Saturday, 29 April 2017

29/04/17 - The King's Head - Bridgnorth

Geocaches - 10
Distance - 6.75 Miles
Walk Inspiration - Country Walking Magazine, May 99 Walk 14

A whopping 6 Good Beer Guide Entries in Bridgnorth, Shropshire.   Nearly as many good pubs as there are blokiebloke Geocaches.

There was much deliberation about whether to do the town properly. and Tripadvisor were consulted but alas, even with grown up kids, we still had family responsibilities limiting our ability to stop over.

We'll just tick off the one pub today and see how much we like it.

Walk database consulted for somewhere new.  We've rambled upstream west, upstream east, downstream east so that left something obvious to aim at.  And Country Walking Magazine provided.

We start at the Low Town Bridge, with a couple of micro caches to find.

Low Town Bridge
Bridgnorth - Low Town
Walking couldn't be any easy.  Head downstream, past the cows, under the bypass and follow the canoists who have never watched deliverance.

Walking the Severn
The Severn Down Stream
The turning point inland is marked on the OS Maps as "Sewage Farm".   You don't need an OS Map to know when you have reached it.  All is not lost, as Slade Lane is a riot of countryside colour.

Inland at Slade Lane
Gorgeous Shropshire
The remainder of the route is pleasant but surprisingly unphotogenic and brings us all the way back to the High Town.  The bunting is out to herald our arrival.

Into Bridgnorth
Bring out the Bunting
No need for debate on which of the 6 Good Beer Guide pubs deserving of the Mappiman Dollar.   Mrs M has consulted Tripadvisor and the Kings Head is number 1 for food.

I must have promised her a meal out in my sleep.

A grade II listed, C16th coaching house was never going to be any hardship anyway.

Kings Head
Busy Bridgnorth
Its a gem.  A chalk board of the four real ales, a charming Irish Host and some very fine food promptly served.  The Hobsons Town Crier drew gasps of admiration from Mrs M.  Creamy like in Harry Potter was the phrase used that meant nothing to me.

Hobsons Town Crier
Hobson's Town Crier
The bible (and TripAdvisor) have come up trumps again.

The Cask Marque App suggests the Stable Bar is accredited.  An investigation is launched and it transpires that this is a separate concern running a long outside bar in the courtyard out the back.  A long menu of cocktails shows they do Mojitos.

Bridgnorth, we will most certainly be coming back for the other 5 ticks.  And a cocktail for Mrs M.

Finally, I don't often blog about individual Geocaches but there's one in the main street that shows what this game is all about.  I have seen the market place many times, but I never realised that above it is the town hall.   There's a cache in it, which prompted my exploration and a jokey telling off by an Octogenarian to leave his cat alone.

Inside Geocache
Indoor Caching - Yes, it lives in that box
Town Hall GZ
The previously undiscovered Town Hall

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

26/04/17 - CAMRA London Pub Walks - Maida Vale

Pubs - 4
Walk Inspiration - Camra's London Pub Walks, Walk 7

To say I have had my money's worth from this book is an understatement.  I started ticking off the 30 adventures in September 2006.  Here I am 11 years later, 2/3rds of the way through it and fully in the knowledge that two new editions have subsequently been released.  I'll make a promise to the Author, Bob Steel, that when I finish the book, I'll buy the new version and start all over again.

At the moment, I am enjoying how London is constantly changing but forever the same.  Nowhere is this more true than with the pubs.

Walk 7 is Little Venice and Maida Vale.  With Duffy's "Warwick Avenue" swirling around my head, I plod from my Oxford Street Hotel through Paddington and into one of the more opulent parts of the Capital.

Warwick Castle - Warwick Place - Trumans Swift

I've been here before.  One of London's nicer walks is to take in Primrose Hill, drop down to the Regents Canal and alight here for refreshments.

The pub is old school - all wood paneling, monster Bass Mirrors and full to rafters with punters.

I can also guarantee that it will look beautiful from the outside by the time you get here.

