Sunday, 28 February 2016

28/02/16 - The Ridgeway Summary

Length of the Ridgeway - 85 Miles
Stages Completed in - 14
Distance Walked - 166.45 Miles
Geocaches - 207
Start - Avebury, Wiltshire on the 15th March 2014
Finish - Ivinghoe, Buckinghamshire on the 27th February 2016

Ridgeway, in its Linear Glory

I first noticed the Ridgeway at a corporate event in the shadow of Barbury Castle where they handed out shotguns.  That was a day that could have gone badly wrong but simply planted a seed in my mind as to what fine walking it looked.

Some planning and I determined that I could complete it at my leisure through a series of day walks - either circular or where public transport allowed, linear.

In March 2014, we commenced the odyssey - not at the official start, Overton Hill,  but at Avebury.  Don't miss out on this unique place of British History if you are thinking of tackling it.  Like Stonehedge but infinitely better.

We headed east and finished at Ivinghoe Beacon after 14 individual walks, 166 lovely miles and nearly 2 years later.

No doubt about it, the walking along the early stages are superb - the broad, high path that lasts until you reach the Thames at Streatley provides the best walking imaginable.

The Ridgeway
Tuck into That
There's also regular hill forts, ancient burial mounds and seemingly endless geocaches to discover.

Don't get me started on Arkells Beer.  Tried it in three different places and it was ghastly.

is Arkell's meant to look like this?
Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me thrice, shame on me
Advice for other Walkers

  1. The western half provides the best scenery and walking. 
  2. Public transport is tricky until Streatley. 
  3. Where the Ridgeway crosses a road - there's usually a free parking area.
  4. Its no hardship to complete circular walks.  The adjacent downs and paths are equally stunning.
  5. Beware of Arkells.

How we completed it over 14 Day Walks
Each walk blogged with a map at the link

Walk 1 - Avebury - 7 Miles Circular
Walk 2 - West of Barbury Castle - 11 Miles Circular
Walk 3 - East of Barbury Castle - 10.2 Miles Circular
Walk 4 - Aldboune, 13.5 Miles Circular
Walk 5 - Bishopstone, 8.75 Miles Circular
Walk 6 - White Horse Hill, 13.5 Mile Circular
Walk 7 - Letcombe, 11.5 Miles Circular
Walk 8 - Scutchamer Knob, 15 Miles Circular
Walk 9 - Streately, 13.5 Miles Circular
Walk 10 - Into Watlington, 15 Miles Linear
Walk 11 - Out of Watlington, 8 Miles Circular
Walk 12 - Chinnor, 16.2 Miles Circular
Walk 13 - Princes Risborough, 15 Miles Linear
Walk 14 - Ivinghoe Beacon, 8.3 Miles Circular

The Photo Album on Flickr
Ridgeway Summary

27/02/16 - Finishing the Ridgeway

Distance - 8.3 Miles
Distance on Ridgeway - 3.5 Miles
Geocaches - 2
Walk Inspiration - Self devised circular walk to take in last leg of the Ridgeway
Pub - Rose and Crown, St Austell Trelawny

March 2014 and I came up with the idea of walking the Ridgeway on a series of day walks.

Two years and 13 walks later I reach the end.  And it all worked out rather well.

To provide some symmetry to the quest, Sonia accompanied me today.  She started off at Overton Hill, declared it a "cow track" and then only re-appeared to grab the glory of the finish.  Or it may have been she'd heard there was a night out in Wendover to celebrate.

A review of the map showed that a decent looking circular walk could be created from Ivinghoe.  It turned out even better than the map indicated.

We burst out of the village into fields to be met with the unexpected sight of a 17th Century windmill - one of the best remaining examples this side of Bruges.

Pitstone Windmill
Pistone Windmill - Standing all alone in the Low County of Bucks
One of the two caches of the day is found at Church End Farm before we pick up the West Coast Main Line and pass the happy free range chickens that have the run on Bulbourne Farm.

This leads to the Grand Union Canal, which provides arrow straight and peaceful walking to Tring Station - where I left the Ridgeway at the previous Stage.

Grand Union Canal
Grand Union
The Guidebook promised cream teas at the Hotel next to Tring Station.  Fortunately, I had made no promises to my walking companion, as it is now a private house.  The cafe at the station appears to be only available for weekday commuters.

Never mind, we have brought sandwiches and I am sure that the Ridgeway will provide suitable seating once we get to a spot with a view.

