 1970.

Route Inspiration
Loving eBay
I'm off to Caterham - final stop on the train line from Victoria.  At 9:50am, nearly 4 hours after setting off from Worcestershire, I am alighting at the station and getting my bearings.  A small town centre with one obvious pub, duly noted for the post walk refreshments.

A short climb past the police station and I am into the rolling countryside of the Surrey Hills.  This walk will be remembered for two things 1)  the frequent ups and downs and 2) the clay and flint soil making for very slippy going after this consistent rain.

My guide has a map and I am interested to see how much of it remains.  The Caterham bypass is the first thing that has been added and after I get the insect infested geocache nearby, I cross it to pick up a farm track to Tillingdown Farm.

What an odd place.  There is a gate that has a very stern signt announcing it is "Private Property".  The OS Map (as well as my guide) shows it as a meeting point for a number of public footpaths.  Feeling brave and having the law on my side, I get through the gate and sure enough, on the other side is an arm laden fingerpost showing me several routes available.

I take the one that goes through the farmyard.  I don't think I have ever seen such a collection of ramshackle buildings.  They are not totally destitute but very tumbledown, with several windows missing glass and the usual ruins of ancient farm machinery and discarded horse boxes.

I would have taken photos but I very much had the feeling I was being watched, even if no-one was obviously present.  With memories of a million cheesy horror films, I made my way through as quickly as possible to the vista that is World's End.

World's End
World's End - After the sinister farmhouse of Tillingdown Farm

The photo sums up the weather today.  Several short sharp showers that are never quite heavy enough to make me want to change from soft to hard shell but ultimately left me soaked through.  Rather looking forward to the end of El Nino.

After taking my life in my own hands and mastering the descent down the world's slipperiest path, I pick up a track that is also a private road to Woldingham School.  Judging by the traffic, they go to school on Saturday's in these parts.

It also has a decent Geocache trail along it, which takes my mind off the showers.  At GC5D384, I am muggled by a lady dog walker who after asking if I am Geocaching, replies that "She is quite geeky too".

Slines New Road takes me on a tour of Woldingham Golf Club and more ups and downs on the walking.  Fine scenery - if you ignore the golfers' attire.

Woldingham Golf Club
Woldingham Golf Course 19th Hole
After a circuit of the Golf Couse, I walk along Butler's Dene Road.  Another oddity - the houses and their grounds are massive and must cost a fortune in leafy Surrey, yet many of them are ramshackle and in need of some serious TLC.

This takes me to the Vanguards Way and I am back in the Countryside (read mud) enjoying my first encounter with the Surrey Livestock.
Locals on the Vanguard Way
Natives of Surrey
As I approach Flint House, the next change to my guide makes its presence known.  I cannot see it yet, but I can hear the constant drone of the M25 sometime before arriving.  It finally reveals itself, as I crest the 868ft hill of Oxted Downs, picking up the North Downs Way.

M25 - Nestling in the Valley
When the guide was written, it must have been a perfect view of the surrounding countryside.  It made me wonder whether the building of M25 faced the same protests that HS2 is facing today, as it has kind of ruined this stretch of the North Downs Way.

This long distance path is my companion more or less back to the start.  Fine paths, great signposting and another little Geocache trail to break up the slipping and sliding in the mud.

North Downs Way
The Surrey Hills
4.5 hours and 11 miles after setting off, I am back in Caterham.  There is one town centre geocache to grab before hitting the pub but due to high muggle activity, I cannot immediately put it back.  No choice for it, it will have to come for a pint with me.

The Old Surrey Hounds was named after the local hunt.  2:45pm and its quite full.  Few decent real ales on and as I am in Surrey, I select a Hogs Back Traditional English Ale by its acronym.  Its fast becoming a favourite and one to look out for.

Old Surrey Hounds
Old Surrey Hounds
Hogs Back T.E.A
TEA for One

Reflect on the walk.  Nice that all the footpaths from a guide book that is the same age as me are still in place, even if progress has added a few new features to the landscape.

All that remains is the need to replace the cache and get the 15:24 back to Victoria.