Warwick Castle
Painters and Decorators are in
Did I say it was busy?  Getting to the bar would be a challenge for a shy and retiring wall flower but not for an inner city explorer in a 16 pocket adventure coat.   I push my way through to panic buy a pint of Truman's Swift.  After some hovering at the fine fireplace, I eventually get a seat to put up with as much cod reggae from the over loud sound system that I can put up with.

Warwick Castle
Big Pint.  Small Man.

The Bridge House, Westbourne Terrace - Nothing

Bridge House
Canal - Cafe - Theatre

Gonna have to admit that despite my attire, I was not feeling adventurous enough to enter an establishment labelled Cafe / Theatre.

It didn't say pub.

The Prince Alfred, 5a Formosa Street - Youngs Special

What a discovery, and an indication of what is to come from the evening's exploration.

It looks classic London from the outside.

Prince Alfred
All fairly standard
Inside, there's a reason why its also in CAMRA's "Best Real Ale Heritage Pubs Book".

The horse shoe bar is divided into Sections through some rather excellent wooden partitions, complete with snob glass and a low door - all of 3ft - which you can limbo through.

I know this, as I went right to left and back again in the eventually successful mission to track down the the single French barman.

Prince Alfred
Portal to another World
It's all worth it though.   The Young's Special was easily the pint of the night, enjoyed as I took in more of the surroundings - including the ornate bar and fine tile work.  I could show you all the pictures, but encourage you to go for yourself.

Prince Alfred
Best Pint in Maida Vale

The Warrington Hotel, Warrington Crescent - Sambrook's Juntion

The ornate exterior should have prepared me for what was inside.  But it didn't quite.

Warrington Hotel
Prepare for Opulence 
I really should have been dressed in top hat and tails.  I defy anyone to come from the upstairs lav, survey their surrounds and not feel exactly like the Duke of Downtown Abbey (if indeed he was a duke, never watched it).

Warrington Hotel
I really have no problem paying nearly a lady for a pint when its enjoyed in such circumstances.

This may well be my new favourite "ornate pub to impress someone new to London".  Soz, the Blackfriar.  And the Princess Louise's toilets.

Crockers Folly, 24 Aberdeen Place - No Real Ale

I might have lost out on the Bridge House due to strange advertising but I may have gained one.  This place was closed up when the guide was originally written, but in an attempt to get back to my lodgings, I thought I would investigate.

The lights are on and the Window says "Public Bar".   I am in.

Crockers Folly
Reborn -  Crocker's Folly
 And in terms of punters, I am all alone.

Three apron adorned men pounce on me, obviously keen to earn their service charge for giving you change on a silver platter.

I can see no pumps.  I am not in Kansas anymore.  I ask for a real ale.

Crockers Folly
Birre Reale
Lonely - and not enjoying the TOTP style cover version of Katy Perry's California Gurls, I started tweeting.  I was advised to check out the marble interior, so I went for a mooch.  The three men in aprons all followed me to see if "I needed any assistance".

When this happens, its time to call it a night.  Some real pleasures and a couple of places that should be visited by all pub connoisseurs.

Five pubs, three classics and two in disguise.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

22/04/17 - Wye to the Thames - Walk 10 - Kingham to Charlbury

Distance - 9.7 Miles
Geocaches - 6
Previous Walks - Walk 1Walk 2Walk 3Walk 4Walk 5Walk 6Walk 7Walk 8, Walk 9
Pub - The Bull, Charlbury

Another gorgeous slice of the Cotswolds, as we make our way along the Railway Stations from Hereford to Oxford.

We are getting close to the end.  This leg is almost entirely along the Oxfordshire Way.   Although early signage suggests a problem.

Oxfordshire Way Closed
Closed to All
Rerouting takes place along a quiet lane to Foxholes, where we pick up the River Evenlode to pass Bruern Abbey.   Early walking is easy going, flat and we make swift progress.