3 Miles left on the Ridgeway
With a tear in my eye, I see we only have 3.1 miles to go.
Sure enough, I'm ahead of Sonia as we reach the top of Aldbury Nowers Hill and shout "I spy with my little eye something beginning with 'B'".

Lunch Stop
Bench for the pre-supplied lunch
The Ridgeway provides a fitting end.  It's all views and a little bit of a rollercoaster as we climb Pitstone Hill, Steps Hill and finally, Ivinghoe Beacon.

Views from the Ridge
Pitstone Hill
With the sound of footsteps
The Gap Between Pitstone and Steps
Ivinghoe Beacon
The End - Ivinghoe Beacon

I'd like to say that I spent a while and reflected on the journey, but there was a bitterly cold wind which meant we only stayed for a couple of photos and the last slice of Malt Loaf.

I'll write my summary blog from the warmth of Worcestershire to do that.

A steep drop off the side and an unfitting end walking along the pavement back to Ivinghoe.  Sonia claimed this to be wholly unnecessary and toyed with the idea of the bus, a taxi and hitch hiking.

Walk Back to Town
Back to Civilisation
Ivinghoe is a one pub town - so decision making for goal completing celebrations is easy.

Rose and Crown Ivinghoe
Rose and Crown, Ivinghoe
St Austell Trelawny
St Austell Trelawny 

To celebrate properly, we headed back to Wendover - discovered the previous stage.  Plenty of choice - for best bed - the Red Lion, best food - the George and Dragon and best pint - The White Swan.

Now to determine the next long term goal.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

20/02/16 - Going Backwards on the Millennium Way

Distance - 4.5 Miles
Geocaches - 4
Walk Inspiration - Stage 33 of the Millennium Way
Pub - The Red Lion, Hunningham, Belhaven Grand Slam

The months click on and its time for stage 33/44 of my monthly walk on the Millennium Way.  I am enjoying the Warwickshire Section of this Long Distance Path.  It has already taken me to 4 out of the top 10 pubs in Warwickshire and today's leg offers the chance to add the fifth.

I am starting the walk at the Red Lion, Hunningham.  The eighth best in the county.

With the route plotted beforehand, I can see that I am heading from Hunningham to Cubbington.  Cubbington is where I started Stage 31 walk and I can only assume that I am walking backwards now.

The Millennium Way does this from time to time.  It took me four months to get out of Berkswell at the start of 2015.

Still, if you like agricultural walks, Warwickshire and the Millennium Way is for you.  This is mainly fields... a short section in Woods... fields and then follow the River Leam back to the pub.

Start of the Millennium Way
Even the Signs above the Millennium Way Signs insist on telling you its Farmland
I'm not going to lie.  There's little to write home about.  Especially when sections have been a repeat.  I'll just upload a couple of photos and tell you about lunch.

Mappiman on the Millennium Way
Been Here before - Out of Cubbington Woods
The River Leam was flooded three weeks ago.  Today, the floodwaters have abated and this provides a chance for me to find a cache that was previously inaccessible.

3 Weeks Difference
What a difference three weeks go - Gate previously used as a bridge
The River Leam takes us back to the pub, with a final cache to be found before lunch.

Red Lion Hunningham - Spot the Cacher
Spot the Cacher

The Red Lion needs to be filed under Gastropub.  I say this, as the beef sandwich came with a pot of dipping gravy.  And an automatic 10% tip was added to the bill, which you could challenge, if you felt you had less than satisfactory service.

Four real ales on and in the spirit of the Rugby, I went for a Belhaven Grand Slam.

Belhaven Grand Slam at the Red Lion Hunningham
Looked much better than it tasted

Sunday, 14 February 2016

13/02/16 - Vintage Trail Magazine

Distance - 14 Miles
Geocaches - 6
Walk from - Trail Magazine August 1998
Pub - The Red Lion, Leek - Hyde's Crown

There was a time when Trail magazine wasn't totally obsessed with the high mountains of the UK.  Back in the 90's there was always a couple of routes in each magazine that were challenging but not in the Lakes or Scotland.

This is one such route, from the August 1999 edition.  It starts in the market town of Leek, previously only driven through, and heads out through farmland to traverse the length of the Roaches from the far end.

Bizarrely, its starts off in a housing estate, next to a kids play area.  It doesn't take very long at all before I'm out in the countryside.

Into the Countryside
On a Path marked "Staffordshire Moorland Walks
Five geocaches are grabbed as Trail, being Trail, decides to take a diversion up a nameless hill to provide decent views of Leek.

Leek from a Nameless Hill
If there's a hill, Trail will make you climb it
The route follows the western edge of Tittesworth Reservoir, but I only really get to see this once I am on the high ground of the Roaches.  Path finding is tricky - there's plenty of options and signage is not that great.  A couple of wrong turns were taken, which is doubly frustrating when you have a GPS but were too busy admiring the views.

Roaches from Frith Bottom
Approaching the Roaches
The guide suggests that this 14 miler can be completed in 4.5 hours.  Not a chance with the muddy conditions today.  It's like walking through treacle.

But nothing quite prepares me for Frith Bottom Farm, where I wish I hadn't been so damning of treacle like conditions.

There's something not right here.  On the approach, I could see the farmer carrying a couple of pails between buildings.  He looked very old.  The path goes directly through his farmyard and I have never seen anything like it.  The entire farm was under ankle to knee deep slurry, which was 70% cow discharge and 30% mud.

How the cows were surviving, I don't know.  Most were up to their knees and fixed in position, even as I attempted to get past. One, who had presumably given up, was lying down in it.

I looked just as miserable as them, as I spent 20 minutes getting through it.  As miserable a walking experience as I have ever had.  And I include the time I lost a boot in a peat bog in that statement.

Once through, It was a case of following the escarpment on farm tracks and roads to reach Roach End.  The views meant the misery of Frith Bottom were soon forgotten.

Hen Cloud
Looking South to Hen Cloud
Looking West
Looking West
Roaches End
Terra Firma and Tittesworth Reservoir

I had a plan to stop for lunch once getting to the highest point.  The plan was to shelter behind any one of the high number of Gritstone Outcrops that litter the top.

Millstone Grit
Shelter from the Wind
It was a partially successful idea.  Despite the pleasure of a Mr Piggoty's sausage role and a turkey bap, it taught me a lesson on how very quickly you can get cold in high spaces.

I was that cold, I almost - but not quite - gave up on getting the two previously unfound caches.

The Roaches themselves offer a mile and a half of ridge walking with fantastic views in all directions and the odd local legend.

Doxey Pool
Doxey Pool - the haunted home of Jenny Greenteeth

Roaches End
End Views of the Reservoir
It's now just a question of finding my way off the ridge.  Path finding proves tricky and a number of dead ends are taken before I find a way down.

No Way Down
No Way Through
More tricky route finding once off the Roaches and making my way through Upper Holme to the Eastern edge of the reservoir.

Upper Hulme
Upper Hulme - Population - 1 Chicken
The paths return to their previously muddy condition and I would be lying if I said that I wasn't delighted to return to civilisation.

This has been one relentless walk and I am arriving back 6hrs 15 Minutes after setting off.

I just need to pick the finest hostelry in Leek.  Driving through on past visits, there was a pub called the Quiet Woman that had a fantastic looking sign.  However, it was taken over by Britain's first "Pound Pub" and now seems to have disappeared altogether.

After a couple of false starts - the White Swan has all the real ale pumps turned the wrong way and the Bird In Hand has the most bizarre country and western music blasting away - I settle on a the Red Lion.

It was a great choice.

Market Square and the Red Lion
Red Lion in Market Square
Hydes Crown
Hyde's The Crown Golden Ale - Superb

Sunday, 7 February 2016

06/02/16 - Breakfast of Champions

Walk Inspiration - Andrew Duncans's 50 Favourite Walks (Clekenwell) and
Walk Inspiration 2 - Time Out London Walks Volume 2 (Return of the King)
Distance - 10 Miles
Geocaches - 6
Pub 1 - Fox and Anchor, Farringdon - City Boy Breakfast
Pub 2 - The Blackfriar - Doom Bar
Pub 3 - The Red Lion, Mayfair - Fullers ESB

My monthly visits to the smoke have been taking me straight back out and into the surrounding countryside. This has been fine, but due to a lack of work visits, I have missed pounding the pavements and seeing the sights.

There's only one problem with walking Central London.  Too many Photo opportunities.  Not only do I come back with 1/2GB of images, I also burn out the main camera's battery half way around and then have to rely on my mobile phone's camera.

The route inspiration comes from two sources.  I fancied a look around Clerkenwell... the hinterland between the Euston and the City.  A favourite resource - Andrew Duncan's 50 favourite London Walks - provided a suitable route.  Add to this a lengthy walk from Time Out London Walks for a route that shows how the City was rebuilt after the Civil War and Great Fire of London and I am good to go - with a chance to take in most of the sights.