The first few Geocaches appear Shipton-Under-Wychwood, where of course, we meet the first other walkers of the day.  Mrs M uses her usual style of just diving in for the hunt safe in the knowledge that "we will never see them again".  It seems the locals know of the caches.  We get quite specific help with "Gone Fishing" - with the dog walkers having stumbled on it by accident.

Early Caching
The Cache Stretch
We've not been to Ascott under Wychwood before.  Its beautiful in its simplicity - enough to make the volunteer shop keeper relocate from London and commute back daily with his £6000 annual season ticket.

We get into quite a chat, as I attempt to work his tea machine.  It's a delightful little shop, run by the community.  I attempt to buy a newspaper - they have 20 copies of the Times and one Daily Mail.   I failed to see the sign saying they were all pre-ordered for the residents and not for general sale.

Tea taken in the sunshine, near to the impressive Church.

Ascott Under Wychwood
Ascott Church
A lady pulls up in a very dirty A6 that has "F*ck Pigs" drawn in the dirt on the passenger side door.  I ask if she has fallen out with the Neighbours and she instantly replies "Yes, I have".  I'm guessing that she hasn't realised that she is driving around Partridge Style in an obscene publication.   She takes it all in her stride.

Tea finished, we head out through fields for the best part of the walk.  We gain a little height and have wonderful views over the patchwork fields system, a blaze of yellow rapeseed.

Cotswold Glory
Doesn't get much better than this - and a few more caches along this path
1 hour before our train back, we arrive in Charlbury to be met with a typically Costwold Greeting.

Polite Charlbury
Historic and very polite
We have time to explore the town for the first time.   All independent shops, museum and typical architectural beauty.

The trio of pubs are huddled together at the intersection of Sheep Street and Market Street.

We pick the poshest of the three.  Beer pumps with hand written advertising and not the usual corporate branding.  Free range children named Rafe and Kit entertaining their younger sister in the beer garden.  Bottled artisan cider at £6 a pop.

The Bull
C16th Coaching House
We head out into the sunshine to enjoy a bang average Hooky next to a mini milk churn.  Bravely, I attempt to stop Mrs M from eating her own sandwiches.

Probably the 1st Pull of the Day. 
Refreshments enjoyed, it down for our transport with a fine 10 minutes waiting for the train at a station that maintains it's original 1853 features.

Beautiful Station
How pleasant is your morning commute?

Monday, 17 April 2017

17/04/17 - Heart of England Way Stage 1 - Milford

Distance - 6.5 Miles
Geocaches - 4
Pub - Barley Mow, Milford

With the Millennium Way completed, I was looking for another Long Distance Path that could be completed in a series of Day Walks.   The Heart of England Way looked just the ticket.  That's a walk per month sorted for the next three years.

32 Monthly Walks
The HOEW runs from Cannock Chase to Bourton on the Water in the Cotswolds.  I've stumbled on it many times.  Now I will be walking it in a series of 32 linked walks.

Cannock Chase is a fine walking area - if not a little monotonous.  It's Britain's smallest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and covers 26 Square miles of heath and woodland.  Mrs M wanted to talk about Stan Collymore for the entire journey there.

We park up at Milford Common.  This is the official start but we are 1/2 a mile and 1 geocache in before we find signage.  This leads to an arrow straight path, that I assume is an abandoned railway line.

First Signage
First Marker Post Spotted

Old Railway Line
Abandoned Railway Line?
For the smallest AONB, it provides wide ranging views of the heath land, stretching as far as the eye can see.

Cannock Chase
Cannock Chase
2.5 Miles on the HOEW and we leave it at the starting point of Walk 2 - The Glacial Erratic Car Park.  An Earthcache explains how this boulder has been pushed from Dumfries and Galloway in the ice age.  Photo is required to log.

Glacial Erratic
Mappiman and a Scottish Rock
The walk back makes use of good footpaths across the Sherbrook Valley, taking us into the woods on Marquis Drive and a chance for Mrs M to exonerate herself for the Stepping Stone disaster at Ogmore Castle.

Marquis Drive
Marquis Drive
Stepping Stones
Thankfully, no falls today
HOEW kicked off, so we celebrate in the only way we know how.  A Pub Lunch.   Mrs M is not a big fan of chain pubs and it doesn't get any more "chainy" than a Greene King "Eating Inn".  In fact, it takes a while to notice that its actually called the Barley Mow.

Mobile phone is swiftly consulted but with only a G on her iPhone, she can gather no local intel.

We head over to try and steal their WiFi to find something better but I was sold as soon as I saw the Timothy Taylor Landlord and the Cask Marque sign.

If it wasn't for the diner crammed onto the table next to us suffering from acute stomach pains half way through his meal, this would have been a totally forgettable experience.

We will research post walk refreshment better on stage 2.

Pub 1 on the HOEW - Barley Mow
Directly opposite the Start of the HOEW

Sunday, 16 April 2017

16/04/17 - Two CAMRA Good Pub Ticks in Hanley Broadheath

Distance - 7.6 Miles
Walk Inspiration - Walks in Warwickshire and Worcestershire by Des Wright
Geocaches - 2

Once again, the CAMRA Good Beer Guide has been put to good use - providing the inspiration for walks in previously unheard of local areas.  It appears that I am not alone in not knowing the area.

No one knows where we are
E's are Good.  No one knows where we are.
You can only assume that Worcester CAMRA members have had a trip out to the sticks. In this quiet hill overlooking the Teme Valley, there are two pubs within half a mile of each other. And both have made the 2017 Good Beer Guide.

But first, the walk. And it's one that delivered a number of unexpected OMG moments.

OMG Moment One - a quick walk along the road and out into the countryside on the path down to Hanley William Church.  Superb views over the Clee Hills.

Walk Start
Straight on it
OMG Moment Two - Hanley William Church is totally isolated.  But it contains a secret.  One that only Geocachers know about.  The clue is under the pew on the right hand side.  Having bagged loads of Church Micros, I have never before been encouraged to enter the premises for my hunt.

I shouldn't have been surprised - the CO is called "TemevalleyVicar"!

Hanley William Church
Hanley William Church
Hanley William Church Geocache
And its Geocaching Secret

OMG Moment Three - and not such a good one.  I have a lovely walk past Hanley Court, attempting to get the resident peacock to display its feathers for the blog and attempt to use the public footpaths in Hanley Dingle.  The public have not been using them.  Worst set of paths I have ever experienced.  If you are following in my footsteps, bring a machete.  Or Napalm.

The Bad Path
Hanley Dingle.  Overgrown
Views emerge
But does lead to fine views over Abberley

The walk is called "Down on the Temeside" and there is a two mile stretch along the valley floor, offering only the occassional glimpse of the river.  We turn off just before Eastham, scene of the 2016 bridge collapse.  I meet only one car, who stops.  Its an elderly fella, taking a suitcase on the passenger seat for a spin.  He's been driving up and down looking for signs to Droitwich.  I explain he's a good 20 miles away but point him in roughly the right direction.

Teme Valley Floor
Quiet Road not to Droitwich
OMG Moment Three - More stunning views and I discover something I've not seen in Worcestershire before.  Waterfalls.  There's several on Piper's Brook but the most magnificent is a 30 foot drop that couldn't be photographed properly, as I just couldn't get close enough.  It was also in an area marked Death's Dingle on the map and I wasn't hanging around.

Views on the Climb out of the Valley
The Smaller Waterfall near Death's Dingle

OMG Moment Four - A ruined cottage, where the front door was open just enough to warrant an explore.  There is something deeply creepy about being in deserted houses.   I came over all Blair Witch.

All gone a bit Blair Witch
Abandoned Cottage 
All gone a bit Blair Witch
Downstairs.  Yes, I went upstairs too.

The walk is over as soon as the first of the two GBG pubs comes into sight - stunning views, interesting things to explore and some seriously dodgy paths.
Tally Ho!
The Tally Ho! come into view
The Tally Ho!, Bell Lane, Hanley Broadheath

If you want a pub with views, this is for you.