Emerge at the top of the UK's longest escalators at Angel Tube Station.  There is a multi cache with the clues in the station foyer and as I have time, I take it on.  Cache in hand before satellites have locked on the GPS and I can start the walk.

Into Clerkenwell and Head for St James Church
The walk through Clerkenwell to Farringdon is not massively inspiring.  Suburban streets in the main, plenty of history detailed in the guide (riots, bombings - that sort of thing) and emergence at Smithfields Meat Market.

Now I know where I am.  Tucked around a side street is a pub called the Fox and Anchor.  Home of the legendary "City Boy Breakfast"

Fox and Anchor
Check it Out - Fans of the Full English
I find that the only way to set up a day is to dine on a breakfast of steak, offal, white pudding and a pint of Stout.

Fortified, I am ready for the City.  Down Aldersgate and with more time than in the Working Week - I check out Postman's Park and spend a bit of time reading the stories of doomed heroism in the City.

I would normally say this was an oasis of calm but on a Saturday - you can have the streets to yourself.

Postmans Park
A monument to Heroic Self Sacrifice.  Not my breakfast, Postman's Park
From now on - the walk is a series of iconic images.  Which I will leave you with.

St Pauls
St Pauls
All Alone at the Guildhall
Walkie Talkie from Lombard Street
Walkie Talkie, poking out behind Lombard Street
The Monument

There's a cache on London Bridge, that I really should have found by now - so I head over on a deviation from the planned routes.

London Bridge
The Shard - From London Bridge
Tower Bridge from London Bridge
A chance for more Iconic Views from London Bridge

Back onto the Northside of the the Thames for a stretch of the Thames Path.  I usually complete this from the South side - as Southwark Cathedral, the Golden Hind, The Globe and the Tate Modern can all be visited.  An alternative view from this side of the Thames.

Millennium Bridge
But only Photo'd Millennium Bridge and the Tate Modern
Arrive at Blackfriars bridge and there is the last of the "Lost River Fleet" Series of caches.  I'm sure I have previously found this, so its either a forgotten log or a new cache.  Just starting the hunt when a Tour Guide, complete with her massive posse of tourists, comes around the corner and offers me some advice.  Glad I took it, as I was ending up with nothing more than dirty hands.

Cache found, I then head through the underground paths to check out another London Classic Pub - the Blackfriar.

The Blackfriars
A Must Visit Pub
Hard to believe that this building was only saved from destruction by a campaign from John Betjeman in the 1960s.  You can see from the photo how the rest of the street fared less well.

It's Ok from the outside, but its the inside that makes it unique.  And in a change from what happens on weekdays, I can get a seat in the heart of it - at the instant my main camera battery dies.

Inside the Blackfriars
Inside the Pub
Inside the Blackfriars
Occasion Siezed

Its just a pity they don't keep the beer as well as the surroundings.

Back along the embankment to grab a cache at Temple Tube Station and up and out onto the Strand.

The Strand
The Strand
A repeat of my last London Walk around the Law Courts and Lincoln Inns Fields and into the hurly burly of Saturday afternoon shoppers and protesting junior doctors at Covent Garden.

Covent Garden
Covent Garden - Three Yodas hovering and a Bloke painted Silver not worthy of inclusion
There's a top shop in Long Acre - Stanfords.  It sells nothing but maps and walking guides.  I may have made a purchase, as I look for future inspiration.

Shopping over, its time to take on more landmarks.

Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square 
St Martins
St Martins Church

Out along Pall Mall and into the refined shopping of Mayfair.  The Red Lion in Duke of York Street looks worthy of investigation - and so it proves.  All etched glass and pints with limited change from a Lady Godiva.

The Red Lion, Mayfair
Just South of Jermyn Street
A walk through St James Park means that its nearly over.  Pass through Horse Guards Parade, where the changing of the guard is taking place.

Horse Guards Parade
London Eye behind Horse Guards Parade
Its possible to walk through the tunnel into Whitehall but not advisable during the changing of the Guards.  Still, there's part of me that is amused by the fact that a man with a rucksack striding in front of the crowds will be being watched on home videos in Tokyo.

Emerge onto Whitehall next to Downing Street and up to Embankment to get the last cache of the day next to a German Sausage Takeway.

London has something for everyone.

Onto Whitehall - up to Charing Cross - Cache and Train Home.