Tally Ho!
From Butty Bach, to a Hoppy Hen, a HPA and a Gold
11:50am on a Sunday morning and they might be open but the till hasn't come downstairs.  Only a half for me, as I have two to investigate.  So I am forced to setup a tab.

Although my rather dainty glass is clearly marked Wye Valley, this was a Ludlow Gold.  They're both a favourite but this felt slightly wrong.  Or it might have just been because it was a half.

The pub slowly filled up with diners and some old boys talking about how surprised they were to see each other, even though you got the impression they popped in daily.

With more work to do, I settle my tab.  All £1.50 of it.

The Fox Inn, Presumably Bell Lane, Hanley Broadheath

Wheras the Tally Ho! has no reviews on my usual beer websites, the Fox is positively awash with them.  This, my favourite;

I went here on Boxing day and discovered that for a fiver you could shoot a few clay pigeons out the back! There's also an endurance lawnmower race on August bank holiday  
Who could fail to be entertained by riding around on lawnmowers with shotguns?

The place has a very down at heel feel about it, in common with many of the really old farms, where there is just a mish mash of ancient machinery lying around the place.  One room was completely full of junk - disco lights and broken furniture.   It looked like one of those C4 documentaries on hoarders.  The outside looked like it could use a lick of paint too.

The Fox Inn
C16th and in need of some TLC
There was plenty of charm.  I enjoyed a read of the history of the pub.  It's always an pleasure to see a short, unbroken line of landlords going back to 1815.  The regulars provided both the heart warming and the hilarious.  I saw the nicest ever greeting from grandkids to a grandparent.  I saw a couple of pensioners come in and the very stern lady pensioner wanted to sample all the available rose and white wines before declaring "they're all awful.  I'll have a Smirnoff ice".

I was delighted to see they sold Bathams.  Unfortunately, it wasn't in good condition - although to be fair, mine was the last half they pulled before changing the barrel.

The Fox Inn
Hops.  Logburner.

More great inspiration from the Good Beer Guide but I can't help but feel Worcester CAMRA got a bit over excited on their day trip.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

15/04/17 - Lea Valley Walk Summary

Distance - 58.75
Geocaches - 56
From - Leagrave, Bedfordshire to Limehouse, Greater London
Walk Inspiration

The Lea Valley walk was noticed when I was looking for inspiration for high mileage rambles in London.  How I love my cheap Virgin weekend rail tickets.

The first leg of this perfectly matched my requirements - heading from Cheshunt, all the way to Limehouse Basin.   Not every walk starts in Zone 8 and ends in Zone 2.

Once committed, I then headed north from Cheshunt, through Ware and walking into Hertford and ticking off a couple of CAMRA Good Beer Guide Pubs.

Stage 3 provided the only complexity with route finding.  The GPX downloaded from the "Walk Inspiration" links provided above is out of date.   I had a look at the official web site, whre there is some information but not enough to plan the walk.   There was a comment from a walker in 2013 who had experienced the same problems with a permissive path (marked on the OS), which is no longer permissive.  Signage on the grounds was very poor.  I left a comment, polite but suggesting the web site was no longer maintained.  I got a reply from the book author saying I needed to buy the latest version of her book, as there had been some major re-routing.  And my polite comment was removed :-)

Still, the walk was enjoyable.  I used to work in Hatfield and it was good to see a bit more of the area and to follow some previously walked paths through Brocket Hall golf club.

The final stage meant that for the first time in my life, I was rambling through Luton.  There cannot be too many people who have said that.  I find the source - nestling in the shadow of some 1960's tower block.

Always nice to walk from source of the river to its end..... even if I did complete it in a haphazard style.  Some fine towns in Hertfordshire.  Plenty of geocaches.

Walking Stages

Stage 1 - Cheshunt to Limehouse Basin, 17 Miles
Stage 2 - Cheshunt to Hertford, 13.5 Miles
Stage 3 - Hertford to Harpenden, 16.5 Miles
Stage 4 - Harpenden to Leagrave, 11 Miles

Photo Album on Flickr

Lea Valley Walk